CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cuyahoga County has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce the prison population to a manageable level, but it is struggling to find one person to connect and lead them all.
The county began advertising for an inmate population manager on September 29 and received 22 requests in six weeks. Then he quickly reposted the post, this time with no deadline, after the right candidate failed to emerge, Public Safety Chief Bob Coury said.
The objective of the position is to streamline the treatment of accused persons and then, if necessary, expedite their interim release or transfer them to a more appropriate diversion program. These strategies could include anything from increasing the number of ankle bracelets for electronic monitoring to developing a better process for selecting diversion candidates, which would reduce the prison population, Coury said. .
The right candidate to do this would have a degree in criminology, research methods, public policy, public administration or other related field, and at least five years of experience in the criminal justice field, depending on the job posting. Because in order to spot areas for improvement, the candidate must understand how cases move through the system, from arrest to trial, to adjudication and every potential diversion in between, Coury explained.
“I have seen deficits in this area,” he said of the candidates.
A review of their resumes showed that five had law enforcement experience and seven were or have been correctional officers. The remaining applicants either had a background in social work or criminal justice-related research, but none were clearly a good fit.
The county is currently pursuing other recruitment efforts and is working with judges, the prosecutor’s office and the sheriff’s department to identify possible internal candidates, Coury said.
“People are impatient for this,” he said of filling the post.
It’s important work, not only because of the prison’s struggles with overcrowding before the pandemic, but because it could help dictate the size – the cost of reading – of the new prison. HOK, the St. Louis-based architectural firm hired to design the facility, needs to know what size to build, and that depends largely on how many inmates the county reasonably expects to hold.
It starts with a base capacity of 1,600 beds for $ 550 million, but the current prison population is already hovering around that number, meaning the size and price will likely increase if conditions don’t improve. , HOK warned. The company built in the flexibility to increase the nominal capacity up to 2,400 beds, but did not say how much that could cost.
The authorities have already implemented a number of strategies to start reducing the prison population.
In March, the Cuyahoga County Common Plea Court implemented bond reforms to release defendants charged with low-level crimes.
A centralized reservation unit, expected to be in place by the end of the first quarter of next year, will connect offense suspects more quickly with lawyers and allow for pre-trial assessments to ensure links the least restrictive possible. This could reduce the number of days these inmates stay in the institution.
The diversion program, which opened in May, is supposed to divert non-violent offenders with mental health issues or medical needs from prison to treatment. But it has had minimal impact so far, due to restrictive policies by the city attorney’s office that have left the 50-bed facility underutilized.
The combination of these efforts alone “should reduce the prison population, if done effectively,” Coury said. The post of population manager would be another extension.
“There are many opportunities for improvement,” said Coury.
But time is running out to fill the post, if it is to have any impact on the new design of the prison. The next cost estimate is scheduled for January and a final price tag is expected by June.
“How many times in the history of Cuyahoga County have you seen such a united front in the mission of best practices in criminal justice? Coury said, encouraging candidates to apply.
The county is also hiring a senior analyst to analyze prison data. This person will report to the Sheriff’s Department, while the Population Manager will report to the County Executive.
Details on positions and links to apply can be found on the county website.