Cooperation Works: Six Ohio Jurisdictions Join Forces to Create Regional Jail

Article excerpt

The Corrections Commission of Northwest Ohio was formed in 1987 to oversee the construction and operation of the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio (CCNO), Ohio's first regional jail, and the first of its type in the United States. By pooling their resources, several jurisdictions were able to create one facility that could efficiently meet all of their needs in the present, as well as the future.

Lack of Public Confidence

CCNO was to be built at the intersection of four rural counties and received a great deal of criticism from people in nearby communities who didn't want a correctional facility in their neighborhoods. The public feared escapes, lowered property values and political turf wars that could cause the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to come in and take over the facility. They also worried that the center would become a money pit for commissioners. Many sheriffs were concerned that the five sheriffs involved in the regional endeavor were somehow avoiding the responsibility of running their own jails.

Prior to construction, six jurisdictions joined together and combined their resources: five counties (Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Lucas and Williams), and the city of Toledo. Seventeen elected officials and one appointed official formed the commission, with each jurisdiction represented. The politics and agendas were diverse. Each of the preexisting jails did not meet standards or were under court order. The four rural counties were considered politically conservative and rural, while Lucas County and Toledo were liberal and urban. Would big Lucas County and Toledo swallow up the four rural counties? Would the four rural counties gang up on the big city? Who would win the war?

Long-Term Success

There never was a war. Under the commission's leadership, CCNO opened in July 1990. CCNO's mission is "to protect the public, employees and inmates while operating a cost-effective detention center for Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Lucas and Williams counties and the city of Toledo."

Cooperation and consensus among commission members has been the key to CCNO's success. Each of the 18 members has one vote, no matter what percentage of the budget he or she provides. The sharing of expenses to build and operate CCNO is the thrust of its existence.

There have been no escapes from the facility, and property values in the area have actually increased. The communities support and want inmates working in their neighborhoods; inmates provide community service in more than 15 communities. This joint effort has encouraged other cooperative ventures between the jurisdictions (i.e., landfills, ditch drainage systems, juvenile detention and drug interdiction).

Budget Considerations

CCNO routinely operates under budget and generates sufficient revenue to reduce operating costs from 5 to 12 percent annually, depending on bed utilization. 1996's actual operating cost was lower because bed rentals netted approximately $1.5 million in revenue. Increased bed utilization by member jurisdictions eliminated large-scale bed rentals in 1996 and 1997. CCNO's 1997 budget was $9,973,358 for the 642-bed, 184-employee jail.

Table 1
CCNO 1997 Budgeted Per Diem vs. Actual Cost Per Diem

                      Bed        CCNO       Average     Jurisdiction
                  Percentage   Budgeted   CCNO Actual      Actual

Defiance County     09.35%      42.56       37.44          39.90
Fulton County       08.65%      42.56       37.44          35.42
Henry County        05.86%      42.56       37.44          37.24
Lucas County        31.84%      42.56       37.44          37.11
City of Toledo      35.65%      42.56       37.44          41.53
Williams County     08.65%      42.56       37.44          38.31
Table 2
Full-Service Jails in Ohio vs. CCNO

                              1993    1994    1995    1996    1997

Ohio Jail Per Diem(*)        60. …