BOWLING GREEN, OH (WTOL) - County jails in Ohio are bracing for an influx of new inmates as a result of changes to the state's sentencing laws.
The changes, part of Ohio House Bill 86, took effect on September 30 and were meant to address overcrowding in Ohio's state prisons. They will save the state millions of dollars.
"Those funds are not being sent to the local institutions that may see an increase in their populations," said attorney Jerome Phillips.
Under the new rules, those convicted of fourth and fifth degree felonies, usually property crimes like theft, would not go to prison. They could instead be sent to local jails.
"The state prisons are overcrowded, so the state's answer is to push the problem locally and accept fewer people at the state level, which forces the counties to take more people," said Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn.
Wasylyshyn says he's expecting a 15 percent increase in inmates at the county's already-crowded jail, which was built in 1989. Monday, he met with the state jail administrator to discuss options for expansion.
"We need to move forward and do something to be able to house more inmates," Wasylyshyn said.
Possibilities include expanding the jail's booking area, where more than 6,000 inmates are processed annually. That could cost Wood County $4.2 million. An additional option is to retrofit the neighboring, vacant former site of Work Industries to house 60 inmates at a cost of less than $2 million.
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