The Delaware County commissioners voted unanimously on Monday, Sept. 10, to approve a memorandum of understanding between the county jail and Recovery and Prevention Resources of Delaware and Morrow Counties Inc. to provide mental health services.
"I think this board is well aware that in recent years, our jail has become more than just a warehouse for criminals," Delaware County Sheriff Russ Martin said. "It's also become an opportunity for people to receive counseling for ... substance abuse or mental health issues.
"And I think we're finding more and more ... as prisoners get pushed out (of the state system) they wind up in our local facilities."
RPR is already providing services to the jail through a pair of federal grants. The memorandum of agreement -- which provides RPR with an additional $10,833 in the last six months of this year -- will allow the company to expand its coverage to additional inmates.
Andrea Wood is the re-entry coordinator for the Delaware County Sheriff's Office. She said the sheriff's office had identified gaps in coverage that weren't accounted for in two Second Chance Act grants.
"The grants are specific and limiting," she said. "It's missing women's issues, gender-specific issues. We had men asking for anger management that we weren't, by the grant guidelines, allowed to provide. We're limited to serving the people who qualify specifically for the grant."
The memorandum of understanding between the jail and RPR, she said, "will help reduce recidivism in our inmate population."
The recidivism rate for Delaware residents returning to state institutions was 37.2 percent in 2007 and 38.6 percent in 2008, the last two years for which data are available. Drug abuse, inability to pay child support and unemployment are the major factors that contribute to recidivism.
Delaware County -- the fastest-growing in Ohio -- has experienced two decades of steady increases in the jail population as well as a surge in drug crimes and arrests. The county jail has increased its capacity from 178 beds in 2010 to 286 beds in 2011.
The memorandum of understanding will provide the jail with 43.3 hours a month of additional therapist hours.
"We're really striving to provide comprehensive treatment," Wood said. "Not only will that help reduce recidivism but it will also help the jail have a better overall environment, less violence, fewer disruptions."
Commissioner Ken O'Brien said he's always been an advocate of treatment.
"Because it allows former inmates to do work out in society and to have a more normal life," he said. "And it also prevents (future) victims from becoming victims. And I think that's important. In the long run, I think it saves money for the county and make inmates have a less long tenure at the county jail."
According to statistics compiled by Justice and Public Safety Systems, the average cost to incarcerate an inmate in an Ohio prison was $25,368 per year, or $69.50 a day.
Commissioner Tommy Thompson said that's another good reason to rehabilitate inmates.
"I think it's important for our constituents to know that it's more financially feasible to operate the program we're operating than to try to house them (criminals) continually in the jail," he said.
"It is not a cheap venture to keep somebody housed in a correctional facility," Thompson said. "And I know we don't rehabilitate them all, but the ones we do are important in the long haul. It's good for people. But it also saves us money."