Friday, July 14, 2000

Butler Co. tent jail unfurled again

Canvas housing to relieve crowding

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Butler County Sheriff Harold Don Gabbard's tent jail — which housed prisoners for five weeks last summer — is back.

        The canvas Army surplus tent will begin housing up to 20 inmates today, the sheriff said. It is set up in the courtyard at minimum-security Resolutions in Hamilton, the same as last year.

        The tent will be used primarily on weekends, housing inmates awaiting preliminary court appearances on minor misdemeanor charges, the sheriff said. The tent is surrounded by locked gates and the compound is constantly monitored.

        The tent will help ease chronic crowding at the Butler County Jail, which usually holds more than double the number of prisoners it was designed to handle.

        “This is a good, cheap way to alleviate overcrowding,” said Chief Deputy Richard Jones. “There are a lot of agencies looking at this idea. We don't think we'll be the last.”

        He said the sheriff is trying to get a second tent to house prisoners to make it less likely he'll have to refuse to take inmates because of a lack of jail space.

        The current county jail has had chronic crowding problems. On Tuesday it held 219 inmates, though it was designed for 80.

        The county is planning a new jail, but it won't be ready for about two years. It will cost $35 million to $40 million and could eventually house 800 prisoners.

        The sheriff wanted to set up a tent jail two years ago, but couldn't get permission from the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Last year, and again this summer, he set up the tent without seeking state approval.

        Officials did notify state and local authorities that the tent was going to be used again and offered them an opportunity to inspect it, Deputy Jones said.


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