Ohio sheriff releases 72 inmates because of budget cuts

AP News
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Posted: Jan 12, 2015 9:55 AM

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio sheriff closed a wing of his jail over the weekend and released 72 inmates because of budget cuts he says are restricting his ability to safely run the facility.

The move by Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry in Akron on Sunday reduced the county jail's overall capacity by 149 beds, from 671 to 522.

Barry, who began his sheriff's office career in 1979, could not recall a similar release of so many inmates in the past, the Akron Beacon Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1wOHGb9 ).

"For the safety of everyone in this facility, not only the sheriff but the inmates as well, we're doing what we have to do due to the financial situation of this county," Berry said.

The jail received about 50 new inmates over the last two days, complicating Sunday's release, the sheriff said. Most of those released were being held on low-level, nonviolent felony charges, and didn't include anyone charged with murder or rape. The sheriff said authorities tried to contact the victims in every case.

Family members and social service agencies greeted the inmates, who then headed to shelters, alternative sentencing programs or home.

Cuts in state funding for local municipalities have squeezed the sheriff's budget, along with voters' November rejection of a county sales tax increase that would have generated about $20 million a year for 10 years. The sheriff said Sunday he didn't know what the solution was.

Antonio Spragling of Akron, who was awaiting trial, was released Sunday after 47 days in jail following his arrest last year on drug charges and violation of a protection order.

"I look at it as a second chance and I'm not going to let anyone down," the 50-year-old Spragling said.

David Kennedy of suburban Barberton and Joseph Griffin Jr. of Akron, waiting for relatives to be released, said they wished there were more programs to help ex-inmates and more businesses willing to hire them.

FI Community Housing of Akron set up a table of hats, scarves and gloves for inmates, and offered emergency shelter to anyone who needed it.

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Information from: Akron Beacon Journal, http://www.ohio.com