NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio – The city will continuously reserve a bed in its prison for Berea prisoners from January 1 through the end of March as part of a three-month trial program.
Berea pays North Royalton $ 14,000, or about $ 4,667 per month, to reserve the bed. That’s about $ 155 per prisoner per day, about $ 30 more than other cities pay to house prisoners in North Royalton Prison.
Berea Law Director Barb Jones said her city needs the prison room.
“We have used Strongsville Prison in the past,” Jones told cleveland.com. “But with COVID they are not working to full capacity again. Other cities release people with arrest warrants because they cannot find a prison to take them in. “
North Royalton’s legal director Tom Kelly said other communities have expressed an interest in reserving space in his city’s jail. North Royalton would benefit from the additional revenue for the prison, which the city nearly closed last year due to rising spending.
“We are setting a precedent with this agreement by offering one of the 20 prison beds available at any time, exclusive to Berea,” Kelly told cleveland.com. “The agreement suits their needs because they don’t have a full-service prison like we do, and it suits our needs because we have a guaranteed income for this bed.”
When asked if North Royalton Prison will refuse prisoners from other cities when all other beds are full and only the Berea bed is open, Kelly said, “We have to.”
In mid-March, Berea and North Royalton will decide whether to extend the contract for a longer period.
Jones said North Royalton originally proposed a one-year prison bed arrangement, but because of uncertainty over bail reform, Berea asked for a shorter trial time, which would allow community courts to send fewer non-violent defendants to jail.
Jones said that while the North Royalton detention fee is slightly higher than other prisons, the North Royalton fee includes several additional services, including video prosecution, which other prisons charge additional fees for.
“Our prison has a reputation for providing excellent service,” said Kelly. “Our correction workers take prisoners from other cities, do all of the paperwork and alcohol testing for drunk driving cases, and send them back to their communities immediately. Other prisons do not offer such quick processing. “
Kelly said Berea, Broadview Heights and Parma Heights are the top three communities in terms of sending prisoners to North Royalton Prison.
In May 2020, North Royalton Mayor Larry Antoskiewicz said he would close the city’s prison due to the cost of running the facility. He said the city’s general fund is subsidizing the prison operation with about $ 600,000 a year because the prison cannot support itself on prisoner fees.
Then-Councilor Dan Langshaw and the city’s correctional officials who wanted to lose their jobs pushed back. They said they would look for ways to reduce prison costs and income.
In June 2020, Antoskiewicz agreed to keep the prison open and tabled a proposed agreement with Parma to accommodate prisoners from North Royalton in that city’s prison.
Since then, North Royalton has increased its daily prisoner accommodation fee from $ 100 for each prisoner to $ 125. Kelly said that amount is likely to rise again in 2022. In the meantime, the prison has saved money by adjusting work schedules and cutting overtime. The prison did not fire any workers.
The city also set up a prison task force to review the prison operation. The task force recently hired CGL, a Miami-based judicial center operations advisor, for $ 15,000 to advise the city on how to better share its prison services with other communities, Kelly said.
Under the Berea Agreement, approved by City Council November 6-16, North Royalton Prison can refuse a Berea prisoner who “endangers himself or others.”
In addition, North Royalton Prison will give Berea a “limited preferential priority” for prisoner accommodation in addition to the guaranteed prisoner. The rate for these additional prisoners would be the standard fee of $ 125 or more if the city increases the standard fee in the next year.
“We will use reasonable efforts to please the communities that have leases with us,” said Kelly, referring to additional prisoners. “It will be a matter for the prison guard and the police chief.”