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Smart Voter
Hamilton County, OH November 6, 2007 Election
Issue 27
Referendum on Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners
Hamilton County

86,116 / 43.91% Yes votes ...... 109,994 / 56.09% No votes

See Also: Index of all Issues

Information shown below: Summary | Arguments |

Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Hamilton County Ohio, increasing the rate of levy of the existing sales tax pursuant to the provisions of RC 5739.021 for a fifteen year period (one half of one percent for eight years followed by one quarter of one percent for seven years) to be used for the purpose of SUPPORTING CRIMINAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE SERVICES IN THE COUNTY, INCLUDING: PUBLIC SAFETY AND JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION MEASURES TO REDUCE JAIL OVERCROWING, CRIME PREVENTION MEASURES, ADULT AND JUVENILE REHABILITATION MEASURES, OPERATION OF NEW DETENTION FACILITIES, AND TO ACQUIRE LAND AND OTHER FACILITIES BY PURCHASE OR LEASE FOR SAID PURPOSES.

Shall the resolution of the Board of County Commissioners, enacting an increase of the sales tax, be approved?

Majority affirmative vote is necessary for passage.

Explanation: Issue 27 is a referendum to determine whether a sales tax increase enacted by the Hamilton County Commissioners will stand as law or be rejected by the voters. If approved, sales taxes would increase from 6.5% to 7.0% for eight years (2008-2015) then to 6.75% for seven years (2016-2022) to finance the Comprehensive Safety Plan (CSP).

What the Levy will do: The CSP is a thirty-year plan that includes

Capital expenditures of $239.4 million including:

  • New 1,800 bed adult detention facility $198 million
  • Juvenile detention facility expansion of 50 beds $11 million
  • Hamilton County Justice Center remodeling $2 million

Transition: Costs of boarding inmates outside Hamilton County during construction $34.6 million

Operating Costs Annually -- in the first full year $22.1 million:

  • Juvenile and Adult Facility operations: $14.4 million
  • Community and Facility-based treatment programs and inmate reentry planning: $2.9 million
  • Additional Sheriff patrols and federal prosecution of drug crimes $2.6 million
  • County assumption of township and municipality dispatch costs $2 million
  • Evaluation costs $.2 million

Background: The County jail system houses people awaiting trial or awaiting transport to prison, parole violators, and inmates serving jail sentences. Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Courts refer individuals to the jail system; the county is required to house all those referred. In 2004, inmates were distributed as follows: 26% for offenses against persons (assault, domestic violence, etc.); 26% drug offences; 18% property offences; 9% alcohol offences; 5% traffic offences; 16% other.

There are currently four Hamilton County jail facilities with a total capacity of 2,272 inmates. The Hamilton County Justice Center (23 years old) includes 1,240 beds for medium and maximum security inmates plus central intake, food, laundry and medical services for all facilities. Queensgate (107 years old) includes 822 beds housing minimum, medium and maximum security inmates. Reading Road (70 years old) has 150 beds for minimum security inmates receiving substance abuse treatment. Turning Point (77 years old) is a non-secure DUI treatment center with 60 beds. In addition, the County contracts with Butler County for up to 400 beds at a cost of $7 million a year. Annual funding was approximately $48.6 million in 2006.

Juvenile facilities include Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Center (also known as 2020), which has 160 beds, and Hillcrest Treatment Center with 142 beds for treatment, assessment and corrections. Increasing numbers of youth crimes involve guns and greater numbers of juveniles are being sent to state facilities away from family and community.

In the adult system, there has been an increase in the proportion of medium and maximum security inmates charged with or convicted of crimes involving violence. The county routinely uses early release techniques with minimum security offenders. The number of accused persons held prior to trial has increased as bail costs have increased, the use of bonds has declined and the number of charges involving violence has increased. Over 80% of jail bed days relate to the time between booking and court review. About 25% of jail inmates have special medical or mental health needs. About 20% are mentally ill. The average length of stay is just over 17 days. Recidivism (repeat offenses) rate is about 70%; the average Justice Center inmate has been there 7 times before.

Arguments Submitted

Summary of Arguments FOR Issue 27:
Proponents Say:
  • The Comprehensive Safety Plan is a well thought out permanent solution to the current deficiencies in the County's detention facilities and services.
  • Existing detention facilities are obsolete. The new facility will be safer for inmates and staff, will cut transportation among facilities and allows an appropriate mix of beds for each security level and gender, and for physically or mentally ill inmates.
  • The emphasis on reentry planning and treatment services will reduce recidivism, creating a safer community with less long term jail needs.
  • There are no other viable options to pay for the services and facilities needed. The plan pre-pays expenses so that the tax can be reduced over time.
  • A sales tax spreads costs beyond property owners to those who do business in Hamilton County.

Summary of Arguments AGAINST Issue 27:
Opponents Say:
  • The sales tax is an unfair burden on those least able to afford it; sales taxes will encourage people to travel outside the county to make major purchases.
  • We won't need more space if we stop housing federal prisoners, create a night court, stop sending people with mental health and substance abuse problems to jail, and lower bail costs.

  • The county is declining in population; crime rates are decreasing. With this jail we would have more beds per capita than any other Ohio county.
  • Treatment services in jail may be ineffective due to the short times people spend in jail; more funding for community services is needed.
  • The plan gives $2.2 million annually to expand Sheriff's patrols, which are not subject to the Citizen Complaint Authority or the Collaborative Agreement.
  Official Information

Hamilton County Criminal Justice Review and Comprehensive Safety Plan

Vera Institute of Justice - assessment - pdf file

Hamilton County Board of Elections Results

Televised forum on CET sponsored by LWVCA, CCR, Cincinnatus, Woman's City Club, and Urban League.
News and Analysis

"Campaigns & Elections" information and analysis
Partisan Information

Waycross Media Community Debate on Jail - video
Waycross community Media debate on jailtax (David Pepper, Wendell Young, Suhith Wikrema, Mike Shryrock)



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Created: December 19, 2007 17:42 PST
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