Hamilton County, Ohio, taxpayers spent $833,755 for empty jail cells in Butler County under an agreement that paid for 300 jail cells a night – whether they were filled or not. The jail-space agreement – a temporary solution to the county’s long-term jail space crisis – cost Hamilton County taxpayers about $10 million. The 19-month deal expired Dec. 31, but the bills are still coming in, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. Sheriff Simon L. Leis Jr. says he regrets having gone along with the agreement. “I would never have entered into a contract like that,” he said. “I think Butler County just held us up.”
Hamilton County contracted with its northern neighbor in May 2006 to relieve an overcrowded jail that was sending hundreds of inmates home early – and thousands more home with nothing more than fingerprint ink on their hands. Terms of the agreement changed over time, but by the end it guaranteed that Hamilton County would pay $19,500 a day, every day, for 300 jail cells. For most days that Hamilton County rented jail space, there were no more than 22 empty spaces, according to an Enquirer analysis of jail data. The average was four or five. But empty cells mounted last November, after Hamilton County voters rejected a half-cent sales tax that would have continued the agreement and built a new jail.