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Judges helping county save on jail costs

Rather than awaiting transfer to drug treatment centers in the Lawrence or Scioto county jails, defendants will now be sent straight to prison, a move judges say will save the county money.

Since September 2011, Common Pleas Court Judges Charles Cooper and D. Scott Bowling have been mandated by House Bill 86 to sentence non-violent first-time fourth and fifth-degree felony offenders to probation or county jail time.

Many of those convicted who attribute their crimes to drug and alcohol abuse are also sentenced to treatment facilities like the STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace or the SEPTA Correctional Facility in Nelsonville.

But when the beds at those facilities are full, those defendants who cannot afford bond are housed in the local jail at a cost of about $30 per day to the county.

To reduce some of the overcrowding in Lawrence County’s jail, the county also maintains a contract with Scioto County for 10 beds at $48 a day per bed.

Recently Bowling sent three defendants to prison to await transfer to their respective treatment facilities, which saved the county the cost of 35 days. That’s more than $1,500.

Wednesday, Judge Cooper sentenced Joshua Mullens, 26, of 96 Private Drive 1068, Ironton, to 11 months in prison with a judicial release to the SEPTA center when the facility is able to accept him. Mullens had pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree count of theft.

“We are looking for any way we can to help out,” Cooper said. “… You’re just holding them. Why not make the state help?”

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said the change is a welcomed one.

“They just started enacting that so we haven’t seen a huge reduction as of yet, but we are certainly hopeful and we are very appreciative of the judges doing this so they can wait their time at a prison rather than take up space here,” he said.

In other cases:

• Chrystina Judd, 19, of 1933 Foster Ave., Huntington, W.Va., was arraigned on a count of third-degree possession of drugs (oxycodone). Judd pleaded not guilty.

Cooper set bond at $30,000 own-recognizance and set a pretrial for Jan. 23.

• Randy Stevens, 43, of 1220 North Ave., Portsmouth, admitted community-controlled sanctions violations. Cooper sentenced the man to two years in prison.

• Michelle Curry, 31, of 2120 S. Sixth St., Ironton, tested positive for oxycodone and benzodiazepines at her drug screening. Cooper increased her bond to $25,000 property.

The woman’s attorney, Luke Styer, told the court Curry had recently spent time in the hospital where those drugs were administered. Styer asked if he could present the medical records when they were available.