Montgomery County Jail citizen coalition calls for changes to minimize inmate population during the pandemic

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A coalition of jail advocates is calling for changes within the Montgomery County Jail. They say overcrowding and a lack of resources is contributing to unsafe conditions that could spread to the larger community. 

The coalition says the county’s prison population needs to be better managed to keep everyone safe. They say there are too many people too close together, especially during a pandemic. 

Theresa Haire is a Montgomery County public defender. She says, “The conditions are awful, as you may imagine.” Haire says that’s not hyperbole. 

There are now nearly 700 jail inmates, significantly up from a pandemic-low of 470. 

Daj’za Demmings is the executive director of the Dayton Young Black Professionals. She says, “I’ve talked to five people who were released this morning, three of which said they’ve been sleeping on the floor in the basement. We’ve talked to people that don’t even have masks; we’ve talked to people that are being refused COVID tests.” 

On Tuesday members of the Montgomery County Jail Coalition said those conditions are creating problems. Haire says, “Locking them up is not doing anything but exposing them to a giant petri dish, which can lead to more infections.” 

The Sheriff’s Office declined an interview, but sent a statement in response to questions, saying the jail has tested 187 inmates to date; 52 inmates and 11 staff members have tested positive. Right now, just one inmate is COVID-19 positive, but the coalition says that could quickly spread outside the jail as people are released. 

The coalition insists the call for change is not a criticism of the sheriff. Reverend Dr. David I. Fox represents the Dayton Unit NAACP. He says, “What we are concerned about, though, is lowering the admissions to the jail.” 

The coalition says change can come from the community, law, enforcement, public health, and the justice system. Organizer Edwin Fuller says, “We’re calling on judges to aggressively review your cases and see who absolutely has to be in here.” 

The coalition says the jail should only hold 433 inmates according to federal standards, but the Sheriff’s Office says the jail was grandfathered in, and can currently hold up to 903 inmates. 

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