The Union County sheriff has parked two of his cruisers at the county's Government Center building to make a point.
Sheriff John Schrawder said the continued wear and tear on his cars -- due to the trips his department makes to move county prisoners to other jails -- has made those cars unsafe to use.
The Union County jail had been overcrowded for a long time. In fact, the commissioners had a study done in 2003 that recommended a solution to the crowded conditions be researched and acted upon starting this year. Specifically, the study said the county was better off transporting prisoners to other counties until the jail reached an average inmate population of 90-plus prisoners per day.
Schrawder was upset with the lack of a response he received Tuesday from the commissioners when he apprised them of the situation. In an interview before the commissioners meeting Tuesday, Schrawder said he had warned them of the possible need for a new or replacement vehicle sometime this year.
"These two vehicles have a combined market value of only $6,000," Schrawder said. "The bill to fix them both would come to almost $4,000; I would rather one or both be replaced." One vehicle, a 2001 Crown Victoria has 103,173 miles and needs a new transmission and work on the differential, while the other, a 1999 Crown Victoria has 157,723 miles and needs just differential work, according to Schrawder.
"I won't have my deputies, or Union County prisoners put at risk any more," said Schrawder in explanation of why he parked them at the Government Center. "The liability would fall on me and my department." He went on to say he wants to continue to support the county jail with transport, but wants safe vehicles.
"I realize that we save the jail and county money because our deputies are already trained to transport," Schrawder said. "To train jail personnel in transport would cost extra dollars." He added that although the jail's daily population hasn't reached the point the 2003 study indicated would require other options, the need for transportation of prisoners continues to grow.
Union County uses several other county jails for the number of prisoners exceeding 33, Union County's jail capacity. Most recent reports put the daily average number of county prisoners at 75. That means 42 prisoners must be taken to other jails. But the transportation doesn't end there.
In prior meetings, both Schrawder and the jail's warden, Douglas Shaffer, have reported that Union County is responsible to transport their own prisoners in other facilities to court hearings, doctor's and other similar appointments. Therefore any one prisoner in another jail is likely to require transportation several times during the course of his or her sentence.
When asked about the situation during their meeting on Tuesday, the county commissioners responded by saying they had only just learned about the vehicles in need of repair. Chairman Preston Boop said the commissioners would be considering Schrawder's report soon, but that they had no immediate plans to announce to the public.
Contact Mike Tischio at email@example.com.