Created on Tuesday, 18 March 2014 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's county jails will have new rules that cover everything from meals to emails under regulations approved by a state legislative panel Monday.
The new standards that will go into effect in mid-April will allow jails to serve inmates two meals instead of three on weekends, and they can limit hot showers to every other day.
Jail staff will be able to review prisoners' emails for security reasons and monitor and record inmate visits — something not allowed in the past.
The changes will impact about 20,000 inmates who are housed in 90 full-service jails, which are mainly county jails and a few municipal jails. It is the first time Ohio's jail standards have been updated since 2003.
Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, told The Columbus Dispatch that a big reason for the changes is to limit liability from lawsuits.
Backers say the changes will also improve safety.
Several mental health agencies supported revisions they said would improve treatment for mentally ill inmates. Those include new regulations on screening, health appraisals, medications and suicide prevention
"It is imperative — for staff and inmates alike — that individuals with mental illness are quickly identified and provided with the care that their illness requires," said a letter backing the proposals that was sent by the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio and other organizations.
Other changes included are less mandatory training for jail inmates and a new rule that physical force can't be used as punishment.
Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman said Monday that the changes will save little, if any, money for the jails.
The new regulations won't impact the health and safety of the inmates or jail staff, he said.
"We wanted to look at what was working, and what wasn't," he said, adding that one of the challenges was coming up for regulations that could fit jails that were built over 100 years ago and those that opened within the last 10 years.