Butler County Sheriff’s Office corrections officers Waylon Thomas and Hannah McCarthy stand in the control room of the old Butler County Court Street Jail that was re-opened recently, in part because a new law takes effect July 1 that prohibits judges from sending felony five offenders to prison. Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tony Dwyer said they also have more contract prisoners than local ones, a situation that requires a careful balancing act between pulling in more revenue for boarding inmates and having to hire more people full-time. One floor of the jail is in operation and another floor is ready for new inmates. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

With funding in danger, Butler County gives new life to board focused on criminal justice issues

The commissioners re-appointed 13 members of the board, including the sheriff, prosecutor, Hamilton mayor and police chief, two judges and others. They also named seven newcomers.

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Common Pleas Court Administrator Wayne Gilkison told the county commissioners during budget hearings the board should have been involved in discussing several major issues, like the new Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison (TCAP) law, Issue 1, the drug ballot initiative that failed in November, the Area Courts’ new probation department, the request for additional public defenders and others.

The Butler County criminal justice system costs taxpayers about $60.6 million and represents 60 percent of the county general fund.

“For the amount of money that is expended by this funding authority (the county commissioners) on criminal justice purposes, I think it is incumbent on us to have a comprehensive criminal justice plan and get the players to the table,” Gilkison said. “To look at what are we doing with this money — it’s a big ticket item — and what’s best for the citizens of this county.”

He said if the board isn’t revamped, the court is in jeopardy of losing three grants totalling about $1.1 million that fund 14 court staffers. The two-year grants expire next June, and the board is required to submit a letter supporting the grants as part of the application process. The board that hasn’t met in over year but is getting together in January, according to Gilkison.

Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Tony Dwyer said the former board had difficulty culling a quorum because it is such a large group. But they have important things to discuss, other than just grant funding.

“The board is a very diverse group to talk about the effective ways to manage incarceration and alternatives to incarceration in the county,” he said.