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Sheriff made difficult but very prudent decision

December 20, 2010
Morning Journal News

Some may have been shocked when hearing that the Columbiana County prosecutor's office was dropping charges against an inmate who remained hospitalized after injuring himself at the county jail.

This isn't the first time this has been done, but it makes good fiscal sense. County taxpayers must pay for any medical costs incurred by inmates at the jail, regardless of whether those incarcerated have medical insurance or not.

County Sheriff Ray Stone asked the prosecutor's office to drop the charges against the injured inmate after learning that the inmate remained in a coma and was going to be transferred to a long-term health care facility. Stone said this was a way for the county get out from under those costs.

County Commissioner Penny Traina said under the contract with the private company that operates the jail, the county pays the medical expenses for inmates hospitalized or treated at outside health care facilities.

"It's a heavy burden on the taxpayers," she said, noting that the bill for inmate medical expenses came to $172,000 last year.

Traina said a new state law that went into effect several years ago, has helped matters some by requiring government agencies to pay only what Medicaid would not for hospitalized inmates.

Stone said this particular inmate had been charged with felony domestic violence, but he would not consider dropping charges in cases such as murder or rape, so public safety will not be jeopardized by this practice.

We congratulate the sheriff, prosecutor and commissioners for being responsible stewards of the county money. Inmates with minor offenses, but serious medical conditions, should not be able to count on taxpayers to foot the cost.



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