Issue 18 aims to prevent jail overcrowding for female inmates


Issue 18

Jacqueline DeMate

Overcrowding of female inmates has lead the Portage County Jail to push for a $1.2 million tax levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Portage County Sheriff David Doak said the jail began to see a spike in its female population about two years ago. Doak attributes the rise in female inmates to drug use and said Portage County isn’t the only jail having trouble with overcrowding.

“Crimes are being committed because people are trying to support a habit,” he said. “If that weren’t going on a lot of crime would be down across the board.”

The jail’s overcrowding has become a problem over the past several months as it has run out of space for inmates in cells and forced them to sleep on the floor.

The jail is permitted to house 34 female inmates but is averaging 45 or 47, and at one time held 60. The Department of Corrections told Doak the jail needs to address the housing issue.

The tax levy, if approved, would impose an additional $0.05 for each $100 of valuation, according to a Notice of Election on Tax Levy by the Portage County Board of Elections. The tax would last for two years beginning in 2015 if passed.

Doak said he understands that convincing the public to vote for this levy will be difficult, but thinks this is the most effective way to save tax payer dollars.

“I’m a taxpayer myself, and I’m not talking as the Sheriff, I’m talking as a tax payer,” Doak said. “People don’t want to put money out to keep people in jail and I get that. The trade off is use this space now and pay a million bucks or if somebody files a federal lawsuit we’re going to get court ordered to do it.”

Initially, the jail considered correcting the issue by adding an additional pod onto the jail. Doak said this idea would have cost more than $3 million, but corrections officer Corporal John Hostler found a more cost efficient way to do so.

Hostler’s idea uses open space on the side of the jail which is already surrounded by three walls. A roof and an extra wall would need to be built in order to create more room for female inmates. This would bring the cost of the levy down to $1.2 million

Passing the levy would give the jail an additional 32 beds for female inmates. Election day is Nov. 4. For more information on Issue 18 and polling locations visit