Sheriff and county agree to jail oversight

Citizens review committee will make recommendations on jail policies.

By Cornelius Frolik

After several tense weeks, Montgomery County sheriff and the county board of commissioners have reached an agreement to form a citizens review committee for the county jail.

Sheriff Phil Plummer and Board of Commissioners President Dan Foley sat down on Monday and discussed the concept of an independent oversight committee with Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering.

The sides agreed to help create a 10-member committee to make recommendations on jail policies, facilities and community resources, said Mayor Whaley, who helped arrange the meeting.

The committee will be initially

appointed jointly by the sheriff, county commission president, Dayton’s mayor and the state senator from the 6th District, Whaley said. The sheriff also will serve as an ex-officio member.

“The reason for this committee is there is recognition that the demands of the jail population has significantly changed over the last 10 years,” Whaley said.

The sheriff has asked the county commission to create a justice committee, and commissioners will oblige, Whaley said.

The four-person appointing authority is looking for candidates for the committee with expertise in mental health, substance abuse, civil rights, law enforcement, the judiciary and health care, Whaley said.

People interested in serving on the committee are encouraged to contact Whaley, Lehner, Plummer or Foley.

Earlier this month, the county commission asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate potential civil rights violations at the jail, citing a series of federal lawsuits filed against the jail and county alleging inmate mistreatment.

Last week, the commission asked Mayor Whaley to lead and chair an oversight committee for the jail. Whaley did not consent to the request, but arranged the Monday sit-down between the sheriff and commission president.

Whaley has insisted that an oversight committee must be completely independent and should not be political.

Whaley previously said her staff would research how jail review groups in other U.S. communities operate and would identify some best practices to try to follow.

Whaley also said Lehner’s presence at the meeting was crucial to ensure the discussion would be bipartisan.

“I believe in our community and the willingness to work together is very strong here,” Whaley previously said.

Whaley stressed that the oversight committee would need access to jail data and would need resources from the county commission to collect and study the data to reach informed conclusions about activities and practices at the facility.

County commissioners said they would be willing to “modify” the request for an inquiry to the Justice Department if a truly “bipartisan and independent” oversight committee was formed.

“We strongly believe that this group must be non-partisan and represent key stakeholders, citizens and grassroots community members,” Foley said last week.

Sheriff Plummer last week balked at the idea of having to comply with any requirements the county commission wanted to place on the jail review committee.

But Plummer also said he was willing to sit down with Foley and others. “I will definitely consider any recommendations they have pertaining to structure and potential committee members.”

The mayor kept her comments brief on Monday. The other parties declined to comment for this article.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-0749 or email Cornelius.