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Woman’s escape charge highlights need for change in Steubenville

The inmate who was arrested last week after police say she left in Steubenville Municipal Court and tried to cross the Market Street Bridge is back where it all started. Amanda O'Hara faced a judge on her felony escape charge on Wednesday.

The inmate who was arrested last week after police say she left in Steubenville Municipal Court and tried to cross the Market Street Bridge is back where it all started.

Amanda O'Hara faced a judge on her felony escape charge on Wednesday.

The incident is highlighting the challenges the city faces as it works to prosecute offenders.

Originally municipal court for a misdemeanor, O’Hara is now charged with felony escape.

“The whole purpose in me holding you was I was going to have you evaluated while at the jail for purposes of your drug use,” Judge John Mascio said. “But you chose to leave the building when the officer told you to sit here.”

O'Hara was removed from the courtroom after causing a disturbance.

Because one officer remained in court to supervise those inmates, and another was transporting prisoners, she was able to slip away.

“This building was not built to be a police station,” Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said. “Years ago, way before my time, the jail was upstairs and you didn't have this problem, you just walked them down the steps and took them in the courtroom.”

McCafferty noted the challenges caused by inadequate facilities and the bottom line.

“The city can't afford extra staffing for the court,” he said. “It's bad enough it takes my officers off the street when they should be patrolling, but they're in court. It all comes down to finances.

A potential solution is in the works, as the court will test its video conferencing system Friday. Once it's up and running, inmates will never have to leave the jail to be arraigned.

O'Hara told the judge she was not a runner.

“Don't tell me you're not a runner, when they found you clear across the bridge and you had to be extradited back to Ohio,” Mascio said.

She then gave the Jefferson County Jail a positive review.

“Trust me, your jail is quite nice compared to the regional jail, sir,” O’Hara said. “Very, very nice; I'd rather be in your jail any day.”

“Well you're going to be there at least another week so have a seat,” Mascio said.

O'Hara is being held without bond. She is scheduled to appear in court June 28.

Those courtroom monitors are already in use by city council. And it was a grant that paid for the equipment.


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