WARREN - For years it was a standing joke about how the ceiling leaked in Sheriff Tom Altiere's office.
One theory included condensation collecting on the ductwork running through the massive, high-tech, $25 million jail that opened in October 1997.
Eventually, other leaks sprang up and repairs were made to the roofs that comprise the 16-year-old facility, which combines a four-story ''tower'' on the northwest section of the county property and a two-floor front area that includes an entrance, lobby, offices, visitation section and jail courtroom.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Trumbull County corrections officer John Hurton shows one of the unusable sinks inside the Trumbull County Jail.
Above that was a designed misdemeanor section with two pods intended to house 96 low-level, non-violent offenders. The four-floor tower still houses the more serious felons with the most serious on the fourth floor.
All the pods and cells are connected to a central control area where water, toilets and lights can be managed with the flip of a switch.
The misdemeanor, or minimum security jail section, MSJ, has now turned into the temporary homes for other felons after legislation at the state level allowed for county jails to handle more inmates since the state prison system was trying to reduce prison population.
''We originally had washer and dryers in the MSJ. There were some DUI offenders and guys on work release,'' said Eric Shay, a jail administrator who keeps tabs on the wear and tear of the building he tries to treat like his own home.
Shay said after the more serious felons started doing time out of the MSJ in 2005 or 2006, the bathrooms started wearing out and breaking down.
After the area began serving as a full-service facility, bars were installed on the windows.
''We had porcelain sinks and laminate counters,'' he said, explaining that the laminate was easily chipped away, allowing for some inmates to create sharpened pieces to use as weapons.
The laminate was removed, but a stainless steel cabinet and counter with porcelain sinks created further problems. Leaky plumbing connections allowed water to enter the front lobby area of the jail.
Three out of four sinks in each of the two pods are now temporarily covered with plywood until stainless steel sinks can be installed and anchored in to preserve the plumbing system.
Earlier this month, county commissioners voted to spend $5,523 to purchase eight stainless steel sinks to be placed on an upper floor of the facility as a result of the ongoing problem.
Shay and John Hurton, who specializes in classifying inmates to determine where they will be housed in the jail, say it's all a matter of watching how the inmates use the jail.
''We found out early on, that the tile showers would be missing pieces and the sharper tiles could be used as weapons. We started replacing the tile with stainless steel for safety reasons. But this has to be done a little at a time,'' Shay said.
''This place is a full-service jail. We're an open book. We do maintenance checks all the time, noting any leaks and even burned out light bulbs,'' he said.
It's all a matter of keeping up with the maintenance for the jail that has a capacity of 314 and normally houses between 275 and 290 inmates.