Archived Story

New countywide committee to evaluate options on resolving substandard facility

Published 10:09am Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ten community leaders including officeholders and members of the judiciary and law enforcement have been asked to join a Jail Resolution Committee to advise on options to resolve the situation of an aging and substandard county jail.

The committee’s first meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. March 21 in the Lawrence County Commission chambers.

“We sent out invitations to everyone we thought should be included and who has an interest,” County Commission President Bill Pratt said. “We will try to formalize the committee that day.”

The ad hoc committee’s first meeting will come about a week after commissioners, Sheriff Jeff Lawless, County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson and Common Pleas Judges Charles Cooper and Scott Bowling are scheduled to meet with state correctional officials.

That meeting, set for Friday afternoon in Columbus, was at the request of Ohio Jail Advisory Board following a recent mandatory inspection of the jail that was found deficient in a number of categories.

Many officials in the county see the only options to meet state standards is either to build a new facility or try to upgrade the present jail.

“The first thing is hiring a consultant, depending on what we are told on Friday, to decide what is the most efficient way in resolving our problem with the jail,” Pratt said. “If it is decided we have to build a new jail, we need an architect involved, someone who knows about jail construction more than we do.”

The current facility does not meet current standards for minimum space and staffing for prisoners. If a new jail were built, the sheriff’s office would have to increase significantly its corrections staff as well as come up with funding for the facility.

A possibility for construction funding might come from taking in out-of-county prisoners, Pratt said.

Also on the table is taking over the 120-bed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Corrections Facility in Franklin Furnace that was shut down by the state about two years ago as part of budget-cutting measures.

“I don’t think it would be possible for Lawrence County to run the facility,” Pratt said.

However, the commissioner would like to see the state take over the juvenile jail allowing the county to lease out a specified number of beds.

“They could contract out 100 to 120 beds to Lawrence County and we could pay $40 a day,” Pratt said. “That would be ideal. (The state) may want to lease out one of those wings. We might work something out.”

Anyone in the community who is interested in the jail situation and would like to be on the committee is invited to attend the meeting.

“It is such a big issue we need a lot of individuals involved,” Pratt said.

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