Archived Story

Weighing all the options

Published 10:35am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

As the Lawrence County Commission considers if it wants to move the county jail down to Franklin Furnace, that decision can affect more than the sheriff’s office. Officeholders and members of the community at large could be affected as well.

Because of that The Tribune has solicited opinions on the potential move from a variety of sources. Here is the result of that survey.

“There is no easy answer,” County Recorder Sharon Gossett Hager said. “I don’t see that this is a win-win situation. We need help. I just wish the state could come through to help us. Crime is a problem that affects all of us. The jail itself is a time bomb. The bottom line is I am glad I am not a county commissioner.”

Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper has served on the ad hoc jail committee since its inception about a year ago. He sees moving the jail to the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility as the best answer.

“It looks to me that the county is confronted with two possible situations,” Cooper said. “Either of which will cost the county more money. The first possibility is if we do nothing and the state limits us to 27 prisoners, we are going to have to put prisoners out of the county at some distance with the cost per day and transportation costs and the manpower costs are going to be in the course of a year greater than the cost of the facility at Franklin Furnace.

“It is the best decision that can be made with the facts and circumstances. This epidemic of substance abuse and addiction is well into its eighth or 10th year. We are really seeing the effects that it takes and the fact is substance abuse is not a victimless crime. There are people who have their homes robbed and purses stolen right from their arms. These are serious crimes that required the courts and the county to have the full spectrum available to sentences.”

Joining Cooper in the Franklin Furnace move are County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson and former Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton.

“I don’t think we have any option but the Franklin Furnace facility,” Anderson said. “We do not have the funds to build a new jail and we cannot continue the operate the current jail. While (moving to Franklin Furnace) may not be the best-case scenario, we have no other option at this point. If we don’t accept this facility, then we are going to be in worse financial shape.

“I also believe the Franklin Furnace facility can be run with a comparable staff that we have now. I don’t think it will cost a lot more money to run that facility. Because the jail is currently slated to have 16 prisoners and we have a variance for 27, we are in violation of that variance every day. The department of rehabilitation and correction is going to force us to keep 27 prisoners. We are going to have to house these prisoners in other counties at more cost. We need to explore taking in prisoners from out of the county and federal prisoners. In the 1970s when the jail was built there were 10 beds for federal prisoners.”

Walton concurs that the state can shut down the jail at any time because the county is housing more than the allotted 27.

“No one like to spend money on people referred to as criminals, but it something that has to be done,” Walton said. “What is the most cost-effective way to do this? If there is no jail for the county then everyone would have to be shipped out. This would require extra expense for transporting prisoners, paying their court-appointed attorneys to drive to the out of county jail to confer with them, plus paying a lot of money every day to other counties to house these prisoners. From the information that has been furnished to me, I feel the Franklin Furnace option is the best option available.”

Dr. Wayne Young, pastor of First United Methodist Church, could see moving to Franklin Furnace if it allowed the county to meet its responsibility to society.

“I think we ought to take the opportunity to upgrade those facilities,” Young said. “What we have there needs to be better. I think as long as society or the county is responsible for other people, they have a responsibility to do an adequate job of providing that. I don’t know all the financial details, but if the Franklin Furnace facility would allow that, that would be good.”

County Treasurer Stephen Burcham sees the option of building a new jail in the county as viable.

“Given the fact we spend $400,000 housing prisoners out of the county, I find it difficult to believe we couldn’t take that and put it on a new facility,” he said. “Seems like you could build a jail and make a $400,000 a year payment and pay it off. We could use the money we are paying other counties and we could pay for a jail.”

County Engineer Doug Cade appreciates the magnitude of the decision the county is facing as far as the jail situation.

“Every action that is taken by the board of commissioners and every elected official affects the county’s future in some manner,” Cade said. “The commissioners, sheriff and county auditor are more informed than I regarding the situation that they are facing regarding the jail and funding basic county government services. I have been focused on improving our county’s roads since being in office. Having said that, if I can provide input that is valuable to make a decision that is best for our county, I will be glad to do that.” Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper has served on the ad hoc jail committee since its inception about a year ago. He sees moving the jail to the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility as the best answer.

“It looks to me that the county is confronted with two possible situations,” Cooper said, either of which will cost the county more money. The first possibility is if we do nothing and the state limits us to 27 prisoners, we are going to have to put prisoners out of the county at some distance with the cost per day and transportation costs and the manpower costs are going to be in the course of a year greater than the cost of the facility at Franklin Furnace.

“It is the best decision that can be made with the facts and circumstances. This epidemic of substance abuse and addiction is well into its eighth or 10th year. We are really seeing the effects that it takes and the fact is substance abuse is not a victimless crime. There are people who have their homes robbed and purses stolen right from their arms. These are serious crimes that required the courts and the county to have the full spectrum available to sentence.”

Joining Cooper in the Franklin Furnace move are county prosecuting attorney Brigham Anderson and former Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton.

“I don’t think we have any option but the Franklin Furnace facility,” Anderson said. “We do not have the funds to build a new jail and we cannot continue to operate the current jail. While (moving to Franklin Furnace) may not be the best-case scenario, we have no other option at this point. If we don’t accept this facility, then we are going to be in worse financial shape.

“I also believe the Franklin Furnace facility can be run with a comparable staff that we have now. I don’t think it will cost a lot more money to run that facility. Because the jail is currently slated to have 16 prisoners and we have a variance for 27, we are in violation of that variance every day. The department of rehabilitation and correction is going to force us to keep 27 prisoners. We are going to have to house these prisoners in other counties at more cost. We need to explore taking in prisoners from out of the county and federal prisoners. In the 1970s when the jail was built there were 10 beds for federal prisoners.”

Walton concurs that the state can shut down the jail at any time because the county is housing more than the allotted 27.

“No one likes to spend money on people referred to as criminals, but it something that has to be done,” Walton said. “What is the most cost-effective way to do this? If there is no jail for the county then everyone would have to be shipped out. This would require extra expense for transporting prisoners, paying their court-appointed attorneys to drive to the out of county jail to confer with them, plus paying a lot of money every day to other counties to house these prisoners. From the information that has been furnished to me, I feel the Franklin Furnace option is the best option available.”

Dr. Wayne Young, pastor of First United Methodist Church, could see moving to Franklin Furnace if it allowed the county to meet its responsibility to society.

“I think we ought to take the opportunity to upgrade those facilities,” Young said. “What we have there needs to be better. I think as long as society or the county is responsible for other people, they have a responsibility to do an adequate job of providing that. I don’t know all the financial details, but if the Franklin Furnace facility would allow that, that would be good.”

County treasurer Stephen Burcham sees the option of building a new jail in the county as viable.

“Given the fact we spend $400,000 housing prisoners out of the county, I find it difficult to believe we couldn’t take that and put it on a new facility,” he said. “Seems like you could build a jail and make a $400,000 a year payment and pay it off. We could use the money we are paying other counties and we could pay for a jail.”

County engineer Doug Cade appreciates the magnitude of the decision the county is facing as far as the jail situation.

“Every action that is taken by the board of commissioners and every elected official affects the county’s future in some manner,” Cade said. “The commissioners, sheriff and county auditor are more informed than I regarding the situation that they are facing regarding the jail and funding basic county government services. I have been focused on improving our county’s roads since being in office. Having said that, if I can provide input that is valuable to make a decision that is best for our county, I will be glad to do that.”

 

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