Center will treat and house offenders

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 2, 1999

FRANKLIN FURNACE – Area judicial officials expect to break ground in January on the new STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace.

Thursday, December 02, 1999

FRANKLIN FURNACE – Area judicial officials expect to break ground in January on the new STAR Community Justice Center in Franklin Furnace.

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The 60-bed, all male, minimum security treatment center will serve common pleas courts in Adams, Brown, Clinton, Highland, Lawrence, Pickaway, Pike, Ross and Scioto counties as a place to house nonviolent offenders who are better-suited for treatment.

"It will serve as another community sanction somewhere between the county jail and prison system," center executive director Dan Hieronimus said.

To be accepted as a center resident, the non-violent offender must agree to participate in a challenging environment of structure, education, vocational training, community work service, counseling, treatment and other programs.

The center is specifically designed to impact the overcrowding in prisons, but also gives local courts the opportunity to help those amenable to treatment, Hieronimus said.

"In prison, you don’t get intensive treatment," he said. "This opens up beds in prison for the more violent and takes less violent people and puts them back in the community (after treatment)."

Building the center in Green Township will mean local economic benefits, too, Hieronimus said.

There probably will be 100 construction jobs for 11 months, and 35 or more full-time jobs at the center after that, he said.

Officials and residents have had questions about locating a prison-type facility in the Green area, Hieronimus added.

"But I have yet to meet anyone who vocalized that they were against it," he said. "Sure, there are people who feel they would rather not have it next to them but my challenge will be to make sure it runs safely and securely and in fact is a benefit for the community."

The benefit comes from saving tax dollars by keeping some offenders out of the more costly prison system, and if offenders turn their lives around, society benefits from another active member of the community, Hieronimus said.

"It’s admirable and noteworthy that local leaders are willing to agree to help administer these types of programs for people they don’t normally want in their back yard," he said. "That’s leadership."

The center will be governed by a Judicial Corrections Board chaired by Scioto County Common Pleas Court Judge Walter Lytten. Lawrence County judges Richard Walton and Frank McCown serve on that board.

If justice professionals are to administer true justice, they must advocate on behalf of all stakeholders, not just the offender, Lytten said.

The STAR Community Justice Center is an attempt to balance the interests and needs of victims, families, communities and offenders in order to instill attitudes that are reasonable, deserved and morally and legally proper, he said.

During the first 30 days of residency, offenders will undergo detailed needs assessment as well as treatment team and program assignments, Hieronimus said.

Immediately after orientation, residents will begin planning for reintegration into their home community as a more responsible and productive, tax-paying citizen, he said.

Offenders will be required to participate in individualized programming for an average of 16 hours each day, seven days per week for up to six months. Eventually, residents will be assisted in finding a job near home.

After residency, a support network will be in place to re-enforce the residential program components over time and to enforce a continued treatment plan as a part of the court-ordered conditions of community control for as long as five years, based upon offenders’ behavior, Hieronimus said.

The justice center has already agreed to participate with Ohio University Southern Campus, Shawnee State University, Scioto County Joint Vocational School, the Collins Career Center, The Counseling Center, Victim Advocates and many others to maintain mutually beneficial partnerships, he said.

Official groundbreaking ceremonies will be held on the building site in Franklin Furnace at 10 a.m. on Jan. 5.