Justice Center breaks ground

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 10, 2000

Franklin Furnace – More than 70 local officials, legislators and area residents gathered last week at groundbreaking ceremonies for the $2.

Monday, January 10, 2000

Franklin Furnace – More than 70 local officials, legislators and area residents gathered last week at groundbreaking ceremonies for the $2.88 million STAR Community Justice Center.

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Justice center executive director Dan Hieronimus called the large turnout a herald of things to come.

"One of the good things the representatives from Columbus were impressed with was the turnout from the local community," Hieronimus said.

The facility represents the fact that the criminal justice system is sensitive not only to offenders’ rights and needs, but also to those of the victims, families and the community at large, he said.

The 60-bed, all-male, minimum security, intensive treatment center will serve common pleas courts in Adams, Brown, Clinton, Highland, Lawrence, Pickaway, Pike, Ross and Scioto counties as a community-based correctional facility.

It will divert offenders from crowded prisons and jails into an environment where they can benefit from programs that will return them as tax-paying productive citizens of their communities, Hieronimus said.

And freeing up prison beds means courts can better sentence violent offenders, to segregate them from the community, he said.

"I think it’s fantastic for this area," Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Walton said.

Walton also serves as vice chairman of the area Judicial Corrections Board, which will oversee the justice center.

"It gives us a place to put people who need to be confined but not in the general prison population," he said. "It’s a facility where they will get specific help for their individual problem."

As a result, the first-time and nonviolent offenders stand a greater chance of becoming one-time offenders and getting back into the productive portion of communities, Walton said.

Officials hope to begin construction by the end of January, Hieronimus said.

The board is determining the lowest and best bidders and should make a decision by the end of the week, he said.

Construction should provide about 100 construction jobs and should finish late this year or January 2001, Hieronimus said.

The facility will employ about 30 to 35 full-time staff members, he said.

Two people have already been hired through grants – Jeff Gaskin of South Point as project coordinator for the residential substance abuse treatment program and Larry Mullins of Wheelersburg as RADAR project coordinator.

Line staff will be hired within 30 to 45 days before the facility opens and supervisors will be hired 30 to 45 days before that, Hieronimus said.

"No later than the first of July, I hope to be permitted to hire all the managers," he said.

To be accepted as a justice center resident, non-violent offenders must agree to participate in a challenging environment of structure, education, vocational training, community work service, counseling, treatment and other intensive programs that will address their specific needs, Hieronimus said.

For example, during the first 30 days of residency, offenders will undergo detailed needs assessment as well as treatment team and program assignments.

Immediately after orientation, residents will begin planning for reintegration into their home community and will be required to participate in individualized programming for an average of 16 hours each day, seven days a week for up to six months.

As soon as possible, residents will get help finding jobs within an acceptable commuting distance from their home.

Their wages will be assessed for victim reimbursements, child support, court costs and a contribution to their treatment programming.

After residency, a community-based support network will be in place to reinforce the residential program over time and to enforce a continued treatment plan as a part of their conditions of community control.