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Justice center plans expansion, new jobs

FRANKLIN FURNACE – The planned STAR Community Justice Center will double in size thanks to more than $2 million in extra state funding, even though its original construction is not finished.

Thursday, September 14, 2000

FRANKLIN FURNACE – The planned STAR Community Justice Center will double in size thanks to more than $2 million in extra state funding, even though its original construction is not finished.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) granted the funds earlier this month for the expansion of the 60-bed treatment center, a community-based correction facility considered an alternative to prison housing.

"The director of the ODRC said publicly the state intends not to build prisons," justice center director Dan Hieronimus said. "To do that, they must grow these types of community-based facilities."

The expansion will mean an extra 60 beds at the center – 30 female and 30 male – as well as more construction and operations jobs, said Lawrence County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Walton, justice center board vice-chairman.

"As far as I know, this is the first time, the state has increased capacity before a place is open," Walton said.

It’s an exciting project because the need for the facility is apparent, Walton said.

It offers a therapeutic community in which non-violent offenders participate in needs assessments, structured activities, intensive treatment, counseling, vocational training and community service work, Hieronimus said.

STAR is a minimum-security facility that will serve the courts in Lawrence and nine surrounding counties, he said.

Female offenders from Athens, Fairfield, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton, and Washington Counties also will be included.

"We do have the commitment history in the nine counties to support a 120-bed facility," he said.

The Scioto County commissioners purchased property in Franklin Furnace, on the river side of County Road 1, so that instead of building a 90 male bed, 30 female bed facility on the hillside of Gallia Pike, the plans are now to build a 90 bed facility there and use a portion of the other property for the 30 female beds, Walton said.

There is a total of eight acres there, which leaves room for expansion, he said.

And, the move means tax money for prisons comes back to the Lawrence-Scioto County area instead of going to Marion, for example, Walton said.

STAR had expected to open in February 2001, but now it will open with a minimum of 90 male beds in June 2001, Hieronimus said.

The 30-bed female wing should be completed by early winter of 2001, he said.

"This is an immense undertaking, but we have the advantage of learning from the 17 current CBCFs that have operated since the early 1980s," Hieronimus said.

The facility will serve offenders who need sentenced for their crimes but do not necessarily need a state prison term, Walton said.

"It gives time with treatment to change their thinking," he said.

And rehabilitation is the most cost-effective route to restoring communities, he added.