County must look at jail opportunities

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The two-fold problem is clear: Crime is increasing and the Lawrence County Jail has essentially outlived its functional life. Unfortunately, the solution is not nearly as obvious.

Lawrence County officials, including the commissioners and the sheriff, have long known that the jail no longer meets the needs of our county and comes nowhere near meeting the current state standards for an incarceration facility.

The jail almost constantly houses at least 25 or 30 more people than it was designed for and the county frequently has to send prisoners out of county simply to have somewhere to put them, a costlier proposition than jailing them here.

Email newsletter signup

It has been several years since anyone focused solely on finding a solution to this problem, but it is time to renew that effort, both locally and at a state level.

Something has to be done and currently there simply isn’t the funding to do it.

Local leaders must start coming up with contingency plans that should feature a variety of options including expanding the existing building, renovating the former post office next door or building an entirely new facility somewhere.

Once these alternatives are in place then it is time to look at how to pay for it, and that conversation must be addressed both locally and in Columbus.

State law changes have required that more nonviolent offenders are jailed locally rather than going into the state prison system.

Although that helps the state budget and makes sense, it puts a significant burden on communities like Lawrence County.

Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers must help come up with a plan to address this issue, whether that be through funding new jail construction, providing resources for renovations or simply providing funds to help jails operate.

The bottom line is now is time to acknowledge this issue and work together to find a viable solution that will make all of Ohio a safer, better place to live.