Sheriff details deficiencies at structure

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hiring a consultant to determine what would be needed as far as new jail won’t happen in the near future.

At a special meeting of the county’s Jail Resolution Committee on Tuesday, the idea of calling in a consultant was not met with unanimous approval.

“They didn’t think that money needed to be spent to tell us what we already know,” Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. “The idea of the consultant was tabled for now.”

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However, the possibility of finding grant money to pay for a consultant will be explored, according to Commission President Bill Pratt.

“Ralph Kline (of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization) is going to look into the same grants they used in Lucas County,” Pratt said.

Lawless presented the committee with a letter that reiterated what the sheriff has said are the deficiencies at the aging facility that no longer meets state standards.

Among those are having a jail administrator; a implemented staffing plan; toilet facilities at a minimum of one operable toilet and one operable shower for every 12 inmates; a new HVAC system to provide a range of temperatures from 68 to 80 degrees; an exercise area; alcohol and drug abuse treatment; and an upgraded visiting area.

“We are averaging 80 inmates per day at this facility with some cellblocks holding 14 plus inmates,” Lawless’ letter states. “We need to install another shower, toilet and sink in these cell blocks to comply. However there is no space to provide another set of these facilities. This facility currently has no exercise area or equipment. We need to build onto the current structure to provide a facility. Then we would have to purchase the equipment. We need to build on to provide space for treatment programs and then either hire trained persons or contract with trainers.”

One of the most prominent deficiencies is that the jail currently does not provide the mandatory square footage that the state requires for each prisoner, which is 50 square feet of sleeping space and 35 square feet of day space.

“This facility only offers on average about 20 square feet of space and when the number of prisoners increases the foot space is reduced,” the letter states.

Lawless also requested a medical ward with a full-time doctor and medical staff.

Right now the options openly debated by county officials are build a new jail; contract with Scioto County to take more than the 10 inmates that are covered by the current contract between the two counties; or re-open the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility at Franklin Furnace.

So far no one has followed through with exploring in detail any of those options.

The committee will meet again at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 4 to hear if Kline could get any grant money for a consultant.

“I don’t have enough information available to determine which direction to go,” Pratt said. “That is kind of the reason for the consultant.”

The meetings, which are open to the public, are held at the commission chambers.