Officials to aid in determining jail staffing needs

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Officials with the National Institute of Corrections are scheduled to tour the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace to determine staffing if the center is turned into the Lawrence County Jail.

“They are coming for free with the idea of what the staffing minimum requirements are,” Commission President Bill Pratt said at the latest meeting of the ad hoc jail committee meeting on Tuesday.

The committee was charged to devise a plan to take over a 100-bed wet cell unit at the former juvenile correctional facility. STAR Community Justice Center wants to take over the rest of the center for an expansion.

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“They are coming to meet with us and go through the building and help (Sheriff) Jeff (Lawless) with staffing requirements,” Pratt said.

The current Lawrence County Jail has been the target of complaints about overcrowding for the past few years with the state declaring it in non-compliance. The state has offered the former juvenile center as a possible solution.

Now the county must come up with a study by mid May to determine if it can afford to take over part of the ORVJC. Already the committee has determined that utilities would cost $171,000 a year. In 2013 utilities at the jail came in at $65,186.

Potential savings could come if the county contracts with STAR for food and laundry service and no longer needs to use out of county jails to house additional prisoners. In 2013, $316,045 was spent on out of county jails and $144,482 on food, not including the salaries of the two cooks. Committee members also said the county could possibly save up to $200,000 if STAR manned the security station for both facilities.

“That is why we need to can close that gap,” Pratt said. “One way we can do that is from savings of food and some savings with shared service with laundry.”

Now the committee needs to know what the staffing cost would be.

“I think it is a great opportunity,” County Auditor Jason Stephens said. “However there is no room in our budget at it stands. It still comes back to X number of dollars. Until we get what it is going to cost and get real numbers.”

At the next meeting on April 15, Lawless is expected to have staffing figures.