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Jail: Contract with state a possibility

Reaching out to the state to house some of its prisoners could be a way to find funding to run the proposed move of the Lawrence County Jail to the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Center at Franklin Furnace.

“I am making a pitch to the state that they contract with us for state prisoners,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said. “That would be for whatever that gap is we need to close, the amount of money to operate versus the amount of money we have to operate.”

Pratt heads up an ad hoc jail committee that is to come up with a feasibility study concerning using the ORVJC.

Right now that figure is unknown until Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless determines the number of corrections officers he would need for the facility.

Officials from the National Institute of Corrections and the state are to meet with Lawless to advise on the number of staff he would need at the ORVC.

“We really need that number,” Pratt said.

The county is hoping it can take over the 100-bed wet unit at the one-time youth correctional center that was shut down by the state about two years ago. The state is now offering the center to the county as a possible jail site. Overcrowding at the current jail has plagued the county for some time coupled with recent state standards that require more square footage per prisoner that the county jail can provide.

STAR Justice Community Justice Center wants to take over the rest of the ORVC to relocate and expand its rehabilitation operation.

“If (the state) will contract a certain amount, we will be providing a certain number of beds,” Pratt said. “If they have an overflow of prisoners and need additional beds, we could contract to provide those. It would be a source of revenue to close that gap.”

Right now utilities at the ORVJC are expected to cost $171,000 a year compared to $65,186 in 2013 at the current jail.

Housing prisoners out of the county is sometimes an everyday occurrence for Lawrence County officials with contracts with Scioto, Ashland, Pickaway and Morrow counties. In 2013 $316,045 was spent on those contracts.

Other ways for savings could come from contracting food and laundry services from STAR, county officials contend.

“One way we can do that is from savings of food and some savings with shared service with laundry,” Pratt said.

In 2013 $144,482 was spent on food and $89,789.65 on salaries of the two cooks, which included $29,448.85 in overtime.

The jail committee will meet at 11 a.m. on Tuesday following the regular Lawrence County Commissioners meeting that starts at 9:30 a.m.