State must give county assistance

Published 10:22 am Friday, April 18, 2014

It seems the county officials are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to finding a solution for the aging and overcrowded jail.

What seemed like a gift from above — use of the former Ohio River Valley Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace at no cost — may just be another money pit county officials can’t afford to fall into.

Staffing the ORVC would require adding more than double the employees to the payroll, which equals to about $1.5 million more per year on salaries and benefits.

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And building a new jail probably isn’t in the cards either, with an $11 million price tag.

So what are county officials to do? The current jail does not meet the requirements for minimum square-footage per inmate. It is clear there is no room in an already stretched budget to build a new facility and even clearer that crime is not slowing down anytime soon.

County commissioners and the sheriff are hoping the state will step in and provide financial help so the ORVC won’t be a wasted asset. And without some assistance, that’s exactly what the facility would be — wasted.

Lawrence County cannot afford for the state to shut down the jail before better plans are in place. Putting criminals back on the streets would only hurt the county and farming out the prisoners to other jails would cost more than $1 million.

There just doesn’t seem to be an easy way out of this situation. Either way, without the state’s help, the county is going to have to come up with the money to place prisoners somewhere, be it at the ORVC, a new jail or other facilities.

Surely state officials can see the dire straights Lawrence County is in, after all, it is their regulations we have to follow. It is only right for the state to step in and give support to a project that is of the utmost importance to citizens in southern Ohio.