County jail transition starting

Published 10:16 am Thursday, July 17, 2014

Two weeks after the Lawrence County Commission unanimously agreed to move the county jail to Franklin Furnace, Sheriff Jeff Lawless has begun the preliminary transition effort.

In 30 days, Lawless said he hopes to begin advertising to fill positions for 38 corrections officers to work at the former Ohio River Valley Correctional Facility in Scioto County.

In March the state offered a 100-bed unit at the now closed facility to the county for its jail. The current facility across from the county courthouse has been in non-compliance for at least the past year housing two to four times the number of inmates it is allowed.

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“I am waiting to hear back from the state that we are going to take possession,” Lawless said. “Nothing has been confirmed to me yet.”

When the sheriff gets official notification, he will review his office’s policies and procedures to make sure the facility originally built for juveniles is ready to house adult prisoners.

“We need to make sure there is enough seating for the day room,” Lawless said. “When to have indoor and outdoor recreation. It is not set up for visitation. They have to be separated and there is no such area. We have to establish a locker room to lock up inmates’ personal property.”

Lawless wants to hire 38 to fill positions at the new facility including a jail administrator and possibly a fiscal officer.

“I have to post it in house for 10 days if anyone is interested in switching positions in the union,” he said.

After that he will advertise publicly for applicants.

“I want to try to hire everybody from Lawrence County,” he said. “I want to make that a priority.”

However if there are not enough applicants from the county, Lawless will reach out to the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association to see if there are any law enforcement personnel who would be interested such as officers who have been laid off.

“I have to have certified, qualified people,” he said.

The county commission calculated cost for the move based on 32 officers at Franklin Furnace. However, Lawless said the additional six are needed.

“In order to run the operation, it would be the safest way to handle all the duties that have to performed,” he said.

The current county jail could be used as a holding facility for inmates facing court appearances.

“There are times we have 30 people going to common pleas court and the jail cell there can probably handle only 10 people,” Lawless said.

The sheriff expects to start the job search process by mid August and would like to move into the ORVJC by the end of January.