State gets update on jail move

Published 11:48 am Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The state wanted an update on the move of the county jail to the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility so Gary Mohr, director of the state department of rehabilitation and corrections, came to Franklin Furnace on Monday to participate in a meeting that was attended by Sheriff Jeff Lawless and Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs.

“I felt like it was a good meeting and a productive meeting,” Boggs said. “There are a few hoops to jump through.”

The two county officials met with Mohr and members of his staff and other state officials at the STAR Community Justice Center next door to the ORVJC in Franklin Furnace. Also at the meeting was Eddie Philabaun, director of STAR. Neither Commissioner Bill Pratt nor Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr., was invited to the meeting nor was aware of it until Monday afternoon or Tuesday.

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“They wanted to know where we stood,” Lawless said. “I told them we were moving forward with a list of needs, things presented to the commissioners. I am waiting to hear when I can start hiring people. I basically presented my requests. We are trying to move our side forward.”

The state had planned to meet with Lawrence and Scioto county officials on Aug. 21 at the ORVJC on the status of the jail, but canceled that meeting without a reason.

In July the Lawrence County Commissioners voted to take the state up on its offer of a 100-bed unit at the now closed ORVJC in Scioto County. For more than a year the Lawrence County Jail has failed to meet state standards including not providing the state- mandated space requirements for inmates. Because of that the county jail is in noncompliance when it houses more than 24 inmates. Currently average census ranges from 70 to 100 inmates.

At the Aug. 7 county commission meeting, Lawless presented a request for equipment and other needs to upgrade the jail totaling close to $130,000.

The state’s goal is to have both the county jail and STAR at the Franklin Furnace facility by January, according to Lawless.

“Things are creeping along,” the sheriff said. “There are a lot of things that have to fall into place.”

One of those is erecting a fence at STAR’s perimeter at the ORVJC to separate that facility from the county jail.

“The state said they would take that under advisement,” Lawless said.

In a past interview Lawless said he had hoped to start hiring deputies for the Franklin Furnace facility by this month. He wants to hire 38 to fill positions at the new facility including a jail administrator and possibly a fiscal officer.

On Tuesday Lawless said he needs to be able to begin hiring by September, if he is to meet the January deadline for moving into the ORVJC.

When he can begin hiring or receive funding for his equipment requests, the sheriff said, “that is a question for the commissioners.”

Overall Lawless said he believes he has the support of the state to make the Franklin Furnace move.

“I have positive feedback from the state,” he said. “The state is anxious to see this project coming to fruition. I left the meeting with the positive feeling we will be occupying this as a jail.”

A call to the state department of rehabilitation and corrections was not returned by press time.