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Housing prisoners to cost more

To house prisoners at the Scioto County Jail just got more expensive.

A contract presented to Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless from his counterpart in Scioto, Marty Donini, has upped the cost of housing male inmates at that facility from $48 a day to $60 a day. If female prisoners are sent to Scioto, that cost would be $65 a day.

Lawrence has had a longstanding contract with Scioto to take up to 10 prisoners a day. The county has to pay for those 10 beds even if they aren’t used.

In this new contract there would be no minimum, but also no guarantee that there would be any space for county prisoners. That could have an advantage, commissioner Bill Pratt said.

“That could be a good thing,” he said. “We don’t want to sign a yearly contract, if we move to the (Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility.)”

The contract was filed for review by the commissioners at their Thursday meeting.

“We are at their mercy,” Lawless said. “They have other counties that want that jail space. Scioto hasn’t increased our rates for many years. It comes at a bad time.”

The status of the proposal to move the county jail to the ORVJC in Franklin Furnace was addressed by commission president Les Boggs at the jail committee meeting that followed the commissioners’ meeting.

The state has offered a 100-bed unit at the ORVJC to the county for its jail and the rest of the facility to STAR Community Justice Center.

Lawless has estimated that making the move would cost approximately $1.3 million a year to cover basic salaries, personnel expenses, insurance and utilities.

Boggs said the county could provide approximately $900,000 toward the move. However more than half of that is coming from $500,000 that may or may not actually be available to be spent. Two members of the budget commission took that half a million from the $1.8 million carryover for this year to be used for the move. The county auditor, however, has said he will not approve spending that money because it reduces the carryover.

On top of that, Boggs said there would be $200,000 in savings from no longer needing to house prisoners out of the county; $100,000 in savings when STAR provides food and laundry service for the jail; and the rest from using part-time workers or having them work 12-hour shifts.

“That is all we can afford,” Boggs said. “If it is not enough, somebody has to step up and say that is not enough.”

Lawless said if he could get at least $1.1 million a year on top of his current budget, he could make the move work.

“But they talk about money that may never happen,” he said. “I haven’t seen any money put in my budget to help move this forward as of right now. That $900,000 will get me close, but is still a couple hundred thousand short. And where does that $500,000 come from next year?”