Inspection of jail for later this month

Published 10:57 am Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sheriff Jeff Lawless already knows the outcome, but everyone will go through the drill anyway.

On July 28 or 29, the state will conduct its regular jail inspection, and the county is not expected to come anywhere close to passing.

For several years the state has cited the jail for deficits, including not providing the required space for inmates. Because of that, the state has said the jail, built in the 1970s, should only house 27 inmates. Typically census ranges from 70 to 90 per day.

On Wednesday there were 72 with 12 additional prisoners in out of county facilities. Throughout much of June, the census was in the 90s.

The expected result from this inspection is not any different from others, except this one may end with more than a bad report.

“They are more likely to file against us if the county doesn’t take steps to remedy this or go to the ORV,” Lawless said.

Because of the repeated failures of the county jail to meet state inspections, about a year ago the state offered a 100-bed unit at the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Scioto County.

Following the recommendations of an ad hoc community committee, the county commissioners agreed to make the move. Funding, however, which would take about $1.3 million more than the current sheriff’s budget, was never allocated.

Although the original commission decision has not been rescinded, at least two commissioners say without funding the move cannot happen.

Later this month the state will scrutinize every inch of the county jail.

“They will check the lighting, which they always fail us, and the square footage, which we always fail,” the sheriff said.

Then they will go over all the jail policies.

“They make sure there are policies like a policy to wash the blankets once a week and a toilet for every 12 inmates,” Lawless said.

The sheriff believes following the inspection, the state will take steps either to reduce the number of inmates at the jail or close the facility

“The conversations they have had with me over the course of this, if the commissioners weren’t willing to remedy this situation, they would have no choice but to seek out a judge to remedy it,” he said. “They would file in common pleas court to reduce the number down to 27 or close it. We would have to argue our case in front of a judge.”