Jail not going anywhere

Published 10:35 am Friday, July 10, 2015

2 commissioners publicly say no money, no move


It is almost official. The county won’t move the jail to Scioto County.

Citing the absence of any funding for the move in the recently passed state budget, Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt said the county hasn’t the money to put the beleaguered jail in the now closed Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility.

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This is about two weeks before the state comes for a regular jail inspection, which the sheriff says the facility will fail.

Repeated violations of state mandates prompted the state last year to offer a 100-bed unit at the ORV to the county, at least until a new jail could be built.

“We have the state budget with no money appropriated to Lawrence County to help make the move to the ORV,” Pratt said at the commissioners’ regular Thursday meeting. “We expected our sales tax to come in higher. It was a valiant effort. But it was an offer we couldn’t afford.”

Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. echoed Pratt’s comments that without $500,000 that had been expected to help with the move, it can’t happen. County Auditor Jason Stephens confirmed that money does not exist.

However, when Pratt said if one of his fellow commissioners would make a motion to rescind the lease the commission signed with the state, he would second it.

No motion was made. Commission president Les Boggs made no public comment about the move.

“Once again there is no solution to this problem that is not going to go away,” Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. “I am in fear of being left without a jail completely and have no means at all to lock anyone up for any crime.”

Because the jail repeatedly fails inspections, the state has said the facility should only house 27 inmates. Typical daily census ranges from 70s to 90s, plus housing prisoners out of the county.

Lawless is concerned after the upcoming inspection the state will take the county to court to reduce the number of prisoners it can house.

“If we are down to 27 beds, all beds will be filled,” the sheriff said. “What happens if there is a domestic violence or a robbery or a murder? What do I do with a murderer if I can’t lock him up? If I have to drive him to Cleveland (to a jail there) and have to drive back the next day to go to court.

“I have a place at the ORV if they will allow me to use it. It is going to come a time that no police agency will have a place to lock up anyone if there is no jail in Lawrence County.”