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Jail fails latest inspection

Following the July state inspection of the Lawrence County Jail, the facility was able to comply with 23 out of 117 standards.

“They were pleased for our having our numbers (of inmates) below 52,” Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. “They were pleased with our kitchen, the sanitation and the food quality and the fact we put efforts into bringing the building up to fire code.”

The two-day inspection was the first following major changes in the state standards that affected a variety of policies.

“Most of the policies after a few word changes we will be in compliance,” Lawless said.

However, there are 14 violations that focus on the actual building.

They include the county jail not providing what the state deems is adequate space for inmates.

“All dormitory spaces must provide housed prisoners with at least 35 square feet of day space per prisoners,” the inspection report states. “The jail has exceeded the Bureau Recommended Capacity for their facility and there is not the required amount of day space for each inmate.”

When the jail was built in the 1970s, its capacity was 52 prisoners. With recent changes in standards, the facility is now supposed to have a daily census of 27. Typically, the facility’s census can range from 70 to 100. However, to keep those numbers lower, Lawless has been sending inmates out of the county since June, primarily to Morrow County.

Since January Lawrence has paid that county $59,681.62 to house its prisoners. Lawless recently asked the county commission for approximately $40,000 to replace an aging van used to make the six-hour round trip that so far has cost the county approximately $26,000 in additional salary costs for deputies transporting the prisoners.

The jail also failed in providing air circulation of 15 cubic feet of outside or recirculated filtered air per minute; a minimum of one operable shower for every 12 occupants with water temperatures between 105 and 120 degrees; natural lighting in cells or day spaces; and at least 20 foot-candles of light measured 30 inches above the floor in inmate reading areas.

“On the structural side without major renovations or a new facility, there is no way we will ever meet those,” Lawless said.

Still on the table is an offer by the state department of corrections for the county to take over a 100-unit section of the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Scioto County.

Even though the county commissioners have signed a lease to make the move, no money has been appropriated to make state-mandated renovations or salaries for additional staff needed to man the ORV.

An ad hoc jail committee is also reviewing the possibility to building a facility. No proposal has come from any of those meetings so far.