Jail housing budget almost depleted

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

3 percent remaining

Out of an appropriation of $375,000 to pay to house prisoners out of the county, as of Tuesday morning there remained only $13,841.95 or 3 percent of the original budget.

To comply with state directive to cut overcrowding at the county jail, Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless has, for the past year, sent inmates to jails in Morrow, Knox, Scioto, Butler and Mercer counties at an average cost of $50 per day per inmate.

On Monday there were 32 prisoners in Morrow; five in Knox, one in Butler and one in Scioto.

Email newsletter signup

Lawless said he needs to keep a low census to keep space for prisoners coming down for Wednesday’s court sessions and newly arrested inmates.

“We had to get our numbers down today and tomorrow because we are bringing people back for common pleas,” he said on Tuesday. “I’m bringing 18 back to court and then deputies will start making arrests. We have to keep the numbers down where we can make arrests.”

The sheriff anticipates the census to almost double as summer approaches, a traditionally high period for arrests.

“We are keeping our numbers down, which is sending our operating costs sky high,” he said.

Besides out of county jail costs, the office is averaging $1,000 a month on gasoline for those trips.

“We are going to four or five counties a couple times a week when there is place right down the road we could use,” Lawless said.

Recently the Lawrence County Commission did an about-face and turned down an offer from the state to use a 100-bed unit in the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility. The commissioners had originally agreed to move the county jail to the Franklin Furnace center, but later changed their decision citing the high cost to operate the facility.

“I thought I was good to August (on money),” Lawless said. “I am very concerned about the budget for out of county housing. It appears I will be out of money at the beginning of the year.”