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County close to new contract with STAR

Executive director addresses commission over recent events

A new contract between Lawrence County and the STAR Community Justice Center involving use of the Liberation building in Franklin Furnace is close to being complete, according to commissioner DeAnna Holliday. The issue was brought to attention at the commission’s meeting Tuesday, where STAR Executive Director Eddie Philabaun addressed them about recent events involving one of the commissioners and one of his STAR employees.

Commission President Bill Pratt is currently involved in court proceedings, and is seeking a restraining order against attorney and STAR fiscal/human resources director JT Holt over alleged threats, both in person and through texts.

Philabaun said he was there on behalf of the STAR Community Justice Center, and does not condone anything that Holt allegedly did, adding that he believes all of the “back and fourths” online are “unprofessional and unbecoming.”

Philabaun stated that he wanted to make clear that any business going on between the county and STAR remained professional and free from personal grievances and politics.

Through the interaction, it was announced that a new contract between the county and STAR was in the works for the use of the Liberation building as a way to alleviate out-of-county prisoner transportation. In addition, incarceration at the facility would also include immediate treatment.

“I’ve worked very hard on this for a long time, and basically it’s going to give us the opportunity to utilize the Liberation building to alleviate the out-of-county transportation,” Holliday said. “It will alleviate the financial burden and also help us fight the opioid crisis by immediately giving treatment to offenders.”

Holliday also said that she began working on this very shortly after the move for the county jail to the location failed, and has been working with numerous county officeholders, including the other commissioners, all of the judges, Sheriff Jeff Lawless and Prosecutor Brigham Anderson, as well as Ohio Rep. Ryan Smith, R-93.

“We’ve been working really hard to identify the specific need as far as what the incarceration rate looks like and what the offenders look like to try to come up with some kind of solution,” Holliday said. “And part of the contract is that STAR would handle the transportation for us and pick up the offenders, and this would alleviate all of the daily expenses, like food and medical, as well.”

The daily cost per prisoner at the location would be $55 a day. Holliday said that currently, the daily cost of out-of-county prisoners is between $55-$75, which also doesn’t include the transportation.

She added that she believes this would help bridge the gap between now and when Lawrence County is able to build its own jail, and the savings for the county would go toward that.

The Liberation building at STAR contains 200 beds, and Lawrence County would occupy 50 of those, 30 for males and 20 for females, with a few other counties taking up the rest of the space as part of the contract. Other counties potentially also utilizing the facility include Adams, Scioto, Pike, Jackson and Gallia.

“The goal is to completely do away with out-of-county transportation,” Holliday said. “And with the immediate treatment being a part of this, I think this is going to be a great thing for Lawrence County.”

The location would only be for low-level, non-violent offenders, which make up the majority of those sentenced in Lawrence County.

With both Lawrence County and the STAR Community Justice Center under the legal services of Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson, the county will have an outside attorney review the contract before it is potentially passed.