Edwards, Stephens introduce county jail funding bill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 20, 2021

COLUMBUS — State Representatives Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, and Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, held a press conference on Tuesday to introduce and discuss House Bill 101, legislation that would establish a County Jail Construction Funding Formula.

Under House Bill 101, the County Jail Construction Funding Formula would be structured similarly to that of Ohio’s school construction formula, which has been in place for over two decades and has proven to be very successful in assisting school districts with major construction projects.

“This is a personal issue to my home in the 94th house district,” said Edwards. “The Meigs County Jail permanently closed last month for multiple reasons. But if this legislation had been in place, the jail would still be open and operating. Although this bill would exponentially improve jails in Southeastern Ohio, it would also have an outstanding effect on the quality of jails across the whole state.”

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The proposal would allow the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to work in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Correction to development the funding formula based on the following factors:

• Rank counties and award them funds based on need, such as income per capita, property value and sales tax revenue capacity.
• Develop a matching program where the state will match a certain percentage of construction of a county jail based on the same factors used in ranking.

Similarly to the school construction formula, state dollars would only be used for construction costs.

• OFCC and ODC will work directly with the respective county to establish the best possible solution for a new jail using projections of use and other means of establishing the size of a jail.

The program would be funded through the state capital budget on the biennium. The last capital budget allocated $50 million for jail construction.

“A key factor in this legislation is that we are modeling the County Jail Funding Formula off of the state’s school construction formula, which has proven to be successful year after year,” said Stephens. “If we can get a similar formula in place for Ohio’s jails, we could guarantee a safe and efficient jail situation in every single county across Ohio, regardless of population.”

Edwards and Stephens were joined by five local sheriffs at the press conference, Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart, Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman, Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless, Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood and Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier, who expressed their support for House Bill 101.

Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood spoke on behalf of his experience and vocalized his support for the funding bill, “House Bill 101 will remove the financial burden of housing our county’s inmates in and out of county facilities as far as three plus hours away. Being able to house them in our own county will prevent the wear and tear on our vehicles and allow our officers to remain in our county to protect and serve our citizens.”

The legislation has 22 co-sponsors. It now awaits to be assigned to a standing House committee where it will move forward in the committee hearing process.

The press conference can be viewed at https://ohiochannel.org/video/press-conference-discussing-h-b-no-101.