Regional jail coming to Franklin Furnace?

By Frank Lewis -

Could there be a regional jail in the area’s future? The discussion has begun, but nothing is etched in stone, Scioto County Commissioners Chairman Bryan Davis said. With the recent announcement that Lawrence County had its lease agreement concerning the Liberation Building at the Ohio River Valley Correctional Center (ORC) in Franklin Furnace terminated by the state of Ohio for not paying the utility bills for that facility, that building has again entered the conversation about a possible regional jail.

“A lot has happened,” Davis said. “In the biennial budget, there have been proposals made. There’s a lot of things being done.”

Davis said State Representative Ryan Smith (OH-93) put an amendment into the budget that says the ORC Liberation facility, which, until May 5, 2017, is under contract to Lawrence County, could be utilized as a regional jail and at the same time dismisses Lawrence County from liability.

“I don’t want to discuss or even guess what Lawrence County is doing. That is their business and we want to stay out of that,” Davis said. “But from all intentions, from what I understand from talking to a lot of people at the state level as well as locally, is that because of the (Scioto County) jail overcrowding, that the state of Ohio is offering this building to be used as a regional jail.”

Davis said $1.5 million is being set aside as part of the amendment.

“That would be used to get it ready,” Davis said. “They have already put $1 million into the roof, so it is done. There are other things that would have to be done in order to prepare it for that. Sallyports, things like that, which was part of the original discussion with Lawrence County. By doing this, it gives us an opportunity. Whether or not that opportunity is grabbed a hold of by the counties in our region, and the way it is written, it is Scioto County plus one, meaning it has to be an adjacent county, it can be multiple counties. It can be four. It can be five. It can be Pike. It can be Jackson. It can be Gallia, as long as there is a contiguous attachment.”

Davis said the intention is to secure the building for southern Ohio and for Scioto County use if Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini had a desire to do that. He said one of the advantages of a jail at Franklin Furnace would be the availability of rehabilitation services through STAR if the state passes a plan to return felony-five prisoners back to county jurisdictions. He said he hopes if that happens the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would help finance the project.

Davis said he does not know if having multiple counties involved in the financial operation of a regional jail would be financially feasible.

“In talking to Representative Smith, I know that they want to help facilitate that if it’s possible,” Davis said. “They know that everybody is overcrowded. They know we’re overcrowded. They know that Lawrence County is overcrowded. They know that Pike County doesn’t have a jail. There’s issues everywhere and this opiate epidemic has caused a major issue.”

He said there can be no further discussion until more action is taken on the subject

By Frank Lewis

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.