Lawrence County will not expand number of beds in jail

By Wayne Allen

September 20, 2013

Wayne Allen

PDT Staff Writer

Chairman of the Lawrence County Commissioners Bill Pratt said on Thursday morning they will not expand the number of Lawrence County inmates housed in the Scioto County Jail. Upon hearing the news, Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini said he will no longer peruse use of the former Juvenile Detention Center.

Pratt said Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless approached the Lawrence County Commissioners about expanding the number of Lawrence County inmates housed in the Scioto County Jail from an existing 5-10 to 20.

“We could really do in the neighborhood of 5-10 additional beds. That puts us out of range for what Scioto County wants to do,” Pratt said. “They (Scioto County) would have rather had us send about 20 or so. It’s just hard for us to guarantee that amount.”

For a while Donini has been considering the possibility of using the former juvenile detention facility and current Second Chance Center as expanded jail space. This was contingent upon Lawrence County agreeing to send an increased number of inmates.

Donini said the facility could open up an additional 30-40 beds for the county to rent.

Pratt said the decision to not increase the number of beds to what Scioto County desired was a financial decision.

“It’s not that we don’t want to cooperate or help Scioto County. We can still keep our prisoners here cheaper, even though it’s a little overcrowded,” Pratt said.

Lawrence County has been dealing with overcrowding in their current jail for a number of years and at one point were under a state mandate to find an alternative facility.

“It’s still a problem here. Our inmate rolls have been down a little bit from what they have been. Our judges are making some decisions to help fix some of the overcrowding issues, which has made the situation a little better,” Pratt said. “Today’s (Thursday) jail roll is 82 inmates. Our current jail was built to house 52 people and there are 58 beds. The jail inspector says that with today’s standards it’s only 16, but they have asked up to ask for a variance (from the state) to get the total number of beds to 58.”

He they have asked for the variance on multiple occasions from the state but have not received official word.

When told about Lawrence County’s decision Donini said some closure can now be brought to the issue of trying to reopen the former juvenile detention center as an extension of the Scioto County Jail.

“If they are not going to commit to it, then I won’t have any desire whatsoever to open that up because there is no way we can finance it without them,” Donini said.

In anticipation of hearing if Donini would be able to secure enough beds to reopen the former juvenile detention center, the Scioto County Commissioners have delayed renewing a lease agreement with The Counseling Center to use the facility.

“We’ve been talking about having Ed Hughes, (CEO of The Counseling Center) in to discuss what we are going to do,” said Mike Crabtree, Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners.

Crabtree said ever since the question has come up if the commissioners should renew the lease with The Counseling Center, there has been a number of suggested changes that could be made to the agreement. One of the suggested changes was to start charging The Counseling Center rent to use the facility.

Crabtree said the Second Chance Center has had some success and that is good for the county and for the people who have benefited from the service.

“We hope to get Ed Hughes in here sometime next week. I don’t have much to comment on as far as what we are going to do with that until we’ve had a chance to sit down and discuss a few things that have been brought up,” Crabtree said. “Until we get a chance to get his input, I’m not going to make any rash or quick decisions that would put us in a position where we are paying thousands of dollars a year to keep that place lit up for the sake of getting someone out of it.”

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or tallen@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.