Legislature puts funding to regional jail

By Dean Wright - deanwright@civitasmedia.com

COLUMBUS — On Tuesday, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill which would send around $1.25 million in capital funds in order to upgrade and maintain a regional jail which would be centered in Franklin Furnace in Scioto County.

“It’s the Ohio River Valley Facility,” said State Representative Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell). “It was a former youth (facility) that has been empty for a while. A few years ago, I got some legislation in that would give Lawrence County control of it because their jail problem was so bad. It was costing the county a small fortune trying to find a place to put (inmates).”

Smith said Lawrence County had a lease with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The lease of which expired in early May, according to the representative.

“The idea is to allow space to (law enforcement) that needs it,” said Smith. “(Gallia) Sheriff (Matt) Champlin tells me he has to drive to Butler County or Morrow County to find jail space sometimes. It would allow them to utilize it…This budget we put the language in there to go forward with the regional jail.”

Smith said he had spoken with county officials in Jackson, Gallia and Lawrence and felt they were open to the idea of using the facility with other southern Ohio counties potentially agreeing to using the facility as well. Smith said he felt the jail could fit around 150 beds for inmates.

“There’s no use in anyone building anything new if it’s sitting down there,” said Smith. “The whole idea is to get this thing up and running. Get (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections) to get it up to speed. Use existing infrastructure to solve some of the jail overcrowding issues in multiple counties. Three out of four of my counties have jail overcrowding problems. Vinton doesn’t but they have part of their regional jail (needs) in Nelsonville.”

Smith said much of the legislation passed for the Ohio River Valley Facility was modeled after the Nelsonville jail compound. Smith said the legislation was recently passed as part of House Bill 49.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright