GALLIPOLIS — Housing prisoners in Gallia County becomes more of a problem with increasing criminal activity and actions taken against drug abuse.
Lt. Kevin Werry of the Gallia County Sheriffs’s Office serves as the jail administrator for the county, and oversees the jail and the Work Release Center (WRC) in Cheshire.
The main jail in Gallia can hold 11 persons by state standards, and the WRC can hold up to 50 non-violent offenders, explained Werry. Felons and violent offenders must be housed in the jail, or shipped to a secure facility.
“As the years have gone on, crime and drug problems have risen and we’re housing more and more people,” stated Werry. “At any given time, we have anywhere from eight to 15 prisoners housed out of county. And we’re still overcrowded.”
Housing prisoners has become a problem in Gallia County due to the limited space and the increased effort to manage the drug problem. Gallia has prisoner housing contracts as far away as Highland and Ross County, which adds to the burden of the prison system.
“You have to pay for their housing out of county, you have to pay for that deputy to take that inmate, then you’ve got to pay for fuel and vehicle wear,” stated Werry.
He also explained that in the long run, these costs add up quickly compared to housing inmates in their own system. Some of these inmates have court dates, and have to be transported back and forth from out of county.
“There has been discussion of a possible new jail, but nothing is set in stone yet,” said Werry. “We could house other people’s prisoners. There is some opportunity their to re-coupe some of the money.”
The average cost of a night for an inmate out of county is between $55 and $70. Werry also explained that without the cost of transporting inmates and the added revenue of housing other inmates, a new jail could be a feasible option.
Gallia has one of the oldest jails in Ohio.
“There is a lot more to running a jail than people realize, we provide medical assistance, and we have to cook food for them,” stated Werry. “You can’t just lock them in a cell and leave them there.
“Our jail was built in 1954, it (a new jail) would bring us up to the times, we’re behind the times,” said Werry.
A new jail by modern standards could house 100 inmates and be run by five correctional officers, and improved safety for officers, inmates, and the community.
“There’s a lot of advantages to having a new jail, for us and the community,” said Werry.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108.