GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Commissioners and the Gallia Sheriff’s Office gathered during the commissioner’s regular meeting Thursday in the Gallia Courthouse to discuss the growing financial needs of the Gallia correctional system.
Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin said Gallia handles between 95 to 105 inmates daily either in the Gallia Jail, the Gallia Work Release Center or abroad in contracted correctional facilities. Expenses for inmates have measured between $60 and $70 a day in the past, according to Gallia Commissioner David Smith.
“We’re housing as far away right now as Van Wert County (western Ohio),” said Champlin. “It’s actually our cheapest county (to house prisoners) but it’s our farthest traveled. It’s nothing for us to take a van-load of six to eight people up there and a lot of times we’re passing ourselves on the road getting other prisoners back from court. It’s a constant strain and drain, not just on the budget but also manpower. We don’t want to over-hire and have too many employees that we’re in a position that we can’t keep them in a job, but it’s also a strain on our department scheduling.”
Champlin has said transporting inmates can be an issue as the county has contracted with other correctional facilities across the state to house a growing inmate population. The Gallia Jail is a 22 bed facility, but at times may house several more inmates to keep up with drug-related crime arrests with the heroin epidemic.
According to numbers discussed during the meeting, the sheriff’s office has spent $333,000 on out-of-county inmates in food, housing and medical costs from the beginning of the year and into the end of May.
“Last year, our appropriation with supplementals was $620,738,” said Commissioner Harold Montgomery. “And right now, we’re at $333,000 through May…It looks to me like expenditures are going to run somewhere of a million dollars instead of $620,000 for the entire year and at this rate, I don’t see it getting any better. So, we’ve got to fill this year out and where we find the money, that’s going to be the next question. We need to continue to fight crime so we’ll have to work with it.”
“I appreciate that response because ultimately our objective is to keep the pace that we’ve been going because the citizens of Gallia are reaping the benefits,” said Champlin. “Our property crimes are down and our violent crimes are down. It’s paying dividends for the citizens we’re here to protect and serve. The judges have done a wonderful job through house arrest and things of that nature, probation, to try and help relieve as much of the strain as we can. I say that to say this, the people that are locked up are the ones that need to be locked up and the ones victimizing our citizens. It’s not like there’s any other place for them at this time but the jail and this is the fallout from it.”
Saunders noted that the overcrowding of jails was a trend throughout the state for rural governments and said he felt the state would eventually need to do something to help local governments. Champlin agreed.
An appropriation of $50,000 was approved by the commissioners to meet current sheriff’s office needs but budget concerns for the rest of the year would need discussed more in the future, said officials.
Commissioners said the Gallia general fund has around $8.6 million. With total judicial and law enforcement obligations, around 46 percent of the fund in the past has been dedicated to those needs alone.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.