Writer's Note: This is part one of a two-part story centered on the topic of ever-increasing crime and the lack of local jail space in Jackson County. A discussion held during the Tuesday, Nov. 21 meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners between a number of local leaders included a breakdown of some of the area's problems, as well as a number of possible solutions.
A number of local leaders gathered together this past week along with the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in order to discuss a problem that has been facing the area for some time - the lack of local jail space.
During the Tuesday, Nov. 21 commissioners meeting, Jackson Mayor Randy Heath, Wellston Mayor Connie Pelletier, Jackson Service Director Bill Sheward, Jackson Councilman Jon Ondera and Jackson County Municipal Court Judge Mark Musick all joined in on a discussion of the growing problem of jail space in the area. As is always the case with such a discussion, one of the main talking points was that of money.
Heath stated he recently spoke with State Senator Bob Peterson regarding the state capital budget bill and what types of projects on the local front would be eligible for state funding. He stated all of the municipalities in Jackson County are having issues with crime. Further, Heath said 80 percent or more of crimes today are related to drugs in one way or another.
One of the biggest issues with ever-increasing crime rates and fewer jail beds is the cost associated with transporting and housing offenders out of county.
"We're all basically having a tour all over Ohio transporting prisoners," Mayor Heath said.
Heath said that he and Sheward have been discussing the possibility of seeking a joint effort between the county and all municipalities therein to deal with these issues. He opined that state and federal grant dollars are often easier to obtain for multi-jurisdictional projects.
Mayor Pelletier told those present for the meeting that she invited Judge Musick to the discussion because, "He has screamed about this for at least five years."
Three years ago, she said Wellston's cost for keeping inmates in out of county jails was around $25,000. So far this year, that cost has risen to close to $150,000.
"We sometimes have to transport them three hours one way," Pelletier said.
Judge Musick stated that when he first took over as Municipal Court Judge 10 years ago, one of his main objectives was to reduce jail costs. He said he feels that has been accomplished fairly well over the years, but times have changed. In short, the judge said the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has said, in no uncertain terms, that the state has no plans of building new jails. In light of this he said one option - that of a Community Alternative Sentencing Center (CASC) - may be the best one for Jackson County.
CASCs, Judge Musick explained, are misdemeanor-level facilities where offenders can be held for up to 90 days. These facilities also offer mental health and addiction treatment services all in a detention setting. These facilities offer communities the opportunity to use an existing building which would only need to meet state building code requirements rather than state jail code mandates.
Currently, Judge Musick said there are only two of these types of facilities in the state - one in Batavia and one in Mansfield. These two sites are completely different from one another, according to the judge.
"The community can make its rules on how it's going to operate," Judge Musick stated.
Though Medicaid is undergoing a redesign, the judge said the law as it is written now says treatment services at a CASC can be provided by such local entities as Health Recovery Services (HRS) or Spectrum. These services would be paid for by Medicaid.
The CASC in Batavia, which is in Clermont County, chose to place that facility in a wing of their county jail, according to Judge Musick. In doing this, he said they are not able to utilize Medicaid funding. The judge believes the county of approximately 300,000 "foots the bill."
The site in Mansfield is more like a traditional jail, however, the judge stated every corrections officer at the CASC is also a licensed counselor.
"I think if we do this, we need Medicaid's support," Musick said. "All I've heard is there's no money for a new jail; if that's the reality, the only other thing you can do is build a CASC."
See a future edition of The Telegram for part-two of this story.
Posted: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Article comment by:
SMSgt Carl Corvin
Another pre-emptive strike at the wallets of property owners in Jackson County. This property owner is sick and tired of being used as a "Political cash -- free ATM". As many republicaNOS stated in 2010 when the start of the Income Tax cuts started -- the question was asked: "What will the counties and cities do when the state stops providing funding to counties and cities?" The answer: "You will have to raise taxes locally, it will be your call." Shameless-- then-- even more so now!