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Replacing Overcrowded Jail Could Take More Than Five Years: Montgomery County Administrator

The Montgomery County Jail has seen a spike in the number of women behind bars due to opioid abuse and addiction-related crimes.
Courtesy of Montgomery County Sheriff's Office

A community watchdog group Tuesday told Montgomery County Commissioners the county jail needs to be replaced. In a report based on two years of study, the Justice Committee found the jail’s design makes it difficult or impossible for guards to supervise inmates in some areas of the facility.

The recommendation for a new jail is at odds with the commission’s current plan to spend millions of dollars renovating the first floor of the detention center.

The detailed report raised questions among some community members at the commission meeting.

One question came from Yellow Springs resident Yolanda Simpson:

“Will you still continue to put money in renovation when they've recommended that you demolish the building, because it doesn't work?” 

Commissioner Debbie Lieberman deferred to County Administrator Michael Colbert on the question.

“We have to we have we have now and we have a future. There are certain things, because we have people continuing to come into the jail, that we have to make investments in now and we will continue to have to make investments as we're going through this process even as we're evaluating whether to make a major additions or enhancements to the jail, or whether or not we are going to have a completely new complex,” he said.

Cobert noted the county’s short-term plans to renovate the jail's first floor are aimed at improving the facility's booking area and medical ward, two spaces that desperately need attention, according to the Justice Committee report.

The first-floor renovation project is still moving through the design phase. 

The report's authors determined, the Montgomery County Jail, "does not provide a minimally adequate environment for staff or inmates," and that, renovating or remodeling the jail, "is neither practical nor cost-effective."

The report urges the county to replace the building with, "a modern correctional facility that can house offenders in a humane manner, provide needed program services, and afford staff and inmates a safe environment."

At the meeting Colbert said it could take up to six years to plan and build an entirely new detention facility to replace the existing jail building.  

From the report: 

"The current facility houses nearly twice the inmate population deemed appropriate for its capacity by the State of Ohio. This level of overcrowding makes the monitoring of inmates and the delivery of services extremely difficult. The design of the older, linear units makes effective inmate supervision virtually impossible, while the level of overcrowding in the newer and better designed pod units undermines whatever improvement in monitoring and inmate services they should have brought. Program space has had to be converted to dormitory housing, so there is virtually no dedicated program space in the facility, and no space for private treatment of inmates. The medical unit lacks adequate examination rooms and no examination rooms are available on the housing units. The overcrowding also makes it impossible to maintain the legally required sight and sound separation for juveniles housed at the facility. The booking area is not sized or designed to facilitate the processing of the current volume of offenders entering the facility, and does not allow for appropriate management of offenders with special needs. Further, the facility building systems are deteriorating and will require increasing levels of funding to assure ongoing operation of the facility."

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