GEORGETOWN – The Brown County Criminal Justice Task Force met on Monday Feb. 22 to meet with architect David Stone of the firm TSDH Architects, the firm who originally designed the Brown County Adult Detention Center.
Stone was asked as part of the fact-finding mission to provid a ball park estimate of what the cost would be fore the County for different styles of housing and what it would cost the county to construct such a facility. After meeting with the Task Force a few weeks ago, Stone returned earlier this week to present a hypothetical scenario of what added new cells and dorm style housing would cost the county.
In this scenario, Stone added 80 inmate capacity to the already 38 people that are able to be housed in the jail. While it is completely hypothetical, Stone told the Task Force it would cost around $3 million to add to the current jail facility.
His hypothetical additions included 16 individual male cells as well as four additional female cells to the end of the current structures. He also provided two dorm-style housing units on the end of both the male and female wings. The female dorm had an occupancy of 20 inmates while the male added room for 40 inmates in a dorm setting.
Both the current Sheriff and Chief Deputy have met with the County Commissioners in the past to discuss using dorm-style housing for low-risk, non-violent offenders. Though any building owned by the County may be used for such purposes, in this scenario Stone added the structure to the current Adult Detention Center.
Stone’s hypothetical proposal met the standards required by the Ohio Department of Corrections for such facilities, but the Task Force had questions on usage and questioned if upgrades within the existing structure would be required should any addition ever be added to the jail.
The scenario only gives the Task Force of a ball park estimate moving forward looking at other ideas on how to make changes in regard to incarceration in Brown County. The estimate was all the Task Force sought in a cost scenario moving forward.
“When we started the process we wanted a dart to throw at the board and we have a dart,” Task Force Chairperson Paul Hall said. “Somewhere between $2-4 million is probably our dart. I think that is probably better than when we started as a Task Force. I think those numbers are manageable.”
Having something to work with gives the Task Force some direction going forward into other ideas. While the Task Force is simply a suggestion box, they know it is going to take a lot of compromise and effort from everyone involved.
“If we ultimately decide to stay in Georgetown I think those numbers manageable,” Hall said. “We have to figure out what is best and that is going to come with a lot of input from the Sheriff’s Office, the judges, and everyone else. As we talked at the last time, we aren’t building for today, we are building for 2025, 2030. Where are we going to be in 10 or 15 years?”
Looking beyond corrections, the Criminal Justice Task Force is now reaching out to the Sheriff’s Department on how to make improvements to inmate booking and processing as well as investigative staff. As part of the Task Force’s look into the jail, their tour revealed problems not only in the confinement of inmates, but in the overall operations of the Sheriff’s Department due to space restrictions. The building layout and limited conference rooms have the Task Force seeking help from the Sheriff’s Office on what they need to better serve the County and what alternatives their may be for certain aspect to be housed off site if it is viable.
The Task Force is also looking at how to help investigations for villages as well as the Prosecutor’s Office. They see the advantage to housing inmates locally and that will be a factor in any recommendation that comes from them.
The Task Force is still in the early stages of planning and considering what will happen within the leadership of the Sheriff’s Office. Current Sheriff Dwayne Winninger is not seeking re-election and four Republicans, no Democrats, and to date, no independents have filed to run for the office. The consensus from the Task Force was to invite a current member of the Sheriff’s Department to provide input on how to make positive changes to procedures. Additionally, if no one files as an independent candidate, the Task Force is open to inviting a person who would presumably be a Sheriff-elect to provide input to the Task Force.
“The reason we have drug our feet not involving people was because there is a major election going on in this county that is going to directly effect where we’re going in next several years,” Hall said.
While the Task Force has one hypothetical in hand it does not mean they will dismiss all others than come their way. It is important to note it is only the beginning stages of planning something that has many steps and many parts.
One of those steps will include comparing the numbers the Task Force found with the numbers the Sheriff’s Office uses for the cost of confinement of an inmate to find where the discrepancy lies.