County to pick final option for jail

By Anna Bolton - [email protected]

XENIA — Greene County Commissioners will choose from four options for the new facility they plan to build to replace the 50-year-old downtown jail.

David Bostwick and Mark Martin of HDR, an architectural, engineering, and consulting firm, presented the second phase of the Jail Needs Assessment to the commissioners, Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer and Jail Administrator Kirk Keller during a work session Jan. 31.

Before the county makes a decision, Fischer plans to visit another jail facility in Michigan and report back his observations, County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said. HDR will then issue its final report. At least one public meeting will be held for outside input.

In Phase One, completed in November 2018, the justice consultants assessed the downtown Greene County Jail on East Market Street and the Greene County Adult Detention Center (ADC) on Greeneway Boulevard, studied the inmate population and analyzed the criminal justice system as a whole.

Bostwick reported that the county has a low incarceration rate, or the number of people in the jail on a per capita basis. He cited 2017 as having 170 per 100,000, which is less the national rate’s 229 per 100,000.

He also said the county has a low number of pre-sentence felons.

“This indicates you have an efficient criminal justice system, that your judges, prosecutors, public defenders are moving them quickly through the system,” Bostwick said.

Bostwick called the county’s criminal justice system unique in that a high number of sentenced felons are serving time locally.

“Generally you don’t see that. I think it’s because you have a philosophy as a system to have folks serve their time locally rather than have them go to the prison system,” he said. “You, compared to other counties in the state, are a low utilizer of the prison system.”

The benefits of this, he said, include having more control of what happens to the defendant, like providing programming for them.

“You’re focused more on outcomes of people who come into the system, rather than just containment. In a lot of jurisdictions, a lot of counties, it’s all about just holding people in jail. You don’t subscribe to that model,” he continued.

While Bostwick praised the criminal justice system overall, he said the old facility just doesn’t support that model. Keller agreed.

“We have a system here that has collaborated and is doing certain things across the board with the veterans’ court, the drug court, what TCN is doing and wanting to do with us, and we just don’t have the resources or facility to be able to pull some of the things we want to do,” Keller said. “It’s in place and ready to go.”

The jail study also pointed to the overcrowding of the downtown jail.

Data for 2017 showed the downtown jail exceeding functional capacity, but below bed capacity, indicating that the facility lacks the right type of beds. The ADC, however, had excess capacity.

The study calculated around 285 inmates total were in the facilities in 2018. The study also projected the county to have 366 inmates in 2035. However, the projection assumes a continuation of the status quo, not taking into consideration any new programs or reduced recidivism. Also noted is that Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission projects a Greene County population of 179,000 in 2035.

With this information, Bostwick recommended the future facility to have a capacity of 420 beds.

He then presented four options for the facility, each varying in construction and renovation plans, number of beds, and cost.

Editor’s note: To read about the four options available see the story on page 1 in today’s paper.

By Anna Bolton

[email protected]