MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio (WTAP) - If a bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives is successful, county jails would be funded by the state in much the same way as schools have been for years.
House Bill 101, co-sponsored by southeast Ohio representative Jay Edwards, creates a county jail funding formula. F A BILL INTRODUCED IN THE OHIO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IS SUCCESSFUL, COUNTY JAILS COULD BE FUNDED BY THE STATE IN MUCH THE SAME WAY AS SCHOOLS.
Among the counties that would benefit is Meigs County, whose jail permanently closed last month.
“If this legislation had been in place, the jail would still be open and operating,” Edwards said at a news conference Tuesday. “Although this bill would exponentially improve jails in Southeastern Ohio, it would also have an outstanding effect on the quality of jails across the whole state."
The proposal would allow the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission to work in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Correction to development the funding formula based on the following factors:
· Rank counties and award them funds based on need, such as income per capita, property value and sales tax revenue capacity.
· Develop a matching program where the state will match a certain percentage of construction of a county jail based on the same factors used in ranking. Similarly to the school construction formula, state dollars would only be used for construction costs.
· OFCC and ODC will work directly with the respective county to establish the best possible solution for a new jail using projections of use and other means of establishing the size of a jail.
Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood and Gallia County Sheriff Matt Chaplain were among law enforcement representatives attending the news conference.
”I feel like this is an overdue thing that can fix some of these problems,” Wood told us Wednesday. “We’ve tried going to the community by ballot, with levies. With the state stepping in and helping us with this, it’s definitely going to benefit us.”
Meigs County currently houses its inmates in other county jails as much as three hours away. The sheriff’s office receives $125,000 a year from the county budget, but Wood says that goes for costs beyond housing prisoners.
Sheriff Wood says, even with the state funding, the jail would continue to get revenue from the county budget.