Scioto County officials upset over Lawrence jail

By Wayne Allen

July 15, 2014

By Wayne Allen

Several Scioto County officials have expressed their displeasure with the idea of Lawrence County opening a jail in the Liberation Unity of the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility (ORV) located in Scioto County for a jail.

“I think it’s ridiculous and unheard of,” Scioto County Sheriff Martti Donini said.

Donini said his is still trying to wrap his mind around a prevision in House Bill (H.B.) 483 which gave the Lawrence County Sheriff jurisdiction over the Liberation Unit at ORV and gave the Lawrence County Prosecutor jurisdiction to prosecute crimes that occur in that facility.

H.B. 483 was passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate and signed into law on June 16. This provision will go into effect on Sept. 15.

“I don’t get it, it’s crazy and I think it’s a precedent that’s being set. It’s regrettable and I still can’t believe it,” Donini said.

The Scioto County Commissioners have asked Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn to look into this issue.

“He (Scioto County Commissioner Coleman) came to me this morning (Tuesday, July 8) and we discussed some of the information we had talked about before about House Bill 483,” Kuhn said. “This bill and this proposal has the possibility of having a very negative impact on the county’s fiscal situation. If it’s Lawrence County by its self that’s a minimal impact, but if it would be multiple counties it could have a serious impact on the jails budget and county’s budget as a whole.”

Donini is now questioning what his department does if there is an incident at the facility.

“The law is that we investigate criminal activity that occurs in Scioto County. well that facility happens to be in Scioto County. How can you give another sheriff the jurisdiction to operate and investigate criminal activity in a jurisdiction he has no legal authority over,” Donini said. “I guess the way to do it is to write a law allowing them to have legal authority, which is essentially what they did. I think it’s pathetic.”

Donini said there is a section of H.B. 483 that allows Lawrence County to lease out extra beds and bring an additional revenue.

“If they were truly, just trying to help Lawrence County get out of their current situation until they got on their feet that would be different, that section in it’s self that’s not what they are doing. They are allowing Lawrence County to take inmates from other jurisdictions and house them in this facility located in Scioto County and make revenue,” Donini said. “That’s what that section says and I think it’s wrong.”

The Scioto County Commissioners also voiced their displeasure with the situation.

“I’m not happy either,” said Doug Coleman, Scioto County Commissioner.”I know they have a problem in Lawrence County and when Scioto County had the same problem we built a jail. But, to come in our backdoor and do what they are doing I don’t like it all.”

Commissioner Skip Riffe echoed Coleman’s comment in saying, “I am not particularly happy that we were not involved in the discussions. The potential for loss of revenue is going to be a real possibility.”

Scioto County has had a contract with Lawrence and Pike County for a number of years to house inmates on a daily basis.

Riffe said the loss of that contract it equates to about a $200,000 loss for Scioto County.

“I can live with that because they are dealing with their problem but, the facility is here and it would really bug me if Pike County would chose to house inmates with Lawrence County instead of us, and they are still being kept in Scioto County” Riffe said. “I don’t think that’s right I think we should have been given the opportunity to state our feelings about it, we were not and that’s my big problem.”

Coleman believes the county should some how challenge the situation.

“The question is, is can they do that legally and is there anything we can do legally,” said Mike Crabtree, Chairman of the Scioto Commissioners.

Kuhn said his office first learned of H.B. 483 it was from the Daily Times.

“The fact the general assembly would pass such a bill and stick it in the middle of a mid-term budget bill and coming out of the finance committee addressing issues of jurisdiction is unclear what court it would be filed under,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn said the issue raised some questions in his mind about, if it was a proper topic for a budget bill and does it violate any provisions of the state constitution.

“Absent of that the bill leaves very little remedy for Scioto County,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn said his office will be researching H.B. 483 looking at it from a constitutional stand point and advise the commissioners as to what their best options are.

“If that’s court options certainly we’ll tell them that although, like I said that bill leaves little wiggle room,” Kuhn said.

Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT