GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County officials gathered during the Board of Gallia County Commissioners regular Thursday meeting to listen to representatives from DLZ, a construction and architect consultancy firm, to discuss ongoing plans and a schedule for the creation of a new county jail.
The current Gallia Jail has recently become a subject of national attention for a variety of ongoing jail troubles, including three escapes since August, the recent deaths of two individuals and reports that the jail has been found in noncompliance of several state jail standards over the past few years.
DLZ consultants, Principal Architect Eric Ratts and Director of Architecture Greg Galieti, addressed commissioners, representatives from the Gallia Sheriff’s Office and the Gallia Economic Development Office during the meeting.
“We’re in the programming phase right now and the plan is to wrap that up quickly and get into schematic design,” said Galieti.
Consultants provided a timeline to those at the meeting. Between September and mid October, site surveys are anticipated to be held. Between October and November, geotechnical services and reports will be conducted. Between October and December, architects and the county aim to move through the schematic design phase. In January of next year, the county intends to hold construction management-at-risk reviews while also estimating construction costs and budget needs. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will also be contacted for review concerns. Between February of next year and March, DLZ aims to move through the design development phase. More construction management-at-risk review will be held along with construction estimates and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction review discussions in April 2020. The county hopes to identify potential bid packages at this time as well. From May to July of 2020, the county seeks to move through the construction document phase and in August the same year, the county plans to complete its construction estimates along with any permitting needs. Jail builders hope to break ground in September 2020 and have a new jail occupied in December 2021 through January 2022.
Overall space intended to be utilized among varying areas of the new jail could possibly total around 36,000 square feet split up among a two to three level building. The potential building footprint, intended to be placed somewhere in the area of the Gallia Courthouse parking lot area along Second Avenue, is estimated to be around 20,000 square feet currently, according to discussion at the meeting. Plans could change for the size of the jail, depending on what commissioners and the sheriff deem appropriate.
The programming portion of DLZ’s plan accounts for the type of spaces and needs for a new Gallia Jail. Current jail programming plans for 134 beds with 112 for general population inmates.
“What we do is start overlaying different spaces and space adjacency and start developing the two levels of the overall building (and) the square footages to see what a building layout is,” said Ratts. “The schematic design phase is conceptual. You’re going to see drawings but not every drawing will have every single note or dimension on it. Our next step is really to look at space adjacency to make sure rooms are next to each other for certain reasons then to check that the 36,000 feet is what it needs to be…From that, we start looking at (jail plans) in three dimensions and the massing of the building and what it looks like from the exterior.”
The Gallia Jail was found by Ohio State Jail Inspector Scott Filicky during the December 2018 inspection of the jail to be in noncompliance of 77 standards. Many of those standards could not be met “due to the layout and age of the jail.” Others referenced a lack of documentation for practices, policies or needing to update policies. One report passage referenced a lack of a closed circuit television systems and noted that some inmates were sleeping on the floor on damaged mattresses. Jail inspections revealed the area was not “sprinklered” for fire protection.
“At the time of inspection, several areas of the facility showed signs of disrepair including, but not limited to lavatory’s that did not provide both hot or cold water, low lighting and inoperable light fixtures in inmate accessible areas, numerous plumbing fixtures that were not functioning correctly and/or completely inoperable, security screen on a window in disrepair, holes at the base of security wall (bulkheads) due to rust/corrosion, showers found to be unsanitary, ventilation ducts covered with debris, security features of the jail not operational. The jail was in an overall unhygienic condition and the physical plant was in a state of disrepair,” said the inspection report.
“At the time of inspection, Jail Administration provided this inspector with a Health Inspection report dated 8-1-2018 that noted violation(s) on the report. A plan of action had not been submitted by jail administration regarding the health inspection violation(s). Jail and County Officials should take immediate notice to this report and take immediate action to remedy these violation(s). Additionally, the jails policy and procedures for this standard had not been uploaded,” the report continued.
Reports also indicated the jail did not have the proper facilities to separate violent from nonviolent offenders.
In 2017, the jail was found to be in noncompliance of 63 standards. In 2016, it was found to be in noncompliance of 86 standards. In 2015, the jail was found to be in noncompliance of 71 standards.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction responded to a series of questions in an email when contacted by the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.
“In total, there are 181 Standards for Full Service Jails, composed of 54 ‘Essential’ standards and 127 ‘Important’ standards. Each year, all Full-Service Jails are inspected using all of the 54 Essential standards and roughly one-half of the ‘Important’ standards. It breaks down to about 117 standards one year and 118 standards the following year. This means that in a two-year cycle, all full service jails are inspected on all of the Essential standards two times and all the Important standards one time. It should be noted that for some jail operations, all of the standards may not apply. Those that are considered N/A, would neither add nor detract from the overall score. In order to obtain a passing score and to be considered compliant, a jail must be found to be compliant with 100% of the Essential standards and at least 90% of the Important standards,” read an email from ODRC Deputy Communication Chief Sara French.
”For all standards found to be in non-compliance during an inspection, the jails are required to complete correction plans of action. The ODRC/BAD (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Bureau of Adult Detention) doesn’t directly have the ability to close a jail. However, the Director of the ODRC can file an action in the Court of Common Pleas for the county in which the jail is located to enjoin compliance with the standards. The ODRC/BAD is currently working with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office in identifying any issues of non-compliance with the standards as a result of the incident,” she continued.
“Historically, the jail will remain non-compliant and the Bureau of Adult Detention will act as a resource in bringing the jail up to standard,” said French in another email.
The state has not filed an action in the Gallia Court of Common Pleas to “enjoin compliance with standards,” according to French.
Gallia commissioners previously reported that roughly a little over 50 percent of the Gallia general fund went to law enforcement needs, including court finances, in 2018. It is now anticipated to be around 57 percent by the end of the year. Commissioners have long issued concern with cuts in state funding to local government as well as increased financial burden due to the opioid crisis.
Of inmate numbers, the county housed 83 prisoners outside its borders in 2016. In 2019, that number was estimated at 400. In a press conference at the end of September where the Gallia Sheriff addressed jail troubles, he said that the jail at times may hold 35 to 50 individuals, depending on the day. State inspection records currently recommend the jail be suited to 11 individuals.
“My goal in running for office was to change the sheriff’s office,” said Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin on Oct. 3 to the Tribune. “I know from my history in law enforcement that part of the problem with the sheriff’s office was the underlying problems of the jail. I didn’t know as much then about the jail as I do now. Whenever I took office, I knew that we needed a remedy and began conversations for a new jail.”
Champlin reported that there was an altercation in the jail Wednesday involving several inmates. Minor injuries were reported and jail personnel requested medical professionals “out of an abundance of caution.” All parties refused treatment. Based on investigation, the sheriff says charges are being reviewed by the Gallia Prosecutor.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.