Muskingum and Guernsey counties discuss joint jail effort


By Christine Holmes, News Director

Thursday afternoon, representatives from Muskingum and Guernsey counties met to discuss the possibility of establishing a regional jail to service both respective governmental entities.

Commissioner Jim Porter from Muskingum County lead the meeting, and Sheriff Matt Lutz of Muskingum County began discussion on how the two counties could work together in the effort.

According to Lutz, Muskingum County’s jail is currently filled to capacity, so inmates must be housed at other facilities outside of the county.

Lutz attributes the jail crowding to the opioid epidemic, along with other county drug problems which are stressing the resources of both counties, including placing the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office to record high number of charges and convictions.

County officials say the shortage has left Judges in Muskingum County with no other option than to release non-violent offenders early to make arrangements for those charged with felony offenses.

Porter made reference that Muskingum County already had secured and purchased land for the site of a future jail. Sheriff Jeffrey Paden of Guernsey County stated that based on the population difference between the two counties, it would make sense to locate the jail in Muskingum County.

Both parties have various ideas on how to utilize their current facilities if such a jail would be constructed, but made sure to note that even if these plans were to be approved, it would take roughly two and a half years to be ready to house inmates.

The issue of projecting for future jail populations was discussed, including the ability to house inmates from other surrounding counties and charging those counties for each bed each day it is used.

Muskingum County Commissioner Mollie Crooks began discussion on having a rehabilitation wing, to which both Sheriffs agreed it would vastly help the drug problem in the local communities.

All officials left the meeting with positive remarks, looking forward to the next meeting in June where Lutz is expected to present solidified fiscal figures as to the cost per bed, allowing the committee to explore the size and scope of a future jail.