Plans for joint jail unclear as Guernsey County pauses for election

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Plans for joint jail unclear as Guernsey County pauses for election

By Christine Holmes, News Director

Progress on a joint jail between Muskingum and Guernsey Counties is on hold to the east until after the November election, but Muskingum County leaders intend to keep pushing forward in the meantime.

During a phone conference between both counties’ commissioners, Guernsey County leaders expressed they’d like to wait to see how future legislation and leadership within the state may change following the election.

“I think everyone’s getting a little cold feet,” said Muskingum County Commissioner Jim Porter in regards to fronting the costs of a shared jail.

Porter said Guernsey County officials are also concerned about funding operating costs of a new jail after it is built.

For the time being, Guernsey County leaders are watching how Issue 1 plays out, which, if passed, would make non-violent crimes such as drug possession a misdemeanor.

They are also waiting to see if a new administration would provide better support for prisons and jails.

According to Muskingum County Commissioner Mollie Crooks, funding for correctional institutions has been hard to come by under Governor John Kasich’s administration.

However, those concerns for Guernsey County aren’t stopping the Muskingum County Commissioners from pressing forward.

“Issue 1 still doesn’t have anything to do with our problem,” said Porter. “Our jail is obsolete.”

Currently, the jail is well over its capacity, especially considering it was never intended to hold four floors of inmates, as Crooks added.

The overcrowding issue in the Muskingum County Jail is costing the county between $34,000 and $36,000 each month to transport and house inmates in the Monroe County Jail.

Once the inmates are transferred, the problem doesn’t stop there, as many will require additional trips back to Muskingum County for hearings at the Common Pleas Court, according to Commissioner Cindy Cameron.

This is a problem counties throughout the state are facing, and it’s one that won’t be solved quickly.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight,” said Porter. “It will be years.”

Much must be considered before a definite plan is put in place, including how the facility will be funded and operated and whether it should include mental health and addiction amenities.

The next step in the process for the commissioners is contacting the bond council to see if they can offer any assistance.

Porter also mentioned plans to approach the Licking County Commissioners to gauge their interest in a regional jail.

However, Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp told Y-City News his jail isn’t experiencing overcrowding at quite the same level as Muskingum and Guernsey Counties, so the likelihood of Licking County joining the effort isn’t very promising.

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