Athens area Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards introduced new legislation to change the funding system for county jails, establishing a funding system similar to the state’s school funding formula.
Edwards said the issue of jail funding is particularly relevant to southeast Ohio, but also to the entirety of the state.
“This is a personal issue to my home in the 94th house district,” Edwards said during a press conference. “The Meigs County Jail permanently closed last month for multiple reasons. But if this legislation had been in place, the jail would still be open and operating.”
If passed, House Bill 101 would allow the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) to work in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Correction (ODC) to develop the funding formula based on the following:
- 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.
The program would be funded through the state capital budget on the biennium, a press release stated. The last capital budget allocated $50 million for jail construction.
Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, was also a primary sponsor of the legislation. He said during a press conference that the Ohio school funding system works excellently, and legislators should try and bring the same formula to prisons.
“A key factor in this legislation is that we are modeling the County Jail Funding Formula off of the state’s school construction formula, which has proven to be successful year after year,” said Stephens. “If we can get a similar formula in place for Ohio’s jails, we could guarantee a safe and efficient jail situation in every single county across Ohio, regardless of population.”
Edwards and Stephens were joined at the press conference by sheriffs from across the state.
Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood expressed support for the bill.
“House Bill 101 will remove the financial burden of housing our county’s inmates in and out of county facilities as far as three plus hours away,” Wood said. “Being able to house them in our own county will prevent the wear and tear on our vehicles and allow our officers to remain in our county to protect and serve our citizens.”
HB 101 has yet to be assigned a House standing committee.