Gov. DeWine celebrates $5.5 million grant for Gallia County jail expansion

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:00 PM EST
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GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio. (WSAZ) - In October, $5.5 million in funding was announced for the ongoing construction of the new jail in Gallia County.

Monday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine stopped at the Gallia County Courthouse to meet with local leaders and tour the construction site.

“When you have limited capacity in jails in a county, what that simply means is it messes up the normal rhythm of the criminal justice system,” DeWine said.

This project has been years in the making, with construction beginning in the spring. The current jail is 57 years old with a 22-bed capacity. The daily average population is between 60 and 90 inmates now.

“Gallia County Jail was built in a time when you were just trying to have a space for maybe someone who was inebriated to safely sleep it off, and I think you can see times have changed,” said Annette Chambers-Smith, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The grant will cover about one fourth of the total $20 million cost of the project.

“Frankly, they just don’t have the space they need. They’re having to ship prisoners out to other counties. What that means is deputies are on the road when they could be back here in Gallia County and protecting people,” DeWine said.

In 2016, Gallia County was housing 83 inmates out of county. That number increased to about 400 by 2019.

Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin says the county spends between $700,000 and $900,000 per year for out-of-county housing expenses.

“That’s purely the paying for the inmates to stay. That doesn’t include the wear and tear on the vehicle, the expense for the man hours for our deputies to be able to transport the fuel costs, so it’s a huge drain,” Champlin said.

The new jail, which is being constructed behind the courthouse, will house 120 inmates with more space for treatment.

“We know that if we can get people mental health treatment and substance use disorder treatment, then they don’t have to come to DRC, and that is after all what we want to have happen here. We want to be able to spend more money on education than we do on prisons,” Chambers-Smith said.

The large jail will also allow Gallia County to help other counties house their inmates, bringing in more revenue for the county.

“This is a county that’s been getting help, and is more than willing to help the counties around them now, so I know some people are like, ‘Oh golly, they are building quite a big jail’ but they are building it so they can turn around and give the help that’s been given to them,” Chambers-Smith said.

The new jail will also allow deputies to not spend as much time transferring inmates and be able to spent more time patrolling the community.

The project is expected to be completed by November of 2022.

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