Home Law Closed Nelsonville facility will house female drug offenders

Closed Nelsonville facility will house female drug offenders

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Learn why these universities are teaming up with Ohio U to battle issues that affect the rural areas of Ohio

Residents in Nelsonville are concerned that the shutdown of the Hocking Correctional Facility would remove one of their biggest employers.  But that fear could be alleviated if plans spearheaded by Ohio University, the University of Toledo, and other local organizations are successful.

The Ohio Alliance for Innovation and Population Health (OAIPH) is coordinating the repurposing  of the closed facility. Their plans aim to address the opioid crisis and the current lack of women’s facilities in the state.

To reach these goals, bed spaces for 210 female drug offenders will be installed on the second and third floors. The first floor will house rehabilitation, counseling, and job training services.

“We’re focusing on women because there is a desperate lack of bed space for women,” Rick Hodges, the director of OAIPH, said. “Some women have to travel three hours to be housed.”

The facility hopes to house inmates by the first half of 2019, according to Hodges. He said the architects have completed the necessary proposals for adaptations to the facility to create a culture focused on recovery. The prison and rehabilitation areas will be separated as part of these plans.

Since its formation last October, OAIPH has grown to include 25 members from universities, the healthcare industry and insurance companies.

OAIPH focuses on community-based corrections services, Hodges said. The organization has enlisted the help of the STAR Community Justice Center, a private corrections service that focuses on structure, therapy, advocacy, and rehabilitation. Hodges said STAR has a reputation aiding with community-based correction.

“Rather than tell these communities what’s best for them, we want communities to tell us what is best for them,” Hodges said.

Hodges added that community corrections facilities offer more benefit to prisoners compared to the traditional model due to their different approach to rehabilitation. With a focus on developing skills and services, rather than punishment, Hodges said the facility will be better equipped to help the inmates it houses.

“The ultimate goal is rehabilitation,” Hodges said. “We want people to reclaim their lives and their humanity.”

The plans are currently awaiting approval from the county commissioners, but Commission President Jeff Dickerson said he believes “the commissioners are very supportive of the proposal,” according to a press release.

The plans call for the county commissioners to delegate oversight of the facility to the Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North. In the press release, North said his department “is ready to accept the challenge because the facility will provide much needed jail space, particularly for females, and offer a path to recovery for people who are dependent upon drugs.”

Another focus for OAIPH is health informatics, a style of healthcare where statistics, like prison space and infant mortality, are tracked and placed into an algorithm. According to Hodges, this could help foretell and compare trends that could lead to health problems within the facility.

This data already exists throughout hundreds of public and private databases, but the healthcare industry is very protective of its information, Hodges said. OAIPH would rather “collaborate than compete” with the healthcare industry, he added.

“We want to pool our resources that already exist,” Hodges said. “We don’t want to make new resources.”

Hocking Correctional Institution originally opened in 1955 by the State of Ohio to house tuberculosis patients, according to the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (ODRC).  

In later years, the building was used as a children’s center until it was abandoned. ODRC purchased the facility in 1982 for the purpose of use as a prison, until its closing this year in March.

The closing of the facility, which specialized in the detention of elderly inmates, redistributed all 430 inmates to other low security prisons throughout the state, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

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