Montgomery County is moving forward with a plan to renovate the county jail. The renovations are expected to cost nearly $20 million and will be paid for with American Rescue Plan Act funds and opioid settlement dollars.
Montgomery County Commission President, Debbie Lieberman, said the planning and research took six years and incorporated local community members comprising the Justice Committee and the Behavioral Health Task Force. “The Justice Committee was empowered to review the jail’s policies and procedures to determine what investments were needed to improve safety and ensure a humane environment,” Lieberman said. “Members were local citizens from all walks of life.”
After two years of research and inquiries, the Justice Committee recommended the jail be replaced with a more modern facility that could humanely house offenders, provide programs and space for services, and afford a safe environment for both inmates and staff.
The county announced in Dec. 2021, after receiving build options from Henningson, Durham, & Richardson, P.C., that it could not afford a new jail at the anticipated cost of $200 million.
Meanwhile, the county applied for two jail renovation and construction grants through the state but did not receive any funding from those grants. Despite that, the county continued investing in the jail, with about $7 million in the past five years funding improvements in the jail security and fire alarm systems and an HVAC unit ventilator replacement.
The county hired Levin Porter Architects to provide initial plans that would allow space in the jail to provide detox and suicide prevention treatment, medical care, as well as better manage the intake and booking of juveniles.
"The diverse and evolving needs of our inmate population is a direct reflection of the challenges we observe in our community's overall health,” said Sheriff Rob Streck. “It's essential to recognize and address these unique needs, whether they pertain to medical, mental health, or addiction concerns."
According to Probate Court Judge David Brannon, the next step will be to ensure inmates continue their treatment after they are released from jail with assisted outpatient treatment.
“We have seen success in other counties such as Summit, Franklin and Lorain,” said Brannon. “This also helps us avoid the risk of having a revolving door of care – where a person is dropped off at the jail, staff don’t know the person’s medical or behavioral health history, and the process starts over again.”
The Board of County Commissioners established a Behavioral Health Task Force to seek solutions to the growing need for behavioral healthcare in the community. Led by the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association (GDAHA), the task force was comprised of healthcare providers, leaders and community partners. They collaborate with “front line” professionals as well as recipients of behavioral health services, to help guide decision-makers on where resources should be deployed.
Sarah Hackenbracht, President and CEO of GDAHA, said the Task Force is working to create a county-level dashboard with information that allows courts, law enforcement and jail staff a better view of the care individuals need.
“Behavioral health requires a multi-system approach that invests in connectivity to serve our most vulnerable citizens – and we are seeing Montgomery County prioritize that investment today,” Hackenbracht said. “Ensuring that the Montgomery County jail and its staff are equipped to address the physical and behavioral health needs of their population is critical to that shared vision.”
With space downtown at a premium, the planned changes to the jail will all be made within the current facility, without any need for additional square footage. “We are cutting 226 general population beds and adding 100 medical and behavioral health needs beds,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge. “So, while we will have fewer total beds, from 911 to 785, the number of medical, mental health and detox beds will increase from 12 to 112.”
The total cost is well below the $200 million estimated to build a new jail. “At less than $20 million, we are meeting the needs of the Sheriff, the inmates, and the nurses and corrections officers who care for them while incarcerated,” said Dodge.