Editor’s note: An additional story will follow with more in-depth coverage of both sides of the jail issue.
XENIA — Greene County Citizens Against Giant Jail Tax voiced its opposition to Issue 12 outside the Greene County Courthouse March 5.
If passed, the March 17 ballot issue would increase the sales tax by .25 percent for 12 years to fund the construction of a new estimated $70 million, 500-bed Greene County Jail.
Currently, the jail consists of three facilities in Xenia: a 50-year-old, 146-bed downtown jail; the nearly-100-year-old building nearby housing sheriff’s offices; and a 20-year-old, 236-bed Adult Detention Center on the west side of town.
Bomani Moyenda from the Yellow Springs-based group called the proposal “astronomical” and “unnecessary” during a press conference.
Jim Leonard simply called it “outdated” and “way out of balance.”
“Issue 12 is the wrong proposal for what Greene County needs,” Leonard said. “Size of the jail is much bigger than is needed. The 500-bed proposal is based on a consultant’s study, which did not take into account major Ohio developments that are coming: bail reform and drug sentencing changes that will divert people from jail into treatment programs. These developments will significantly reduce the jail beds that are needed.”
Group members also argued that the issue doesn’t address social problems or provide money for critical services.
“Opioids, homelessness, family violence — taking our social problems and dumping them into the jail doesn’t work,” Pat Dewees said. “This rehabilitation doesn’t work.”
“There are no dollars that are being set aside for treatment, mental health or drug addiction problems,” Leonard added. “So we have here a proposal that is outdated and doesn’t take into account the way things are done now better for people. We can do better here in Greene County and we call on the commissioners to come up with a sensible size jail and new sheriff’s offices, along with funds for treatment. We can do better.”
Advocates of the issue argue that the current jail is overcrowded and unsafe with crumbling walls and iron bars. Maj. Shawn Prall said the proposal allows the sheriff’s office to plan for the future — looking ahead 50 years — and puts all facilities under one roof to increase function, to separate inmates by population, and to give inmates access to treatment and programming.
Leonard said he took a tour of the jail last month.
“We need a new jail here in Xenia, no doubt about that,” he said. “But the size is the question. To build a big jail is to go back to the old way of thinking that you just pack the jails with people instead of treating them humanely with treatment.”