EOCC to get first major facelift

LISBON –The former Columbiana County Jail is getting its first major facelift since it was converted into a prison alternative facility for women about 20 years ago.

Gene Gallo, executive director of the Eastern Ohio Correctional Center for women, met with county commissioners this week to advise them the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has asked the state to set aside $582,508 from the recent capital budget for improvements to the former jail on North Market Street.

The EOCC, which also includes a facility for men in Wintersville that Gallo also supervises, was created in the 1990s by the state as a way to relieve overcrowding at prisons by diverting mostly non-violent offenders to regional facilities where they could receive counseling and take classes. Felons assigned there serve no more than six months.

The EOCCs serve four counties and are run by a nine-member board appointed by local commissioners and judges. The facility in Lisbon has a staff of 13.

The jail became available once the new county jail in Center Township was opened in 1997-1998, and commissioners agreed to lease the facility to the state for a nominal fee. Gallo met with commissioners to let them know the board will be asked to approve an amended lease at some point.

The old three-story jail was renovated to accommodate up to 20 female felons, but it frequently houses up to 36 inmates, which is the major reason for the upgrade. This has resulted in bunks being placed in the day room and in front of the restrooms and the elevator entrance. With the upgrade, the day room and some of the bunks will be moved to the underused storage area on the first floor.

The planned changes will also result in improved supervision.

“This project will provide a large 36-bed dormitory area that will be divided into three sections. The sleeping and shower areas along with a large dayroom will almost double our original design capacity. The sleeping areas along with the large dayroom directly adjoining will provide residents a greater degree of personal space and comfort,” according to a letter from the state.

Other planned improvements include to the plumbing, security system, a new roof and resurfacing of all asphalt areas and new concrete sidewalks.

Commissioner Mike Halleck told Gallo the females from the EOCC who are allowed to perform janitorial services at the county courthouse “have been a Godsend. The ones we talk to seem like they getting good guidance” at the facility.

“We get a lot of comments like that, that the people doing community service (from the EOCC) are good people. They are good people” who made bad decisions, usually involving drugs and alcohol, Gallo said.

Construction is expected to begin sometime next summer.