‘We’ll make the best out of what we got;’ Sheriff highlights issues after new jail plan postponed

DAYTON — Days after Montgomery County leaders announced the county will postpone plans to build a new jail, News Center 7 toured the facility with Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck over the issues plaguing the facility.

>>RELATED: Montgomery County postpones plans for replacement jail due to funding

Last week, county leaders cited a lack of funding was the reason they were holding off pursuing a plan to build a new jail facility to replace the current jail built in 1964 with an addition built in 1993. The county sought a jail needs assessment report in 2021, where the survey came back with a recommendation to build an entirely new facility.

>>PHOTOS: News Center 7 tours Montgomery County Jail with Sheriff Rob Streck

“A jail facility only has a life span of about 30 years and we’re well past that,” Streck told News Center 7′s Mike Campbell Thursday.

The price tag for a new facility fell between $172 million and $202 million, which was described as “well out of range” financially for the county.

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Streck said Thursday inmate population numbers and services for those with special needs are the main concern with the current Montgomery County Jail and something he hoped a new facility would fix.

“The way this jail is designed, its not designed for our current inmate population. We do not have the ability to have direct supervision in most of our housing locations,” Streck said.

“What that means is we have to have more staff, we have to put people who live in this jail by themselves that are out of sight of corrections officers for a half hour or 40 minutes at a time while they are doing other business.”

Currently the jail only has 12 special needs beds, which are used for inmates suffering from things like mental health episodes. The new jail plan called for 938 total beds with nearly 500 of those special needs beds. Streck said the current jail houses those inmates in a poor location.

“They are located in probably one of the worst places they could be located, which is intake, where all the stimulation occurs, where people come through the doors they’ve just been arrested, they are being booked into the county jail and now their emotions are high, or they are on some sort of substance, they’re intoxicated,” Streck said.

“There’s all kinda reasons that can make someone upset coming though the doors. And now what is doing is stimulating the people who have mental health breakdowns or mental health episodes. It’s just a very bad design.”

Despite the financial setbacks, Streck said the county remains financially behind the current jail facility.

“The county is committed to people who have to live in this jail. The county is committed to the employees who work here 24 hours a day,” Streck said.

“As the Sheriff, one of my major responsibilities is the care, custody, and control of anybody who lives in this jail. And obviously the safety of my employees who work in here. That’s my number one priority, and we’ll see what happens in the future.”

“We’ll make the best out of what we got right now.”

The current Montgomery County Jail can have 960 people inside between housing areas and intake areas. However based on State of Ohio recommendations based on square footage, the jail should only hold 444, Streck said.

To keep population numbers down, Streck said the county has worked hard over the years to keep as many people as possible out of the jail and finding ways to divert them to new facilities.

“We’ve worked very hard to keep those numbers down as low as we can. We are, and have been for several years trying to divert people out of the county jail. For a county our size, with some of the issues that we have in this county as far as mental health issues, substance abuse issues, some of the violence occurring right now in the community, we are doing very well compared to what we used to do in the past,” Streck said.

“As the Sheriff, I have to be able to look at the community, and tell them that if someone has to come to jail someone has to be taken away, placed safely somewhere until the judicial system does what it does, I have to be able to promise that I can do that.”

With the new jail plan put on hold, Streck said he has “high hopes” for a different type of separate facility to be built that would be exclusive for people with substance abuse or mental health issues. However even with that new facility, Streck said the current inmate population is mainly made up of those people accused of crimes that wouldn’t have them in such a facility.

While the county will continue to look for additional funding through state or federal grants or programs, Streck said the problem facing Montgomery County isn’t unique to just this area, with a majority of the counties in Ohio either building or looking to build new facilities. Several of the facilities across the state were built in the 1960, like the Montgomery County Jail, and that’s prompted many to either conduct a jail needs assessment or proceed with projects after a jail needs assessment.

“Its not just a Montgomery County issue, its an issue facing all of the counties in Ohio. Its just one of those things at the forefront of Montgomery County that we have to look at and deal with,” Streck said.

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