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New Franklin County Jail Offers More Light, Open Spaces And Rehabilitation Services

A pod inside the new Franklin County Jail where inmates will stay and be able to sleep, eat, shower and gather. The new jail is expected to open in the spring of 2022.
Debbie Holmes
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A pod inside the new Franklin County Jail where inmates will stay and be able to sleep, eat, shower and gather. The new jail is expected to open in the spring of 2022.

Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin enjoys showing off the new jail under construction on Columbus’ West Side and pointing out its new approach to housing inmates.

“This is all direct supervision, so you’ll have a deputy embedded in the pod or in the dorm area and the inmates are under constant observation,” Baldwin said.

The inmates will be classified by their risk level instead of the crime they’re accused of committing. Baldwin said the new jail will save money by having all rehabilitation services within one building instead of two jails.

“The services all come to each pod,” Baldwin said. “Where currently we take the inmate to the service within the jail, but in this concept, everything comes to the pod, and it just requires more staff.”

Seating and a table in a pod located inside the new Franklin County Jail.
Debbie Holmes
Seating and a table in a pod located inside the new Franklin County Jail.

The Franklin County Correction Center, which is located on Fisher Road, is set to house inmates starting spring of 2022. It costs approximately $360 million. Phase One is almost completed. It includes 867 beds under 429,500 square feet. Windows in various parts of the jail allow light to enter the building

A huge sally port will enable cars and buses to transport people into the jail.

“Ideally the clerk’s location is where they come in and the first thing the officer does with the prisoner is make sure that the paperwork is correct,” Baldwin said. “That they have enough reason to make the arrest, that everything is filled out correctly. The charges are filed.”

The intake area of the new Franklin County Jail.
Debbie Holmes
The intake area of the new Franklin County Jail.

Baldwin said those arrested will also be examined for any medical needs.

“Currently in the old facilities they’re a linear style, which means it’s the old cellblock,” the sherrif said. “They’re locked away in cells and deputies have to walk down the hallway and make rounds about every hour to kind of peer in the windows and the doors and make sure everything is okay.”

Baldwin said it’s important to remember that many of those who are jailed are accused of but have not yet been convicted of a crime. It’s estimated about 75% of them will be released back into the community within a few days.

One of the goals of the new facility is to reduce recidivism, the sheriff said.

“If you have a mental health issue the diversion center can redirect you there and then you’re not free to go but you go through treatment,” Baldwin said. “And the goal is once you match the treatment to the issues the person is having and is successful, they don’t reoffend. Because most of our offenders are low-level offenders and it’s because of their issues that they do the offense.”

Construction of the second phase of the jail is underway and will include 418 beds in 167,415 square feet. The portion of the facility is set to open in 2023.

The county currently houses about 1,700 inmates at two facilities, which is down from 2,300 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baldwin hopes a planned third phase will not be necessary because of fewer people being sent due to rehabilitation services and bail reforms.

If all three phases are completed, the jail would be able to house 2,900 inmates.