Franklin County’s jails are overcrowded and old. The downtown jail is 46 years old, and the jail on Jackson Pike is 31 years old. Neither functions properly for today's needs, jail officials say.
A new facility would replace both jails, and change how the county approaches inmate-guard interactions.
Franklin County Sheriff chief deputy Geoff Stobart says the new Franklin County Correction Facility, on Fisher Rd. just west of downtown, near the Columbus Police Training Academy. is a different model entirely.
"So our current facilities are what we would call linear indirect supervision jails," Stobart says. "If you think back to the old prison movies where it's bars and catwalks that the staff walks around to physically see the inmates, that's the way our current facilities are set up."
Designed by HDR Inc. and the architecture firm DLZ, the new jail will take a more modern approach, with a podular-designed direct supervision model.
"Basically, the deputies would be embedded in the pods with the inmates," Stobart says. "And it's a much better supervision model for us."
The 345,000-square-foot facility will have house just under 900 inmates but can expand to hold 2,800.
Stobart says officials traveled the country looking at different jails and their approaches to staffing. Due to Ohio's ongoing opioid epidemic, jails in Franklin County and across the country are being tasked with a very different population than when they were founded.
"What we also see is a pretty significant increase in those folks who have mental illness cycling through the doors of our jails," Stobart says.
The pod system allows deputies to keep eyes on inmates at all times, Stobart says.
Stobart says the new jail will be built in two phases, with the Franklin County's main jail, at 372 South Front St., being shut down first. It currently houses 643 inmates.
Eventually, all the inmates from both jails will relocate to the new facility.