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Firm chosen to study needs for a new jail

Architect to collect data on cost, projected size


Corrections officers process a man brought in by the Toledo Police Gangs Unit in the booking area in the Lucas County Jail. Lucas County commissioners have hired a Nebraska-based architectural design firm to help answer key questions about building a jail to replace the aging corrections center in downtown Toledo.

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Lucas County commissioners have hired a Nebraska-based architectural design firm to help answer key questions about building a jail to replace the aging corrections center in downtown Toledo.

DLR Group of Omaha will be paid up to $75,000 to assess the feasibility of replacing the Lucas County jail, a study expected to be completed in four months.

“This is a study to get answers to see what, if any, type of correction center we should have,” said Meghan Vahey Casiere, chief of planning and development for the county. “It will be an analytical document. Do not expect to get a pretty picture of a jail. This will allow us to make a decision.”

Among issues the study is to address are the appropriate number of beds, the size of a jail to fit the county’s needs, and construction cost estimates.

“Basically this is a prison population study and needs assessment,” said Carol Contrada, the county commissioners’ president. “What it will cost to build, the number of beds, which will be based on projected prison populations.”

The company will subcontract some of the work with other firms, including SSOE Group, Swint Consulting Services, and Reichle Klein Group, all of Toledo.

DLR Group, which has 20 offices in 14 states and China, has designed detention facilities and prisons throughout the United States and bills itself as “the No. 1 criminal-justice design firm in the world.”

The company’s proposal was among eight submitted to a 26-member committee, appointed by the commissioners, that is examining the feasibility of a new jail. The subgroup recommended the commissioners hire DLR Group.

Sheriff John Tharp said a new jail would be more cost-effective than renovations because of maintenance issues and design problems in the existing 36-year-old facility.

“I think a new jail needs to be built, with the reason being because we are throwing good money after bad money. The pipes are breaking and leaking. The roof is leaking. The elevators keep breaking down.”

The pretrial facility has a recommended capacity to house 346 inmates, held on six levels in the building’s nine floors. The booking area can accommodate 51 more prisoners.

Mr. Tharp, who took office early this year, said environmental conditions, including cooling and heating, are “borderline inhumane” for inmates and are challenges for his staff, who spend as much as one-third of their careers inside the building.

“It’s just not a good environment to live and not a good environment to work. The inmates are living in cells that are cold in the winter and hot in the summer,” the sheriff said. “We need a new jail. My hope is that we can do that before my term is over.”

A $30,000 grant the county obtained through the Ohio Department of Development’s Local Government Innovation Fund will cover a bulk of the state’s 60 percent share of the study. The county commissioners and the city of Toledo are each contributing $15,000.

In addition to the county commissioners and sheriff, administrators and elected officials representing Toledo, Maumee, Sylvania, Waterville, and a local mental health agency belong to the steering committee, which has met since January.

“We are really excited about this. It represents a collaboration, not on the funding part, but this will be a very dynamic process on how to get and analyze the data,” Ms. Vahey Casiere said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: or 419-724-6199.

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