New Prison Tenants to Tackle Opioid Crisis, Economy

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A group of 15 organizations in Southeast Ohio has been chosen to occupy the former Hocking Correctional Unit near Nelsonville.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction vacated the facility in late March due to the high cost of operating the prison. According to a fact sheet, the facility was the most expensive prison camp operated by the department – costing $65 a day per inmate compared to $21 at similar facilities in Belmont, Richland and Trumbull counties.

Hocking Correctional Unit, Courtesy of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

The Corrections Facility Future Use Team and the City of Nelsonville were the two groups that submitted proposals to occupy the several buildings covering 94,000 square feet of usable space.

The Future Use Team’s proposal focuses on providing drug rehabilitation and health services to those in the judicial system.

The Future Use Team proposal seeks to:

  1. Provide an innovative model for rehabilitation
  2. Mitigate the economic impact of the closure
  3. Relieve the financial burden on counties arising from the operation of various detention and rehabilitation responsibilities.

Rick Hodges, coordinator of the Future Use Team, said he spread the word about the facility’s potential.

Rick Hodges, Courtesy of Ohio University

“I contacted a number of folks who were active and concerned about this … they were motivated to help,” he said.

The Future Use Team is represented by 15 education, government, law enforcement, medical, drug abuse and counseling organizations.

Hodges said his proposal will help ease problems like the opioid crisis facing many counties in Southeast Ohio.

“The hope is to provide wrap-around services for people who are involved in the criminal system, largely because of drugs and opioids,” he said.

Nelsonville resident Stephan Gresh said he was close to a family who lost a child due to opioids.

“They are never going to be the same again – they suffered a loss, and trying to deal with that loss is difficult to deal with for the whole community,” he said. “Anytime we can reach out and can break that cycle of the opioid epidemic is a great benefit.”

The Future Use Team proposal said its approach will involve a combination of mental health, detoxification, counseling and  job training.

Hodges said his team’s proposal is intended to support community initiatives to improve the quality of life in the region.

Hocking Correctional Unit sign