Inmates jump from jail balcony to get furloughed, says Nelsonville city manager

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NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Inmates in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail (SEORJ) are jumping off a balcony in order to get sent to the hospital where they can walk free, says a city manager.

In January, Nelsonville Police Department posted a video from the jail on social media of Kayla Allbaugh, who was in the jail under a $100,000 bond.

The Facebook post read in part, “On the evening of January 19th employees of the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail seen Allbaugh hanging from a 2nd story balcony to which she then fell to the ground and alleged that she was injured. Kayla Allbaugh was transported to Grant Hospital in Columbus Ohio by employees of the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail and then left unsupervised at the Hospital, which allowed Allbaugh to check herself out.”

This isn’t a new phenomenon, said City Manager Scott Frank, “Folks have learned that if you jump off the balcony, you get hurt, you get furloughed.”

NBC4 called Warden VanBibber at the SEORJ to ask about the balcony, and whether he believed people could be using it as a way of getting furloughed. NBC4 also asked if there was a plan to fix the balcony to stop jumpers. But the warden didn’t respond to these questions.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s 2019 annual jail inspection, the SEORJ did not comply with five standards. The balcony wasn’t listed among them. However, the report did say that the lavatory in the minimum security male pod was in disrepair, and there was a lot of graffiti on the walls throughout the facility.

In the 2020 annual jail inspection, the inspector made the same comments in the report.

“I don’t understand how there can be continuous write-ups without an action plan to solve the problem. It doesn’t surprise me,” said Frank.

He went on to say the SEORJ’s sewer system backs up into city hall, and that requests to get that fixed are ignored.

“Having the jail in town is a huge burden on our sewer system,” Frank stated. “Several times we’ve had burned-out pumps and had backups literally into the parking lot here at city hall. It’s bedsheets from the jail, it’s commissary items, it’s solid pieces of trash that get flushed down the toilet and damage the sewer system all the way down to the plant.”

Frank said the jail pays a “residential level” of sewer bill. SEORJ also pays no property taxes because it is an exempt property owned by counties.

The Nelsonville City Auditor’s report shows that land the jail sits on would ordinarily be taxed at $64,000 in 2020 and $52,000 per year from 2011-2019.

The city has not been able to levy property taxes on the jail, an amount that would otherwise be $532,000 from 2011 to 2020, if SEORJ didn’t have exemption status.

In the six months from Aug. 2020 to Jan. 2021, information provided by the jail shows it has collected the following fees. This is not a comprehensive list of the fees collected for bed space:

  • Athens County Sheriff: $514,274.73
  • Hocking County Sheriff: $487,470.49
  • Logan PD: $124,027.25 
  • Athens PD: $8,204.00
  • Nelsonville PD: $4,255.00

Despite requests, directed to Warden VanBibber and Commissioner Charlie Adkins, for an annual report for the SEORJ to be provided to NBC4, no report has been given.

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