NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — A van which would pick up released inmates from the jail in Nelsonville and take them to their home counties is in the works.
Keller Blackburn, Athens County Prosecutor, has met with the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail warden and deputy warden to discuss the logistics of a van.
Blackburn has been in contact with the Hocking College, and they will give a van for free, the Corrections Commission of Southeastern Ohio heard in its meeting on Wednesday. The van would transport away from the jail released inmates.
Warden Joshua VanBibber told the committee that he was willing to write a policy amendment so that prisoners would be released about noon, and again at 5 p.m. so they can co-ordinate transportation with the van operation.
This also avoids releasing prisoners after dark, which is against jail policy unless the person has a ride.
“If a judge says an inmate has to be released at a specific time, that’s honored,” said Warden VanBibber in the meeting. “Otherwise we have 24 hours to release. The majority of the releases are to other institutions. We don’t have a demographic on how many people walk off the hill.”
‘Walking off the hill’ is the local phrase for walking from the jail into Nelsonville. The van would address people who get stuck in Nelsonville after release, which city managers have said is a problem.
Dan Sherman, of Nelsonville City Council, told the commission: “I think we could get with the judges and work with the jail to release at certain times which makes it easier for the counties to take it back to where we found them. We can run it about $9,000 per year on the high side. We are trying to clean up the City of Nelsonville.
“Nelsonville will help in any way they can, but I don’t think it’s on Nelsonville to pay for this. I would just ask the warden and commission to help us with this issue.”
After the discussion, the Deputy Warden Jeremy Tolson asked permission to meet with the City of Nelsonville to discuss logistics to make the van a reality.
The commission also heard from Athens-Hocking Mobility Management which connects people to their local transit system. They plan to increase information in Nelsonville about their presence, including a phone number 888-95-GOBUS and email where people call to get information on how to get home.