Ohio adult, youth prison agencies merging office functions


By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press



COLUMBUS — The agencies that oversee adult and youth prisons in Ohio want to move to a single headquarters to improve efficiency and boost collaboration by merging back-office functions like payroll.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Department of Youth Services asked a state spending panel Monday for $1.8 million for rent beginning next year.

The bipartisan Controlling Board will consider the request Dec. 18.

“There will be an on-going accumulative savings as staff move together and find the efficiencies,” adult prisons director Gary Mohr said.

In the future, the rent the agencies pay will increase considerably, according to the Controlling Board request, which is drawing criticism from a youth advocate group.

The agencies now pay a combined annual rent of $1.7 million, which would jump to $2.4 million. Combining headquarters also involves one-time moving costs of up to $533,000.

The agencies would move from two buildings near downtown Columbus to a facility about eight miles west of downtown.

The extra money could pay for programs to decrease the number of kids entering the justice system, said Erin Davies, executive director of the Juvenile Justice Coalition.

Davies is also concerned that sharing services could affect the training that youth prison guards receive to deal with unique issues raised by incarcerating children.

“Other states who have undergone a merger of the youth and adult prison agencies have reported less focused attention on children,” Davies said.

Mohr said the merger won’t affect what either agency does inside its facilities or in the supervision of offenders in the community.

The prisons department says future savings could come from eliminating parking costs currently paid by the Youth Services agency, reducing the number of information technology contracts and consolidating computer servers.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.