The 9,391-square-foot underground jail shares space with police headquarters on the lower level of the four-story Middletown City Building. It was not designed for expansion, and the state’s recommended capacity is 34 inmates. The 76-cell jail is one of five municipal full-service jails in Ohio. Pre-pandemic, the city jail averaged about 42 male and female prisoners.
The state currently rates the city jail “status jail” because it is not in compliance with Ohio’s Minimum Jail Standards due to the city’s and at least six key standards are unachievable due to the design and current condition of the facility.
City Manager Jim Palenick and Police Chief David Birk have proposed the construction of a new two-story municipal justice center which would house a 164-bed jail on the first floor and the Municipal Court operations would be self-contained on the second floor. There would be secure public and staff entrances to the facility.
Middletown is considering building a municipal justice center to relocate the Municipal Court and city jail. This is a rendition of the proposed site. CONTRIBUTED/CITY OF MIDDLETOWN
Palenick said the new municipal justice center could be located at the site of the current fire headquarters, 2300 Roosevelt Blvd. The city is planning to relocate fire headquarters to better cover the city.
The site would be on 13 acres already owned by the city, a portion of Goldman Park and the city would seek to acquire 4.5 wooded acres from AK Steel. He said 75,950 square feet of the proposed building would be for the Municipal Court operations and 53,000 square feet would be for detention.
The detention area would have 104 male cells, 36 female cells, 24 special needs/mental health cells. The proposed facility would have one wing dedicated for special needs/mental health inmates. About 56 cells would be available to be contracted out for other cities, counties or federal government. It would also feature a commissary, infirmary, maintenance, sally port, laundry, recreation and program areas.
Palenick said it would cost about $30 million to build the new facility based on estimates from jail construction in Warren County, and there are multiple possible funding sources available.
Council members asked Palenick and Birk for additional information and also wanted input from residents and other community stakeholders.