Brown County jail closes after inmate fight, unsafe working conditions

Brown County Detention Center shutting down due to unsafe working conditions

BROWN COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Broken locks on jailhouse doors led to the closure of the Brown County Detention Center Thursday.

While responding to a recent fight between several inmates, deputies were confronted by another group of inmates who had entered the area through a faulty jail door, according to a Brown County Fraternal Order of Police source.

That was the last straw in the ongoing problems with locks on cell doors and other common rooms in the cell blocks.

"These doors will not shut sometimes or they won't stay locked.  If the inmates get in there and push the door hard enough, they'll come open," said Brown County Chief Deputy Carl Smith.

A grievance over unsafe working conditions was filed a few weeks ago.

The county's insurer told the commissioners to fix the malfunctions immediately or move the inmates to a different location, the FOP source confirmed.

"We had to do something to fix it and get on top of it immediately," said Brown County Commissioner Barry Woodruff, who agreed with the commissioners' ultimatum.

The roughly 100 inmates were transferred to Butler County Jail. It will cost Brown County about $60 per inmate each day they are held in Butler County, according to Smith.

"We've been doing it for years with Brown County.  We've housed their overflow. This isn't the first time we've housed prisoners.  This is the most they've ever brought us," said Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.

Repair work on the locks has been ongoing but it has become too much. Smith says it is now impossible to order the right parts from the door company because they went out of business in the early 1980s.

"There comes a point in time in any kind of business, be it government or private business, you've got to do what's the right thing to do," said Woodruff.

County officials say they expect to possibly pay around $1 million to fix the problem after several companies submit bids for the work, which Woodruff expects will last from 60 to 90 days. In the meantime, some employees will be laid off.

"Everything, after 35 years, is wearing out.  We're not going to have anybody get hurt because of a door," Smith said.

Jail employees who are laid off can collect pay for 21 days, and then receive unemployment.  From there, they have a 2-year recall right in their contracts, and could return to their jobs.

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