Athens City Council members discussed a resolution that would oppose the closing of the Hocking Correctional Unit in Nelsonville at the Monday night meeting.

The facility costs about $11.5 million annually to operate, making it the most expensive prison camp the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction operates, according to a previous Post report

The resolution would oppose the closing on the grounds that it would negatively impact Nelsonville, Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, said. The facility employs about 110 people and houses about 430 inmates, according to the previous Post report. 

“We should do everything we can to keep these jobs within Athens County,” Risner said.

The facility is the second largest consumer of water and sewer services in Nelsonville, according to the previous Post report. The facility's closure could result in a loss of up to $360,000 in revenue for the City of Nelsonville, Athens City Council President Chris Knisley, D, said.

“It will impact Nelsonville greatly,” Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said. “This is another push toward for-profit prisons, which is zero help towards anything we do down here, with opioids or anything.” 

City council members also discussed body cameras for the Athens Police Department. 

“Body cameras can both help reduce complaints against officers and assist them in what they do,” Councilman Kent Butler, D-1st Ward, said. 

The body camera contract would cost the city $32,524 initially, followed by an annual cost of $18,402 for the next four years. The five-year contract, which would cost a total of about $106,000, would include stun guns along with body cameras after the current three-year stun gun contract expires. 

The cost of the cameras alone does not account for additional costs because the footage the cameras generate will be public record. APD Chief Tom Pyle said in a previous Post report that APD does not release victims’ or uncharged suspects’ names, or anyone’s personal information. The city would have to edit nearly 40 hours of footage weekly to redact that information, according to the previous Post report.  

Council member Pat McGee, I-At Large, said body cameras can help reduce misunderstandings and procedural mistakes between citizens and police. 

“Nobody is criticizing the Athens Police Department for being unduly harsh or violent,” McGee said. “Having this kind of camera is a protection for the city and for the police department from being charged with frivolous charges.”

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