The Lima News
With the final payroll completed, the doors were locked the morning of June 27, 2004, officially closing the Lima Correctional Institution.
The time clock would show the payroll clerk was the last employee to leave that day, ending an era that dated back to 1915 when the facility opened as a state hospital for the criminally insane.
For months the community had been stunned by the state’s announcement. No one saw it coming.
Now, almost as alarming, is this week’s announcement that Ohio may need to spend millions to build a new prison after 2017. An increase in violent crime and an uptick in cases filed by prosecutors could see prison capacity hit 139 percent by 2019, up from the current 131 percent mark.
State officials were adamant nine years ago that the projections they made about the future prison population were right on target. They weren’t about to do a recalculation, not when the figures in hand projected the closing of the 2,200-inmate, medium security prison would save Ohio $25 million a year. Not even a task force that brought the might of northwest Ohio together could convince the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to take one more look.
Thus, the state’s gain was Lima’s pain. The closure resulted in the loss of 500 full-time employees, $300,000 a year in city income taxes and $100,000 in city water bills.
Local officials pleaded with the state to at least continue the maintenance of the facility. They even made reference to the hulking fortress being a historic landmark, noting it was the second-largest poured concrete structure in the world, the Pentagon being first.
Their pleas fell on deaf ears.
This week we have been reminded how bad the state botched things.
If it comes to building a new prison, we can only hope the state looks at the LCI site. Sure, dealing with an old structure and all that poured cement could be problematic. But, the land is already owned by the state, and the Lima community for decades has embraced the generally unpopular business of running prisons.
LCI never should have been closed. This may be an opportunity to correct that mistake.