It will have iron bars and fences, but the new Franklin County Corrections Center scheduled to open in late 2019 won't be a typical jail.

"This is a whole different approach," County Commissioner John O'Grady said.

The new jail -- the result of years of planning -- eventually will replace the current county jail in downtown Columbus.

The official groundbreaking was held Monday, Nov. 6, for the new facility on Fisher Road on the West Side, though crews began clearing the site weeks ago. The new facility will still house inmates, but it is designed to operate differently than the county's current jails.

The goal is to address the underlying issues that result in arrests. Inmates will be connected to addiction and other treatment aimed at preventing them from becoming repeat offenders and costly repeat occupants at the jail.

Many of those who are currently incarcerated are accused of committing crimes to pay for drug habits, according to county officials.

"It is an opportunity for Franklin County to build a facility that will accommodate the process to provide mental health and other services," Commissioner Kevin Boyce said.

"Today's facility is not that facility," he said. "Today's facility is for incarcerating people."

The first phase of construction for the new jail and coroner's forensic center is being paid for by a five-year, quarter-cent sales tax. Five years ago, when commissioners adopted that sales tax, they expected a new jail and forensic science center to cost $200 million.

The first phase of the new jail is expected to cost $175 million. The forensic science center is expected to cost $27.3 million. Costs shared for both facilities amount to an extra $16.5 million. That's a total of $218.8 million.

There is no design for the second phase of the jail, which will result in a total of 2,400 jail beds, but it's expected to cost more than an additional $200 million when built.

The new jail, county leaders say, comes with a new way of thinking about justice.

"We can rethink corrections. We can rethink sentencing. We can rethink how we provide the type of services needed. We can rethink how we address the opioid crisis," O'Grady said.

"It gives us the ability to talk to judges, community corrections and a lot of different partners out there."

Warehousing inmates no longer is preferred, he said. Getting inmates help so they don't return is the new goal.

"We would love to have people see us one time and not 10 times," O'Grady said.

The existing downtown jail is outdated, in disrepair, can't be renovated and can't hold enough inmates to be of value, according to county officials.

"We've simply outgrown the facility," Boyce said.

The current Franklin County Corrections Center is actually two jails:

* The 48-year-old downtown jail opened in 1969. It processes in and houses male inmates. It has 643 beds. The new jail, with 870 beds, replaces this jail.

* The 31-year-old Jackson Pike facility was added in 1986. It processes in and holds male and female prisoners. It has 1,676 beds. Phase II of the new jail, when built, will have 1,530 beds and replace this jail.

In 2013, county commissioners, without a vote of the public, enacted two quarter-cent sales taxes. One permanent tax helped fund special programs and pays for day-to-day operations of running the government. The second, limited to five years and scheduled to end Dec. 31, 2018, allows officials to pay cash for the new jail and forensic science center, saving more than $100 million in financing costs, county leaders said.

In addition to cells, the new jail is designed to include space for classes for programs to help inmates cope with issues that likely brought them to jail. The majority of inmates are in need of opioid addiction and mental health treatment, authorities say.

"If we don't accommodate that element of it, we certainly haven't done our jobs" Boyce said.

Commissioners view the new jail as a costly, once-in-a-generation project they have to get right, for the immediate and long-term future.

"This is not at all about locking them up and throwing away the key," O'Grady said. "Let's help fix people. Let's fix them instead of just incarcerating them."

kperry@dispatch.com

@kimballperry