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Ohio's prison guards say they're short staffed and at risk
State prisons department has put in for more counselors and trainers, as well as guards

Jo Ingles
Courtesy of Michael Coghlan
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In The Region:

The union that represents corrections officers at the state’s prisons says the state needs to put more money into hiring additional guards.  Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports why those who deal first hand with prisoners at Ohio’s lockups say the state needs to devote more resources to additional security.

LISTEN: Ohio prisons and the risks

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Correction officer Jeffrey Cavendish was guarding prisoners in the chow hall at the Noble Correctional facility recently when he was assaulted by an inmate. 

“He hit me in the forehead.  The punch caught me off guard.  I stumbled into the seating area where I became pinned, bent over backwards in between the chairs and the tables.  The inmate continued to throw closed-fisted punches at my face.  I tried to reach my pepper spray but I could not as it was pinned against the back of the chair. I tried reaching for my radio but it was pinned as well.” 

Eventually, other corrections officers arrived to help free Cavendish but injuries kept him off the job for more than eight weeks. 

Christopher Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, says situations like the one Cavendish experienced are becoming far more common.  And he says new policies that changed the makeup of prisoners in certain facilities have made matters worse. 

“When you had some violent and some non-violent inmates in the institution, everybody kind of controlled each other.  But when you start populating institutions with more violent inmates without increasing adequate staffing on the ground, those violent incidents increase exponentially.” 

Shared goals
Mabe says the rate of major assaults at Ohio’s lockups has increased sharply since 2011.  His union wants the state to add 400 more corrections officers into the system.

Ricky Seyfang with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections says the agency has the same goal as the corrections officers- - to keep the state’s lockups safe.  She’s checking right now to see if the number of assaults in prisons has gone up as much as the union says it has.

Seyfang notes the department has asked for 293 new positions in the state budget. Eighty-three of those would be corrections officers.  The others would lead programs and other services. 

She notes Ohio is a leader when it comes to preventing offenders from returning to prison and she says the increased educational programs and counseling in prison goes a long way to helping prisoners cope once they are released.



Listener Comments:

Marion prision is very poorly staffed. Its a riot waiting to happen I have info from the inside... those poor guards are tired from constitaly working 16 hour shifts. They aren't hiring alot of people. Prisoners threaten to stab the guards and the lieutenant dosent do anything about it... look up marion prision there are 100 inmates to one guard rooms. Its scary.

Posted by: unanamise (marion ohio) on June 16, 2014 2:06AM
Part of the problem is that those who are making the staffing decisions never have to face the inmates in the dorms and cell blocks. It's easy to say the department doesn't need more officers when the decision makers safety is not jeopardized. Let's hope it is not going to take another Lucasville type riot to get the state to add more officers.

Posted by: tc (columbus) on March 30, 2014 2:03AM
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