The executive director of a legislative prison watchdog group said Friday that problems in the Toledo Correctional Institution — chronicled in a recent inspection report — can be traced to the statewide increase in the prison population.
“The report is certainly one of the most concerning in recent history,” said Joanna Saul, executive director of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, of the 164-page report her committee released about Toledo’s prison.
The scathing report, which followed a three-day inspection in August of Toledo Correctional, criticized the high staff turnover rate and incidents of violence in the state prison.
Among the findings of the nonpartisan Correctional Institution Inspection Committee was a dramatic increase in inmate-on-inmate assaults and attacks on guards and staff at the North Toledo institution.
The committee found that the Toledo prison had a nearly 113 percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence between 2010 and 2012 and the incidents of inmate-on-staff assaults jumped nearly 74 percent during the same period.
The increase in assaults, fights, and disturbances, the committee noted, happened at the same time the prison began putting two inmates in the same cell and took in violent offenders to deal with statewide prison overcrowding.
“The prison staff have legitimate challenges and the challenges they are facing have caused the environment that is reflective in the report,” Ms. Saul said.
Since September, 2012, three inmates have been killed at Toledo Correctional, with the most recent incident coming several weeks ago when James Ray Oglesby, 32, was beaten by at least two other inmates with metal baseball bats in a recreation area.
The committee staff completed the three-day inspection of Toledo Correctional on Aug. 9. Nine days later, Oglesby was attacked. He died Aug. 21 in a hospital.
Safety, security, and the 16.5 percent staff turnover rate — the highest of any prison in the state and more than double the prison system average — were among the concerns of the group, which documents problems in Ohio’s prisons and youth service facilities and conducts unannounced visits on the institutions to observe and then report on their activities.
The report said most staff resignations were submitted while employees were under investigation.
JoEllen Smith, spokesman for the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said 70 of the 127 employees terminated were directly tied to pending investigations.
Just last month, Ms. Saul’s group released a report critical of overall prison overcrowding despite legislative efforts enacted several years ago to reduce their populations.
The committee said the overall prison population has increased 11.1 percent statewide since fiscal year 2003 and projected the rate of overcrowding would increase to 138.6 percent by 2019.
Chris Mapes, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees, which represents prison employees, said the escalation in violence and assaults is directly tied to changes in double bunking and the addition of high-risk inmates.
He said the Toledo prison that was designed to hold 900 inmates has a population of nearly 1,300.
“The only way to fix the problem is for the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation to increase the number of staff,” he said.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.