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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2001

Overdose ends work of inmates at shelter

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Because an inmate doing community service work at the Wood County dog shelter overdosed on drugs he stole from an animal control van, Dog Warden Paula Hamman said her agency no longer will allow inmates to work at the shelter.

“I am ceasing the program, and it will never happen again,” Ms. Hamman said yesterday. “I've had too many problems. This was the most serious one we've had thus far, but not the only problem we've had.”

Since January, 2000, inmates from the NorthWest Community Corrections Center, an alternative to prison for nonviolent felony offenders, have been providing free labor to places like the dog shelter, the historical center, and the humane society.

But after Friday's incident, Ms. Hamman said, they won't be back.

Johnny Sizemore, Jr., 20, of Sibina, Ohio, had been mowing grass and washing vehicles at the dog shelter Friday morning when he apparently stole an unknown quantity of tranquilizers and barbiturates from an unlocked animal control van and injected himself shortly after noon.

According to police reports, another inmate who had been working with Sizemore found him outside the dog shelter leaning on the building, passed out.

He said he woke him up, and the two headed back to the corrections center, but Sizemore collapsed on the way.

Sizemore was taken to Wood County Hospital, then transferred to Medical College of Ohio Hospitals, Toledo, where he was discharged Saturday. No charges have been filed, but the incident remains under investigation, said Bowling Green police Lt. Brad Conner.

James Wichtman, director of the corrections center, said officials were in the process of “unsuccessfully discharging” Sizemore yesterday. He will be returned to Scioto County, where he was sentenced for a receiving stolen property conviction. He could be sent to prison.

Mr. Wichtman said as part of the rehabilitation services offered at the 11/2-year-old corrections center, offenders are required to complete 30 hours of largely unsupervised community service. None are sent out on work assignments until they have been there at least 30 days, he said.

“It's a service to the community as much as to the offenders,” he said.

Ms. Hamman said she was wary about the program initially but found the workers to be trustworthy, not to mention a lot of help to an agency with a small staff.

“In general, if we had something that needed to be done and we couldn't quite get to it, they were doing it,” she said.

The inmates did jobs ranging from shoveling sidewalks and feeding the dogs to alphabetizing dog licenses and assembling information kits for people who adopt dogs.

Ms. Hamman said the dog shelter began having problems with some of the workers in February or March. Small items came up missing. Policies were not being followed. The drug theft and overdose was the worst.

“This was, for me, the straw that broke the camel's back, and it won't happen again,” she said.

Ms. Hamman said the van had been left unlocked, but it was parked in an area that was inaccessible to the public.

Mr. Wichtman said upwards of 90 percent of the offenders who come to the center abuse chemicals. Drug and alcohol counseling is part of their rehabilitation. “We're dealing with individuals who are chemically dependent, and we are constantly concerned about them,” he said. “Relapse is part of reality in many instances.”

Mr. Wichtman said he was not aware the dog shelter was dropping out of the program.

“It's unfortunate because the county did benefit substantially from the work that our men did,” Mr. Wichtman said.



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