A mechanical mystery at the new, $97 million Toledo Correctional Institution is delaying plans to move in the prison's 1,000 close-security inmates. The hangup: It's too cold.
“They don't know what the problem is yet,” said Joe Andrews, an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesman. “They're going to have a consultant look at the heating system.”
Prison officials expected to have at least 120 inmates in the North Toledo lockdown by this time, he said. Instead, they have 40.
The bugaboo seems confined to the cell area of the prison, so officials didn't realize they had a problem until after the first 40 close-security inmates came in mid-December, warden Khelleh Konteh. said. Mr. Konteh said they immediately complained of the cold.
The administrative offices and adjacent minimum-security work camp that has housed more than 175 inmates since summer are comfortable temperature-wise.
Even the segregation, or isolation area, of the inmate sections are warm, Mr. Konteh said. “It's not the whole building. Certain areas are very toasty,” he said. “It's the general population area that is the problem.”
The problem has been particularly troublesome because of the recent extreme cold, he added.
The first 40 inmates temporarily slept in the common area. Since then extra insulation has been placed in their 20 cells.
The prison was completed last year on its 47-acre campus and promises to bring with it more than 400 jobs, officials have said. Close-security prisoners are considered a risk level between medium and maximum-security.
Until the problem is resolved, the prison will not take any more inmates, he said.
“We don't want to put any more inmates in there until we have a handle on what's going on,” Mr. Andrews said.
Construction of the facility capped a six-year effort led by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to bring a prison to Toledo. The city first bid in 1994 for a maximum-security lockup off Stickney Avenue. But nearby residents heatedly opposed the plan, and the state built it near Youngstown.
In 1995, then-Governor Voinovich announced Toledo had beaten Stark County and Youngstown in getting the prison.