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Published: Thursday, 2/28/2008

Plan to halt all caffeine for Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio inmates is brewing

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Hoping to quench discipline problems that often percolate at bedtime - and improve inmates' sleep - the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio is eliminating coffee and other caffeinated drinks in the next few months.

Any coffee served at meals soon will be decaffeinated, and inmates only will be able to buy caffeine-free drinks from the jail's commissary after the supply of caffeinated beverages runs out, Dennis Sullivan, director of security at the jail in Stryker, said yesterday.

Jail officials recently reviewed disciplinary actions from several months and realized many happened on the third shift, Mr. Sullivan said.

Disciplined inmates were loud or otherwise acting out, even to the point of occasionally throwing toilet paper rolls, empty shampoo bottles, or other objects at corrections officers, he said.

"It really kind of surprised us that most of our rule violations were taking place at 11 or 12 o'clock at night," Mr. Sullivan said.

Providing healthy meals is a hot topic among corrections facilities, and eliminating caffeine goes along with that trend, Mr. Sullivan said.

Inmates should be able to sleep better, he added.

Caffeine is a stimulant, decreasing fatigue and increasing motor activity, and its effects can last up to six hours, according to the University of Michigan.

Too much caffeine can lead to sleep deprivation, excessive nervousness, and tremors, while headaches, irritability, and other withdrawal symptoms for those who routinely consume large amounts can last a week, according to UM.

People may crave caffeine, but it is not addictive, the university said.

Health has been a focus at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio since its 1990 opening as a smoke-free facility.

Ohio prisons and the Lucas County jail also have become smoke free in the last several years, but those facilities allow caffeine, officials said.

Caffeine has not caused disciplinary problems at the Lucas County jail, where inmates can get coffee or tea with a snack at 8 p.m. before their 11:30 p.m. bedtime, said Jim O'Neal, jail administrator.

"We really don't have an issue with it," Mr. O'Neal said.

Still, he added: "It's interesting. I can see a point there, if it is an issue."

The Stryker jail had 578 inmates yesterday, and it serves Toledo as well as Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Lucas, and Williams counties.

Inmates know about plans to eliminate caffeine but have not been officially notified, Mr. Sullivan said.

Corrections center board members were informed of the change yesterday during a meeting.

So far, there haven't been many inmate complaints, Mr. Sullivan said.

"I've not heard a whole lot," he said. "Eventually, I assume they will."

Eliminating caffeine will not hinder the defense of inmates, even if they do have to get up at 4 a.m. for 9 a.m. court appearances in Toledo, said attorney Jim Neumeyer, office manager for the public defenders office in Lucas County.

"We will represent them just as zealously if they are sleepy or not," he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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