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Prison officers advertise for help from governor

Billboard links violence to decrease in staff

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Prison staff who are members of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association unveiled a billboard on I-280 this week to call attention to the growing violence at Toledo Correctional Institution as a result of staffing shortages.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Union officials claim that staff reductions at the Toledo Correctional Institution are to blame for attacks on corrections officers there, and are using a billboard to implore the governor to beef up staff.

The billboard, which was unveiled by the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association on Wednesday on I-280 near the East Central Avenue prison, gives passers-by a telephone number for Gov. John Kasich and urges them to call him to ask for more staffing.

Thirteen reported assaults on corrections officers have occurred at the prison so far this year, said JoEllen Smith, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Last year’s total was 25 assaults.

Ms. Smith said that overall violence in the state's prison system is down 8 percent, and inmate disturbances are down 25 percent from last year.

But Sally Meckling, spokesman for the the employee group, said staff reductions have outpaced inmate reductions.

At this time last year, 239 corrections officers were employed at the Toledo facility. As of Wednesday, the prison had 218 corrections officers with an additional 18 in the hiring process.

On Wednesday, the inmate population was 1,276. Ms. Smith added that the population at the prison has declined by 300 inmates since November, 2011.

"I want to make clear that we take any assault on our staff very seriously, and any assault on our staff is unacceptable," Ms. Smith said.

Ms. Meckling said corrections officers sometimes have to patrol on their own in areas where maximum-security inmates are housed.

"There are some serious, serious problems," Ms. Meckling said.

Most recently, an inmate was fatally assaulted by other inmates at the Toledo facility on Sept. 20.

Authorities say Brad Hamlin, 24, of Mantua, Ohio, was strangled and died at a local hospital the next day. The case has been ruled a homicide, and an investigation is pending.

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