A scathing report last month about the Toledo Correctional Institution was a red flag for some members of Toledo City Council, but the most recent death of an inmate — the fourth such death in little more than a year — compelled a group of councilmen to demand action.
Five councilmen wrote a resolution Tuesday calling on Gov. John Kasich to order the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to reduce the number of inmates housed at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
The resolution, presented during council's agenda review meeting, also demanded additional measures to improve the staff turnover rate, which, at 16.5 percent, is the highest in the state.
“The increasing violence at the facility is not acceptable, especially given that the most recent inmate death took place after Governor Kasich and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction staff had received the [Correctional Institution Inspection Committee report],” the resolution states.
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Councilmen Lindsay Webb, Paula Hicks-Hudson, Shaun Enright, Tyrone Riley, and Steven Steel co-sponsored the resolution, which could be voted on next week at council’s regular meeting.
Ms. Webb said the resolution was prompted by the most recent inmate death at the North Toledo prison.
“The report came out indicating there were some serious problems,” Ms. Webb said. “Ostensibly, we represent these inmates and the employees, since many live in the city of Toledo.”
Mr. Enright said a family member — a female cousin he declined to identify — works at the prison, and he fears for her safety because of the addition of maximum security inmates and the total population number. “With double-bunking, it has become quite dangerous for employees,” he said.
Mayor Mike Bell said he has not contacted the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to express concern.
“We’re monitoring it. My safety director is monitoring it. Is it an issue that we’ve jumped on? No,” Mr. Bell said on Tuesday.
According to the 164-page report, inmate-on-inmate assaults increased 113 percent from 2010 to 2012; in the same time, inmate-on-staff assaults increased nearly 74 percent. The state report said violence at the prison might be attributed to a 2011 move that doubled the facility’s population. In 2012 level-four maximum-security inmates were moved in.
As of September, there were 1,272 inmates at the prison; 216 were level-four inmates.
On Monday, prison inmate Michael Dodson, 38, was pronounced dead at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after being assaulted Sunday morning by his cellmate. The assault occurred in Dodson’s cell, said Lt. Anne Ralston, spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol. Dodson, who was serving a 40-year sentence for attempted murder and aggravated robbery out of Seneca County, was taken to the hospital.
The lieutenant said Dodson’s cellmate is the suspect, though she declined to release the suspect’s name. As of Tuesday afternoon, no charges had been filed. An autopsy is scheduled for today.
Dodson, incarcerated since Nov. 29, 2011, was found guilty of attempted murder and aggravated robbery after stabbing a Fostoria Subway restaurant employee, Shana Long, then 25, on Jan. 25, 2004. He was not indicted for the crimes until 2009 because he had been in prison on unrelated charges since July, 2004.
Dodson and his cellmate were both level-three inmates.
On Aug. 18, inmate James Ray Oglesby, 32, was assaulted by another baseball bat-wielding inmate in the facility’s recreational yard. He died three days later at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.
Arturo Lopez, 43, was strangled to death at the prison March 17 by his cellmate Dustin Lynch, 26. Earlier this month, Lynch, who was already serving a life sentence for murder, pleaded no contest in the new case and was found guilty by Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook. He is to be sentenced Oct. 16.
In August, Lawrence Hensley, 44, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in the Sept. 20, 2012, strangulation of Toledo inmate Brad Hamlin, 24. He is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. Hamlin’s death was the first at the prison since it opened in 2000.
Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), a member of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, said Tuesday that she’d only seen the headline on the latest incident and hadn’t yet explored the issue. She said she planned to call the committee to discuss what its next step should be.
“Are we going to look into it?” she asked. “Are we going to make another trip back out there?”
“At the top of the list, of course, is that double-bunking,” she said. “That’s a big problem. First of all, those cells are smaller than most places. They never had double-celling before until recently. I think that’s a big, big problem.”
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols directed questions to the state department of corrections. Prison officials previously told The Blade that they have taken steps to address the growing violence — such as hiring an additional nine corrections officers and installing additional surveillance cameras.
Staff writer Jim Provance contributed to this report.