Monday, April 1, 2013

Ohio's prison problems continue to mount

In the two years since Ohio’s newest prison in Toledo began putting two inmates in one cell to deal with overcrowding, the number of assaults among prisoners has soared, reported the Columbus Dispatch.

An Ohio prison sold to a private company is also having problems. A new report released last month about Lake Erie Correctional Institution describes gang-related violence so commonplace and drug use so rampant that many guards are afraid to intervene -- instead, they are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate.

Injuries needing treatment at an outside hospital have quadrupled. And after a dozen years without a deadly attack in the Toledo Correctional Institution, two inmates have been killed since September, including a prisoner strangled with a rope in his cell two weeks ago.

The increase in violence is raising concerns about overcrowding as the Toledo prison has added hundreds of new inmates, including maximum-security prisoners moved out of lower-security facilities, reported the Dispatch.

The increase in inmate-on-inmate assaults nearly matches the Toledo prison’s population increase over the past few years, said warden Ed Sheldon. The prison had 52 inmate assaults last year, up from 31 in 2011. But the number of serious assaults — those requiring outside medical attention — jumped from an average of three per year to 16 last year, according to state statistics.

It opened as a close-security prison but now also houses about 225 maximum-security inmates. The overall population increased by about 500 at one point and is now at 1,250, far more than two years ago. The prison also has taken in new inmates from around the state, increasing tension among rival gangs.

“The numbers pretty much tell the tale,” Sheldon told the Dispatch.

The biggest change is that inmates no longer have their own cell. “When you double-bunk them, there’s a lot of tension,” the warden said.

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