More serious assaults on Ohio prison staff

The state corrections department reports that serious assaults on prison staffers are up, and a union says more corrections officers are needed.

Incidents resulting in serious injuries to prison staff members doubled from Jan. 1, 2007, to last Sept. 30. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released the report, as required by a s2011 state criminal sentencing overhaul.

The number of assaults on prison staffers overall was 2,675 during the period, with 207 resulting in serious injury.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the union representing prison staff called the report disturbing. It says the number of corrections officers has declined, and believes that has led to increased serious violence against staffers.

“Our members knew from firsthand experience that the reality on the ground was different from what (the department) was reporting,” said Jimmy Adkins, head of the corrections section for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association.

“We think this report is a wake-up call to the Kasich administration that they need to take a serious look at some of the recommendations this union has made, including an increase in correction officers and other correction employees.,” Adkins said.

The number of corrections officers has dropped from 7,028 in January 2011 to 6,279 this month, or down nearly 11 percent. Prison population fell 1.5 percent, to 49,993, in the same period.

“We need more eyes on the inmates and more feet on the beat,” said union president Christopher Mabe.

Other forms of assaults such as spitting and throwing bodily fluids at prison staffers also increased during the study period, up to 500 last year. But the number of inmate-on-inmate assaults resulting in serious injuries fell last year. There were 963 in the report period.

A spokeswoman for the department says reducing violence is a top priority.

“Any act of violence inside our prisons is unacceptable,” spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said in a statement. “We share the same goal as the union, which is to operate safe and secure prisons. Measures to reduce violence have been and will continue to be a top priority of this agency.”

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