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WARREN Failure to charge inmates with assault worries guards



Published: Mon, February 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A guard said that assaults have increased steadily since 1999.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

and AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The warden at Trumbull Correctional Institution is to meet soon with prison guards to discuss prosecuting inmates who assault corrections officers.

Walt Patterson, a guard at TCI, says corrections officers are concerned by what they feel is a lack of prosecution.

"It's getting out of hand," he said. "We haven't had a case of assault against a guard prosecuted in about five years."

Patterson said assaults against guards have increased -- 15 cases in 1999, 17 in 2000 and 19 last year.

"We've had five so far this year," he said. "We have inmates that are throwing urine and feces on guards and nothing is happening to them."

Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County prosecutor, said his office reviews all reported cases of assault on an individual basis.

What warden said: Warden Julius Wilson thinks a discussion with prosecutors would help guards understand the process.

"I understand how these guards feel because they are victims and I know the prosecutor's office is on our side," Wilson said. "I think it will do good for everyone to talk and realize we are all working together."

Wilson hopes there can be a meeting in the next few weeks.

One guard's story: Bob Gordon, a corrections officer, says he's been off work since an August assault that's left him in need of medical and psychological care.

Gordon, an eight-year employee of TCI, said he went into a cell to look for contraband and was knocked out.

When he came to, Gordon said, two inmates who are brothers were beating him.

He said he's being treated for post traumatic stress disorder and for bulging disks in his back.

The prison's internal disciplinary process found one brother guilty and the other innocent, Gordon said.

To make matters worse, he said, he can't get an appointment with Watkins and was told to contact the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The patrol investigates all cases at the state's prisons.

Gordon said there are more assaults against guards than what the prison has admitted.

"It's something that's getting progressively worse," he said.

Union action: Officials from the union representing state corrections officers were at TCI in August to demonstrate on contractual issues and what they say is a violation of their constitutional rights at state institutions.

A union representative told The Vindicator then that a rash of assaults at TCI had not been made public.

Gary Schultz, administrative assistant to Wilson, has disputed that allegation in the past.

sinkovich@vindy.com

davis@vindy.com




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