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LEAVITTSBURG Corrections officers say cuts are threat to safety



Published: Tue, September 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LEAVITTSBURG -- Corrections officers at Trumbull Correctional Institution say state budget cuts in the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections are a threat to their safety and that of the community.

Members of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association Local 11, which represents corrections officers and other personnel at the prison, conducted an informational picket outside the facility Monday.

Similar demonstrations are planned at the other state prisons over the next several weeks.

"On the second shift, there are 39 officers watching 1,350 inmates," said Walter Patterson, chapter president and a corrections officer at the facility for 10 years.

The ratio affects their safety, they say, pointing to two recent attacks on officers.

In one, the officer was spit on by a Hepatitis C-infected inmate. In another, an officer was assaulted by an inmate and suffered a broken finger and a head injury.

A hiring freeze at the facility caused a shortage of 25 officers for more than a year.

Safety issue

They also point to escape attempts from the facility within the last year.

"If I lived around here I'd be scared," Patterson said.

Stuart Hudson, assistant to Warden Julius Wilson, said the facility is mandated by its central office to maintain a 3 percent vacancy rate. The facility is supposed to staff 247 people and has only five vacancies.

Because of lateral transfers from other prisons, 10 officers started at TCI Monday, he said.

Five officers are off on workers compensation, and four are on disability leave.

TCI has no control over cuts coming at the state level.

"We've had no major problems here at this institution," Stuart said. "Our officers here do a tremendous job."

Ron Vrabel, a member of the board of directors at OCSEA, said Gov. Bob Taft's budget cuts are jeopardizing people's safety.

"You can't balance a budget on people's safety," he said.

The officers say each of the prisons across the state is coping with overcrowding in the wake of the closing of a southeastern Ohio prison earlier this year.




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