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MAHONING JAIL Instructors leave amid tension



Published: Fri, March 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The tension is likely because of longer lockdowns after deputy layoffs.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Inmate tension at the Mahoning County jail today resulted in the departure of Community Corrections Association instructors, official says.

"I pulled our staff out, with the lockdown not allowing us access and tension with inmates," said Richard J. Billak, CCA chief executive officer. "We are providing services at the minimum security jail."

CCA, a halfway facility on Market Street, provides inmate services such as classes for GED, substance abuse, domestic violence and anger management. It also works with sister agencies that provide parenting classes and more.

Billak said he had five staff members at the main jail on Fifth Avenue today. They encountered inmate commotion and tension, which included some inmates tossing out bags of food, presumably their breakfasts.

"We had concerns about the tension -- it wasn't life threatening," Billak said.

Linked to layoffs

Billak said the tension is likely linked to inmates' being locked in their cells longer than usual. The lockdowns are the result of short staffing because of layoffs, he said.

The Mahoning County Sheriff's Department, faced with a budget crunch, laid off 54 deputies.

Billak wasn't sure how many hours a day inmates are confined to their cells and not able to mingle in the common room of the pod or go into classrooms adjacent to their pods. The lockdowns have hampered CCA attempts to provide services this week, he said.

Sheriff Randall A. Wellington said there was no riot, no food throwing, no insurrection. He said that with limited personnel some problems are bound to occur.

"There were a few disruptive inmates and they were dealt with and things are back to normal," Warden Alki Santamas said this morning. "With layoffs, things don't run as smooth."

He said jail life includes disruptions and there were no injuries. He said some food was tossed.

Lockdowns

Inmates are being locked down on a rotating basis, he said. Before the layoffs, inmates were generally allowed out of their cells 16 hours a day. Now it's eight, if possible.

"With 54 deputies [off], we're running as efficiently as we can," Santamas said.

Santamas said he wasn't aware that Billak had pulled CCA staff from the jail.

Arrangements need to be worked out to allow the inmates access to the classes they need, the warden said. "We need to tweak things."

The Vindicator received a letter this week from one female inmate who said she has been unable to take court-ordered rehabilitation classes because of being locked in her cell 24 hours a day. She said inmates must eat in their cells and can't take showers.

meade@vindy.com




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