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OCSEA members at Toledo Correctional Institution protest unsafe working conditions

Photo credit: OCSEA
By OCSEA Staff ·

TOLEDO, Ohio – Members of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) who work at the Toledo Correctional Institution (ToCI) picketed just before Thanksgiving to protest unsafe working conditions.

Members say violence has been on the rise in the maximum-security prison, making the jobs of correction officers and other employees more dangerous than ever. Staff are forced into 16-hour overtime shifts to compensate for crisis-level understaffing at corrections facilities around the state.

At ToCI, 57 positions – nearly 1 in 5 – are unfilled. That’s the highest level of vacancy at a dangerous maximum-security prison in Ohio, according to information the union obtained from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DR&C).

“When you have staff working 16 hours a day, three or four days a week, they become fatigued. Reaction times are down, making them less aware of their surroundings. That makes for a more dangerous prison,” said Adam Barnard, president of OCSEA Chapter 4818.

According to OCSEA members on the ground, the issues run deeper than just understaffing. They say management at DR&C has not made appropriate changes at the prisons to reflect the serious understaffing.

“Instead of looking at the whole operation to see where adjustments can be made, the onus has been on the officers to work harder, work faster, work longer. You can’t do that in a prison,” said Barnard. “Our COs can’t sustain that. … We need management to make the necessary adjustments that will help relieve our staff. We need them to listen to us. And that needs to happen now, not five months from now.”

While DR&C has offered extremely limited overtime incentives – $50 per shift with many caveats – OCSEA President Chris Mabe has called the bonus program “a Band-Aid on a head wound.”

“Ultimately, we believe that classifications in this and other agencies need to be upgraded, especially for these classifications where recruitment and retention is a problem. That’s what we have repeatedly told the Department of Administrative Services,” said Mabe.

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