By John Seewer
TOLEDO: A state prison beset by a rise in violence, including four fatal attacks on inmates in 13 months, has stopped accepting some new prisoners.
The change that took effect last week is aimed at cutting down on the number of prisoners who share a cell, state prisons department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said.
Violence at the Toledo Correctional Institution soared after the facility started doubling up prisoners in the same cell to deal with overcrowding beginning in 2011.
The latest fatal attack came in early October, when investigators said a man serving a 40-year sentence for attempted murder and robbery was attacked by his cellmate.
The change in accepting some prisoners already had been in the works before that killing, Smith said.
The facility stopped receiving prisoners who are classified as “level-three” and are double-bunked, but it will continue to add higher-security prisoners who are housed in a single cell, she said.
In addition, about 60 prisoners have been reclassified and will be moved to lower-security facilities, she said.
The moves, which will reduce but not eliminate double-bunking at Toledo, are in response to the violence over the last few years, Smith said. The prison system also has hired a consultant to help corrections officials in Toledo review operations and make any needed changes.
A report by a legislative committee said in September that prisoner-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff assaults in Toledo jumped between 2010 and 2012. The report also said the state prison has Ohio’s highest rates of inmate drug use, prisoner homicides and staff turnover.
The prisons department said violent incidents were down this year at Toledo and that the state hired nine new guards, increased monitoring of disruptive prisoners and boosted camera surveillance.
Warden Ed Sheldon said earlier this year that the percentage increase of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults mostly mirrored the rate of increase of the prison population. As the facility added 350 new prisoners since 2011, the number of assaults also increased.
New prisoners included maximum-security ones moved out of lower-security facilities, and came from around the state, increasing tensions among rival gangs. To accommodate them, the prison has been putting two people in a cell that originally housed one.
The facility has about 1,300 prisoners, which is near capacity.