CHILLICOTHE - Ohio's prison overcrowding issue has prompted officials to move death row for the second time in less than five years.
Ohio's death row will be moved from the Chillicothe Correctional Institution to the Toledo Correctional Institution in the "near future," said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. The move is not expected to affect the number of staff at CCI, but it will lead to an unknown increase in staff in Toledo, Smith added. As of September, CCI employed 315 correction officers and 214 other staff while Toledo employed 279 correction officers and 123 other staff.
"By moving death row to Toledo, we can better service the population by reducing density, which will enhance ongoing violence reduction efforts and improve safety," Smith said.
As of Sept. 26, Ohio's prisons held 50,855 people, which is 688 more than in January 2012 when death row was moved from Mansfield Correctional Institution and the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown to CCI. A secondary reason given for moving death row is the age of CCI — it was built in the 1930s as a federal reformatory — makes it unsuitable for the needs of an aging population; the average age of death row inmates is nearly 50.
Chris Mabe, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association president, said he was "disheartened" to learn of the change after the decision was made instead of bringing the union into the discussion.
"We've been moving people around more in the last five years than we have in the last 25," Mabe said, noting that it's difficult on both families of inmates and staff.
He's concerned about what repercussions may come because of the move, including staffing levels at Toledo and any potential shifts in funding.
Once the 126 death row inmates housed at CCI are moved, the unit will be converted shortly after to house higher security, Level 3 inmates whose movements are monitored more closely. The change will increase the number of beds in the unit from about 125 to 250. The previous move to CCI was touted for freeing up space for 300 beds between the prisons in Mansfield and Youngstown. Chillicothe was selected, in part, for its central location between getting medical service in Columbus and the execution chamber in Lucasville.
In following with CCI's focus as a reintegration prison for low-level offenders, Smith said the Level 3 unit will be used as a regional center geared to ready higher-level inmates for release. It will be the first regional release preparation center in the state.