Official: Ohio close to needing $1B prison due to population


CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) — The head of Ohio’s prisons said the state is close to needing a new prison, but he won’t be the one to ask for the estimated $1 billion to build it.

State prisons director Gary Mohr expressed his frustration with the slow progress of reforms intended to lower the prison population during a speech at his church in Chillicothe last week, the Chillicothe Gazette reported (http://ohne.ws/20m2Rj9).

“I won’t do it,” Mohr said of the billion-dollar request. “Somebody else will, but we’re getting close enough with this increase (in prison population) that somebody’s going to have to because of safety issues.”

Injuries to prison staff members by inmates more than doubled between 2011 and 2013.

Managing Director of Operations Ed Voorhies said Mohr has vowed to resign if he has to ask for a new prison.

Ohio has 400 more prisoners compared to the same time last year at about 50,000. The female inmate population has grown nearly 5 percent in that time to more than 4,200.

Mohr said the increase in female incarceration has been fueled by women battling addiction and serving short sentences.

The last budget doubled funding for addiction services in prison and put $58 million toward community programming.

It’s unclear how overcrowded Ohio’s 27 prisons are because the state stopped tracking capacity in 2013 after the American Correctional Association dropped its standards.

“No national standard exists for making this calculation so in the absence of a national standard, (the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction) does not track it,” prison spokesman Brian Niceswanger said.

Voorhies said a large part of the prison population consists of “low-level non-violent” offenders who are “better treated in the community.”

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Information from: Chillicothe Gazette, http://www.chillicothegazette.com

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