Statement on Southern Ohio Correctional Facility

In response to today’s picket at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 Public Division Director Josh Norris issues the following statement: 
“We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of OCSEA protesting the unsafe working conditions at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Overcrowding of inmates at the facility has led to increased violence while low staffing levels have left our members more vulnerable to incidents and assaults.”   
“The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility is not alone in its issue of overcrowding. Ohio’s prison system is currently operating at 132% of capacity; over 11,000 more inmates than the system was built for. These conditions, along with tighter budgets from the state, have resulted in dangerous staffing levels for OCSEA’s corrections officers and other 1199 members charged with maintaining a safe and orderly facility where inmates can participate in rehabilitative services to avoid recidivism. Prisons are resorting to the hazardous practice of mandatory overtime to reach minimum staffing requirements, leaving fatigued officers, case managers, nurses and other employees on duty for hours longer than scheduled.”   
“The opioid epidemic and increasing drug use within the prisons has contributed to overcrowding and acts of violence within its walls.  Some of these same conditions led to the Lucasville prison riot nearly 25 years ago, and projections of even greater incarcerated populations increases the threat of violence exponentially.” 
“We also need to work to insure that the parole officers and others Union members responsible for overseeing these offenders once they are released have the necessary tools and resources to do this. Caseload sizes outside the prisons are just as bad as the overcrowding within the institutions, but often more dangerous as these same offenders are now out in our communities.”     
“Though the recent efforts to change sentencing rules to reduce incarceration for low level offenders is a step in the right direction, something must be done now to establish safe staffing and caseload levels and protect workers in our prisons and parole officers to ensure each and every employee makes it home to their families at the end of their shift.”

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