Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville remains on lockdown for a third day after a string of inmate-on-inmate assaults.
JoEllen Smith, head communications officer for the Ohio Department of Corrections, explained Tuesday that the prison went on modified movement Monday morning.
Modified movement is a broad term meaning a variation of a lockdown in which movements are limited and more heavily guarded.
Since Sunday, there have been a total of three separate inmate-on-inmate assaults. Smith explained that the first incident occurred on Sunday and resulted in two inmates being transported for outside medical care. A second incident on Monday resulted in one inmate being transported for outside medical care. The third incident, taking place Tuesday, resulted in an additional inmate being transported for outside medical care. Over three days, a total of five inmates have needed outside medical attention as a result of violence inside the prison.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Smith confirmed that the prison was still on modified movement, and there had been no new incidents.
“The incident Sunday involved 4 total inmates, Monday and Tuesday were one on one incidents,” Smith added. “Incidents appear to be unrelated. Additional security measures have been implemented in response to recent incidents.”
Sally Meckling, Communications Director for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) stated that she could not give details regarding the incidents for fear of compromising security; however, she did state, “It’s worse than that,” in response to information provided from the ODRC.
Able to shed the most light on the situation was Sgt. Nick Brabson, union president and 24-year SOCF employee, who stated, “This actually all started Saturday.”
He went on to state that in addition to the three assaults confirmed by the state, there was an additional assault Saturday. Brabson said that assault did not result in an inmate needing outside medical care. He added that the assault Sunday was the worst.
“This is not at all business as usual,” Brabson stressed. “We have inmate assaults or fights, but not incidents of this magnitude where inmates have to be taken out to the hospital.”
He explained that the present situation is unlike usual SOCF violence in that amount or scale of violence involved in each of the incidents as well as the rate of occurrence.
“I think the inmates know we’re understaffed,” Brabson commented.
In addition to being understaffed, the prison is overpopulated and having a drug epidemic.
Brabson was not able to confirm if the incidents are related or an indication of something larger.
“Honestly, they (prison officials and investigators) have not figured it out yet. They can’t pinpoint a certain gang or reason,” he stated.
Though he said Lucasville is already a stressful place to work, he says it is much more so currently.
“There’s a lot of tension right now. Of course, staff is concerned, but tensions are very high among staff and inmates.”
The recent string of violence in the prison is currently under investigation through the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Office, who was unable to comment as of press time.
There have been no deaths related to the assaults occurring since the weekend.
SOCF leads Ohio prisons in inmate violence.
“Southern Ohio CF, the state’s primary maximum security facility, continues to lead the state for highest rate of violent rule infractions,” The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reported.
SOCF had 747 violent incidents in 2014 and a total of 2,361 from 2012-2014.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.