On Saturday The Columbus Dispatch published part of an interview with Gary Mohr related to the two recent, high-profile suicides in Ohio’s prisons, including the death of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro on September 3rd.   Mohr, John Kasich’s prisons director,  told the paper that he did not think all suicides could be prevented in Ohio’s prisons and that overcrowding and understaffing likely had nothing to do with the recent suicides.

“Would more staff have prevented it?”, Mohr asked rhetorically. “I don’t believe that’s the cause for the loss of life.”

While it’s still unclear what, if anything specific, is to blame for the recent suicides, it certainly seems dangerous and irresponsible to completely take any other potential cause, especially staffing levels which have fallen dramatically under Kasich and Mohr, off the table simply because Mohr doesn’t “believe that’s the cause”. 

The Ohio Civil Services Employee Association, which represents Ohio’s corrections officers, also expressed concern over Mohr’s comments.

“We hope the Director is not saying Ohio prisons are sufficiently staffed. Because my experience tells me otherwise,” said OCSEA President Christopher Mabe, a 20-year veteran of the Ohio prison system. “A rise in suicide rates is just one symptom of a sick and broken system. Ohio prisons also suffer from an increase in assaults and violence. That’s a direct result of prisons that are bursting at the seams with inmates but without enough front-line staff.”

A review of some corrections-related numbers, including staffing levels, prison capacity and funding levels since Mohr has been running DRCC for Kasich, show why Mohr and DRCC should be seriously looking at all the numbers…

Prisons Over Capacity 

According to a Department of Corrections report,  the Correctional Reception Center (CRC) has a rated capacity of 900 inmates. On September 3rd, 2013, the day Ariel Castro hanged himself at that facility, CRC was operating at 193% of capacityhousing 1,733 inmates.

Fewer Corrections Officers

Data from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRCC) show that Ohio, as of September, is down 636 corrections officers since January 2011 when Kasich took office.   In that same time period, the Inmate To Correction Officer Ratio has increased from 6.9 to 1 to 7.3 to 1.

Increased Prison Violence

Inmate-On-Inmate Assaults at CRC  are up 129% from Fiscal Year 2011 to FY 2012, and physical assaults resulting in injury have more than doubled according to DRCC data.

Cuts in Funding

As we reported back in March,  Kasich’s two budgets have cut over $200 Million from the DRCC and the Department of Youth Services.