The inmate population in Ohio’s already crowded prison system is projected to reach a record 51,601 by June 30, more than 4,100 higher what state officials predicted in 2012, reports the Northeast Ohio Media Group. By 2019, the population is expected to climb even higher to 53,484 inmates, or 139 percent above what the prison system was designed to accommodate. The surge in inmates – attributable in part to a rise in crime – raises the troubling prospect that the prison system might be forced to release inmates well before they have completed their sentences.
The state's 28 prisons were built to house a total of 38,579 inmates. After a temporary population dip the past couple years, numbers are again on the rise. Interviews with prison guards and state reports paint a picture of two or three prisoners sharing cells built for one and halls crowded with lines of inmates. “You're packed in there like a can of sardines,” said Phil Morris, a corrections officer at Lebanon Correctional Institution and president of the local union for prison guards and staff.