Ohio is eliminating 400 more prison jobs, making the total lost 1,135 by Dec. 31, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Two-year savings are estimated at $53.8 million. Prisons director Gary Mohr said the cuts must be made because the agency’s budget is $188 million less than necessary to operate for two years. Other changes and projected savings include reducing dental services ($1.2 million), changing the inmate meal cycle and eliminating flavored beverages ($4 million), contracting some health-care positions to private vendors ($3 million), reducing office staff ($3.8 million), reorganizing mental-health services ($9 million), and cutting educational personnel ($3.1 million).
The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association opposes Mohr’s plan and has picketed and held rallies across the state. Union officials complain that employees hired at private prisons will receive one-third less in wages and reduced benefits compared with what they had with the state. The state picks up 85 percent of employees’ health-care costs; private prisons pay a much lower share, or nothing at all. Meanwhile, state representatives Nancy Garland and W. Carlton Weddington questioned the impact of the layoffs on the overcrowded prison system. Both are members of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. “In a time when prison violence and gang activity are on the rise, it makes absolutely no sense to eliminate the staff that has been trained to address this very issue,” Garland said