Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 4, 2003
DRC Announces Plans to Begin Hiring for Critical Positions
(Columbus) - The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) has allocated funds to immediately begin hiring a limited number of corrections officers and other key positions at prisons throughout Ohio. This action will partially relieve a serious staffing shortage at several Ohio prisons that has worsened since the announcement in March of plans to close the Lima Correctional Institution (LCI). While the Department has not changed its decision to close Lima, it can no longer delay filling many critical staff openings that have been left vacant in compliance with the layoff provisions in union contracts.
The Department decided to close the Lima prison to improve efficiency and economy within the organization in response to the current State economy and budget shortfall. DRC believes it is better to operate fewer but fully staffed prisons, than more prisons that are only partially staffed. The closure of Lima had been scheduled to occur in July 2003 and would have saved twenty-five million dollars per year, allowing that money to be allocated to the remaining Ohio prisons to hire needed staff.
Shortly after the March announcement, the union representing most LCI employees, in conjunction with the City of Lima, sought and received from the local court, injunctions that have prevented the Department from proceeding with its plan to close the prison. The last injunction imposed remains in force and is currently being appealed by DRC to the Third District Court of Appeals. A DRC request to that Court to expedite the appeal process has been denied.
When the Department announced in March its intent to close the prison in Lima, contractual and statutory obligations protecting the layoff rights of the Lima employees automatically imposed a hiring freeze on corrections officers and many other positions at all northern Ohio prisons. Since that time, the hiring freeze and the normal attrition of staff have exacerbated a staffing shortage. Southern Ohio prisons not impacted by the freeze have also been affected, resulting in staff shortages statewide.
The Lima Correctional Institution remains open. In the first quarter of this fiscal year, it consumed $6.6 million that had been designated for use to hire staff at other prisons.
The Department can no longer delay filling critical vacancies while waiting for the courts to resolve the case. It must begin limited hiring at this time. The measures that DRC have taken to balance its budget in response to the court mandated delay have been effective but cannot continue indefinitely. With no end to that delay in sight, the Department believes that the union contractual commitments regarding layoffs were never intended to compel the protracted hiring freeze currently in place at the northern Ohio prisons.
Soon after it became apparent that the LCI closure would be indefinitely delayed, the DRC took a number of measures to prevent its budget from spiraling out of control. In addition to the hiring freeze that was already in place for northern Ohio prisons, DRC redistributed staff and limited overtime, reducing the number of officers called in to cover absences. Although those actions even further reduced the staff available to the prisons it was necessary to ensure fiscal responsibility. The money those actions saved will now allow the Department to hire a limited number of staff at prisons where employee shortages have reached critical levels. However until the Lima prison closes, the money necessary to return all Ohio prisons to their established complement of employees will not be available.
For more information, please contact the DRC Public Information Office at (614) 752-1150.