Fight to keep Ohio correctional farms open continues

ORIENT, OH (WCMH) — The days of Ohio inmates working on state prison farms is coming to an end.  The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is closing its farming facilities at correctional institutions across statewide.

About 100 protesters showed up at Pickaway Correctional Institution with colorful signs and chants all with one goal– keeping state correctional facility farms open.

There were honks of support as Ohio Civil Service Employees Association members voice their concerns.

Corrections officer Terry Hollon says, “They operate equipment. They repair equipment. They do farming. The big piece is all the responsibility and work ethic they get out of that.”  Inmates trying to gain valuable skills on these farms will be forced to find other activities to fill their time.

Corrections Assembly President Shawn Gruber adds, “It’s a skill set that’s just going to go away. Ohio has been big in the farming industry for years. There are farmers that need these guys.”

More than 70 state employees working on and supervising these farms will also be impacted.  Cattle from many state correction institutions have already been shipped out and auctioned off.  Farm fields sit dormant and equipment is unused.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is abruptly ending the decades old rehabilitation program across the state.  A DRC spokesperson says the state is trying to “look for more strategic and effective ways to get inmates quality job training to help them successfully transition after their release.”

The state will save more than $5 million dollars in farm staff payroll, which will be “used inside the facilities where the need is greater.”  State-owned equipment and farm land will also be sold.

Hollon asks, “Where are the facts? Where is the rational? We haven’t seen it.”

A paper trail shows DRC was in the midst of spending millions in tax payer dollars to upgrade the farming operations.  A brand new milking parlor and several other new additions were originally projected to cost more than $8 million dollars according to a 2012 presentation.

The protesters are still hoping a judge might stop the state from closing these farms. An injunction has been filed to halt the sale of these facilities.  The injunction will be heard by a Franklin County judge on June 16th.

The protesters are still hoping a judge might stop the state from closing these farms. An injunction has been filed to halt the sale of these facilities.  The injunction will be heard by a Franklin County judge on June 16.

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