By Russ Zimmer–Chillicotte Gazette
Almost 8,300 inmates were identified as having some level of gang-affiliation at the beginning of this year. The highest rate was at the state’s supermax prison, the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, where 55.6 percent of inmates were involved with a security threat group, or STG.
|Facility||Percent of population|
|Chillicothe Correctional Institution||8.1|
|Pickaway Correction Institution||14.6|
|Ross Correctional Institution||38.5|
Source: Correctional Institution Inspection Committee
As of Jan. 2, 8,272 inmates in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections were involved with what the department terms a security threat group, or STG, such as the Aryan Brotherhood, Heartless Felons, the Bloods or the Crips. The six-page brief comes from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, a consortium of state legislators, administrators and front-line inspectors who routinely review Ohio’s adult and juvenile correctional facilities.
Tim Shafer is a union liaison between the Ohio Civil Services Employee Association and corrections department. A prison guard himself for 20 years, Shafer said gangs are responsible for most of the drug dealing and violence that goes on behind bars.
“The initiation usually is you can be part of the gang if you go and assault an officer or assault a staff member, or they can target (rival) gang members,” he said.
An earlier report from the corrections department found overall inmate-on-inmate violence and grievous assaults by inmates against staff members increased between 2007 and 2012.
Vinko Kucinic, who leads the department’s anti-gang operations, said the total number of STG-affiliated inmates actually decreased by about 1,000 in 2012 after officials revamped their tracking methods in 2012.
Most inmates being tracked for gang activity — more than four in five of the current sample — are passive members, as opposed to active or disruptive participants, Kucinic said.
The corrections department has been gradually separating the gang element from the rest of the population, which has eased violent incidents in the lower-security facilities, Kucinic said.
“We’ve got some inmates who just want to come in and do their time and go about their business and continue their lives and some other guys who don’t want them to do that,” he said.
The highest concentrations of gang activity are at Ohio’s most locked-down prisons, the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown at 55.6 percent and Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville at 46.6 percent. That’s by design, Kucinic said.
“Their behavior is going to dictate what we do with them,” he said, “so if they want to disrupt and cause problems, we’ve got a place for them.”
Shafer, who was involved in STG operations as a guard at Pickaway Correctional Institution, said Kucinic’s tracking system is as sophisticated and valuable as any other in the nation. However, there still are issues with how to disseminate that intelligence to corrections officers and how reports of gang violence are handled in the courtroom, he said.