Major changes within Justice Center after rise in inmate attacks on officers
Sheriff McGuffey said she’s shocked at the previous uptick in assaults on officers inside the jail, because it wasn’t a common occurrence years ago.
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A new detention center has been added inside the Hamilton County Justice Center to increase safety after numerous reports of officers being attacked by inmates.
“We have an officer who has gotten punched in the eye and he has a broken orbital,” said Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey. “We’ve have officers that have had facial injuries and so forth, from being punched and assaulted.”
McGuffey spoke to FOX19 in August about how several inmates at the Hamilton County Justice Center were compromising cell locks.
“So this hole right here—if you can jam enough stuff in there and make it stick, it’s not going to catch on this, so the door looks but it’s not,” said McGuffey. “They can also pop out of the cell and assault other inmates and they have.”
She explained that when inmates would compromise these locks, several inmates would attack other officers. In August, she said the Hamilton County Justice center is examining all locks that need to be replaced.
McGuffey said the attacks on officers range from cuts, bruises, sprains, broken bones and even facial injuries, which is one of the many reasons for the new Intensive Management Unit [IMU]. It’s a unit marked by red doors and can hold up to eight inmates.
“The situations where they’re brought up here, this is behavior that’s strictly assaultive in nature, it’s unprovoked, its unnecessary,” said Captain Frank Shuber from the Hamilton County Justice Center.
Inmates can be held in the IMU for up to 60 days, but Captain Shuber said inmates are reviewed every 14 days.
“They’ll let you know ‘hey captain that’s not joke, I don’t want to end up back on this unit, you’re not going to have any more problems out of me’ and so far so good, and it’s definitely refreshing to hear that.”
Schuber said inmates are often sincerely remorseful.
“They’re quite uncomfortable in here because their privileges are taken and frankly we intend that, because we want that behavior to change and it has changed,” said McGuffey.
Inmates in the IMU leave behind their striped uniforms and transition to red uniforms to caution others.
McGuffey said the inmates all have their basic needs met but there’s no television, inmates are restricted on phone calls, mail and inmates overall are very isolated. However, inmates have onsite clergy available to them at all hours inside the IMU.
McGuffey said in the last six months there was 17 attacks on officers and in the last 30 days, there’s only been one. She said the IMU has been successful because assaults are down.
She explained that the IMU is a consequence for bad behavior. By having the IMU, it takes away the opportunity and willingness for some of the assaults.
In June, FOX19 reported that more than $120,000 in taxpayer dollars had been used to replace windows damaged by inmates at the Hamilton County Justice Center, according to Hamilton County Administration Communications Manager Bridget Doherty.
After FOX 19′s report, McGuffey revoked tablet privileges from inmates because inmates were using the batteries to burn holes in the jail windows.
“We do have an individual in here [in the IMU] who had burned holes in windows,” said McGuffey. The IMU is another step in repercussions for vandalism and violence on both officers and other inmates.
McGuffey said she’s shocked at the previous uptick in assaults on officers inside the jail because it wasn’t a common occurrence years ago.
“I do think for whatever reason it became lax, it became loose, there were people who weren’t paying attention to it in the past administration and that’s when it gets out of control,” said McGuffey.
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