OTTAWA — Too many inmates with mental health issues and/or short tempers?
Too few jailers to watch over them?
It adds up to an explosive situation that is becoming more and more common in county jails across Ohio and the country.
Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker acknowledged this week that inmates in that county’s jail have of late become increasingly confrontational with corrections officers.
While Siefker downplayed rumors of a growing number of fights between inmates at the facility, he did confirm that prisoners have been less than willing to follow the jail’s rules and regulations.
“They (inmates) refuse to listen, they throw their food trays … and recently we had a corrections officer who was assaulted,” the sheriff said. “They’re getting harder and harder to control.”
Prisoners who act up can look forward to between eight and 23 hours in “lockdown,” depending on their infraction, Siefker said. In the case of the female jailer who was assaulted, felony charges will likely be filed against her assailant. The incident is still under investigation.
“She was banged up a little and had to take some time off work,” the sheriff said.
Losing even one employee for any amount of time puts a strain on a staff that is already fewer in number than Siefker would prefer.
“We are definitely understaffed. And on top of that we had to send a few of our corrections officers off on a three-week training course recently. It seems like it’s always something,” the sheriff said. “Our corrections staff stays really busy. We would certainly like to have a couple more jailers on each shift.”
Finding qualified candidates for employment, however, is becoming increasingly difficult, he noted.
The population at the Putnam County jail currently hovers around 50 inmates. Of that total, approximately a dozen are being housed from Hancock County at a rate of $65 per day, Siefker said.
The out-of-county money could help cover the cost of additional jailers, but that decision ultimately rests with the board of county commissioners. Siefker stressed that the commissioners “have worked with us really well” over the years to address staffing issues and other departmental requests.
“We’re still waiting for final budget figures” for the department’s operation in 2020, said Siefker.