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State closing Orient prison

ORIENT – The state department of corrections and rehabilitation announced yesterday that it will shut down Orient Correctional Institution in order to respond to Gov.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

ORIENT – The state department of corrections and rehabilitation announced yesterday that it will shut down Orient Correctional Institution in order to respond to Gov. Bob Taft’s directive to cut expenses to help plug a $1.5 billion hole in Ohio’s two-year budget.

Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, called the closing ”a dramatic option” but said it was necessary to save money.

The medium-security prison received its first inmate in 1984 and is designed to hold 1,600 prisoners. The prison has 16 dormitories, with 5 dormitories with 186 beds in each. One dormitory holds 182 beds; while two other dormitories with 314 beds in each. As of Friday, the prison held 1,747 prisoners. Prisoners will be transferred to the state’s remaining 33 institutions. The state maintains that closing the prison will save the state $19 million a year.

The prison employees 535 people, including the 326 security force. Most of the jobs will be cut.

The state has ”chosen to put the lives of employees, the public and prisoners at risk by closing a large state facility and moving those inmates into other prisons that are already over capacity,” said Irwin Scharfeld, executive director of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association.

According to statistics from the state, the prison currently operates with a $41,873,510 annual budget. The annual cost per inmate, according to state figures is $22,162, equaling a daily cost per inmate of $60.72.

Orient’s closing is to begin in January. Wilkinson said the prison could be reopened but officials couldn’t say when that might happen.

He said Orient was chosen because of its age and because it requires several million dollars in renovations. Although the prison was opened in 1984, some of its buildings date to the early 1900s.

”Because it’s one of the older prisons, we think it’s a good option for deactivation,” Wilkinson said.

This will be the first time Ohio has shut down a prison because of money problems. Two prisons were previously closed because of they were old and deteriorating: the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus in 1984 and the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield in 1990.