Union update: Opioids in Ohio prisons

Posted Sep. 26, 2018 by

Since the incident at Ross Correctional Institution (RCI) where 28 OCSEA members were exposed to fentanyl and heroin, OCSEA activists have been on the ground there talking to members who were exposed, sparing with management and demanding that more be done to protect the health and safety of workers.

So far, management agreed to get one of the inmates involved in the episode moved to another prison, which, as the union pointed out, is standard protocol. OCSEA has also been pushing for a clear out of that facility and ALL Ohio prisons, as has happened in Pennsylvania after a rash of K2 exposures. RCI management finally agreed to a modified clear out of three blocks at RCI. Management has told the union the other inmate involved in the incident will be moved once he’s stable.

Another sticking point: Management has insisted that BWC claims will be taken care of. However, the union knows that DR&C has to initiate the claim to BWC, otherwise it would be denied. For the RCI incident, DR&C has assured the union those claims will be taken care of. If an affected RCI employee is denied, they should contact Karl Wilkins immediately at

Additionally, the DRC Statewide Health and Safety Committee with OCSEA union activists in Corrections and management has now met to address critical incidents like this one and to discuss how to deal with the increase in opioids throughout the prison system. Specifically, the committee is discussing:

• How to make visiting rooms and package rooms safer

• Mailroom procedures

• Inmate searches

• Better personal protective equipment

• Use of Narcan

• Front entry procedures

“We are alarmed by the escalation of drug use, especially opioids, inside our prisons and have concerns about the risk they pose to the safety of our staff. Rest assured your union is at the table holding management’s feet to the fire. We will continue to push DR&C to perform clear outs as well as to find other, safe ways to try to get the drug issue under control,” said Chris Mabe, OCSEA President.

“Our number one goal is that our Corrections staff make it home safely after their shift,” said Mabe.

Please stay tuned to this space for further details regarding the OCSEA DR&C Statewide Health and Safety Committee’s work on these issues.