Inmate Lookup Free Nationwide Inmate Search Logo


Ohio youth prisons face challenges with staff shortages and safety concerns

06 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Despite offering bonuses and extensive advertising, Ohio youth prisons grapple with hiring and retaining staff.

Ohio youth prisons face challenges with staff shortages and safety concerns - Inmate Lookup

Amy Ast, the Director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services, describes the challenges of working in Ohio youth prisons in a report. Employees face media and policymaker vilification, gang influence, uncertain safety, and pervasive trauma, with many success stories going unnoticed, according to Ast.

Despite offering $5,000 signing bonuses, 20% pay retention bonuses, and extensive advertising for job openings, the department still grapples with significant staff shortages. Two out of five behavioral health positions, nearly a quarter of guard jobs, and almost one in five teaching positions remain unfilled.

Ast presented this challenging scenario to the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, overseeing state prisons, on Tuesday. Emphasizing how the vacancies impede the Ohio Department of Youth Services‘ ability to ensure security and provide services to incarcerated youth.

Her testimony followed an eight-month investigation by multiple news organizations, including Columbus Dispatch, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Canton Repository, and Akron Beacon Journal, revealing the system’s struggles with staff shortages, serious injuries, and violent assaults.

Ast firmly stated that violence within youth prisons is unacceptable, highlighting the correlation between low staffing levels and the thriving of gangs. State Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, chairman of the committee, was told there is work to be done in this area.

Appointed as director by Gov. Mike DeWine in December 2021, Ast addressed the committee’s inquiries about her plans to stabilize the system.

DeWine established a working group to look into Ohio youth prisons and the local juvenile detention system in response to the investigation’s findings, under the direction of former Department of Youth Services director Tom Stickrath. The group will address staffing issues, violence, behavioral health services, and the population of incarcerated youth.

State Rep. Adam Miller, D-Columbus, emphasized the significance of this moment for Ast’s leadership. He encouraged collaboration with labor unions to address problems and suggested reaching out to universities for student teachers to fill vacant positions.

However, Miller expressed uncertainty about the effectiveness of bringing insiders like Stickrath and Ast to lead the task force, emphasizing that the jury is still out on the DeWine administration’s approach.