Jail so 'unsafe', officers refused to work

Posted at 9:44 AM, Nov 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-22 09:44:13-05

GEORGETOWN, Ohio — Unsafe. Overcrowded.

Now, corrections officers who refused to work.

The picture of unrest that has come to represent the months and years leading up to the closure of the Brown County Adult Detention Center last week continues to come into focus.

In its ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding the jail’s closing, WCPO has obtained documents detailing corrections officers’ complaints about faulty locks, overcrowding and other substandard conditions for both employees and inmates at the detention center.

It had gotten so bad that some officers simply refused to work.

In the most recent state inspection report available, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction found the jail did not comply with 32 of 68 state minimum standards in 2013. Among those were:

- inadequate health screenings for arrestees

- door missing from booking/release area

- inadequate contraband restrictions for inmates

- insufficient space in housing cells and dayrooms

- not enough natural light in the facility

- necessary upgrades to the facility’s key control system

- over capacity

View the full inspection report below, or tap here on mobile.

The report is just one in a stack of documents detailing what one state jail inspector referred to as “a definite lack of preparedness and order” in the aging facility.

They were conditions that led to the emergency displacement of between 80 and 85 inmates to the Butler County Jail in Hamilton last Thursday — to the tune of roughly $70 per inmate per day.

They’re also what led Cpl. Austin Fulton to advise his staff to "stay off the block” until certain safety issues are resolved.

In a memo to Brown County Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger, Fulton said the number of jail cells without working locks numbered in the double digits and that “without proper door security any officer is outnumbered at least 15 to 1 every time he (sic) walks on the block.”

“I personally do not want to have to tell a coworker’s family that their loved one is not coming home tonight due to the lack of care and responsibility of the people who are supposed to have our best interests in mind," Fulton said.

A handwritten list of cracked windows and doors, from Oct. 2013. (Provided)

The most recent complaint — which yielded a formal grievance filed with the Fraternal Order of Police — spurred from an incident in which corrections officers were called to break up a fight in an area where doors’ locking mechanisms were malfunctioning.

After breaking up the fight, corrections officers found “there were 10-15 inmates in the hall between the officers and the block door (exit),” according to the grievance, filed on October 22 by Cpl. Dana McGuffey.

Records going back to 2013 indicate corrections officers had been documenting problem doors and windows throughout the facility. In a memo to county commissioners from November of that year, then-Chief Deputy J.K. Schadle detailed seven areas where the facility needed upgrades, including windows and doors as well as outside lighting, medical personnel, staffing levels and emergency and fire procedures.

According to the 2013 inspection report, the facility had not been conducting fire drills and other emergency preparation protocol to standard.

As WCPO was first to report, the inadequacy of the jail's security measures was compounded by serious overcrowding: According to the 2013 inspection report, there were 82 inmates housed at the facility at the time, when it was only fit to hold 38.

When it comes to overcrowding, Brown County is not alone in southwest Ohio. As part of the sheriff's attempt to resolve the lock issue, Chief Deputy Carl Smith said Butler County was the only jail in the region able to accept inmates displaced during repairs and upgrades.