September 2, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
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Layoffs hit Grafton Correctional Institution

GRAFTON — Several employees are being laid off at Grafton Correctional Institution, but none of the layoffs so far affects corrections officers.

“We do have some layoffs occurring now, but only a few,” said Bobbie Peters, a prison worker and head of the facility’s Ohio Civil Service Employees Association chapter, which represents state prison workers.

The initial layoffs at Grafton include a pair of medical information technicians who work in the prison’s medical department, two secretaries and parole officers who work through the Elyria Adult Parole Authority as employees of the Department of Corrections.

“No C.O.s (corrections officers) have lost their jobs at this point,” Peters said.

The medical technicians’ jobs are being phased out. The secretaries were able to move into open positions at Lorain Correctional Institution, Peters said.

In all, 13 of approximately 40 county parole officers were affected by the initial layoffs, according to Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The parole officer jobs are being shifted from the state level to the county level, where they will be administered by county government but paid with state funds, LoParo said.

A number of the 13 parole officers will be able to bump into other jobs as corrections officers or field parole officers. LoParo did not have the exact number of people who will move into other jobs.

The layoffs are not a part of the plan to privatize five Ohio prisons — a plan that is expected to see a major wave of layoffs of corrections officers. Peters said that isn’t stopping some employees from leaving before that announcement comes down.

Already, about 20 of the prison’s nearly 200 corrections officers have either retired or resigned from their jobs.

“We’re way down on officers,” Peters said. “It may be more, but we know there’s at least around 20 right now. It hurts us. We’ve lost most of them on second shift, which is understandable. We have a lot of younger, newer people on that shift.

“Our fear right now is that we will not have enough people to staff the institution the closer we get to the end of the year.”

The corrections officers are opting to leave now instead of waiting till the end of the year to improve their job prospects through transfers to other state prisons, according to Peters.

“If they wait till the end of the year, they miss out altogether because they’ll be out of a job at that point and unable to transfer,” Peters said.

Corrections officers hired after January are serving a one-year probationary period and unable to transfer.
“They have to wait until next year, and that’s too late,” Peters said. “We’ve already had six to eight quit since January.”

Assuming they remain to the end of the year, another six to 10 probationary corrections officers will either have to seek training for other jobs or go on unemployment, Peters said.

The state will award contracts to private prison operators by Sept. 1. Bids are now being considered from the nation’s three biggest operators of private prisons, each of which is seeking to take over operations of five Ohio prisons, including Grafton Correctional, as of Jan. 1, 2012.

Layoffs of corrections officers are not expected until the end of the year, after private operators have completed interviews with prospective employees and hired or rehired staff.

“Current employees will receive preferential treatment” in terms of hiring and job placement, LoParo said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.