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Government and Politics

ACLU says Ohio prison power shutdowns threaten inmates and staff
Ohio says ratcheting back power makes money for the prisons and inmates are protected

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Ohio says the shutdowns are worth it and prisoners are protected.
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In The Region:
The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on the state to stop turning off the power in 24 prisons during heat waves to make money.
LISTEN: The arguments over the planned power cutbacks

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The power company, KOREnergy, pays some of its customers, including the state, to cut back on electricity during peak periods.

Mike Brickner with the ACLU says when prisons turn off lights and fans, they create a dangerous environment for inmates that is not worth the money.

"No matter what amount of money it is, it does not excuse us from treating them humanely," Brickner says. "And it also doesn’t excuse putting staff members in a possible dangerous situation."

He also says prison fights rise in summer months, even with the power on, and points to a major fight in prison in Conneaut on Monday as evidence.

Ricky Seyfang of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections says shutting off the power has earned the department almost $1.4 million since 2010. The money will be used for energy conservation in the prison system.

Seyfang says shutting off the power lessens strain on the grid during heat waves, preventing brown-outs. She also says the prison living quarters do not usually have air-conditioning and the prisons have programs to keep the inmates safe during these shut-downs.

"They make available water and ice and they educate the staff with how to prepare and identify signs and symptoms of stress due to heat-related situations and they monitor these situations," Seyfang says.

But Brickner says, though the state does take sick prisoners to climate-controlled areas, some inmates with conditions such as asthma that worsen in the heat told the ACLU they were denied access to air-conditioned areas 

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