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Worst Prisons in Ohio

Ohio has over 28 state prisons that house nearly 49,000 inmates as of 2022. While some of these facilities are newer with modern amenities, others are antiquated with poor conditions. When evaluating the worst prisons in Ohio, factors like overcrowding, violence, lack of resources, and inmate complaints are considered. Based on these metrics, several prisons stand out as the lowest-ranked in the state.

Southern Ohio Correctional Facility

The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville has developed a notorious reputation as one of the worst prisons in Ohio. The maximum security prison opened in 1972 and houses over 2,000 inmates.

Overcrowding is a major issue at Southern Ohio. The facility was only built to accommodate 1,500 inmates, which means it is consistently operating at 35% over intended capacity. The close quarters have led to increased violence and tension among prisoners. Gang violence is a regular occurrence, often breaking out along racial lines.

In 1993, the prison was the site of an 11-day riot where 450 inmates took over a cell block and took guards hostage. One corrections officer and nine inmates were killed during the uprising. The crammed living conditions contributed to the unrest that led to this violent outburst.

Healthcare is also found lacking at Southern Ohio Correctional. Access to medical and mental health treatment is limited. The facility has faced lawsuits over its substandard care and failure to provide adequate medical supervision. This is especially problematic with an aging prison population that has more healthcare needs.

Mansfield Correctional Institution

The Mansfield Correctional Institution in Mansfield has developed a reputation similar to Southern Ohio for its violence, gang activity, and lack of proper facilities. The close security prison opened in 1972 and has a capacity for 1,548 inmates.

Mansfield frequently exceeds its intended capacity, forcing three inmates to share cells designed for only one or two people. The crowded environment leaves inmates on edge and makes it difficult to safely manage detainees. This has resulted in a prison populace where aggression and coercive force are often used as tools by inmates to gain leverage.

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There have been multiple fatal stabbings and homicides within the prison walls. Mansfield has struggled to curtail the formation of gangs who smuggle drugs, deal contraband, and instigate attacks. With only a small number of guards to oversee all the prisoners, violence can escalate quickly.

The Mansfield Correctional Institution has been flagged for inhumane living conditions. Cells often lack working electricity or running water. Broken windows go unrepaired, allowing in rain and cold air during winter. Necessities like blankets and toilet paper are scarce. Such poor conditions add more stress to an already volatile environment.

Trumbull Correctional Institution

Located in Leavittsburg, the Trumbull Correctional Institution has faced criticism for its severe neglect of inmates with mental illnesses. The close-security prison houses around 1,000 inmates in cramped, outdated quarters.

Although nearly 70% of the inmate population is on medication for mental health issues, proper care and supervision are severely lacking. The prison has an alarmingly high rate of suicides and self-harm among prisoners. This indicates the psychological needs of inmates are not being adequately addressed.

Living conditions at Trumbull are unsanitary and inhumane, providing no respite for those struggling with mental illness. Plumbing leaks and electrical issues are common throughout the aging facility. Access to clean clothes, bedding, and showers is restricted. Such conditions only exacerbate mental health crises among inmates.

Short-staffing has also impacted operations and safety at Trumbull. With fewer correctional officers available, inmates with mental illnesses are often left unmonitored for long periods in solitary confinement. This isolation can cause further psychological deterioration.

Proper rehabilitation through counseling, group therapy, and medication maintenance is limited. The prison has faced lawsuits alleging deliberate indifference to inmates’ mental health needs.

Lebanon Correctional Institution

The Lebanon Correctional Institution in Lebanon has become known for its high levels of violence and dangerous conditions for both inmates and corrections officers. Opened in 1992, this close-security prison houses around 2,500 inmates.

Gang activity proliferates within Lebanon, with factions divided along racial lines vying for power. Beatings and stabbings between gang members are common occurrences. Weapons like shanks and bleach bombs are readily available on the inside.

Short staffing exacerbates safety issues. With fewer officers to provide oversight, inmates are essentially left to self-govern the yards. Violence can break out and escalate before the limited staff can intervene. Guards often find themselves outnumbered and surrounded by hostile inmates.

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The tense environment has resulted in one of the highest assault rates against staff in the state prison system. Officers are subjected to physical attacks, throwing of bodily fluids, and constant threats to their safety. These dangers lead to low morale and high turnover.

Lebanon’s outdated facilities are decaying with issues like water leaks, rust, and mold. Overcrowding strains resources like recreation time and access to phones. These conditions combine to create an increasingly volatile situation inside the prison walls.

Lake Erie Correctional Institution

Unlike other prisons on this list, Lake Erie Correctional Institution is privately owned and operated by CoreCivic. Opened in 2000 near Conneaut, it is capable of housing nearly 2,500 inmates.

While conditions are newer and cleaner than Ohio’s state-run prisons, Lake Erie has developed a reputation for lax oversight and increased violence. The focus on generating corporate profit has been blamed for cutting corners on safety and proper staffing.

Gang violence has become rampant at Lake Erie. Weak security allows the trafficking of drugs, alcohol, and weapons. Inmate-on-inmate assaults occur frequently throughout the facility.

With corrections officers often only performing perimeter checks rather than direct engagement, violent incidents can go unchecked. There have been multiple fatal stabbings where dying inmates were left unattended and bled out.

Staffing shortages are an ongoing issue. CoreCivic has been accused of deliberately keeping officer numbers low to increase profits. This lack of oversight emboldens the criminal element inside the prison.

Healthcare is also found lacking. Access to medical care is delayed or denied, leading to poor management of chronic illnesses. Often only low-level nurses are available instead of doctors. This substandard care endangers the health of inmates.

Table of Recent Violent Incidents at Worst Ohio Prisons

Southern Ohio Correctional FacilityFebruary 2nd, 2022Fatal stabbing between inmates
Mansfield Correctional InstitutionJune 18th, 2022Large fight broke out in yard, overdose death
Trumbull Correctional InstitutionJuly 29th, 2022Inmate suicide by hanging
Lebanon Correctional InstitutionAugust 12th, 2022Inmate assaulted four officers
Lake Erie Correctional InstitutionSeptember 1st, 2022Two inmates stabbed, one died of wounds

This table illustrates some recent violent incidents that have occurred at the prisons highlighted as the current worst in Ohio based on overcrowding, lack of resources, health and safety violations, and danger to inmates and staff. The recurrent issues at these facilities demonstrate why dramatic changes in conditions and operations are needed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ohio’s Worst Prisons

What are the main factors that make a prison one of Ohio’s worst?

The main factors that contribute to a prison being considered among Ohio’s worst are overcrowding, lack of adequate staffing, poor living conditions, healthcare deficiencies, lack of proper recreation and rehabilitation programs, and high levels of violence and gang activity.

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Which Ohio prison has the most violence?

Southern Ohio Correctional Facility has a long history of violence and gang problems. Major riots, fatal stabbings, and assault are common occurrences within its overcrowded confines. Other prisons with major violence issues are Mansfield Correctional Institution and Lebanon Correctional Institution.

Why does overcrowding lead to worse prison conditions?

Overcrowding in prisons forces more inmates to share cells and communal living spaces than the facilities were designed for. This high density leads to increased aggression, competition for resources, mental health crises, and violence. It also spreads illnesses more rapidly. With limited staff, overcrowded prisons are tinderboxes ready to ignite.

Does privatization of prisons contribute to their problems?

Many criminology experts argue the profit motive of private prisons leads companies to cut corners on staffing, healthcare, rehabilitation services and general upkeep of facilities. Lake Erie Correctional Institution has come under fire for dangerous conditions stemming from lax oversight and understaffing in the name of increased revenues.

What is being done to improve Ohio’s worst prisons?

After exposing poor conditions, watchdog groups pressured Ohio into closing some aging high-risk prisons. Newer facilities were built with more modern amenities and programs aimed at rehabilitation and skills training. However, issues like overcrowding persist, and many old facilities remain open. Continued oversight is needed.

How do prison conditions affect surrounding communities?

Poor prison conditions damage surrounding communities by increasing recidivism. Inmates released from volatile, underfunded facilities with no vocational training or rehabilitation are ill-prepared for re-entry and likely to reoffend. Additionally, mistreatment of prisoners leads to lawsuits, putting an extra financial burden on taxpayers.


In conclusion, while Ohio has made some improvements to its prison system in recent years, major problem facilities remain plagued by overcrowding, violence, decaying conditions, and inadequate staffing and healthcare. Key factors that cause prisons like Southern Ohio, Mansfield, Trumbull, Lebanon, and privately owned Lake Erie to rank as the state’s worst must continue to be addressed through reforms and investment.

Providing proper living conditions, mental health resources, vocational training, and rehabilitation programs is crucial to both protecting basic human rights and allowing successful re-entry after release. If changes are not made, these failing institutions will only further damage the surrounding communities through increased recidivism. With smart, compassionate reforms centered on rehabilitation rather than just punishment, Ohio can work to improve its most dangerous and dysfunctional prisons.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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