The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

September 12, 2013

Union defends prison guards in Castro’s suicide

COLUMBUS — The union representing Ohio prison guards on Wednesday said the two corrections officers who have been placed on leave during investigations into the suicide of Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro did nothing wrong and called on prisons officials to stop “blaming frontline staff” for decisions made by senior level officials.

The president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, Christopher Mabe, said the guards do not have a say on mental health treatment nor do they decide who is put on protective custody and checked on every half hour.

“Corrections officers have a job to do, and they do it,” Mabe said in a statement. “Now, (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction) needs to do its job.”

Castro, 53, hanged himself with a bedsheet earlier last week, a few weeks into a life sentence after pleading guilty and admitting to imprisoning three women in his home for a decade, during which he repeatedly beat and raped them. He was on protective custody, a status requiring checks every 30 minutes, but was not on suicide watch.

Mabe questioned the timeliness of the decision and echoed previous union comments that the guards “are being scapegoated and used as smoke screen.”

Departments spokeswoman Ricky Seyfang said the decision was made as the investigation unfolded.

Mabe countered that employees are typically put on leave immediately after an incident if questions are raised over their involvement. He said the guards put on paid administrative leave, Caleb Ackley and Ryan Murphy, had continued to work at their regular posts since Castro’s suicide.   

Ackley, 26, and Murphy, 27, were on duty in the prison unit where Castro hanged himself. The department has said neither has previously been disciplined.

Castro was at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient awaiting assignment to a permanent prison.

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