Inmates in Ohio Prison Accuse Officials of Lying about Asbestos

January 29, 2008

A federal lawsuit filed by 33 inmates at a state prison accuses officials of lying about removing asbestos from the facility.

Lab tests on a powdery substance collected by the inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution show the presence of the cancer-causing substance, said Jeffrey Donnellon, a Columbus lawyer who represents the inmates. Donnellon said he sent the samples to the lab.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 4 in U.S. District Court on behalf of the inmates and four former inmates, accuses the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction of deliberate indifference to a known health risk.

The samples collected by inmates came from a dorm floor and from snipped pieces of insulation from steam pipes, Donnellon said.

“Many clients believe they have lung problems attributable to asbestos,” Donnellon said

In a state inspection report of the facility filed in 2007, prison officials stated that the “last asbestos in a (prison) housing unit was removed … two years ago.”

The lawsuit also asks a judge to order an independent investigation and to close the prison if asbestos can’t be safely or promptly removed.

The prison, about 45 miles south of Columbus, houses 2,850 inmates and has 587 staff members.

The Columbus Dispatch,

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