In a recent lawsuit, the federal government is alleging that officials of the Ohio State Department of Corrections lied about asbestos abatement and removal at Chillicothe Correctional Institution, despite claims that the state has spent nearly $376,000 over the past three years in dealing with the health hazard.
Last year, members of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) visited the prison facility, located about 45 miles south of Columbus, in response to a complaint from someone who had visited an inmate and claimed to have seen buildings “filled with asbestos.” This included asbestos lagging sprayed around pipes and climate-control ducts. Prison officials reported that there was “no asbestos in the housing areas,” but acknowledged that an “asbestos abatement crew” had been at work removing asbestos from the complex system of tunnels. “[Those] areas are properly contained for safety purposes,” CIIC members were assured.
In addition, Warden Robin Knab issued a memo stating that all aboveground asbestos in housing areas had been removed early in 2006. The CIIC report says that the dormitories inspected by the committee “…do not appear to contain asbestos based on observation and information received by staff. Staff indicated that the last asbestos in a CCI housing unit was removed from Dorm Dogwood 1 two years ago.” During their tour of the prison facility, CIIC members were shown a heating pipe near a radiator that had recently been repaired and wrapped in what inmates claimed to be asbestos. The next day, prison officials contacted the CIIC and informed them that the substance was in fact fiberglass. Despite all of this, the report issued by the CIIC indicates that parts of the prison infirmary contained amounts of friable asbestos; one member of the committee expressed concerns about crumbling asbestos-containing floor tiles as well. The current lawsuit was filed on behalf of 33 current and 4 former inmates, all of whom allege exposure from asbestos found on the floors in various places within the institution.