- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio prison unit housing about 430 inmates will be closed, the inmates moved elsewhere and employees offered jobs at other prisons, the state said Wednesday.

Inmates will be transferred from Hocking Correctional Unit in southeastern Ohio by the end of March, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

The prison unit is Ohio’s most expensive, costing $65 a day per inmate to operate compared to $21 at similar facilities in Belmont, Richland and Trumbull counties, the state said.

Hocking is a lower security facility considered part of the Southeastern Correctional Complex, just outside of Nelsonville about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Columbus.

The inmates will be placed elsewhere, and Hocking’s 110 staff members will be offered jobs at other Ohio prisons, including a facility in nearby Lancaster, said prisons spokesman Grant Doepel.

The state hopes to turn the Hocking unit into an educational, health care or drug treatment facility.

Ohio’s current prison population is 49,517 inmates, about 900 fewer inmates than a year ago.

The population is falling slowly after years of increases as programs take effect placing low-level offenders in community facilities outside of the prison system.

The union representing prison guards criticized the move, saying it’s a lot of job losses for a community to absorb.

The move could also lead to overcrowding and violence at other facilities, said Christopher Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employee Association.

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