The state ordered 14 inmates transferred to tougher prisons as a result of three days of conflict in December between the Aryan Brotherhood and a loosely organized gang consisting of the prankster and his allies, according to a prison system investigation of the fight.
The violence culminated in the Dec. 27 fight at Pickaway Correctional Institution in which five members of the Aryan Brotherhood battled the prankster and five others with locks hooked to belts and a sharpened broomstick.
The Pickaway fight was unusual for happening at a minimum- and medium-security prison, officials with the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said. The report also warned that the possibility exists for more confrontation.
Gang membership in Ohio prisons has more than doubled since 1999, from 2,748 inmates in 1998, or about 6 percent of the prison population, to 6,334 last year, or about 14 percent of inmates, according to state data.
The prisons system attributes the increase to better tracking of inmates and not true growth.
“Our numbers are better because we do a better job,” said Phil Vermillion, assistant security threat group coordinator.
In October, the state transferred five members each of the Crips and Bloods gangs after a fight at North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, a mostly medium-security facility.
In July, the state moved 19 inmates after a fight between the Crips and Folks gangs at Ross Correctional Institution, which is one step below maximum security.
The union representing prison guards says the state did well controlling prison gangs in the past but budget cutbacks have tied the department's hands in recent years, leading to more problems.
“We've got fewer eyes watching more inmates,” said Tim Shafer, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association's corrections assembly.