TOLEDO, Ohio — Ohio's condemned inmates are staying put and plans to move death row for the third time in little over a decade appear to be in doubt.
The move announced last October and expected to be finished before the end of last year won't be happening in the foreseeable future, said JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for Ohio's prisons agency.
The department, she said this week, is continually evaluating its population management strategies. What isn't known is whether the move will happen at all.
State prison officials said last fall they would move death row from Chillicothe in southern Ohio to the Toledo Correctional Institution because of the growing number of aging inmates serving death sentences.
Toledo's prison is newer and designed to handle inmates with physical and mobility limitations, including those in wheelchairs, the state said. There are about 140 inmates on death row and the average age is around 50.
The union representing Ohio prison guards and other workers said the shift would disrupt the consistency for the staff, the inmates and their families.
Death row was moved from the supermax prison in Youngstown, where it had been since 2005, to the Chillicothe Correctional Institution at the beginning of 2012.
Prison officials hoped the move to Toledo would help reduce crowding at the Chillicothe prison and other sites across the state. Areas used to hold death row inmates in individual cells could be converted to double-bunked cells that could house twice as many high-security inmates, the state said last fall.
While a date for the move — a trip of more than three hours — was never announced because of security reasons, the prisons department said in October it would happen in the "near future."
The plan also called for executions to still be carried out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
The state hasn't put anyone to death since January 2014, when Dennis McGuire repeatedly gasped and snorted during a 26-minute procedure using a never-before-tried two-drug combo.
Since then, there have been a number of legal challenges to the state's execution methods. A federal appeals court ruling issued Wednesday in the state's favor moved Ohio moved a step closer to resuming executions.