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Copley man still struggling months after being attacked at Indian River Youth Correctional Facility

Indian River assault.jpg
Posted at 5:32 PM, May 24, 2023

COPLEY, Ohio — A Copley family is dealing with a long and frustrating road to recovery seven months after a father and husband was brutally attacked by an inmate at Indian River Youth Correctional Facility in Massillon.

Patricia Upshaw said she and her husband David were hoping to start slowing down at this point in their lives, with more travel and less work.

Those plans changed on the night of Oct. 18, 2022.

David, 60, was about a year into his job as a corrections officer at the facility. Patricia said he would call her every night on his drive to work.

"That night, we were talking about the place and how somebody was going to get seriously hurt," she said. "At about 10:00 p.m. that night, I got a call that he was in the emergency room."

A 19-year-old inmate attacked David after he found a way to unlock his cell door. Patricia said the inmate used a tablet to knock her husband to the floor, then took his radio and keys and began beating David with the radio.

The inmate then let out three others from their rooms, and it was hours before the situation was back under control.

For the Upshaws, however, their nightmare was just beginning.

"When I got to the emergency room, Dave was in heart failure, kidney failure, his lungs were filling with fluid," she recalled. "He had a horrible injury to his head. His eye was swollen and blue, and there was blood in the eye; his lips were bloody."

Just days after the attack, News 5 was on scene at Indian River during a 12-hour standoff when a dozen 15 to 19-year-olds escaped their rooms and barricaded themselves inside a school building on campus with makeshift weapons.

An internal investigation following the incident resulted in the termination of the facility's superintendent, the gang intervention specialist, and the demotion of another jail official, according to the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

A spokesperson for DYS told News 5 that improvements have been made since the fall, including staff training, personal safety, hiring and retention and security within the facility.

However, the violent incidents continued. Earlier this month, there were three separate youth-on-staff assaults.

"There was no reason for these types of attacks to continue after David was hurt," said Patricia. "The whole place just needs to be closed down. Empty it out."

She believes there were warning signs leading up to David's attack that were ignored and faults facility leadership for a staff shortage, making it harder to control the inmates inside the jail.

"I'm glad that something is being done, but it does not help these people that have been attacked. It does not help them, you know, to get anybody in there to avoid being attacked because they still haven't changed anything," she said.

Seven months later and David is still struggling. He suffers from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Our lives have been totally turned upside down," she said. "Memory issues, speech issues, suffers from severe vertigo. They call it post-concussion syndrome."

She is hopeful that David's attack and the incidents that have occurred after it will prompt the state to act, but she has her doubts.

A DYS spokesperson sent the following statement to News 5:

"We continue to keep Mr. Upshaw and his family in our thoughts and are grateful for his commitment to DYS and the youth entrusted in our care. The safety of the staff and youth within our facilities remains our greatest priority. After many discussions with juvenile justice advocates and our union partners, we implemented additional safety and security measures within our facilities, including the use of OC spray and body-worn cameras. We remain committed to recruiting and retaining staff; bringing staffing levels up will have the biggest impact upon safety within our facilities.

There were three separate incidents involving youth-on-staff assaults at Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility (IRJCF) earlier this month. In two incidents, the staff member was taken to the hospital, treated, and released. In the third instance, no injuries were sustained. All three cases are currently under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol."

As of May 19, 2023, the overall staffing levels for IRJCF were:

IRJC Total Vacancies
Filled Positions:
Vacant Positions:
Total Positions:
% Vacant
248
49
297
16%

The statement went on to say if anyone was interested in the facility’s open positions to apply at www.dys.ohio.gov/jobs

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