New London Correctional Institution warden Terry Tibbals is glad to be back.
It’s been a while since the first time, 1999, when he was a deputy warden of special services, but it’s obvious from the smile on his face that Tibbals, 49, is happy to be in the top position. He took over from Deb Timmerman Cooper, who retired earlier this month.
Tibbals is now in his 28th year in the field of corrections. He looks forward to working with the staff of LoCI, which he rates as good as it gets in Ohio’s department of rehabilitation and correction.
“I love working with the staff here,” Tibbals said in a recent interview with The Press. He said the mission of the staff is “for inmates to make a difference in themselves and give them an opportunity to make a difference in society.”
He describes the staff as “dedicated to what they do and do it well.
Tibbals and the staff oversee 2,300 Level 1 and 2 inmates. These are men who have demonstrated by their behavior they at the very least don’t want to make trouble, and at the most are determined to put their past behind them, educate themselves, acquire job skills and re-enter society when they have served their sentences, he said.
Tibbals said at Level 1 and Level 2, if the inmate demonstrates “the behavior we want,” it opens doors to training and education LoCI provides.
Tibbals said the collective job of him and his staff is “to work to that at all times.”
But he warns, “it works the other way also.” As recently as 2013, Tibbals served as warden of the Mansfield Correctional Institution, which houses inmates of Level 3 and 4 and death row. His most recent assignment was as program administrator in the operations support center.
His primary job is the security of the inmates and the staff and provide good programs to provide opportunity to improve themselves, “if they so choose.”
There are those who also choose a wayward path, as was revealed in a publicized drug bust in the institution weeks ago. Two inmates at the institution talked to outsiders using NFL football-related terms as code during telephone calls to place orders for drugs.
The “Indianapolis Colts” was the code phrase for cocaine. The “Pittsburgh Steelers” represented heroin. The “Green Bay Packers” stood for marijuana. What officials describe as a major drug ring was run from behind bars by a Columbus inmate and another prisoner who recruited their dealers from fellow drug-traffickers prior to their release from the prison.
Tibbals said trying to uncover covert operations within an institution “is an ongoing job.”
“We’ve taken many steps to monitor sources of information,” Tibbals said. “We have excellent avenues of communication. You’d be surprised what inmates will tell.”
He said LoCI officials work closely with the Ohio Highway Patrol and the county prosecutor. He plans for that “great relationship” therewith to continue.
“We’ll do the things we need to do to address the issue,” Tibbals said.
He would like to see more of the inmates who take training and education and are released to be able to make smoother transitions to gainful employment. He would like to see society “remove the roadblocks” to their employment.
“Without employment, you can almost guarantee the offender will come back to prison,” Tibbals said.
His time in the corrections profession began in 1986. While a student studying criminal justice at the Ohio State University, one of Tibbals’ professors who ran a program at one of the prisons offered him a job. He liked it so well he stayed.
Outside of work, he and his family enjoy attending Columbus Blue Jackets games and coaching youth softball.
Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1617 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.