A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog.
The CIIC report found the Lake Erie Correctional Institution had a 187.5-percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence between 2010 and 2012, leading to a rate of inmate-on-inmate violence much higher than comparative prisons and slightly below the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) average for all state prisons.
Safety and security were major areas of concern, with the report noting “personal safety is at risk.” Disturbances, use of force, access to illegal substances, shakedowns and bunk searches were all in need of improvement, but rounds were acceptable. How staff handle the use of force and sanctions were particularly problematic.
Many of the problems were due to inadequate staff — a common concern critics repeatedly voiced after Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to sell the state prison to CCA in 2011.
“New staff generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to handle inmate confrontations,” the report said.
The report echoes many of the concerns raised by private prison critics, which CityBeat previously covered (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19).