If your medicine cabinet could use a good fall cleaning, think about de-cluttering tomorrow during National Drug Take-Back day so you can properly dispose of the pills and make sure they don't get into the wrong hands.
The local prescription take-back is sponsored by the Hamilton Country Sheriff Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Prescription drug abuse is a rampant public safety and health issues, and take-back programs are one of a number of public health measures communities can take to reduce prescription drug abuse in their neighborhoods.
Even flushing the pills down the toilet poses its own risks; the chemicals could make their way into our water supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that fish have suffered serious deformities from pharmaceutical-tainted water supplies, and it could affect humans, too, although the research isn't strong enough to draw any solid conclusions yet.
There are three locations around the city where you can bring old prescriptions (all locations are open from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.):
The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for reasons other than which they were prescribed. In 2010, 7 million Americans abused a prescription drug; pain relieving medications like Vicodin and Oxycontin are the most commonly abused drugs.
Unintentional drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Ohio. The state has experienced a 440 percent growth rate in accidental overdose deaths from 1999 to 2011.
According to DrugAbuse.gov, teenagers are especially likely to abuse medications because of their easy accessibility and a lack of awareness about the consequences of abuse.
Needles, IV bags and radioactive medicines will not be accepted.
• Nashville’s Escondido came together quickly but very naturally. The project of Jessica Maros and Tyler James (a solo artist who has also toured as pianist for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) got its start in James’ home studio when he was recording an artist with whom both were friends. During a recording break, Maros, a Vancouver native and successful clothing/jewelry designer, was casually playing a song in the studio, James hit “record,” added some light ornamentation and, essentially, Escondido was born. That night, the two decided to make an album. Fittingly, the album — Esondido’s debut, titled The Ghost of Escondido — was recorded live in just one day with a handful of talented Nashville friends/musicians, even though it sounds incredibly cohesive, full-bodied and organic.
The making of the full-length, released at the start of this year, was driven by the spirit of Ennio Morricone, the legendary spaghetti western soundtrack genius, and that desert-sunset atmosphere meshes beautifully with the band’s mix of Indie Rock, Pop and Country. The end result is mesmerizing, a hazy, dreamy collection of haunted, mysterious soundscapery and spine-tingling harmonies and vocals, making the band reminiscent of a slightly twangier, more dynamic and grounded Mazzy Star. Along with garnering a wide-range of supporters, from the tastemakers at KCRW to the writers at Vogue, The Ghost of Escondido also made a fan out of eccentric filmmaker/artist/writer/musician David Lynch, who wrote about his love for the band in Mojo magazine.
Here’s the music video for Escondido’s “Black Roses.”
The duo (fleshed out by a full touring band) performs a free show tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. New York City’s Indie Pop/Garage Rock group Unicycle Loves You opens the show at 10 p.m.
• Tonight at Covington’s Madison Theater is a good chance to hear what a “Jam Band” sounds like in 2013, as several groups join forces for an all-ages, 8 p.m. show. Or, rather, you’ll hear how almost no two “Jam Bands” sound alike anymore, making the Grateful Dead-mimicking cliches about the scene completely outdated. Today, the “Jam” tag has less real meaning than ever, with the groups earning the descriptor exploring a huge range of styles. Jam Bands now often share little more than a tendency to improvise.
Headliners Dopapod epitomize the diversity of the modern Jam scene with their progressive blend of Electronic music, Jazz, Rock, Soul, Funk and various other styles. The Brooklyn, N.Y., group released its third studio album, Redivider, late last year, introducing fans to a Dopapod first — vocals (previously, the band was all instrumental). Read Brian Baker’s preview of the show for CityBeat here.
The support lineup for Dopapod is a varied collection of mostly local bands that reflect the same kind of sonic adventurousness as the headliners, though, of course, each bringing their own slant — Ethosine, Nevele, Us Today, Freeform Connection, Peridoni, Aliver Hall and Blue Moon Soup. Tickets are $15 at the door.
• Though they never reaped the full rewards and commercial success that some bands that came after them did, Michigan’s Mustard Plug was one of the early guiding forces behind the ’90s Punk Ska explosion. The band put out its first album, Skapocalypse Now!, on cassette in 1992 and moved up to third-wave Ska’s version of 2 Tone Records, NYC’s Moon Records, for its second full-length, kicking off two decades of hardcore international touring.
Mustard Plug later joined the roster of Hopeless Records, which would go on to become one of the top independent Punk labels in the country. While the vast majority of Ska Punk bands from the ’90s either moved on to another style of music or imploded after the “craze” died down, Mustard Plug continues to write new songs, put out new music and tour on a regular basis, its loyal cult of fans proving that, while you won’t hear it on the radio anymore, there is still an audience hungry for Ska Punk done well. Mustard Plug has been operating D.I.Y. since parting ways with Hopeless; a new album (the band’s first since 2007’s In Black and White) is reportedly finished and due soon thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Mustard Plug plays a free show tonight at Northside Tavern. Opening is Cincinnati’s Elysian Souls.
• October is coming to an end, which means Rocktober is also almost over and Rocktober on the Square, a new every-Friday concert series at downtown’s Fountain Square, is winding down as well. Today at 5 p.m., the final Rocktober on the Square show starts with a set from great, rootsy singer/songwriter Josh Eagle.
In the 6 p.m. slot is singer/songwriter Mike Oberst of popular Cincy Folk group The Tillers, who are heading overseas for their first ever U.K. tour, playing Nov. 1-16 throughout England, Scotland and Ireland as support for Pokey LaFarge.
The always fantastic 500 Miles to Memphis closes out Rocktober at 7 p.m. It’s the rowdy, rootsy rockers’ last local show of the year; the 500MTM fellas are taking a break from performing to go back into the studio to finish their next album.
Rocktober on the Square is a free event. Click here for more info.
• Don’t forget — the One More Girl on a Stage benefit concerts continue today after last night’s kickoff at various venues in Over-the-Rhine. The OMG fest takes over the Southgate House Revival in Newport for a “whole house” show tonight starting at 7 p.m. Go here for complete details.
Brand consulting firm Landor Associates hosts coinciding events Friday at the iconic Shillito’s department store building downtown. Miketoberfest is a benefit for Mike Amann, owner of Covington design firm BLDG and linchpin in the Greater Cincinnati arts scene, who is battling stage 4 neuroendocrine cancer. The fundraiser features live music and DJs, grub from local food trucks and local art and handmade goods for sale from 5-11 p.m. Meanwhile, Landor will also be guiding Shillito’s Abandoned tours every 10 minutes during that time. Visitors will go underground to explore the former department store’s cafeteria, showrooms and Santaland for a spooky experience perfect for Halloween. Admission for Miketoberfest is $15; tours are $10. All proceeds from the night benefit the Amann family. Go here for more details.
The Cincinnati Art Museum is said to be the site of various hauntings, which sets the stage for Friday’s Art After Dark event. The museum will host ghost tours at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. and screen the 1922 classic Nosferatu with Folk Rockers The Ridges providing a live score to the film from 6-8 p.m. Appetizers and drinks (including Great Lakes Nosferatu ale) will be available for purchase; admission is free.
Cincinnati street style gets the spotlight at Rise of the Cool Kids, a production feature from local retailers, designers, bloggers and other area fashionistas. The event takes over Washington Park Friday with a happy hour 5-7 p.m. benefiting Artworks; a dance party and projected fashion show 7-11 p.m.; and after-parties at nearby 4EG bars. $10 tickets are available in advance online. Limited cash tickets will be available tonight at the park.
For a classy twist on the adult Halloween party, check out The Malice Ball: OTR Brewers' Masquerade Saturday. The Christian Moerlein Brewery serves as a chilling setting for a masquerade ball, complete with masks and makeup artists to elevate your mysterious look, a DJ, photo booth, local bites, drinks served by fave Japp’s and Bakersfield bartenders and a special dance performance by Pones Inc. The Malice Ball runs 8 p.m.-midnight. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, and include a drink ticket and free shuttle to and from Washington Park and Mercer Garages. Register here.
Channel your inner
Jules Verne at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Gears & Beers event Saturday.
It’s a steampunk soiree — Victorian aesthetic with a sci-fi edge — complete
with a costume and gadget parade, live entertainment and plenty of microbrews
and food pairings. The party kicks off at 8 p.m. Admission is $40; $30 for CMC and Enjoy the Arts members. Go here
for event lineup and menu details.
For more art openings, parties and other stuff to do this weekend, check out our To Do picks, full calendar and Rick Pender’s Stage Door for weekend theater offerings. Be sure to read ScaryBeat for more Halloween events and holiday inspiration.
That's the number of Cincinnatians cited in a 2012 report from Strategies to End Homelessness that are either staying in shelters or in places not meant for human habitation.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition will coalesce to recognize the plight of those 7,000 when it
holds its annual Homeless Awareness March on Saturday, Oct. 26 starting
at 3 p.m. at Buddy’s Place, a permanent housing facility
for the homeless located at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.
Josh Spring, executive director at GRHC, says the march will explore areas in Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District particularly plagued by homelessness. There will be about 10 stops, each of which will be marked by a speech from representatives of several advocacy groups, including the Interfaith Workers' Center, OTR Community Housing, Streetvibes, People's Coalition for Equality and Justice and the Drop Inn Center.
The march comes at a particularly auspicious time for GRHC, which recently helped four homeless plaintiffs file a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office for depriving homeless people of their constitutional rights by threatening to arrest people who sleep or inhabit the common areas around the Hamilton County Courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center downtown.
Those areas have recently become the center of a public
health debate between groups like GRHC and county officials, who have been forced to clean up urine
and feces left behind the homeless and argue they
just don’t have the resources to keep up.
The GHRC held a protest on Oct. 16 in front of the courthouse asking Sheriff Neil to rescind the policy, the same day the lawsuit was filed.
In an effort to compromise, Spring and other supporters have asked the county to at least wait to stick to the policy until the winter shelter opens in December, but county officials are hesitant to ignore the cleanliness problem for that long.
Advocates such as Spring, however, argue the city should take a “prevention first” approach instead by figuring out what will keep Cincinnatians from becoming homeless in the first place.
Spring says he hopes the march will draw both people who have come specifically to protest displacement and others who come to learn about the nature of homelessness in Cincinnati. "We really hope people walk away with some passion to go and do something about this," he says.
Last year's march was centered around protesting Western & Southern's manipulative legal disputes with the Anna Louise Inn, which provides safe and affordable housing to low-income women. The battle came to an end in May when Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, signed an agreement with Western & Southern to move from Lytle Park to Mount Auburn.
Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups, according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Oct. 24. Of the more than $231,000 raised for Issue 4 by Cincinnati for Pension Reform, $229,500 came from groups in West Chester, Ohio, and Virginia. Chris Littleton, a leading consultant for Issue 4 and a long-time tea party activist involved in a few of the listed groups, is also based in West Chester. City leaders unanimously oppose Issue 4 because they argue it would force the city to cut services and city employees’ retirement benefits — two claims that have been backed by studies on Issue 4. Supporters say Issue 4 is necessary to help fix the pension system’s $862 unfunded liability. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that City Council will take up further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election, assuming voters reject Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
A re-inspection of the privatized Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LECI) found that, while the private prison has made some improvements in rehabilitation, health services and staffing, it remains on pace in 2013 to match the previous year’s increased levels of violence. Various state reports found the facility quickly deteriorated after it became the first state prison to be sold to a private company, Corrections Corporation of America, in 2011, under the urging of Gov. John Kasich. In particular, inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults rapidly rose between 2010 and 2012 and appear to remain at similar increased levels in 2013, according to an audit conducted on Sept. 9 and 10 by Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Ohio’s independent prison watchdog. CityBeat previously covered the deteriorating conditions at LECI in further detail here.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted advocated trimming the amount of early voting days in a letter to the state legislature yesterday. Husted says he wants the rules passed to establish uniformity across all Ohio counties. But Democrats — including State Sen. Nina Turner, who is set to run against Husted in 2014 for secretary of state — say the measures attempt to limit voting opportunities and suppress voters. In 2012, Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, explained similar measures that limit early voting in an email to The Columbus Dispatch: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Husted’s suggestions also included measures that would allow online voter registration and limit ballot access for candidates in minor political parties.
A Hamilton County judge yesterday dismissed another legal challenge against the city’s parking plan, but the conservative group behind the legal dispute plans to appeal. The plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which would then use private operators to manage the assets. Supporters say the lease is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets for an $85 million upfront payment that would help pay for development projects. Opponents argue it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets to private entities.
Several Medicaid overhaul bills began moving in the Ohio House yesterday, following months of work and promises from Republican legislators. The bills increase penalties for defrauding the state, require the Department of Medicaid to implement reforms that seek to improve outcomes and emphasize personal responsibility, and make specific tweaks on minors obtaining prescriptions, hospitals reporting of neonatal abstinence syndrome, behavioral health services and other smaller categories. The overhaul bills follow Gov. Kasich’s decision to bypass the Ohio legislature and expand Medicaid eligibility for at least two years with federal funds approved by the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative panel.
Ohio’s controversial facial-recognition program can be used by some federal and out-of-state officials, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search state databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. Shortly after the program was revealed, Gov. Kasich compared it to privacy-breaching national intelligence agencies.
Ohio students aren’t as good at math and science as students in China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, among other countries.
A bipartisan “open container” bill would allow cities, including Cincinnati, to legalize drinking alcohol in the streets. In the case of Cincinnati, the city could allow public drinking in up to two districts if the bill passed. Supporters of the bill say it would boost economic activity in certain areas, but some are concerned the bill will enable “trash and rowdiness.”
Cincinnati leads the way on Twitter.
Vitamin B2, which is commonly found in cottage cheese, green veggies and meat, could be used to 3-D print medical implants.
Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Playhouse's production of Cabaret is a must-see for anyone who is a fan of musicals. (CityBeat review here.) Kander and Ebb's Tony Award winner from the late '60s has been brought to the main stage with inventive verve by veteran Broadway choreographer and director Marsha Milgrom Dodge. Sure, it's set in 1929 Berlin, populated by amoral entertainers and Nazis rising to power. But its scrutiny of prejudice and bigotry in the context of jaunty, thoughtless entertainment is a fascinating way to bring attention to topics that are timeless. Dodge has assembled a cast of triple-threats (who can sing, act and dance), given them choreography rooted in the 1920s, costumed them in period clothing (and some clever get-ups for the cabaret routines) and set them spinning on a stage arrayed with Expressionist imagery. It's a winning combination. Cabaret just opened on Thursday evening; you have until Nov. 16 to catch it, but it's likely to be a hot ticket, so this is a good weekend to head to Mount Adams. The other choice at the Playhouse, Seven Spots on the Sun, is in its final weekend on the Shelterhouse stage. It's a powerful drama set in a Latin American nation, torn asunder by civil war. Serious theatergoers have been giving this one a thumbs-up. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups, according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Oct. 24.
The report confirms concerns previously raised by city officials, unions and mayoral and City Council candidates: The pension privatization effort is coming from outside Cincinnati and, in some instances, Ohio.
Up to Oct. 16, Cincinnati for Pension Reform, which successfully placed Issue 4 on the ballot, received more than $231,000 from campaign contributors. Of that money, $209,500 came from groups in West Chester, Ohio — organizations called Jobs and Progress Fund, A Public Voice, Ohio 2.0 and Ohio Rising — and $20,000 came from the Virginia-based Liberty Initiative Fund, which CityBeat previously reported as an early supporter of pension privatization schemes around the country.
Chris Littleton, a leading consultant for Issue 4 and long-time tea party activist, is also based in West Chester. He’s blogged about his involvement in Ohio Rising and Ohio 2.0, and he helped create the Cincinnati Tea Party and Ohio Liberty Coalition, another tea party group.
Upon receiving the contributions, Cincinnati for Pension Reform used more than $215,000 to circulate petitions, email blasts, advertisements and other typical campaign expenses.
The infusion of cash from out-of-town sources also helps explain why Cincinnati for Pension Reform managed to mobilize its efforts so quickly and without the knowledge of many city officials, who previously said they’re bewildered by the effort and don’t know where it came from.
If approved by voters, Issue 4 would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so city employees hired after January 2014 would contribute to and manage individual retirement accounts, which would also be supported by a proportional match from the city. That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea is to move from a public plan and instead imitate a 401k plan that’s often seen in the private sector.
The conservative Buckeye Institute, which supports Issue 4, previously studied the proposal and found it could greatly reduce retirement benefits for city employees. Although the Buckeye Institute’s report claims Issue 4 could ultimately save Cincinnati money, it was laced with caveats that could actually lead to higher costs for the city.
Another study from a finance professor at Xavier University found Issue 4, if approved, could force the city to cut services, excluding police and firefighters, by up to 41 percent or increase taxes by a similar amount in the near term by mandating that the city more expediently pay off the current pension system’s $862 million unfunded liability.
A major concern for critics of Issue 4 is that it could cost the city its Social Security exemption. Under the current pension system, the city doesn’t have to pay into Social Security. If Issue 4 passes, the city’s contributions to the pension system might not be generous enough to keep the exemption, which could force the city to make costly Social Security payments.
And if the city doesn’t lose its exemption, city workers would be left with an individual retirement plan that wouldn’t have the safety net of Social Security — unlike private-sector workers who get both an individual retirement account and Social Security.
Supporters of Issue 4 dismiss the criticisms. They say that Issue 4 is necessary to address Cincinnati’s large unfunded pension liability, which credit ratings agency Moody’s cited as one of the reasons it downgraded the city’s bond rating in July.
The city’s leaders, who unanimously oppose Issue 4, say they are working on solving the liability, but they argue it’s better to reform the system, not scrap it altogether.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that pension issues for current city employees are covered by reforms passed in 2011, and she says City Council will take up further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election in November.
Voters will make the final decision on Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
The full financial report:
Updated with more information Chris Littleton and the involved groups.
Deadspin, generally a sports blog, recently posted "The Great American Menu: Foods of the States, Ranked and Mapped."
The "greats" include dishes like Chicago-style deep-dish pizza; the "goods" dishes like Maine's lobster roll; the "better-than-a-finger-in-the-eye" dishes like Michigan pasty; and, ranked dead-last, with "being hit by a car" a preferable choice, is Cincinnati chili.
As Deadspin says: "For the mercifully unacquainted, 'Cincinnati chili,' the worst regional foodstuff in America or anywhere else, is a horrifying diarrhea sludge (most commonly encountered in the guise of the "Skyline" brand) that Ohioans slop across plain spaghetti noodles and hot dogs as a way to make the rest of us feel grateful that our own shit-eating is (mostly) figurative... Cincinnati chili is the worst, saddest, most depressing goddamn thing in the world. If it came out of the end of your digestive system, you would turn the color of chalk and call an ambulance, but at least it'd make some sense. The people of Ohio see nothing wrong with inserting it into their mouths, which perhaps tells you everything you need to know about the Buckeye State. Don't eat it. Don't let your loved ones eat it. Turn away from the darkness, and toward the deep-dish pizza."
Read the whole post here.
And sorry, Deadspin, the only thing this made me want was a 3-way. Nom.
It is impossible for fans of the classic horror film Carrie, such as myself, to not compare Kimberly Peirce’s new remake to its 1976 predecessor.
Brian De Palma made the original Carrie into a timeless, blood-filled revenge fantasy with his fresh and inspired take on the best-selling Stephen King novel. It is an iconic movie that explores the perils of religious fanaticism, the wonder of supernatural powers and the pain of high school cruelty. The original Carrie is just as heartbreaking as it is it horrifying, garnering the audience’s sympathy for the mistreated protagonist. Sissy Spacek made a damn good Carrie with her natural gaucheness and always frightened, wide-eyed gaze.
Chloe Grace Moretz, on the other hand, is — let’s face it — too cute and self-assured to be anywhere near convincing as the new Carrie. While talented, she lacks the believably awkward touch that Spacek brought to the character with both her appearance and superb acting. Additionally, one of Moretz’s most notable roles as the deadly Hit Girl from Kick Ass made it difficult for me to see her as a vulnerable victim (although it made her violent use of telekinetic powers more fitting). I continually questioned why the Carrie portrayed by Moretz was so outcasted, as she seemed normal albeit a little shy.
The portrayals of Carrie’s high school peers also fall flat. Chris (Portia Doubleday) is an underwhelming ringleader of bullies, not nearly as mean-spirited and malicious as in the original. In fact, her boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell) ends up running the show on tormenting Carrie come prom night, further weakening Chris’ role as a true antagonist. Sue (Gabriella Wilde) is Chris’ remorseful sidekick who has a change of heart and convinces her boyfriend, Tommy (Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to prom.
She does this to make up for what happens in the infamous shower scene, during which Carrie starts her period without being aware of what is happening, fears that she is dying and gets teased by all of the other girls who throw feminine products at her and chant, “Plug it up.” The gym teacher, Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer), later lets the girls know just how rotten they are for what they did. Despite this, it is confusing as to why Sue would turn her back on Chris and forgo prom, something so important to her, due to the film not delving far enough into Sue’s personality or guilt.
Julianne Moore gives the only redeeming performance as Carrie’s mother, Margaret. With her unkempt hair and self-inflicted harm, she portrays a compelling religious zealot, tortured by her misguided ideology. Her abuse toward Carrie — slapping her and repeatedly forcing her into the prayer closet — is effectively disturbing. The added opening scene (Spoiler Alert) with her giving birth to Carrie and attempting to murder the newborn provides the audience with more of a background on her character than does the original. She cogently delivers the well-known and heartbreaking line, “They’re all gonna laugh at you,” foreshadowing the soon-to-be telekinetic massacre at Carrie’s helm.
I might have liked Carrie had I not seen the original, as the story stays true to the previous film and is still a haunting tale of abuse and its consequences. The movie is filled with clever religious imagery and is visually pleasing, especially during the massacre scene. However, the ill-fitted cast and lack of ingenuity on the director’s part ultimately disappointed me. While the new Carrie may seem like a fun and appropriate movie to watch with Halloween around the corner, it’s hardly worth the ten dollars it costs to see in theaters. Plus, the 1976 version is currently available on Netflix so there really is no excuse to miss out on the sheer brilliance of the original. Grade: C-
A re-inspection of the privatized Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LECI) found the prison is “heading in a positive direction,” but the facility is still on pace in 2013 to maintain increased levels of violence similar to the year before, according to the report.
In 2011, LECI became the first state prison in the country to be sold to a private company after Ohio, under the urging of Gov. John Kasich, sold the facility to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) as a cost-cutting measure. Since then, multiple inspections found deteriorating health and safety conditions that anti-privatization critics warned of prior to the sale.
The audit, published on Oct. 8 but conducted on Sept. 9 and 10, comes from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s independent prison watchdog.
The inspection was announced beforehand, unlike the unannounced audit on Jan.
22 that found a sharp rise in violence and various health problems. In other words,
CCA had time to prepare for the latest inspection but not the one
conducted earlier in the year, which could explain some of the mixed improvements.
“The CIIC inspection team’s overall sense is that conditions have improved,” the report claimed. “CCA has poured significant resources into the prison, including removing or changing staff, hiring on former (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction) staff, investing in additional security measures, and bringing in outside consultants.”
But for all the improvements, CIIC found issues of safety, security and inmate discipline linger: “Although improved slightly, the percentage of inmates reporting that they feel unsafe or very unsafe is still high.”
CIIC found inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff assaults remain on track to match 2012’s higher levels of violence. The previous CIIC audit found inmate-on-inmate violence had increased by 188 percent and inmate-on-staff violence had increased by more than 300 percent between 2010 and 2012.
Staff reportedly told inspectors that there was “significant progress” in rates of violence throughout 2013, but the provided statistics for the year don’t reflect an improvement.
In some areas, conditions measurably worsened: CIIC reported that a “significantly higher percentage of inmates” tested positive for illegal substances in the first eight months of 2013 compared to the same time span in 2012.
Disciplinary actions and use of force were noted concerns for CIIC, even though LECI staff apparently made strides to exert more control over the inmate population. The prison also has more serious misconduct than similar minimum- and medium-security facilities.
CIIC didn’t formally inspect medical services and recreational facilities, but inspectors received various complaints from inmates in both areas. The amount of inmate grievances against staff actions also remain higher than the years before CCA took over the facility, although CIIC found slight improvement.
Still, the report repeatedly praised CCA for its improvements, particularly in rehabilitation and reentry services, better performance of rounds and shakedowns, and stronger health services and records. One example: CIIC found inmates are receiving 47.9 percent more GED diplomas, which certify a high school-level education, than they did in 2011, putting LECI’s GED achievement level at the average for similar prisons.
Staffing issues also improved, although the staff turnover rate remains above the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction average and security officers reported poor morale because of low wages.
For some critics of privatization, the poor conditions come as no surprise. Before CCA bought LECI, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio repeatedly warned that the for-profit incentive encourages private prison companies to cut services, security and staff while maintaining as many prisoners as possible, since the prison’s pay is based on how many inmates it holds.
CityBeat previously reported on the deteriorating
conditions at LECI after inmates’ insider accounts, requested public records
and numerous state reports found increasing violence and health concerns
(“From the Inside,” issue of May 29).
The full CIIC audit: