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by German Lopez 02.25.2013
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Federal cuts will hurt Ohio, casino revitalizes neighborhood, danger at private prison

The White House released a list of what cuts will be made in Ohio as part of mandatory spending cuts set to kick in March 1, which are widely known as the sequester. Among other changes, 26,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed, 350 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk due to $25.1 million in education cuts and $6.9 million for clean air and water enforcement would be taken away. President Barack Obama and Democrats have pushed to replace the sequester with a plan that contains tax changes and budget cuts, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise with Republicans, who insist on a plan that only includes spending cuts.

Community Council President David White told WVXU that the streets and sidewalks of the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton were previously crumbling, but the Horseshoe Casino’s development has helped transform the area. With Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, the city has budgeted $6 million in neighborhood development that has led to new trees, expanded sidewalks and the potential for further developments that will appeal to new businesses.

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 enormous increases in violence, with a 187.5-percent increase in inmate-on-inmate violence and 305.9-percent in inmate-on-staff violence between 2010 and 2012. Many of the problems are being brought on by inadequate staff, according to the report. The findings echo much of what privatization critics have been warning about ever since Gov. John Kasich announced his plans to privatize the state prison in 2011, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.

Kasich has highlighted funding increases in the education plan in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, but the plan also includes looser requirements for Ohio’s schools. The plan will remove the teacher salary schedule from law, which sets a minimum for automatic teacher pay increases for years of service and educational accomplishments, such as obtaining a master’s degree. It would also change the minimum school year from 182 days to 920 hours for elementary students and 1,050 for high school students, giving more flexibility to schools. CityBeat took an in-depth look at the governor’s budget and some of its education changes here.

Ohio Democrats want to change how the state picks its watchdog. The governor currently appoints someone to the inspector general position, but Democrats argue a bipartisan panel should be in charge of making the pick.

Mayor Mark Mallory is in Spain to meet with CAF, the company constructing the cars for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Streetcar opponents, including mayoral candidate John Cranley, say the cars are being built too early, but the city says it needs the time to build the cars, test them, burn the tracks and train staff in the cars use. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race here.

The amount of Ohio prisoners returning to prison after being released hit a new low of 28.7 percent in 2009. The numbers, which are calculated over a three-year period, indicate an optimistic trend for the state’s recidivism statistics even before Gov. John Kasich’s sentencing reform laws were signed into law.

Cincinnati’s real estate brokers say the city manager’s parking plan will revitalize Downtown’s retail scene by using funds from semi-privatizing Cincinnati’s parking assets to renovate Tower Place Mall and build a 30-story apartment tower with a parking garage and grocery store.

The University of Cincinnati was the second-best fundraiser in the state in the past year. On Feb. 20, UC announced it had met its $1 billion goal for its Proudly Cincinnati campaign.

On Saturday, Bradley Manning, the American citizen accused of leaking a massive stash of diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, went through his 1,000th day in U.S. custody without a trial.

Popular Science has seven ways sitting is going to kill us all.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.23.2013
Posted In: Privatization, Prisons, News at 05:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

Inspection Finds Dangerous Conditions at Private Prison

Report echoes concerns raised by privatization critics

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. Rates of inmate-on-staff violence increased by 305.9-percent between 2010 and 2012 and were much higher than comparative prisons and the ODRC average, according to the report.

Safety and security were major areas of concern, with the report noting “personal safety is at risk.” Fight convictions were up 40 percent, but they weren’t any higher than comparative prisons or the ODRC average, the report found. 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, the report said: “Incident reports indicate that staff hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full.”

Fair treatment, fiscal accountability and rehabilitation and reentry were all found by the report to be in need of improvement, with many of the problems focusing on inadequate staff — a common concern critics repeatedly voiced after Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to sell the state prison to CCA in 2011. “The above issues are compounded by high staff turnover and low morale,” the report said. “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. Staff also reported that they are often required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their response.”

The troubling findings left CIIC with dozens of recommendations for the private prison, including a thorough review of staff policy and guidelines, stronger cooperation between staff, holding staff and inmates more accountable and the completion of required state audits and evaluations.

The only positive findings were in health and well-being. The report said unit conditions, mental health services and food services were all good, while medical services and recreation were acceptable.

The report echoes many of the concerns raised by private prison critics, which CityBeat previously covered (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). A September audit from ODRC also found the prison was only meeting two-thirds of the state’s standards, and reports from locals near the prison in January warned about a rise in smuggling.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.04.2013
Posted In: Prisons, Privatization, News, Economy, Budget at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

Morning News and Stuff

Violence at private prison, JobsOhio gets liquor funds, Kasich's budget blueprint

There’s even more bad news coming from Ohio’s newly privatized prison. Violence last week forced Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to call in the state’s special response team, according to Plunderbund. Two teams from the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation were dispatched. Gov. John Kasich pushed prison privatization in his 2012-2013 budget to save costs. CityBeat covered private prisons and the shady connections CCA had to the current state government prior to the sale here.

There might be a court case disputing JobsOhio’s constitutionality, but that hasn’t stopped the state government from moving forward with implementing the private, nonprofit agency. On Friday, the state announced it transferred $500 million in state liquor funds to JobsOhio. The Ohio Supreme Court recently agreed to take up a case from ProgressOhio disputing whether state funds can be used for the private agency. Kasich established the agency in an effort to encourage job growth in Ohio.

Kasich will reveal the blueprint for his 2014-2015 budget plan later today. According to Gongwer, his proposed budget will cut personal income taxes across the board and offset the cuts by closing loopholes and broadening the sales tax base. The governor has long been eying an income tax cut. He previously suggested raising the oil and gas severance tax to help pay for a tax cut, but the plan faces bipartisan opposition.

In the 2013 mayoral race, John Cranley is currently outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, but both Democrats are fairly close. Qualls has raised $134,188, while Cranley has raised $170,877. Most of the race has focused on the streetcar so far, with Qualls supporting and Cranley against the twice-voter-approved transit project.

The city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy have reached a limited agreement to meet in court to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar’s tracks. As part of the agreement, Duke will begin moving lines in the next few weeks, even while the city and Duke wait for courts to decide who will pay for moving the lines. Mayor Mark Mallory also announced the city will try to finish the streetcar project in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, but he added there are no guarantees. For more on the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race, check out CityBeat’s cover story.

Libertarian Jim Berns recently forced a mayoral primary by entering the race.

Community leaders around Greater Cincinnati are mapping out veteran services programs.

Ohio is expanding its foreclosure prevention program. The maximum benefit possible has increased from $25,000 to $35,000, and the highest annual household income allowed to participate in the program is now $112,375.

The Ohio Board of Regents finished moving to the Ohio Board of Education building.

Looks like Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich’s Twitter account was hacked.

Smokers will pay higher prices under Obamacare.

Physicists have created crystals that are nearly alive.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.28.2013
Posted In: Economy, Education, Drugs, News, Budget, Prisons at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

School funding changes soon, prison union wants more security, drug abuse costs employers

School superintendents will hear about Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal Thursday. The proposal, which will change how all of Ohio’s schools are publicly funded, will be released to the wider public Feb. 4. Many school officials are bracing for the worst, according to Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat that the proposal is “a big undertaking”: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”

Ohio’s largest prison staff union is asking Kasich’s administration to increase the amount of prison security officers following a late December report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The report found a correlation between rising prison violence and a decrease in prison security staff, affirming a position the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has held for years.

A Journal News report found substance abuse comes at a heavy loss for Ohio employers, including more workplace injuries, higher medical costs, more absenteeism and reduced productivity. Some experts advocate for drug testing to lower the costs, while others argue drug testing can often affect innocent, responsible drug users. Employers are much more likely to test for marijuana over alcohol, even though multiple studies show cannabis is less addictive and harmful.

The flu epidemic may be leveling off in Ohio. The state health department revealed the amount of hospitalizations involving the flu have plateaued, but the department cautions the calm could be temporary.

The women’s sections of county and regional jails are facing higher levels of overcrowding. The overcrowding is a result of a 2011 law that enables fourth- and fifth-degree felons to be held at county jails instead of state prisons.

A new online tool reveals the salaries of public school teachers and staff.

The extensive audit of Ohio schools and their attendance information will be released Feb. 11. The preliminary reports found Cincinnati Public Schools were clean. The investigation into attendance fraud began when Lockland schools in Hamilton County were caught falsifying attendance data.

A new poll found an overwhelming majority of Kentucky parents favor raising the school dropout age to 18, up from the current age of 16.

Ohio gas prices are still rising.

Researchers made super-realistic lung tissue with levitating cells. The development allows researchers to better study how toxins affect the lungs.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.14.2013
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

More laws to curb human trafficking, feds stop fracking waste, Mallory tours with feds

Gov. John Kasich is ready to support further action on human trafficking. Members of the Ohio legislature have already committed to further action. The next few measures will address the statute of limitations for trafficking, parents who traffic their children and laws affecting children services and child welfare. Last session, the legislature passed a “safe harbor” law that changed the classification of children caught in prostitution from criminals to victims. A 2010 bill also increased penalties for human trafficking and related crimes.

A Texas-based company wants to ship thousands of barrels of fracking waste through river barges to Ohio. But the U.S. Coast Guard is halting the plan while it investigates whether the waste can be transported through water routes and the plan’s potential environmental impact. Critics are worried Ohio is becoming a dumping ground for fracking waste.

Mayor Mark Mallory took a tour with federal officials to show off developments going on in the city and the potential route for the streetcar. The tour was meant to show off projects that have gotten help from the federal government. After the bus tour, Mallory acknowledged the city has “a lot of work to do,” but he added, “There really is a buzz about Cincinnati around this country. It is true.”

A Cincinnati Children’s Hospital survey found one-third of teen girls report meeting with someone they’ve met online. Psychologist Jennie Noll says abused or neglected girls are more likely to present themselves in sexually provocative ways on the Internet and meet more people in real life. Noll warned the meetings can be dangerous for young girls. Apparently, the meetings seem to happen regardless of Internet filtering software, but high-quality parenting and monitoring can help.

Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority is planning housing development for Mount Healthy. The development is coming after a study found the need for more housing in the area.

A controversial luxury apartment complex has been approved in Blue Ash. The approval came despite neighbors complaining that the complex will be an eyesore for the community.

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Cincinnati will hire 200 positions.

A recent rise in smuggling led a Conneaut, Ohio, councilman to send a letter to Gov. John Kasich asking for the state to intervene at Corrections Corporation of America’s Lake Erie Correctional Institution. But Col. John Born, superintendent at the Ohio State Highway Patrol, wrote in a response that criminal incidents have gone down at the CCA facility, even though drug smuggling has gone up. He also writes the state has deployed more cruisers, but he claims local law enforcement have better means and legal authority to deal with cases at the prison.

In other prison news, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Director Gary Mohr wants to keep misbehaving inmates in prison longer. In the last legislative session, Mohr helped push laws that reduced sentences for low-crime offenders.

Looks like State Treasurer Josh Mandel is firing 10 percent of his staff. The press release for the announcement has great wording for the bad news: “Treasurer Mandel announces further payroll reductions and personnel consolidation.”

Ohio gas prices ticked up in response to hopes of a larger economic recovery.

The Cincinnati Zoo has another adorable animal: the Brazilian ocelot kitten.

Science says global warming won’t suck for everyone. Canadian killer whales tend to make gains, for example. Should humanity really risk making killer whales even stronger? They can already take down animals that are on solid surface.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.11.2013
Posted In: News, Prisons, Privatization at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

More Bad News From Private Prison

Conneaut councilman asks state to intervene at CCA facility

Private prison critics have been proven right once again. Smuggling incidents are on the rise around Lake Erie Correctional Institution, which Ohio sold to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011.

In a letter to Gov. John Kasich’s northeast Ohio liaison, Conneaut Councilman Neil LaRusch claimed a rise in contraband smuggling has forced local police to increase security around the CCA facility.

Since the end of 2012, four have been arrested and charged with smuggling. Another four were arrested Monday and police suspect they were in Conneaut for a smuggling job. According to the Star Beacon, the four suspects arrested Monday were only caught due to the increased police presence outside the Lake Erie prison.

LaRusch said Conneaut and its police department are already running tight budgets, and they can’t afford to continue padding prison security. He then asked the state and governor to help out with the situation.

The letter prompted a reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU), which has staunchly opposed prison privatization in the state. In a statement, Mike Brickner, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU, said, “Unfortunately, this is a predictable pattern with private prisons. Promises of lower costs quickly morph into higher crime, increased burdens on local law enforcement, and in the end, a higher bill for taxpayers.”

He added, “This is not an anomaly. It is a predictable pattern. The private prison model is built on profit above all else. These facilities will cut corners and shift responsibility to taxpayers wherever necessary to maximize profits.”

The governor’s office and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a response becomes available.

Update (5:00 p.m.): Col. John Born, superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, responded to the councilman's letter. In his own letter, Born doesn't contradict that there's a rise in drug smuggling, but he gives the issue more context.

Born wrote criminal incidents at the Lake Erie prison have actually decreased. He acknowledges drug smuggling cases went up from four in 2011 to seven in 2012, but he says drug cases have gone down at the prison since 2010.

He also claims seven other state prisons have seen a greater rise in drug smuggling. Born frames the issue in a national context: Unfortunately, despite best efforts, the national problem of illegal drug usage and drug trafficking continues to plague our nation.

Regarding state assistance, Born wrote the Ohio State Highway Patrol does not have the authority to strengthen security in order to directly prevent drug smuggling: It is important to point out the Ohio State Highway Patrol's legal authority and corresponding duties prior to the sale of the prison and after the sale remain largely unchanged. Ohio troopers did not have original jurisdiction on private property off institution grounds while under state operations nor do they today.

He adds the Ohio State Highway Patrol has already deployed more cruisers at the prison, but he believes local law enforcement are still the best option for responding to incidents.

JoEllen Smith, spokesperson for ODRC, wrote in an email, DRC will be in communication with the parties involved to ensure any remaining concerns are addressed.

CityBeat previously covered private prisons in-depth (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). Within a week of the story going to stands, ODRC Director Gary Mohr said the state would not privatize any more prisons. On the same day of his announcement, Mohr apparently received an audit that found the CCA facility was only meeting 66.7 percent of state standards (“Prison Privatization Blues,” issue of Oct. 10).

 
 
by German Lopez 01.02.2013
 
 
john boehner

Morning News and Stuff

Fiscal cliff averted, Boehner uses naughty word, private prison penalized

Happy new year! Yes, planet Earth made it through another year. Welcome to an “extra saucy” Morning News and Stuff.

U.S. Congress managed to narrowly avert the “fiscal cliff,” a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in at the beginning of 2013. If the fiscal cliff had not been prevented, economists and the Congressional Budget Office warned the United States would have plunged back into recession. The final deal keeps tax hikes for those making more than $450,000 a year, and most Americans will see their taxes increase as the payroll tax break passed with President Barack Obama’s stimulus package expires. It’s important to remember that the passing of a deal is not some show of bipartisan heroism; instead, it’s Congress barely preventing an entirely self-inflicted problem.

But the deal did not come smoothly. Not only did Congress wait until the very last moment, but U.S. Speaker John Boehner used a naughty word. At a White House meeting, the Ohio politician shot at unfavorable comments from Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s by telling Reid, “Go f— yourself.” In fact, Boehner actually used the naughty word twice! Reid replied, “What are you talking about?” Boehner once again said, “Go f— yourself.” Who knew U.S. Congress would turn out to be so much like high school?

When Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) Lake Erie prison received an unfavorable audit, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reacted by cutting payments to CCA by $573,000. CityBeat covered the audit and its troubling findings here. CityBeat also covered private prisons in-depth here.

On the bright side, Ohio’s minimum wage went up, like it’s required to do so every year. Policy Matters Ohio says the increase will bring in $340 per year for 215,000 low-wage workers around the state. 

Cincinnati-based Kroger is looking mighty tempting this year. Stock-wise, anyway. I don’t think many people like grocery shopping.

A court ruled Ohio overcharged 270,000 businesses for workers’ compensation premiums and must repay them. The ruling could cost the state millions of dollars.

In case anyone was worried, the national standards Ohio adopted for schools do not ban The Catcher in the Rye. Book cliff averted.

Allstate is hiring in Ohio. I’m not sure why this is news, but it’s on multiple newspapers today, so there it is.

Gays are now marrying in Maryland. Is the apocalypse near?

Intel could be looking to revolutionize the cable industry by allowing people to subscribe to individual TV channels.

That’s not a medieval weapon; it’s a space rover! The new rovers planned by top universities and NASA could visit Mars’ moon Phobos or an asteroid. It’s, like, whatever.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.27.2012
Posted In: Homelessness, News, Economy, Business, Courts, Prisons at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
scioto jcf

Morning News and Stuff

Youthful prisons get mixed report, Leis to stay on public payroll, shelter move approved

Despite problems with staff and records, a report is calling changes to Ohio’s youth prisons system a model for the nation. The report from a court-appointed monitor praised the Ohio Department of Youth Services for reducing the number of offenders in secure confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around the state. However, the report also points out staff shortages, inadequate teachers and inconsistent medical records. Advocates for youthful offenders claim the bad findings show a need for continued court supervision.

There’s a new sheriff in town, and the old one is becoming a visiting judge. Simon Leis, who served as sheriff for 25 years, is best known for going after an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and prosecuting pornographer Larry Flynt. As visiting judge, he will take on cases other judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets.

An appeals court is allowing City Gospel Mission to move to Queensgate. The special assistance shelter wants to move from its current Over-the-Rhine property to Dalton Avenue, but businesses and property owners at Queensgate oppose the relocation. In its opinion, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals said opponents to the relocation “have not raised any genuine issues of material fact in support of their constitutional attack upon the notwithstanding ordinance in their capacity as neighboring businesses and property owners.”

Butler County nonprofit services are worried that a greater need for their services in 2013 will force more budget tightening.

U.S. retailers did not have a good Christmas. Holiday sales were at the lowest they’ve been since 2008. The disappointing sales have forced retailers to offer big discounts in hopes of selling excess inventory.

Former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care “following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,” according to his spokesperson.

The Food and Drug Administration says FrankenFish, a giant, genetically modified salmon, is environmentally safe.

Fun fact: More Iranians worry about global warming than Americans. 

Colleges are now helping students scrub their online footprints.

Antifreeze now tastes bitter to deter animals and children from eating it.

Scientists have developed a highly advanced robot boy capable of doing chores. Keep its face in mind, for you could be looking at the first of our future robot overlords.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.08.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, Government, News, Voting, Prisons, Budget at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here. Tomorrow is also the last day to register to vote.

A federal appeals court upheld the decision to allow in-person early voting for everyone during the three days prior to the election. The decision comes as a big win to President Barack Obama’s campaign, which filed a lawsuit to restore in-person early voting on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Republicans in the state have repeatedly pushed against expanded early voting, citing racial politics and costs. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Friday he will decide what to do with the ruling after the weekend. The court ruling means Husted could close down all boards of election on the three days before Election day, eliminating early voting for everyone — including military voters. If Husted doesn’t act, individual county boards of election will decide whether to stay open or closed.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is discussing the budget today. It has a few options, but all of them involve cuts.

A recently released audit by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) found the private prison sold to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has some serious problems. The prison only met 66.7 percent of Ohio’s standards, and 47 violations were found. CCA says it’s working with ODRC to resolve the problems. The news mostly confirmed the findings of CityBeat’s in-depth look into private prisons.  

Schools responded to the state auditor’s recent report that found five school districts were scrubbing data and the Ohio Department of Education did not have enough safeguards. The five school districts generally objected, saying they did not purposely alter any data provided to the state.  

Humana will be hiring for 200 full-time jobs in Greater Cincinnati.

The University of Cincinnati is turning up its search for a new president this week. First up for consideration: Provost and Interim President Santa Ono.

The Associated Press says Cincinnati is a changed city thanks to recent development funding.

There will be a bar crawl to support the Anna Louise Inn on Oct. 13. The bar crawl, hosted by Ohioans United to Protect Abused Women, will last from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets will be sold for $10 with all proceeds going to the Anna Louise Inn. Participating bars will be Milton's Prospect Hill Tavern, Neon's, The Drinkery, MOTR, JAPS and Arnold's Bar.

Mayor Mark Mallory challenged San Francisco’s mayor to a chili cook-off to benefit the city that wins the Reds-Giants playoffs. Mallory touted some fighting words in a statement announcing the friendly bet: “I sure hope San Francisco Chili is as good as Mayor Lee says it is, that way it raises lots of money for Cincinnati’s youth, after the Reds send the Giants packing in the first round.”

Meet the chair of the U.S. House Science Committee's panel on investigations and oversight. He says evolution and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.05.2012
Posted In: Prisons, News, Government at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

Private Prison Violates State Rules

Audit finds Northeast Ohio prison in compliance with only two-thirds of state standards

A recent audit of the Ohio prison bought by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) found the private prison is only meeting 66.7 percent of the state’s standards. The report found a total of 47 violations in the CCA-owned prison, which the state government sold to CCA last year as part of a privatization push set out in Ohio’s 2012-13 budget.

The news comes slightly more than two weeks after CityBeat published a story looking at the many problems presented by Ohio’s policy to privatize prisons (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19).

“It was apparent throughout certain departments that DRC policy and procedure is not being followed,” the audit said. “Staff was interviewed and some stated they are not sure what to do because of the confusion between CCA policy and DRC policy. Some staff expressed safety concerns due to low staffing numbers and not having enough coverage. Other staff stated that there is increased confusion due to all the staffing transitions.”

The report says “there has been a big staff turnover,” and only one staff person was properly trained to meet Ohio Risk Assessment System standards. The audit found that a workplace violence liaison wasn’t appointed or trained. Inmates complained they felt unsafe and that staff “had their hands tied’” and “had little control over some situations.”

The local fire plan had no specific steps to release inmates from locked areas in case of emergency, and local employees said “they had no idea what they should do” in case of a fire emergency.

The audit also found all housing units provided less than the required 25 square feet on unencumbered space per occupant. It found single watch cells held two prisoners with some sleeping on the floor, and some triple-bunked cells had a third inmate sleeping on a mattress on the floor. 

Searches in general seemed to be a problem for CCA. Documentation showed that contraband searches were only done 16 days in August. When the searches were done, the contraband was not properly processed to the vault and was sometimes left in desks. The private prison also could not provide documentation that proved executive staff were conducting weekly rounds to informally observe living and working conditions among inmates and staff.

These findings, although major, are only the tip of the iceberg: Inmates claimed laundry and cell cleaning services were not provided and CCA could not prove otherwise, recreation time was not always allowed five times a week in segregation as required, food quality and sanitization was not up to standards, infirmary patients were “not seen timely,” patients’ doctor appointments were often delayed with follow-ups rarely occurring, the facility had no written confined space program, the health care administrator could not explain or show an overall plan and nursing competency evaluations were not completed before the audit was conducted. Many more issues were found as well.

The one bright spot in the report is ODRC found staff to be “very professional, friendly and helpful during the audit.” Inmates were also “dressed appropriately and found to be wearing their identification badges.”

The findings shine some light into why ODRC Director Gary Mohr might have decided to stop privatizing Ohio’s prisons. On Sept. 25 — the same day the audit was mailed to Mohr’s office — Mohr announced his department would focus on sentencing reforms to bring down recidivism instead of saving costs by privatizing more prisons. The news came during the week CityBeat’s cover story on private prisons was in stands.

Mohr is one of many in Gov. John Kasich’s administration to have previous connections to CCA. He advised the private prison company “in areas of staff leadership, and development and implementing unit management,” according to the ODRC website. Donald Thibaut, Kasich’s former chief of staff and close friend, now lobbies for CCA. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also helped CCA reopen its Youngstown facility in 2004 with a federal contract during his term as U.S. senator.

The report confirms a lot of what CityBeat found in its in-depth look at private prisons. The studies cited in CityBeat’s Sept. 17 story — including research by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio — found multiple issues in private prisons’ standards around the country. One study by George Washington University found private prisons have a 50 percent higher rate of inmate-on-staff assault and a 66 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assault. The troubling numbers were attributed to lower standards at private prisons that keep costs low and profits high.

The lower standards are coupled with a private prison’s need to house as many inmates as possible, contrary to public interests of keeping re-entry to prisons low.

“It doesn’t make any difference to them whether or not a person eventually integrates back into society,” said Mike Brickner, communications and public policy director at ACLU. “Looking from a cynical approach, it actually helps them if that person (is convicted again) because they come back into their prison and they get money off them again.”

Poor living and health standards were also found in a Youngstown prison held by CCA in the 1990s. In 1997, the Youngstown prison was opened by CCA to house 1,700 of the nation’s most dangerous criminals. Within one year, 20 prisoners were stabbed, two were murdered and six escaped. The ensuing public outrage led to higher standards at the facility. The more stringent rules were credited for leading to the prison’s eventual closing as the facility was quickly made unprofitable for CCA.

Steve Owen, spokesperson for CCA, responded to the audit in a statement: “CCA is taking concrete corrective steps to ensure that this facility meets not only the ODRC's goals but our own high expectations for our facilities. We are working in partnership with the ODRC on a development plan, which will lay out a road map to meet our goals, and our team will meet bi-weekly with ODRC staff and officials until we have this matter resolved.”

 
 

 

 

 
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