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.
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.”
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.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer
gave some insight into what happened with Williams and the UC Board of
Trustees the day before Williams’ resignation. Apparently, there was no
sign of conflict in the correspondence and emails revealed under the
Ohio Open Records Act, but anonymous sources told The Enquirer that the relationship between Williams and the UC Board of Trustees was breaking down prior to Williams’ resignation. The Enquirer
could not get information from Margaret Buchanan, the publisher and president
of the newspaper that is also on the UC Board of Trustees; instead,
Buchanan referred reporters to Francis Barrett, another trustee.
nonprofit group says Mitt Romney’s health care proposals are more
expensive for Ohio than Obamacare. Families USA, a left-leaning group
that lobbies on health issues, says Romney’s plan would make families
pay about $10,100 a year on health care — almost twice the $5,100 paid
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced it will not
be privatizing more prisons. The announcement came less than a week
after CityBeat’s in-depth story on private prisons and the many issues
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said Josh Mandel, state treasurer and the Republican candidate for this year's senate race, is only doing as well as he is in polling due to $20 million in pro-Mandel spending coming from out-of-state sources. But the money doesn't seem to be helping much; Mandel is currently down by 7.5 points in aggregate polling.
celebrate Mandel’s birthday, Ohio Democrats gave him a new pair of
pants. Democrats said Mandel, who is Ohio’s treasurer and Republican
candidate for the U.S. Senate, will need the pants after earning “more
‘Pants on Fire’ ratings from Politifact Ohio than any politician in
is working on rainwater harvesting codes. A task force has made
progress on the issue in the past year, but Cincinnati has only had one
rainwater harvesting system installed since 2009.
A new manufacturer could be bringing 60 jobs to Northern Kentucky.
Ackman, an activist investor, has a few bad things to say about Procter
& Gamble. The problem? The public doesn’t know what those
exotic pet owners are acting slowly in registering their pets, putting
themselves at risk for jail time if they don’t register before Nov. 5.
In an interview with Cleveland's The Plain Dealer, President Barack Obama said he will go after China's unfair trading practices, but the United States will not “go out of our way to embarrass” China. Obama said the lighter approach typically produces better results.
The Cincinnati Reds rode their great home season to a 6 percent attendance gain.
Science says traveling into the future is technically possible, but traveling to the past “can only exist in the movies.”
Speaking of the past and science, Popular Science
posted an old article published in 1961 with predictions for the future’s
family cars. The article predicted invisible, self-driving cars that
could travel at 1,500 mph.
Gary Mohr, director of ODRC, made the announcement while talking to legislative reporting service Gongwer in Columbus Tuesday.
“We're going to stay the course on those (sentencing reforms) and I think privatizing
additional prisons would take away from that reform effort that we have,
so I'm not anticipating privatizing any more prisons in the short term
here,” he told Gongwer.
Ohio became the first state to sell one of its own prisons to a private prison company in 2011. The ACLU criticized the move for its potential conflict of interest. The organization argued that the profit goal of private prison companies, which make money by holding as many prisoners as possible, fundamentally contradicts the public policy goal of keeping inmate reentry into prisons and prison populations as low as possible.
In his comments to Gongwer, Mohr said the state will now focus on lowering recidivism, not increasing privatization: “I don't think you can go through upheaval of a system and continue to put prioritization on reform at the same time. I think if we were to re-engage again on privatization of prisons, then we're going to take the eye off the ball a little bit, and I think we're making great progress. It's a matter of focus.”
In the past, the ACLU and other groups criticized Mohr's previous ties to private prison companies — particularly his private work for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) before he became the director for ODRC. CCA in 2011 became the first private company in Ohio's history to purchase a state prison. The connection presents another possible conflict of interest, and it is only one of the many connections between CCA and Gov. John Kasich's administration.
Mike Brickner, ACLU researcher and director of communications and public policy, praised ODRC's decision in a statement: “Despite millions spent by private companies trying to convince policy makers and local governments otherwise, numerous studies have shown private prisons put their own profit ahead of good public policy. ODRC is wise to see that the privatization model distracts from their important efforts to shrink inmate population and reduce recidivism.”
But Brickner also made further demands from the state: “ODRC should go a step further by making a commitment not to privatize additional prison services such as food and medical care. Arguments for privatizing these services use the same faulty logic as the arguments for privatizing entire prisons.”
CityBeat was not able to immediately reach ODRC for comment on Mohr’s announcement. This story will be updated if comments become available.
During the course of researching and reporting last week's story on prison privatization in Ohio, CityBeat found the ODRC to be dismissive of our interest in speaking with Mohr or a spokesperson about private prisons. During two weeks of correspondence, CityBeat received numerous excuses as to why the ODRC couldn't grant an interview and eventually received two emails with the exact same statement — one from ODRC, a state
department, and one from Management and Training Corporation, a private
company that manages prisons in Ohio. The statement added a strange twist to the already-suspicious fact that the ODRC didn't want to talk about its prison privatization plan with the media. A full explanation of the issues ODRC posed to the reporting process can be found in the editor's note at the end of the cover story.