0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Privatization schemes in Cincinnati and Ohio just went through a bad month.
by German Lopez
49 days ago
Few local contributions to Issue 4, private prison mired in violence, Ohio could limit voting
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
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
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
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.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
50 days ago
New audit of Lake Erie facility finds improvements, but some problems linger
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
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:
by German Lopez
99 days ago
War on drugs fails goals, housing complex raises concerns, courts deny parking challenges
With the war on drugs widely considered a failure after more than four decades, experts are suggesting legalization and decriminalization as viable alternatives.
One concern: Despite recent attempts at sentencing reform, Ohio’s
prison population is set to grow further and breach a capacity barrier
previously set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling against California.
With costs rising and drug use rates seemingly unaffected by harsher
enforcement, groups of academics, former law enforcement officials and civil
libertarians say it’s time to look at states and countries that have
abandoned criminalization and harsh enforcement with great success. To read the full story, click here.
A planned supportive housing facility in Avondale is raising concerns for residents
who claim the complex could hurt a neighborhood already plagued by
poverty, crime, obesity, unemployment and homelessness. Particularly
worrying for Avondale 29, the group opposing the plans, is that the
facility is near a daycare and elementary school, which the group says
could have a negative impact on neighborhood children. Supporters of the
facility say the opposition is based on widespread misinformation. They
point to a similar similar supportive housing facility in Columbus,
which, according to the Columbus Police Department’s Gary Scott, had
a positive impact on the community surrounding it.
Opponents of Cincinnati’s parking lease were dealt two major blows in court yesterday: The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear their first legal challenge and effectively upheld the city’s referendum-immune emergency powers, and the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court refused to place a temporary restraining order
on the lease despite claims that the city manager made “significant and
material” changes to the deal without City Council approval. Both the
challenges come from the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims parking rates and enforcement
hours will rise because the city is ceding too much power over its
services by leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority. Supporters of the parking lease argue the
plan is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets to finance
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base.
Commentary: “Secrecy Plagues Potentially Good Programs.”
The city is fighting to have a document removed
from its legal battle over the streetcar with Duke Energy. City officials says the document is “nothing scandalous” and the city just
made a mistake by accidentally disclosing it, but a Duke attorney says
the document is a source of “embarrassment” for the city and important
to the case. As part of an agreement, Cincinnati and Duke are arguing in
court to settle who has to pay an estimated $15 million to move utility
lines to accommodate for the streetcar route.
Advocates of the federally funded Medicaid expansion yesterday filed petitions to the state attorney general’s office
to get the issue on the 2014 ballot. As part of Obamacare, states are
asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone up to 138
percent of the federal poverty level. If they accept, the federal
government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion’s cost for three
years then indefinitely phase down to 90 percent. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio found the expansion would save Ohio $1.8 billion and insure half a million Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and state Democrats support the expansion, but Republican legislators are resisting it.
More than two-thirds of Ohioans support laws that protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination, but more than four in five mistakenly think such laws are already in place at the state and federal levels, according to the 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.
The survey also found a slim majority of Ohioans oppose amending the
state constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which somewhat
contradicts earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University that found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage.
State agencies are probing the second high-profile suicide in an Ohio prison
in the past month. Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man who was sentenced to
life for kidnapping three women and beating and raping them as he held
them for a decade, was found hanging on Tuesday after an apparent
suicide. His death was the seventh suicide in an Ohio prison this year
and the 35th since 2008. “As horrifying as Mr. Castro’s crimes may be,
the state has a responsibility to ensure his safety from himself and
others,” said Christine Link, executive director of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio, in a statement. “Questions remain whether Mr.
Castro was properly screened for suicide risk and mental illness.”
The Ohio Development Services Agency is offering $30 million in loans and grants
to employers who train their workforce. “Building a strong economy is
about ensuring Ohio’s workforce has the tools it needs for success,”
said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in
a statement. “We want our workforce to be ready for the competitive
jobs of tomorrow.”
Ohio legislators are asking the federal government to pursue a balanced-budget amendment.
Although the amendment might sound like a good idea in campaign
platitudes, many economists agree it’s a bad idea because it limits the
federal government’s flexibility in reacting to economic downturns that
typically cause deficits by lowering tax revenues and increasing the
amount of people on government services.
A Fairfield, Ohio, woman is being forced by the Fairfield Board of Zoning Appeals to get rid of five of her seven dogs.
The woman, who says she suffers from depression, Parkinson’s disease and
multiple sclerosis, says she needs the dogs to cope. The zoning board
said it had heard anonymous complaints from neighbors, which apparently
convinced the board to not provide an exemption for Fairfield’s two-pet limit.Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is considering dropping some products and offering low-price alternatives for others in response to growing concerns about lacking performance.For the second time in a year, an Ohio judge is publicly shaming a convicted idiot.
A new implant allows doctors look into people’s brains.
by German Lopez
Cranley's inclusion plan, effort targets abortion limits, more charter school waste found
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley is releasing a plan
today that promises to reward more of the city’s business contracts to
black people, Latinos and women if he’s elected. Cranley says he will
hire an inclusion officer that would help him achieve the goals of the plan,
which is modeled partly after the African American Chamber of Commerce’s
OPEN Cincinnati Plan that was passed by City Council in 2009. “In order
to make Cincinnati a world-class city, we have to have a thriving,
diverse middle class. We can’t do that if we leave half of our residents
behind economically,” Cranley said in a statement. Cranley’s main
opponent in the mayoral race is Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls,
who supported the OPEN Cincinnati Plan in 2009. So far, the main issues surrounding the campaign have been the streetcar and parking plan — both of which Cranley opposes and Qualls supports.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is asking Ohioans to take up a long, complicated petitioning process
that could lead to the repeal of some of the anti-abortion measures in
the state budget. The process could force the Ohio General Assembly to
consider repealing some of the measures unrelated to appropriating state
funds, or it could put the repeal effort on the ballot in November
2014. FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal campaign through a new
website, Ohioans Fight Back. CityBeat
covered the state budget and its anti-abortion provisions, which
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law, in further detail here.
A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds
at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA), Greater Cincinnati’s
largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a
range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The
school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on
charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. CCPA is set to
receive $6 million from the state in 2014, up 3 percent from the
previous year.The state’s prison watchdog released a new report that found force is more often used against blacks in Ohio prisons.
Nearly 65 percent of “use of force” incidents in 2012 involved blacks,
even though they only make up about 46 percent of the total prison
After analyzing reports from the first quarter, Hamilton County revised its estimates for casino revenue downward.
That means $500,000 less in 2014 for the stadium fund, which has long
presented problems for the county’s budget. Still, the county says the
revision isn’t a big problem and the focus should instead be on the bigger problem: a looming $30 million budget gap.
Following an approved transfer from the governor and his staff, Ohio’s “rainy day fund” hit an all-time record of $1.5 billion.
The fund is typically tapped into during emergency economic situations
in which the state must spend a lot of extra money or take extraordinary
measures to fix a sudden budget shortfall.
Cincinnati area exports reached a record high in 2012.
Ohio is No. 4 in the nation for foreclosures,
according to a report from real estate information company RealtyTrac.
The report adds more doubt to claims that Ohio is undergoing some
sort of unique economic recovery, following a string of reports that
found year-over-year job growth is lacking in the state. Still, Ohio added
more jobs than any other state in May. If the robust growth holds in the
June job report due next week, it could be a great economic sign for the state.
Early streetcar work is leading to a downtown street closure this weekend, presenting yet another sign that the project is moving forward. Earlier this week, CityBeat published the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project.
New evidence suggests a fraction of disposable wells used during the hydraulic fracturing process — also known as “fracking” — cause earthquakes,
but the risk can be averted with careful monitoring, according to the
researchers. Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water
underground to free up oil and gas reserves. CityBeat covered its effects in Ohio in further detail here.
A nanoparticle device can kill germs with sunlight.
by German Lopez
Prison company currently owns and operates Ohio's Lake Erie Correctional Institution
The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) lost four prison contracts in June as a result of rising violence and turmoil in the corrections facilities, echoing many of the same problems critics claim are found in a CCA-owned facility located in northeastern Ohio.A report from the American Civil Liberties Union found CCA lost contracts in Idaho, Texas and Mississippi this month. The most recent announcement came Wednesday in Idaho, where a prison was allegedly deemed so dangerous that prisoners took to calling the facility "Gladiator School."Two of the contracts are being sold to other companies, which the ACLU claims is a bad idea."Rather than repeatedly handing off authority to a revolving door of contractors, states need to both take responsibility for their own prisons and reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system in the first place," wrote Carl Takei of the ACLU National Prison Project. "Only then can they unshackle themselves from the false promise of for-profit imprisonment."In May, CityBeat published an in-depth report about the CCA-owned prison in Ohio, which detailed evidence of rising violence and unsanitary conditions first exposed to CityBeat by concerned inmates and their families.CityBeat could not reach CCA for immediate comment on the ACLU report. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.
by German Lopez
Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget
Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to
the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and
independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and
rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by
official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the
Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA
accountable. To read the full story, click here.
A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state.
The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code,
potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s
libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes.
If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to
set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to
considerably less funding for the public institutions.
City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters,
but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs,
increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public
safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city
officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan
to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.
Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.”
A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront
and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The
bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down
abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund
anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion,
while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going
through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.
The Ohio legislature is moving to take away
the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor
Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes
private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have
pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators
established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she
got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is
taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is
discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital
sex rules against women than men.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits
in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the
school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.
Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.
CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here.
To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
by German Lopez
Ohio senator goes after big banks, governors clash, Ohio reduces prison re-entry
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is putting forward legislation
that would break up the big banks to avoid what has been colloquially
dubbed “too big to fail.” The liberal senator is teaming up with Sen.
David Vitter, a very conservative Republican from Louisiana, to put together the bill, which Brown says will make the economy safer, secure taxpayer
money and help create jobs. In his push, Brown has compared the big
banks to Standard Oil, which was broken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in
1911 after the oil giant breached antitrust laws.
Indiana Gov. Mike Spence fired back
at Ohio Gov. John Kasich for insulting Indiana in recent remarks:
“Indiana is the best state in the Midwest to start a business, grow a
business and get a job. … With the Hoosier state consistently winning
the competition for fiscal responsibility and reform, somebody should
remind the governor of Ohio that trash talk usually comes before the
game.” In a speech Monday, Kasich said, “This is not Indiana where you
go to Indianapolis … and then say, ‘Where else are we going to go?
Ohio is a leader in reducing prison re-entry,
and that’s translating to millions of dollars for the state’s
taxpayers. Ohio’s recidivism rate, which measures how many prison
convicts are returning to prison after being released, dropped to 28.7
percent in 2009, from 39.5 percent in 2003. The
latest data is from 2009, so it’s before Gov. John Kasich took office
and passed measures to further reduce prison recidivism, which provide
new ways for criminals to get records expunged, allow released criminals
to obtain a certificate of qualification from courts for employment and
offer sentence-reduction incentives for prisoners to get job training
and education programs while in prison.
The Ohio House approved a bill
that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, which
state officials claim are havens for gambling and other criminal
activity, by limiting their prize payouts to $10. The bill received
support from law-enforcement groups, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
some charity organizations and the state’s casino operators.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says the city should redirect funding meant for the streetcar to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project,
but the funding is set up through federal grants that are highly
competitive and allocated specifically to the streetcar project.
Opponents of the city’s parking plan briefly celebrated
yesterday when they assumed Graeter’s had joined their efforts, but the
ice cream company says it was all a misunderstanding.
Graeter’s is allowing opponents to gather petition signatures in front
of its stores because the sidewalks are public property, but the company says it didn’t give permission to gather signatures within the stores.
Cincinnati’s Findlay Market earned a glowing review in The Boston Globe, sparking a wave of celebration on social media.
The Smale Riverfront Park is forging ahead largely thanks to the help of private funders, who have made up for an unexpected drop in state and federal funds.
The Ohio Senate paved ahead with legislation that will raise the speed limit
on some highways, particularly in rural areas, to 70 miles per hour.
The bill contains obvious time benefits for drivers, but environmental
groups say higher speed limits mean worse fuel efficiency and insurance
groups say it will make roads more dangerous.
A West Chester trucking company is cutting 250 jobs.
Popular Science has nine reasons to avoid sugar to save your life.
by German Lopez
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
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
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.