by German Lopez
85 days ago
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 16, 2013
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.
by German Lopez
128 days ago
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 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
138 days ago
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
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
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.
State audit reveals failures of Ohio’s newest private prison
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 10, 2012
audit of the private prison sold by Gov. John Kasich last year found
the prison is only meeting 66.7 percent of the state’s standards. The
report, released last week, found a total of 47 violations in a
northeastern Ohio prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America
by German Lopez
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
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
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
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.
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
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.”
by German Lopez
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your
nearest polling booth here. Tomorrow is also the last day to register to
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
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
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.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Corrections (ODRC) on Sept. 25 said it will not seek further
privatization of state prisons. The announcement was made less than a
week after CityBeat published a story detailing the various problems posed by privatizing prisons (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19).
by German Lopez
State agency says Ohio will focus on lowering recidivism
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections
(ODRC) on Tuesday said it will not seek further privatization of state prisons. The announcement was made less than a week after CityBeat published an in-depth story detailing the various problems posed by privatizing prisons (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19).
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.
Should Ohio inmates be commodities in a for-profit venture?
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Security and public policy risks, along with research suggesting that private prisons don't save taxpayer money, paint a grim picture of Ohio’s public and budget health as the state moves to monetize prison inmates.