by Nick Swartsell
96 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:51 AM | Permalink
Local GOPers take heat for supporting Boehner; Supreme Court will hear Ohio gay marriage ban case; smuggling bad stuff in the good book
Hello all! Happy Monday. It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day, and there are a number of things going on around the city in commemoration of the civil rights leader, including a march from The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to Fountain Square at 10 a.m. and a ceremony at Music Hall at noon. This is the 40th year Cincinnati has celebrated MLK Day, so if you’re not stuck at work like I am, maybe head out and take part. More news: Cincinnati’s City Prosecutor Charlie Rubenstein retired Friday. Recently, Rubenstein has been the center of controversy around alleged prosecutorial overreach stemming from a case over the summer where a suspect was accused of stealing $200 worth of candy from a convenience store and putting it in his pants. A security camera was running at the time of the incident and the suspect’s public defender was able to get a copy of the tape. The prosecutor’s office, however, waited too long to request a copy and the store’s owner erased it. After the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office refused to release its copy, Rubenstein had a judge issue a warrant allowing him to search the entire public defender’s office, which of course was not well received. Head public defender Ray Faller fired off a letter to city officials in October accusing Rubenstein of violating the rights of accused suspects. Councilman Charlie Winburn in October called for a Department of Justice investigation into Rubenstein’s actions. It’s unclear if Rubenstein’s sudden retirement has anything to do with the controversy. He had held the job, which prosecutes misdemeanors in the city, since 2011. He’d worked for the city since 1979. The city has named Assistant City Solicitor Heidi Rosales as interim prosecutor until a permanent replacement can be hired.• Two of Cincinnati’s conservative congressmen are taking heat for supporting fellow local guy House Speaker John Boehner. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, both among the most conservative members of the House, have been getting an earful from tea party-affiliated constituents about their support of Boehner during his re-election for House Speaker, the top perch in the chamber. If you’re not familiar with this plot point in the ongoing soap opera that is Republican politics of late, a brief synopsis: The tea party hates Boehner because he hasn’t done enough to roll back federal spending, Obamacare and the liberal agenda in general. Whatever that is. Anyway, a few conservatives in the House signaled they were backing tea party affiliated challengers who lined up to oppose Boehner in the election for speaker, but mostly at the last minute. The gestures had little affect, and Boehner still won easily. Chabot and Wenstrup both point out it would have done little good to vote against their fellow Ohioan, and besides, they say, his challengers came too late and didn’t signal they were serious. • The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear arguments about gay marriage bans in Ohio and other states this spring, lining up what could be a precedent-setting legal battle over Ohio’s ban. In November, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Cincinnati upheld those bans, though other circuit courts across the country have struck them down. That court’s logic was that any ban should be removed by democratic process, not by courts. Ohio voters approved a 2004 amendment to the state’s constitution banning gay marriage, though some public opinion experts say mainstream values have changed since that time. Opponents of this logic liken marriage equality to past advances on civil rights issues which took federal intervention and court decisions to bring about. • Will Ohio tap more private prison companies in response to a possible prison overcrowding crisis? It’s a possibility, state officials say. The number of prisoners in the state’s prison system has begun growing again. The state had been seeing declines due to changes in the way those convicted of some crimes are sentenced. Beginning in 2009, Ohio eliminated more than 2,000 spots for inmates across the state. But a recent increase in the prison-bound, especially non-violent drug offenders, will once again stretch the state’s capacity to hold prisoners. Prison officials say the state either needs to find new ways to house those prisoners or commit to community-based programs that can mitigate the need to house people in state penitentiaries. But those programs can take time to work. In the meantime, the state is looking at ways it can house more inmates, potentially through contracts with private companies like Corrections Corporation of America, which runs a private prison in Youngstown and elsewhere in the state. Audits have found the company does not always comply with state standards. The company also has a rocky history. CCA’s Youngstown prison shut down for a few years after a number of inmate deaths and injuries focused scrutiny on the facility. Efforts to meet state standards at the prison proved too costly, and it was shuttered. It reopened a few years later as a temporary prison for those awaiting federal trials. • Speaking of Ohio and Republicans, here's just what we need: more national Republicans in our fair state. The GOP announced this weekend that it will hold its first debate between candidates for the party’s presidential nomination in the heart of it all. The debate will take place in August. No specific location has been set yet, but the announcement is yet another sign that Ohio will be a huge focus for the 2016 presidential election. The GOP is holding the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Democrats are mulling putting theirs in Columbus and the NAACP will hold its 2016 convention in Cincinnati. • Finally, I saw the headline for this story from the Associated Press and thought “I wonder if that’s in Ohio.” My suspicions were confirmed. Turns out that back in December, a couple folks tried to smuggle heroin into the Hamilton County Justice Center via a bible. What kind of joke can I make about this that won’t be horribly offensive? Just going to leave it right there and walk away.
Inmates told CityBeat about violence, staff ineptitude and unsanitary conditions inside Ohio’s private prison. Then came the surprise inspections.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 29, 2013
has obtained letters and emails from two prisoners and their families
confirming fights, lockdowns and unsanitary conditions at the Lake Erie
prison in northeastern Ohio, which became the first state prison to be
sold to a private company.
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.
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
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
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
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.”