Two prisons by Billy V, on Flickr

Emergency early release taken off table as Ohio considers options for prison overcrowding

As prisoners, advocates and journalists warned of deteriorating conditions in Ohio’s prisons over the past year, the inmate population slowly crept back up to around 30% over capacity.

During that time, prisoners in the buckeye state were fed spoiled, inedible meals by the food contractor Aramark, sometimes tainted with maggots. They also suffered abuse and abysmal conditions at private prisons operated by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), bad enough to inspire a 14-hour peaceful protest. Have the events of this past year finally generated enough misery and public scrutiny to pressure Ohio officials to act?

Without the funding to add more beds to the prison system, Ohio Prison Director Gary Mohr was initially considering reducing the inmate population through ’emergency early release.’ According to the law, Mohr could declare an overcrowding emergency, recommending some nonviolent prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences for early release. This declaration must be approved by Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), which includes members of the state legislature and oversees prisons in the state. If the CIIC disagrees with or ignores the declaration, it is sent to the Governor for a final decision.

Mohr had asked the state assembly to make some ‘changes‘ to the early release law, but declined to specify exactly what those changes would entail. The law is just shy of 20 years old and has never been used before. And it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be used any time soon, either: the Coshocton Tribune reports that Mohr is now saying early release is “not going to happen.”

It’s not hard to understand why that may be. Continue reading

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Aramark Towers

Ohio Prison Inspection Committee Makes Preliminary Recommendations to Aramark

Ohio is taking baby steps towards improving food service in prisons served by Aramark.

The state’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) has published preliminary recommendations for Aramark. Some of them are punitive and include measures that go beyond what other contractors might expect.

But others point to Aramark’s failure to do the most basic tasks required in food service.

Several of CIIC executive Joanna Saul’s recommendations should be routine at any establishment. I couldn’t believe Aramark hadn’t been doing these things in the first place: Continue reading

Mentally Ill School Shooter TJ Lane Escapes Violent, Overcrowded Ohio Prison

UPDATE: Lane has been captured. What’s next?

In April, Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) inspected the Allen Oakwood Correctional Center. They found the facility overcrowded and over capacity, but still gave it ‘high marks.’

The committee noted that one of its main concerns was the conditions of confinement for “higher security inmates […] including ones in the Protective Control Unit.”

The CIIC also noted that, although there hadn’t been any escapes, there were at least two attempts in the past two years. There was also a growing number of violent incidents taking place at the prison, with an astounding 60% increase in inmate-on-staff violence from 2012-2013.

News outlets are reporting tonight that 19 year-old TJ Lane and one other inmate have escaped from Allen Oakwood. Lane was in the high security protective custody area the CIIC had warned staff about, and it seems conditions haven’t much improved in the past five months. Continue reading

Rep. Hagan

State Rep. Hagan Tours Ohio Private Immigrant Prison After Nearly 250 Inmates Protest Conditions and Treatment

Ohio State Rep. Bob Hagan continues to push Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for answers about its handling of a recent incident at the for-profit Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) in which 248 prisoners waged a 14-hour nonviolent protest against their treatment and conditions.

After he was denied entry in the hours after the August 12th protest, Hagan was invited back to the prison last Friday for a tour. He was also given the opportunity to evaluate security camera footage and speak with some of the prisoners involved.

WKBN.com reports that Rep. Hagan was told there are three main issues concerning inmates: health care, food quality and commissary prices. Continue reading