Pay Attention to What’s Happening in Ohio’s Prisons Right Now

Last week, the Ohio house tried to gut the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC). In an effort to hold off rule changes that would have curbed the work of the committee, director Joanna Saul resigned.

For over forty years this bipartisan group has inspected every state correctional facility every two years. At a moment where there is a national conversation about mass incarceration, Ohio’s prisons have been surprising transparent.

All CIIC reports a freely available online. I’ve been combing through them and have found some gems:

  • In March CIIC inspected Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (a.k.a., Lucasville) and found that while safety and security at the prison is “acceptable,” assaults are up. Staff at Lucasville get along well, but “Inmates have consistently reported abusive language with racial overtones, excessive overtones, and staff retaliation for reporting complaints.” Lucasville was the site of an 11-day riot in 1993.
  • CIIC helped break the story about maggots found in Ohio prison food produced by Aramark two years ago. Recently they wrote

But here’s what we need to pay attention to right now:

  • A May 6, 2016, CIIC report showed that the total Ohio Department if Rehabilitation and Corrections population increased by 15.1% from 2005 to 2016 thus far.
  • The rate of overcrowding has increased from 114.8% to 132%.

Ohio prisons are overcrowded.

What’s life like in the 6th largest prison system in the nation? In some prisons there are good programs, in others…not so much. Lack of consistent and worthwhile programming was one of  CIIC’s criticisms of Lucasville.

And one of the programs that prisoners and guards appreciate is being gutted. The Kasich administration plans to close Ohio’s prison farming programs. Kasich’s people say they don’t prepare imprisoned people for life after prison.

Some Ohio prison guards are questioning this decision. They say the farms are important because they let imprisoned people use their minds and hands for good while inside. And food banks say they’ll suffer because the farms donate lots of fresh produce.

This is how we treat prisoners in Ohio. Currently.  And whether we like it or not, prisons are an extension of our communities.

The people who work in prisons live in our communities.

And over 95% of the people currently in prisons will return to our communities.