America's first private prison is riddled with violations

(AFP Photo / Kevork Djansezian)
A recent audit of one of the largest private prison companies in the US found the institution to have 47 state violations, thereby meeting only 66.7 percent of laws regarding its operations and conditions.

The audit described the violations made by the Northeast Ohio prison, which ranged from unsanitary living conditions to lack of effective procedures in the case of emergency. Inmates suffered from poor health procedures and were locked into spaces smaller than the legal requirement.

“It was apparent throughout certain departments that (Department of Rehabilitation and Correction policy) and procedure is not being followed,” the audit said. “…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 staffing transitions.”­

The report found that only one staff member had been properly trained to understand Ohio’s Risk Assessment System standards.

Inmates were crammed into cells smaller than 25 square feet, which is smaller than the legal minimum. Two prisoners were sometimes placed into a room designed for one, resulting in one sleeping on the floor.

Inmates complained of feeling unsafe. The prison had no fire emergency plan that would allow releasing inmates from locked areas.  Prison staff also failed to execute adequate contraband searches, and when they did, they frequently left found items on desks or in drawers instead of locking them in the vault. Inmates also operated a meat slicer with no safety guards. The audit also found officers leaving their posts unannounced, leaving certain areas without guards for 10-15 minutes.

Additionally, inmates were forced to live in unsanitary conditions and were not able to do laundry. The prison could not provide information about clothing exchanges. Mildew was found in showers. An unmarked urine specimen was left on a desk. Doctor appointments were often delayed and lacked follow-up visits.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Gary Mohr announced on Sept. 25 that he would not privatize more prisons to save money. Instead, he would focus on sentencing reforms to bring reduce the number of repeat offenders. The announcement came on the day that the audit was mailed to his office, according to City Beat.

Mike Brickner, communications and policy director at ACLU told City Beat that private prisoners do not care to reduce repeat offenders because more inmates bring more revenue.

“It doesn’t make any difference to them whether or not a person eventually integrates back into society,” he said. “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 them again.”

The Corrections Corporation of America, which oversees that prisons meet standards requirements, says it is taking corrective steps to make sure the private Ohio prison improves its facilities.