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Published: Saturday, 4/13/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

ACLU: Conneaut’s prison woes like Lucasville before 1993 riot

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

On the heels of the 20th anniversary of the Lucasville prison riot, a civil liberties spokesman warned Friday of another prison in Ohio, where conditions hark back to those that prevailed before the 1993 violence at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

The Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a privately owned prison in Conneaut, Ohio, is experiencing more assaults — both inmate-on- inmate and inmate-on-staff — drug use, and gang activity, said Mike Brickner, the American Civil Liberties Union’s director of communications and public policy.

Triple bunking at the prison in Ashtabula County, he said during a presentation at the University of Toledo, means there are three inmates for two beds, leaving one individual to sleep on the floor.

Mr. Brickner’s presentation, “Liberty for Sale: An Inside Look at Prisons for Profit,” was one of many Friday during a daylong conference nearing the end of the first Prison Awareness Week.

According to a report issued in February by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, the Conneaut prison’s inmate-on-inmate assaults have increased 188 percent between 2010 and 2012; inmate-on-staff assaults have increased 305.9 percent in that same time.

Inmate violations for fighting also increased 40 percent while prison disturbances reported in 2012 doubled from years prior, the 111-page report states.

Corporations that own prisons take over with the promise of saving states money, Mr. Brickner said. He added that cost-analysis studies suggest the privatization of prisons rarely, if ever, saves states money.

In privatized prisons, Mr. Brickner said, inmates tend to have longer incarcerations because there is no incentive to let inmates — especially low-level, nonviolent offenders — out. The prisons are paid on a per-inmate basis, and the cost of incarcerating a low-level inmate is much less than a maximum-security inmate. Costs for high-risk inmates are basically subsidized by the compensation received for lower-risk prisoners, he said.

In the inspection committee’s study, it was reported that staff turnover was more than 20 percent in December, and overall morale was “low or very low” because of safety concerns and mandated overtime.

Prison Awareness Week ends today with a discussion at the Toledo Correctional Institution. Artwork created by inmates is also on display and for sale at Third Space, 137 N. Michigan St., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.



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