From: Think Progress
By Aviva Shen on Feb 11, 2013
In an effort to cut costs, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is planning to hire a private food vendor to feed 50,179 inmates in the Ohio prison system. The administration argues the decision to outsource prison food will save as much as $16 million a year.
Motivated by a huge state deficit, Ohio has become a laboratory in prison reform — with mixed results. The state sold a prison to Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company, in 2011, only to discover abysmal conditions far below state standards in sanitation, food quality, hygiene, and health care. However, Ohio’s new sentencing reforms are saving the state millions while diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and into educational and rehabilitative programs.
Ohio’s taste for privatization is likely to make prison food even less appetizing than it already is. Private vendors can skimp on food quality, quantity, and staff in order to make a profit. Unlike state-run cafeterias, private vendors servicing juvenile detention facilities can skip the federal nutrition guidelines for school lunches:
The state Department of Youth Services, which has 469 youths at four detention facilities, spends $6.18 million a year, or $27.60 per inmate per day for food service, said spokeswoman Kim Parsell. The costs are higher because youths don’t help with food prep or cooking, the meals adhere to federal guidelines for school lunches and the teen-aged detainees have higher caloric needs, she said. The state receives $5.51 per day per youth as reimbursement from the national school lunch program. Switching to a private vendor is expected to save DYS about $1.2 million a year, she said.
The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union that represents some 10,000 prison workers, warns that a contractor will pay lower wages, hire fewer people and dish out less food to make a profit. Roughly, 450 state workers in DYS and DRC could end up losing their jobs, though some could apply for other state jobs or perhaps be hired by the contractor.
Tim Shafer, OCSEA operations director, said complaints about inmate food may sound like whining but they contribute to the safety and security of a prison.
“As a former corrections officer, I can tell you one of the best things in the world is a full inmate. They want to sit down and chill out,” Shafer said. Inmates are fed a heart healthy diet that features a rotating menu of dinners such as sloppy joes, fajitas, and chicken and biscuits.
Poor food quality and sanitation have sparked multiple deadly riots at private prisons run by corporations like CCA and GEO Group. In one prison, inmates were fed soup filled with worms, while other prisons served burritos and brownies contaminated with human feces.
Oklahoma prisons: Situation normal, all filled up
Jan. 28th 2013
From: Tulsa World.
The Legislature needs to grant Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones the additional $66.7 million he is requesting for prison operations and staff retention for fiscal 2014.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/article.aspx?subjectid=61&articleid=20130128_61_A11_CUTLIN804961&allcom=1
The same news elsewhere:
Oklahoma needs more prison beds, corrections director says
From: News OK
Law cited in growth
The inmate population growth is attributed to a state law that requires inmates convicted of certain violent crimes, including murder and manslaughter, to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole and inmates drawing longer sentences, he said.
The number of prisoners increased about 900 in the past year, Jones said. The agency was able the past couple of years to renovate buildings on prison grounds into bed space, but no spare buildings are available. The state has a growing backlog of inmates in county jails, Jones said. About 1,700 are in county jails now, up from 650 in 2000. Since 2003, the state consistently has been backed up by 1,000 inmates or more.
When county jails go over their capacity, they face fines and disciplinary action from the state Health Department.
Overcrowded jails can invoke the so-called 72-hour rule to get state prisoners transferred or scheduled to be moved in that time period.
Jones suggested lawmakers consider contracting with one of two empty 2,100-bed private prisons in the state, in Watonga and Hinton, and place prisoners there. County jails receive $27 a day to hold state prisoners; the state this year will pay about $22 million to the counties, Jones said. Placing the prisoners in one of the private prisons is estimated to cost $29 million.
Read more here: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-needs-more-prison-beds-corrections-director-says/article/3748924?custom_click=pod_headline_politics
Note from OK PW: We could ask ourselves how this is possible? And why do we need more prisons? We need (more and better) communities, education, health care and jobs, to prevent more people from going to prison or jail because of crimes committed. We need to look at poverty and the culture of want, greed. When we have learned, we will invest in prevention.
The final five inmates at the high-security home for the “worst of the worst” were shipped to the Pontiac Correctional Center, a prison spokeswoman said. Among the last to leave was a convict who helped lead a prison riot in 1979 and stabbed serial killer John Wayne Gacy while on death row.
Also bused out of the southern Illinois city were four dozen residents of the adjoining minimum-security work camp, packed off to Sheridan Correctional Center in north-central Illinois.
The departures mark the end of a nearly 15-year experiment with the super maximum-security prison, which supporters say the state still needs for troublemaking convicts — particularly during a time of record inmate population. But opponents contend the prison’s practice of near-total isolation was inhumane and contributed to some inmates’ deteriorating mental health.
More than 130 inmates were moved out of the prison in just nine days, after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that legal action by a state workers’ union could no longer hold up the governor’s closure plans. The state has offered to sell the $70 million facility the federal government, but there are no solid plans for the future of the prison, often simply called Tamms.
“It’s sad for our area, but we’re never going to give up,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat from Harrisburg whose district includes Tamms. “We still have an overcrowding problem. That’s the deal with this. The governor has made it worse. Eventually, some of these facilities are going to have to reopen.”
But activists opposed to the prison’s isolation practices cheered Friday’s landmark moment. One organizer, Laurie Jo Reynolds, called the course to closure “a democratic process” that involved not high-priced lobbyists or powerful strategists but, “the people — truly, the people.”
Shuttering Tamms is part of Quinn’s plan to save money. The Democrat said housing an inmate at the prison cost three times what it does at general-population prisons. He has also closed three halfway houses for inmates nearing sentence completion, relocating their 159 inmates, and plans to shutter the women’s prison in Dwight.
From: Las Vegas Sun
Dec 12th 2012, By Cy Ryan
CARSON CITY — Doctors hired by Nevada’s prison system may have been paid $1.9 million for hours they didn’t work, an audit found.
The audit found that full-time physicians, who are employed to work four ten-hour shifts a week, put in an average of only 5.3 hours per day. Part-time doctors work two ten-hour days.
“We estimate the annualized unsupported payments for full time doctors and part time doctors for fiscal year 2012 were approximately $1.9 million,” said the report by the Division of Internal Audits in the state Department of Administration.
The 23 physicians at the seven state prisons are paid an hourly rate ranging from $64 to $82.
An audit several years ago found that physicians hired in the state mental health system failed to put in the hours they were paid for, prompting officials to tighten controls.
The prison audit included physicians, dentists and psychiatrists.
The audit says physicians, as exempt employees, are not required to work the full ten-hour daily shift, but standard practice in Nevada is they put in “something equivalent to a 40 hour work week or more.”
From: Nevada Appeal
By GEOFF DORNAN, July 20, 2011
Prison officials are moving ahead with plans to close down the historic Nevada State Prison on Fifth Street.
Since May, when the Legislature voted to shut NSP down, Director of Corrections Greg Cox has been slowly moving inmates and staff to other institutions as space became available. He said about 130 close-custody and special-needs inmates have already been moved out of NSP to institutions including Warm Springs and Northern Nevada Correctional Center, both in Carson City.
The most dangerous were moved to Ely State Prison, Nevada’s maximum-security institution.
Some special-needs inmates were moved to Lovelock Correctional Center, 70 miles northeast of Reno along Interstate 80.
High Desert Correctional Center in southern Nevada, the state’s newest prison, will get nearly all of the more than 500 remaining inmates. That institution has two new and vacant units with enough capacity to hold those inmates.
Cox said the closure is being handled in a four-phase process designed to “limit the impact on staff and the community.”
“The Legislature’s intent and the department’s goal is to complete the closure in a safe, secure and efficient manner and to do this with as few staff layoffs as possible,” he said.
More than 200 corrections employees were assigned to NSP.
Cox told lawmakers in May that if they gave him time, he could greatly reduce the number of layoffs the closure would cause.
At the suggestion of state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, the Legislature delayed the governor’s plan to close NSP by Oct. 31 back to March 31. Cox said that should reduce the projected 107 layoffs to 30 or less.
The department has already been able to close two units at NSP, which allowed it to move some staff to other area institutions where there are vacancies, including Lovelock.
Over the next few months, additional units will be closed as inmates are transferred out.
Cox told the Board of Examiners earlier this year that nearly all correctional staff willing to transfer would be able to keep a job. He has also said he expects some retirements among veteran officers who don’t want to leave the Carson City area.
The closure is driven by the fact that the antiquated design of NSP — parts of which are more than 100 years old — requires nearly twice as many correctional staff to operate as the state’s newest prison, High Desert in southern Nevada. Because of that difference, Cox testified during the legislative session, it costs $23,615 a year to keep inmates there, compared to just $14,061 at High Desert.
Read the rest here.
June 29th 2011
Illinois’ budget crisis is not news to anyone, and as politicians in Springfield argue about what to cut, the budgetary woes have begun to spill over into some somewhat unusual and unexpected areas.
In Taylorville, Illinois–there’s an underwear shortage.
According to the Bloomington Pantagraph, inmates at the central Illinois prison are being forced to wear the same pair of underwear for several days in a row because the jail cannot afford more undergarments. A prison watchdog group suspects the Taylorville facility may not be alone.
A report issued by the John Howard Association shows that inmates in the prison are wearing dirty and threadbare clothes that are only being washed twice a week, raising “serious hygiene concerns.” Several inmates reported much of the original clothing they received to wear — three pairs of pants, three shirts, one jacket, one hat, two pairs of boxers and two pairs of socks — are already used, soiled or in otherwise poor condition when they receive them.
The group is calling for the state Department of Corrections to remedy the situation and provide sufficient clothing for its inmates, in addition to looking at other issues — like overcrowding and a lack of in-facility educational programs. They say such programs can reduce the rate of recidivism.
Read the rest here.
From: SF Bay View, June 28th 2011
By Natasha R.
Baton Rouge, La. – The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the passage of a bill in the Louisiana legislature making it easier for elderly prisoners to get a parole hearing as an important step towards reducing the state’s unnecessarily high prison population.
The bill, H.B. 138, passed June 20 by the Louisiana Senate after it was passed two weeks ago by the state’s House of Representatives, will enable some prisoners to go before a parole board upon turning 60 years of age. The board can then decide to grant parole to those individuals who would pose no danger to the community upon release.
“Louisiana should not be using taxpayer dollars to lock up elderly individuals when they pose no danger to our communities,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “The state’s legislature deserves credit for tackling the state’s problem of over-incarceration by passing bills like this one.”
Louisiana has the largest incarcerated population of any state in the nation and half of those behind bars in Louisiana are there for non-violent offenses. The state has 1,224 people over the age of 60 locked up, 3 percent of the state’s total prison population.
The Louisiana Department of Corrections estimates that while it costs $19,888 to house a state prisoner for a year, it costs $80,000 to house an ailing inmate.
Research also shows that the likelihood of recidivism drops significantly with age. According to state corrections statistics, only 0.3 percent of those released at age 55 or older recidivate and end up reincarcerated.
With the passage of today’s bill, Louisiana tackled what is a national problem of needlessly incarcerating elderly prisoners. Across the nation, more than 35,000 people over the age of 60 are in prison, or 2.3 percent of the nation’s total prison population.
“Today, more Americans than ever before are unnecessarily and unfairly deprived of their liberty with no benefit to public safety and at great expense to taxpayers,” said Inimai Chettiar, policy counsel with the national ACLU. “Louisiana is to be commended for looking for ways to reduce its bloated prison population, and other states around the country should follow Louisiana’s lead.”
More information about the ACLU of Louisiana is available at www.laaclu.org. More information about the ACLU’s national initiative to combat mass incarceration is available at www.aclu.org/combating-mass-incarceration
From: Cleveland.com Plain Dealer:
By Joe Guillen, The Plain Dealer, 27th June 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nonviolent felons will be sent to rehabilitation facilities instead of prison, and some inmates will be released sooner under an overhaul of Ohio’s criminal sentencing laws aimed at easing prison overcrowding and saving the state money.
Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign the massive bill this week. The dramatic changes drew strong bipartisan support — a rarity so far this year — in both the House of Representatives and Senate, which approved the legislation last week.
“These proposals will begin to address the problem of low-level offenders cycling through the prison system while reserving scarce and expensive state prison beds for violent and predatory offenders,” Gary Mohr, director of Ohio’s prisons system, testified before a Senate committee last month.
Critics, however, said the bill is soft on crime, a short-sighted fix to help deal with the state’s budget crisis. Others worry that communities do not have the resources to house offenders sent to halfway houses and other diversion programs instead of prison.
Undisputed is the need to ease prison overcrowding. Ohio’s prison population this month is 50,561, significantly above the corrections system’s capacity of 38,389.
The criminal sentencing reform package is designed to reduce the prison population by keeping low-level offenders out of prison — placing them instead in halfway houses or community-based correction facilities — and creating new pathways for certain inmates to shorten their sentences.
The reforms also eliminate disparities in punishments for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses while making it easier for former prisoners to find jobs.
The changes are expected to save the state more than $46 million over the next four years, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Sen. Shirley Smith, a Cleveland Democrat, said the goal is to reduce recidivism, cut back on spending and change the behavior of those who break the law.
“We are not just dealing with the state’s pocketbook,” Smith said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “We are dealing with real people, real problems and their futures.”
Details of the bill
• Generally requires judges to sentence nonviolent fourth- and fifth-degree felony offenders to alternative facilities, such as community-based correctional facilities and halfway houses, rather than prison.
• Allows the release of nonviolent felons who did not commit a sexually oriented offense if they have served more than 80 percent of a prison term of one year or more. First- and second- degree felons released under this provision would be put on parole and monitored with a GPS device.
• Increases the threshold — from $500 to $1,000 — for theft offenses to be considered a felony.
• Provides an alternative to prison for felony offenses for not paying child or spousal support.
• Eliminates the distinction between criminal penalties for drug offenses related to crack cocaine and powder cocaine. New punishments for cocaine offenses reflect a middle ground between the two current penalties.
• Expands an earned credit system in which inmates can shave days off their sentences. Certain prisoners could earn up to five days of credit per month for completing education and rehabilitation programs. The old system permitted only one day of credit per month. Sex offenders and violent felons would not be able to shorten their terms, and no prisoner could reduce a sentence by more than 8 percent.
• Requires the state’s prisons system to review the cases of inmates who are 65 or older and eligible for parole — paving the way for a new parole hearing and possible release.
By: ACLU of Ohio
Posted by Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio, Jun 16th, 2011
June 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs” — a war that has cost roughly a trillion dollars, has produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in the United States, and has contributed to making America the world’s largest incarcerator. Throughout the month, check back daily for posts about the drug war, its victims and what needs to be done to restore fairness and create effective policy.
Cleveland, Ohio, is known for many things: we have a world-class art museum, three professional sports franchises, and we’re home to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
However, one fact you won’t find in Cleveland’s tourism brochure is that we are ground zero for the failed war on drugs. After 40 years and over 40 million arrests, the drug war has devastated many communities across the nation — and nowhere is that more evident than Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.
That’s why the ACLU of Ohio issued a report today on the effects of the war on drugs in Cleveland. Overcharging, Overspending, Overlooking: Cuyahoga County’s Costly War on Drugs sheds new light on the vast racial http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifdisparities in Cuyahoga County’s justice system treats drug offenders.
Two factors have emerged as determining whether drug offenders in Cuyahoga County are sentenced to jail: geography and race. For instance:
White offenders from the suburbs or out-of-town are 77 percent more likely than African-American city residents to receive a misdemeanor charge rather than a felony.
Whites account for nearly three-quarters of the participants in jail diversion programs, such as treatment and job training, in the county. African-Americans only account for a quarter of participants, despite the fact they are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.
While African-Americans are only about a quarter of the county’s total population, they make up nearly three-quarters of those sentenced to prison from Cuyahoga County.
The result has been far too many people, particularly African-Americans, incarcerated because of drugs. Locking up a person costs much more than a diversion program. The annual cost to house an Ohio prisoner is $25,097.40, while diversion costs $1,812. This has become a major drain on state resources, as the state prison system is at 133 percent of its capacity, with the sixth largest prison population nationally.
Those who are sentenced to prison for drug offenses emerge with little access to rehabilitation and educational programs, and struggle to find employment because of their felony convictions. As a result, many of those who serve time because of felony drug convictions end up back in the community with no resources, continued drug problems and little hope to turn their lives around.
The net result of 40 years of “lock ’em up politics” and the war on drugs has been the devastation of communities where people need a hand up, rather than a jail cell. If Cleveland, and the nation, wish to begin to rebuild these neighborhoods, we must put an end to the war on drugs.