As your state representative, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to help provide for the general health, welfare, and safety of every single resident of our 99th District. From our toddlers to our nursing home residents, from Aquilla to Pierpont and from Chardon to Conneaut, this office seeks to serve all who call this District home. Recently, our attention has been focused on Conneaut and the Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LAECI) and this particular installment of Legislative Update will do so as well.
On Friday, February 22 the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) released its report with respect to the spontaneous inspection held January 22/23 at LAECI. There were five major categories that were examined:
- Safety and Security;
- Health and Wellbeing;
- Fair Treatment;
- Reentry and Rehabilitation; and
- Fiscal Accountability.
Of the five, only Health and Wellbeing received a “Good” rating while all other categories were “In Need of Improvement.”
In this space, I will not attempt to cover all the details of the report. (For a complete reading, go to the CIIC website). But after reading the report I would like to share several general observations.
As the report indicates “LAECI’s primary issue is safety and security.” One must ask, “what factors might cause this?” First, the prison population has grown by approximately 300 inmates since CCA assumed control and this alone has resulted in a more complex culture, as well as operational challenges. The capacity of the prison is 1,798 inmates. On the day of the inspection, 1,794 residents were to be found on site.
As a private enterprise, CCA must generate a profit. This is precisely how free enterprise works. One way to increase profits in a privately operated prison facility is to increase the number of inmates without significantly increasing staff.
Yet though the ratio of inmates to staff does reflect state standards, the report cites an issue with low staff morale due to safety concerns coupled with frequent requests for overtime (often as much as 12 hours per week). Consequently, there has been a high turnover in staff which does not foster continuity in operations or expectations.
Then too, within this population of increased prisoners may be found those individuals who pose higher security risks. Additionally, recreation, programming, rehabilitation–all become more problematic given a larger population.
Staffing/prisoner ratios aside, CCA has come up short on several scores. And this is precisely why this office initiated the call for the January inspection. We needed to know and understand the nature of the problems facing LAECI and determine how best they could be addressed.
To that end, an action plan has been laid out for CCA that will be closely monitored by the Department of Corrections followed by another inspection by CIIC within six months.
CCA has a moral duty as well as a legal obligation to address all issues cited as deficient in the inspection report.
There can be no compromise concerning safety and security, for the safety and security of ALL is paramount. CCA fully understands this truth.
To that end, this office will take all necessary steps — whatever that might involve — to ensure the health and safety of all residents of the 99th District now, and in the future.