The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 15, 2013

Fewer inmates to help with projects

LaECI warden says not as many prisoners trustworthy

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  Problems in finding trustworthy inmates could reduce the size of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution’s community work crew this year.

Speaking at a City Council committee meeting this week, Barry Goodrich, LaECI warden, said only two inmates comprise the crew, which helps organizations and local governments with any number of chores. At one time, the team comprised six inmates, but four were removed for disciplinary reasons, Goodrich said.

Inmate work crews have been a staple of the prison almost since it opened in April 2000. When Corrections Corporation of America acquired the prison in January 2012, administrators vowed to continue the crew program.

Over the years, inmates have handle a host of projects — from grooming cemeteries to painting churches — for municipalities, clubs and organizations. One year, inmates helped haul tires out of Conneaut Harbor.

Traditionally, inmates who make the crew are in prison for non-violent crimes and passed a rigorous screening process. They are deemed most trustworthy, Goodrich said this week. That’s why it was so disappointing when four inmates were removed from the program for breaking rules, he said.

“I say shame on the inmate who was trusted to be released in the community (and who violated that trust),” Goodrich said.

More inmate interviews will be conducted, which could add numbers to the crew, council learned.

At the council meeting, Goodrich was asked about the work program and concerns that contraband could be smuggled to members while they were outside the prison fence. The crew is escorted by corrections officers who sweep the work site before inmates begin their chores and again after they finish, Goodrich said. He indicated contraband issues may have booted some of the inmates off the team.

Inmates assigned to work at cemeteries aren’t told in advance which cemetery to minimize smuggling opportunities, council learned.

Earlier in the meeting, Goodrich and others said some internal violations affect inmates’ security status, requiring they be transferred to tougher prisons. Inmates who engage in gang activity, for example, are put in segregation units pending transfer, officials said.