The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 10, 2013

LaECI fight prompts temporary bunk restrictions

ACLU report rips Conneaut’s prison

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Restrictions imposed on one dormitory at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution after a fight over the weekend were lifted Tuesday afternoon, prison officials said.

A “small, isolated fight” between a handful of inmates prompted officials at LaECI to place inmates in the housing unit on bunk restrictions, said Steve Owen, spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, which owns the prison. Dorm residents were not allowed to leave the unit unescorted and food was brought to them, he said.

One inmate was taken to a hospital for treatment of a minor injury and returned to the prison, Owen said. Such restrictions give staff a chance to investigate and resolve issues prompting the fight, he said.

Bunk restrictions are “standard protocol” at prisons, including state-operated prisons, Owen said.

Meanwhile, CCA has disputed a report issued Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio that says sections of the prison are overcrowded and violent incidents involving inmates and staff have jumped, according to the Associated Press. The report says a separate unit of the prison for troublesome inmates  is  at  130  percent of capacity,

with some cells holding three inmates and some sleep on the floor, the AP reported.

“This facility has become unsafe for inmates, employees and the surrounding community,” Mike Brickner, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Ohio, told the AP.

The ACLU report said a February audit of the prison by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee found inmate assaults on other prisoners rose 180 percent and inmate attacks on staff members jumped 300 percent from 2010-2012. CCA did not take possession of the prison until January 2012. Prior to that, and since it opened in 2000, LaECI was a state-built prison operated by Management and Training Corporation.

The ACLU sent a timeline to state lawmakers and called for safety improvements, according to the AP.

Owen criticized the ACLU for going “to any length to attack our company,” the AP reported. Owen cited an excellent score the prison received by the American Correctional Institution earlier this year.

LaECI welcomed a new warden, Brigham Sloan earlier this week. Sloan replaces Barry Goodrich, who was on board when CCA took possession of the prison.