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CCA stymies information on prisoners' 14-hour protest



Published: Thu, August 14, 2014 @ 12:01 a.m.

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Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs Northeast Ohio Correction Center on Hubbard Road on Youngstown’s East Side, owns 59 other correctional facilities nationwide. The low-security NEOCC houses only male inmates, including 1,507 immigrant prisoners, and has 2,016 beds.

By BURTON SPEAKMAN

bspeakman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Questions are being raised after a number of prisoners staged a protest at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road.

Approximately 140 inmates refused to leave the recreation yard for 14 hours, though prison officials said the situation ended peacefully early Wednesday.

The private facility provided scant answers to media inquiries about the episode, however.

The aunt of one of the inmates and a local politician are among those asking questions.

Corrections Corporation of America, which owns NEOCC, said in a statement: “Overnight, staff at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center secured a peaceful resolution to an incident in which a group of inmates on the smaller recreation yard refused orders to return to their cells. All inmates have now peacefully exited the recreation yard and are secured in their cells.

“At no time did any incidents of violence occur, and the community was not in danger. All staff and inmates are accounted for. The facility is secured and remains in lockdown as a precautionary measure while an investigation is conducted. Facility management notified its partner, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and kept officials apprised through the duration of the incident.”

CCA has declined to provide any additional comment.

State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, a member of the Ohio General Assembly’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, was able to enter the prison Wednesday. Hagan said officials inside told him anywhere from 40 to 240 prisoners were involved and the protest lasted from 2 p.m. Tuesday until 4 a.m. Wednesday.

“I attempted to interview the spokesman for the prisoners, but the warden nixed that,” he said. “He said I wasn’t going to be allowed to interfere with their investigation.”

Hagan said he wished he had been able to get more information. “I’m not satisfied. We need more transparency,” he said.

The CIIC plans to conduct a investigation of the NEOCC within the next few weeks to find out more, Hagan said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has had anonymous conversations with current and past NEOCC employees who acknowledge the same issues that inmates have, said Mike Brickner from the ACLU in Cleveland.

The issues include a lack of programming for inmates, little training for staff, poor food and a lack of understanding of the rules by both inmates and staff, he said.

Warden Mike Pugh spoke to the Youngstown Police Department about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday and informed the city that while the inmates were refusing to leave the yard, the situation was peaceful and the prison did not need any assistance, according to a YPD report.

The call from YPD was initiated after a call to the police from Ligia Cabrera of the Bronx, N.Y., whose nephew, Hector Mercedes, is an inmate.

Cabrera said her nephew called her Tuesday and said there was a riot going on at the prison.

“He asked me to call the police, media — anyone who could get them some help — and then the call disconnected,” Cabrera said. “I called the prison today, and they told me he was safe and still there, but that was all that they could tell me.”

Cabrera said she was considering coming to Youngstown to check on the condition of her nephew and was still hoping to get more information.

Neither city police nor the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office was called to assist. The Ohio State Highway Patrol did have a supervisor at the prison to provide assistance if needed, but it was not.

If any inmates are to be charged in connection with Tuesday’s events, those charges would have to come from either the YPD or FBI because the NEOCC is a private prison.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction was made aware of the episode but has little information because the prison does not house any state inmates, said JoEllen Smith, ODRC spokeswoman. All the men housed at the prison are federal inmates.

The state has a working relationship with private prisons, and they do share information, she said.

CCA is seeking a renewal for the NEOCC contract with the federal government to house inmates at the site. The contract expires May 31, 2015.

The ACLU opposes the contract renewal.

Brickner said the lack of information that is available in episodes such as Tuesday’s is part of the reason why the organization opposes a new pact.

“Frankly, one of the problems with private facilities is that you can’t get information in situations like this,” he said.

There are times when something serious will happen at a private prison, and because of the secrecy, the community will have no idea that something occurred, Brickner said.

There would be considerably more information available about what happened at NEOCC if it had occurred at a state-run prison, he said.

If there were a critical incident, “there would be an administrative and potentially a criminal investigation completed. There would also be an after-action review conducted to review any actions taken to restore order,” Smith said.

“Typically, when dealing with prisons, you get two stories: one from inmates and another from corrections officers,” Brickner said.

Brickner pointed to a federal lawsuit filed by inmate Christopher Oguaju as a good example of the alleged issues at the site. Oguaju filed the suit on his own, and the ACLU is not involved in the case, Brickner said.

The lawsuit complains about inadequate staffing at the prison and improper care for inmates with medical conditions, and says inmates are abandoned and unsupervised in some areas because of low staffing numbers.

Oguaju’s lawsuit further claims the low staffing has made the facility dangerous due to the presence of suspected gang members from various Mexican drug cartels and puts unaffiliated inmates in risk of physical harm.


Comments

1Spence(23 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Let's see if I have this straight. State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, a member of the Ohio General Assembly’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee was unable to interview a spokesman for the prisoners? An employee, the warden, was able to block a member of the state General Assembly from talking with the spokesman and Rep. Hagan did nothing about it? Since when does an employee have the right to interfere with an elected state official's constitutional duties? Rep. Hagan represents the people of the state of Ohio! Outrageous!

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2michael1757(276 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

A lack of programming? Has anyone called Armstrong to see if they can't get HBO,Cinemax The Porn Channel,& The Playboy Channel at reduced rates? We've got to take care of our inmates.Maybe they'd like waiters in white taking their filet mignon orders,& the pastry chef giving them good,not that cheap sh&t,chocolate.And then regardless of how long their stay was,give them a thou,just to get them on their feet.Anything else,they can just run a chit through.

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3polhack(129 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

"...the spokesman for the prisoners,,," is a tad misleading in that it assumes there is a prisoner spokesperson. Had Hagan said he was not allowed to speak to the leader of the protest, he might be more believable. He had to say something's to pander for votes. He should join Al Sharpton's tour of improbable injustices as he attempts to gin up votes for his Mrs. Prison uproars like this happen regularly. When you're stuck for years with little more to do than screw with the staff and internal rivals, you make things up just for variety. Prison ain't fun, nor should it be.

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4youngstownsteve(75 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I am so sick and tired of Hagan's showboating. These are people convicted of criminal acts and are serving time in prison for the consequences of their choices and actions. This is not and should not be made into a five star resort. I cannot wait until Hagan is out of office and hopefully he is finished doing the end around runs with Ohio's term limits. Go away and stay away Hagan!

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5dontbeafool(912 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Prisons handle their own business. If every time bad behavior got a meeting with a politician, there would be bad behavior on a daily basis. Plus we all know that any politician would only make the matters worse. He can meet with prison officials in a couple weeks if need be.

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6Tex(13 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

CCA has a thirty-year history of covering up its egregious malfeasance. Hagan has been aware of the problems with this prison for over a decade and has consistently looked out for the interests of the public.

The prison was so out of control it was once closed for years. Its staff failed to notice the escape of six prisoners, four of them murderers, who were said to have lined up to wait to get through the fence. An inmate told staff they were gone. Then it failed to notify the sheriff in a timely fashion, choosing to try to catch the escapees itself, walking through the surrounding woods. The last escapee was finally caught in Buffalo, NY, a month or so afterward.

Because CCA suppresses any inmate concerns over its contractual breaches, the situations fester until we have a situation such as we are seeing this week. Three years ago similar grievances resulted in a staff member being murdered by rioters on the roof of CCA's Adams County prison in Mississippi.

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7Tex(13 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

CCA doesn't want Youngstown's state rep or locals to know what's really going on inside its prison, but at the same time it is begging locals to back a renewal of its contract:

http://www.vindy.com/news/2014/jun/25...
Private prison seeks continued public support

Published: Wed, June 25, 2014 @ 10:59 a.m.
YOUNGSTOWN

The company that operates the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road wants local residents to continue writing to their U.S. senators and representatives and to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in support of renewal of the bureau’s prisoner housing contract here.

BOP’s contract to house 1,507 immigrant prisoners at NEOCC expires May 31, 2015.

Steven Owen, senior director of public affairs for the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America, which owns NEOCC, said he expects the bureau to make its decision in October on where to house these prisoners in the future.

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8walter_sobchak(1914 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

This is just Buckwheat grandstanding. While he may be a member of the Ohio General Assembly’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Ohio Revised Code Sec 103.73.C.1 clearly states that an inspection of any state or private correctional facility must have prior approval of the chairperson of the committee. I doubt that Buckwheat had such approval and could be in violation of the ORC. In any event, this prison houses federal inmates, not state inmates. Seems to me that chocolates on the clean linens are not available when you are in the clink.

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9captainpeewee(66 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Hagan needs to get the privet sector out from running the prisons and get the state back in so he can get a golden parachute retirement check from the union bosses ,it would cost 3 times more for the state to run the prisons

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10joebag09(252 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I'm very familiar with NEOCC/CCA and the one thing I can say about prison is it shouldn't be fun or necessarily comfortable, BUT, remember one important fact, many inmates return to our streets, if you are going to treat them like animals in prison, what do you expect when they're released? The food isn't the greatest, at times minimal, especially for grown men. The underwear is full of holes, stained and quite often stink from mold/mildew from improper/overloaded washing. I could go on, my point is, how can we expect better from inmates when we abuse them in so many ways?

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11arod(264 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

COOL STORY BRO...

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12Custo(1 comment)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Same stuff everyday and each days the same.

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13teenie(7 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Their talking about the food and nothing to do....first of all it is not mommas kitchen, if I was in charge, breakfast would be cereal or oatmeal...lunch pbj and fruit or bowl of rice...dinner bowl of rice or pork and beans and hotdogs....If you don't like it don't eat...nobody told you to commit crime to be locked up...why do inmates think they should live better than people on the outside..

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14LtMacGowan(643 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

If you had bothered to do any research you d see there have been several incidents and 8 lawsuits filed my inmates in different Ohio prisons concerning maggots infesting their food. Yeah these people committed a crime. They punishment is incarceration not being forced to eat maggoty food and bad or non existent medical care.

We treat our Animals better than we do our prisoners who will return some day to society.

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15Tex(13 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The maggots in Aramark food have been found in Michigan prisons as well.

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16awesomeman1(7 comments)posted 1 month ago

CCA is required by their contract to hold certain programs for inmates...Even educational programs such as getting their high school diploma and getting certified in certain trades that maybe needed in a work place when they get out of prison...Again those programs are all given to illegal immigrants who illegally crossed our U.S. Borders to cell drugs to your kids...The USM side of the prison, doesn't get that option because the USM side of the facility is a jail not a prison setting...So what is offered to USM inmates are very limited, which is allowed by USM and CCA contract...Plus inmates have a library that can be accessed at anytime for inmates during open hours...Plus CCA provides a lot of activities for BOP inmates such as soccer, basketball, baseball and flag football tournaments...Plus inmates can get almost anything through their commissary...Plus BOP inmates get contact visits with their family and friends...USM is non-contact with family and friends...CCA might be a business first and prison second, but if you think about it so is a public facility as well...unlike CCA who has to worry about their investors, some of their investors are their own officers and staff members, public facility has to watch how much they are costing the tax payer...

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17awesomeman1(7 comments)posted 1 month ago

Costing too much money to the tax payer could result in low funds the following year, which could lead to layoffs and shutdowns...At the Columbiana County Jail they lay off and shut down every year because they can't keep their costs down because they provide so much to inmates...Mahoning Valley County Jail in Downtown Youngstown let go nearly 200 inmates out in public because of down sizing due to costs...They tried to give the rest to CCA, but Youngstown wanted to charge CCA extra taxes for taking on their inmates, which would've resulted in CCA paying Youngstown to keep the inmates an not the other way are around...So CCA declined to help...So before putting CCA down do your homework first...You would be amazed how much money CCA is saving your pocket from being taxed even more if they didn't existed...They aren't perfect and I have my complaints about them, but their positive out ways their negatives just as much as the public facility, maybe a little more if your a tax payer who cares about paying less taxes and want the government to live by their means like you do in your personal household.

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18awesomeman1(7 comments)posted 1 month ago

Those who are claiming that the federal inmates are abused in NEOCC are very misguided and need to talk to those who actually work there...The inmates get treated pretty darn well...The get cable TV with all kinds of Spanish Channels and foreign news...I wouldn't doubt that the kind of package they have and for as many TVs they have in every unit would cost the average home owner close to $2-3K per month...The food might not be the greatest, but they are surely not served with maggots on them...They are served with beans and rice twice a day 7 days a week plus whatever is scheduled for on their menu...Plus the inmates have the choice of getting their menu changed...The reason most inmates are probably complaining about food is because the food is mostly Mexican and what is served on the BOP side is also served to the U.S. Marshal inmates...And those are American inmates, not illegal immigrants who have committed multiple crimes before being caught by ICE...They just never got caught with the actual dangerous crimes that they may have committed...As for laundry, inmates are always instructed how and when to have their laundry ready to be taken to be washed...Most of the inmates that improperly over load their laundry bag full of dirty cloths and expect them to come put clean...That doesn't happen...All dirty laundry is suppose to be put into a laundry bag that has plenty of holes for soap and water to get through...When an inmate overloads his laundry the soap isn't able to properly clean all the cloths in the bag because it is too full...Plus the cloths don't get properly dried because of the same reason...These cloths aren't just their inmate uniforms...They have actual personal T-shirts, sweat shirts and sweat pants that they can buy through their commissary...As for holes in their underwear, they can choose to either buy new underwear through Commissary or exchange them with their counselor...All they have to do is make an inmate request to do so and the staff member gets it for them when they can...It isn't automatic

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19awesomeman1(7 comments)posted 1 month ago

...As for Medicare, they get pretty good medicare...Most of them complain that they don't, but they fail to tell the truth about why they may not get their appointment right away...Because some of those who complain have made appointments and then missed them because they forgot or decide they don't need the attention anymore...Some inmates even make requests to see a nurse just because they want to see a woman nurse, doesn't matter if they are good looking or not, they get the attention and they are satisfied....Medical doctor is on site pretty much two or three times a week, Dentist about once a week and a psychiatrists about once a week...The medical staff isn't perfect, but they do their best for the time that they can spend on one particular inmate out of nearly 3000 total counting BOP and USM inmates...That doesn't count how many times they see an inmate during pill call times...As for Staff abusing them, that is 100% false, they are given respect sometimes tolerated way more than should be allowed...The staff there are always more than willing to help inmates as much as they can within the rules of the facility...Sometimes the things that staff have to for inmates may take time and the inmates just don't want to wait...They act like they are the only ones in the facility and don't give staff a chance to even do what they need to do...Then there are times a staff member can't do something because it is either against the facility rules or it is above their pay grade...So they are told to go to the person responsible...But instead of taking the time to do that they just sit and complain...Inmates at NEOCC are treated like adults, there are a few who just rather act like children instead...The rules of the facility do get a little confusing but that isn't always CO's fault that is the Sgt., Lt. and Capt. fault for not following through sometimes...But Management can be blamed for a lot of things at any job...No matter what job your in someone is always complaining about management sometimes it is legit and sometimes it is plain BS

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20awesomeman1(7 comments)posted 1 month ago

...But that is the nature of a job...But anyway all the problems that happens at CCA is basically the same way as a public facility...But unlike a public facility CCA can't just do things when staff is short because of contract agreements...Example public facilities can shutdown the rec time anytime they want when they are short staff...CCA can't do that per contract reasons or they can be fined for doing so...The only time CCA can go shut down rec is for security threat reasons by the inmate population or weather becomes to dangerous for anyone to be out...CCA is also required to give inmates so much rec hours per year according to their contract which averages about 6 to 7 hours a day...But CCA is actually nice enough to the inmates they go above and beyond that time required to make sure that they meet the contract requirements...Another example CCA is required by their contract to hold certain programs for inmates...Even educational programs such as getting their high school diploma and getting certified in certain trades that maybe needed in a work place when they get out of prison...Again those programs are all given to illegal immigrants who illegally crossed our U.S. Borders to cell drugs to your kids...The USM side of the prison, doesn't get that option because the USM side of the facility is a jail not a prison setting...So what is offered to USM inmates are very limited, which is allowed by USM and CCA contract...Plus inmates have a library that can be accessed at anytime for inmates during open hours...Plus CCA provides a lot of activities for BOP inmates such as soccer, basketball, baseball and flag football tournaments...Plus inmates can get almost anything through their commissary...Plus BOP inmates get contact visits with their family and friends...USM is non-contact with family and friends...

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21awesomeman1(7 comments)posted 1 month ago

CCA might be a business first and prison second, but if you think about it so is a public facility as well...unlike CCA who has to worry about their investors, some of their investors are their own officers and staff members, public facility has to watch how much they are costing the tax payer...Costing too much money to the tax payer could result in low funds the following year, which could lead to layoffs and shutdowns...At the Columbiana County Jail they lay off and shut down every year because they can't keep their costs down because they provide so much to inmates...Mahoning Valley County Jail in Downtown Youngstown let go nearly 200 inmates out in public because of down sizing due to costs...They tried to give the rest to CCA, but Youngstown wanted to charge CCA extra taxes for taking on their inmates, which would've resulted in CCA paying Youngstown to keep the inmates an not the other way are around...So CCA declined to help...So before putting CCA down do your homework first...You would be amazed how much money CCA is saving your pocket from being taxed even more if they didn't existed...They aren't perfect and I have my complaints about them, but their positive out ways their negatives just as much as the public facility, maybe a little more if your a tax payer who cares about paying less taxes and want the government to live by their means like you do in your personal household.

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22chillin662(1 comment)posted 1 month ago

Transparency? With CCA? Good luck with that. That's how they operate. When they can got the nerve to tell a US congressman here in Mississippi that he could NOT visit a prison in his district (he had to threaten to close the place down to see the mishaps of what's going on at the facility) you will have a hard time with any type of transparency with any of these private prisons.

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23awesomeman1(7 comments)posted 1 month ago

Seriously Chillin your going to use the Mississippi as the excuse...Mississippi had problems but they were no worse than what a public facility has gone through...I remember Columbiana County jail hired a questionable employee who also worked at CCA prior going there...That person was under private investigation because of possibly doing something illegal...But before he could be caught he went to Columbiana County and was caught there selling drugs...I also remember a Correction Officer that worked at one of Ohio's Max prisons...That officer was killed one night heading home from work because one of the inmates set out a hit to have him killed....So it isn't just private prisons that go through problems so do public facility...Plus unlike public facilities Private Prisons are under high inspections to make sure their facilities are running well.

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24LtMacGowan(643 comments)posted 1 month ago

me thinks you shill for CCA to much

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