By Denise Dick
Last week’s 14-hour protest at the private prison on the city’s East Side that stemmed from inmate complaints about food, medical care and other issues ended after a prison team showed force and then offered inmates a last chance to clear the yard.
Northeast Ohio Correctional Center was placed under lockdown after the incident and more than a week later, the private prison, owned by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, remains under restrictions. Candace Rivera, a spokeswoman, said there’s a process for returning to normal operations as investigations are concluded.
Family members of inmates, however, can contact prison officials any time with concerns, she said.
An incident report from the Aug. 12 episode at the Youngstown-Hubbard Road facility provided to the city shows that the protest began about 2:15 p.m. with 393 inmates in the recreation yard. The group was primarily composed of Dominican inmates.
“When recreation staff spoke to the assembled group of inmates, they stated they would not leave the yard until they spoke to the warden,” the report says.
The prison’s chief of security went to the recreation area and talked to inmates.
About 2:40 p.m. the security chief ordered the recreation yard cleared, and 248 inmates remained in the basketball area, refusing to exit the yard.
“Immediately, a two-staff member cover group was posted on the administration building with a roof chemical munitions bag,” the report says.
At 3:21 p.m., the warden went to the yard to speak with the inmates who provided a list of concerns.
“The list of concerns were related to food, commissary prices, laundry/frequency of clothing exchange, recreation hours/equipment, library schedule, medical care and respect from staff (a specific correctional supervisor was named),” according to the report.
The warden told the inmates he wouldn’t negotiate in the yard, but if they returned to their housing units, he would meet with up to 10 inmates the next morning to discuss their concerns.
The inmates said they’d clear the yard only if the warden agreed not to lock up their spokesperson and to release an inmate who had been placed in special housing earlier in the day.
“The warden told them releasing the inmate from segregation was not negotiable,” the report says. “The inmates continued to refuse all requests to exit the yard. After multiple attempts to convince the inmates to peacefully return to their units, the facility command center was activated at about 5:15 p.m.”
Less than two hours later, the prison’s Disturbance Control Team executed a show of force on the recreation courtyard fence line.
Despite instructions in English and Spanish to clear the yard, only four inmates complied.
Prison officials then presented a plan for clearing the yard, which began at 2 a.m.
“When the inmates were given a last chance opportunity to exit the recreation yard, an inmate spokesperson approached the exit door and requested to speak with the warden,” the report reads. “When the warden went to the yard at 2:15 a.m., the inmates indicated they wanted to voluntarily and peacefully return to their cells with the agreement the warden would meet with them later in the day. The warden agreed.”
No violence occurred, and the community wasn’t in danger at any time, the report says.