Saudis learning about prison system in Ohio

Visit to Lebanon, Warren correctional facilities part of two-year study.

TURTLECREEK TWP., Warren County — While he walked along the cold concrete halls of the Lebanon Correctional Institution, Abdul Karim noted that prisons thousands of miles apart are not all that different.

Karim is one of 30 men from Saudi Arabia spending two years in Ohio to study the state’s prison system with the goal of improving Saudi Arabia’s own justice and rehabilitation programs.

The men and their families, who are headquartered at Ohio Northern University in Ada, began their study of prison management and English in June 2009 and will finish in May.

Karim and the other men are not allowed to discuss the inner details of the Saudi Arabian prison system, but they claimed allegations of human rights violations in prisons there are distorted.

“The prison environment is the same around the world,” said Karim, who is a prison warden in Saudi Arabia.

“We have the same concerns and problems.”

The men visited LCI and its neighbor, Warren Correctional Institution, on Thursday, to see the inner workings of the two prisons.

Even though they sit next to one another and are both medium security, the prisons are very different. LCI is a single building structure while WCI has several small buildings in a campus design.

At LCI, the eager Saudi students explored the facility’s press shop where every colorful license plate in Ohio is made and also visited the chapel and discussed methods of keeping order with such a large population.

Warden Tim Brunsman also displayed his extensive shiv (homemade prisoner weapons) collection.

Ernie Moore, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, said the Saudis were most interested in learning about programs to prepare inmates for re-entry to society, substance abuse programs, and how to reduce recidivism.

Saudi Arabian prisons are run by the military instead of the government, Moore said.

Unlike Ohio prisons, Saudi prisons allow conjugal visits as a method to keep order, Moore said.

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