Caption

Sex, drugs, use of force problems plague women’s prison, report says

Ohio lawmakers urge corrective action.

Drug trafficking involving staff. Unqualified staff triaging mental health requests. Use of force reports on the rise.

A new report found that sexual contact between staff and inmates at the Dayton Correctional Institution — cited for recent firings and resignations — isn’t the prison’s only serious problem.

The report, released by the Corrections Institutions Inspection Committee, graded the institution poorly in a number of areas, including the performance of management of staff.

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“Inmate survey respondents reported a very concerning availability to prohibited substances, particularly brought in by staff,” the report said. The rate of positive drug tests at Dayton Correctional — 1.5 percent of those inmates tested — was higher than other two women’s prisons but below the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction average, the report found.

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The committee inspected the prison over four days in February.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp., who attended the inspection, said the prison has “severe issues.”

”I think that the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction needs to take a serious look at the facility, do their own investigation of the facility and then take corrective action,” Antani said. DRC should report back to lawmakers when the problems have been solved, he said.

State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, said he was shocked at the report, especially the inappropriate relationships and problems with mental health services. Beagle said he’ll look to DRC to make fixes, including work with community partners to deliver mental health services and set up a better system to investigate sexual misconduct.

JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the department “takes all allegations of staff misconduct very seriously. We have zero tolerance for staff misconduct and when wrongdoing is found, appropriate actions are taken, which can include removal.”

During a cultural assessment at the prison last week, six members “with diverse backgrounds” spent more than 200 hours in the institution conducting interviews and facilitating focus groups with staff and offenders, Smith said. An internal management audit is also scheduled, and DRC has requested technical assistance from the National Institute of Corrections to supplement training opportunities for staff in effectively managing female inmates, she said.

The CIIC report called “concerning” the number of open sexual assault cases from last year. Of 89 allegations of sexual assault — including 22 against staff — 42 cases were unsubstantiated, one was unfounded, and 46 were still open at the end of the year. Those cases have since been closed, according to the prison.

The report noted that several staff members have been fired or forced to resign, including the man in charge of investigating inappropriate staff/inmate relationships, due to allegations of inappropriate contact with inmates, including sexual contact in some cases.

Dayton Correctional Institution has 900 inmates, 250 employees and an annual budget of $23 million.

Public records obtained by the Dayton Daily News show investigator Terrance Griffin was fired in January after investigators determined he disabled a recording function on his phone so he could have secret conversations with inmates on a private “snitch line.”

He also allegedly gave commissary items and electronics to inmates for information, documents say.

Even during the on-site investigation by the CIIC, an inmate was put in segregation for having “contraband panties” — underwear brought into the prison from an outside source. Staff told investigators that the panties were given to the inmate by a corrections officer who would stand outside her window and watch her.

Another inmate filed a grievance, saying she was placed in segregation after making an allegation of inappropriate sexual contact and no one interviewed her about it for 20 days nor was the proper paperwork completed to keep her in segregation.

The investigators also noted that enrollment in the GED program is relatively low, the library is merely adequate, and more efforts are needed to plan the re-entry of inmates into society. For example, the word processing application on the library computers has been broken for two years and roughly half of inmates are released before their re-entry plans are done.

Staff management, fiscal accountability, utility conservation and staff training all scored poorly in the report. Only 51 percent of staff evaluations were done.

Although use of force reports are rising, video surveillance isn’t preserved to help determine whether the force is justified, the report found.

Among the CIIC recommendations:

  • Preserve video surveillance tapes and investigate the disproportionate use of force on black inmates;
  • Make sure sexual contact allegations are promptly and thoroughly investigated;
  • Consider boosting drug testing;
  • Evaluate the adequacy of the mental health staffing.

“Staffing levels appear to be insufficient,” the report concluded, noting there were 416 inmates on the mental health caseload, including 121 with serious mental illness. The prison had four mental health administrators cycle though in just 12 months, investigators said.

Last year, the prison had one suicide, nine attempted suicides and 229 instances of inmates placed on constant or close watch.

Smith said DRC continues to fill vacancies but acknowledged problems in recruiting mental health professionals to work in the institution.

“People have many choices when it comes to behavioral health positions in that region,” she said. “That alone makes it more difficult.”

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