- Josh Sweigart Staff Writer
The Ohio agency responsible for inspecting Ohio’s prisons and identifying wasteful practices and prisoner mistreatment is still without a director and hasn’t posted a report in more than a year.
Correctional Institution Inspection Committee officials say they are still inspecting state prisons — Dayton Correctional Institution was inspected on June 27 and 28, according to their website — they are just not posting their findings online for the public to see.
The agency hasn’t had an executive director since the high-profile ousting of Joanna Saul in a political showdown in May 2016. Saul quit in protest, she said, because she thought that was the best way to preserve an agency that has been in existence for 40 years.
Saul had said the agency was in state leaders’ cross-hairs for pushing for access to prison records and publishing scathing reports. Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, who is chairman of the CIIC, said at the time that there had been problems with a lack of clarity on the agency’s role.
Reached this week, Hite said he was unaware reports weren’t being posted.
“The director always did that and ran it by me and let me know and now there’s no director to do that, which is why we’re probably so woefully behind,” he said.
Hite said the committee has been in “limbo” for much of the year. At one point the plan was to disband it and fold its duties into the Ohio Inspector General’s Office. That didn’t happen, but the law was amended to empower the leaders of the Ohio House and Senate to appoint a new director instead of the committee.
That hasn’t happened.
“The problem is we have not received a definitive answer as to what direction CIIC is going to go in terms of where it’s going to be located and whether I’m the chairman or not,” Hite said. “To say it’s been frustrating would be an understatement.”
Democrats on the committee say they too are frustrated.
“I have no idea why they have not released a report,” said state Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, who sits on the committee. “The complaints coming into my office are overflowing and we have not had the same assistance we normally had from CIIC.”
John Fortney, spokesman for the Republican Senate caucus, said: “The duties of the director and the mission of the CIIC are still being discussed.”
In the meantime, he said, “the work of the committee continues regardless of whether reports have been posted on a website… (and) with or without a director.”
The CIIC hasn’t met in months. Hite said the agency has three employees and he personally signs off on expenses and other administrative functions to keep the office running. He hopes to have the committee meet in the fall to update everyone on the work being done.
“They’re working hard,” he said. “They’re doing the work they’re supposed to be doing.”
The last inspection publicy posted by the CIIC was of the Southeastern Correctional Complex in Lancaster in May 2016. The last inspection of the Dayton Correctional Institution that was posted is from November 2015. That report found continuing concerns about sexual misconduct involving staff, though it also noted some issues improving.
An analysis of prison violence by CIIC in January 2016 found Lebanon Correctional Institution was the state’s most violent prison, though prison violence had declined 12 percent since 2011.
This media outlet put in a request on Sept. 6 for all inspections finished since May 2016, and will make those inspections available when they are received.
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