by German Lopez
19 days ago
Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget
Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to
the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and
independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and
rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by
official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the
Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA
accountable. To read the full story, click here.
A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state.
The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code,
potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s
libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes.
If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to
set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to
considerably less funding for the public institutions.
City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters,
but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs,
increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public
safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city
officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan
to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.
Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.”
A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront
and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The
bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down
abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund
anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion,
while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going
through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.
The Ohio legislature is moving to take away
the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor
Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes
private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have
pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators
established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she
got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is
taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is
discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital
sex rules against women than men.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits
in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the
school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.
Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.
CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here.
To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
by German Lopez
96 days ago
Ohio senator goes after big banks, governors clash, Ohio reduces prison re-entry
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is putting forward legislation
that would break up the big banks to avoid what has been colloquially
dubbed “too big to fail.” The liberal senator is teaming up with Sen.
David Vitter, a very conservative Republican from Louisiana, to put together the bill, which Brown says will make the economy safer, secure taxpayer
money and help create jobs. In his push, Brown has compared the big
banks to Standard Oil, which was broken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in
1911 after the oil giant breached antitrust laws.
Indiana Gov. Mike Spence fired back
at Ohio Gov. John Kasich for insulting Indiana in recent remarks:
“Indiana is the best state in the Midwest to start a business, grow a
business and get a job. … With the Hoosier state consistently winning
the competition for fiscal responsibility and reform, somebody should
remind the governor of Ohio that trash talk usually comes before the
game.” In a speech Monday, Kasich said, “This is not Indiana where you
go to Indianapolis … and then say, ‘Where else are we going to go?
Ohio is a leader in reducing prison re-entry,
and that’s translating to millions of dollars for the state’s
taxpayers. Ohio’s recidivism rate, which measures how many prison
convicts are returning to prison after being released, dropped to 28.7
percent in 2009, from 39.5 percent in 2003. The
latest data is from 2009, so it’s before Gov. John Kasich took office
and passed measures to further reduce prison recidivism, which provide
new ways for criminals to get records expunged, allow released criminals
to obtain a certificate of qualification from courts for employment and
offer sentence-reduction incentives for prisoners to get job training
and education programs while in prison.
The Ohio House approved a bill
that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, which
state officials claim are havens for gambling and other criminal
activity, by limiting their prize payouts to $10. The bill received
support from law-enforcement groups, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
some charity organizations and the state’s casino operators.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says the city should redirect funding meant for the streetcar to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project,
but the funding is set up through federal grants that are highly
competitive and allocated specifically to the streetcar project.
Opponents of the city’s parking plan briefly celebrated
yesterday when they assumed Graeter’s had joined their efforts, but the
ice cream company says it was all a misunderstanding.
Graeter’s is allowing opponents to gather petition signatures in front
of its stores because the sidewalks are public property, but the company says it didn’t give permission to gather signatures within the stores.
Cincinnati’s Findlay Market earned a glowing review in The Boston Globe, sparking a wave of celebration on social media.
The Smale Riverfront Park is forging ahead largely thanks to the help of private funders, who have made up for an unexpected drop in state and federal funds.
The Ohio Senate paved ahead with legislation that will raise the speed limit
on some highways, particularly in rural areas, to 70 miles per hour.
The bill contains obvious time benefits for drivers, but environmental
groups say higher speed limits mean worse fuel efficiency and insurance
groups say it will make roads more dangerous.
A West Chester trucking company is cutting 250 jobs.
Popular Science has nine reasons to avoid sugar to save your life.
by German Lopez
115 days ago
Report echoes concerns raised by privatization critics
A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of
America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high
presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion
and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog.The CIIC
report found the Lake Erie Correctional Institution had a 187.5-percent
increase in inmate-on-inmate violence between 2010 and 2012, leading to a rate of inmate-on-inmate violence much higher than comparative prisons and slightly
below the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC)
average for all state prisons. Rates of inmate-on-staff violence increased by 305.9-percent between
2010 and 2012 and were much higher than comparative prisons and the ODRC
average, according to the report.Safety
and security were major areas of concern, with the report noting
“personal safety is at risk.” Fight convictions were up 40 percent, but
they weren’t any higher than comparative prisons or the ODRC average,
the report found. Disturbances, use of force, access to illegal
substances, shakedowns and bunk searches were all in need of
improvement, but rounds were acceptable. How
staff handle the use of force and sanctions were particularly
problematic, the report said: “Incident reports indicate that staff
hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy
chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both
inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for
serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no
options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full.”Fair
treatment, fiscal accountability and rehabilitation and reentry
were all found by the report to be in need of improvement, with
many of the problems focusing on inadequate staff — a common concern
critics repeatedly voiced after Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to
sell the state prison to CCA in 2011. “The above issues are compounded
by high staff turnover and low morale,” the report said. “New staff
generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make
quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to
handle inmate confrontations. Staff also reported that they are often
required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their
troubling findings left CIIC with dozens of recommendations for
the private prison, including a thorough review of staff policy and
guidelines, stronger cooperation between staff, holding staff and
inmates more accountable and the completion of required state audits and
only positive findings were in health and well-being. The
report said unit conditions, mental health services and food services
were all good, while medical services and recreation were acceptable.The report echoes many of the concerns raised by private prison critics, which CityBeat previously covered (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). A
September audit from ODRC also found the prison was only meeting two-thirds of the
state’s standards, and reports from locals near the prison in January warned about a
rise in smuggling.
by German Lopez
134 days ago
Violence at private prison, JobsOhio gets liquor funds, Kasich's budget blueprint
There’s even more bad news coming from Ohio’s newly
privatized prison. Violence last week forced Corrections Corporation of
America (CCA) to call in
the state’s special response team, according to Plunderbund. Two teams
from the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation were
dispatched. Gov. John Kasich pushed prison privatization in his 2012-2013 budget to save costs. CityBeat covered private prisons and the shady connections CCA had to the current state government prior to the sale here.
There might be a court case disputing JobsOhio’s
constitutionality, but that hasn’t stopped the state government from
moving forward with implementing the private, nonprofit agency. On
Friday, the state announced it transferred $500 million
in state liquor funds to JobsOhio. The Ohio Supreme Court recently
agreed to take up a case from ProgressOhio disputing whether state funds
can be used for the private agency. Kasich established the
agency in an effort to encourage job growth in Ohio.
Kasich will reveal the blueprint for his 2014-2015 budget plan later today. According to Gongwer, his proposed budget will cut personal income taxes across the board
and offset the cuts by closing loopholes and broadening the sales tax
base. The governor has long been eying an income
tax cut. He previously suggested raising the oil and gas severance tax
to help pay for a tax cut, but the plan faces bipartisan opposition.
In the 2013 mayoral race, John Cranley is currently outraising
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, but both Democrats are fairly close. Qualls has raised $134,188, while Cranley
has raised $170,877. Most of the race has focused on the streetcar so far, with Qualls supporting and Cranley against the twice-voter-approved transit project.
The city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy have reached
a limited agreement to
meet in court to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to
accommodate for the streetcar’s tracks. As part of the agreement, Duke will begin moving lines in the next few weeks, even while the city and Duke wait for courts
to decide who will pay for moving the lines. Mayor Mark Mallory also announced the city will try to finish
the streetcar project in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball
All-Star Game, but he added there are no guarantees. For more on the
streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race, check out CityBeat’s cover story.Libertarian Jim Berns recently forced a mayoral primary by entering the race.
Community leaders around Greater Cincinnati are mapping out veteran services programs.
Ohio is expanding its foreclosure prevention program.
The maximum benefit possible has increased from $25,000 to $35,000, and
the highest annual household income allowed to participate in the
program is now $112,375.
The Ohio Board of Regents finished moving to the Ohio Board of Education building.
Looks like Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich’s Twitter account was hacked.
Smokers will pay higher prices under Obamacare.
Physicists have created crystals that are nearly alive.
by German Lopez
School funding changes soon, prison union wants more security, drug abuse costs employers
School superintendents will hear
about Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal Thursday. The
proposal, which will change how all of Ohio’s schools are publicly
funded, will be released to the wider public Feb. 4. Many school
officials are bracing for the worst, according to Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat
that the proposal is “a big undertaking”: “Many governors have tried
before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something
we have to take our time with and get it done right.” Ohio’s largest prison staff union is asking Kasich’s administration to increase the amount of prison security officers
following a late December report from the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction. The report found a correlation
between rising prison violence and a decrease in prison security staff,
affirming a position the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has
held for years.
A Journal News report found substance abuse comes at a heavy loss
for Ohio employers, including more workplace injuries, higher medical
costs, more absenteeism and reduced productivity. Some experts advocate
for drug testing to lower the costs, while others
argue drug testing can often affect innocent, responsible drug users.
Employers are much more likely to test for marijuana over alcohol, even
though multiple studies show cannabis is less addictive and
The flu epidemic may be leveling off in Ohio. The state
health department revealed the amount of hospitalizations involving the
flu have plateaued, but the department cautions the calm could be temporary.
The women’s sections of county and regional jails are facing higher levels of overcrowding.
The overcrowding is a result of a 2011 law that enables fourth- and
fifth-degree felons to be held at county jails instead of state prisons.
A new online tool reveals the salaries of public school teachers and staff.
The extensive audit of Ohio schools and their attendance information will be released Feb. 11. The preliminary reports found Cincinnati Public Schools were clean. The investigation into attendance fraud began when Lockland schools in Hamilton County were caught falsifying attendance data.
A new poll found an overwhelming majority of Kentucky parents favor raising the school dropout age to 18, up from the current age of 16.
Ohio gas prices are still rising.
Researchers made super-realistic lung tissue with levitating cells. The development allows researchers to better study how toxins affect the lungs.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Private prison critics have been proven
right once again. Smuggling incidents are on the rise around Lake Erie
Correctional Institution, which Ohio sold to the Corrections Corporation
of America (CCA) in 2011.
by German Lopez
Fiscal cliff averted, Boehner uses naughty word, private prison penalized
Happy new year! Yes, planet Earth made it through another year. Welcome to an “extra saucy” Morning News and Stuff.
U.S. Congress managed to narrowly avert the “fiscal cliff,”
a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in at the beginning
of 2013. If the fiscal cliff had not been prevented, economists and the
Congressional Budget Office warned the United States would have plunged
back into recession. The final deal keeps tax hikes for those making
more than $450,000 a year, and most Americans will see their taxes
increase as the payroll tax break passed with President Barack Obama’s
stimulus package expires. It’s important to remember that the passing of
a deal is not some show of bipartisan heroism; instead, it’s Congress barely preventing an entirely self-inflicted problem.
But the deal did not come smoothly. Not only did Congress wait until the very last moment, but U.S. Speaker John Boehner used a naughty word.
At a White House meeting, the Ohio politician shot at unfavorable
comments from Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s by telling Reid, “Go f—
yourself.” In fact, Boehner actually used the naughty word twice! Reid
replied, “What are you talking about?” Boehner once again said, “Go f—
yourself.” Who knew U.S. Congress would turn out to be so much like high
When Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) Lake Erie
prison received an unfavorable audit, the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction reacted by cutting payments to CCA by $573,000. CityBeat covered the audit and its troubling findings here. CityBeat also covered private prisons in-depth here.
On the bright side, Ohio’s minimum wage went up,
like it’s required to do so every year. Policy Matters Ohio says the
increase will bring in $340 per year for 215,000 low-wage workers around
Cincinnati-based Kroger is looking mighty tempting this year. Stock-wise, anyway. I don’t think many people like grocery shopping.
A court ruled Ohio overcharged 270,000 businesses for workers’ compensation premiums and must repay them. The ruling could cost the state millions of dollars.
In case anyone was worried, the national standards Ohio adopted for schools do not ban The Catcher in the Rye. Book cliff averted.
Allstate is hiring in Ohio. I’m not sure why this is news, but it’s on multiple newspapers today, so there it is.
Gays are now marrying in Maryland. Is the apocalypse near?
Intel could be looking to revolutionize the cable industry by allowing people to subscribe to individual TV channels.
That’s not a medieval weapon; it’s a space rover! The new rovers planned by top universities and NASA could visit Mars’ moon Phobos or an asteroid. It’s, like, whatever.
by German Lopez
Youthful prisons get mixed report, Leis to stay on public payroll, shelter move approved
Despite problems with staff and records, a report is calling changes to Ohio’s youth prisons system a model for the nation.
The report from a court-appointed monitor praised the Ohio Department
of Youth Services for reducing the number of offenders in secure
confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around the
state. However, the report also points out staff shortages, inadequate
teachers and inconsistent medical records. Advocates for youthful
offenders claim the bad findings show a need for continued court
There’s a new sheriff in town, and the old one is becoming a visiting judge.
Simon Leis, who served as sheriff for 25 years, is best known for going
after an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and prosecuting
pornographer Larry Flynt. As visiting judge, he will take on cases other
judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets.
An appeals court is allowing City Gospel Mission to move to Queensgate.
The special assistance shelter wants to move from its current
Over-the-Rhine property to Dalton Avenue, but businesses and property
owners at Queensgate oppose the relocation. In its opinion, the Ohio
First District Court of Appeals said opponents to the relocation “have
not raised any genuine issues of material fact in support of their
constitutional attack upon the notwithstanding ordinance in their
capacity as neighboring businesses and property owners.”
Butler County nonprofit services are worried that a greater need for their services in 2013 will force more budget tightening.
U.S. retailers did not have a good Christmas.
Holiday sales were at the lowest they’ve been since 2008. The
disappointing sales have forced retailers to offer big discounts in
hopes of selling excess inventory.
Former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care “following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,” according to his spokesperson.
The Food and Drug Administration says FrankenFish, a giant, genetically modified salmon, is environmentally safe.
Fun fact: More Iranians worry about global warming than Americans.
Colleges are now helping students scrub their online footprints.
Antifreeze now tastes bitter to deter animals and children from eating it.
Scientists have developed a highly advanced robot boy capable of doing chores. Keep its face in mind, for you could be looking at the first of our future robot overlords.
Recaps of six cover stories people talked about in 2012
1 Comment · Thursday, December 27, 2012
CityBeat covered a variety of topics in 2012. Here are the stories that really stuck through, from the former pit bull ban to the Anna Louise Inn to private prisons.
State audit reveals failures of Ohio’s newest private prison
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 10, 2012
audit of the private prison sold by Gov. John Kasich last year found
the prison is only meeting 66.7 percent of the state’s standards. The
report, released last week, found a total of 47 violations in a
northeastern Ohio prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America