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Ohio revamps protective control.

The management of protective control inmates in Ohio has developed over the past 25 years into an important security feature of the state's correctional system. The changes we have made in handling these inmates and in our overall philosophy toward protective control offers an interesting case study in prison administration.

Before the 1970s, protective control in Ohio was for all practical purposes non-existent. Inmates having problems with other inmates typically were viewed as disciplinary problems and were treated as such. They were placed in disciplinary cells, where they were permitted little out-of-cell activity.

In the 1970s, the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction began to recognize the need to formally separate inmates and protect them from each other. However, the way we handled these inmates didn't change. We still confined them to disciplinary cells, in a sense penalizing them for needing protection.

Documentation on why an inmate needed protection was required but was usually sketchy. Inmates were placed in protection for a number of reasons - they had committed particularly notorious or heinous offenses, they were organized crime or institution informants, they were former law enforcement employees, they were unable to get along with other inmates due to weak or abrasive personalities, or they just wanted to take a break from the general population.

Once these inmates were placed in protection, they often stayed there indefinitely, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of inmates on protective status taking up valuable bed space in disciplinary cells. As the numbers continued to rise, corrections officials decided to take another look at protection and make some changes.

Policy Reform

In the late 1980s, after prison populations had risen to record levels, the department began adopting a new philosophy regarding protective control. First, we decided we needed a better system of screening and placing inmates in protective control. Second, we wanted to be sure protected inmates would have access to programs in spite of their separation from the general population. Finally, we wanted to ensure that placement in protective control was seen as temporary and transitional.

The first step the department took in changing protective control was to consolidate operations. In the mid-1980s, we had designated a unit at the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville as the state's sole protection unit.

In 1989, crowding at that facility prompted the relocation of the unit to the newly constructed Warren Correctional Institution (WCI) in Lebanon. A portion of this institution originally had been built as a reception center for the prisons in the southern part of the state, but the corrections department later determined such a center was not needed.

This reception area was ready-made for protective control. It consists of two cell houses of 34 cells each. The cells are double-bunked, making 136 beds available. More than 100 inmates were in Southern Ohio Correctional Facility's protective control unit before its relocation to Warren. After careful screening, however, only 68 inmates were moved to Warren. The others were placed in WCI's general population or were transferred into general population units at other facilities.

Careful Screening

We believe that through proper screening, we can eliminate those inmates seeking protection for the wrong reasons. There are basically two ways to seek protection - a request by the inmate or a recommendation by staff.

We emphasize to staff that a thorough investigation of the reasons for protection is required prior to placement. All pertinent information must be gathered, including the circumstances surrounding the request. If the inmate alleges threats from other inmates, we insist that he provide these inmates' names and nicknames; the times, dates and locations of the incidents; and the names of any witnesses. The type of threat - whether written, verbal or physical - also needs to be identified.

Once a request is made, we look at medical reports, court documents and who the inmate may have testified against before or during incarceration. If the threat came from outside the prison, we contact law enforcement agencies to confirm the information, especially if the inmate claims he was a police informant. All of this information becomes a permanent part of the inmate's record.

With this information the warden can request placement in protective control, recommend that the inmate be transferred to another institution or deny the protective control request and return the inmate to the general population. The inmate has a right to appeal the decision. He also may file an emergency grievance with the facility's institution inspector if he believes his life would be endangered by a return to the population.

One of the more ironic facets of protection is the need to separate certain inmates in protection from each other. At Warren, because two distinct cell houses are available for protective control inmates, we are able to separate them as needed.

Inmate Programs

The 1989 move to WCI fostered a new approach toward programming for inmates in protective control. We realized that there were good reasons for placing inmates in protection and that they should not be penalized for it. However, many also had shown us that their personalities sometimes kept them from making it in a general population. Special attention was placed on programs such as building self-esteem and assertiveness training.

Some of the more successful programs we have instituted involve bringing in former protective control inmates for small work groups to discuss what it is like to live in the general population. Inmates in protection, particularly those preparing to re-enter the general population, are encouraged by the success the former protective control inmates have had re-integrating. In many cases they too are able to successfully move to the general population.

The Vital Issues Program, a motivational program recently introduced to the protective control inmates, also has been very successful. This program is geared toward changing attitudes through methods such as motivational tapes, problem solving exercises and assertiveness training, and it seems to improve inmates' behavior significantly. Few disciplinary problems have been noted to date from inmates in this program.

The protective control unit also maintains a tutorial program in which inmates are trained and certified as Laubach tutors. This program is for the most part inmate-run. In addition, all inmates are assigned full- or part-time job positions such as clerks, library aides, laundry attendants and porters. They have recreational time consistent with the general population and are fed in the general inmate dining halls separate from the general population. Visits are held in the general population visiting area with protective control inmates seated close to the officers and under constant supervision.

At first, some staff felt we should keep programming and other activities in protection to a minimum because they feared making protective control too attractive would entice inmates to request placement there. In a few cases this may have happened, but generally we feel those fears were unfounded.

Transitional Placement

A major reason for the types of programs we decided to offer protective control inmates is that we wanted to work with them until we felt they could successfully be released to the general population. An effort was made to clearly set down department guidelines for placement in protection with the philosophy that protective control should be a transitional unit with few exceptions. Special emphasis was placed not only on the reasons for protecting an inmate but on ways to return him to the general population.

Once in protection, an inmate's record is reviewed every seven days for the first 60 days he is in protection and every 30 days thereafter by unit staff to see if the circumstances surrounding his placement have changed. Every 90 days, through a formal, taped hearing, the inmate's case is reviewed by the warden or his designee, and every 180 days it is reviewed by a representative of the director of the department. The inmate may appeal any decision. Inmates also may request release from protection at any time.

The new protective control program has had remarkable success to date. With more than 36,000 male inmates confined in prisons in Ohio, we have had on an average only 72 (less than 0.2 percent) in protective control since 1989. One reason for this is that Ohio has 14 medium security prisons, allowing administrators to spread out inmates with conflicts in various facilities in lieu of placing them in protection. There are six high security prisons in the state, of which only one is maximum security. Most inmates currently in protection are maximum security inmates.

We have had 311 inmates in protection since its inception at WCI. We currently have 86 inmates in protective control. We have released 102 inmates to other institutions and 87 to the Warren compound. Forty are no longer in the system. There have been 16 repeats to protective control.

Protective control in Ohio has had a varied history. We are pleased with the results of our current protection program. Careful screening has had a significant impact on the number of inmates in protection, and the programming offered these inmates has allowed them to retain a more normal prison life that fosters their eventual return to the general population.

Anthony J. Brigano is warden of Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio. For more information on the state's protective control policies, contact him at WCI, P.O. Box 120, State Route #63, Lebanon, OH 45036.
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Author:Brigano, Anthony J.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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