Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ohio Republicans want to wipe out bipartisan prison watchdog agency

Not directly related to our cause but it is a cause for concern.

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/05/24/republicans-want-to-wipe-out-bipartisan-prison-watchdog-agency.html#

Ohio Republicans want to wipe out bipartisan prison watchdog agency

By Alan Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch  •  Tuesday May 24, 2016 8:08 PM

An 11th-hour change by Ohio House Republicans would eliminate a bipartisan prison watchdog agency in business for nearly 40 years.

The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, established in 1977, would be abolished and replaced by the Joint State Correctional Inspection Committee in legislation expected to be approved Wednesday in the General Assembly.

The current eight-member committee has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. The new committee would be dominated by the majority party, now Republicans.

The CIIC inspects and reports on adult and juvenile prisons and investigates a broad range of issues, from staffing and medical care to prison violence and inmate gangs. The agency's findings have often exposed flaws in the state prison systems. The agency director is Joanna Saul, who has a staff of five.

The new committee could only perform prison inspections with specific approval from the speaker of the House and president of the Senate, a dramatic departure from the investigative autonomy the committee now enjoys. A majority of members would have to be present to make an inspection.

State Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, chairman of the House Finance Committee, said House and Senate leaders "feel like it's time to redefine this (agency), redirect its goals and narrow its focus."

Rep. Kevin Boyce, D-Columbus, complained about the change, saying it would "undercut what the CIIC was established to do."

Boyce said the Republican-directed change would "erase" what has always been a bi-partisan committee. He said the legislation should be considered in a separate bill, not jammed into unrelated legislation.

The CIIC has undergone several changes since it was created. Funding was eliminated for the agency in 2001 and restored in 2003.

ajohnson@dispatch.com

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