The Washington Times

Prisoners' Relatives Rip Care at Ohio Jail;
Lorton Inmates Were Moved There

By Dan Egbert


The warden of a privately run prison in Youngstown, Ohio, faced angry relatives of D.C. inmates under his care Friday night.

Willis Gibson, who runs the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, grappled with complaints from D.C. residents whose relatives were transferred to NOCC from the Lorton Correction Complex in Lorton in the last few months. At a 3 1/2-hour hearing, Mr. Gibson responded to accusations of abusive treatment, lack of security, inadequate health care facilities and visitation problems at the prison.

"My son was stabbed 17 times in the back and the chest," said one woman. "There's no protection. Those security officers are turning their heads when somebody gets attacked."

Virginia Sanford, whose 23year- old fiancée Vincent Smith is incarcerated at NOCC for second degree murder, complained that he is required to wear body chains at all times, even when taking a shower.

Smith is required to wear the chains because he is separated from the general population and placed under solitary "lock down." Miss Sanford said he was indiscriminately given this punishment without provocation.

Problems at NOCC-which is owned by Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America- began immediately after the first of 900 inmates were shipped from Lorton, which is slated for closure in 2001 under a law approved by Congress this year as part of a financial revitalization package for the District

Several inmate stabbings over the summer and inadequate medical care due to lost medical records have cast doubt CCA's ability to handle the 1,700 inmates from Lorton who are serving in the Youngstown facility. Three inmates have filed suit against CCA for abuse and failure to protect them from other inmates and staff.

Mr. Gibson, who declined to comment on the case, defended his performance at NOCC.

"We do a good job at what we do' said Mr. Gibson. "I've dealt with inmates for 32 years. I feel like I know a little bit about corrections."

Mr. Gibson repeatedly called allegations of wrongdoing at his facility "far-fetched."

But Ohio state legislators aren't taking any chances with the potential legal problems of a privately run prison in Ohio.

"You've got a bunch of greenhorns who've never been guards before in a brand new facility and you bring in veteran criminals from Lorton," said state Rep. Ronald Gerberry.

Mr. Gerberry and state Sen. Robert Hagan of Youngstown are pushing legislation that would establish state regulations for privately run prisons and give local police jurisdiction over escaped prisoners.

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