Tension eases at CCA prison

YOUNGSTOWN – An overnight protest Tuesday at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center during which approximately 140 inmates refused to return to their cells from a small recreation yard has been resolved. However the facility remained on lockdown Wednesday afternoon.

“All inmates have now peacefully exited the recreation yard and are secured in their cells. At no time did any incidents of violence occur, and the community was not in danger. All staff and inmates are accounted for,” said Jonathan Burns, senior manager of public affairs for the Corrections Corporation of America.

Police called Warden Mike Pugh about 5 p.m. Tuesday after an inmate’s relative received word from within the prison that there was a riot in progress, according to reports. Pugh informed police that there was not a riot but that the 140 inmates were refusing to leave the recreational yard.

He verified that police assistance was not needed.

Calls by Tribune Chronicle reporters to the prison and emails to their spokesmen on Tuesday and Wednesday yielded few details about the nature of what they referred to as a “disturbance.” An initial statement from the facility maintained the facility was on lockdown but that there was no violence and that the community was not in harm’s way.

Youngstown police said the issue was resolved around 3 a.m. Wednesday, but the lockdown continued. Prison officials would not said late Wednesday when or if the lockdown had been lifted.

“The facility is secured and remains in lockdown as a precautionary measure while an investigation is conducted. Facility management notified its partner, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and kept officials apprised through the duration of the incident,” Burns said.

Youngstown Mayor John McNally said Wednesday that the city wasn’t in the loop despite a provision in the agreement of operation that city officials be notified any time an unsual situation takes place.

”I would consider a 140-inmate sit-in one of those unusual situations we have to know about,” McNally said.

Instead, he said he read it on Twitter and the police chief heard when the inmate’s relative called to report a ”riot.”

McNally said the process will get smoothed out, but that local prison employees need to be better informed by the parent company of their contractual obligations.

An unconfirmed source told Tribune Chronicle news partner WYTV 33 News on Wednesday that the inmate’s complaints centered on food and the treatment of inmates by guards.

The privately owned facility on Hubbard Road houses male inmates for the U.S. Marshals Service. According to website of the Corrections Corporation of America, who has owned and maintains the facility since 1997, the prison is low-security and holds 2,016 beds.

In June the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to end its contract with CCA to house immigration detainees.

This came after the group reported that the for-profit prisons “create dangerous atmospheres with a severe lack of oversight and do little to encourage rehabilitation.”