Ohio Prisons Reducing Physical Force with Inmates, But Racial Disparity Remains

The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee's annual report on use of force in Ohio prisons. Photo by Joanna Richards
The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee's annual report on use of force in Ohio prisons. Photo by Joanna Richards
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By Joanna Richards

Use of force by city police officers has been getting a lot of attention, but it can be an issue in another part of the criminal justice system: prisons.

A report out today shows Ohio’s prison staff used force against inmates less often in 2014 than in 2013, continuing a mostly downward trend since 2010.

The rate of use-of-force incidents in Ohio prisons has dropped 15 percent from 2010 through 2014, according to this year’s annual report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee.

The non-partisan legislative committee inspects the state’s prisons, to increase accountability and improve conditions.

Joanna Saul, the committee’s director, says state prison administrators have boosted oversight and added more training on use-of-force, including strategies for using it more intelligently: "Prior to jumping into handling a fight, have you called backup? Prior to using force with an inmate who’s acting aggressively, have you used interpersonal communication skills to talk down that inmate?"

Saul says this approach can save taxpayer money, reducing lawsuits and injuries among both staff and inmates.

On the downside, Saul says black inmates are nearly twice as likely as whites to have physical force used against them, and there’s been an unexpected jump in use-of-force in the women’s prison in Dayton over the last year.

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