View Full Version : Unusual Probe of SC's Prison System


coolchik4sure
07-08-2007, 03:54 PM
I have been gone for a minute but has this already been discussed? I have read through SC's forum but I haven't seen anything resembling this. If anyone knows about it, please help me find the thread. Thanks.

Posted on Thu, Jun. 28, 2007

Panel to begin unusual probe of S.C.’s prison system

By CLIF LeBLANC

A legislative committee that begins an examination of the state prison system today is likely to focus on concerns about security, financial mismanagement and ethics, its chairman said.

Made up of eight senators, the panel represents a rare legislative exercise — a committee questioning an executive agency.

“We would be whistle-blowers, so to speak,” said state Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville.

“The work of this committee will help verify the validity of these complaints,” he said, adding that Gov. Mark Sanford, whose appointee oversees prisons, has pledged to cooperate.

Tensions between the Corrections Department, its director, Jon Ozmint, and some members of the panel have escalated during the past few years.

Link to full story: http://www.thestate.com/154/story/104240.html

Marchio1948
08-10-2007, 10:13 PM
I treid to go there but it wouldn't let me.
Do you remember anything about it.

barky586
08-11-2007, 10:30 AM
Here you go:

http://www.topix.net/content/kri/2007/06/panel-to-begin-unusual-probe-of-s-c-s-prison-system

Panel to begin unusual probe of S.C.'s prison system

The State (http://www.topix.net/redir/loc=off-hosted-page/http=3A=2F=2Fwww.thestate.com)
June 27, 2007

Original The State article: Panel to begin unusual probe of S.C.'s prison system http://64.13.133.31/pics/icon_offsite.png (http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/17426817.htm?source=syn)
A legislative committee that begins an examination of the state prison system today is likely to focus on concerns about security, financial mismanagement and ethics, its chairman said.
Made up of eight senators, the panel represents a rare legislative exercise -- a committee questioning an executive agency.
'We would be whistle-blowers, so to speak,' said state Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville.
'The work of this committee will help verify the validity of these complaints,' he said, adding that Gov. Mark Sanford (http://www.topix.net/state/sc-gov), whose appointee oversees prisons, has pledged to cooperate.
Tensions between the Corrections Department, its director, Jon Ozmint, and some members of the panel have escalated during the past few years.
Also, strained relations with legislators not on the panel have risen to the point of being adversarial and have hurt the agency's credibility, Fair said.
Panel members Jake Knotts, R-Lexington (http://www.topix.net/city/lexington-sc), and Phil Leventis, D-Sumter (http://www.topix.net/city/sumter-sc), have exchanged at least 15 letters with Ozmint since 2004. They have questioned everything from safe operation of prisons -- including missing prison keys and contraband guns -- to equal treatment of employees.
Ozmint has responded in writing to most of the criticisms.
Ozmint, a lawyer and former prosecutor, has written to prison leaders that he is worried the hearings might not be fair. 'Will this be a witch hunt? Time will tell,' Ozmint wrote in a June 6 internal e-mail.
'At minimum,' he wrote, 'any legitimate hearing must allow for prior notice of the allegations ... presentation of documentary and other evidence ... and the opportunity for the employees of this agency to respond to attacks.'
As early as a Dec. 10, 2004, letter, Ozmint said Leventis' criticisms were personal. 'Your unceasing attacks seem to be much deeper than philosophical differences between us,' the prison director wrote.
'They seem to believe they are autocratic and they don't have to answer to anyone,' Leventis said in an interview earlier this month.
Leventis said the volume of criticism has reached a new high.
'I have been in the Senate 27 years, and I have never seen this number of fairly substantial issues raised within one agency.'
He and Knotts are nonvoting members of the committee, which might approve subpoenas to gain testimony, Fair said. Fair's Corrections and Penology Committee must authorize any subpoena.
Fair said he added Knotts and Leventis to the committee because so many Corrections employees and former employees had filed complaints with them.
At its first meeting in the Senate office building on the State House grounds, the committee plans to define where it will concentrate its inquiries and how it will proceed.
No one will be called to testify yet, Fair said. That will come in late August when prison employees, former employees and agency staff will be asked to speak under oath during at least two hearings that will be open to the public.
Fair said he plans to call Ozmint, a member of the governor's Cabinet, to testify.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.
PRISON ISSUES
Letters among prisons director Jon Ozmint and state Sens. Jake Knotts and Phil Leventis outline some concerns about state prisons.
Security concerns
Criticism: Several employees have stated that two guns and 36 rounds of ammunition were missing in December from the prison control room of Allendale (http://www.topix.net/city/allendale-sc) Correctional Institution.
Response: It was one gun and six rounds. Neither has been found, but agency officials said they believe they are not inside the prison. Three employees who were in the room either have retired, resigned or been suspended.
Criticism: A lieutenant gave an inmate a blueprint to the maximum-security Lee Correctional Institution and escape attempts increased.
Response: It was a much less detailed schematic drawing that was not as specific as satellite images readily available on the Internet. It was not a blueprint. The drawing was not a factor in escape attempts.
Criticism: Keys to cellblocks at Lee and Broad River correctional institutions disappeared. A prisoner at Lee was killed in his cell during the time the keys were lost. The cost to replace keys has risen to $240,000.
Response: No keys were lost at Lee. But inmates were able to make keys from cafeteria trays and items in the canteen.
An investigation that included the State Law Enforcement Division did not connect the inmate's death to the fabricated keys. The investigation remains open, a SLED spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The prisoners have been disciplined. Replacing the locks cost $91,401.
An internal investigation determined that Broad River inmates did not get their hands on missing keys. The officer who misplaced them was suspended for 40 hours. The replacement cost was $15,809.
The agency now requires all keys be attached to officers' belts at medium- and maximum-security prisons.
Employment practices
Criticism: A lieutenant at Lee showed pornography on his work computer to several prison nurses, who filed complaints. SLED was not informed, the male officer was not punished and the computer was returned to him.
However, a female worker was fired for having personal information on her work computer.
Response: An internal investigation determined the images, though sexually suggestive, did not reach a definition of pornography. The images were erased and the computer was returned.
The woman was found to be using her work computer to run a full-time travel agency. She and another worker also had not submitted more than 350 inmate grievances

legalart
08-22-2007, 08:26 PM
I have finally found an article regarding the state Senate investigation of the Department of Corrections into allegations of mismanagement, misconduct and other wrongdoings. The article was in the Charleston Post and Courier and was dated June 29, 2007. According to the article, the results were to be be released August 21, 2007 and I have yet to find anything about this investigation. Anybody?

barky586
08-23-2007, 04:50 AM
legalart, in one of the posts I made recently:

http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=284860

on the very last line, it was mentioned that "A special Senate committee will begin meeting Monday to look at the agency." It was not actually pertaining to what I posted, but was mentioned in the article. The date of the article is August 21st, so I am thinking they are referring to this coming Monday. I am thinking/wondering that this might be the same thing (?).

barky586
08-25-2007, 04:38 PM
http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/575/story/168815.html



Prisons chief discounts legislative staff report

The Associated Press
(http://www.thestate.com/)

COLUMBIA, S.C. --

Mistreated inmates and employees, politically charged decision-making and lax procedures that let dangerous inmates escape are among the complaints included in a legislative report on the state of South Carolina's prisons.
The staff of a Senate committee examining complaints of mismanagement in the state Corrections Department has compiled a 12-page, preliminary report in preparation for a meeting Monday.
The report was obtained by The (Columbia) State newspaper.
Committee chairman Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, wouldn't discuss the report, saying it was intended only for the panel's use.
Corrections chief Jon Ozmint said the report was "tired, recycled complaints raised by disgruntled employees."
Ozmint said the committee spoke to anyone, "who might have some dirt on us," but didn't give the agency a chance to respond. The report "found no major problems that are valid," he said. "No mismanagement. No corruption that we had failed to uncover."
The report contains broad areas of concern highlighted by about four dozen examples. The report says the complaints are based on firsthand accounts but should not be considered findings of fact.
Some key complaints are prison safety, questionable operations, misuse of resources and personnel issues.
One allegation claims a female guard was taken hostage and sexually assaulted by a convicted rapist Nov. 3 at Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Jasper County. The report states prison leaders failed to follow procedure after the rape out of concern it "could have a negative impact on the gubernatorial election."
Five days later, Gov. Mark Sanford was re-elected to a second term.
Ozmint, who was appointed by Sanford and answers directly to the governor, said in a nine-page written response to the newspaper that the governor's office was notified a hostage had been taken and when the situation was resolved.
"We will not dignify a baseless lie with any further response," Ozmint wrote to the paper.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer called the allegations of political considerations "both irresponsible and disgusting."
The report also claims Ozmint is showing one inmate preferential treatment because she is the director's housekeeper.
Dianne Graddick, convicted of murder in Aiken County 20 years ago, is a model prisoner and woman of Christian character, Ozmint said. She was one of several inmates recommended by wardens to work in the Ozmint house, he said. Graddick earns $18.25 every two weeks for working at the 4,500-square-foot house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
Her security rating was changed so she could live in a nearby prison with no fences. Ozmint said he made the change so it would be easier to transport her to his house, which is on prison property.
"If anybody else wants to ... take the director's job and live surrounded by eight prisons and 6,500 inmates ... then they should be welcome to chose the inmate of their choice to work in their home around their wife and children," Ozmint told the newspaper.
Committee member Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, said Graddick's selection seems to have "created a special class of inmates who have special dispensation from the director."
"There's not anyone else that could tidy up around his house?" asked Leventis, a longtime critic of Ozmint.
The committee will take up the report Monday.

Tigger Mom
08-25-2007, 08:25 PM
Another article on the investigation:

Barky please send me an pm telling me how you get the link in please.




A road map to a legislative investigation of state prisons alleges the public, prisoners and employees are either at risk or being mistreated.
The staff of a committee examining complaints of mismanagement has compiled a 12-page, preliminary report in preparation for a committee meeting Monday.
The report, obtained by The State, covers five broad areas of concern in what is described as a politically charged Corrections Department. It highlights about 45 incidents or examples. The report states the complaints are based on first-hand accounts but should not be considered findings of fact.
Some key complaints are:
• Prison safety — ranging from escapes and other security lapses to covering up a sexual assault of an employee by a convicted rapist for election-campaign reasons
• Questionable operations —abusive treatment of inmates, which includes use of a stun gun on a prisoner in a restraint chair. Prisoner surgeries for broken jaws are increasing, the report states.
• Misuse of resources — inmate labor and agency equipment were spent on a hunting and fishing reserve at a Sumter County prison. In addition, the report states the agency has done business with a tree-clearing company owned by a convicted felon who has personal ties to a prison employee.
Questions also are raised about prisons director Jon Ozmint’s selection of an inmate housekeeper and whether he gave her special treatment.
• Personnel issues — a hostile work environment that uses arbitrary procedures to punish detractors and requires lie detectors to track leaks and alters employment test scores for some applicants.
Ozmint challenged the report as “tired, recycled complaints raised by disgruntled employees,” and questioned the fairness of the committee staff. Senate staffers talked to anyone, “who might have some dirt on us,” yet have not given the agency a chance to respond, he said.
Ozmint said the report “found no major problems that are valid. No mismanagement. No corruption that we had failed to uncover.”
The report is intended as a starting point for the eight-member panel, which will select the issues it will examine more closely through sworn testimony or audits.
Committee chairman Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, declined to respond to the report, saying it was intended only for the panel’s use. He said the staff on Monday would provide details not contained in the report. Fair would not elaborate.
The document was compiled after numerous interviews with prison workers, former employees, inmates and their relatives, as well as the public. They came forward voluntarily, though many feared retaliation from the agency, the report states.
Their complaints — presented privately to a staff of two legislative lawyers and a former senior prison official — have not been substantiated by the committee.
PRISON SECURITY
Rules intended to keep prisons safe have been ignored, compromised or broken under Ozmint’s administration, according to the preliminary report.
Violations of generally accepted prison practices resulted in:
• A female employee being taken hostage and repeatedly assaulted by a convicted rapist Nov. 3 at Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Jasper County.
After the rape, prison leaders did not immediately intervene as procedures require, the report states. It said they hoped to contain the tense situation out of concern it “could have a negative impact on the gubernatorial election.”
Five days later, Gov. Mark Sanford became the second governor in 28 years elected to a consecutive term. The Corrections Department is a Cabinet agency that answers directly to the chief executive.
Authorities handled the standoff “in accordance with best practices,” Ozmint said in a nine-page written response to the newspaper.
He said the governor’s office was notified a hostage had been taken and when the situation was resolved. “We will not dignify a baseless lie with any further response.”
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer called the allegations of political considerations “both irresponsible and disgusting.”
Committee member Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, questioned why the convicted rapist was at a medium-security prison in the first place.
Rapist Lloyd Isaac was a maximum-security risk and had been moved to Ridgeland, a medium-security prison. Isaac was moved to serve as an informant for an agency investigator, the senator wrote in a Feb. 22 letter to Ozmint.
Isaac is awaiting trial in February on charges of kidnapping, hostage-taking and rape in that incident, prosecutor Duffie Stone said. If convicted, Isaac would be sentenced to life without parole, Stone said.
• Two inmates escaped in December 2003 from Ridgeland after telling agency leaders — in writing — they would do so.
It was the tandem’s second escape within weeks from the same prison. Normal procedures are to place escaped inmates in a more restrictive prison, the report states.
Ozmint did not respond to the newspaper’s questions about that complaint.
The report cites three other escapes, two of which occurred from Columbia’s Broad River Correctional Institution after guards lost track of prisoners. The most recent was this month by a murderer and a burglar after a supervisor failed to count prisoners correctly. Both were captured.
Ozmint said those were “mistakes made in selected instances.” Overall, escapes are down dramatically. Figures he released show there were 17 escapes last fiscal year, half the rate in 2003.
• During an August 2005 parole hearing at Lee Correctional Institution, a major provided a violent criminal a six-inch knife that had been seized as contraband. The major directed the prisoner to pull it on two women correctional officers, the report states.
Providing a weapon to an inmate is a felony punishable by up to 10 years. The major was neither disciplined nor charged, the report states.
Ozmint said in a March 1 letter to Knotts the prisoner did not threaten the women. The episode was an exercise to show they were negligent in their search procedures, Ozmint wrote. The women missed the shank when they patted down the inmate.
“It was a great idea, except for the use of the actual shank” Ozmint wrote.
Such exercises usually occur in classrooms and do not involve the use of inmates, the report notes.
The women said the episode was intimidation by the major for filing a sexual harassment complaint against him, the report states.
Other security issues mentioned include missing guns and keys inside prisons, and an inmate in a maximum-security prison having a drawing showing all internal and external access points with which inmates might not be familiar.
PRISONER TREATMENT
Several inmates or their relatives reported assaults while prisoners were handcuffed.
Corrections employees also reported abuse. They say there is an increase in the number of broken jaws and medical treatment. The report offers no details.
Ozmint said the complaints are false. “There has been no increase in allegations or confirmed instances of excessive force complaints.”
He said stun guns are not authorized in prisons.
Earlier this year, an inmate was awarded $600,000 from a lawsuit alleging beatings. It is being appealed, Ozmint said.
Prisoners also complained they have been denied food for breaking grooming and talking rules.
Ozmint has said a federal court upheld a similar practice in Wisconsin. But other courts have ruled against it.
WASTED RESOURCES
Prison facilities at the Wateree Correctional Institution near the rural Sumter County town of Rembert have been upgraded using inmate labor and agency materials and equipment, the report states.
Other details alleged include:
• A staff house has been converted into “a guest cottage.” A boat shed and fishing pier were built.
• About 30 deer stands constructed at Trenton and MacDougall correctional institutions were shipped to Wateree.
• A cattle-hauling vehicle was repainted, had chairs installed and got a new roof to convert it for use in dove hunting.
Agency administrators invite guests to hunt or fish.
The report contains no figures on the cost of the improvements.
Ozmint, who has complained for years the Legislature does not provide enough money to run prisons adequately, called the allegations false and reckless.
“No residence at Wateree ... has been renovated as described. We will gladly show you every residence.”
In another complaint, a tree-cutting company owned by an inmate was hired for at least three jobs, despite notification to agency administrators.
“Allegedly, there was a personal relationship between a staff member and the inmate,” the report states.
The company was the lowest bidder, and state law requires the agency to accept the low bid in all contracts, he said.
Ozmint said he banned the company from doing business with the prisons as soon as he learned of the connection with the inmate.
Other concerns listed include use of prison computers to view sexually explicit images and complaints of misuse of agency vehicles.
OZMINT’S HOUSEKEEPER
Dianne Graddick, convicted of murder in Aiken County two decades ago, works for the Ozmint family as a housekeeper. Ozmint calls her a model prisoner and a woman of Christian character.
She was one of several inmates recommended to work in the house by wardens, Ozmint said.
Ozmint changed Graddick’s security rating to allow her to work at his house and live in a nearby prison that has no fences. Ozmint said he made the change for convenience of her daily transports to the house, which is on prison property.
A maximum-security prison is nearby, but moving inmates from there is more restricted.
Graddick works at the 4,500-square-foot house weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Ozmint said. She earns $18.25 every two weeks.
Guards do not routinely patrol the house while Graddick works.
Ozmint said he has the authority to override any agency policy.
“If anybody else wants to ... take the director’s job and live surrounded by eight prisons and 6,500 inmates ... then they should be welcome to chose the inmate of their choice to work in their home around their wife and children,” Ozmint said.
Laws grant the department head “exclusive management and control of the prison system.” But statutes do not say explicitly the director may override any rule.
Committee chairman Fair and committee member Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, question Ozmint’s choice.
“It certainly raises concerns ... about his decision-making,” said Leventis, a longtime critic of Ozmint. “It seems like (Graddick’s selection) would have created a special class of inmates who have special dispensation from the director. There’s not anyone else that could tidy up around his house?”
HOSTILE WORKPLACE
Hirings, promotions and firings have become tools to target critics and reward favorites, the report states.
Employment test scores and inmate and vehicle-use records are altered, often “to cover mistakes.”
The scores are adjusted to hire favorites over more qualified candidates, the report states.
Several staffers complained about the use of lie-detectors to determine who is sharing information with whom, even when a criminal investigation is not under way.
Ozmint called the complaints “intentionally misleading and ... false in all respects.”
The agency uses lie detectors appropriately within the law and policy, and will continue to do so, he said.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.
IF YOU GO
A Senate committee examining complaints of mismanagement in the state prison system is meeting to review a preliminary report by its staff.
When: 1 p.m., Monday
Where: Room 209 of the Gressette office building on the State House grounds

Does this mean it is open to the public?_krdDartInc++;document.write('');

barky586
08-25-2007, 08:48 PM
Thank you so much for posting that, Tigger Mom......I need to get me some popcorn!

Tigger Mom
08-25-2007, 09:31 PM
Sorry! The only way I know how to do it is copy and paste. I can't figure out the link thing or I would just post a few lines and the link. It was a very interesting read though. I have found out if an article about the state is in another paper alway's look in the state as it will give more details. The local papers for each institution are always good sources too. Popcorn does sound good though I think I will go see if we have any in the cupboard! If not there's alway's chocolate!

Tigger Mom

barky586
08-26-2007, 09:36 AM
Paste away! I read every word. Sounds like there is going to be a lot of back and forth with this, which is why I am thinking we need popcorn or chocolate while we "watch the show." Interesting stuff indeed! :)

Tigger Mom
08-27-2007, 05:32 PM
Just wanted to let everyone know that there is an update on thestate.com regarding the investigation into our states prisons. Until I learn how to insert a link here I will just give you the page so as not to take up the whole page! Barky feel free to link it if you want.

Tigger Mom

barky586
08-27-2007, 06:20 PM
Here's Mr. Ozmint's speech to the press:

http://www.wltx.com/video/newsVideoPlayer.aspx?aid=36426&sid=52888&bw=

barky586
08-27-2007, 07:33 PM
http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/575/story/170247.html



Legislator wants law enforcement to look at SC prison complaints

By MEG KINNARD - Associated Press Writer


COLUMBIA, S.C. --

State law enforcement should review a report of mistreatment and mismanagement allegations at South Carolina's prisons, a lawmaker leading a Senate panel investigating the agency said Monday.
The panel will provide its findings to the State Law Enforcement Division to see if any criminal charges are warranted and will ask the Legislative Audit Council to review the findings, said Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville.
The preliminary report containing the allegations was prepared for the panel's meeting Monday. A copy obtained by The (Columbia) State newspaper detailed dozens of allegations. The report contained complaints based on firsthand accounts, but should not be considered findings of fact, the newspaper reported.
Lawmakers and Corrections Department officials would not make the report available to The Associated Press.
Prisons Director Jon Ozmint criticized the panel's investigation and the release of the report. He said the allegations were "trivial" complaints he had already heard from disgruntled employees.
"We would have welcomed thoughtful, constructive criticism by folks willing to look honestly and objectively at our performance, funding and staffing," Ozmint said. "Instead, this report proves only that this is a witch hunt."
Earlier this summer, Fair's special subcommittee began looking into possible problems within the agency. At the panel's first meeting, members said the committee would interview those with grievances against the agency and give Gov. Mark Sanford a report on their findings.
Ozmint said one allegation that prison officials did nothing when a female corrections officer at Ridgeland Correctional Institution was taken hostage Nov. 3 and sexually assaulted by a convicted rapist was slanderous.
"This all amounts to a slanderous claim that sworn law enforcement officers ... knowingly allowed an assault," Ozmint said. "The inclusion of this assault is beneath contempt."
The allegation claims that the officials did not do anything because they didn't want to hurt Sanford's re-election campaign.
Sanford appointed Ozmint as director of South Carolina's prison system in 2003.
Ozmint also said he wanted a written apology from the committee for including the incident and leaking the report, which included the woman's name, to media. He said any evidence that could warrant a criminal investigation should be turned over to authorities.
Ozmint said he would ask State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart to interview the Senate staffers who worked on the report. Ozmint said witnesses with "first hand knowledge of anyone who violated their sworn oath and committed such a gross dereliction of duty" should be investigated.
Although he said he had not yet seen the report, Stewart told The Associated Press on Monday that SLED first seeks legal advice from prosecutors when it receives allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of state employees.
"We work closely with prosecutors, analyze the information and see what would be the appropriate action," Stewart said.
At the panel's meeting Monday, state Sen. Phil Leventis suggested that all witnesses testify under oath to the committee. Witnesses were not under oath when they spoke with legislative staffers who prepared the report.
"The role of the Legislature is oversight, and we have to exercise that," said Leventis, D-Sumter. "The public demands that the government be responsive and be accountable."
But Leventis cautioned committee members and staffers and asked they not reveal any findings, especially names of witnesses who come forward.
"The department should not get the proverbial black eye for allegations that cannot be substantiated," Leventis said.
Ozmint attended the committee's meeting and said he would speak to members and make Corrections employees available to the panel.
"No subpoenas will be necessary," he said.

pokhermaster
12-13-2007, 01:07 AM
He is such a liar. They have rduced assaults and escapes because they have control movement that keeps people locked down so much. That is also how the keep the institutions running on so little staff. There is no such thing as rehabilatation in SCDC. Ozmint has never ran a large company. And thats what SCDC is. It is a business. A very lucrative one at that