New Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith said after talking with inmates, parolees, crime victims, lawyers, lawmakers and others, she believes change is needed, including additional transparency.
“We focus a lot on the jots and box checking and the process. There is a lot to it that’s just about the people involved: offenders, victims, the community. It’s a lot about people and there hasn’t been enough about people — it’s been more about procedures.” Critics say the board needs to be more transparent.
“Lack of transparency is a huge problem. Because of it, they get away with all kinds of things behind closed doors, making proving their wrongdoing impossible. The lack of transparency also breeds an insular culture. Culture is rotten to the core,” said attorney David Singleton of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center. “We need hearings recorded and made public. That will require a law change.”
When an inmate goes to the Ohio Parole Board to ask for release, he or she better not have swiped any fruit from the chow hall, stolen a can of pop or stashed too many bags of chips in his cell.
Tickets for misconduct – even for minor infractions – are held against them.
“Almost always, minor tickets carry a lot of weight,” said Smith, who resigned Dec. 31 and blasted the board as a secretive, toxic system. “Tickets for towels hanging on the bed, taking food from chow hall …that sort of thing carries too much weight to the point of ridiculousness.”
Chambers-Smith said misconduct is an indicator of whether someone will follow the rules outside of prison. “If you can’t behave in prison, what makes you think you’ll behave when you are free?”