Society

Ohio Prisons Cut Power During Heat Wave

| by Michael Allen

Ohio prisons regularly cut their electricity use for three to four hours between 2 and 6 p.m. This means fans are not operable for inmates during current skyrocketing temperatures, which have reached 100 degrees.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction actually has a deal with the power company KOREnergy Ltd. to cut off the electricity, even during heat waves.

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The Columbus Dispatch, reports:

Power interruptions are part of a 2010 agreement signed by the state with KOREnergy Ltd., a contractor that works with PJM, the company that oversees electricity transmission in 13 states and the District of Columbia. The state agency has received payments totaling about $1.3 million over the past three years in exchange for agreeing to drastically cut its electric use on two-hour notice. The state is paid quarterly regardless of whether the power is interrupted.

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According to prison officials, electrified fences stay on via prison power generators, and prisoners are given water and ice, can take showers and use a water mist machine outside.

Ellen Kitchens, of CURE, an advocacy group for prison inmates, claims that people locked up in the London Correctional Institution in Madison County, Ohio could not take showers, which were not working because of the power cut.

“[The power cut] compromises safety and security, not only for the incarcerated, but for the people who staff these facilities,” said ACLU director of communications and public policy Mike Bricker.

It's not uncommon for states and private companies to profit off prisons these days. Private prisons can reap huge profits for owners, but some cut corners illegally.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1 in 34 Americans are under some type of "correctional supervision" by the legal system, which includes prison, jail, probation or parole.

Because of the extreme heat, and possibly media coverage, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction recently said the state was only going to cut power for five unlucky prisons, which all have backup generators.

Source: Columbus Dispatch and Bureau of Justice Statistics