CINCINNATI — The River City Correctional Center reported several changes to its board at a quarterly meeting held Thursday.
A change that started over the weekend centers around inmates who receive medical treatment at UC Medical Center. No longer will those inmates be under the hold or custody of hospital staff during their visit. A River City staff member will have to be with the inmate during their hospital stay.
“99% of our cases go to UC,” executive director Scott McVey said. “For whatever instance they don’t, it’s always been our responsibility.”
Inmate escapes and safety were the bulk of topics discussed. On June 17, inmate Jeremaih Beavers didn't return to the facility from work. The same day, Russell Baumgartner escaped custody from UC Medical Center.
McVey briefed each recent escape to the facilities board, including the escape of Thomas Cromwell and Shawn Black on July 9. Cromwell was shot and killed during an hours-long SWAT standoff after officials said he held a woman at knifepoint in a Mason hotel. Black was captured the next day.
“I can tell you on each one of those I go back into the pods and I sit down with their fellow residents and I say, 'Why did this guy leave?'” McVey said.
He said the answer is sometimes unclear, but nonetheless changes to the community-based facility are underway.
In addition to the additional monitoring at UC Medical Center, McVey told the board the eight-inch window Cromwell and Black used to escape had been replaced and secured. The board also discussed revisiting the organization's memorandum of understanding with Cincinnati police and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. The document outlines how each agency will respond in different instances including escapes.
The board also began a discussion on alerting the public when an inmate escapes or walks away from the center. Tina Newsome, who lives right next to the facility, said she didn't know about any escapes until she saw reports on the local news.
“I am currently researching a program or a system to be able to do that,” McVey said. “There are some companies out there that can do that for you. You can call them and they blast it out. I've also made a commitment to the media that if we had something happen I will personally contact all of them.”
Previously, the practice was to notify local law enforcement agencies.
A new board member, Deanna Hoskins, said a community alert each time someone walks away may be counterproductive for the center's rehabilitative programming because she said the average resident is a non-violent offender.
“Everyone who walks away from the sheriff’s office in community service is not reported to the media,” she said. “And those people are pre-trial, not even convicted of a crime to serve time. So I want to ensure that we are not creating something that causes more harm to the people that come here to be helped to satisfy the public.”
Another board member brought up the WCPO 9 I-Team investigation in which the I-Team found at least 19 of the center’s 170 inmates were convicted of violent felony crimes in their most recent criminal cases.
“A person's past record, while we do look at that, is not indicative of their current charge that may have sent them here," McVey said.
One board member said the facility is seeing more inmates sent by a judge who may have otherwise sent them to prison, which could explain why some have violent crimes on their record.
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