CIIC Components

Based on professional assessments of prison oversight worldwide, Ohio’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) is reported to be a unique model, with critical components that maximize its potential for appeal and duplication. Such components include ingredients that are considered to be essential to effective prison oversight. Not only is the CIIC reported to be a one-of-a-kind model, its nearly 30 year history makes it especially worthy of close examination in any study or selection of prison oversight models for duplication. In brief, the CIIC has eight essential components:
  1. The CIIC is located within the Legislature

The Legislature is an excellent location for prison oversight. The Legislature is the funding source for the prison system, with a corresponding need to know about the state of the prisons. Because the Legislature is not part of the executive branch or the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), a legislative prison oversight committee provides an unbiased, outside entity to maximize objectivity. Since the Legislature represents the public, including prison employees, families of prisoners and taxpayers at large, they already receive a steady stream of communication regarding the prisons. Further, in reviewing the DRC publication on its 30-year anniversary, the chronology of events was dominated by change caused by litigation or legislation. By locating prison oversight within the Legislature, it provides a means to maximize communication of needs and wants between the DRC and the Legislature.

  1. The CIIC is a bipartisan committee with each party equally represented by the appointed members from the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

  2. The CIIC Chairman serves for a biennium, with the position rotating to the other political party in the next biennium.

Bipartisanship enables unity and stability within the Committee regarding prison matters relevant to inspections, evaluations, reports and recommendations. Anything less, whether real or perceived, will promote discord, distrust and an inability to work together as one, on a shared, important mission.

  1. The CIIC staff are non-partisan, corrections professionals, focused solely on assisting the Committee in fulfilling its duties.

Total non-partisanship of the CIIC staff is absolutely necessary to the unity, integrity, longevity and effectiveness of the Committee. Of equal importance, CIIC staff must be experts on prisons and on prison oversight.

  1. CIIC duties require biennial inspections and evaluations of each Ohio prison’s operations and conditions to include attendance of a general meal period and educational or rehabilitative program.

The inspections and evaluations occur on-site, providing prison employees, administrators and inmates an opportunity to communicate problems, needs, and concerns to the Committee. They also provide the Committee with the opportunity to see and experience the inside of prisons firsthand and up close. It ensures that the Committee maintains awareness of the ever-changing state of the prisons. Many problems as well as best practices can be identified on-site. Detailed information on the wisdom of including a meal period and program is provided in the inspections section of this report. In between inspections, on-going inspection and evaluation activities continue by monitoring data, receiving communication about the facilities, making inquiries and reviewing the responses.

  1. CIIC may inspect and evaluate juvenile correctional institutions and local jails.

Although the CIIC has the mandate to inspect Ohio prisons, it has enabling authority to inspect, evaluate and report on juvenile correctional institutions, as well as city and county jails. The inclusion of juvenile correctional facilities was considered numerous times over the past decades. While it was considered desirable by many, decision-makers chose to focus CIIC’s limited resources on the larger adult prison system. However, after serious problems within the juvenile institutions were brought to light in recent years, the public, governmental agencies and the Legislature viewed CIIC oversight of the juvenile institutions as a necessity. In the short period of time that CIIC has had such authority, it has proven to be enlightening and extremely valuable to the Committee and other stakeholders. CIIC experience and knowledge of prison system oversight lessened the challenge of providing oversight of the juvenile correctional institutions. Placing oversight responsibilities for all state and local correctional facilities in one legislative oversight committee is clearly less costly than creating three separate oversight committees for juvenile, adult and local correctional facilities. It has worked extremely well for the CIIC. In fact, knowledge of both systems enables comparison, contrast, and the identification of positive aspects in one system that might address deficiencies in the other.

  1. CIIC duties require biennial reports on findings made in inspections and evaluations of operations, conditions and grievance procedure, and any proposals to assist in the development of needed improvements.

The requirement to issue public reports is an essential ingredient to effective prison oversight. Our responsibility to accurately report inspection and evaluation findings serves to raise their level of importance within the prison system. The reports are posted on our CIIC website, easily and totally accessible to the news media and the public. The reports serve as an important means of communication between the Committee and the Committee staff, as well as between the Committee and the prison system.

  1. The CIIC meets on a monthly basis when the House and Senate are both in session.

Although meetings are not statutorily mandated, since October 2003, the CIIC Chairman has called formal, public meetings typically on a monthly basis, whenever the House and Senate are both in session. The meetings are of critical importance in providing regular, routine opportunities for in-person contact and communication between CIIC staff and members, and between DRC staff and the CIIC. The meetings begin with the CIIC Director’s progress report, detailing inspections, onsite visits, reports, meetings and any other CIIC activities that occurred since the prior CIIC meeting. Representatives of the Department of Youth Services and the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction are always present, and they make presentations on specific topics on request of the CIIC. The meetings also include an opportunity for the public to testify on any matters related to correctional facilities. Such testimony representing a wide spectrum of interests, has proven to be extremely valuable in guiding our direction and focus on issues of importance. The media presence at the public meetings and their reports on the content serves a positive purpose in raising the public’s awareness of the Committee’s existence and work, and may also serve to increase the perceived level of importance given to the meetings.