Thursday, June 5, 2003

Pendleton officials tour Grant Co. jail


Abuse allegations precipitate visit

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WILLIAMSTOWN - Pendleton Fiscal Court members toured the Grant County jail Wednesday as part of their inquiry into allegations of prisoner abuse at the 300-bed facility.

"We are not criminal investigators," said Pendleton County Judge-executive Henry Bertram after completing the hourlong guided tour. "This was just a fact-finding mission. At this time we have not gathered enough information to know if we should request a state investigation."

Four federal lawsuits claiming inmates' civil rights were violated, a state police investigation and an inquiry by the Justice Department have put jail officials on the offensive.

"We are not concerned with the care of prisoners," said Grant County Judge-executive Darrell Link, who also took the tour. "We pay the medical bills for these prisoners every month so we know they are getting good care."

The Grant County jail serves both Grant and Pendleton counties and also holds federal and state prisoners.

"This is not just a county jail," said Grant County Jailer Steve Kellam, who led the tour. "It is a small prison. This is not the jail of old days."

The facility was completed in May 2000 and cost $7.5 million.

The tour started where prisoners are booked.

Fiscal court members asked questions concerning jail policies - from when an inmate would be restrained to how valuables belonging to inmates are secured.

One fiscal court member sat down in a restraint chair while Bertram opened peepholes in cell doors to observe prisoners.

Many of the questions centered on the jail's video surveillance system. One suit filed by a Pendleton County resident claims surveillance footage that would support his claim of abuse was not kept by the jail.

Bertram said the purpose of the tour was for fiscal court members to learn what should go on at the jail. He said the tour will be followed up by unannounced visits.

"We now know how things should operate," Bertram said. "If we see something different during surprise visits, we will be asking questions."

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com




TOP LOCAL STORIES
Chabot's anti-abortion bill near law
Mayor poses election change
Hospitals cash cows for city
Lying juror sent to jail
Prank kills peacock at Mason High

PHOTO OF THE DAY
Photo: Queen of the river

LAURA PULFER COLUMN
Dog breath bragging rights

CINCINNATI-HAMILTON COUNTY
Downtown challenges 'grave,' consultant says
City hires company despite warning
Obituary: Marjorie Miller Stine was nurse, socialite

AROUND THE TRISTATE
Tristate A.M. Report
Suburban Insider
Civil War buffs, books get together
Good News: Photo show is a peek at history
Obituary: Frank E. Lang taught at SCPA
Congrats

BUTLER COUNTY
Football star facing drug charge
Apartment owner, county face off
Water leak traced to warehouse
West Chester dog festival Sunday
Local murder focus of TV show
Fatal crash goes to grand jury
School Notes

CLERMONT COUNTY
River needs yearly sweep

WARREN COUNTY
School boss retiring to his farm

OHIO
Damage caps don't curb premiums
Ohio guard duty will last year
Combat air crews donate memorabilia
Ohio Moments: Black Laws cast pall over state
Wife killer gets death sentence
Ohio village loses speed trap
Young obese prone to gum woes

KENTUCKY
Pendleton officials tour Grant Co. jail
Boone Co. nurse running for House
River rescue unit may be cut
Around the Commonwealth

INDIANA
Indianapolis archdiocese cuts jobs