An Ohio regulatory panel imposed new standards for the 90 full-service jails in the state, which detain some 20,000 prisoners in the state's county and municipal jails.
On April 15, 2014, 180 revisions to the state's jail regulations went into effect, pursuant to the directives of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. The rule changes encompass a wide range of subjects, from the minimum size of cells to new visiting regulations to new policies on use of force.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction does not operate the county and municipal jails, but it does inspect them for compliance with state regulations and set those regulations. The new rules will not be enforced until 2015, said Sarah Andrews, the agency's court and community manager.
Among the most controversial of the new rules are those that allow jails to limit prisoners to a hot shower only once every 48 hours, and one that requires only two meals a day on weekends.
The two meals a day provision drew public criticism when the Commission initially proposed enacting it on a seven days a week basis. The plan was scrapped after the Commission heard testimony from the Ohio Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which suggested that limiting all prisoners to two meals a day might "fall into the gray area of potentially violating basic rights," especially in the case of diabetic prisoners and those with high blood pressure or gastric ulcers. The Commission's decision to limit the two meals a day policy to only weekends was not accompanied by an explanation. Ohio state prisoners receive only two meals a day on weekends, a practice that has been deemed constitutionally adequate by courts in several jurisdictions. See: Manning v. Dolce, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4800 (E.D.Mich., 1/3/11)(collecting cases).
It had been more than a decade since the regulations had been revised, and while Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman said that the changes will save little, if any, money for the jails, "We wanted to look at what was working and what wasn't."
Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Brooklyn State Sheriffs Association, acknowledged that much of the motivation for the new rules was to lessen the cost of prisoner lawsuits. "The lawsuits on jail conditions have become a real problem. Lowering the standards reduces the liability."
Sources: Associated Press, www.dispatch.com, www.vindy.com, www.washingtontimes.com
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Related legal case
Manning v. Dolce
|2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4800 (E.D.Mich., 1/3/11)(collecting cases).