WINTERSVILLE - The Eastern Ohio Correction Center men's facility was one of two community-based correction facilities in the state to recently receive an "A" for its low rate of repeat offenders.
Common pleas court judges in Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison and Jefferson counties have the option of sentencing a convicted felon to the EOCC for a maximum of six months, generally for a non-violent, low-level felony. The offender usually then is placed on probation for a period following his or her release from the EOCC and faces prison time if probation is violated.
Eugene Gallo, EOCC executive director, said the University of Cincinnati studied offenders statewide that were placed in community-based correction facilities and halfway houses between February 2006 and June 2007. EOCC and the Lorain/Medina Community Based Correctional Facility were the only two facilities out of 20 statewide to receive an "A" grade. The study group consisted of people who had no prior time in a community-based correction facility.
Gallo said the study showed only 21 percent of the men going through the EOCC program committed another offense. He said state prison parolees studied had a recidivism rate of 41 percent.
About 76 males at the EOCC are housed in the men's facility outside Wintersville on state Route 43. The female EOCC in Lisbon, housing 28, received an average score in the study.
Gallo said the effectiveness of the men's EOCC is the result of the programs at the facility and the partnership with the local common pleas courts.
Men sentenced to EOCC spend an average of 138 days at the facility.
Tracy Walenciej, EOCC program administrator, said a lot of the programming for inmates centers on behavioral treatment - or think before acting.
"It is a process of transferring the way you think. If you can change the way you think, then you can change the way you act," she said.
A person arriving at the EOCC meets with the intake coordinator, who gets the background information of the offender. The offender then is assigned one of several case managers, depending on whether the offender is young, has substance abuse and/or mental health problems or is a sexual offender.
Walenciej said the case manager then does an assessment to determine which programs the offender will participate in and design a treatment schedule.
Programs include classes on drug and alcohol abuse; family issues; fatherhood and parenting; domestic violence; anger management; commitment to change; lifestyles, including gang membership; and transition back into the community.
Walenciej said the individual programs center on what is expected of the person. The inmate then practices the behavior throughout the day.
It isn't all treatment all the time.
EOCC inmates can obtain a GED high school diploma, and Gallo said EOCC has one of the highest GED rates in the state.
Walenciej said a welding program through the Eastern Gateway Community College also is popular. Participants can earn a state certified welding certificate that can help in obtaining a job after their release from the EOCC.
"We use the community everyday the most we can. We want them (EOCC inmates) to have the same experiences and educational opportunities as anyone else," she said.
Gallo said individual programming at the prison level isn't effective because there are just too many prisoners.
"It isn't the prison's fault. That is the hand they are dealt with the prisoner population," he said.
Gallo noted it costs about $80 a day to house an inmate at EOCC, as compared to about $69 a day for a state prison. But he said the EOCC price includes the many treatment programs and classes.
Gallo said an inmate leaving EOCC will be no worse than when he arrived, as opposed to bad behaviors that may be learned or reinforced in the prison system.
Walenciej said a typical day at EOCC includes breakfast, morning housing assignments (cleaning) and room inspection. The inmates then go to classes for the rest of the morning or have time on their own. She said the staff encourages the inmates to do something productive during free time, such as study for their GED or work in the computer lab. The afternoon includes more classes and community service out of the building. Inmates also work in the kitchen preparing meals, and the evening brings more housing assignments.
(Law can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)