Irregularities at Belmont Correctional Institution Outlined in Report

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The report said the warden was giving inmates credit for community service hours in exchange for monetary donations to her favorite charities.

Now the report is in the hands of the Belmont County prosecutor, the Ohio Ethics Commission and the Ohio Supreme Court.

They said Warden Michele Miller was in a charity walk in October 2015. To raise pledges, she reportedly circulated flyers saying “Make The Warden Walk.”

“The flyer was put out advising inmates if you donate a dollar you get a hundred hours of community service, and if you donate five dollars you get 500 hours of community service,” said Dan Fry, Belmont County prosecutor.

Then there were allegedly several more charities that inmates could donate to, in order to get credit for community service. The prison was reportedly logging community service hours far beyond all others in the state.

But it was the inmates who brought the donations-for-hours policy to light.

“They were basically saying there were some inmates who couldn’t afford to donate, that they were handicapped versus those who could afford to, and were getting community service credit,” Fry noted.

The Inspector General’s report has been forwarded to the Ohio Ethics Commission and to the Ohio Supreme Court, since many inmates will have hours far exceeding what they actually worked.

“The term ‘community service’ is pretty self-explanatory,” Fry said. “Basically it’s work performed that benefits either the community or the penitentiary system. Making donations does not fit the definition in any regard, no,”

Officials say it’s “irregular” if not precisely illegal, except for one part, which might be construed as evidence tampering.

And that’s why the report was forwarded to the prosecutor.

“There was an attempt allegedly by the warden to change the numbers of community service hours that had been reported,” Fry said. “Now whether that’s true or not, we have not studied the report.”

Whether or not to file charges will be up to Fry and his staff. He said the warden didn’t profit from anything that went on.

He said altogether the inmates donated about $500 which all went to legitimate charities. The investigation continues.

The Department of Corrections issued a response. They thanked the Inspector General for his time.

And they said they are now in the process of reviewing and revising their community service policy.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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