OTR residents protest proposed prison program

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - Over the Rhine residents are outraged and scared over a plan to move in prisoners to their neighborhood.

The federal Bureau of Prisons says they need a transition program for prisoners in the greater Cincinnati area. Firetree, Ltd. is going for the government bid using an abandoned building at 15th and Elm Streets.

Firetree spokesman Ed Cox flew in to meet with concerned residents and officials. Dozens packed the Over the Rhine Recreation Center on Wednesday for the public meeting. Folks living and working in the neighborhood say they agree on the need for the program; just not the location. They came armed with lists of questions and concerns.

Otis Stevens runs the company Speedy Maintenance Service. His office sits across the street from the proposed location.

"Where my office is located," Stevens said. "There are two vacant buildings on each side. So we're hopeful that those will turn into residences for families. This would shoot down any hope of that."

Residents like John Donaldson came demanding answers. Donaldson has lived in Over the Rhine for the last 14 years.

"I feel it is extremely unproductive to import more felons into Over the Rhine at a time when we're talking about cutting 125 police officers," Donaldson said.

Firetree wants to open a transitional home for 51 men and women. Cox said the participants would be convicted on mostly drug related charges.

"We're talking about the possibility of introducing 100 -200 people into our community who may or may not originally be from here," said longtime Over the Rhine resident Ron Fresh. "But certainly the implications seem to be they'll likely stay here."

Cox said he understands residents' concerns, but adds his program has a great track record of rehabiliting offenders.

"Our company's history is positive," said Cox. "It's a very professional program and our residents do not harm people."

We're told Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Stprogram has filed an official objection to the location and City Council is also working on one.

Still, Cox said the proof is the program.

"Your support develops after you're actually operating," said Cox. "And we're the new kid on the block."

Firetree and another company are bidding against the Talbert House, a local social service agency that's held the contract for about 40 years. Firetree's bid is the only one using a property in Over the Rhine.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons must approve the bid.

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