Ozmint: “I need the Legislature’s help on this; somebody’s going to get killed” at Corrections


Corrections chief Jon Ozmint came by Tuesday to give his perspective on the recently redirected Senate investigation of his department.

He kept saying he wanted us to take the 30,000-foot view of the situation. Well, this brief post is more like the satellite view — a few sketchy notes, a video clip, and some supplementary material his office e-mailed over when we were done. Look at it and decide what you think; I haven’t had time to digest it or dig deeper, so I have no opinion to offer at this time — beyond our usual position, which is that we’ve got to stop trying to lock up everybody and his brother and not pay what it takes to have safe prisons (that’s the view from the moon, metaphorically speaking).

In a nutshell, he said there were three problems with the way the Senate committee has gone about looking at how our prisons are run:

  1. The Subject. He says there are plenty of legitimate areas for legislative oversight — escapes, assaults, turnover rates, contraband control, gangs —  of the agency. But the Senate staff tried to get into the nitty-gritty of "individual, isolated complaints" from employees and others, and he believes there are more appropriate venues for investigating and adjudicating such matters.
  2. The Method. He said the Senate staffers lacked the expertise to investigate, leading to compromising potentially legitimate investigations. "There was no plan." They took a bunch of hearsay, he says, with no next step such as going to Corrections for more info.
  3. The Motive. He was cagier about this, not wanting to get into placing political blame specifically on individual senators. But he said the investigation "had been hijacked by a small group of senators and staffers."

"And I think those were the three problems that made this the disaster that it was," he said. We went on with a rambling discussion of problems at Corrections, politics at the State House, and various other matters, on and off the record — but the points above are what he mainly came to say. I urge you to watch him saying it on the video, as it helps you appreciate the passion and volatility that Mr. Ozmint brings to his job — whatever you may make of those qualities.

Oh, let me add this. Mr. Ozmint realized I was shooting video during the meeting. But near the end of the meeting, he said he didn’t realize I would publish it on my blog — even though he reads the blog (but, he said, his computer won’t play the videos). I asked him why he thought I was shooting it, and he said he supposed it was to back up my notes. But I have an audio recorder for that. He protested that he wasn’t dressed right. I told him he looked like a hard-working sort with his polo shirt with the name of the department on it. Whatever.

So, extra-point questions here:

  1. Is it fair for me to post the video?
  2. Does the video add any value for you, the reader (and citizen of South Carolina)?

That’s all for now.

10 thoughts on “Ozmint: “I need the Legislature’s help on this; somebody’s going to get killed” at Corrections

  1. Herb Brasher

    The video would add value if I could hear the audio, but it’s barely audible. I don’t think it’s my computer or old ears, either. Did anyone else have trouble hearing it?
    If Mr. Ozmint’s only complaint is his lack of coat and tie, I don’t see a problem with the posting.

  2. weldon VII

    Sure it’s fair, as long as what Ozmint wanted off the record stays that way.
    But the video doesn’t help me much, because I have dial-up, and I don’t want to spend half an hour downloading a four-minute video.
    Yes, I actually trust you to transcribe the high points.

  3. Ricky

    Corrections is just another Sanford agency that believes it should be above criticism. It seems that whenever Sanford or one of his agencies gets criticized that they always scream that it is “just politics”. This reaction is an injustice to the people to SC as we are deprived of the natural and healthy debate that should surround our government.
    The Sanford regime wants to control the debate, down to the level of who can enter the debate, and how, and on what subject. I don’t understand exactly why the press allows them as much latitude with this absolute defense of their ways as they do…but it certainly halts intelligent debate.
    That being said, I liked his passion, and can see that he is very bright…and wish him the best with his very tough appointment. He should go back to work, and leave the politics to others.

  4. Doug Ross

    I guess I wonder why a public official should be speaking “off the record” to the press about public business.
    What’s he telling Brad that he should be telling the people who pay his salary?

  5. Karen McLeod

    Brad, the picture might have helped if I could have heard it. Since I could not, it wasn’t helpful. And it’s perfectly legitimate to show him. Its not like he’s dressed ludicrously. If he appeared in public in whatever he was wearing, then it’s a legitimate post.

  6. Sand Hill

    Ozmint strikes me as someone who doesn’t really have the requisite experience to do the job he has, but has worked very hard to learn the job. He obviously cares about the details of the job and wants to do the best he can for the state. The video helps in this respect. Public officials really need to pretend they are always on video camera, so it doesn’t really seem unfair to tape him.
    My 2 cents is that the Senate Committee didn’t do a very professional job. The escapes scare me, but if Ozmint doesn’t have the money to keep good officers, then I would except a certain level of inexperience and errror to creep into the system.

  7. Bill C.

    My answers to your questions:
    1) No
    2) No
    1. I don’t think it’s fair to video record anyone without their knowledge or consent if it’s to be posted in public areas. Why don’t you videotape yourself walking around your office so we can see what you do all day?
    2. If I want to watch video, I don’t go to the newspaper.

  8. Ready to Hurl

    Bill C. and Mr. Ozmint must live in kind of strange world. Mr. Ozmint, an employee of the taxpayers, appears to explain his policies to people who control one of the largest distributors of information in the state yet he doesn’t expect to be portrayed? Does he object to the video because it’s more difficult to deny the video record?
    Mr. Ozmint doesn’t seem to understand that he’s under the microscope from the time that he walks into the building (see, “Edwards, John– Hatchet Job”).
    Mr. Ozmint would do well to presume that his every move is being videotaped for broadcast or posting on the internet– whether he’s in his office, speaking to The State Editorial Board, or driving down the street.


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