Superintendent questioned for actions

COLUMBUS – A superintendent of a youth prison twice handcuffed herself to out-of-control juveniles to help calm them down, defending herself by saying there was no policy specifically prohibiting her from doing so, records show. Beth Oprisch, the 47-year-old former superintendent of Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility in northeast Ohio, was disciplined for handcuffing the youths and for failing to have one of them checked for potential injuries from the handcuffs. Oprisch’s actions put herself and the youths in danger, the Department of Youth Services said. ‘Beth is a hard-worker – she just happened to use poor judgment in this instance,’ said agency spokeswoman Andrea Kruse. Oprisch was reassigned to a job yesterday in the agency’s parole division in Columbus, and her salary dropped from $76,003 to $72,259. She acknowledged ‘thinking a little outside the box’ in comments yesterday to The Associated Press. She said she knew the kids well and saw her action as the safest way to move them. ‘I’m just going to have a hard time saying I flat-out think I made a mistake,’ Oprisch said. ‘I can tell you that I just did what I thought was right at that time.’ Her comments echoed statements she made Feb. 25 in an investigative document obtained by the AP. ‘In both situations I believed that the safest, least restrictive manner to get both youth to where they needed to go was by walking with them in a controlled fashion,’ Osprich said in the statement. ‘Additionally, I knew that the rapport I had developed with each young man ensured the success of the method I chose to employ,’ she said. The incidents happened Feb. 5 and Feb. 17 and lasted a few minutes each. Both youths gave statements that they weren’t injured by Oprisch’s actions. The Feb. 5 situation unfolded as guards tried to control a youth who was found in his cell with a sheet around his neck, upset that he was being segregated during a drug test. The youth later bashed a brick out of another cell wall and dug a spring from a pen into his arm. After handcuffing herself to the teen, Oprisch walked him to the medical unit for treatment. Records show the boy complied only after Oprisch intervened. On Feb. 17, Oprisch handcuffed herself to a teen acting up in a classroom where she feared he would damage computers. ‘ She walked the boy back to the center’s main building without incident and asked that he receive a medical check because of his behavior. Oprisch stated that nothing in agency policy specifically prohibits staff members from handcuffing themselves to youths. That policy does prohibit handcuffing youths together or to stationary objects. ‘Handcuffing yourself to another person just makes you vulnerable and also possibly the youth,’ Kruse said. The state also reprimanded four other Indian River administrators for not properly documenting what happened. Oprisch told investigators she believed her mistake appeared to be in failing to fill out proper paperwork. Video images of both incidents prove she never tried to conceal her actions, she said. She told the AP she was never worried about her safety or that of the teens. ‘My record speaks for itself,’ Oprisch said. ‘I would never do anything to hurt a kid or harm a kid.’