Correctional facility has new warden

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont Correctional Institution has a new warden who says he is dedicated to forging strong, positive relationships with the community around the facility.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced Monday that David Gray has accepted the position, He holds a bachelor’s degree from West Liberty University and a master’s in criminal science from the University of Cincinnati. He is a longtime employee of the ODRC, having started his career as a corrections officer in 1998. He has continued his relationship with ODRC since then, serving in different positions at both the Belmont Correctional Institution and the Noble Correctional Institution, including a recent stint as the deputy warden of operations at NCI. It appears it was a natural move for Gray to be promoted to the warden position at the Belmont County facility, since he was recommended for the position by Michelle Miller, regional director and former warden of the institute.

Gray started his new post on Aug. 6 and is still getting a feel for the position, according to other employees.

“A lot of the changes so far have been smaller, to help him kind of adjust,” said Eric Lyle, correction warden assistant. Lyle said one of the ideas Gray already has spoken about is making the privileges the inmates at the facility receive more incentive based; the better behaved the inmates are, the more privileges will be made available to them. Lyle said he thinks Gray will do well as the warden, and he is eager to see what Gray brings to the table as time goes on.

“I think he has a lot of his own ideas and is going to make some good changes to the facility,” Lyle said. “I think it’s going to be a good change.”

“I am very pleased to have an opportunity to continue my corrections career back home in the Ohio Valley,” Gray stated in a news release. He added that in addition to working to meet ODRC’s mission to prevent crime by reducing recidivism, “I plan on continuing to foster positive relationships with our community partners here in Belmont County and beyond.”

Gray takes the helm of the prison, located along Ohio 331 north of Interstate 70 near Bannock, following news that the previous warden, Michelle Miller, was being investigated for allegedly offering inmates improper credit for community service. According to a report from the Ohio Inspector General, a state watchdog agency, Miller offered inmates credit for community service hours in exchange for charity donations.

“They were getting community service hours for either charitable donations or work done on behalf of charities,” Inspector General Randall Meyer said, adding that his office’s investigation is complete and the report has been referred to Belmont County Prosecutor’s Office and to the Ohio Ethics Commission, as well as the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

He cited evidence collected in the report, including a flier for a charity event in 2015 offering to remove 100 hours of community service for donations of $1. In addition, he said the report also showed problems with how the community service hours were counted.

Meyer also alleged that Miller then attempted to conceal community service hours.

The Belmont County Prosecutor’s Office could not be reached late Monday regarding the investigation of Miller.

For more information on the Belmont Correctional Institution or its change in leadership, call 740-695-5169.