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What's Wrong in the Ohio DOC?

It's been almost a year since the end of the siege at Lucasville. During this time investigations have been conducted by the State Legislature, State Highway Patrol and Scioto County Prosecutor's Office. The mass media has focused on "crimes" committed during the riot rather than on the problems which caused such drastic measures. Although there have been some articles on the overcrowding in Ohio prisons, which causes understaffing, increased tensions, lack of programs and jobs for prisoners, this is but one factor. The main issue which caused the drastic action was the religious suppression of the Muslims. Ohio lacks training in cultural and religious awareness for it's guards, as well as interpersonal relations

During my confinement at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville the minister showed great partiality towards the Christians and baptists and open disdain towards Muslims and other faiths. The guards openly disrespected Muslims in particular and blacks in general. Combine this with a warden who ruled his way or no way at all and unrest was bound to occur. The guard's union has called for training in cultural and religious awareness, as well as the hiring of more guards. The state budget has allocated enough money to hire 912 new guards.

As long as the criminal injustice system continues to hand out extraordinarily long sentences and the parole board continues to deny paroles to Ohio prisoners, overcrowding along with the problems that accompany it will continue. Most Ohio prisons are accredited by the American Correctional Association (ACA) whose standards are widely referred to by many U.S. district courts. However, ACA standards call for single-celling in all close, maximum and most medium security prisons. The only single cells in Ohio are in Administrative (AC) and Local Control (LC) which, contrary to prisoncrats assertions, are punitive in nature.

Here at the Mansfield Correctional Institution (MANCI) even AC and LC are double celled. When Lucasville sent the 129 prisoners from the riot to MANCI they were all classified as AC and have been housed two per cell since. This is something not even done at Lucasville and is forbidden by the holdings of Rhodes v. Chapman , the leading double celling case from the U.S. Supreme Court which arose from Lucasville. Mr. Laufman, the plaintiff's attorney in White v. Morris , the federal suit requiring integrated celling at Lucasville, attempted to obtain a court order seeking single celling of all Lucasville cells since violence resulted from forced integration. The district court refused to do so but suspended forced integration until February 1, 1994, by which time the state promised to "have it's house in order." The prisoners at Lucasville, except for a small portion, are still locked down two to a cell under "security control" status "pending investigation." Information received states that some criminal indictments will be issued within the next 60 days.

The 129 prisoners transferred to MANCI will be the scapegoats. They were placed in AC under the auspices of "you were self identified as a member of one of the three groups that had control of the guard hostages." The only self identification came from the officials in charge of the surrender, not the prisoners themselves. The state claims that all these prisoners are either Muslims, Black Gangster Disciples or Aryan Brotherhood, when in fact, this is a falsehood perpetrated by the Department of Corrections. Some were merely in the last group to exit the building, later directed to sit in the bleachers with those identified as such.

The treatment they are receiving here is rife with the same repression and racism as at Lucasville. The food is issued in small portions, left to sit until it gets cold. Access to the law library is denied. Mail is stolen or censored. Hygiene articles and cell cleaning supplies are often withheld. Recreation denied and men are housed two to a cell, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with only writing paper, pencil and limited personal reading material. Some are permitted radios.

When some of the Muslims protested being denied pork substitutes, by beating on their doors, the "Ninja Turtle" SWAT team was called in, complete with shotguns and teargas canisters. The block was surrounded as the prisoners involved were physically beaten and then transferred to other prisons. This is the mentality at MANCI. All of the unit 5 control unit is filled up with AC's and the mental health unit "Lynx Program" pod had to be moved in order to house security control and detention cell prisoners.

Because Ohio refuses to use the interstate compact to transfer prisoners to other states so that they can eventually be released into general population, all that those involved in the Lucasville takeover will have to look forward to is years of lockdown. It is unlikely that the state will release any of these prisoners into general population here. Why does Ohio enter into a compact when it refuses to use it except in rare PC cases or until pressured to do so? This is a question that the state should be made to answer.

On other fronts. In august, 1993, prisoner Roy Slider was brought to trial for the attempted murder of deceased MANCI guard Tom Davis. Slider self admitted to stabbing Davis once and beating him with a combination lock. While Davis was being treated at an outside hospital he died as a result of a steroid overdose caused by hospital negligence. When the coroner ruled as such, a grand jury refused to indict Slider for aggravated murder, opting instead for attempted murder charges. A jury found Slider not guilty of attempted murder but guilty of felonious assault. This brought a massive outcry from the guards union, NAACP and Governor Voinavitch who has called for a committee to look into stiffer penalties for prisoner on guard attacks, but not into the possibility that some guards have attitudes too.

As long as society continues to refuse to treat the roots of the problem, you can expect to read about more uprisings everywhere, as they are inevitable.

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