Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Public, Private Prison Escapes in Ohio

On May 11, 2006, Ohio state prisoner Marrion P. Smith was shot in the head by prison guard Gary Myers during a foiled escape attempt. Smith had been transported from the Mansfield Correctional Institution to the Ohio State University Medical Center, where he was to undergo an MRI. Smith managed to conceal a makeshift knife; he stabbed Myers in the shoulder and then ran outside to the parking lot.

Myers recovered, chased after Smith, and shot him once in the head. Myers? stab wound was not serious and Smith survived the gunshot. Smith was serving a 7-to-25 year sentence for kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and theft. He was convicted of felony assault, aggravated robbery, assault and escape charges stemming from the hospital incident.

On April 2, 2007, federal prisoner Billy Jack Fitzmorris escaped after he was taken to a hospital in Youngstown, Ohio. Fitzmorris overpowered two prison guards and held them long enough to take one of the guards' uniform and gun. Once outside he carjacked a vehicle and managed to flee 150 miles in a chase that led U.S. Marshals halfway across the state.

During his flight Fitzmorris robbed two banks. Cornered and surrounded by law enforcement, he kicked in the door of a house and held a woman hostage for two hours while he negotiated with police.

Fitzmorris eventually surrendered without incident, but his escape placed the private prison company responsible for him, Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), under renewed scrutiny. Fitzmorris was being held at CCA's North Ohio Correctional Center (NOCC) in Youngstown.

CCA had been in the news previously due to an audit by Ohio's Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, which found that between June 2005 and May 2006, prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in the CCA prison were four times higher than the state average. NOCC reported 44 attacks during the 1-year period compared to 305 prisoner assaults for all 32 Ohio prisons, or about 10 per state facility on average.

Fitzmorris, who also used a knife during his escape attempt, faces an additional five-year sentence. The victim he carjacked, Richard Orto, has since filed a lawsuit against CCA that accuses the company of improper security procedures.

Sources: Associated Press, Columbus Dispatch, The Vindicator

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login