On September 5, 1997, prisoners in the Death Row area of the Mansfield Prison seized control of that section of the prison. Prison officials released very little information to the newsmedia, other than the "Strategic Response and Tactics (SRT) teams are on the scene." There's no information about what caused the rebellion, no mention of the previous hunger strike by prisoners on Death Row in protest of conditions.
These prisoners tried in a non-violent manner to bring attention to the problems they face in hopes that there would be some outside intervention, some investigation by legislators. Their call for intervention went unanswered!
The "LUCASVILLE 5" have been isolated in a control unit for 4 1/2 years. These five prisoners negotiated an end to the 1993 Lucasville Uprising, in which 11 prisoners and 1 guard were killed. For their efforts to help end the uprising, they were sentenced to death. The state needed scapegoats and made examples out of them. Even though they've been sentenced to death, that wasn't enough -- prison officials decided to punish them all the way up to their executions by holding these 5 prisoners in a control unit, which is a very strict punishment unit.
In the past 60 days, there was a major fire at the Orient Prison, a small riot at the Lancaster Prison, and a "disturbance" at the Ross Prison. Prison Director, Reginald Wilkinson, has stated to the newsmedia that there's no tension in the prison system to warrant any public concern of another major riot like the 1993 Lucasville Uprising. Recent events show otherwise! Prisoners and prison staff have been saying that the level of tension in the prison system has been orchestrated by the administration to create another major rebellion to justify the Dept. of Rehabilitation & Corrections (DRC) increasing budget and to secure their livelihoods.
Ohio prisons are extremely overcrowded because the parole board has reduced the parole rate to approximately 15%. Prison conditions have deteriorated to an unacceptable level. Making it even worse, prison officials have been implementing a constant stream of new restrictions. With the reduction of the parole rate, that means that prisoners will have to endure these conditions for much longer periods of time.
For many months, prisoners throughout the state have been calling for outside intervention, and the call has gone unanswered. Having lost hope and having nothing left to lose, prisoners are beginning to rebel, and will continue to rebel until there is some form of intervention. I don't condone violence, or encourage it, but, if prisoners are expected to resolve the problems in a peaceful manner, then there must be some process that effectively addresses their grievances. The prison grievance procedure is useless, and many prisoners who tried to use it have suffered reprisals. The federal courts are too slow, and even when the courts rule in the prisoners' favor -- there is no significant change.
We have a parole board that's out of control, and prison officials feel they have a free hand to do whatever they want. I watched the goon squad handcuff a prisoner behind his back, shove him to the ground and kick and stomp him. This prisoner broke no rule, and was not resisting. Beatings such as this are becoming common in the Ohio prison system.
We are calling for outside intervention, and hope that the public will contact legislators and demand an investigation, and some form of intervention. . . .