Those of you in Ohio, tune in this program, then follow-up with calls, letters, faxes, etc. to your congressman/woman urging him/her to oppose this bill. The security of your incarcerated loved one could depend upon your action to stop this bill. Below, this site manager's personal editorial on HB 555.
You really have to hand it to those Ohio legislators. They work so hard. So conscientious...they strive to honor their word to the taxpaying public, and they understand that, sometimes, it is better for all concerned to pay a little up front than a lot in the long run. That is why, when it became obvious to all concerned, that the Attorney General's office, headed by the esteemed Betty Montgomery, could actually prevent a long, tax-burdensome, and highly embarrassing trial over the atrocities committed during the EASTER RIOT at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in 1993, by agreeing to a 4.1 million dollar settlement through a consent decree with the surviving family members of murdered prisoners and the injured prisoners, that the State legal minds agreed it was the cost-wise, therefore politically expedient, thing to do.
But lo -- the hue and cry from the public was long and loud, and AG Montgomery, former member of the CIIC, determined that the public's clamor would eventually prevail. By hook, or by crook, those troublesome wards of the State, ie. prisoners, would not get their hard fought for, and justified payoff. But how to do this...ah, now there's the real trick. Because a consent decree requires that all parties involved abide by its terms, or else a violation occurs, and the decree is no longer binding on any of the parties, and litigation that was avoided, will proceed in the courts. Usually, the party that has the most to lose, either through monetary settlements or public humiliation, moves for a consent decree to be considered. Now, whom do you suppose that party was in this class action suit by the families of the LUCASVILLE dead and wounded? Whom had the most to lose? I'll give you a hint -- it was not the prisoners.
That's right -- the State of Ohio and the DRC had the most to lose. And the families, eager to get the nightmare of LUCASVILLE behind them, agreed to the 4.1 million dollar settlement. Even the conservative newspapers in OHIO opined that it was the decent, and economically prudent, thing to do. But...you know these legislators, staying up nights to find ways to keep the bad guys in line...so, along comes Rep. Sulzer with HB 555.
HOUSE BILL 555 is the AG and the OHIO politicians' answer to the problem of prisoner damage suits against the State. Its language clearly reveals that the State is determined to prevent any prisoner from collecting a penny in damages from the State, even though the State is found guilty of violating that prisoner's rights. Damages will be awarded to -- the State, or, in other words, the perpetrator of the wrong on the prisoner. Talk about twisted ethics...Rep. Sulzer, and AG Montgomery are pushing this bill for emergency passage, meaning immediate effect, and there is a "grandfather" clause, meaning any litigation now pending against the State by a prisoner, or family member of a prisoner, will be affected by this bill, effectively eliminating any payment of damages to those wronged. Where will the award of judgement of damages go? To the Victim's Reparations Fund, the AG's office, local law enforcement agencies, payment of outstanding prisoner fines or debts, court costs, restitution, etc. Also, law suits brought against local or county jails will have the same preventative affect. HB 555, in effect, prohibits the constitutionally guaranteed protections against government abusing its citizens.
Anyone the least bit familiar with Ohio prisoner litigation knows that prisoners rarely, if ever, win a settlement in court. When a prisoner does win, the abuses are so flagrant and the officials neglect of them so blatant, that the State is willing to make these consent decrees with the litigator to prevent the public from knowing how widespread the abuse and neglect is. The consent decree is the State's way of saving face before its tax-paying critics begin demanding explanations as to why these abuses were so long neglected by their public servants. For the State of OHIO to attempt this "backdoor manipulation" of an agreed to settlement to avoid its responsibility for its admitted to neglect is an immoral breach of promise and violation of trust with its citizens.
The business of lawmakers is to consider the good of society in each bill they pass into law. They, too, are bound by the laws that they write, discuss, argue over, rail against, or shamelessly usher through sub-committees, committees, full house and senate votes to land on the governor's desk for his signature. There is little doubt, that if this bill is allowed to go to the governor, that he will sign it. And some of you may be thinking -- "So what? They are convicts! They shouldn't see a dime in tax-payer money!" But, stop and think -- what if you had been beaten, unjustly punished, and deprived of any hope of any justice in a court. What if your settlement with your abuser were suddenly snatched away from you to pay off the brother of your abuser who had sat by and watched as you were being abused? Would you consider this a just law then? Would you then see any reason to honor the rest of society's laws? Or would you begin to think that the deck was stacked against you and society's laws were just a means to keep you from being treated fairly?
For laws are supposed to be fair. This bill, HB 555, is patently not fair to the families of prisoners, who, by the way are tax-payers and voters too, nor to the prisoners or ex-prisoners of Ohio penitentiaries. We, at FADS, urge you, the tax-payer, the responsible, conscientious citizens, to oppose the movement of this bill through any committee. The State of Ohio made an agreement -- let it abide by its word.