Many of Ohio's prisoners are caught in a "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't" situation. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DR&C) applauds itself for it's programs while Mr. Reginald Wilkinson, it's director, says that his agency is not in the rehabilitation business. The parole board, a subsidiary of the DR&C, demands that many prisoners attend specific programs as a prerequisite for parole and then hands them a substantial flop to get it. This is after they have already served their statutory minimum sentence. These men are never told by the DR&C at reception that these programs are required. This is just business as usual for the board and another ploy to cover their lust for destroying lives.
Many of the programs required by the board are only available in specific institutions which have waiting lists of up to four years. Some of these programs range in length from 6 months to two years. A man does his minimum, only to be flopped because he doesn't have a program the board wants. He is then told the list is too long and he cannot transfer. Finally, he does get to go after more years of waiting. If he's lucky, he completes the program before he sees the board again; if not, they give him another flop of two to three years to complete it. If he does complete it and goes to the board, they flop him anyway, using "Nature of the Offense" as their reason. Is it any wonder so many prisoners are angry?
An excellent example is a man I will call "Ben". In 1977, at the age of Forty, Ben was caught in a gay-oriented situation with a consenting individual that happened to be under 18. For this offense, he was given a sentence which carried a 25 year tail. He was sent to Chillicothe Correctional Institution which had a sex offender program. He signed up for the program, but before he could attend he was accused of being in a gay-oriented act with another prisoner and banned from the sex offender program. (Now somewhere in DR&C thinking this makes sense, but I would think that the program would now be required not denied.) After a period of years he goes to the Parole Board, which gives him a flop and tells him to attend the program he's banned from. In frustration, he requests and receives a transfer to Hocking Correctional, which also has a sex offender program. Once again, he signs up and after a substantial wait, he is admitted. Upon completing the program he breathes a sigh of relief and confidently goes to the Parole Board for a second time. This time they tell him that they don't recognize the program they insisted he take and give him another flop.
Years pass, another board date comes and another flop is issued. Age and poor diet combine to bring on health problems. This is aggravated by the death of his mother whose funeral he cannot attend. Family and friends disappear until only an occasional letter from a sister is all that's left of the outside world. Because of his failing health, he is transferred to Orient Correctional, which houses Frazier Health Center, the DR&C's in-house hospital. Here he spends as much time as possible. . . sleeping or just buried under his blankets, trying to pass life away.
During the debate over the DR&C's one billion dollars a year budget, Mr. Wilkinson announces that four million dollars more will be spent on programs. At this time, a notice is posted in Orient about the formation of a new sex offender program. Volunteers are asked for and Ben, once again, signs up. Then, on September 12th he receives the following notice:
September 12, 1997
From: Harry E. Eisel, Ph.D. ODD
Orient Correctional Institution
Subject: SEX OFFENDER PROGRAMMING
Thank you for applying to the sex offender program at OCI. In May of 1997 I published a list of criteria for application into the proposed program. This list was approved by the sex offender coordinator in Central Office and included:
1. Must be serving an indefinite sentence
2. Has been given a continuous from the Parole Board
3. Next Parole Board date is between 7 and 24 months from the start of the group
4. Has a medical level 4 condition which prevents transfer to another institution
5. Complete a psychological evaluation
Over 99 inmates at OCI applied for this program. Attempts were made to interview all of those who applied, and 84 inmates were interviewed. The appropriate records of the remaining inmates were reviewed. Less than five (5) inmates met the above criteria.
After discussion with the Central Office sex offender program coordinator it was decided that "I do not think it is advisable to continue with this programming at OCI.'' Therefore. at this time. there will not be a sex offender program at OCI.
Note the criteria. Nothing appears unusual until you get to line 4 - must have "a medical level 4 condition which prevents transfer to another institution." What a farce! If you are in a wheelchair or terminally ill, you can take the program. If you're still alive or walking you can't!! Of course only 5 people qualified -- they were housed in 10E-1 dorm or Frazier Health Center.
"Ben" has now served 20 years for an offense with a consenting underage partner. Many armed robbers, drug dealers and burglars have been out and back while he sits here slowly dying. Murderers do less time. And yet he was expected to take a program that they don't recognize even though it's their own program.
Sex offender programs have been shown by the DR&C's own statistics to work. Sex offenders have the second lowest recidivism rate in the state and yet do horrendous amounts of time while drug dealers, who draw crime and violence like flies to honey, get honor status and 18 month sentences. Something is wrong, terribly wrong, when someone who has problems tries to correct them and is blocked at every turn by the very people who say "get help."
"Ben" is not the only one who has been lied to and tortured in this manner -- thousands are involved. The program announced at Orient was never meant to be implemented but was only a show for the legislature to get the extra money. Statewide, the same thing probably happened with other programs in other institutions. Every woman in the state of Ohio should be hopping mad that the DR&C refuses to make available state-wide programs that have proven successful at making our streets safer. The DR&C claims there are 7,000 sex offenders in Ohio's prison population. To this writer, a sex offense is just that, an offense between two people in which sex is involved.
In Ohio, selling pictures is considered a sex offense. Ohio needs to redefine what is and is not a real sex offense and then, the DR&C should be required to provide comprehensive sex offender programs in every institution statewide. It is time to stop being close-minded, prejudiced, and ignorant. It is time that Ohio's women stood up and spoke up, requiring these programs and that they be recognized.