Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘ohio

New York Times: “Prisons Rethink Isolation”

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In light of the recently filed lawsuit against Arizona alleging overuse of solitary confinement, the New York Times has some timely reporting on other states that have decided to reduce their use of isolation as punishment — including Mississippi, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Washington State, and most recently, California:

The efforts represent an about-face to an approach that began three decades ago, when corrections departments — responding to increasing problems with prison gangs, stiffer sentencing policies that led to overcrowding and the “get tough on crime” demands of legislators — began removing ever larger numbers of inmates from the general population. They placed them in special prisons designed to house inmates in long-term isolation or in other types of segregation.

At least 25,000 prisoners — and probably tens of thousands more, criminal justice experts say — are still in solitary confinement in the United States. Some remain there for weeks or months; others for years or even decades. More inmates are held in solitary confinement here than in any other democratic nation, a fact highlighted in a United Nations report last week.

In particular, the article discusses the evidence that prolonged isolation can cause and/or exacerbate mental illness:  Read the rest of this entry »


Ohio Inmate Denied Medical Care Commits Suicide

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On June 1, Greg Stamper hanged himself at Ohio’s Allen Correctional Institution. Here’s an excerpt from the press release I received from the Ohio Justice and Policy Center:

He was suffering excruciating pain as a result of a nerve condition, and Dr. Myron Shank had refused to give him pain medications multiple times for non-medical reasons.

“We were preparing to file suit when we learned of Mr. Stamper’s death last night,” said David A. Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. Mr. Stamper suffered from acute peripheral neuropathy. As a result of nerve damage, he felt as if the affected parts of his body were on fire. “We are deeply saddened by Mr. Stamper’s death. He was in obvious pain but the institutional doctor refused to treat him,” added Singleton. “We will do what we  need to do to ensure that medical care is provided to prisoners who need it.”

Dr. Myron Shank is a medical doctor employed by the state of Ohio to provide medical services to inmates at Allen Correctional Institution, where Stamper was incarcerated.  Shank removed Stamper from his medication after accusing Stamper of being a drug addict.  Shank refused to put Stamper back on any medicine to control Stamper’s pain.

The Ohio Justice and Policy Center, as class counsel on the Fussell v. Wilkinson settlement, works to guarantee constitutionally adequate medical care in Ohio prisons. OJPC, since the beginning of 2010, has pointed out problems with Dr. Shank refusing to provide care to patients, but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has continued to employ him.

And a quick programming note: I’ve been pretty intermittent with blogging this spring due to academic commitments, but am gearing up to a more regular blogging schedule. In the interest of getting the information out quickly, I’ll be posting a few press releases and links that have backed up in my inbox, without much commentary or editing. But look for more commentary and editing in weeks to come.

Written by sara

June 22, 2011 at 11:34 am

Ohio Death Row Inmates Win Concessions, End Hunger Strike

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From the Columbus Dispatch:

A memo dated Friday from Warden David Bobby of the Ohio State Penitentiary at Youngstown outlined six policy changes being made for inmates under the prison’s “administrative maximum security” designation, the most restricted section of Death Row, which houses about 120 prisoners.

Inmates will be allowed “semi-contact” visits with family members, additional recreation time, access to computer-based legal research, phone privileges up to one hour per day and the opportunity to purchase more items from the commissary, including food and clothing. …

Attorneys Staughton and Alice Lynd, who have advocated for the Lucasville inmates, obtained a copy of the memo. They said the state’s capitulation was a surprise.

(h/t: The Crime Report)

After Inmate Suicides in New York and Ohio, Calls for Probes into Local Jails

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After a Nassau County inmate with a history of mental illness committed suicide last week — the county’s fourth inmate suicide in 12 months — a state legislator and inmate advocates are calling for a federal investigation:

“Given the fact that the feds have had involvement in the facility, it makes sense for them to take a look at what is or is not going on that might be helpful,” said Assemb. Jeffrion Aubry (D-East Elmhurst), chairman of the Assembly’s committee on correction.

The U.S. Justice Department had closely monitored the jail both for overcrowding and, more recently, after finding gross civil rights violations stemming from the 1999 beating death of an inmate and problems with [Nassau University Medical Center]’s inmate medical care.

The DOJ’s earlier monitoring efforts in Nassau County were concluded in 2005.

Meanwhile, the ACLU of Ohio is seeking information about procedures at the Summit County Jail after an apparent inmate suicide:

[Michael Carl] O’Neill, 51, was taken off life support Tuesday, about two days after he jumped from a second-story ledge from a visitation area inside the jail. The Akron man was being held over the weekend on public-drunkeness-related charges and was assigned to a cot in the open area.

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote Alexander expressing concern of potential overcrowding issues. The group is seeking the department’s policies on inmate housing and any mental health evaluation given to O’Neill.

”Housing inmates in a large common area typically used for other purposes raises red flags over potential safety flaws and indicates that the jail may be dangerously overcrowded,” ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman said Friday.

Written by sara

January 10, 2011 at 7:54 am

The Case of the Inmate and the Extra Pancakes

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From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

While serving a jail term for stealing money from a concession stand, Heriberto Rodriquez took a job dishing out food in the Hamilton County jail kitchen so he could get out early.

He was fired from that job – which gave him three days credit for each day in jail – because he ladled out too much food, an act that helped a judge decide Wednesday to have pity on Rodriquez and free him.

Rodriquez was supposed to give Hamilton County Justice Center inmates two pancakes each but he was caught giving several twice that much. …

“Go home,” [Judge Melba] Marsh said. “Get your big box of Aunt Jemima and eat all you want, Mr. Pancake.”

Written by sara

November 7, 2010 at 10:13 am

New Study: Ohio’s Prison System a “Costly ‘Revolving Door'”

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Ohio’s prisons are packed with low-level property and drug offenders serving sentences of just a few weeks or months, who could more cost-effectively be sentenced to probation, according to a newly released report from the Council of State Governments. The study compared Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) with Franklin County (Columbus) and found significant differences in the rates at which low-level offenders were sentenced to prison. As summarized by the Plain Dealer:

• Cuyahoga’s 34 common pleas court judges sentenced 51 percent of fourth-degree felony offenders to probation. In Franklin County … 63 percent of fourth-degree felons received probation.

• Cuyahoga sentenced 66 percent of less-serious fifth-degree felons to probation, compared to Franklin County’s 82 percent.

• Had Cuyahoga judges sentenced low-level felons to probation at the same rate as judges in Franklin County, 1,060 fewer people would have been sent to prison.

The report also notes that Ohio’s community corrections programs do not have clear eligibility criteria, and that its probation system is “a patchwork of independent agencies” with inconsistent policies. The study was conducted by the Council of State Governments through its Justice Reinvestment initiative, which pairs expert consultants with state policymakers to consult on criminal justice reform (and which, incidentally, has a lot of interesting resources on its website).

Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Lawsuit Challenges Ohio’s Treatment (or Lack Thereof) of Mentally Ill Offenders upon Release

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The Ohio Justice and Policy Center has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Ohio violates both the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it releases mentally ill offenders back into the community with insufficient follow-up care:

Advocates for prisoners and the mentally ill said they are suing to help not only the released prisoners, but also the taxpayers who must pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to keep them locked up when they commit new crimes and are sent back to prison.

They say the cost of providing treatment to a mentally ill person in the community is about $7,400 a year, compared to the $25,000 a year it costs to incarcerate them.

But instead of treatment, the lawsuit claims, ex-convicts with mental problems get $65 to $75, a bus ticket and two weeks of medication upon their release. The suit said many of those former inmates soon move into homeless shelters or drug-infested neighborhoods, where their mental health quickly deteriorates.

“Dumping prisoners with mental illness at homeless shelters creates a revolving door phenomenon,” said Bess Okum, staff attorney with the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice and Policy Center, which filed the suit on behalf of nine current and former prisoners. “Many of these former prisoners commit new crimes because of their untreated mental illness.”

Written by sara

February 11, 2010 at 7:53 am

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