Ohio Death Row Move to Supermax

Dear Death Row Prisoner or Witness,

This is to thank you for your letters, your documents, your testimony, and your good wishes, and to give you some idea of where matters stand at this point. And thank you to the prisoner who pointed out to me that in my last form letter there was a typo: Central Office was expected to complete reviewing the mental health assessments by September 30 this year, not next!

Judge Gwin ordered that the hearing on the preliminary injunction be merged with the hearing on the permanent injunction. The hearing began on August 31 and was completed on September 2; post-hearing briefs are due on September 9; and responses are due on September 16. Judge Gwin is expected to issue an order some time in September so that the State will know what it can or can't do, but he probably will not write the opinion until later.

We thought our case was presented about as well as possible. There are always particular points that could have been made that did not get into the record, but we don't think the decision would turn on any of those points. The witnesses did a fine job assisted by copies of kites, complaints, and other documents provided by many of you.

We are up against the interests of the State in saving money and in the "effective and efficient" operation of its prisons. According to the court, the central issue is whether they can change the conditions of confinement at OSP so that it would not be an atypical and significant hardship for Death Row prisoners to be housed there.

Defendants admit that for men in DR-6, OSP might provide less by way of privileges, but they assert that at OSP there will be room for more men to have "extended privileges" and that it will be better at OSP for Death Row as a whole. We think we demonstrated that until the transfer was announced, for many years Death Row prisoners had much more out-of-cell time, and much more outdoor recreation, than required by AR 5120-9-12 or the post orders.

Furthermore, the relationship between prisoners and staff is much more relaxed at ManCI than at OSP. At ManCI, there are very few behavior problems on Death Row and there have been very few incidents of use of force on Death Row in recent years. At OSP there have been several recent incidents of interracial violence, use of force, and suicide attempts. Correctional officers for Death Row at OSP would be
recruited from existing staff, of whom 153 of 242 have never worked at any other
ODRC prison.

Terry Collins repeatedly asserted that every prisoner at OSP is to have the opportunity for five hours of outdoor recreation per week. But Death Row prisoners would use the same outdoor recreation facilities as Level 4 and Level 5 prisoners. For the last three months, no one on Level 5 or 4B has been permitted to have recreation with any other prisoner, making it impossible to schedule everyone for outdoor rec five times a week. With OSP less than half full, prisoners on Level 4A are getting only two or three hours a week of outdoor recreation.

We also established that when Death Row was at SOCF, and during all the years at ManCI, Death Row prisoners have had confidential contact visits with attorneys in separate rooms with a table and chairs and the door closed.

At OSP, attorney visits would be in booths with a plexiglass screen, a thin slot through which to pass documents, where it is difficult to hear and is not confidential.

We had a witness from the Office of the Public Defender saying it would be impossible for her to do her job, asking a prisoner about sensitive information concerning his past. None of the substitute arrangements, such as a program booth in the barber shop, would provide valid conditions for psychological testing, etc.

Death Row prisoners at ManCI can call their attorneys and the attorneys can call back on a secure line in a private conference room. OSP has no such arrangements.

Prisoners on Death Row at ManCI can get legal materials within hours of sending a kite. At OSP legal materials are supposed to be delivered within five working days of receipt of the kite, but are often delivered much later.

Judge Gwin made it clear that he thinks access to legal assistance is our best argument and the State's weakest argument. There were hours of testimony by experts on mental health and on security, but the judge did not comment on them. Nor did he comment on the evidence concerning the arrangements for semi-contact visits that were cancelled at ManCI, or the proposed arrangements for semi-contact visits at OSP.

We will ask the judge to do what the two mental health experts recommended, to limit
the prosecution's access to the mental health assessments.

You will probably hear before we can let you know what the court decides! Thanks again to all of you who have participated in this phase of the litigation.


Alice and Staughton Lynd