Pubdate: Fri, 28 Mar 2003
Source: Chillicothe Gazette (OH)
Copyright: 2003 Chillicothe Gazette
Author: Lisa Roberson


Injustice in Ohio prisons and jails is real, according to organizers who 
want residents to get involved in a demonstration scheduled for Sunday in 
front of Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

Christy Tigner, coordinator of Ohio Prison Reform Unity Project and event 
sponsor, said she was not aware of the problems herself until a family 
member was placed in an Ohio prison and began writing home describing the 
deplorable conditions.

Tigner said the complaints she heard about Ross and Chillicothe 
Correctional Institutions include retaliation from guards, prisoners not 
receiving their mail, inadequate medical care and guards who encourage drug 
use by bringing illegal narcotics into the prisons.

It pulled at her heart and forced her to act.

"When we started protesting we would first target the prison that we 
received the most complaints about but now the campaign has broaden to 
include at least one protest a month at one of the 33 Ohio correctional 
institutes," she said.

Tigner said she and the half dozen other prison reform groups that stage 
the demonstrations have been met with little opposition by prison 
officials. The only prison in which the demonstration was not approved was 
the Mansfield Correctional Institution.

They would not let protesters anywhere on their property but Tigner said 
she later received a permit to protest across the street.

"For the most part the wardens and other officials take us seriously and 
understand we stand strong by our convictions and will not go away," Tigner 

For the RCI and CCI demonstration, RCI Warden Pat Hurley said the 
protesters are allowed to stand in the buffer zone adjacent to Ohio 104 at 
the entrance to the parking lot away from any visible contact with inmates.

Hurley said his only concern for the residents, supporters and protesters 
is their safety in the high traffic and accident area along Ohio 104.

Public Information Officer for CCI, Leta Pritchard said as far as she 
understood the protest is to be a peaceful demonstration and doesn't 
anticipate any difficulties.

Hurley said that the issues that Tigner raises may be valid but he believes 
he runs a good prison and affords inmates all the procedures available to 
them to voice any concerns they may have.

"I am fairly aware of what goes on at most times. I frequently walk the 
compound, meet with all incoming inmates, respond to mail addressed to me 
by inmates and leave time in my schedule for inmates who wish to meet with 
me in my office," Hurley said.

Pritchard said that the inmates at CCI are treated with respect and every 
effort is made to see to it they receive all the help they need.

"When inmates are brought in they are screened so that we can see what 
their needs are and if they need to be in a particular program," she said. 
When asked about the health practices, mail procedures and alleged abuse by 
guards Tigner said is common at both RCI and CCI, Hurley said the 
allegations were not valid and the prison is routinely inspected by the 
Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the Department of Health, 
local fire marshals as well as the American Correction Association.

The American Correction Association sends three independent members to 
conduct an audit of all procedures over a course of three days, which 
happened to begin last Wednesday. The Sunday demonstration will include 
marching with banners and bull horns and hearing messages from several 
guest speakers from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tigner will speak on behalf of the 
Zanesville Hepatitis C Support Group.

Many times, Tigner said, as inmates are processed into the jail they are 
screened for HIV but are not tested for Hepatitis C, an incurable liver 
disease that is often seen in prisons.

Also scheduled to speak is Paula Eyre, from CURE Ohio and Sean Luse, from 
Students for Sensible Drug Policies.

"Our goal is to provide a backdrop that will reach as many people as 
possible about the truth behind the walls of prisons. Very often the media, 
either news broadcast or entertainment outlets, will show a very biased and 
untruthful depiction of life in prison.

Although, many prisoners use the prison system to their advantage, that is 
the exception not the rule." Tigner said. Tigner believes that the 
situations described in the letters she receives from inmates is more 
consistent with the truth.

In her own experience at a recent rally at the Franklin Pre-release Center 
in Columbus, Tigner said, many of the inmates were screaming from small 
windows about "no shoes" and "cold feet."

"These are human beings who made mistakes not animals. They will leave 
prison to work and live right beside us and if we treat them like animals 
when they are in prison then that is actually how they will act when they 
get out," she said.

Tigner added that, "the correction system we have now should be really 
looked at and I just want to provide the window."
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