Home Social Justice Ohio death row move raises new and old concerns

Ohio death row move raises new and old concerns

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Ohio has plans to move 126 death row inmates from Chillicothe to Toledo, marking the third time in the last decade the state has moved death row inmates to a different location.

This is the fourth move overall since enacting capital punishment in 1981.

Currently, Ohio prisons hold 51,000 inmates, which is 30 percent over the state prisons’ holding capacity. This overcrowding is due in part to the state’s delay of executions, leading to an influx of death row inmates being stored in Ohio facilities.

Ohio has plans to resume executions in 2017, nearly three years after the botched execution of Dennis McGuire. Since McGuire’s execution using a new two-drug combination, the state has struggled to find the right fatal drug to use in executions. Now, there is hope in a new three-drug combination that will be used when executions resume.

While the average age of Ohio’s death row inmates is around 50 years old, the prisoners range from 21 to 75. The increased age of some of these prisoners is one major reason for the move, since the Toledo Correctional Institute offers special accommodations for prisoners with mobility issues, including those in wheelchairs.

Executions will not be carried out in the Toledo Correctional Institution itself, but rather in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, nearly 200 miles away from Toledo. The distance is five times the distance between Chillicothe and Lucasville, raising concerns over the cost of transporting inmates for executions.

But there have also been other concerns in regard to the expenses of executions.

“There have been multiple studies that show it is much more expensive to execute them than to hold them for life without parole,” Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said. “Many of these prisoners are held in area restricted settings for long periods of time, even more restrictive than settings that some people who are there for life might be held in. So they may be less active and have more medical conditions crop up as the years go by.”

Cost, however, is not the only issue that has cropped up from the move.  

Some existing inmates in Toledo may be moved to make room for the incoming death row inmates, which would cause stress not only for the prisoners, but also for their families and the guards in both Chillicothe and Toledo.

“We’ve been moving people around more in the last five years than we have in the last 25,”  Chris Mabe, Ohio Civil Service Employees president, said. “You keep shuffling all these guys around in the system, and it just puts more hardships on everyone.”

This change could potentially lead to increased danger for those already housed at the Toledo facility.

“Toledo itself has had some issues,” Brickner said. “In recent years, they had a string of murders and heightened assaults in prisons. That was mostly due to overcrowding of the prisoners there. In the last year or two those problems have dissipated some, but I think it’s still a concern that they were having issues. These issues could certainly crop up again, especially if they’re introducing a new population into the prison system.”

Because the Toledo facility is close to a residential area, the new influx of inmates has heightened concerns over how this will affect the surrounding community. Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson has yet to receive enough information to determine how this will affect the city.

“I had a brief conversation with the warden there, and as more information is available I will have a better sense of the true impact it will have on the city,” Hicks-Hudson said.

Prisons department representatives have yet to release the exact time the prisoners will be moved, although at the moment three of the inmates are being tested at a medical facility in Columbus to see if they are healthy enough to make the change.

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