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Aging death row population prompts prisoner move

by Marc Kovac Capital Bureau Chief Published: November 6, 2016 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS -- Prison officials believe they've solved their execution issues, via a new three-drug lethal injection that they plan to put to use in January with the announced restart of capital punishment in the state.

Legal counsel for inmates scheduled to die next year are seeking court intervention to stop the updated protocol from being used, so whether Ohio really puts the condemned to death in early 2017 remains to be seen.

But there's other Death Row news as of late: The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has decided to again relocate prisoners awaiting executions, this time to the Toledo Correctional Institution.

DRC last moved Death Row about four years ago, opting to place inmates in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution nearly an hour south of Columbus, from their former home at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.

At that time, a prison spokesman said the move would open several hundred high-security cells in Youngstown and at the Mansfield Correctional Institution to violent inmates who had not received death sentences.

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Prison officials are attributing the latest move, in part, to the aging population of Death Row, where the average inmate is almost 50.

(That's saying something -- some inmates have been on Death Row so long that they now need the state to provide them medical care to keep them alive and well long enough to execute them.)

According to DRC, "The current housing arrangements at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution will become less adequate in the coming years, primarily because the facility is unable to house inmates with physical and mobility limitations."

Plus, the agency added, Toledo is "a newer facility [that] has a high security environment and is better to serve the needs of inmates with physical and mobility limitations."

And this: "By moving Death Row to the Toledo Correctional Institution, DRC can better serve the needs of this population and reduce density within its prisons. Reducing density will enhance DRC's ongoing violence reduction efforts and improve safety for staff and inmates. Expanded capacity is critical to managing a large correctional system and advancing the agency's mission of reducing recidivism."

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Other details of the move:

A total of 127 Death Row inmates in Chillicothe will make the move to Toledo, according to DRC.

There are a few others at other state facilities, including seven at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown who were deemed such security risks that they were left behind in the move several years back.

That list includes four men who received death sentences for their roles in a riot and the killing of a guard at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Two Death Row inmates are staying at a central Ohio medical center. Prison officials are determining whether they can be moved to Toledo. One other inmate is housed at the Warren Correctional Institution.

Donna Marie Roberts, the lone Ohio woman facing lethal injection, is at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

Prison officials have not yet announced when the relocation will be completed. According to DRC spokeswoman JoEllen Smith, "It will be in the near future, but I cannot provide any specifics for security reasons."

Executions will continue to be conducted at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Inmates are transported to that facility about a day before their scheduled lethal injections.

 

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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