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The Parallels of Prisoner Abuse: A Glimpse Into the Psychological Abuse of Ohio's Inmates
By Jason Goudlock,
May 21, 2006

In the past few years prisoner abuse has been a hot topic throughout the world. One of the most significant cases of prisoner abuse involved the United States Military during its detainment of POWs captured during the post-military invasion of Iraq. Prisoners detained by U.S. forces were beaten, starved and some even killed! To say the least, they were deprived of many-if not all-of their rights as Prisoners of War.

Upon the revelations that the U.S. Military engaged in the abuse and mistreatment of detained prisoners, a political firestorm of debate amongst politicians and citizens ignited throughout the world. Under pressure from its own citizens, as well as throughout the international community, the U.S. quickly took measures to downplay and minimize the national embarrassment caused by its prisoner abuse scandal. Various politicians spoke out publicly and declared that the prisoner abuse scandal was "just a small isolated incident," and that "the incident was not symbolic of the practices and beliefs of the citizens and government of the United States." Hearing these apologetic, explanatory statements, I couldn't help but wonder what the politicians would have to say about the prisoner abuse and injustices within their own borders. Isolated incidents? Hmmm? I don't think so.

One of the biggest and ongoing incidents of prisoner abuse inside of the United States is currently taking place in the mid-western state of Ohio, in plain view for all to see (i.e. legislators, ACLU, FBI, judges, NAACP, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, U.S. Congress etc.) but yet, no influential cries for justice are being shouted, with the exception of Federal Civil Rights, Attorney-at-Law, Norman L. Sirak of Cleveland, Ohio. One reason for this, I suspect, is because the nature of abuse involving Ohio prisoners doesn't involve actual physical abuse (although physical abuse does occur). It involves psychological abuse.

In 1996 Ohio State Legislature introduced a new set of criminal sentencing guidelines in a bill known as "Senate Bill 2," which went into effect on July 1, 1996. Persons convicted of a criminal offense on or after July 1, 1996 fall up under the umbrella of these new sentencing guidelines, which consist of determinate criminal sentences, commonly known as "flat time."

These sentences range from 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, up to 10 years for persons convicetd of a felony in the first degree, and are determined and imposed by a judge prior to an offender's incarceration. Thus, the offender convicted under the new law (Post-Senate Bill 2) knows in advance, from the very moment that he or she is sentenced, the actual date that they will be released. Persons convicted of a felony in the first degree prior to July 1, 1996, under the old law (Pre Senate Bill 2) however, don't have a clue as to when they will be released from prison. Their sentences, unlike the new law offenders, are indeterminate and range from a minimum of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 up to a maximum of 25 years! These sentences are imposed by a judge prior to an offenders incarceration, but the actual amount of time to be served by an offender is determined by a parole board: The Ohio Adult Parole Authority (the parole board (OAPA) bases its decision on whether to grant or deny a offender's parole on many factors, ranging from the seriousness of the offense committed, to the amount of conduct reports an offender has been issued for institutional rules infractions while incarcerated. Ultimately, what this means is that offenders convicted under the old law sentencing guidelines can possibly serve up to twenty-five years for a criminal offense, while offenders convicted under the new law can potentially serve a mere three years for the exact, identical offense! This is a difference of twenty-two years!

How can anyone justify punishing an offender twenty-two years longer than another offender when they both committed the exact, same criminal offense, in the exact same fashion? If this isn't an act of injustice and prisoner abuse, I don't know what is.

Due to the unjust sentencing disparity created by the geniuses of Ohio's government, thousands of inmates' in the state of Ohio under the old law (Pre-Senate Bill 2) sentencing guidelines are being subject to cruel, and yes, very unusual punishment. While the new-law offenders aren't required to go before the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, the old-law offenders after serving their minimum, on the front side of their indeterminate sentences, go before the OAPA, and often receive continuances of years at a time. Second and third appearances before them are often more of the same. "Due to (-Fill in the blank-) your parole is denied." An old-law offender has to inevitably endure constant mental anguish, due to the cloud of uncertainty that the OAPA has cast over their heads.

The longer that the state of Ohio gets to keep keeping old-law offenders incarcerated disproportionately to the amount of time being served by new-law offenders, the longer that it is going to continue its inhumane, dehabilitating process of psychologically abusing old-law inmates. Not only does this process harm the offender, but it also harms the citizens of Ohio, as well as society as a whole. Every dollar being spent (millions!) to keep the thousands of inmates under the old-law incarcerated-many whom are well beyond their OAPA mandated sentencing guidelines of recommended time served--, is one less dollar that could be allocated towards a child's education, a senior citizen's health care, a crime prevention program, unemployment, etc.

Although it is politically and socially acceptable to incarcerate certain offenders who have been found guilty of committing a criminal offense against society, it should not be politically and socially acceptable to excessively and illegally incarcerate human beings. Whether it is physical or psychological-abuse is abuse! If the prisoner abuse in Iraq was worthy of the attention of the United States, then surely prisoner abuse taking place on U.S. soil should be worthy of the same.

Jason Goudlock is an inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. He has aspirations of becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur, in the interest of philanthropic advancement. He is also an aspiring athlete in the sport of basketball, as well as an aspiring author currently working on his first novel, Moments of Clarity. You may reach him by writing to: Jason Goudlock, #284-561, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd, Youngstown, Ohio 44505.

When writing to Jason, please send him a pre-embossed stamped envelope so he can promptly answer your letter. He is not permitted adhesive stamps, that is, regular stamps. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners:


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