Home - About Us - Newsletter - Legal Corner - Learning - Resources - Commentary - Film - Lucasville

The Real Costs of Prison Budget Cuts
by Jerry Smiley,
Dec. 1, 2006

I am currently a prisoner at the Ohio State Penitentiary. I was recently transferred from Lucasville prison. If you are from Ohio you may be familiar with these places. They are where the state keeps its Maximum, Supermaximum and Death Row prisoners.

First, let me tell you about myself. I am a thirty-year-old convicted felon from Cleveland, Ohio. I was convicted of aggravated murder in 1999, when I was twenty-two years old. I was sent to a maximum security prison for the length of my sentence (twenty-three years to life). I have a slight chance of freedom one day. Only if I jump through all of the right hurdles will I be able to convince the parole board that I'm fit to be in society again. That doesn't sound so easy when you're standing on this side of the fence. You see, our state is in a budget crisis, thanks in part to our former governor and to the Iraq war. Our state's population is dwindling because there are no jobs. At least, that's what they say on the news.

You're probably wondering how this affects me, as well as society as a whole. Let me try to explain it, as I see it. When the state is in need of money they look for programs to cut back on. More often than not these are prison programs, such as programs to rehabilitate prisoners and help them to make a smooth transition back into society. Recreation programs have been cut, leaving us with nothing to do. They've even gone so far as to cut back on the amount of food we receive. They have been shutting down prisons. But let me remind you that the prison population has not dropped. As a matter of fact, the population has risen. So, the remaining prisons are overcrowded. Suicides are up. Violence is up. You know what they say - an idle mind is the devil's playground. There's not enough money to keep in place the organizations that investigate abuses of inmates by staff. We are being treated worse, and worse ... So, how does this affect you, as a citizen?

Well, instead of having a prisoner coming home, enthusiastic about getting his or her life back on track, more and more prisoners are coming out confused about their next step in life. They are bitter because of the conditions and treatment they received from the state. They are more angry and violent because of the constant fights they had to participate in, just to be respected. Me, I have come to the realization that I will never go home again. After seven and a half years of being locked up I've seen conditions go from bad to worse. This place is home for me, and for a lot of other guys. Is it too much to ask for something to occupy our time with? A decent meal and the right to be treated with some dignity and respect by the officers? We are humiliated and disrespected daily. And every time we choose to fight back against this unfair treatment, we are brutally beaten and charged with crimes, as if we had no right to fight for humane conditions.

I'm interested in responses from anyone who can put me in touch with human rights organizations. I'm also looking for friends just to talk to. My one and only hobby is reading. I believe that with knowledge comes power. My favorite topics to read about are politics and history. I find it fascinating that so many people don't vote, even though the decisions of elected officials affect each and every one of us. And history helps me to get a clearer understanding of the world we live in.

Jerry Smiley, #379-798
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, OH 44505

To contact Jerry Smiley you may write to him at the address listed above. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners:


If you'd like to contribute letters, articles, artwork, or educational materials to this website, please contact us at:
P.O. Box 422
The Plains, OH 45780
OR submit your guest column to: