Ariel Castro’s Suicide and the ODRC Status Quo by Sean Swain

Ariel Castro may save lives. It’s still too early to tell if anyone officially scrutinizing the Ohio Department of Retribution and Corruption has any integrity or not (The fact of their employment by the government in any investigative capacity mitigates against it, of course.), but if investigators do, then Ariel Castro’s suicide in ODRC custody may lead to changes that will save the lives of others. We will see.

Castro became infamous when Amanda Berry and two other missing Ohio women were found captive in Castro’s home. After a month in prison on what would have been a life sentence, Castro was found dead in his cell of an apparent suicide. Now, the situation is being investigated.

Good thing Castro was famous and news media brought all that attention to the ODRC. I say that because [prisoner] Billy Slagle wasn’t famous and when he died of an apparent suicide just a month prior, it was business as usual for the ODRC. Back at the beginning of the year at Mansfield Correctional Institution, four prisoners died in the course of about a month.

Nobody cared, not even when it was publicly revealed that two of those men died in an area that even staff referred to as Torture Cell Row. I was kept there for two days last September before friends raised public pressure to end the State’s regimen of torture employed upon me. I was held without outside communication in freezing temperatures, no bed, no toothbrush, no shower, no recreation. I was sleep-deprived and hallucinating, pacing 24 hours a day to stay warm.

No one, and I mean no one, can create an absolute sense of hopelessness and break down a human being the way the ODRC does it. They’re experts. Ask Ariel Castro.

At Toledo Correctional, on order of then-warden Khelleh Konteh, I was held in what was called a “suicide cell” for 15 days. I wasn’t suicidal. I had reported harassment and abuses by staff to ODRC Central Office. Warden “Killer” Konteh’s response was to disassemble me in the absolute deprivation of a “suicide cell.” Strange, but the place prison officials put prisoners in order to prevent us from killing ourselves is the exact same place they put is us in order to drive us to suicide.

Thing is, this is no secret. I reported the use of suicide cells for purposes of torture back in 2002, writing to then-Senator Robert F. Hagen of the Corrections Institution Inspection Committee, an oversight committee of the legislature that monitors the prisons. I told him about Torture Cell 182 at Richland.

I wrote the Corrections Institution Inspection Committee to report torture at Toledo a few years later.

Last year, I wrote the Correction Institution Inspection Committee to report torture at Mansfield.

The executive branch quietly believes that torture is its business. The legislature believes it too, and the inaction, the absence of any purposeful response, has emboldened tortures. Whatever the atmosphere and circumstances that led to Ariel Castro’s suicide, they’ve been an accepted component of a state-terror program that’s existed for more than a decade, uninterrupted by directors or wardens; senators, representatives, directors of oversight committees … all cashing pay-checks on your dime … not doing their jobs … making your world ever more dangerous … turning a blind eye to deliberate torture.

Good thing Ariel Castro was famous. His suicide may bring necessary scrutiny that will save lives. Or, the powers that be will act concerned until the spotlight fades and then return to using the oppressive machinery to satisfy their personal grudges against prisoners they don’t like, or against prisoners whose “ideology” offends them.

If the last decade is any indicator, probably the latter rather than the former.

A comment from Jason Goudlock:
Unsurprisingly, now that the media spotlight from Ariel Castro’s suicide has been dimmed, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is back to its inhumane business-as-usual operating of its for profit dressed-up concentration camps. In less than four months after the above mentioned August 4, 2013 suicide of prisoner Billy Slagle, the ODRC announced under a “last chance agreement” that it’s reinstating the corrupt correction officer who falsified the electronic log that was used to document the frequency in which security checks were being made on Slagle throughout the day leading up to his suicide. … If only the Ohio Parole Board was as forgiving as its conjoined ODRC government entity, perhaps, I might be able to receive a “last chance” parole.


Downloads:
Download a PDF copy of Ariel Castro’s Suicide and the ODRC Status Quo by Sean Swain.

Unveiling the Shadowy Past of Ohio Parole Board Member Marc Houk: A Story of Injustice

On August 18, 2006, while I was incarcerated in the C-Block Special Management Unit at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) in Youngstown, Ohio, an OSP correction officer wrote an institutional Conduct Report about me. In it he said I had threatened him and intentionally broken the fire-sprinkler inside my cell, which led to water damaging a nearby service elevator that was rendered inoperable. Two other inmates were written up with similar Conduct Reports, both of them accused of breaking the fire-sprinklers in their cells and causing water damage to the same service elevator.

Although I didn’t commit any of the rule infractions I was accused of on August 18, 2006, one of the two other inmates implicated in the incident—a man who openly admitted his involvement—did cause flooding inside the C-Block Special Management Unit by breaking the fire-sprinkler in his cell.

On August 23, 2006, less than a week after I was given the falsified Conduct Report, the OSP Rules Infraction Board found me guilty of three rule infractions. As a disciplinary sanction for allegedly committing property damage to the fire-sprinkler and elevator, I was ordered to pay a restitution of $833.00. For the alleged damage to the sprinkler, I was ordered to pay $33.00, and for the damage to the elevator, I was ordered to pay $800.00.

After being ordered to pay $833.00 for damage I knew I didn’t cause, I set out to uncover the reason for the false charges. After corresponding with the inmate who actually caused the flooding in C-Block, I contacted the Ohio State Highway Patrol post located inside the prison to say I had been set up by OSP to pay $833.00 of restitution for damage I didn’t cause. Unknown to me at the time, the Highway Patrol was already conducting an investigation initiated by OSP Investigator Harry Wilson, who had filed a criminal complaint on behalf of the prison, naming me as suspect with two other inmates for allegedly committing a criminal act of “vandalism.” When Trooper David H. Simpson of the Highway Patrol received my correspondence, he promptly came to interview me about the matter (Ohio State Highway Patrol incident number 06-000028-0400). I repeated my denial of having anything to do with the act of vandalism.

In August of 2006, Marc Houk, who is now a member of the Ohio Parole Board, was the Warden of OSP, which then operated as a hybrid-security prison, housing both maximum and super-maximum security inmates, including many of the so-called “worst-of-the-worst” inmates who were convicted of alleged crimes stemming from the infamous prison uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in 1993. Among inmates, Marc Houk was considered a hard line disciplinarian with a reputation for allowing inmates to be physically assaulted by rogue OSP officers. Behind-the-scenes mistreatment of inmates was considered commonplace at OSP so I was not shocked to learn that on August 18, 2006, when I was accused of damaging an elevator, Marc Houk had been attempting to use the same elevator to retrieve a customized motorcycle that had been illegally conveyed into the prison. According to Trooper Simpson’s Report of Investigation, Dan Mog of the Thyssen Krupp Elevator Corporation, which repaired the elevator, told him the motorcycle belonged to Warden Houk. His company, he said, “had to get the Warden’s custom made motorcycle that was stuck on the elevator.”

Aside from the fact that a motorcycle had been illegally transported inside a maximum/super-maximum security prison on a service elevator that I was falsely accused of damaging, OSP Investigator Harry Wilson failed to mention in the criminal complaint filed against me on August 18, 2006, that a motorcycle was stuck on the elevator. It was more than a month after the criminal complaint had been filed that Highway Patrol reporting office Simpson became aware of the motorcycle. If it weren’t for employee Dan Mog of Thyssen Krupp Elevator Corporation, who disclosed the information about the motorcycle during his September 21, 2006, conversation with Trooper Simpson, it might still be a secret.

On September 22, 2006, the day after the disclosure of the motorcycle on the elevator, Warden Houk suddenly modified the OSP Rules Infraction Board’s guilty finding against me. But he elected to modify only one of the three sanctions, allowing me to take a fall for the remaining two violations, which he must have known I did not commit. The following examination of the three disciplinary sanctions demonstrates that Warden Houk was complicit in the injustice caused by the August 18, 2006 Conduct Report:

On August 18, 2006, I was written a Conduct Report for allegedly committing three rule infractions, and I was subsequently found guilty of all three by the OSP Rules Infraction Board: rule infraction #8, “threats to an officer”; rule infraction #49, “destruction of state property”; and rule infraction #53, “tampering with a sprinkler.” The most significant was #49, for which I was ordered to pay restitution of $800.00 for allegedly damaging the service elevator. On September 22, 2006, however, Warden Houk exonerated me from rule infraction #49, “destruction of state property,” the service elevator. But he did nothing about rule infraction #53, “tampering with a sprinkler,” which disperses 50.09 gallons of water per minute. How does it make sense for me to pay $33.00 restitution for the sprinkler if I didn’t cause a flood to damage the elevator?

The sprinkler in my cell (C1-13) was never broken. Nor was it repaired. Warden Houk knowingly contributed to the embezzling of $33.00 from my OSP inmate account under the guise of the disciplinary sanction, which he upheld although there was not a single shred of evidence against me.

As for rule infraction #8, “threat of an officer,” I was issued a minor sanction of having to spend extra days in Disciplinary Control (the “hole”). Warden Houk found the officer who wrote the fabricated Conduct Report “credible” and upheld the sanction.

On March 5, 2007, Trooper Simpson met with the Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Nicholas E. Modarelli to present the compiled evidence on the alleged act of vandalism on August 18, 2006. Prosecutor Modarelli told Simpson “there was not sufficient enough evidence to charge any of the inmates in [the] incident,” and he, Modarelli, had a serious question about “why there was a motorcycle on the elevator.” He also told Trooper Simpson that he wanted Warden Houk to be interviewed about the motorcycle.

Later that same day, after meeting with Modarelli, Simpson relayed to his Highway Patrol supervisor, Sergeant Gerald A. Funelli, the request that Warden Houk be interviewed about the motorcycle. Sergeant Funelli responded that he would personally interview Warden Houk. After Assistant Prosecutor Modarelli requested the interview with Warden Houk, he was never questioned about the August 18, 2006, incident, and no one was ever charged in the matter. Soon, the case was closed.

Part Two

During Marc Houk’s tenure as the warden at OSP, both before and after the August 18, 2006, alleged incident of vandalism, I experienced many acts of injustice, ranging from being physically assaulted to being denied meals. As a counter-measure, I frequently filed institutional complaints, seeking administrative relief. I was unable to convince anyone that wrong had been done to me. It is difficult to get anyone to side with a convicted criminal against a person with power and authority. Stereotypes are powerful in such circumstances.

As time went by, the turbulent storm of OSP administrative injustice that engulfed me began to subside, and I managed to make my way out of OSP to a less restrictive institution, Toledo Correctional, where former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett was once incarcerated. Also, Marc Houk moved from being the Warden at OSP to joining the Ohio Parole Board.

In December of 2012 at Toledo Correctional Institution I went to my fourth hearing with the Parole Board expecting to be granted a parole. I had served nearly twenty years (approximately 231 months) on my indefinite sentence of six to 25 years for the criminal offenses of aggravated robbery and felonious assault, which I served in conjunction with a mandatory sentence of nine years for gun-specification sentencing enhancements. In addition, I was a first-time offender and had earned a GED, plus completed all of the recommended institutional programs cited in my Re-Entry Assessment Plan. Most importantly, at my previous Parole Board hearing, when I was at OSP on a more restrictive status, the board recommended that I be released, a recommendation overruled by the Parole Board’s Central Office Board Review which gave me a 15-month sentence continuance instead of the parole. So I expected to be paroled when I sat in front of the television screen at the Toledo Correctional Institution. But then I saw Marc Houk as a member of the Parole Board on the closed-circuit videoconference, and my expectations changed.

From the beginning, the Parole Board in December of 2012 infringed on my right to a “fair and meaningful” hearing. I had then served 231 months, as I’ve written, but the Parole Board credited me with just 226 months. They refused to acknowledge that they were conducting my hearing based on erroneous information.

In addition to miscalculating the amount of time I had served, the participation of Marc Houk in the board’s decision also infringed on my right to a fair and meaningful hearing. As I’ve explained, Marc Houk was involved as warden at OSP in leveling unjust “disciplinary sanctions” against me, sanctions that were now used as a determining factor in the hearing. This seems to me the very definition of bias. In addition, Marc Houk’s personal involvement in the elevator scandal should have led to his exclusion from my hearing. More broadly, the participation of a man tied to prisoner abuses on a Parole Board seems comparable to allowing a child molester to operate a nursery school.

Following a hearing that was never fair and meaningful, I received word in the mail that I had been given a sentence continuance of 24 months.

The sentence continuance was no surprise because of Marc Houk’s presence on the Parole Board, but the 24 months was a shock. I had reduced my security status during the course of my previous 15-month continuance so it made no sense that I was given an increased sentence continuance. Furious about the two-year flop, I immediately appealed the decision to the Chairwoman of the Ohio Parole Board, citing the conflict of interest in Marc Houk’s participation as well as the fact that my hearing was based on an erroneous record of the time I’d served. In her January 24, 2013 ruling on my appeal, the Parole Board Chairwoman allowed the unjust hearing to stand without commenting on the claims I’d raised.

With my claims ignored by the Parole Board Chairwoman, I contacted the Ohio Public Defender in Columbus, outlining the nature of the injustice. On February 25, 2013, Assistant State Public Defender Kenneth R. Spiert responded to my letter, as well as a follow-up letter I sent when I received no answer to the first. Spiert’s letter, available at FreeJasonGoudlock.org, notes that the Parole Board failed to acknowledge the amount of time I had served on my sentence and failed to address that claim in my appeal. As for my claim of conflict of interest in the Marc Houk motorcycle/elevator incident, he says: “You would have to present substantial proof of a personal conflict between you and Mr. Houk before this could be a concern.” At the time I contacted the Office of the Public Defender, I did not possess documentation that could substantiate my conflict of interest claim. But when my claim regarding the miscalculation of my time served was validated, it seems to me the Assistant State Public Defender should have explored my claim regarding Marc Houk’s role in the Parole Board’s decision.

Although Public Defender Spiert was unwilling to investigate the matter, he offered to write a letter on my behalf to the Chairwoman of the Parole Board requesting that she modify or rescind the December 2012 decision. I immediately accepted his offer in March of 2013. Now, eight months later, I’ve yet to receive any notification from either the Parole Board or the Office of the Ohio Public Defender of anything pertaining to rescinding or modifying the two-year continuance.

Today, as I sit in my cold and bare cell after being imprisoned for 20 years, I wonder if anyone in one of the branches of government will ever address the unethical and illegal Parole Board practices I have described. Marc Houk, a former prison warden and now a member of the Ohio Parole Board has unjustly prevented me from attaining my freedom. He was entrusted by the people of Ohio to make unbiased decisions about the incarceration of human beings, and he has betrayed that trust with the support of the rest of the Parole Board, including the Chair. In doing so, they have enabled depression, loneliness, and despair to torture my mind.

As one of the approximately 2.5 million people now incarcerated in the United States, I am amazed that in a time when our country is engaged in multiple wars to uphold human rights, it permits human rights abuses of countless women and men who, like me, are victimized by exploitative behavior within the prison industrial complex, including the corrupt behavior of Marc Houk.

After six years of having my life and liberty disregarded by Ohio’s Parole Board, which is part of a total of 20 consecutive years served for a first offense for a crime committed when I was eighteen, I can no longer endure being deprived of my right to exist as a free man. With this being said, if I can’t be afforded the guarantees of justice set forth in the Ohio and United State Constitutions, which prohibit citizens from being unlawfully imprisoned, then I wish to let it be known that in the near future I intend to officially renounce my United States citizenship by mailing a formal letter to the President of the United States. And while I’m almost certain my announcement won’t matter much to anyone, it certainly will matter to me, knowing I’m no longer part of the great lie called American justice.

cc: Governor John R. Kasich; Cleveland Call & Post; Columbus Dispatch;
Cleveland Plain Dealer; Ohio News Network; United States Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division); Office of the Ohio Public Defender; Correctional Institution Inspection Committee; The Vindicator; ACLU (Columbus); and Professor Michelle Alexander.


Downloads:
Download a PDF copy of Unveiling the Shadowy Past of Ohio Parole Board Member Marc Houk: A Story of Injustice.

Paroled: The Ex-Con Experience (A Documentary Proposal)

Synopsis
“Paroled: The Ex-Con Experience” is a documentary that will chronicle and intimately capture the day-to-day post-release affairs of a recently released ex-offender named Jason Goudlock who, after being incarcerated for 20 years for the criminal offenses of aggravated robbery and felonious assault, returns to the hard-knock life and city streets of Cleveland, Ohio, as an essentially homeless person without any reliable family support at the age of 38 to pursue his ambition of becoming an entrepreneur.

Jason intends to use his story (post-incarceration) to bring attention to the lack of adequate pre- and post-release aftercare programs available to inmates; and he also wants his story to double as the prototypical template of “how to self-sufficiently become successful, despite being an ex-offender” so that his fellow inmate parolee successors who are paroled under similar circumstances—with nothing other than a bus ticket to their name—will be motivated and inspired to become success stories themselves and avoid becoming casualties in the perpetually revolving door of recidivism.

Working Hypothesis and Interpretation
Everyone has made mistakes in some stage of their lives and they deserve a second chance to redeem themselves, especially persons convicted of criminal offenses. If an inmate is placed in an environment that is positive and constructive, they will become products of their environment. Positive and constructive thoughts will triumph over negative thoughts and influences, which will, upon release from prison become a formula for success. This documentary will delve into the transitional phase—from prison back to society—of an ex-offender who is self-educated, determined, and ambitious.

After watching this documentary, the audience should feel educated about the problematic transition hurdles that many ex-offenders are faced with upon being released. The audience will see that rehabilitation can be accomplished with someone who has been incarcerated.

Main Character/Subject
Jason Goudlock is an African-American male, native of Cleveland, Ohio, who was convicted in 1994 of aggravated robbery and felonious assault. Jason doesn’t have an extensive criminal record as an adult or juvenile, but he does have an extensive record of being placed in a combination of ten different group homes, foster homes, and residential placements. Like countless other African-American males, Jason grew up in a dysfunctional, one-parent family in a poverty-stricken neighborhood plagued with crime.

In an attempt to avoid the pitfalls most commonly associated with growing up in poverty—i.e., substance abuse, criminal activity, gangs, etc.—Jason turned to the sport of basketball in search of refuge, hoping to earn a scholarship. But due to lack of focus, Jason fell victim to the snares of streetlife, which landed him in a prison cell serving a term of six to 25 years, along with an additional nine-year mandatory gun specification.

During Jason’s incarceration he experienced many trials and tribulations, ranging from having to deal with the tragic, untimely deaths of his mother and surrogate grandparents to being repeatedly assaulted, set up, and starved by corrupt prison guards. The corrupt practices of the prison guards led Jason to retaliate against them. As a result of his retaliatory behavior, Jason has spent most of his incarceration in 23-hours-a-day, loud, hostile, administrative-segregation lockdown.

Despite the constant anxiety and stress Jason experienced while in solitary confinement, he found the resolve and resilience to educate himself by reading self-help business and motivation books in preparation for pursuing his aspiration of becoming a successful entrepreneur upon his release from prison. He realizes that to eliminate the chances of becoming a casualty of recidivism it is as essential as flour is to bread that he return to society with a “plan.” He hopes to succeed at starting and expanding an on-line mail order business and starting a publishing company for incarcerated authors. He hopes his work can inspire many downtrodden and impoverished people throughout the world to remain steadfast and undeterred in their pursuit of success and happiness.


Downloads:
Download a PDF copy of Paroled: The Ex-Con Experience.

Letter from Kenneth R. Spiert – February 25, 2013

The following is a letter that was sent to me by the Ohio Assistant State Public Defender, Kenneth R. Spiert, which I received as a reply to two letters that I’d written to the Office of the Ohio Public Defender in regards to not having been afforded a “fair and meaningful” Parole Board hearing at my most recent hearing in December 2012. In the letter, the Assistant State Public Defender confirms, in part, that I didn’t receive a fair hearing. He concludes the letter by extending an offer to me for him to write a letter on my behalf to the Chair of the Ohio Parole Board, requesting that my unjust hearing decision be either modified or rescinded. To this day, however, I’ve yet to receive any follow-up information about this matter from anyone.

February 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Goudlock:

I am replying to your January 15 and February 14, 2013 letters regarding the Board’s recent actions in your case. I agree with you that the most recent continuance is inconsistent with the Board’s previous decisions and reasons supporting them (imposing 24 months after previous continuances of 36 months, then 14 months, then 15 months). That seems especially true in light of the fact that you reduced your security level to 3.

Unfortunately, so long as the Board cites a proper statutory reason for continuing a person’s incarceration, the action can stand. So far, no court has required that the Board’s decisions taken as a whole must make sense. Thus, we cannot challenge the latest decision on that basis.

You argue that the Board was mistaken when it stated in field 3B of its 12/28/12 decision that, “Though the inmate’s institutional conduct has improved since his last hearing, the inmate has continued to exhibit behavior that indicates an ongoing difficulty with anger and impulse control.” You point to your achieving Level 3 status and the absence of any conduct reports that resulted in your being placed in segregation. But you also indicate that you did receive conduct reports for “disrespect” and “disobeying a direct order.” I suspect that those reports are what the Board referred to as “behavior that indicates an ongoing difficulty with anger and impulse control.” The Board is allowed to consider misconduct that does not result in segregation.

Another of your concerns is that you only were interviewed by a panel of three members. It appears that this, however, is not a violation of Board procedure or policy. The decision in your case was a COBR1 decision, and represents a decision by the majority of the Board. Page 20 of the Ohio Parole Board Handbook indicates that, “If the Board Members participating [at the institutional hearing] cannot reach a majority vote or the institutional hearing is not conducted with at least a majority of Board Members participating, the case will be referred to COBR to obtain the required majority vote.” Also, the fact that Mr. Houk participated in your institutional hearing and in the ultimate vote on your release does not, alone, represent procedural or substantive error in the Board’s process. Mr. Houk is a member of the Board, and it is his obligation to rule on release matters. You would have to present substantial proof of a personal conflict between you and Mr. Houk before this could be a concern.

Finally, you are correct that the Board’s decision fails to accurately represent your 5 months of jail time credit. This means that the “Remaining time to be served” is actually 19 months, rather than the 24 months the Board intended to impose. The January 24, 2013 ruling on your reconsideration request failed to address that point. What the quality assurance analyst did in that ruling was to tell you that new evidence is required for a reconsideration and that you failed to present anything new. This is their stock answer to reconsideration requests.

If you want me to, I will write the Chair of the Board and request her to modify or rescind the 12/28/13 (sic) decision and advance your next hearing date by the five months you should have been credited. Please write and let me know if you want me to do that. Enclosed is a prepaid envelope for your convenience.

Sincerely,

Kenneth R. Spiert
Assistant State Public Defender


Downloads:
Download a PDF copy of the letter from Ohio Assistant State Public Defender Kenneth R. Spiert.

Call and Post Article: Thousands of Ohio Inmates Languish Away in Prison

The following article, Thousands of Ohio Inmates Languish Away in Prison, was recently published by the Cleveland Call and Post, which accurately reports on the longstanding Ohio old-law sentencing disparity that adversely affects a minority-class of approximately 5,000 old-law offenders, such as myself.

In the article, the Chairwoman of the Ohio Parole Board, Cynthia Mauser, is quoted justifying the reasons of why old-law offenders are being paroled at a drastically lower frequency than in previous years, in which she states, “Despite the perception of the public, there is no concerted effort not to release these people. There are offenders who are serving time for very serious offenses [murder and sex-related]. Some have multiple consecutive sentences.” Without question, there are many criminal offenses that are more severe than others.

In my opinion, however, it seems that the Parole Board Chairwoman is justifying the practice of discriminating against a select body of offenders. I, however, was not charged, convicted, or accused of any murder or sex-related offenses–nor am I serving multiple consecutive sentences. So, why am I being kept in prison, as a first-time offender? I’ve served 20 consecutive years, and they not only fail to approve a parole, but they can’t even afford me with a “fair and meaningful” Parole Board hearing.

Here’s the full article:

Thousands of Ohio inmates languish away in prison

Kush Azrael | 9/27/2013, 11:09 a.m.

http://callandpost.com/news/2013/sep/27/thousands-ohio-inmates-languish-away-prison/

Many of Ohio’s inmates are serving long sentences and are finding it harder and harder to get out of prison on parole.

A renewed emphasis on moving eligible offenders out of prison is having little effect on “old law” inmates. Under the old law, offenders were sentenced “tails,” for example, 6 to 25 years or maybe 3 to 15 years in prison. Under the “new law,” Senate Bill 2, passed in 1996, sentenced offenders serve definite terms, or “flat” time, such as a 10-year sentence.

Many of the almost 5,000 remaining old law inmates in Ohio prisons, more than 50 percent, are doing time for murder or manslaughter.

In 2011, only 7 percent of the 1,918 inmates petitioning the parole board for consideration of release were paroled. This compares to 20 percent of 2,121 inmates getting hearings the previous year. In years before that, the number was closer to 50 percent. Ohio’s parole rate has plunged below 7 percent as the pool of offenders eligible for parole is mostly made up of those convicted of murder and sex offences. But changes have taken place to help model inmates who committed crimes a long time ago convince the Ohio parole board that they deserve a chance to be released. State officials say they have made changes that could improve inmates’ parole odds, such as coaching them on how to articulate their case for release, and working harder to get input from their supporters as well as their opponents such as prosecutors and victims.

However, critics say the parole board has no accountability, is plagued with members biased against offenders and gives too much weight to the nature of the crime, and not enough credit for years of good behavior and rehabilitative programming. They argue that some longtime inmates could be productive citizens instead of costing taxpayers $25,000 a year to be incarcerated.

One inmate, who we will call William because he still he still has to go before the parole board, is currently housed at the London Correctional Institution. He has completed numerous programs at the institution and currently works for Ohio Penal Industries (OPI) and has worked for OPI for 15 years. Only “role model inmates” are allowed to work at OPI. William’s last parole hearing was in 2001. He was denied, and “flopped” or continued for 3 more years because he was a juvenile offender before he became an adult offender.

This is only one example of how the parole board continues inmates’ sentences despite the inmates showing signs of rehabilitation.

Some inmates believe this is the toughest time to be in front of the parole board because the board has become more rigid.

Since 1996, judges have given most offenders “flat time,” or exact sentences, meaning the only hearing they get is upon release, when the board decides if they need post-release control or not.

Cynthia Mauser, chairwoman of the Ohio Parole Board said, “despite the perception of the public, there is no concerted effort not to release these people.” She added, “There are offenders who are serving time for very serious offenses. Some have multiple consecutive sentences.”


Downloads:
Download a PDF copy of this article.

The Birth of Proof: May 19, 1925

The following work of poetry, The Birth of Proof: May 19, 1925, was written during my confinement at the Ohio State Penitentiary while I was being housed in the super-maximum security wing of the prison. Of all the poetry that I’ve ever written, this poem is my favorite. One day, with the blessings of the estate of Malcolm X, who is the subject of this particular work of poetry, I would like to turn the poem into a poster and utilize it as a tool to raise funds for a charitable cause of the estate’s choosing.

The Birth of Proof: May 19, 1925

by Jason Goudlock

For those whom criticize society’s downtrodden and stereotype the impoverished as a class of undesirable, and dirty-rotten failures, whom will never amount to nothing ….

Malcolm Little once felt the claustrophobia of the taxing-cold prison walls, yet he triumphed and emerged as Minister Malcolm X, magnetically attracting international respect.

Through the radiant potency of his words—synonymous with inspiration—he revolutionized the hearts and minds of a then unborn “X” generation.

His seeds of redemption pollinated the grassless landscapes of the inhabitants of poverty which, ultimately, germinated and grew into a harvest of self-sufficiency, rooted in struggle.

Now, who would have ever thought the convict, known as Detroit Red, would end up being immortalized as our black “shining Prince!” when his eulogy was read?

May his legacy remain as a pillar of undeniable proof that redemption can be manifested, by anyone, when opportunity is introduced.


Downloads:
Download a PDF copy of this poem.

Lucasville State of Mind

The following work of poetry is a poem that I wrote upon becoming acquainted with men such as Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur, and Gregory Curry, all of whom were wrongfully convicted of criminal offenses stemming from the infamous 1993 prison uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, OH. Upon weighing the facts about their cases, which I learned through reading books, essays, and trial transcripts, I became inspired to contribute to their quest for justice. You can learn more about these political prisoners by going to lucasvilleamnesty.org.

Lucasville State of Mind

by Jason Goudlock

It could have been me on April 11, 1993, caught in between explosive unrest in an unjust penitentiary.

All-out anarchy against debilitating inhumane prison practices, while some sat in silence and meditated on their mattresses.

Uncertainty and circumstances. I would have been at the total mercy of the former and the latter. Certainly, surviving would have been all that mattered. … Well, at least back then, prior to having my entire life shattered. Because now, as Isaac Hayes once beautifully crooned, I stand accused! … Listening to the echoes of injustice inside of an unethical courtroom.

Untruthful allegations, fabricated by ambitious felons. Shouldn’t this have been proof that the system was failing? Shouldn’t this have been proof of the lies that they were telling?

Imagine if I had to give my life to pose such questions. I wonder would my wrongful execution be a topic during elections?

Save your answers, please, because right now I am very much alive. I was just thinking about the injustice incurred by the “Lucasville Five,” as well as “Greg Curry,” and all others whom were convicted because of lies.

It’s time to wake up America and grant justice where it has been denied.


Downloads:
Download a PDF copy of this poem.

Ohio Old-Law Prisoner Files $250,000 Federal Lawsuit Against Prison Warden and Officer for Alleged Brutality and Cover-up

On May 31, 2013, stemming from an incident that occurred April 12, 2013 at the Mansfield Correctional Institution located in Mansfield, Ohio, old-law prisoner Jason Goudlock filed a federal civil lawsuit in the United States District Court for The Northern District of Ohio (Case no. 1:13CV1215), alleging that he was physically assaulted at the institution in an incident involving correction officer and defendant, Dana Blankenship (as well as a host of other to be determined unidentified correction officers), who is alleged to have been the ringleader behind the brutal assault, as well as a central figure in the subsequent alleged cover-up of the unconstitutional incident, which, according to a second claim cited in the civil lawsuit, also involves the involvement of the institution’s former warden and defendant, Terry Tibbals.

The plaintiff, Jason Goudlock, who filed the civil lawsuit as a pro se litigant, also filed a motion with the court requesting to be appointed legal counsel due to the overall complexity of litigating the lawsuit, as well as the defendants ongoing efforts to undermine his constitutional right to access the court.

Jason would like to be contacted by (or recommended) a civil attorney willing to represent clients on a pro bono basis. Anyone wishing to assist him in this matter, or offer support of any kind, may contact him directly.


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The Tears of Clowns

As a 38-year-old prisoner who has been incarcerated in the state of Ohio for nearly 20 years, I’ve witnessed hundreds of prisoners, including myself, who have on one occasion or another gotten extremely upset with the state’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction due to either the implementing or repealing of a prison rule or regulation (e.g. recreation time reduced; elimination of ordering particular magazines, etc…). In most instances, the unwanted change of a rule or regulation has sparked fierce conversations of contempt amongst prisoners. “I can’t stand these people” or “they are always making new rules and taking away our stuff” are commonly heard on any given day.

For all of the complaining that I’ve witnessed over the years, with exception to the Ohio State Penitentiary hunger-strikes, I’ve rarely seen or heard about any prisoners doing anything in a collective sense to try and bring forth the eradication of the unwanted change. Instead, what I’ve seen and continue to see at an ever so increasing rate, is men of all ages and races, simply giving up and conforming to being content with wasting the bulk of their day engaging in immature buffoonery.

Inside of the chaotic Mansfield Correctional Institution where I’m currently incarcerated, unbelievably, it has become the norm for countless numbers of prisoners to greet and address one another by jokingly calling each other a “bitch.” All day, everyday, all I hear is a bunch of numerically grown men laughing and joking, or debating about something that amounts to nothing, such as, which one of their favorite female celebrities has the biggest butt – that is, of course, when they aren’t crying and complaining about something that they won’t expend a pulse of energy trying to remedy.

For a prisoner to willingly relegate oneself to being a penitentiary clown, in the midst of being on the front lines of an invisible battlefield inside a covert class war that’s being waged against them by the ruthless and greedy one percent ruling class, is akin to one committing suicide. If prisoners in the incarceration heavy state of Ohio are going to attain a victory of any sort, they must part ways with their immature behavior that they are seemingly so intoxicatingly in love with.

For every great triumph that is achieved by a person is nothing but merely the full manifestation of one’s own thoughts. Therefore, if a prisoner-of-class-war spends all of their time thinking about, and engaging in, acts of buffoonery, then all they’re going to ever produce is buffoonery.

And, well … tears of course. The tears of a clown, that is.


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Excerpt from “Brother of the Struggle”

The following passage is an excerpt from Jason’s novel, “Brother of the Struggle,” an in-your-face literary gem, inspired by true events, that chronicles the trials and tribulations of the tumultuous life of Malcolm Xavier Jordan, a young African-American growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, in the tragic era of broken family settings and massive incarceration. Authored while incarcerated, Jason is currently seeking to get his approximately 65,000-word manuscript into the hands of publishers and literary agents. If you would like to assist Jason in this endeavor, which would ultimately strengthen his case for demonstrating his readiness to be paroled, please contact him.

As I watched the slow cycle of the seasons from inside, the by-any-means-necessary mentality I’d felt at the beginning of my incarceration faded out of my mind. I blame a lack of self-discipline and a lack of focus. I took my eyes off the prize, as the saying goes. Instead of working on a way to escape “the belly of the beast,” as I’d vowed to do, I sat around doing nothing, feeling sorry for myself. It was as though I’d fallen off of a bike and instead of getting up and climbing back on the bike, I just lay there on the ground, rolling around in my own self-pity, hoping somebody would come along and give me a hand. Eventually, after six months, I saw an African proverb in a Vibe magazine: “Whom that is truly dying of thirst, blindly shall they certainly find a river.” The more I thought about it, the more it gave me strength. Here’s how I understood it: when someone is truly dedicated towards accomplishing something important, they will accomplish their goal, against any odds.

The proverb’s message lifted my spirit and inspired me to “find the river.” After I made up my mind to get back on my square, I didn’t waste any time conjuring up a strategic plan to liberate myself.

— Brother of the Struggle

Click the cover image below to buy a copy of Jason’s book:


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