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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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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Ohio “Old-­Law” Prisoner Seeks Aid of Journalism Students and Activists to Address Sentencing Disparity

My name is Jason Goudlock (pronounced Good•lock), and I’m a 41-year-old incarcerated African-American who has been imprisoned in Ohio as a first-time offender since my arrest in November of 1993. I’m serving an indefinite term of six to 25 years, in addition to a nine-year firearm specification sentencing enhancement, for aggravated robbery and felonious assault. I am trying to call attention to a sentencing disparity that affects me, as well as a small minority of other Ohio inmates who were sentenced under the state’s pre-July 1, 1996, indefinite sentencing guidelines, commonly referred to as the “old law.” These guidelines require offenders convicted of serious crimes to go before the Ohio Parole Board to be considered for release upon serving the minimum (front) portion of their indefinite term, which is determined by the offender’s sentencing judge.

On July 1, 1996, Ohio Senate Bill 2(SB2) replaced the old-law, indefinite sentencing guidelines with a modernized set of definite guidelines, commonly referred to as “new-law” guidelines. With the exception of offenders convicted of criminal offenses related to murder, the new law guidelines eliminated SB2 offenders from having to go before the Ohio Parole Board to be considered for release. In addition to significantly curtailing release consideration hearings, the new-law guidelines also significantly decreased the length of the terms of incarceration that SB2 offenders could be sentenced to. For instance, under the old-law guidelines, an offender convicted of a first-degree felony, excluding murder related convictions, could be sentenced to an indefinite term of either five to 25 years, six to 25 years, seven to 25 years, eight to 25 years, nine to 25 years, or 10 to 25 years. Under the new-law guidelines, however, a SB2 offender convicted of the same first-degree felony can be sentenced to a definite term of either three years, four years, five years, six years, seven years, eight years, nine years, or 10 years, which clearly makes the SB2 new-law guidelines drastically less punitive than the old-law guidelines that I was sentenced under.

That the new-law sentencing guidelines weren’t applied retroactively to old-law offenders, the state of Ohio can subject old-law offenders to disproportionate prison terms. This inequality contradicts the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which declares: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of Life, Liberty, or Property, without Due Process of Law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the Equal Protection of the Laws [emphasis added].” This injustice, shortly after the enactment of the new-law guidelines, prompted old-law offenders to give notice that they were going to stage a statewide work stoppage with the intent of shutting down Ohio’s prison-industrial economy, fueled by inmate labor. With millions of dollars hanging in the balance, state officials agreed to remedy the injustice.

In 1998 Ohio appeared to be honoring concessions it made to old-law offenders. Through the Ohio Parole Board, the state began releasing large numbers of old-law offenders under its then-newly revised Parole Board Guidelines, which were used as a measuring tool to calculate a suggested range of time that an offender should serve. Once a significant number of old-law offenders were released, however, the Ohio Parole Board reverted back to issuing excessive sentencing continuances for reasons that seemed arbitrarily contrived. My experience provides an example.

In October of 2007, as a classified Security Level 5B inmate (the most serious), I went before the Parole Board for the first time and received a sentence continuation of 36 months. In 2010, as a Security Level 5A inmate (a less restrictive status), I went before the Parole Board for the second time and received a significantly shorter continuation of 14 months. At my second hearing, I was also told by the hearing panel that if I stayed out of trouble during my 14-month flop, I would be recommended for release at my next hearing. In 2011, as a Security Level 4A inmate (a further reduced security status), I went back before the Parole Board for the third time and, as promised, was recommended for release. But three months later the Parole Board’s oversight committee, the Central Office Board Review, reversed course and gave me an increased sentence continuation of 15 months.

Despite my disappointment, I continued to stay out of trouble and was able to further reduce my Security Level. In December of 2012, however, now classified at Security Level 3, when I went before the Parole Board for the fourth time, I was given another increased continuance of 24 months. The 24-month continuance, however, was rendered by a two-person hearing panel that consisted of a former prison warden, Marc Houk. In 2006, Marc Houk was the then-warden of the Ohio State Penitentiary and he was caught by the Ohio State Highway Patrol attempting to frame me for allegedly vandalizing a prison service elevator. The elevator, as discovered later, contained inside it Houk’s customized motorcycle (See “Unveiling the Shadowy Past of Ohio Parole Board Member Marc Houk: A Story of Injustice”).

In October of 2014, classified as a Security Level 3 inmate and after speaking publicly about the unjust behavior of Marc Houk, when I went before the Parole Board for the fifth time, I was given another increased sentence continuance, this time, for 60 months! The Parole Board rationalized their decision by claiming that my “institutional conduct” and “rehabilitation program participation” wasn’t suitable enough to warrant my release. Their rationale, however, was meritless due to the fact that they knowingly constructed it with eroneous records and fabricated conduct reports. These fabricated reports are still in my prison case file today (See “Black Lives Matter: ODRC and Ohio Attorney Genereal Michael DeWine Swindle an Inmate” at FreeJasonGoudlock.org).

The same Parole Board that gave me a 60-month continuance in 2014 is the same Parole Board that, in 2006, released inmate Roger Snodgrass. Snodgrass killed a man during the 1993 prison uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. After having served 13 years of his old-law sentence of five to 25 years, then-Ohio Parole Board spokesperson Andrea Dean explained the release of Snodgrass by stating that he had “served more than the minimum” portion of his prison sentence and had “compiled a good work history in prison” (See Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 4, 2006, “Lucasville Killer Testified on Riot, Now He Walks”; National Section; page A1; John Caniglia).

As I have thoroughly outlined in all of the above, Ohio’s dual-law criminal justice system is functioning unjustly. My efforts to call this injustice to the attention of the media, elected officials, and organizations, however, have led nowhere. So, now, I ask for the help of righteous people who believe in upholding the principles of justice for all, and I do so in the hope that you will find my account of egregious acts of injustice worthy of being explored and exposed, by way of your impassioned agendas to make the world a better place. Your help could improve not just my life, but the lives of many of the others who are being silently tortured by Ohio’s discriminatory, inhumane, dual-law criminal justice system.

In closing, I want to thank you for reading this far. I invite you to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
Jason Goudlock


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Spotlighting an Ohio Old-Law Sentencing Disparity: A Fictional Conversation with Malcolm X and an Ohio Old-Law Prisoner

The following dialogue, inspired by an existing injustice, is a fictional conversation between a present day 39-year-old Malcolm X and an incarcerated 38-year-old African-American, Quintin Jefferson.

Jefferson dreams of telephoning the Organization of Afro-American Unity, headed by Malcolm X, to discuss a law that creates a long-standing, unjust Ohio criminal sentencing disparity. This law adversely affects a portion of the state’s minority class of approximately 5,000 “old-law” prisoners who committed a criminal offense prior to July 1, 1996. These prisoners are being forced by the state to serve disproportionately longer terms of incarceration than those served by the state’s majority class of approximately 45,000 prisoners, who were sentenced on or after July 1, 1996. Members of the majority class were sentenced to definite terms of incarceration, and with the exception of prisoners convicted of murder-related offenses, they are excluded from having to go before the Parole Board to be released. This disparity, an injustice in itself, also creates a problem in Ohio prisons, where “new-law” prisoners can assault “old-law” prisoners without risking a change in their date of release while “old-law” prisoners who engage in violence have their sentences continued. The following conversation takes place in January of 2013, shortly after the inauguration of the incumbent President Barack Obama. The author is a real life Ohio old-law prisoner.

Automated telephone operator: . . . If this call is collect, at the sound of the tone, please state your name and press the pound key. . . .[telephone beeps]

Caller: Quintin Jefferson. . . . [Telephone beeps as caller presses pound key]

Automated telephone operator: Please hold. [Telephone rings] . . . . [Telephone stops ringing] . . . .

OAAU secretary: Good morning. You’ve reached the prisoner assistance hotline of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. How may I assist you?

Caller: Good morning, uh. . . my name is Quintin Jefferson, and I’m a 38-year-old African-American prisoner incarcerated at the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio. Recently your organization was featured in a Workers World newsletter, and I read that OAAU was interested in hearing stories of injustice from prisoners. I’m wondering if you could help me try to rectify an unjust sentencing disparity in Ohio that affects me, as well as several thousand other Ohio prisoners?

Secretary: Mr. Jefferson, today might be your lucky day. Our founder and director, Brother Malcolm, is almost never here at the office, especially in the mornings. But his flight to Haiti was canceled yesterday so he’s here now, and I think he might be very interested in your story. Give me a minute to brief him on your call, and maybe I can get him on the line. . . . [She puts Jefferson on hold.]

Malcolm X: Aaah, Brother Jefferson! Sister Roslyn tells me you’re trying to get some help in rectifying, as she put it, a sentencing disparity in that good ol’ state of Ohio where you’re imprisoned. Is that correct, brother?

Caller: That’s correct, Brother Malcolm. Absolutely.

Malcolm X: Well by all means, please enlighten me. What’s going on over there?

Caller: Okay. But before I do, I got to say it’s an absolute honor to speak with you! Without a question, this, along with the birth of my daughter, is the highlight of my life!

Malcolm X: [Laughs warmly] Aaah, yes indeed. Those little girls. . . they can make a man’s heart melt like butter on flapjacks, Brother Jefferson! But please continue. Provide me with a little background on yourself and your situation.

Caller: Okay. [Takes a deep breath] I was born and raised in the city of Cleveland during the crack-cocaine era, when it was pretty much in its infancy. I don’t have any siblings, and I had both of my parents in my life. Unfortunately, they were both heavy users of heroin, and their habit got more attention than I did. So I started hanging out on street corners, and pretty soon I was selling the same poison that was destroying them. By then I was sixteen. It worked for a while, but in 1993 a so-called friend of mine robbed me—robbed me good, too—and a few weeks later I returned the favor and ended up shooting him in the hand. He called the police on me, and I got charged with one count of aggravated robbery and felonious assault. A few months later, my court-appointed attorney coerced me into copping out to a deal of eight to 25 years, in addition to three years of mandatory time for using a gun in committing a felony. I got sentenced a day later, and I’ve been in a prison cell ever since. . . .

Malcolm X: [Whistles] You mean to tell me the good ol’ mobbed-up, corrupt state of Ohio has had you in one of those concentration camps for 20 years?

Caller: It’ll be 20 years in November, day for day. . . . And that excessively long prison sentence connects with the issue I’m hoping you can assist me with.

Malcolm X: Speak on, Brother. Speak on!

Caller: Okay. So back on the first of July in 1996 the state of Ohio abolished its use of the indefinite sentencing guidelines they used when I committed my crimes. Those guidelines require offenders in my situation to go before the Parole Board to be considered for release when we’ve served the minimum, front portion of our indefinite sentence. And the state replaced what we call those “old-law” sentences with a new set of guidelines that are drastically less punitive. Say I was convicted for aggravated robbery and felonious assault under the new law, excluding the additional three years for using a gun, the most time I could have been sentenced to is ten years! Plus, I wouldn’t have to go in front of the Parole Board for release because nobody except offenders convicted of murder-related offenses has to go before the Parole Board. And that’s very significant because the Parole Board routinely hands out multiple-year sentence continuances for minor rule infractions such as using profanity or not turning your radio down fast enough.

Malcolm X: Let me get this straight, Brother Jefferson. You’re telling me they can potentially make you do up to fifteen years longer than prisoners under the new law who commit the exact same crimes?

Caller: That’s correct.

Malcolm X: Brother Jefferson, give me a few seconds to loosen my tie. . . . You’re telling me a classic red, white, and blue story here, maybe mixed with a little Confederate orange. My temperature just went up a few degrees. . . .What are those people in Ohio thinking? If everything you’ve told me is accurate, I aim to get this pre-Civil War injustice out into the open. You probably know already the mainstream media don’t like me much. But I know some righteous individuals who can get some attention paid to this. What I really want, though, is something I said two weeks ago on PrisonRadio.org. I want those mascot rappers like Rick Ross, who was once a corrections officer and now pretends to be some kind of drug kingpin, to use their platforms to enlighten the masses with knowledge and wisdom so they can work on a grand scale to build a righteous world for all mankind. Rick Ross had the audacity to mention me in one of his buffoonish rap songs, but he doesn’t even talk the talk, let alone walk the walk.

Right now, today, with the power of social networking, one well-known rapper could turn the tide on an issue like yours. Or they could let people know about those other brothers in your state, the Lucasville Five. But except for Dead Prez, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Mos Def, and a few others, they mainly use their voices to glorify the luxurious creations of German automakers and French fashion designers. If they were jumping up and down bragging about owning their own cargo ships, you know, gargantuan vessels like the one Marcus Garvey bought capable of crossing the same vast Atlantic Ocean most of the rappers’ ancestors crossed on their way to the Americas, chained in the holds of diseased ships as slaves—well that might be something worth boasting about. But being a millionaire flunky mascot for corporate America, rapping about selling that hard white—oh, yes, I know what they call it, Brother Jefferson—why, that insanity won’t accomplish anything but the expansion of graveyards and prison yards.

And remember this—the expansion of the prison-industrial complex is why the Federal Communications Commission lets rappers like Rick Ross flood the airwaves with their lyrical seeds of destruction. The FCC knows these rappers’ lyrics generate massive profits for the prison-industrial complex. And those CEOs use lobbyists and front organizations to funnel millions of dollars from their prison profits into political campaigns of politicians who get tough on crime by commoditizing and disenfranchising millions of citizens in this country. That’s why you don’t hear much truly revolutionary Hip-Hop on the radio. The man behind the FCC is good old Uncle Sam, who doesn’t eat any green eggs and ham. No sir! He gives that to us while he eats T-bone steak and Boston crab. He knows true revolutionary Hip-Hop might lead to real revolutionary change, not that hollow pocket change rhetoric of the ’08 Obama campaign that didn’t change anything except the profit margins of billionaires, which got bigger.

Caller: Brother Malcolm, I couldn’t agree with you more. The cycle of corruption you describe in the prison-industrial complex is behind the injustice Ohio’s old-law prisoners experience. The Ohio Parole Board knows as long as they keep finding contrived reasons to give out sentence continuances, their jobs will be secure. And what really disturbs me is the blatant racism embedded in the Ohio prison system. All the disciplinary housing units throughout the state where they put prisoners in solitary confinement are packed with Black prisoners, which is truly sickening to me. You would think the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus would raise hell about the number of African-Americans held in these “control units,” but they’re nowhere to be found.

Malcolm X: They’re nowhere to be found, Brother Jefferson, because they’re too busy pretending they live in a fairy tale post-racial society. They’re waiting to be given a pat on the head by Uncle Sam for being the look-the-other-way, spineless politicians and activist organizations they are. With the exception of brothers Michael Erick Dyson, Dr. Cornel West, and Tavis Smiley, most of them are probably sitting around now, showing their teeth, dining on Boston crabs, waiting for that pat on the head. [Caller laughs] I’m serious, Brother! This is what they do so they can criss-cross the country in luxury while they pretend to be leaders. Some people call it posturing, I call it Uncle Tomming. This is one of the main reason’s I’m not visible in the media. The government and corporate America know I will never compromise myself or sell out the people for the sake of a handout of greenbacks covered with the faces of former slave owners. So I’m blacklisted. I can’t get a network to give me a slot on television, not even in the wee hours of the morning when they sell those little grills. But you’ll see one of those Tom organization getting prime time coverage to honor people like R. Kelly, the Black man who was caught red-handed urinating on little Black girls. I’m nobody’s judge, but I have no respect for someone who urinates on little girls. And I can’t respect any so-called African-American organization that bestows awards on such a person while ignoring the increasing mass incarceration that erodes the neighborhoods of people of color nationwide.

But listen, Brother Jefferson—I will investigate this old-law injustice in Ohio, and if you’re right, I’m going to mobilize support for you and the rest of your fellow old-law prisoners. I know a righteous European brother who works for RT.com, the television station that covers Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal’s fight for justice. I’ll speak to him. I’ll also have my intern get the issue onto the internet on a few dozen progressive websites. God willing, my efforts will turn the tide for you and your Ohio brother—and sisters too! We must not ever forget our beautiful women who are locked away, Brother Jefferson. Never! . . . But we are going to have to bring this wonderful conversation to a close, Brother. If we don’t, my phone bill is going to be higher than America’s debt to China. And I can assure you, Uncle Sam ain’t go bail ol’ brother Malcolm out! [Caller and Malcolm laugh, pause, and then laugh again]

Caller: You’re right about that! I just want to say I truly appreciate your assistance. I’m grateful on behalf of thousands of other old-law prisoners and myself. We’re up against long odds, but I’m going to use this tool of networking to chip away at the wall of old-law injustice until it becomes gravel.

Malcolm X: We’ll be in contact with you, Brother Jefferson. Sister Roslyn will get your address when I hang up so hold the line. Until then, you take care and—[The conversation comes to an abrupt end when the caller is awakened from his dream by the blaring of the public address system: it’s “count time.”]


Footnotes:
(1) Ohio death row prisoners Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Keith La Mar, James Were, Jason Robb, and George Skatzes, collectively known as the Lucasville Five, were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for alleged crimes during the infamous 1993 prison uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, the longest deadly prison uprising in U.S. history. Learn more about the Lucasville Five by going to www.LucasvilleAmnesty.org.

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The Cruel and Unusual Punishment of an Ohio Old-Law Prisoner

In 1993, as an undisciplined eighteen-year-old African-American living in the projects on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, I fell for the greed-driven allure of money I got from robbing people. During that time I shot a nemesis of mine in the leg, and in another incident I grazed a man with a bullet when my firearm accidentally discharged during a struggle for my weapon. In late November of that year, while I was on the run as a fugitive, my crime spree came to a screeching halt when I was apprehended inside the second-story project apartment where I sold drugs. With the exception of one robbery I didn’t commit, for which I was charged, I was guilty of all the crimes I was arrested and later indicted for. Prompted by the coercive advice of my two court-appointed attorneys, who told me I would never get out of prison unless I pled guilty, I accepted the first plea-bargain deal offered, pleading guilty to all my charges in exchange for an indefinite term of incarceration of six to 25 years. In addition, I received nine years of mandatory time for gun-specification enhancement. And I became inmate #A284-561.

I arrived at the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s inmate reception center in February of 1994. Soon afterwards, I received a notice that my first Parole Board hearing was scheduled for October of 2007, and that’s when the reality hit me like a vicious head punch from Mike Tyson in his prime: I was going to serve serious time. I knew a life of crime was not the life for me, but I also knew I’d already made my proverbial bed of life and had to lie in it.

The Enactment of Ohio Senate Bill 2 Sentencing Guidelines

Early in 1996, less than a year after the death of my grandmother, I read an important article in a newsletter while sitting in my one-man cell at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. As a result of Ohio’s Senate Bill 2, I read, on July 1, 1996, the state was scheduled to enact a new set of sentencing guidelines with the Ohio Revised Code. Widely known as “flat-time” guidelines, they said all criminal offenders who committed a crime on or after July 1, 1996, (except for offenders convicted on murder-related offenses) would no longer have to go before the Parole Board to be released. This was a great advantage to anyone sentenced under SB2, the new law, because the Parole Board had a well-documented history of issuing lengthy sentence continuances, often for arbitrarily contrived reasons.

In addition to not having to go before the Parole Board, new-law offenders’ terms of incarceration were significantly shortened in comparison with the terms of old-law offenders like me. For example, under the new law for a first-degree felony, excluding murder-related offenses, new-law offenders could be sentenced to either three years, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine years, up to a maximum of 10 years, with the sentence being determined by the trial judge. But offenders under the old-law, for committing the same first-degree felony, were sentenced to indefinite terms of incarceration of five to 25 years, six to 25, seven to 25, eight to 25, or nine to 25, up to a maximum of 10 to 25 years, and the minimum (front) portions of our sentences were determined by the trial judge while the maximum portion, the most significant, is determined by the Parole Board. This means an old-law offender can be made to serve up to 15 years longer than a new-law offender for the same crime at the discretion of the Parole Board.

On July 1, 1996, the new-law sentencing guidelines were enacted non-retroactively, as scheduled. The reality that I could now be made to serve years longer than a new-law offender seemed absurd to me. The cruelty of the sentencing disparity seemed to me equivalent to the racist crack-cocaine versus powder-cocaine disparity. If the state of Ohio had enacted the new-law retroactively, old-law offenders would have been spared many years of being punished excessively and unjustly. In addition, the discrepancies between the two laws made serving time more difficult for old-law offenders, who were forced to maneuver delicately around new-law offenders who, because of their exemption from having to go before the Parole Board to be released, could, if they chose, violate any rule without the consequence having any bearing on their predetermined release date. Over time, the unseen chess match maneuvers of old-law offenders became more challenging as the state’s prison population changed and new-law offenders became the new majority.

This demographic shift didn’t just create problems for old-law offenders. The emerging new majority also posed great challenges to the security and overall operation of the state’s prison system as a whole. As Ohio’s prisons filled with new-law offenders who weren’t concerned about the consequences of committing rule infractions, the atmosphere throughout the system became more volatile. Acts of violence and defiance became more prevalent. Observing an increase in assaults committed against prison employees and inmates and a surge in statewide bedlam, the authorities in the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction overhauled the disciplinary policies, instituting a new behavioral management model.

The new model led to herding unduly processed prisoners into 23-hour lockdown solitary confinement Special Management Units similar to the infamous Special Housing Units used in the California prison system. These disciplinary countermeasures were used by the state of Ohio as one justification for the expensive building and operation of the “supermax,” the Ohio State Penitentiary. Completed in 1998, the OSP cost $65 million, which amounts to over $129,000 for each of the 502 cells. The penitentiary initially reported a $22 million annual budget, which amounts to almost $44,000 annually for each inmate when the prison is full. In February of 2002 federal Judge James Gwin, responding to a class action suit brought by attorneys Staughton and Alice Lynd, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Center for Constitutional Rights, ruled that hundreds of prisoners didn’t meet the legal criteria to be housed in the “supermax.” After making changes in its security classification titles, however, the state prison system appears to have restored its ability to place large numbers of prisoners in isolation at great expense to the incarcerated and unincarcerated citizens of Ohio.

Can I Live?

With the stringent disciplinary reforms the disproportionate gap between incarceration and freedom for old-law offenders expanded even wider, to the extent that the odds of an old-law offender winning the Nobel Peace Prize seemed better than the odds of getting paroled.

In October of 2007, as a Security Level 5B inmate (the most restrictive status), I went to my first Parole Board hearing, aware that I was likely to be given a sentence continuance. As I anticipated, my sentence was continued. For the sum of all my misbehavior over a period of nearly 14 years, as well as for the crimes I was convicted of, I was given a sentence continuance of 36 months. I tried to take “being flopped” in stride by reading inspirational books such as Marcus Garvey’s Life and Lessons and starting to write my first novel, Brother of the Struggle. In 2010, as a Security Level 5A inmate (a less restrictive security status), I went to my second Parole Board hearing and was given a significantly shorter continuance, 14 months. The Parole Board member who officiated at my hearing acknowledged my positive strides during the course of the first “flop,” and she rewarded my productivity by promising to recommend my release at my next hearing if I stayed out of trouble. In 2011, as a Security Level 4A inmate (a further reduced security status), I went to my third Parole Board hearing and, as promised, I was recommended for release. No words can describe the joy I felt at the conclusion of my hearing.

Three months later I was told the Parole Board’s oversight committee, the Central Office Review Board, had reversed course and given me an increased sentence continuance of 15 months! Denied my physical freedom and the chance to visit the burial sites of my mother and grandparents, whose funerals I was unable to attend in 1995 and 1998, I continued to work towards reducing my Security Level, and I strengthened my resolve to attain my freedom.

In December of 2012, classified now as a further reduced Security Level 3 inmate, I went to my fourth Parole Board hearing, expecting to be released—that is, until I learned one of the Parole Board members, Marc Houk, had been head warden several years earlier at the Ohio State Penitentiary while I was there. His presence posed a significant conflict of interest. As warden at OSP he allowed his officers and staff to physically assault me and take my meals, and I had contacted everyone from elected officials to the NAACP about the abuse he permitted.

My parole hearing took place without any hint that I might be recommended for release. One of the Parole Board members asked me if one of my letters of recommendation, written on my behalf by a college professor, was a forgery, a possibility that could have been investigated months prior to my actual hearing. (It was not a forgery.) The Parole Board’s failure to investigate a matter crucial to the decision-making process reveals that I wasn’t afforded a meaningful hearing, as required by law. Several of the Parole Board members were absent because of bad weather so the hearing was held via closed-circuit video conferencing. For that reason I had to wait about one month to learn the Parole Board had given me a 24-month continuance!

Even knowing the deck was stacked against me because of Marc Houk’s participation in the Parole Board’s deliberations, I was devastated. And when I saw that the Parole Board Decision Sheet erroneously credited me with having served five months less time than I’d actually served, it seemed obvious that I had not been afforded a meaningful parole hearing. In addition, the reasons offered for my 24-month continuance made no sense. I had been given two minor Conduct Reports, the first for “verbal disrespect to an officer,” for which I was given a verbal reprimand. The second was for “disobeying a direct order” to take paper out of my window while I was using the bathroom, for which I was given a 30-day commissary restriction. Their conclusion was that I had “impulse anger control issues.” But during my 15-month continuance my Security Level had been reduced, a shocking response if I had been giving evidence of “impulse anger control issues.”

I would like to see the Parole Board explain on national television, perhaps on the 50-yard line during halftime at the Super Bowl, how they could give me a 24-month continuance at my fourth parole hearing on the basis of two minor Conduct Reports after granting parole in 2006 to another old-law offender, Roger Snodgrass, who was serving two indefinite sentences of five to 25 years. While serving the first of those sentences Snodgrass pleaded guilty to the stabbing death of an inmate during the 1993 prison uprising in Lucasville, Ohio. After receiving the second indefinite sentence of five to 25 years, Snodgrass was paroled.

My once unshakable resolve has been damaged by an incident that took place on April 12, 2013. Unprovoked, a squad of Mansfield Correctional Institution officers attacked me, probably because I refused to give them any information about the theft of an inmate’s television set, about which I knew nothing. After the attack I was issued a Conduct Report accusing me of “disobeying a direct order,” which was later modified to “physically resisting a direct order.” Soon, I was found guilty of rule infractions, a result consistent with the Rule Infraction Board’s conviction rate, which is virtually 100%. Because I committed no rule infractions and because the incident was, to some extent, captured on a pod surveillance video, on May 31, 2013, I filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District of Ohio, seeking monetary relief in the sum of $250,000 (Civil Case No. 1:13CV1215). If the economically stressed state of Ohio wants to threaten unconstitutionally my existence and unjustly keep me confined in a cell until I have been (Nelson) Mandelitized in terms of time, the bill for my excessive pre-Senate Bill 2 incarceration is going to be costly.

Today, as I sit inside a cell on the fifth day of summer in 2013, I can’t help but think of the positive strides I could be making if the Parole Board had released me at my last hearing. While living at a halfway house, I might be dividing my time between working a job and spending time at the library preparing to launch one of my entrepreneurial ideas in tandem with promoting the book and soundtrack of the novel I’ve completed. I might even have met the woman of my dreams by now. I know for sure my life would be more significant than it is today. The mental anguish I deal with day after day is an excruciating pain that makes euthanasia seem almost attractive. I don’t want to die though. I want to live my life as a physically free human being instead of being three-fifths of a human commodity inside a system more corrupt than Halliburton.

I can’t go back to right the wrongs I’ve done. If I could, I would. But I can attempt to make amends and atone for my past deeds. After serving nearly 20 years, I should have the chance to make amends to the best of my ability. To do so, I need to be freed. I’ve paid my debt to society. Many so-called enemy combatants have been released from Guantanamo Bay after allegedly committing terrorist acts against the United States. They have been given a second chance. An assailant who shot President Reagan has been given a second chance by way of mental health treatment. The time has come for countless old-law offenders, including me, to be given a second chance.

Ohio, will you give me a chance to live? Better yet, will you let us all live?


Footnotes:
(1) Lucasville Killer Testified on Riot, Now He Walks Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 4, 2006, National Section; page A1; John Caniglia.

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