Surveyed Ohio Death Row inmates want more hot water, fewer birds

by MARC KOVAC | RPC CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

Columbus — Death Row inmates complained of bird droppings, a lack of hot water, inadequate health care and an insufficient selection of TV stations in a survey conducted recently by state prison inspectors.
More than 90 of the 131 inmates housed at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution answered a questionnaire as part of a larger inspection of the prison, located about an hour south of Columbus. The survey results were included in a recent Correctional Institution Inspection Committee report.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction relocated Ohio’s Death Row to Chillicothe in 2011, though some inmates with capital sentences remain at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.
During an unannounced visit in March, state inspectors found that showers used by Death Row inmates in Chillicothe “were in better condition than many out on the compound.” Death Row cells were rated as “only acceptable due to clutter,” since affected inmates generally are allowed more belongings.
The inspection report also noted, “… inmates relayed few concerns on site regarding the unit, other than not wanting to be shackled when they use the shower or go to recreation and wanting screens on the windows to prevent birds from coming in....”
JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said prison officials had ordered mesh screens for windows at Death Row before the inspection earlier this year, with plans to have the material installed by July.
“Due to the structure of the buildings, the windows could be opened and there was no material or screen to prevent birds from coming into the unit,” she said in an e-mail response to questions. “The mesh screening has been delivered to the institution. The goal is to have each window installed with the mesh screen, allowing the fresh airflow to continue but prevent access from birds entering through the windows.”
A majority of Death Row inmates who completed a related survey indicated they received enough clean clothes and sheets each week and were able to shower regularly.
But 78 said they were either “unsatisfied” or “very unsatisfied” with the quality of food at the prison, with more than half citing portion sizes and taste.
More than half of Death Row inmates surveyed also complained of a lack of health service request forms and access to recreation and said prison officials were not dealing with their grievances fairly.
Asked to name one positive aspect of the prison, one inmate wrote, “None period! This is the worst prison that we’ve been in, no hot water in the cells, you can’t drink the sink water, the plumbing system is terrible, birds living in here with us and leaving bird droppings.”
And another, “”I’m waiting to (die), so there is no positive.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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