Prisoners must have hearings before being moved to supermax facilities, the court ruled.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A challenge to the state's plan to move death row inmates to the Ohio State Penitentiary was set to begin today in Cleveland federal court.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is seeking a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction, will argue that the plan contradicts previous rulings that held inmates should receive a hearing to determine whether they should be housed in a supermax facility. U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin is presiding over the case.
Court records show that inmates from the Mansfield Correctional Institution and OSP have been ordered to appear by Judge Gwin.
The prison on Coitsville-Hubbard Road opened in 1998 with 500 beds to house the state's hard-core inmates after a deadly riot in 1993 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. The state announced in March that roughly 190 death row inmates would be moved from Mansfield to OSP this summer.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that inmates must receive hearings and meet guidelines in order to be transferred to OSP.
Lawyers for the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights, in a 50-page brief filed with the supreme court, said incarceration at OSP is an "atypical and significant hardship." They said prisoners at the supermax are kept in solitary confinement under very strict conditions.
Ohio Solicitor Douglas Cole has said procedures for placement already go far beyond what due process requires. He said prison officials need flexibility to use OSP "without unnecessary layers of court-imposed red tape."
Lawyers representing the inmates include Staughton and Alice Lynd of Niles.