lawsuit filed regarding media access to prisoners implicated in prison uprising

by Tim Phillips

From April 11-22, 1993, one of the major prison uprisings in U.S. history occurred at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility outside Lucasville, Ohio. Nine prisoners and one correctional officer were killed. Five prisoners were sentenced to death, and numerous other prisoners received lengthy sentences.

For the following 20 years, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has denied all media requests for face-to-face interviews with prisoners convicted of crimes allegedly committed during the 1993 uprising. Meanwhile, ODRC has frequently granted media requests for face-to-face interviews with other prisoners, including prisoners on death row. According to a lawsuit filed last week by five prisoners, four reporters, and one teacher,

Defendants have consistently denied media access to any and all prisoners convicted of crimes during the Lucasville uprising, no matter where such prisoners are confined or at what level of security, and regardless of the severity of the crimes for which they were convicted. … The reasons offered by Defendants for this discriminatory and inconsistent pattern of decision-making are not authorized by the Ohio Administrative Code and are based on the anticipated content of the interviews.

The complaint concludes that ODRC’s “total ban on media access to in-person interviews of prisoners implicated in the 1993 uprising is an unconstitutional policy and practice” designed to prevent public access to, and discussion regarding, the uprising.

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