Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 6, 1976 · Page 59
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 59

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 6, 1976
Page 59
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Page 59 article text (OCR)

'Kingdom of Wild''No Animal Show An Associated Press reporter spent four days interviewing guards and prisoners at the nation's neicest maximum security prison, fie found that it suffered from many of the problems plaguing other American prisons. Bv Strat Douthat LUCASVILLE. Ohio. (AP)-"The kingdom of the wild" might be the name of one those drive-through animal attractions that are so popular these days. But not here in Southern Ohio. Here, the term applies to a cellblock where men are kept at the nation's newest maximum security prison--a sprawling. $35 million state penitentiary that has been a site of trouble almost from the day it opened four years ago. Some residents of Cellblock K at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility say it's a place where you might be stabbed simply for sitting in the wrong chair, a place where you might be stabbed simply for sitting in the wrong chair, a place where young men sometimes are sold into sexual slavery, and a place where more than a few persons regularly give up part of their income to avoid regularly give up part of their income to avoid being beaten. Frank Herrera is one of these residents. He says his days are filled with fear, frustration and constant danger. "I was stabbed in the' back and hit over the head with a baseball bat." he said, pulling aside his thick black hair and exhibiting a series of bumps and scars. "1 had only been here a couple of months when it happened. I got caught in the middle of an argument between black and white gangs. They tried to kill me." Herrea's "they" were some of his fellow inmates in K Block. They call it "the king- Sundav Ca/elte-.Mail Charleston', West Virginia IE --June 6, 1976 dom of the wild" because, they say. the men who are caged there respect only the law of the jungle. "I know men there who are afraid to come out of their cells," said Robert Bussell. "And I saw a guy get stabbed a dozen times over a silly argument about which television program they were going to watch." OTHER CELLBLOCKS are less violent, but the nation's newest prison nonetheless is plagued with the same problems which prevail throughout America's penal system. First, two guards were killed during an unsuccessful escape attempt. Later the guards went out on a strike in an organizing effort and two dozen inmates took this opportunity to stage a breakout. Ohioans were shocked. But while they read and listened to accounts of these dramatic events, a more insidious problem had begun to arise at Lucasville. Designed to hold some 1,600 men in single cells, the prison had slightly more than 1.200 inmates in the spring of 1975. when the guards struck for two weeks. Today the population exceeds 2.000 and is climbing fast. A quarter of the prisoners are now double-bunked and many have nothing to keep them busy in a place where idle hanss soon become fists. The overcrowding problem that has hit Lucasville is shared by prisons all across the country. They have been flooded by an unexpected tidal wave of prisoners that has yet to crest. According to a survey published in the March issue of Corrections Magazine, an authoritative publication in the penal field, the state and federal prison population rose 11 per cent last year, to an all- time high of 250,000. The federal prison population alone rose 8 per cent, to 24.134. Every state except California reported prisoner increases and some of the jumps were almost unbelievable. Florida and South Carolina, for example, reported increases of 38 per cent. South Carolina went from 4.422 prisoners in state institutions to 6,100: Florida from 11.420 to 15,709. Delaware. Michigan. Minnesota and West Virginia all reported population jumps of 25 per cent or more. Only 10 states had prison population increases of less than 8 per cent. Wyoming led the nation with a whopping 73 per cent rise, from 222 inmates to 383. The population explosion has been accompanied by decreases in food quality, services and guard-prisoner ratios and by corresponding increases in idleness and tension, says Michael Aun. a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. And if anything, he adds, the federal prison system has been hit harder than the states. "We had the 8 per cent increase last year." he said. "And to show you how fast this problem is growing, we've already jumped another 8 per cent in the first four months of this year. There are 37 prisons altogether in the federal system and our current budget request includes provisions for four more. Our prison system currently is 21 per cent overcrowded." The national prison population had declined for a decade after 1963. the previous recored year. But it suddenly began to shoot up "after 1973. PENAL AUTHORITIES and criminologists attribute the population increase to the baby boom of the 1940s and '50s and to the fact" that most people entering American prisons today are under 30. They also point out that the country is shifting from "proparole" to "propunishment" policies. In Ohio, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction acknowledged that the population explosion was getting out of hand at Lucasville. "The only answer," added Joe Ashley, "is to have more places to put these people." How do the prisoners live in the nation's prisons? Here's how 2.000 of them were spending their time at Lucasville one recent day: 69 were in protective custody, locked in at their own request: 152 were serving restrictions for rules infractions such as fighting or possessing forbidden goods: 30 were on merit status with light supervision; 36 wre on death row; 18 were away in court; 1.219 were working at various jobs or going to school, and 485 men were idle, with nothing to do but watch television or play cards. O'n top of the idleness and overcrowding. Lucasville also has a racial imbalance. More than half the prisoners are black, and almost all the guards are white. Most of the blacks come frorn.such urban areas as Akron, Cincinnati. Cleveland. Columbus. Dayton and Toledo. They are streetwise and many feel they are victims of a white-dominated system. Also fueling the racial tension is the fact that almost all of the 350 white guards - the prison has four black guards - come from the surrounding rural area. They had had little contact with blacks until they donned the blue coat and gray slacks of a correctional officer, the euphemistic term for a guard at Lucasville. But there's nothing euphemistic about the conflict that arises from this abrasive combination. In fact. William Van Dyke, a black prisoner from Akron who's doing 30 years to life for armed robbery, says there's conflict among all echelons at the prison. "There's also plenty of conflict between the guards and the administration." he said as he sat in the office of the prison school. "When 1 came here I thought I would just do my time and start fresh but they never leave you alone; they harass you all the time and I don't just mean blacks, either." Herrera. of Lorain, Ohio, who is serving two to 17 years for breaking and entering, told much of the same story. So did Bussell, a white inmate from Dayton who is doing 10 to 25 years for armed robbery. "All they really care about is that we don't escape." he said. "The inmates hate L.T. Anderson 10 for One Economic My old man. who may be remembered in the vicinity of the sandhouse for his remark that gold watch chains had converted many a working man to the status of c a p i t a l i s t , was the originator of the Skyjack Anderson 10 for One Economic Plan. The plan, despite its theoretical invulnerability, was never given serious consideration, not even ir t h e Soviet Union, where there a r e n ' t supposed iu uc any- economic class distinctions. My old man figured he was the victim of a conspiracy involving Russian commissars and executives of Chase Manhattan Bank. What's the point in having it. they might have reasoned, if everybody else has it. too? I CONFESS I gave it only f l e e t i n g thought when it was laid out for me one summer afternoon after supper. I was impatient. I had arranged to join some associates for beer drinking and girl stalking at Arrow Head Inn. which was our Fort Lauderdale. With any luck I would see a fight. i?j- With dreamy nights on the Greenbrier "''River behind me.KJwever, I have taken the time to evaluate tlu 1 10 for One Plan, my family's contribution to social order, i am ready to submit tha! it could stabilize the economy overnight, cut out profiteering, and make inflation a relic of the past. Under the 10 for One Plan, no one in any salary or wage paying entity, private or governmental, would be allowed to earn more than 10 times the amount earned by the lowest paid employe of the same org a n i z a t i o n . If an officer of Charleston Newspaper Inc.. wished to pay himself SI00.000 a year, he would have to pay the janitors S10.000 a year. No self-employed person could earn more than 10 times the earnings of the lowest earner in the same profession. Close tabs on earnings would be kept by the Internal Revenue Service, but other government interference, such as minimum wage laws, would be eliminated. We have all seen the indifference of the well-heeled to the wage-price spiral. The rich aren't hurt by inflation and usually are the prime movers of it. Inflationary profits are taken from the lower economic orders. But what would happen if there were aage-wage spiral? That would take all the fun out of inflation for the ricn. No- Newest Maximum Security Prison is Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville The $35 Million Complex Still Has Problems Which Prevail Throughout America's Penal System the guards and the guards hate the inmates. . . The situation is bad and getting worse. There's no attempt to communicate with the prisoners. Everything's run by snitches." ^ SUPERINTENDENT Arnold Jago, the prison's chief administrator, acknowledged some of the prisoners' complaints and discounted others. A 23-year veteran of the prison system, he began his career as a guard at the old Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus and came to Lucasville a year ago. shortly before the guard strike. "We don't have an inmate problem." he said. "And we had a guard problem, but no longer. Things are different now. We no longer have any unions at the prison since the new state rule requiring them to have at least 30 per cent membership." Jago said racism was not a major problem at the prison. He did say he would like to have more blacks, however, and added that he's had little luck luring them from the cities to work in a rural area for $8,800 a year. He discounted the prisoners' accounts of violence, calling them "exaggerations." He said there were occasional beatings and rapes but nothing on a daily or weekly basis. And he pointed out there h a d n ' t been a single assault on a corrections officer since the strike last June, just a couple of weeks after he took command. Jago's assessment was backed up by one of his captains. "There's nothing wrong with this institution." said the man, a longtime corrections o f f i c e r . "It runs real good. Of course, there are some mistakes here and there but no more than you'll find elsewhere." Jago and the captain both said they felt there was relatively little friction among the prisoners, guards ;md administration. But less than a month later, at the beginning of May. the prisoners staged a weekend sit-down strike to protest food quality, lack of jobs and allegedly high commissary prices. And no sooner had the inmates struck but most of the guards also sat down. They said they were in danger and wanted assurance t h e r e would be two guards on each cellblock at all times. The strikes lasted only a couple of days but area residents became alarmed and a state legislative investigating committee was sent to the prison. The lawmakers spent two days talking with guards, prisoners and administrators. Jago told them he was concerned about the overcrowding and the guards said they were concerned about their safety. The inmates told horror stories and said they were preyed upon by the guards and by each other. George Denton. Ohio's corrections chief, ordered Jago to investigate the charges against the guards. The head of the investigative subcommittee, meanwhile, said he "found it inconceivable" that 25 per cent of the prisoners were idle despite the state's multimillion dollar investment in the four-year-old institution. ALTHOUGH THE spotlight is now on Lucasville. the same stories have been told recently at many of the nation's prisons. Most states have been caught short by the unexpected influx of inmates. In various states, prisoners have been forced to sleep on floors, in showers, tents, trailers, warehouses and even ledges above toilets. Corrections officials in many states are calling for more space but that*lakes money and times are not the best. Legislators in Ohio briefly considered asking voters to approve a $250 million prison construction program this summer. But the measure never made it to the floor of the General Assembly, the first step necessary to secure the money. There's also a question of what sort of facility to build. Many sociologists favor smaller, community-oriented facilities which Ohio's Uenton says arc more expensive to operate than such intermediate-sized institutions as Lucasville. Money is a particular problem in Ohio's penal system. Although the slate is one of tho nation's richest, and spends $7 million each year at Lucasville. Ohio is far below tin; national average in caring for its inmates. A 1975 federal survey showed Iliul the state's costs averaged $14.87 a day per prisoner -- nr $5,428 a year -- compared with the national average of $19.2!) a day and $7.041 n year. The Ohio Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights recently released a report urging prison offi- c i a l s t o h i r e more b l a c k s a n d seek community-based alternatives such as increased parole programs. The upshot of the report was that the system, including the nation's newest maximum security prison, just, doesn't work. Busscll agrees wholeheartedly. "Things are really bad here." said Bus- soil. ,-i large man with brown hair and sad eyes. "There ;ire hundreds of weapons in this prison, knives arc everywhere. I think something bad will happen this summer. The inmates are reaching the point where they don't care anymore." Then he lunied In liis friend. Herrera, a n d t h e y w a l k e d a w a y . H a c k I D t h e "kingdom of the wild." body's buying power would be diminished. The point"of raising prices would be lost. DIVIDENDS aren't specifically dealt with in the 10 for One Plan. My father owned a gold watch chain and he believed everybody had a right to try to make money through investments. But he recognized that dividends would be tied inextricably to wages under the 10 for One policy. Dividends wouldn't be allowed to rise disproportionately because if they did they would bring on wage demands. Excess profits would go into new plants, which would provide new jobs. It is possible that there would be a rebirth of craftsmanship and the handles wouldn't fall off the doors of your new car. Everything would be ro- sey. Wouldn't it? Well, maybe not. But if the 10 for One Plan doesn't appeal to you, consider my own original plan for perpetuating a prosperous wartime economy without the inconvenience of having a war. All the government need do is keep on ordering war materiel, and, after it is delivered, haul it out to sea and dump it. Economics is such a siiple discipline. I don't understand whj'lconomists make it so difficult. lly Neal K. Peircc W A S H I N G T O N - The "sunset" law idea ·- to force government agencies and programs to justify their own existence or face extinction -- is advancing rapidly in Congress and spreading l i k e a p r a i r i e grassfire among the states. Sunset measures were introduced this spring in California. Florida. Illinois and L o u i s i a n a -- even before Colorado, in A p r i l , c o u l d c o m p l e t e a c t i o n on its pioneering bill to put 40 state regulatory agencies on a seven-year l i f e cycle. Maryland has set up a 15-rnember commission to study the feasibility of a sunset law. The Colorado c h a p t e r of Common Cause, which originated the sunse! idea, reports i n q u i r i e s from 30 s t a t e s . "1 wouldn't he surprised if two dozen legislatures were debating sunset bills by next winter." says Rosalie Schiff. executive director of Colorado Common Cause. »· ON CAPITOL HILL, 47 senators, of every ideological hue. are sponsoring sunset legislation requiring federal government programs, grouped by functional area, to corne up for renewal every f i v e years. Programs that couldn't pass muster would be cut back or e l i m i n a t e d a l t o g e t h e r . Those that proved themselves would be given a new lease on life by Congres. The hill cleared the Senate intergovernmental relations subcommittee by a 7-0 vote May 13, and sponsors Edmund S. MII- skie, D-Maine. and William V. Roth, R- DeL hope it will reach the Senate floor this summer. On the House side, a companion bill has more than 100 sponsors including 4! members of the f r e s h m a n class lined up by chief backers James J. B l a n c h a r d . D- Mieh.. and Norman Y. Mineta. D-Calif. House sponsors i n c l u d e West V i r g i n i a Representatives Robert Mollohan and Ken Hechler. House committee hearings are scheduled to begin this month. Broad support--from Common Cause to the Chamber of Commerce of the l, : .S.- for the sunset legislation was forthcoming during Senate hearings. Only one interest group -- the veterans -- had the temerity to oppose the idea in public, out of fear that Congress might cut back their benefits. Blanchard says he's "absolutely convinced" sunset legislation will eventually pass Congress. If he's right, the results could be revolutionary: the most effective break on federal spending and program in modern b'mes--perhaps ever. Public concern about the wasteful layering of gov- emmen|.programs and agencies seems to have reached an all-time high. Pollster Mnllnhan Ili'diler buiis Harris, lor instance, reported last tall that 72 per rent of the public "no longer feel they get good value from their l;ix dollars." "If there's any message corning from the presidential primaries, it's that the public is fed up with Washington." Roth notes. "We ran no longer afford the luxury of financing both new. improved programs and the oldei programs they were designed to replace." Blanchard contends. *· M I ' S K I K AN!) KOTII SKK sunset as a logical extension of the new congressional budget process, now in its second yenr. Whereas the budget process lets Congress establish spending priorities and over-all c e i l i n g s , the sunset, m e c h a n i s m w o u l d force Congress to make periodic decisions on whether federal programs are really working so that duplicative or unnecessary ones ean be weeded out. 1,'p to now. bureaucratic and political pitfalls have made it almost impossible to e l i m i n a t e programs or agencies once they're on the statute books. The sunset bill tries to avoid those pitfalls in three ways. First, a triggering mechanism requires thai Congress must act every five years to keep a program alive. The burden of proof is shifted to a p r o g r a m ' s backers, to show t h a t it deserves continued life. According to Alvin From, staff director of the Senate intergovernmental relations subcommittee, "it will be very hard for a committee to justify reauthorizing the Tea-Tasters Board or 223 individual health programs." Second, the sunset measure requires that all related programs--in manpower or health or national security, for example-come up for review and a decision on extension in a single year. Under strict budget guidelines. Congress will have to decide which programs are the most worthwhile, which might be dropped or consolidated. Final* the sunset bill as it's now written reqwcs z zero-based review of each lederal program, to be prepared tor Congress hy executive agencies and the General A c c o u n t i n g O f f i c e . Xero-hased review shows the consequence of r u t t i n g any pro- g r a m ' s biidgi'i '£ per cent or more, elimi- nut ing it a l t o g e t h e r , or providing the services a n o t h e r way. »» T I I K X K I t O - l i A S K U r e v i e w process alarms professional budget-makers. Roy Ash. l o n n r r director of the Office of Management a m i H u d g r i , says t h a t zero-based review of an a v e r a g e of 251) programs a yar ' is l i k e a t t e m p t i n g to j u m p aboard a 7!T in l u l l f l i g h t " Others say t h e bill is o v c r l v a m b i t i o n s , would set a "papermill" in m o t i o n and creal" "a staggering workload " They suggest m o r e modest pilot or test runs. M u s k i e and R o i l i show l i t t l e patience w i t h such a r g u m e n t s . I f Congress pro- ci'iils at t h e pace predicted by many critics, R o t h says. "I w i l l be dead by the time t h e work is completed." Much of the re- s i s t a n c e , s u n s e t l a w h a c k e r s b e l i e v e , sterns f r o m normal bureaucratic terror of a n v radical change in their way of doing business. And although zero-based review i ; : an i n n o v a t i v e , convenient way of look- i n g at g o v e r n m e n t programs, they say, the heart of t h e snr^et. bill is threat of termi- n a t i o n not the p a r t i c u l a r evaluation process iivd Tii" t i m e is ripe, proponents say, for a broadside a t t a c k on d u p l i c a l i v e . wasteful and outdated government programs. Thus, they as a d m i r a b l e but inadequate llie sunset, measure proposed for regulatory agencies alone. The measure is sponsored by Senators Charles 11. Percy, It- I l l . , and Robert C. Hyrd. D-W.Va., and endorsed in p r i n c i p l e by President Ford. Kven federal lax incentives are the target of a sunset provision suggested by Sen. John H. Glenn. D-Ohifi. However noble t h e i r original purpose, Glenn says, tax incentives o f t e n degenerate into loopholes that cause an a n n u a l loss of $101 billion in tax revenue as m u c h as the entire national defense budget Common Cause urges a kind of sunset for Congress itself--reorganizing committees into more clear-cut functional areas and forcing members to rotate committee assignments every few years to break up "unholy" alliances between committee members and special interest lobbyists. F.ven an imperfect sunset system, however, could help breathe life into the oft- neglected over?ight role of the legislature, prompt the executive to be more accountable, and begin the arduous process of rescuing government from its own cumbersome inefficiencies and the nac$£of public esteem where it finds itself today.

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