AP Was There: The 1993 uprising at Lucasville, Ohio, prison
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — EDITOR’S NOTE — On April 11, 1993, Easter Sunday, about 450 prisoners in Cellblock L at the maximum-security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility started a riot that would become one of the longest in U.S. history. Over 11 days, nine inmates and a prison guard died.
Among contributing factors was a fear among Muslim inmates that prison officials were going to force them to be vaccinated for tuberculosis, which would have been a religious breach.
The standoff ended April 21, 1993, after prisoners and law enforcement agreed to 21 terms of surrender, including a promise to review complaints over TB testing. Five inmates sentenced to death for their roles in the uprising remain imprisoned.
The Associated Press is republishing four stories written between April 11 and April 22, 1993, to mark the 25th anniversary of the event.
Prison riot leaves at least 5 dead
April 11-12, 1993
By JIM PRICHARD
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A fight among inmates escalated into a riot Sunday at a maximum security prison, with inmates killing at least five fellow prisoners and holding at least eight guards hostage, authorities said.
At least 15 other people were injured at the south-central Ohio prison, including 10 guards and five inmates, said Sharron Kornegay, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Inmates were persuaded by negotiators to release the bodies of the dead early Monday morning, more than 10 hours after the disturbance began at 3 p.m. Sunday, Kornegay said.
The prisoners were apparently beaten to death. The inmates didn’t have firearms but were armed with batons taken from guards, Kornegay said.
“They suffered extensive injuries,” she said. “I think it’s probably pretty obvious who killed them. Our staff wouldn’t do that.”
She didn’t know when the inmates were killed. Their names were being withheld pending notification of relatives.
A ninth guard who was taken hostage was rescued when prison officials and the State Highway Patrol took back the recreation yard around 10 p.m.
“The inmates in the yard did not want to be involved so there was little to no resistance,” Kornegay said. No shots were fired, she added.
An inmate and the released officer had been injured, apparently in the melee earlier. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known. The inmate was taken into custody, authorities said.
Authorities would not say how many prisoners were involved in the disturbance at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
Scioto County Sheriff’s Senior Dispatcher Phil Malone described the disturbance as a “full-scale riot” at the prison, which houses some of the state’s most dangerous inmates.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction issued a statement that said “a group of inmates started a fight and a group of correctional officers responded.”
The injured guards were taken to the Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth, about 10 miles to the south. Corrections spokeswoman Tessa Unwin said six of the officers were treated and released, and the seventh was being treated for a broken arm. She gave no details on the other injuries.
The disturbance at the L Block started about 3 p.m. Sunday with a few prisoners, but other prisoners became involved, Kornegay said. The unit houses about 761 prisoners, but not all those inmates were involved, she said.
The remainder of the prisoners and staff were safe, Kornegay said.
The inmates, who were talking with negotiators, asked to appear on a live broadcast on Columbus television station WBNS, said Sgt. David Thompson of the State Highway Patrol.
They said if they could do the broadcast, they might free the hostages, he said.
The disturbance apparently happened at the end of the afternoon recreation period in a five-acre yard, said Don Sargent, regional staff representative of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 11.
There are usually about 130 guards assigned to the shift, but as few as 80 may have been on duty, Sargent said. The officers could have been off for Easter, he said.
Riot control teams from other prisons and the State Highway Patrol were at the prison, which holds 1,819 inmates. No escapes have been reported.
Traffic about a half-mile from the 1,900-acre prison was detoured by the State Highway Patrol.
The last disturbance at the prison, which was built in 1972, occurred in October 1985 when five inmates held two guards hostage for about 15 hours. A teacher visiting the prison was killed in June 1990 and an inmate was stabbed to death in September 1990.
Deaths mount in maximum-security prison rebellion
April 15, 1993
By SONJA BARISIC
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — One of eight guards held hostage by rebellious inmates at a maximum-security prison has died, a state corrections official said today.
In a separate development later in the day, authorities allowed a television newsman into the prison.
Sharron Kornegay, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the body of Robert R. Vallandingham was found early this afternoon in the prison yard outside a barricaded cellblock.
Seven inmates at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility also have died.
Vallandingham, 40, was one of eight guards taken hostage when the cellblock was taken over Sunday. Some 450 inmates and the seven other hostages remain in the block.
Kornegay, her voice choking as she announced Vallandingham’s death, gave no other details including whether he was slain or died of natural causes.
On Wednesday, inmates hung a sheet from a window with a message threatening to kill a hostage if their 19 demands were not met. Prison officials said the inmates had made similar threats all along. The demands reportedly include the firing of the warden and the hiring of more black guards.
Bob Orr, anchorman for WBNS-TV, a Columbus station, entered the prison at midafternoon accompanied by Kornegay. The station said inmates apparently asked to speak to him, but officials had no comment.
Earlier in the crisis, negotiators had let a pool reporter, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, into a section of the prison unaffected by the siege to talk to inmates by telephone. But authorities cut off that call when inmates began discussing their demands.
Earlier today, officials had said negotiations with the inmates has been progressing and that both sides had developed a “mutual respect” for each other.
“We are getting a positive feedback. There is a feeling of mutual respect,” Dayton Police Detective David Michael, a consultant to the negotiators trying to end the standoff, had said today before the body was found.
As a gesture of good faith, food and water were sent in Wednesday for the first time, along with prescription medicine for two of the hostages. But the governor also activated 500 members of the Ohio National Guard.
Michael said inmates appeared to be united in their demands, but no clear leader had emerged. He declined to comment on published reports that the leaders were followers of the Black Muslim faith.
Inmates made no offer to surrender, he said.
Guardsmen took up positions overnight after Gov. George Voinovich activated the men Wednesday. The troops will be used “to secure the perimeter of the prison,” the Rehabilitation and Correction Department said. It is the first time since 1968 that the Ohio Guard has been mobilized to help end a prison siege.
Five Guardsmen acting as advisers joined state troopers inside the prison, Unwin said. The rest were encamped at a fairground nearby.
Two National Guard trucks entered the prison compound overnight, but David Morris, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, wouldn’t say why.
Earlier, Kornegay would not comment on a report in the Daily Times of Portsmouth that inmates were demanding the dismissal of the warden and most unit supervisors, better jobs for black inmates, more black guards, relaxation of day-to-day restrictions and contact with the news media.
Reports published today in other newspapers, including the Columbus Dispatch, said the inmates involved were Black Muslims.
Prison authorities have said they have received conflicting information on whether the uprising was racially motivated. Six of the inmate victims, all beaten to death on Sunday, were white. A seventh victim, found dead in his cell in an adjacent cellblock, was black. The cause of his death hasn’t been released.
Electricity remained shut off. Inmates emerged from the cellblock into a recreation yard to retrieve peanut butter, tuna, fruit, cheese, sandwich meat, bread and water brought in by state troopers and guards.
“An inmate was heard to say, ‘Thank you for the food,’” Kornegay said. “We thought it was the right thing to do.”
Inmates release one in prison siege, ‘prepared to die’
April 16, 1993
By CINDY BENEDICTO
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — Inmates barricaded at the state’s maximum-security prison for five days released one of seven prison guard hostages Thursday night in a deal that let them air their complaints on a radio station. The body of an eighth hostage was found earlier Thursday.
An inmate, identified only as George, said on the broadcast, “We either negotiate this to our likings or they will kill us. We are prepared to die if need to be.”
The inmates at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility were prepared to release another hostage if they got live television time on WBNS-TV in Columbus this morning, the inmate said.
Prison spokeswoman Sharron Kornegay said the broadcast would be permitted, but the station couldn’t confirm such plans.
In a rambling speech, the inmate also denied reports that the siege was racially motivated and apologized to the family of the dead prison guard hostage whose body was found in the prison yard earlier Thursday.
Kornegay identified the hostage released as Darrold R. Clark, 23, a guard since 1991. Clark was taken to a hospital in Portsmouth, about 10 miles south of Lucasville. He was reported in stable condition.
Clark was released after the 15-minute broadcast. He walked out of the prison without assistance, leaving six hostages behind.
Earlier Thursday, activity around the prison increased after corrections officials announced that the body of a prison guard held hostage had been found.
The body of Robert R. Vallandingham, 40, a corrections officer, was found outside the barricaded cellblock, Kornegay said.
Seven inmates have died since the siege began, six of them beaten to death on the first day of rioting. The cause of death of the seventh hasn’t been released.
Prison officials have said there was conflicting information about whether the riot was racially motivated. The six inmates beaten to death were white; the seventh inmate victim was black.
The inmate said in his broadcast, “They try to make this a racial issue. It is not a racial issue. Black and white alike have joined hands at SOCF and have become one strong unit.”
Inmates surrender in 11-day prison standoff
April 22, 1993
By JERI WATERS
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An 11-day prison uprising that left at least eight people dead ended Wednesday when the inmates surrendered and freed the last five guards they had held hostage.
Radio station WTVN in Columbus, citing unidentified sources, said a ninth body was found early Thursday inside the cellblock where the 450 inmates had been barricaded.
But Jim Mayers of the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said, “We have no confirmation of any body.”
Seven inmates and one hostage were known dead in the uprising that began on Easter Sunday at the maximum-security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. The inmates initially took eight guards hostage; one was strangled and two were freed unharmed last week.
The remaining hostages were released shortly before 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Mayers said. They were hospitalized in stable condition.
In exchange for the surrender, state officials promised to review the inmates’ complaints, including religious objections to tuberculosis testing and a federal law that requires integration of prison cells.
The first of the inmates began giving up at about 4 p.m. Initially, they emerged one by one; by evening they were coming out in groups of 60 to 80. The last emerged from their cellblock at 10:40 p.m., said prison spokeswoman Judy Drake.
Meanwhile, in Newtown, Conn., inmates attacked other prisoners and guards, and 90 inmates holed up in a state prison recreation area Wednesday night, an official said. Officials were negotiating with them. Fifteen inmates and three guards were reported injured, one of the inmates seriously.
The Ohio prison, 80 miles south of Columbus, houses some of the state’s most dangerous criminals.
Three of the prisoners were carried out of barricaded Cellblock L on stretchers; three used crutches.
Some others were handcuffed, others carried large bags with their belongings as they walked through a courtyard guarded by a line of armed officers. The inmates were taken to a gymnasium in an adjacent cellblock where they were identified, searched and given a new set of clothes, said Sgt. John Born of the State Highway Patrol.
The surrender was witnessed by religious leaders and reporters. Throughout the standoff, inmates demanded that the media witness a surrender, to discourage authorities from retaliating.
“This entire ordeal has been an incredible experience for us all,” Warden Arthur Tate said. “Nevertheless, I am extremely proud thus far at the manner in which everyone has joined together in an attempt to bring this tragic ordeal to a successful conclusion.”
On Tuesday, three inmates and state negotiators met face-to-face for the first time, talking for two hours from opposite sides of a chain-link fence. Niki Schwartz, an inmate-rights lawyer who was brought to the prison on Sunday by state officials, also took part.
“We are thrilled to announce the peaceful resolution of this crisis,” Schwartz said.
The Cleveland lawyer gave a list of 21 terms of surrender that had been signed by the warden. The terms included a promise of no retaliation against inmates, but Tate did not rule out prosecution or discipline.
“The inmates understand that when a guard has been murdered, no one is going to promise them no prosecution or discipline,” he said.
Other terms included a promise to consult with prisoners on tuberculosis testing, which some Muslim prisoners had objected to on religious grounds; and review of some other prison rules, such as forced racial integration of cells.
Prisoners had originally demanded other steps, including Tate’s removal as warden.
Department officials identified the released guards as Richard C. Buffington 45; Kenneth L. Daniels, 24; Larry Dotson, 45; Michael Hensley, 36; and Jeffrey Ratcliff, 26.
The AP Corporate Archives contributed to this report.