Judge Orders New Rules For Sending Inmates To Supermax Prison

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A federal judge ordered state officials to draft new rules within one month on sending inmates to its super-maximum security prison.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin said prison authorities must give adequate notice, hearings and appeal opportunities to inmates to be sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.

The judge on Tuesday gave state officials 30 days to revise the rules. The judge said the state must get court permission to send inmates to the prison pending approval of new inmate classification rules.

The ruling expanded on a Feb. 25 decision by the judge in favor of inmates who challenged the way supermax prisoners are selected.

Greg Trout, general counsel for the state prison system, said the state would appeal its right to decide which prisoners are sent to and kept at the supermax prison. He said he could not comment on whether the state's appeal might be broadened to include other issues.

Trout said the state tries to notify prisons of pending transfers and believes the Youngstown facility makes other prisons safer for inmates and staff members by sending the toughest prisoners to the supermax.

Ohio opened the supermax in May 1998 in response to the deadly inmate riot at the Lucasville prison in 1993. The new prison, which keeps convicts in isolation for 23 hours a day, cost $85 million.

Gwin said the state built the prison unnecessarily, creating a "because we built it, they will come" mentality, and attempted to fill the prison at the expense of constitutional rights to due process.

The judge's ruling stemmed from an American Civil Liberties Union suit filed last year that accused prison officials of failing to provide adequate medical, mental and humane treatment for Ohio's most restricted prisoners.

Prisoners in the past were confined to solitary confinement for years without appeal. Now, they must be fully informed of the evidence against them, and they must be given multiple opportunities to present a defense, Gwin said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)