Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Judge protects inmate money


He refuses to let counties use it for child support

BY BEN L. KAUFMAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A federal judge this week refused to let counties collect child support directly from money to reimburse Lucasville inmates for civil rights violations during the 1993 uprising.

        U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel rejected the requests as tardy and said direct access to inmate money could overturn the hard-won $4.1 million settlement.

        If child support agencies want the money, he said, they should use long-established procedures built into the prison system for collecting debts from inmate accounts.

        “This is the appropriate order,” Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, lead attorney for the prisoners, said on Tuesday. “He is refusing to turn the federal court into a small claims court.”

        The request came from the Hamilton and Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement agencies and the Cuyahoga and Montgomery County clerks of court.

        Lawyer Michael Barrett, appointed by the judge to be the “special master” administering the settlement, reviewed the claims of 1,050 inmates who were not rioters and approved sometimes multiple payments to 900.

        They said their rights were violated when they were beaten, gassed, unfairly confined or had their personal property trashed by guards.

        Attorney General Betty Montgomery has appealed a majority of the awards as too generous; a far smaller number of inmates have appealed their awards as too small.

        An estimated 450 inmates occupied part of the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville on Easter seven years ago. Rioters surrendered 11 days later after nine prisoners and one guard hostage were killed by rioting inmates.

        A summary published by Ms. Montgomery said the estates of the nine dead inmates will share $730,000. Among surviving inmates:

        • 310 will share $62,450 for distress.

        • 296 who were injured will share $300,000.

        • 802 will share $399,375 for property loss.

        Another $1 million has been set aside for “programs that benefit the general prison population” or, if Mr. Gerhardstein has his way, larger inmate awards.

        And $1.7 million will go to Mr. Gerhardstein and other attorneys who have represented nonrioting inmates.

       



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