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The Biases of Ohio's Adult Parole Authority: A Call for Action
By Jason Goudlock
,
Prisonersolidarity.org
Jan. 1, 2008

On September 1, 2006 Roger Snodgrass, a two-time convicted felon of aggravated robbery and involuntary manslaughter, exited from the Toledo Correctional Institution and returned to society as a free man. Snodgrass had been granted parole by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority (OAPA).

If you don't know anything about Roger Snodgrass, this news might not cause a second thought. After all, inmates are paroled every day. There's nothing unusual about being paroled, right? Roger Snodgrass, however, was not your everyday parolee.

On April 11, 1993, a deadly, 11-day prison rebellion took place at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), in Lucasville, Ohio. Prisoners were frustrated with their living conditions and the constant mistreatment they received from the prison administration.
In an act of solidarity, they rebelled and took over the prison. When the authorities regained control of the prison, twelve days later, one correctional officer and nine inmates had been killed. During this nearly two-week period of lawlessness, certain individuals deviated from the main groups' demonstration and forged their own agendas: they
committed the criminal acts that had resulted in these ten deaths.

After the riot the community and the nation were demanding justice. Blood-thirsty prosecutors and Ohio State Highway Patrolmen emerged on the scene who were determined to obtain convictions by any means necessary. As bargaining chips, they offered immunity and even parole to inmates who were willing to provide information. Enticed by the prospect of freedom, dozens of inmates entered into secret negotiations with the powers that be. Many of these informants fabricated their accounts. This fact can be substantiated through the many contradictory statements the informants made. Nevertheless, deals were still negotiated.

On April 21, 1993, the last day of the rebellion, Roger Snodgrass brutally beat inmate Emanuel Newell with a baseball bat and, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "assaulted several others." Snodgrass was never changed or prosecuted for these incidents, however. He was charged with the kidnapping of correctional officers Michael Hensley
[case number 93-CR-454] and Darrold Clark [case number 94-CR-151]. And he was also charged with aggravated murder for the brutal slaying of inmate Earl Elder [case number 94-CR-274]. Snodgrass worried about a judicial annihilation and the likelihood of being sentenced to death. And when the authorities came to him, he decided to tell them
whatever they wanted to hear. Snodgrass agreed to serve as a witness against several inmates (Siddique A. Hasan, James Were, Jason Robb, George Skatzes), who'd been charged with various criminal offenses. In exchange for his cooperation, he would receive a much more lenient sentence of 5-25 years for involuntary manslaughter and the
prosecution would dismiss the two kidnapping charges, and fail to indict him for the murder attempt on Emmanuel Newell.

Thanks to the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Snodgrass became a free man in 2006. In order to parole him, the OAPA must have felt that he was rehabilitated and ready to return to society, right? I mean, the OAPA does act on the behalf of the interests of Ohio citizens, right? Surely, they would never knowingly put the citizens of Ohio at risk, right?

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Currently, there are hundreds of inmates in the state of Ohio who were convicted under the pre-July 1, 1996 Ohio Revised Code sentencing guidelines. The majority serves indeterminate sentences and is required to go before the OAPA, as Roger Snodgrass did, in order to determine whether they should be paroled or given a continuation. The OAPA is supposed to make its determination based on guideline ranges and behavior factors that are set forth in their parole manuals. These parole guidelines are supposed to serve as a timetable, offering a recommended time range that inmates should serve before being paroled. The guideline manual was devised to ensure that inmates would not receive sentences that were disproportionate to the offenses they committed. The problem, however, is that the OAPA doesn't follow its own guideline manual, nor does it adhere to the parole-related decisions rendered by the state or federal courts. Hundreds of Ohio inmates remain in prison well beyond their prescribed guideline ranges. They are often kept in prison YEARS beyond the range that has been recommended by the OAPA sentencing guideline manual. Despite having served every single day within their
prescribed guideline range, or even within the guideline range above their own (meant for someone convicted of a more serious crime), inmates convicted before July 1, 1996 are more frequently receiving continuations rather than being paroled.

To say that the OAPA is abusing its authority is an understatement. Why parole Roger Snodgrass, but to deny parole to a first-time offender? To give an example, one such man would be Frank Oglesby, who is serving a sentence of 5-15 years for "aggravated drug trafficking." Oglesby has thus far served 11 years and has stood before the OAPA
four times. Despite the fact that this first-time offender has served YEARS beyond the recommended parole range for his offense, the OAPA seems determined to keep him in prison until he "maxes out." How is it that Snodgrass-who killed one person and assaulted others during a prison riot-receives an early parole, while someone like Oglesby, who
committed a nonviolent offense, is left to rot behind bars?

Frank Oglesby's situation is not unique. Hundreds of inmates suffer under the tyrannical practices of the OAPA. Numerous litigations have been filed in state and federal courts, in an attempt to get the OAPA to abandon its abusive practices. Several cases (such as the Ankrom and Layne decisions) have even been ruled against the OAPA, but there is no political oversight therefore little has changed. The mighty court of public opinion seems to offer the only way to stop the Ohio Adult Parole Authority from abusing its power. Therefore, on behalf of the hundreds of Ohio inmates who languish in prison, for years
beyond their recommended parole ranges, I'd like to propose creating an online petition. The voices of citizens in the state of Ohio, and from other states, are the only thing that can make a difference. Who will help me to build this initiative?

Contact Information:
Jason Goudlock, #284-561
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd
Youngstown, Ohio 44505.

*** Call for Activism/ Volunteer(s) ***
Jason Goudlock would like to be contacted by any and all persons who are willing to assist him in drafting and setting up the proposed online petition. If interested, please write to him at the above address. Free petition websites make setting up an online petition quick and easy (see www.petitiononline.com). Volunteers should also contact Prisonersolidarity (prisonersolidarity-ownerATyahoogroups.com), so that we can publicize the petition on our listserv and create a link on our website. Another idea might be to work with Mr. Goudlock to increase the attendance of concerned citizens at Ohio parole board hearings for pre-July 1996 convicted felons. For information and a background account of Goudlock's own struggles with the OAPA, read S.A. Hasan's interview with him, which is archived in the Prisonersolidarity commentary section: http://prisonersolidarity.org/HasanGoudlock.htm

The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners:
http://www.prisonerlife.com/tips.cfm

You may write to Jason Goudlock at:
Jason Goudlock
#284-561
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, OH 44505-4635.

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