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Ohio prison lawyer leaves; handled riots, religion

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 30, 2013 at 9:15 am •  Published: March 30, 2013
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— Mental health. After the riot, inmates filed a class-action lawsuit alleging mentally ill prisoners were denied psychiatric care and sometimes chained to beds and beaten. A team of legal and mental health specialists determined that Ohio's prisons did not have enough staff to handle a growing number of mentally ill inmates, many of whom had been released from mental institutions. Under a 1995 court settlement, the prison system took sole responsibility for inmate health, no longer sharing it with the Department of Mental Health, and added more personnel and treatment space for mental services and improved prisoner access to those services.

— Religion. In 1998, a group of inmates sued for the right to practice Asatru, or the ancient Norse religion. Inmates argued they were denied rights given to Christian, Jewish and Muslim prisoners, among others, while the state alleged white gangs were using the religion as a cover for banned Aryan nation activities. A 2010 settlement covered everything from the size of a permissible "Thor's Hammer Medallion" to the number of tiles allowed in an inmate's "Rune Stone Set." That set cannot include tiles with the swastika.

— Medical care. A 2003 lawsuit alleged inadequate health care for inmates, with a report finding almost no care for inmates with HIV, and most inmates receiving only brief, perfunctory doctor visits. Under a 2005 settlement, the prisons department agreed to hire about 20 doctors and increase its medical staff by 50 percent, or about 300 new employees.

— Capital punishment. Legal issues surrounding executions included the elimination of the electric chair as an option; the change from a three-drug protocol to a single drug, sodium thiopental; the switch to pentobarbital as supplies of sodium thiopental dwindled; and training for executioners. One of Trout's last actions was announcing the agency might seek legislative approval to buy a form of pentobarbital mixed a dose at a time by specially licensed pharmacies.