The Lucasville Prison Riots: Protecting Lives and Looking Forward

By Ellenore Holbrook

Lucasville began an organized attack on correctional officers as a form of protest against conditions within the facility. Known as the Lucasville Prison Riots, this event took place during then Governor Voinovich’s first term. After the riots ended on April 21, Governor Voinovich worked to address the issues within the Lucasville prison as well as the Ohio Correctional Facilities as a whole. Utilizing the Voinovich Collection, a number of documents tell the story of what happened in April 1993, how Senator Voinovich handled the situation, and the impacts the riots had on policy development in Ohio.

Utilizing a report sent to Governor Voinovich by two staffers in 1999, we can follow the chronology of the Lucasville riot in great detail. The Lucasville Prison Riots began at 3 p.m., when inmates took hold of the L Block within the Lucasville Correctional Facility. By the evening, inmates were holding eight guards hostage and they started negotiations of their 19 demands. The standoff between prisoners and negotiators lasted 11 days, with 10 people killed in the process, both inmates and prison officials.

On April 14, at the request of prison officials, Governor Voinovich ordered 500 National Guardsmen to arrive at Lucasville to help support other police forces in deescalating the situation and providing safety to those nearby. However, the following day the inmates murdered one of the hostage prison guards in order to push for their demands. On April 20, after negotiators and inmates began to consult with one another, the standoff ended and all prisoners and hostages were removed from the L Block.

Voinovich turned his focus to altering and reconstructing the Ohio Correctional System to see why this event had occurred and look to ways of prevention. In his press conference given on April 21, 1993 after the last hostage was released, he announced the creation of the Select Committee on Corrections. This Committee which would evaluate what happened leading up to Lucasville as well as improve the operations statewide. Within the Archives, multiple memos, discussions, and findings from this first plan discuss its goals and outcomes in detail. The goal was to encourage community corrections for non-violent offenders so prison space could be utilized for criminals that must be removed from society.

While the entire final report from the Committee on Corrections can be found on the digital archives, the main findings included a need for change within the prison system and offered recommendations in the areas of prison crowding, diversion programs, substance abuse, mentally ill inmates, and prison security. Governor Voinovich added to this through his own personal notes on the physical document by requesting special reports regarding substance abuse, mentally ill inmates, as well as addressing the issue of racism in the prison system.

Throughout the Lucasville prison riots, Governor Voinovich worked at monitoring the events as they occurred and supporting the experts handling the event. After, Governor Voinovich focused on continuing to develop the Ohio Corrections Facilities to prevent an event like the riots from happening again, while improving the system as a whole. More information about this event, and its impact on future decisions the governor made can be found in the collection.

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