History and Accomplishment
OJPC has a long history of accomplishments protecting the basic human dignity of people in prison with our Human Rights in Prison Project. We make it our goal to support prisoners’ rights to adequate healthcare, religion, and relief from excessive force and abuse. These are some of our landmark cases from our past that help to inform our future and enlighten our present work with Human Rights in Prison Project.
S.H. v. Stickrath
OJPC served as co-counsel in two class-actions lawsuits against the Ohio department of Youth Services (ODYS). Litigation partners included Alphonse Gerhardstein, a renowned civil rights attorney and board President of OJPC, the Children’s Law Center in Covington, Kentucky, and the Cincinnati civil rights law firm Sirkin, Pinales, and Schwartz. The lawsuits challenged the arbitrary extension of terms of incarceration by the ODYS Release Authority, and revived and expanded a pre-existing lawsuit challenging conditions of confinement in all ODYS facilities. These lawsuits forced radical improvements for hundreds of Ohio youth incarcerated in ODYS facilities.
Fussel v. Wilkinson
OJPC filed the Fussell suit on October 14, 2003, on behalf of three prisoners—Rodney Fussell, Gary Roberts, and James Love— who claimed that the health care they had received, along with the system of healthcare services for all people in Ohio prisons, was constitutionally inadequate. The class-action complaint catalogued an array of system-wide problems including medical and dental staffing shortages, unreasonably long delays in the provision of routine and emergency care, problems ordering and obtaining the results of diagnostic tests, and inadequate quality of control measures.
On November 16, 2005 Chief Judge Sandra Beckwith of the Southern District of Ohio approved a settlement agreement between the plaintiffs and the State. The agreement called for the State of Ohio to hire approximately 300 new, licensed medical staff, including 21 new physicians, to implement improved quality control measures, and to revise all medical policies and protocols.
Buchanan v. Burbury
In 2005 OJPC worked to protect the rights of prisoners seeking to practice their faiths while incarcerated. In Buchanan v. Burbury, OJPC represented Charles Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan was a member of Yaweh’s New Covenant Assembly, a Sacred Name/ Sabbatarian faith which incorporates aspects of both Judaism and Protestantism. As a Sacred-Name Sabbatarian, Mr. Buchanan believed that he must observe Biblical Holy Days, such as Passover, and adhere to Jewish dietary law. In this case, the prison system classified Sabbatarian faith as Protestant, and was denying the inmate kosher food and other accommodations provided to Jewish inmates. The prison system had already recognized a number of other faiths as distinctive groups such as Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Wiccans. The suit settled with the State agreeing to provide accomodations that would allow Mr. Buchanan to practice his faith.