In June 1993, inmates at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility filed a Section 1983 class action suit, pro se, in the Southern District of Ohio against officials in Youngstown, Ohio of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Plaintiffs' claims were related to the treatment of prisoners during the prison riot that occurred in April 1993. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants locked as many as ten inmates in a cell, failed to protect them from violence, did not provide them with water or working toilets, used excessive force, destroyed personal property, and denied medical care.
In December 1993, Magistrate Judge Robert A. Steinberg appointed several private lawyers and certified the class. By the summer of 1994, counsel, along with their expert Steven Martin, negotiated an end to the post-riot lockdown of general population inmates. By February 1995, counsel negotiated with Defendants for a special Rules Infraction Board to handle the cases of inmates against whom administrative charges for riot-related, violent misconduct were filed.
Following extensive discovery, the parties reached an agreement and signed the Class Action Memorandum of Understanding in January 1997. The settlement included two major parts. First, the settlement established terms to improve the ""quality of life"" including: single-celling maximum security inmates; modifying the inmate classification system; improving racial and cultural relations; securing at least forty hours of out-of-cell time per week; and instituting new state-wide directives on religious practices. Second, the settlement established a $4.1 million fund, from which inmate damage claims, attorneys' fees and expenses would be paid. The case was dismissed conditional on completion of the reforms specified in the settlement agreement. Following a fairness hearing, the District Court (Judge S. Arthur Spiegel) approved the settlement in April 1997.
Michael R. Barrett was named Special Master and has filed several status reports regarding the distribution of the fund. However, extensive litigation continued regarding the distribution of the fund and attorneys' fees.
On December 12, 1999, the District Court (Judge Spiegel) approved a recommendation by the claims administrator that the two class representatives be paid $7,500 apiece.
The stated basis for these awards was that "the class representatives performed important work on behalf of the other members of class and class counsel," serving as a "crucial link for class members and counsel throughout the proceedings" and keeping the "class members generally informed in the progress of the case and relay[ing] information back to
class counsel." In a subsequent order, the district court stayed its grant of incentive awards pending appeal.
In 2001, the Sixth Circuit (Judge David A. Nelson) reversed the district court's decision to grant incentive awards to the two named plaintiffs and place all inmates' claim determinations under protective order. In re Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, 2001 WL 1667267 (6th Cir. 2001).
On November 4, 2002, Judge Spiegel entered an order granting class counsel's request for an order increasing the awards to class members pro rata and ordering the settlement master/trustee to distribute $500,000 to be awarded on a pro rata basis on each claimant's previous award totals. In 2004, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's disbursement of unassigned funds to certain prisoner-class members. The court held that the settlement agreement did not authorize the district court to make a pro rata distribution of the remaining settlement funds. Morris v. Voinovich, 2004 WL 1745781 (6th Cir. 2004).
On January 20, 2005, Judge Spiegel approved the joint motion of the parties to distribute the remainder of the settlement fund. The remaining funds are to be used to support two re-entry caseworkers who will work with the class members to help them succeed on release. Kristen Sagar - 08/19/2007
Anna Dimon - 02/02/2015