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Changes In Ohio Prison System After Death Of Inmate In February

DRC chief inspector Chris Lambert walked reporters through a video that is a compilation of the stationary cameras in the facility that held video of the incidents involving prisons workers and Michael McDaniel on February 6, 2021.
Karen Kasler
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DRC chief inspector Chris Lambert walked reporters through a video that is a compilation of the stationary cameras in the facility that held video of the incidents involving prisons workers and Michael McDaniel on February 6, 2021.

Ten prisons workers are named in an investigation into the beating and subsequent death of an inmate at the Correctional Reception Center in Pickaway County in February. Two have quit and eight are facing disciplinary action, and the incident has led to some changes throughout the system.

55-year-old Michael McDaniel died of a sudden heart attack at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient on February 6, two weeks after he'd arrived to start his sentence for a stabbing.

The Franklin County Coroner determined McDaniel suffered a  "stress inducted sudden cardiac death" and ruled it a homicide. McDaniel's face and body had bruises and cuts after what was initially described as an altercation with staff.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said a months-long investigation shows five corrections officers used unjustified and excessive force in removing McDaniel from his cell and then moving him to the medical bay across the yard from his housing unit. Three others failed to perform their duties. One nurse is accused of failing to treat McDaniel and she and another are accused of submitting improper records.

“We’re responsible for what happened in that video. There’s no question about it," said DRC Director Annette Chambers Smith, talking to reporters after a screening of a compilation of footage from all the stationary cameras that caught the incidents involving McDaniel and the officers.

McDaniel fell to the ground 16 times from when he was removed from his cell till he arrived at the medical bay across the yard from his housing unit. The exam he underwent lasted around a minute and he was then being transported to disciplinary housing when he collapsed a few more times, and then an ambulance was called and CPR was performed.

“There’s just nothing about this that’s ok. It does not comport with what our department is about," Chambers Smith said.  "I was appalled. It’s not what we train people to do. It’s not what our policy says but it is what happened. Not everyone is suited to correctional work, and those who are not suited we need to remove.”

Eight workers could face disciplinary actions and two have resigned, and the Pickaway Co prosecutor is also reviewing DRC’s investigation.

In the video, it’s hard to see what exactly happened to McDaniel behind some stairs after he was removed from his cell in a video the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released of its investigation.

mcdaniel_brought_from_behind_stairs_in_video_0.png
Credit Screenshot/DRC video
What happens to Michael McDaniel behind the stairs after he's removed from his cell can't be seen in this stationary camera because it's in a blind spot. Chambers Smith said that's been corrected at the CRC and all DRC facilities.

Chambers Smith said that made her angry.

“When I saw that, I was just as disgusted as you were. And I ordered blind spot filling for that institution and all the others. That’s ridiculous," Chambers Smith said.

Chambers Smith said cameras at all prisons are being upgraded to hold up to 45 days of video, and DRC is in the process of putting body cameras on corrections workers.

The five corrections officers accused of using unjustified and excessive force are:

  • Officer Heath Causey
  • Officer Jerry Perkins
  • Officer Jason Roberts
  • Officer Joey Lemaster
  • Officer Paul Edwards

The three accused of failing to perform their duties as corrections professionals are:

  • Lt. Bruce Brown
  • Officer Kristy Judd
  • Officer Sarah Cline

Nurse Vera Pokuaa is accused of failing to complete an appropriate medical assessment and submitted improper records. Jamie Dukes, LPN is accused of signing a document as a witness though she had no knowledge of the assessment.

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