Lucasville prison riot - 20 years later

(Lucasville) -- April 11, 1993 fell on an Easter Sunday. It was the day the nation's longest deadly prison riot broke out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Inmates took a dozen guards hostage, killing Officer Robert Vallandingham and nine inmates. The standoff finally ended after 11 days.

Reginald Wilkinson was the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections at the time of the riots. He says for some odd reason he was on his way into the office when he was paged about the riot.

"We knew that it had the potential to see something that was not something Ohio had seen before," he said.

The main goal was to minimize injuries, deaths, and damage to the facility, according to Wilkinson. There was a lot of pressure on prisons staff to quickly end the situation, but Wilkinson says he knew they couldn't rush to a solution. He says some suggested storming the facility, tearing down a wall, or even bringing in helicopters with officers to land on the roof of the prison.

"You name it we had pressure to do it," Wilkinson said.

Inmates voiced their demands by posting them on bed sheets hung outside the prison walls and eventually through live broadcasts on television and radio. After days of negotiations the situation was resolved.

"As a result of the Lucasville riot everything changed in the Department of Corrections," said Wilkinson.

There were challenges for the media covering the event as well. Former 610 WTVN news director John Remy spent several days on the scene, sleeping in the news car at times.

"There was only one cell phone tower in the entire area," he said. "A lot of times you had to get on the cell phone 10 to 15 minutes before a newscast and just sit there so that you knew you were going to have a live line at the top or bottom of the hour to get through."

Remy perched himself in a tree at times so he could see what was going on at the prison.

"I don't think initially anyone comprehended how serious this was going to become," he remembers.

Some of the issues that led to the riots are starting to surface again, according to the union that represents corrections officers. Among them are overcrowding and a higher inmate to officer ratio.

Prisons officials say conditions have improved since those riots 20 years ago.

From the 610 WTVN audio archives

And coverage of the surrender

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