The firm has represented prisoners in Ohio and elsewhere for more than thirty years. In 1976 there were only 12,000 prisoners in 7 Ohio prisons. Today there are over 40,000 prisoners in 32 Ohio prisons. In 1997 Partner Al Gerhardstein founded the non-profit Ohio Justice and Policy Center to expand the work of prison and criminal justice reform. www.ohiojpc.org. The firm continues to represent inmates individually and in partnership with OJPC. The goal is simple. Oppose ineffective and cruel anti crime policies that are built on fear alone. Promote smart policies that offer opportunities for rehabilitation. There is no political lobby for those convicted of crimes. Litigation is particularly important as a means to check abuses of power in prison.
Mental Health Care in Prison. The state of Ohio spent more than 65 million dollars establishing a comprehensive mental health treatment program for Ohio prisoners as a result of class action litigation co-counseled with Robert Newman. Consent decree Dunn v. Voinovich;
Physical Health Care in Prison. Ohio has agreed to commit over 20 million dollars and hire more than 300 new staff to upgrade physical health care in Ohio prisons. Co-counsel with Ohio Justice and Policy Center. Fussell v. Wilkinson decision approving class action settlement and agreement.
Private Prison Closed. The Corrections Corporation of America opened a private “spec” prison in Youngstown, Ohio and rented cells to Washington D.C. The prison, unregulated under Ohio law at the time, was unsafe, had poor health care and denied inmates due process. G&B filed a class action. The City of Youngstown later joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. After a brutal gas attack on an entire cell block, two inmate murders and six inmate escapes, the case settled for $1.75 million to be distributed to all 2,000 inmates and a three year agreement to monitor prison conditions. The prison closed in July 2001. The firm successfully advocated for a new state law regulating these types of facilities. Order Approving Settlement Agreement In Re: Northeast Ohio Correctional Center.
Reforms following Prison Riot. The Easter 1993 prison riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio was the longest and third most deadly inmate riot in American history. One guard and nine inmates were murdered during the eleven day siege. Partner Al Gerhardstein was appointed as lead counsel along with three private law firms in Cincinnati to represent the inmate victims of the Lucasville riot. The class action resulted in a settlement of $4.1 million and extensive reforms that gradually restored programming to the prison, established a special administrative hearing process for those inmates not criminally prosecuted who were accused of misconduct during the riot, and other reforms.
Suicide in Custody. The firm has represented numerous families whose loved ones have committed suicide in jails and prison. Damages and mental health treatment upgrades usually follow these cases. Some families secure memorials that hang as reminders to staff of their duty to protect vulnerable inmates who are at risk of suicide.
Excessive Force in Custody. Some correctional officers use excessive force on prisoners. The firm has filed numerous cases on behalf of such victims. See e.g., Grimm v. Lane, 895 F. Supp. 907 (S.D. OH. 1995) ($460,000 verdict to three inmates), Riggins v. Hunt, (S.D. OH 2006) No. 1:01-CV-503 ($125,000 verdict to inmate).
Failure to Protect. When prison officials allow inmates to be raped or hurt by other inmates the firm has filed failure to protect cases on behalf of the victims. See e.g., Judgment Johnny Roe v. Butler County, Ohio (S.D. Ohio 2003) settlement for $200,000 for 11 year old boy raped at the Butler County Juvenile Detention Center.