McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

July 28, 2013

Former OSP warden on corrections workers

(Continued)

McALESTER — 1985 OSP riot

Earlier, Reynolds had been at OSP as assistant to then-Warden Gary Maynard and had been at the facility in 1985, when another riot occurred at OSP.

Although smaller in terms of property damage and the number of inmates involved, it did result in serious injury to three correctional officers — Eddie Morgan, Tommy Braxton and Charlie Parker — and  another seven officers were held by inmates. Some of the officers would testify later at trials that the inmates who held them were actually protecting them from other prisoners who may have wanted to do them harm.

The current 23-hour lock-down policy in place for most inmates at OSP resulted from the 1985 riot, not the one that occurred in 1973. However, other major changes resulted at the facility after the ’73 outbreak.

Some of the changes were connected to a federal lawsuit filed by OSP inmate Bobby Battle. Although the lawsuit had been filed in 1972, it didn’t garner widespread attention until a year later, following the riot at OSP, according to Reynolds. Many of Battle’s grievances were similar to inmate complaints linked to the riot following the studies that occurred in its wake.

The 1973 riot resulted in U.S. District Judge Luther Bohanon placing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections under federal court  oversight for approximately 10 years, Reynolds noted.

“The court ordered a lot of areas for the DOC to revise,” noted Reynolds, who later looked at the orders as a DOC employee and subsequently reviewed them as a historian as well.

Reynolds said the court order covered seven segments, including:

• Racial segregation and discrimination,

• Procedural due process,

• Conditions of confinement,

• Use of chemical agents,

• Medical care,

• Correspondence and publications (letters and access to items such as newspapers),

• Access to courts.

The due process section referred to due process inside the institution regarding internal infractions, Reynolds said. It included hearings and an appeal process for alleged infractions inside the facility.

Conditions of confinement concerned issues such as lighting and cell size, he said.

Oklahoma eventually came out from under the federal court supervision and OSP and other prisons in the state then pursued accreditation from the American Correctional Association, which has been obtained.

To become accredited by ACA, more than 400 requirements must be met, ranging from quality of life to daily operations, Reynolds said.

Meanwhile, Reynolds is working on a new book, this one about the riots that have occurred in Oklahoma’s prisons. It will include both the 1973 and 1985 outbreaks at OSP, as well as the riot at the Mack Alford Correctional Center that occurred in 1988 in Stringtown.

Reynolds has long thought correctional officers and other DOC employees deserve a lot of appreciation.

“I call them unsung heroes,” Reynolds said. “They’re pretty well hidden from the public eye.

“It’s a dangerous job,” Reynolds said.

“They’re heroes in my book.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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