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Death Row Inmates Release Hostages After 12 Hours

March 18, 1986

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) _ A 12 1/2 -hour uprising by death row inmates who took three people hostage ended peacefully after their complaints about the practice of assigning two prisoners to a cell were broadcast, officials say.

No injuries were reported during the disturbance, which began Monday morning when two inmates wielding sharpened broomsticks seized the hostages during a recreational period, said Department of Correction spokesman Vaughn Overstreet. One of the two once wrote the state Supreme Court that ″death seems the only escape from the agonies″ of prison.

Up to a dozen other death row inmates at the Indiana State Prison joined in the disturbance, he said.

One of the hostages - the administrator of death row - was released after about five hours. The two others, also prison employees, were freed shortly before 10 p.m. All three were in good condition, officials said.

After releasing the two, the inmates returned to their cells in exchange for broadcast of a memorandum of understanding with prison officials, said Charles W. Neary, the maximum-security prison’s assistant superintendent.

″They looked shaken-up,″ Vicki Soukup, a reporter for the LaPorte Herald- Argus who met with the rebelling inmates, said of the two hostages. ″Their hands were tied in front with strips of white cloth.″

In exchange for the hostages’ release, state officials promised that no physical retribution would be taken against the inmates. The agreement also included a promise that the correction department would say it favors one cell for each death row inmate.

The inmates involved must face a prison hearing and could be disciplined if found in violation of prison rules, according to the agreement that was broadcast over WSL-TV of Chicago, Neary said.

The inmates initially involved, Donald Ray Wallace Jr. and Russell E. Boyd, agreed to release administrator Ed Jones, 39, of Westville, after being allowed to talk to Ms. Sukoup for 10 minutes, said Neary. Officials negotiated first for his release because he had heart surgery two years ago, said Neary.

″They did ask for drugs to stay awake. We declined,″ said Overstreet.

Ms. Sukoup said the inmates told her they were upset about double-celling and frequent shakedowns.

″They basically said that being electrocuted is their punishment. Their punishment doesn’t have to include shakedowns,″ she said.

Overstreet said death row inmates have been writing Department of Correction officials to complain about the double-celling.

″Apparently they feel they should be given some special status that the other inmates aren’t,″ Overstreet said. ″We have men double-celled in smaller cells than that.″

The inmates told Dan Luzadder, a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, Thursday night that they wanted their demands broadcast. Luzadder talked to the inmates after being driven by state police the approximately 150 miles to the prison.

The takover came at the start of the recreation period, when the inmates were out of their cells, Overstreet said. The rest of the prison was then locked down.

The hostages released Monday night were identified as Vernon C. Tiedeman, 24, of LaPorte, a correction officer, and Roger Bell, 39, of Michigan City, a counselor.

Wallace, 28, was sentenced to die for murdering four members of an Evansville family in 1980 during a burglary. Boyd, 27, was convicted in the death of a woman at her Jeffersonville home in 1982 also during a burglary. Each was given an indefinite stay of execution.

Wallace was one of three inmates who had written to the Indiana Supreme Court nearly three years ago asking for death. He said ″death seems the only escape from the agonies″ of prison.

A disturbance at the Indiana State Reformatory at Pendleton in January left one inmate dead and 16 other people, including five guards, injured.

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