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URGENT Death Row Inmates Release Hostages

March 18, 1986

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) _ Death Row inmates, some wielding sharpened broomsticks, rebelled at the Indiana State Prison on Monday and held two hostages more than 12 hours before releasing them in good condition, officials said.

The inmates, who captured the prison employees during a recreation period, released the captives shortly before 10 p.m. and returned to their cells in exchange for broadcast of a memorandum of understanding with prison officials, said Corrections Department spokesman Vaughn Overstreet.

The agreement included a promise that no physical retribution would be taken against the inmates, and a promise that the corrections department would say it favors one cell for each Death Row inmate, said Overstreet.

The uprising by as many as 14 inmates began about 9:30 a.m. with overcrowding among the prisoners’ complaints. No injuries were reported.

The condemned killers initially seized three captives, but released a prison administrator unharmed about four hours later after being allowed to talk to a newspaper reporter and receiving cigarettes, milk and iced tea.

A second newspaper reporter met twice Monday night with the inmates, who said they wanted to negotiate their demands through the media. The seven-point agreement was broadcast over WSL-TV, a Chicago station, Overstreet said.

″The hostages ... appear to be in good condition,″ said Charles W. Neary, an assistant superintendent at the prison. ″The doctors are checking them now. The inmates have returned to their cells.″

The inmates involved in the hostage seizure must face a prison conduct board and could be disciplined if found in violation of prison rules, according to the agreement about the release.

Thirty-two men are double-bunked on Death Row at the prison in two adjacent cell blocks, and the block not involved in the uprising was locked down along with the rest of the institution, said Overstreet.

Two inmates used sharpened broomsticks to take the three hostages, and by midafternoon as many as 14 Death Row inmates were involved in the takeover, Overstreet said.

The inmates initially involved - identified as Donald Ray Wallace Jr. and Russell E. Boyd - agreed to release the administrator after being allowed to talk to a reporter for 10 minutes, said Neary.

″They did ask for drugs to stay awake. We declined,″ said Overstreet. ″We’re talking to them now. For a while, they weren’t talking and that worried us.″

LaPorte Herald-Argus reporter Vicki Soukup, the first to talk with the inmates, said they told her they were ″upset about double-celling and about frequent shakedowns by prison guards.

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

Ms. Soukup said the inmates told her the takeover had been planned quickly, and that they wanted to negotiate through reporters for better conditions.

Overstreet said the inmates on Death Row 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 man released first, Ed Jones, 39, of Westville, is administrator of the Death Row unit. Officials negotiated first for his release because he had heart surgery two years ago, said Neary. Jones was in good condition, said Neary.

Dan Luzadder of The Indianapolis Star talked to the inmates at night after being driven by state police the approximately 150 miles to the maximum security institution on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The takover came ″at the start of the recreation period and they were out of their cells for recreation when this went off,″ Overstreet said. The recreation area is adjacent to the ″I″ Cellhouse holding Death Row.

The hostages released Monday night were identified as Vernon C. Tiedeman, 24, of LaPorte, the 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, while 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 sent a letter to the Indiana Supreme Court nearly three years ago asking for death. He said ″death seems the only escape from the agonies″ of prison.

Overstreet said other inmates believed involved in the disturbance were: Herbert A. Underwood, 25; Mark Allen Wisehart, 23; Frank R. Davis, 33; Richard Dale Huffman, 25; Larry Williams, 27; Jay R. Thompson, 22; David L. Woods, 21; Gregory L. Van Cleave, 23; James Games, 21; Marvin Bieghler, 38; Rufus Averhart, 31; and Gary Burris, 29.

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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