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Most of Prison Returns to Normal, Investigation of Hostage Seizure Begins

March 18, 1986

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (AP) _ Six homemade knives fashioned from spoons, forks and ″odd pieces of metal″ were confiscated in a section of death row at the Indiana State Prison where condemned inmates held three employees hostage, an official said Tuesday.

The section will remain under lockdown until authorities complete their investigation of the incident, the official said.

The rebellion ended late Monday night when the inmates released the last two hostages in return for an agreement with prison officials about crowded and abusive conditions on death row.

The other hostage had been released about four hours after the incident began at the century-old prison on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Guards discovered the homemade knives after the incident, said prison administrative assistant Charles W. Neary. Two broomsticks, broken to sharp points, also were confiscated.

Prison officials had said the inmates were armed with broomsticks when they seized unit manager Ed Jones, caseworker Roger Bell and correctional officer Vernon Tiedeman.

″The investigation is going on right now to determine who was involved and the extent to which they were involved,″ Neary said.

As many as 14 death row inmates may have played some role in the seizure. Neary identified the inmate leaders of the incident as Donald Ray Wallace, 29, sentenced in 1982 to death for the murders of four members of a family, and convicted murderer Russell Boyd, 28.

A general lockdown of the 1,615 prison inmates, including the section of death row not involved in the hostage taking, has been lifted, and the four, 12-man prison riot squads assembled Monday have been taken off duty, Neary said.

The rebellious inmates were demanding an end to the practice of placing two men in each 144-square foot cell and an end to what they called abusive shakedowns by prison guards.

″We will look into it and see whether any abuses (of shakedowns) have been occurring,″ Neary said. ″We don’t know there have been abuses.″

Neary sympathized with the crowded death row conditions but said more space is not available in the building. Although some death row inmates are housed alone, only one other prison cell block houses two inmates per cell.

In return for the safe release of the hostages, prison authorities also promised the inmates would face no physical reprisals.

They will face an investigation by Department of Correction and may be disciplined if a conduct board finds prison rules were violated, according to the agreement.

Prison officials also stated their agreement in principle favoring single- cell housing and noted the Legislature has approved a plan to study the housing conditions of all Indiana prison inmates.

″We’ll deal with it. I think we’ll be creative enough to come up with some solutions,″ said Department of Correction spokesman Vaughn Overstreet, adding that correction officials have been discussing for more than a year what to do to house the growing population on death row.

There are 32 men housed on death row in the Michigan City prison’s ″I″ cellhouse. The capacity of death row, with inmates two to a cell, is 40, he said.

The population of death row has grown steadily since 1980 and has increased by six to an eight inmates a year in the past three years, he said.

″We will probably keep pace with last year or exceed it this year″ in number of new death row inmates, Overstreet said.

While the death row population has grown, the state has executed two men, Stephen Judy in 1981 and William Vandiver in 1985, since the state’s death penalty statute was redrafted. Both men waived appeals of their sentences.

″Inmates on death row are becoming long-term residents and that’s a societal change,″ said Overstreet. ″Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty a little more but very few are carried out. Unless there’s a breakthrough in the courts that would resolve many of the appeals, the trend (toward growing death row populations) is going to continue.″

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