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10 Maximum Security Prisons in Ohio

Ohio has 10 maximum security state prisons that house some of the most dangerous and notorious criminals. Maximum security prisons have highly controlled and restrictive environments to limit inmate activity and interaction. These prisons are designed to isolate criminal offenders and prevent escapes.

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1. Ohio State Penitentiary (Youngstown)

The Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown opened in 1998. It was built as a replacement for the historic Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, which closed in 1984. The maximum security prison cost $120 million to construct and holds over 500 of Ohio’s most dangerous criminals.

Some notable inmates at OSP include:

  • Anthony Kirkland – Convicted and sentenced to death for brutally murdering two women and two girls between 2006 and 2009.
  • Shawn Grate – Sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing five women between 2006 and 2016.
  • George Skatzes – One of the leaders behind the deadly 1993 Lucasville prison riot.

The Youngstown prison utilizes the most restrictive levels of security within the Ohio prison system. Inmates are housed in single cells and subjected to limited freedoms and privileges.

How many inmates does the Ohio State Penitentiary hold?

The Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown has a capacity to hold over 500 inmates, making it one of the smaller maximum security prisons in Ohio. The current inmate population fluctuates but averages around 480 prisoners convicted of the most serious crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping and terrorism.

What security features help control inmates at OSP?

As Ohio’s only supermax prison, OSP utilizes the most restrictive security measures and policies to control dangerous inmates:

  • Constant monitoring and surveillance throughout the facility
  • Single-occupancy cells to isolate each inmate
  • Controlled movements requiring escorts and restraints
  • Restricted inmate access to programs and activities
  • Advanced perimeter fencing, detection systems and armed guard posts

The supermax environment limits inmate interaction and activity to prevent disturbances. OSP emphasizes security, punitive segregation and control above rehabilitation.

2. Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (Lucasville)

The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville started housing maximum security prisoners in 1972. Often referred to as Lucasville prison, it holds over 1,600 dangerous convicted criminals. The detention center is infamously known for the deadly 11-day prison riot that started on April 11, 1993.

Notable SOCF inmates include:

  • James Giles – Serving life for killing his wife and shooting Cleveland police officers in 2007.
  • Christa Pike – The youngest female ever sentenced to death in the U.S. Found guilty of torturing and murdering a fellow Knoxville Job Corps student in 1995.
  • Warren Lytle – Former Cleveland mob underboss convicted in the 1970s for murder, racketeering and labor corruption.

Lucasville utilizes stringent security policies and extensive lockdowns to control inmates. Prisoners are limited to only 6 hours out of their cells per day. SOCF houses Ohio’s death row for men.

How many death row inmates reside at SOCF?

The Southern Ohio Correctional Institution has the largest death row in Ohio with over 140 male inmates sentenced to death. Notorious prisoners include Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Anthony Sowell, Youngstown murderer Mark Brown, and Dayton arsonist William Sapp.

Ohio’s death row inmates are confined under isolated, maximum security confinement at SOCF while they await execution. The last execution in Ohio took place in 2018.

What caused the deadly 1993 riot at the prison?

The 11-day riot from April 11-21, 1993 at Lucasville prison was one of the deadliest prison uprisings in U.S. history. The riot started as tensions escalated between inmates and staff:

  • Overcrowding led to stress, unrest and clashes between rival gangs imprisoned at SOCF.
  • Prison officials sought to cut costs by reducing prisoner meals, recreation time and access to religious services.
  • Authorities ordered mandatory TB testing which was refused on religious grounds by Muslim inmates.
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On April 11, Muslim prisoners overtook guards in cell block L, taking them hostage and triggering the riot’s start. Ten people were killed during the uprising including one corrections officer.

3. Mansfield Correctional Institution (Mansfield)

Mansfield Correctional Institution opened in 1990 with over 500 maximum security cells. The state prison has a total inmate capacity of around 2,500. Mansfield uses extensive behavioral programming to try and control inmates with segregation for the most violent.

Notable Mansfield inmates include:

  • Anthony Kirkland – Imprisoned at Mansfield before his transfer to death row at OSP for the serial murders of two women and two girls.
  • Fred Ahmed Evans – Serving life without parole for the drug-related kidnapping and killing of a young woman in Columbus in 2000.
  • Darryl Gumm – Sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and murdering a Tiffin University student in 1988.

The large maximum security section at Mansfield keeps the most dangerous and threatening criminals under close watch and confined to their cells up to 23 hours a day.

How does Mansfield use behavioral programming for inmates?

Mansfield Correctional uses an extensive inmate behavioral control program to encourage good behavior and discourage violence:

  • A classified level system where good behavior earns more privileges. Bad behavior leads to more restrictions.
  • Positive reinforcement like additional recreation time for compliant inmates.
  • Close monitoring and instant sanctions for rule violations.
  • Special Management (SMU) and Extended Restrictive Housing units for severe behavioral problems.
  • Progressive discipline strategies focused on modifying negative conduct over time.

The goal is to correct inmate misbehavior without resorting to restrictive housing. But maximum security offenders still face tighter controls.

Why does Mansfield segregate certain prisoners?

Mansfield Correctional isolates certain maximum security inmates in intensive control units apart from the general population:

  • To prevent dangerous individuals from threatening others.
  • To limit gang activity and influence within the prison.
  • To stop high escape risks from accessing areas vulnerable to breakouts.
  • To punish severe rule violators with additional restrictions.
  • To restrict access to programs, jobs and recreation due to violence or non-compliance.

Segregated prisoners at Mansfield are kept in single cells and subjected to increased security measures for additional behavioral control. But segregation time is minimized when possible.

4. Chillicothe Correctional Institution (Chillicothe)

The Chillicothe Correctional Institution opened in 1965. It now houses over 2,000 medium and maximum security inmates. Nearly 800 beds are designated for prisoners requiring maximum security confinement.

Some notable inmates at Chillicothe include:

  • Brian Golsby – Convicted and sentenced to die for kidnapping and killing three women in a series of murders from 2016 to 2017.
  • Dakota King – Found guilty of aggravated murder for fatally shooting an Ohio police officer in 2011.
  • Henry Nasher – Former Cleveland mob hitman turned government informant. Served over 40 years before his release in 2011.

CCI utilizes guard towers, perimeter fencing, cell searches and inmate counts to control its high-risk population. However, Chillicothe also focuses on education, vocational training, counseling and structure to reduce idle time.

What unique security does CCI use for its most dangerous inmates?

Chillicothe Correctional houses a “Close Security” unit for maximum security offenders considered the most threatening:

  • Operates under the prison’s highest level of security.
  • Single-cell housing apart from general population.
  • Highly controlled inmate movement requiring restraints.
  • Constant observation and no congregate activity.
  • Separate indoor and outdoor recreation areas.

The goal is total control and separation of Close Security prisoners through isolation and intensive monitoring 24/7. Access to anything is severely restricted.

How does the facility balance security with rehabilitation?

While Chillicothe heavily controls its high-risk prisoners for safety, it also prioritizes rehabilitation to improve outcomes:

  • Educational programs to earn GEDs and vocational certificates.
  • Addiction treatment, counseling and mental health services.
  • Opportunity for good behavior incentives like yard time and jobs.
  • Structure and productive activities instead of constant isolation and idleness.
  • Transition services pre-release for societal reentry.

CCI aims to reform prisoners while incarcerated through positive reinforcement instead of only punishments and deprivations. But security still dominates for maximum custody offenders.

5. Lebanon Correctional Institution (Lebanon)

Lebanon Correctional Institution opened in 1992 housing over 2,500 minimum, medium and maximum security inmates. Nearly 400 beds are designated for maximum security prisoners.

Some notable Lebanon inmates include:

  • Anthony Kirkland – Imprisoned at Lebanon for two years after murdering his girlfriend in 1987. Later convicted of killing two more women.
  • Dallas Sigman – Serving a life sentence for kidnapping and murdering an elderly war veteran in 2004.
  • Harry Mitts Jr. – On death row for fatally shooting a police officer and three others after a traffic stop in 1994.

Lebanon Correction utilizes guard patrols, security cameras, cell searches and restricted movement to control its high-risk population. Maximum security prisoners face additional constraints and controls.

How are inmates classified at Lebanon Correctional?

Lebanon thoroughly classifies inmates based on security risk to determine appropriate housing:

  • Assessment tools evaluate violent history, escape risk, medical/mental health and other factors.
  • Classification levels include minimum, medium and high security.
  • Maximum security inmates face the tightest controls like regulated movement and recreation.
  • Periodic reassessments occur to adjust custody levels based on current risk and behavior.

Proper inmate classification and housing improves safety, reduces conflicts, and allows appropriate security policies per custody designation. Maximum custody offenders receive the most constraints.

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What unique features help Lebanon Correctional control inmates?

Lebanon utilizes the following security tactics tailored to its maximum security prisoners:

  • A centralized observation tower for 24/7 monitoring of inmate housing and activities.
  • A lethal electrified perimeter fence to deter escapes.
  • “Trap doors” within cells allowing for secure transfer of items.
  • Specially designed steel tables, desks, stools, and beds fixed to floors.
  • Restricted and controlled entrance/exit points throughout the facility.

The prison’s design, policies and operations focus on observation, containment and limited freedoms for high-risk incarcerated individuals.

6. Madison Correctional Institution (London)

Madison Correctional Institution opened in 1838 making it Ohio’s oldest operating state prison. It now houses over 2,500 inmates with around 300 maximum security beds.

Some notable Madison inmates include:

  • Julius Bradford – Sentenced to death for a contract killing related to organized crime in Youngstown.
  • Darryl Gumm – Transferred to Madison’s death row for kidnapping, raping and murdering a college student.
  • Phillip Evans – Serving life for shooting a Cleveland police officer six times at point blank range in 2008.

Madison utilizes inmate uniforms, identification cards and locator systems to account for all prisoners. Armed transport teams move maximum security offenders under restraints. Cell doors operate electronically for added control.

Why does Madison still rely on such old prison infrastructure?

Despite Madison’s age, the prison is still considered functional for securely housing inmates:

  • Thick granite walls, barred cells, and tower posts provide security that newer facilities lack.
  • Cell blocks have been retrofitted with more advanced electronic and mechanical security measures over time.
  • The familiar design provides stability for staff who understand the prison’s uniqueness.
  • Support facilities like utilities, kitchens and infirmaries meet security standards.
  • Costs limit constructing a completely new maximum security prison from the ground up.

With routine upgrades and by leveraging its design advantages, Madison remains a viable maximum security prison after almost 200 years.

How does Madison maximize use of personnel for security?

With an aging infrastructure and staffing challenges, Madison Correctional uses innovative approaches to maintain security:

  • A centralized key control system to limit access and accountability.
  • Electronic door/gate controls operated remotely.
  • Roving correctional officer patrols that are flexible and based on current risks.
  • Perimeter cameras, mirrors and sensors to expand surveillance reach.
  • Dual-officer escorts for inmate movements beyond housing areas.
  • Special tactical teams to quickly respond to disturbances.
  • Random shakedowns and searches of cells to find contraband.

Despite limited staff, Madison creatively utilizes personnel to sustain inmate supervision, movement oversight, and facility security.

7. Warren Correctional Institution (Lebanon)

Warren Correctional Institution opened in 1983 with 250 maximum security cells for male prisoners. The total inmate population today is around 1,500.

Notable Warren inmates include:

  • Timothy Hoffner – Serving a life sentence for murdering a police informant in 2001.
  • John Fautenberry – Convicted of killing a strip club manager in Cleveland in 1991.
  • Alton Coleman – Death row inmate who committed numerous rapes and murders across the Midwest in 1984.

Highly dangerous Warren inmates are housed under the prison’s “Level 4” maximum security policies:

  • Single-occupancy cells.
  • Regulated movements with restraints.
  • Constant staff supervision and escort.
  • Isolated recreation and restricted property.
  • Limited job opportunities.

How does WCI handle inmate mental illness and disturbances?

Warren Correctional uses various approaches to manage difficult inmate behaviors and mental health issues:

  • Specialized housing units with enhanced staffing for unstable prisoners.
  • De-escalation tactics emphasizing communication over force.
  • Specially trained correctional officers for mental health crises.
  • Mental health treatment staff and counseling services.
  • Seclusion cells for temporary containment during severe incidents.
  • Restraints, batons and tear gas as a last resort for control.
  • Referrals for transport to forensic psychiatric hospitals as needed.

WCI aims to identify problematic inmates early and manage behaviors before they escalate to help improve facility safety.

Why does Warren Correctional emphasize dynamic security?

Warren Correctional uses “dynamic security” to prevent problems versus only reactive force:

  • Positive staff-inmate relationships build trust and communication.
  • Close officer interaction allows for early warning signs of trouble.
  • Constant observational patrols of the facility interior/exterior.
  • Predictive analysis identifies risks to get ahead of incidents.
  • Knowing the inmate population on an individual level.
  • Fair disciplinary policies and incentives for good behavior.

By focusing on direct supervision, engagement and anticipation, WCI proactively enhances security and safety in a way traditional tactics cannot.

8. Ross Correctional Institution (Chillicothe)

Opened in 1987, Ross Correctional Institution is a level 4/5 high security prison housing Ohio’s most predatory, assaultive and escape-prone inmates. Nearly 2,000 prisoners are incarcerated at the facility.

Notable Ross inmates include:

  • Shawn Grate – Serial killer sentenced to death after murdering five women between 2006 and 2016.
  • Caldwell Johnson – Found guilty of murdering a corrections officer while attempting to escape custody in 2005.
  • Danny Lee Hill – On death row for torturing, raping and murdering a 12-year-old boy in 1985.

Ross Correctional utilizes constant patrols, security round tracking systems, and an infrared perimeter detection system to control inmates. The prison was built to maximize observation of prisoner activities and housing units.

Why does Ross Correctional emphasize correctional officer training?

Ross focuses heavily on ongoing staff training to enhance security and safety when handling maximum custody offenders:

  • Self-defense, firearms, cell extraction, and restraint techniques.
  • Crisis intervention for incidents involving weapons or hostage situations.
  • Identifying and addressing gang activity within the prison.
  • Contraband and narcotics detection skills.
  • Vulnerability assessments to identify risks.
  • Operational safety and security procedures.
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Well trained and equipped correctional officers are the frontline against dangers posed by Ross’ most hardened criminal inmates.

How does the prison control gang behavior and violence?

Ross Correctional limits the power of gangs within its walls using various security tactics:

  • Restricting communication between gang members in different cell blocks or units.
  • Monitoring inmate correspondence and visits closely for hidden messages.
  • Keeping identified gang members and leaders apart during movements and assignments.
  • Quickly disciplining gang signs, communications and suspected recruitment.
  • Random shakedowns of cells to find contraband and weapons.
  • Utilizing informants to gain intelligence on planned activities.
  • Partnering with other law enforcement to identify security threats.

Controlling gang influence disrupts organized criminal activities and violence both within the prison and on the streets.

9. Trumbull Correctional Institution (Leavittsburg)

Opened in 1988 near Warren, Trumbull Correctional Institution houses over 2,000 medium and maximum security inmates. Nearly 600 beds are for level 4 and level 5 prisoners requiring the highest security.

Notable Trumbull inmates include:

  • Ronald Post – Put to death in 2013 for the murder-for-hire killing of a businessman in 1983.
  • David Martin – Serving life for a notorious 2005 Columbus bank robbery that resulted in a high speed police chase.
  • Darrell Ferguson – Former Columbus drug kingpin convicted in the contract killing of a witness against him.

Trumbull utilizes patrols, security cameras, sensors and double-fencing to control inmates. The prison houses several restrictive special management units for violent and aggressive prisoners.

Why does Trumbull emphasize drug interdiction efforts?

Trumbull focuses heavily on eliminating contraband drugs that contribute to violence and disturb facility security:

  • Visitor and staff searches for smuggled illegal substances.
  • Random prisoner drug tests.
  • Cell shakedowns and facility sweeps using K-9 units.
  • Monitoring communication and deliveries.
  • Drug awareness education and addiction treatment.
  • Punitive isolation for offenders caught with drugs.
  • Partnerships with outside law enforcement agencies for intelligence.
  • Ongoing staff trainings on drug concealment tactics.

Drug usage complicates inmate control and fuels dangerous incidents. Trumbull utilizes every tool available to intercept narcotics and sanction offenders.

How does Trumbull design impact facility safety and security?

Trumbull’s physical design provides advantages for controlling inmates:

  • A centralized guard station with electronic door/gate controls.
  • Split-level cell blocks that allow for observation from above.
  • Air-gapped indoor recreation areas for year-round access.
  • Redundant perimeter fencing with detection technology.
  • Controlled sallyports and portals between zones.
  • Infrastructure organized along major sightlines.
  • Program and service areas located together.

Trumbull maximizes observation and compartmentalization through its layout. Design facilitates surveillance, containment and movements throughout the maximum security facility.

10. Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution (Lima)

Opened in 1987, Oakwood Correctional is a high security prison with over 2,500 beds for male inmates. Nearly 800 beds are designated for level 4 and level 5 maximum security prisoners.

Notable Oakwood inmates include:

  • Joseph L. Thomas – Convicted child serial killer from the 1980s currently on death row.
  • Eric Hammond – Sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and murdering a college student in 2001.
  • Reginald Brooks – Executed in 2011 for shooting his three sons to death after an argument with his wife.

Oakwood utilizes patrols, security cameras, cell searches, and visitor screening to control inmates. The prison was designed so that no area goes unobserved.

Why does Oakwood maintain long-term disciplinary segregation?

Unlike most Ohio prisons today, Oakwood continues to utilize long-term segregation for disciplining habitual high-risk inmates:

  • Single-cell isolated housing apart from general population.
  • Up to 23 hours confined per day with limited property.
  • Highly controlled movements requiring restraints.
  • Severely restricted privileges and programming.
  • Progressive sanctions that increase based on repeated violations.

Segregation aims to punish serious misconduct while removing dangers posed by maximum security offenders. Oakwood still sees a need for sustained punitive isolation in some cases.

How was Oakwood designed to enhance security and surveillance?

Oakwood’s original design includes security advantages:

  • A centralized watch center for observing all inmate areas.
  • Tower posts positioned at overlapping vantage points.
  • Control rooms overlooking the perimeter.
  • Recreation areas enclosed within housing units.
  • Air vents covered by welded steel plates.
  • Exterior windows only in offices and workshops.
  • Secure control panels controlling doors and utilities.

Oakwood’s layout allows staff to monitor the entire facility without gaps – critical for maximum security management.


Ohio’s highest security prisons house the most violent, dangerous and notorious criminals that threaten public safety. Strict control measures isolate and limit these inmates to reduce risks. Prisons like the Ohio State Penitentiary and Southern Ohio Correctional Facility specialize in maximum security incarceration. Newer facilities were purpose-built while older institutions have retrofitted over time. Diverse tactics are used to prevent disturbances through design, technology, policies, procedures and training. But emphasis is always on safety, containment and prevention when managing inmates that require the maximum custody environment. Ohio will continue relying on maximum security prisons for the foreseeable future to safely handle its most hardened criminal offenders.

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