The night I broke into prison

April 30, 2011 at 9:33 pm (Uncategorized)

When I was a deputy superintendent at Training Institution Central Ohio (TICO), Trooper Don Whipple was our assigned Ohio Highway Patrol investigator. This meant he was called in whenever we had reason to believe a crime had been committed within the institution, whether by staff or inmates, day or night.

I had known Don for several years and had lobbied hard to keep him when OHP top brass decided to play musical chairs. What set him apart from the other investigators I knew was he actually enjoyed the institutional part of his job. Most of them would have preferred to do anything else than wade into the murky waters of a juvenile correctional facility, but Don relished it. (Later, he would become chief of security for the Department of Youth Services, a post he held until his unexpected death.)

Now, Don had been told by numerous youth that they were being physically abused by the staff. However, the youth were not regarded as good witnesses for many reasons including the fact they were adjudicated delinquents who were already on record as being untruthful.  What Don needed was a reliable witness – himself and someone else.

Don hatched a plan to break into TICO one night, sneak up to the windows, and see if he could catch any of the juvenile correctional officers behaving badly. However, he needed someone from institutional management to accompany him. Since the superintendent had a bad back and the other deputy was a woman, I got picked by default to join him in his caper.

On the chosen night, we met in the parking lot of the Timothy Moritz mental health facility next door, dressed in black clothing, ninja-fashion. Don had brought another trooper with him who was at least 6’ 6” tall. I think his name was Wheeler. Anyway, we went around to the rear gate where Whipple planned to cut off the padlock and chain. Fortunately, I had brought my keys with me so we did not have to damage state property. I was always concerned about reducing expenses.

Since it was still relatively early, many of the youth were just returning from recreation in the gym. They walked down a long, window-lined hallway and we were concerned they could see us if they happened to look, so we kept low and skittered along in the shadows, crouching down as much as possible.

When we reached the lowest part of the building, Wheeler boosted Don up onto the roof. Don then pulled me up behind him, and then we both struggled to haul up the lanky Wheeler. I could not have done it by myself, but Whipple was as strong as he was short. And he was very short for a trooper.

There were several television cameras mounted on the roof, anyone of which might broadcast our image to the switchboard operator who controlled access to the building via electronic latches on various doors and gates. We avoided the cameras as much as possible, but would have been caught had anyone bothered to look at the battery of TV monitors.

To make a long story short, we went around to the various living units (“cottages”) and spent time spying through the windows on the activities taking place within each one. However, after several hours of observation, we saw nothing incriminating. The juvenile correctional officers did not do anything they weren’t supposed to. And I was glad because we worked hard trying to ensure that TICO staff did the right thing. It didn’t always work, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.



  1. kevc said,

    I was in Ohio dys as a teen and I can personally say I was abused by staff at least 4 memorable times. I was backhanded twice by one, I had my head knocked into a wall and punched by one, one slapped my back real hard 3 times and one spit sunflower shells at me as I was stripping to my underwear to be strapped down. Not all the COs were bad. There were much more good than bad. I cared about the good ones. I was a bad child and I probably frustrated or annoyed them but it was still bad. Abuse by staff does happen.

  2. Bryan said,

    I Took Earlander Motley To Court for Beating me with a Flashlight while I was asleep he lost his Job however I was harassed by the rest of the staff at TICO until I threatened to sue and they let me out Bryan St John Mail me I can help anyone with stories about Tico I was there when Shirley Dupler helped inmates escape Rick Zeigler.I was there when Bill Bleveins Escaped I saw staff get beat up Inmate rapes.. I was there 85-87

    • Ken said,

      I was in Tico in 85/86. I was placed on Balsan cottage and my name is Kenny G. I planned the first successful escape after the new maximum security fence. We made a dummy for Michael Jackson who was in a one man room and sneaked him into our six man dorm. The seven of us went out the window I cut using a standard scew driver and a half hacksaw blade. I thought we could get away with it because one of the staff members was showing our dorm porn. Yes porn to a bunch of kids. So on new years eve night we took off. Got over the fence. Stole beer and got drunk. Jackson and pace was talking about stealing cars. The others was wanting to stay low. And Estes had made a call for a ride. Me I was drunk and wanted to lay down. So I limbed back over the fence and went back in my room. I woke up with a hang over and my dorm was full of suites asking me what happened. I claimed I didn’t know and that I never left my room.

  3. Kenneth mohler jr said,

    I was an inmate at byc columbus ohio..i saved the life of a midnight youth leader . We called him Pops. Two inmates we’re beating him , I woke up and interviened. One inmate that was beating Pops had only three (3) days till release. also I have two (2) other stories of how I escaped over the freedom tree ten (10) tried and only Myself and five (5) other inmates made it over and out to escape. my other escape was a master key four (4) of us escaped early evening in the winter months from dorm number 55, and shimied over the gates to freedom at the maintaince gates to state hospital.

    • Beth said,

      Send me an e-mail. I’m very interested in these stories.

    • Jeff Albertson said,

      I remember buckeye, the staff used to hit us up side the head with these oversized safety pins they used to carry their keys around with. Them things weighed at least a half pound. This was in 88

  4. refai said,

    I have no idea how I stumbled upon this. Let us just say that after 14 years I randomly still remember things that happened at TICO. I’m happy they tore it down. I prefer to keep these memories buried. If anyone reading this is reading it because they are suffering or if there is some sort of documentary being done, i would be willing to share my story. I was in TICO in from the beginning 1997 through the the beginning of 1999. I was housed on Darby cottage. I do not forget any faces but I recall names. Don Feldkamp was in charge I believe. The names (surnames) I recall quickly are: Spivey, Denton, Wheatherstone, Janice, Tate, C. Arthur Wilson High School and the list goes on.

    • Bryan said,

      The Cottages in the 80s were Imperial Jefferson Darby glendale Balsam and others I cant recall,,I worked in the kitchen to get larger portions of food.. we had a security guard Blake would bring us weed alcohol stuff like that for was a horrible place that only made me HARD and Hateful…I take pride in the fact that I beat the living shit out of a young Gansta Disciple member Named Clifton Cousins ( who is now serving tripple life at Lucasville in Ohio) I basically took a beating from a 22 year veteran and took him to court got him fired and deals were made to get me OUT as a part of the restitution for not SUING them for Money…..

      • james mark jones said,

        they wer auburn,balsan,cedar,darby on one end,hamilton,imperial,jefferson,glendale on the other end…cafetiria between.

    • Leonard James said,

      I was in Balsam and, and it was not the best of times as a kid. I’am glad I made it out of the system. Turn 50 this year and have a great family. It’s because good people outside the youth commission helped me. I was placed in every OYC institution except Indian river. They had good schools in them, but every other program they had was garbage. Just about everyone I knew is still in prison or dead. I consider myself lucky.

    • Scott Anspach said,

      you may or may not remember me I was in there from 91 to 95 went from Darby to Auburnto Ha some of the names you mentioned I recognize my last name was Anspach.

  5. Bryan said,

    the experience has definitely slowed me….NoT of fear BUT of HATE and Aggression..I take no shit from no one and Im quick to throw a punch..NO I suffered nothing but DISRESPECT from that also taught me to stick with my own race and not to acknowledge any other..not hate..just complete leariness… anyone who ever spent a day in there should be compensated…. the idea would be good to reach former inmates and follow their lives after they came would be interesting

    • Leonard James said,

      I must agree, I am so defensive and my biggest problem after being there is violence. It has taken me a lifetime to control myself, but I still size up everyone I encounter. The birth of my children and my marriage of 25 years has been pinnacle in my healing. When I have to do a criminal backround check for my work,It haunts me, my violent past always follows me. People think of me differently when they learn of my past. I have become very private these days……

  6. Tim said,

    I was also in TICO from 1985-1987. I seen very bad things go on in there. I was in Cedar Cottage. I shared a room with another kid. I spent two winters there with two window panes broken out which they never fixed no matter how many grievances I filed. I would have to sleep fully clothed, and with 4 or 5 wool blankets they issued to try and keep warm. It would get so cold at night, that ice had literally formed on our walls because moisture in our breath.
    I was made to take drugs by the staff and they visually verified you swallowed them. I would immediately go to the restroom and puke them out. All the stories are true about the rape and abuse by the staff. I seen it! Know one would listen because we were delinquents. I got hit or punched by the staff but was never sexually assaulted by them.My roommate was sexually assaulted by the staff that I witnessed. I was a decent sized kid with martial arts training so I guess that might be why they didn’t try. Very unsafe place for a child at the time.
    I had two staff members the would get me cigarettes and marijuana with money I sneaked in during visitors in the cafeteria. I’ll never forget there names. One was an older guy staff nicknamed finny frock. He would only get me smokes. There was a crazy jamican guard named alkafeiz, (not sure if the spelling is correct on either). He would shoot up heroin during work and have us playing dodgeball in the cottage. He would say, I’m Mr Alkafiez, defender of the fuckin universe. He would bring me weed. On the other hand, if he caught you smoking anything and other kids seen it, he would have to play it off. He would give you the option of taking a write up and possibly get extra time, or take a blow to your chest with his fist.

    I’m glad I later went on and changed my life. They should be sued from some of us that has proof of being there. I still have my grade card from C.A. Wilson school.
    If you were there also, please contact me

    • Jack said,

      I was there in 83 & 84.
      I seen a lot of crazy stuff. I was on Auburn Cottage for 9 months. I was lucky to be in good with the staff who overseen the beatings.
      You just felt lucky to not be one of the victims.
      Mr Steward would get me up to play ping pong after everyone else fell back.

  7. Deborah Collins said,

    I know this may seem petty and I am a grown up now so it shouldn’t bother me, and it WAS done for a very good and noble reason. BUT….to some of us who were sent to SV for VERY minor infractions, more minor than ,say B&E, this seems a little unjust.

    • bryan stjohn said,

      I remember the Scioto Village Dances… we would come from Boys Village.. and they would let us have a dance every now and again with the girls…

      • Leonard James said,

        I was at Riverview , and I always liked the girls from Scioto Village. All the Institutions they sent me too, I must say Riverview was very secure.

    • ken mohler jr said,

      I remember the SV dances….I was awol at the tentative schedules…lol I was in florida after escapes hannging at the Tango Lounge.
      Send me your picture please. Ill send mine or you can view me at my youtube site….

  8. 296_653 said,

    Please contact me if you were ever part of the best us crew. Aka stutta man,grape age,gary breech was the welding class teacher. Glendale mr and drop that coarse on the east davis stabbed mrs smith through her mouth with a pencil because she wanted to see what was in his folder on our way to lineup for epiphanny chuch services. The juice.shall I say more.yes I will if you were there you already know the only thing you had to look forward for was the cupcake man god bless this soul . Him and his wife would play guitar and looking for ryan kinser.amire bland e dub kevin hawkins.ryan chapman dorm friends from darby when we were in intake.mike myers worked in the duty officers trailer you know the one you walked into the camp

  9. Russell said,

    I remember ceder and imperial too I was there.
    Russell Rose. I remember how it used to snow in the hallways and how cold it was myself. broke out dec 5 1985 just to get some heat lol at any rate the baddest thing at tico for me was the razor wire.

  10. james mark jones said,

    i was in tico in 82-83,alot went down there that no one knows about.i was in darby,then balson,then glendale cottages.

  11. david said,

    I was only on the intake dorm at tico as I was being transfer to chbs and was assaulted by staff in our room we were bunked I dropped my comb off the bunk bed I got down to pick it up staff called me to the door in the door there was a small door they could open to put food or what ever in to our room I was told to put my hands out the little door and I did I was 13 the door was closed shut as far as it could and kicked shut with the staffs feet on my arms it left bruises up both my arms from a small town and 13 just being there I was scared to death then to have staff abuse me dys 25 years ago impacted me as a person as a adult I have a great job great home four children but the scares from all the years in dys are here inside but never shown because we were made to put on a taught face on and live it everyday and still do to this day

  12. Mike said,

    I was at tico for a short time then they sent me to tcy then close tcy move us boys to scioto From 93 to 95 it all true sex rape abuse alcohol pot suicide it was a crazy fuck up places to live in i hated it all n hope some of the stuff burn in hell u sick fucks it u live in these places then the movie Sleepers should remind u of how fuck up it was to live there If u r reading this n never been to tico scioto buckeye Indian river tcy riverview and the others then watch the movie Sleepers that is how it was for most of us

  13. Kelly Cornelius said,

    I was in tico in the late 1970s . it was max security for 17 to 21 yr olds who were for the most part from southern Ohio.Cleveland guys were sent to another max place called Indian river . when one of use were uncontrollable we were told we would be shipped to the other institution where we were told it was much worst.the only real difference however was the color of our uniforms. The best way to place an over all picture of tico is to say it was like a military training camp .where as it was vilolent and a fist fight was common it wasn’t as bad as most would lead you to think.boxing and exercise were done every day except Sunday.we had TV pool table cigeratees books etc….. Somewhat unusual movies would be shown on Sunday in the chapel. Church people sometimes visited. Now and then . ruff place to spend time? Yes but not as bad as you have been told I’m sure.tico always told us that most of us would end up in adult prison so they were more concerned with teaching us how to make it there than to tryin rehabilitation us and yes I saw alot of the tico guys in Mansfield Lebanon ect….this is the truth about tico K.C.1977 1978 tico

  14. Jerry Fields said,

    Just found this website while looking for something on the Ohio Youth Commission. I was confined at JDC for 6 weeks on my way to “The Hill” BIS.
    I can remember attending one dance with females at that time. I will always remember the sadistic bastards that they called officers. They put serious
    beatings on young boys back then, but they had nothing on BIS. They almost made a criminal out of me. I stayed angry for 20 years because of that
    place. 1965-68

  15. Donald said,

    Does anyone know of any conflict between the Director of Clinical Services at TICO and the Youth Leaders? The one I’m thinking about was there from mid 70s to the mid 80s. I think his name was Tanenbaum. I heard there was also a lot of conflict between the Social Workers and the Youth Leaders.

  16. Dan said,

    I was at byc behind tico for a couple of years. I remember tico for for the guards they were bullshit. The guards were actually bigger crooks than the kids incarcerated. I was on group 56 and I recall not wanting to beat this kid down so the c.o. Put my cell on lock.down for two days. My cell was a corner, single unit and it had windows on two sides being a corner unit, and he had the windows cracked in the middle of winter and would toss water on the floor in my cell. Frigging punk. My stay was from 89 to 91 and recently I have looked up several people who were locked up with me and all of them.are either dead or on death row.

  17. HMH said,

    If you are interested, please share any stories you can about your experienced abuse while at TICO.

    • Jack Reynolds said,

      I personally didn’t have any problems there. But I did witness a staff member allow beatings to happen.
      These beating inflected by 5 to 8 other youth would always be to the body.
      The kid getting the assault was usually only guilty of some sort of minor rule violation.
      When I got out in April of 84 they wanted me to give a statement, but I wouldn’t.
      I have never been in anymore trouble.

  18. Adrianne Gant said,

    I worked at four different DYS facilities from 1979-2009 and thank God I did not see that type of abuse. I absolutely loved my teaching job for 31 years. The youth wanted to come back to our facility because we treated them with respect.

  19. Shaun Bocock 84 85 said,

    I will always remember my time spent at TICO.

  20. Shaun Bocock 84 85 said,

    I will always remember my time spent at TICO. I remember Mr. FinniFrock. He was one of the Good guys. On the other hand there were alot of Bad Counselers. Mr. Holder would give you a Snapps hamburger if you let him punch you in the chest for gods sake. And then there was his cronie i would call him now Mr. Bowser. The place tried to kill me several times. I was in Cedar and Darby cottages.

  21. Clyde said,

    I was in tico tcy and sv from 1990 to 1995 went from tico to tcy then they close tcy down and movie us to sv with the girls When did they shut down tico ??

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