The following observations are taken from my forward to Christopher’s book “ Behind the Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal.” Scott Quimby
I’d like to offer a few comments about the way inmates with indeterminate sentences such as his are dealt with in terms of their release from prison. In the case of Ohio prisoners this decision is made by the Ohio parole board consisting of up to 12 members appointed by the Director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Factors that shall be Considered in a Release Hearing:
The inmate’s ability and readiness to assume obligations and undertake responsibilities, as well as the inmate’s own goals and needs; The inmate’s family status, including whether his relatives display an interest in him or whether he has other close and constructive association in the community; The type of residence, neighborhood, or community in which the inmate plans to live; The inmate’s employment history and his occupational skills; The inmate’s vocational, educational, and other training; The adequacy of the inmate’s plan or prospects on release; The availability of community resources to assist the inmate; The physical and mental health of the inmate as they reflect upon the inmate’s ability to perform his plan of release (ODRC website).
In essence, these criteria determine whether an inmate has been rehabilitated, and they are fully in keeping with the department’s mission which is
to reduce recidivism among those they touch. In partnership with communities, ODRC promotes citizen safety and victim reparation. The department seeks to instill in offenders a sense of responsibility and the capacity to become law abiding members of society through rehabilitative and restorative programming.
To determine the evidence as to whether and how well these criteria have been met for an inmate being considered for release should involve a careful review of information from a variety of sources. When I was first a psychologist at Madison Correctional Institution we were asked to interview inmates scheduled to go before the Board to evaluate such things as the nature of their offense, prior criminal history, and their behavior during incarceration including such things as mental health, adherence to prison rules, program participation, educational involvement, and other measures of rehabilitation. This information was then formally submitted to the Board. I do not know what weight our reports were given. After a couple of years the involvement of psychologists in this process was ended, and taken over by other correctional staff.
As outlined here, the process of determining whether or not an inmate should be released seems fair and as objective as possible. However, in fact this is not so straight forward. The input of those victimized by the offender’s criminal activity are invited to express their concerns to the Board, and these appear to carry considerable weight.
Christopher does not comment directly on his legal situation, accepts full responsibility for his crime, and has not written about his personal experience with the Board. The following is my assessment and not solicited by him.
He received a sentence of 15-50 years for the very serious offense of shooting a police officer. The officer was attempting arrest him for a simple misdemeanor warrant, a scuffle ensued, and Christopher grabbed his weapon and shot him four times. Fortunately, the officer was wearing a bullet proof vest and survived but still carries injuries from the shooting.
His wife and mother of his children, who were very young at the time, wrote the following to the Board in 2018:
“We need HELP!!! . . . If he were to be released, what will happen if he violates a condition of his parole and is faced with going back to jail for 20 years? What officer will have to face that encounter? How many children will that officer have?
HERE IS HOW YOU CAN HELP!! SHARE and SIMPLY REPLY: your thoughts if he should not be granted his request to be released into society under parole supervision. Make it short, or write a novel. Anything helps. We REALLY could use your HELP on this one. His prison term is set to expire in the year 2048 but he is going in front of a review board in February or 1st or 2nd. HELP US KEEP THIS MAN BEHIND BARS!!!! Hopefully, an overwhelming amount of comments will go a long way with the Board.”
She also started a petition calling for signatures in which she stated that
“You do not have to live in the state of Ohio to make your plea or sign the petition. In fact, I am asking all of you to please share this petition with your friends and family so we can get as many signatures and emails to the Parole Board before May. The petition received 750 signatures.”
Certainly, I understand this woman’s anger and anguish because of the shooting of her husband, and I respect her right to voice her concerns to the Board. However, apparently she knows nothing about Christopher’s activities and accomplishments during his many years of incarceration. What role her concerns and those of her supporters played in the Board’s decision is unknown, but obviously they did not release him in 2018.
I seriously question giving the victims of crime a say in whether or not they will be released. Some inmates given the same sentence for the same crime do not have victims coming forward to express concerns. Why should they be dealt with differently (and perhaps released sooner) than those who do? The decision as to release should be based solely on the criteria as outlined above. Otherwise, the importance of rehabilitation in the ODRC title is diminished.
Anyone is free to communicate to the Board when Christopher is again scheduled for a release hearing.
Ohio Parole Board, Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 770 West Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43222 or email DRC.Victim.Services@ODRC.state.oh.us Include his name and number on any correspondence (incarceration number A310612)
Scott Quimby, PhD.