KYLE HAMLIN, Admr., etc. Plaintiff
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION Defendant
to S.C. Reporter 12/12/17
Christopher L. Bagi Eric A. Walker Peter E. DeMarco Assistant
PATRICK M. MCGRATH JUDGE.
This cause came to be heard on a complaint brought by
plaintiff as administrator of the estate of Brad Lee Hamlin
(Hamlin). Plaintiff brings claims for negligent hiring,
retention, and supervision, negligence, and wrongful death.
Plaintiff alleges that defendant failed to protect Hamlin
from harm while he was incarcerated at the Toledo
Correctional Institution (TCI). On June 3, 2016, the court
granted defendant's motion for summary judgment with
respect to plaintiffs negligent hiring, retention, and
supervision claim, as well as finding that to the extent
defendant was negligent with respect to the decision to lower
inmate assailant Lawrence Hensley's security
classification, defendant is entitled to discretionary
immunity and summary judgment on that issue. The issues of
liability and damages were not bifurcated, and the case
proceeded to trial on plaintiffs remaining claims on February
At all relevant times, Hamlin was an inmate in the custody
and control of defendant, the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), at TCI, housed in the
A3/4 East block. Hamlin was admitted to prison in July 2010
for burglary, and was serving a five-year sentence. Lawrence
Hensley (Hensley) was incarcerated in 2000 at the Southern
Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, Ohio (SOCF) for the
1999 kidnapping and murder of three Bible study students and
their teacher. He was sentenced to life in prison for his
crimes. Ultimately, Hensley and Hamlin were assigned a Level
3 security classification, and were housed in the same cell
block at TCI. There, on September 20, 2012, Hensley murdered
Plaintiff claims that ODRC was negligent in failing to follow
its security and privilege level review policies. Although
ODRC enjoys immunity for discretionary decisions related to
inmate classification, plaintiff argues that ODRC can be
liable for negligently failing to apply or follow its own
developed guidelines and requirements. See Hughes v. Ohio
Dept. of Rehab. & Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin No.
09AP-1052, 2010-Ohio-4736, ¶ 16; Frash v. Ohio Dept.
of Rehab. & Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin No. 14AP-932,
2016-Ohio-360, ¶ 23. Here, plaintiff alleges ODRC
ignored and/or deviated from its own guidelines resulting in
a misclassification of Hensley, placing a dangerous inmate
into a lower security classification and general population
in a medium security prison to the risk of plaintiffs
The issues raised in this case required evidence and
testimony about ODRC's security and privilege level
classification policies, and the court discusses these
ODRC's Inmate Classification Policies
ODRC separates inmates according to several risk factors and
uses security and privilege classification to determine the
appropriate security level for each inmate.
"Appropriately classifying inmates is a means of
protecting the public, ensuring staff safety, and achieving
the Department's rehabilitative goals."
(Plaintiff's Exhibit 4).
The court qualified Eugene Miller (Miller), a corrections
professional, as plaintiff's expert witness. Miller
testified to his experience working in law enforcement and
corrections. (Plaintiff's Exhibit 44). Miller held a
variety of roles within the corrections industry, including
prison administrator and superintendent, professor of various
corrections and public safety courses, and director of
private companies supplying prison design and equipment. He
testified that he has been a criminal justice consultant
since 1973, and he has testified on behalf of both plaintiffs
and defendants in trials. Miller explained that security
classification is important because it allows prison
officials to try to predict future behavior, allocate
resources within the corrections system, and provide
appropriate supervision for inmates. Miller explained that in
corrections, as a general rule, if an action is not
documented then it did not happen.
Security Classification Policy
ODRC policy 53-CLS-01 governs the security review process,
and its purpose is to "establish guidelines for the
fair, uniform, and objective security classification of
inmates of the [ODRC]." The security level
classification ranges from Level 1 to Level 5. Each security
level classification is detailed in ODRC policy 53-CLS-01,
and are described below.
The lowest security level in the classification
have the most privileges allowed.
The second lowest level in the classification system.
A security level for inmates who are deemed in need
supervision than level 1, but less than Level 3.
The security level that is the next degree higher
than Level 2,
and requires more security/supervision than Level 2,
than Level 4.
Level 4 is the security level for inmates whose
classification score, at the time of placement,
indicates a need
for very high security. It is also a classification
for those who are
involved in, but not leading others, to commit
predatory, or riotous actions, and/or a threat to the
the institution as set forth in the Level 4 criteria.
A security level for inmates who commit or lead
others to commit
violent, disruptive, predatory, or riotous actions,
and/or a threat
to the security of the institution as set forth in
the Level 5 criteria.
(Plaintiffs Exhibit 4).
Based on ODRC policy, the factors to consider for security
level reviews include, but are not limited to, history of
assaultive behavior, age, escape history, enemies of record,
gender, medical status, and mental and emotional stability.
"The process shall consider behavior and such other
objective factors as are available and relevant when
assessing an inmate's institutional security needs."
(Plaintiffs Exhibit 4). Each inmate is assigned an initial
security classification upon entering ODRC's custody, and
then receives an annual security review. The written security
classification review process is carried out on, and
supplemented by, review forms, and these policies and forms
create the rules that ODRC employees are required to observe
in carrying out security reviews.
When completing an annual security classification review, the
reviewing committee begins by answering several questions on
the first page of the form regarding the inmate's history
and recent conduct. Each answer corresponds to a numerical
score on the form, and the total score provides a suggested
disposition for the inmate - either to increase, maintain, or
decrease the inmate's security level. The human element
of the inmate should be considered in an inmate's
security review, and this is reflected in ODRC employees'
ability to override the security classification form score
based on knowledge of the individual inmate. If an override
occurs, the "justification/basis for any override shall
be documented on the [form]." (Plaintiffs Exhibit 4, p.
6). An override can occur if the inmate caused or attempted
to cause serious physical harm to another.
Cynthia Davis, Unit Chief at SOCF, testified that she acted
as the Warden's Designee for security and privilege
reviews for many years, and that she is required to follow
the applicable ODRC policies. She explained that security
level reviews typically provide a twelve-month snapshot of an
inmate's behavior. She stated, consistent with ODRC
policy, that for a security level review, a committee makes a
security level recommendation to her, and she approves or
denies the recommendation. If she recommends a change to an
inmate's security level, the decision gets referred to
the Bureau of Classification for a final decision.
Related specifically to the security review process, Davis
testified that the review centers on behavior over the last
year, stability factors such as age, education, and job
performance, and acts of violence or misconduct in the past
five years. With respect to this five-year look back, she
testified that reviewers do not always look back through the
entire five-year period because if there is a violent act in
the last twenty-four months, the inmate receives the maximum
amount of points for this category. According to Davis, other
violent acts that occurred outside this twenty-four-month
period would not increase an inmate's score. She said
that sometimes a case manager will note older violent acts,
and the reviewers should look at more than just the
inmate's score. While she usually agrees with the
committee's score, she can exercise a discretionary
Privilege Level Review Policy
Privilege level reviews are governed by 53-CLS-02 and these
reviews operate similarly to security level reviews.
(Plaintiff's Exhibit 2). However, privilege level reviews
generally occur every six months. The privilege level policy
in place from April 13, 2008 to October 18, 2012, did not
provide for any special privilege level reviews. Id.
However, the privilege level policy effective October 19,
2012, permitted special privilege level reviews on dates
other than the scheduled six-month intervals. (Plaintiffs
Exhibit 3, p. 3).
The purpose of privilege levels is to establish an incentive
program based on an increased level of privileges for
demonstrated appropriate inmate behavior and program
compliance. Inmates can be assigned one of four privilege
levels - 4A, 4B, 5A, or 5B. Privilege level 4A is the level
with the most privileges, and 5B is the level with the least.
An inmate classified as 4A is eligible, at the next security
review, to be moved to a Level 3 inmate. The applicable
prison warden/designee makes the final decision with respect
to an inmate's privilege level.
Davis also has a role in privilege level reviews at SOCF. She
testified that inmates are reviewed every six months, unless
a special review is conducted. She makes the final privilege
level decision, however the review process begins with the
case manager. Davis testified that the case manager looks at
the past six months of behavior and/or rules issues and why
the inmate ended up at the current privilege level. However,
she also testified that the form for privilege level reviews
instructs the person filling out the form to consider the
last five years of the inmate's conduct.
Dawn Frederick, ODRC employee and case manager for Hensley,
testified that from 2007-2012 she saw Hensley almost daily.
She handled security reviews, visitation, and served as a
liaison between inmates and security. She explained that
privilege level reviews allow the case manager to establish
incentives based on an increased level of privilege. She
testified that any staff member can request a special
privilege level review for an inmate, and special privilege
level reviews are more common for inmates with mental health
issues because those inmates may do better in the prison
setting with more freedom. She explained that this
specifically applies in the Level 4A/4B setting because Level
4A inmates have less lock down time than Level 4B inmates.
Ed Sheldon was the Warden at TCI from 2011-2015, and has 28
years of experience in the Ohio corrections system. He
testified that Level 4 inmates are housed by themselves for
the safety of the inmates and staff. Further, Level 4B
inmates' movement is restricted and they spend
approximately 22 hours per day in their cells. Level 4A
inmates have more time out of their cells, and they live in a
structured environment with the ability to go to the dining
room to eat, access the library, and participate in
programming activities. While Level 4 inmates are restricted,
Sheldon testified that Level 3 inmates have more freedom of
movement and the ability to congregate.
Davis testified that Hensley was a violent inmate in prison,
and he entered the prison system at Level 4A because of his
initial screening and the violent nature of his offenses. He
was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of three Bible
study students and their teacher. Hensley had a long and
violent history while in the custody and control of ODRC. In
April 2000, approximately six weeks after entry into the
prison system, he was found guilty by the Rules Infraction
Board (RIB) of assault with the intent to kill another inmate
by beating the inmate with a can of chili stuffed into a
sock. (Plaintiffs Exhibit 16). Six years later, in September
2006, he attempted to murder another inmate, repeatedly
stabbing the inmate with a shank and stomping on his head and
neck. (Plaintiffs Exhibit 18). Three years after that, in
January 2009, Hensley poisoned two inmates and strangled one
with a laundry bag cord resulting in two more guilty findings
for attempted murder. (Plaintiffs Exhibit 21). Warden Sheldon
testified on cross-examination that Hensley had a violent
history and four attempts to murder inmates is consistent
with a high security inmate.
Plaintiffs expert, Miller, characterized Hensley as a
violent, maximum security inmate and Hensley should have
exhibited at least five years of incident-free behavior
before becoming eligible to become a Level 3 inmate. Further,
he testified that the best predictor of future prison
behavior is past prison behavior. In Hensley's case,
Miller stated that the cumulative behavior and violent acts
of Hensley show that he was not qualified to be a Level 3
Hensley's November 1, 2006 Special Security
Classification Review (Plaintiffs Exhibit 19)
At the time of this security level review, Hensley was
incarcerated at SOCF; a prison that housed Level 4A and 4B
inmates. On September 15, 2006, Hensley was found guilty by
SOCFs RIB of attempting to cause the death of another person
and he received an override to Level 5. However, on October
27, 2006, at a special security level review, his security
level was reduced from Level 5B to Level 4B per a mental
health evaluation. Mental health staff believed that Hensley
could be better managed and treated as a Level 4B at SOCF.
A review of Plaintiffs Exhibit 19 shows that Hensley's
current conduct behavior was marked as poor, the lowest on
the scale, meaning that he "continues to receive
guilting findings by Rules Infraction Board on a periodic
basis." Further, the "Reasons for the
Warden/Designee's Recommendation" stated that
Hensley "presents a serious threat to the safety and
security of the institution."
Davis testified that the September 2006 attempted murder
guilty finding resulted in Level 5 placement for Hensley,
however his mental health status was listed at level C1,
which corresponds with seriously mentally ill. Further, she
stated that the security level override to Level 4B was
appropriate due to Hensley's mental health.
Hensley's February 18, 2009 Annual Security
Classification Review (Plaintiff's Exhibit 23)
Prior to this review, in January 2009, the RIB found Hensley
guilty of poisoning two inmates and attempting to strangle
one inmate to death. He also possessed a shank in his cell
and said he intended to kill other inmates with the shank.
These findings are listed on the first page of the security
review form in the "Notes" section. Further, under
"Level 1A Non-Discretionary Overrides, " the box
next to "High notoriety case inmate" was checked.
Based on this review, Hensley met the standard to be a Level
5 inmate, however an override of the score was recommended,
and the form notes that Hensley "[d]oes not meet
criteria for Level 5, " and he was assigned to Level 4B.
With respect to this security review, Davis testified that
Hensley's attempted murder violation met the criteria for
Level 5 placement, however Hensley was still categorized as
seriously mentally ill, and thus was not eligible for Level 5
placement. Davis admitted that she did not write this
information on the review form, but applied this information
to place Hensley at Level 4B.
Hensley's February 1, 2011 Privilege Level Review
(Plaintiffs Exhibit 29)
On February 1, 2011, a three-person privilege review
committee met to conduct Hensley's regular six-month
privilege level review. The committee noted that in February
2009, Hensley gave inmates a mixture of cool-aid,
prescription medication, and water, and checked the box that
stated he has poor behavior, the lowest level available. The
committee also checked boxes detailing that Hensley had
enrolled, but not completed programs, but participated and
completed one program in August 2005. The committee
recommended that Hensley be retained at Level 4B because he
needed more adjustment due to poor behavior.
Davis testified that Hensley's conduct remained poor due
to guilty RIB findings. In October 2010, Hamlin threw feces
at four inmates and was guilty of a Rule 6 violation, which
is an assault. With respect to the program information listed
on this privilege review form, Davis testified that the
program Hensley completed concluded six years before this
review, and it was not necessarily appropriate to include
this program on this privilege review.
Hensley's February 24, 2011 Special Privilege Level
Review (Plaintiffs Exhibit 30)
On February 24, 2011, 23 days after his regular six-month
privilege review, defendant conducted another privilege level
review for Hensley. However, Frederick admitted that the
regular privilege review was finalized on February 10, 2011,
so there were only 14 days between the regular privilege
review and the special privilege review. There is no
explanation on the form of why this review was conducted
shortly after Hensley's six-month privilege review.
During this review, the committee noted Hensley's
February 2009 attempted murder of two other inmates, but
determined that his behavior was average because he had no
aggressive/assaultive behavior in the last six months. The
box was checked indicating that Hensley completed an August
2005 program, but there was no check mark indicating that
Hensley enrolled, but did not complete programs. The
committee determined that as of February 24, 2011, Hensley
served sufficient time at Level 4B, and recommended release
to Level 4A.
Frederick testified that she completed this special privilege
review form, and it was at the discretion of the institution
to do a special privilege review. However, she testified that
she did not know who requested this specific special
privilege review. On cross-examination, she stated that
prison staff has to have some objective factor in the record
to conduct a special privilege review. Some factors include
good behavior and the mental health program available at
Level 4A, and these factors have to form the basis for the
decision to conduct a special privilege review. She explained
that page three of the form is where the objective reason
should be listed, but with respect to this special privilege
review she does not know who asked for the review or ...