Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction SRT
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) is the agency responsible for housing all adults convicted of felonies for which the statutory minimum is at least six months. To execute its mission the DRC currently maintains 33 institutions confining over 44,000 inmates. Many of these inmates are serving sentences for committing a number of violent crimes.
As part of its response to a number of violent incidents within its institutions, specifically the April 1993 riot at the Southern Ohio
Correctional Facility (SOCF), the ODRC has formed number of specialized tactical teams. According to material published by the DRC the SOCF disturbance Taught ODRC officials that the department had to standardize its equipment and training, and toughen standards for individual members to meet the challenges posed by prison disturbances.
These teams currently consist of the institutional Special Response Teams, which replaced the former prison disturbance control and tactical response teams, and Regional Special Tactics and Response (STAR) Teams. These elite teams are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to prison disturbances, and capable of arriving anywhere in the state within a few hours.
Each correctional institution currently maintains a Special Response Team or SRT. According to the ODRC, the SRT are ready to respond to prison disturbances and to address critical incidents or disasters through the use of specialized weapons and tactics. SRT personnel are trained to restrain and subdue disruptive inmates; conduct searches; provide special security teams; rescue hostages; provide assistance during training; and perform other security-oriented tasks. Teams are led by commanders with the rank of major and two lieutenants who serve as team leaders.
The department has also formed Regional Special Tactics and Response (STAR) Teams to provide a secondary response to critical incidents. Each STAR Teams is currently composed of 27 members, with one or two members being drawn from each institution within the state's four correctional regions. The STAR Teams missions include providing support for the SRT; serving as the tactical team for hostage rescue operations, providing sniper coverage and assault plans; staffing high-risk transports; assisting in institution shakedowns and security training.
While the state requires a minimum of at least eight hours of training a month, STAR team personnel train at least 16 hours. In addition they also conducted training with other agencies such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol SRT, Gahanna and Columbus Police Department SWAT teams, Sheriff's Departments and military tactical unit such as the US Navy SEALs. In addition to their regular training schedule, the teams also regularly compete in the annual Mock Prison Riot held in Moundsville, West Virginia. The Department also insures that it's Hostage Negotiators regularly train with both STAR and SRT. All STAR and SRT members are also required to meet rigid fitness requirements.
Since their inception, both the SRTs and STAR Teams have conducted several high-risk operations. One of the first full scale deployments of the STAR Teams occurred in May 1994. The STAR Team was mobilized and deployed to the Southeastern Correctional Institution (SCI), near Lancaster, following a series of inmate fights and intelligence surfaced indicating possible gang activity at the prison. The team conducted a complete shakedown of the institution, combing the prison for contraband and other security threats.
In 1997, a disturbance began in death row unit DR-4 at the Mansfield Correctional Institution (ManCI). At the time, thirty-seven inmates sentenced to execution were assigned to DR-4 and three corrections officers worked the unit. After one of the officers failed to secure an inmate prior to unlocking an outside recreation cage, the inmates overpowered the three officers and gained control of their keys. The inmates then took over the unit and allowed the three officers to leave.
The inmates barricaded the doors to DR-4 and painted the windows to obscure the view from the hallway. The rebellious inmates were in possession of all the security keys to the entire unit. The SRT received information that the inmates had weapons such as broom and mop handles. After action reports indicate that there was inmate-on-inmate violence as well as considerable property damage. Several of the region's SRT were summoned to assist in quelling the disturbance and regaining control of DR-4. Lieutenant Thomas Moroney, Commander of the ODRC's Northeast STAR Team, was called in to oversee the operation.
Lieutenant Moroney developed the tactical plan to regain control of DR-4, which was reviewed and approved by the incident commander, Warden Ralph Coyle. Moroney decided to use chemical agents prior to the SRT's entry to quell the disturbance and to ensure the safety and security of the staff and inmates as the inmates were escorted out of the unit. He assigned two teams to break windows and deploy chemical agents. One person on each team used a sledgehammer to break the cell windows around the unit's perimeter, while the other person on the team dispersed the chemical agents.
Once the chemical agents had been deployed, about five hours after the disturbance began, the SRT entered DR-4 through the front door. The inmates had chained the door and barricaded the entrance. After the SRT members breached the entry, they moved to the housing area, where they found the inmates in their cells. The inmates were not in their assigned cells, and at least one cell contained three inmates. Once all cell doors and food slots were secured, SRT members went to each cell and handcuffed the inmates. The SRT members escorted inmates from their cells out of DR-4 and into the Ohio Penal Industries ("OPI") warehouse area, where the inmates received medical treatment.
Another operation which involved both the SRT and STAR Teams took place on Wednesday, July 9th , 1997 when inmates at the Orient Correctional Institution set a series of fires throughout the institution as a response to plan to open a new restricted housing unit. The both SRT and STAR Team personnel responded, and by late afternoon 150 SRT and STAR personnel, dressed in full riot gear, had arrived on the scene. The teams quickly organized, and within hours they had regained control of the compound.