Oakwood prison in Lima houses notorious, difficult inmates

First Posted: 9/12/2014

LIMA — Oakwood, where three inmates escaped Thursday, is a unique prison that houses some of the state’s most notorious inmates.

Chardon High School killer Thomas M. “T.J.” Lane, who killed three students and injured three others, was transferred to Oakwood for his own safety.

The notoriety of his crimes coupled with threats against his life led state prison officials place Lane in protective custody at Oakwood, a primary location for protective custody units in the state, said JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the state prison system.

But not all inmates in protective custody are notorious for their crimes, Smith said.

Lane and the two other inmates, Lindsey Bruce, who raped and killed a 5-year-old girl, and Clifford Opperud, a home invader, were in the protective custody unit, where inmates are housed in single cells, she said.

The Interstate 75 shooter, Charles McCoy Jr., is housed at Oakwood in protective custody. He was responsible for 24 attacks along Interstate 270 near Columbus in 2003 that left one dead.

The three who escaped were transferred to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown on Friday, which has been dubbed the state’s “SuperMax” prison.

Oakwood was built in 1952 as the Ascherman Unit. It was originally a 225-bed facility for sex offenders. The Lima State Hospital — which later became Lima Correctional Institution, which closed a decade ago — housed the criminally insane or inmates with mental health problems.

In 1982, the department of corrections acquired the Ascherman Unit from the Ohio Department of Mental Health. At that time, the name changed to Oakwood Correctional Facility.

In March 2008, Oakwood and nearby Allen Correctional Institution were combined for administrative services. The prisons are separate from each other by a couple hundred yards, and each has its own perimeter fence.

The two prison buildings had an inmate count of 1,626 as of Thursday.

Oakwood also is home to the residential mental health unit in the state prison system, serving inmates with mental health issues, Smith said.

Smith did not have a separate inmate count for Oakwood but when it operated as its own prison it typically had around 120 inmates and a staff of 280, many of which were medical personnel.

Lima Correctional Institution is still standing but is vacant.

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