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An Ohio Guy Who Spent 55 Days in A Dry Cell in Jail Claims It Felt “Like a Dog Cage”!


In a recent and disturbing case from the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, James E. Harris, Jr., a 37-year-old inmate from Toledo, endured what many are calling a glaring example of systemic failings in prison management and inmate care.

Harris’s ordeal, which involved spending 55 days in a ‘dry cell’ – a containment area without basic amenities like a toilet or running water – has brought to light significant issues within the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Harris, who is serving a 25-year to life sentence for murder and robbery, was placed in this dry cell following a suicide attempt in which he claimed to have swallowed 50 batteries.

Medical scans later confirmed around two dozen batteries in his system. Initially kept under watch in the prison infirmary for 12 days, Harris was then moved to a dry cell for a further 43 days, a duration far exceeding the typical use of such cells for observing contraband passage, usually capped at seven days.

During this extended period, Harris reported severe mistreatment, including being subjected to derogatory names, denial of basic hygiene items, and the removal of his blanket, forcing him to sleep on the concrete floor. This harsh treatment, combined with the invasion of mice and bugs, likened his cell to a “dog cage” and left him with deep mental scars.

An Ohio Guy Who Spent 55 Days in A Dry Cell in Jail Claims It Felt "Like a Dog Cage"!

Harris described feeling depressed, suicidal, and distrustful, suffering from lasting physical pain and recurring nightmares. The gravity of this situation is underscored by the fact that Annette Chambers-Smith, the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, acknowledged the mistreatment and admitted the need for organizational improvements.

Despite these acknowledgments, Harris’s sister, Edwina Cotton, has voiced concerns about the lack of transparency and difficulty in obtaining information about her brother’s situation. Harris’s case is not just a reflection of his plight but a symbol of broader issues within the prison system.

It raises significant questions about the handling of mental health issues in prisons, the use and oversight of dry cells, and the quality of care and rehabilitation offered to inmates. With Harris now housed in a mental health unit and still struggling with the aftermath of his ordeal, the need for comprehensive reform and better mental health support in prisons is glaringly apparent.

An Ohio Guy Who Spent 55 Days in A Dry Cell in Jail Claims It Felt "Like a Dog Cage"!

Furthermore, Harris’s decision to seek legal action against the state for his mistreatment indicates a push toward accountability and policy change. His goals, including financial compensation, personnel accountability, and policy reform to prohibit the misuse of dry cells, highlight a broader call for justice and systemic improvement.

As this case unfolds, it serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges within the criminal justice system and the urgent need for reform. The story of James E. Harris, Jr. is not just about an individual’s struggle but a call to action for systemic change and the betterment of conditions for all those within the prison system.

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