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Central Ohio's Historic Prisons, Ohio (Images of America Series)

Central Ohio's Historic Prisons, Ohio (Images of America Series)

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by David Meyers

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With the opening of the Ohio State Reformatory in 1896, the state legislature had put in place "the most complete prison system, in theory, which exists in the United States." The reformatory joined the Ohio Penitentiary and the Boys Industrial School, also central-Ohio institutions, to form the first instance of "graded prisons; with the reform farm on one side


With the opening of the Ohio State Reformatory in 1896, the state legislature had put in place "the most complete prison system, in theory, which exists in the United States." The reformatory joined the Ohio Penitentiary and the Boys Industrial School, also central-Ohio institutions, to form the first instance of "graded prisons; with the reform farm on one side of the new prison, for juvenile offenders, and the penitentiary on the other, for all the more hardened and incorrigible class." However, even as the concept was being replicated throughout the country, the staffs of the institutions were faced with the day-to-day struggle of actually making the system work.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Title: Prisons book author knows the nitty-gritty

Author: Mike Harden

Publisher: Columbus Dispatch

Date: 11/4/09

David Meyers was never incarcerated, yet he still carries some of the baggage of prisoners who were paroled after long years behind bars.

"I still have dreams that take place in institutions," Meyers said Monday. "Even though I've been away from them for more than nine years, they have never really left me."

Meyers, who co-wrote the recently published Central Ohio's Historic Prisons with his daughter Elise, spent 30 years working in the adult and juvenile corrections facilities of Ohio.

The 128-page soft-cover book is more a pictorial history of central Ohio's adult and juvenile institutions than a tome on the history of corrections. That's because the Meyerses' publisher trades exclusively in histories defined more by their photographs than by narrative.

When the elder Meyers was a fresh graduate of Miami University in 1970, he was advised that he would have rough sledding finding a job with only a bachelor's degree in psychology. Yet, within a few years, he was functioning as a clinical psychologist with an inmate caseload of 300.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in the early 1970s, Meyers said he was chosen to interview the 65 condemned men on Death Row at the old Ohio Pen who had been freshly informed that their date to take the hot squat in "Old Sparky" had been canceled.

"When their sentences were commuted," Meyers said, "these guys, who had freely admitted their guilt up to that time, suddenly began revising their stories." His job was to determine where best the formerly condemned might fit back into the general prison population.

Although Historic Prisons is, by its nature, largely anecdotal, its twisted little vignettes present a wickedly delicious tray of canapes:

• The two-time Olympic gold medalist and Ohio State professor put to death for killing a lover half his age after an aphrodisiac-fueled affair.

• Thomas "Yonnie" Licavoli, the Toledo gangster who pulled 37 years at the Ohio Pen for murder and then opened a stamp-collecting shop after parole that -- many inmates contended -- was launched by his access to century-old stamps on letters in old prison files.

• Esther Foster, the first woman hanged in Ohio. She is said to have pledged her body to medical science after a doctor promised her he would supply her with all the candy she could eat up to the minute the noose ended her sweets binge.

During the writing, Elise Meyers was intrigued by the many times, historically, that Ohio was held up as an example to other states. "It was revolutionary to separate people by age and the seriousness of their crimes and to separate the women out."

However, notions about progressive rehabilitation have always been a little like notions about socialism -- they work fine in theory, but the people on the bottom of the pile don't live theoretically.

The reality of their lives, though, makes for fascinating reading.

For more information on the Meyerses' book, call 1-888-313-2665 or visit www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Title: Father-daughter team writes book on Ohio prisons

Author: Jami Kinton

Publisher: Mansfield News Journal

Date: 11/23/09

From his first day working in a prison until his last after 30 years, David Meyers said, he was fascinated by Ohio's system.

After collecting volumes of notes from the Ohio State Reformatory, the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus and the Boys' Industrial School in Lancaster, the Columbus man decided to write a book.

"Central Ohio's Historic Prisons," was recently released through Arcadia Publishing.

The venture was an opportunity to clear up misconceptions about the prison system. It also offered the chance to work on a project with his daughter, Elise.

"I got involved for a number of reasons, but primarily, I always found prisons interesting," said Elise Meyers, 26. "I never had a desire to work in them, but I mean, it was my dad's job. I went to take-your-daughter-to-work day and from just what I learned from my dad, I grew up knowing more about prisons than most people.

"I find the psychology of it to be very different. It's a completely different culture amongst the employees and inmates, and I don't think many people see that."

Elise took on the role of researcher.

Her father was even closer to the work.

"My first job out of college was working at OSR in 1970 and 1971, and then I came down to Columbus and worked in the juvenile correction prison until 1972 and then went to Ohio State Penitentiary," David said. "OSR was a fascinating place architecturally. All of our furniture was antique. I started collecting information about it as soon as I started working there, and I collected some at the others I worked at."

David said readers should find the book informative and enjoyable.

When they opened during the 19th century, all three prisons were regarded as the best the nation had to offer. By the time they closed, all had been condemned.

"We debunk a lot of myths," David said. "You can read it and be pretty confident that what I say is true -- but it's also pretty entertaining. You get a good feel for what life was like in them."

For Elise, clearing up misconceptions is important.

"I'll be at the movies where there's a prison featured and I'll say, 'That could never ever happen,' but most people will watch it and say, 'Oh that must be right,' " she said. "I think people should read this just to inform themselves and become more aware."

"Central Ohio's Historic Prisons" can be purchased on Amazon.com, arcadiapublishing.com and, soon, in local book stores.

"The experience was really fun," Elise said of co-authoring the book with her father. "We got along really well and are already talking about writing more books."

Product Details

Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date:
Images of America Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

For 30 years, David Meyers was employed in the adult and juvenile correctional systems of Ohio, including stints at the Ohio State Reformatory and Ohio Penitentiary. He was also closely involved with the Fairfield School for Boys. For this book, he was assisted by his daughter, Elise, a freelance writer and photographer who has grown up around correctional institutions. Many of the images in Central Ohio's Historic Prisons are from the Grandview Heights Public Library's Columbus Citizen/Citizen-Journal Collection. David is also the coauthor of Columbus: The Musical Crossroads.

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Central Ohio's Historic Prisons, Ohio (Images of America Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LadyDi65 More than 1 year ago
I received this book as a gift, and I really enjoyed it. It was very informative and interesting to read about the various prisons in Ohio. Being an employee of the Ohio Department of Corrections, it was neat to see how the prison system was during that time frame. The photos were excellent. The historical information was very interesting as well. I believe the authors did a good job in their descriptions and opinions of how the prison system was managed. I enjoyed the stories the author wrote of each of the prisons that were featured. This book will be a nice keepsake for me!