LUCASVILLE — Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), told those in attendance at Wednesday’s 23rd Annual Memorial Ceremony — “The American Correctional Association called the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) the finest high-security prison in the United States of America.”
As the facility and the state paid honor to those five individuals who have given their lives in the line of duty, Mohr described the difference between all other facilities in the state and SOCF.
“You (staff) also are the repository for inmates who have assaulted staff all over this state,” Mohr said. “You’ve not only had to take those folks that have acted out in here, but you have been the safe haven for the rest of our facilities around Ohio, taking in those who have hurt others, who have disrupted seriously the security of others and you have not only had to manage those safely and securely here. You’ve had to do it in a way that gives us the best chance that when they do leave here, they’re not going to create more victims in our communities.”
An SOCF color guard stepped up, one member at a time and placed a rose on the monument in front of the facility. Former SOCF employee Jerry Tovine read each name slowly – Arthur Sprouse; Gary Underwood; Eric Bowling; Beverly Taylor; Robert “Bobby” Vallandingham.
Ronald Erdos said he achieved his highest honor when he was named warden of SOCF.
“Every morning when I arrive here I say a prayer,” Erdos said. “Many of those mornings standing right here in front of this monument, I say a prayer. I ask God to watch over the employees and I pray that on that day he not let there be another name be able to be placed on this monument.”
Among the former wardens in attendance were Arthur Tate, Donald Morgan and Edwin Voorhies.
Voorhies, managing director of operations with the ODRC, oversees all of the prison operations for the state of Ohio.
“It’s both very rewarding and very, very challenging,” Voorhies told The Daily Times. “We’re dealing with approaching our new all time record high in terms of our population and trying to do that in a way that keeps Ohio safe, and it’s just very challenging day to day.”
Voorhies said he looks forward to coming to Lucasville for the memorial ceremony every year.
“The entire agency has to remember and particularly here at SOCF, and being the former warden here, coming to this memorial refreshes everyone’s memory every year as to why we do all the things we do to try to keep this and all of our prisons in Ohio as safe as possible – first to protect the citizens of Ohio, to protect our staff and the inmates in our care,” Voorhies said.