W. Carlton Weddington: We Still Need Black History Month

The word History comes from the Greek word – historia, meaning knowledge acquired by investigation, it is the study of the human past; a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes.

Each February, we celebrate and take time out to acknowledge the contributions that individuals and organizations of the African Diaspora made not only to and within the United States of America but around the World. Black History Month is celebrated annually in the United States (US) and Canada in February and the United Kingdom in the month of October. Historian Carter G. Woodson founded “Negro History Week” in 1926, to honor two Americans who greatly influenced the lives and social condition of African-Americans: former President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist former slave Frederick Douglass. Woodson chose the second week of February because it marked their birthdays.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are more than 41 million black residents in the United States, including those of more than one race. They make up 13.5 percent of the U.S. population.

In 2009, the inauguration of Barack Obama, America’s first African-American President, lent Black History a special significance because President Obama took the Oath of Office on January 20, the day after Americans honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a Federal holiday and National day of service. In his inaugural address, Obama acknowledged the historical importance of a moment in which “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred Oath.”

Black History Month sparks an annual debate about the continued usefulness and fairness of a month dedicated to the history of one race. Critics have suggested that Black History is irrelevant because it has degenerated into a shallow ritual and serves to undermine that “Black History” is “American History”. Some believe Black History Month should focus on positive as well as negative aspects of the black experience. “Certainly, struggle has been an ongoing theme in our history from the very beginning. However, we were not slaves prior to being captured in Africa — and while slavery was part of our experience for 250 years, we have a hundred-and-some years in freedom that we also need to deal with.”

I would argue that the investigation and the study of our past is still relevant and required today. Since the miraculous and stunning election of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency of the United States, people have shown their true colors and miss-education about the many people, their ethnicity and culture that make up our great nation. Specifically we look at just 2 individuals Trump has selected to lead departments of the federal government with little to know understanding of the people whose lives will be affected by their decisions. Culture competency is of the utmost importance but is not evident in their first public statements regarding African-Americans. Just this past Black History month, Betsy DeVos showed her lack of competence and understanding by stating, “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.” Clearly the US Secretary of Education is “devoid” of understanding that blatant racism, Jim Crow in the South and segregation were the reasons Historically Black Colleges and Universities were founded to provide education to black and minority students otherwise barred. In his first official address to his Housing and Urban Development staff as Secretary, Ben Carson did the unconscionable. He said “…That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.” Seriously? This is unacceptable, Africans were ripped from their families and brought to this country in chains under the most deplorable of conditions. The idea that these men, woman and children came to the Americas upon their own freewill and accord as immigrants is dumbfounding. Both DeVos and Carson were absolutely wrong in their interpretation and understanding of African-American history and shines light on the continued need for education of culture and conversation about a group of people that have help make America great. “In Trump world, their reality never matches our truth and history is re-written to justify falsehoods and lies becoming nothing more than ‘his’ story.”

Some of the most powerful, culturally rich nations and people on this earth have one thing in common. They think of themselves and their cultures as being of the utmost importance. You will find this to be evident among Anglo-Americans, Hispanics, Chinese, Arabs, Japanese, Europeans, Jews, Nigerians, East Indians and many others. The desire to know one’s history and preserve one’s culture is strong among many nationalities and peoples. In fact, people around the world have gone to war in order to preserve their language, culture and identity. Knowing this fact, we must remind ourselves of the importance as Blacks in America to continue the cultural renaissance began in the sixties by returning to the good aspects of Black culture, learning the history of Black cultures and civilizations in the Americas, Africa and around the world and using the preservation and application of cultural assets as a way to instill pride and continuity into Black people and all Americans.

“According to African-American historian John Henrik Clarke, in order to control a people, you must first control what they think about themselves and how they regard their history and culture. And when they feel ashamed of their culture and their history, prison chains are not necessary. This statement is a true assessment of what is going on in the black community. Many generations of African-Americans have been poisoned with self-hatred as a result years of slave mentality programming. Some of us have forgotten about the blood, sweat, and tears of Africans who were brought to this country against their will and whose blood still runs deeply in our veins.” The most tragic consequence of this mentality is that many African-American children are growing up today complacently ignorant about their heritage, not caring about anything other than the latest pair of Air Jordan’s and the new hot rap single.”

That is why it is so important to know one’s heritage and for our leaders down to our children to have a reasonable understanding from whence they and we come.

W. Carlton Weddington: Comeback, Denied & Flopped

carlton weddingtonTo comeback to prison after serving 8, 10, 15, 20 or more hard gut wrenching years in general population’s gladiator school or if lucky the maggot pool of protective control were snitches breath freely, child molesters go unnoticed and man boy love is normal.

To be denied transitional control or a judicial release because one is not deemed worthy by the prosecution or even worse the court. You didn’t think when you committed that violent crime; it would bite you in the ass. Or maybe you thought your institutional record of dirty urines, fights, and numerous contraband tickets was a non-issue.

To be “flopped” , the term used by an inmate up for parole who is serving a 20, 25 year, or life bid, and given another two (2) or five (5) years to do before they are asked to return before the parole board that has become its own institution. The harsh reality is they are probably never going home anytime soon.

Why do ex-offenders return to prison? Do they not really want the second chance? Is the idea of being free too much to handle? Is life easier when they are given everything they need and told what to do? Are the vices and pressures too much to overcome that they fall back into the poor negative habits and destructive actions that got them caught up in the first place? Aside from not having a steady job that enables you to make a living, a place to rest your head and avoid the chaos of the everyday world, positive role models and loved ones to support your transition back into society. What brings you back to this hell hole? This is a warehouse of criminal misfits broken, battered, and scared. It appears prison has become the only family they have, the only place they can find love, friendship, have fun or feel a part of something.

The prison subculture is described by Britannica as – standing opposed to the official hierarchy of the prisons, which demands the loyalty of the prisoner and expects him to conform to series of informal rules, enforcing his compliance by violence and social pressures,

The 8th Amendment states that “…excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”

The 14th Amendment states that “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Yet still these are the issues inmates and ex-offenders subject themselves to when they are denied, flopped, or return to prison after having the opportunity to be free.

Poor institutional records are unfortunately keeping many men from seeing the other side of the barbed wire fencing. It is a discouraging spectacle for all other aspiring inmates and a dream dashing revelation for the inmate who had his hopes set on going home only to return before the committee in two (2) to five (5) years from now or receive no response at all. As if it could get no more tragic, there are some who received their “golden ticket” but less than a year later return on parole violation or catch another felony case.

This year, 2014 already in my W-2 unit of 94 inmates; two (2) have returned, four (4) have been flopped by the parole board, two (2) denied transitional control and one (1) denied judicial release, It’ s August, is anybody going home…? What will my own fate be?

Carlton Weddington: ODRC’s Escape Goat

carlton weddingtonOn September 12, 2014 the headline news in Ohio and trending nationally was that the Chardon High School shooter had escaped prison along with two other Ohio prison inmates. The best dissertation that most of the mainstream media in Ohio could come up with was that T.J. Lane struggled to adjust to prison after being convicted for killing three students and receiving three consecutive life sentences.

Depending on whom you ask, Lane’s short lived escape success was no big feat. Inmates will tell you that Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution is so laxed it is “sweet” here. This was in fact the second attempt from Ohio’s Protective Control Unit which houses Ohio’s notorious and high-profile inmates. An inmate from E-2 block made it over the first perimeter fence but got caught up on the second perimeter fence. This same inmate was put in segregation under investigation for being in possession of potential escape paraphernalia while in the W-2 block before being transferred across the hall to E-2.

Why weren’t more security measures implemented then? What if other inmates who were more mature, violent, willful, and wanton made the trek along with Lane and the others? A far greater shock and awe would have occurred. The bankrupt narratives that have followed this major story to date have yet to answer the question of how this happened and who is responsible for this breach of security.

The past two years, I have been incarcerated at AOCI in the Protective Control Unit both E-2 and W-2 Block currently, with a very unique perspective. I served on the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee as a former House member of the Ohio General Assembly from 2009 – 2012, inspecting and evaluating facilities statewide and addressing issues of personal safety, conditions of confinement, institutional programming and general problems and concerns. I feel like the “Undercover Boss” in unfortunate circumstances.

The issue of security management was noted and bought to the attention of AOCI and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections through a CIIC report conducted in April 2014, five months before the September 11, 2014 escape. The report also spoke to the safety concerns of the inmates in the P.C. unit, poor healthcare responsiveness, poor service and quality of food, less than adequate programming and lack of morale among correctional officers. The survey conducted among inmates also suggested minimal leadership and oversight by local and central office administration. Yet still six months later many of these issues have not been addressed.  Why?

The Administration and staff at AOCI had intel in advance about the September 11th escape plot that used thousands of dollars in law enforcement man power and resources, put Lima residents on alert, families of the victims into a frenzy and finally brings attention to the lack of leadership and management of Ohio’s PC unit and the re-tooling of Director Mohr’s three tier system. It hurts the head less to say that this was an isolated incident rather than admit that maybe a change is warranted of the institution’s leadership and ODRC’s policies.

The noble thing for the current AOCI administration and Unit Staff to do is resign amid the security gaffes that have occurred rather than to “lock the barn door after the horse has already run out.” How do inmates get locked on the recreation area, without present supervision to obtain a ladder, man-made or existing, to scale a single fence, and jump off a roof to freedom. A similar escape was made in a Mansfield, Ohio prison when an inmate got a hold of a maintenance ladder to scale the prison wall. Here at AOCI, the window dressing during the investigation and then returning back to business as usual should be unacceptable by both Director Gary Mohr and Governor Kasich. It is the culture of the current facility administration and some staff to conduct business in a lackadaisical manner.

Lazy analysis of this matter is a microcosm of the vicious idiocy that attempts to provide dog and pony shows for Columbus suits when they visit, rather than address the entrenched bureaucratic school of thought that I have found, has created better spin-masters than my former colleagues at the Statehouse. Let’s get real, down and dirty about what happened here in Lima: Somebody dropped the ball. Stop ducking the truth, using security and ongoing investigation claims as to why the public has not received answers to how, why, and who is responsible? After all, it is the taxpayers of Ohio who carry the burden. Few dare venture into these uncomfortable but necessary conversations, but I hope I’m wrong. Bad inmates are easier to blame than the real structural, economic, and political issues that still need attention. We need to get into a solutions-based discussion about the institutional ills afflicting ODRC and facilities like Allen-Oakwood. If not, we will see another escape, and maybe worse, a killing at AOCI. The writing is on the wall, but who will read it?

Carlton Weddington: The Caged Pol Sings, Part Three

“Ex-inmates life chances shrink because few institutions or programs are prepared to give them the tools and job training to get work and become productive citizens. Many become burdens to their families, and some end up homeless.  A good number of ex-inmates develop mental problems, which often go untreated.”

— Come on People, by Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint.

carlton weddingtonNationally, 1600 men and women are released from prison each day. Many will return to communities throughout the country with no more education, programming or sense of purpose than when they arrived to prison. The burden to help and service these individuals falls on the public. Locally, the state of Ohio boasts to be one of the nation’s largest prison systems and releases more than 28,000 ex-offenders each year. However, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) has failed Ohio and Ohioans with its lax and meager standards in operation and programming for re-entry.

Ex-offenders are at the highest risk of committing a new crime or violating probation or parole immediately (within the first three months) following release from incarceration. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that within the first six months of release, almost 30% were rearrested and the rate increases to 44% within the first year. If Ohio wants to be a leader among states, it must do a better job of taking care of a potential segment of its most valuable commodity – its human capital. The fragmentation of services, lack of coordination, and leadership must be addressed. A clear focus, not dispersing of energies is needed in order to solve this problem.

The support and help of the public and private interests should be sought for inmates who are in need and desire quality programming that will enable them to be successful upon release, because well equipped and determined ex-offenders are less likely to return to a life of crime and help build the economy. The creation of a successful re-entry program enhances public safety, reduces costs and improves lives. Families and advocacy groups need to be diligent in making the best use of the limited programming and resources the prisons offer, but ODRC needs to get its act together and start educating the individuals they house as if they mattered. The cumulative effects of poor prisons for communities in which these ex-inmates return to is one very good reason why recidivism perpetuates.

I refuse to believe that the practices of ODRC are the best Ohio can offer inmates and their families in 2014. I’m urging taxpayers, political leaders, inmates and their families alike to speak their minds about the affairs of rehabilitation and corrections in Ohio. Inmates who feel that society has no positive role for them are likely to conclude they have nothing to lose by abandoning the difficult path of study, self-discipline, and rehabilitation for the instant gratification of prison life that lead, to the continuation of the street life that brought them to prison.

Carlton Weddington: Living with a Serial Killer

carlton weddington

Our newest contributing RP, former Ohio State Representative Carlton Weddington, is currently serving a three-year sentence at the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio for charges of bribery, election falsification and filing a false financial disclosure statement.  

Read his full bio here.

Read part one of “The Caged Bird Sings

Here’s Part Two:

Columbus seems to be unfortunately well represented in protective custody (PC), but fortunately, very few people recognized or know who I am.

I am a little surprised that so many know very little about politics or government. Cleveland and Cincinnati also are represented, and the neighborhood, side of town, or project you came from will dictate what kind of reception you receive from others.

Association with a gang is prevalent as well: The Aryan Brotherhood (AB) dominates among white inmates and Heartless Felons among black inmates — Gangsters’ Disciples, Bloods, and Crips also are represented. Religious affiliation provides some with a sense of protection if they are Muslim. If merely housing men who have broken the law is all that is desired of Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC), they have met the standard. These men, if they get out, will return home with no more education, programming or sense of purpose than when they arrived, and those that remain within the system are destined for a life’s experience of mental, physical and social ills that ODRC is not equipped to handle.

Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting behinds bars in a state prison interacting with some of Ohio’s notorious high profile murders, rapists, pedophiles, drug dealers, robbers, drug addicts, gang members, and snitches; but in 2012, that became a reality. A who’s who of individuals that you heard about on the news, read about in the papers or that T.V shows did reports about; they all seemed to have ended up in A.O.C.I. in protective custody.

Almost two years later — these same men who if I were told I would have to be confined with for more than 2 minutes, let alone 2 years, I might have taken my own life in fear that whatever heinous act that got them here — I might meet the same fate, but now I have no fear of. In fact, mostly I feel sorry for them because my mental strength and education out-matches whatever means they used to victimize others on the outside.

Read former State Senator Jeff Smith’s powerful story of sex, lies and love behind bars.

Most inmates I encountered abandoned the difficult path of study, self discipline, and rehabilitation for the instant gratification of prison life that leads to the perpetuation of the street life that brought them here. In PC alone, my first year in East 2 Block (where they house us are called blocks), I lived among “The Angel of Death”, “The Handcuff Rapist”, The 1-75 Murderer”, Matt Hoffman who murdered a family and stuffed them in a tree, and since then in West 2, “The Highway Shooter” and T.J. Lane “The School Shooter”.

Weddington and Harvey

Weddington and Harvey

For 6-plus months I celled with one of America’s most notorious serial killers — although now in his early 60’s this soft spoken, openly gay and unassuming man was once know as the “Angel of Death”. Donald Harvey still scares many of PC’s other inmates even though he’s a stroke survivor, and he moves a little slower than usual. His resume proceeds him, even after serving 25 years of a life sentence for murders associated with his work as an employed medical assistant at the local VA and hospitals in Northern Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Carlton Weddington: Living with a Serial Killer

A Caged Pol Sings — Former State Rep. Carlton Weddington Reports from Behind Bars on Sex, Violence and Survival

carlton weddington


Our newest contributing RP, former Ohio State Representative Carlton Weddington, is currently serving a three-year sentence at the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio for charges of bribery, election falsification and filing a false financial disclosure statement.  

Read his full bio here.

Here’s his report from behind bars:


It is still early yet, but I feel like I can survive at least two years without any major problems or issues. Arguably my biggest challenge to date is that some of the inmates being held in Protective Control (PC) just don’t give a fuck.

This is business as usual for the career inmates, and they are the ones that make the time hard to do. We will see what happens.

The politics of PC is dramatic and intense — inmates continually jockeying for positions of power. Extortion, gambling, drinking, smoking and sexual favors are the strategic norms used without thought or question. On a daily basis, I witness the constant chatter and sidebar conversations that take place about the next play, hustle or shot to be taken. It is an ultra-surreal, action-packed story of mini-tragedies within themselves.

Guys are anxious to find compatible cellmates since they have begun to implement a more “strict” tier system. A few have already asked to cell with me without even asking me, but going directly to the case manager or unit manager. Luckily, both managers are sharing with me who is asking and showing me some respect because of my status and former position as a state legislator. The bold ones just ask me directly; some are cool, but that doesn’t mean I want to cell with them.

I remember one inmate saying: “Yo man, I put in a kite to cell witchu cause I know you ain’t gawn be no trouble.”

I was quick to say: “I don’t think I am going to have a cellmate, but thanks anyway.”

I am having a hard time grasping the fact that many of the inmates are living double lives on the low. Other inmates call them ‘homo thugs.”

I was shocked when I heard a gang member openly tell one of his horrifying tales:  “Yo, I fucked his boy, he ain’t shit! …” was all I can really remember, but that was all I needed to know. Not only was he a gang hit man, but he spoke of his assaults on another inmate as a badge of honor. Big, bad and ready to “fuck or fight”!

For whatever reason, this mentality is a prison norm, with many of these same men having girlfriends, wives, and children on the street. I’m lobbying hard to stay in a cell by myself until I can figure this shit out and get my bearings together.

Read former State Senator Jeff Smith’s powerful story of sex, lies and love behind bars.

Unfortunately, a majority of the inmates in this unit are serving long sentences, and quite a few have life — some have even returned for their 3rd, 4th and 5th times. The mentalities of these men are unbelievable and distorted; their reality is clouded from the lack of outside contact and communication. The world is constantly changing and evolving without them; these men who are stuck in a warped, retarding environment that threatens to further sicken their ill hearts and minds through violence and other vices. Even though I am considered a “short timer” with a foreseeable outdate — back to reality of the chaos of the outside world unscathed, jaded and abused — I still must walk a fine line.

Prison_bars_Wallpaper_4a34tAn inmate from my city calls me “lil Barack o’Drama.” He would say, “You ain’t no politician no more, you’s a criminal.”  It didn’t bother me as much as when another inmate said, “Nigga, you think you betta than us but you in here wit us now!”

It was true that I had a college degree, wrote legislation that impacted 11.9 million people in the State of Ohio, and traveled the world; but the perception that I thought I was better than them was hard for me to handle. I considered myself the staunch advocate for the underdog, less fortunate, and minorities, even amid the inmates being housed in the facility.

To keep safe of any ill feelings someone might have of me, I would tell inmates who asked what I did for a living: “I was a low level analyst.” It worked for awhile, until word got around that I was more than I claimed to be. My name appeared on the letterhead of a response letter from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee that several inmates had received — not to mention that it was stapled to the information boards in all the housing blocks. I immediately asked that it be removed and updated.

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A Caged Pol Sings — Former State Rep. Carlton Weddington Reports from Behind Bars on Sex, Violence and Survival