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Author: Rita Miller

She’ll Add New OSR Dimension 

She’ll Add New OSR Dimension 

By: Ed Kenyon 

Proponents of prison reform and women’s liberation have scored a major victory Mrs. Linda Bolin being added to the “behind-the-walls staff” at the Ohio State Reformatory.  

Mrs. Bolin, 22, who resides near Mifflin, is the first woman to work directly with inmates in the depths of a male Ohio prison.  

Yesterday was Mrs. Bolin’s first day on the job at OSR, as a staff member of the psychological services department.  

There are other women employed at the Reformatory. Last year OSR hired a woman corrections officer. However, in her duties in the mail room and the visiting area, this officer has only limited contact with the inmates. Women college instructors have taught at OSR on a periodic basis. Several women are employed in clerical positions outside the walls.  

But, Mrs. Bolin is the first woman in this state’s history to daily work face-to-face with men who have been convicted of a variety of crimes against society. The pretty, petite young woman is faced with a number of challenges at the Reformatory. A major challenge, she feels is to do a job which has always been done by men.  

“I am a woman and I have to succeed for my sex,” Mrs. Bolin explained to The News Journal. “As a woman, I have some things to prove. Yes, I identify with women’s liberation.  

Among her responsibilities in the psychological services department. Mrs. Bolin will help prepare psychological evaluations of men going before the parole and administers psychological tests to men entering the institution. 

On the average, there are more than 1,600 men locked in the Reformatory. They don’t see women very often.   

“I am not afraid to be here.” Mrs. Bolin said without hesitation. “I have thought about what could happen. But I am not afraid.”  

“Look, you can’t go through life being scared of things. There are risks everywhere. People are dying every day on highways. People are getting shot in shopping centers.” 

Mrs. Bolin pointed out that being a woman in a male prison, she has to use common sense in certain matters. “I am not going to run around out here in mini-skirts.”  

Robert C. White, OSR superintendent, said the prison administration is taking no special precautions for Mrs. Bolin. She will go about her job as do other members of the psychological services staff.  

White said the hiring of Mrs. Bolin is in keeping with the new philosophy of Ohio penal officials to employe more women in male prisons and more men in the female institutions. This concept is being used to help make prisons a less foreign or unnatural place for the inmates.  

Mrs. Bolin’s husband, Dennis, was recently employed as a teacher at Fields High School in the Reformatory. White said the fact that they are married had nothing to do with Mr. and Mrs. Bolin being hired to their respective positions at OSR.  

A Cleveland native, Mrs. Bolin graduated last year from Bowling Green State University where she majored in psychology. Mr. and Mrs. Bolin moved to the Mansfield area from Colorado about two months ago.  

Mrs. Bolin intended to start her career as a social worker. During her junior year in college, she became interested in prison work while taking a course from a professor who worked in the Vermont prison system.  

“I heard there was a possibility of a woman being employed in the Reformatory. It was my understanding that the Reformatory was a progressive prison. I applied and got the job,” Mrs. Bolin said.  

Mrs. Bolin’s main concern at OSR is to be part of helping the inmates return to free society and lead a positive life.  

She is also at OSR to learn.  

“I have learned a lot from books. But I know there is much more to how people act than just pure theory.  

Mrs. Bolin feels that being a woman may, in some cases giver her an edge in her job.  

“Some men tend to take a softer attitude when dealing with a woman,” she explained.  

Her boss, White, agrees with this. He asserted, “I have seen many people relate to a woman where they wouldn’t a man.”  

However, Mrs. Bolin noted in her position at the Reformatory she is face by the same problem as the male staff members.  

“Remember, these inmates we work with are in this place against their will.” 




First Woman Officer at Mansfield


She Works Behind Prison Wall 

By: Charlotte Taylor  

MANSFIELD – The first woman officer in an all-male Ohio prison is a genteel, gray-haired mother of two teenaged sons, who walks on opposite sides of the street from ardent women’s liberationists.  

Mrs. Doris Balyeat has been one month on the job at Ohio State Reformatory, which houses some 2,300 prisoners. Her only worry was that male officers would resent her. It never materialized.  

A divorcee with a 14-year-old son at home, Mrs. Balyeat had been working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at the local post office with little hope of having her hours changed.  

“The money was good, but it was hard physical labor,” she said. “I had to leave my son alone at night. I didn’t worry when my other son was home, but he is in the service now.” 

Mrs. Balyeat applied for a clerical job at the Mansfield Institution, then turned down an offer because of the salary.  

“When I refused,” she said, “the personnel director said he had a surprise for me. He told me the wanted to try out a woman officer, and it sounded so challenging that I accepted immediately. They pay was better, and I knew I would be working days and could spend time with my son.” 

Training the Same 

Working in the mail room and visitor reception area, Mrs. Balyeat checks letters and packages coming into the institution. She also searches female visitors who have been known to smuggle in contraband items, either in packages or their purses.  

Before she was hired, there was no one to actually “shake down” female visitors who might be carrying something on their person.  

The female officer is not in the cell block areas with prisoners, but she required the same training as any other prison officer.  

“I learned to walk the wall,” she said, proudly “and even hit my target during target practice. . . I almost landed on the ground with the kick.” 

Mrs. Balyeat’s uniform is a cut-down Air Force officers jacket made in the prison tailor shop. “They had a little trouble with the skirt,” she laughed. “It’s a bit too full to wear with this type of jacket, so they are cutting it down.”  

The lone female officer has never been afraid. “One,” she says, “The security is good, and two, I’ve been around boys rather than girls all mt life and I feel more comfortable with them.” She projects a motherly image toward the inmates never referring to them as prisoners but always as “the boys.” She comes in daily contact with the honor prisoners who work in her office and finds them courteous and respectful.  

One kiddingly told her he was going to ask for a transfer to Marysville (a female institution) “since women’s lib has moved in here.”  

Doors Are Opened 

Mrs. Balyeat believes she has opened the door for other women to work in the male prisons, but “I don’t think you could call me a woman’s liberationist,” she said. “I do believe that if women are doing the same job as men, then very definitely they should be paid the same. 

“There are more and more women like myself, supporting families today,” she reasoned.  

But at the same time, “When I am driving down the road and have a flat tire and no one stops to help me, that’s when I think women’s lib has gone too far,” she quipped.  

The outspoken Mrs. Balyeat contends that at one time she was a shy, timid woman and credits her service in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II as giving her self-confidence and the ability to talk freely and openly.  

Bernard Barton, superintendent of the almost 100-year-old Reformatory, calls her the best public relations image the prison has.  

“You deal with a lot of women here coming to visit their husbands, their brothers, their sons or their boyfriends,” he said. “Mrs. Balyeat establishes a rapport with these women when they check in at the visitor’s center. It makes working with the families of these men much easier, if they get a good image of the institution.”  

‘We Are Helping’ 

While Mrs. Balyeat has been at the Reformatory only one month, she has definite ideas about how inmates should be helped: rehabilitation through training and education.  

“Most of these boys are here because they don’t have a trade and don’t have an education, so they get into trouble,” she said. “They can finish high school here and learn a trade, they have every chance to be helped so they will have an occupation to follow when they get out.”  

She paused for a moment, then added, “I like it here, and I feel we are helping these boys. And I like being able to be at home with my son.  

“I think he’s glad too, I had never thought he was afraid of staying alone at night. . . but when I got this job he told me, ‘I’m glad you are going to be at home when I’m sleeping.’ 

“That means a lot, you know.”  


March 2024 Restoration

March 2024 Restoration:  

The Bullpen 

When the Ohio State Reformatory opened its doors to the first 150 inmates in 1896, the area we know today as the bullpen was the original dining hall for the institution. The large gray wall on the south side of the bullpen is not original to the building. The dining hall at OSR consisted of 2 floors, instead of one.  

Very early on in the institution’s history, overcrowding became a major issue. In 1919, Warden Thomas Jenkins had a much larger dining hall built at the institution. The new dining hall had a capacity of 2,000 and was built entirely by inmates of the Reformatory. However, in 1938 changes were made yet again at the institution when Warden Arthur Glattke had another dining hall built near the west gate of OSR. This dining hall would remain until 1990, when the institution closed.  

After the Bullpen was abandoned as a dining hall, it became a central hub for guards at OSR. Guards at OSR were nicknamed “Bulls” and that’s how it got its name. The location of the Bullpen was seated perfectly between both the east and west cell blocks, solitary confinement, administration, and the yard. Before inmates could be sent out to yard, they were counted off, and given directions by a guard standing on a small stage in the center.  

In Hollywood, the bullpen was used in the Shawshank Redemption when all the new fish lined up on the famous yellow line as Warden Norton gave his famous “Put your trust in the Lord” speech. They also filmed Andy’s delousing scene, in the bullpen.  

Today, the bullpen is still a central hub, but for visitors deciding whether to visit the North Central Ohio Industrial Museum, Solitary Confinement, the West Cell Block, or escape Shawshank and visit the Museum Store or Scofield Cafe.  

When the Ohio State Reformatory closed in 1990, it would go on to sit officially abandoned for about 5 years. Time, weather, and no care over time can wreak havoc on a historic site and as time went on the large pieces of tile on the floor became warped and started coming loose.  

Today our restoration team has taken up many of the loose tiles and laid a new foundation for them. Once everything is properly set, the tiles will be placed back on the floor, with no more warping or fear of breaking.