[Ppnews] Hunger strike of the Lucasville Uprising prisoners

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 31 10:43:36 EST 2010

2 articles follow
strike of the Lucasville Uprising prisoners – starting Monday, Jan. 3

Posted on December 25, 2010 by denverabc

Dear family members, friends and supporters of 
the Lucasville uprising prisoners,

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur (Keith 
LaMar), Jason Robb and Namir Mateen (James Were) 
will start a hunger strike on Monday Jan. 3 to 
protest their 23-hour a day lock down for nearly 
18 years. These four death-sentenced prisoners 
have been single-celled (in solitary) in 
conditions of confinement significantly more 
severe than the conditions experienced by the 
approximately 125 other death-sentenced prisoners 
at the supermax prison, Ohio State Penitentiary 
in Youngstown. They are completely isolated from 
any direct human contact, even during 
“recreation”. They are restricted from certain 
kinds of good ordering including gold weather 
items for the almost unbearably cold conditions 
in the cells. They are denied access to computer 
databases they need in order to prepare their 
appeals. It has been made clear to them that the 
outcome of their annual “security level reviews” 
is predetermined, as one reads, “
regardless of 
your behavior while confined at OSP.”
Prisoners whose death sentences were for heinous 
crimes are able to win privileges based on good 
behavior, but not the death-sentenced Lucasville uprising prisoners.

Meanwhile out in the world, the U.S. Supreme 
Court has granted additional due process rights 
to some of the Gauantanamo prisoners, some 
death-sentenced prisoners have been exonerated or 
had their sentences commuted, an evidentiary 
hearing was ordered for Troy Anthony Davis, and 
prisoners in Georgia are engaging in a 
non-violent strike for improvements in a wide 
range of conditions. So the four death-sentenced 
Lucasville uprising prisoners have decided that 
being punished by the worst conditions allowable 
under the law has gone far enough, especially 
since their convictions were based on perjured 
testimony. They are innocent! They were 
wrongfully convicted! They are political 
prisoners. This farce has gone on far too long 
and their executions loom in the not too distant 
future. These brave men are ready to take another 
stand. We ask that you get ready to support them.

The hunger strike will proceed in an organized 
manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur 
starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes 
official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore 
the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah 
Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days 
later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a 
great willingness to participate and plans to 
take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.

On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 
Saturday, Jan. 15, we will be holding a press 
conference about the hunger strike and other 
issues pertaining to Ohio State Penitentiary. 
Details of time and location are being worked 
out. There will very likely be a brief rally near 
the gates of OSP, as we have in previous years to 
honor Dr. King, to protest the death penalty and 
to protest the farce of the Lucasville uprising 
convictions. There will probably be one or more 
vans and/or a car caravan to OSP for the event. 
Stay tuned for more information.

Please forward this email to other people you 
think would be interested, here in Ohio, around 
the country and around the world.

the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network

Hunger Strike At Ohio State Penitentiary

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/staughtonlynd>Staughton Lynd

Source: OhioCURE
Friday, December 31, 2010

As this is written on Christmas Eve, a small 
group of death-sentenced prisoners at the Ohio 
State Penitentiary (OSP) have declared their 
intention to begin a "rolling hunger strike" on Monday, January 3.

Who are they? What are their objectives? What is this all about?

The four hunger strikers are Siddique Abdullah 
Hasan, formerly known as Carlos Sanders; Keith 
LaMar; Jason Robb; and Namir Abdul Mateen, also 
known as James Were. (A fifth member of the 
group, George Skatzes, was transferred out of OSP in 2000.)

All these men were sentenced to death in trials 
conducted in 1995-1996 for their alleged roles in 
the 11-day rebellion at the Southern Ohio 
Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio 
in April 1993. See my book Lucasville: The Untold 
Story of a Prison Uprising (Temple University 
Press: 2004), to be re-issued in 2011 by PM 
Press, Oakland, CA, with a Foreword by Mumia Abu Jamal.

Hasan and Robb were two of the three men who 
negotiated a peaceful surrender. Tragically there 
were ten deaths during the disturbance (nine 
prisoners and one hostage officer). But thanks to 
the way the "Lucasville riot" ended, there were 
far fewer fatalities than at Attica, New York in 
1971, where more than forty persons died.

At the request of Ohio authorities, Attorney Niki 
Schwartz of Cleveland helped to negotiate the 
surrender. During a forum on the Lucasville 
events held at Cleveland State University in 
November 2010, Attorney Schwartz asked, in 
effect: If we seek the death penalty against men 
who helped to bring a bloody riot to a peaceful 
end, what will happen the next time?

Persistent Discrimination Against Death-Sentenced Lucasville Defendants

Judge James Gwin of federal district court noted 
with amazement during the trial of the prisoners’ 
class action, Austin v. Wilkinson, that 
death-sentenced prisoners at the highest security 
level in the Ohio State Penitentiary wanted to be returned to Death Row!

The fundamental reason offered by the Lucasville 
defendants for a hunger strike is that throughout 
their more than seventeen years of solitary 
confinement, they have been subjected to harsher 
conditions of confinement than the more than 150 
other men sentenced to death in Ohio. The 
conditions under which the death-sentenced 
Lucasville prisoners are confined prevent them 
from ever being in the same space as another prisoner.

At the time of the 1993 uprising Ohio's Death 
Row, as well as its execution chamber, was 
located at Lucasville. In the mid-1990s, the 
execution chamber remained at SOCF but 
death-sentenced prisoners were transferred to the 
Mansfield Correctional Institution (ManCI) north 
of Columbus. One reason for the transfer, it 
seems, is that correctional officers at SOCF came 
to recognize death-sentenced prisoners as human 
beings and found it distressing to be part of execution teams.

The Lucasville capital defendants consider that 
from the beginning their conditions of 
confinement have been harsher than the 
circumstances of confinement for other 
death-sentenced prisoners. They have launched 
several previous hunger strikes. Skatzes wrote to 
the authorities about one such strike at ManCI: 
"All we want is . . . being placed on our proper 
'security' level." LaMar drafted the group's 
demands during another hunger strike. One of 
their group needed immediate medical attention, 
LaMar wrote, and: "Surely he is entitled to the 
same attention that is accorded to everyone else."

The frustration expressed in the Mansfield hunger 
strikes came to a climax on September 5, 1997. 
Prisoners in DR-4, the living area at ManCI in 
which the Five along with a much larger number of 
other death-sentenced prisoners were being held, 
occupied the "pod" for approximately six hours. 
The correctional officers on duty were 
overpowered and then released unharmed. There was 
some prisoner-on-prisoner violence against 
Wilford Berry, who had given up his appeals and 
volunteered for execution. When a SWAT team of 
officers assembled from all over Ohio stormed 
DR-4 late in the evening, the prisoners had 
returned to their cells. An investigating 
committee consisting wholly of prison 
administrators found that the SWAT team had used 
excessive violence. Jason Robb, apparently 
singled out because of his alleged role in the 
riot four years earlier, was beaten especially 
badly, had his skull fractured, and almost lost an eye.

Unequal treatment continued when the 
death-sentenced Lucasville defendants were 
transferred to OSP in Youngstown. Judge Gwin 
found that OSP was constructed "in reaction to 
the April 1993 riot at the Southern Ohio 
Correctional Facility at Lucasville." 
Consistently with this conclusion, the five 
alleged leaders of the 1993 occupation were 
transferred to OSP within two weeks of its 
opening in May 1998. At OSP they are housed, not 
in the less restrictive conditions experienced by 
other death-sentenced prisoners, but in the high 
maximum conditions specific to the highest level 
of security in Ohio, so-called Level 5.

Professor Denis O'Hearn, director of graduate 
studies in sociology at the State University of 
New York (Binghamton), regularly visits LaMar and 
Robb. As described by Professor O'Hearn:

   -- They are "in 23-hour lockup in a 
hermetically sealed environment where they have 
almost no contact with other living beings -- 
human, animal, or plant." When released from 
their cells for short periods of "recreation" 
they continue to be isolated from other prisoners.

During occasional visits, "a wall of bullet-proof 
glass separates the prisoner from the visitor. A 
few booths away, a condemned man from death row 
sits in a cubicle where a small hole is cut from 
the security glass between him and his visitors. 
He can hold his mother's hand. With a little 
effort, despite the shackles he must wear on a 
visit, he can kiss a niece or a grandchild. He 
does not have to shout to hold a conversation."

Hasan, LaMar, Robb, and Were experience "security 
reviews" annually but the outcome of these 
reviews is predetermined. The Lucasville 
defendants have been told by the authorities, in writing:

"You were admitted to OSP in May of 1998. We are 
of the opinion that your placement offense is so 
severe that you should remain at the OSP 
permanently or for many years regardless of your 
behavior while confined at the OSP" (emphasis added).

The emphasized words violate the explicit 
instruction of the Supreme Court of the United 
States. In its opinion specifically concerning 
conditions of confinement at OSP, the high court 
held that due process required that a prisoner 
might be placed at OSP only on the basis of "a 
short statement of reasons," and that in 
subsequent classification review that statement 
"serves as a guide for future behavior."

But Hasan, LaMar, Robb, and Were have been told 
that they will remain in the conditions of 
confinement decreed by State administrators 
regardless of their "future behavior," that is, their behavior while at OSP.

Other prisoners sentenced to death for alleged 
crimes comparable to those for which Hasan, 
LaMar, Robb, and Were were found guilty have been 
moved off Level 5: to Death Row at OSP, to Level 
4 at OSP, and out of OSP entirely to ManCI. One 
of the four Lucasville defendants asks, Must I 
have a mental breakdown in order to get off Level 5?

For Whom The Van Leaves

Another apparent reason that these men are 
desperately opting for the life-threatening 
practice of a hunger strike is the State of 
Ohio's present practice of seeking to execute one man every month.

The 17th century British poet John Donne 
commented on the practice of ringing church bells 
when a person died. No one should ask for whom 
the bell tolls, the poet observed, because "it tolls for thee."

In the Youngstown diocese, Catholic churches 
continue the practice of ringing their bells when 
an execution occurs. At OSP, prisoners know when 
the van is about to leave OSP to take a man to 
Lucasville to be killed. A person whom they have 
known as a friend, alive and well, is suddenly 
gone and dead. This works a psychological 
hardship on survivors. The remaining 
death-sentenced prisoners, some with a specific 
"date," know that sooner or later the van will come for themselves.

Incredibly, Ohio was the only one of the fifty 
states to execute more prisoners in 2010 than in 
2009. In 2010 Ohio executed more prisoners than 
any other state except Texas. Of the 46 
executions in the entire country, Texas executed 
seventeen and Ohio eight, or 17 percent of the 
total number of executions nationwide.

And Besides, We're Not Guilty

There is strong evidence that the Lucasville 
capital defendants have been singled out because 
of their supposed leadership roles in the 1993 
rebellion, not because they killed anyone.

Two prisoners very badly injured by other 
prisoners during the riot were visited in the 
SOCF infirmary by officers of the Ohio State 
Highway Patrol. Johnny Fryman had almost been 
killed by other prisoners at the beginning of the 
rebellion. He states under oath that in May 1993 
he was taken to the SOCF infirmary and 
interviewed by two members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol:

"They made it clear that they wanted the leaders. 
They wanted to prosecute Hasan, George Skatzes, 
Lavelle, Jason Robb, and another Muslim whose 
name I don't remember. They had not yet begun 
their investigation but they knew they wanted 
those leaders. I joked with them and said, 'You 
basically don't care what I say as long as it's 
against these guys.' They said, 'Yeah, that's it.'"

The State of Ohio still does not know who 
actually killed hostage officer Robert 
Vallandingham. In various court pleadings, the 
Special Prosecutor has offered different lists of 
the hands-on killers. None of the men sentenced 
to death appear on any of these lists.


Professor O'Hearn ends his comment by saying: "If 
deprivation of human contact is what led these 
men into lives where they committed horrific 
deeds, why do we punish them by continuing and 
even intensifying that deprivation? Why not give 
them the one thing that could have brought them 
from the brink in the first place: a little bit 
of loving, human contact? A clasp of a loving 
hand from time to time. The chance to show that 
they can be better men than they were. None of us 
can be hurt by this small mercy."

Staughton Lynd

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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