[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,
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
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."
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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