Fourteen years since the seizure of L-Block
Interview with Siddique Abdullah Hasan
Published Mar 29, 2007 8:50 PM
Siddique Abdullah Hasan
Siddique Abdullah Hasan, known by the government as Carlos Sanders,
was an imam, or prayer leader, for the Sunni Muslims in the prison in
Lucasville, Ohio, in 1993. During the 11-day siege he was a spokesperson for
the Sunni Muslims, helping to negotiate with the prison administration a
peaceful end to the rebellion on April 21. Instead of accolades, the state
charged him with the killing of a guard, for which he received a capital
sentence, along with four other brave prisoners known as the Lucasville Five.
There are only a few levels of appeal left for Hasan at the federal level, but
a growing movement of supporters is seeking to overturn his conviction
Martha Grevatt, member of the Cleveland branch of Workers World Party and
the Cleveland Lucasville Five Defense Committee, sent Hasan interview
questions. The following are excerpts from the first portion of Hasan’s
responses. Two additional sections of the interview will follow in future WW
MG: What can you tell us about the history of the Southern
Ohio Correction Facility in Lucasville?
Hasan: In the years prior to and partially throughout my stay
at SOCF, it had a very violent history. Blacks were either murdered or
assaulted by both white staff and white prisoners. ... It was pretty much the
Emmett Till syndrome, which was routinely displayed in the Deep South. But when
the younger and more aggressive Black prisoners were sent to SOCF in the early
‘90s, these prisoners outright refused to accept the racism, bigotry and
assaults which had become the norm. The table and mindset had changed and
whites—both staff and prisoners—were now the victims of racial
hatred and violence. This probably explains why so many whites were assaulted
and murdered during the initial hours of the rebellion.
MG: How did the racial, ethnic and economic makeup of the town
contrast with that of the prison population?
Hasan: The Appalachian town was exclusively a working class
white community that had little or no experience in dealing with Blacks. The
prison population consisted of poor whites and inner city Blacks who were poor
as church mice. This makeup was a recipe for disaster.
MG: When it replaced the old Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus,
were prisoners subjected to a more repressive atmosphere from the beginning?
Did this get worse over time?
Hasan: According to the older convicts, prison conditions at
SOCF were very good initially; however, they became very repressive as years
passed. Most of this came about due to the ongoing violence in the
prison—violence that was usually instigated, along racial lines, by
MG: What was prison life like at the time of the rebellion?
What efforts had been made at negotiating a redress of grievances?
Hasan: Prison life and the atmosphere had become very tense
due to overly repressive conditions. Warden Arthur Tate Jr. aka “King
Arthur” was brought in to change the atmosphere, makeup and structure of
the prison, and he immediately did. He dissolved almost all the constructive
programs, and even stripped the college programs down to the bare bones; he
prevented a certain class of prisoners from being able to enroll in vocational
school; he instituted a policy which forced white supremacists and Black
revolutionaries to randomly cell together; moreover, he adopted all types of
repressive rules and regulations which were contrary to rehabilitation.
While this writer and other prisoners made attempts at addressing various
problems and concerns with the prison authorities, Warden Tate was not the type
of person who believed in negotiating in good faith. Instead, he adopted the
uncompromising policy that SOCF was his prison and it was going to be run his
way or no way. His hard-line policy is what actually triggered the prison
MG: How did the rebellion start and how did it spread? How
many inmates took part? How did it end?
Hasan: It can be summed up as starting over built-up rage and
repressive conditions, conditions that are diametrically opposed to
Anywhere from 18 to 24 prisoners partook in the initial rebellion, and it ended
when three prisoner negotiators (myself being one of them) met with attorney
Niki Z. Schwartz and negotiated a peaceful surrender.
There was never a plan to be a riot. Instead, there was an initial plan to be a
“peaceful protest” about the planned forceful taking of the Mantoux
Tuberculin Skin Test, which contains phenol, an alcoholic substance that is
unlawful for Muslims to have injected under their forearm. This test was being
made mandatory albeit other forms of testing were readily available and would
have reached the same medical conclusion.
Although I will concede that the planned inoculation was the last straw which
broke the camel’s back, there was a host of other
injustices—disciplinary proceedings and administrative control placements
that were unfair to prisoners; forced integrated celling with known racists;
inadequate medical care; only allowing one five-minute phone call per year to
speak to loved ones and friends; mailing and visiting policies that were unfair
to prisoners as well as their families and friends; commissary prices that were
always escalating, but prisoners’ payment for job assignments that has
remained immobile for decades; etc.—simultaneously happening within the
prison. Prisoners instantaneously seized the opportunity to make it a
MG: What do you think it accomplished? Did the prison
administration live up to its part of the settlement?
Hasan: The prison administration did not fully live up to
their part of the settlement and the rebellion did not accomplish everything it
desired; however, some demands and objectives were met and achieved.
While no amount of material achievements can match up to the punishment,
retaliation and sentences prisoners received, the most important thing it
accomplished was this: prisoners made it perfectly clear that they would not
adopt a happy-go-lucky posture of sitting idle and allowing the system to
continue to exploit them without stiff resistance. As one of our predecessors
said, “If a man doesn’t stand for something, he will fall for
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