Protesting inhumane treatment, death penalty in Ohio
Lucasville prison uprising leaders go on hunger strike
Published Jan 3, 2011 9:19 PM
Update: As of Jan. 4, Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Jason Robb
started their hunger strikes.
Four death-sentenced prisoners, wrongfully convicted of crimes following the
1993 prison rebellion in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville,
Ohio, started a “rolling” hunger strike Jan. 3. The strike is to
protest the highly restrictive solitary confinement where they have been placed
in the supermax Ohio State Penitentiary, located in Youngstown, since 1998.
These prisoners, the majority Black, are starting to run out of appeals. They
say they would rather die, if they must, on their own terms, rather than on a
gurney by lethal injection. They intend for the hunger strike to help strike a
blow against confinement conditions so inhumane that they amount to
Bomani Shakur (convicted as Keith LaMar) was the first to refuse food. He
writes in a public statement, “If we must die, we should be allowed to do
so with dignity, which is all we’re asking: the opportunity to pursue our
appeals unimpeded, to be able to touch our friends and family, and to no longer
be treated as playthings but as human beings who are facing the ultimate
penalty.” (Read his full statement on workers.org.)
The plan is that on Jan. 6, Iman Siddique Abdullah Hasan will join the hunger
strike. Imam Hasan, a leader of the Sunni Muslims during the 1993 rebellion,
was one of several negotiators for the prisoners. The resulting settlement
prevented a reoccurrence of the massacre that took place during the Attica,
N.Y., prison rebellion in 1971. Hasan’s “reward” was a death
Jason Robb is scheduled to start refusing meals on Jan. 9. Robb was also a negotiator during the 1993
uprising. Finally, Namir Abdul Mateen (aka James Were) will join the hunger
strike to the extent that his health permits.
As seen in the recent prisoner strike in Georgia, the once-hostile Ohio
prisoner groupings forged a powerful unity during the 1993 rebellion that has
stood the test of time.
The four prisoners went on another hunger strike together in 1996 with George
Skatzes, the fifth prisoner to receive the death penalty following the
uprising. This hunger strike achieved its aim: Skatzes was transferred out of
OSP for medical reasons.
The current hunger strike is up against a warden, David Bobby, who has publicly
made it known that he will not give any ground to the hunger strikers.
Ohio executions on the rise
The bigger picture is that Ohio is inaugurating a new governor, John Kasich,
who is an extreme right-winger. Ohio could set a new record for executions,
which is already second only to Texas. Ohio was the only state to perform more
executions in 2010 than in 2009.
The severe sensory deprivation that the four prisoners have suffered for so
long is vindictive punishment for the death of a guard in the 1993 uprising.
They have been deliberately kept at the most restrictive security level, Level
5, since they were brought to OSP, in spite of good behavior and cooperation
with prison programs. During one of the annual reviews, prison authorities
stated in writing, “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.” (http://tinyurl.com/3aywndt)
Supporters of the hunger strikers will gather at the gates of OSP on Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Jan. 15, for a rally and press conference.
There will be reports on the status of the hunger strikers, statements from the
prisoners and solidarity messages from across the country and around the
These prisoners’ convictions should be re-examined immediately given that
in recent years key witnesses have recanted damaging testimony against them.
These convictions need to be overturned and new trials granted. Attorney
Staughton Lynd has provided proof that these convictions relied almost
exclusively on witnesses who perjured themselves in exchange for reduced
sentences. (Capital University Law Review, Spring 2008, vol. 36, no. 3, p. 559,
“Napue Nightmares: Perjured Testimony in Trials Following the 1993
Lucasville, Ohio, Prison Uprising”)
An international movement to support these hunger strikers and to end all
inhumane treatment of prisoners is gathering momentum. Now is the time to get
on board. Sign the electronic petition in support of the Lucasville hunger
strikers at the International Action Center website, www.iacenter.org, to
demand that the Ohio prison authorities and elected officials allow these
heroic prisoners to have their security levels fairly evaluated and
reclassified so that at the very least they can have the same privileges as
other death row prisoners.
Daily updates will be posted on the Facebook site “In Solidarity with the
Lucasville Uprising Prisoners on Hunger Strike,” as well as on the IAC
Free all political prisoners, including the hunger strikers! Humane treatment
for all prisoners! Dismantle the profit-making prison-industrial complex!
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