Press Release: Ohio State Penitentiary Hunger Strike Demands

March 132th, 2013

Contact: Ben Turk
Phone: 614-704-4699
Ohio State Penitentiary Hunger Strike Demands

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013, Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP)- Cornelius “Soja” Harris’ second hunger strike reaches 24 days. Less than a week after Soja suspended his 38 day hunger strike, he resumed refusing food. He is ready to come back off hunger strike if five simple demands are met.

He initially suspended the hunger strike he started on January 4th, with assurances from OSP Warden David Bobby that his missing property would be returned or replaced and that an institutional inspector to interview him. A few days later correctional officers at OSP interfered with a scheduled visit from Soja’s partner and threatened to destroy more of his property. On return from that visit, they refused to give Soja his morning meal. This harassment combined with the fact that Warden David Bobby had not taken action on his assurances prompted Soja to go back on hunger strike.

Soja states that he is willing to come off this hunger strike if five simple demands are met.

1. Return or reimburse for property guards destroyed during Soja’s first hunger strike.

2. Immediate transfer from segregation back to Sojas regular cell.
3. Lift restrictions from petty and fabricated conduct reports filed against Soja in retaliation for his hunger strike and the success at his trial.
4. End to harassment from Correctional Officers.
5. Opportunity to call outside supporters to make up for visits that guards cancelled or interfered with.
After missing 21 consecutive meals, the Warden authorized to send Soja to segregation. On his previous hunger strike, Soja was transferred to the infirmary. Officials claim that he was sent to segregation to monitor his food intake, but Soja believes this is actually punishment. Other prisoners in segregation are given 3 meals a day and could easily pass food to a hunger striker. Soja just endured a genuine 38 day hunger strike, with medical monitoring, so they should know he is not one to fake it. Segregation is punishment because it is loud all day and night from prisoners arguing, kicking doors and shouting at guards. Every other day someone floods their cell with toilet water, which runs under the door of other cells, so prisoners in segregation are constantly cleaning up toilet water, urine and excrement.
Death threats and harassment, including sexual harassment from guards is also common and ongoing. In a letter to supporters, Soja stated: “These cowards… want you crawling on your knees, weak and broken, they don’t want you standing strong, head up with no fear.” Soja has been refused access to the shower and his one hour of rec time out of his cell, without cause or explanation, on numerous occasions.

On March 3rd, Soja was put in a visiting booth with a broken lighting fixture and dirty glass, conditions which made it impossible for his visitor to see past the glare on bulletproof glass separating them. Another visit was denied altogether when Soja insisted that supervisors prevent the guards from again destroying his property while he was out of his cell. Soja has filed complaints for each of these incidents, with no remedy.

Since this harassment began the guards have also filed many petty conduct reports against Soja, resulting in increased regulations and limitations on his movement. Warden Bobby refuses to answer questions about Mr Harris’ situation. Central office also refuses to say anything about Soja’s case in particular other than to insist that the standard procedure for hunger striking prisoners is being followed. That procedure includes regular interviews and monitoring of the prisoner’s health.
According to Soja the bare minimum of that routine is being followed. Warden Bobby and Deputy Warden Remmich come through on their routine rounds, but they are casual and uninterested in his hunger strike. They don’t respond to complaints about harassment, and have threatened to send him out of state.
Soja also asked to “please give my thanks to all of those who supported me and my situation on the blogs and other communication lines.” He says he is “at the end of my patience… I don’t have too much left. Patience has it’s limits, take it too far and its cowardice.”

He has written an extensive statement, which he is hesitant to send out through the OSP mail room because guards may destroy it.

Supporters can call OSP Warden David Bobby at 330-743-0700 and demand that he meet with Mr Harris (institution #525-945) and discuss his reasonable demands. People can also call central office at 614-752-1159 and request that institutional inspectors review the Warden’s inability to control his correctional officers and compliance with procedures regarding hunger striking prisoners.

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