AP: “3 Ohio Prison Riot Convicts Plan Hunger Strike”

Greg Curry, a prisoner at Ohiop State Penitentiary, doing a life sentence on false and wrongful grounds following the Lucasville prison uprising in 1993, told Ohio Prison Watch in a letter received today that he would be part of this hunger strike too:  

This comes from ABC / AP:

By Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press, COLUMBUS, Ohio April 10, 2013

Three of five Ohio inmates sentenced to death for a historic prison riot plan a hunger strike starting on the uprising’s 20th anniversary Thursday to protest the state’s refusal to allow them sit-down media interviews on their cases.

The state has had two decades to tell its side of the story and the inmates known as the Lucasville Five should have their chance, Siddique Abdullah Hasan said in an exclusive telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“We have been suffering very torturous conditions for two decades,” said Hasan, formerly Carlos Sanders. “We have never been given the opportunity completely to speak about our cases, to speak to the media — because the media has an enormous amount of power. They can get our message out to the court of public opinion.”

Twelve staff members were taken hostage on April 11, 1993, Easter Sunday, when inmates overtook the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Hasan was convicted for helping plan the murder of Corrections Officer Robert Vallandingham, among 10 who died during the 11-day uprising, the longest deadly prison riot in U.S. history. Hasan denies he was involved in planning or carrying out the killing.

Hasan, Keith LaMar and Jason Robb, all sentenced to death after the uprising, will take their last meals Wednesday evening ahead of their protest at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Hasan said. Also participating will be Gregory Curry, a participant in the rebellion sentenced to life in prison.

James Were, another of the Lucasville Five, is diabetic and will not take part. The fifth man sentenced to death after the riot, George Skatzes, is at a different prison in Chillicothe.

Jason Robb allowed to question prosecutors on possible location of case files that defendents have never seen

Ohio prison riot killer can quiz prosecutors
Published 11:35 a.m., Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Houston Chronicle

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge is allowing an Ohio inmate sentenced to die for killings during the 1993 Lucasville prison riots to question prosecutors about the possible location of case files.

Jason Robb received the death penalty for killing a guard and a fellow prisoner during the riots that also killed eight other inmates.

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley ruled Monday that the 44-year-old Robb can ask two prosecutors from the case about any files they maintained, if they still exist and if so where they are.

The state had argued there was no reason for the questioning because Robb and his attorneys had received all documents related to his case.

Marbley ruled that Robb’s request was specific and limited enough to be reasonable.

Lucasville hunger strikers’ support rally outside Ohio State Penitentiary on MLK’s birthday Saturday, Jan. 15, 1 p.m.

January 14, 2011
Delegation to present Warden David Bobby’s representative with letter of support for the hunger strikers with hundreds of signatures

by Sharon Danann, Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network
in: SF Bay View

Three inmates on death row at Ohio State Penitentiary have been on hunger strike since Monday, Jan.3, to protest the conditions of their confinement. All three prisoners received death sentences following the rebellion in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, and have been held at the highest security level, Level 5, since they were transferred to OSP In 1998.

The hunger strikers, Keith LaMar, Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) and Jason Robb are simply asking that they be treated like other death row prisoners. A fourth prisoner, Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), may join the hunger strike as his health permits. Other prisoners at OSP may go on hunger strike on Jan. 15 to show their support for the hunger strike in progress.

Robb has pointed out that other prisoners from the Lucasville disturbance have been transferred out of OSP or have had their security levels reduced so that they are not suffering the extreme restrictions of Level 5. In the words of LaMar, also known by his chosen name, Bomani Hondo Shakur:

“We have undergone penalty on top of penalty, kept from fully participating in our appeals, from touching our friends and families, denied adequate medical treatment, and so many other things that are too numerous to name. In a word, we have been tortured. And, yes, I’m aware that the word ‘tortured’ is a strong word to use, but I know of no other word that more adequately describes what we have been through. We have been put through hell.”

An “Open Letter” has been circulating and has collected more than 1,200 signatures (see below). In the sampling of the first 100 names, it can be seen that the prisoners have support from Ohio, many other states and all across the globe, among them many prominent citizens. After the participants in the rally have had the opportunity to add their names to the list, a delegation of friends and family members of the hunger strikers will proceed to OSP to present the signed letter to Warden David Bobby’s designated representative. Youngstown attorney Staughton Lynd is available to answer questions about the “Open Letter” at (330) 652-9635.

Supporters are driving in from other states and from several Ohio cities to participate in the rally at the gates of OSP. Family members of the hunger strikers will be in attendance. Messages of solidarity will be read that are coming in from across the country and around the world. In particular, people in Ireland are remembering the tragic deaths of 10 prisoners who went on hunger strike thirty years ago and are sending words of understanding and support.

The location for Saturday’s event is 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd., Youngstown, Ohio. The rally and press conference is a joint effort of the Youngstown-based prisoner-advocacy organization, LOOP (Loved Ones Of Prisoners), the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network and the Cleveland chapter of the New Black Panther Party.

Contact Sharon Danann and the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network at (216) 571-2518 lucasvillefreedom@gmail.com.
Open letter to Ohio prison officials on behalf of the Lucasville prisoners on hunger strike

To: Warden David Bobby, Ohio State Penitentiary; Director Gary Mohr, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction; and Chief William A. Eleby, Bureau of Classification, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation

We the undersigned call for an end to isolated “supermax” imprisonment in Ohio State Penitentiary. We are especially concerned about the cases of Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar), Jason Robb and Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), who are on hunger strike in protest against their conditions of confinement. We understand that they have taken this course of action out of total frustration with their hopeless situation at OSP (Ohio State Penitentiary).

These men have been kept in isolation continuously since they were sentenced to death for their alleged roles in the 11-day rebellion at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio, in April 1993. Hasan and Robb were two of the three men who negotiated a peaceful surrender in that rebellion and their actions undoubtedly saved lives.

Throughout their more than 17 years of solitary confinement, these four men have been subjected to harsher conditions than the more than 150 other men sentenced to death in Ohio. The conditions under which they are confined prevent them from ever being in the same space as another prisoner. 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 four have suffered Level 5 top security isolation since OSP was opened in 1998. This essentially means that they live 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 others. During occasional visits, a wall of bullet-proof glass separates them from their visitors. They remain shackled, despite the fact that they could do no harm in these secure spaces. A few booths away, condemned men from death row sit in cubicles where a small hole is cut from the security glass between them and their visitors. They can hold their mother’s hand. With a little effort, they can kiss a niece or a grandchild. They do not have to shout to hold a conversation.

Hasan, LaMar, Robb and Were experience annual “security reviews,” but their outcome is predetermined. The prison authorities have told them, 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.”

The lack of a meaningful review violates the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Keeping men in supermax isolation for long periods clearly violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Moreover, the emphasized words above directly violate the explicit instruction of the Supreme Court of the United States in Wilkinson v. Austin.

These men are being held in solitary confinement permanently, until they are put to death by Ohio or their convictions reversed. This is not simply long-term solitary confinement, but in essence permanent solitary confinement.

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

We demand that the Ohio prison authorities remove these four men from Level 5 “supermax” security and that they end the cruel practice of long-term isolated confinement.

Signed by:

Jules Lobel, Vice President, Center for Constitutional Rights, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh

Christine Link, Executive Director, ACLU of Ohio

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David Goldberger, Professor Emeritus of Law, Ohio State University

Barbara Ehrenreich, author, academic, activist

Mike Ferner, National President, Veterans for Peace

Immanuel Wallerstein, academic and writer

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, University of Coimbra, Distinguished Legal Scholar, University of Wisconsin

Edward S. Herman, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Professor Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, Director, Dr. James Dale Ethics Center, Youngstown State University

Andrej Grubacic, author and lecturer at San Francisco Art Institute

Peter Linebaugh, historian, University of Toledo, Ohio

Michael Albert, founder, Znet

Professor Thomas Mathiesen, KROM, The Norwegian Association for Penal Reform, Oslo, Norway

Jana Schroeder, Former Director, American Friends Service Committee Ohio Criminal Justice Program

Jesse Lemisch, Professor of History Emeritus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Denis O’Hearn, Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY

Ellen Kitchens, CURE-Ohio, Inc.

Christian G. De Vito, Associazione Liberarsi, Italy

Lorry Swain, migrant rights activist, Ohio

Robert W. McChesney, Gutgsell Endowed Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign

Jason Jaffery, Development Director, ACLU of Ohio Foundation

Kathie Izor, Colorado CURE Board

Raj Patel, author and scholar

Katherine Soltis, Chair, Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Ioanna Drosou, Greek Initiative for Prisoners’ Rights

Immanuel Ness, CUNY, Editor, Working USA

Ron Keine, Assistant Director, Witness to Innocence

Carlos Ivan Ramos, Ph.D., Executive Director, Hispanic UMADAOP, Cleveland

Michael Parenti, author and scholar

Veronica Dahlberg, Board Member, ACLU Cleveland Chapter

Professor Phil Scraton, Law School, Queens University, Belfast

Sam Bahour, Management Consultant, West Bank, Palestine

Bob Fitrakis, Editor, Free Press, Columbus, Ohio

Faye Harrison, Southern Human Rights Organizers’ Network

Reverend Dorsey R. Stebbins, Cincinnati, Ohio

Herbert P. Bix, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, SUNY, Binghamton

John Polanski, ordained minister, Mineral Ridge, Ohio

Judith Stanger, retired teacher, Boardman, Ohio

James Gilligan, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Law, New York University

James E. Ray, ordained minister, Poland, Ohio

Marcus Rediker, Historian, University of Pittsburgh

John Stoffer, Elder of Presbyterian Church, Salem, Ohio

Kathleen McGarry, attorney, New Mexico

Mary Ann Meaker, Ohioans to Stop Executions

Paulette F Dauteuil, The Jericho Movement for PP’s/POW

Sarah L. Duncan, retired teacher, Vienna, Ohio

Fr. Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J., Nicaragua

Jim Jordan, assistant for autistic children, Vienna, Ohio

Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator, United National Antiwar Committee, UNAC

Andrew Lee Feight, Associate Professor of History, Shawnee State University

Jane Stoffer, retired drug counselor, Salem, Ohio

Margaret J Plews, Arizona Prison Watch

Peter Rachleff, Professor of History, Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Lynn Thompson Bryant, Presbyterian pastor, Akron, Ohio

And more than 1,100 others. (note: yes we too signed – OHPW)

Hunger 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 Staughton Lynd

Source: OhioCURE
Friday, December 31, 2010
http://www.zcommunications.org/hunger-strike-at-ohio-state-penitentiary-by-staughton-lynd
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. 
At OSP

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.

Conclusion

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