Just got word that Soja has ended his hunger strike

From: Redbird Prison Abolition:
Nov. 4th 2013

UPDATE: Just got word that Soja has ended his hunger strike.

“I ended my hunger strike Nov 1, 2013, after a long discussion about my property and the harassment, I agreed to come off strike if my property was brought to me, which was given to me a short while later.

However, my issues with the harassment wasn’t taken too serious in my opinion. I was only told that he would keep his attention on the issue and be fair if something was to happen. At that point  his attention won’t stop something happening to me if that’s what is planned.”

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.

# # #

Cornelius Harris Is Back on Hunger Strike

This comes from Redbird Prison Abolition, March 2nd 2013:

Soja (Cornelius Harris) has resumed his hunger strike. He is demanding that his missing property be returned or replaced. Warden Bobby has previously agreed to do that. I do not know details about which property is still missing, but Soja does not believe the warden has made good on this agreement. We think he resumed his hunger strike on Tuesday or Wednesday, but have not heard from him since. Another prisoner in his pod has confirmed that Soja is on hunger strike, and has been transferred to the infirmary.

There is also reason to believe that JPay’s email system went down for a number of days last week. Soja’s daily emails stopped abruptly, other prisoners who write frequently have also been silent. When asked JPay customer service said they had a technical problem, and then put the caller on hold for 20 minutes. I got the first JPay email in a while today, it was sent out on Feb 19th.

Supporters can call OSP on Monday 330-743-0700 ask to speak to Warden Bobby, and demand that Mr Harris’s property be returned. Cornelius Harris’ prisoner number is 525-945.

Super Max Prisoner Represents Himself in Court while on Hunger Strike and Wins

This is a press release, published by Redbird Prison Abolition on Feb. 9th:

Contact: Ben Turk
Phone: 614-704-4699
Website: RedBirdPrisonAbolition.org

Friday, February 8th, Mahoning County, OH-

The jury largely sided with hunger striking super max prisoner Cornelius Harris in his criminal trial this week. Harris was facing nine felony charges stemming from fights with guards at The Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP). Harris has long maintained that these fights were actually initiated by guards who have targeted him for harassment and abuse. Earlier this week, a jury found largely in Mr Harris’ favor.

Mr Harris initiated his hunger strike on January fourth, and went to trial later in the month. He represented himself, and part way through the trial he was transferred to Franklin Medical Center (FMC) because of his deteriorating health due to the hunger strike. Mr Harris says he has lost about fifty pounds, and is experiencing sharp pains in his legs. Doctors report that he is close to suffering serious medical problems like organ failure because he has refused food for so long.

On Tuesday February 5th, the court Judge Maureen Sweeney ordered Mr Harris return to court to complete his trial, against the wishes of doctors at FMC. Harris was transferred back to OSP and appeared in court, ending the jury phase of trial on Friday, February 8th. Mr Harris was charged with two counts of attempted aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder, three counts of felonious assault, and three possession of a dangerous weapon while in detention charges. He was found not guilty of the attempted murder and felonious assault charges. Both attempted aggravated murder charges were reduced to felonious assault.

Mr Harris represented himself, with no assistance from lawyers, while his health was seriously compromised by the hunger strike. He says he is confident that under different circumstances, or with legal representation he would have also beaten the remaining charges.

As of Friday evening, Mr Harris is still on hunger strike. He was threatening to refuse water as well as food, a decision that would risk ending his life within 72 hours, but after the trial results and a meeting with the warden, he decided to drink water at least through the weekend. Mr Harris is making two main demands. First, an end to this harassment from guards and second, an improved procedure for security level review.

In June of 2012, Mr Harris released a statement, posted to RedBird Prison Abolition’s website detailing this abuse. In this statement he names correctional officers Timothy McVay, James Burns, Kieth Hawn and Waylon Wine as abusers. Mr Harris is concerned that these or other guards may escalate harassment and violence against him because of the results of the trial.

Mr Harris has been incarcerated at OSP since being transferred from Southern Ohio Correctional Institution (SOCF) in Lucasville five and a half years ago. The incidents producing these criminal charges occurred in 2009 and 2010. Mr Harris says he has not had any incident reports for the last three years, but has been kept on level 5 with severely restricted access to visitors, commissary and programming. Under these limitations, there is very little any level 5 prisoners can do to demonstrate good behaviour and reduce their security level.

In June of 2012, a death sentenced level 5 prisoner at OSP named Jason Robb went on a nine day hunger strike which ended with modifications to security review procedure and privileges for him and other death sentenced prisoners at OSP. These changes include limited congregate recreation, full contact visits, and increased frequency of security reviews. These changes allow the death sentenced prisoners at OSP to demonstrate ability to be housed on death row in Chillicothe. Mr Harris is demanding that these changes also apply to him. Mr Harris says Warden David Bobby is unwilling to meet these demands because he would have to apply the same changes to all level 5 prisoners.

Prisoner advocates say that these step-down procedures should be applied to all level 5 prisoners. Prisoners on level 5 at OSP spend 23 hours a day alone in their small cells, often for years on end. They have no human contact other than guards. These conditions are common in US super max prisons, but violate international human rights standards and are widely considered a form of torture.

Supporters are requesting that people call OSP Warden David Bobby on Monday, demanding that Mr Harris be kept safe from retaliation and have his hunger strike demands met. Warden Bobby can be reached at 330-743-0700 ext 2006. People are also encouraged to contact central office and demand oversight and changes to the security review system for level 5 prisoners. The number for Central Office is 614-752-1159.

Note from OHPW: Cornelius Harris’ ODRC registration nr is: #A525945