Thursday, February 23, 2012

Occupy 4 Prisoners Hunger Strike

Siddique Abdullah Hasan and other prisoners at OSP participated in a hunger strike this week, demanding improved conditions. They won many of their demands after three days.

On Thursday Feb 23rd, Hasan recorded a statement about the hunger strike for PrisonRadio.org. Audio of that statement is available here.

Feb 23 Press Release

On Wednesday evening, twenty-five prisoners at Ohio's super-max prison ate their first meal since Sunday night. The hunger strike was inspired by the Occupy4Prisoners National Day of Action called by Occupy Oakland. According to Siddique Abdullah Hasan, one of the hunger strikers, they initially intended a one day fast as a "symbolic gesture, a way of locking arms with the people on the outside."
By Monday evening, the prisoners had decided to issue demands and continue refusing food. Their demands included specific changes in the conditions of their confinement at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) as well as calls for broader reforms. They resumed eating after Warden David Bobby agreed to grant a number of their demands including:

1. Reversing the recent decision to reduce outdoor recreation time for prisoners to a schedule alternating between 3 and 4 hours per week
2. Improving enrichment programming, including new movies and religious movies for the prison television station.
3. Bringing the head dietitian from Central Office in Columbus to review OSP food policies and hear prisoner complaints about inedible and scorched food.
4. A number of specific instances of price-gouging, skimping and lack of variety in the commissary.

Hasan said "Warden Bobby has been a man of his word in the past, so we don't anticipate the kind of situation going on in California" referring to slow response to negotiations during last years large prisoner hunger strikes in California.

The prisoners consider their hunger strike a victory because they won these specific demands and also because they helped raise awareness of state and even nation-wide issues regarding the artificial economy of state pay and commissary prices.

Prisoners from across the institution participated in the hunger strike, including Siddique Abdullah Hasan a Muslim Imam who has been on death row fighting what he says is a wrongful conviction following the 1993 Lucasville Uprising. More information about the Lucasville Uprising is available on a new website Hasan and other prisoners helped create at LucasvilleAmnesty.org

Feb 20th Press Release:

A group of over 20 prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) are refusing food for a second day. The group initially staged a one-day fast in solidarity with the Occupy for Prisoners day of action on Monday, February 20th, and have decided to continue their fast until the warden hears their grievances.

The prisoners demand changes to the practice of price gouging in the commissary and telephone access. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) describe the steadily rising prices as "fluctuations" but they only go in one direction, up. Meanwhile, state pay and wages prisoners are able to earn have remained low. This creates an artificial economy where prices are dictated by the administration from the top down and are set to make prison life as onerous as possible. Basic needs like nutritional food and hygiene products are only available at inflated prices through the commissary. Some prisoners describe this situation as modern slavery.

The prisoners are also demanding the prison conform to supreme court-ordered minimum of 5 hours of outdoor recreation time a week. OSP has recently changed its recreation policy, limiting prisoners to 3-4 hours a week instead of the mandated 5 hours of outdoor rec time. This policy change came with recent population shifts at OSP. In January, ODRC moved 110 death row prisoners to Chillicothe Correctional Institution and replaced them with allegedly violent and gang affiliated prisoners. Death row prisoners were allowed to go to rec in groups, the new prisoners are not, so there aren't enough hours in a day for all the prisoners to get their required weekly allotment. These population shifts seem to be part of a plan from ODRC director Gary Mohr to create a class of confinement in Ohio similar to California's SHU (secure handling unit) system, which inspired massive and ongoing hunger strikes across California starting last July.

Prisoners are determined to resist these changes from the ODRC, people on the outside can support by writing letters or calling Director Mohr or OSP Warden David Bobby.

Director Gary Mohr
770 West Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio 43222
(614) 752-1159
DRC.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us

Warden David Bobby
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, Ohio 44505
(330) 743-0700; Fax (330) 743-0841
JoAnn.King@odrc.state.oh.us

Feb 18th press release:

At least 20 prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP- Ohio's Super-Max prison) will refuse food on Monday February 20th in Solidarity with the National Occupy for Prisoners Day of Action.

The fast was called by Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a Muslim Imam on death row at OSP for his alleged involvement in the 1993 Lucasville Uprising. In January of 2011 Hasan and other death row prisoners wrongfully convicted in relation to the Lucasville Uprising staged a successful hunger strike, winning their demands for improved conditions and access to legal resources.

Outside supporters in Columbus OH will be staging a demonstration downtown, delivering symbolic letters to politicians and officials involved in maintaining, managing and expanding the prison system in Columbus, in Ohio and across America. They will demand increased state pay and reduced commissary and telephone prices in Ohio prisons. The continuous rise of commissary and telephone prices, while prisoner pay remains the same creates an artificial economy and living conditions akin to modern slavery.

More information about the protest can be found online at RedBird Prison Abolition's website: http://www.redbirdprisonabolition.org/2012/02/occupy-for-prisoners.html

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