Friday, March 20, 2015

Columbus Free Press on the Recent OSP Hunger Strike.

From The Columbus Free Press.

During a press conference on Monday, March 16, Siddique Hasan announced  that a hunger strike was underway at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP). Hasan had called in to the press conference from a phone within OSP, also known as the “Supermax” prison, in Youngstown, Ohio. He told the reporters he had missed his last three meals.
  Hasan is one of the four “Lucasville Five” inmates who are on death row at OSP as a result of their presence at the Lucasville prison uprising in 1993. His fellow Lucasville Five members, Bomani Shakur (Keith Lamar) and Jason Robb are also participating in the hunger strike.
  Hasan outlined the reason for the current hunger strike. The root of the problem began when a new inmate at OSP stabbed a guard in the neck and punched one in the face. Instead of dealing with that one individual, OSP prison officials applied collective punishment to everyone in OSP under Level Five security.
  Hasan denounced the “collective punishment” being dispensed at the Supermax prison: “There's been no access to computer rooms on Level 5B in three weeks.” He also explained that prison officials are also denying the rights of new inmates to participate in religious services for one year. “Religion is a constitutional right,” Hasan pointed out.

  OSP houses Level 4 and 5 prisoners, the highest security level in Ohio. According to Hasan, for 12 months, new prisoners in Level 5A will not only be denied access to religious services but also to any prison programs such as GED classes, educational degree programs, counseling services and the like. He also stated that many prisoners are being denied access to recreation.    
  While Hasan is a "long-term" prisoner on Level 5B, he made it clear that he is also standing in solidarity with all prisoners at OSP.

  “They're running this place like a concentration camp,” Hasan said, “And we're challenging it now so others don't have to.”

  There has been other hunger strikes at OSP. Historian and attorney Staughton Lynd has been a strong advocate for the freedom of the Lucasville Five. Lynd is the author of “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising.” He has long objected to the fact that the four Lucasville prisoners at OSP “have been kept on the highest security designation, Level 5.” During a 2011 hunger strike, Lynd circulated a petition that stated in part, “The harsh treatment of these prisoners violates their constitutional rights and is widely recognized as not only inhumane, but as a form of torture.” Lynd's petition also stated: “The wrongful convictions which place these men on death row must also be set aside. The charges must be dropped entirely or the men must receive new trials.”

  Some 500 leading academics and scholars signed Lynd's petition that ended with the following statement: “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.”

  In 2012, another hunger strike at OSP listed as one of the two primary demands, “A transparent and accountable security level classification process.” Prisoner Mark Harris wrote a letter during the 2012 hunger strike describing the conditions at Ohio's Supermax: “…in short, we are sensory deprived, underfed, isolated with little to no movement, unable to hug our children, family, and friends, and we are stuck for an overly extended period of time, with limited programming.”

  Sounds like things have only gotten worse at OSP.

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