Friday, March 20, 2015

Update on Hungerstrike for Access to Programming and Recreation at OSP

This is an update on this hunger strike.

According to both Hasan and Warden Forshey, there are over 30 people officially on hunger strike at OSP (meaning they have skipped 9 meals, and submitted to having their cells shook down and getting medical check ups).

Officer Charmainge Bracy (sp?) met with all the hunger striking prisoners. The Warden and other officials also came through the cell blocks talking with prisoners. Thus far none of the demands have been met and no changes made.

Chief Legal Council for the ODRC, Trevor Clark came to the prison and said this was the first he's heard of the issues the hunger striking prisoners are raising, which (if true) means OSP thinks they can change policies regarding access to recreation and religious programming with no concern about the legality of these changes.

Hasan is especially concerned with the programming issue. It is only the 5B prisoners who are blocked from this programming, so he has access to it, but he's concerned about the 50 or so prisoners who are denied that access.

The first issue is religious programming. It is a clear violation of first amendment freedom of religion to block these prisoners from access to religious programming and instruction. Hasan is encouraging supporters to reach out to their religious communities, whether Christian, Muslim, or otherwise, and let people know that OSP is illegally denying their brothers access to their chosen faiths.

Secondly, once someone is classified as 5B, they will spend at least a year on that, highest security level. Under the new policy that will be a year of total isolation, no counseling, no academic or enrichment programming, nothing. How can the Ohio prison system still call itself a "department of rehabilitation and correction" if they are blocking people from access to even the scant rehabilitative programming they used to provide?

After that year on 5B, the prisoners (depending on the whims of the classification officials) may be reduced to 5A, and in order to get down to lower security levels (and eventually out of solitary confinement) they must complete programs on anger management and money management. At OSP these programs are administered to only a few prisoners at a time, each in a locked cage, the cages with 5B guys are no longer allowed to use, despite additional wire mesh security being applied to them. Getting scheduled and completing the programs can take years as well, denying people access to these programs while on 5B prevents them from getting a head start on this programming, assuring that they'll spend even more time in the mentally and emotionally taxing solitary confinement situation.

Resisting the intolerable conditions of solitary confinement is clearly what inspired Cornelius Harris to find a way to stab an officer through the programming cage in the first place. These new policies are going to lead to greater anger and mental distress among the prisoners, and fewer opportunities for counseling, religious services, or any human interaction. OSP's new policies only dig itself even deeper into routines of de-humanizing and degrading the prisoners in their care.

To support the hunger striker's efforts to reverse these policy changes, please contact the following officials.

Call Warden Jay Forshey at 330-743-0700You can also email the warden's assistant:
Write a letter to: Warden Forshey, Ohio State Penitentiary, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, Youngstown, Ohio 44505
Fax: (330) 743-0841

Call regional director (and former OSP Warden) Todd Ishee 330-797-6398
Address: Todd Ishee, Northeast Regional Office, Voinovich Building, 242 West Federal Street, Suite #402, Youngstown, OH  44503
Fax: 330-744-3512

Call ODRC Director Gary Mohr at central office (614) 387-0588
Address: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 770 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43222

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