Monday, April 6, 2015

Problem COs Harass OSP Hunger Strikers.

Three of the Correctional Officers (COs) in charge of D block, where the eight hunger striking prisoners are being housed have begun reprisals against them. CO Burns, CO Kish, and CO Titus are engaged in a campaign of “special treatment” for the hunger striking prisoners, which includes filing fictitious conduct reports, harassing and taunting people and at least one incident of violence- CO Titus kicking a shackled prisoner for no reason.

All three of these problem COs work first shift in D block, where the hunger strikers are isolated. The prisoners have requested to only go to recreation during second shift, so these COs will not be handling their movements.

Supporters, please call OSP and ask Warden Forshey to honor the prisoners requests to not be handled by these COs- Kish, Titus and Burns. These COs have been problems long before the current hunger striking situation, and they stand out compared to the reputation for professionalism of most of the staff at OSP. Also ask Forshey to take the hunger strike seriously, and work with the prisoners to negotiate a resolution. Call Warden Jay Forshey at 330-743-0700 ext 2006. 
Write letters: Warden Forshay, OSP, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd, Youngstown, OH 44505

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, who describes the COs as “acting like tyrant clowns” recounts one example of the kind of games they're playing. Hasan normally takes rec for one hour and forty five minutes on the range. On Friday, he went to rec at 1:45. At 3:00, after shift change, the second shift officers told Hasan his time was up and to return to his cell. Hasan said that he had another half hour of rec due to him. The shift captain replied that first shift had wrote him down as having gone at 1:15, so his time was up. 

Hasan complied with the order to return to his cell, but also explained that he had gone out at 1:45 and that one of the first shift COs must have misreported the time in order to deny him this thirty minutes, and create confusion and conflict with 2nd shift COs. They could check the cameras to confirm this fact. The second shift captain said he would do so, and if the camera backs him up, the captain will write up the first shift officers, along with Hasan's informal complaint about the incident.

These COs seem to like causing problems and making things difficult for prisoners in general, and at least CO James Burns has been up to this kind of thing for years at OSP. In 2010 he was declared the Ohio DRC employee of the year after an incident where he was stabbed by a prisoner named Cornelius Harris. Harris was charged with attempted murder, even though the stabbing implement wasn't much larger than a stick pin. Harris defended himself in court, showing videos of CO Burns taunting and threatening him for hours, before his cell door inexplicably opened, which is when the fight occurred. A jury determined that Harris was acting in self defense and found him not-guilty of the attempted murder charge.

Harris is the same prisoner who attacked a CO in the group programming booth recently, which led to the current policy changes. So what we have here is a few problem COs taunting and threatening prisoners, then being embraced as heroes when the prisoners respond in self-defense, which raises tensions in the institution and generalizes the prisoner's animosity toward all COs, leading to more violent conflict. Then the administration responds with collective punishment against other prisoners, leading to non-violent protest in the form of a group hunger strike. Now they have put the very CO who started this chain of escalating conflict and generalized violence- who was determined by a court to have provoked a violent self-defense response from Harris- in charge of these non-violent protesting prisoners is either incredibly stupid, or intentionally asking for more conflict and trouble.

The least Warden Forshey can do is honor the prisoners' request that Burns and his friends not be in charge of their movement to and from rec. 


  1. Do u even check facts ever? Inmate Harris was found guilty of attempted murder on CO Burns. It's public record...easy to check. And check the hospital was much more serious than a pin prick.

  2. I'm not a journalist, i don't get paid to do this, i'm an activist and i'm very busy.

    I've seen the video of the fight which was submitted to evidence, i've seen the picture of the "shank" used by harris, I don't have time to look it up again, but i remember it being less than an inch long.

    I remember conversation with the alternate juror in the trial and she said they didn't believe a word said by COs on the stand and that they were instructed that the self-defense argument Harris presented could not apply to all the charges he faced (wrongly instructed, by my understanding of the law- as are almost every jury) but they found him not-guilty or reduced all the charges they thought they could. She was shocked when she heard how many years the judge gave him for the things he ended up catching.

    OSP is a torture chamber. I am not interested in splitting hairs with or carefully getting sympathetic details straight in regards to torturers who are harassing and threatening men who have been starving themselves in non-violent protest for weeks. Please quit your job, get help, and find something human to do.