Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hunger Strike Update: Jason Robb Joins Strike and New Ways to Support

For the past 4 days, Keith LaMar has been on hunger strike, protesting cruel restrictions that are arbitrarily being put in place by the new warden, Chris LaRose, at Ohio State Penitentiary. Keith was joined yesterday on hunger strike by fellow death row inmate, Jason Robb. 

What are their exact demands?
1. To allow the 5A long-termers (Keith LaMar, S.A. Hasan, Jason Robb and James Were) to keep all their books—consistently with other death row inmates in Ohio—tools which are crucial to their surviving the rigors of solitary confinement.
Why? The new warden told the men that they would need to limit their books to 15. He told one caller today that they could rotate books for variety (send one out/ order a new one). This places an unnecessary financial burden on the men and their families. The warden’s rationale is that having too much property makes searching their cells too time-consuming.

2. To allow the 5A long-termers to keep their music, which is a necessary channel by which they cope with the 22.25 hours they are kept in solitary (sensory deprivation) every day.
Why? Music is one of the only ways the men are able to block out some of the constant banging, kicking and screaming.
They were told to reduce their collection of CDs to just 15, with the same “give one to get a new one” policy being promised to today’s caller. You should know that the former warden issued the men special boxes in which to neatly contain their CDs, which they have complied with. Anyone who knows Keith, knows that music is a lifeline for him. These men have asked their families, at great financial burden, to send them music over the years, which they are now being told will have to be sent out in excess of the magical, arbitrary number of 15. This decision was not provoked by any problems they’ve caused, but again attributed to easier shakedowns.
Incidentally, all the other prisoners in Ohio, some 50,000—including men on the “normal death row” in Chillicothe—are able to buy/download music to personal handheld JP4 players (which eliminates the need for CDs); yet, the four 5A long-termers at OSP are disqualified from that program because their block of the prison lacks access to a kiosk machine (same device used to send/receive emails).

3. To grant the 5A long-termers access to the kiosk machine.
Why? The prison is messing with mail. A number of friends and families await communications and receive them considerably late, if at all. Likewise, recently Keith has not received letters from high school students until long after the letters were sent, as just one example. The prison has a protocol, wherein the mailroom employee sends a communication to the inmate that explains a hold up/violation of any rule. Keith and Jason have not been told their mail was offensive in any way (because it isn’t), yet there seems to be an arbitrary and capricious lag in what goes out and what is delivered. To resolve this problem, the men are asking for access to the kiosk (which is also considerably less expensive than buying stamps/envelopes). The current email system, JPay, cannot be utilized by these four men (again, they are the only inmates permanently excluded in all of Ohio). If they wish to send out an email, it must be hand-written or typed on special paper, picked up by a guard, scanned, and then be emailed out. Recently, these messages, too, have intermittently been held up for a number of days, and in a rather sporadic pattern. Jpay cannot provide any good reason for the delay, other than that prison staff must not yet have scanned and sent it through. Thus, with access to the kiosk, the men could draft and initiate sending out and receiving their own email messages in a timely manner. They are fighting for their lives; communication is critical.

4. To move the 5A long-termers away from the constant turnover of "Supermax" level 5 inmates.
Why? It's incredibly stressful living with constant kicking and screaming, banging and howling, feces smearing and urine throwing... it's never-ending—a death sentence upon a death sentence—but without an end to their plight because they are being held in Supermax security indefinitely (which is a violation of their 8th Amendment rights). It's just not acceptable any longer. Many of the level 5 inmates placed in and around Keith and Jason, are young and completely lost without any real emotional tools to navigate their hell and it's taking its toll on the 5A long-termers. Last night on a phone call, a man could be heard howling, crying out loudly in a state of complete dismay, just like a frightened dog at a pound. It’s incredibly stressful for them, not to mention dangerous… beyond anything imaginable. Most inmates who arrive at OSP will leave after a promised number of months and be reintegrated into lower-security prisons; about the time that happens, they are replaced with new guys who have broken rules elsewhere, who go through the same transitional issues. Thus, the hunger strikers request to be moved away from the most dangerous and tumultuous area of the prison, since the State will not recognize their good behavior no matter what and move them to Chillicothe. They’ve as much said so.  

What can be done? 
1) Call Regional Director Todd Ishee at 330 797-6398 and tell him that Warden LaRose's decisions are cruel and violate the men’s 8th amendment rights, considering there is no end in sight for them in solitary confinement. Mr. Ishee is the warden's boss and Keith wants most pressure applied here, since he has found Mr. Ishee to be more inclined to resolution.
2. Call Warden Chris LaRose at 330 743-0700 and ask him to meet Keith's demands of keeping his books and music, which are necessary to his mental sanity, to grant them access to the kiosk to expedite email/contact, and to move them to a safer/less volatile location.
3. Sign the online petition to Mr. Todd Ishee and spread it around! We need lots of signatures to help the men accomplish these demands!
4. Donate to the fundraiser to help Keith retain new legal representation. If we all pitch in—$10, $20, $100—we can help empower him to fight these last few battles with lawyers he can actually have confidence in. Together we can work a hopeless situation into something better, so please give generously and ask those you know to give to this important cause. If we do not end up securing an attorney, the $ will be promptly be returned to donors. You can give online at: 
Or you can also send a money order or a check to: 

Campaign for Justice for Keith LaMar

PO Box 3656

Youngstown, OH 44513
5. Go to the Facebook page “Justice for Keith LaMar” and “like” it. This way you will get the most recent updates as they come in. Will you also change your profile picture during the hunger strike to one of Keith and post your reason for doing so? This will allow your friends to see what's going on/widen his circle of support. You can use the image attached if you don't already have one.
6. If you would like to get more involved in coordinating support efforts, either for the hunger strike or Keith's fight for his life, please contact  insurgent.ben@gmail.com or (330) 333-0826

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