Monday, November 9, 2015

Keith LaMar on Hungerstrike Protesting Conditions at OSP

This morning, Keith LaMar began a hunger strike in protest to the newly announced, completely unreasonable, and terribly cruel restrictions being placed on just the level 5A inmates (him and the 3 others on death row) at OSP.

Please call Warden Christopher LaRose at OSP (330) 743-0700 and request that he meet Keith LaMar's demands regarding property allowances and access to life enriching materials.

In a nutshell, these four were told they will have to surrender their books with CDs in excess of 15. They are the ONLY prisoners held at the Supermax who have been told they'll stay there forever, all because of the State of Ohio's vendetta--there is NO END in sight to their suffering. They will NEVER be moved to Ohio's "real death row" in Chillicothe, and they will NEVER get their "level" lowered from 5A to one where they'd be afforded the same privileges as other inmates at OSP, such as the use of a handheld JP4 player (which would at least serve as a substitute for their music). It's not bad enough they've been sentenced to death--but then to force them to linger without the mental escape that music and literature provide them, too?! That is not something Keith is willing to accept without a fight.

Here is a letter he posted today to Mr. Todd Ishee, the NE Regional Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. He asked it be shared with you so you will understand his demands and present concerns:

5 November 2015

Mr. Ishee:

Hello, again. It’s been a while since I had occasion to speak with you, but I’m sure you’ll remember who I am. Along with three other prisoners (S.A. Hasan, James Were, and Jason Robb), I have been confined to the Supermax facility (OSP) since 1998 (approaching 18 years now). In 2011, we were granted “extended privileges” consistent with other death row prisoners. These extended privileges include, among other things, extended property limits regarding books, CDs, and painting supplies. Here recently, with the appointment of the new warden—Mr. LaRose—it has been decided that our property limits should be adjusted to coincide with the property limits of other level 5 prisoners.

As I’m sure you’ll remember, a special status—5A long-term—was created to handle those of us who were placed outside of the normal process through the various levels. Because of this special status, we have been precluded from using the kiosk machine, where music and emails are purchased and distributed via the JP4 device. This device, as you may know, holds up to 3,000 songs (or more), the equivalent of 300 CDs. Initially, when we were first granted extended privileges, it was thought that we would have access to the kiosk. However, it was ultimately decided that moving us to A-block presented security concerns (I have no idea what these “concerns” were, since we’d still be confined to OSP?). As a sort of compromise, we were allowed to accumulate CDs in excess of the normal limits. It was never specifically stated what the limits were, just that we “should not share our extended privileges with others.”

Just last year, it was decided that no prisoners in the state of Ohio would be allowed to order CDs after a specified date (I don’t know if you’d remember this?). When that decision was made, we were told that the CD ban would ensue within 60 days, causing us (5A long-termers) to rush to increase our stockpile (given that we have been consistently told that we would never leave OSP and, therefore, would never have access to the kiosk). We didn’t do this in secret, without the knowledge or tacit agreement of the wardens (Mr. Bobby and Mr. Forshe), who, since 2011, have allowed us to keep our accumulated property.

Presently, I have amassed over 100 CDs, 30 or so books, and various painting supplies, all neatly stored in a 2.4 box that was given to me (us) during Warden Bobby’s tenure here at OSP. I have not violated any of the extended privileges that we were given—and yet, without any provocation or reasonable justification, Warden LaRose has decided to strip us of the very things that have aided us in dealing with the harsh reality of our unique situation.

Mr. Ishee, I have always thought you to be a fair-minded individual and what I am telling you is that I was allowed to accumulate these CDs and books (at great expense) under both Warden Bobby and Warden Forshe—and now, all of a sudden, I am being told that I can no longer have them. Obviously, I would much rather be housed at Chillicothe with the other death row prisoners; however, since it has been decided that I should remain here, I should at least be able to do so without being constantly harassed and put upon by those who have a personal ax to grind. As I’m sure you know, my appeal was recently denied, moving me one step closer to execution. My only request from you is that I be permitted to keep the music and books (as well as the extra mattress that you authorized) that I was allowed to purchase. In addition, I should be allowed access to the kiosk, as it does not present any security issues and would aide me in maintaining a stronger connection with my friends and family.

In closing, you should know that I have already attempted to address this matter with the new warden, Mr. LaRose, to no avail. Without stopping to consider the fact that I was given permission to accumulate these items, he has chosen to take a hard line. Consequently, I have chosen to go on a hunger strike, which to you may seem like an overreaction, but I submit to you that being in this cell 24/7, with no end in sight, in no small matter. Taking my music and books is tantamount to torture (on top of the torture that being in this situation already poses).

With all due respect,

Keith LaMar

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