Monday, February 1, 2016

Hunger Strike Update

There have been a number of changes at OSP resulting from the hunger strike that ended Tuesday November 17th. The "long timers" have not only been allowed to keep their property, they have also been moved to a better situation within the prison. After the hunger strike the warden promised they would be placed in a separate cell block, away from the constant noise and disruption of unstable prisoners constantly churning through OSP for 6-18 month punitive stays, and that they would have access to the JPay email system, so that gaurds could no longer "lose" or delay their correspondence with outsiders.

Months later, these changes have taken place. The JPay kiosk is in their unit, but it has not yet been fully installed or functional. 

After the jump, a statement from Keith LaMar, about the victory:


The general impression is that the recent hungerstrike was about a spat over CDs, but it actually went a little deeper than that. As most people who have been following (and assisting in) our struggle, we (the Lucasville Uprising prisoners) have been up against the wall for the past 23 years. In fact, it's not an exaggeration to say that the Ohio State Penitentiary was built at the behest of those who wanted to specifically punish us for our alleged leadership roles in the prison uprising (at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility) in 1993. Indeed, unlike any other prisoner in the State of Ohio, we have undergone unprecedented hardships of confinement.

Back in 2011, after enduring almost eighteen years without being able to touch our families or fully participate in our appeals, we decided to undertake a strike as a way to force the administration to grant us extended privileges (note: I use the word "privileges" advisedly, as the so-called privileges we were granted are automatically granted to other death row prisoners upon arrival).

After twelve days of heated agitation, including but not limited to newspaper articles, interviews with media, and picketting in front of the prison, the warden relented and agreed to our demands. And we have been engaged in an ongoing battle ever since; the recent strike being but a reaction to yet another assault on the meager improvements we won in 2011.

With the appointment of a new warden, someone who wasn't around when we were granted extended privileges, it appeared to be the perfect time to scale back on some of the gains we had made. First, it was the removal of television sets that were in the common area for recreational use; next it was the access to the telephone; then came the reduction in property limits, so on and so forth.

So it was part of a gradual drawback that was taking place. Once it became obvious to us what was going on, we felt it necessary to respond; otherwise, the next thing that would have been taken would be our full contact visits. So it was never solely about CDs and books, although the removal of these things would have caused considerable unrest, but about the general drawback as a whole.

In this, there is a very important lesson to be learned (or remembered): the struggle never ends, and one must remain in almost constant vigilance against those who have made it their job to halt and/or hinder our progress. Many people have written to me after the strike to congratulate us on our victory, but it's not really our victory alone; indeed, we could not have achieved anything without the hundreds of calls and emails that flooded the warden's office. When these people can no longer conduct "business as usual" adjustments have to be made, schedules have to be changed, meetings have to take place, etc. And that all comes about through public pressure on the machine.

When people work together, in concert toward a common goal, those in power have no choice but to respond. Why? Because true power lies with the people, not machines. This system functions because we allow it to function. We have allowed ourselves to be splintered off into groups--black and white, professional and working class, prisoner and citizen, so on and so forth. But there's only two groups: the rich and the poor.

Divided, they rule us.

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