Lucasville prison uprising leaders go on hunger strike

Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 updates follow

by Sharon Danann for the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network

Jan. 3, 2011 – Four death-sentenced prisoners, wrongfully convicted of crimes following the 1993 prison rebellion in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, started a “rolling” hunger strike Jan. 3. The strike is to protest the highly restrictive solitary confinement where they have been placed in the supermax Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), located in Youngstown, since 1998.

Lucasville-by-Staughton-Lynd-Black-and-white-together-11-days1, Lucasville prison uprising leaders go on hunger strike, Abolition Now! These prisoners, the majority Black, are starting to run out of appeals. They say they would rather die, if they must, on their own terms, rather than on a gurney by lethal injection. They intend for the hunger strike to help strike a blow against confinement conditions so inhumane that they amount to torture.

Bomani Shakur (convicted as Keith LaMar) was the first to refuse food. He writes in a public statement, “If we must die, we should be allowed to do so with dignity, which is all we’re asking: the opportunity to pursue our appeals unimpeded, to be able to touch our friends and family, and to no longer be treated as playthings but as human beings who are facing the ultimate penalty.” (Read his complete statement here.)

The plan is that on Jan. 6, Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan will join the hunger strike. Imam Hasan, a leader of the Sunni Muslims during the 1993 rebellion, was one of several negotiators for the prisoners. The resulting settlement prevented a reoccurrence of the massacre that took place during the Attica, N.Y., prison rebellion in 1971. Hasan’s “reward” was a death sentence.

Jason Robb is scheduled to start refusing meals on Jan. 9. Robb, an anti-racist leader of the Aryan Brotherhood, was also a negotiator during the 1993 uprising. Finally, Namir Abdul Mateen (aka James Were) will join the hunger strike to the extent that his health permits.

As seen in the recent prisoner strike in Georgia, the once-hostile Ohio prisoner groupings forged a powerful unity during the 1993 rebellion that has stood the test of time.

The four prisoners went on another hunger strike together in 1996 with George Skatzes, the fifth prisoner to receive the death penalty following the uprising. This hunger strike achieved its aim: Skatzes was transferred out of OSP for medical reasons.

The current hunger strike is up against a warden, David Bobby, who has publicly made it known that he will not give any ground to the hunger strikers.

Ohio executions on the rise

The bigger picture is that Ohio is inaugurating a new governor, John Kasich, who is an extreme right-winger. Ohio could set a new record for executions, which is already second only to Texas. Ohio was the only state to perform more executions in 2010 than in 2009.

The severe sensory deprivation that the four prisoners have suffered for so long is vindictive punishment for the death of a guard in the 1993 uprising. They have been deliberately kept at the most restrictive security level, Level 5, since they were brought to OSP, in spite of good behavior and cooperation with prison programs. During one of the annual reviews, prison authorities stated in writing, “Your placement offense is so severe that you should remain at the OSP permanently or for many years regardless of your behavior while confined at the OSP.”

Lucasville-MLK-flier-011511, Lucasville prison uprising leaders go on hunger strike, Abolition Now! Supporters of the hunger strikers will gather at the gates of OSP on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Jan. 15, for a rally and press conference. There will be reports on the status of the hunger strikers, statements from the prisoners, and solidarity messages from across the country and around the world.

These prisoners’ convictions should be re-examined immediately, given that in recent years key witnesses have recanted damaging testimony against them. These convictions need to be overturned and new trials granted.

Attorney Staughton Lynd has provided proof that these convictions relied almost exclusively on witnesses who perjured themselves in exchange for reduced sentences. (Capital University Law Review, Spring 2008, vol. 36, no. 3, p. 559, “Napue Nightmares: Perjured Testimony in Trials Following the 1993 Lucasville, Ohio, Prison Uprising”)

An international movement to support these hunger strikers and to end all inhumane treatment of prisoners is gathering momentum. Now is the time to get on board.

Sign the electronic petition in support of the Lucasville hunger strikers at the International Action Center website,, to demand that the Ohio prison authorities and elected officials allow these heroic prisoners to have their security levels fairly evaluated and reclassified so that at the very least they can have the same privileges as other death row prisoners.

Daily updates will be posted on the Facebook site “In Solidarity with the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners on Hunger Strike,” as well as on the IAC website.

Free all political prisoners, including the hunger strikers! Humane treatment for all prisoners! Dismantle the profit-making prison-industrial complex!

© 2010 Workers World. This story was originally published Jan. 3, 2011, by Workers World, 55 W. 17th St., New York NY 10011,,, at Contact Sharon Danann and the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network at lucasvillefreedom@gmail.comor call (216) 571-2518.

Jan. 5 update: Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Jason Robb have started their hunger strike

by Sharon Danann for the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network

Dear family, friends and supporters of the Lucasville uprising prisoners,

I am not aware of all of the factors that went into their decisions, but I have been informed that rather than waiting as previously planned, Hasan and Jason Robb have joined the hunger strike. I received a letter from Hasan today stating that the warden and deputy warden of OSP were questioning him about his plans to go on the hunger strike based on information they had gleaned from the internet, and that may have influenced their decisions.

I think the tremendous outpouring of support from all corners of the globe and all across this country has strengthened their resolve. There has also been phenomenal media interest, with an op-ed piece by Denis O’Hearn in the Youngstown Vindicator, interviews of Staughton Lynd by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and by KPFA, and an interview of Denis O’Hearn by WBAI. Both Denis and Staughton are frequent visitors of the prisoners. Denis wrote the biography of Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands entitled, “Nothing But an Unfinished Song.” Staughton wrote the definitive book on the 1993 rebellion entitled, “Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising.” He and his wife Alice were the attorneys in a class action lawsuit against OSP.

Please keep putting the word out about the rally at the entrance gates to OSP in Youngstown at 1:00 on Saturday, Jan. 15, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. We are trying to coordinate car pools and a car caravan from Cleveland. The seven-person van is filling up fast. We need other people with cars who know they are going to this rally and who have space in their car to contact us because lots of people need rides.

Contact Sharon Danann and the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network at or call (216) 571-2518.

Send the flier posted here around to everyone you think might be interested and (if you are in the Youngstown, Ohio, area) print it out and post it in coffee shops, barber shops, laudromats, libraries, supermarkets, you name it. Buy poster board and markers and start making signs. If we have enough signs and banners, the prisoners will be able to see us from their windows and they will be so thrilled. Carloads of supporters are planning to drive in from other states.

Let’s show them what Ohio activists can do! Let’s mobilize and make it big!

Jan. 6 update: Support grows for hunger strike by Lucasville uprising prisoners

by Sharon Danann for the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network

Monday, Jan. 3, three inmates on death row at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) started a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their confinement. Keith LaMar, Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) and Jason Robb received death sentences following the rebellion in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. They have been held at the highest security level in OSP, Level 5, since they were transferred to OSP in 1998.

Another death-sentenced prisoner who will join the others in refusing meals at a time of his choosing is Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were). He was also involved in the 1993 Lucasville uprising.

The prisoners are asking simply that they be treated like other death row prisoners, rather than be subjected to the extremely restrictive solitary confinement which nothing in their last 12 years of behavior can justify. Rather than evaluate their behavior on its merits, the prisoners claim that they are singled out punitively by prison authorities in their annual reviews by refusing to give credit for good behavior and maintaining them year after year on Level 5. One such review stated, “We are of the opinion that your placement offense is so severe that you should remain at the OSP permanently or for many years regardless of your behavior while confined at the OSP.”

LaMar, also known by his chosen name Bomani Hondo Shakur, has issued a statement to explain his motivation for the hunger strike. It states in part:

“(W)e have undergone penalty on top of penalty, kept from fully participating in our appeals, from touching our friends and families, denied adequate medical treatment and so many other things that are too numerous to name. In a word, we have been tortured. And, yes, I’m aware that the word ‘tortured’ is a strong word to use, but I know of no other word that more adequately describes what we have been through. We have been put through hell.” (Read his complete statement here.)

To support the hunger strikers, the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network will take part in a press conference and rally next to the entrance to OSP at 1:00 p.m. on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Saturday, Jan. 15. The location is 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road and the event is co-sponsored by the Youngstown-based prisoner-advocacy organization, LOOP (Loved Ones Of Prisoners). The Cleveland chapter of the New Black Panther Party will also be participating.

Support is growing for the hunger strike, with messages of support coming in from across the country and around the world. The Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network is coordinating transportation from Cleveland to OSP in Youngstown for the Jan. 15 event.

Contact Sharon Danann and the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network at or call (216) 571-2518.