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I love Donald Trump! Yes, of course, I disagree with most everything he says, and his sensibilities remind me of every racist I have ever met; but I love that he is arrogant enough to believe that telling the truth about how and what he feels is somehow a smart thing to do. In his book, “The Prince,” Niccolo Machiavelli suggested that those who wield power should ‘‘be evil but pretend to be good, sincerely believe in the value of sincerity, but never be frank.’’ Apparently Trump didn’t get the memo.
Anyone relying on mainstream media wouldn’t know it, but the U.S. prison system is shaking up right now. No one knows how big the initial strike was yet, but the information is slowly leaking out between the cracks in the prisons’ machinery of obscurity and isolation. Over the weekend more than 50 protests erupted across the country and around the world in solidarity with the Sept. 9 nationwide prisoner work stoppage and protest.
Does being convicted of a crime forfeit all your rights as a human being? Does being railroaded through a clearly unjust, unequal and racist judicial system forfeit your human rights? Guilty or not, I am still a person. I am a human being. We need people to understand that the struggle for human rights, the struggle to be free and not murdered by the state or its agents doesn’t stop at the prison gates.
One big reason the story of Lucasville has to be told again and again is that not only did this tragic, desperate uprising lead to 10 deaths, but five men are still on death row and many more have been given lengthy sentences who declare their innocence. Here is the story in short of Greg Curry, one of the prisoners who received a life sentence even though he had nothing to do with the uprising or the murders.
Twenty years ago, there was a prison uprising in Lucasville. A correctional officer and several prisoners who collaborated with the prison administration were murdered. Imam Saddique Hasan and other prisoners who acted as spokespeople for the prisoners were eventually charged with the murders and have been held on Ohio’s death row ever since.
On May 22, brave prisoners at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison began a hunger strike. A recently released prisoner discusses torture at Red Onion: “having your fingers broken, being bitten by dogs, being strapped to beds for days, being forced to defecate on yourself – I mean all of this has led to these men demanding to be treated as human beings.”
The increase in hunger strikes in state prisons throughout the United States, inspired by the courageous examples of Ohio and California prisoners, show we don’t fear death or persecution, but minimizing losses is a part of wise strategy. We struggle to win. Unnecessarily losing some of our best minds to indeterminate isolation won’t help this purpose.
The rally at Ohio State Penitentiary was attended by a large crowd, including many members of the families of the hunger strikers, despite the freezing weather. And there's wonderful news: All three have resumed eating because they achieved a victory. The prison authorities have virtually met their demands. The strikers are in high spirits, and now they can turn their attention to their death sentences. Before, they were fighting about their conditions of confinement, but now they begin the fight for their lives.
Three prisoners sentenced to death for their leadership of the 1993 Lucasville rebellion, now at Ohio State Penitentiary, have been on hunger strike since Jan. 3. An Open Letter that will be presented to prison officials at tomorrow's rally has collected more than 500 signatures from Ohio, many other states and all across the globe, among them many prominent citizens. Buses are bringing supporters from far and wide to the rally.
The death-sentenced prisoners I visit are so desperate that they are going on hunger strike, essentially for the right to be on death row. After Lucasville, the state of Ohio decided that a maximum security prison was not secure enough. They built a supermax prison, OSP Youngstown.
Four death-sentenced prisoners, wrongfully convicted of crimes following the 1993 prison rebellion in Lucasville, Ohio, started a hunger strike Jan. 3. They say they would rather die, if they must, on their own terms, rather than on a gurney by lethal injection. They want to strike a blow against confinement conditions so inhumane that they amount to torture.
Yes, it was a battle. My first report on this riot gave people a look into the ugly violence and bloodshed. I’ve reported it the way it happened, but nothing is to be glorified or celebrated here. It felt good, though, to be a part of struggle and change, to see solidarity in action.