This is the content of a zine I wrote for an event we had last night in Columbus, Ohio. Insurgent Theatre debuted its new play AD SEG in Columbus at the Solidarity Showcase, which also featured open performances by myself, Ben B, Mattie, Sam & Connie’s “Legal Q & A.”
The highlight of the night was a transmission from Ohio State Penitentiary by brother Siddique Abdullah Hasan, who told the story of his experience with the uprising in 1993, and subsequently how he was railroaded and placed on death row because of his participation in a negotiations team that peacefully ended the prison riot.
At the end of this text is information on what you can do to support the Lucasville 5, and their mailing addresses on death row so you can write them and send them your support.
Redbird Prison Abolition
DEATH ROW HUNGER STRIKE: OHIO STATE PENITENTIARY
On January 3rd, 2011, three of the Lucasville 5 went on hunger strike. Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Shakur (Keith Lamar), and Jason Robb refused meals to protest the inhuman conditions they have faced since the 1993 Lucasville Uprising. Namir Mateen and George Skatzes, who comprise the rest of the Lucasville 5, could not participate due to health issues. Collectively, the five demanded to be given the same living conditions allowed to other death row prisoners.
Among their demands:
(a) Partial contact visits with their family, where they can touch family through a small opening in a visitation window
(b) Access to legal resources, such as online databases
(c) Access to the media through in-person interviews
(d) Basic items, such as cold weather clothing and food
For 18 years, these men have been living in isolation, with no human contact other than their death row guards. They have only been allowed outside of their cells for one hour a day, during which they are allowed time for shower and “recreation” in an “exercise cage.” Why have they been subject to these deplorable conditions? These five men helped peacefully negotiate the end of the longest prison riot in the United States to date in 1993.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections agreed to accommodate the demands of the hunger strikers on January 14th, 2011. Robb concluded his strike on January 14th, and Hasan and Lamar on the 15th, which coincided with a solidarity protest outside the Ohio State Penitentiary.
LUCASVILLE UPRISING: SOUTHERN OHIO CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
The uprising at Lucasville, like many prison revolts, was a response to the horrible conditions that all prisoners face. Some of these conditions at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) include: guards going unpunished for brutally assaulting and killing inmates; prisoners being denied the right to unionize while being forced to labor for less than a dollar a day; prisoners denied access to rehabilitation or educational opportunities; guards provoking violence among prisoners, intentionally allowing some prisoners to be armed, fitting prisoners with wires and encouraging snitching, intentionally pairing prisoners together to fuel racial tensions; intense overcrowding, double-celling, and denied transfers. Some prisoners at Lucasville were chained to their cells, maced and tear gassed, forced to sleep on the floor, only allowed 5 minutes of phone time a year, extremely limited or altogether excluded visitation, and denied proper medical care.
The arrival of prison warden Arthur Tate precipitated a number of worsening conditions in Lucasville. Since his hiring in 1990, Tate had greatly diminished or altogether cut a number of prison programs, including the music, literary, and college programs. He required prisoners to march to their meals, work, recreation, worship services, and the commissary. High security prisoners were denied participation in vocational programs as they were placed on lockdown in their cells after 6PM. Guards were given the liberty to make up arbitrary rules on the spot, with no requirement to put the rules in writing or provide them to prisoners.
In addition to these ongoing offenses, and just prior to the uprising, the prison warden informed prisoners that there would be mandatory testing for tuberculosis, which involved injecting each prisoner with an alcohol based solution. Muslim prisoners staunchly objected, as the mandatory injections violated their religious abstention from alcohol.
On April 11th, 1993, these conflicts ignited into an 11 day uprising inside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville that resulted in prisoners occupying the L block. Despite guards’ attempts to fan the flames of racial tensions in SOCF, prisoners in L block united across racial lines and gang divisions. Members of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood were standing in solidarity with Black Muslims and Black Gangster Deciples. During the uprising, eight guards were taken hostage, and eventually one was killed. Nine inmates were killed, and a majority of inmate deaths have suspected relations to warden Tate & SOCF guards encouragement of snitching. Rather than ending with wholesale slaughter and invasion by the national guard, as other prison riots have ended, Lucasville was ended by careful negotiations between five prisoners and state officials.
Deliberate stalling in the negotiations on the part of the state likely resulted in a deterioration of the situation. On April 12th, prison warden Arthur Tate shut off the electricity and water to L block in response to prisoners speaking with the media. The situation escalated, and the prisoners took hostage guard Vallandingham, who was killed two days later when water and electricity were still cut.
The negotiation team, which was comprised of Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Shakur (Keith Lamar), Jason Robb and George Skatzes, effectively negotiated to win “better conditions” for prisoners in SOCF, which in reality were the bare minimum required by law. Part of the demands they negotiated was to keep themselves free from any retaliation from the state. Following the end of the uprising, Hasan, Robb, Namir and Skatzes were found guilty for the death of officer Vallandingham. Bomani was charged with organizing a death squad that killed five informant prisoners. All were implicated in being leaders of the uprising due to their role in the negotiations.
These allegations were corroborated by other inmates who then received shorter sentences, a telling sign of false testimony. The Lucasville 5 now sit on death row, where they have been further denied what is allowed to other death row inmates — human contact with family, access to legal resources, the media, cold weather clothing.
Using by now familiar language, the Ohio Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation denied any need to “negotiate in good faith” with prisoners who take hostages, and the Ohio Supreme Court has deemed the rebelling prisoners “enemy combatants.” Despite a Court of Appeals decision that eavesdropping by the state on prisoners’ conversations in L block was illegal, and thus evidence from those conversations could not be used in court, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that obeying that law to the aide of rioting prisoners was out of the question. This clearly demonstrates a double standard upheld in our court systems, which has been used in the case of the Lucasville 5 to send a number of men to death row, and perhaps worse, a robbed life behind bars. Add to this false testimony, complete lack of physical or DNA evidence, inadequately funded and prepared defense lawyers, and in the case of Siddique Hasan, moving his case to the county with the highest percentage of death row sentences, and any suggestion that the Lucasville 5 were allowed due process seems laughable.
The state’s response to the uprising has been death sentences for those identifiable as holding “leadership” roles in the riot (or, more realistically, in ending the riot), building a new Supermax Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, and increasing the use of solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, “Ad Seg.” Following their logic, Ad Seg reduces the rates of prisoner on guard violence by isolating prisoners. Ad Seg also causes severe mental and emotional distress for inmates, sensory deprivation, and a convenient veil of secrecy for guard on inmate violence.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
1968: riots in old Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio
1972: Southern Ohio Correctional Facility opened in Lucasville, Ohio
1983: black mentally ill inmate Jimmy Haynes beat to death by guards
1983: black inmates Lincoln Carter and John Ingram, who witnessed Haynes’ death, found dead in their solitary cells the next day
1988 (Dec): prisoner Tim Meachum killed
1989 (Jan): prisoner Billy Murphy killed, prisoner Dino Wallace stabbed
1989: 42 percent of prisoners polled by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee respond with concerns for their personal safety
1990: Warden Arthur Tate appointed to SOCF
1991 (May): Tate sends a memo to all prisoners and visitors, stating he has opened a PO BOX to facilitate prisoners to snitch by mail, the address reads “Operation Shakedown”
1993 (Mar): Tate sends a memo entitled “Request to Construct a Maximum Security Unit at SOCF” to the South Region Director of prisons, where Tate states his desire to increase security at SOCF, essentially turning it into a Supermax with all prisoners on 23 hour lockdown
1993 (Apr): Tate issues a memo stating mandatory TB tests for all prisoners
1993 (Apr 11): Lucasville Uprising begins as prisoners return from recreation, six inmates killed, 8 guards taken hostage
1993 (Apr 13): Tate cuts water and electricity to occupied L block
1993 (Apr 15): Guard Vallandingham killed
1993 (Apr 21): 21 point agreement reached, 407 prisoners surrender, 5 remaining hostages released
1997: Lucasville 5 fast demanding medical treatment for Skatzes, and upgrading their security from Level C to Level B
1997 (Sep): a disturbance breaks out in DR-4, where the Lucasville 5 are housed. many death row inmates, including Skatzes and Robb, were beaten severely when guards in riot gear regained control of the block.
1998: Ohio State Penitentiary Supermax Prison in Youngstown opened, which now houses 4 of the Lucasville 5.
2003: ODRC adopted a policy of blocking media access specifically to Hasan and other riot-related prisoners, effectively cutting off any media reports of conditions inside
2011 (Jan 3-15): three of the Lucasville 5 go on hunger strike for improved conditions, and win all of their demands
“OPERATION SHAKEDOWN:” Following the murder of a well respected prison teacher by a prisoner, all of SOCF was placed on lockdown, with each prisoner locked in his cell. Guards entered and ransacked prisoners cells at will, clad in riot gear.
LOCKDOWN: prisoners are locked in their cells, sometimes the lights are cut, and no one is allowed to leave for any reason.
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT or ADMINISTRATIVE SEGREGATION: prisoners are kept in isolation in small cells, some as small as 5 feet by 9 feet. Prisoners are locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day, and some are completely denied interaction with other inmates.
SUPERMAX: a Supermax (“maximum security”) prison is perpetually under hightened control, and features solitary confinement cells. Ohio State Penitentiary, which holds 502 inmates in Youngstown, Ohio, is a Supermax prison.
NEO-SLAVERY IN AMERICA
The conditions that precipitated the uprising at Lucasville in 1993 were by no means unique to the experience of prisoners at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. On the contrary, recent accounts by prisoners, such as those made in 2005 by Georgia State Prison inmate James E. Scott in “Neo-Slavery in the Dirty South: A Look at the Racist Georgia Department of Corrections,” show a continuation of deplorable conditions. Scott describes the work conditions overseen by the Georgia Department of Corrections:
“Prisoner-slave laborers are forced to work in sweat shops for longer hours than state paid prison employees. …Georgia’s prisoner-slaves are burdened with the responsibility to keep state prisons fully operative with as little outside influence as possible. …Prisoner-slave laborers are responsible for manufacturing every article of the prison issued clothing worn by prisoners. At Hancock State Prison dozens of prisoner-slaves can be found slaving away at sewing machines for nine hours a day, five days a week and free of charge.”
Prisoners in Georgia make prison boots, mattresses, pillows, linen, and soap. Furthermore, they are responsible for the maintenance of prisons’ interiors and their exterior landscaping. Prisoners also grow the food used in prison on large-scale plantations.
Scott describes the racial discrepancies inside of Reidsville Prison. The general population is majority white, while people of color fill up the prisons’ 9 foot by 5 foot solitary lockdown cells. He describes the lockdown facilities:
“L and M buildings, of the SMU are the most notorious prison structures in the history of the state’s penal system. Many, many murders, suicides and brutal assaults have occurred in these two buildings over the decades. I have witnessed a couple of cowardly prison guards on restrained prisoner assaults, and have heard the stories of many more.
“…The living conditions in these tiny cells are of the most deplorable type. The paint has peeled from the walls, decades of dirt and filth has accumulated in every corner and crack, and insects and rodents are everywhere. With only one clogged up intake vent, ventilation inside the cells is almost non-existent. The heat of summer is horrendous and the winters are always frigid. The windows inside each dormitory are completely painted, preventing sunlight from entering. This causes extreme sensory deprivation, which helps to eventually push a great many men to the brink of insanity.”
James Scott’s account makes for a chilling prelude to a statewide prison strike that upset the balance of power in Georgia’s prisons in December of 2010. Thousands of prisoners non-violently protested their labor and living conditions and refused to work, and much like Lucasville, stood united across racial and gang divisions against their common enemy, the DOC. As the prison depends on their labor to run, the Georgia Department of Corrections was faced with the decision to hire outside labor. Georgia’s prisons were put on lockdown following the strike, and strikers faced brutal retaliation, including shakedowns and beatings, forced drug tests, and solitary confinement. Little or no major media coverage has surfaced on this strike, despite its historic scope. Media reports that have surfaced have simply repeated the Georgia DOC’s press releases or focused on the use of contraband cellphones and the potential for violence.
Prisoners accross the country describe their incarceration as slavery and a denial of their basic human rights. These prisoners have extremely limited options for asserting their rights, demands or geting their voices heard. The Georgia DOC’s response, as with Ohio’s DRC in the case of Lucasville, has clearly focused on punishing inmates and further hampering their ability to organize or speak, rather than taking their demands seriously.
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
Organize public demonstrations and events!
Get the word out about prison conditions!
Humanize prisoners by writing them and sharing their stories and thoughts!
Use your immediate sphere of influence to send less people to prisons and rely less on law enforcement!
Start community accountability groups, neighborhood associations, and restorative justice work!
One of the most influential things you can do to help support the Lucasville 5 is to write letters. You can write personal letters of support to the 5, whose addresses are on the back of this booklet.
We also encourage you to write to the following people, as they have a considerable amount of influence in the lives of the Lucasville 5.
Governor John Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, Oh 43215-6117
Gary Mohr, Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
770 West Broad Street
Columbus, Ohio 43222
State Representative Ted Celeste: proponent of ending death penalty in Ohio
77 S. High St
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
(1) There is no DNA evidence or physical evidence that implicates any of the Lucasville 5 with any of the ten murders that happened during the 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
(2) All parties whose testimony benefited the prosecutors resulted in substantial benefits in return for their cooperation, including: no indictment, reduced charges, concurrent sentences, early parole.
(3) As there is no evidence, and testimonies are likely false, amnesty should be granted to those all involved in the Lucasville rebellion, as it was granted in New York following the Attica uprising.
(4) End the death penalty in Ohio.
(5) End the cruel and unusual punishment of Administrative Segregation.
(6) Close all prisons! Free all prisoners!
Educate yourself on these issues! This is but a very brief starting point.
Articles, Books & Web Resources
“Freedom Sought for Lucasville Five” article by Sharon Danann in Workers World
“Neo-Slavery in the Dirty South: A Look at the Racist Georgia Department of Corrections” by James E. Scott
“Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising” by Staughton Lynd
“Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis
“Resistance Behind Bars” by Victoria Law
A List of Ohio Based Solidarity Groups can be found here:
For more information on the Lucasville 5 or how to get involved with prisoner support, please contact us!
REDBIRD PRISON ABOLITION
To write to members of the Lucasville 5 and send them your support, contact them individually:
Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) #R130-559
Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were) #A173-245
Bomani Shakur (Keith Lamar) #A317-117
Jason Robb #A308-919
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, OH 44505-4635
George W Skatzes #A173-501
Mansfield Correctional Institution
PO Box 788
Mansfield, Ohio 44901