ACTION ALERT FOR HUNGER STRIKERS IN OHIO, OSP Hunger Strike Enters Third Week

JUST IN: From: Lucasville Amnesty [mailto:lucasville@toledoprisonawareness.org]
Sent: Monday, March 30, 2015 3:40 PM
Subject: Lucasville Amnesty – OSP Hunger Strike Enters Third Week

ACTION ALERT FOR HUNGER STRIKERS IN OHIO

Dear friends,
Please help support these hunger-striking prisoners in Ohio. The action alert below explains the situation and gives contact info for phone calls, emails and letters to the pertinent prison authorities and politicians. Please also forward to your networks.

Ten prisoners at OSP [Ohio State Penitentiary] have been on hunger strike since Monday March 16th. Supporters have been calling the prison and the legal services department at ODRC [Ohio Dept of Rehabilitation and Correction] central office with no discernable effect.

The Warden and OSP staff refuse to take the hunger striking prisoners seriously. Unit manager Charmaine Bracy and Major Hurst have both said that range rec will not be returned at all and that 5B prisoners will have access to religious programming through their cell doors. See below for what that means and why it is unacceptable.

Trevor Clark in legal services either ignores calls or re-directs callers in meaningless circles. It seems there is no one in legal services at the ODRC is taking responsiblity for making sure OSP does not abuse its captives’ basic constitutional rights.

So, we’re going to their boss, and then to his bosses.

Gary Mohr is the director of the ODRC. Please call him and tell him that the Warden at OSP is refusing to take the ten hunger strikers seriously. Demand that Mohr reverse this Warden’s illegal policy changes. Tell him that it is not okay for him to turn a blind eye when his employees pursue collective punishment by putting through illegal and unconstitutional policies because of a few incidents with one or two prisoners.

Gary Mohr 614-752-1150.
Write letters: Gary Mohr, ODRC Director, 770 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43222
Email: drc.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us

Gary Mohr is the top of the ODRC hierachy, but the ODRC is supposed to be accountable to the people of Ohio. The mechanism for that accountability is the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC). Please join other supporters in filing complaints on their websitehttp://www.ciic.state.oh.us/complaint-form

You can also contact these elected officials (especially if you live in their district) and ask them to investigate the recent policy failures at OSP.

Sandra Williams (D) Senate District 21 (614) 466-4857
Cliff Hite, Vice Chair (R) Senate District 1 (614) 466-8150
Edna Brown (D) Senate District 11 (614) 466-5204
John Eklund (R) Senate District 18 (614) 644-7718
Click the names to send emails.
Mailing address:
Senate Building
1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor
Columbus, Ohio43215

Paul Zeltwanger (R) House District 54 (614) 644-6027
Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D) House District 15 (614) 466-3485
Bob D. Hackett (R) House District 74 (614) 466-1470
Michelle Lepore-Hagan (D) House District 58 (614) 466-9435
Click the names to send emails.
Mailing Address:
Vern Riffe Center
77 South High Street 13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111

Religious programming through a cell door means that a clergy person or spiritual leader will speak with the prisoner through the closed cell door on the range for less than 5 minutes. The doors at OSP are solid steel. They are thick, and the range is a loud echoing concrete room with a dozen of these doors looking out on it. Prisoners behind each door attempt to converse with each other by shouting to be heard. It is a very loud place with no privacy.

Imagine being a catholic giving confession at the top of your lungs through a steel door while other prisoners carry on shouted conversations around you. Imagine trying to receive any kind of religious instruction in that environment. It is absurd for OSP staff to pretend that is a suitable replacement for the one hour long sessions in a seperate space that they are depriving these prisoners of.

More details on the issues:

Two recent policy changes at OSP are the main issues, though prisoners have many other specific grievances. The biggest issue, effecting the most prisoners is the withdrawal of congregate recreation. All but the cadre and long timer prisoners at OSP are no longer allowed to go out on the range together for their one hour a day recreation out of their cells. This policy change reduces human contact between prisoners, isolating and dehumanizing them further, and denying them opportunities to demonstrate that they are not security threats, a key component of the security step-down process they need to go through to get out of solitary confinement. It also creates a logistical problem, if only one prisoner at a time is allowed to rec, there is not enough time in a week for each of the over 450 prisoners to get their legally required five hours of rec time per week. This policy change violates court decisions that are supposed to bind OSP to a minimum standard of humane treatment.

The second change, OSP has decided to deny programming to prisoners at level 5B. This directly effects a few dozen prisoners, who are at the highest security level in the Ohio system. Depriving these prisoners of access to programming demonstrates the ODRC’s commitment to cruelty and punishment, rather than rehabilitation and counseling for their captives. Like the recreation restriction, it slows the process by which 5B prisoners can step down to lower security levels, acquiring more privileges. It is also illegal. Some of the denied programming includes religious programming. Any prisoner placed on level 5B will be there for at least a year. It is a violation of the first amendment right to freedom of religion to deny anyone the ability to practice their religion for over a year, and a violation of the fourteenth amendment equal protection under the law to exclude these prisoners from opportunities afforded to other prisoners without just cause.

There are many other issues at OSP, everything from unsafe and slippery conditions in the showers that have caused multiple injuries, to restricted access to hardcover books in violation of US Supreme Court decision Turner v Safely. The Warden at OSP is not taking the prisoners’ demands seriously and appears to not have consulted ODRC legal services before instituting these illegal and unconstitutional policy changes.

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