PDT Staff Writer
On the 20th anniversary of the longest and deadliest prison riot in United States history, three of the five Ohio inmates sentenced to death from the riot say they will begin a hunger strike today to protest the state’s refusal to allow them sit-down media interviews on their cases.
Siddique Abdullah Hasan, formerly known as Carlos Sanders; Keith LaMar and Jason Robb, have informed officials at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown of their intentions. James Were, another of the Lucasville Five, is diabetic and will not take part. The fifth man sentenced to death after the riot, George Skatzes, is incarcerated in Chillicothe. Skatzes is the inmate who gained worldwide attention when he was allowed to deliver demands during a live radio broadcast during the riot.
Hasan told the Associated Press, “We have been suffering very torturous conditions for two decades. We have never been given the opportunity completely to speak about our cases, to speak to the media because the media has an enormous amount of power. They can get our message out to the court of public opinion.”
“We do have a hunger strike policy,” JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told the Daily Times Wednesday. “Once an inmate refuses nine consecutive meals, that individual is considered to be officially on a hunger strike, and there are core elements within the policy as to how that is handled.”
The official policy identifies a hunger striker as an inmate who is ingesting only non-nutritional substances or an extreme minimum of nutritional substances for greater than two days. One brunch meal is counted as two meals for the purpose of determining status as a hunger striker.
“It is the policy of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to monitor any inmate who is participating in a hunger strike and to force treatment before death or serious, irreversible damage to life support systems or major organs occurs,” the policy reads. “After a hunger striker has been identified, the responsible deputy warden will inform the managing officer, the Bureau of Medical Services chief, and the Hunger Strike Team members via e-mail. The responsible deputy warden shall notify the medical department via e-mail in all cases and the mental health department in those cases where the inmate in on the mental health caseload.”
The policy goes on to say the inmate will be transferred to a single cell to facilitate monitoring by the security staff and the security officer will maintain a detailed hunger strike log. Under the title “Medical Procedures,” the manual says, “The medical staff shall provide the necessary medical services and may encourage the inmate to eat, but should not attempt to intervene in the issues that provoked the hunger strike. The institution Advanced Level Provider (ALP) shall counsel the inmate about the possible consequences of continued fasting.”
Another part of the manual says, “Forced treatment shall be recommended for the inmate when the Chief Medical Officer has determined that further fasting is reasonably likely to cause death or serious permanent damage to the inmate’s health. The decision to initiate forced medical treatment shall be based on the patient’s total physical and mental health condition, not merely on any individual test result.”
Ten deaths were attributed to the riot - nine were inmates - and one was corrections officer Robert Vallandingham.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.