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Ohio Prisoners Begin Hunger Strike Following Punishment For Appearing On Netflix Show, “Captive”

On February 27, Ohio prisoners Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Jason Robb began a hunger strike after officials at the Ohio State Penitentiary suspended their phone and email access for 90 days. Prison officials accused the men of accepting compensation to appear without authorization on an episode of the Netflix show, “Captive.”

The episode covered the 1993 prison riot known as the Lucasville Uprising. Hasan and Robb, who argue their role in the rebellion was to negotiate a peaceful ending, were pegged as two of its leaders. They were sentenced to death for the killing of a corrections officer. From their solitary confinement cells, they have engaged in protracted struggle against restrictions on their access to the media ever since.

Hasan’s attorney, Rick Kerger, characterized his client’s hearing before the prison’s Rules and Infractions Board (RIB) as “odd.”

Last year, the prison approved a visitation application from one of the show’s producers, Minna Sedmakov. They also approved her request for a 30 minute video visitation through JPay, the email and video visitation service.

JPay gives prison officials the ability to fully monitor prisoner emails and video chats, yet Hasan’s conduct report states the recordings were not reviewed before their release. Brief clips of Hasan and Robb were used in the hour-long episode, which mostly featured the testimony of law enforcement and prison officials.

Hasan’s conduct report claims two $20 deposits to his account by Sedmakov were compensation for his appearance in the documentary, a charge which he vigorously denies. He told officials he wanted to call Sedmakov as one of his witnesses before the RIB, so she could explain why she gave him the money, but they have refused.

Sedmakov insisted on giving him a gift, Hasan said. He argued he has never accepted money to speak about the Lucasville Uprising.

Hasan is appealing the RIB’s decision, which he believes to be part of a long effort to control the narrative around the Lucasville Uprising. He and Robb initiated a hunger strike on February 27 following the ruling, which immediately restricted their communication.

“They don’t mind people in law enforcement telling their side of the story,” Hasan told Shadowproof before his hearing. “But when it comes to us, they don’t want to let us tell our story.”

Kerger said the 90 days comes from the fact that Hasan received two other suspensions from the RIB in the past year. In September, he was punished for speaking to reporters as the national prison labor strike was about to begin. He said officials falsely accused him of telling a staff imam to wear an explosive vest into the prison as a pretext to restrict his communication with reporters for 30 days.

In October, he was punished again, this time with a 60 day suspension of phone and email privileges for participating in an interview with NPR about the strike—a punishment he called excessive.

Photo by Airman Magazine on Flickr.
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Brian Sonenstein

Brian Sonenstein

Publishing Editor at Shadowproof and columnist at Prison Protest.