Incarcerated survivors of the 1993 Lucasville Uprising are on hunger strike, demanding to know why Ohio officials restricted their phone and email access for nearly five days during the 25-year anniversary of the rebellion.
Prison officials said the restrictions, which impacted at least five survivors, would be lifted by the morning of Monday, April 23, but most did not regain access until Tuesday afternoon.
Three of the prisoners—Keith LaMar, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, and Jason Robb—originally planned to strike on Tuesday if their privileges were not restored, but decided to move forward with it anyway after officials failed to provide an explanation.
All three are on death row and have been in isolation since the uprising, which took place from April 11-21, 1993.
Two more Lucasville survivors, Greg Curry and Namir Mateen, were also impacted by the restrictions.
The prisoners lost their access to phones and email in the late afternoon on Friday, April 20. The timing prevented supporters from calling the prison for more information or to demand officials reverse the policy.
Hasan told Shadowproof they have no idea why the restrictions were imposed and were told only that their communications would be blocked “until further notice.”
Ohio state prison officials claimed the order came from the state prison system’s central office, while central office claimed the order came from the warden at Ohio State Prison.
“No protocol was followed,” Hasan said. “Nobody seems to know what’s going on.”
“Although the restrictions are up now, we’re remaining on hunger strike because somebody is overstepping their bounds and they need to get their story together,” Hasan added.
Hasan said no conduct report or documentation was provided laying out the justification behind the restriction. “Can’t we see the documents? As far as we know, no such documents even exist.”
The prisoners were told they were “under investigation,” according to Hasan, but not told why. He noted this usually involves moving those in question from general population to solitary confinement, which did not happen.
LaMar said he and his lawyers met with the prison’s regional director, Todd Ishee, to discuss the restrictions, and later he decided to move forward with the hunger strike until they were granted a meeting with the warden.
“No one to-date has accepted responsibility for rescinding our privileges, but the why and wherefores of that is neither here nor there,” Lamar said. “What matters is that it not happen again, and I was assured by Mr. Ishee that unless warranted (based on our personal behavior), our privileges would not be summarily rescinded as they were.”
Ben Turk, an organizer with the advocacy group Lucasville Amnesty, said claims by prison officials that restrictions would be lifted after the weekend “turned out to be a lie and a delaying tactic,” and argued the prison showed “greater disregard for the prisoners’ rights by denying a legal call.”
Local activists visited the prison and others made phone calls to demand answers when it became apparent the restrictions would not be lifted on Monday. They believe a new captain may be responsible.
Referring to a special classification imposed on Lucasville survivors known as ‘5A Long-Timer Status,’ the activists said the captain has been “threatening to return ‘long-timer’ privileges back to ‘how it used to be.” They fear this is a harbinger of forthcoming efforts to roll-back contact visitation, as well as access to phones, the law library, congregate recreation, the email and video kiosk, and books and music.
In addition to maintaining contact with their loved ones and supporters, the Lucasville survivors have relied on their access to phones and email to spotlight retaliation they faced in the years since the uprising, and to document their continued isolation, prison slavery, life on death row, and prosecutorial misconduct.
In 2016 and 2017, Hasan faced communications restrictions for speaking with media about the uprising and labor strikes organized around the anniversary of the 1971 Attica Rebellion, and both Hasan and Robb were punished for appearing in the Netflix documentary series, “Captive.”
Both went on hunger strike for 13 days in 2011 to protest restrictions on phones, contact visits, and legal resources.
Curry, Hasan, LaMar, and Robb are suing Ohio for denying on-camera interviews with Lucasville survivors, which they argue is a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The next hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday, April 25, and advocates speculate the restrictions “may be an attempt to punish or deter the prisoners from suing” the state.
This story will be updated as we receive more information.