According to a level 5 prisoner participating in the hunger strike at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) there are forty-eight (48) prisoners who have refused nine meals and should be officially recognized as on hunger strike. Warden Bobby has not returned calls requesting information about the hunger strike.
The prisoner’s demands include the following:
1. Lower commissary prices. One striker writes: “Commissary items are permitted to be marked up.to 35% above retail, while many of us receive only $8 a month.”
2. No more indefinite terms. Prisoners on the highest security level at OSP (level 5) currently have little prospects for reducing their security level and increasing privileges. “We are taken in front of a privilege review board every 90 days, yet can expect no [increase in] privilege for a year or longer” the hunger striker says of prisoners on Level 5B. Men on Level 5A have a privilege level review every six months, but there has been no increase in their privileges in recognition of good conduct for some time.
3. Healthy and nutritious food. According to the hunger striker, “austerity cuts have allowed our food portions to be shortened.”
4. Access to educational and enrichment materials. “There has recently been a major ban on books and music” the hunger striker said.
The hunger strike started on April 30th and was timed to coordinate in solidarity with May Day demonstrations and celebrations happening outside of prison. May Day is an international worker’s day, commemorating the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. The hunger strikers are asking supporters to call Warden David Bobby (330 743-0700) and ODRC director Gary Mohr (614-752-1164). They say they intend to continue on their hunger strike until their demands are met.
This is the second hunger strike at OSP this year. The first occurred on Feb 20th-23rd in solidarity with the Occupy movement’s call for an “Occupy for Prisoners” day of action. That hunger strike ended with Warden Bobby, as well as officials from Central Office in Columbus, promising to increase recreation time to the court-mandated minimum as well as improve enrichment programming, food quality and commissary practices. Until recently Ohio State Penitentiary housed death row as well as the highest security level prisoners. When all but 6 death row prisoners were moved to Chillicothe, the number of Level 4 and 5 prisoners at OSP increased from 270 to over 400, and rec time was reduced to 3 or 4 hours per week. The court required minimum is 5 hours per week.
Yesterday, OSP officials confirmed that rec time has been increased. According to a unit manager and Warden Bobby’s secretary, after recent changes, Level 4A prisoners receive 5 hours a day congregating with up to 8 other prisoners at a time. Most level 4B prisoners are allowed to rec in pairs, for 5 one hour and forty-five minute periods a week. All level 5 prisoners rec alone, most receive 5 one hour and fifteen minute periods per week. The four exceptions to this rule are Level 5 prisoners sentenced to death for alleged involvement in the Lucasville Uprising. These men are allowed 7 hours a week due to an agreement following a twelve day hunger strike they staged in January 2011. Recreation is the only time when any of the prisoners are allowed out of their 7′ x 11′ isolation cells.
Updated information about the hunger strike can be found at RedBirdPrisonAbolition.org and LucasvilleAmnesty.org.