June 14th, 2012, Youngstown OH- Two weeks after the hunger strike that began on May Day at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) one man named Cornelius Harris resumed hunger striking on his own because of slow progress on the realization of striker's demands. Mr Harris refused more than 50 meals over at least 17 days. In a letter dated June 6th, he was still refusing food and vowed to stay on until "a clear picture is painted as to what changes will be made". A trusted prisoner source has since confirmed that Mr. Harris resumed eating after a meeting with Warden David Bobby.
It's unclear what changes have been made, but according to prisoners, Warden Bobby has made changes. There have been reductions in commissary prices, and there is a state-wide investigation into price differences and over-charging. Level 5 B prisoners at OSP are still separated from their visitors by bullet-proof glass, but are no longer required to wear handcuffs during visits. There is talk about more frequent and meaningful security review assessments.
During the hunger strike, Mr. Harris was transferred to the hole and had his property destroyed in a cell search. Correctional Officers Dillon and Carl searched Mr Harris' cell and destroyed his prescription glasses, family photos, address book, personal letters, a manuscript, and personal hygiene items. According to Mr Harris' letter, correctional officer Dillon justified the search by writing three tickets claiming that Mr Harris threatened to stab him. Harris says that cameras show Dillon standing in front of his cell "several times, for several minutes, making sexual gestures, grabbing and thrusting his crotch at me and making threatening movements at me". He says the administration has acknowledged these videos, but won't discipline Officer Dillon, throw out the conduct reports, or reimburse Harris for the destroyed property.
Harris also described being the target of harassment and abuse by Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) guards in the past. An article and open by Mr Harris are available at RedBirdPrisonAbolition.org.
Warden David Bobby has refused to give the public information about Mr. Harris' hunger strike and told supporters on June 4th that there were no hunger strikes happening at OSP, which is contradicted by Mr Harris' June 6th letter. June 6th is also the day that another level 5 prisoner, Jason Robb started a hunger strike at OSP demanding transfer to death row at Chillicothe Correctional.
Another OSP prisoner, who chose to remain anonymous, describes dissatisfaction with the hunger strike. He says he remembers when "the goal used to be to shut this place down, now it's starve yourself to make it comfortable". He wants to see a process or "method that is taken serious" for dealing with quality of life issues, so people don't need to go on hunger strikes to get results.