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Friday, June 15, 2012

Seeking Immediate Transfer to a Safer Prison By Cornelius Harris

Cornelius Harris is incarcerated at Ohio State Penitentiary. He participated in the May Day hunger strike, and then resumed the strike solo when it took too long for the warden to make good on their demands.

WARNING: This post contains graphic descriptions of violence.

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Cornelius Harris and I’m currently incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) in Youngstown, Ohio. Since my arrival at OSP from SOCF in 2007, I have encountered extreme harassment, destruction of my personal property, and racially motivated attacks on my person by prison officials. In particular, I have been involved in several incidents where correctional officers (COs) attempted to cause me bodily harm, but I managed to defend myself. However, every time I manage to defend myself or repel an attack on my life, I have been the only one charged with criminal offenses in an outside judicial proceeding.

The first incident occurred on October 19, 2008, when CO Timothy McVay—someone who has repeatedly harassed me—came to my cell and told me that today would be the day that he call my bluff. He further stated that he was going to put the handcuffs on me loose when he brings me out of my cell for recreation, and, if I didn’t come out of the handcuffs and fight him, I was a “bitch” and he would still split my head open and say I slipped the cuffs and attacked him without provocation. Thus, it was only a matter of time before I would have to deal with this officer so I told myself that if he follows through on his threat, I would come out of my handcuffs and fight him. This officer kept true to words and when I came out of my cell, he swung several punches at me and I responded by returning three punches which landed on his face. In his attempt to sidestep my punches, his momentum made him fall down the stairs. Unbelievably, I was later indicted on attempted murder charges even though McVey’s injuries were not life threatening.

After this incident, the harassment from COs increased drastically and even supervisors made verbal threats on my life, saying the first chance  they got they would kill me. No matter how many complaints I wrote to the appropriate prison authorities, officers and their immediate supervisors still destroyed my property, tampered with my food, and made serious threats on my life. I seriously feared for my life, knowing that these COs were more than capable of making good on their threats. It’s interesting to note that some of these same officers have been known for seriously assaulting prisoners and getting away with it because the prison authorities go out of their way to protect them.

The threats from COs became so serious that I refused to come out of my cell for anything: recreation, shower, or medical care. I knew that if I did, I would be seriously hurt. This didn’t stop the threats, however, for COs would tell me that they plan to come into my cell at night (on 3rd shift) and beat my brains out. These threats were always followed by racial slurs—monkey, nigger, coon boy, and other racial epithets. I knew that sooner or later these COs would come into my cell and try to harm me, so I found a way to acquire a homemade weapon for my protection.

On December 30, 2008, I was awoken by an officer kicking on my cell door at 7:00 a.m. This was a non-movement day so I didn’t know why I was being awoken. But when I looked up, CO Turpack yelled into my cell:

“Today is the day, you black piece of sht, that you get yours.”

I didn’t understand why this officer would wake me up and threaten me like that but, in any event, I got out of bed to look out my cell door to see what was going on. From my cell (C1-17) I could see the officers’ station, and when I looked in there, I saw at least 15 COs crowded around the desk where the block supervisor (Lt. Bright) was sitting. It appeared to me like the officers were going over a plan to do something to me. In fearing for my safety, I immediately prepared my cell for an attack.

Every officer that came pass my cell made threats to me, so I knew that day would be the day that those COs would try something. I just didn’t know what or when, yet I just knew I had to be prepared.

At 1:35 COs James Burns and Keith Hawn came into my pod to handcuff me neighbor in cell 16. He asked the COs where he was going because he wasn’t expecting to go anywhere on a non-movement day. Either Burns or Hawn told him to shut the fuck up and cuff up like he was told, which my neighbor complied. As CO Hawn closed my neighbor’s “cuff port” CO Burns got on his radio and called C-Block Control Center and requested for C1-17 to be opened. As my door began to open up, CO Burns grabbed his PR24 (night stick). I couldn’t believe he was actually calling for the door to be opened. Before I could make sense of it all, my door was sliding open. I didn’t want to get trapped in my cell so I rushed out to meet CO Burns swinging his PR24 at my head. I put my left arm up to block the “night stick” while thrusting my homemade shank at his midsection. As I tried to grab his swinging stick, my momentum took me into his body and we both fell to the floor. While on the floor, CO Burns tried to jam his PR24 into my neck as I continued to thrust the homemade shank at him.

I got off the floor and saw at least 30 COs gathered around the entrance to the pod door and waiting to get in. The pod door wouldn’t open because something got stuck in my cell door. I guess the way the security system works is if one door is opened in a pod, then another door cannot be opened until the first door is secured. Their plan, from the beginning, was to open my door and while I was fighting with Burns and Hawn, the other 30 officers would come in and make good on their threats. They wasn’t expecting the pod door to malfunction. Needless to day, I was criminally charged for this.

The harassment from COs and the prison authorities became ten times worse after this incident. Moreover, after I was removed from C1-17, the warden authorized for me to be placed in a pod by myself, mainly to isolate me in order to leave me vulnerable.

For the next several months, COs would open tamper with my food and destroy my personal property without any worry of being disciplined. Specifically, there was this officer named Waylon Wine who would spit in my food tray every time he worked in C-block. He would also destroy my family pictures and legal mail. I wrote complaints on this officer every time he would harass me, but the prison authorities would never do anything. I felt the only way I was going to get this officer to stop harassing me was if I did something to him.

On July 18, 2009, CO Wine refused to give me recreation and told me that “[he] had something special for lunch for me.” I knew that he was talking about playing with my food. That day was the day that I had had enough of these COs harassing me; therefore, I complained of chest pains so I could come out of my cell and tell the block supervisor about my problem. The block supervisor disregarded my complaint and did nothing about it, so when CO Wine came to the door to handcuff me, I thrust a homemade knife into his stomach. For this incident I was charged with attempted murder and having weapons while under detention.

On November 27, 2009, while being escorted to recreation, COs Turpack, Horton ad Wine slammed me on the floor and pummeled me face on the concrete. I was denied medial attention, placed in a cell and maced for three hours straight before the goon squad (cell extraction team) came into my cell and further assaulted me. Their excuse for coming into my cell was that I said I was suicidal, which was a complete lie. I knew they would try to harm me and I had a homemade knife to protect myself. During the cell extraction an officer was cut on the arm, and I was charged with felonious assault.

Every day that I remain at this penitentiary I am at risk of either being seriously injured or catching more cases. Also, my property is at risk of being destroyed and my food of being harassed. The prison authorities have agreed that I shouldn’t be housed at OSP, yet they won’t transfer me to another prison nor can they assure me that I won’t be harmed or harassed. They acknowledge my ongoing problems with staff, but they refuse to temporarily transfer me to another prison on Ohio until I am ultimately transferred out of state. Plain and simple, I fear for my safety at OSP and am seeking an immediate transfer to a safer prison.

Cornelius Harris #525-945
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, Ohio 44505

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cornelius I was one of your jurors on your case back a few months ago. I know the outcome of the verdict might not of went completly your way but we did what we thought was best. Hope everything in there is going ok for you


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