April 11th, 2013, Youngstown, OH- Four prisoners housed at Ohio State Penitentiary began refusing food today. Greg Curry, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb and Bomani Shakur, who have been housed at OSP since it opened, are demanding that media outlets be allowed to come for sit-down on-camera interviews with them. In a recorded announcement, Bomani Shakur described the hunger strike as a "protest [of] the state's unfair and unreasonable refusal to grant us access to the media... I am an innocent man. This is injustice, the state of Ohio is trying to kill me."
Numerous news sources have recently contacted the prisoners because of their involvement in the Lucasville Uprising twenty years ago. The hunger strike was timed with the anniversary of the uprising, along with a conference focused on taking another look at what happened in 1993.
"There are two important reasons for media access. The first is to humanize the prisoner... the second... [is to give] the prisoner a way to contribute to the search for truth about his alleged crimes" wrote long time prisoner advocate Staughton Lynd. "[When] a journalist and a prisoner can speak face to face... the reporter [can] ask follow-up questions as in a courtroom cross-examination." Lynd also cites legal opinions that advocate a right for prisoners to speak to the media. See Staughton's full statement at Re-ExaminingLucasville.org.
The prisoners announced the hunger strike during a brief informal telephone interview with The Associated Press, who ran an article on the eve of the hunger strike. Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Jason Robb were convicted of complicity in the murder of the hostage guard officer Vallandingham and condemned to death. They maintain their innocence and argue that as negotiators of the agreement that ended the uprising, they actually avoided further loss of life. Bomani Shakur (also known as Keith Lamar) and Greg Curry both surrendered on the first day of the uprising, but were charged and convicted of killing perceived snitches in the first hours of the disturbance. They both also maintain their innocence. Curry is serving a life sentence. Shakur has appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Supporters of the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners have planned a three day conference memorializing the Lucasville Uprising and re-examining the investigations and prosecutions that produced these convictions. The Re-Examining Lucasville conference will take place at Columbus State Community College on the weekend of April 19th-21st.
Advocates are also encouraging supporters to call Warden David Bobby at OSP and request that he negotiate with and allow media access. Warden Bobby can be reached at 330-743-0700 ext 2006. Supporters can also write to the prisoners at the following addresses.
Greg Curry 213-159
Siddique Abdullah Hasan R130-559
Jason Robb 308-919
Bomani Shakur (Lamar) 317-117