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Monday, March 4, 2013

Hunger Striker Targeted for Harassment by OSP Staff.

Monday March 4th, Youngstown- After only five days with food, the man who endured a 38 day hunger strike at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) resumed not eating on Wednesday February 20th. Soja (also known as Cornelius Harris, prisoner number 525-945) has resumed his suspended hunger strike in response to continued harassment by correctional officers at OSP. While Soja was in court in late January, correctional officers lost, stole or destroyed over 30 items of his personal property, valued at over $300. Upon his return to OSP, Warden David Bobby agreed that Soja's property would be returned or replaced. Soja claims the property has not been returned, and that there is video evidence of all the property that was in his cell before he left for court.

Warden David Bobby refused to comment on the situation.

Since resuming his hunger strike, correctional officers have resumed harassment. Last week officers Austin, Kish and Burns repeatedly threatened that they would destroy more of Soja's property while he was on a scheduled visit this Sunday. Supporters called OSP Sunday morning and requested the Shift Captain Sanders supervise any search of Soja's cell while he was on that visit. Soja has not been able to report back on whether anything happened with his property while he was on that visit.

Communication with all prisoners in Ohio has been interrupted for the last week and a half because JPay, the private company that provides email services to prisoners and their loved ones went down without notice. 
On Wednesday, Soja filed a sexual harassment grievance procedure against a correctional officer. According to the complaint, Soja refused a meal that included a hot dog because of his hunger strike. The correctional officer then grabbed his crotch and asked Soja "are you sure you don't want my hot dog?".

On January 4th, 2013, Soja started a hunger strike that lasted 38 days and ended without any of his demands being met. He was demanding a reliable security level step-down procedure and an end to harassment by OSP staff. While on that hunger strike, Soja went to court to fight criminal charges, including attempted murder, stemming from incidents of fights with OSP staff. Soja represented himself and the jury found him not guilty, or reduced all of the most serious charges. They only found him guilty of assault and weapons charges for acts which Soja admitted to commiting out of self-defense. One juror has come out publically, and stating that she feels Mr Harris was "the only honest person who gave testimony" during the trial. The judge added 32 years to Soja's sentance, nearly the maximum penalty for the remaining charges. Soja is appealing the court's decision, on the grounds of self-defense and is looking for a lawyer willing to help him with this appeal.

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