Warden concedes to strikers’ demands

By Alan Johnson

Columbus Dispatch

A hunger strike by the three Lucasville riot leaders has ended with state prison officials conceding to nearly all of the strikers’ demands.

A memo dated Friday from Warden David Bobby of the Ohio State Penitentiary at Youngstown outlined six policy changes being made for inmates under the prison’s “administrative maximum security” designation, the most restricted section of Death Row, which houses about 120 prisoners.

Inmates will be allowed “semi-contact” visits with family members, additional recreation time, access to computer-based legal research, phone privileges up to one hour per day and the opportunity to purchase more items from the commissary, including food and clothing.

Most of the changes were effective immediately, according to Bobby’s memo. The visitation change will take effect Feb 1.

The three inmates — Siddique Abdullah Hasan, known as Carlos Sanders at the time of the 1993 Lucasville riot; Bomani Shakur, formerly known as Keith Lamar; and Jason Robb, all of whom are serving death sentences for their part in the riot — began a liquid-only hunger strike Jan. 3.

The inmates complained that they were being singled out for unfair restrictions compared with others on death row because of their actions during the April 1993 riot. In audio messages distributed via the Internet, Hasan complained they had no outdoor recreation or contact visits with family members, can’t buy winter-weight clothing and lack access to LexisNexis, a legal and news Internet search engine.

The riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville cost 10 lives, including Corrections Officer Robert Vallandingham. Sanders was considered the ringleader of the rioters.

Attorneys Staughton and Alice Lynd, who have advocated for the Lucasville inmates, obtained a copy of the memo. They said the state’s capitulation was a surprise.

“I think they [the inmates] regard it as a victory,” Alice Lynd told the Dispatch.

“This is a big deal for them to be able to touch a loved one after 18 years.”

“Semi-contact” visits typically mean the visitor is separated from the inmate by a plate of glass that has a small gap so they can touch or hold hands.

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