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Ohio State Pen inmates launch hunger strike

Published: Fri, May 4, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.



By Peter H. Milliken



A large hunger strike is under way at the Ohio State Penitentiary, according to the prison’s warden David Bobby and two Valley lawyers who once represented penitentiary inmates in a federal class-action lawsuit.

Attys. Staughton and Alice Lynd of Niles said they received a telephone call from an OSP inmate they know late Wednesday, during which the inmate said about 48 of his fellow prisoners were taking part in a hunger strike.

At that point, they had refused nine consecutive meals since Monday at the prison, commonly known as the Youngstown Supermax, the inmate added.

“The guy who phoned us we consider highly credible,” said Atty. Staughton Lynd. Lynd and his wife declined to identify the caller to The Vindicator.

Warden David Bobby said 30 inmates have refused to eat since Monday. Eighteen of the 30 had missed nine consecutive meals as of Thursday morning, he said.

“Not everybody started all at the same time,” he explained.

Inmates are considered to be on a hunger strike after missing nine consecutive meals, Bobby said. “It’ll eventually get to 30 if they don’t eat,” Bobby said, adding that this is the largest hunger strike he’s seen in his four years as warden of OSP, which is on the city’s East Side.

After inmates miss nine consecutive meals, the prison medical staff assesses and weighs them and explains to them the consequences of not eating, the warden said.

The hunger strikers are among a group of 117 OSP inmates on Level 5, the highest security level, Bobby said.

“Even if I have one guy that’s on a hunger strike, I take it seriously,” the warden said, adding that he met with five hunger strikers for nearly three hours Wednesday.

“We’re going to continue to communicate with the inmates and talk to them, and, obviously, listen to their concerns,” he said. If there are issues the prison administration thinks it can address, it will explore whether changes need to be made, he added.

The caller said the hunger strikers demand lower commissary prices, the opportunity to earn more recreation and out-of-cell time through good behavior and programs to teach them trades and help them cope with sensory deprivation linked to 23 hours of solitary confinement daily, the Lynds said.

“The harder you work, the more you behave, the more you get,” Bobby said of inmate privileges. By working, Bobby said he was referring to participation in self-help, anger management and substance-abuse recovery programming.

The caller said the warden formed a committee to compare OSP’s commissary prices with those of other prisons in response to the hunger strikers’ demand for lower prices, the Lynds reported.

However, Bobby said the committee was formed at least two weeks ago.

The demands reported by the caller are consistent with a list of demands contained in a letter The Vindicator received last week from Supermax inmate Marcus L. Harris, which announced that the hunger strike would begin Monday.

Harris, 28, is serving 53 years to life in prison on aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault charges that originated in Jefferson County.

In his letter, Harris complained commissary prices can be marked up 35 percent above retail prices, while many inmates receive only $8 per month, that food portions have been reduced, and that recreation totals as little as four hours a week.

However, Bobby said the commissary markup is 22 percent over what OSP pays for the snack foods and personal hygiene items the commissary sells. Commissary profits pay the commissary workers and pay for movies, arts and crafts materials and recreational equipment for inmates, Bobby said.

Menus and food portions are standardized through the state prison system, and all inmates get at least five hours of recreation each week, Bobby said.

“There has recently been a major ban on books and music in an attempt to stymie culture and limit education,” Harris wrote.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has a central book, magazine and CD screening committee in Columbus, and its decisions, which are based on security concerns, apply to the entire state prison system, said JoEllen Smith, ODRC communications chief.

Banned items include some types of pornography, CDs with “very explicit lyrics” and items that incite violence, Bobby said.

“We are sensory deprived, underfed, isolated with little or no movement, unable to hug our children, family and friends,” Harris said.

The Lynds’ class-action lawsuit on behalf of the Supermax prisoners led to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that required the ODRC to use a due-process procedure in assigning inmates to OSP and in the decision to keep them there.


1jfgiancola(171 comments)posted 3 years ago

Who cares!

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2michael1757(325 comments)posted 3 years ago

They don't wanna eat,let em' starve. When they die,throw em' in a pile & bulldoze over them. Look at how much money the state'll save.

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3drpautot(70 comments)posted 3 years ago

And when the wretched masses come to take all you have, i will be the first to say i told you so. If you lock up a man, and treat him like an animal for an extended period of time, you get a far worse creature than you started with. All men deserve some semblance of dignity.

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4mrblue(1129 comments)posted 3 years ago

They don't want to eat? Oh well.

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5Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years ago


"If you lock up a man, and treat him like an animal for an extended period of time, you get a far worse creature than you started with. All men deserve some semblance of dignity."

Who's fault is that? They made a choice in their life and now they have to pay. What do you want SuperMax prison to be, a "Holiday Inn Express?" You want to play you have to pay.

They don't want to eat, no big deal. Next....

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6binx(81 comments)posted 3 years ago

You've got to be kidding me. The demands they are asking for (lower commissary prices, more rec time...) who owes you anything?!?!?!?! I understand that as humans you are to treat others with a level of respect and in this case, not like prisoners at a concentration camp, but they did the crime... pay the time. I agree with a statement above... a SUPERMAX is not a freekin Holiday Inn. Heck, I don't even complain about how expensive the gift shop pricing is at a hotel for a candy bar and I would like more recretation time for my hard work I put in at my job... BUT I'M NOT A CROOK.

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7NoBS(2151 comments)posted 3 years ago

Drpaul, the "wretched masses" have ALREADY tried to take all we have - that's why they're incarcerated in the first place! These are people who have killed other people in cold blood, who have ruined countless lives just because they felt like it, and other crimes. They're incapable of existing peacefully in society. I know it's hard for people like you to understand, but some things cannot be made all better with a hug.

Now these criminals are making demands - not requests, not negotiations, but demands. If they choose not to eat, let them starve. The only thing that can be done when someone issues an ultimatum is to call them on it.

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8walter_sobchak(2095 comments)posted 3 years ago

These are not the "wretched masses"! These are criminals that are the worst of the worst. Their chances of rehabilitation are near zero but they are given a bed, shower, and food. Inmate Harris is serving 53 years for aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault. I'm guessing that he just didn't make a bad mistake here. What consideration did this creep give to any of his victims? Why would I give this shred of human debris even a second thought?

If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

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9yng00128(67 comments)posted 3 years ago

the Lynds are inmate lovers!!!!! Let them starve to death who really cares.. Remember people OSP houses the worst felons in the state.

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10Billy_Bob(60 comments)posted 3 years ago

In China, they put you in a cell and forget about you. It's up to your family and friends to bring you clothes, food, entertainment, etc. Take a look at how many people are in prison in china who has an enormous population of 3 billion plus. Now look at the U.S. prisons and relate that to our total population of 300 million plus.

Maybe we're doing something wrong.

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11Sunny(25 comments)posted 3 years ago

These folks are supposed to be paying for a crime they chose to commit. They get 3 hots and a cot and that's the extent of what they DESERVE. They made a choice (forfeiting their freedom) and broke the law. We treat criminals better than we treat our country's veterans. Am I the only person who thinks that is crazy?

As for pornography, extra play time and additional benefits for good behavior - get rid of it! They should have thought about good behavior long before being sentenced to jail. As the mark-up on commissary items, take an average of what we pay on the outside and apply it to them. I think that is more than fair.

I believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect, but these two things must be earned, not given without merit. When sentenced for a crime, all rights should stop immediately until their time has been paid in full. They are wards of the state. In other words, they are living on our dime, and personally, I'm not a fan of supporting crime.

Give them dignity and respect as long as they behave accordingly, 3 meals a day, a bed and adequate living conditions. Beyond that, they have no rights - and they would do well to remember that.

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12Silence_Dogood(1440 comments)posted 3 years ago

I would think we all need to back their hunger strike, if for no other reason then it saves the taxpayers money. Less food consumed , the lower the tax burden to the taxpayers. It is a win win situation.

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13Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 3 years ago

The democrat liberal progressives
And the hate of the left is out in full bloom. SO SAD

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14Jerry(576 comments)posted 3 years ago

Excellent!! This should save the taxpayers some money out of the prison food budget.

I think the Ohio Legislature should get to work immediatley on ways to redirect this extra money to something more useful; or better yet, to reduce taxes in general.

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15Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 3 years ago

When they get hungry , start charging them and their families for their food.
That's what they do in Europe

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16biggee(43 comments)posted 3 years ago

23 hours a day in a cell? Probably long ago but for sure thought about everyday by the family of the victim of his crime, whom he sentanced to eternity in a coffin. Go get a sandwich , count your blessings you were born and commitied your crime in this country and ask God for his mercy.

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17Snoopy01(10 comments)posted 3 years ago

Ohhh the poor babies....whaaa whaaaa whaaaa..... cry to someone who cares. YOUR choices put you there now deal with it. Better yet, continue your hunger strike and save all us hard working, law-abiding taxpayers some money.

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