Sunday, 20 January 2008

Family members want more contact with inmates

Protest on death row

Family members want more contact with inmates

By Christopher Bobby, The Warren Tribune Chronicle

January 20, 2008

YOUNGSTOWN — Family members of Ohio death row inmates — wanting more
personal contact with their loved ones inside the prison walls —
turned over a pile of letters penned by the convicted killers to
prison officials at the Ohio State Penitentiary on Saturday.

The letters call for closer contact with visitors and in general,
better treatment. A prison official met with protesters and accepted
the packet in behalf of Warden Marc Houk, who wasn't working Saturday.

In what is becoming an annual event to oppose Ohio's death penalty,
the family members, the Lucasville Five Defense Committee out of
Cleveland and other prisoner-advocacy groups openly protested
executions and prisoner treatment in general inside the walls of the
facility that now houses most of the death row inmates.

Local attorney and author Staughton Lynd, who is still fighting for
prisoner rights and contact prisoner visits in his lawsuit that has
been to the U.S. Supreme Court and now back in northern Ohio Federal
District Court, spoke to the gathering at a brief news conference that
preceded the protest.

"Here in Ohio, we consider ourselves among the enlightened. But we
don't have the contact that we see in places like Louisiana, Georgia,
Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia and Tennessee. We allow one visit right
before execution," Lynd said.

Lynd also has written a book about the 1993 deadly prison riots at
Lucasville Correctional Institution.

"The last time I had a chance to hug him, we smoked a cigarette
together. And then they killed him," said Marquita Dennis of Akron,
whose son Adremy Dennis was executed Oct. 13, 2004, after nearly 10
years on death row.

Dennis was convicted of the killing of a Barberton Speedway race car
driver Kurt Kyle in June of 1994, when Kyle walked a visitor from his
home to his car.

Saadiqah Hasan reminded supporters of a "State of emergency Summit"
Feb. 1-2 at Cleveland State and reminded of the Web site that features
her husband, Siddique Hasan, death row inmate and one of the
Lucasville Five convicted of murder during the riots.

"Giving up is not an option here. This is similar to the legacy of
Dr. Martin Luther King .... some of the same principles he fought
for," said Hasan.

Meanwhile outside the press conference at a downtown church, A.J.
Frame and his buddies held signs opposing the protesters.

"I believe in an eye for an eye," said Frame, of Noble County. His
sign said simply: "I'm here for justice, not injustice."

"I read about this on a Web site and decided we needed to be here.
It's not right what happened at Lucasville. Those inmates that
murdered weren't in that prison for parking tickets, right?

"We got a system and we need to follow it," Frame said.

Frame's friend, Jerry Ostrowski, identified himself as a prison
employee at Lucasville.

"These people are calling for closer contact with their visits and
not even realizing they might be signing their own death warrant. It's
nothing more than a loosening of security. They could be taken
hostage, just like what happened in '93," Ostrowski said.

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