Written by Lauren, IJPC Intern
25 years ago today, an eleven-day uprising began at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF). The days following the start of the uprising were filled with violence and resistance. Over the course of April 11-21, ten lives were lost. This anniversary must be remembered by mourning the lives that were lost and thinking about the individuals who still feel the effects today, some of which may surprise you.
On April 21st, after eleven days of violent conflict, a negotiation was made, but the impact from the uprising is still being felt. Five men were accused of being responsible and condemned to death following the uprising. Four of them are currently located in a supermaximum prison in Youngstown, as investigation continues. Another man awaits an execution date while living on death row. The five men sentenced to death continue to advocate to change the conditions that fueled the uprising in the first place.
There are concerns that the sentencing process for these five men was incredibly corrupt, which has led to significant doubt regarding their involvement with the planning of the riot or deaths of individuals. SOCF quickly became one of the largest crime scenes to exist in the state of Ohio. There was hardly any physical evidence, which made it difficult for accurate determinations to be made. In the end, guilt was decided based on personal testimonies. Individuals who testified against other prisoners were given plea deals for the most part, even if they admitted to horrendous crimes; while people who didn’t testify against their fellow inmates were viewed as leaders of this uprising. These men became the scapegoat, regardless of whether or not they were actually guilty.
Another tragedy that comes to attention when reflecting on the uprising 25 years ago are the incredible similarities between correctional issues that existed in 1993 and those which are around in 2018. The uprising began because prisoners felt like their human rights were being violated. When looking at prison conditions today, human rights abuses are incredibly prominent. Between abusive solitary confinement practices, capital punishment, and inhumane living conditions, it is apparent that correctional policies have not radically changed over the past 25 years.
The anniversary of the Lucasville Prison Uprising is one that should be filled with respect for the lives lost, as well as anger towards the injustices that still occur. As conscientious citizens who are aware of the events that occurred 25 years ago and who acknowledge the current issues, we must act on this knowledge by working towards creating criminal justice policies that are effective. This will be measured by the improved safety of our citizens and successful rehabilitation of offenders.
To learn more about the Lucasville Uprising, we invite you to explore the following resources:
- For a documentary about Keith LaMar and his experience with the investigation and time on death row following conviction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4uEvMJR4Rc
- An article that contains excerpts from news articles written during the eleven days that the uprising occurred: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/ap-1993-uprising-lucasville-ohio-prison-54370772
- To learn more about Keith LaMar, one of the condemned: https://www.keithlamar.org/
- Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising: http://libcom.org/files/lucasville.pdf
- For pictures taken during the eleven days of the Uprising: http://www.dispatch.com/photogallery/OH/20180411/PHOTOGALLERY/304039813/PH/1