A textbook case for what is wrong with the death penalty
The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
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In 1993 prisoners took control of the maximum-security prison in Lucasville, Ohio. Their 11-day ordeal started with a dispute between the warden and Muslim prisoners and ended with a negotiated settlement, but only after nine prisoners and one hostage had been killed. In the months that followed, leaders of the uprising were singled out by the state, tried, and sentenced to death despite compelling evidence of their innocence. Lucasville tells the inside story of the uprising, the subsequent trial and sentencing.
Eminent historian and lawyer Staughton Lynd brings the full power of evidence to bear as he retells the Lucasville story. He argues compellingly that the five men sentenced to death have been unfairly convicted. In addition, he describes the uprising from the insidehow the prisoners worked together, black and white, even Muslims and members of the Aryan Brotherhood, for the improvement of conditions.
The ease with which the state has been able to use its resources, and the court's, to bring the Lucasville 5 to the point of execution raises questions that will make readers want to rethink not only the justification for these convictions, but the legitimacy of the death penalty in any case.
"They rose above their status as prisoners, and became, for a few days in April 1993, what rebels in Attica had demanded a generation before them: men. As such, they did not betray each other; they did not dishonor each other; they reached beyond their prison 'tribes' to reach commonality."
"There is a temperature at which the welder's torch becomes so hot and burns with such purity that its flame is no longer yellow, orange, or red, but burns blue. Then it is capable of cutting through steel. Staughton Lynd wields the blue flame of truth, cutting through the lies, threats, evasions, and misrepresentations of the authorities of the state of Ohio."
"Lucasville is one of the most powerful indictments of our 'justice system' I have ever read. What comes across is a litany of flaws deep in the system, and recognizably not unique to Lucasville. The detailed transcripts (yes, oral history!) give great power to the whole story."
"[O]f interest to anyone who follows prison politics or the often enigmatic workings of the justice system."
"Lynd presents a startling, bold case... Lucasville is a compelling account of an historic prison rebellion and an appalling miscarriage of justice. It deserves the widest possible readership."
"The argument for amnesty offered here is convincing."
"Mr. Lynd relates in a detailed event chronology how the uprising started and spread. He also examines in great detail the farce of the post-riot trials. ...Given the bias and flaws in the trials, Mr. Lynd speaks strongly in favor of an amnesty, citing the amnesty following the infamous riot at Attica."
"Lynd has researched his case quite thoroughly, and readers will be convinced that the Ohio prison system stinks to high heaven."
"Lynd expertly applies past examples and inmate testimonies to make his case.... Those who share Lynd's political outlook will no doubt, find this book worth exploring."
"[T]his is a very worthy study because it raises significant questions, not just about SOCF [Southern Ohio Correctional Facility] but also about the American prison system as a whole."
Open letter to the Reader from Staughton Lynd, 29 June 2004.
Read "Doing Time for Political Crime," an essay by Peter Linebaugh in Counterpunch.