Lucasville at FringeNYC

A new play by Staughton Lynd takes us to the ever-dramatic environs of death row.

Time Out Ratings :

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In 1993, an 11-day inmate uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility led to the deaths of one guard and nine inmates, as well as the allegedly false convictions and death sentences of five prisoners, based on what they claim is perjured testimony by informants (this claim has yet to be proved). A new play by Staughton Lynd—who wrote the nonfiction book on which the script is based—and Gary Anderson, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, is being staged at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival. “I wrote this story and turned it into a play for two reasons,” Lynd says. “First, the dramatic injustice of the Lucasville trials, and the desire to get these men off death row. Second, since I was in the South in the 1960s I have seen relatively few instances of solidarity between blacks and whites. I have been amazed by the solidarity among these five men—two white, three black—during the past 15 years.” When asked for a reaction to the works, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had no comment. At right, a few of the Lucasville Five—Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb, Namir Abdul Mateen, George W. Skatzes and Keith LaMar—express themselves in their own words and images.

—Billie Cohen

The New York International Fringe Festival runs Aug 8 to 24 (212-279-4488,

Hear from the prisoners in their own words »


Siddique Abdullah Hasan

Inmate R130-559, Ohio State Penitentiary

“Unjustly Convicted”

In the aftermath of the 1993 prison uprising which rocked the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, the state of Ohio was under enormous political pressure to bring to justice the perpetrators of certain violent crimes, especially the senseless murder of prison guard Robert Vallandingham.With not a single soul coming forth with any concrete information, and with being faced with the humongous task of having to solve the largest crime scene in its history, the state of Ohio did the unthinkable: It fabricated evidence and utilized perjured testimony to obtain convictions, notwithstanding the law and disciplinary rules which prohibit attorneys from using fraudulent, false, or perjured testimony or evidence.

…I am one of those innocent prisoners apprehended in the state’s diabolical scheme. Why? Because of my leadership role within the Islamic community, as well as the fact that I was an outspoken critic of the oppressive prison conditions and policies, the state sought to make me its prime scapegoat.…

…To set the record straight, there was never any intent to be an uprising. Instead, there was only a plan to be a peaceful protest against the Mantoux tuberculin test.… Since this test contains phenol, an alcoholic substance that is prohibited for Muslims to have injected under their forearm, we had objected to taking it on religious grounds, but did plead with the prison authorities to permit us to submit to an alternative which would not infringe upon our religious beliefs.…

…While I will concede that the TB test was the last straw which broke the camel’s back, the inhumane treatment and the long train of abuses are what induced some non-Muslims to seize the opportunity to instantaneously convert a peaceful protest into a full-scale rebellion. On the other hand, I cannot and will not concede that Muslims were responsible for non-Muslims’ actions; however, the state feels otherwise.…

Hear Hasan read his full essay at

Bomani Hondo Shakur (a.k.a. Keith LaMar)

Inmate A317-117, Ohio State Penitentiary

“Stop the Violence”

God is alive and
resides inside of us.
All we have to do is trust
and have faith
stop the madness and give thanks
for the blessings that shape
our lives…
We have to look ahead instead
of always looking back at the past,
slow down instead of moving so fast,
and laugh, reach deep and have
the courage to dream
about beautiful days
and different ways
to give, with love…in peace.

Jason Robb

Inmate A308-919, Ohio State Penitentiary

“When a prisoner is perceived to be uncooperative, they send a squad, to make sure he cooperates with what the guards require,” Robb says.

OTSE stands for “Ohians to Stop Excecuions,” an anti–death-penalty group.

George W. Skatzes

Inmate A173-507,Mansfield Correctional Institution

Excerpts from a letter by George Skatzes to Rodger Snodgrass, a friend and fellow prisoner who testified against him.

Sun. night.


My brother,I hope you don’t mind my writing.…

This letter is not meant to hassle you, cause you problems or the like! By no means is this to be taken as a threat, nor am I asking you to change your mind, or anything of that nature. No, I’m not going to tell you I’m going to kill you or any of that stupid shit.…

First off, understand I do not hate you, I’m not mad at you! I’m shocked, yes, no doubt about that! The thought of causing you harm has never entered my mind!…

…I’m havin’ one hell of a time puttin’ all this together!…I have run this through my head so many times, it is to the point of driving me crazy! I will never figure out how, what did they do to you to get you to lie like you are? I really don’t understand, not at all! Just do me one little favor, if you can: Write to me and explain all this. That would sure help!

…Understand one thing: I’m not mad at you. I don’t hate you for this! They were going to burn me one way or the other, no matter what!…