Cornelius Harris is incarcerated at Ohio State Penitentiary. He participated in the May Day hunger strike, and then resumed the strike solo when it took too long for the warden to make good on their demands.
WARNING: This post contains graphic descriptions of violence.
WARNING: This post contains graphic descriptions of violence.
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Cornelius Harris and I’m currently incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) in
. Since my arrival at OSP from SOCF in
2007, I have encountered extreme harassment, destruction of my personal
property, and racially motivated attacks on my person by prison officials. In
particular, I have been involved in several incidents where correctional
officers (COs) attempted to cause me bodily harm, but I managed to defend
myself. However, every time I manage to defend myself or repel an attack on my
life, I have been the only one charged with criminal offenses in an outside
judicial proceeding. Youngstown,
The first incident occurred on October 19, 2008, when CO Timothy McVay—someone who has repeatedly harassed me—came to my cell and told me that today would be the day that he call my bluff. He further stated that he was going to put the handcuffs on me loose when he brings me out of my cell for recreation, and, if I didn’t come out of the handcuffs and fight him, I was a “bitch” and he would still split my head open and say I slipped the cuffs and attacked him without provocation. Thus, it was only a matter of time before I would have to deal with this officer so I told myself that if he follows through on his threat, I would come out of my handcuffs and fight him. This officer kept true to words and when I came out of my cell, he swung several punches at me and I responded by returning three punches which landed on his face. In his attempt to sidestep my punches, his momentum made him fall down the stairs. Unbelievably, I was later indicted on attempted murder charges even though McVey’s injuries were not life threatening.
After this incident, the harassment from COs increased drastically and even supervisors made verbal threats on my life, saying the first chance they got they would kill me. No matter how many complaints I wrote to the appropriate prison authorities, officers and their immediate supervisors still destroyed my property, tampered with my food, and made serious threats on my life. I seriously feared for my life, knowing that these
COs were more than capable of
making good on their threats. It’s interesting to note that some of these same
officers have been known for seriously assaulting prisoners and getting away
with it because the prison authorities go out of their way to protect them.
The threats from
COs became so
serious that I refused to come out of my cell for anything: recreation, shower,
or medical care. I knew that if I did, I would be seriously hurt. This didn’t
stop the threats, however, for COs would tell me that
they plan to come into my cell at night (on 3rd shift) and beat my
brains out. These threats were always followed by racial slurs—monkey, nigger,
coon boy, and other racial epithets. I knew that sooner or later these COs
would come into my cell and try to harm me, so I found a way to acquire a
homemade weapon for my protection.
2008, I was awoken by an officer kicking on my cell door at This was a non-movement day so I
didn’t know why I was being awoken. But when I looked up, CO Turpack yelled
into my cell:
“Today is the day, you black piece of sht, that you get yours.”
I didn’t understand why this officer would wake me up and threaten me like that but, in any event, I got out of bed to look out my cell door to see what was going on. From my cell (C1-17) I could see the officers’ station, and when I looked in there, I saw at least 15 COs crowded around the desk where the block supervisor (Lt. Bright) was sitting. It appeared to me like the officers were going over a plan to do something to me. In fearing for my safety, I immediately prepared my cell for an attack.
Every officer that came pass my cell made threats to me, so I knew that day would be the day that those
try something. I just didn’t know what or when, yet I just knew I had to be
At COs James Burns and Keith Hawn came into my pod to handcuff me neighbor in cell 16. He asked the
I got off the floor and saw at least 30 COs gathered around the entrance to the pod door and waiting to get in. The pod door wouldn’t open because something got stuck in my cell door. I guess the way the security system works is if one door is opened in a pod, then another door cannot be opened until the first door is secured. Their plan, from the beginning, was to open my door and while I was fighting with Burns and Hawn, the other 30 officers would come in and make good on their threats. They wasn’t expecting the pod door to malfunction. Needless to day, I was criminally charged for this.
The harassment from
COs and the
prison authorities became ten times worse after this incident. Moreover, after
I was removed from C1-17, the warden authorized for me to be placed in a pod by
myself, mainly to isolate me in order to leave me vulnerable.
For the next several months, COs would open tamper with my food and destroy my personal property without any worry of being disciplined. Specifically, there was this officer named Waylon Wine who would spit in my food tray every time he worked in C-block. He would also destroy my family pictures and legal mail. I wrote complaints on this officer every time he would harass me, but the prison authorities would never do anything. I felt the only way I was going to get this officer to stop harassing me was if I did something to him.
July 18, 2009,
CO Wine refused to give me recreation and told me that “[he] had something
special for lunch for me.” I knew that he was talking about playing with my
food. That day was the day that I had had enough of these COs harassing me;
therefore, I complained of chest pains so I could come out of my cell and tell
the block supervisor about my problem. The block supervisor disregarded my
complaint and did nothing about it, so when CO Wine came to the door to
handcuff me, I thrust a homemade knife into his stomach. For this incident I
was charged with attempted murder and having weapons while under detention.
2009, while being escorted to recreation, COs Turpack, Horton ad
Wine slammed me on the floor and pummeled me face on the concrete. I was denied
medial attention, placed in a cell and maced for three hours straight before
the goon squad (cell extraction team) came into my cell and further assaulted me.
Their excuse for coming into my cell was that I said I was suicidal, which was
a complete lie. I knew they would try to harm me and I had a homemade knife to
protect myself. During the cell extraction an officer was cut on the arm, and I
was charged with felonious assault.
Every day that I remain at this penitentiary I am at risk of either being seriously injured or catching more cases. Also, my property is at risk of being destroyed and my food of being harassed. The prison authorities have agreed that I shouldn’t be housed at OSP, yet they won’t transfer me to another prison nor can they assure me that I won’t be harmed or harassed. They acknowledge my ongoing problems with staff, but they refuse to temporarily transfer me to another prison on
until I am ultimately transferred out of state. Plain and simple, I fear for my
safety at OSP and am seeking an immediate transfer to a safer prison.
Cornelius Harris #525-945