Everyday Struggles of a (Self-Defined) Political Prisoner:
An Interview with Jason Goudlock
By Siddique A. Hasan, Prisonersolidarity Co-Founder
Jan. 4, 2007
The Prisonersolidarity listserv was founded one year ago as a catalyst for communication between prisoners and people on "the outside." To celebrate, we've updated the website, prisonersolidarity.org! Prisonersolidarity sprang from the Youngstown Prison Forum, a social justice movement inspired by activist-lawyers, Staughton and Alice Lynd. Please join us in Youngstown during our first Ohio State Penitentiary anti-death penalty vigil, on MLK Day, Jan. 14. (2-4 p.m., across from OSP, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, off of State Route 616.)
Prisonersolidarity also gains inspiration from its Co-Founder, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, a respected African-American prison Imam who was wrongfully sentenced to death for an alleged leadership role in the 1993 Lucasville prison rebellion. Hasan is nearing the end of his appeals. To kick off the year, in this interview he discusses supermaxes, solitary confinement, and the desperate need for prison reforms, with his friend, Jason Goudlock:
Hasan: Greetings, Mr. Goudlock.
Goudlock: The same to you, Mr. Hasan. [Laugh]
Hasan: Why you say it like that?
Goudlock: Because man, you said my name like that! You know you can call
me "Jason" or "Jay," "Youngster," whatever...
Hasan: Would Tavis Smiley call you "Youngster" if he were interviewing you
for the first time?
Goudlock: I don't know, he might though. But yeah, I see your point, Tavis! [We both laugh out loud.]
Hasan: That's a good one! Let's get serious now, though. With that being said, I want to begin by asking you, "What is it specifically that you want to share about your prison experience with our readers?"
Goudlock: A variety of things. For starters, I want to give society a raw, uncut, glimpse into the toll that solitary confinement, and the system in general, has taken on me. I don't believe people in society truly understand how parallel solitary confinement actually is to torture, or how parallel prisons are to slave plantations. I've read publications during my incarceration on the topic of crime and punishment. For the most part they were informative and well-written, but I always felt that they needed to be more in depth, or should I say more graphic. I mean, by me actually being in prison, I know from first-hand experience what kind of effect this system of organized injustice can really have on a person. And when I read articles, interviews, books, etc., they are often toned down, and
politically correct. I want people to know, as the saying goes, "the real deal Holyfield."
Hasan: In other words, what you're saying is that the media uses too much censorship when reporting its stories?
Goudlock: Exactly. Exactly. I mean, even I at times have been reluctant to express something to somebody the way I truly wanted to express it. But,
when it comes to the media, the news should be reported with no punches pulled. Whether it's good, bad, or ugly, it should be conveyed to its audience raw and uncut. We're living in an age when people are glorifying the prison experience on television shows for the purpose of entertainment. In most cases these shows are doing nothing but delivering stereotypes and misconceptions to the masses, which ultimately harms the prisoner, as well as the society that the prisoner is a part of. Overall, society just needs to know that the prison experience isn't anything to be taken for granted, because unfortunately, some people incarcerated are being made into monsters instead of being rehabilitated.
Hasan: When you say "monsters," what do you mean, specifically?
Goudlock: When I say people are being made into "monsters," I'm referring to people being transformed into heartless individuals - hardened, intelligent, sophisticated criminals. People who have not been rehabilitated. I, myself, have been on the verge of being transformed into a monster before.
Hasan: How is that?
Goudlock: Well, I went through a little semi-Jekyll and Hyde metamorphosis
in early spring of last year . I got assaulted by two cowardly guards
while I was being escorted to the mini-infirmary on my block. I had just cut my hand on the basketball rim at recreation, and while I was en route to get medical attention one of the cowards escorting me, for no reason at all, started sinking his fingers into the triceps area of my arm. Out of impulse, as a natural reaction I pulled my arm away from the guard's grasp. Then, out of nowhere, he caught me by surprise by using a front leg sweep and tripping me to the floor, face first.
Hasan: Weren't you handcuffed at the time?
Goudlock: Yes, behind my back. And fortunately, I was able to avoid any
serious injuries on the initial takedown to the floor.
Hasan: But how did this incident lead to you almost becoming a monster?
Goudlock: Well, right after I got slammed down on the ground, the guards
picked me up and placed me in a steel holding cage. But they hit my head against the side of the cage first. When they did that, man, I went berserk!
Hasan: Elaborate. What do you mean, you "went berserk"?
Goudlock: I mean that I spat at the officers, cursed them out and basically called them every derogatory word to ever be spoken by man [in the English language]. But hey, they deserved it! [Goudlock grins and winks his eye at me.]
Hasan: You're a trip, man! But yes, I definitely can understand your reason for being upset in that position. [Short pause.] I want to change subjects if you don't mind? Is this alright with you?
Goudlock: Of course.
Hasan: Okay... I've heard, here and there, that you refer to yourself as a "political prisoner." What specifically makes you one?
Goudlock: Before I answer your question, I want to begin by saying, "Free all political prisoners!" The Lucasville Five, Mumia Abu Jamal, and all members of the original Black Panther Party! But to answer your question, "What makes me a political prisoner?," I'd have to say that it's definitely the uniqueness of the injustice I'm currently submerged in, while inside of the state of Ohio's matrix-like, never-making-sense, justice system. Ohio is the only state I know of in the United States that has two classes of prisoners incarcerated in the same prisons who are serving sentences under two separate sentencing laws. I'm serving a sentence of 6 to 25 years under the "old -law" (pre-July 1, 1996) and I have to go to the parole board to be considered for released. If I would have been sentenced under the "new-law" (post-July 1, 1996), however, I would most
likely have only served 3, 4, or 5 years at the most, for the exact same criminal offenses that I'm incarcerated for.(i.e. aggravated robbery, felonious assault). You follow me?
Hasan: I'm with you.
Goudlock: Now, a person on the outside looking in would think that old-law prisoners and new-law prisoners would, for the most part, probably serve around the same amounts of time, being that both are doing time for the same crimes. But this isn't the case. Instead of the old-law prisoners getting released at their parole hearings, they are getting flopped for reasons as small as violating an institutional rule infraction.
I mean, you and I both know that in this system you can be written a conduct report for merely waking up. And see, the thing with the parole board is, they're only giving people under the old-low, such as myself, more time for the purpose of "job security." They know that, as long as they have people under the old-law, they will always have their jobs. They'll preach the rehabilitation rhetoric but, in all actuality, their true language is alphanumeric. This system doesn't care about
rehabilitating anyone. All it cares about is making money. This is why I made the comparison to a slave plantation earlier. In fact, if a person was to get a copy of the Constitution of the state of Ohio and read "x6" under Article 1: Bill Of Rights," they could see with their own eyes what the state of Ohio thinks about prisoners.
x6 reads: "There shall be no slavery in this state nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime."
Hasan: I read that myself years ago and noticed at the time that the drafting of the constitution was at sometime in the 1800s. And yet, the pro-slavery language still managed to survive an amended version as recently as 1998 or '99?
Goudlock: That's deep. Ain't it?
Hasan: Indeed, it is... Earlier you spoke about solitary confinement taking its toll on you. Enlighten me a little on just how much of a toll.
Goudlock: First of all, solitary confinement is an inhumane form of punishment. Locking someone up alone in a cell for twenty-two, twenty-three hours a day isn't in any way the therapeutic practice that the so-called "rehabilitation" is supposed to be about. Being in solitary confinement has greatly depressed me. Some days I'll be in considerably good mood, but, most of the time I am extremely depressed.
Hasan: What depresses you?
Goudlock: What depresses me is the fact that I am aware at all times that I'm being held in solitary confinement not because of my behavior, but really because of the evil and corrupt agendas of the economic opportunists who pass themselves off as persons of integrity, under the false pretense that they are actually protecting and contributing to the overall betterment of the citizens of Ohio. In a nutshell, though, my depression stems from my understanding that I am a victim of my own understanding.
Hasan: Explain this a little better for me.
Goudlock: Okay. Take for instance, the fact that I hear a lot of inmates talk, from time to time, about how good this prison is when compared to other supermax prisons throughout the United States. And, by comparison, yes they are correct. But see, what's being completely missed is the fact that there shouldn't even be a supermax prison in the state of Ohio!
Every inmate OSP has should be, at the very worst, in a maximum penitentiary, receiving the privileges that maximum-security prisoners receive.
Hasan: And why do you feel that this supermax shouldn't have been built?
Goudlock: Because there was never a true need for a supermax prison. OSP was built for no other reason than to provide economic stability to a semi-rural region in desperate need of meaningful employment opportunities. There was an article in Forbes magazine earlier this year on this same sham of a process. Various politicians and Department of Rehabilitation Corrections (DRC) officials used the prison uprising of the SOCF riot in Lucasville as their platform and justification to show a need for a supermax prison to be built. And after inflating
and embellishing their story to the naïve public, the 504-bed prison was ultimately built and opened in 1998. Upon the completion of the prison DRC quickly sought to occupy the vacant supermax.
Prisoners being sent to OSP were supposed to be the "worst of the worst." In truth, however, inmates were being sent to OSP for institution rule infractions such as "attempting to establish a relationship with an employee," or "attempting to convey drugs into the institution." These security classifications were nowhere near as bad as the "worst of the worst" descriptions being used in the initial campaigns to generate support to get this prison built.
In any event, the overzealous, corrupt, powers-that-be achieved their goal and managed to get a total of 479 prisoners classified to the supermax prison. However, due to the successful prison litigation by Prisoners' Rights attorneys-at-law, Staughton and Alice Lynd, the prison didn't stay full for long! The number of 479 inmates slowly but surely dwindled after the courts ordered hundreds of prisoners to be given new security classification hearings due to their denial of the right to be given due process.
Hasan: Well, tell me this. If the courts intervened on behalf of the 479 prisoners, why didn't they intervene on your behalf?
Goudlock: To my understanding, the amount of time for which the courts had jurisdiction over the oversight expired right before I was classified as a supermaximum prisoner.
Hasan: Why are you on supermax status, if you don't mind me asking?
Goudlock: No, not at all. The rules infraction board found me guilty of spitting and throwing unknown substances on officers.
Hasan: Did they (RTB) say anyone was hurt or injured in any way?
Goudlock: Not one single OSP employee has ever been injured by me.
Hasan: So basically, you got railroaded huh?
Goudlock: Like a locomotive! [We both laugh.] But, see, this is why I say I'm a victim of my own understanding. I am conscious and I know what's going on. I clearly can see the corruption that's around me. It runs deep, and unless people in society demand change the corruption is going to continue to spread. Right now, in this so-called supermax prison, out of thirty-two pods only four pods
of prisoners are on supermax status! That's only one-eighth of the entire supermax prison population! And, if only one-eighth of the supermax prison population is on supermax status, then there is no way that the prison should be called a "supermax," because it isn't one. It's strange how you never hear any stories on the local news, or in the newspapers, about revelations such as the ones revealed in this interview. I'd like to ask whomever reads this interview to
contact television stations, newspapers, radio stations, etc., and demand that they log onto this site and read this interview and give this act of injustice the media coverage that it truly deserves.
Hasan: We are going to have to wrap this segment up, but it truly was a pleasure to listen to you speak my brother. You are well spoken and articulate.
Goudlock: Thanks for the accolade. It was a pleasure being interviewed by you as well.
Jason Goudlock is an inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. He has aspirations of becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur, in the interest of philanthropic advancement. He is also an aspiring athlete in the sport of basketball, as well as an aspiring author currently working on his first novel, Moments of Clarity. You may reach him by writing to: Jason Goudlock
#284-561, Ohio State Penitentiary, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, Youngstown, OH 44505-4635.
Siddique Abdullah Hasan is the Co-Founder of Prisonersolidarity.org.
A death-row prisoner himself, Hasan was convicted for allegedly playing a leadership role in the 1993 Lucasville rebellion. The riots occurred shortly before his scheduled release. Hasan maintains his innocence. You may reach him by writing to: Siddique Abdullah Hasan, R130-559, Ohio State Penitentiary,
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, Youngstown, OH 44505-4635.
1 Siddique Abdullah Hasan, "Induced Failure," Monthly Review Zine, Sept. 30, 2005. https://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/hasan300905.html
2 Amy Goodman, "Legendary Historian Staughton Lynd on the 1993 Lucasville Prison Uprising," Democracy Now, Oct. 20, 2006.
3 Miriam Gottfried, "Stuck in the Slammer," Forbes Magazine, May 22, 2006.
4 Lynd, Staughton & Alice Lynd, "Prison Advocacy in a Time of Capital Disaccumulation," The Monthly Review, JUL/AUG 2001, p. 128.
You may contact S. Hasan and Jason Goudlock directly by writing to them at the addresses listed above. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners: https://prisonersolidarity.org/TipsForWritingPrisoners.htm