This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Lucasville Uprising, the longest prison revolt involving fatalities to occur in the history of the United States. Survivors of this 11-day prisoner takeover of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) have been active and inspiring participants in the present movement for prisoners’ rights, gaining attention that was unavailable to them in 1993. In light of the growing momentum in prisoner uprisings, including the recent South Carolina prison riot that was the deadliest in the past 25 years, the Lucasville Uprising offers timely lessons on the interplay between repressive state forces and prisoner-led movements.
The Lucasville Uprising often gets lost in the retelling of prison rebellions because it occurred during the prison boom, a period of accelerating mass incarceration during which the widespread use of “three strikes” policies began, long-term solitary confinement grew into Supermax prisons, and prison construction and expansion skyrocketed.
Dan Berger and Toussaint Losier describe these years, from 1980 to 1998, in their new book Rethinking the American Prison Movement as a “largely bleak period for the prison movement … splintering the elements that had made [it] a potent force,” while prison rebels “found it more difficult to sustain the broad coalition that had been a key part of earlier phases of the movement.” Unlike Attica and other uprisings occurring during the civil rights era, or the present wave of prison strikes, the state’s narrative about Lucasville as a “dangerous riot” dominated coverage, overshadowing the political nature of the uprising and the prisoner’s legitimate grievances. Lucasville survivors continue to struggle against this shadow today.
The Takeover at Lucasville
The first wave of prisoner-led…