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Prison Stories

Menard hunger strikers cheered by protesters, threatened by staff

February 6, 2014

The following information is drawn from letters received from prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois, and compiled on Feb. 2 by Attorney Alice Lynd. The prisoners have not heard anything about Armando Velasquez. Officers have told the prisoners that an independent review is being conducted, but no one has talked to the inmates.

Dequi Kioni-Sadiki, Sekou Odinga’s wedding photo 0711, web, cropped

Sekou Odinga and Dequi Kioni-Sadiki: Marriage in a prison visiting room

February 3, 2014

My friend Dequi Kioni-Sadiki is a schoolteacher and grandmother in her early 50s who’s married to a former Black Panther serving time upstate. Dequi met her husband, Sekou Odinga, a few years ago, in the course of her activist work, visiting prisoners in New York State. Dequi and Sekou fell in love and were married almost three years ago. You think something’s wrong with Dequi for getting involved with a prisoner?

Censorship behind the walls

February 1, 2014

The Central Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections upheld the censorship of the book “10 Lessons: An Introduction to Black History” by Mba Mbulu and refused to give me the book because they allege it contained “racially inflammatory material and/or writings that advocate violence against the government or any of its facilities.” The prohibited material outlined Cheikh Anta Diop’s “two cradle theory.”

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Mission Statement of the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign

January 31, 2014

The First Amendment Campaign will serve as an “oversight committee” responding to any and all potential First Amendment constitutional violations, as predicated upon the concrete material facts presented to our subsidiary teams focusing on investigation, research, propaganda and community relations and community defense. Through these teams the oversight committee will serve as the “brain trust” by coordinating the logistics for appropriate action regarding actual First Amendment constitutional violations.

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Declining a deal with the devil: Coercive journaling required to ‘step down’ from solitary confinement

January 30, 2014

Since implicit in making it a requirement that people participate in those programs available in each step and that any failure to do so will result in a person being moved back to Step 1 until that person agrees to subordinate him/herself to the dictates of Section 700.2 (self-directed journals), the cognitive restructuring/brainwashing program is, clearly, mandatory.

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Prisoner Political Action Committee update: In solidarity, we can win

January 27, 2014

The positive response to this idea has been quite remarkable. The agreement to end all group hostilities that our reps reached and made public must be upheld. Reach out to your family and friends and urge them to educate themselves about, and become involved in, the democratic process, to vote according to their interests and, when the time comes, forward a contribution to our PAC in whatever amount you can.

Inside Menard Correctional Center, Illinois' largest max security prison

Menard hunger strikers endure beating, threats by nurses but vow, ‘We will not let them break us’

January 26, 2014

“Today we declared a peaceful hunger strike due to the conditions of confinement we are being subjected to.” “There are only about 25 to 28 inmates on the high security unit and most of us are on hunger strike. The rest are too fearful to do it because we’ve been told they’ll never let us out of Administrative Detention if we complain too much.” “We are all staying on hunger strike until something is done about our conditions.” Please call or email: Warden Rick Harrington, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez, Gov. Pat Quinn

Human Rights Coalition sues prison officials for censoring political dissent and human rights advocacy

January 25, 2014

The Human Rights Coalition (HRC), politicized prisoner Robert Saleem Holbrook and College of Charleston Professor Kristi Brian brought a lawsuit on Jan. 8 against several employees of the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Coal Township and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for confiscation of mail sent to Holbrook, a co-founder of HRC currently held at SCI Coal Township.

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Judges give up on years of failed prison talks, will craft own solution to overcrowding

January 23, 2014

A panel of three federal judges, frustrated with California’s failed five-year effort to sufficiently reduce prison overcrowding, said they will draw up their own solution within a month. U.S. District Judges Lawrence K. Karlton and Thelton E. Henderson and U.S. 9th Circuit Court Judge Stephen Reinhardt concluded Monday that months of talks between the state and lawyers representing prisoners were going nowhere.

Colorado prisoner: ‘I am held in slavery’

January 23, 2014

The 1876 Colorado Bill of Rights makes it very clear that all Colorado citizens can only be charged and prosecuted for infamous crimes – felonies that warrant prison time – by grand jury indictment. This venerable process protects the accused from prosecutorial misconduct and it requires a minimum evidentiary basis for a felony charge to be initiated at all.

Update from Menard hunger strikers: We need outside support, force feeding threatened

January 21, 2014

On Jan. 15, 2014, approximately 25 prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center went on hunger strike. The hunger strikers have been told the prison administration is working on obtaining a preliminary injunction to force feed them. They expect to continue the hunger strike even if they are force fed. “We need as much outside support as possible,” the prisoners say. Please call or email: Gov. Pat Quinn, Warden Rick Harrington, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez.

Albert Woodfox: It’s time to free the last of the Angola 3

January 15, 2014

Last Tuesday, Jan. 7, a crowd of supporters gathered in the bitter cold in New Orleans’ Lafayette Square outside the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to show their support for Angola 3 inmate Albert Woodfox. Woodfox has been held in solitary confinement – or what the state of Louisiana calls “Closed Cell Restriction” – for 42 years. By most estimates, 42 years is the longest any prisoner has been held in isolation.

Illinois prisoners in Menard High Security Unit plan to begin hunger strike Jan. 15

January 14, 2014

The following information is based on numerous letters from prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois written in December 2013. These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest. Retaliation can be expected.

Advocates call budget plans to open new prison beds a major contradiction

January 9, 2014

Gov. Brown’s 2014-15 budget will contract 5,633 new prison beds in state while funding the expansion of four new prisons and allocating $500 million for more jail construction. Advocates celebrate a series of parole reform victories outlined in the proposed budget while pointing out that lifting some of their extreme limitations could easily prevent Gov. Brown’s costly prison expansion plans.

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George Jackson University

January 3, 2014

For the past 20 years or more, many people – prison rights activists in particular – have spoken on the importance of education as the most effective tool towards combating recidivism. We are reinstituting the concept of transforming the entire U.S. prison industrial slave complex into the largest progressive educational institution in the country with emphasis on Afro-centric and Pan-Afrikan studies and New Afrikan political education.

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Other Brothers in Angola

January 1, 2014

Most of us know of the famed Angola 3, Black Panthers who organized a real branch of the Black Panther Party in the infamous Angola Prison in Louisiana. Robert King Wilkinson, the late Herman Hook Wallace and Albert Woodfox taught other men there about Black History, politics and Black Panther history. One such man is Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore. Zulu has spent a total of 35 years in solitary confinement, principally for his political beliefs.

Judge orders Lynne Stewart’s release

December 31, 2013

“This morning, the government, meaning the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, on behalf of the Bureau of Prisons, filed a motion before federal Judge John Koeltl, requesting that Lynne Stewart be re-sentenced to time served,” said Bob Boyle, one of Stewart’s lawyers. Boyle says he fully expects Stewart to be released in the next few days and return to New York City, where she will live with her son.

Women in solitary confinement: ‘The isolation degenerates us into madness’

December 30, 2013

A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system this past summer, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Nearly all of the attention, however, has focused on solitary confinement in men’s prisons; much less is known about the conditions and experiences inside women’s prisons.

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A closer look at ‘crime’

December 29, 2013

I do not accept the common usage of the term “crime.” Why? Crime is not solely the violation of legal codes. It encompasses behavior that violates human rights. But beyond the legal understandings, crime shatters relationships, both social – including political and economic – and interpersonal. Instead of correcting the problems it is intended to relieve, the justice system itself in many ways has become a monstrous crime against humanity.

Mutawally Joka Kambon-Cooperwood 100512, 1st pic in 20 yrs,, cropped, web

Gov. Brown’s plans to reduce prison overcrowding ignore early release

December 28, 2013

Gov. Brown’s reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of his appeal was to announce that he would reduce the state prison overcrowding by 1) leasing county jail space in local areas, 2) obtain contracts with private prison operators and 3) send prisoners in California prisons to out-of-state facilities. These three approaches, he said, will allow the CDCR to avoid early release for the nearly 10,000 inmates.

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