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I am calling on colleagues and professional organizations to recognize publicly and use our influence to bring an end to prolonged solitary confinement in American jails, prisons and detention centers. Not only is there is a great need for solidarity among individuals and organizations to uphold human rights and ethical principles but also to reduce reprisals against any whistleblower. Considering that 95 percent of those incarcerated will be released back to the community, bringing with them the negative health consequences of their confinement, the conditions and traumas they face while incarcerated should concern us all.
On May 16, inmates at Old Folsom State Prison made contact with the outside world to announce that they will begin a hunger strike on May 25 in response to ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization and unbearable living conditions at Old Folsom. When incarcerated people take action to fight for their dignity, their rights and their lives, those of us on the outside must answer with solidarity. Our support is crucial in getting their demands met and minimizing retaliation against them. We must let these brave individuals know that we have their backs, and that they will not be forgotten.
The Concerned Network of Women partnered with the United Council of Human Services, governed by Gwendolyn Westbrook and Dr. Betty McGee, to issue hand warmers and hot chili to homeless people. On New Year’s Eve, we visited the homeless living under the Cesar Chavez Freeway exit. While under the freeway, we witnessed an eviction notice dated Dec. 29, 2016. Evicting the homeless serves little purpose, other than further implying that homeless people have no human and/or civil rights. Here is one solution: Bring services to the encampment, not locks and chains.
“Get on the ground! Get on the ground!” Moving in slowly like they were on a hunt, high-powered weapons pointed down, the descendants of slave-catchers aka police stalk an indigenous man crouching on Shotwell Street holding a soccer ball. They shout disgustedly and dismissively in English from the video screen; my heart stops. I try to keep watching, reminding myself I need to wear my reporter hat instead of my trauma-filled police-terror-from-my-life-of-houselessness blanket. We are watching the extrajudicial murder of Luis Demetrio Góngora Pat by San Francisco police. Why did they kill him? “He was a homeless man.”
Prisons inspire little in terms of natural wonder. But prisoners, one could assume, must have little concern for the flowers or for otherwise pressing environmental issues. With all the social quandaries present in their lives – walls of solitude, the loss of basic human rights – pollution, climate change and healthy ecosystems must seem so distantly important: an issue for the free. In actuality, prisoners are on the frontlines of the environmental movement.
Hugo “Yogi” Pinell was a soldier of the people. He defended Black prisoners against racist attacks and stood up for the basic human rights of prisoners. Racist prisoners don’t respect prison unity. There was an agreement in existence at the time to end all hostilities. But it was an agreement that was not honored by racist White prisoners. So in collusion with prison guards, they took advantage of the situation and they assassinated Yogi.
On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, government officials and first responders continue to lack the ability to plan for emergency situations. San Quentin State Prison, California’s oldest prison, is still on a virtual lockdown – or “modified program” – as normal programs for all inmates have ceased since Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, after “one confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease” was discovered, Warden Ron Davis’ Aug. 27 bulletin said.
Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle.
Today we are proud to stand with our brothers and sisters across the United States and around the world in response to the recent police killings of Eric Garner, Mike Brown and countless other victims of state violence to say that “Black lives matter.” While it should be implicit that all lives matter, communities in recent days have risen up to reinforce the fact that Black and Brown human beings have an equal place on this earth, because often times it feels that we do not.
CDCR deliberately lied about their implementation of the Security Threat Group Step Down Program sanctioned by Gov. Jerry Brown. Gov. Brown and CDCr administrators are currently violating our United States constitutional rights, the California Code of Regulations and other rules, laws, policies and standards with the intent of breaking down and destroying men and women prisoners, family bonds and moral ethics here in California.
In 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals issued a report which stated in part: “The prison, the reformatory and the jail have achieved only a shocking record of failure. There is overwhelming evidence that these institutions create crime rather than prevent it.” This same report stated directly: “No new institutions for adults should be built and existing institutions for juveniles should be closed.”
On Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), coordinated its West Coast Days Of Action across three states and 11 cities. From 2005 to 2014, WRAP has worked to build a large people’s movement rooted in and accountable to groups and individuals defending poor peoples’ constitutionally-guaranteed human right to exist in public space, acquire housing and employment, and enjoy equal protection under law.
Because of Andy Lopez’ killing, the main focus of many people I know is on youth executions at the hands of law enforcement. I see this in terms of a broader context, i.e. the long-range agendas of the right-wing Republican Party. The week-to-week shooting deaths of our Black, Brown and other youth by so-called law enforcement must be studied in the context of the systemic all-over picture. Clearly, there is a pattern and a plan there, if one would just look closely.
I don’t know whether any of your names will be recorded in history books as the early leaders of a bold, courageous movement that not only ended solitary confinement as a form of torture, but also ended the entire system of mass incarceration in this country. But I know that the entire movement for freedom and justice in the United States is indebted to you.
At Legal Services for Prisoners with Children’s 35th Anniversary Celebration on Oct. 19, headlined by Dr. Angela Y. Davis and Michelle Alexander, I noticed immediately the “logo,” a phoenix rising from the ashes, the theme for California Coalition for Women Prisoners’ 15th Anniversary celebration of the Fire Inside two years ago. All of Us or None is 10 years old now, and LSPC at 35 is the parent of CCWP.
Bernard Ntaganda and his colleagues founded the political party P.S. Imberakuri on Jan. 18, 2009. During its inaugural congress, the party was registered in July 2009, becoming the first opposition party to be registered in Rwanda. After several attempts to neutralize the P.S. Imberakuri unsuccessfully, the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, arrested Ntaganda on June 24, 2010.
The Adjustment Center (AC) is the death row Security Housing Unit at San Quentin (SQ) which also serves as Administrative Segregation Unit overflow housing. But for all intents and purposes the AC is a secret torture unit at SQ and the fraternal twin of CDCR’s other torture units now partially exposed by media attention resulting from the 2011 peaceful hunger strikes at Corcoran, Pelican Bay and Tehachapi.
A comprehensive new article by Brandon Keim in Wired Science is titled “The Horrible Psychology of Solitary Confinement.” Keim does an excellent job of summing up the research on the psychological effects of solitary. He also points to the relative lack of cutting-edge neuroscientific research on the subject, which might show the physical effects isolation has on the brain.
The continuing campaign to gain compassionate release for Lynne Stewart – the grievously ill, imprisoned human rights attorney – is headed to Washington, D.C. with a continuing vigil in front of the White House starting on Monday, June 17. Despite being approved for compassionate release, Stewart continues to be held in Carswell Federal Prison in seriously deteriorating health.
If the intention of the prison system is rehabilitation so when prisoners are released they do not return, then we surely must object to solitary confinement. If we believe in basic human rights and dignity for all human beings, then we surely must object to solitary confinement. If we object to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, we surely must object to solitary confinement in the U.S.
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