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JUSTICE does not mean fairness, rightness or equity, as most people think it does, implying something good they should seek for themselves. Quite the opposite, it means ritualized punishment or retribution. Most people in prison can tell you that, once arrested, your cry for justice will only be answered by the “yap and howl” of a dog on a short chain – the masters’ “household pet.”
Gen. George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) paid the ultimate price for the sins of certain white people of his time who committed damn near every type of crime against humanity upon the indigenous peoples of this country. So much so that many different tribes of indigenous peoples came together, some who were sworn enemies, to fight and defeat their common oppressor. Here in 2016, once again, many different tribes of indigenous peoples, and not just from this country but from around the world, have come together to defeat their common modern day oppressor.
Keith Cook delivered this speech on Dec. 5 at “Cops vs. Free Speech,” a public forum organized by the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia: Thank you for inviting me again to be a part of this essential, timely discussion that we should be having across our nation. Free speech – for most of us who are activists, what does the Fraternal Order of Police, commonly known as the FOP, have to do with it?
Slain 18-year-old Ferguson, Missouri, resident Michael Brown was laid to rest on Aug. 25. The funeral was a local and national event with thousands in attendance. Brown was killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, on Aug. 9 while he walked through the streets of his neighborhood. His brutal death from six gunshot wounds fired at close range sparked immediate mass demonstrations in Ferguson that have continued for over two weeks.
On June 2, a federal judge allowed hundreds of California prisoners to join a lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons when she granted the case class action status. Class certification allows the case to include all prisoners who are serving indefinite SHU terms as a result of gang validation who have not been placed in a new step-down program.
On Sept. 26, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged a federal judge to grant class action status to a lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California prisons. The case, Ashker v. Brown, was filed on behalf of 10 prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent over 10 years, and as many as 29 years, in solitary confinement.
Ida B. Wells was a fiery crusader for African American justice at a time when angry white men indulged in lynching as acceptable behavior. Her determination, courage, ambition and refusal to back down helped change the course of history. Her talents as an investigative reporter, successful writer and newspaper owner were unbeatable weapons.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, which is torture, which is us prisoners being held in solitary confinement indefinitely, without ever breaking a prison rule or state or federal law, anywhere from 10 to 40 years, under conditions of sensory deprivation, isolation, etc., etc. The fact that solitary confinement is torture is recognized by the U.N. – but not by the U.S., yet.
My husband, Robbie James Riva, who currently resides at Calipatria State Prison, has maintained his innocence for the past 11 years. After his appeal was denied in 2009 and there was no more money to pay an attorney, I decided to take it on myself. We put our minds together, our strength, our love and we told each other we could do this and we did. He wrote his appeal himself with the documents I sent him.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit Thursday on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform inhumane conditions in California prisons’ Security Housing Units (SHUs) dramatized by a 2011 hunger strike by thousands of prisoners.
This petition will serve as a constructive notice for the peaceful protest which will be carried out as an alternative means of petition in the event that our conditions and demands are not met in a timely manner. [A notation on the cover letter to the petition says the hunger strike started Dec. 28, 2011.] Petitioners have filed appeals and grievances to no avail. Our constitutional rights are being violated. We are bound by the Constitution of the United States, and therefore its protection extends to us as well.
On July 1, 2011, I and my fellow prisoners – on their own free will – will be commencing a hunger strike to protest the denial of our human rights and equality via the use of perpetual solitary confinement. The Supreme Court has referred to “solitary confinement” as one of the techniques of “physical and mental torture.”