by Abdul Olugbala Shakur, Free-Speech Society
Part I: Introduction
According to the 14th Amendment, the government cannot develop or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the U.S., nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of the law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. We as prisoners did not forfeit our citizenship when we came to prison or the laws which are designed to protect our basic human rights and dignity.
We understand that, being in prison, we lose some constitutional guarantees, which encompass equal protection of the law and due process. But when lawmakers enact a bill into law, they must consider whether anyone will be condemned to suffer grievous loss.
So the question posed to Congress, when enacting the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), did they consider the unique circumstances that have the potential to impede certain classes of prisoners from complying with it?
The Fifth and 14th Amendments prohibit the government from depriving persons of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The two primary factors in determining a due process violation are 1) Whether a liberty or property interest is involved; and 2) Whether procedural safeguards are constitutionally sufficient to protect against any unjustified deprivations.
The implementation and enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act was a clear procedural deprivation of our rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments.
Denying relief due to a plea of ignorance of the law is a practice the courts often employ. But those of us who are being housed in isolation – or solitary confinement – we have a legitimate claim of ignorance of the law, due to our restrictive custody. We have limited access to critical law changes or court decisions.
The security housing units (SHU) at both Pelican Bay and Corcoran state prisons are not required by law nor obligated to individually inform those prisoners being housed in solitary confinement of any law changes that can have a significant impact on their confinement. Due to our physical restrictions, our access to law changes is very limited.
We as prisoners did not forfeit our citizenship when we came to prison or the laws which are designed to protect our basic human rights and dignity.
The government did not even consider our capacity to access the AEDPA-1996. Their deliberate indifference towards our unique circumstances denied us life, liberty or property without due process of the law.
I ask, if we’re not in a position to access this information and prison authorities are not required to individually inform us, how does the court expect us to comply with the law? To be more specific, Pelican Bay and Corcoran state prisons made no efforts to accommodate those of us being housed inside of their security housing unit.
Many of us don’t even have TVs or any other way to obtain information pertaining to new laws that may and/or will affect us.
I reiterate, if we’re not provided sufficient access to the law, then how are we expected to comply with the law? Our ignorance in this matter is not an excuse, but a legitimate due process-equal protection interest. We only seek fairness and justice; the attorney general, prosecutors and district attorneys have been given an unfair advantage.
I ask, if we’re not in a position to access this information and prison authorities are not required to individually inform us, how does the court expect us to comply with the law?
All relevant law changes are readily available to the attorney general and all prosecutors. This is a clear injustice. Being treated as if we are on equal terms with the attorney general or district attorneys is unfair and a violation of our Fifth and l4th amendment rights!
Part II: Fairness and Restoration Act 2015
This restoration act is about restoring fairness and justice to those who were denied it by the government enactment of the AEDPA-1996. There were a number of classes of prisoners that were not able to comply with the AEDPA through NO FAULT of their own.
This restoration act is about restoring fairness and justice to those who were denied it by the government enactment of the AEDPA-1996.
This act of restoration is specifically for those classes of prisoners. They represent unique circumstances which potentially impede their capacity to access the AEDPA, prohibiting them from complying with the law changes. These classes of prisoners fall under the following criteria:
1) Those prisoners who were housed in the SHU at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Tehachapi and New Folsom state prisons in 1996-1997
2) Those prisoners who were under chronic health care in 1996-1997
3) Those prisoners identified as functionally illiterate in 1996-1997
4) Those prisoners identified as mentally ill
These criteria serve as legitimate obstacles impeding our capacity to comply with the AEDPA-l996, being that we were not provided sufficient access to the law changes.
Article One: Those prisoners who fall under criteria 1 and 2 whose federal writ was denied on grounds of AEDPA violation, the violation did not exceed one year and they were actively involved in the appeal process shall be given another opportunity to resubmit their federal writ with an appointed counsel.
Article Two: Those prisoners who fall under criteria 3 and 4 shall be appointed counsel due to their inability to represent themselves or fully comprehend the law.
Article Three: Starting Jan. l, 2016, state departments of corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisons will be required by law to inform their prison population of any and all laws that will or can have a direct impact on their confinement.
Part III: National Afrikan-Amerikan Family Reunion Association (www.NAAFRA.org) Petition for Black Victims Restitution
The New Afrikan Prisoner Rights Movement is presently promoting the concept of a Black Community Victims Foundation. The BCVF will be responsible for:
1) Providing restitution compensation to those Black families and individuals who have been victimized by gang violence or other criminal acts perpetrated by other New Afrikans, i.e. Afrikan Amerikans.
2) To help pay funeral expenses for those New Afrikan families who have lost a loved one due to gang violence.
3) To help pay medical bills for those families whose loved one was a victim of a violent crime perpetrated by a New Afrikan.
4) To help fund community-based youth programs, especially targeting New Afrikan gang members.
5) To help train Gang Conflict Resolution Counselors.
The BCVF will be responsible for serving our victims of violent crimes. It will be community based and independent from government and law enforcement influences. This is a health and safety issue. We hope to establish a chapter in every New Afrikan community.
People, according to Webster’s Dictionary, restitution means: 1) An act of restoring to the proper owner something taken away, lost or surrendered, 2) An act of repaying or compensation for loss, damage or injury indemnification, 3) A return to or restoration of a former state or position.
In the early 1990s, the state of California legislated a new reconstructed policy on restitution. Every prisoner who enters the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC) after 1992 (or thereabouts) will be required to pay restitution; every time a prisoner receives money from family or loved ones, the prison will take 55 percent out for restitution.
Ten percent goes directly to the prison, and the government allegedly distributes the remaining money to various victims’ rights organizations. But not one cent has gone to New Afrikan victims of violent crimes. The vast majority of New Afrikan prisoners who are serving life or time for murder, attempted murder or assault, their victims were also New Afrikan.
So, I ask: Why are the New Afrikan (aka Afrikan Amerikan) families who were victims of these violent crimes yet to receive restitution? They are the real victims! The New Afrikan community via New Afrikan prisoners are being robbed and extorted under the guise of restitution – not to mention, even though these New Afrikan prisoners’ victims were also New Afrikan, they are paying restitution for white victims of violent crimes, while Black victims of violent crimes are totally ignored.
I ask, if restitution means restoring the victims, then are we not compelled to ask, what about Black victims of violent crimes? Are they not worthy of the same moral justice?
Why are the New Afrikan (aka Afrikan Amerikan) families who were victims of these violent crimes yet to receive restitution? They are the real victims!
Restoration means repaying the victims, whether that be in medical bills or funeral expenses. But this is just another example of capitalist exploitation and the dismissal of BLACK LlVES!
We hope to mobilize a movement to resist and stop this capitalist government-sponsored extortion ring. We are asking the people to distribute this petition all over the country and make this a daily topic.
We as New Afrikan POLITICAL PRISONERS believe these New Afrikan prisoners have to pay restitution. It is only just for their restitution to go to their New Afrikan victims.
There are many New Afrikan prisoners who have been victims of Black gang violence, but they have yet to receive one cent of restitution. Restitution means to restore, to make whole; the present government-sponsored restitution policy, in fact, is a government scheme to rob poor people of their hard-earned money.
When a prisoner is accused of assaulting and/or killing another prisoner, he or she is charged and then, if convicted, will be required to pay restitution to the government, but the prisoner who was the target of that assault or murder does not receive one penny?
This fact alone exposes the present government-sponsored policy on restitution as a fraud! If this was truly about victims’ rights, then many poor people both in prison and within our communities would have been receiving their restitution!
We are asking the people to distribute this petition all over the country and make this a daily topic.
Part IV: Black Community Victims Foundation Petition
1) We, the New Afrikan community, demand an immediate end to the illegal circumvention of our victims’ restitution.
2) We, the New Afrikan community, demand an immediate end to the California Department of Corrections hijacking 10 percent of restitution fees that should be allocated to the real victims of violent crimes, that is, if restitution is truly the intent.
3) We, the New Afrikan community, demand that 100 percent of all collected restitution be designated to the appropriate New Afrikan victims via the Black Community Victims Foundation (BCVF) local chapters. The BCVF will be responsible for distributing restitution fees to those New Afrikan families and victims in their jurisdiction that qualify for restitution.
4) We, the New Afrikan community, demand that all restitution illegally collected in the last 10 years from those prisoners whose victims were New Afrikan be redistributed to the real victims via the BCVF.
Return signed petitions and send some love and light to Abdul Olugbala Shakur, s/n J. Harvey, C-48884, SHU 4B-1L-25, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.