by Joshua Hatch
I’ve been actively working on the blueprint and inner working of a nonprofit, The Peoples Prison Defense Committee, which will be a wing of or in partnership with George Jackson University. PPDC is a grassroots non-profit organization whose primary mission is rooted in prison and parole oversight.
Through information, direction, providing of resources and community awareness and engagement, the committee seeks to bridge the gap between the community and the prison. PPDC recognizes that prisoners are isolated, often subjected to injustice, corruption and oppression. Being severed from society and a support system, prisoners are often left voiceless.
We not only seek to represent and restore the prisoners’ right to be heard, but we also seek to provide the support prisoners need. We understand prisoners have rights and we are prepared to ensure those rights are not violated. DC will aid, support and stand with any prisoner who is denied the right to fair and humane treatment by any prison administration or state official.
Not only do we have the information to address prisoners’ concerns, but we also have the resources to ensure prisoner rights to redress are handled appropriately, timely and effectively. DC will also when necessary challenge institutional and parole policy, aid and assist pro se litigants and assist the prisoner with the transition from prison to the community.
We not only seek to represent and restore the prisoners’ right to be heard, but we also seek to provide the support prisoners need.
You were introduced a while back to the Strategic Release Initiative and the New Afrikan Community Parole, Pardon and Clemency Review Board by our Brother Abdul Olugbala Shakur, one of the founders of GJU. We have begun working together with others to bring into existence the People’s Prison Defense Committee, which is the framework of what has already been presented to you by Brother Shakur.
We understand that the “urban” community makes up most of the prison population. The community, which often serves in the process of determining a member’s guilt or innocence, remains disconnected in overseeing the institutions that subsequently house the offender they have found guilty. Not only is there a lack of institutional oversight, there is a lack of community involvement in the parole procedure that often directly impacts the equilibrium of the community.
The disconnect between the community and the Prison Industrial Complex and the State Parole Board leaves a window for abuse, corruption and dehumanizing conditions to occur. These conditions don’t properly facilitate an effective environment for a resocialization process that affects the prisoner’s re-entry – and ultimately affects the community.
The aim of the People’s Prison Defense Committee, Inc., is to create social assets that can be utilized to address the social needs of the community, creating collective resources for the community. These collective resources include unified networking, financial and human resources.
The disconnect between the community and the Prison Industrial Complex and the State Parole Board leaves a window for abuse, corruption and dehumanizing conditions to occur.
PPDC’s goal is to function as an organization that is not only supported by the community but also willing to take the required action to address the plight of the prisoner’s social needs that will in turn change the culture of “corrections” (prison), parole and re-entry of the offender. While many may believe that prison is supposed to be solely punitive in nature, the philosophy of penology should not be overlooked. This philosophy is rooted in the Rehabilitation and Reformation of the offender.
This is supposed to challenge and transform an offender’s criminal mentality into one in which is suitable for society. While this is largely ignored by the PIC, this in no way should be overlooked by the communities it ultimately affects. Community members cannot escape the reality of the prison populace eventually returning to the community they abandoned for incarceration.
The question is, is tax-paying citizens’ money being effectively used to forward a process of resocialization of criminal defendants through rehabilitative efforts? Or is the state warehousing criminal defendants in environments that are not only dehumanizing in nature but also serve as a brewing ground that further criminalizes offenders, which ultimately induces criminal activity upon their release, resulting in the revolving door between the PIC and the community?
Community members cannot escape the reality of the prison populace eventually returning to the community they abandoned for incarceration.
Despite the current practice of PIC officials, prisoners, though incarcerated, maintain a substantial number of rights. These rights are guaranteed by federal and state provisions that are often violated by PIC administrative officials. Due to a lack of education, support and resources among prisoners, these violations are often swept under the rug. The community remains oblivious to the condition prisoners are subjected to and, even under the pretense of knowing of such conditions, the community often lacks the education and support to effectively redress matters.
Frankly put, the lack of community oversight and demand of accountability has left the PIC an institutionalized modern day slave plantation that has unwritten policy to steer away from “corrections” and instead warehouses prisoners in conditions that are ruled by corruption, abuse and dehumanizing conditions. These institutions are best characterized as criminal college rather than correctional institutions.
PPDC’s Social Impact Theory regarding the PIC rests in galvanizing the community behind our mission, thus in part addressing the current conditions that compromise prisoner’s rights. Once able to address these fundamental issues, we will ensure these issues don’t resurface by maintaining prison oversight while at the same time presenting proposals that represent rehabilitative programs.
The outcome is a healthy environment that fosters a positive transformation of the offender. In addition to the diseased “corrections” departments, the current disconnects between the Parole Board and the community have made it questionable whether the state is capable of properly determining who is fit to return.
What is The People’s Prisoner Defense Committee?
The PPDC is a non-profit organization whose main objective is to challenge the prison industrial complex idea of business as usual. The PPDC stands as the representative of the interests of prisoners against corruption, injustice, red tape and obscurity. We are the defenders not only of the legal rights of our society’s imprisoned and dispossessed, but also of their human right to opportunity, freedom, rehabilitation and re-entry.
What does the PPDC do?
The PPDC seeks to bridge the gap between community and prison by providing a support system and network for prisoners to pursue their rights against a corrupt system and oppressive administration, to provide relief to those seeking an opportunity for freedom in the community’s good faith and to aid in creating the smoothest transition from seclusion to society. Resources are made available for various prisoner issues from administrative complaints, parole policy, transitional housing, job placement, pro se litigation, and issues deemed meritorious and within the capabilities of PPDC.
The PPDC subsidiary divisions use the resource of legal and community power to stand on the side of right when receiving complaints and request for aid from prisoners. The PPDC specializes in pro se litigation, independent investigations, organized community involvement in parole proceedings, and pursuing civil cases as well as criminal, when made aware of such violations.
The PPDC achieves these objectives by raising the standard of accountability, transparency and responsibility within this nation’s correctional institutions. PPDC also has a comprehensive re-entry program that addresses the immediate needs upon the ex-offender’s release. Our duty is to ensure every prisoner has the chance they deserve upon their release, and PPDC is committed to that cause.
The People’s Prison Defense Committee is a non-profit organization designed to address the plight of the prisoner with our multi-faceted service programs. PPDC tactfully targets two critical areas for the incarcerated:
1) PPDC is committed to aid and assist the prisoner with addressing prison conditions that are both abusive and inhumane, often amounting to practices that are unethical as well as unconstitutional. PPDC believes that all prisoners have rights despite their circumstance. PPDC is here to educate prisoners about those rights and, in the event they are violated, provide support, resources and information on the proper steps for redress.
We believe in transparency and exposure and when necessary will involve the community in our efforts to invoke accountability of prison officials who are responsible for violating prisoners’ rights. No one vested with the power to ensure justice is served should be allowed to violate the framework and fabric of justice by violating the rights of those they are bound to protect.
PPDC is also committed to providing parole preparation and re-entry services to parolees. The community and the offender should have their eye on reformation and rehabilitation. PPDC believes that the community must get involved with the re-socialization and re-entry process of the ex-offender. We are dedicated to involving the community in supporting the potential parolees who have displayed positive productivity and amenability to changing the behavior that led to their incarceration. Our parole oversight and re-entry services will provide ex-offenders with the support network and immediate care ex-offenders need.
In general, all institutional complaints pertaining to parole, pro se litigation and community re-entry will be handled by the departments under the People’s Prison Defense Committee umbrella. Prisoners who have a complaint with the prison facility will file a request for review with the PPDC with the following documentation:
- Statement of facts – who, what, when, where, why
- Administrative remedy forms and responses by administration
- Name and contract information of witnesses
- Institutional policy and procedure to support the prisoner’s theory of violation
The PPDC will then conduct a preliminary investigation to determine merit. This will be accomplished by the PPDC investigator by reviewing provided documentation as well as state and federal law
If the investigator feels the complaint has merit, the file and recommended action will be forwarded to the director’s office. The prisoner will then be contacted with the action PPDC recommends. This may include action only the prisoner can take or PPDC acting on behalf of the prisoner. Actions PPDC would take include:
- Conducting an in-depth investigation in an effort to present facts to appropriate authorities
- Meeting with civil attorney
- Promoting community awareness
The structure of the PPDC is unique due to our ability to obtain information of successful outcomes of similar cases on both the state and federal level. We also have established relationships with prominent attorneys and pro se litigants
Parole Oversight Committee
The Parole Oversight Committee offers to our clients a parole portfolio or letter from the director of the Prison Defense Committee:
- Letter from client
- Letter from Community Board
- Letters from family and friends with pictures
- Sentence history
- Victim notification and statement
- Mitigating circumstances to support release
- Case law
- Drug addiction & rehabilitation
- Home plan
- Federal bonding
- Accomplishments while incarcerated
The above listed is the portfolio contents for our clients. We will have the above information bound, sectioned and labeled. This portfolio will be presented by the assistant director when needed. It’s just one of our services.
How can YOU get involved?
We are looking for interns and volunteers to help us with our mission. If you are interested in an internship or volunteering, contact us. If you are a student, student union, graduate or lawyer in the criminal justice system who is committed to the idea of transparency and oversight into the growing trend of privatized state and federal warehousing of human life and potential.
If you are a concerned community resident, church goer or representative, community organizer or transitional housing administrator who has noticed the systemic removal of opportunities geared toward the genuine rehabilitation of prisoners within the prison industrial complex – or simply someone who has realized that prisoners are being released to circumstances that encourage criminality instead of providing solid support bases that encourage reentry success and curb recidivism – you should contact the People’s Prison Defense Committee of Maryland at
- The People’s Prison Defense Committee, P.O. Box 2623, Baltimore, MD 21215
- or call Kilaika Anayejali Kwa Baruti Shakur at 214-861-8068
- or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send our brother some love and light: Joshua Hatch, 404986, P.O. Box 700, Jessup, MD 20794. This story was transcribed and edited by Kilaika Shakur.