National Solidarity Events to Amplify Prisoners’ Human Rights, Aug. 21 – Sept. 9, 2020

by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

Issued Feb. 13, 2020

Aug. 21 – Sept. 9 National Solidarity Events to Amplify Prisoners’ Human Rights

To all in solidarity with the Prisoners Human Rights Movement:

We are reaching out to those who have been amplifying our voices in these state, federal or immigration jails and prisons and to allies who uplifted the national prison strike demands in 2018. We call on you again to organize the communities from Aug. 21 – Sept. 9, 2020, by hosting actions, events and demonstrations that call for prisoner human rights and the end to prison slavery.

We must remind the people and legal powers in this nation that prisoners’ human rights are a priority. If we aren’t moving forward, we’re moving backward. For those of us in chains, backward is not an option. We have nothing to lose but our chains.

We must remind the people and legal powers in this nation that prisoners’ human rights are a priority. If we aren’t moving forward, we’re moving backward.

Some people claim that prisoners’ human rights have advanced since the last national prison strike in 2018. We strongly disagree. But due to prisoners organizing inside and allies organizing beyond the walls, solidarity with our movement has increased.

The only reason we hear conversations referencing prison reforms in every political campaign today is because of the work of prison organizers and our allies! But as organizers in prisons, we understand this is not enough. Just as quickly as we’ve gained ground, others are already funding projects and talking points to set back those advances. Our only way to hold our ground while moving forward is to remind people where we are and where we are headed.

On Aug. 21 – Sept. 9, we call on everyone in solidarity with us to organize an action, a panel discussion, a rally, an art event, a film screening or another kind of demonstration to promote prisoners’ human rights. Whatever is within your ability, we ask that you shake the nation out of any fog they may be in about prisoners’ human rights and the criminal legal system – i.e., legalized enslavement.

During these solidarity events, we request that organizers amplify immediate issues prisoners in your state face, the demands from the National Prison Strike of 2018 and uplift Jailhouse Lawyers Speak new International Law Project.

We’ve started the International Law Project to engage the international community with a formal complaint about human rights abuses in U.S. prisons. This project will seek prisoners’ testimonials from across the country to establish a case against the United States Prison Industrial Slave Complex on international human rights grounds.

The International Law Project will seek prisoners’ testimonials from across the country to establish a case against the United States Prison Industrial Slave Complex on international human rights grounds.

Presently working on this legally is the National Lawyers Guild’s Prisoners Rights Committee and another attorney, Anne Labarbera. Members of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) and I am We Prisoners Advocacy Network/Millions for Prisoners are also working to support these efforts. The National Lawyers Guild Prisoners’ Rights Committee – Jenipher R. Jones, Esq. and Audrey Bomse – will be taking the lead on this project.

The National Prison Strike Demands of 2018 have not changed. As reflected publicly by the recent deaths of Mississippi prisoners, the crisis in this nation’s prisons persist. Mississippi prisons are on national display at the moment of this writing, and we know shortly afterward there will be another Parchman in another state with the same issues. The U.S. has demonstrated a reckless disregard for human lives in cages.

The prison strike demands were drafted as a path to alleviate the dehumanizing process and conditions people are subjected to while going through this nation’s judicial system. Following up on these demands communicates to the world that prisoners are heard and that prisoners’ human rights are a priority.

In the spirit of Attica, will you be in the fight to dismantle the prison industrial slave complex by pushing agendas that will shut down jails and prisons like Rikers Island or Attica? Read the Attica Rebellion demands and read the National Prison Strike 2018 demands. [Both are republished below.] Ask yourself what can you do to see the 2018 National Prison Strike demands through.

SHARE THIS RELEASE FAR AND WIDE WITH ALL YOUR CONTACTS!

We rage with George Jackson’s “Blood in my eye” and move in the spirit of the Attica Rebellion!

August 21st – September 9th, 2020

AGITATE, EDUCATE, ORGANIZE!

Dare to struggle, Dare to win!

We are –

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

Contact Jailhouse Lawyers Speak at Jailhouselawyersspeak@protonmail.com and also briannaiww@gmail.com. NLG email contact for lawyers and law students interested in joining the international law project is micjlsnlg@gmail.com.

Essential to winning the solidarity and support of the people is reporting by journalists with personal knowledge of the world prisoners come from. During the Attica Rebellion, hundreds of photographers employed by the mainstream media were assigned to cover it. On Sept. 9, the prisoners allowed only one of them in: John Shearer of LIFE magazine.

Prison Strike Demands

“These are the National Prison Strike 10 Demands of 2018. We are fighting to have them implemented across the country. Since the last national prison strike, we have saw little changes as prisoners, and a great deal of it has to do with our voices being ignored in regards to the listed demands. We demand our human rights. We are not beasts. Change the conditions and you will change attitudes.” – Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.

2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.

3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.

4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.

5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing and parole denials of Black and Brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in Southern states.

6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and Brown humans.

7. No denial of access to rehabilitation programs for any imprisoned human at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.

8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.

9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all U.S. states and territories.

10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.

To learn more, visit https://jailhouselawyerspeak.wordpress.com/2020/02/11/prisoners-national-demands-for-human-rights/.

To show solidarity with their leaders while they negotiated with Corrections Commissioner Russell Oswald on Sept. 10, 1971, 1,300 Attica prisoners raise their fists. They held the yard peacefully for five days, Sept. 9 to 13, until Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, with the backing of President Nixon, ordered the massacre that killed 39. – Photo: AP

Attica Manifesto of July 2, 1971

The following is the list of demands that were presented to Commissioner of Corrections Russell Oswald and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller on July 2, 1971, by the Attica Liberation Faction:

We, the men of Attica prison, have been committed to the New York State Department of Corrections by the people of society for the purpose of correcting what has been deemed as social errors in behavior. Errors which have classified us as socially unacceptable until reprogrammed with new values and more thorough understanding as to our values and responsibilities as members of the outside community. The Attica Prison program in its structure and conditions have been enslaved on the pages of this Manifesto of Demands with the blood, sweat and tears of the inmates of this prison.

The programs which we are submitted to under the façade of rehabilitation are relative to the ancient stupidity of pouring water on a drowning man, inasmuch as we are treated for our hostilities by our program administrators with their hostility as medication.

In our efforts to comprehend on a feeling level an existence contrary to violence, we are confronted by our captors with what is fair and just, we are victimized by the exploitation and the denial of the celebrated due process of law.

In our peaceful efforts to assemble in dissent as provided under this nation’s U.S. Constitution, we are in turn murdered, brutalized and framed on various criminal charges because we seek the rights and privileges of all American people.

In our efforts to intellectually expand in keeping with the outside world, through all categories of news media, we are systematically restricted and punitively remanded to isolation status when we insist on our human rights to the wisdom of awareness.

Manifesto of Demands

1. We Demand the constitutional rights of legal representation at the time of all parole board hearings and the protection from the procedures of the parole authorities whereby they permit no procedural safeguards such as an attorney for cross-examination of witnesses, witnesses in behalf of the parolee, at parole revocation hearings.

2. We Demand a change in medical staff and medical policy and procedure. The Attica prison hospital is totally inadequate, understaffed and prejudiced in the treatment of inmates. There are numerous “mistakes” made many times; improper and erroneous medication is given by untrained personnel. We also demand periodical check-ups on all prisoners and sufficient licensed practitioners 24 hours a day instead of inmates’ help that is used now.

3. We Demand adequate visiting conditions and facilities for the inmate and families of Attica prisoners. The visiting facilities at the prison are such as to preclude adequate visiting for inmates and their families.

4. We Demand an end to the segregation of prisoners from the mainline population because of their political beliefs. Some of the men in segregation units are confined there solely for political reasons and their segregation from other inmates is indefinite.

5. We Demand an end to the persecution and punishment of prisoners who practice the constitutional right of peaceful dissent. Prisoners at Attica and other New York prisons cannot be compelled to work, as these prisons were built for the purpose of housing prisoners and there is no mention as to the prisoners being required to work on prison jobs in order to remain in the mainline population and/or be considered for release. Many prisoners believe their labor power is being exploited in order for the state to increase its economic power and to continue to expand its correctional industries (which are million-dollar complexes), yet do not develop working skills acceptable for employment in the outside society, and which do not pay the prisoner more than an average of 40 cents a day. Most prisoners never make more than 50 cents a day. Prisoners who refuse to work for the outrageous scale, or who strike, are punished and segregated without the access to the privileges shared by those who work; this is class legislation, class division and creates hostilities within the prison.

6. We Demand an end to political persecution, racial persecution, and the denial of prisoner’s rights to subscribe to political papers, books or any other educational and current media chronicles that are forwarded through the U.S. mail.

7. We Demand that industries be allowed to enter the institutions and employ inmates to work eight hours a day and fit into the category of workers for scale wages. The working conditions in prisons do not develop working incentives parallel to the many jobs in the outside society, and a paroled prisoner faces many contradictions of the job that add to his difficulty in adjusting. Those industries outside who desire to enter prisons should be allowed to enter for the purpose of employment placement.

8. We Demand that inmates be granted the right to join or form labor unions.

9. We Demand that inmates be granted the right to support their own families; at present, thousands of welfare recipients have to divide their checks to support their imprisoned relatives, who without outside support, cannot even buy toilet articles or food. Men working on scale wages could support themselves and families while in prison.

We Demand that inmates be granted the right to support their own families.

10. We Demand that correctional officers be prosecuted as a matter of law for any act of cruel and unusual punishment where it is not a matter of life and death.

11. We Demand that all institutions using inmate labor be made to conform with the state and federal minimum wage laws.

12. We Demand an end to the escalating practice of physical brutality being perpetrated upon the inmates of New York State prisons.

13. We Demand the appointment of three lawyers from the New York State Bar Association to full-time positions for the provision of legal assistance to inmates seeking post-conviction relief and to act as a liaison between the administration and inmates for bringing inmates’ complaints to the attention of the administration.

14. We Demand the updating of industry working conditions to the standards provided for under New York state law.

15. We Demand the establishment of inmate worker’s insurance plan to provide compensation for work-related accidents.

16. We Demand the establishment of unionized vocational training programs comparable to that of the federal prison system which provides for union instructions, union pay scales and union membership upon completion of the vocational training course.

17. We Demand annual accounting of the inmates Recreational Fund and formulation of an inmate committee to give inmates a voice as to how such funds are used.

18. We Demand that the present Parole Board appointed by the governor be eradicated and replaced by the parole board elected by popular vote of the people. In a world where many crimes are punished by indeterminate sentences and where authority acts within secrecy and within vast discretion and gives heavy weight to accusations by prison employees against inmates, inmates feel trapped unless they are willing to abandon their desire to be independent men.

We Demand that the present Parole Board appointed by the governor be eradicated and replaced by the parole board elected by popular vote of the people.

19. We Demand that the state legislature create a full-time salaried board of overseers for the state prisons. The board would be responsible for evaluating allegations made by inmates, their families, friends and lawyers against employers charged with acting inhumanely, illegally or unreasonably. The board should include people nominated by a psychological or psychiatric association, by the State Bar Association or by the Civil Liberties Union and by groups of concerned involved laymen.

20. We Demand an immediate end to the agitation of race relations by the prison administration of this state.

21. We Demand that the Department of Corrections furnish all prisoners with the services of ethnic counselors for the needed special services of the Brown and Black population of this prison.

22. We Demand an end to the discrimination in the judgment and quota of parole for Black and Brown people.

23. We Demand that all prisoners be present at the time their cells and property are being searched by the correctional officers of state prisons.

24. We Demand an end to the discrimination against prisoners when they appear before the Parole Board. Most prisoners are denied parole solely because of their prior records. Life sentences should not confine a man longer than 10 years, as seven years is the considered statute for a lifetime out of circulation, and if a man cannot be rehabilitated after a maximum of 10 years of constructive programs etc., then he belongs in a mental hygiene center, not a prison.

25. We Demand that better food be served to the inmates. The food is a gastronomical disaster. We also demand that drinking water be put on each table and that each inmate be allowed to take as much food as he wants and as much bread.

In conclusion

We are firm in our resolve and we demand, as human beings, the dignity and justice that is due to us by our right of birth. We do not know how the present system of brutality and dehumanization and injustice has been allowed to be perpetrated in this day of enlightenment, but we are the living proof of its existence and we cannot allow it to continue.

The taxpayers who just happen to be our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons should be made aware of how their tax dollars are being spent to deprive their sons, brothers, fathers and uncles of justice, equality and dignity.

Attica Rebellion leader L.D. Barkley negotiates with New York Corrections Commissioner Russell G. Oswald on Sept. 10, 1971. – Photo: AP

Declaration to the People of America, read on Sept. 9, 1971, by L.D. Barkley

The people of the United States of America: First of all, we want it to be known that in the past we have had some very, very, treacherous experiences with the Department of Correction of New York state. They have promised us many things and they are giving us nothing except more of what we’ve already got: brutalization and murder inside this penitentiary.

We do not intend to accept – to allow ourselves to accept – this situation again. Therefore, we have composed this declaration to the people of America to let them know exactly how we feel and what it is that they must do and what we want primarily, not what someone else wants for us. We’re talking about what we want. There seems to be a little misunderstanding about why this incident developed here at Attica and this declaration here will explain the reason:

The entire incident that has erupted here at Attica is not a result of the dastardly bushwhacking of the two prisoners, Sept. 8, 1971, but of the unmitigated oppression wrought by the racist administrative network of this prison throughout the year.

We are men. We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison populace, that means each and every one of us here, have set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United States.

What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed. We will not compromise on any terms except those terms that are agreeable to us.

We’ve called upon all the conscientious citizens of America to assist us in putting an end to this situation that threatens the lives of not only us, but of each and every one of you as well. We have set forth demands that will bring us closer to the reality of the demise of these prison institutions that serve no useful purpose to the people of America, but to those who would enslave and exploit the people of America.

Our demands are such:

1. We want complete amnesty, meaning freedom from all and any physical, mental and legal reprisals.

2. We want now, speedy and safe transportation out of confinement to a non-imperialistic country.

3. We demand that the federal government intervene, so that we will be under direct federal jurisdiction.

4. We want the governor and the judiciary, namely Constance B. Motley, to guarantee that there will be no reprisals and we want all factions of the media to articulate this.

5. We urgently demand immediate negotiations through William M. Kunstler, attorney at law, 588 Ninth Ave., New York, New York; Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve of Buffalo; the Prisoner Solidarity Committee of New York; Minister Farrakhan of the Muslims. We want Huey P. Newton from the Black Panther Party and we want the chairman of the Young Lords Party. We want Clarence B. Jones of the Amsterdam News. We want Tom Wicker of the New York Times. We want Richard Roth from the Currier Express. We want the Fortune Society; Dave Anderson of the Urban League of Rochester; Brine Eva Barnes. We want Jim Hendling of the Democratic Late Chronicle of Detroit, Michigan. We guarantee the safe passage of all people to and from this institution. We invite all the people to come here and witness this degradation so that they can better know how to bring this degradation to an end. This is what we want.

– The Inmates of Attica Prison

The “Attica Manifesto of July 2, 1971,” and the “Declaration to the People of America of Sept. 9, 1971,” are reproduced from “Attica Prison Uprising 101, a short primer,” originally published as a Nia Dispatch by Project Nia and previously published by the Bay View.