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The people who organized the country’s biggest prison strike against what they call modern-day slavery have planned their next target: corporate food service giant Aramark. The $8.65 billion company is one of the country’s largest employers and serves food to more than 100 million people a year. It also provides meals for more than 500 correctional facilities across the country and has been the subject of complaints about maggots and rocks, sexual harassment, drug trafficking and other employee misconduct.
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.
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.”
It is my sincere hope this letter will be received in the same spirit of appreciation and cooperation in which it is written. First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge the courage and independent thinking and actions you demonstrated in the unannounced visit to inspect the conditions of confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit and speak with the strike leaders.
Yesterday I wrote about the ACLU’s efforts to ensure that the U.S. government is properly engaged at a U.N. meeting in Buenos Aires on uniform rules for the treatment of prisoners. Now that the meeting is underway, it appears that the U.S. delegation is playing a constructive role – but we’ve still got work to do.
A bill opposing the shackling of pregnant prisoners, AB 2530, passed unanimously by the California State Legislature, is now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, with 30 days to either approve or veto it. Last year, a previous version of this bill was also passed unanimously by the legislature, but it was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Brown. AB 2530 supporters have created two webpages for the public to contact the governor.
In the past year we have witnessed a succession of murderous assaults reflecting a common character structure: The authoritarian psychology: Jason Smith beaten to death by racists in Louisiana; Trayvon Martin murdered by a racist vigilante in Florida; Christian Gomez allowed to die on hunger strike by prison guards in California; 17 people, nine of them children, slaughtered in Afghanistan; Kendrec McDade slain by racist police in California; Gerardo Perez-Ruiz murdered by border vigilantes in Arizona.
We, as members of activist and community organizations in the Bay Area of California, send our support and salute you for making history as your strike has become the largest prison strike in the history of this nation. We recognize the potential that your action has to improve the lives of millions subject to inhumane treatment in correctional facilities across this country.