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Across Amerika, home of the world’s largest prison population, growing numbers of the imprisoned are coming to realize that they are victims of social injustice. Foremost, they are victims of an inherently predatory and dysfunctional capitalist-imperialist system, which targets the poor and people of color for intensified policing, militaristic containment and selective criminal prosecutions, while denying them access to the basic resources, employment and institutional control needed for social and economic security.
In conjunction with our formal introduction of Free Alabama Movement to the world, I spoke of “a flicker becoming a flame.” And, the threat of that flame blazing into a wildfire for change. To be in balance with the Universal Order, myself and hundreds of men confined within the Alabama DOC decided to become the change we wanted to see. From ‘14 throughout ‘15 and ‘16 we worked, tirelessly, fanning that flicker – networking, mobilizing, organizing and educating – into a flame.
On April 21, I finally got to see Charlie Hinton’s “Solitary Man” play at the Black Repertory Theater in Berkeley. It was so much more than a cultural experience. The play was gripping, emotional and real, with jazz trumpet sprinkled in. The panel powerfully reflected the layers of pain, survival and resistance in the prison movement. And the event, a benefit for the San Francisco Bay View, was a moving tribute to Mary and Willie Ratcliff’s devotion to their invaluable newspaper.
Over 200 prisoners in Santa Clara County have been on a hunger strike since April 15, 2018, to end meaningless classification reviews and the torturous practice of indefinite solitary confinement etc.. Concerned families and community countywide rallied in support of their incarcerated loved ones on Monday, April 23, at 6 p.m. in front of the Main Jail in hopes that the jail administration and/or Sheriff Laurie Smith will engage with participating hunger strikers to end the hunger strike.
On Oct. 15, 2017, Prisoners United in Glenn Dyer Detention Center courageously led the way in a hunger strike that will span across two counties and four jails. Santa Rita Jail, Santa Clara County Main Jail and Elmwood D.O.C. will continue the strike in solidarity on Oct. 22. We are calling for support from families and the community to contact the Alameda County Sheriff administration, at 510-272-6878, and Alameda County Board of Supervisors, at 510-272-6347, to meet our demands.
In recent months, renewed interest in the lives of those who were released to the mainline after decades in California’s infamous SHU torture units has prompted many to ask us the question: How did you survive decades of solitary confinement? To understand how I survived almost two decades of solitary confinement, you must first understand why the state subjected us to these torture units in the first place.
Sept. 9, 2016, was the start of the largest prison strike in U.S. history. Over 72,000 incarcerated workers in 22 states refused to provide their labor to profit the prison industrial complex. California forces 5,588 incarcerated workers to labor in exchange for little or no compensation. Another 4,000 earn $2 a day fighting Californian wildfires with inadequate training and equipment. The prison system in California reaped $207 million in revenue and $58 million in profit from forced labor in 2014-15.
Basic logic dictates it is the community who should be vested with the power to parole, pardon or grant clemency to those who, in their determination, would have a positive impact on their communities and society as a whole if released. This is a concept developed by George Jackson University known as strategic release. To this end, we are announcing our campaign to develop – and establish nationally – New Afrikan Community Parole, Pardon and Clemency Review Board.
Despite being held in solitary confinement for years, men known as Kinetik, Dhati and Brother M, primary leaders of the Free Alabama Movement, have been instrumental in organizing a statewide prison work stoppage in Alabama that began on Sunday, May 1. Alabama prisoners who have been on strike over unpaid labor and prison conditions are accusing officials of retaliating against their protest by starving them.
On Friday, Feb. 12, United States District Magistrate for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Cynthia Reed Eddy, issued a decision denying both parties’ motions for summary judgment and ordering a trial in the case of Shoatz v. Wetzel, which challenges the 22-year solitary confinement of Abolitionist Law Center client and political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz. The trial will mark the first in the country in a case challenging long-term solitary confinement.
Just moments ago, Albert Woodfox, the last remaining member of the Angola 3 still behind bars, was released from prison 43 years and 10 months after he was first put in a 6-foot-by-9-foot solitary cell for a crime he did not commit. After decades of costly litigation, Louisiana state officials have at last acted in the interest of justice and reached an agreement that brings a long overdue end to this nightmare.
On Tuesday, federal Judge Claudia Wilken approved the final agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California, calling it humane, innovative and fair. Prisoners celebrated the settlement agreement, whose terms were agreed on last September, claiming it as a victory that bolstered their struggle for human rights. Anne Weills pointed out that “what was missing from the courtroom were all the prisoners who risked their lives in the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013.”
A federal jury in San Francisco awarded $25,000 in damages to Jesse Perez, who sued guards for trashing his cell in retaliation for his lawsuit against the prison and for his stand against solitary confinement. Jesse Perez, 35, imprisoned since age 15, was sent to the SHU at Pelican Bay in December 2003 and was held there for 10 years. He took part in all three hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013, protesting prolonged isolation and demanding human rights for prisoners.
Pelican Bay prisoners named as plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the use of solitary confinement in California gained an important victory yesterday. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of a motion allowing prisoners who have been in solitary confinement for more than 10 years, but have been transferred out of Pelican Bay State Prison since the lawsuit was first filed, to remain eligible as class members in the case.
Often when citizens of this nation think of “state repression,” images of Egypt, North Korea, Apartheid Palestine or Nazi Germany immediately spring to mind. U.S. state controlled media has become practiced at flooding our airwaves and attitudes with images of violent retaliation and systematic repression of dissent in other nations as a means to obfuscate the U.S. state’s engagement in identical activity in its own society.
A year ago on July 8, over 30,000 people inside California prisons began a hunger strike to bring an end to the state’s use of indefinite solitary confinement. On the one-year anniversary of the largest prisoner hunger strike in California history, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law today is filing a lawsuit charging CDCR with illegally refusing to publicly disclose information, data and studies regarding its solitary confinement rules, policies and practices.
Although the hunger strike has officially come to an end here – the struggle continues. The drastic and suppressive hand of Illinois prison-crats has had the unintended effect of heightening the consciousness of a new generation of captured colonials into the history of the prison rights movement and “teaching” them about the true nature of the beast.
Despite attempts by the CDCR to insure the public that they are acting with prudence to change people’s gang validations and correct injustices and general inhumane conditions in prison SHUs, testimony from experts and the public continued to unmask the basic torture and impunity of the CDCR’s policies in maintaining prolonged isolation and prisons that fundamentally violate human rights. Hundreds packed two hearing rooms demanding real change.
The CDCR is proposing new regulations on “security threat groups” or “gangs,” which will be implemented after a regular public hearing, to be held on April 3. The Step Down Program, which CDCR has been executing as a pilot program, is apparently being added to CDCR’s vast number of regulations. The implementation of the official Step Down Program comes while a second legislative hearing on Feb. 11 has been organized.
There is a matter of some urgency that should be passed along as broadly as possible, because it is just that serious. We issued a statement, “Creating broken men, Part 2,” where we voiced our outrage at the inclusion of the mandatory brainwashing components of Section 700.2 of the CDCR’s Step Down Program (SDP.) Since that time several things have developed.