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Above the din of disturbing news – that discordant banging you’re hearing, steadily getting louder and louder, that you can no longer ignore – that’s the drumbeat of the unfree. Dehumanized by the labels “prisoner,” “inmate” and “convict,” even reduced to serial numbers like Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables,” these men and women are, just like you and me, or any mortal – irrespective of flaws, frailties, even felonious acts and misdemeanors – endowed with the right to be treated with dignity, decency and respect.
With heartbreak, yet hope, we reach out to you in the Name of our Lord and Liberator, Jesus, the Christ. It was unsettling and upsetting to witness the meeting with you, our moral leaders, and one of the most amoral persons to ever occupy the White House in the name of discussing prison reform. We are sure it must have been intoxicating to walk the corridors of power and sit at the table of governing authority. Unfortunately, those precincts of power have been infected by White supremacy and moral bankruptcy.
As the snowbirds arrived in Florida along with the mild January breezes, a small uprising of laborers who work under lock and key stopped production and made demands. This coordinated struggle was carried out by members of one of the most violently exploited groups in America: incarcerated workers. Inmates at 17 Florida prisons launched the labor strike, calling themselves “Operation PUSH,” to demand higher wages and the reintroduction of parole incentives for specific groups of inmates.
Don’t miss the highly acclaimed play, ‘Solitary Man: My Visit to Pelican Bay State Prison,’ performed by Charlie Hinton and Fred Johnson. Fred and Charlie launched the new two-person version in September 2017 and return now, on Feb. 10 and 14, for two performances as benefits for the SF Bay View newspaper: Saturday, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m., at ANSWER, 2969 Mission St., San Francisco and Wednesday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m., at Freedom Archives, 518 Valencia, San Francisco – Show the Bay View some love on Valentine’s Day!
I left CDCr wondering how PBSP could remain in shambles after 22 years of court oversight. As I started educating myself about prison reform, I stumbled upon Keramet Reiter’s 2016 book, “23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.” Within those pages, I found validation and some disturbing answers. I wish this book had been available to me before I started working in CDCr.
The criminal justice system, as an instinct to protect itself and profit from its agenda, protects “criminality” as an inherent reaction and vision of poor people of color. Those who are the most victimized by crime are not those in positions to make and implement policy. Therefore, the image of crime has ethnic connotations that create class disparities that accept an “us against them” social policy which paints crime as a social activity of poor people of color, and punishment as a task of the privileged class to maintain order.
From expressing spirituality and identity to creating a meditative focus, art takes on a heightened value inside prison. In the U.S., art has become a new weapon in the battle for hearts and minds over the justness of the death penalty – an increasingly heated and polarizing issue touching on not just the ethics and morality of state-sponsored killing but prison reform, class and the inequities of the justice system.
I want to address a point overlooked and ignored, that Alabama Constitution Article VIII Section 177 (a) and (b) are contradictory. The former states, “Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of 18 years … shall have the right to vote.” The latter, however, states, “No person convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude … shall be qualified to vote until restoration of civil and political rights.”
Most parties now agree that mass incarceration is NOT the solution to crime in America. The reason being its prison population size is NOT determined by the number of CRIMES committed. So if the crime rate is not the dominant factor, what is? UNJUST racial and class policies are the dominant driving forces behind mass incarceration in the U.S. today. We urge federal prisoners to file for relief under the programs offered.
On July 13, President Barack Obama followed up his March 2015 pardons of 22 federal prisoners by commuting the sentences of 46 federal prisoners who had served time for what has been described by the Washington Post as overly harsh sentencing. On Thursday, July 16, Obama will meet with law enforcement officials and prisoners at El Reno, the first time a sitting president has visited a federal prison.
Our Formerly Incarcerated Quest for Democracy (Q4D) Day continues to grow and evolve. This year we had over 250 committed people. We had around 30 teams advocating on legislation relevant to formerly incarcerated people and our communities. Grassroots co-sponsors got a chance to educate community members about their bills. And Sen. Holly Mitchell as well as Assemblymembers Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Autumn Burke addressed participants.
Tim Redmond, executive editor of the website 48 Hills, the Secrets of San Francisco, says that 17th District California State Assembly candidates David Campos and David Chiu are quite different candidates, especially on hard core economic issues. However, the race between them is now so close that it’s all about who most effectively gets their voters to the polls.
This is for the moms and pops in East Oakland or any other urban neighborhood in honor of the African union of Marcus Books, from a prisoner political action committee to being a member of the formerly incarcerated people’s policy academy or the freedom plan of United KAGE Brothers (UKB), from the urban freedom schools focused on real life Block Reportin’ of “Unfinished Business.” This is for my brothers of the NCTT Cor SHU and all supporters of our hunger strike coalition.
At Legal Services for Prisoners with Children’s 35th Anniversary Celebration on Oct. 19, headlined by Dr. Angela Y. Davis and Michelle Alexander, I noticed immediately the “logo,” a phoenix rising from the ashes, the theme for California Coalition for Women Prisoners’ 15th Anniversary celebration of the Fire Inside two years ago. All of Us or None is 10 years old now, and LSPC at 35 is the parent of CCWP.
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.
Sept. 9, 2013, marks the 42th anniversary of the prison uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Forty-two men, mostly inmates, were killed in the armed retaking of the prison under the orders of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. I was there, as one of the “observers” specifically requested by the inmates. We tried to negotiate a peaceful, non-violent settlement of the dispute.
The battle over the future of Tamms became the most visible and contentious example of a phenomenon seen around the country: Otherwise progressive unions are taking reactionary positions when it comes to prisons, supporting addiction to mass incarceration. And when it comes to issues of prisoners’ rights in general, and solitary confinement in particular, they are seen as a major obstacle to reform.
By taking to heart the experiences shared by Heshima Denham we learn that one of the greatest gestures of support and reassurance of the safety of prisoners who are vocal about their circumstances is constant visibility. Solitary confinement is torture; it is a violation of some of the most basic of human rights; and the agents of the state responsible for carrying out this abuse need to be exposed.
Black August is a time to remember and recommit to freeing our political prisoners who were targeted by COINTELPRO and similar schemes and have been imprisoned ever since – many for more than 30 years.
The Supreme Court ordered California to release 33,000 prisoners due to unhealthy conditions and prison overcrowding in the Plata vs. Brown prisoner lawsuit. The high court showed it was serious by demanding the release of 10,000 of these prisoners by a December 2011 deadline.
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