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FALL 2013 Issue #20

The Official Newsletter of the Human Rights Coalition for the union of Prisoners’ Families

Human Rights Coalition Dedicated to Protecting the HUMAN RIGHTS of All!


Human Rights Report — Institutionalized
racism & censorship are related; battling censorship behind bars; and more . . .beginning on page 12

er, aud n a x e l A The Sha Michelle me of 3 S im J w e N e h trikes thor of ‘T k o o b Law, pag Face n o s t s o e 37 p , Crow’ see page 9

In This Issue
From The Desk of The Editor
. . . . . . . . . . . page 3

All Power To The People
End Mandatory life Sentences . . . . . . . . page 4

Families Dare to Speak, Dare to Resist
Our Sons, by: In Search of Fatherhood . .. . . . . . . . . . Page 5 Is It Justice, or Just Them? By: Rita Cottman Johnson . . . Page 6

Love Knows No Bars
Open Letter to Mom, by: Antonio Howard. . . . . . . page 7 Convicted But Innocent, by: Denise Gant . . . . . . . Page 8

The HomeFront: Serving Our Community!
50th Anniversary of MLK March . . . . . . . . . . . . page 9

“New Jim Crow” Placards Seized by Police & more . . . Page 10

Juveniles Lifers Look to Supreme Court for Relief . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 11 The Human Rights Coalition Report
Statement from the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign . . . . . . . . . . page 12 Battling Censorship Behind Bars, by: Andrea Jones . . page 15 Censorship on the Prison Plantation, by: Robert Holbrook . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 18 No Mis-education Behind Bars, by: Linn Washington, Jr. . . . . . . . . . page 20 July 2012 Censorship Report . . . . . . . . . . . . page 21

What’s The News? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 24 - 28

Human Rights Matters
Borrerro’s Last Stance, by: Trevos Mattis . . . . . . page 30

Writings of Multiplicity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 32 - 36

The Babylon System - This Must Stop!
The Shame of Three Strike Laws, by: Matt Taibbi . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 37 - 43

Above artwork by: Richard G. Hall Jr. C-07278, P.O. Box 689, YW-343 up, Soledad, CA 93960-0689 For more prison art go to:


. . . . . . . . . . page 44 - 47

Front page illustration: “Pelican Bay Censorship” by Michael Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)


From The Desk of The Editor
Welcome to The Movement, Greetings to everyone. In states across the country, from California to Pennsylvania, we have state departmental agencies like the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) acting as government “thought control” police over prisoners, to control their actions by way of CENSORING information readily available to the public. The censored information covers a wide range of topics, mostly topics on politics (always “leftist” material), economics (always “socialist” material), religion (always “Islam” or “African” religion), race, sex (like Puritan, always obsessed with “nudity”), and culture (all cultures - except American culture - is a threat). Through censorship security offices within the Department of Corrections (DOC) - ran mostly by Glen Beck types of conservative rightwing Caucasian males - target African, Latino, and Asian prisoners to silence, harass, and isolate them in Behavior Modification Units called Control Units under Security Threat Group (STG) and Restricted Release List (RRL) designations, as an example to strike terror in the rest of the prisoner population. That is the age-old fear tactic of “kill one to scare a thousand” into submission and compliance. In the CDCR if a prisoner is found to possess in his assigned cell a picture of legendary Cesar Chavez or Malcolm X, a book on African or Mexican (Aztec) history, a calendar displaying African, Latino, Nordic heritage, or any leftist or socialist political writings from political theorists of the world, such material will be used to mislabel a prisoner under a Security Threat Group (STG); ship him/her off to a control unit prison (silenced) and place him/her on RRL (permanent isolation) in the hole. Currently, in response to the Short Corridor Hunger Strikers at Pelican Bay and Corcoran prisons, the CDCR has censored prisoners’ visits, phone calls, and incoming-outgoing letters from and to their families, human rights groups, and the media in attempt to silence prisoners’ messages of CDCR’s torture chambers to the world. In Pennsylvania it is the same. The PADOC has a “Banned Books Catalog” where they have banned nearly all books that has “African”, “Black”, or “Islam” in its title. Most “Urban Streets Novels” are banned from reading. Any artistic, historic, spiritual, or other literary publication with “nudity” or any “sexual” content is banned. African -American history books, ‘Miseducation of the Negro’, ‘Without Sanctuary’, and ‘Soul of Black Folks’ have been banned. Many Leftist political books have been banned, in particular, all of the books written by political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal have been banned. Recently, on June28, 2013 the PADOC cut off Mumia Abu Jamal’s phone calls for two weeks after he called and was interviewed by Philadelphia attorney activist Michael Coard on his WURD program, ‘Radio Courtroom’. For the last several years now, the PADOC has declared the Human Rights Coalition (HRC) persona non grata and have been censoring issues of the HRC’s newsletter/magazine, THE MOVEMENT, to prevent prisoners from being informed. As of late the PADOC has even stooped to delaying delivery of THE MOVEMENT by four weeks, just to prevent the light of TRUTH from entering the dark crevices of ignorance in a prisoners’ mind. Like the 19th Century slave plantation system, the prison system seeks to pull out all the stops to prevent a prisoner from “educating” him/her-self, because the most threatening thing to prison officials is an ‘EDUCATED PRISONER”! They fear an educated prisoner class will empower and emancipate themselves to change the world.

Let’s Struggle to Win!

Bro. Shakaboona, Co-Editor and HRC Organizer


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

September 16, 2013

End Mandatory Life Sentences
Young people are different. The Supreme Court has delivered that message repeatedly over the last decade in limiting or flatly prohibiting the most severe criminal punishments for those under 18 at the time of their crime. In 2005, the court banned the death penalty for juveniles. In 2010, it outlawed sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicide. And, in a 2012 case, Miller v. Alabama, it said juveniles may never receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole, which prisoners refer to as “the other death penalty.” Each ruling, relying on the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, has found that young people are “constitutionally different” from adults, and, therefore, must be punished differently. In each case, the court was silent on the question of whether its ruling applied retroactively to inmates who had already been convicted. The just answer would surely be yes, and courts have largely agreed, making those first two juvenile justice rulings retroactive. But some states insist that the ban on mandatory life without parole does not apply to offenders who have already been sentenced. In the Miller case, the court required lower courts to make “individualized sentencing decisions” for juvenile defendants because juveniles are not as morally culpable as adults, and they are more capable of changing over time. If the ban on mandatory life without parole is retroactive, more than 2,000 prisoners would be eligible for a new sentencing hearing. So far, whether these individuals can get a new hearing depends on where they live. Courts in Michigan, Iowa and Mississippi have ruled that the ban applies to previously sentenced juveniles. The Department of Justice takes that position as well. Yet the Minnesota Supreme Court and one federal appeals court have taken the opposite view. On Sept. 4, the Louisiana Supreme Court took on this question in the case of Darryl Tate, who was 17 when he held up two men and killed one of them in 1981. Mr. Tate’s lawyers argue that he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing under the Miller rule, because the United States Supreme Court allowed such a rehearing in another juvenile life -without-parole case decided at the same time as Miller. Critics fear that allowing resentencing would increase violent crime. But courts may still impose life without parole, provided that the judge first gives proper consideration to the mitigating effects of youth. The Alabama Supreme Court set out guidelines last week that require a court to consider 14 factors, including a defendant’s age, emotional maturity, family environment and potential for rehabilitation before issuing such a sentence. Ideally, life without parole would never be a sentencing option for juveniles. The Supreme Court’s own logic suggests this, even if it was not willing to go that far. After the Miller case, three states entirely eliminated juvenile life without parole, joining six other states that had already banned the sentence, and lawsuits on the retroactivity issue are pending in several states. As lawmakers and courts deal with this issue, they should remember — as the Supreme Court has declared — that adolescents are not adults, and that principle should apply regardless of the date of a conviction. -

Editors’ Note: Attention Pennsylvania prisoners. Due to the overwhelming censorship and banning of issues of
THE MOVEMENT by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) and its State Correctional Institutions (SCI) the Human Rights Coalition (HRC) will be seeking legal redress for the violations of its First and Fourteenth Amendments rights. To that end the HRC is asking that PA inmates to do the following: 1.) Notify the HRC when their incoming publication of THE MOVEMENT is censured by IPRC, 2.) Appeal the IPRC decision to the Superintendent and to Final Appeal Review, and 3.) Mail the HRC a copy of your final appeal and the PADOC’s “Final Appeal Determination” to: Human Rights Coalition Attention: Newsletter Committee 4134 Lancaster Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19104 THE MOVEMENT is mailed quarterly to all prisoners who’ve requested a copy in the following manner: Winter Issue - mailed first week of January Summer Issue - mailed first week of July Spring Issue - mailed first week of April Fall Issue - mailed first week of October


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

s Familie


e eak, Dar p S o T e ar

to Resis


I stand on the shoulders of our heroes and roar.

Posted on Facebook by: ...And Justice For All In search of Fatherhood, Sep 20

A Wall of Memories
I wake up to a wall of memories Each and every day. And gaze at the photos hanging there Thinking of things I'd like to say. The precious people With their smiling faces. From near and far And exciting places. My wall of memories Is where I like to go. When my soul gets weary And my heart sinks low. Some folks have them, But others just can't see. A care, or whisper of hope Through all this misery. You see my name is Jeff And I live on Death Row, Where smiles are as strange As summer is to snow. So I turn to my wall of memories When my strength starts to fail, And see all my friends hanging there, Who share with me this hell. You see from the beginning to the end I've never really been alone. Because my wall of memories Can always take me home. So for all the people That have helped me see this through, Along my wall of memories I dedicate this poem to you. Jeffery C. Doughtie Texas (executed 16th August 2001)

Fourteen years ago, immediately after the launch of IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R), something very profound happened. I began receiving letters from young men -- Our Sons. Their letters enclosed brilliantly crafted essays and soulful poems. They asked me to publish them. And I did. In exchange for their essay or poem, they received a free copy of IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R). A number of these young men continued to send essays and poems. And they sent letters. These were young men -- Our Sons -- from, among other places, New York, California, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana. So, what was profound about receiving poetry, essays, and letters from these young men? Each letter had a similar introductory sentence: "I am 23 and I have been incarcerated since I was 18. Will you publish my essay? Can I get a free copy of your publication? " or "I am 28 and I have been incarcerated since I was 16. I'm sending you a poem I'd like you to publish." Many of these young Men -- Our Sons -are Fathers -- Fathers of daughters and sons. They do not tell me how or why they embarked upon a path that led them to a maximum security correctional facility. Nor do I ask. But I do have questions: What is going on with Our Sons? What is going on in Our Sons' homes, schools, and communities? And how do we fix whatever is going on that is driving Our Sons down the path to prison with all deliberate speed? On the whole, when Our Sons are born, they emerge from the womb with unbridled energy, insatiable curiosity, and irrepressible enthusiasm. They are playful, resilient, and incessantly asking questions. And then unexplainably, for some of Our Sons -- "the lights go out". They no longer soak up knowledge like a sponge. Gone is the bright smile that once illuminated their faces. Their eyes no longer sparkle. So, again I ask the question: What is going on at home .. .. . at school . .. . and in our communities? Our Sons -- including Our Sons who are housed in juvenile and adult correctional facilities -- want and need to know what every soul in the global village we know as Planet Earth wants to know: Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter? Perhaps one of the key "pieces of the puzzle" to preventing the "lights from going out" in the spirit and souls of Our Sons and keeping them out of juvenile and adult correctional facilities is to tell them in words and deeds -- every day -- "I hear you! I see you! And yes, you do matter You matter because you are the heart and soul of the village. You matter because you are the future of the Village. You matter because one day you are going to be a leader In the village. You matter because one day you are going to be someone's husband . . . someone's Father . . . Yes, you matter . . . and you are loved!"


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

s Familie


k, Dare To Spea

t to Resis

I stand on the shoulders of our heroes and roar.

Let me start off by saying I am the very proud Mother of Donald Pinner, who is incarcerated in this corrupt system! My son has been incarcerated for over 12 years, and the majority of the time he’s been in Western Pennsylvania. While I live in the Philadelphia area it’s a hardship for me to travel and for us to see each other; and, I can’t take that “six hour” long trip on the bus anymore. With that being said, he’s been on his best behavior in order to be transferred closer to home. Well he was transferred (on a “Promotional Transfer”) to SCI-Coal Township, as close as a two hour ride away. He was transferred on the 2nd of January 2013, I went to see him on the 4th, he was in the RHU (the hole) by the 8th! WHAT! Who in their “right mind” would do anything (in less than a week’s time of being transferred) to jeopardize the transfer? Well, it’s as if they had it in for him when he arrived! There was a situation between him and a Sgt. Romig (who said he felt that his life was being threatened). After their encounter my son left his office. From there he went to the yard, came back in, took a shower, went to eat, and just before he was to turn in for the evening, guards came to get him! Initially he was given 90 days! He only did half of the time, but here’s were it gets funky. If the Sergeant felt as if his life were being threatened why would they let Donald out (half time) and put him back on the same side of the jail? Plus he was on that side for three months without incident before he was transferred back to SCI-Forest. While a SCI-Coal Township they took two pairs of boots from him, saying that they were “contraband”, and an amp. But the big thing is that they LOST or DESTROYED a box of “LEGAL MATERIAL”! So he put in several grievances about his property. Also he asked (at the end of the grievances) that he not be retaliated against by way of abusive cell searches, framed with bogus misconduct, or to be transferred far away from home (which has happened!) My son was also threatened by guards that told him, if he keeps filing grievances that he would regret it! In their very own handbook it says that an inmate has a right to file appeals, file grievances, etc. So my question is, why is he being retaliated against for demanding what is his and his rights. Going back to his “legal documents and legal books”, when his property arrived at SCI -Coal Township he was already in the RHU and not there to sign for it. So another question of mine is, how could anybody sign for somebody else’s property when you don’t know what was sent? Isn’t that a violation??? Needless to say his legal material was never found. So again I say, “Is it Justice or Just Them!?” Thank you from A loving mother who wants to see JUSTICE 4 ALL!

Warrior Queen, Rita Cottman Johnson

From the Editor: Mrs. Johnson is in need of your suggestions and/or comments, please email her at
Warrior Queen and Son


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

Open Letter to a Mother
Dear Mom, Nearly 20 years of prison experience has taught me this: there's no such thing as free time, only time to prepare for the times I'll need to be prepared. So, I've been preparing for this moment -- the moment you'd finally ask, "What can I do to help you?" Unfortunately, this moment comes at the expense of moments passed. The law has changed drastically over the years, so there's not much you can do to help me in ways I once needed. However, there are things I need you to know. First, my being here is not your fault. You didn't fail me and you didn't fail in your responsibilities as a parent. After you gave birth to me, theoretically, you had 18 years to parent, theoretically But the fact is there are only 24 hours in a day. Subtract 8 hours sleep and 8 hours work, you're left with 8 hours per day to raise a child. Multiply that by 365 days in a year and you get 2,920 hours per year to raise a child. Divide that by 24 hours in a day, it translates to 121 days, 26 hours. Multiply that number by 18 years and you're left with 2,190 days in an 18 year period. Divide that by 365 days a year, it leaves 6 years to raise a child. Subtract the first 2 years infancy and you're left with 4 years. Factor in variables like overtime at a job, time divided between 2 or more children, travel between home and work, a child participating in sports, homework, detention, and in my case, juvenile placements and prison by age 15; what remains is the reality that you didn't actually raise me. The rest of the world did. You were left, roughly, less than a year, noncontiguous block of time to be a mom. Not nearly enough time to perfect it. Secondly, we've both made mistakes, but we're not our mistakes. We're what we learn from them. And every mistake we make comes with a second chance. A chance to prove we learned from them. If you've learned anything from your experiences with me, my siblings are your second chance to prove it. Thirdly, my life isn't mine anymore. It hasn't been since the day of my arrest. It can even be argued that it was never mine to begin with. Although you can prove maternity, my life never belonged to you either. But only an in -depth study of history can provide you with an understanding of that concept. As it stands now, my life belongs to the State of Pennsylvania and its employees. Maintaining ownership of it provides money to put food on their tables and send their children to college. So, any fight you wage on my behalf is a fight to take jobs from the profiteers of my shortcomings. To put it another way, fighting for my freedom means fighting against a system programmed to defend itself to the death -- your death or its own. This system has a human face -- sometimes Black or White; sometimes male or female. But like all faces, it registers as many different expressions as needed to convince you of whatever it wants to at the time. It also speaks with a human voice. But beware, it has a forked tongue. It will claim to promote bonds between prisoners and their families, then send its captives (your children) to the opposite end of the world, making it nearly impossible for you to visit. It'll even inflate the cost of collect calls beyond what you can afford. For families committed even through the roughest times, the system simply waits you out until time eventually takes its toll. The lives of many families have been destroyed by this experience -- families whose enthusiasm, like yours, provides a false sense of preparedness for protracted combat. So, I'll say to you what I would have said to them: Educate yourself on the subject first. Finally, it's important that you build a support system out there for yourself. A support system composed of others who've been affected by this situation and are willing to unite with you for the sake of saving their own children trapped here. Even if you're only able to unite with one other person, it's better than being alone. Because the moment this system knows you're alone, it will interpret your isolation as an opportunity to abuse you and your constitutional rights with impunity. There are millions of women like you isolated, with no power or meaningful connection to one another because they don't know they share this experience in common. You have to find them and unite with them. Learning begins with the first opportunity. It doesn't matter if you learn through failure or success. It's still learning. The time between the first opportunity and the second is simply an opportunity to prepare for the moment you'll need to be prepared. Sincerely, Antonio Howard Excerpt from: When a Child is Worth More Than the Worst Mistake He Ever Made: A Juvenile Lifer's Story. See full page ad on page 46.


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

“Convicted But Innocent”
By: Denise Gant Two decades of false imprisonment, despite being convicted but innocent, Daniel Gant also known as “Spotty Gant” a man among men, a committed father, grandfather, uncle, brother, activist, and moral leader . . . Regardless of his miscarriage of justice by the Philadelphia infamous criminal justice system, he remains committed to his family and community. In fact, Spotty Gant was a licensed barber and co-owner of one of Philadelphia’s successful barber shops, with a heavy long standing working clientele of local celebrities; and he also was known to give hair cuts to the oppressed and the poor. Today, Spotty is dedicated to saving women of abuse and women of drug use such as eradicating global oppression against women. He’s also dedicated to the youth developing a curriculum-consisting of analytical ability, problem solving, critical-thinking, and leadership for the youth in the community at large. In conclusion, in spite of the minimum opportunities the Pennsylvania Department of Correction offer to rehabilitate prisoners due to budget restraints, Daniel “Spotty” Gant is steadfast in clearing his name of false imprisonment and saving youths as well as women towards positivity. Love Knows No Bars May “God” Bless Denise “Peach” Gant, In Christ, The Christ-Like Sister, and President of “C.U.R.E.”

Spotty and Family


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

The HomeFront: Serving Our Community!

50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.
On August 28, 2013, it will have been 50 years since Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led approximately 250,000 people in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The monumental event, which was held to protest discrimination, joblessness and economic inequality faced by African Americans, featured King's iconic "I Have A Dream" speech and set the stage for both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

On the morning of August 28th, Michelle Alexander, author of the New Jim Crow posted the following statement on Facebook:
“For the past several years, I have spent virtually all my working hours writing about or speaking about the immorality, cruelty, racism, and insanity of our nation’s latest caste system: mass incarceration. On this Facebook page I have written and posted about little else. But as I pause today to reflect on the meaning and significance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I realize that my focus has been too narrow. Five years after the March, Dr. King was speaking out against the Vietnam War, condemning America’s militarism and imperialism – famously stating that our nation was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He saw the connections between the wars we wage abroad, and the utter indifference we have for poor people, and people of color at home. He saw the necessity of openly critiquing an economic system that will fund war and will reward greed, hand over fist, but will not pay workers a living wage. Five years after the March on Washington, Dr. King was ignoring all those who told him to just stay in his lane, just stick to talking about civil rights. Yet here I am decades later, staying in my lane. I have not been speaking publicly about the relationship between drones abroad and the War on Drugs at home. I have not been talking about the connections between the corrupt capitalism that bails out Wall Street bankers, moves jobs overseas, and forecloses on homes with zeal, all while private prisons yield high returns and expand operations into a new market: caging immigrants. I have not been connecting the dots between the NSA spying on millions of Americans, the labeling of mosques as “terrorist organizations,” and the spy programs of the 1960s and 70s – specifically the FBI and COINTELPRO programs that placed civil rights advocates under constant surveillance, infiltrated civil rights organizations, and assassinated racial justice leaders. I have been staying in my lane. But no more. In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington, but what he said and did after. In the years that followed, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars of justice. Instead he connected the dots and committed himself to

building a movement that would shake the foundations of our economic and social order, so that the dream he preached in 1963 might one day be a reality for all. He said that nothing less than “a radical restructuring of society” could possibly ensure justice and dignity for all. He was right. I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough. A new system of racial and social control will be born again, all because we did not do what King demanded we do: connect the dots between poverty, racism, militarism and materialism. I’m getting out of my lane. I hope you’re already out of yours.” – Michelle Alexander

rtin Pittsburgh for Trayvon Ma


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

The HomeFront: Serving Our Community!

Seeing 'New Jim Crow' Placards Seized by Police & More From the March on Washington
By Dave Zirin I spent eight hours today amongst thousands at the March on Washington, and the people present were some of the most remarkable, resilient people I have ever had the privilege to be around. The number-one face on T-shirts, placards, and even homemade drawings was not President Obama or even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was Trayvon Martin. I also witnessed homemade signs calling for jobs programs, speaking out against the school closures and in solidarity with those overseas victimized by US militarism. The people at this march are the face of resistance to what Dr. King called the “evil triplets of militarism, materialism and racism.” The main speakers at the march, however, did not match the politics and urgency of those who gathered in the Saturday heat. Even more frustrating is that few tried. I expect to get all kinds of hate mail for what I’m about to write, but not to write it would be an act of duplicity based on what I saw and what I heard. I saw the great Julian Bond get only two minutes to say his piece before being shuttled from the stage. I saw Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has done remarkable work in recent years against the banks and Chicago school closures, also get less time than a pop song. I saw Reverend Lennox Yearwood, who is doing some of the most important work in the country connecting climate change to racism, get ninety seconds before being cut off. There was one speaker at the 8 am pre-rally who said the word “drones,” and that was it for any discussion of US foreign policy. Based upon the speeches during the main portion of today’s events there can be little doubt that the Dr. King who was murdered in Memphis in 1968 would not have been allowed to speak at this fiftieth -anniversary commemoration of his life. There was no discussion of the “evil triplets.” Instead, we had far too many speakers pay homage to the narrowest possible liberal agenda in broad abstractions with none of the searing material truths that make Dr. King’s speeches so bracing even today. As Representative Nancy Pelosi spoke, it was difficult to not think of her defense of the NSA spying program or her vote against cutting funding to stop the mass monitoring of phone calls. As future New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Wall Street’s best friend, spoke at the front of this March, it was difficult to not think of the Dr. King who said, “The profit motive, when it is the sole basis of an economic system, encourages a cutthroat competition and selfish ambition that inspires men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.” As Attorney General Eric Holder, the person who is not bringing federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, was allotted 30 minutes— fifteen times that of Julian Bond—to speak from the front stage, it was difficult to not think about the fact that it has taken five years for him to say anything about mass incarceration in this country. The late Bayard Rustin insisted, as the lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, that no politicians or political appointees be allowed to speak. Clearly, there were different principles at work today. Yes it was profoundly moving to see Representative John Lewis, the only living speaker from the 1963 March on Washington. Yes, it was right on time for the march organizers to give the incredible Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, time to speak - albeit far too briefly. But the closest thing to an administration critic was 9-year-old Asean Johnson, who has been on the front lines fighting school closures in Chicago, bringing the fire to both President Obama’s confidante Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the education agenda of Arne Duncan. I love Asean Johnson, but given the problems we face, far more was needed. The day was symbolized for me on multiple levels by seeing DC Park police seize 200 professionally printed placards from activists that were distributing them for free. The placards read, “Stop Mass Incarceration. Stop the new Jim Crow.” Police said that it was "unlawful solicitation", even though organizers were clearly giving them away. When those having their signs seized complained, they were threatened with fines or arrest. I heard one DC police officer say, “Hey, you can get them back at the end of the day. On second thought, given your attitude you cannot. “I have never seen free placards confiscated at a national gathering by DC police. Then again, I’ve also never seen a demonstration so thickly monitored, with park police, the Department of Homeland Security and the military on every corner. Today, those “triplets of evil” King warned us about 1967 still strangle this country. If we are not talking about the New Jim Crow, Wall Street and militarism, then what are we doing? King said, “If an American is concerned only about his nation, he will not be concerned about the peoples of Asia, Africa, or South America. Is this not why nations engage in the madness of war without the slightest sense of penitence? Is this not why the murder of a citizen of your own nation is a crime, but the murder of citizens of another nation in war is an act of heroic virtue?” Given US foreign policy, how can one say that they stand in King’s legacy and not raise these issues? I would ask those who find this objectionable to ask themselves, “What would Dr. King/Ella Baker/Fannie Lou Hamer/Malcolm X think about today’s march?” I don’t presume to know the answer to that question, but I know that we only honor their memory by asking it.


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

The HomeFront: Serving Our Community!

juvenile lifers look to Supreme Court for some relief
Written by Christopher Moraff Sunday, 29 September 2013 It was a cold Friday night in February 1953 when Joseph Ligon, a developmentally challenged 15 -year-old from South Philadelphia, joined a group of friends for a night of drinking and hell raising that would come to define the rest of his life. In what the media would today call a “flash mob,” the small band of delinquents tore through the streets of the neighborhood around 17th and Wharton streets, terrorizing passersby and demanding their money. By the time it was over, eight people had been stabbed, two of them fatally. Ligon was arrested, along with three other boys, and charged with two counts of first -degree murder for his role in the mob. He was encouraged to plead guilty, and given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Today, Ligon is 76-years-old and has spent six decades as an inmate at Graterford – gaining him the distinction of being the longest-serving prisoner in the Pennsylvania correctional system. The year he was incarcerated, Eisenhower was just elected president, “I Love Lucy” was the numberone show on television and sending a man to the moon was still the stuff of science fiction. What little life he has left is now in the hands of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has been tasked with interpreting the implications of a landmark case recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Last year, the court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences for offenders under the age of 18 violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because they fail to take into account the unique characteristics of young offenders and the circumstances that led up to their crimes. Since Miller, nearly a dozen states – including Pennsylvania – have reformed their sentencing laws to comply with the decision, which still leaves the option of life-without-parole as long as certain factors are considered at sentencing. But the Supreme Court left it up to the states to decide whether Miller should apply retroactively to inmates like Joe Ligon, who received their mandatory sentences prior to the ruling, and that question is now playing out in courtrooms across the country. Earlier this year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court applied retroactivity in the case of 21 -year-old Qu’eed Batts, who received a life sentence for a gang-related murder he committed when he was 14. Batts – who is slated to be re-sentenced by a court in Northampton County – is one of a handful of juvenile lifers whose cases are still on direct appeal - the bigger issue is what happens to the hundreds of inmates who have already exhausted their appeals. The court has been considering that question since last September, when it heard oral arguments in the case of a Philadelphia man, Ian Cunningham – who was 17 when he shot and killed Daniel Delarge Jr. during a robbery. Cunningham was found guilty of second -degree murder by a jury in 2002 and received a mandatory sentence of life without parole on April 16, 2003. His case has been on a post -appeal status known as collateral review since 2005. According to Bradley Bridge – a public defender and one of the attorneys representing Cunningham – a key issue in the case is whether the court will view the issues addressed in Miller as essentially procedural – which is the position being argued by the state – or “substantive,” which would be grounds for retroactivity. “Any time the Supreme Court decides a case like this, there is a question as to what cases it will apply to,” Bridge explained. “The law agrees that it applies to all open cases, and those on appeal, but there is an issue about whether the ruling should apply to cases where the appeals are over.” Bridge says while there are several ways to answer that question, “one way is to say, is this rule a landmark rule? Is it substantially important? I think there is some argument here that this is a fundamental game changer - and in that way it should apply to all cases.” Over the past year, scores of courts around the country have had to consider the same question, but no consensus has yet emerged. Even the federal government is split on the question of whether Miller should be applied to old cases, with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of retroactivity and the 11th Circuit ruling against. National leader While the total number of lifers in the U.S. who received their sentences as juveniles is hard to pin down – with estimates ranging from 1,300 to well over 2,000 – everyone agrees no state has more of them then Pennsylvania. According to Bridge, how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules in Cunningham will decide the fate of more than 500 inmates - including approximately 80 from Philadelphia who have been in prison for more than 30 years. “The outcome of this case is fundamentally important for a lot of people,” he said. The commonwealth’s distinction of being the national leader in juvenile lifers can be attributed to a mix of factors, starting with the state’s uniquely austere sentencing legacy. For as long as anyone can remember, Pennsylvania law has required that first - and second-degree murder convictions be accompanied by a life sentence, and that all life sentences be imposed without the possibility of parole – which makes the commonwealth one of just six states where life means life. As a result, nearly one out of every ten prisoners in Pennsylvania will never again see the light of day. But despite the absence of parole for lifers in Pennsylvania, for many years governors frequently exercised their commutation powers so that considerable numbers of lifers were released after serving about 20 years. According to Marsha Levick – deputy director and chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center, based in Philadelphia – that started to change in the late 1980s when states responded to a rise in violent juvenile crime –
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Human Rights Coalition Report

Pelican Bay Censorship” by Michael Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

Institutionalized racism and censorship are relatives
May 24, 2013 Statement from the Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign by Sondai Dumisani, Abasi Ganda, Mutope Duguma, Abdul O. Shakur, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper for March 2013, Vol. 38, Issue 3, was censored by staff at Pelican Bay due to an article titled “Prisoners’ peaceful protest to resume July 8 if demands are not met” on Page 3 in the “Behind Enemy Lines” section. The article was written by our four representatives, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and Antonio Guillen. Before it was sent to Willie and Mary Ratcliff for publication, it was sent to the following: Gov. Brown, the secretary and undersecretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and to the warden of Pelican Bay State Prison. The article was then forwarded to many news outlets, including the local news here in the Crescent City area. Every prisoner with a TV watched it being aired three or four times, where it was also reported that we prisoners will be going back on our peaceful hunger strike on July 8, 2013, if our Five Core Demands are not met, as per our representatives, due to our long term confinement, torture and overall prison oppression, in which prisoners are made to suffer indefinitely in solitary confinement, administrative segregation and security housing units throughout California. The article for which Capt. Puget stopped delivery of the SF Bay View is the exact same article that Lt. Diggle passed around the prison for the four representatives, per Associate Warden P.T. Smith. That is how it was able to be circulated throughout solitary confinement. So it is very questionable how CDCr and PBSP can now state that the article is, and I quote, “a threat to the penological interests” under California Code of Regulations Sections 3006(c)(5) and 3135(c)(5). The rules read as follows: “3006. Contraband. … (c) Except as authorized by the institution head, inmates shall not possess or have under their control any matter which contains or concerns any of the following: … (5) Plans to disrupt the order, or breach of security, of any facility.” “3135. Disturbing or Offensive Correspondence. … (c) Certain correspondence, including but not limited to the following, is disallowed, regardless of values or morals, in order to ensure the safety and security of the institution/facility. … (5) Concerns plans to disrupt the order, or breach the security of any institution/facility.”

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There has been a clear line of communication between our representatives and CDCr and PBSP. It is understood that all prisoners’ actions will always be peaceful. Under no circumstances can we see how on the one hand the CDCr and PBSP can kill us prisoners with oppressive prison policies, then turn around and say that they are concerned with the security of the institution but not the many human beings inside this institution who are being tortured and murdered by proxy. The prisoners are not the culprits here. We are only responding to the horrible prison conditions that are sucking the very life out of us each and every day we spend wasting away in solitary confinement, under sensory deprivation that allows the prison officials to administer a very cruel form of physical and psychological torture. The SF Bay View does not advocate violence, nor is it complicit in conspiring to advocate violence. The SF Bay View is a 21st century independent national Black newspaper that economically struggles daily to put this information out to the public. It serves the interests of human beings who struggle day to day, especially those in the New Afrikan, Afrikan Amerikan and Latino communities, who are disenfranchised by the poor governing practices of the states. It is a newspaper that is serving the interests of all poor citizens of this nation. It has no political ties to no one. It caters to no establishment. It is a very small newspaper that is exercising its right to freedom of speech, a freedom that is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Under no circumstances can we see how CDCr and PBSP can say that they are concerned with the security of the institution but not the many human beings inside this institution who are being tortured and murdered by proxy.

The CDCr and PBSP are trying to use their political power through the use of prison rules and policies to censor the SF Bay View. Why? No reason but racism, in order to suppress the voice of the prisoners and the people. The PBSP SHU white male officers are obsessed with the SF Bay View. They go online and read its contents, and they converse with each other daily about it. They attempt to threaten, intimidate, as well as question prisoners who are writing these articles in the Bay View. The lot of them, for the most part, see the Bay View as a threat to their interests personally. They sadly see only black and white. They have nothing good to say about the newspaper, despite it being representative of their own class interests. Yet they cannot see past their racism. I asked one officer how many times have the L.A. Times, USA Today, Sacramento Bee or Triplicate been mail -stopped for printing the same rhetoric? He initially said he didn’t know, but once I pressed him, he said, admittedly, “Never.” I then asked him, “Why do you think that?” He immediately had an epiphany and went on the defensive. The PBSP SHU white male officers are obsessed with the SF Bay View.

These officers are reading the SF Bay View front to back, and they hate the fact that someone would even provide a platform for prisoners to express themselves, especially when those prisoners are talking about prison oppression. Any mention of torture inside solitary confinement kicks off their reaction, because these officers are the oppressors, the puppets who carry out the many atrocities perpetrated against the prisoners daily in the prison industrial slave complex. To say the SF Bay View is a threat to the penological interests of the prison and that it plans to disrupt the order or breach the security of any facility is what those of us in this country who are conscious men and women of all nationalities call “institutionalized racism,” where institutions hide behind broadly interpreted prison rules, policies, laws, both state and federal, to suppress the people’s right to assemble in peaceful protest by exercising our freedom of speech, especially where there exists an outright abuse of power by the state and federal government. These officers are reading the SF Bay View front to back, and they hate the fact that someone would even provide a platform for prisoners to express themselves, especially when those prisoners are talking about prison oppression.

The only defense that can protect the people is to assemble the power of the people. We are our only defense. We have suffered enough injustice at the hands of a very evil system – CDCr and PBSP – and it is time that we prisoners express that pain and suffering by all means at our disposal, because CDCr and PBSP are censoring SF Bay View in order to censor prisoners, because we are exposing the cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners. We collectively commend and value the courage and commitment as well as the principled stand that the SF Bay View is taking to speak truth to power. But there must be real clarity brought to what is going on here, because throughout Amerika there are New Afrikan prisoners who are held
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in solitary confinement for refusing to become a -political, meaning to cease adhering to their political, ideological and philosophical beliefs, for which we are persecuted by the state, which is a practice that is in direct contrast to our First Amendment rights. These cruel and unusual punishments are crimes against our humanity, and because we choose to exercise our constitutional rights, we are now being severely punished and tortured by the state of California, the same state that is now censoring the SF Bay View to further silence our voice. CDCr and PBSP are censoring SF Bay View in order to censor prisoners, because we are exposing the cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners. We say that the SF Bay View must continue to fight against institutionalized racism, prisoner oppression, long -term solitary confinement and any other form of abusive actions by the state that uses its power to suppress the voice of the people, because the New Afrikans, Afrikan-Amerikans in Amerika, have no voice. We have been shut out of mainstream media politically, socio -culturally and economically since our inception into this nation, so that we have no outlet to convey our concerns and suffering, as they relate to our conditions inside of Amerika. We have been silenced as a people. The current New Afrikan/Afrikan Amerikan newspapers, for the most part, only cover politicians who are Afrikan Amerikans and celebrities, along with stories that make the mainstream media or news where some injustice occurred that is so egregious that the world is forced to pay attention to it. Other than that, our voice as an oppressed class of people inside these prisons and in the free world is shut out. So we ask every conscious human being to get a subscription to the San Francisco Bay View Black National Newspaper and all the unconscious human beings also need to get a copy of the SF Bay View. This way, Willie and Mary can continue to represent the oppressed people of this nation and the non-oppressed, while at the same time beating back the attacks by our oppressors. We ask that the financially able individuals from all walks of life make generous contributions to the San Francisco Bay View in hopes that it can continue the struggle as the voice of the oppressed prison class and our communities by speaking truth to power where there is sincere need to do so and by all means support our Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement to end long term solitary confinement and prison torture, the death penalty and suicides inside these torture chambers. We write this article on behalf of our First Amendment Campaign and we encourage people to join our “Hands Off the Bay View” campaign.

Miracles still happen: A huge law firm is representing the Bay View on censorship at Pelican Bay
September 13, 2013 by Dr. Willie Ratcliff

Law Office and worked as a journalist prior to that, saw this case, involving media and prisons, as right up her alley. Now let’s hope this is the harbinger of more miracles to come – first and foremost, Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary Jeffrey Beard granting the hunger strikers’ five core demands.

Fighting censorship in prisons is fighting for the human rights and dignity of captives whose very humanity is regularly denied by their “keepers.” The media ban and the severe restrictions on communication of all kinds, especially in the On Aug. 14 we signed an engagement letter with Bryan Cave, one of the largest SHU, make prisoners feel invisible. By publishing their voices, the Bay View, law firms in the world, to represent the Bay View in our fight against censorship along with Revolution, Rock, Prison Focus, PHSS and SJRA Advocate, enables them to express their humanity and to exchange news, views, ideas, strategy, at Pelican Bay. encouragement and inspiration. 'Pelican Bay Censorship' drawing by Michael Russell, web That – and the heroic efforts of their loved ones – is how 30,000 California “Pelican Bay Censorship” by Michael Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, prisoners were inspired to join the hunger strike. Ironically, the prison most P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532 This miracle was set in motion by an amazing little law office, Bayview Hunters notorious for censorship, Pelican Bay, is where the calls for the hunger strikes Point Community Legal, that some young, idealistic lawyers – recent graduates and the Agreement to End Hostilities came from. So the writers couldn’t read their own words or the responses to them, but thousands of other California of the law school at USF – opened in a storefront in our hood to help the many of us here who can’t afford legal help. I’m proud to say I am now serving on the prisoners could. board. And they heeded those calls, not because some “shot caller” ordered them to but We just learned when he stopped by the other day that an intern there is a recently released prisoner who subscribed to the Bay View for the entire 20 years because they want to end the specter and threat of solitary confinement hanging he was encaged. Having worked as a jailhouse lawyer in prison, he is loving the over their own heads and are willing to starve themselves to do it. work at Bayview Legal. Now let’s hope this is the harbinger of more miracles to come – first and foremost, Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary Jeffrey Beard granting the hunger strikBayview Legal doesn’t litigate, but they investigate a case and, if need be, prepare for a possible lawsuit. In our case, they wrote those strong letters to Pelican ers’ five core demands. Bay and the Adult Facilities Division protesting the withholding of Bay View papers from subscribers. Then they put out a call for a pro bono attorney. Bay View publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff can be reached at or (415) 671-0789. All the firms they invited to take our case said no – except Bryan Cave – where attorney Leila Knox, who interned a decade ago as a law student with the Prison


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

Human Rights Coalition Report

By ANDREA JONES How Prisons and Jails Are Barring Inmates’ Access to Legal News, Literature, and Letters

Photo by William Hotz/Baltimore Sun

In November 2008, a mail-order book addressed to Lou Johnson arrived at the Hilltop Unit, a state prison for women located in Gatesville, central Texas. Written by investigative journalist Silja Talvi, the book was titled Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System, and chronicled the past decades’ sweeping upsurge in female incarceration as told through the stories of prisoners across the country. Talvi’s interviews cast light on the common threads of trauma and abuse these women shared, the increase in nonviolent drug charges that put them behind bars, and the troubling conditions they found inside. Johnson, one of the women interviewed for the project, described the harsh and humiliating circumstances she endured at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facility. Denied adequate medical care, refused meals for minor infractions such as talking in line, and forced to clean pipe chases “covered with fecal material” without gloves, Johnson summed up her experience as “cruel and unusual punishment.” But Johnson was barred from reading her own account in print, as well as from accessing the testimonies of the one hundred other female prisoners interviewed for Women Behind Bars. By the time her copy arrived at the Hilltop Unit mailroom, the book had already been censored at another TDCJ facility. Johnson received a form explaining that an offending passage on page 38 depicted “sex with a minor,” therefore the publication as a whole was “detrimental to offenders’ rehabilitation” because it would encourage “deviant criminal behavior.” She attempted to appeal the decision to no avail; having never received the book to review the contents of page 38, she was in no position to present a compelling rebuttal. “Prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the Constitution,” the U.S. Supreme Court found in its 1987 Turner v. Safley decision. While inmates are not entitled to full First Amendment rights, any encroachment on their freedom of speech must be “reasonably related to legitimate penological objectives.” While both publishers and prisoners have standing to challenge prison censorship policies that restrict opportunities to send and receive literature, in practice publishers are far better equipped—they are free from the legal restrictions that bind the incarcerated, and can actually access the material in question. But commercial magazines and booksellers rarely act upon notice that the material they’ve mailed has been seized or withheld; prison inmates don’t represent a sufficiently marketable demographic.
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Women Behind Bars, however, was distributed by Prison Legal News (PLN), which, as the only national publication whose majority of contributors and subscribers are state and federal prisoners, is deeply invested in combating prison censorship. “That’s our core constituency,” says editor Paul Wright. Wright founded the magazine in 1990 while serving out a sentence for first -degree murder in Washington State. As a twenty-one-year -old military policeman, Wright was broke and a week away from completing his service when he tried to rob a cocaine dealer who turned out to have a gun. Wright panicked and shot first, and was sentenced to twenty -five years. In prison, he worked as a book fetcher at the facility’s law library, and grew interested in prison conditions litigation. With fellow inmate Ed Mead, he began PLN as a ten-page hand-typed newsletter with a readership of just seventy-five aimed at raising political consciousness and informing prisoners of their rights. The censorship was immediate. In 1991, Wright reported on pervasive racism at Washington’s Clallam Bay Corrections Center, and a specific incident in which a group of white guards brutalized a black inmate. Prison authorities redacted the incriminating sections for circulation inside Clallam Bay, and when they found out that PLN had been distributed to subscribers outside of the facility, subjected Wright to three weeks of solitary confinement. Wright, who was released in 2003 after serving seventeen years of his twenty-five year sentence, says that over the past few decades, censorship practices in prisons and jails have grown startlingly worse. PLN—which now has 7,000 print subscribers in all fifty states, with reader surveys indicating that each issue is passed around to ten different inmates—has faced blanket censorship in over ten state prisons systems, and countless bans in local jails across the country. The magazine was impelled to establish the Human Rights Defense Center, a legal nonprofit dedicated to protecting subscribers’ right to read. It also launched a book publishing operation to distribute titles that, despite limited commercial appeal, are vital to incarcerated populations, such as Prisoners’ Self Help Litigation Manual, Hepatitis and Liver Disease: What You Need to Know, and Beyond Bars: Rejoining Society After Prison. Which brings us back to Texas. Page 38 of Women Behind Bars, it turned out, described the childhood ordeals faced by Tina Thomas, a neurologist and professor in a teaching college who battled drug addiction late in her career: What is even more remarkable about Thomas is that she had overcome the kind of childhood trauma that might have completely derailed her adult life. It might have been precisely that background that first propelled her to become an overachiever and attain a high level of professional success, but then came back to haunt her just as she had gotten to where she wanted to go. The dark secret of her life was that she had been forced to perform fellatio on her uncle when she was just four years old. Thomas explains that this unresolved trauma became “the template for a lifetime of distrust, fear, uncertainty, and a spirit of self -negation.” “Fellatio” was the word flagged by TDCJ as depicting “sex with a minor.” Despite the fact that the controversial passage was more likely to prevail upon readers who had endured similar traumas that theirs was not a solitary struggle, Women Behind Bars was withheld from Texas prisoners for its purported encouragement of “deviant criminal behavior.” In 2009, PLN filed a lawsuit against TDCJ for censoring Women Behind Bars, as well as additional incarceration -related books it had attempted to send to prisoners in Texas. The complaint alleged what amounted to pretextual censorship: the statewide system—the largest in the country—was using cherry-picked words or phrases as grounds to ban entire books, many of which were literary classics, award -winners, or collections of artwork. Even more unsettling was the department’s widespread censorship of works discussing civil rights issues, and works critical of prison conditions or corruption. In the course of litigation TDCJ’s banned books list finally surfaced; it included nearly 12,000 volumes. On its face, the prison system’s policy set off few alarms. The policy called for banning books containing contraband; instructions for the manufacture of explosives, weapons, or drugs; suggestions for escape schemes; sexually explicit images; material designed to provoke strikes, gang violence, or rioting; and subject matter encouraging deviant criminal sexual behavior. These rules were twisted, however, to lift passages or images out of context, and once one facility banned a text, it was prohibited on a statewide scale. Each book was allowed only one appeal (often undertaken by inmates in the same Catch -22 scenario as Johnson) before being permanently censored. As noted by the Texas Civil Rights Project, the majority of banned books fell into the two most nebulous threat categories: promoting deviant sexual behavior, and inciting disorder through strikes, gang violence, or riots. Wide tracts of literature grappling with challenging themes like race, sex, and poverty were denied at the discretion of prison authorities, with no clear link to penological objectives. Books by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors like Jeffrey Eugenides, Sinclair Lewis, Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Philip Roth, Art Spiegelman, Wallace Stegner, John Updike, Robert Penn Warren, and Alice Walker were deemed unfit. The Color Purple, for example, was banned for its opening scene of sexual abuse—Celie’s ensuing struggle for empowerment amid racism and patriarchy were of no value according to TDCJ’s mailroom inspectors. Some denials were so absurd they barely merit mention (the Renaissance painting depicting a naked Cupid on the cover of Shakespeare and Love Sonnets as “sexually explicit,” for instance). But broad trends were evident. Racial slurs, in allegedly threatening to ignite antagonisms, were identi(Continued on page 17)


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fied as an easy premise for censorship, never mind the historical context in which they were cited. Kevin Boyle’s Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age—which traces the trial of Ossian Sweet and residential segregation in 1925 Detroit—was censored because of slurs attributed to members of a white mob: “‘There goes some niggers now,’ came the cries. ‘Lynch them! Kill them!’ A gang of white men surged toward the car…” Far from inciting violence, Boyle’s account gives insight into one of the century’s great civil rights campaigns, and was a recipient of the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Tolerance Book Award. Even in explicitly anti-racist frames of reference, like a segment on freedom of expression from Chomsky on Anarchism, the inclusion of derogatory language led to the work to be condemned: “[V]ictories for freedom of speech are often won in defense of the most depraved and horrendous views. The 1969 Supreme Court decision was in defense of the Ku Klux Klan from prosecution after meeting with hooded figures, guns, and a burning cross, calling for ‘burying the nigger,’ and ‘sending the Jews back to Israel.’ With regard to freedom of speech there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it.” Chomsky was censored for using racist language to prove a point, denouncing the “depraved and horrendous views” associated with it, while publications like Mein Kampf and The Aryan Youth Primer: Official Handbook for Schooling the Hitler Youth were somehow accepted by TDCJ without challenge. Books incriminating prison institutions were overwhelmingly censored for mentioning rape, despite the topic’s critical relevance. Prison Masculinities, a collection of essays edited by prison mental health experts, was banned for its candid discussion of sexual assault and violence behind bars. The Perpetual Prisoner Machine, a look into the profit motives driving mass incarceration, was barred for quoting a 1968 report from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office on the problem’s prevalence in local jails. Even self-help and rehabilitative titles about the prevention of violent sexual behavior, like Stopping Rape: A Challenge for Men, and Conspiracy of Silence: The Trauma of Incest, were prohibited by TDCJ.

A Class Action Lawsuit will soon be filed in the U.S. District Courts, against PTS of America, LLC, (a prisoner transport service, based out of Tennessee). If you have been transported by this company, or if you know of anyone that has been transported by them; please contact: Jim Otero c/o Human Rights Coalition 4134 Lancaster Ave Philadelphia, Pa. 19104 cell#: 267-588-7393 email:

LEVEL : MEDIUM DATE : 2013-09-20


You may have been victimized by this corporation without your knowledge and you may qualify to be compensated from this Lawsuit once we prevail. If there are any questions or comments in respect to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you.


FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

Human Rights Coalition Report
Censorship on the Prison Plantation: Extinguishing Dissent
“We have as far as possible, closed every avenue by which light may enter the slave’s mind. If we could extinguish the capacity to see the light, our work would be complete: they [enslaved Africans] would then be on a level with the beast of the field and we would be safe.” ~ Henry Brown, Virginia House of Delegates, 1832 [speaking in favor of a law against the education for slaves]

The above words were spoken on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1832 in support of legislation that would make it a crime for anyone to be caught teaching slaves how to read. The legislation was introduced following the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in Southhampton, Virginia and was one of the earliest open demonstrations of the state’s fear of slaves using education as a means of liberating themselves from the tyranny of slavery. The impetus for the legislation was the discovery that evidence had surfaced that Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831 and Denmark Vesey’s rebellion in South Carolina in 1822 were inspired after reading about how slaves on the island of Haiti had risen up and seized their freedom and independence in 1804. To try and prevent future rebellions, slavery states in the South enacted laws that sought to prevent slaves from being educated and also embarked on widespread censorship of the press, ensuring that slaves and antislavery advocates were not exposed to inflammatory material that might inspire rebellion on the plantations. This article draws on the parallel between the suppression of speech and dissent within and against the institution of slavery and modern censorship within the United States Prison Industrial Complex and is based on a radical social/political critique, as well as the legal context these issues are rooted in. My concerns are directed at the censorship of reading material based on its political content (rooted in dissent and rebellion) and not on reading material related to weak-style street or hood novels that reinforce the slave/chump mentality. It is an indisputable fact, according to the United States Constitution, that the only form of slavery legally allowed to exist today in the United States is as punishment for a crime where the party shall have been duly convicted. This language/decree is found in the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction (13th Amendment, Section 1, United States Constitution). The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, according to Professor Joy James, mandated the transition from chattel slavery to penal (prison) slavery and from personal property (slaves) owned by slave owners to public property owned by the state. The United States prison system possesses a foundation firmly rooted in the philosophical foundation of the institution of chattel slavery in the United States. This foundation was firmly imbedded in a case from 1871, where in response to a petition by a prisoner in Virginia challenging the conditions of his imprisonment, a court of appeals ruled: A convicted felon, whom the law in its humility punishes by confinement in the penitentiary instead of death, is subject while undergoing that punishment, to all the laws which the Legislature in its wisdom may enact for the government of that institution. For the time being, during his term of service in the penitentiary, he is in a state of penal servitude to the State. He has, as a consequence of his crime, not only forfeited his liberty, but all his personal rights except those which the law in its humanity accords to him. He is for the time being the slave of the State (Ruffin V. The Commonwealth, 1871, Virginia). In one form or another, throughout the 100 years since its initial ruling, successive courts have upheld the above doctrine. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia referenced the doctrine as recently as 2003, in a case (Overton v. Bazetta) depriving prisoners of visitation rights. It is also from the basis of this doctrine that prison censorship functions and prison censors operate. It is not material whether prison censors or administrators view prisoners as slaves of the state or not; what is material is that the system they operate in and support functions from the basis that prisoners are slaves of the state. Within the existing social, state and judicial dynamics, the status of “criminal” renders one as such. While the state would prefer the terminology of “ward” or “inmate”, these are just semantic games designed to provide a degree of legitimacy to the fact that the state’s prison system operates on a (neo) plantation model and foundation. Viewing the prison as a plantation and framing its administrators and prisoners within the slave owner and slave dynamic provides one with a clearer understanding of the role of censorship within the prison environment than one would get if he/she viewed prison as a legitimate institution that served the interests of society. Such faith in the system’s legitimacy further requires a belief that, in the words of Professor Bettina Aptheker, “the dominant theoretical assumption among social and behavioral scientists in the United States today is that the social order is functionally stable and fundamentally just.” Although this is certainly not the case, prison censors nonetheless assume their duties as if this premise were true and accept this theory of the moral depravity of the prisoner without question or reservation. Short of this reasoning, to again quote Professor Aptheker, “there can be no logical explanation for the prisoner’s incarceration. It is precisely this alleged depravity that legitimates custody.” This wholesale demonization of the imprisoned individual provides the ideological context in which prison censors and prison censorship operates. It is also the context in which slave owners viewed their slaves on plantations. In the plantation owner’s eyes, nothing was wrong with the institution of slavery; rather, it was the slave who was depraved and less than human. The principal occupation of slave owners was to turn a profit and prevent a slave rebellion or revolt. The principal occupation of prison administrators is to preserve order and prevent prisoner rebellion. Prison censorship constitutes one of the first fronts of intervention in performing these functions. Indeed, the very first step is the suppression of Free Speech and the First Amendment. During slavery, free speech and the First Amendment
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were suppressed to protect the interest of the plantation regime. Southern legislators justified these suppressions on the grounds that if abolitionists’ speech were protected by the First Amendment, then the institution of slavery would be threatened by rebellion. Rebellion, it was understood, originates in the realm of ideas. Today, prison censors use the same justifications when denying political literature to prisoners that criticizes and/or condemns prison conditions, as well as injustice within the prison system. Publications challenging injustice within the prison system are labeled inflammatory or insurrectionist and are accused of advocating criminal activity or guerrilla warfare against the government and/or its institutions. These justifications are often based on the whit and whim of petty prison mailroom censors whose cultural bias is often responsible for the censorship. The majority of the prisons in Pennsylvania are located in rural, conservative, right wing, white communities while the population of the prisons is predominately made up of prisoners of color from urban communities. Censorship within these prisons is most often based on the censor’s moral presumptions that prisoners possess no values or standards that do not conform to their own racist, white -supremacist, cultural standards. This does not imply that all prison censors or administrators are hood-wearing members of the KKK or that they wake up in the morning and sit around the coffee table scheming on how to oppress prisoners of color. They don’t have to do this, because they mentally operate from an assumption that prisoners are depraved and exist outside society’s norms. It is in this light that the prison mailroom supervisor at the prison I am incarcerated in (SCI Coal Township) reflexively denies all books by Black/ Latino authors that provide a radical critique of prisons, as well as all publications that contain articles written by prisoners that critique prisons from an adversarial position. Every issue of the Human Rights Coalition newsletter “The Movement” has been denied by this institution, as well as informational brochures and flyers related to HRC’s advocacy on behalf of prisoners. It is not the information contained in these newsletters that the prison censor fears, because none of the material is threatening or inflammatory. What angers the censor and the prison administration is that prisoners are taking the initiative to challenge their imprisonment and conditions of confinement without apology! On the pages of these publications, prisoners are demonstrating that they possess a voice and are insuring that their voice be heard. On slave plantations, slaves were expected to know their place, to work and to keep their mouths shut – to suffer their humiliation in silence. Slaves that refused to accept this station on the plantation were considered to be “out of place”. Their punishment was often to be forcibly silenced, whether through death or branding or having their tongues removed. Within the modern prison plantation, prisoners who dare to offer a radical critique of the Prison Industrial Complex and urge action and rebellion in opposition to its unjust features are also considered “out of place” by prison authorities and are subjected to having their own writings and any literature relevant to their struggle censored by prison authorities. Just as the state representative from Virginia stood within the VA House of Delegates in 1832 arguing in favor of a law and process by which they could extinguish the ability of slaves to even seek the light of knowledge, contemporary prison administrators and their minion censors similarly seek to extinguish the light of dissent and rebellion from entering today’s modern prison plantations. This ongoing emphasis on suppression provides ample evidence that reading can constitute a political act of insurrection or rebellion when that reading is inspired by a natural desire to be free and confront injustice. Because such reading practices raise awareness and consciousness, they also enable one to identify one’s enemy and develop a fighting stance against it. This is what makes radical critiques of the Prison Industrial Complex dangerous to prison administrators and censors. These critiques constitute the first step toward direct action and allow the seeds of change to flourish in the minds of the state’s captives, just as reading and education allowed the seeds of rebellion to flourish in the minds of slaves on plantations. The revolutionary prisoner Comrade George Jackson wrote that “As a slave, the social phenomenon that engages my whole consciousness is, of course, revolution.” Comrade George Jackson wrote those words not to identify himself as a slave but rather in recognition of the fact that within the modern prison plantations of the Prison Industrial Complex, prisoners are assigned the role of slaves. His response to this social displacement of his personality and identity by the state was to become a rebel on the prison plantation and to dedicate his life to confronting oppression and regaining freedom for himself and his comrades. If prison administrators and censors had their way, they would erase Comrade George Jackson’s legacy from the pages of history; however, they have not had their way because he set a standard of excellence that prisoners continue to aspire to. Yet, aspiration is not enough. Conscious prisoners within the modern plantations of the Prison Industrial Complex have to circumvent the Department of Corrections’ censorship by actively writing their own pages in the history of resistance to state-sponsored repression and mass imprisonment. They must become “maroons” on the plantation, creating their own spaces of intellectual “liberated territory” as preparatory stations for real liberation. Unless you free your mind from the mental shackles of the criminal mentality and deranged value system that the PIC propagates, you’ll never be free. If the prison gates were to magically open and you were to make your way out, you’d nonetheless eventually make your way back in because you would have taken the system’s values with you. Do not allow the PIC to define you by defining your education and limiting or restricting your access to reading material that is critical to your redemption and liberation. Challenge the censorship of “radical” reading material or material that criticizes the Department of Corrections. Don’t limit yourself to the procedures imposed by the DOC for challenging their censorship. Have people and authors on the outside write the DOC challenging the banning of certain books. Reach out to community activists and college professors or people from the education community and request that they review the denied publications and send letters to the DOC challenging the labeling of the publications as inflammatory or promoting criminal activity. If you are able, bring the matter of the DOC’s censorship to the authors of these books and request that they send protest letters to the DOC. The key is to continue chipping away at the mental and physical shackles and barriers that bind us to the modern day prison plantations and to discover and seize our freedom, just as our ancestors did when they decided to break from the plantations. The first step in becoming free begins when the rebel decides it is time to break with the past and start a new chapter in his/her life. By: Robert ‘Saleem’ Holbrook #BL5140


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Human Rights Coalition Report

No 'Mis-education' behind bars
By Linn Washington Jr. The Philadelphia Tribune "The Mis-education of the Negro" -- that 1933 classic authored by historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson -- is widely respected as a seminal examination of detrimental, discriminatory shortcomings within America's educational system and its wider society. No surprise that some Pennsylvania prison system officials consider Woodson's work inflammatory (radically and racially) deeming it inappropriate for inmates to read despite the book's intent of inspiring elevation through education. Some officials have barred some inmates from receiving "Mis-education" -- using Pennsylvania Department of Corrections directives for banning publications -- directives utilized to also block books containing little known information about Black history and Islam. There's unchained irony in banning "Mis -education" from a prison system where Blacks comprise 49 percent of the 51,000+ inmates. Mis -educating is obviously a problem within Pennsylvania state prisons since over 42 percent of all inmates have less than a 12th-grade education with the average inmate reading at slightly less than an 8th-grade level. Apparently the rehabilitation of inmates that the DOC receives over $1.7 billion dollars annually to achieve does not include allowing some inmates exposing themselves to the mentally elevating insights contained in "Mis-education." In "Mis-education" Dr. Woodson observed that the "greatest indictment" of the education Blacks receive is that "they have learned little as to making a living..." Woodson's observation is evident in Pennsylvania prison data detailed that 77 percent of all inmates in the system "were unskilled or possessed no skills" when they entered prison. Most know Dr. Woodson as the founder of "Negro History Week" -- an annual observance he conceived in the early 1920s for highlighting the overlooked contributions Blacks made in America's development. Since 1976, Dr. Woodson's original one-week observance now extends throughout the entire month of February. Mis-education, interestingly, drives misconceptions some Blacks hold about the holding of Black History Month in February. Some mistakenly think "someone" maliciously shunted this observance to February as a sly insult since February is the shortest month of the year. Dr. Woodson scheduled his week-long observance to coincide with the February birthdays of legendary Black activist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. For prison officials intent on totally controlling all aspects of an inmate's existence, banning "Mis -education" makes sense. As Dr. Woodson observed in that book, "When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action... If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself." Apparently from the perspective of some state prisons' officials "Mis-education" falls into one of the many categories the DOC has for determining the ban of books, magazines, newspapers and newsletters. Since "Mis-education" does not contain ban-triggering instruction on making explosives, creating escape devices or manufacturing intoxicating beverages perhaps some officials consider it in the prohibited categories of being "racially inflammatory material" and/or a writing that advocates "insurrection... against the government or any of its facilities..." Those who banned "Mis -education" obviously didn't read it closely because Woodson's most intense criticism falls on the failures of Blacks not whites. One chapter in the book is entitled "The Educated Negro Leaves the Masses." As perplexing as it is to identify the rationale and reasons prison officials have for banning a book like "Mis -education," it's even more baffling why prison officials have banned Oprah Winfrey's O magazine and Essence magazine. Earlier this month, the Harrisburg Patriot-News newspaper published an article examining the arbitrariness of DOC banning procedures. That article reported that prison officials banned a book titled "Astral Travel for Beginners" presumably fearing inmates could employ the technique to escape -- albeit leaving their bodies behind since astral projection is out-of-body flight. And that article referenced officials banning a statefunded tourism brochure claiming it advocated insurrection and barring the State Employees' Retirement Code claiming it was evidence of criminal activity. From April 2008 to October 2009, prison officials banned 37 newspapers, 203 magazines, 17 newsletters and over 670 books, according to an account written by inmate Reginald Lewis. Prison officials, Lewis wrote, want "to nail shut our only little dusky window to the world." Books written by one acclaimed Pennsylvania author are on the DOC's banned list. That author is journalist and inmate Mumia Abu -Jamal. While Abu-Jamal's books do not advocate violence or other activities prohibited by DOC publications banning directives, it's easy to understand prison officials seeing Abu-Jamal's piercing critiques as providing a "road-map" for mental liberation since maps (geographic) are banned items for inmates. Last Friday, Abu-Jamal laughed with two visitors from Germany telling them about the bizarre banning practices. Abu -Jamal is now held in a state prison near Hazelton, PA., after implementation last December of a court ruling converting his death sentence to life without parole. In the late 1980s Abu-Jamal mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against prison authorities for barring his receipt of a newspaper published by a socialist organization. Prison authorities barred that newspaper by speciously deeming it a "danger" to prison security, despite their allowing non-isolationcell inmates to receive white racist hate literature and pornography. Those racist and pornographic publications then approved for inmates clearly harmed security throughout the prison system by spurring interracial tensions and homosexual rapes. Conversely, a leftist newspaper sent to one inmate in death-row isolation presented no real "potential threat to security" -- a principle reason frequently cited for banning a publication. Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.


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Human Rights Coalition Report

July 2012 Censorship Report
by the Legal Coordinator of MIM(Prisons) July 2012 permalink

Overview This past year MIM(Prisons) was fortunate enough to be working with a volunteer with legal expertise on our anti -censorship campaign. This volunteer's insight and knowledge helped us send in many more letters to administrators, and with more depth and research than ever before. But sending out more complaints to prison officials means we are getting back a comparable amount of bullshit responses from them. Through this process we've learned just how important it is to be selective with who we write letters on, because sending one form letter protesting a single censorship incident easily escalates into a major research project. One of the most common bullshit responses we receive from prison administrators is that whatever article of mail we sent was "never received via USPS." Unfortunately in these cases, the only option we have is to resend the item via Certified Mail or with Delivery Confirmation. At least this way the mailroom staff can't just throw the mail in the trash. But we won't know if your mail actually made it into your hands unless you tell us you got it. Each July we report how much mail is unreported as received or censored for the past year. Consistently for the past few years, about 75% of the mail is unconfirmed at the time of the report. Gradually, as more people tell us what they received, and respond to Unconfirmed Mail Forms (UMFs), the amount of unreported mail drops. Our current rate of unreported mail for the 2010 -2011 reporting year is down to 60%, an all-time low! We attribute this to our widespread use of UMFs, and subscribers' diligence in responding to them. But don't wait until you get a UMF to report mail you received! Every UMF we send is money we could have spent sending you actual literature, so you should tell us what you've gotten since the last time you wrote. Appeals are Viable Tactic Appealing censorship and filing grievances can lead to small but significant victories. In Arizona, Pennsylvania, California and Colorado, some mail from MIM Distributors which was originally denied, was allowed to be received by prisoners after appeal. Of course not all appeals will be granted, and we don't expect to ever be completely free of censorship from the state. But we encourage everyone to at least attempt to appeal all censorship of mail from MIM(Prisons). Send us copies of your documents and we can upload them to our website Future Struggles Do we even need to say it? If you know the words, then sing along: California is still banning literature from MIM Distributors! Up to the present, administrators and staff in CDCR amazingly are still citing the 2006 ban of MIM literature, which was overturned in 2007! In another attempt to remedy this problem, we have compiled a supplement to our Censorship Guide which is specific to the California ban. If a 2006 memo is cited as a reason why you can't get mail from us, tell us and we'll send you the supplement. Mailroom staff in Michigan are eager to protect the "freedom" of white supremacists, as this subscriber reports: "Please know that I was able to obtain a hearing yesterday on the administration's rejection of MIM Theory 13, even though MDOC policy doesn't require one to be held due to it already being on the Restricted Publications List (RPL). The hearing officer gave two reasons for upholding the rejection: 1) It was on the RPL; 2) It was racist because there was an article against white supremacists. I found reason number 2 rather illuminating. . . I asked which article she was referring to and, quickly scanning the table of contents, asked her, "Is it the book review criticizing Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf?" In any event, she could not point out a single reason for the rejection let alone relate it to a serious penological concern. I flipped through it and pointed out many reasons why it should be let in and, of course, one of them was that it is against white supremacy or racial supremacy of any type." Last year we reported that we were contacted by the ACLU in Nebraska because they had been contacted by one of our subscribers regarding the ban of literature from us. They wrote at least one letter to the Warden at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. This letter was important because it forced the Director Robert P. Houson of Nebraska Department of Correctional Services to admit that "there is no outright ban on MIM's publications at TSCI at this time and such a ban never existed in the past." Unfortunately it appears that the legal intern who favored us has left the organization, and their new legal intern isn't being as generous with their legal expertise and sway. We encourage prisoners to contact the ACLU and other support organizations to help them fill a role that MIM(Prisons) can't. Last year we reported that Arizona was holding the position that publishers have no appeal rights if their materials are censored. In January 2012, thanks to the assistance of our legal volunteer, we were able to send Director Charles L. Ryan a letter detailing exactly the legality behind our claim to appeal rights. In June we received a letter from Assistant Attorney General Pamela J. Linnins, responding to a different letter from us in May. She has yet to respond directly to our letter from January. "It appears that the Department and MIM Distributors must agree to disagree. The Department stands by its position and belief that you do not have a right to notice when inmates are denied access, regardless of its permanence, to your publications. However, as a courtesy to you and pursuant to your request, the Department will begin providing notice to you, MIM Distributors, when inmates are denied an issue of your publications."
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At Red Onion State Prison in Virginia, multiple lawsuits reached settlement in the last few years challenging their illegal censorship of literature, namely from Prison Legal News and The Final Call. We were hoping that these settlements would have had an impact on our own literature, but we appear to still be banned at Red Onion. The amount of literature we know was censored is the same for the past 2 reporting years, but the amount of mail we know was received is about a third as much this reporting year compared to 2010 -2011. This could be from delay inherent to mail correspondence, or it could be due to more censorship. It is unclear which is true at this time. Other states with significantly large censorship proportions were: South Carolina and Florida. It is significant that wherever we have a growing population of active subscribers, repression of our literature increases. We hope comrades and subscribers everywhere will take up this important battle to protect freedom to share knowledge. If you're in a state listed above, you should especially get on board!

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much of it tied to the crack epidemic – with a series of “get tough” laws. “Pretty much every legislature changed their juvenile laws to push more kids into the adult system,” said Levick. “The speculation that was widespread at the time was that given the stark increase in crime rates, we were looking at a generation of juvenile ‘super-predators.’ That proved not to be true.” Indeed, the juvenile crime rate peaked in the mid-1990s and has been dropping ever since. By 2010 juvenile violent crime had hit a historic low, and is now down 55 percent from 1994. But by the time anyone noticed, Levick says, “the damage had been done.” What’s at stake One of the biggest problems with mandatory sentencing is that by its very nature, it fails to distinguish between degrees of offenders. As such, it’s easy to find real-world cases to support both sides of the Miller retroactivity argument. Among those who could benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision in Cunningham is Aaron Phillips, who is now 44 and has been serving a life sentence at SCI Greene in Waynesburg, Pa. since 1988. Phillips was 17 -years-old in 1986 when he was charged with second-degree murder following a burglary gone bad. Phillips and an accomplice broke into the house of an 87 -year-old man and stole his wallet. During the robbery, the victim fell and broke his hip. He died in the hospital 18 days later of heart failure attributable to a previous cancer surgery, but aggravated by the injuries he suffered in the robbery. Phillips’s co-defendant, who was an adult at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and has been out of prison for years. Since his sentencing, Phillips has demonstrated remorse for his crime, has received a number of professional certifications, and has become a mentor to other inmates as a teacher of theology and character -building. “I strive to make my life have some degree of meaning or relevance,” Phillips said, through JLC attorney Emily Keller. But for every Aaron Phillips doing life in the United States, there is a David Biro, who was a 16 -years-old when he ambushed 25-year-old Nancy Langert and her husband Richard in their suburban Chicago home in April 1990, executing them, along with their unborn child. Biro, a troubled youth who had previously tried to poison his parents, had no apparent motive for the crime other than the thrill of killing. Nancy Langert’s sister, Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins runs the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers and has been working with other victims’ families to educate the public about what’s at stake if Miller is applied to old cases. An opponent of the death penalty and mandatory sentencing, Bishop-Jenkins believes that reopening cases like Biro’s not only unnecessarily traumatizes victims, but is logistically and judicially untenable. “The question before us, really, is if we know that these people are never going to qualify for release and the data shows that there is a population of prisoners that will never, why would we subject victims’ families to the torture of having to engage these people again? There is no way to recreate due process retroactively,” she said. Bishop-Jenkins accepts that there is a small percentage of offenders who have been over -sentenced under mandatory guidelines, but says there are already sufficient remedies, such as clemency, to deal with them. Mostly, she takes issue with the assertion that victims’ families are in some way unforgiving and heartless, or intent on exacting unthinking retribution. “I can tell you, I don’t know a single murder victim’s family member that is the angry, vengeful, emotional person that [juvenile advocates] paint us out to be,” she said. “We are the first to acknowledge these sentences should be reserved for a very rare subset of the offender population.” Illinois’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Miller reciprocity arguments later this year. Last month, Cunningham’s attorneys filed a petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to re-brief and re-argue his case in light of new developments, and Bridge says he is now awaiting a response. But given the widespread inconsistencies in the way state and federal courts have been applying Miller, he says it’s highly likely the issue will need to be resolved in the nation’s highest court. “Ultimately the Supreme Court will have to weigh in on this, and I think all nine justices would be shocked that this doesn’t apply to thousands of people across the country,” he said. “If you read the opinion, it’s pretty obvious the justices thought this was going to apply to a large number of people.”


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The Human Rights Coalition (Disclaimer) The Human Rights Coalition is an organization that focuses on the plight of prisoners in their struggle for human rights and humane conditions of prisons, and challenging the prison industrial complex exploitation of prisoners and the drastic ramification on the families of prisoners and society at large. We recognize that most prisoners are people of color and often are economically disfranchised working class people. HRC serves as an educational and resource forum to the community. The Human Rights Coalition does not have the ability to represent individuals in the court of law nor has funding for such activities. The Human Rights Coalition does not have lawyers for personal counsel nor the ability to write legal briefs on behalf of any individual. The Human Rights Coalition is about building a grassroots movement with the leadership of the families of prisoners and citizens who are concerned about the proliferation of prisons and the lack of social programs that could prevent crime and injustice. “We can bomb the world into pieces but, you can't bomb it into peace"

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FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)

What’s The News! California Governor Brown seeks 3-year delay on easing prison crowding:
Brown's proposal to seek an extension is based on a deal struck with lawmakers last week.
By Paige St. John September 16, 2013 SACRAMENTO — Following through on a deal struck with legislative leaders, Gov. Jerry Brown told federal judges Monday that he is prepared to spends hundreds of millions of dollars moving inmates out of crowded prisons — but would rather use the money to rehabilitate prisoners so they don't come back. bation official to come up with further ideas. "There is no 'there' there," said Don Specter of the Prison Law Office. "It's very disappointing." In a declaration accompanying Brown's filing, state corrections chief Jeffrey Beard asked judges to make their decision by Sept. 27. It is unclear whether the three federal judges will go along with Brown's plan. They have shown increasing impatience with California's failure to relieve inmate crowding after more than two decades of litigation. As recently as July, they refused to give the state more time, saying it is "clear that defendants remained unwilling" to comply. In addition, they warned that they may make further demands, even if California meets their numbers.

"It is not enough simply to meet a specific target number of prisoners on a specific date," the judges wrote in July, noting that "durability is To do that, the state is asking for a three-year delay in meeting the inmate population caps the necessary." judges ordered in 2010. Nevertheless, Brown said last week that there was a reasonable chance the judges might ex"For prison population reduction measures to be effective and lasting, they cannot be unilater- tend, for a third time, their 2010 order to really imposed," the governor's lawyers said in a move more inmates. He said the compromise late-night filing, arguing that "state prisons are was not struck without some "foundation," just one part of the larger, interconnected crimi- citing "smoke signals emanating from the mountaintops." But he did not elaborate. nal justice system." The proposal Brown submitted is based on a compromise hammered out with lawmakers who opposed his plan to reduce crowding by sending thousands of inmates to privately owned prisons and other detention facilities. As a display of California's efforts to reducing crowding, Brown's filing Monday cited not only the money the state has already spent trying to fix its prison problems but also the governor's personal record of allowing inmates serving life sentences to be freed on parole.

Above: Inmates are double-bunked in a dorm at the California Institution for Men near Chino. Gov. Jerry Brown has a court-imposed Dec. 31 deadline to find room for some 9,600 inmates or face the prospect of early releases. (Image filed in U.S. District Court briefings)

SACRAMENTO -- California has signed a contract with private prison contractor Geo Group to lease space for 1,400 inmates in overcrowded state lockups. The company announced the contract early Monday morning, even before Gov. Jerry Brown learns whether federal judges will grant his request for a three-year delay in the courts' orders to cap the prison population. The governor's lawyers have asked judges to make their own decision by Friday.

Geo Group issued a news release Monday from its Florida headquarters announcing the company had inked deals with the state for two lowerIf judges agree to delay the deadline, Brown security prisons it owns in California, in Adewill still move 2,500 inmates out of state lock- Previous governors blocked up to 98% of those lanto and McFarland. The company said the parole grants, but Brown has stopped only 18%, ups and into alternative facilities within Califorcontracts are for five years, and it expects to his lawyers told the court. nia, according to the court filing. And he will begin receiving inmates by the end of the year. set aside $150 million next year for treating drug abuse and mental illness and other rehabil- They also noted that the governor has appointed It estimated its annual revenue from the deal at former Fresno County probation chief Linda itation programs. Penner to lead an effort to develop other crime more than $30 million. If the judges say no, the state proposes to meet prevention programs. their Dec. 31 deadline by spending $315 lion this year — and more the next — to move more than three times as many prisoners, pri_________________________ marily to private lockups as far away as Mississippi. Brown has asked federal judges to delay its order to remove some 9,600 inmates from state prisons by the end of December, in trade for promising to restore $150 million to a grant that funds community probation and rehabilitation programs. Brown's lawyers have said the state will go ahead with some private prison leases within California even if the delay is granted. The state corrections department has already begun the process of identifying inmates to be moved. -me-ff-state-signs-privateprison-deal-20130923,0,1218662.story?track=rss

California signs

Backers of the rehabilitation plan say that it would have a more enduring effect on the prison population, though it might take years to achieve the reductions the court wants now. The lead attorney for California inmates said the governor's proposal lacked detail and largely centered on appointing a former county pro-

private-prison deal
Los Angeles Times By Paige St. John September 23, 2013


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What’s The News! Day 60 Mediation Team Statement: September 5, 2013
Posted on September 5, 2013 by prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity The Mediation Team is pleased to confirm that the 20 prisoner representatives, of all the ethnic groups involved in the hunger strike, have decided to suspend the strike on the 60th day. This result comes after huge sacrifice on the part of scores of prisoners –upwards of 40 people went without solid foods for eight and a half weeks. Thousands more went on and off in the two- month period, and thirty thousand participated. This hunger strike is historic on many levels: the number of prisoners who went without food; the international media attention; and the impressive mobilization of groups on the outside who published in-depth analyses, organized demonstrations, worked with the media, and promoted the prisoners’ demands and their Agreement to End Hostilities. Coupled with the lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other attorneys, this peaceful protest was a tremendously courageous effort that has the potential of securing real change in California’s practices related to solitary confinement. The breakthrough began with a joint statement issued last Friday by Senator Loni Hancock and Assembly member Tom Ammiano validating the prisoners’ position and calling for Public Safety Committee hearings (as early as fall) and legislative action to address widespread abuses. Although there have been hearings in the Assembly twice before, prisoners believed that the strong statement of support for their demands from the chairs of the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees constituted grounds for hope. The joint statement of Senator Hancock and Assemblymember Ammiano reads in part: “The issues raised by the hunger strike are real… and can no longer be ignored.” Assemblymember Ammiano said further, “The Courts have made clear that the hunger strikers have legitimate issues of policy and practice that must be reviewed. The Legislature has a critical role in considering and acting on their concerns. We cannot sit by and watch our state pour money into a system that the US. Supreme Court has declared does not provide constitutionally acceptable conditions of confinement and that statistics show has failed to increase public safety.” The legislative call was just one of several on Sept. 10. He has received oral chemotherapy signs of progress the prisoners noted. CDCR drugs since early August, but treatment has officials, who refused to negotiate on any demands during the strike, did meet with the prisoners in person or by phone, to listen to them and seek resolution. Mike Stainer, Director of Adult Institutions, promised to travel to PelicanBay on the week of September 23 to discuss with the prisoner representatives their demands and new CDCR policies being developed on gang validation and SHU placement. One prisoner described such meetings as “historic.” The Mediation Team is hopeful that today marks the beginning of finding ways to redress prisoners’ grievances short of starvation. The 602 process used by the CDCR for individual complaints is completely broken and new avenues must be put into place. We herald this day as the beginning of a new understanding that prisoners are human beings, with legitimate rights, and the realization that when the state restricts some freedoms, it also assumes responsibilities to treat people justly and humanely. The prisoners never asked to be released or even for shorter sentences. Rather, they asked to be free from isolation, to have regular contact with their families, meaningful activities, and livable conditions. The Mediation Team was instrumental in organizing a phone call among our Team, the prisoner representatives at PelicanBay, and CDCR officials on Tuesday, September 2nd, to open up the communication process. All who attended came away hopeful about the possibilities. The Mediation Team is in awe of the courage and leadership shown by all the prisoners who have sacrificed so much. We look forward to serving the process as it moves forward. ____________________________________

Herman Wallace, 71, has been suffering from liver cancer at Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility since June 2013. On Sept. 10, he released a statement saying that doctors told him he has two months to live.

now ceased because his tumors were not responding, he said. Doctors at the hospital where he is receiving care recommend he serve out his remaining months in hospice care. But Gov. Bobby Jindal would be required to release Wallace, on humanitarian grounds. "The medical team has recommended hospice care and it is practically impossible given that he continues to be held in prison," said Jasmine Heiss, with Amnesty International's Individuals and Communities at Risk Program. "We continue to call on Bobby Jindal to see that Herman Wallace is compassionately released." In response to inquiries to the governor's office, Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said "all offenders are provided quality end of life care" within his department. Wallace was jailed in 1967 after being convicted of robbery, and later was sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of prison guard Brent Miller in 1972. He and two others -Robert King and Albert Woodfox -- blamed for the murder were quietly kept in solitary confinement for decades at the state prison. Before entering solitary, the three men, all members of the Black Panther Party, became known as "The Angola Three" and worked to better conditions for their fellow inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary. Their many campaigns included trying to lower the prison's inmate-on-inmate murder rate and to bring an end to a rampant system of sexual slavery in which inmates were "sold" to other inmates in trades for goods like cigarettes. All three men maintained they were not involved in Miller's murder. While King wasn't
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Angola 3 inmate Herman Wallace, incarcerated with liver cancer, says he has 2 months to live
Lauren McGaughy, The Times Picayune September 11, 2013

Herman Wallace, one of three men held in solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for decades, has only a few more months to live, he says -- and all signs point to him doing that behind bars. The 71-year-old New Orleans native was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer earlier this year, and he has about two months left to live, according to an update from Wallace released


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What’s The News!
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in the prison when it occurred, prison officials implicated him indirectly in the crime. The Angola Three also held that the physical evidence, a bloody knife found at the scene, did not match their fingerprints and that witnesses were either paid off by prison officials or were incompetent. In 1973, the three men entered solitary confinement. It wasn't until the late 1990s, when Black Panther members were investigating their incarceration, that their decades in solitary confinement were made public. Amnesty International and other advocacy groups soon became involved, and tried to secure the release of the three men from solitary and prove their innocence in the 1972 murder. King's sentence was eventually overturned and he was released in 2001. He had spent 29 years in solitary confinement. Woodfox remains in solitary confinement at David Wade Correctional Center in Homer. He has spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement. Wallace was released from solitary at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel after his cancer diagnosis. But, Heiss said the prison failed to administer the recommended chemotherapy drugs for six weeks, until Wallace's lawyer stepped in. By that time, he had lost 50 pounds and was soon taken off the medication because the cancer was not responding to the treatment. Heiss said her organization and Wallace's lawyers are awaiting two rulings in his case, one that could see him released on bail and another that would determine if he would be released or re-tried. But neither ruling is expected in the next two months. Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond called for a federal investigation into practices at Louisiana's prisons in which he specifically mentioned Wallace and Woodfox's cases. Woodfox's sentence was overturned for a third time by a federal court this year, but the ruling was appealed by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. In his Sept. 10 statement, Wallace confirmed his diagnosis and gave an update on his status: "Nothing can be done for me medically within the standard care that (my oncologists) are authorized to provide. They recommended that I be admitted to hospice care to make my remaining days as comfortable as possible. I have been given two months to live.

life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast." ____________________________________

cent of the roughly 207,000 prisoners in federal lock up were over the age of 50. The vast majority of aging prisoners are incarcerated by states like Pennsylvania, where the new DOJ guidelines will have no effect.

"I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as A report from the Congressional Research Serwell," he said. "The state may have stolen my vice found that in 2010, approximately 14 per-

So why should we care? Well, if the senselessness of keeping doddering old men and women who can hardly climb a set of steps—let alone commit a crime—in jail for things they did decades ago isn’t enough, how about this: It’s Pennsylvania has among the highest proportion costing us a shit load of money. of elderly inmates in the nation—and it’s costing Funding for the state’s prison system is now our us a fortune. third largest expense behind medical assistance and education, and much of it is due to the proBy Christopher Moraff 8/21/2013 vision of health care—which studies show costs an average of four times more for inmates over Earlier this month Attorney General Eric Hold55 than for younger inmates. According to a er announced that the Justice Department would 2012 report from the America Civil Liberties institute new sentencing guidelines for defendUnion, states spend nearly $70,000 a year to ants in federal cases convicted of non-violent house and care for an inmate over 50, twice the drug crimes. cost of an average prisoner. And once they get sick—which, given the conditions in jail is The policy shift seeks to mitigate the damage of pretty much a foregone conclusion—the cost is “draconian mandatory minimum sentences”— even higher. According to Republican State which have tied the hands of judges and helped Senator Stewart Greenleaf—a former Montcontribute to America’s status as the most ingomery County prosecutor and vocal proponent carcerated nation on Earth. Less reported is a of prison reform— the average cost of caring separate component of the new guidelines that for a terminally ill patient can run as high as will create a pathway for the release of elderly $100,000 a year. and infirm prisoners who have not yet completed their sentences but no longer pose a threat to And here’s the rub: Unlike infirm senior citisociety. zens on the outside, who qualify for federal medical assistance, inmate costs are picked up That’s good policy; unfortunately, it will have entirely by the state taxpayer. All it would take only a minimal impact on one of the biggest is to shift some of those inmates to a private problems now facing the American correctional nursing home or halfway house through an system. early-release program to save the Department of Corrections tens of thousands of dollars. But According to a report from Human Rights while Pennsylvania does have a compassionate Watch released last year, the number of senior release program for the sickest patients, eligicitizens under American correctional supervibility is so strict that hardly anyone qualifies for sion is higher than it’s ever been and growing at it. That needs to change. an exponential rate. The study found that the number of state and federal prisoners that are Last year Governor Corbett signed Senate Bill 55 or older—the official threshold for old age 100, which seeks to decrease the state’s prison behind bars—grew at six times the rate of the population through alternative programs for overall prison population between 1995 and low-risk offenders. That’s a step in the right 2010. The number of prisoners over 65, mean- direction, but the law contains no provision for while, surged 63 percent—or 94 times the rate transitioning elderly inmates who no longer of the general prison population—in the three pose a risk to society into private settings. And years prior to 2010. it doesn’t even touch one of the main reasons Pennsylvania has so many old inmates in the Pennsylvania has not only followed the trend, it first place: our policy of life without parole. has exceeded it. According to HRW, in the nation only Oregon has a higher proportion of The commonwealth is one of only six states geriatric inmates than Pennsylvania. At the end that denies parole to lifers; and according to the of 2010, there were 8,462 inmates in PennsylSentencing Project we have the highest percentvania’s prisons over the age of 50, representing age of inmates serving life without parole of 16.5 percent of the inmate population. A decade any state besides Louisiana. Victims’ advoago they made up less than 10 percent of all cates and their supporters say that’s as it should prisoners. Inmates over the age of 40, meanbe. But their motivations are purely emotional while, now represent more than one third of and reactionary, both of which are very poor Pennsylvania’s total prison population. drivers of good policy.

It’s Time to Let Grandpa Out of Jail

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What’s The News!
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Numerous studies show that older prisoners rarely re-offend once released, particularly those that have been incarcerated for an extended period of time, which most elderly inmates have. Pennsylvania should follow the lead of the federal government and commit to a policy based on common sense rather than an Old Testament understanding of justice. grandpa-jail/

like that for days and the entire Pod “reeks” of fecal matter and one can vomit over the smell alone. Prisoners are kept in these cells and refused showers, yard, meals, and are “screwed with” by the guards.” A prisoner in the solitary confinement unit at SCI Smithfield reported that prison staff ceased providing him his medication and removed him from the mental health roster prior to a DOJ site inspection. Whether this is an isolated incident or part of a broader pattern where the PA DOC attempts to minimize the numbers of prisoners in solitary confinement who have mental health problems is unknown, though HRC has received countless reports from prisoners over the years that they have been denied necessary mental health care.

dicative of HCV and liver disease. Runkle was transferred to SCI Mercer, received a second blood test with the same results, and sought treatment. Typical treatment for HCV consists of a 24 or 48 week antiviral medicine, depending on the specific genotype of the disease a person tests positive for. The current DOC protocol passes off treatment and intervention of the disease if a prisoner will be released in the near future. Prisoners are denied the 24 week treatment if their sentence is less than 12 months, and denied the 48 week treatment if their sentence is less than 18 months. Prisoners who are diagnosed withHCV but are time restricted receive palliative care (taking a Tylenol) at the chronic care clinic rather than treatment to cure the disease. Runkle’s minimum date was June 2011, 33 weeks from the start of his incarceration. He served 6 months unsentenced at York County before entering the state prison. He was denied genotype testing to see if his strain qualified him for the 24 week program. He continued to seek treatment and was denied despite his sentence being extended each time he came up for parole. Even after the parole board recommended Runkle serve his max sentence of 5 years, he continued to be denied treatment by medical staff because he was still eligible for parole and could be paroled at any of his hearings within the possible treatment period. He effectively received no treatment despite being incarcerated for well over the time constraints. Prison Legal News quoted former Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s American Correctional Association’s conference speech in 2002 about HCV testing and treatment in prison as a smart and necessary public health investment. Beard acknowledged that early disease perception and intervention would prevent costly treatment of complications later on and prevent a significant number of deaths in the prison (17% of prisoner deaths in PA in 2001). With the DOC’s sentence protocol and the pattern and practice of denying prisoners parole despite their minimums due to incomplete or full programs, or a lack of home plans in the current political and economic climate, prisoners with HCV remain at considerable risk to die in prison. ______________________________________________


PA DOC reacts to Justice Department investigation of solitary confinement units:

Another prisoner reported that an entire unit of solitary confinement prisoners was transferred from SCI Rockview to SCIForest. Part of the unit had been used for Special Needs Unit (SNU) prisoners, who have mental health or developmental needs. The report speculated that the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) prisonThe Human Rights Coalition has received ers were moved because “SNU inmates are not several reports from confidential sources inside supposed to be housed in any RHU! On the day PA DOC prisons that prison officials are scram- they started transferring us out about 7 extra bling to deal with the mental health and human ‘suits’/‘Big Wigs’ came through with all SCI rights crisis inside the state’s solitary confineRockview’s upper management on an investiment units in the wake of the recently angation.” nounced expansion of the Justice Department’s (DOJ) investigation. Finally, it has been reported that on Friday, August 9, the Regional Deputy Secretary of the In late May 2013, the DOJ announced their Central Region has issued a directive that all findings into its investigation of State Correcprisoners on the mental health roster be retional Institution (SCI) Cresson’s unconstitumoved from the RHU by August 16. Where tional treatment of mentally ill prisoners in the they were to be removed to, or what type of solitary confinement units at that prison. At the mental health care or treatment programs would same time, DOJ announced that it had discovbe available, if any, remains unclear. ered sufficient evidence of unconstitutional treatment of mentally ill prisoners throughout the PA DOC to justify expanding the investiga____________________________________ tion to cover every facility under PA DOC control. This federal investigation of an entire state’s solitary confinement units is unprecedented. State Correctional Institution (SCI) Greene has recently changed two of its pods, C and D pod, from traditional Restricted Housing Units to Secure Special Needs Units ahead of a DOJ site inspection. According to one confidential source, prisoners locked down on C and D pod cannot receive more than 30 days per misconduct for any infraction. According to the source, guards have been complaining about the rule change since it has long been customary practice to “bury the nuts in the hole.” Mentally ill prisoners are reportedly left to languish in isolation at SCI Greene in such a severe state of psychological breakdown that they often smear feces on their walls or engage in acts of self-mutilation. According to one report, “The smell is horrendous. When a prisoner smears feces on the walls, it is often left

Lack of Hepatitis C Treatment Brings Lawsuit Against DOC:

A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of PA prisoners in January, 2013 seeking injunctive relief for the testing and treatment of Hepatitis C (HCV) without regard to sentence length. Current DOC protocols stall and deny treatment for the deadly virus depending on sentence length, which lawyers charge is unconstitutional. Prison Legal News reported on the case of Jason Runkle, who was sentenced in 2010 on drug offenses for 18 months to 5 years. Upon intake at Camp Hill, Runkle’s blood test showed elevated levels of AST, ALT, bilirubin and a decrease in blood platelets, which is in-

One In 25 Americans Was Arrested In 2011
By Radley Balko Posted: 08/07/2013 1:28 pm

We've heard a lot of talk lately about mass incarceration, the stop-and-frisk policies in New York, reforming the drug laws, and mandatory minimum sentencing. There's also been discus(Continued on page 28)


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What’s The News!
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sion about over-criminalization -- that we have too many laws, too broadly enforced -- from groups as ideologically diverse as the Heritage Foundation, the ACLU, the Cato Institute, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. But here's a related statistic that's pretty mind blowing in and of itself: According to the FBI, in 2011 there were 3991.1 arrests for every 100,000 people living in America. That means over the course of a single year, one in 25 Americans was arrested. The FBI also reports that the arrest rate for violent crime was just 172 per 100,000, and for property crimes, it was 531. That means that in 2011, one in 33 Americans were arrested for crimes that didn't involve violence against another person, or theft of or damage to property. More people were arrested for drug crimes than any other class of crimes -- about one in every 207 of us. One in every 258 of us was arrested for drunk driving. The FBI doesn't keep track, but presumably the remaining arrests were for crimes like prostitution, vandalism, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and other consensual crimes and relatively minor offenses.

CLARIFICATION: A few folks have noted that the 1 in 25 figure could be misleading, given that many people are likely to have been arrested more than once. Fair enough. It's an average. The most accurate way to phrase it would be that in 2011, there were approximately four arrests for every 100 residents.

legislative year. "I was expecting to have to wait that long again," Budnick said in an interview Monday night. "I was preparing for the most tortured 30 days imaginable." As it turned out, Budnick and the more than 6,000 juvenile offenders who will be affected by the bill, SB 260 by Berkeley Democrat Loni Hancock, didn't have to wait that long. The Brown administration is in the midst of trying to persuade a federal three-judge panel to give the state more time to reduce its prison population, and SB 260 factored into its plans. Brown signed the bill on Monday, just before the administration filed an updated report for the panel asking for judicial patience. In the filing, it mentioned that offering early parole to juvenile offenders could free up space in state prisons. Budnick said he's seen a palpable shift in the Legislature on the issue over the last year. While 2012's bill failed three times before ultimately clearing the Legislature with the bare minimum of votes required, this year's measure passed with some Republican support. Brown deliberated for weeks over last year's bill, but he embraced this year's measure as part of his plan to appease the federal courts. The film executive also changed his approach. He formed a nonprofit aimed at helping young people who were in, or had been released from prison and the lobbying firm Mercury LLC and lobbyist Bill Dupplisea worked the bill in the Capitol. Now, Budnick says, he will continue to push youth criminal justice issues and expressed hope that lawmakers' plan to reduce the state's prison population could lead to more policy changes. "Hopefully," he said, "both the courts and state lawmakers will start to view some of these issues in a different light."

Hollywood producer led push on early parole for juvenile offenders

One major allegation levied against the NYPD's Scott Budnick, executive producer of "The Hangover" stop-and-frisk policy is that it comes with quocomedy movies, mentors juvenile offenders through his tas encourages false arrests, with new alleganonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition. (Reed Saxon / Associtions surfacing just last month. (Worse yet, ated Press) tricks people into committing crimes they wouldn't have otherwise committed.) But it isn't By Anthony York, September 17, 2013 just New York. There have been recent allega- Los Angeles Times tions of systematic false arrests among police departments in Florida, Utah, and Newark. Just after 9 on Monday night, Gov. Jerry Brown's legislative secretary Gareth Elliot picked up the phone and called a Hollywood Arrests can be damaging, even if they never result in criminal charges. They generally go on studio executive. your criminal record, which can be checked each time you apply for a job, housing, or cred- Elliot wasn't pitching a new movie. He was it. An arrest can also be a barrier to your ability calling to tell Scott Budnick, an executive producer of "The Hangover" film franchise, that to adopt, obtain some types of professional the governor had signed a bill giving juvenile licenses, and obtain a visa or passport. And of offenders serving long sentences the right to course an arrest also comes with some social parole after 15 years -- a measure that Budnick stigma. had been pushing in the Capitol halls in the final week of the legislative session. Suing for damages from a false arrest is extremely difficult. It's tough to even get in front In between producing Hollywood films, Budof a jury, much less actually win a favorable nick serves as head of the Anti-Recidivism verdict. Even then, litigation can take years, assuming you can find an attorney to take your Coalition, a nonprofit group that was born out of Budnick's volunteer work with young people case. Even police who make clearly illegal serving long prison sentences. arrests -- such as arresting people who attempt to record the officers in public -- are rarely held Last year, Budnick helped push for a measure accountable. As with other areas of the criminal to allow juveniles serving life without parole justice system, all of the push is in a punitive the opportunity to have their cases reviewed by direction. There are lots of reasons and incena parole board. The measure, which affected tives for cops to make lots of arrests, and very about 320 inmates, passed with the bare minilittle in the way of consequences for making too mum votes required in both legislative houses many, or for arresting someone without cause. and was not signed by Brown until the final day of the 30-day signing period at the end of a

Comic by: Marcus A. Bedford, Jr. see


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Official HRC Chapters
Human Rights Coalition - Philadelphia Chapter C/O Lava Space 4134 Lancaster Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19147 (267) 293-9169 Human Rights Coalition - Chester Chapter CRRC C/O Bro. Tut 419 Avenue of State, Suite 407 Chester, PA 19013 (215) 390-4114 Human Rights Coalition FedUp! Chapter 5125 Penn Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15224 412-361-3022 xt.4

START A HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION (HRC) CHAPTER OR BRANCH IN YOUR AREA. Each Chapter or Branch must comply with eight requirements. These eight are: 1.) Respond to inquiries in a timely manner as resources permit. 2.) Update membership to HRC-Philly at least quarterly. 3.) Incorporate as a non-profit organization. 4.) Obtain tax exempt or 501 ( C ) 3 status. 5.) Publish a newsletter at least semi annually as resources permit. 6.) Send minutes of chapter meetings to HRC-Philly. 7.) Establish internet video conferencing for statewide chapter meetings. 8.) Create a cooperative business to finance your chapter or branch to be financially independent.

The Human Rights Coalition would like to thank RESIST for their support of our efforts; i.e., protecting the human rights of our loved ones in prison, bringing a stop to the torture and abuse of prisoners, and making the public aware of DOC’s inhumane practices and the effect it has on our communities.

Human Rights Matters

Borrerro's Last Stance: Heroism in the Most Unlikely of Places
By Trevor Mattis

At 12:01 AM, June 10, 2013, inmate Hector Borrero transitioned into free citizen Hector Borrero, having paid in debt to society in full -- Borrero maxed out a 3-6 year sentence. A free man, Borrero was still housed at the state correctional institution of Forest due to a coincidence of dates, in that, June 9, 2013, the last day of his sentence fell on a Sunday and there being a detainer on him, prison officials held Borrero the free man until Monday, June 10, 2013. For six years, Borrero, a mentally disabled inmate, was subjected to all manners of abuse -- from multiple misconducts to cell extractions -- at the hands of prison officials. At no time did the Department of Corrections see fit to provide treatment for Borrero's mental disabilities. Instead, Borrero was relegated to solitary confinement where he accumulated close to 10 years of hole time for multiple misconducts. Prison officials branded Borrero as a disruptive, intractable, and incorrigible inmate. He was treated as such, and notwithstanding their alleged mandate of rehabilitation, he was returned to society as such. All the obvious symptoms of Borrero's mental disabilities -- cutting himself, suicide attempts, and reactionary acting out - were treated as behavioral problems. However, on June 9, 2013, this all changed. Borrero had completed his sentence and was no longer a ward of the State. SCI Forest prison officials were now holding a free man against his will. No one appreciated nor understood the full meaning of liberty and the Constitutional Rights that afforded like Borrero. To the majority of inmates, Borrero was a nutcase, and the events that transpired on June 10, 2013, in their minds, only served to confirm their opinion. I, a witness, on the other hand, saw the matter completely different. What I witnessed was heroism of the first order, remnant of the likes of Muhammed Ali and Martin Luther King. At 9:55 AM, June 10, 2013, Sgt. Dane approached Borrero's cell and ordered him to strip out, that is, submit to a strip search. This means getting naked and at the Sergeant's command, outstretch your hands, palms up, fingers spread wide, then open your mouth wide for a visual inspection, then turn your head sideways so he can inspect behind your ears, then run your fingers through your hair, then lift your penis, then lift your testicles, then turn around and lift one foot up at a time so the soles of your feet can be inspected, then bend over and spread the cheeks of your ass so your anus can be inspected. Borrero refused. Borrero said, "I am a free man protected by the full panoply of rights afforded me by the Constitution. You have no control over me. I am no longer a ward of the State. I am a free man." Sergeant Dane was shocked. He barked his orders repeatedly to no avail. Borrero did not budge. At a loss, Sgt. Dane called his superior. At 10:05 AM, Captain Riskus approached Borrero's cell and commanded him to submit to a strip search. Borrero repeated his statement and refused. He asked the Captain what right did he have to order him to strip naked. Captain Riskus said that it was the policy of the RHU that every inmate must be strip searched before leaving his cell, no exceptions. He then told Borrero that he would remain in the cell until he submitted to the strip search. When that failed to persuade Borrero, Captain Riskus asked, "How many times have you been strip searched in the last six years?" "Hundreds," Borrero replied. "Okay," said Riskus, exasperated. "So would it make that much of a difference to be strip searched one more time? You're being released." "Yes," Borrero said, "At 12:01 AM my debt to society was paid in full and my complete manhood restored. I will no longer submit to the humiliation and personal degradation of a strip search." Captain Riskus walked away. At this point, the inmates on C-pod, many serving Life sentences and in solitary confinement for many years, broke out in an uproar. They lambasted and ridiculed Borrero as being a nut, foolish, stupid, and dumb. "Give me a chance to be free. I would strip out so fast. You must be crazy," one Lifer shouted. "What! Are you kidding me? He's refusing to strip?" another inmate uttered. "That nigga ain't got nowhere to go," another inmate shouted. An older inmate, 63 years old, a Lifer with 35 years in and six years in solitary confinement, called down to Borrero through the vent. "Don't do nothing stupid. Go ahead home young man. You're free. Strip out and go on home," he said.
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Human Rights Matters

A Puerto Rican friend in the cell across from Borrero's shouted at him in Spanish. A heated debate ensued for a few minutes. Borrero ended the conversation in English with, "With all due respect, I appreciate your concern, but I got to do what I got to do." I took it all in in silence. Borrero called to me in the vent. I was his next door neighbor. "Ras, they don't understand," Borrero said. "I do. You're a man, a free man," I responded. At 11:05 two Deputy Sheriffs approached Borrero's cell. They informed Borrero that he was being taken into their custody to be arraigned on new charges stemming from an incident that took place in Forest County courthouse two weeks earlier (Borrero had a hearing in the courthouse and pushed an emergency call button that he says he thought was a normal call button for information). Borrero was handcuffed, fitted with a stun belt and escorted from the RHU by the Deputy Sheriffs. In today's society where 85% of the citizenry have voluntarily waived much of their Fourth Amendment Rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and submit to the tyranny of government officials, it was refreshing to witness one citizen, albeit in the most unlikely and intimidating of circumstances, against all odds, take a stance and stand up for his Constitutional Rights. Even though he is mentally disabled, Borrero is no fool. He understood what it meant to be a man and what it meant to be free. Six years of daily abuse at the hands of prison officials could not erase the concept of liberty that was ingrained in Borrero's being. The oppression of incarceration in the United States is meant to do one thing: make you submit, make you crawl on your knees and bow down to authority. How many of you, after years of imprisonment and daily subjection to unrelenting repression, would, upon given the chance of freedom, delay that chance, at the peril of that very freedom, on the principle that the respect for your dignity as a human being is, in part and parcel, a fundamental inseparable aspect of liberty. Trevor Mattis, #BH-3126, PO Box 945, Marionville, PA 16239.

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say what ? . . . speak up! / writings of multiplicity

"The Crazy Days, at a Crazy Place"
By D. Ali The treatment I received while being sick at Graterford was the worst treatment I ever gotten in my life! I remember speaking to one of the doctors at an outside hospital, and he told me that in order to take an illness like I face, you had to be a bad mother. He said no one could take that! My eyes were all white and they were both crossed back at the prison. I was told that this was a joke. On that day I felt like putting my feet in this doctor's butt when he told me that. No one should have to go through this kind of treatment. My story is being told to convey what its like in some of these prisons where you have some doctors who say they care, but don't. The treatment that I received seemed to be going on for a long time. I had to walk around the prison holding both of my eyes open with my fingers. I never knew when I would be attacked by one of the cats who I might not be good with. So between dealing with that, and the doctors, I was out of my mind. I had to, now, deal with the Mental Health Dept. One day I went to the officer and told him that I was having some mental problems. So I was now able to see some daylight! This was over the weekend, and no doctors are in on the weekend. I remember eating my morning meal, and I was drinking some milk, and I just started to choke on the milk, and one of the officers came to the cell that I was in, and he started to help me. Once this was all over I went upstairs to the hospital, the doctor up there had me sent to the outside hospital. The doctors at the hospital where I was sent did a lot of blood work and they had this special doctor to do a test to see what was causing my eyes to close. I will never forget this doctor because they were not like those monsters back at that "crazy place." These doctors took great pride in what they were doing, so that meant the world to me. Once this test was done they told me that I have MG - Myotheno Gravis - which causes your eyes to lose control along with other parts of your body. Brother, this news that I just got took me for one heck of a ride. Now that's just half of it. More tests are coming but I have to find a room and wait for a few days. I remember hearing the officers talk outside my room that I might have cancer but I'm not being told any of this! The day that I was told that I now have cancer was like going back in front of the judge that gave me a life sentence.

My days being in the hospital were just so long. We are now waiting on a hospital to go to. The problem that I'm facing is the D.O.C. owns a lot of hospitals, so who knows where I'm going. I'm hearing so many things. When I was told that I was going to Jefferson, I was so happy. Only Allah knows the joy I had! Brother I will never forget when I saw the sign saying that we are now in Philadelphia. I did a dance while laying down (smile). My life is now starting to get better, that fast! When I got to Jefferson it was like being in a 10-star hotel. Boy this spot was all of that. The doctors did what they were supposed to do. I had some good doctors talk to me. My family came to visit me. My mother never missed a night without seeing me. Man, the day that I was told that I was going back to that crazy place is when I just lost my mind! I told this lady officer that I was not going back. I had her backed up in a corner and she had her gun out. I told her she would have to kill me before I would ever go back to Graterford. Her partner tried to talk me into allowing her out of the corner and out of the room. The other officers called the hospital security, and they came to my room and I told them why I did not want to go back to prison and he stated to me that he would not go if that was him. This officer that I knew from the head was sent down to the hospital. Once he got there he told me that the Lt. said for me to allow them to take me back. My reply was "F You! You're going to have to kill me." I was not going back to that crazy place. Brother, when I saw those officers come for me with this all black and looking like Star War people, I said, "OK. I will go back." They would have killed me on that day. Once I was back I was sent right to the RHU. The hearing examiner gave me 160 days in the RHU. He did not care if I had cancer or not. I was now back at Graterford, but I now see that I have to now think. My lawyer wrote me and stated that we now have to fight them in court. We won in court and I was never able to thank those who helped me to overcome that struggle. I thank you all for all of your support. "Your Brother" Always, D. Ali


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say what ? . . . speak up! / writings of multiplicity Control The Thinking, Diminish Gun-Violence In America
By Richard G. Hall, Jr.

“It will require a whole new manner of thinking for mankind to survive.” Albert Einstein

Try considering gun-violence in America today, from this historical perspective: “Minuteman fires the shot heard around the world . . . the American Revolution ensues, American long rifles and muskets raised in victory. Freedom & Independence for some, won by the gun. Then came the War of 1812; the Indian Wars; the Mexican American War; the American Civil War; the Spanish-American War; World War I & II; the Korean War; the Vietnam War; the Cold War; the War on crime; the military assaults on Panama City, Grenada, Haiti, Mogadishu, Somalia; the War on Drugs; the Gulf War I & II; the War on Terror; the War on Afghanistan.” According to the mainstream media, in the not too distant future, US troops will be deployed to as many as 35 African Nations. Any questions? Statistically speaking eight (8) children/youth, primarily those who reside in predominately poor Black and Hispanic inner-city communities are killed not once in a Blue Moon, but every single day as a tragic consequence of rampant gun-violence. We’re talking about roughly 2,290 funerals conducted every year for minority youth in America. On Dec. 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut twenty-seven human beings lost their only lives; twenty of which were promising little Kindergarten children. This evil is what it finally took for millions of voices from sea to shining sea to finally scream in on loud angry voice, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” Which epitomizes just how selectively empathetic certain Americans still are when it comes to the publicized value they place on some lives, in comparison to others. This same caliber of bias was witnessed back during the 1980’s when a deluge of devastating drugs were unleashed primarily into predominately poor minority inner-city communities. Consequently, a notably increase in gun-violence materialized as well. As it stands, it did not matter that such drugs were devastating families, children, human beings as if a terrible plague had been unleashed. Enough is Enough may have never been sounded had such drugs never seeped into predominately White, suburban middle-class communities. It is incumbent upon us all to keep all the hoopla about gunviolence in America in perspective. For starters, those who are primarily behind the gun control mumbo-jumbo, and shaking their fists about their Second Amendment rights and safety are not only predominately middle -class Whites. It is coming from the very sector of Americans who privately own the estimated 300 million known firearms in the US. It is those who reside in perhaps the safest, most gun-violence, crime and street-gang free communities in America. Ironically, it is within the confines of these American Mayberry communities that a generally the killing grounds for Mass Shooters. Since 1982, there have so far been sixty mass shootings. Please note a mass shooting is defined by the FBI as when an individual shoots four or more people, not including themselves in a single incident. Not to mention the standard profile of a mass shooter is a White male adult or juvenile. They are always an army of one, meaning they generally are armed with several weapons, 80% of which are legally purchased. Most striking mass shooters primarily indiscriminately victimize White middle class citizens. Therefore, it should be generally referred to as “White on White” gun-violence. On the other hand, the gun-violence regularly spotlighted by the media generally occurs within predominately poor inner-city Black and Hispanic communities, also known as “where those people live”

One of the worse case example of a US city ravaged by what generally amounts to “Black-on-Black”, “Brown-on-Brown” gun-violence saturates the Chicago’s streets with a river of blood. In 2012 alone, at least 500 human beings lost their lives to gun-violence in the “Windy City”, 75% of whom were Blacks and Hispanics. Go on-line and check out, “the;”. You figure it out for yourself. Quiet as it is kept whenever the mainstream media reports on gun-violence within predominately poor minority inner-city communities such incidents are usually classified as either “gang-on-gang related”. This basically means that such shootings are generally specific in their targets. Tit for tat shootings, in fact. Nonetheless a large number of small children and teenagers are caught in the cross-fire of this caliber of gun-violence each year. What is most astonishing and evidently the so-called experts are at a loss for words to rationalize, why mass shootings never seem to occur in these communities where gun-violence in America is most prevalent. As for the debate over gun-control and enacting so-called tougher gun laws. Such an agenda I notoriously ex parte. Simply because it primarily will apply to White Americans. Simply because they own and purchase the vast majority of firearms and ammunition that are stockpiled in homes across the US. Every time the media reports on “gun shows, gun stores, pistol or rifle ranges” you virtually never see Black people, and very few Hispanics. You certainly never see the types of individuals who primarily carry out gun-violence within the poor minority inner-city community context. Which is quite a phenomenon when you really take note. As it stands, the vast majority of firearms used to carry out rampant gun-violence within the poor minority innercity community context are obtained illegally, or through “straw purchases” which simply means a law-abiding citizen legally purchases a firearm for someone who plans to use it for criminal reasons. Keeping this in mind the gun-control debate, as well as whatever paper laws result from it will have very little bearing on gun-violence within predominately poor Black & Hispanic inner city communities where such madness is most rampant, simple because such firearms aren’t on the radar. There is also the issue of gun-violence and mental illness. First of all, it is evident that in the wake of especially mass shootings, firearm sales notably increase. In example since 2003 the state of Colorado has issued 120,000 conceal-carry gun permits. Since the Sihk Temple mass shooting in 2012, Wisconsin has issues some 122,500 conceal carry gun permits. And of course within a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy firearm sales in California and Connecticut skyrocketed. Not to mention NRA membership increased by 100,000 new gun owners. What this illustrates is many Americans who obtain firearms do so out of fear and paranoia. Keep in mind “paranoia” is defined as, “a mental disorder characterized by delusions, unreasonably distrustful, overly suspicious, having a persecution complex.” If it is highly probable that paranoia is the driving force in regards to why untold numbers of Americans feel the need to get their hands on firearms in the first place. What actual mindset consumes them to tip them beyond reasoning to ruthlessly gun another human being down? As it stands American society continues to embrace not only a blatant form of selective empathy towards victims of gun -violence. As to imply the certain victims lives are far more valuable and worthy of mass memorializing than a majority of others. There remains an almost hypocritical ambivalence concerning certain gun-violence compared to others, such as each year untold numbers of especially unarmed, non aggressive Black Americans are shot to death by law enforcement with full impunity. To say nothing of all the innocent men, women, and children victimized by gun violence in America’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Enough is Enough.


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say what ? . . . speak up! / writings of multiplicity
As human beings, we are beings of cognition. Our feelings and emotions are a necessity. A simplistic view leaves us to be afforded food, water and shelter in the USA, the Land of the Free, but it should (and doesn't automatically) include equality in education, the job market, and within the justice system, to name a few. Depending on who you ask, the perspective (s) of the definition of human rights is manipulated. Nevertheless, a human thrives under content circumstances. Therefore, whether it's the politicians' housing projects, health care and food stamp programs, or the super rich people calling for more tax cuts and fewer social programs, pushing everyday folks to seek their own piece of the pie or or Your publication is all about Human Rights, so we here at Muncy colsome other happening, the question is: “How do we pursue Dignity and lectively wanted to give our view on what we feel Human Rights are and follow it with an achievement of Happiness?” “How do we exist in how those lording over us need to be reminded of the fact. It is our hope Peace with our peers, while defending and upholding our basic necessithat with this article, that you all at HRC will start printing more of our ties?” “How do you take part in helping change the minds of lawmakers, writings and letting our voices be heard. and educate them on the inner workings to better our criminal justice system, thus bettering well-being of those behind bars, with regard to As “HUMAN RIGHTS” concerns that point of view which is morally use of constant disrespect, belittlement, and degradation, as well as the good, proper and/or legal for human beings, or the humane treatment of use of solitary confinement by PA's DOC?” Maybe stability and order a group of beings, we are asked to also be mindful of freedoms, choices, can be restored in the lives of countless human beings. Maybe the recidiequality, and conditions. vism rate would decrease.. maybe we can get back on solid footing.
The following was written by a group of women at SCI -Muncy, one of the two women's state prisons in Pennsylvania. Look forward to more of their writing in future issues of The Movement!"

What is Human Rights to You?

All mankind is born equal, with no one person or group better or worse than the next, therefore our human rights, no matter our race, age, ethnicity or religion, is what we're entitled to. They include our Freedoms to: 1. think what we will 2. believe what we will 3. love who we so desire 4. educate ourselves 5. help our fellow man 6. worship God or a Higher Power our way 7. not be held in Solitary Confinement indefinitely 8. to fight for our lives, AND 9. to make certain that our voices are heard OR exist and be absolutely quiet.. as the choice is our freedom. These rights that are supposed to be afforded all human beings without regard to any of the previously mentioned, nor class, financial status or mental and physical capabilities, and should protect those in free society as well as those in captivity from being targeted for their choices. Meaning, that no one should have to earn the right to be treated as a person. No one should constantly fear the threat of verbal, mental, or physical abuse or violations. No one can argue that we have to first know what being human is before we can truly understand human rights. We're made up of people- Human Beings.. Being-- which means the essence of existence. Human—with thought, feelings and capable of all types of actions. Through it all, there will be growth, via change, success, and failure, questions and answers, and hopefully there is also mutual respect and compassion across the board.

Human Rights aren't the sort of thing people need to read to know what they are. They are within us all.. embedded in our very souls.. what no one should be denied. They are the morals and values we live by.. the way we should be treated. The basics of bathing, exercising, communicating with family and friends, or even the media and our legal representatives, cannot be denied or held over our heads. Seeking medical assistance and answers shouldn't be dependent upon if we smoke, if we have a drug history, if we have a life sentence, what the doctor or nurse sitting there has personally dealt with, or any other outside factor. It should solely be about the symptoms you are describing to the so-called health care professional. Available time slots at the law library shouldn't take weeks to get, and assistance shouldn't be limited to being given by the often unskilled, in-training workers. A paralegal should be on staff and truly accessible. Inside these walls, a mass of different characters, from all different cultures, with varying experiences, are held. As such, the programming needs to incorporate the countless possible reasons for what contributed to so much crime and downfall.. so much loss. Programming cannot continue to be these cookie-cutter models that exist only for show. They need to be relevant to the issues of poverty, homelessness, recidivism, joblessness due to lack of skill, and discrimination against ex-convicts. These programs need to include real-life situations common to the masses, with outcomes as they've been revealed to us within the system, so that we can start to come up with effective solutions, rather than delusions and unrealistic yearnings based on someone else's life. Although decisions and choices we made and the people we associated with led us to imprisonment and enslavement, our identity as human beings should not only be recognized through a number. Too often, comments are made that are either racially disparaging, religiously offensive,
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say what ? . . . speak up! / writings of multiplicity
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gender oppressive, or number-related, and that needs to be abolished. No person needs to be made fun of for the way she speaks her native language, nor English. No one needs to be disrespected or ridiculed for proudly wearing her religious garb. Yes! Officers are bullies too! Knowing that you must strip and bare all in front of any random female officer on command is demeaning enough, but then you can't share food with your visitors and get scolded if your opening or parting hug is more than 30 seconds long—and we're to believe we have human rights! Until you lose all that the average person takes for granted, you'd never know how vital a hug can be to your daily stability, confidence and hope.. how priceless “quiet time” is, until you suffer through slamming doors, bells ringing, officers yelling and senseless chatter 24 hours a day.. how beautiful a horizon or sunrise is—until it's been obscured by barbed wire fencing, steel bars and endless concrete. For those who may be conflicted, because they still suffer at the hands of guilt over their crimes, human rights are for them too. Why? Because they have a right to be forgiven and shown compassion. They also have a right to be shown another way to solve their problems, far removed from crime, violence and death. They have a human right to want to be mentally, spiritually, and physically free. They have a right to desire to live anew. Every individual has made a choice that has resulted in someone else being wronged. Half of the time, it's been unintentional, while the other half someone knew what they were doing. Some have instantly been forgiven and afforded a “second chance”, others haven't been found out, while others still are dealing with the consequences of their words and/or actions. Such is this life.. the life of human beings. To those who are charitable, compassionate, merciful, and morally sound, I ask, “What are you contributing to our society's safety?” “What are you lending to the humanity of a future generation?” Please do not choose to be absolutely quiet, because what you have to say Counts. The human rights of every incarcerated individual, as well as of every one at risk, are dependent upon us exercising our voices, telling our stories, and dispelling the myths society holds dear about prison life.

The Birth of My Consciousness
By David Lee The year was 1989 and I was in the hole at CI-Dallas due to three back to back misconducts I had received, the first for refusing to take a seat in the chow hall. I had entered the chow hall with a friend named John Thompson, or JT, and while talking with him, a White dude skipped the next seat, which he was supposed to take, but he wanted to sit with his friend, so he skipped the seat, I did the same. The guard singles me out, and told me to take the seat, I refused. I did not say why I refused, but I just knew something was seriously wrong with the situation at hand. I did not possess the skills to articulate what was taking place as racist, but I knew something was not right. I ended up getting cell restriction for the misconduct, which I violated on two different occasions (because I did not feel as though I should have been written up in the first place), thus I ended up in the RHU, or the hole. Once I got to the hole I ended up on a block with an old head I use to play chess with in general population. He asked me did I need anything, I said no. Then he started asking me questions about things which I did not have any idea about. I do not remember the old heads name, but I do remember the name of one of the other old heads he was in conversation with at the time, his name was Maroon. I remembered the name because it stood out to me. They were having conversations about some complex subjects, such as communism, capitalism, socialism, etc. I had never been in such a conversation and could not offer anything relevant to the dialogue.

Later on Maroon had sent me a book dealing with Black Nationalism, I do not remember the name of the book because my mind was not ready to digest such concepts, and I did not then have enough sense to write the name down. But I do remember the affect those conversations had on my mind. For the first time, I wanted to take charge of my own destiny, from a mental standpoint. Up until that time, I had not given concepts of that nature any thought whatsoever, but now my mind was wide awake. I wanted to learn all about those concepts and more. Unlike in school where they discussed inert concepts, or nonsensical subject matters, those brothers were talking about living concepts. They were discussing our future, and the politics governing our lives. They talked about freedom, true freedom! I thought I was in another world. About two weeks later I ended up going to court from the hole, and having more time added on the life sentence I already had. The time was related to other charges in my conviction for a First Degree murder sentence. Charges We need everyone to KNOW that despite what prison we reside in, it is like instrument of crime, conspiracy, etc. The extra time did not matter NOT HOME, we are NOT COMFORTABLE, we do NOT WANT TO to me because I knew that the life sentence was beyond anything I could DIE HERE, and we aren't all savages who are fighting each other. We do, so adding more time was a complete waste of time and money. When I came back to Dallas I ended up on another block, I was upset ARE aging females, befriending, caring for and helping one another because I wanted more of those conversations which I was introduced to through the maze of corrections' love affair with Big Business, and the before my departure to the sentencing block. A few days later I was old-time thinking of “lock 'em up and throw away the key” which is back in population. Once in population I went to the library to get my draining the taxpayers, closing down schools, putting police and fire departments in jeopardy and allowing opportunistic rich people to laugh hands on a good book. I picked up a book titled ‘The African Origin of Civilization by Diop’. It was extremely complex, and it took months for at our justice system, deny more people basic human rights and further ne year later I read the book straight through, with ease. In population I corrupt a society they say there's no room for us in. Please tell me, where would meet a brother named Wakil who had a bunch of books he shared are the Human Rights? with me. There were other brothers like Mike, and Ron who would stimulate my mind in many ways as well. The conversations with those brothers were significant to my growing consciousness. *********************************
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that they’ve influenced my thinking. I would have to begin with Maroon! Thanks my brother – my elder! In addition I want to thank those sinister individuals down at the sentencing block for telling me that I was incapable of learning because they truly inspired me as well. Through my studies, I now realize what the real issue is, they are incapable of teaching. They are good at destroying lives, but not good at building lives because it requires vision toe a builder. Parochial minds cannot see the value in people that are different from them, thus they label them as incapable of learning, or give them some other negative labels intended to hold them back. I will also never forget some of the conversation with the brothers in those meetings, in which they've conveyed the importance of such dialogues. In today’s culture, the influence of elders like Maroon is needed more than ever because we’re in the era of the street novels. Disastrously people are more interested in fantasy than they are in reality, and I am not referring to reality television either. I am talking about the fact that we’re still in a struggle for real freedom, but many just do not understand this fact. I guess it is impossible to enter the fight, ready t fight , ready to fight, when you do not even realize that there is a fight in progress. Many fail to realize that there is a fight going on. The fight to develop our consciousness is a very serious fight which we must win. Far too much is at stake to lose this fight. Sadly it is an up hill battle because we are just to deep in our state of sleep. To paraphrase the ancestor Harriet Tubman, “in my life I’ve freed hundreds of slaves, and could have freed more, only if they knew they were slaves”. Hopefully someday soon, we will figure out that we’re still not free!

In time reading books dealing with our struggle for freedom became second nature, and I began to study Black Nationalism, communism, capitalism, socialism, and how racism played a major role in my life. Even though I did not know what racism meant, it was playing a role in the decisions I was making on the streets of North Philadelphia as an immature young male. Just as negative policies and concepts are playing a detrimental role in the lives of so many other young Black men and women in this country and beyond. Unfortunately without their knowledge, just as those concepts were beyond my scope as a young person. As I grew in my thinking, I realized that I had an obligation to teach other young brothers about the things I was introduced to as an immature young Black prisoner. Thus, along with some other others, we started a Youth Development Program at CI -Huntingdon. There are many brothers who worked to make the Youth Development Program a reality. Brothers like Tone, Bayah, Dame, Smoke, Ham, Jizza, Bern, Trump, etc. Over the years it evolved and became an influential tool in the development of young men at Huntingdon. At the beginning we use to meet in the yard with a few young brothers and discussed issues like family and community. For the first time brothers were having conversations about concepts which seem basic, but in actuality are far from basic. Issues like what is power, what is freedom, and do we as Black men in this country have freedom were at the center of our conversations. More young brothers started coming, and eventually we needed more space. Through the Lifers organization at Huntingdon, we began to meet on a monthly basis. The group kept growing, and ultimately some people in the organization did not like the growth of the program and began to undermine what was taking place. Small minds at work! To their credit, the leaders of the organization saw the value in the program and always supported us. Nevertheless, there were other influential people around who could not see the value of such a program, or they were jealous of our success, and they obviously had a lot of influence with the administration. Thus it all came to an end. As I move forward, I continue to learn from past mistakes, and successes, and with that knowledge I continue to work with young men around me. At least those interested in doing something constructive with their time. I’ve spent many hours, days, months, and years, with young men I love and care about like Jamal, Jonathan, Bern, and many others as I have tried to influence them in the same way that Maroon influenced me as a young man in the RHU, and hearing for the very first time Black men articulating our fight for freedom, in a powerful way. I do not know if I’ve had the same impact on them that Maroon had on me but I’ve done my very best, and the work continues to this very day. I realize that Russell Maroon Shoatz have met far too many young brothers over the course of his time in prison to possibly remember me, but I still want to thank him for helping to open my eyes! I ended up being kicked out of SCI-Dallas for my writings which the administration had confiscated and had to give back to me. The concepts that I wrote about made them refer to this street dude as a radical. I was amused because just a few years earlier, when I went to court to be sentenced for those related charges to the First Degree murder, I was told that I was incapable of learning. Yes, they told me that I had the mentality of a fourth grader, and that I was incapable of learning. However, they had no way of knowing that I had just left the presence of Black men in cells at Dallas discussing concepts that had forever opened my mind to the possibilities of empowerment , and freedom! They were too damn late with their evil form of trickery! The spirit of freedom had been infused in my soul, and will never be removed! I want to send my prayers and thanks out to all the brothers and sisters whom have influenced my thinking over the years. I just hope that I can continue to influence people to truly think about what freedom really is, and is not, the same way

Comic by Jacob Barrett C07320, Florida State Prison, see


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The Babylon System -

Bab.y.lon - noun, Etymology: Babylon, ancient city of Babylonia, 14th century, a city devoted to materialism and sensual pleasure, many liken Babylon to the United States, see Revelations 17 -18.

If any prisoner, family member, or community activist would like to submit an article that is critical of the state and county prison systems, courts, D.A. offices, police, capitalist corporate America, and the government, just forward your article to the HRC’s Newsletter Department for possible printing.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws
By: Matt Taibbi April 11, 2013 Despite the passage in late 2012 of a new state ballot initiative that prevents California from ever again giving out life sentences

to anyone whose "third strike" is not a serious crime, thousands of people – the overwhelming majority of them poor and nonwhite – remain imprisoned for a variety of offenses so absurd that any list of the unluckiest offenders reads like a macabre joke, a surrealistic comedy routine.

While Wall Street crooks walk, thousands sit in California prisons for life over crimes as trivial as stealing socks
On July 15th, 1995, in the quiet Southern California city of Whittier, a 33-year-old black man named Curtis Wilkerson got up from a booth at McDonald's, walked into a nearby mall and, within the space of two hours, turned himself into the unluckiest man on Earth. "I was supposed to be waiting there while my girlfriend was at the beauty salon," he says. So he waited. And waited. After a while, he paged her. "She was like, 'I need another hour,'" he says. "So I was like, 'Baby, I'm going to the mall.'" Having grown up with no father and a mother hooked on barbiturates, Wilkerson, who says he still boasts a Reggie Miller jumper, began to spend more time on the streets. After his mother died when he was 16, he fell in with a bad crowd, and in 1981 he served as a lookout in a series of robberies. He was quickly caught and sentenced to six years in prison. After he got out, he found work as a forklift operator, and distanced himself from his old life. But that day in the mall, something came over him. He wandered from store to store, bought a few things, still shaking his head about his girlfriend's hair appointment. After a while, he drifted into a department store called Mervyn's. Your typical chain store, full of mannequins and dress racks; they're out of business today. Suddenly, a pair of socks caught his eye. He grabbed them and slipped them into a shopping bag. What kind of socks were they, that they were worth taking the risk? "They were million-dollar socks with gold on 'em," he says now, laughing almost uncontrollably, as he tells the story 18 years later, from a telephone in a correctional facility in Soledad, California.
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Really, they were that special? "No, they were ordinary white socks," he says, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. "Didn't even have any stripes." Wilkerson never made it out of the store. At the exit, he was, shall we say, overenthusiastically apprehended by two security officers. They took him to the store security office, where the guards started to argue with each other over whether or not to call the police. One guard wanted to let him pay for the socks and go, but the other guard was more of a hardass and called the cops, having no idea he was about to write himself a part in one of the most absurd scripts to ever hit Southern California. Thanks to a brand-new, get-tough-on-crime state law, Wilkerson would soon be sentenced to life in prison for stealing a pair of plain white tube socks worth $2.50. Gangster Bankers Broke Every Law in the Book "No, sir, I was not expecting that one," he says now, laughing darkly. Because Wilkerson had two prior convictions, both dating back to 1981, the shoplifting charge counted as a third strike against him. He was sentenced to 25 years to life, meaning that his first chance for a parole hearing would be in 25 years. And given that around 80 percent of parole applications are rejected by parole boards, and governors override parole boards in about 50 percent of the instances where parole is granted, it was a near certainty that Wilkerson would never see the outside of a prison again. The state also fined him $2,500 – restitution for the stolen socks. He works that off by putting in four to five hours a day in the prison cafeteria, for which he gets paid $20 a month, of which the state takes $11. At this rate, he will be in his nineties before he's paid the state off for that one pair of socks. As for the big question – does he ever wish he could go back in time and wait it out in that McDonald's for another hour, instead of 18 years in the California prison system? – Wilkerson, who has learned to laugh, laughs again. "Man," he says, "I think about that every single day." Wilkerson is unlucky, but he's hardly alone. Despite the passage in late 2012 of a new state ballot initiative that prevents California from ever again giving out life sentences to anyone whose "third strike" is not a serious crime, thousands of people – the overwhelming majority of them poor and nonwhite – remain imprisoned for a variety of offenses so absurd that any list of the unluckiest offenders reads like a macabre joke, a surrealistic comedy routine. Have you heard the one about the guy who got life for stealing a slice of pizza? Or the guy who went away forever for lifting a pair of baby shoes? Or the one who got 50 to life for helping himself to five children's videotapes from Kmart? How about the guy who got life for possessing 0.14 grams of meth? That last offender was a criminal mastermind by Three Strikes standards, as many others have been sentenced to life for holding even smaller amounts of drugs, including one poor sap who got the max for 0.09 grams of black-tar heroin. This Frankenstein's monster of a mandatory-sentencing system isn't just some localized bureaucratic accident, but the legacy of a series of complex political choices we all made as voters decades ago. California's Three Strikes law has its origins in a terrible event from October 1993, when, in a case that outraged the entire country, a violent felon named Richard Allen Davis kidnapped and murdered an adolescent girl named Polly Klaas. Californians were determined to never again let a repeat offender get the chance to commit such a brutal crime, and so a year later, with the Klaas case still fresh in public memory, the state's citizens passed Proposition 184 – the Three Strikes law – with an overwhelming 72 percent of the vote. Under the ballot initiative, anyone who had committed two serious felonies would effectively be sentenced to jail for life upon being convicted of a third crime. On Daily Beast: California Death Penalty Survives, Three Strikes Cut Back The overwhelming support for the measure touched off a nationwide get-tough-on-crime movement, embraced especially by third-way-style Democrats, who seized upon the policy idea as a powerful weapon in their efforts to throw off their party's bleeding -heart image and recapture the political center. Having seen their wonk-geekish 1988 presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis, expertly exploded by the infamous Willie Horton ad cooked up by Republican strategist Lee Atwater – an ad that convinced voters that the Democrats were the party of scary-looking black rapists on furlough – Democrats had spent years searching for a way to send Middle America a different message. Three Strikes was a perfect way to convey that new message. The master triangulator himself, Bill Clinton, stumped for a national Three Strikes law in his 1994 State of the Union address. When a federal version passed a year later, Clinton took special care to give squeamish wuss-bunny liberals a celebratory kick in the ear, using the same "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" rhetorical technique George W. Bush would make famous a few years later. "Narrow-interest groups on the left and the right didn't want the bill to pass," Clinton beamed, "and you can be sure the criminals didn't either." A national craze was born. By the late Nineties, 24 states and the federal government had some kind of Three Strikes law. Not all are as harsh as the California law, but they all embrace the basic principle of throw-away-the-key mandatory sentencing for the incorrigible recidivist.
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Once California's Three Strikes law went into effect at midnight on March 8th, 1994, it would take just nine hours for it to claim its first hapless victim, a homeless schizophrenic named Lester Wallace with two nonviolent burglaries on his sheet, who attempted to steal a car radio near the University of Southern California campus. Wallace was such an incompetent thief that he was still sitting in the passenger seat of the car by the time police arrived. He went to court and got 25 years to life. In prison, Wallace immediately became a target. He was sexually and physically attacked numerous times – there's an incident in his file involving an inmate who told him, "Motherfucker, I'll kill you if you don't let me go up in you." He was switched to protective custody, and over the years he has suffered from seizures and developed severe back problems (forcing him to walk with a cane) and end-stage renal disease (leading to dialysis treatments three times a week). And even months after California voters chose to reform the law, the state still won't agree to release him. "He's a guy who's literally dying," says Michael Romano, director of Stanford's Three Strikes program and a key figure in the effort to reform the law, "and he's still inside." Wallace's conviction set off a cascade of preposterous outsize sentences of nonviolent petty criminals. In many of these cases, the punishments were not just cruel and disproportionate, but ridiculously so. Oftentimes, the absurdity would end up being compounded by the fact that there would be another case just like it, or five just like it, or 10 just like it. They began to blend together, and if you could keep track of them at all, it was only in shorthand. Lester Wallace became the schizophrenic-on-dialysis-who-stole-a-car-radio case, not to be confused with Gary Ewing, the blind-in-one-eye AIDS patient, who died in prison last summer while serving 25 to life for the limping-out-of-a-sporting-goods-store-with-three-golf- clubs-stuffed-down- hispant-leg case. In that one, the Supreme Court decided life for shoplifting wasn't cruel and unusual punishment, with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor defending the sentence as a "rational judgment, entitled to deference." She added, with a straight face, that the Supreme Court does "not sit as a 'superlegislature' to second-guess" the states, despite the fact that that's precisely what the Supreme Court has been doing for almost 250 years. There are at least two life-for-stealingpizza cases. The most famous is Jerry Dewayne Williams, who got 25 to life after stealing a slice from a bunch of kids near Redondo Beach but was released after a paltry five years because of public furor. Still imprisoned, however, is one Shane Taylor, whose first two strikes came from a pair of nobody's-home residential burglaries committed in a single two-week stretch in 1988. In both of these crimes, the only thing taken was a checkbook from one of the houses (in the other residence, nothing was missing, but Taylor's fingerprint was found). With that checkbook, Taylor did exactly one thing: He bought a pizza with a forged check. Eight years later, Taylor was standing outside his car, drinking beer and listening to tunes with his brother -in-law and a friend at a vista point in the little town of Porterville, near Sequoia National Forest, when a police car drove up. Officers investigated because they said they thought Taylor and his pals looked underage. They said they flashed a light on his front seat and spotted a baggie protruding from Taylor's wallet. They grabbed the bag and claimed they found 0.14 grams of meth – the equivalent of a tenth of a sugar packet. Taylor went on to become one of the rare Three Strikes defendants to remain free on bail, even after his conviction. A month later, at his sentencing hearing, presiding Judge Howard Broadman was stunned to see Taylor voluntarily show up to be sent away for life over a few grains of meth. "I never expected to see you again, frankly," he said. "I thought a lot about you. And I said, 'Jeez, if I were him, I'd do research and find out what country didn't have extradition laws, because I don't think I'd have showed back up.'" Broadman had no choice but to impose a 25-years-to-life sentence, but he made an unusual move to extend Taylor's bail, pending appeal. For the next two years, Taylor worked and supported his family. Taylor lost his appeal, and surrendered himself to begin serving his sentence in 1998. More than a decade later, Broadman had an attack of conscience and called Romano at Stanford. "I'm a conservative, tough-on-crime kind of guy," he later explained, but "Shane Taylor was a mistake." Broadman wrote a declaration on behalf of Taylor, supporting his petition for release. But Taylor is still in jail, three full years after the judge had his come-to-Jesus moment. When I spoke to Taylor by phone from Soledad correctional facility, the dominant emotion in his voice was sheer amazement. "It's baffling to me that I'm still in here," he says. "Even the judge says he's done me wrong." As for why he did show up in court all those years ago, he says it's simple: "I'm not the type to run out on my family," he says. "And honestly? I never thought I'd get 25 years." Three Strikes turned out to be not only an abject failure but also a terrible embarrassment to the state of California. Politics and the law coincided to create a yin-yang cycle of endless, expensive stupidity: District attorneys were terrified of the political consequences of not seeking the max for every possible third strike (even when the cases were "wobblers," what lawyers call a crime that could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances, like petty theft), while judges were legally bound to impose maximum sentences whether they agreed with them or not. Things got so bad so fast in California's prisons, in fact, that the Supreme Court was ultimately forced to declare the state in violation of the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment, with Justice Anthony Kennedy citing the use of "telephone -booth-size cages without toilets" as one of the reasons he was ordering the state to slash its 140,000-plus prison population by more than 30,000 inmates. That decision came in 2011; a lower court had previously noted that it was an "uncontested fact" that a prisoner in California died once every six or seven days due to "constitutional deficiencies." Where some saw Three Strikes as a moral outrage, others seized on the financial burdens. Conceived as a way to keep child molesters in jail for life, Three Strikes more often became the world's most expensive and pointlessly repressive homeless-care program. It costs the state about $50,000 per year to care for every prisoner, even more when the inmate is physically or mentally disabled – and some 40 percent of three-strikers are either mentally retarded or mentally ill. "Homeless guys on drugs, that was your typical third-striker," says Romano. "And not that the money is the issue, but you could send hundreds of deserving people to college for the amount of money we were spending."
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The typical third-striker wasn't just likely to be homeless and/or mentally ill – he was also very likely to be black. In California, blacks make up seven percent of the population, 28 percent of the prison population and 45 percent of the three -strikers. Like wars, forest fires and bad marriages, really stupid laws are much easier to begin than they are to end. As the years passed and word of great masses of nonviolent inmates serving insanely disproportionate terms began to spread in the legal community, it became clear that any attempt to repair the damage done by Three Strikes would be a painstaking, ungainly process at best. The fear of being tabbed "soft on crime" left politicians and prosecutors everywhere reluctant to lift their foot off the gas pedal for even a moment, and before long the Three Strikes punishment machine evolved into something that hurtled forward at light speed, but moved backward only with great effort, fractions of a millimeter at a time. The first break in the struggle against the law came in 2000, when Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, a hardcore Three Strikes advocate (you may remember him as the blow-dried shock-white head of hair who quarterbacked the O.J. Simpson case into one of the most embarrassing losses ever suffered by an American prosecutor's office), lost a re-election bid to his former deputy, Steve Cooley, who campaigned against Garcetti's embrace of the Three Strikes law. A month later, Cooley signed a special order indicating that his office – the largest prosecutor's office in America – would no longer seek maximum sentences for minor offenders. Cooley's unofficial reform would later provide the framework for the Proposition 36 ballot initiative that changed the law. Around this same time, Romano, a Stanford Law grad who was clerking for a federal judge in Seattle, came across a pair of California cases that disturbed him greatly. One involved a Mexican immigrant sent to prison for life for taking the written portion of a DMV exam for a cousin who didn't speak English. In the other, a man named Willie Joseph received a life sentence after helping an undercover policeman set up a $5 crack deal. "That case stuck with me," says the bespectacled, quick-witted Romano. "Willie didn't hurt anybody in those offenses." Romano eventually left his clerking job and returned to Stanford Law, with the idea of doing something about Three Strikes. There, he met up with professor David Mills, senior lecturer at the school, who was in the process of founding Stanford's renowned clinical-education program, in which law students do active work in multiple disciplines – everything from Supreme Court litigation to prosecuting criminal cases. Mills is a man of big plans and big ideas, a sort of entrepreneurial intellectual who not only co-chairs the NAACP legal-defense fund but has also built several successful private businesses in the financial sector. Like Romano, Mills had hated Three Strikes from the start. But he also knew that, in the age of mass media and the sound bite, fixing the law would be a heavy lift. "It's very easy to say, 'Three strikes and you're out,'" he says. "It's a lot harder to say, 'Well, wait a minute – do you mean three strikes, or do you mean three serious strikes? And what do you mean by "serious"?'" Mills, Romano and Stanford decided to put together a Three Strikes program as part of the university's clinical curriculum, the idea being that the school would represent inmates serving Three Strikes sentences and try to reverse or at least scale some of them back. Initially, the school saw this mainly as a teaching opportunity for students, but as Romano learned about what Cooley was up to in L.A., he saw an opportunity for something bigger. Cooley, in 2005, had ordered a review of Three Strikes cases – statewide, nearly 40 percent of them originated in L.A. County – and his staff came up with a list of some 60 names of inmates who had likely been oversentenced. Perhaps, Romano thought, Cooley's office would work with Stanford to help fix some of those cases. He reached out to his office and the two groups immediately found common ground. There was even discussion at one point about Stanford working within the district attorney's office to reverse old cases, but that was ultimately discarded in order to preserve the traditional adversarial legal structure – which made sense because, among other things, Cooley didn't agree with Stanford about every single nonviolent inmate. Ultimately, the DA agreed that if the Stanford group challenged some of the more absurd Three Strikes cases, his office, on a select basis, might not oppose their efforts. In the program's initial stages, the Stanford team operated by filing habeas-corpus motions, asking courts to rule on whether or not this or that prisoner had been unlawfully detained. One of the first cases they took up involved a homeless man from Long Beach named Norman Williams, who had been on the list of 60 potentially excessive sentences uncovered in Cooley's 2005 review. Williams had an IQ of 71, had been placed in classes for the "educable mentally retarded" as a child, had suffered horrific physical and sexual abuse (including being forced into prostitution as a boy to "pay for [his] mother's wine"), and had been homeless and addicted to crack most of his adult life. He'd never committed a violent crime, and his third strike was stealing road flares and a floor jack from a tow truck. Police caught him when they spotted him wheeling a baby buggy full of stuff near the crime scene. Williams was sent to California's notorious Folsom State Prison ("You don't want to go visit" is his description), where he learned to mind his own business, abide by the rules (no sitting with whites or Mexicans at meals) and pass the years in a nine-by-six cell. If Curtis Wilkerson is the unluckiest man on Earth, Norman Williams might have been the loneliest. In the 10 years he spent in prison, Williams never had a single visitor until the Stanford people came to see him about his case. He describes the first time he saw the Folsom visiting room the way a tourist might describe a first visit to the Sistine Chapel or the Taj Mahal. "I had never been in there before," he says now. "I saw all them vending machines....I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing.'" Cooley's office didn't oppose Stanford's motion to reconsider Williams' sentence, and he was freed in 2008. (He now lives in Palo Alto and works as a manager of a street-cleaning crew.)

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Inch by inch, bit by bit, the courts slowly began to release more prisoners like Williams. Often, the Stanford lawyers would seek to have sentences reduced or reconsidered based on what some might term legal technicalities, with ineffective assistance of counsel being a common argument. But in a broader sense, the Stanford team was relying upon an innovative new legal argument they themselves invented. "The hypertechnical legal term," says Romano, "is the 'You've gotta be kidding me' motion." As in, 25 years to life for stealing a pair of socks? You've gotta be kidding me. Life for stealing baby shoes? You've gotta be kidding me. It didn't happen all that often, but Cooley occasionally agreed where Garcetti had not. This was interesting for one conspicuous reason. "Garcetti was a Democrat," says Mills. "And Cooley was a Republican. It's not what you'd expect, but with Three Strikes, everything turns out to be backward." Mills and Romano would learn this lesson in a big way when they decided to aim higher than just freeing individual prisoners one at a time. From the very beginning, there had always been significant opposition – from members of both parties – to the dumber aspects of the Three Strikes law. As far back as 1994, when the original ballot initiative was first being planned, everyone from Gov. Pete Wilson to Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block to the California District Attorneys Association supported versions of the law that required the third strike to be a violent or serious crime. But in the end, many California pols caved to public pressure and supported the more brutal version of the law rather than risk being labeled "soft on crime" – an attitude famously symbolized by the then-California Assembly speaker, the well-known liberal Willie Brown, who in early 1994 gave up his opposition to Three Strikes: "I got out of the way of this train," he said. "I tell you, I looked like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. I got out of the way because I'm a realist." Ten years later, when a group called Families to Amend California's Three Strikes, or FACTS, tried to reform the law, it was the same story. They fought to get an initiative onto the ballot, Proposition 66. Two weeks before Election Day, a Los Angeles Times poll showed the measure winning by a nearly three-to-one margin. But days before the vote, an Orange County billionaire named Henry T. Nicholas donated $1.5 million for a major ad buy. Soliciting the support of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his predecessors – including Democrats Jerry Brown and Gray Davis – the anti-Prop 66 camp ran a series of scare ads, including one called "He Raped Me," which showed a middle-aged white woman claiming the initiative would release her attacker, and Polly Klaas' father promising that "murderers, rapists and some very dangerous child molesters" would be released thanks to the new law. It wasn't Willie Horton – the mug shots shown in the ad were mostly all of scary-looking white criminals – but it was in the rhetorical ballpark. Jerry Brown flew to Long Beach at Nicholas' request, where he recorded anti-Prop 66 radio ads at a studio belonging to Ryan Shuck, guitarist of the rock group Orgy, while Korn drummer David Silveria looked on. The last-minute bipartisan ad blitz worked, and Prop 66 lost by a slim 53-to-47 margin, a come-from-behind win that one pollster at the time called "unprecedented." Over the next few years, the Stanford Three Strikes program continued to pull prisoners out of jail one by one, freeing more than two dozen people between 2009 and 2012. But it was a laborious process, each case taking hundreds of hours. "I came to Mike," says Mills of Romano, "and I said, 'We can't do this one-off anymore. We have thousands of people in there.'" So they came up with the idea of doing another ballot initiative, one that would be laser-focused on correcting what they saw as the most serious defect of the law: requiring that an inmate's third strike be a serious crime. The surprise came when Mills went looking to raise money for what he expected would be a hard-fought campaign. "I could not get any liberals to give me any money," he says. Mills did find one donor – George Soros – but that was it. In the end, more than 90 percent of the campaign was funded by two people: Soros and Mills himself. Meanwhile, the campaign was having astonishing success attracting support from conservatives, even hardass law-and-order types. The very father of modern zero-tolerance, brokenwindows-policing techniques, William Bratton – the former chief of both the New York and Los Angeles police departments who had built his career around the idea that cracking down on minor crimes like subway-fare jumping and vandalism would reduce violent crime overall – backed Prop 36. "The Three Strikes approach," he said, "has political appeal for dealing with repeat offenders." But, he added, "Evidence has shown limited impact on crime levels." Former Reagan Cabinet member George Shultz was another supporter, as was Reagan's attorney general, the anti-porn crusader Ed Meese. And, shockingly, so was Grover Norquist, the anti-tax mullah to many extreme-right causes. Norquist called California's law "big government at its worst," and added that "nonviolent offenders should be punished – but conservatives should insist the punishments are fair." The many conservative endorsements, along with numerous endorsements of prominent California law-enforcement figures, went a long way toward helping the proposition finally pass in November. The people who led the campaign remember their election-night victory with great fondness, but the whole experience was a bit bittersweet, at least for Mills, who seems scarred by the failure of liberals to stand up for the Norman Williamses of the world. "They'd say things like, 'I hear you, but I really care about environmental causes, education for the poor,'" Mills says. "What it came down to, though, is that these people just don't care about the poor people of color who are locked up, and would as soon see them not released." Romano tends to look more on the bright side and seems more focused on the big picture, which is that the measure passed and thousands of people finally have a chance to get out of jail. But he does have some thoughts about the politics of what happened. "I think some liberals overlearned the Willie Horton lesson," he says. "But I hope what we did is prove that this political third rail is no longer electric."
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Prop 36 might have been a great victory, but it didn't mean that all the unjustly imprisoned were immediately freed. In fact, while 156 inmates have been released, 2,844 nonviolent three-strikers remain behind bars. Worse, due to a quirk in the methodology by which California is complying with a federal order to reduce its prison population, there are many murderers and rapists getting out of jail more quickly than three-strikers. The state's method of emptying its overcrowded prisons was to give out lots of "good time" to prisoners with long sentences – in other words, accelerate a wellbehaved prisoner's march to a parole hearing. But three-strikers cannot get "good time," they only get "straight time" – meaning 25 years is always 25 years. The only way out for them is still through a long, slow court process, one in which the state often fights release with a Frazier-in-Manila refusetolose desperation. In December 2010, a mentally disabled 53-year-old prisoner named Dale Curtis Gaines received a letter in his cell at the California Medical Facility, a prison for medically needy inmates in Vacaville, California. Meek of character and heavily medicated for years by prison doctors, Gaines had difficulty comprehending even the simplest things, but he had been pretty close to a model prisoner. In his 13 years behind bars, he had four minor infractions on his inmate record, one of which was refusing to give prison doctors a DNA sample. The reason? Gaines was afraid the state was going to clone him. Gaines had never committed a violent crime. He was homeless and indigent for much of his life, and his third strike had come in 1997, when he was caught in possession of some computers stolen from an American Cancer Society office. Prior to that, he had two petty residential burglaries on his rap sheet. He struck out on the stolen-computers case and got the usual with extra fries, 27 to life. Anyway, he opened the letter and was surprised to see it was from Ann GallagherWhite, the woman who had prosecuted him 13 years before: Dear Mr. Gaines, I hope this letter finds you well. You may recognize my name and recall that I tried your case on behalf of the County of Sonoma. I had probably been with the District Attorney's office for about four years at that time....I have always felt that your sentence was harsh, given your crime. Over the years, it has been on my mind as a case I regretted having been assigned to handle.... White, who a decade before had scoffed at the idea that Gaines was at the "lower end of the mental scale in terms of the continuum" and insisted that Gaines was, in fact, "an opportunist of a more sophisticated caliber," went on in the letter to recommend that Gaines get in touch with the Stanford program through his original attorney. She had left the prosecutor's office and was working as a public defender at the time. Not comprehending the importance of the letter from his old prosecutor, Gaines promptly forgot about the whole thing. When the Stanford lawyers reached out to him a year later on their own initiative, they were stunned to discover the letter from White, and even more surprised to find that White, who had since gone back to work for the prosecutor's office, wouldn't take their calls. "To look at those documents side by side," says Emily Murphy, a Stanford law student who worked on Gaines' case, "it made us think about what it means for prosecutors to do their jobs and to zealously advocate on behalf of the state." More than two years after Gaines first received the "I'm sorry" letter from his prosecutor, he was still behind bars. When I met him at the Sonoma County Jail – in a surreal visiting room where prisoners sit in darkness, appearing as silhouettes in small glass-and-concrete cubicles, while visitors in fully lit chambers yell at them through small, waist-high mesh screens – he was so out of it he could barely grasp the most basic questions. It took nearly five minutes for him to explain to his lawyers that he still hadn't had a shower at this new jail (he'd been transferred there for a court hearing) and that the local doctors had changed his meds. Gaines' Stanford lawyers were a little troubled by the new medication. "Dale, do you know what they gave you?" asked Jessica Spencer, a law student who was now working his case. Gaines shrugged. All you could see behind the glass were his teeth as he incongruously smiled at the question. "Was it for something physical, or mental?" Spencer asked. He thought about that. "Something...mental," he whispered. It would later turn out that in order for Gaines' jail doctors to consult with his normal prison doctors, he needed to make a request in writing. The only problem was, he had no paper. This issue had come up before, when Gaines tried to apply for acceptance into a post-release program. The only way to get paper was something straight out of Catch-22: He had to make a request – in writing. Despite all this, the DA seemed to oppose Gaines' release, quoting an old report that said the "subject appears to be an easygoing man of limited natural abilities. However, it would appear that, in reality, he is an extremely sophisticated criminal who preys on charitable institutions." Nevertheless, the court ignored the prosecutor and ordered Gaines released. Justice was served. It only took 16 years. This gets to the heart of what went wrong in America in the years following the mandatory-sentencing and Three Strikes crazes. We removed the human element from the justice process and turned our courts into giant unthinking machines for sweeping our problem citizens under a rug. And it isn't just in California, but all over the country, where there are countless instances of outrageous and brutal mandatory sentences for relatively minor crimes. Often, they're so ridiculous that even the judges imposing them publicly denounce them, like a 1997 Florida case in which a 27-year-old black woman named Stephanie George was given life for holding her boyfriend's cocaine stash. "Your role has basically been as a girlfriend," said Judge Roger Vinson, "so it does not warrant a life sentence." But Vinson had no choice, just like Massachusetts Judge Judd Carhart had no choice when he gave 48-year-old Michaelene Sexton 10 years for selling coke ("Ten years is an awful long time," the judge said. "When I look at this case compared to
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crimes of violence, I wonder"), or federal Judge James Todd, who gave a Texas pool-hall owner named Mike Mahoney 15 years for buying a gun 14 years after he was convicted for selling meth ("It seems to me, this sentence is just completely out of proportion to the defendant's conduct," said the judge). Why did all of this happen? Some of this has its roots in a complex political calculation, in which the Democratic Party in the Clinton years made a Faustian bargain, deciding to abandon its old role as a defender of unions and the underprivileged, embrace more Wall Street -friendly deregulatory policies, and compete for the political center by pushing for more street cops, tougher sentences and the end of welfare – the same thing the Republicans were already doing. By the mid-Nineties, neither party was really representing, for lack of a better term, the fucked, struggling poor. The end result of this political shift was an unprecedented explosion of the American prison population, from just more than a million people behind bars in the early Nineties to 2.2 million today. Less than five percent of the world's people live in the United States, but we are home to about 25 percent of the world's prisoners, a shocking number. Another result was that instead of dealing with problems like poverty, drug abuse and mental illness, we increasingly just removed them all from view by putting them in jail. It's not an accident that so many of the most ridiculous Three Strikes cases are semicoherent homeless people or people with drug problems who came from broken homes. It wasn't a cost-efficient way of dealing with these issues – in fact, in California at least, it was an insanely, almost criminally expensive burden on taxpayers – but it was effective enough as a way of keeping the uglier schisms of our society hidden from view. But these cases are resurfacing now, in "Tell-Tale Heart" fashion, to point an accusatory finger at us for the choices we made decades ago. In California, it wasn't just people like Judge Broadman or Ann Gallagher White who had attacks of conscience. The prosecutor in the Shane Taylor case had a similar change of heart. Ross Stores sent a letter supporting the release of a man who was sent away for life for stealing a pair of its baby shoes. There were numerous others. And in a way, the success of Prop 36 was an attempt by the whole state to make right nearly two decades of past wrongs. The fact that some progress toward scaling back these draconian laws involving the poor and underprivileged is finally being made is coming at a time when there is an emerging controversy over the conspicuous nonpunishment of big bankers, notorious subprime lenders (many of them Californians) and other wealthy offenders is probably not an accident. One of the interesting results of the polling Mills commissioned last summer was that California voters were surprisingly unmoved by the issue of the cost of incarcerating Three Strikes inmates. "But they were intensely interested in the issue of fairness," says Mills. "That's one of the things we found out: People will pay for justice, no matter how much it costs. But it has to be fair." Obviously, people who commit crimes should be punished. Even people who steal socks and Snow White videos should probably do time if they have priors, especially serious priors. But the punishment has to fit the crime, and the standard has to be the same for everyone. If a homeless crack addict like Norman Williams is going to get time for stealing road flares, they should leave the top bunk in his cell open for the guy who laundered money for the Sinaloa drug cartel at HSBC. "People get so hung up on the concept of innocence," says Mills. "But it's intellectually uninteresting. What does matter is how we treat the guilty, and that's where we still have work to do." Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to Most Popular - See more at:


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FALL 2013 (ISSUE # 20)