Finally, the bogus censorship of our newsletter has been exposed. Finally, a prisoner went all the way through the process and into Federal Court. Finally, claims of “Threat to Security” and “Item Contains Contraband” and “Item suggests behavior that would violate the law…,” have been given their proper response from the courts – Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Judge Crabb said that the reasons Dan Westfield gave for censoring our newsletter were “not valid”, his response was “exaggerated”, and his “censorship is not logically connected to penological interests.”
Lorenzo Johnson sued the DOC Security Director Dan Westfield for his censoring of our March 2007 newsletter. Our May 2008 issue was at first denied but later delivered to all subscribers after the May 28th ruling by Judge Crabb. Trial for damages is scheduled for July 21 and Mr. Johnson is now represented by attorney Jeff Scott Olson.
To read the Court’s Opinion look up 07-cv-390-bbc.
We’ve received some comment from prisoners. SP at WSPF says, “we don’t need the newsletter to foster disrespect of staff; they do that themselves.”
One major “problem” Security Chief Westfield had with our newsletter (and he mentioned this to me over the phone once) is that the newsletter “offered no hope.” I can well understand, from Westfield’s perspective, how hope might play an integral part in keeping order in the institutions. The hope that Dan Westfield wants a prisoner to hang onto is that the institution will provide training and (re)programming and prepare him/her for release, that the institution will act fairly and listen to complaints, or provide adequate health care or give an honest evaluation at parole These are false hopes and, if accepted, lead to complacency (order in Westfield’s view) and inaction (security in institution speak). REAL hope and REAL solutions are not offered by the institutions, REAL hope comes with action taken on your own behalf for your own dignity and for the collective well being.
This brings me to PAM. Get your people involved. The group is growing and on the verge of becoming a serious movement. They are planning a demonstration at DOC headquarters this fall. They are strategizing on how to lobby our legislators in the next session. They are a legitimate focus for your hopes, REAL hopes, not false hopes. They can become a REAL counter balance to the DOCs arrogance of power.
Remember the “merry-go-round” article in the May newsletter? Well, Judge Richard O. Wright was convinced by Attorney Erik Johnson (case # 98-CF-14) that the Parole Commission is usurping judicial intent. He’s convinced that prisoner Drew is being kept longer than he intended when sentenced. The judge granted a sentence modification and in effect knocked eight years off of Drew’s sentence.
Judge Wright is convinced and any fair minded judge would agree, prisoners are being held longer than the sentencing judges intended. The claim of parole commissioners that a prisoner has not served enough time for punishment is completely bogus and exceeds the authority of the Commission. Who made them God?
We have documents that show how the Federal Government gave the State millions dollars as long as they kept “violent” criminals behind bars for longer periods of time. You can thank Bill Clinton for that mess. These Federal incentives to incarcerate and hold prisoners longer was set in place in the 1990’s. Graham and the current commissioners are not the designers of these plots but, they are chosen for the ideology they embrace – “tough on crime”.
The entire DOC is run by and filled with former cops, prosecutors, DAs and cop wanna-be’s. Penology, education, rehabilitation, training and preparation are foreign to their ideology. They believe in punishment as a solution to social ills, drug addiction and mental illness. The programs they administer are eye wash and halfhearted attempts at doing something they don’t want to do. Until the public becomes weary of spending money to warehouse “criminals” and the legislature feels the pressure, the DOC will never fill its mandated mission to protect the public.
How the “blue wall” closes ranks when one of it’s own is accused is clearly shown by our comrade Dujuan Walker in his piece titled “Legal Terrorism”. Dujuan has remained committed to the struggle – after release. He will never forget what he suffered behind those walls and he is determined to expose the rot. His voice is critical to our struggle. We need more released prisoners to join the fight.
If you fell for the hype and signed up to go to Supermax, don’t worry, in 2010 they say they’re going to start building outdoor recreation and a visiting center. You’ll still be stuck in a tiny cell with no storage, no real work opportunities, no classrooms and one step away from the dungeons, but hey, your folks can drive three hours from Milwaukee for a short visit; what more do you want?
We’re still struggling along for funding and we have enclosed a subscription form on the last page. We will accept cash, checks, postage stamps, income tax rebates, sincere promises, and portions of any awards won from litigating against the DOC. If you think it’s important that you have a voice reaching out to the public; a voice sending a message of truth and real hope, send us a little change. Now that our message is more likely to get through the censors; now that PAM is on the move, now is the time to step up.
Whether or not we answer every letter or print every submission, rest assured, we read every report from the dark side. Without your letters we can’t know what’s happening behind the concrete and razor wire. We are a conduit from you to the public, the legislature, the press and legal community. Keep the information coming. We will protect your identity if you ask us to.
in the struggle,
Federal Judge James Doyle: “I am persuaded that the institution of prison must end. In many respects it is as intolerable within the United States as was the institution of slavery, equally brutalizing to all involved, equally toxic to the social system, equally subversive to the brotherhood of man, even more costly by some standards, and probably less rational.”
Supermax: Psychiatrist alleges Dept. of Corrections retaliation
Narinder K. Saini says refusal to change inmate’s diagnosis cost him his job
Bill Lueders 5/22/08
A veteran state psychiatrist testified in court last year that he was asked to change the diagnosis of a state prison inmate and fired because he refused.
Narinder K. Saini, a state employee since 1990, dropped this bombshell in a Dodge County courtroom last July at the sentencing hearing of former Lodi resident Brian Locke. He stated that in mid-2004, he was asked by his boss, Dr. Kevin Kallas, to agree that Locke did not have a bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness, “so he could be sent successfully to Boscobel.”
At the time, Saini was in his 10th year of employment with the state Department of Corrections, then under a court order not to use the supermaximum security prison at Boscobel for patients with serious mental illness.
“[Kallas] asked me to change the diagnosis because they knew if I will not change the diagnosis, [Locke] cannot go to Supermax,” Saini testified. “I refused to do that.”
Saini knew Locke from previous contacts and felt he had been correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He said Kallas was “not happy with my clinical diagnosis” and overruled him, sending Locke to Boscobel, but that another doctor who also knew Locke’s medical history ordered his return. Shortly thereafter, “I was terminated by the DOC…for mishandling the case, not cooperating with them.”
The DOC, Saini added, cut Locke off medications that had proved effective in the past. Why would it do this? he was asked. “Save money,” he replied.
Saini said he tried restoring these medications but “was not allowed to.”
The DOC wanted to send Locke to Boscobel because he had assaulted a guard, the incident for which he was being sentenced. At the hearing, Saini suggested the assault owed at least in part to Locke being taken off his medication.
Dodge County Judge Andrew Bissonette, in sentencing Locke to an additional five years in prison, noted that he had, prior to this incident, been “complaining to staff that he was being deprived of the meds he needed.” The judge called Saini’s testimony “kind of damning to the DOC,” adding that the agency “has a responsibility to provide care to all of its inmates so we don’t have incidents like this where staff are injured.”
DOC spokesman John Dipko calls Saini’s testimony “inaccurate on nearly every count. The Department of Corrections does not withhold necessary medication from inmates because of cost, and the department does not fabricate documentation to send inmates to [Boscobel].”
Brian Locke, now 50 and incarcerated at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, could be a poster boy for the dangers of using prisons to deal with people with serious mental illness.
His attack on the guard after his medications were yanked was his first felony conviction. His prior convictions were all misdemeanors, although he did draw a multi-year sentence in 2002 on multiple misdemeanor counts.
In a letter to Isthmus, Locke says this incident — an attack on medical personnel transporting him to a hospital — owed to a mix-up involving medications: “I was still responsible for my actions, but not the intent.”
Locke later sued his Madison defense attorney, David Stokes, for malpractice; the case was dismissed last fall but is now being appealed. Armed with records he obtained through discovery, Locke has also alleged that Stokes defrauded the State Public Defender’s Office through overbilling. He initiated a John Doe proceeding against Stokes in Dane County court.
Sounds nuts, right? But this February, around the time when the Legislature nearly passed a bill to bar inmates from bringing such actions, Dane County Judge Sarah O’Brien found probable cause that Stokes repeatedly submitted “false and fraudulent” records. David Feiss, an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County, has been named special prosecutor. He says no charges have yet been filed and Stokes is presumed innocent.
In 2000, inmates at the Boscobel prison filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that conditions there constituted cruel and unusual punishment. A settlement agreement reached in 2002 mandated some policy changes and prohibited the DOC from using the prison for mentally ill inmates.
Carlos Pabellon, an attorney with the office of Ed Garvey, which represented the inmates, came to suspect the DOC was “manipulating” diagnoses to sidestep this ban.
“What we discovered,” says Pabellon, “is that a number of these inmates had on one day an MH-2 classification” [meaning they could not be sent to Boscobel] and after the next visit an MH-1 classification [meaning they could be and were].” He believes the DOC was under pressure to “fill the empty beds at Boscobel, and, unfortunately, it appeared to us that they were doing it at the expense of the mental health of these inmates.”
Federal Judge Barbara Crabb tapped a Medical College psychiatrist to monitor whether seriously mentally ill inmates were going to Boscobel. This appointment ended earlier this month, as did the court order against using Boscobel for seriously mentally ill inmates.
DOC spokesman Dipko says “the screening process” that was developed in response to the lawsuit remains in place. But others say the Locke case underscores that the DOC cannot be trusted.
“They’re still putting mentally ill pris-oners into [Boscobel],” says Frank Van den Bosch, an inmate rights activist who lives near the prison. “They’re really not concerned with the prison-ers. They’re concerned about keeping the prison full. It makes a mockery of what the courts have decided.”
Dr. Kallas, in a recent interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, admitted he sometimes overrules diagnoses made by colleagues. But he claimed it is on the other end of the spectrum.
“While the psychologist may be technically correct in saying there’s not serious mental illness, I err on the side of caution and say, ‘Let’s not send this person,'” Kallas maintained. “I’ve just taken a more conservative stance and in many cases have decided that I don’t want certain inmates there even though they may technically under the court criteria qualify.”
The transcript of the July 2007 hearing was not completed until late October. In January of this year, Locke filed a complaint against Dr. Kallas with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing, arguing that he committed “medical malpractice” and violated Judge Crabb’s order. That complaint is pending. (cont. page 4)
Supermax Psychiatrist (cont.)
Locke has also asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene, saying, “It is time to put the DOC in check and punish them for this behavior.” This is also pending.
Dr. Saini himself briefly agitated against his termination. His Madison attorney, Richard Bolton, sent a letter dated Dec. 30, 2004, to Matthew Frank, then DOC secretary. It says Saini worked at the agency for 10 years “without serious criticism of his performance” and occasional commendations, only to be fired in August 2004, shortly after “failing to cooperate” with the DOC’s attempt to “manipulate” Locke’s diagnosis so he could be sent to Boscobel.
Saini, who is now working at the Mendota Mental Health Institute, declined opportunities to comment. Bolton says the DOC denied there was any connection between Saini’s termination and the Locke matter. Saini did not pursue legal action.
Ruling Favors Michigan Inmates Serving Life
By DAVID EGGERT
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The constitutional rights of more than 1,000 inmates serving life sentences in Michigan prisons have been violated ever since parole policies were toughened in the 1990s, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani said the cumulative effect of the parole changes violates the Constitution’s ban on laws being applied retroactively.
She released her decision this week but has yet to decide what her ruling means for 1,000 to 1,200 Michigan prisoners sentenced before 1992 to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Since the early 1990s, the Michigan Parole Board has been less willing to release prisoners sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, adopting a “life means life” policy.
Some Michigan judges have said they never intended that some criminals remain in prison for life. Before the parole board stiffened its policy, those serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole could be released sooner than those give a fixed sentence such as 25 years.
What Prison Really Is
by Malik Ellington
Partners from Prison
P.O. Box 900, Portage, WI 53901
Prison is a place where lives are cut short and hopes and dreams die. To glance into the future yields nothing but the negative. It’s a place that turns the young, the inexperienced and the weak into criminals, the criminals into better criminals and the better criminals into still better criminals A place where the law as it is written, becomes bent, twisted, and adulterated to suit the purposes of those in power to enforce it.
It’s a place that does not exist to the outside world for they cannot find it on a map, drive to it in a car, connect to it by telephone, or reach it by mail. A place where outgoing letters fall into a “black hole”, never to be heard from again. A place where you receive divorce papers and death notices and learn the true meaning of “till death do us part”.
It’s a place where the average working person, the poor, the under-privileged, and the unwanted serve years and years for minor crimes, while the rich, the politicians, the prison administrators, and the hired lackeys steal millions, seemingly with the blessing of the state.
For once inside these walls, you become dead to the outside world. It’s a place where parents and grand parents pass away, wives and girlfriends move on and your children begin to call someone else Daddy. A place where cousins, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles all forget that you’re even part of the family. A place where you find out who your real friends are. A place where all the good things you’ve ever done are forgotten and the bad remembered.
It’s a place filled with thieves, whores, crackheads, drug dealers, snitches and other assorted crooks, some of which wear blue. A place that fosters anger, hate, racism, and hopelessness. A place politicians want more of.
It’s a place where men and women are warehoused like so many cattle. A place where positive actions and even positive thoughts are discouraged and rehabilitation is nonexistent. A place where you are sent away worse off than when you arrived, with a $25 check, a bus ticket and a suit of cheap state made clothes, with no hope and no future. And that folks is what prison really is.
Transportation to the Prisons
Servicing Wisconsin State Prisons and Oxford Federal Prison.
Week day and weekend bus service, weather permitting.
Fees vary per institution.
For travel schedules, seat reservations and prices, call 414-687-9828
or write to:
Voices to the Prisons Inc.
P.O. Box 16587
Milwaukee, WI 56216
We Wear the Mask
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
By Dujuan M. Walker
“If the definition of a terrorist is anyone who wishes to create terror in a specific category of victim, with the purpose of altering the behavior of the members of that category, does this mean that anyone who supports imprisonment and especially the death penalty as deterrents to crime is by definition a terrorist? Clearly the stated purpose is to terrify a specific group of people into changing their behavior. That’s what deterrence is. And given the rates at which Blacks, Latinos and American Indians, are imprisoned (and on death row) it could be argued that a good part of the judicial and penal systems in the United States constitutes a giant racist, terrorist organization. Simply looking at the numbers it becomes clear that the judicial and penal systems have achieved the segregation of black males- into prisons- on a scale of which the kkk and their puny brethren could only dream.” Derrick Jensen, Culture of Make Believe”, p.7 (2004).
We are all familiar with the language set forth in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and the guarantee of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We are all familiar with the language set forth in the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits slavery EXCEPT as punishment for a crime. We are well acquainted with the dogmatic phrases of circuit court judges who have stated that, “It is in the best interest of society” to lock up millions of people of color for rather trivial crimes (such as several years imprisonment for extremely small amounts of crack cocaine) while they continue to let law enforcement officials walk away scot free after beating, maiming, sexually assaulting, and harassing people of color without legal justification.
If you have read the Mission Statement of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections then you know how lofty their ideas of “serving the public by rehabilitating prisoners” and “maintaining a safe and productive correctional environment” are. Wisconsin Administrative Code Ch. DOC s. 303.01(3) provides in pertinent part: “ The objectives of the following disciplinary rules under this chapter are the following:
(a) The maintenance of order in the correctional institutions.
(b) The maintenance of a safe setting in which inmates can participate in constructive programs.
(c) The rehabilitation of inmates through the development of their ability to live with others, within rules.
(d) Fairness in the treatment of inmates
(e) The development and maintenance of respect for the correctional system and for our system of government through fair treatment of inmates.
(f) Punishment of inmates for misbehavior.
(g) Deterrence of misbehavior.”
On October 15, 2007 I filed a writ of certiorari while I was a prisoner at Waupun “Correctional” Institution. In this writ of certiorari I alleged that the prison disciplinary hearing for conduct report #1911804 was held illegally, arbitrarily, and capriciously in a conspired attempt to cover up an illegal hate crime committed against me by a Correctional Officer there. In over 90 pages of documentation, including but not limited to, sworn declarations, affidavits, photographs, and hearing testimony I explained the numerous ways staff and administrators conspired to falsify documents and reports to cover up the fact that I had been jumped on by a Correctional Officer while I was handcuffed and shackled in retaliation against me for defending myself against the verbal attacks of two racist inmates. I explained how this CO wrote an obviously false conduct report to cover it up, charging me with battery and stating that I resisted him. Waupun Correctional even went so far as to use the Dodge County Sherriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office to further cover it up, falsely charging me with battery and disorderly conduct based upon the bogus conduct report. (Charges were found to be void of probable cause, thus the malicious prosecution was ended on August 31, 2007).
Yet, my charges against the CO were found to carry probable cause, as Judge Bissonnette of Dodge County Circuit Court, Branch Three, found that there exists a reasonable probability that I was abused and he charged my attacker with a Class I felony pursuant to Wis Stats., s. 940.29. Immediately, the powers that be swung into action, gathering support from several republican assemblyman (such as Jeff Fitzgerald) and the State Employee’s Union, who all came out strong in defense of their own, despite the obvious evidence that still exists against him and cannot be covered up!, going to the media and calling for John Doe Reform, claiming that my situation shows an abuse of the statute… You know the drill. In sum, politics became involved- in its worst fashion- and the concepts of the Law took a back seat. Without even sending to me a letter or a copy of his motion, the “Special Prosecutor” (a defense attorney from Watertown) moved to dismiss the State’s case against the CO, claiming that he didn’t believe that he could prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt. I’ll let all of you people with intelligent and discerning minds ponder now: Why did the case against this CO really not get prosecuted and taken before a jury????? I’ll give you a head start: whatever the reason, I can guarantee that it’s not consistent with the Constitutions of this Country and State.
Now my writ of certiorari has been dismissed due to mootness since I am no longer incarcerated and according to the court the effects of the illegal disciplinary hearing can not cause me any further harm. But what about the harm that has already been done to me by the perpetrators, who seem to be immune due to their status as state employees, and my status as a formerly incarcerated African-American man? Is there any justice for me and my family or are we not protected by the Constitutions? Are we not human-beings? If we are animals then can we at least seek advocacy from some animal rights organizations? Had the CO beat a stray dog or cat because of its color and falsely stated that the dog “bit” him he would be locked up right now. But no, God forbid holding a white correctional officer and state employee responsible for beating a black prisoner (or in the words of Congressman Jeff Fitzgerald on Wisconsin Public Radio, “Dirtbags in a cage”).
So Mr. Derrick Jensen points out something very valuable to the understanding of this system. Do the powers that be really practice what they write, or do they practice what they preach when the public isn’t listening and paying attention? We know from history that the most powerful and corrupted nation sand empires have always operated under false doctrines which they really don’t believe in. These doctrines are eye-wash and propaganda designed to brain wash and confuse the masses – which in turn leads to dependency and eventually control. Moving surreptitiously, this system is misleading the public while stocking their prisons with victims, and secretly promoting terror while immunizing law enforcement agents for violating human and civil rights of defenseless, uneducated citizens. Mr. Jensen said it best when he stated:
“How exactly would you define a hate group? The obvious answer is slippery. For example, most people would agree that the Ku Klux Klan is a hate group, the granddaddy of American racist organizations. But literature from the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan states explicitly that the KKK ‘is not a hate group but we are a LOVE group. We are a love group because we LOVE our people.’ The literature continues, ‘We don’t want those who are only looking for an outlet for their hatred. Hatred never accomplishes anything. We feel terrible for those who have been victims of non-white crime and anti-white discrimination, but turning your life over to hatred isn’t the answer.’” So I ask you now, are we to judge this government by what they say, or what they do?
Justice in Black and White
by Lisa Kaiser
Three recently released studies confirm what many Milwaukeeans already believe: The state’s justice system treats black and white drug offenders differently.
– The Sentencing Project found that the rate of arrests of white Milwaukeeans for drug offenses decreased 63% from 1980 to 2003. Yet the rate of arrests of black Milwaukeeans increased 206% during those same years. The authors found no corresponding increase of drug use among African Americans to explain the changes in arrest rates. Instead, they conclude that the policies of the national War on Drugs have disproportionately targeted African Americans.
– Human Rights Watch found that African Americans in Wisconsin are 42.4 times more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug offenses—the most disparate ratio in the nation.
– Gov. Jim Doyle’s Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System noted that “African Americans comprise 6% of the overall population of Wisconsin, but also represent 45% of the population in the adult [Department of Corrections] facilities.”
The state commission’s report suggested that this didn’t happen by accident, nor does it serve to reduce drug use or crime levels. “Serious concerns were expressed that enforcement strategies that target particular neighborhoods or that target open-air drug trafficking are not productive in that many whose primary need is treatment end up confined in jail or prison and, unless having received treatment, are more likely to commit new crimes upon release,” it stated.
Gov. Doyle has called for all state agencies to track and analyze racial disparities in the justice system, and plans to assist the Office of Justice Assistance, law enforcement agencies and the Department of Corrections in their efforts to become more race-neutral.
Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines has asked for the newly formed Community Justice Council to look at the findings and prepare recommendations.
“The disparities raise concerns and eyebrows,” he said in an interview last week.
Hines said he’s not in favor of softer penalties for drug crimes, but wants to ensure that African Americans are being treated fairly. He added that the perception of unfairness throughout the criminal justice system affects residents’ interactions with police officers in their neighborhoods.
“If it’s the same offense, the courts should prosecute equally,” Hines said. “We need to examine the data and come up with tools, but we also need to hold individuals accountable and restore and protect the integrity of the court system.”
The Sentencing Project noted that the War on Drugs, initiated by President Richard Nixon and intensified during the Reagan administration, made the number of arrests and prosecutions for drug crimes a measure of success, and the money for local law enforcement flowed accordingly.
“It’s something that feeds on itself,” said Milwaukee defense attorney Alex Flynn. “Reagan created a drug czar and this tremendous bureaucracy and funding. But, cynically, it’s a self-sustaining system that needs people to prosecute.”
But the money isn’t being applied equally to all communities, nor is it being granted in large sums for drug treatment.
“If you’re a community with no drug arrests, you don’t get any money,” Flynn said.
The Sentencing Project reported that police presence tends to be higher in low-income African-American neighborhoods, and that drug sales in many African-American communities are more likely to occur in public spaces among strangers, making arrests easier. Conversely, white drug users—especially in the suburbs—are more likely to know their dealers and purchase or use their drugs in private, at work, in taverns or in athletic leagues.
Defense attorney Nick Kostich—who spent the early part of his career in the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office—said that it’s simply easier for law enforcement to find low-level drug users and dealers when they’re out in public. He added that abuse of pharmaceuticals is growing, especially among white users, but these cases are difficult to identify and prosecute.
“I think there’s trafficking going on at a higher level, in so-called ‘good’ neighborhoods,” Kostich said. “But it’s sometimes more difficult to infiltrate these groups. You have to invest the time.”
Kostich noted that he felt that reforms implemented by District Attorney John Chisholm, who succeeded longtime DA Michael McCann in 2006, would help to reduce racial disparities in local drug cases. Chisholm is more likely to send low-level drug offenders to treatment before prosecuting them.
“Locally, in the past 12 months, I think we’re beginning to appreciate this disparity, particularly in state court,” Kostich said.
Federal court, however, is a different story. Both Kostich and Flynn said that issuing broad, multi-count indictments involving dozens of suspects in drug cases is a new strategy, and low-level, first-time offenders are getting swept up in them.
“The federal court system used to only prosecute high-level traffickers,” Kostich said. “But the scary part is that with these large indictments, your case can be combined with others even if it’s your first offense.”
Kostich said that federal judges are less likely to divert drug offenders into treatment and they are likely to give longer sentences to violations involving crack, which is more likely to be used by African Americans, than marijuana, powder cocaine or pharmaceuticals, which are more likely to be used by whites.
“I believe that the racial disparity is still there,” Kostich said.
Flynn cautioned against throwing the book at drug offenders, even if it may seem politically popular.
“We can’t look to the criminal code to solve all of our problems,” Flynn said.
“The theory of the free press is not that the truth will be presented completely or perfectly in any one instance, but that the truth will emerge from free discussion”
– Walter Lippman
US: Prison Numbers Hit New High
Human Rights Watch
Blacks Hardest Hit by Incarceration Policy
(Washington, DC, June 6, 2008) – New figures showing that US incarceration rates are climbing even higher, with racial minorities greatly over represented in prisons and jails, highlight the need to adopt alternative criminal justice policies, Human Rights Watch said today.
Statistics released today by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a branch of the US Department of Justice, show that as of June 30, 2007, approximately 2.3 million persons were incarcerated in US prisons and jails, an all-time high. This represents an incarceration rate of 762 per 100,000 US residents, the highest such rate in the world. By contrast, the United Kingdom’s incarceration rate is 152 per 100,000 residents; the rate in Canada is 108; and in France it is 91.
“The new incarceration figures confirm the United States as the world’s leading jailer,” said David Fathi, US program director at Human Rights Watch. “Americans should ask why the US locks up so many more people than do Canada, Britain, and other democracies.”
The new statistics also show large racial disparities, with black males incarcerated at a per capita rate six times that of white males. Nearly 11 percent of all black men ages 30 to 34 were behind bars as of June 30, 2007.
In May 2008, Human Rights Watch released its report, “Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States,” in which it documented racial disparities in US drug law enforcement, with black men 11.8 times more likely than white men to enter prison on drug charges, despite the fact that blacks and whites use illegal drugs at similar rates. Although whites, being more numerous, constitute the large majority of drug users, blacks constitute 54 percent of all persons entering state prisons with a new drug offense conviction.
“Decisions about drug law enforcement play a major role in creating the staggering racial disparities we see in US prisons,” said Fathi. “The ‘war on drugs’ has become a war on black Americans.”
The US has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a treaty that requires the US to guarantee, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, “[t]he right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice.” In May 2008, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitors compliance with ICERD, expressed its “concern with regard to the persistent racial disparities in the criminal justice system of [the United States], including the disproportionate number of persons belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities in the prison population.” The committee called on the United States to undertake “further studies to determine the nature and scope of the problem, and the implementation of national strategies or plans of action aimed at the elimination of structural racial discrimination.”
Human Rights Watch urges public officials in the United States to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offenses and to adopt community-based sanctions and other alternatives to incarceration for low-level drug offenders. Human Rights Watch further calls on the United States to enact legislation that, in accordance with ICERD, prohibits policies or practices in the criminal justice system that have the purpose or effect of restricting the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin.
Death by Neglect
On the morning of May 19, 2008, Bradley Pitman passed away in his cell. Mr. Pitman was 27 years old.
Mr. Pitman failed to stand for 7 am count. CO xxxxx pounded on his bunk and said, “I’ll write you a conduct report for not standing count.” Health Services were not called even though Mr. Pitman had complained of not feeling well the night before.
At 10 am. a call came to the cell house that Pitman was not in school. CO xxxxxxx found Mr. Pitman dead in his bed. He had expired some time between 7 am and 10 am.
WPW has received six letters from concerned prisoners. We were able to locate Mr. Pitman’s family in NC. We forwarded the letters of concern and notified the press and attorneys here in Wisconsin.
Support Hunger Striker
Every Sunday, Warren Lilly, a Wisconsin prisoner, who’s been hunger striking for more than four years, is allowed to forego nasal-gastro forced feeding. In what has been one of the most bizarre rulings ever to come out of a court, Judge Andrew Bissonnette of Dodge County Circuit Court (case no. 2007-cv-00392), ruled Warren could be force fed every day except Sunday.
Bissonnette wrote, “the Court would like Mr. Lilly and the prison staff to have a break, one day each week, from the habitual three times a day, seven days a week [365 days a year] forced feeding of Mr. Lilly. The Court will therefore provide a break for everyone on Sundays.”
The truth behind the ruling is Warren’s hunger strike is costing the Wisconsin DOC thousands of dollars a month in overtime and medical services. Unofficially, the cost of force feeding Warren tops $200,000 per year. Bissonnette’s ruling cut the DOC’s expenses by at least, one seventh. There was no altruism in Bissonnette’s unwarranted foray into the medical management of a hunger strike, his motivation was simple cost cutting.
Despite Bissonnette’s hypocrisy, Warren is taking advantage of this situation by asking prisoners and free persons to join him each Sunday in fasting, and after fasting, write or email Governor Doyle. A sample letter is on page 6.
Though Warren is imprisoned in Wisconsin, his hunger strike is aimed at reducing the prison population nation wide. He asks that you send him a copy of your letter or email written to the Governor. He’ll use them to convince the U.S. Congress of the strength of his movement, and the desire of Americans for prison population reduction and reform.
Send your letters of support to:
Warren G. Lilly, Jr.
New Lisbon Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 4000
New Lisbon, WI 53590
“A people that wants to be free must arm itself with a free press.” – George Seldes
Judge: Wisconsin inmates must be allowed to read newsletter
By RYAN J. FOLEY
Associated Press Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prison inmates have a First Amendment right to read commentary critical of their captors, a federal judge has ruled in a free speech case.
Wisconsin prison officials were wrong to stop inmates from receiving a newsletter that criticized their policies and the state parole board, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled.
The newsletter in question, “The New Abolitionist,” was produced by the Prisoners’ Action Coalition, a now-defunct group which advocated for prisoners rights. It contained news and commentary related to Wisconsin prisons and was once distributed to 1,100 inmates, publisher Frank Van den Bosch said.
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections blocked delivery of the March 2007 newsletter. Its security officials said the document contained some inflammatory material that would cause inmates to distrust prison guards and grow hopeless.
In particular, they claimed the newsletter contained inaccurate information about conditions at the prison formerly known as Supermax, unfair criticism of state parole policies and false characterizations of prison disciplinary procedures.
One of the inmates, Lorenzo Johnson of the Waupun Correctional Institution, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the action violated his First Amendment rights. He acted as his own lawyer.
Judge Crabb agreed with Johnson in a May 23 decision, ordering prison officials to immediately deliver him a copy of the publication. She ordered a trial on his request for $35,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
Crabb said prison officials had no legitimate justification for stopping delivery of the publication, which she said followed a long and proud history of dissent in the U.S. Most of the statements to which the department objected were critical of the state’s treatment of prisoners, she said.
“Each of those statements is made in the context of asking prisoners’ friends and family to take nonviolent action to bring about change, such as writing letters, blogging, electing sympathetic politicians and attending rallies,” she wrote. “Defendants may prefer that such activities not take place, but they have no legitimate basis for preventing them.”
If prison officials blocked the newsletter out of security concerns, that was an overreaction, she wrote.
Van den Bosch said he changed the newsletter’s name to “Wisconsin Prison Watch” and continues to publish every two months. Prisons have routinely stopped his 300 inmate subscribers from receiving that newsletter, too, he said, including one distributed last month before Crabb’s ruling. He hopes that stance will now change.
“It does point out how the administration just can’t tolerate criticism,” he said. “All the newsletter presented was criticism of the DOC, and it was barred for that. All the excuses they gave were pretty much just laughed out of court.”
Corrections spokesman Alec Loftus said Johnson has been given a copy of the newsletter. The department will consider whether to appeal after the case is finished, he said.
Fed. judge rules for state inmate in free speech case
June 4, 2008
A federal judge ordered state corrections officials to deliver a prisoner advocacy newsletter it had withheld from an inmate.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said prison officials were denying Waupun Correctional Institution inmate Lorenzo Johnson of his First Amendment rights to free speech by keeping him from receiving The New Abolitionist newsletter, published by the Prisoners’ Action Coalition.
The group has recently disbanded and regrouped under the name Wisconsin Prison Watch.
Crabb called the corrections officials’ actions “simply censorship of a view that is critical of the Department of Corrections.”
“It really showed the DOC was not very friendly to criticism,” said Frank Vanden Bosch, a former Wisconsin inmate who publishes the newsletter. “They had no legitimate reason to block the newsletter.”
Johnson sued state Department of Corrections Secretary Rick Raemisch, Waupun Correctional Warden Mike Thurmer and Corrections Security Chief Dan Westfield after he didn’t receive an issue of the newsletter in March of 2007.
Prison officials later allowed some of the publications to be delivered to Johnson, but withheld others.
Corrections officials said they withheld the publication because it contained “inflammatory” passages and would “encourage disrespect” and “hopelessness.”
In her ruling, Crabb said, “Even if the defendants’ concerns were genuine, their justifications amount to nothing more than ‘because we said so,’ which is not enough to pass constitutional muster.”
She dismissed corrections officials’ concerns about ill effects of reading the newsletter.
“Although it contains many discussions of perceived unfairness, the recurring theme of the newsletter is one of empowerment, telling prisoners to work with their families and friends to make change,” she wrote.
Crabb said the court will address damages in the case at a future date.
editor’s note: The author of this piece made one mistake, Frank Van den Bosch is not a former inmate – he may be a future inmate but so far has eluded the clutches of the state.
“Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear”: Albert Camus
“It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable”: Eric Hoffer
“You see what power is — holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them!”: Amy Tan
“No man survives when freedom fails, The best men rot in filthy jails, And those who cry ‘appease, appease’ Are hanged by those they tried to please.”: Hiram Mann
OFF YOUR SEATS AND ON YOUR FEETS
PROTEST AT DOC HQ IN MADISON IS PLANNED FOR SEPTEMBER.
INTERESTED IN PLANNING AND ORGANIZING? COME TO THE JULY MEETING.