California prisoners in AZ: CCA Eloy LaPalma: Jewish prisoners fasting for religious rights

This concerns the California prisoners who were transported involuntarily out of state to a private prison (CCA) in Arizona.Their religious rights are being trampled on and they have started a fast in protest. Please show support!
From: Arizona Prison Watch:

May 11, 2013

Dennis DeConcini
Arizona Board of Regents
2020 N. Central Ave., Suite 230
Phoenix, AZ 85004-4593
d.deconcini@att.net

Dear Mr. DeConcini:

I am a Phoenix area artist, freelance writer, and human rights activist known for my concern about Arizona’ prisoners. This week I was contacted by the wife of a California Department of Corrections prisoner in Corrections Corporation of America’s LaPalma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ. They’ve been having a lot of trouble in their prisons in Eloy lately. As you can see from the letter and attachments below, several Jewish prisoners have begun to fast after extensive efforts to resolve the problems with CCA’s lack of respect for their religious rights. If what they report is true, then CCA is out of compliance with the law and there’s no excuse for it.

I’m sure this is something you’ll be deeply concerned about, as I am, and expect that you will put in a good word for the US Constitution with Warden Jim MacGregor at LaPalma prison. He can be reached at 520-464-3200. Since you’re so proud to be on the CCA board and used to be a US senator, this seems to be something you should take some responsibility for resolving.

We all look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Margaret Jean Plews


Margaret J. Plews, Editor
Arizona Prison Watch
P.O. Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036
480-580-6807

May 10, 2013

Annie Santiago
Martinez, CA 94553
925-812-1694
a.santiago1012 @ yahoo.com

RE: PRISONERS FASTING over Anti-semitism and religious rights violations at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) LaPalma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ.

My name is Annie Santiago.

My husband, Kenneth Santiago, is a prisoner of the state of California, in a private prison in Eloy, Arizona run by Corrections Corporation of America. His CDC # is F03822.

Kenneth reports that as of May 7, 2013, he and several other prisoners at LaPalma Correctional Center began to fast. They are doing so in hopes of focusing the attention of the larger faith community on their more than 1 ½ year long struggle to compel the prison administration to come into compliance with the US Constitution, recent court settlements, and the norms for human decency, regarding Kosher food service for California prisoners located in Arizona.

Documentation of the problems at LaPalma and the struggle of Jewish prisoners against harassment, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and retaliation is attached. More will be available soon, as will correspondence directly from the prisoners themselves about their objectives that is, if they haven’t been stripped of their belongings and thrown in the hole already.

Yesterday morning an officer confronted my husband and the other men who were fasting, threatening to punish them with detention if they didn’t eat. Warden Jim MacDonald told me in the afternoon that he was going to look into it, but he asserted that “hunger strikers” would indeed be inviting disciplinary action, so please do not characterize this as a “hunger strike”.

These men are fasting in a deeply spiritual tradition, not setting their mattresses on fire or inciting riots. Why are they not even afforded the most simple respect for their efforts to adhere to their faith?

Please, whether you are media or a member of the faith community in Arizona or California, help my husband and the other prisoners get the outside world’s attention on that place there’s a bigger problem there than just what’s happening to them. Contact me at the number above for more information.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Annie Santiago

Letter to Governor Brown of California-page 1
Letter to Governor Brown of California, page 2
from prisoner Kenneth Santiago to a sympathetic Rabbi
But first, the complaint was in-house with CCA’s “unsung hero”,
 Chaplain Tim O’Dell… who apparently did not come to the rescue. 
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New Report Calls for End to Use of Solitary Confinement in Immigrant Detention

From: SolitaryWatch
September 28, 2012 By Beth Broyles


“Are you broken yet?” Each day Rashed spent in solitary confinement at the Tri-County Detention Center in Illinois, the warden asked him this question.

An observant Muslim, Rashed had tried to advocate on behalf of another Muslim who could not speak English well. That was the “offense” that earned him his second stint in solitary, where he remained for 30 days. The first time, Rashed had asked the guards at the Dodge County Detention Facility in Wisconsin to excuse him from meals so that he could fast for Ramadan. Instead, they placed him in solitary for the remainder of the month-long observance.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had placed Rashed in detention when he arrived in the United States from his native Yemen, seeking asylum. For three years he remained in detention, transferred among several ICE-contracted facilities, as he awaited resolution of his asylum claim.

Both times Rashed was sent to solitary, it was without any formal charges being filed, any hearing, or any opportunity for review from a higher authority. “It was crazy,” he said in a press teleconference on Tuesday. He had fled Yemen to escape persecution, only to arrive in the United States and face more persecution.
This is but one of the instances of abusive and discriminatory use of solitary confinement described in a new report produced in partnership by the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Invisible in Isolation: The Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigration Detention asserts that the use of solitary confinement for ICE detainees is unnecessary, costly and harmful to detainees’ physical and psychological health. It calls for an end to the practice of solitary confinement for immigration detainees.

In preparing the report, investigators interviewed detainees in segregation and solitary confinement at 14 of the 250 detention facilities, state and federal prisons, and county jails where the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security detains more than 400,000 individuals per year. Many ICE detainees are actually lawful permanent residents and asylum-seekers awaiting adjudication of their cases. Their numbers include survivors of human trafficking, LGBT individuals, the elderly, and people with mental health conditions. Many do not speak English.

Despite the fact that they have not been convicted of any crime, most detainees held in facilities that “were built, and operate, as jails and prisons to confine pretrial and sentenced felons,” according to a former Homeland Security official quoted in the report. “ICE relies primarily on correctional incarceration standards … and on correctional principles of care, custody, and control. These standards impose more restrictions and carry more costs than are necessary to effectively manage the majority of the detained [immigrant] population.” Lacking adequate guidance from ICE, the report found, the guards in these facilities tend to apply their own local correctional practices by default. In a country where 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in prisons and jails on any given day, these practices include a liberal use of solitary.

The report does not attempt to estimate how many detainees may be in isolation in total in all ICE facilities. (ICE does not maintain such figures, and after investigators submitted requests for information to all 250 facilities in the country, just seven of those facilities provided information about ICE detainees who were held in solitary confinement.) Based on their sample of facilities, however, researchers found that ICE’s failure to enforce consistent standards regarding solitary confinement has led to the arbitrary and excessive use of the practice. There is no oversight, nor is there any due process for detainees, leaving them without any recourse to seek review of facilities’ decisions to place them in solitary.

According to the report, ICE detainees are particularly prone to solitary confinement. Facilities often deem segregation of certain ICE detainees necessary for safety purposes, in particular those who are LGBT individuals or mentally ill. However, the investigators found that segregated detainees faced the same conditions as those in disciplinary solitary confinement. Many of the ICE LGBT detainees had left their homelands because they faced persecution and discrimination because of their identities, only to face more discrimination in detention. According to the report, when one individual asked a corrections officer at the Theo Lacy Facility in California why he reduced the recreation time for LGBT detainees from two hours to 45 minutes, the officer told him, “Because you need to learn not to be faggots.”

Discrimination against immigrant populations is another cause the investigators identified as a reason for the excessive use of solitary confinement. According to the Nobles County Jail (Minnesota) Facility’s inmate rules, “Failure to speak English when able, watching Spanish channel on the TV” are violations that are punishable by a sentence of solitary confinement. Other “disciplinary” infractions that led to time in isolation at various facilities included trying to translate for another detainee, complaining about the quality of the drinking water, having an extra blanket, and playing cards instead of attending church services.

Read the rest here:
http://solitarywatch.com/2012/09/28/new-report-calls-for-end-to-use-of-solitary-confinement-on-immigration-detainees/

Alabama’s segregation for inmates with HIV faces court scrutiny

From: Reuters
Sept. 17th 2012

By Verna Gates

(Reuters) – Alabama, one of two U.S. states that segregate inmates with HIV from the rest of their prison population, will seek to defend the policy against a class action lawsuit headed to trial in federal court on Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Alabama in 2011 for what the group contends is a discriminatory practice that prevents most HIV-positive inmates from participating in rehabilitation and retraining programs important for their success after prison.

The state says the civil liberties group has failed to prove that there would be no significant risk of the infection being transmitted to other prisoners if inmates with HIV were fully integrated, according to court documents.

An appeals court upheld the segregated housing policy in 1999, but ACLU attorney Margaret Winter said advances in treatment for HIV infection warranted the court taking another look at the practice.

“It is based on an uneducated view on HIV and how it is transmitted, which really goes back to the dark ages of when it first started and there was hysteria,” she said.

South Carolina is the only other U.S. state that houses inmates with HIV away from other prisoners. Mississippi ceased a similar practice in March 2010 and has since integrated inmates with the infection, Winter said.

Two of Alabama’s 29 prisons have dormitories set aside specifically for prisoners with HIV. A handful of prisoners have been allowed to live and work in non-segregated settings in two work-release programs, Winter said.

Approximately 270 inmates out of the 26,400 in the state prison system have tested positive for the virus and none has developed AIDS, according to Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett.

Read the rest here:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/17/us-usa-alabama-hiv-idUSBRE88G0KS20120917

Prisoner seeks to block plan to do away with kosher meals

We are all equal under the Constitution.

From: Vegas Inc.
By Steve Green
1 June 2011

Attorneys for a Nevada prison inmate filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order Wednesday in hopes of blocking the state Department of Corrections from carrying out a plan to stop serving kosher food to prisoners requesting it.

Attorneys for inmate Howard Ackerman say he’s an Orthodox Jew and that the state plans to discontinue kosher food service within all state prisons sometime this week or next week.

“This will interfere with the ability of Mr. Ackerman and similarly situated Orthodox Jews to be able to observe the tenets of their religion. This issue has been well litigated throughout the United States, including in this court, and it has been held time and time again, that such interference with a prisonerhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif’s right to kosher food is prohibited,” said the motion filed by attorneys Jacob Hafter and Michael Naethe.

The motion was filed in U.S. District Court for Nevada in Las Vegas, where attorneys for Ackerman earlier in the day filed suit against the state. The court had not acted on the request as of late Wednesday.

The lawsuit said Ackerman is a prisoner at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

Attorneys for the state had not responded to the suit as of late Wednesday.

————–
Here is the news in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

A quote from the attorney working on this case on behalf of the plaintiff:

Hafter said he understands the views of those who say people should not commit crimes if they do not want to lose their rights.

But, he responded, “Isn’t part of the purpose of being institutionalized to reform somebody?”

The lawyer said some people find religion in prison. He also said some people land in prison by unintentionally hurting someone or by being falsely accused.

“The real reason that I took this case is because what happens if, God forbid, I would wind up in prison or jail,” said Hafter, an Orthodox Jew.

“The fact of the matter is I would hope that I could practice my religious beliefs to the fullest extent that the Constitution allows.”

Hafter said Orthodox Jews believe that observance of the kosher dietary laws is “a divine commandment.”

“Judaism is a way of life,” he said. “We have laws that govern all of our actions … and no law is supposed to be more important than the other.”

Prisoner seeks to block plan to do away with kosher meals

We are all equal under the Constitution.

From: Vegas Inc.
By Steve Green
1 June 2011

Attorneys for a Nevada prison inmate filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order Wednesday in hopes of blocking the state Department of Corrections from carrying out a plan to stop serving kosher food to prisoners requesting it.

Attorneys for inmate Howard Ackerman say he’s an Orthodox Jew and that the state plans to discontinue kosher food service within all state prisons sometime this week or next week.

“This will interfere with the ability of Mr. Ackerman and similarly situated Orthodox Jews to be able to observe the tenets of their religion. This issue has been well litigated throughout the United States, including in this court, and it has been held time and time again, that such interference with a prisonerhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif’s right to kosher food is prohibited,” said the motion filed by attorneys Jacob Hafter and Michael Naethe.

The motion was filed in U.S. District Court for Nevada in Las Vegas, where attorneys for Ackerman earlier in the day filed suit against the state. The court had not acted on the request as of late Wednesday.

The lawsuit said Ackerman is a prisoner at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

Attorneys for the state had not responded to the suit as of late Wednesday.

————–
Here is the news in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

A quote from the attorney working on this case on behalf of the plaintiff:

Hafter said he understands the views of those who say people should not commit crimes if they do not want to lose their rights.

But, he responded, “Isn’t part of the purpose of being institutionalized to reform somebody?”

The lawyer said some people find religion in prison. He also said some people land in prison by unintentionally hurting someone or by being falsely accused.

“The real reason that I took this case is because what happens if, God forbid, I would wind up in prison or jail,” said Hafter, an Orthodox Jew.

“The fact of the matter is I would hope that I could practice my religious beliefs to the fullest extent that the Constitution allows.”

Hafter said Orthodox Jews believe that observance of the kosher dietary laws is “a divine commandment.”

“Judaism is a way of life,” he said. “We have laws that govern all of our actions … and no law is supposed to be more important than the other.”

NAACP rally focuses on alleged sentencing disparties

From: http://blog.al.com/live/2010/11/naacp_rally_focuses_on_alleged.html

Published: Friday, November 05, 2010
By Kim Lanier, Press-Register

FOLEY, Ala. — About 40 people turned out for a rally and news conference this afternoon to bring attention to alleged disparities in sentencing of blacks convicted of crimes.

“In particular, African-Americans seem be receiving the brunt of it, and no one can answer that question and tell us why,” Benard H. Simelton, president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, told the crowd gathered in the parking lot of the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse in Foley.

Read the rest here.

Court Finds Part of Alabama’s Community Notification Act Unconstitutional




The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld a ruling by a circuit court judge which struck down part of Alabama’s sex offender statute, the Community Notification Act (“CNA”). The appeals court concluded that the CNA unconstitutionally discriminates against the poor and punishes people solely for the status of being homeless, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Court’s decision came in the case of an indigent prisoner who was required by the statute to provide corrections officials with an address that complied with the CNA’s strict residency requirements 45 days before he completed his sentence, or face new charges. The prison did not provide listings of rental homes or motels where he might be allowed to live, and prison rules forbid him from using the telephone or internet to find a home.

Without a home to go to and without money to pay for housing, his only option was to send out letters asking for a place to live in exchange for work. Because he was unable to locate housing before his prison sentence ended, as soon as he completed his seven-year prison term he was immediately re-arrested, placed in jail, and indicted for failure to comply with the CNA, which is a felony.

A Montgomery County trial judge dismissed the indictment and declared the CNA unconstitutional because it punishes people for being poor and unable to find housing. The State appealed. In ruling that the CNA violated the prisoner’s constitutional rights because it created consequences for poor people that do not apply to those with resources, the Court of Criminal Appeals noted that the “cycle of incarceration is potentially endless for the indigent homeless sex offender – and ultimately each would be incarcerated for life as habitual felony offenders.”

This situation is not uncommon in Alabama, where the State has been prosecuting the poor and homeless for failure to comply with the CNA since the law was amended in 2005. Compounding the challenges for poor people finding housing from prison is the fact that the CNA prohibits anyone classified as a sex offender from residing within 2000 feet of a school, daycare center, or college, a provision which remains in place.