Free Leon Benson: Truth never dies, it is only rediscovered!

Leon Benson: sentenced to life in prison in 1999, for a crime he did not commit. We need some more attention to his case, and you can help by reaching out, spreading the word, listening to Leon’s story. Thank you for caring about the truth.

Please visit the website to learn more:

Private Contractor Accused of Skimping on Prisoner Food

This is from the In These Times series The Prison Complex, by George Lavender
Jan. 30, 2014

  When prisoners in the segregation unit at Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana received their lunch trays last Tuesday, it was, for some of them, a small taste of victory. While “savory stroganoff with noodles, mixed vegetables, and enriched bread” might not seem like much, the prisoners say it was their first hot weekday lunch in months, except on holidays. For the previous week, dozens in the unit had been protesting what they saw as inadequate food by refusing the cold sack lunches provided by the prison, according to two inmates who spoke to In These Times on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal from the prison.

“A lot of people didn’t believe that we could win,” says “Jela,” (not his real name), one of the prisoners involved in the protest. “We proved them wrong.”

Barring holidays, prisoners in the maximum security unit had been receiving sack lunches instead of the usual hot meal, five days a week for approximately seven months. Indiana Department of Corrections (DOC) Public Information Officer John Schrader says the switch to the sack lunch program was a response to requests from some prisoners, and was an effort to speed meal times and free up more time for recreation and showers.

But “people were losing weight, people were not getting the proper nutrients and calories,” charges “Malik,” another prisoner in the unit, who also asked to be identified by a pseudonym. Each bag contained slices of bread, peanut butter and jelly, and a cookie—“not enough,” according to Malik and Jela.

In response, say Jela and Malik, prisoners began making dozens of complaints about the program, which they say went unheeded. So more than 40 inmates took part in the protest, which was inspired by prisoner actions in California and Georgia, and organized by shouting between rec rooms.

Read the rest here.

Ind. scrambles to address ruling on mentally ill inmates

This article comes from USAToday, Jan. 2nd 2013, written by: Tim Evans:

INDIANAPOLIS — Weeks after a doctor at an Indiana prison determined a suicidal prisoner was experiencing “severe difficulty coping with segregation,” the Indiana Department of Corrections placed the inmate back in a segregation unit.
Isolated for 23 hours a day in a cell not much larger than a closet at New Castle Correctional Facility, the inmate’s mental state continued to deteriorate.
Two weeks later, he was dead — one of at least 11 mentally ill inmates who committed suicide while in IDOC segregation units from 2007 through July 2011.
Now state officials and advocates are scrambling for solutions in the wake of a federal court ruling that found Indiana’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners in segregation units violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
The decision was issued Monday by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission and a group of inmates.
Pratt found “mentally ill prisoners within the IDOC segregation units are not receiving adequate mental health care in terms of scope, intensity, and duration.”
The judge also noted IDOC was aware of concerns about its treatment of mentally ill prisoners and “has been deliberately indifferent.”
Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director, hailed the ruling as a win not only for mentally ill inmates, but for all Indiana residents.

Political prisoner Khalfani Malik Khaldun puts the Indiana prison system on trial

December 29, 2012

Since Dec. 13, 1994, Indiana political prisoner Khalfani Malik Khaldun (aka Leonard McQuay) has been held in control units, i.e. administrative segregation or isolation. It began when police and prison investigators manufactured a murder charge against him after a guard was stabbed and killed. Brother Khalfani is a Muslim and New Afrikan revolutionary educator who professes a strong sense of radical politics and culture.

Interview by the Campaign to Free Khalfani Malik Khaldun
Khalfani Malik Khaldun 042711
Campaign: How long have you been in Indiana’s prison plantation?
Khalfani Malik Khaldun: I entered the Indiana Department of Corrections in 1987, when I was a senior in high school.

Campaign: How old are you?
KMK: I was born Nov. 30, 1969. That makes me 43 years old.

Campaign: Explain to us what your life is like on the inside?
KMK: The best way to describe it is I am in prison sanctioned to indefinite solitary confinement engaged in multiple fights. One fight to regain my freedom, one fight to maintain my physical health, one fight to be released into the general population, and the last fight is to maintain my sanity – an all-day job.

Campaign: How has your activism made you a target for harassment or repression?
KMK: Being identified as a prison leader, political agitator, activist or revolutionary, we get automatically singled out as threats to others and threats to the safety and security of the prison plantations. Having been restricted from general population for so long, my influence has been reduced to small units. The idea behind all this is to destroy our ties and relationships with comrades and new youth coming in.

Campaign: Share your position on the political nature of your murder charge involving that prison guard, Phillip Curry.
KMK: On Dec. 13, 1994, the night this guard was killed at the Indiana State Prison, he was killed on the tier above where I lived. D-cell-house was where the prisoncrats housed the worst of the worst – their term, not mine. I was at that time agitating, educating and organizing the radical elements who would listen.
So when this happened, having been a thorn in the prisoncrats’ side already, they made me the responsible party that night; they were mad and wanted someone to pay. In 2001, they made me pay by finding me guilty and giving me a fresh 60-year hit.

One of the jurors who found me guilty, Juror No. 12, came forward after my trial; she regretted her actions and went to the judge. Instead of calling for a new trial and reversal of the charge, the judge told her to go home; the judge has since retired. They manufactured evidence to obtain their conviction against me.
I am in prison sanctioned to indefinite solitary confinement engaged in multiple fights. One fight to regain my freedom, one fight to maintain my physical health, one fight to be released into the general population, and the last fight is to maintain my sanity – an all-day job.

Campaign: Explain the corruption that exists inside Indiana’s criminal justice system.
KMK: Like any system of corrupt politicians and abuses of power, whoever can afford to pay a greedy lawyer to represent them here may stay out of prison. These lawyers have judges and prosecutors who will give one a pass as long as they receive a nice payoff.

Poor people get sent to prison to fulfill the schemes of the prisoncrats and political regime here; more bodies mean more money. As they say, power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Indiana legislators have slashed prison funding for educating prisoners and providing meaningful rehabilitative programs, so that money would be solely for building new prisons. So they are perpetuating a system that leads to more recidivism. Not having a viable re-entry program for prisoners prior to their release ensures a return to prison: capitalism at its best and the human exploitation of prisoners.

Campaign: Why are they continuing to house you in solitary confinement after nearly two decades?
KMK: The executive body of the Indiana Department of Corrections launched its political war against me in 1994, the night they lost one of their own. Being the only person accused, then later charged and convicted for this murder, to them Khalfani Malik Khaldun is Indiana’s public enemy number one; so they have condemned me to a prison existence in solitary confinement.

This goes beyond my sentence of 60 years. The courts did not say serve out this term in administrative segregation. The Indiana Department of Corrections wants payback, so in retaliation they want me suffering to the point of psychological incapacitation. They want me an old grey-hair grey-beard and no longer imposing a potential threat.

I am currently “conduct clear” for eight years, and I have completed the following programs: Substance Abuse; Stress Management; Anger Management; Commitment to Change; Prison-Life Skills; Parenting; Cage Your Rage; Rage, Recidivism and Recovery; Prison-Life Skills No. 2; Houses of Healing; Bridging the Gap; and Inside-Outside Dads.

I have been eligible for release to general population for years now. Their justification for not releasing me is they say I killed their officer, and nobody is comfortable with signing off on my release from solitary confinement.

Campaign: Why is it so important to build a networking support base on the outside of prison?
KMK: For the revolutionary, political prisoner, jailhouse lawyer, prison activist, outside resources and support is crucial. The prisoncrats isolate us to control our movements and neutralize our influence on other convicts.

Having a network of loyal people who have your best interests in mind helps to keep the public informed. These supporters can be family members, friends or anyone doing prisoner support work. They can help us expose whatever ill treatment we go through. When the prisoncrats know you have people who genuinely love and care about you, they’re less likely to openly mess you around.

Campaign: Explain how the Indiana Department of Corrections utilizes control units and why?
KMK: In the early 1980s, Indiana experienced several prison riots as a result of racism and brutality by guards on militant aspiring revolutionaries and lumpen proletariat prisoners, forcing prisoners to take a stand to defend themselves. Indiana prisoncrats learned some lessons from these insurrections – and one lesson was that there was a threat to the Indiana Department of Corrections posed by politically-unified convicts.

Indiana prisoncrats lobbied for funds to build two solitary confinement units here in response to the rebellion of militancy from convicts willing to sacrifice for change. 

In 1991, the Indiana Supermax was built, a control unit meant to be a tool of social control of the state’s most violent prisoners.

In 1993, the prisoncrats built the Secured Housing Unit (SHU), a unit styled after the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Both units were meant to cut the prisoners off from normal prison relations, while helping to keep the prisoners in the general population sort of in check. No one wants to spend unlimited years in Administrative Segregation, or solitary confinement.

The fear of being held in these units creates snitches who will tell prisoncrats whatever to stay in population. You may read about these units by going to the Human Rights Watch report, “Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Security Confinement inIndiana.” Amnesty International just released a 68-page report called “The Edgeof Endurance,” exposing solitary confinement in California.

Campaign: How important is it to stay in touch with your loved ones?
KMK: Doing time is like having cannibals eat away at your flesh day by day. Family love and their help to assist us in maintaining are paramount. I am a conscious, self-educated New Afrikan (Black) man who loves myself and those who love me. That connection helps to keep me determined, motivated and hopeful in times of sadness and loss of loved ones.

Since 1997, I have lost my mother, two brothers, an uncle and two cousins. I am fighting for my life, unable to cry, mourn or be a comfort to my family. Since 1994, my loved ones have been harassed, intimidated, threatened and discouraged by prisoncrats to not visit or write me at times. I have not had a contact visit since 2000. We continue to persevere through it all – because it is necessary.

Campaign: How do you work to maintain your health both mentally and physically?
KMK: For years I have maintained a consistent physical exercise routine and a healthy study habit of reading quality books and magazines. I don’t eat pork, and that’s been since 1987. I stopped eating red meat for 15 years; I recently started back eating it. Exercise and study has kept me active and healthy for many years.
One realistic fact that I want to share is no one leaves these experiences the same as they were when they came in. I am scarred by anxiety, depression, paranoia and hypertension as a result of being in long term isolation so many years.

I have made a conscious effort to humble myself and be less reactionary in emotional situations. This way these prisoncrats won’t have any ammunition to use to justify keeping me in solitary confinement. As long as I am living, I’m going to keep on fighting.

Campaign: How long did they keep you on the SCU – Special Confinement Unit?
KMK: Prisoncrats sent me to the SCU unit way in January 2003, and I spent 10 years in that windowless torture chamber. For the most part, that is one of Indiana’s most racist prisons, and the staff are 98 percent all-white with this philosophy of Southern racism.

That was the worst 10 years of my 26 years in prison. Altogether now I have 18 years straight in units of solitary confinement. They have tried to break my will to be defiant and destroy my mental faculties. Allah has guided me out of each storm. Allah-u-Akbar.

Campaign: What do you think prompted the prisoncrats to finally transfer you out on April 18, 2012?
KMK: A variety of reasons, but one in particular is my constant pursuits in civil court. On April 4, 2012, I filed with the court a motion for an immediate permanent injunctive relief judgment and a memorandum of law requesting the court to order the Indiana Department of Corrections to release me to general population. These prisoncrats moved me 14 days later to Pendleton Correctional Facility.

This in my opinion was done to get me out of their custody so I wouldn’t be a problem any longer. I had been challenging my department-wide solitary confinement status for years. The classification supervisor and superintendent also refused to release me in 2010, when I had completed a program serving as re-entry back to population. That ACT Program is an incentive for release. They released my entire class but not me.
Photo: Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility was built in 1923.

Campaign: What are the conditions like at Pendleton Correctional Facility?
KMK: The transfer on April 18, 2012, out of the SCU to Pendleton did not land me in general population. Right now the general population is run like a concentration camp with fences and cameras everywhere; the whole prison is “controlled movement.”

The prisoncrats placed me on DWAS, Department-Wide Administrative Segregation. Inside G-cell-house, where all the potential threats and alleged troublemakers are housed, D-block is where all disciplinary segregation prisoners are housed. Also, C-block, where I am held, houses prisoners on Facility Administrative Segregation and prisoners on DWAS, Department-Wide Administrative Segregation, the status I am on.

DWAS are all single-man cells, with recreation one hour a day and 23 hours locked in a cell. We get recreation on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays, showering only on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. The only interaction we get is during recreation outside when we’re in the dog-run individual cages.

Campaign: Since your arrival at Pendleton, have any officials discussed with you your possible release from that status?
KMK: The prisoncrats are seriously playing games. Superintendent Keith Butts, who recently retired, sent me a letter claiming he would set up a plan to consider my release from DWAS status, but it was all a smokescreen to get me to ease up on my demands to be treated like the rest of these prisoners who are being released. They are picking and choosing and playing prison politics with our lives.

The current regime in the commissioner’s office at the Indiana Department of Corrections are not willing to give me a chance to prove them wrong. That is, if they released me and I transitioned without incident, they will not be able to say “That’s the bad guy” no more. There is no legitimate justification for my still being held captive in these units.

Campaign: How can people outside that are interested in helping you join the campaign to help free you? How can you benefit from their support?
KMK: Having been in prison since 1987, I have had the misfortune to lose family, friends; and my ties to relationships I’ve had with my female companions I have had to rebuild, which hasn’t been easy, then establish an extended family.

Right now, I need someone who is computer-savvy who can network with organizations to encourage them to take on my case. I need a website on Facebook that solely covers my entire case, and we need a law firm that assists political prisoners that is activist-conscious. We also need someone qualified and good with fundraising.

My success with Indiana lawyers haven’t been great. They seem to be afraid to go up against the Indiana Department of Corrections and the lawyers from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. We must find a lawyer out of state who can practice in the state of Indiana.

Those wanting to join this campaign to assist me in my freedom, please write me directly and we’ll go from there; honestly, we need all the willing working bodies we can get on this campaign.

Right now, I need someone who is computer-savvy who can network with organizations to encourage them to take on my case. I need a website on Facebook that solely covers my entire case, and we need a law firm that assists political prisoners that is activist-conscious. We also need someone qualified and good with fundraising.

Campaign: How is your civil and criminal fight coming along in the politics of the Indiana Court System?
KMK: On Jan. 11, 2013, I have a hearing on my civil law suit challenging my continued confinement by the Indiana Department of Corrections. I filed several motions pro se that will be covering primarily my request for the court to order my release to general population.

My criminal murder case is currently at a standstill, and my initial post-conviction appeal was denied, because the Public Defender’s Office gave me an attorney who felt I was guilty and I should do my time. He messed my case up.

I am preparing a successive post-conviction relief petition. My rights are being violated civilly and criminally, and I will never relent nor lose my self-determination to fight.

Campaign: Any final words you want to share with the public and the revolutionary community?
KMK: I can honestly say that Indiana as far as prisoners abandoning their criminal mentalities and transforming to political consciousness goes, our “think tanks,” we’re very aggressive in producing politically-active prisoners, but we seem to have lost our momentum somewhere.

Prisoners are still studying and having individual dialogues, and I think prisoners, in an attempt to avoid being captured and held for 10-20 years in solitary confinement, are becoming less vocal and active. My having been held for the past 18 years is their prime example of where they don’t want to be.

To me, life is not easy, never has been, and to struggle means to reject being the victim. One who struggles is a rejuvenated fighter life-long. We are organized, prepared and multi-talented. To struggle is to understand complexity and to pick one’s own battles. There cannot be fruitful progress without a real struggle. I am not broken by my adversity, but I am experiencing psychological fatigue. A luta continua.

Send our brother some love and light: Khalfani Malik Khaldun (Leonard McQuay), 874304, Pendleton Correctional Facility, GCH 17/2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064.

Daniels: Reports Of Juvenile Prison Abuse ‘Out Of Date’

May 20, 2010

The governor on Thursday downplayed a scathing federal report calling on Indiana to address widespread abuses within its juvenile correction facilities.

A Jan. 29 letter and report from U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez to Gov. Mitch Daniels details troubles within the former Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility, including a mentally ill inmate left dirty and pulling out her hair and male guards having sex with and performing strip searches on young female inmates, 6News’ Joanna Massee reported.

The letter follows a civil rights investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008 that documented inadequate abuse investigations, excessive use of force and isolation, inadequate mental health care and inadequate special education services. The investigation into allegations of abuse began in 2004.

Daniels initially declined to comment on the report, but when asked about the issue at a jobs announcement on Thursday, he told Massee the report was “hopelessly out of date.”

“The problems there (the Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility) — which were very severe and obviously needed attention — are many years old,” Daniels said. “They’re doing their job and tidying up what is really a six- or eight-year-old inquiry.

“When the report was originally released, Daniels volunteered to make improvements at all the facilities and to provide reports resulting from a partnership with the Indiana Juvenile Justice Task Force, an agency charged with monitoring the expected improvements.

The Indianapolis Juvenile Correctional Facility was closed in 2009, and female inmates were moved to the new Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility.

A statement from the Indiana Department of Correction called it “a much different facility than its predecessor in Indianapolis,” but a former employee told 6News that conditions for inmates worsened after the move.

“I do not think any child inside Madison Juvenile is safe,” the former employee, who did not want to be identified, told Massee.

6News was not allowed inside the Madison facility. 

More: Share your experiences with the state’s juvenile justice system

State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, who sits on the Senate Corrections Committee, said he is concerned about the allegations of abuse at the state’s juvenile correction facilities.

“When we have people in our custody, under our care, we have a responsibility and a duty, under our constitution, to take care of their wellbeing,” he said.

Delph said that the Department of Correction has not brought any issues involving juvenile justice to his attention. He said he has requested a meeting with the agency.

Correction Commissioner Edwin Buss declined requests to be interviewed.

Link to Article Here

Indiana bars extended family from seeing more than 1 prisoner

Limit on prison visits angers South Bend family

By ALICIA GALLEGOS Tribune Staff Writer
May 23, 2010
SOUTH BEND — When Sam Dickens’ son went to prison earlier this year, the father didn’t think he’d have any problem visiting him at Westville Correctional facility.

After all, Dickens’ nephew is also an inmate in an Indiana prison, and Dickens has been visiting the young man for years.

But Dickens said he was shocked to learn he couldn’t be on his son’s visiting list.

Instead, new visiting restrictions at the Indiana Department of Correction meant Dickens had to choose to visit his son or his nephew, not both.

“I’m so frustrated. It’s just not right,” Dickens said during a recent interview at his home. “They’re separating the families.”IDOC officials explain the new visitation rule was implemented this year because of security concerns.

The restriction specifies extended family members and friends can visit only one IDOC inmate per six months. The rule, said IDOC spokesman Doug Garrison, is to curb rampant contraband trafficking plaguing Indiana prisons.

“We’re trying to reduce the chances of people bringing contraband into our facilities,” Garrison said.

Contraband problems

Garrison says the new visitor restriction will help the IDOC better regulate who is coming into their facilities and who might be bringing prohibited items.The spokesman stressed the rule applies only to extended family members and does not affect fathers, mothers, children, sisters, brothers or grandparents.

But relatives such as Dickens and Tracy Franklin argue that many times it’s extended family members, such as aunts and uncles, who have helped raise children.

Franklin, of South Bend, has a son and nephew in Indiana prisons, along with a cousin. She only recently found out about the new restriction.

“I think family members should be able to see their loved ones,” she said. “That’s unfair. I can’t go see my nephew. I can’t go see my cousin.”

Dickens said his nephew, Greg Dickens, always looked up to him and that going to visit the man “empowers him,” and “kinda helps keep him alive.”Greg Dickens was convicted as a teenager of murder in the death of South Bend Police Cpl. Paul Deguch. He is now serving a life sentence.

Dickens’ son Samson Dickens just recently began serving a 6-year sentence for assault, his father said.

Garrison acknowledges the visiting policy will no doubt adversely affect families who are not at fault. But, he said the rising climate of contraband has forced correctional facilities to tighten their rules.

Take for instance one recent month, Garrison said, where IDOC officials confiscated 250 cell phones from one prison facility.”It’s absolutely crazy,” he said.

Indiana prisons are not alone.

In recent years, banned items — particularly cell phones — have steadily grown in prisons across the country, according to the American Correctional Association.

A visitor in a wheelchair sitting on hordes of cell phones. Civilians throwing tennis balls or footballs over prison yard fences with hidden items. Visitors slipping products inside sleeves.

“Inmates are creative,” ACA spokesman Eric Schultz said.Schultz said prisons are making various efforts to fight contraband, although he said he has not heard of other prisons restricting extended family members.

“That’s interesting,” he said of the IDOC rule. “I can’t say we have heard that.”

In Michigan, a similar visiting restriction is in effect, according to the MDOC website.

Proposed visitors can be on visiting lists for immediate family members, but only on the list of one prisoner who is not immediate family.

The rule indicates aunts, uncles or other family members can be included as “immediate family,” if they can provide verification they served as a surrogate parent.MDOC Spokesman John Cordell said he is not surprised about Indiana enforcing the new restriction.

“Unfortunately visitors are one of the ways contraband comes into prisons,” he said.

‘Balance needed’

Visitors might not seem like that big a deal to those on the outside, but the Rev. David Link says for prisoners, they mean the world.

Link, former University of Notre Dame law school dean and now prison chaplain and deputy director of religious and community services for the IDOC, said inmates who have more family visits have a better attitude while in prison and are more likely to be successful upon release.”There’s not much that’s more important to the incarcerated than being able to visit with their families,” Link said. “It doesn’t just make them turn their life around, it makes them a better-acting prisoner.”

Link adds that non-family members — such as mentors, friends, or teachers — can often have an even greater impact on prisoners than an immediate family member. On the same note, an immediate family member can easily be the bad influence.

“We gotta look at it as a case-by-case basis,” Link said. “Someone has gotta look at who is best to visit and who might not be best to visit.”

Rather than a blanket limitation, Link believes, a better balance needs to be made between visiting benefits and maintaining security.

“We can’t let up on the security,” he said. “But we also gotta think of people as individuals.”As for the IDOC, Garrison said extended family members who would like to appeal the visiting restriction can always request an exception from the prison superintendent.

“I would encourage people to do that,” he said.

Dickens said he has made the difficult decision to visit his son in prison and not his nephew. He is considering appealing to the IDOC for an exception.

Voices Against Injustice will conduct a protest at CCA prison Marion County Jail II


Thursday, March 4, 2010
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Marion County Jail 2
Street: 730 E. Washington
City/Town: Indianapolis, IN

Every day that the NYSE is open for business, they trade stocks and bonds based on the population of privatized prisons. This is nothing less than modernized slavery with no regard for anymore for race (even though the statistics don’t lie that African-American Men represent 14% of the US Population, yet they account for 40% of the prison population). It would appear that the prime commodity for the booming business of the privatized prison industry would be the young black male.

Do you not see the similarity between the black and white stripes of the prison uniform and the UPC barcodes places on the goods we purchase in the stores? Human beings have been reduced to commodities. Prisoners are no longer humans, they are goods owned by each state to be traded. When I was a prisoner in Michigan, I was told I was no longer Heidi Marie Rogan… I was inmate #238631. I was no longer my own person, I was property of the State of Michigan. I was given a Class A ticket because I pierced my nose. The offense: damaging state property. My bunkie received a ticket because she fell asleep on the yard in the summer sun and received a sunburn over her body and needed medical treatment for it. Her offense: damaging state property. Rude awakenings. We were no longer humans. We were property. I worked at a landfill. I picked up garbage at a garbage dump for $1.85 a day. Not an hour. A day.

This is not even where the big money comes in though. Prisons around the United States are manufacturing products that some of you have in your own home. They are manufacturing clothing that some of you may be wearing on your body at this very moment. These prison factories are manufacturing clothing, pallets, furniture, cleaning supplies, and more. Ironically, the inmates manufacture the very steel doors that keep them locked inside the walls. They do all of this for way below minimum wage, receiving a daily wage rather than an hourly wage. Some states claim to have become “progressive” since they are now paying a minimum wage to their prisoners. I see this as a move made simply to appease the masses and shut the grumbling mouths of the enlightened up. At the risk of sounding like I am spewing forth rhetoric, this seems to be the move of the sharecropper.

On March 4th, 2010 Voices Against Injustice is standing against this insanity. Marion County Jail II is a privatized jail managed by CCA. We will be in front of this facility raising our artistic voices of intellect against this insanity. After a short informative speech, we will then move over to Urban Element. We have an ACLU attorney who is investigating the constitutionality of the permit laws within Marion County. A massive amount of Indianapolis’ vocal artists are coming out to support this cause including: Nsaychable, Souled Out, Gabby, Tony Styxx, Bashiri Asad, and more. Many performers will be coming from out of state as well, traveling from as far as Ohio and Mississippi. Due to the length of the ACLU’s battle with the city on this event, our keynote speaker’s will not be able to make until our event that will be held in June, which we are greatly looking forward to which will be discussed the night of the 4th.

Please plan to be there. We need many volunteers to help coordinate this massive front to fight this issue. If you have any questions about this, please send Heidi an email: sahabah2007 at

Prison inmates train dogs and help themselves

‘It’s incredible the difference that a few dogs can make’ as prisoners teach them to help disabled kids.

The shrill barking of nine Labrador retriever puppies Thursday gave way to blissful laughter from their new trainers: 18 inmates at the Plainfield Correctional Facility.

One by one, the 8-week-old pups were pulled out of their crates and introduced to the men who’ll care for them and help them learn to assist children with physical or mental disabilities.

The Indiana Canine Assistance Network’s Service Dog Apprenticeship program is a tremendous success and a great way for offenders to give back to the community, said prison spokesman Kevin Mulroony.

“You’ll see the most hardened felons turn into the sappiest guys,” he said. “It’s incredible the difference that a few dogs can make.”

Four area prisons participate in the 9-year-old ICAN program, which director Sally Irvin modeled after a program started 30 years ago by Pauline Quinn, a nun from Michigan.

A total of 42 dogs are in training at Plainfield and the Branchville Correctional Facility, Indiana Women’s Prison and Rockville Correctional Facility for women.

Since its start in Indianapolis in 2001, 69 dogs have completed the two-year program. Ten are used as drug-detection dogs for local law enforcement agencies, and two bomb-detecting dogs serve with the United Nations security force in New York.

Two dogs were trained to determine when diabetics might be at risk of collapse from low blood sugar, and others went on to help children or others with disabilities.

Irvin said it costs ICAN about $16,000 to train one dog, so the program depends on donations and grants.

“Private citizens are by far the biggest donation source,” Irvin said. “Since we only charge clients $950 for the dogs and offer two weeks of training and a lifetime follow-up, it takes a lot of financial support.”

Costs include training inmates to work with the dogs, as well as housing and caring for the animals. The program breeds two or three litters per year, but breeders, rescue organizations and shelters donate 60 percent to 70 percent of the dogs.

Each dog lives in the housing unit with the inmate-trainer and remains with trainers nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Irvin said.

To qualify for the program, offenders must have a background clear of violent behavior, have had no negative conduct reports for at least a year, and apply and interview for the program as they would for a job.

“The program requires (offenders) to take complete ownership in their job,” Mulroony said. “They all know that there’s a lot of effort that goes into the training for the dog and how it will benefit the community.

“When you see an offender walking through the hall with their dog, you can just tell that there’s a bond already. That dog and this job becomes their world.”

February 20, 2010 Link