A HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM

We hope it is not too late (it is never too late to join a pen pal group and be one!)

Received via email:

Occupy 4 Prisoners (O4P) is hosting a new project we hope will spark interest among activists and people of conscience alike.  Join us in a Human Rights Pen Pal group, a program combining prison correspondence, political education, and sharing what you’ve learned. See below for a detailed description.

Please consider becoming a pen pal to a person imprisoned in California’s solitary confinement cells and fighting for their human rights.  If interested, please contact Denise at deniselynn777@gmail.org by March 8 to receive an application.

And please help us spread the word to other interested folks.

In solidarity,

Denise Mewbourne & Molly Batchelder
Occupy 4 Prisoners

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A HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM:
A Project of Occupy 4 Prisoners (O4P)

WHAT IS THE HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM?

“How can any of us stand idly by while our public officials stride the world stage touting the inalienable rights of man, and criticizing other nations for their alleged human rights abuses, when the US is operating the largest domestic torture program on earth in SHU’s like Corcoran?”
-New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist Collective Think Tank, Corcoran SHU

“A wall is just a wall;
It can be broken down.”
-Assata Shakur

The Human Rights Pen Pal program is an anti-racist, grassroots organizer training program in solidarity with incarcerated activists fighting for the human rights of people imprisoned in California’s solitary confinement cells. It is based on the model created and piloted this year by the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition, and promotes principled relationships between people in solitary confinement and supporters outside the walls. The program combines solidarity practice, political education, community organizing skills, and evaluation.

The Human Rights Pen Pal program is specifically intended to support the ongoing work of Occupy 4 Prisoners (O4P), as well as the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition. O4P arose as a powerful coalition combining the powerful new energy of the Occupy movement with established Bay Area activist groups working in solidarity with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. The PHSS works to end solitary confinement, otherwise known as SHUs (Security Housing Units) and Ad Segs (Administrative Segregation), as well as to address the human rights of people imprisoned in these torture chambers.

WHAT WILL THE HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?

Solidarity: The program is designed to foster pen pal relationships between people inside and outside the walls, in the interest of a mutual exchange of support, shared information and inspiration. We will energize each other in this struggle! It also assumes that developing relationships will lead to a growing commitment of those ‘outside the walls’ to work in solidarity with activists on the inside and their human rights campaigns.

The ‘outside the walls’ O4P group will be limited to 10-12, with each pen pal writing to one or more people in solitary confinement, from prisons with SHUs throughout California. The pen pals group will meet monthly, and the meeting will have two major components: political education and social/logistical support for the act of corresponding itself.

Political Education: The political education component will include readings and discussions about California prisons, solitary confinement, the history of resistance by incarcerated people, and strategies of solidarity used by local and national anti-prison organizations.

Supporting each other: This includes: sharing in the group what we’re learning from our pen pals (without necessarily using their names); exchanging ideas for responding to their letters; discussion of tactics and support for spreading awareness about solitary confinement to our friends and family; evaluating our work together. In order for this work to be as sustainable as possible, the group will include emotional support as needed.

Sharing what we’ve learned in the larger world: We intend to foster human connections and the understanding that when anyone is tortured and oppressed within a society, it reverberates throughout the entire culture as social trauma. The humble act of letter correspondence with imprisoned people, especially when we share what we have learned with others, is crucial to breaking down the societal compartmentalization that enables this kind of oppression to endure.
‘OUTSIDE THE WALLS’ PEN PALS WILL BE ASKED TO COMMIT TO:

(1) Regular correspondence with your ‘inside the walls’ pen pal(s) twice monthly.

(2) Attending a three hour monthly meeting. These meetings will continue from March through August (6 months). The Oakland location is TBD, and rides will be organized if needed.

(3) Actively participating in the interactive political education component, which consists of reading suggested short essays, preparing questions for discussion at the group meetings, and keeping abreast of O4P, PHSS and other anti-prison events and activities.

(4) Sharing your experiences as a pen pal participant with your own friends and networks.

(5) Consider continuing your correspondence with your prisoner pen pal for at least a year, with discussion of whether or not the structured pen pal program should continue and, if so, in what form.

HOW TO APPLY TO PARTICIPATE IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM
(Deadline March 10)

For more info and to receive an application, contact Denise at deniselynn777@gmail.com Leave your email address and phone number. Deadline for returning applications is March 10. The first Pen Pal meeting will take place the fourth week of March 2013.

Court Blocks Florida Inmates From Having Pen Pal Ads

Pen pals are an important part of keeping people in prisons healthy, despite the safety concern (everything is a safety concern in prisons, if it comes to it to have more humanity for prisoners…). Safety concerns may even rise more if prisoners cannot relate to or engage with human beings on the other side…

From (would you believe it): Fox news

Dec 22, 2011
A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected a complaint from pen-pal services that challenged a Florida policy banning inmates from advertising themselves on the online sites.

The operators of WriteAPrisoner.com and two other services claimed the policy violated the free speech rights of the state’s inmates. But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with state officials who argued the Match.com-style listings could lead to security problems.

It’s the latest decision in an ongoing legal feud between the online pen-pal sites and corrections officials who have adopted similar policies in several other states. The federal appeals court in Chicago in July upheld a similar restriction adopted by the Indiana Department of Correction.

Florida officials prohibited the online ads in 2004 after receiving complaints about pen pal scams. The rule allowed inmates to correspond with pen pals but banned them from placing ads on sites to find new pals. Inmates who ignore the rule could have privileges such as visitation or phone calls revoked.

WriteAPrisoner and two letter services, Freedom Through Christ Prison Ministry and Prison Pen Pals, argue that the sites play a valuable role in helping inmates. They say many people who use the sites are from religious groups, and that they help inmates rehabilitate by providing them more contact with the outside world.

But prison officials countered that the sites could lead to more money and contraband entering the facilities. The department would have to assign more staffers and to comb through mail to root out any signs of fraudulent schemes or illegal material, state officials said in court records.

In an 18-page ruling, Circuit Judge Charles R. Wilson concluded that allowing inmates to post ads on the sites would place an extra burden on already-strained prison staffs. He said the rules don’t violate the inmates’ rights, and noted they still allow them to “glean the positive influence” from pen pals using sites that don’t require ads.

Florida corrections spokeswoman Ann Howard said the state is pleased with the ruling. WriteAPrisoner.com owner Adam Lovell said the decision blocks his site from offering rehabilitative services to Florida inmates that could have helped reduce recidivism. He is considering whether to appeal.

“The department’s rule and today’s decision solved a non-existent problem,” he said. “It is a sad day for us, but we proudly move on with the support of a very strong base committed to prison reform.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/22/court-blocks-florida-inmates-from-having-pen-pal-ads/#ixzz1heVf3CTw