An End to Solitary is Long Overdue

California’s Savage System of Confinement

Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be held indefinitely in solitary. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.

Despite these repeated condemnations by the U.N., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is harshening rather than easing its policies, currently with three new sets of regulations. The administration’s iron-fisted strategy is emerging: project the appearance of a reforming system while extending its reach, and restrict the ability of prisoners and their loved ones to organize for their rights.

First, the CDCR has instituted a “Step Down Program” ostensibly to create a pathway out of indefinite solitary. However, the program actually widens the net of who can be considered a threat and therefore eligible for placement in solitary. Recently adopted regulations replace the old language of “gang” with “Security Threat Group” (STG) and the previous list of a dozen identified gangs is now replaced with a dizzying list of over 1500 STGs. Under these new regulations, even family members and others outside the prisons can be designated as part of an STG. Given the fact that indefinite solitary is used disproportionately against people of color – in Pelican Bay, 85% of those in isolation are Latino – the language used to justify placement in solitary eerily mirrors the rhetoric of the federal government and its permanent state of war against its declared enemies, all of whom are people of color.

The CDCR promulgated a second set of rule changes last summer with sweeping new “obscenity” regulations governing mail going both in and out of prisons. The original proposal was to explicitly ban any “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society,” yet after coming under heavy criticism, CDCR decided to mask its Orwellian motives by hiding behind the above mentioned language of STGs. This ominous language violates First Amendment rights, and reveals a broader agenda: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

A third element of CDCR’s strategy of containment is the implementation of highly intimidating visiting procedures designed to keep family members away from their loved ones. Draconian new visiting regulations authorize the use of dogs and electronic drug detectors to indiscriminately search visitors for contraband, even though both methods are notoriously unreliable. These procedures effectively criminalize family members and deter them from visiting, especially in a period of a growing family-led movement against solitary.

The three new policies are also intended to extend CDCR’s reach beyond the prison walls. As an organizer and family member of a prisoner, I’m censored when sending letters to my brother, Sitawa N. Jamaa, subjected to gratuitous and intimidating searches during visits, and susceptible to being labeled an STG associate. These are all ways that CDCR is trying to keep me from knowing how my brother and others are doing, and to repress my organizing.

Taken individually, these regulations may seem to address unrelated issues. But given they are all coming down simultaneously – just a year after the last of a series of historic hunger strikes by people in California prisons has given rise to the highest level of self-organization and empowerment among imprisoned people since the 1970s – these regulations are nothing less than a systematic attempt to silence and retaliate against prisoners’ growing resistance. Over 30,000 prisoners participated in 2013’s strike, some for 60 days, risking their health and lives for an end to indefinite solitary. Prisoners’ family members and loved ones also took up leadership roles in political organizing in unprecedented ways. The movement to abolish solitary continues to gain momentum around the country.

The hunger strikes were a significant part of an ongoing national sea change regarding the use of solitary, as states are waking up to its dangers. Illinois, Maine and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary units without any loss of institutional safety. New York and Arizona were recently forced to reduce their use of isolation, with Colorado and New Jersey following suit.

Yet California steadfastly remains an outlier seemingly impervious to change, led by an administration that relies on tired rhetoric about “the worst of the worst” to justify torture. People locked up in California have a decades-long history of fighting for the rights and dignity of prisoners, affirming their humanity in the face of inhumane conditions and demanding change. The U.N. report calls on this government to “ban prison regimes of solitary confinement such as those in super-maximum security detention facilities.” It’s time for California to listen.

Marie Levin is the sister of Sitawa N. Jamaa, a prisoner in solitary confinement at Tehachapi. She is a member of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

Mohamed Shehk is the Media and Communications Director of Critical Resistance, and also contributed to this piece.

UN rights expert: California jails: “Solitary confinement can amount to cruel punishment, even torture”


GENEVA (23 August 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, today urged the United States Government to abolish the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. There are approximately 80,000 prisoners in the United States of America who are subjected to solitary confinement, nearly 12,000 are in isolation in the state of California.

“Even if solitary confinement is applied for short periods of time, it often causes mental and physical suffering or humiliation, amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if the resulting pain or sufferings are severe, solitary confinement even amounts to torture,” Mr. Méndez stressed as nearly 200 inmates in Californian detention centres approach their fifth consecutive week on hunger strike against cruel, inhuman and degrading prison conditions.

“I urge the US Government to adopt concrete measures to eliminate the use of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement under all circumstances,” he said, “including an absolute ban of solitary confinement of any duration for juveniles, persons with psychosocial disabilities or other disabilities or health conditions, pregnant women, women with infants and breastfeeding mothers as well as those serving a life sentence and prisoners on death row.”

The independent investigator on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment urged the US authorities to ensure that “solitary confinement is only imposed, if at all, in very exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, for as short a time as possible and with established safeguards in place.” In Mr. Méndez’s view, “its application must be subject to independent review, and inmates must undergo strict medical supervision.”

Since 8 July 2013, thousands of prisoners detained in nine separate prisons across the state of California have gone on hunger strike to peacefully protest the cruel, inhuman and degrading prison conditions. The inmates are demanding a change in the state’s excessive use of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure, and the subjugation of prisoners to solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time by prison authorities under the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In California’s maximum security prison in Pelican Bay more than 400 prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for over a decade, and the average time a prisoner spends in solitary confinement is 7.5 years. “I am extremely worried about those numbers and in particular about the approximately 4,000 prisoners in California who are held in Security Housing Units for indefinite periods or periods of many years, often decades,” Mr. Méndez said.

In many cases inmates are isolated in 8-foot-by-12 foot (2.5 x 3.5 m. Approx.) cells and lack minimum ventilation and natural light. The prisoners are forced to remain in their cells for 22 to 23 hours per day, and they are allowed only one hour of exercise alone in a cement lot where they do not necessarily have any contact with other inmates.

In the context of reported reprisals against inmates on hunger strike and a District Judge’s approval of Californian authorities’ request to engage to force-feed prisoners under certain circumstances, the UN Special Rapporteur also reminded the authorities that “it is not acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike.”

Mr. Méndez addressed the issue of solitary confinement in the US, including prison regimes in California, in his 2011 report* to the UN General Assembly and in numerous communications to the Government. He has also repeatedly requested an invitation to carry out a visit to the country, including State prisons in California, but so far has not received a positive answer.

“My request coincides with some prominent voices in the United States, including the first-ever congressional hearing chaired by Senator Durbin on 19 June 2012; the decision to close Tamms Maximum Security Correctional Center by the State of Illinois on 4 January 2013 and numerous editorials by prominent columnists in major papers addressing the excessive use of solitary confinement across the country,” Mr. Méndez said.

“It is about time to provide the opportunity for an in situ assessment of the conditions in US prisons and detention facilities,” the UN Special Rapporteur underscored.

Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on 1 November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity.
Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. He is currently a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association.
Mr. Méndez has previously served as the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) until 2009, and was the UN Secretary-General Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide from 2004 to 2007, as well as an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, between 2009 and 2010.

Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx

(*) Check the 2011 report on solitary confinement: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N11/445/70/PDF/N1144570.pdf?OpenElement orhttp://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=103

UN Human Rights Country Page – United States of America: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Sonia Cronin (+41 22 917 91 60 / scronin@ohchr.org) or Ms. Stephanie Selg (+1 202 274 4378 / ssleg@ohchr.org) or write to sr-torture@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)
UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights 
Twitter:
 http://twitter.com/UNrightswire
Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights 
YouTube:
 http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR 
Storify: http://storify.com/UNrightswire
Watch “The Riddle”: http://www.youtube.com/embed/sYFNfW1-sM8?rel=0

Pelican Bay Short Corridor Update

Received per email from supporters on Dec 30th 2011:
Pelican Bay Short Corridor Update
22 December 2011
See also: SF Bay View

A Shout-out of respect and solidarity – from the Pelican Bay Short Corridor – Collective – to all similarly situated prisoners subject to the continuing torturous conditions of confinement in these barbaric SHU & Ad/Seg units across this country and around the world.

This is our update of where things currently stand and where we’re going with this struggle – for an end to draconian policies and practices – summarized in our “Formal Complaint” (and many related documents published and posted online, since early 2011).

As many of you know… beginning in early (2010), the PBSP – SHU Short Corridor Collective initiated action to educate people and bring wide spread exposure to – the (25+) years of ongoing – progressive human rights violations going unchecked here in the California Department of Corruption –via dissemination of our “Formal Complaint” to 100’s of people, organizations, lawmakers, Secretary Cate, etc… wherein, we also sought support and meaningful change.

The response by CDCR – Secretary Cate was “file an inmate appeal” (collectively, we’d filed thousands); therefore, after much reconsideration and dialogue, the collective decided to take the fight to the next level via peaceful protest action – in the form of hunger strike.

With the above in mind – beginning in early (2011)… we again sought to educate people about the ongoing torture prevalent in these prison systems –solitary confinement units; and pointing out our position that – the administrative grievance process is a sham, and the court system’s turned a blind eye to such blatantly illegal practices – Leaving us with no other meaningful avenue for obtaining relief, other than to put our lives on the line and thereby draw the line and force changes, via collective peaceful protest hunger strike action.

We believed this was the only – fully advantageous – way for us to expose such outrageous abuse of state power, to the world and gain the outside support needed to help force real change.

We requested support in the form of – asking people to write letters to those in power… we received more support than we ever expected – in the form of letters, rallies, and hunger strike “participants” – more than (18,000) similarly situated prisoners and some people on the outside!

All united in solidarity, with a collective awareness – that the draconian torture practices described in our “Formal Complaint” are prevalent across the land; and that – united in peaceful action, we have the power to force changes.

The hunger strike actions of (2011) achieved some success, in the form of – mainstream world wide exposure – solid, continuing outside support – some small improvements to SHU/Ad-Seg unit conditions … and assurances of more meaningful – substantive changes to the overall policies and practices re: basis for placement and amount of time spent, in such units – a substantive review of all prisoners files, per new criteria – and more change to the actual conditions in such units.

However, this fight is far from over! Notably, the second hunger strike action was suspended in mid-October … in response to top CDCR administrator’s presentation that the substantive changes be finalized… would be provided to “the stakeholders” (this includes our attorneys), within 60 days for comment. To date, CDCR hasn’t produced anything re: SHU/Ad-Seg policy changes; and PBSP’s Warden has not even replied to the (2) memo’s we’ve sent him concerning – additional program – privilege issues, per core demand #5 (see footnote #1 below).

Naturally, many people are not happy about CDCR’s failure to abide by their word – again – and they are asking… “what’s the next move in this struggle?”

Based on our collective discussions, our response is … people need to remain focused, and continue to apply pressure on CDCR, via letters, emails, fax, etc… summarizing the continuing core demands – immediately! There’s real power in numbers!! (see addresses to contact below, at footnote #2).

It’s important for everyone to stay objective and on the same page – remember… united we win, divided we lose. And, if we don’t see real substantive changes within the next 6 months… we’ll have to re-evaluate our position.

Additionally, now is a good time for people to start a dialogue about changing the climate on these level IV mainlines… As it stands now, these lines are warehouses, with all the money meant for programs – rehabilitation, going into guard pockets.

It’s in all of our best interests to change this in a big way, and thereby force CDCR to open these lines up and provide all of us with the programs and rehabilitative services that we all should have coming to us!!

Respect and Solidarity,

T. Ashker, A. Castellanos, Sitawa (s/n Dewberry), A. Guillen

-Dec. 2011-

Footnote#1: To date, we’ve received zero improvements re: core demand #5 … while Corcoran and Tehachapi have gained on canteen and dip-pull up bars – which, is all good. This is an example of what we pointed out in our “Formal Complaint” re: disparate treatment at PBSP-SHU compared to other SHU’s.

This is also a typical CDCR attempt to create discord and disruption to our unified struggle…we’re certain this feeble move will fail because all of us understand what our main objective is – an end to long term torture in these isolation units! It is our fundamental right to be treated humanely… we can no longer accept state sanctioned torture – of our selves! (and, our loved ones!) and we remain unified in our resistance!!

Footnote#2: Addresses of people to write:

1. Tom Ammiano, Assemblyman
Capitol Bldg. Rm# 4005
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone 916-319-2013
Fax 916-319-2113

2. Gov. Edmund G. Brown
State Capitol, Ste #1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone 916-446-2841
Fax 916-558-3160

3. CDCR – Secretary Matthew Cate
1515 S. St. Ste. #330
Sacramento, CA 95811
Phone# 916-323-6001

4. Carol Strickman, Attorney at Law
1540 Market Street, Ste. #490
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone 415-255-7036
Fax 415-552-3150

All inmates writing to these people should be sent ‘confidential mail’ and anyone outside of prison, supporters, family members, etc… please write and also email.


Five Core demands

See also: SolitaryWatch

Conditions of confinement: Why we call and write.

SCOTT WATCH
July 4, 2010

Dear Supporters:

Jamie and Gladys would like to thank all supporters for everything that is being done to assist in securing their freedom. They would especially like to thank The Gray Haired Witnesses for the most recent Washington, DC event.

Jamie sends a special thank you to everyone for contacting the Health Department regarding conditions at MDOC’s- Quickbed Unit which is where she and many other inmates are housed. She has said that the prison made noticeable improvements and are continuing to do so. Many other inmates have also expressed their thanks to everyone who called and wrote the Mississippi Health Department. The Health Department did visit the prison and it has made a great difference in the lives of inmates.

Mrs. Rasco said that Jamie has broken out in boils again. The medical clinic has given her antibiotics and hopefully this will clear her condition. Although Jamie is sick; she is in very high spirits because of the improved living conditions. I would personally like to thank Ms. Gloretha Darlene Pinckney-Gray for sharing the idea of contacting OSHA and the Health Department. Ms. Gray – you have made a difference in many lives there at MDOC – Quick Bed. We thank you!

Jamie’s Birthday is on July 16th and she would very much appreciate receiving cards and letters from supporters. Please write to Jamie Scott at the following address:

Jamie Scott # 19197
CMCF/2A-B-Zone
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8850

Anyone who wishes to send funds directly to Jamie for her commissary privileges may do so by following instructions provided via this link.

http://www.mdoc.state.ms.us/Sending%20Money.htm

Free The Scott Sisters T-Shirts are available and may be purchased via the link below. Thank you to Paul Lefrak for organizing this and to Jack and Mike for picking up the torch! Please order your shirts, wear them and assist us in spreading the word.

http://www.radicaljack.com/scsit.html

Last but not least, a documentary is now being produced of The Scott Sisters, their family and this tragic case. The producer and his team are working around the clock to meet deadlines and ensure that all bases are covered. This documentary should be released in a few months!

In Solidarity,

Nancy R. Lockhart, M.J.

Conditions of confinement: Why we call and write.

July 4, 2010

Dear Supporters:

Jamie and Gladys would like to thank all supporters for everything that is being done to assist in securing their freedom. They would especially like to thank The Gray Haired Witnesses for the most recent Washington, DC event.

Jamie sends a special thank you to everyone for contacting the Health Department regarding conditions at MDOC’s- Quickbed Unit which is where she and many other inmates are housed. She has said that the prison made noticeable improvements and are continuing to do so. Many other inmates have also expressed their thanks to everyone who called and wrote the Mississippi Health Department. The Health Department did visit the prison and it has made a great difference in the lives of inmates.

Mrs. Rasco said that Jamie has broken out in boils again. The medical clinic has given her antibiotics and hopefully this will clear her condition. Although Jamie is sick; she is in very high spirits because of the improved living conditions. I would personally like to thank Ms. Gloretha Darlene Pinckney-Gray for sharing the idea of contacting OSHA and the Health Department. Ms. Gray – you have made a difference in many lives there at MDOC – Quick Bed. We thank you!

Jamie’s Birthday is on July 16th and she would very much appreciate receiving cards and letters from supporters. Please write to Jamie Scott at the following address:

Jamie Scott # 19197
CMCF/2A-B-Zone
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8850

Anyone who wishes to send funds directly to Jamie for her commissary privileges may do so by following instructions provided via this link.

http://www.mdoc.state.ms.us/Sending%20Money.htm

Free The Scott Sisters T-Shirts are available and may be purchased via the link below. Thank you to Paul Lefrak for organizing this and to Jack and Mike for picking up the torch! Please order your shirts, wear them and assist us in spreading the word.

http://www.radicaljack.com/scsit.html

Last but not least, a documentary is now being produced of The Scott Sisters, their family and this tragic case. The producer and his team are working around the clock to meet deadlines and ensure that all bases are covered. This documentary should be released in a few months!

In Solidarity,

Nancy R. Lockhart, M.J.

Honor Resistance, Not Repression.

No Banquets! Free Jamie and Gladys Scott!
Represent Our Resistance

By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
May 6, Issue 374

We, the Black masses, don’t want these leaders who seek our support coming to us representing a certain political party. They must come to us today as Black Leaders representing the welfare of Black people. We won’t follow any leader today who comes on the basis of political party. Both parties (Democrat and Republican) are controlled by the same people who have abused our rights, and who have deceived us with false promises every time an election rolls around.
-Malcolm X

Jamie Scott suffers from kidney disease. She receives inadequate medical care, but the Jackson County Branch of the NAACP in Mississippi last month (April) held a banquet, “NAACP: One Nation, One Dream,” to honor individuals and organizations for their outstanding service to the community. Christopher Epps, commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Corrections was recognized for his – work.

Epps (Black American) is the “longest serving commissioner in the history of the agency,” according to MDOC’s website. Appointed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2002 and then reappointed by Gov. Haley Barbour in 2004, Epps must have done his work quite well.

Mrs. Evelyn (Rasco), Jamie’s mother, spoke to Epps in March of this year on behalf of her daughter. Jamie, she told him, is very ill; she needs serious medical care. Jamie and her sister Gladys were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to double life each for an $11 dollar robbery. The wallet re-appeared with the money. The accusers admitted to supplying false testimonies against the young women then. But its 15 years latter and now Jamie is ill.

Epps told Mrs. (Rasco) that he would do “everything in his power” and work to have the Scott sisters released from prison, according to legal analyst Nancy Lockhart. Now it seems that Epps isn’t so sure this is his work – securing medical care for Jamie or securing the release of Jamie and Gladys. Maybe Jamie isn’t so ill. Maybe she isn’t so truthful about her experiences with the prison’s medical personnel.

“I’ve talked with Jamie many times. I know Jamie. I can’t imagine Jamie would lie. I have never known Jamie to lie,” Lockhart told me.

No, I can’t imagine that any woman in the end-stage of kidney disease, receiving inadequate treatment, living in a cell with spiders and moldy walls would lie about her condition. No, not many could imagine a woman lying about the pain and bleeding of 4-5 caterers that had been placed in her neck or the bleeding from the caterer (placed in her groin) that fell out. No human being would imagine another would be lying while they suffer from a life-threatening disease.

But Epps seems to have doubts. Something is wrong with this story!

I agree. Something is strange about this story!

The Jackson County Branch rewards Christopher Epps for his outstanding community work! People have to be congratulated for their community work – in this post-racial era! That’s strange considering that surveillance teams are watching and recording a good many of them!

Immigrant communities, particularly Latino/as and Haitian communities, are working to organize resistance to the legalization of racial profiling and racial terror. Native Americans are working to organize resistance to the effort of the government to run bulldozers over their lands and their lives. Muslim communities are working to organize resistance to the targeting of their mosques and community organizations.

While community organizations, focusing on the fallout of war waged against Black Americans, organize to tackle housing, unemployment, gentrification of neighborhoods, and high infant mortality rates, the Black community isn’t organized to confront the U.S. Empire that perpetuates these conditions. On the contrary, mainstream Black organizations fear losing their credibility with Empire and, in turn, they fear losing economic and political support.

These organizations can’t identify themselves as critics of the U.S. Empire. So banquets – out of reach of Jamie, her sister, and their mother – are organized to do what? Honor whom? Collaborators, obedient servants – who are also intended to serve as symbols of Black success? Look at the number of Black Americans who can afford to attend the awards banquet! Look at the “exceptional,” outstanding professional Blacks honored for their work.

In the meantime, NAACP representatives aren’t knocking on Black residents’ doors to urge them to come out, stand together to engage in civil disobedience. The NAACP won’t organize troops of people from the communities of Red, Black, Brown, and Muslim to appear in Washington D.C. and demand an end to the laws and policies that have incarcerated 2.3 million Americans.

Be practical! How could we remain the NAACP without government funding?

But the question should be – how do members of the NAACP continue to tell themselves that its organization represents Black Americans, including the poor, imprisoned, and working class in the tradition of Black solidarity?

Do they know that the Black community is collapsing from without and well as from within? Or is the NAACP an organization that does what is safe for the NAACP to sustain its life. It’s safe to honor Epps, but it’s not safe to free the incarcerated like Jamie and Gladys.

When the NAACP planned a study on the effects of prison in the lives of juveniles, Nancy Lockhart approached the regional director about the Scott Sisters’ case. Lockhart was told that the Sisters “didn’t qualify” for the study, but he would refer their case to the “criminal division of the NAACP” and recommend that the division treat the case in the same manner they are treating the Troy Davis case! Lockhart: “How long was Troy Davis in prison before the NAACP responded to his wrongful conviction?” Other legal organizations did the work to free Davis long before the NAACP took note of his imprisonment.

Is it that Davis’ case like Mumia’s case has received international support and it is therefore safe enough for the NAACP?

As Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “mass incarceration depends for its legitimacy on the widespread belief that all those who appear trapped at the bottom actively chose their fate.” No group believes this fallacy more than the Black middle class. While a few more Blacks per year are seated at banquet tables, oblivious to the day-to-day plight of Blackness in the U.S., there’s a steady increase of Black children and young people hurdled into the criminal justice system each year. Unfortunate environment! Wrong parents! The judgment of a divine mind! Jamie and Gladys Scott are just not – exceptional–they’re just common.

Overlook them! They can’t vote! They don’t count!

The system has regulated our relations with one another to its benefit and our detriment.

Consequently, we no longer, as a collective, heed Martin Luther King’s warning that, to quote from Alexander, “racial justice requires the complete transformation of social institutions and dramatic restructuring of our economy, not superficial changes that can [be] purchased on the cheap.” Work that contributes to the continuation of U.S. Empire’s practice of aggression can’t transform or dramatically restructure the institutions that enslave the majority of humanity.

The horrors of Empire are more easily recognized when on display over there. But the horrors of U.S. Empire are here. Palestine is here. The West Bank and Gaza are here in the U.S. in the barrios, on the reservations, in urban communities, and in rural prisons. We don’t see it, but the War on Drugs and immigrant laws lock away Black and Brown people here. Unarmed young men are shot 20, 30, and 41 times for being Black while they hold a cell phone, or ride a subway, or attend a bachelor’s party.

The re-settlement scheme, otherwise known as gentrification, forces people to sleep on park benches and in public library sitting rooms. Systemic unemployment and low wages create conditions of impoverishment for thousands of children here. Racial profiling and militarized borders and neighborhoods subject people to fear and shame. Here in the U.S., millions of people for whom the political and economic domestic policies resemble the foreign policies enforced over there, these conditions are too close for Americans to see.

It’s sad to see Black organizations lacking the will and desire to break free and work on behalf of those abused, tortured, imprisoned, killed by the Empire. It’s hard to see how such organizations can direct a movement that would bring about structural transformations in the U.S. Consequently, we can’t put the spotlight on the kind of work that only strengthens aggressive strategies, except to condemn that work as inhumane.

But we shouldn’t have to see Jamie die before we remember that the U.S. has never played fair with Black Americans. If we recall our ancestors, we’ll remember the meaning of work. Let Malcolm and King be pleased for a change!

Mrs. (Rasco) isn’t getting any younger. “She’s an elderly woman, and Gladys needs to be able to care for her sister,” Lockhart said.

Let’s give Jamie Scott the spotlight and honor her with compassion. Free Jamie and her sister Gladys!

 
————————————————–
 

SEE:

Appeals Court Affirms that Mississippi Death Row Conditions are Unconstitutional http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/appeals-court-affirms-mississippi-death-row-conditions-are-unconstitutional
Civil Rights Lawyers and Mississippi Department of Corrections Agree to Overhaul Violent Supermax Unit http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/civil-rights-lawyers-and-mississippi-department-corrections-agree-overhaul-violent-
Contact:

www.freethescottsisters.blogspot.com

Mrs. Evelyn Rasco – rqueenbee2222@yahoo.com
Nancy Lockhart thewrongfulconvictions@gmail.com or call 843 217 4649
Christopher B. Epps, Commissioner cepps@mdoc.state.ms.us (601) 359-5600

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an egalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.

Jackson Co. NAACP Celebrates Oppressors: The Resistance Responds.

No Banquets! Free Jamie and Gladys Scott!
Represent Our Resistance

By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
May 6, Issue 374

We, the Black masses, don’t want these leaders who seek our support coming to us representing a certain political party. They must come to us today as Black Leaders representing the welfare of Black people. We won’t follow any leader today who comes on the basis of political party. Both parties (Democrat and Republican) are controlled by the same people who have abused our rights, and who have deceived us with false promises every time an election rolls around.
-Malcolm X

Jamie Scott suffers from kidney disease. She receives inadequate medical care, but the Jackson County Branch of the NAACP in Mississippi last month (April) held a banquet, “NAACP: One Nation, One Dream,” to honor individuals and organizations for their outstanding service to the community. Christopher Epps, commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Corrections was recognized for his – work.

Epps (Black American) is the “longest serving commissioner in the history of the agency,” according to MDOC’s website. Appointed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2002 and then reappointed by Gov. Haley Barbour in 2004, Epps must have done his work quite well.

Mrs. Evelyn (Rasco), Jamie’s mother, spoke to Epps in March of this year on behalf of her daughter. Jamie, she told him, is very ill; she needs serious medical care. Jamie and her sister Gladys were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to double life each for an $11 dollar robbery. The wallet re-appeared with the money. The accusers admitted to supplying false testimonies against the young women then. But its 15 years latter and now Jamie is ill.

Epps told Mrs. (Rasco) that he would do “everything in his power” and work to have the Scott sisters released from prison, according to legal analyst Nancy Lockhart. Now it seems that Epps isn’t so sure this is his work – securing medical care for Jamie or securing the release of Jamie and Gladys. Maybe Jamie isn’t so ill. Maybe she isn’t so truthful about her experiences with the prison’s medical personnel.

“I’ve talked with Jamie many times. I know Jamie. I can’t imagine Jamie would lie. I have never known Jamie to lie,” Lockhart told me.

No, I can’t imagine that any woman in the end-stage of kidney disease, receiving inadequate treatment, living in a cell with spiders and moldy walls would lie about her condition. No, not many could imagine a woman lying about the pain and bleeding of 4-5 caterers that had been placed in her neck or the bleeding from the caterer (placed in her groin) that fell out. No human being would imagine another would be lying while they suffer from a life-threatening disease.

But Epps seems to have doubts. Something is wrong with this story!

I agree. Something is strange about this story!

The Jackson County Branch rewards Christopher Epps for his outstanding community work! People have to be congratulated for their community work – in this post-racial era! That’s strange considering that surveillance teams are watching and recording a good many of them!

Immigrant communities, particularly Latino/as and Haitian communities, are working to organize resistance to the legalization of racial profiling and racial terror. Native Americans are working to organize resistance to the effort of the government to run bulldozers over their lands and their lives. Muslim communities are working to organize resistance to the targeting of their mosques and community organizations.

While community organizations, focusing on the fallout of war waged against Black Americans, organize to tackle housing, unemployment, gentrification of neighborhoods, and high infant mortality rates, the Black community isn’t organized to confront the U.S. Empire that perpetuates these conditions. On the contrary, mainstream Black organizations fear losing their credibility with Empire and, in turn, they fear losing economic and political support.

These organizations can’t identify themselves as critics of the U.S. Empire. So banquets – out of reach of Jamie, her sister, and their mother – are organized to do what? Honor whom? Collaborators, obedient servants – who are also intended to serve as symbols of Black success? Look at the number of Black Americans who can afford to attend the awards banquet! Look at the “exceptional,” outstanding professional Blacks honored for their work.

In the meantime, NAACP representatives aren’t knocking on Black residents’ doors to urge them to come out, stand together to engage in civil disobedience. The NAACP won’t organize troops of people from the communities of Red, Black, Brown, and Muslim to appear in Washington D.C. and demand an end to the laws and policies that have incarcerated 2.3 million Americans.

Be practical! How could we remain the NAACP without government funding?

But the question should be – how do members of the NAACP continue to tell themselves that its organization represents Black Americans, including the poor, imprisoned, and working class in the tradition of Black solidarity?

Do they know that the Black community is collapsing from without and well as from within? Or is the NAACP an organization that does what is safe for the NAACP to sustain its life. It’s safe to honor Epps, but it’s not safe to free the incarcerated like Jamie and Gladys.

When the NAACP planned a study on the effects of prison in the lives of juveniles, Nancy Lockhart approached the regional director about the Scott Sisters’ case. Lockhart was told that the Sisters “didn’t qualify” for the study, but he would refer their case to the “criminal division of the NAACP” and recommend that the division treat the case in the same manner they are treating the Troy Davis case! Lockhart: “How long was Troy Davis in prison before the NAACP responded to his wrongful conviction?” Other legal organizations did the work to free Davis long before the NAACP took note of his imprisonment.

Is it that Davis’ case like Mumia’s case has received international support and it is therefore safe enough for the NAACP?

As Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “mass incarceration depends for its legitimacy on the widespread belief that all those who appear trapped at the bottom actively chose their fate.” No group believes this fallacy more than the Black middle class. While a few more Blacks per year are seated at banquet tables, oblivious to the day-to-day plight of Blackness in the U.S., there’s a steady increase of Black children and young people hurdled into the criminal justice system each year. Unfortunate environment! Wrong parents! The judgment of a divine mind! Jamie and Gladys Scott are just not – exceptional–they’re just common.

Overlook them! They can’t vote! They don’t count!

The system has regulated our relations with one another to its benefit and our detriment.

Consequently, we no longer, as a collective, heed Martin Luther King’s warning that, to quote from Alexander, “racial justice requires the complete transformation of social institutions and dramatic restructuring of our economy, not superficial changes that can [be] purchased on the cheap.” Work that contributes to the continuation of U.S. Empire’s practice of aggression can’t transform or dramatically restructure the institutions that enslave the majority of humanity.

The horrors of Empire are more easily recognized when on display over there. But the horrors of U.S. Empire are here. Palestine is here. The West Bank and Gaza are here in the U.S. in the barrios, on the reservations, in urban communities, and in rural prisons. We don’t see it, but the War on Drugs and immigrant laws lock away Black and Brown people here. Unarmed young men are shot 20, 30, and 41 times for being Black while they hold a cell phone, or ride a subway, or attend a bachelor’s party.

The re-settlement scheme, otherwise known as gentrification, forces people to sleep on park benches and in public library sitting rooms. Systemic unemployment and low wages create conditions of impoverishment for thousands of children here. Racial profiling and militarized borders and neighborhoods subject people to fear and shame. Here in the U.S., millions of people for whom the political and economic domestic policies resemble the foreign policies enforced over there, these conditions are too close for Americans to see.

It’s sad to see Black organizations lacking the will and desire to break free and work on behalf of those abused, tortured, imprisoned, killed by the Empire. It’s hard to see how such organizations can direct a movement that would bring about structural transformations in the U.S. Consequently, we can’t put the spotlight on the kind of work that only strengthens aggressive strategies, except to condemn that work as inhumane.

But we shouldn’t have to see Jamie die before we remember that the U.S. has never played fair with Black Americans. If we recall our ancestors, we’ll remember the meaning of work. Let Malcolm and King be pleased for a change!

Mrs. (Rasco) isn’t getting any younger. “She’s an elderly woman, and Gladys needs to be able to care for her sister,” Lockhart said.

Let’s give Jamie Scott the spotlight and honor her with compassion. Free Jamie and her sister Gladys!

 
————————————————–
 

SEE:

Appeals Court Affirms that Mississippi Death Row Conditions are Unconstitutional http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/appeals-court-affirms-mississippi-death-row-conditions-are-unconstitutional
Civil Rights Lawyers and Mississippi Department of Corrections Agree to Overhaul Violent Supermax Unit http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/civil-rights-lawyers-and-mississippi-department-corrections-agree-overhaul-violent-
Contact:

www.freethescottsisters.blogspot.com

Mrs. Evelyn Rasco – rqueenbee2222@yahoo.com
Nancy Lockhart thewrongfulconvictions@gmail.com or call 843 217 4649
Christopher B. Epps, Commissioner cepps@mdoc.state.ms.us (601) 359-5600

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an egalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.