US Government went Before UN Committee Against Torture & Defend Solitary Confinement

On Nov 12th and 13th, the U.S. Government went before the U.N. Committee Against Torture for a periodic review. Here follow a few Shadow Reports submitted to the U.N. reporting on the torturous practice of Solitary Confinement used in the U.S.A.:

First, an introduction to the matter:
From Dissenter / Firedoglake, Nov 11th, 2014:

US Government to Go Before UN Committee Against Torture & Defend Solitary Confinement

During a periodic review of the country’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the United States is expected to go before the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva and defend the use of solitary confinement.

On November 12 and 13, the committee will scrutinize President Barack Obama’s administration and its compliance with the treaty.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture defines [PDF] solitary confinement as “physical and social isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day.” The UN has been particularly concerned about “prolonged solitary confinement,” which is a “period of solitary confinement in excess of 15 days.” This is when “some of the harmful psychological effects of isolation can become irreversible.”

Also, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern in 2011 that “super maximum security” prisons “impose solitary confinement as a normal, rather than an ‘exceptional,’ practice for inmates.”

Read the rest here.

Following are Shadow Reports submitted to the U.N. Committee Against Torture:

The Torture of Solitary Confinement in the United States: The Example of New York State
Shadow Report of the Correctional Association of NY to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, 53 rd Session
September 22, 2014

THE USE OF PROLONGED SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN UNITED STATES
PRISON S, JAILS, AND DETENTION CENTERS
Shadow Report Submission to the Committee on the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Review of the United States of America
November 2014

REPORTING ORGANIZATIONS:
This report is submitted by the Center for  Constitutional Rights (CCR), Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), and California Prison Focus (CPF).

Children in Adult Jails and Prisons
Shadow Report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture
September 22, 2014

Submitted by:
– International Women’s Human Rights Clinic
– City University of New York Law School
– ACLU Michigan/Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative
– Campaign for Youth Justice
– Correctional Association of New York
– The Project on Addressing Prison Rape
– American University, Washington College of Law
– University of Miami Human Rights Clinic

Torture in U.S. Prisons: Interfaith Religious Coalition Calls for End to Widespread Use of Prolonged Solitary Confinement
September 2014
A Shadow Report Prepared for the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Connection to its Review of the United States Compliance with the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Submitted by:
National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)

The case of the Dallas 6: Torture and retaliation against prisoner whistleblowers

by Shandre Delaney
SF Bay View, November 13th, 2014

Imagine sitting in a windowless 6-foot-by-9-foot room the size of a bathroom for 23 hours a day, unable to communicate with family or anyone on the outside. The lights are on 24/7. The only drinking water you have is brown from rust. You constantly hear mentally ill people screaming and harming themselves.

Within days of this torturous isolation you may begin to feel mental breakdown. Is this Guantánamo? Abu Ghraib? A torture chamber in some distant land? A torture chamber, yes, but a homegrown one.

This is solitary confinement in a state prison near you. The United States has many like the one in Dallas, Pennsylvania, a modern day dungeon, which imprisons people for years to face abuse and violence out of public view by guards paid with our tax dollars. But men inside also defend themselves and, even locked within their cells, try to fight back. One of those men was my son Carrington Keys.

The United States has many like the one in Dallas, Pennsylvania, a modern day dungeon, which imprisons people for years to face abuse and violence out of public view by guards paid with our tax dollars.

 

Six Black men – Andre Jacobs, Anthony Kelly, Anthony Locke, Duane Peters, Derrick Stanley and Carrington, now known as the Dallas 6 – blew the whistle and took nonviolent action to stop the abuse. It started when the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), a grassroots group of prisoners, ex-prisoners, activists and family members like myself, began receiving letters from prisoners alleging abuse.

We built abuse logs with information about beatings; mental abuse; glass, metal, feces, spit, semen and urine in the food; mail tampering; deprivation of human contact; withholding medication; and starvation. Particularly upsetting to the men was the coerced suicide by guards of a mentally ill white man. “Seeing that body bag come out really shook me,” said Derrick Stanley, now free.

The men went through all the complaint channels. Carrington wrote to then District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll informing her of the abuses and asking for help. She never replied. He filed a lawsuit against her for turning a blind eye. He informed the family of the man coerced into suicide and they sued and won an undisclosed sum.

HRC compiled the abuse logs into the Institutionalized Cruelty report. But instead of ceasing, the abuse escalated. On April 29, 2010, after young Isaac Sanchez was bound, naked and bloody, to a restraint chair for at least 16 hours (two hours is the legal limit), the men peacefully covered their cell windows to ask for outside intervention.

Covering a cell window is a signal in Pennsylvania prisons to summon a captain, who is required to come down, so that the prisoner can make complaints directly to him about a guard or circumstance that they have exhausted all other means to resolve. Instead, guards in riot gear pepper-sprayed, tasered and beat the unarmed men.

The six were originally charged with refusing to obey an order, a misconduct charge handled within prison. Four months later, however, after the assaults became public when HRC filed a criminal complaint against the Department of Corrections (DOC), Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, the DOC and the state police conspired to charge these men with riot, a felony.

Although former Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan now sit in prison for incarcerating youth for kickbacks (the “kids for cash” scandal), the corruption that enabled their outrageous crimes continues to flourish, as demonstrated by this malicious frame-up and cover-up.

Covering a cell window is a signal in Pennsylvania prisons to summon a captain, who is required to come down, so that the prisoner can make complaints directly to him about a guard or circumstance that they have exhausted all other means to resolve.

 

A common wish of prisoners is to be treated like human beings. They expect to do their time and come out. While guards are not expected to be courteous or sociable, they are expected not to harass, threaten, shout racial slurs, provoke suicide or retaliate because you use your right to complain about their lack of professionalism and ethics.

Whatever a person’s sentence, it does not include torture, abuse or murder. The law should be upheld. The guards and those covering up for them should be on trial, not the Dallas 6.

A common wish of prisoners is to be treated like human beings.

 

The Dallas 6 are part of a movement of prisoners, such as the California and Georgia prisoner hunger and work strikers, who use peaceful resistance to counter rampant abuses in solitary, crossing racial divides and ending hostilities among themselves to do so.

The Dallas 6 trial started Nov. 10, is scheduled to continue Nov. 17-20 and may resume in February. This is a landmark case for all who believe in justice, anti-racism and human rights. The public needs to know, and the decent guards need to be supported rather than letting their brutish colleagues dominate the DOC with their illegal sadism in prisons and courtrooms. We demand accountability.

Shandre Delaney, coordinator of the Justice for the Dallas 6 Support Campaign and mother of Carrington Keys, one of the Dallas 6, has been an advocate for human and civil rights for 15 years at Human Rights Coalition and Abolitionist Law Center in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at sd4hrc@gmail.com. This story first appeared on Truthout. Visit scidallas6.blogspot.com and the Facebook page for the latest information.

Support the SCI Dallas 6!

From: SF Bay View, Nov, 13, 2014

The Dallas 6 trial, begun Nov. 10, is back in session at least through Nov. 20 at Luzerne County Courthouse; transportation is available to and from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – email sd4hrc@gmail.com. Two stories follow.

The Dallas 6 go to court
by Mumia Abu-Jamal

They are called the Dallas 6 – and we ain’t talking about Texas.
Dallas, in Pennsylvania, is one of nearly 30 prisons in the state, located in its rural outback. The six are young Black men who, in 2010, tried to stage a peaceful protest in the prison’s “hole,” its solitary confinement unit.

They were moved to such protest after witnessing another prisoner, Isaac Sanchez, being strapped into a torture chair (prison officials call it a “restraint chair”) for hours – even overnight. When guards threatened to do the same to them, the men tried to cover their cell doors with their bedding – and refused to leave their cell, in an effort to protect themselves.

The guards armed themselves with batons and electrified equipment, and they stormed the six cells, leaving the men beaten, bloody, naked, eyes burning, their flesh seared with pepper spray.

All of the guards later admitted they suffered no injuries. How could they? They wore black body armor and helmets – what prisoners call “star wars” garb.

After some of the men filed grievances and civil suits, the DA replied with criminal charges, and on Nov. 10, 2014, the men were marched into Luzerne County Courthouse, in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., to face “riot” charges.

They were gassed, they were beaten, they were tasered and zapped with electro-shields – and they face riot charges!

It should be noted that this is the same county where judges took money to send kids to jail, where no one reported their monstrous actions – not even the DA! – for nearly a decade!

The Dallas 6 – Andre Jacobs, Anthony Kelley, Carrington Keys, Anthony Locke, Dwayne Peters and Derrick Stanley – are potentially facing more prison time for refusing to submit to torture, for men have died, in America, while strapped into the torture chair.

Should they have meekly submitted to torture – like sheep to the slaughter?

For more information on the Dallas 6, go to scidallas6.blogspot.com.
Help the Dallas 6 stand for justice and human rights!

© Copyright 2014 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America,” co-authored by Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill, available from Third World Press, TWPBooks.com. Keep updated at www.freemumia.com. For Mumia’s commentaries, visit www.prisonradio.org. For recent interviews with Mumia, visit www.blockreportradio.com. Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCIMahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.

Ex-Mississippi Prison Boss Faces Bribery Charges

JACKSON, Miss. — Nov 6, 2014
By JEFF AMY Associated Press
Associated Press (via ABC)

Former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a businessman connected to several private prison companies.

Epps is accused of receiving more than $700,000 from 2008 to 2014.

The 49-count federal indictment also charges Cecil McCrory of Brandon with paying Epps to obtain contracts for himself and other companies. It was unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Jackson. McCrory and Epps were scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Keith Ball on Thursday.

Read the rest here and also read a larger story, titled: Private prison operator in Mississippi fires indicted consultant Cecil McCroryhere.

Shine a light on Tehachapi, where CDCr has violated prisoners’ constitutional rights for far too long!

A powerful and insightful letter from one of the leaders of the 2011 and 2013 California hunger strikes for Human Rights:
From: SF Bay View, October 31, 2014

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa


This is a summarized version of a letter I sent to Mike Stainer, director of Adult Institutions, July 28, 2014, in order to address the long standing U.S. constitutional violations at CCI-Tehachapi and bring this prison under the current SHU standards forthwith:

Salamu (Greetings), Mr. Stainer and Mr. Diaz:

CCI Tehachapi Prison lies in the Tehachapi Mountains 35 miles east of Bakersfield between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. – Photo: CDCr
CCI Tehachapi Prison lies in the Tehachapi Mountains 35 miles east of Bakersfield between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. – Photo: CDCr

As I briefly reach out to you and your staff member, Mr. Diaz, I trust you are in good health and state of mind. I see that you are continuing to press the CDCR’s STG-SDP, and from where I’m sitting, your office is facing some serious structural dysfunctions throughout your prisons, regarding your alleged Steps 3 and 4.

These programs have supposedly been operational since Oct. 12, 2012, and Mr. George Giurbino and Ms. Suzan Hubbard have been campaigning and speaking highly of their Steps 3 and 4 program. It does not exist!

This is one of the most refined schemes I have ever witnessed, and Gov. Jerry Brown is actually scapegoating prisoners with the need for the Step 3 and 4 program. The talking points used by Giurbino and Hubbard to the public and to Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano were untrue.

Stay tuned. Enough said for the moment. I just wanted to share my thoughts, being that myself and other prisoners are seeing this type of hell first hand and UP CLOSE!

My purpose is to establish monthly meetings between CCI-Tehachapi officials and the four prisoner negotiators – myself, Danny Troxell (B-76578), John Solis (C-52754) and Javier Martinez (T-62995) – who shall speak on behalf of the Tehachapi SHU prisoner class. Now, over a month or so ago while still at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP), I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Diaz about establishing a similar working body to address some long standing problems here at CCI.
He agreed that some things needed to be worked out. Since my arrival, I see that the problems are of a constitutional nature and we do feel many can be resolved right here locally.

My purpose is to establish monthly meetings between CCI-Tehachapi officials and the four prisoner negotiators – myself, Danny Troxell (B-76578), John Solis (C-52754) and Javier Martinez (T-62995) – who shall speak on behalf of the Tehachapi SHU prisoner class.


I truly understand the cultural changes you are facing, Mr. Stainer, with wardens all the way through to correctional officers, but these cultural changes have been at the expense of prisoners across the prison system. These acts of persuasion and perturbation by prison staff have to cease immediately here at Tehachapi! The cultural level with prisoners has changed and continues to change.

There has to be a serious dialogue with yourself, Stainer and Diaz, along with Tehachapi prison officials, in order to truly standardize all SHUs, and currently Tehachapi is an un-standardized prison. All SHUs, and currently Tehachapi, are un-standardized. They should follow PBSP as the new and current model of areas that need to be altered in accordance with the new standard model that we should be after.

We, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM), need supporters to shine a light on this prison, for they have violated prisoners’ constitutional rights for far too long! We must be afforded our 10 hours of exercising a week. We must be afforded three hours of visiting. Those are two of our immediate requests and demands. Prisoners have been denied these rights for years!
In struggle!

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, CCI SHU 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

“Let’s just shut down” – An Interview with Spokesperson Ray of Free Alabama Movement

By Annabelle Parker, October 2014
Q: How did you come about starting the Free Alabama Movement, what was the thing or issue that triggered it? And were you all in general population? You are still in solitary (the hole) now, right? Please elaborate on how it works from there, and what is possible, from there.

F.A.M. came about in stages and events that were somewhat unrelated to F.A.M. at the time, but

which ultimately served as seeds for the future. Small steps like coming into prison and joining a law class that was being taught by a mentor. Then, latching onto the coattail of a revolutionary PP and Black Panther named Richard “Mafundi” Lake and hearing phrases like “organize” over and over again.


And growing from a student in the law classes to a teacher. Then, taking on individual cases that started to open my eyes to the systematic approach in which the judicial system was incarcerating black youth in droves. At this time, I had  not even heard the phrase “mass incarceration.”

The next step along the process was when I got transferred to St. Clair prison, where a whole new world was opened up to me because cell phones were prevalent and so abundant. I was introduced to technology . . .  and started to learn about social media and new ways to reach out and interact with society.

By this time, I had learned that the law was not practiced as it was written, and that the criminal justice system did not really care about Justice at all.

Nevertheless, just having access to technology, I began a campaign to bring awareness to my case, and started a website called Innocentmanmelvinray.com. Being still just a tad bit naive’, I thought that I could reach out more effectively with the technology that the phone provided and get the kind of help I needed. Needless to say, this notion, too, was soon disabused.

But the one thing that this failure did do to help bring F.A.M. into existence was that it allowed me to see that there were many other people out there doing what I was doing, dealing with the same issues, but who were, likewise, not having the success that we deserved. That insight ultimately lead me back to what Mr. Mafundi always stressed: “organize.”
Realizing that there were literally thousands of “Innocentmanmelvinray’s” out there (the most poignant one that I ran across that stays in my mind is Davontae Sandford’s case), I started asking myself how can I bring these collectives together? That question sprung the concept of “FREE ALABAMA” into my mind. At that time, I was in solitary confinement and it was during that time that I had learned about the December 9, 2010, shutdown by the men in Georgia.I told myself that I could take that concept and build around it.

From my early days at Holman prison, I used to talk with two of my Brothers about how we needed to get a small camcorder into the prison. They used to laugh at the thought, because technology hadn’t shrunk camcorders then but I knew that the day was coming when they would be small enough.
From that point on, I began laying the groundwork for how I would start “organizing” my prison, and then my State, and how I would use a cellphone to record, interview, and document everything.

From reading Stokely Carmichael’s book, Ready For Revolution, I also knew that when the time came, we would be bold with our Movement. I wouldn’t allow anyone who did an interview to use a street name or nickname, because I wanted to dispel any pretense of fear in our Movement, plus, I wanted people who watched the videos to be able to go to court records in order to authenticate what people were saying about their cases and the injustices they had received — whether wrongful convictions, excessive sentences, whatever.
So when I got out of segregation I went to work. I started talking to leaders, explaining the philosophy, taking pictures, filming living conditions, and interviewing. I also started writing a manifesto. But in the process of all of this, the final thing that happened was that I read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. She has a passage in there that said that it would take a “Movement” to take down mass incarceration. That was the first time I had saw anyone boldly make that statement, and it crystallized for me what I was doing, and so with that, we went from FREE ALABAMA, to FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT.     
Then, I contacted the one person who I knew would support me 100%, because over the years we had worked on so many other projects together and I knew that this would be the culmination of all of our previous work: Kinetik Justice (g.n. Robert Earl Council).  
After I ran down everything to him he said what he always says, “Sun, what you done came up with now?? . . . I can CEE it though. Let’s run it.” And off we went and FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT was officially founded. We haven’t looked back since.
Q: We remember that the FAM first came into view with the work-strike actions inside St Clair. Can you tell us a little more on that please, and how it worked; did you get people to start thinking for themselves and such?

Well, the work strikes, which we call “shutdowns” are the heart of our Movement to end mass incarceration and prison slavery, because the modern Prison Industrialized Complex is an estimated 500 billion dollar enterprise that is financed off of the backs of people who are incarcerated. As most people know, what is taking place within America’s prison system is modern slavery. It’s a hard reality to fathom, yet it is so true.


Starting out, what I did was to evaluate our options, which included litigation, hunger strikes, letter writing campaigns, etc., among others, while at the same time tried to get a better understanding of the system as a whole, and look at the option that gave us the most power to make a change. When I looked at what the men had done in GA, I realized that using labor strikes as a tool of Economic Empowerment gave us our best option and most leverage.

With Alabama’s economy being stagnant and down with the larger economy due to the Recession, I knew that we could have a real impact if we organize around our labor contribution. And with that, I started researching just how much of a contribution we were making to the system. I started with the kitchen here at St. Clair because I used to work for several years at Red Lobster. Using my knowledge from the industry, I realized that in just the kitchen alone, we filled over 60 jobs, with a total labor contribution of approximately 1 million dollars per year. We have people stealing sandwiches just to survive or get a shot of coffee in prison, who were giving the ADOC over 1 million in labor per year. 
All totaled, the ADOC is getting about 2 to 3 billion dollars from us in Alabama. Work release deductions, the value of everything we produce, filing fees, store, incentive packages, co-pays, fees.
When I started showing guys these numbers and putting them in terms and a format that they could understand, it made the organizing that much easier.

Once I started looking at the industries here, and started receiving more input and assistance, the numbers really started adding up. In the chemical plant alone, I was able to show the guys that they were producing 25 million dollars-worth of chemicals each year.

When I would show them invoices and then point at their shoes, or ask what they had in their box, it was an undeniable proposition to ask of them if they were being fairly compensated.

The kicker was the fact that most of us weren’t being released and had no opportunity for release, no matter the sentence. Then, the ADOC helped my cause even further when a popular old-timer, Eddie Neal, was denied parole again after already serving almost 40 years. Mr. Neal had two disciplinary tickets in 40 years, and the last one was in 1996. Guys started accepting what was going on with the parole board — they didn’t care about a clear record, good behavior, education, or anything. They were part of the exploitation-for-labor system. All I had to do was help explain to them what they were seeing. They did the rest.

We have to start being honest with ourselves about our conditions and the fact that we aren’t doing anything about it. Giving money to a lawyer is a pipe dream. Being a mental slave to ignorance, which causes one to be dependent upon a lawyer or a judge to administer justice for a constitutional violation is hype. We have to start looking for ways to create our own opportunities. Developing our own politics. That’s what FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT (and now FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT) are all about.
Q: On the website of the Free Alabama Movement [freealabamamovement.com], we can view films and photos you made and posted on YouTube about the things you were struggling to improve or get rid of, and this is a powerful means to make clear what you are grieving and what you are up against, right? Is it more effective than grievances (which you no doubt must file in order to be able to go to court, but that is a very difficult way, especially from prison with no income).
Really, as I said, the videos were something that I had envisioned long before I envisioned F.A.M. I

Picture of a sink inside St Clair CF, Alabama, picture: F.A.M.

knew that society had no real idea of what conditions were like in prison, because I see the commentary about us having “air conditioning and eating steaks.” So, initially, the videos were  designed to show people how inhumane conditions in prison were.


As I spent more time in prison, certain things started to stick out to me: mainly how the ADOC lies and controls the narrative about prisons through a media that is denied access to the prisons, and that the media is force-fed a narrative that they weren’t questioning.

When officers assault the men (and women), we were faulted. When conditions were complained about or lawsuits filed, the ADOC “lied or denied.” So, I was determined to change that narrative. But then, in 2012, I finally stumbled across the Dec  9, 2010, actions in GA, and the two things that stuck out the most to me were: (1) they were ostracized in the media, and (2), they were beaten after their peaceful shutdown. The GDOC accused them of all types of false motives, and then went in after the fact and brutalized them. I knew that I had to document all of our grievances and produce proof for the public of why we were protesting. I was not going to allow ADOC to control the narrative in the media about our legitimate complaints.

Website front of the Free Alabama Movement

After getting some guys to overcome their fears of repercussions for going on camera, something unexpected happened: the Men began to open up about our conditions in ways that they never had before. It sparked conversation, opened up debates, and it revealed to guys the fact that most of us had NEVER been heard before about our circumstances, our cases, or our desires to be free, to be fathers, to receive education, etc. No one, prior to F.A.M., had given us that chance to speak in our own words. So guys opened up and gave us something that can never be taken away. For the first time, WE TOLD OUR STORIES, IN OUR OWN WORDS,WITH OUR OWN DIALECTS AND PHRASES. And we posted it all over YouTube, Facebook, and anywhere else we could find a space.

Q: You made connections with people inside MS prisons and now they too are organizing peacefully in a similar way? Please elaborate.
Yes, it is correct that we made connections with people in Mississippi who are organizing FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT and Non-Violent and Peaceful Protests for Civil and Human Rights. But we have also made contact with people on the inside in Georgia, Virginia, and California, and we have also connected with families and organizations in Florida, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

In fact, the people in Mississippi, and in particular, a woman named LaShonda Morris, found us because of our media. She was looking for someone to help who was about this work of confronting mass incarceration and prison slavery for real and not just talking. Thankfully, she found FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, and we have ALL been blessed by her efforts, because she is serious about what she is doing, and she has connected us in ways and with people that we never would have been able to do on our own.

On November 22, 2014, FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT will host a Rally and Information Session in Jackson, MS, and we are confident that the future is bright for FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT & FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT UNITED/UMOJA.

Q: On the website for the F.A.M., freealabamamovement.com, you mention that you work in a nonviolent way. Can you tell us why you put emphasis on this, and what you mean with nonviolence?

Well, first and foremost, FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, and now, FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT are about Freedom. We are about getting people out of prisons where we are being warehoused, exploited and abused, so that we can return home  to our communities.

But at the same time, we also acknowledge that some of us have made mistakes or have shortcomings that we needed to address, and we want opportunities to correct them so that when we are released, we can be better sons and daughters, better husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and be assets to our communities.

In addition to our mistakes, we have also been demonized by the media, by police, by prosecutors, and by prison officials, So, we have taken it upon ourselves to demonstrate who were and the changes that we have made.

No one wants violence brought into their communities. People want and need answers to violence, so it is important for us to demonstrate that we are Non-Violent, we are Peaceful. Some people have committed violent crimes, while others have committed crimes that are labeled as violent, but where no one was harmed, while other people have been wrongfully convicted of violent offense. But, whether you are innocent, guilty, mentally ill, or whatever, no one is getting out, and the prison system wants to justify our incarceration by telling society that we are “violent predators,” “killers,” “dangerous gang leaders and drugs dealers,” etc. These labels are applied 20, 25 years after the facts, after change, after maturity, after education, repentance, and after some children have grown from 18 to 43, yet no one can get out because the D.A.’s will still get on T.V. and revert back to a 40-year-old crime and argue that the person 40 years onwards still exists, even though this D.A. has no up-to-date knowledge of who this person is decades later.

So we are taking this platform and we are going to do our interviews to make our presentations to the public. We are going to make our complaints against this system to the public, and then we are going to back that up by demonstrating to the public that we can now address our issues Non-Violently and Peacefully.
Violence is nothing more than a thought process. It is part of a chain of options that human beings arrive at when confronted with a problem. What we have done is that we have educated guys about this chain, and provided them with alternative remedies to solving problems without resorting to violence.

Our Brother Earl “Tyrese” Taylor started a program at St. Clair called Convicts Against Violence, with an emphasis on Education and Mentoring. With this program, we were able to reduce the violence level down to what one might see at a work release, from right here at a maximum security prison.

But the ADOC didn’t want this, so they removed the warden who allowed us to implement this program, and replaced him with a Black warden,  Warden Davenport, and the first and only program he disbanded was C.A.V. Now, 4 1/2 years later, St. Clair has reverted back to one of the most violent prisons in the entire country. This is why F.A.M. stepped in, to again stop this State-engineered violence, and what happened?  Over 5000 Men across the State jumped immediately on board and supported it. The State responded by labelling myself, the co-founder, and F.A.M. as a security threat group. Lol. We have NEVER had a single incident of violence, yet we are a threat. Not to the security, but to the system of mass incarceration, prison slavery, and the exploitation of people.

Go figure, since they attacked F.A.M. and our Non-Violent and Peaceful Movement, 4 men have been murdered in 2014 alone, and the Equal Justice Initiative, led by Bryan Stephenson, has filed a class-action lawsuit and been calling for the removal of Davenport. This lawsuit was not filed against the entire ADOC as is usually the case, but exclusively against “Bloody St. Clair.” So that should tell you how bad things have gotten.

Stopping violence is easy, and we didn’t receive any funding from the ADOC to run our program. But violence pays. 80% of all people who enter ADOC are functionally illiterate. Education teaches better decision making. We can teach that if they didn’t obstruct our efforts. They will claim that they offer schools, but if what they were teaching was working, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

More and more prisons are removing educational programs and replacing them with factories. Some, like Bibb Co., don’t even offer GED classes. We have to organize against this profit motive, because no one is going home so long as we submit to being exploited for labor and living under inhumane conditions that we should be outraged about. We have to return the narrative to Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness, because the State narrative has caused too much pain, destroyed too many communities, destroyed too many families, and destroyed too many people who have something of value to offer society — even in the lessons learned from our mistakes.
Q: We also read that you have written a Bill titled ALABAMA’S EDUCATION, REHABILITATION, AND RE-ENTRY PREPAREDNESS BILL.
Can you tell us a little about the background and aims of this Bill? And can outside support help promote it?
Did any politician approach you yet and (how) would you want to work with someone from politics who takes your issues seriously?

Let me answer the second part of your question first. No, we have not approached any politicians, and we have no intentions or desire to. If what we are doing is going to work, we have to make it work ourselves. The men and women have to understand that the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) has created an economy that is bases on Free/Cheap Labor to compete in the global market against cheap manufacturers like China and Indonesia. The problem is that they have incarcerated over 2.5 million people and they have created a system that is TOTALLY dependent upon US. If we stopped working, then their current model of prisons, including private prisons stopped working.

They are now making over 500 Billion dollars off of our labor. They don’t have a way to replace that. People in society don’t work for free. This system was created by politicians, they are the ones getting the kickbacks, they approve the contracts, and they are the ones who invest their pensions into the stocks of these corporations. So, it makes no sense to solicit them. Would you give up a multi-billion dollar enterprise in exchange if you didn’t have to?

The money that they are making off of our labor is the money that they are using to fund their prison budgets. Nationwide, prison budgets total 86 billion dollars, so where is the remaining 414 billion dollars going? Ask the politicians??

If we take our labor off our the table, then the States are left with normal budget intakes to pay for prisons. Believe me, when we take our labor back, only then will prisons get back to Corrections and Rehabilitation. Every system in America will start back giving good-time, and even the Federal Prisons (who started the profit-based model with Unicor) will have to go back to granting parole.    Additionally, we will finally be able to bring political prisoners like Mumia, Iman El Amin, Larry Hoover, Mutulu, and so many more home.

Funny how we “CONTROL” a 1/2 trillion dollar market, but we go to bed hungry at night. Our bill, which we call the “FREEDOM BILL,” will be the model of what prison will look like after we take control of our situation. If they (the State) ever want to see their assembly lines roll again, then our Legislation will be the functional equivalent of a “labor contract.”
No freedom, no labor !!!
Our Bill, as it is titled, will place Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness at the forefront of our stay in prison – not free labor. Voting rights will be restored. LWOP and Death Sentences will be repealed, and conjugal visits will be a part of rehabilitation. Also, media will have unfettered access to prisons. With alternative media like VICE, TruthOut and others, everything will be out in the open.

But our Bill won’t just give out a free pass, people will have to “earn” their freedom through completion of a curriculum that will address the needs of the individual. No GED/Diploma: You have to get one. No skill or trade: Gotta get one. No life skills: Time to grow up and learn what it takes to be a man and provide for you family and community.

There will be exceptions, because there are exceptional cases. But the way things work right now, no one knows when they will be released, if they will make parole, or what they can do to guarantee that when they have served sufficient time, addressed their issues, that they will return home to their family. Our  Bill will provide that certainty for most, and it will give that comfort to spouses, children, etc., of when the loved one will return home. They will know, they will be a part of it, and they will be able to engage in activities like family visits, conjugal visits, parenting classes, etc., that will keep families together when a member of the family has made a mistake. If we are producing 500 billion dollars to live with rats, spiders, mold, abusive officers, and serve decades on end, with no end in sight, then surely we can unite and make a stand.

No doubt they can afford to pay us for any labor that we perform. Otherwise, something has to give. If we can clean them up, we can tear them down.
However, we come in Peace.
Q: Can you tell us a little on your support for the women incarcerated in one of the worst prisons in this country, Tutwiler Prison for Women?
Our hearts go out to the women at Tutwiler. I mean, you add all of the issues that go on in prisons that they suffer equal to men, then add on the fact that they are raped by men, assaulted by men, impregnated by men, and forced to have abortions, or forced to give birth. And after 20 years of abuse, only 6 officers prosecuted, with the most time being 6 months. One got 5 days.


F.A.M. organized a Protest Rally at Tutwiler. We created a Facebook-page to support them. I have personally interviewed approximately 25 women who have served time at Tutwiler either online or on my radio show.


Due to the DOJ being inside of Tutwiler, we have not been able to contact them directly. But we support them and they are a part of F.A.M. My plan was to draft a section on Women’s Rights for the FREEDOM BILL, but we never got cooperation from some of the women who had served time at Tutwiler who we connected with. They were too busy to help the women they left behind. I am bitter about that, and I let them know it.

Nevertheless, F.A.M. stands firm in our convictions. We aren’t going anywhere without our Women. If they can’t get speak right now, fine. We will reserve their places until they can.
Q: Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for those inside California’s (and other states’) prisons? Inside its Secure Housing Units (SHU’s)?
To our Brothers and Sisters in California, we say Stand with us and form FREE CALIFORNIA MOVEMENT. The economics of your system is the same as ours. We are all making the same license plates, cleaning the same feces off of the walls, cooking the same scrambled eggs, doing the same electrical work for free. The same people who are investing their pensions in private prisons and mutual funds in Alabama, are the same ones who are investing in California.

Serving 30 years in Alabama is the same 30 years in California. Your influence carries great weight here in the South, It’s time for us to unify across State boundaries because that’s what mass incarceration has done.

These systems can’t function without our labor. They used the drugs to fund the Iran/Contra war. They then used the “war on drugs” to justify mass-incarceration. Then, they turned the prison population into modern slaves. Now, it’s our turn to act. We have to leave the crops in the field. We have to make them turn their assembly lines off. Since they are the ones getting paid, it’s time for them to cook the food, clean the floors, take out the trash, do the maintenance and everything else.

If we are to do any more labor, then we have to state our terms and conditions, and foremost amongst them is that we must be afforded an opportunity to earn our freedom. If we must work, then we must get compensated for our labor. If we must remain here without tearing these walls down, then we must be treated humanely.

My message is not just to the men and women in these solitary holes. I, myself, am in one right now. My message is to the whole 2.5 million victims of mass incarceration and prison slavery. Everyone !!! All of us around the country, let’s just shut down. Wherever you are, just stop working. If you are in solitary confinement, spread the word to those rotating in and out. When they try to lock up those who organize and lead the shutdowns in population, don’t even give up.

Some men can’t survive solitary confinement, and the administration will threaten them if they participate in the shutdowns. So let’s just clog up the cells.

Let’s all just shut down and see how their 500 billion dollar system works without us, and then see if they change their tune about our FREEDOM. EVERYBODY !!! Just shut down.
Thank you Spokesperson Ray for your encouraging and strong, bold and outspoken activism and advocacy!

You can contact the Free Alabama Movement via:

www.Freealabamamovement.com,
Email:
freealabamamovement@gmail.com or freemississippimovement@gmail.com
Facebook group: FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT
Twitter @FREEALAMOVEMENT

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, P.O. Box 186, New Market, AL 35761
On YouTube.

Corrections Dept. agents bang on activist’s door at 8 a.m. over a postcard she wrote to a prisoner

This is how CDCr harass people who stand up for human rights for all:

From the SF Bay View, October 27, 2014
by Kendra Castaneda Perez

This morning, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I woke up to sounds of hard banging at my door. I thought it was the person to fix my broken heater, but once I looked outside my peephole I saw what I thought were two sheriff’s officers. My heart pounded thinking something terrible had happened to my child if two officers are standing outside my door with full blown police gear on.

I opened the door and was anticipating horrible news that no mother would want to hear. But I quickly learned these two officers, one Mexican woman one African American man were not sheriff’s deputies and they were not the local police.

This is the calling card left by one of the Special Service Unit special agents sent by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to interrogate the family member of a prisoner over a postcard she wrote to another prisoner in her role as a human rights advocate. The Fresno area code indicates the special agents may have traveled all the way from the Fresno area to Orange County in an effort to harass and intimidate her.

These were two agents of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Special Service Unit (CDCr SSU) wearing long police jackets, badges hanging around their necks that looked just like sheriff’s badges and black bulletproof vests on the outside of their uniforms with “POLICE” in huge letters across the middle. They asked me if I was who I was and I said to them, “Who are you and tell me why you are here?”

Special Agent Gregory Hopkins pulled out his ID and showed it to me, but I had him take it out of his wallet because I could not believe that CDCr officers were actually standing at my door. They said they were at my door due to a postcard I had recently mailed to inmate Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) whom I have been corresponding with since 2011 both since he arrived at CCI Tehachapi SHU and, before that, when he was at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor.

I would not answer anything until they explained to me why they were at my door. I asked, “Am I under arrest?” They said, “No, we just want to ask a few questions.” They tried to get into my house and they threatened me, saying, “We can do this here or we can take you to the local police department.” I informed them that they can stand right where they were and that they do not have a warrant to come into my home and I have not done anything wrong.

So the two SSU officers stood outside of my door and showed me a postcard I had mailed Sitawa – my mail has not been restricted to or from anyone in prison. I was quite surprised they were at my door for a postcard.

They told me that they were “concerned” about the “meaning” of how I had “worded” things and they were concerned that it was “criminal” activity. I could not help from breaking out in laughter in front of them. I informed them that I just got mail from Sitawa last week and I get correspondence from numerous inmates from all different prisons, including from other inmates at CCI Tehachapi, in the course of my human rights advocacy.

These two SSU agents let me look at the postcard for a moment. It was a postcard I had written due to the Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) withholding inmates’ mail, including any mail to and from Sitawa and other inmates. They barely let me glance at the postcard, since the woman agent did not really want me to see it.
They told me that they were “concerned” about the “meaning” of how I had “worded” things and they were concerned that it was “criminal” activity.

The male agent showed it to me, though I was half asleep, just waking up. On the postcard, I had commented to Sitawa, “I am the queen, and my man spoils me.” I wrote about two sentences saying something like “those IGI better not purposely tamper with my mail to you or anyone else; if they do, they’ll be playing with fire.”

I also wrote to Sitawa that my favorite county is Kern County, since I was born in Bakersfield and Kern County is where my family is from. I was responding to a letter Sitawa had written me just a week prior.

Those SSU agents wanted to know the meaning of my postcard. I informed them, laughing, that I meant exactly what I wrote. It’s true that IGIs tamper with mail all the time. And I explained that what I meant by playing with fire was that I would expose their human rights violations publicly and get attorneys involved. I informed them that I have the freedom of speech to tell someone that Kern County is my favorite because I was born there.
I have done nothing wrong and I will continue to use my voice to advocate for prisoners’ human rights to help those tortured and voiceless to get the help they need for better, more humane conditions.

I was shocked at what happened next. I informed the two SSU agents that I have been advocating for prisoners’ human rights for the last three or four years publicly to get better conditions for the men being tortured inside solitary confinement at CDCr. I said I have written many inmates of all different races and have sometimes been pushy – demanding justice for prisoners being badly abused – because that’s just who I am.

The SSU agents said they were concerned now due to “who I am with,” since my man is validated with CDCr, and they said to my face that they believed I was going to harm someone. I laughed and said, “Harm someone?!”

They said yes, we are concerned you are going to go “kill someone” because of your involvement with your husband. I was blown away and said, “If you are accusing me and my man of doing criminal activity, then I think I need a lawyer.”

They responded: “No, I didn’t say that. We are not accusing you all. We just want to know what is the meaning behind your writing in the postcard.”

I told them there is no criminal meaning at all – only my human rights advocacy. I was simply responding to a letter from Sitawa the week prior and insisting that the IGIs not tamper with Sitawa’s mail. I informed the agents that I had just bought a radio for Sitawa’s cellie because of the inhumane conditions the inmates in CCI are experiencing and, since Sitawa is a good friend of ours, I wanted to make sure he is not stuck in isolation without anything to do.

I informed the SSU agents that I am a well-known prisoner human rights activist and by them showing up at my house, they are proving that retaliation and harassment by CDCr officers for advocating for inmates’ human rights is real. Note that California Department of Corrections agents are NOT police officers, but they came to my door wearing full blown police gear, impersonating real police officers and threatening me as if they were about to arrest me for a postcard I legally mailed through the United States Postal Service.

They kept wanting to speak about my husband and imply he was doing criminal activity, and I told them that was not true. I politely said: “So since I am a law abiding citizen, I have a clear record, my man spoils me with love because I have respect for human rights and have helped many people of all races for years, I am a writer for the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper and now I am in love with a man labeled the Mexican Mafia, then I am going to be labeled a “criminal” merely because I wrote a postcard that had no criminal wording and no threats?”
I informed the SSU agents that I am a well-known prisoner human rights activist and by them showing up at my house, they are proving that retaliation and harassment by CDCr officers for advocating for inmates’ human rights is real.

I informed the SSU agents that I do not know about any criminal activity and I do know that my man has not been involved in any criminal activity or else he would not have been on general population for almost a year in Step 5 of the Step Down Program. Keep in mind that I was in my pajamas while all this was going on.

They were surprised that I admitted to writing that postcard. I said yes, I wrote that, and I know it was a bit pushy, but look what the IGIs do to the inmates. They threaten them, harass them, beat them, withhold medical care from them.

And now I am being accused and harassed not by the police or sheriff but by the CDCr Special Service Unit at my door at 8 a.m. over a postcard I mailed to Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), who is a good friend of mine, and for supporting Sitawa’s human rights or just speaking to Sitawa.

Before they left, I asked to see the postcard again, but they refused to let me see it. Well, if I wrote it and if they came all the way to my house acting like they were the SWAT team having authority over all law enforcement accusing me of planning serious criminal activity, then I think I should be able to see the postcard again.

The male special agent, Gregory Hopkins, left me his card “just in case you need to talk.” I informed him that he can tell CDCr that CCI Tehachapi SHU is going to be exposed real soon in the media and CDCr is going to be exposed legally for what they do illegally – showing up at people’s houses accusing prisoners’ family members of being in a “gang” just for a writing a postcard and accusing family members of serious criminal activity just because we are in love with a person in prison falsely labeled a Security Threat Group (STG) member or associate.

This is how we are treated now. This is what happens to family members, regular citizens who advocate for the human rights of those in prison. Our rights are violated!

I have done nothing wrong and I will continue to use my voice to advocate for prisoners’ human rights to help those tortured and voiceless to get the help they need for better, more humane conditions.

We stand by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) in unity and with all those men of the like mind and heart at CCI Tehachapi SHU and ASU to hopefully get better conditions and shut down solitary confinement once and for all!

Kendra Castaneda Perez is a prisoner human rights activist and writer. Her significant other is Raymond “Chavo” Perez, K-12922, who is one of the 12-man Representatives Body responsible for the historic Agreement to End Hostilities. He survived 18 years in the Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor until January 2014, when he was transferred to General Population in California State Prison (CSP) Sacramento (New Folsom) on Step 5 of the Step Down Program. Kendra can be reached at kendrachavoperez@gmail.com.