A HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM

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

Received via email:

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

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

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

In solidarity,

Denise Mewbourne & Molly Batchelder
Occupy 4 Prisoners

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

WHAT IS THE HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM?

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

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

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

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

WHAT WILL THE HUMAN RIGHTS PEN PAL PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pelican Bay prison hunger strikers declare victory – support from many places including Youngstown, Ohio

Source: Sharon Danann, in: Workers World
Published Jul 27, 2011 4:22 PM

Leaders of the hunger strike in the Security Housing Unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison accepted an offer July 20 from the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and have ended their weeks-long action. Members of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition confirmed reports of the hunger strike’s end after speaking with some of the prisoners involved. (prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com, July 22) The CDCR reported that as of 1 p.m. on July 20 all those who had been fasting at Pelican Bay had resumed eating. (www.sfgate.com, July 22)

Having been without food for 21 days, the leaders opted to “live to fight for justice another day,” according to mediator Dorsey Nunn. (times-standard.com, July 22) The CDCR offer included expanded educational programs, wall calendars and all-weather caps. The CDCR also committed to a review of SHU and gang-related policies.

A key accomplishment of the hunger strike has been to bring attention to the issue of torture in U.S. prisons. Currently inmates at Pelican Bay cannot be transferred out of their confinement in the SHU unless they turn in someone else for gang-related activities. Prisoners opposed to doing so on principle or in fear of retribution, or who have no such information, including those in the SHU for political beliefs, have been locked in SHUs indefinitely. Black Panther members incarcerated in the 1970s are among the inmates who have spent decades in isolation.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has stated that long-term solitary confinement is in violation of prohibitions against torture, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Supporters of the courageous prisoners continued to hit the streets with rallies July 22 and 23 in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Chino, Calif.; and in Los Angeles, Chicago and Montreal. Plans are going forward for a march on CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, Calif.; a rally at the California State building in San Francisco; and a meeting with family members and loved ones of prisoners in Oakland.

High-spirited activists marched up the quarter-mile driveway of Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 23, drumming on paint buckets and pots, until they were turned back by guards near the gate to the Supermax. In Baltimore on July 21, the blazing heat did not stop protesters outside the city jail from drawing support from passersby, who responded positively to the “Jobs not jails” theme.

Struggle against torture continues

The hunger strike has continued at three California state prisons. More than 400 inmates are refusing food at Corcoran and more than 100 at Tehachapi. The PHSS blog quoted a friend of a Calipatria prison hunger striker as saying, “I’m 100 percent sure that at least 300 prisoners are still supporting each other and going strong, refusing food and demanding the CDCR change conditions of solitary confinement and policies around gang validation.” (July 20)

According to a spokesperson for the court-appointed receiver overseeing prison health care, an inmate at Tehachapi had lost 29 pounds. (Los Angeles Times, July 19) The CDCR claimed to be medically monitoring 49 prisoners who had lost more than 10 pounds, but prisoner advocates disputed both the numbers and the quality of medical attention, most of which was “drive-by checks.” (PHSS conference call, July 18)

The PHSS was aware of “dozens” of hunger strikers who had lost over 20 pounds and who were experiencing fainting or irregular heartbeats. Nunn stated that the prison hospital at Pelican Bay was filled with inmates receiving fluids by IV. Some had “started to refuse water,” but many others were having trouble keeping ingested water down. Nunn added, “It is truly a matter of luck and/or untiring spirit that nobody has died so far.” (colorlines.com, July 20)

PHSS is encouraging solidarity actions to continue to make sure the CDCR makes good on its promises and to prevent retaliation against hunger strikers. Hunger strikers not in SHUs have been thrown in solitary as punishment for acts of solidarity. (PHSS blog, July 22)

This historic hunger strike of 6,600 inmates, uniting without regard to race, religion, ethnicity or group affiliation, has inspired prisoners and supporters to new acts of courage and defiance. Support the California hunger strikers and build the prisoners’ movement everywhere!