Horrific Conditions for Live-Stock Animals in Texas Prisons Exposed

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
(we received this report by email via a supporter)

https://comrademalik.com/

“Instead of supporting the hidden cruelties of factory farms and slaughterhouses, each of us can choose to act with compassion by boycotting animal agriculture.”

–Vegan Outreach

[The film, Cowspiracy, documents the enormous impact the meat and dairy industry has on the environment and climate change. One really should eat vegan to really be an environmentalist. –Mark M Giese, typist]

My name is Keith ‘Malik’ Washington. I am an investigative journalist, an environmentalist, and human and civil rights activist. I am one of the most outspoken critics of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. What sets me apart from many criminal justice reporters is my status.

I have been incarcerated in Texas for 10 years. I have been housed on 18 prison units operated by the State of Texas and TDCJ.

I am intimately familiar with the day-to-day operations at the agency.

For years I have written essay after essay which exposes the inhumane conditions forced upon prisoners who find themselves trapped in a Texas prison. However, as an activist, my perspective has expanded significantly.

In 2017, I now see the detrimental impact the sprawling prison system in Texas has on the immediate environment. There is an ecological dynamic here which has been ignored.

Texas prisons (TDCJ) operate an extremely lucrative agriculture business which includes vegetable crops, cattle, hogs, and chickens. I have written extensively about Texas Correctional Industries and the exploitation of free prison labor in Texas. I have drawn the connection between profits and the corrupt parole system in Texas.

We all know good time and work time credits mean nothing to Texas prisoners–we are slaves and forced into a life of perpetual involuntary servitude.

But what if I told you the state of Texas and TDCJ have established a multi-million dollar agribusiness which subjects animals to horrific and cruel conditions which would shock the world? Would you remain silent? Allow me to give you a glimpse of hell.

Welcome to Wynne Farm!

In February 2014, I was released from long-term solitary confinement (ad-seg). I did 22 months in a very small cage. I was released to the general population on the Wynne Unit, aka the Wynne Farm which is located in Huntsville, Texas.

Wynne Unit is the headquarters of numerous TCI light industrial factories and it has a large agriculture element which is maintained by prisoners.

The crops, which include corn, peas, watermelon, squash, and green beans, to name a few, are cultivated by prisoners on medium custody.

I was assigned to medium custody for 6 months at the Wynne Farm in 2014. I went into those fields to work outside the gate 3-5 days a week.

In close proximity to the fields at Wynne Farm is a large egg-laying operation. And this is where I caught my first glimpse of modern-day animal cruelty in Texas prisons.

I smelled the large hen (chicken) warehouse before we actually got right up on it.

It was May 2014, a beautiful day outside. The building was made of grey metal and aluminum. It was an old building. As I looked inside, I saw numerous cages. Hens were packed like sardines. Underneath the cages were virtual mountains of bird feces.
The egg-laying hens were packed in these feces-filled cages. I saw dead birds in the cages–some were green–obviously very sick and shaking badly.

The cages are so small, hens cannot turn around or spread their wings. Our job was to remove the fecal matter. The smell of ammonia was very strong. Some birds I noticed had burns on their feet and legs, this from being housed in filth.

TDCJ benefits greatly from being immune to any oversight of any regulatory agency.

This lack of oversight is not just relegated to TDCJ’s agriculture business. Prisoner rights activists have cried out for years for an independent oversight committee which has the authority to enter these prison plantations. Transparency and accountability have not been a part of the TDCJ business or management model. Hopefully, this essay will provoke a much-needed conversation.

After doing a vast amount of research, I learned that the cages TDCJ uses on Wynne Farm are called “battery” cages. They are typically less than half a square foot of floor space per bird but TDCJ goes far beyond any industry standard and stuffs in 2 or 3.

Many birds at Wynne die of asphyxiation and dehydration. Decomposing corpses are found in cages with live birds every day at Wynne.

One hideous presence I saw at Wynne Farm were large well-fed vultures. These carrion-eaters sit in large groups on top of the hen building at Wynne. It’s hard to miss them and it is a telltale sign that something is very wrong there.

Recently, I learned Eastham Unit has a similar egg-laying operation and I received details. The operation produces approximately 80 000 eggs per week. It is a 24-hour-a-day operation, the lights never go out.

TDCJ makes approximately $100 000 a week just from the eggs here at Eastham.

Eastham also has 3000 hogs, 600 sows, and it ships for sale 21 piglets a week. I have a word about accuracy in reporting. I cannot tell you what the conditions are like for the birds at Eastham Unit nor can I tell you how the hogs are treated. I do recommend that we demand to be allowed on the Wynn Farm immediately.

I spent some time on Coffield Unit last year which is located in Tennessee Colony, Texas. There are 3 large units in the area which raise hogs. I can tell you that the pigs on Coffield, Michaels, and Beto Unit are subjected to abuse.

I have gathered firsthand reports of pigs being kept on concrete slabs which create deformities of pigs’ legs. Pigs like to root and dig in the dirt and mud and this staging on concrete obviously prevents that.

But I discovered something quite shocking about TDCJ’s various hog and cattle operations.

While housed at Coffield Unit, I discovered large quantities of coliform bacteria were regularly found to be present in the water system. I’ve discovered raising animals for food causes more water pollution in the US than any other industry because animals raised for food produce 130 times the excrement of the entire human population. 87 000  pounds of fecal matter per second.

Much of the waste from factory farms like those TDCJ operates as well as pig slaughterhouses like the one on Michaels Unit produces toxic runoff which contaminates streams, rivers and ground water.

Toxic water is a pervasive and systemic problem in the entire state of Texas. So not only is TDCJ abusing animals, it continues to be a major polluter of our environment. The time to act is now.

No matter how much evidence we produce or how many thought-provoking questions we ask, the Agency of TDCJ will continue to misinform the public and violate the public’s trust.

We must seek out the companies doing business with TDCJ’s agribusiness and then expose them and boycott them.

First, we contact the Freedom of Information Foundation for Texas and request their help in finding out who us buying eggs and hogs from TDCJ. Then we respectfully ask these companies to stop doing business with TDCJ until the agency cleans up their act.

Texas will not listen until we start affecting their bottom-line profits; that’s the language the system understands.

Our cries for humane conditions for humans have been routinely ignored–here is and example:

Prisoners housed in Ad-Seg don’t work and it costs a lot to house us in solitary. Many prisoners have died on account of the deadly extreme heat in Texas prisons.

Young pigs are vulnerable to extreme heat. Young piglets generate profits for TDCJ.

A couple years ago, TDCJ invested $175 000 for a cooling system for the pigs. The pigs are being preserved for slaughter so TDCJ can benefit. TDCJ does not have any concern for animal rights or human rights. Its main focus is profits by any means.

It is time we take a closer look at what is really going on inside Texas prisons. As activists who are on the “front lines,” we have a duty to confront those entities who abuse and mistreat animals as well as pollute our precious water supplies.

I can only ask that you amplify my voice so that it is heard beyond these walls. I will continue to struggle.

P.S. Visit www.10billionlives.com

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Free Virginia Movement Declaration

This comes from the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
Feb. 16, 2016

Our Purpose

The Free Virginia Movement (FVM) is an Inside-Out, multiracial statewide movement founded and organized by people incarcerated in Virginia prisons affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Union and sentenced under the so-called “no parole” or “85%” law.

The function and purpose of the FVM is to organize all “no parole” prisoners into one bloc or cohesive unit so that we can effectively oppose & challenge excessive sentences, long-term incarceration & mass incarceration as a result of the abolition of parole & truth-in-sentencing laws enacted by the VA General Assembly back in 1994; and unjust, inhuman & oppressive prison conditions which endangers/jeopardizes our spiritual, mental & emotional health & well-being, and which runs counter to (hinders) our growth and rehabilitative efforts in the VA Dept. of (In)Corrections.

Our Organizing Strategy

The FVM seeks to bring the entire VA prisoner-class sentenced under the “no parole” or “85%” law & outside Human Rights & Prison Advocacy Groups together across Racial, Gender, Ideological, Religious & Geographical lines—thereby creating a cross-denominational United Front unlike anything ever seen in the VA prison system.

At every stage of the struggle we have petitioned the courts, filed grievances & patiently waited for the VA State Government to take corrective action in the most humble method. But just like the institution of Chattel Slavery, mass incarceration is in essence an economic system which uses human beings as its nuts & bolts. Therefore, our new approach must be Economically based. As such, in the event our concerns continue to fall on deaf ears while the VA State Government, the VA Dept. of InCorrections & private corporations like JPay, Keefe Commissary, Global Tel Link, etc. continues to benefit from our exploitation & prolonged confinement, we agree that it will be necessary to engage in a statewide, proactive, peaceful & nonviolent collective work strike/stoppage, hunger strike, boycott, etc. to compel the VA State Government & the VA Dept. of InCorrections to be more receptive to our concerns & demands listed below.
The accumulation of wealth & the oppression & social control of New Afrikans, poor people & other people of color is the motive behind mass incarceration here in VA. Therefore, an economic response (work strike/stoppage) and other forms of strikes & demonstrations will be our most effective strategy.

Our Goals (What We Want)

1. The Reinstatement of parole for all incarcerated people currently serving a sentence under the so-called no parole (85%) law by repealing VA Code §§ 53.1-165.1 & 53.1-202.3, & re-institute parole eligibility under VA Code § 53.1-201. The above restoration of Parole & Good Conduct Allowance must be retroactively applied to ALL incarcerated people currently serving sentences under the no parole (85%) law.

2. The Amendment & Reenactment of VA Code § 19.2-303 so that ALL people currently incarcerated in the VA Dept. of InCorrections can petition the Court that heard their case for a suspension/reduction/modification of the unserved portion of the sentence after

1) serving a base minimum of twenty (20) consecutive years in prison and,

2) after the completion of an Education/Rehabilitation/Reentry Preparedness Program.

The Amendment & Reenactment of VA Code § 19.2-303 must be retroactively applied to ALL people currently incarcerated in the VA Dept. of InCorrections.

3. The Amendment & Reenactment of VA Code § 19.2-298.01 (B) & (F) so that the sentencing court must provide an adequate written explanation when it sentences a defendant outside the sentencing guidelines to allow for meaningful appellate review of said sentence. This will promote the perception of fair sentencing and to provide an appellate remedy when courts impose sentences that are ten (10) years or more outside the sentencing guidelines.
The Amendment & Reenactment of A Code § 19.2-298.01 (B) & (F) must be retroactively applied to all people currently serving time under the no parole (85%) law.

4. The Amendment & Reenactment of VA Code § 53.1-40.01 so that the qualifying age for consideration of early geriatric release is
1) the age of 55 or older & who has served at least five years of the sentence imposed or
2) the age of 50 or older & who has served at least ten years of the sentence imposed.
The Amendment & Reenactment of VA Code § 53.01-40.01 must be retroactively applied to all people currently incarcerated in the VA Dept. of InCorrections.

5. The Amendment & Reenactment of VA Code § 53.1-43.1 which allows the VA Dept. of Incorrections to profit off peoples incarceration by investing the interests gained from inmates’ funds in bonds & federally-insured investments.

ALL income, profits, etc. gained as a result of these investments MUST ONLY be used for the benefit of inmates (i.e. education, rehabilitation, recreation) and not the VA Dept. of (In)Corrections or the VA State Government.

6. The Amendment & Reenactment of VA Code § 53.1-43.1 so that in addition to any inmate who has been sentenced to be executed or is serving a life sentence, any inmate who is serving a de facto “numerical” life term of fifty (50) years or more under the no parole (85%) law, shall be exempt from the withholding & depositing ten (10) percent of his/her incoming funds into a savings/trust account.

7. The abolition of any VA DOC policy, practice or procedure which endangers our spiritual, physical, mental & emotional health & well-being & which hinders & runs counter to inmates’ rehabilitative efforts, including but not limited to:

(1) VA DOC’s Operating Procedure (OP) 601.6(IV)(c)(14) which prohibits inmates from completing more than one Career & Technical Education Program;

(2) VA DOC’s Operating Procedure (OP) 601.6(IV)(c)(9) which discriminates against inmates with lengthy sentences who desire to enroll in a Career & Technical Education Program by placing said inmates on a separate “long list” where it may take years to enroll in any program;

(3) VA DOC’s “cost saving” practice of assigning one inmate to multiple job (work) assignments which hinders other inmates from being assigned to a job (work) assignment “to learn job skills & develop good work habits & attitudes that [we] can apply to jobs after [we] are released,” quoting VA DOC’s OP 841.2(IV)(B)

(4); (4) VA DOC’s racially & politically motivated practice of censoring/disapproving books, newspapers, magazines, etc. which are geared towards an African-American, Leftist, Radical & Progressive audience;

(5) VA DOC’s “cost saving” practice denying Hepatitis-C-positive inmates FULL access to FDA-approved drugs like Sovaldi, Harvoni, Veikra-Tak, etc., which are known to cure people of Hepatitis C in as little as eight (8) weeks;

(6) VA DOC’s “cost saving” practice of regularly feeding/serving inmates cheap soy, processed & other synthetic meats which are known by the FDA to contain carcinogens which causes various cancers if consumed on a regular (prolonged) basis;

(7) VA DOC’s counter-rehabilitative and “cost-saving” practice of not providing practical up-to-date technology-based educational & career programs. VA DOC’s current educational & career programs are like relics of the past when compared to programs offered to American citizens out in society. VA prisons must move towards a technological educational & career programming system, and to not do so, is a disservice to VA inmates and the communities we’ll eventually return to. Therefore, educational & career (vocational) training must be up-to-date and resemble as closely as possible that of education & career (vocational) training offered to the average American citizen so as to prepare inmates for the conditions of normal occupational life.

Why the Free Virginia Movement

Violent Offender Incarceration & Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive Grants and the birth of the Abolition of Parole (85%) Law in Virginia

A federal law known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 included a provision called the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing incentive grants (VOITIS) which provided grants (funding) to state and local correctional systems to expand their capacity to incarcerate violent offenders and to impose longer and more determinate sentences. VOITIS, codified into federal law as Title 42 US Code Sections 13701, 13702, 13703, and 13704, was sponsored and introduced into the US Congress by former Representative Jack Brooks (TX-9) and signed into law the following year by then-President Bill Clinton.

Before states could qualify for VOITIS grants, they were required to pass (adopt) Truth-in-Sentencing legislation which effectively abolished parole and mandated prisoners convicted of a class 1 felony to “serve not less than 85 percent of the sentence imposed…” (Title 42 US Code Section 13704).

Lacking the funds necessary to build more prisons to account for its expanding prison population, VOITIS provided Virginia with the inspiration to abolish parole for crimes committed on or after January 1, 1995. This legislation (House Bill No. 5001) was sponsored and introduced into the 1994 General Assembly Session by then-Republican Governor Allen during the 1994 Special Session. It must be noted that this legislation was heavily favored by the democrats who controlled both the House and the Senate in 1994.

House Bill No. 5001 was codified into law as Virginia Code Annotated (V.A. Code) Section 53.1-165.1. Consequently, the amount of good time prisoners could earn to reduce their period of incarceration for good behavior was reduced from a maximum of thirty days credit for each thirty days served per V.A. Code 531.1-201 (before parole was abolished) to a maximum of four and one-half days credits for each thirty days served under V.A. Code 53.1-202 (after parole was abolished). Prior to the abolition of parole and dramatic reduction in good time credits, Virginia’s prison population was approximately 18,000. As of 2013, the prison population had ballooned to almost 40,000.

Between 1996 and 1998, twenty-eight states that enacted truth-in-sentencing legislation collectively received over $680 million in VOITIS grants, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

Fifteen out of twenty-seven states that received VOITIS grants in 1997 indicated that these grants were either a key or partial factor (motivation) in their enactment of truth-in-sentencing legislation which required prisoners to serve 85% of their sentences, including Virginia.

Between 1996 and 1998, Virginia alone received a total of $11,201,786 in VOITIS grants which partly funded the construction of two maximum- and two super-maximum-security prisons: Sussex-1 State Prison, Sussex-2 State Prison, Red Onion State Prison, and Wallens Ridge State Prison. All four of these “state-of-the-art” prisons began accepting warm bodies in 1997 and 1998, many of them contracted from out of state.

Because of tough-on-crime policies like Three Strikes, Mandatory Minimums, Truth-in-Sentencing, and the Abolition of Parole, the overall U.S. prison population has increased 700% between 1970 and 2010. As a result, the U.S. now holds the distinction of having the largest prison population (2.5 million) in the world.

In Virginia, African-Americans make up only 20% of the state population, but 60% of the prison population, and almost all prisoners come from poor or working-class communities.

Tough-on-crime policies like those mentioned above represent a gross social and racial injustice embedded within America’s system of legal jurisprudence, and working-class are left to foot the bill for mass incarceration.

Economic Impact

As of 2014, the VA Dept. of (In)Corrections’ annual operating budget has grown to over $1 billion, which is paid with tax dollars, as well as with capital generated from the cheap slave labor of prisoners who toil in Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE)-operated sweatshops, disciplinary fines, kickbacks from Keefe Commissary Group, Global Tel Link, JPay, etc., and interests gained from inmate Savings Accounts.

It costs almost $30,000 a year to keep long-term, rehabilitated prisoners locked up for crimes we committed in our youth.

A question that we want answered is: If Virginia stopped receiving VOITIS grants in 2007, and VOITIS grants were a key (or partial) factor in Virginia’s decision to abolish parole and implement Truth-in-Sentencing laws, why are prisoners convicted and sentenced under the so-called “no parole” (85%) law still required to serve 85% of our sentences?

The abolition of parole has not prevented, reduced, or deterred crime any more than it did prior to 1995 but has succeeded only in increasing the prison population and the VA Dept. of (In)Corrections’ annual budget to one of the highest in the country, while confining long-term, rehabilitated prisoners for decades with no realistic opportunity for release.

On June 24, 2015, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe sought to correct these problems when he signed Executive Order #44, creating the Parole Review Commission to “address five significant priorities related to Parole Reform:

1. Conduct a Review of Previous Goals and Subsequent Outcomes. The Commission shall review whether abolishing parole achieved the intended goals of preventing new felony offenses, reducing crime, and reducing recidivism. The Commission’s analysis shall include, at a minimum, a qualitative analysis of pre- and post-1995 trends in crime rates, incarceration rates, sentence lengths, and recidivism rates.

2. Examine the Cost of Parole Reform/Abolition. The Commission shall conduct an analysis of the fiscal impact abolishing parole has had on the Commonwealth, as well as an analysis of the societal costs on communities and families from longer incarceration.

3. Evaluate the Best Practices of Other States. The Commission shall research and evaluate what policies and practices have proven successful or unsuccessful in other states, and explore the application of the most successful approaches in the Commonwealth.

4. Recommend Other Mediation Strategies. The Commission shall examine what other approaches could be used to achieve similar results in terms of preventing new felony offenses, reducing crime, and reducing recidivism. Virginia must pursue cost-saving, evidence-based, and multifaceted approaches to reducing crime while also improving outcomes for offenders, families, and communities.

5. Provide Recommendations to Address Public Safety Challenges. The Commission shall provides its recommendations on how Virginia may best position itself to address the public safety challenges resulting from changes to parole. These final recommendations shall include any proposed legislative or executive branch necessary, as well as any potential private sector engagement…..”

Per this Executive Order, the Commission was required to provide an interim report to Governor McAuliffe no later than November 2, 2015, with a final report due by December 4, 2015.

Seeing that several public meetings were held by the Commission where the ideas, opinions, and concerns of families and friends of prisons and other concerned citizens in favor of parole reinstatement/reform repeatedly fell on the deaf ears of Commission members;
Seeing that the Commission has recommended not to reinstate parole because state Republicans who appointed the Commission were openly hostile to the idea of parole reinstatement and have vowed that parole will never be reinstated so long as they (Republicans) constitute the majority in the Virginia General Assembly;
Seeing that Republicans will constitute the majority in the Virginia General Assembly for the foreseeable future;
And as a result, seeing that mass incarceration, overcrowded and understaffed prisons, draconian truth-in-sentencing sentences, no parole, long-term incarceration with no realistic chance of release, cutbacks to rehabilitative programs, and VA Dept. of (In)Corrections’ policies and procedures which aggravate the suffering inherent in our incarceration will persist, it is time we unite and organize peacefully and nonviolently inside of these prisons to bring about substantive change via boycotts, sit-downs, and/or work/hunger strikes.

WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS!

Games the gang investigators play

This is a piece from Aug 16, 2012, published in the SF Bay View, but it is as relevant as ever: nothing has changed within the CDCr and in how the Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) work! The public and those who represent them should take serious note that IGI is often said to be acting without any court-intervention, giving punishment to imprisoned people on often false reports, falsified reports, made-up reports. If a possible crime occurs, should the accused not be given a trial? And what are the reasons for the possibly substantiated rumors that IGI might falsify reports? Could it be to keep the SHU’s filled with so-called “validated” prisoners, allegedly gang-members, or in the new vocabulary of CDCr: “Security Threat Groups” (STG)?

For a SHU-prisoner, the prisons receive more money from you, the tax payers, than for a prisoner in General Population. Think about it, and start asking your representatives questions!

This is just a quick note to say thank you for the March issue and another April and May issue of the S.F. Bay View you sent. I read the March issue and can see why these fascist captors of mine kept it from me. They already look at us New Afrikkkans as suspected “gang” members and anything political or educational we read they label it gang material. It’s absurd!

They’ve been keeping my mail for at least an extra week after I receive it from my family, and any books or other forms of reading material they hold for a month or so before they issue it to me. I know it’s a game the IGIs (Institutional Gang Investigators) use to keep us New Afrikkkans, Southern and Northern Mexicans, oppressed Whites and Native Amerikkkans buried alive in these concrete tombs under their three-point gang validation, which, since our statewide hunger strike, they continue to do.

I’ve seen four gang validation packages issued out within the last two weeks by these IGI oppressors, who in all actuality are their own gang. I remember reading about IGI Duarte in Calipatria State Prison being under investigation himself for putting together false validation packages on comrades; well, he isn’t the only one to do so. I’m more than certain if the CDC got more IGIs under investigation for false acts to get brothers validated, these tables would really turn and society would see who the real gang members are.

Thank you for continuing to be the driving force in bringing awareness to the free world about our constant struggles to fight our oppressors. I’ve given out the other two Bay Views you sent to some comrades to read and hopefully get subscriptions as well.

In true solidarity struggle,

Comrade T

Amy Buckley in Mississippi prison: I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve

From: SF Bay View, September 26, 2014

by Amy Buckley

On July 18, 2014, I was told to pack and was transferred to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Miss. Since I was not informed as to why I was being transferred, I have surmised that it was for medical purposes because I had abnormal results on some recent lab work.

I originally left this compound on Sept. 24, 2010, with the hope of never seeing it again, but here I sit. I wish I could say that things here have improved. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

CMCF is the processing center for all men and women coming into the prison system. This facility also houses just over 2,300 men long-term and less than 1,000 women who are compound-restricted due to medical conditions such as AIDS, pregnancy and heart problems and those with life sentences. Sadly, this is one of the worst – it is the worst for women – facilities in the state.

Conditions here are deplorable. There are 116 women per open zone (dorm) and no air conditioning. Lice, boils, staph infections, scabies and AIDS are rampant. The food is barely edible. Medical care is insufficient to non-existent. Mold grows on the shower walls and no matter how many times you scrub it off it grows right back. These are simply a few of the problems here.

Since arriving here on Friday, I have yet to be seen by a case manager and have not been issued any clothes. For five days now I have been wearing the same jumpsuit I was made to put on for being transported.

I approached Lt. Bates several times attempting to ask about getting clothes, only to be swatted away like I was a pesky fly. I also approached the case manager, Ms. Gattis, who said she would see me later but failed to do so. I have also written both of the above and received no response.

Without seeing the case manager, I cannot use the phones to contact my family because I have to fill out a phone list and get a PIN number to do so. Ms. Gattis would also be able to address any issues and concerns that I have at this time. To add to this incompetence, I have yet to see a doctor to find out what, if anything, needs to be done concerning my medical needs.

Being back here saddens me because I see the condition of some of these women. Many walk around like zombies, drugged out of their minds and seemingly unaware of their surroundings.

It is easier for a person to see the prison psychiatrist and get any psych drug available, even if they do not need it, than it is to see a nurse or medical doctor when one is truly ill. Many are denied medical care until hospitalization is the only option left and others die waiting to see a doctor.

I know how easy it is to get stuck on this compound, lost in this broken system, forced to work in inhumane conditions without pay or be written up for refusing to work until you land in Max. Despite being prisoners of the state of Mississippi, we have the right to receive prompt medical treatment, clean clothes to wear, a clean and safe living environment and access to our families, i.e., phone calls and visits.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections may not care about my health, but my health is important to me and my family. When I came into this system I was healthy and I plan to leave healthy! I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve. The beast will not win!

I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve.

Send our sister some love and light: Amy Buckley, 150005, CMCF-2A B-Zone 162, P.O. Box 88550, Pearl, MS 39288. Transcribed by Adrian McKinney from handwritten letter.

Amy has cervical cancer – write the Parole Board to release her

Amy Buckley is known across the country as a wise and courageous advocate for women prisoners. This is the Bay View’s most recent letter from Amy, postmarked July 30. Activist Twitch Entropy reports hearing from Amy that as of Sept. 6, despite an apparent diagnosis of cervical cancer, she still hasn’t seen a doctor, though she’d been in severe pain for a week. She hopes the cancer will be arrested with a hysterectomy.

Back home, her father is suffering from advanced mantle cell lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer, and her son needs her. So her aunt is gathering parole support letters.

Your letter should be addressed to State of Mississippi Parole Board, Attn: Steve Pickett and Parole Board Members, 660 North St., Suite 100A, Jackson, MS 39202. Don’t mail it direct to the board but rather to Amy’s aunt: Trish Gray-Lee, 862 Jolly Road, Columbus, MS 39705. Amy deserves a special dispensation for her own and her father’s medical crises, justifying a supervised medical release, Twitch suggests.

Stop the McFarland GEO Women’s Prison!

From the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Aug 8th, 2014

Letter signed by women and trans prisoners at CCWF and CIW

 STOP THE MCFARLAND GEO WOMEN’S PRISON!

 We the undersigned incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and  the California Institution for Women (CIW) are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the 2nd largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, CA by fall of 2014.

We call upon California State Legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!

 Once again we are shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights. Since VSPW was converted to a men’s prison in January 2013, we have been subjected to overcrowding at historically high levels (CCWF is now at 185% capacity), even while the state is under court order to reduce the prison population. This is discrimination against people in women’s’ prisons!  As a result of this overcrowding, health care, mail services, food and education have greatly deteriorated. We are locked down more frequently, leading to heightened tensions, drug overdoses and suicides. The prison staff has responded by locking more people into solitary, further violating our human rights.

CDCR could easily implement existing programs to reduce overcrowding, such as: Alternative Custody Programs (ACP); Elder and Medical Parole; and Compassionate Release. Instead, on April 1, 2014 GEO announced its new contract with CDCR to open a 260 bed women’s prison with an “enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction program.” This is nothing but a bad April Fool’s joke! The 260 women who are “chosen” to go to McFarland could be released through one of these other programs instead. None of us should be hauled off to showcase a so-called “gender responsive” prison and to put money in the pockets of GEO investors.

GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants. GEO’s press release about the new prison reports expected revenue of $9 million in McFarland’s first year. Think of how much $9 million could do for providing community-based re-entry services!

GEO has been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country about atrocious, unconstitutional conditions. Private prisons are notorious for operating with even greater secrecy than the CDCR: assaults are 49% more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.

GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of their facilities.  In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi youth detention Center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of Fed. Judge Carlton Reeves, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”

  • In March 2014, 1200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA (for immigrants) went on hunger strike to protest the grossly inadequate medical care, exorbitant commissary prices and low or NO pay for work within the center.  Other GEO prisoners have since gone on hunger strike at detention facilities in Conroe, Texas and Stewart, Georgia.
  • In January of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign reported $54,400 in donations from GEO Group. GEO Group has spent $7.6 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the U.S. in the last decade.

 GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws, and truth-in-sentencing laws. GEO was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) when the model bill that became AB 1070 (profiling immigrants in Arizona) was drafted. These legal changes resulted in significant profits for GEO.

  • In McFarland, CA, GEO has signed a contract incentivizing prolonged incarceration over release by charging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation less per prisoner if the facility is more than half full.
  • GEO operates reentry facilities around the state, including the Taylor Street Center at in San Francisco and the Oakland Center in Oakland.  Residents experience these facilities as “re-entry prisons” that are structured to threaten and punish people rather than providing support for people to reenter community life.  .

It is shameful that CDCR is about to open a for-profit “boutique prison” that does nothing positive to solve the disproportionate overcrowding in the women’s prisons at this time. Assembly Members and Senators, please intervene!  Stop the GEO prison from opening. Instead use this $9 million to fully implement existing release programs immediately and fund community-based (not for-profit) reentry programs.

Thank you for listening to this urgent request,

Natalie DeMola, CCWF

Jane Dorotik, CIW

Fonda Gayden, CCWF

Anne Marie Harrison, CCWF

Valerie Juarez, CCWF

Terah Lawyer, CCWF

ChiChi Locci, CCWF

Maydee Morris, CCWF

Amy Preasmeyer, CCWF

Patrice Wallace, CCWF

Summer Heat Kills Inmates in Prisons, and That Needs to Change

From: University of Texas – Austin

June 26, 2014

By Ariel Dulitzky, Director of the Human Rights Clinic; Alex Goeman & Samantha Chen, Students of the Human Rights Clinic

Searing heat and suffocating humidity levels are upon us here in the Southern states. In Texas, residents know that summers are brutal, but while we may be proud of our ability to withstand such extreme conditions, that cold blast of air conditioning when we walk indoors is a welcome respite from the heat outside. In fact, prolonged exposure to temperatures as low as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, when combined with high humidity levels, can put even the healthiest individuals in extreme danger. Despite knowing of these dangers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has declined to provide air conditioners in most inmate housing areas, or even to set maximum temperature standards in these areas. This needs to change.

Every summer, the TDCJ subjects its prisoners to deadly temperature and humidity levels, and violates prisoners’ human and constitutional rights and their rights to health, life and dignity. Some note that many law abiding Texans do not have air conditioning in their homes. However, these individuals have the freedom and capability to escape deadly summer heat by entering air-conditioned buildings such as libraries or movie theaters. They can take showers and drink water as many times as they want. TDCJ inmates, on the other hand, spend much of their time locked in enclosed concrete and metal structures, where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees during the summer months.

As we noted in our report “Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons,” at least 14 heat-related deaths have been documented at TDCJ facilities since 2007. Many of these inmates had pre-existing health conditions or were taking medications that rendered them heat-sensitive, yet the TDCJ did not properly provide cooled living areas. While the TDCJ uses ventilation and fans indoors, these measures do not protect against heat illnesses in high temperatures and humidity. To the contrary, fans can accelerate heat-related illnesses in such conditions.

Read more at: http://www.utexas.edu/know/2014/06/26/summer-heat-kills-inmates-in-prisons-and-that-needs-to-change/

Letter from Pelican Bay Prisoner Representatives to Members of the California State Assembly & Senate

LETTER FROM PELICAN BAY PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES
TO MEMBERS OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY & SENATE

Original signed letter.

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191
Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry – CDCR # C35671
Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

May 1, 2014

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the
Senate (SB 892 and AB 1652) dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies
of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

We are California inmates who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time, based on validation as alleged associates and members of prison gangs, rather than based on violent behavior. We undertook hunger strikes in 2011 and in 2013 in opposition of the CDCR’s solitary confinement and gang validation practices as well as the inhumane conditions of CDCR’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). Together with thousands of inmates, we expressed
the following five core demands:

1) Individual accountability, rather than group punishment, indefinite SHU status, and restricted privileges;

2) Abolish debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;

3) Comply with U.S. Commission 2006 Recommendations regarding an end to long-
term solitary confinement;

4) Provide adequate food; and,

5) Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.

Having carefully reviewed and considered Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano on February 11, 2014 as amended on April 3, 2014, and Senate Bill 892, introduced by Senate member Loni Hancock on January 13, 2014, as amended on March 18 and April 2, we wish to offer the following comments:

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

AB 1652 addresses the very narrow but critical issue of eliminating CDCR’s policy of placing prisoners in solitary confinement for gang validation, rather than for commission of a serious offense. We support AB 1652. At the same time, we recommend that the bill be amended to include the following three additional provisions:

a. During assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source!before being

[Letter to CA State Assembly and Senate
May 1, 2014 – page 2]

relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

b. An attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost to the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

c. AB 1652 should implement provisions for increased oversight, studies, data collection, and reporting back to the Legislature on the SHU classification process, the mental and physical wellbeing of inmates in SHUs, and the reasons why SHU inmates are denied re-entry into the general population. Senate member Hancock’s SB 892 contains these provisions, which we recommend be included in AB 1652. Collecting and considering this data can lay the foundation for a future more comprehensive legislative evaluation of solitary confinement practices in California.

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

Although SB 892 appears to seek to achieve comprehensive CDCR reform on the issue of solitary confinement, there are several provisions of the bill that will adopt inhumane and widely condemned practices into state law. We will only support SB 892 if it is amended to include
three critically important items:

a. The bill should incorporate the language of AB 1652 (or similar language) which eliminates the use of gang validation and minor rule violations as a justification for placing inmates in SHUs. As it stands currently, SB 892 does not eliminate SHU assignment for mere gang association and it does not eliminate indeterminate SHU terms.

This is a critical issue and one of our core demands. The nationwide trend is clearly not to place prisoners in segregated housing units for alleged gang association without accompanying serious rule violations. Numerous states have moved in this direction for public safety reasons, for humane reasons, and to cut costs. California should not move in the opposite direction.

b. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that during assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source!before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

[Letter to CA State Assembly and Senate
May 1, 2014 page 3]

c. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that an attorney-advocate
should be made available (at no cost too the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

We do not believe that the range of provisions in SB 892 related to review by the Office of the Inspector General of cases in which SHU placement is based on the testimony of a confidential informant, the appointment of ombudsmen, the requirement for a daily face-to-face encounter with CDCR employees, the appointment of an “advocate” for an inmate being processed for SHU placement, or the Step Down Program in the bill will make any measurable difference in CDCR solitary confinement practices. The Inspector General is unlikely based upon review of a file to reverse decisions based on confidential informants. Ombudsmen will be of little value as long as inmates can be placed in SHUs for alleged gang association when they have engaged in no wrong-doing. “Face-to-face” encounters already happen almost every day when our food is served or a psych tech walks past our cells. Allowing an “advocate” to assist in the SHU assignment process will mean assignment of a guard who could care less about the result. And the proposed step-down program focuses on forcing prisoners to disavow alleged gang association or activities rather than on a behavior-based model considering whether the prisoner has violated rules while in the SHU. Despite these misguided and costly provisions in SB 892, we would support the bill if it is amended to include the provisions identified above.

However, the narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652, particularly if amended as suggested above, would far better serve the public safety, prison security, and the humane treatment of prisoners. It’s a first but critically important step in the direction of a rational and humane policy. Further legislation could be considered in the next legislative session after CDCR data is collected by the legislature. Thank you for considering our comments and suggestions.

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

This letter was written after these 4 representatives of prisoners at Pelican Bay had met with the Center for Human Rights, which emailed it to us. “As you may know, we’ve been working with the four Pelican Bay hunger strike reps to get their united position on the two bills pending in the CA Senate and Assembly on solitary confinement.”

(Also posted on SF Bay View)