Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experience

This comes from Decarcerate PA‘s website. It sounds like an illegal move to silence people’s voices. What about the victims of police violence? Will they not be ‘victimised’ by their attackers’ presence everywhere, incl. the police and former police who have written this proposed law? Vermont College is not even in PA, so is Mumia Abu-Jamal, also not allowed to speak in other states, countries? This law is just an act of vengeance.  

Pennsylvania Legislators threaten to silence people in prison. TAKE ACTION today
On Oct 14th: call your legislators!

[Here is another article about this anti-human rights attack of politicians in Pennsylvania]

Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experiences. Last week, PA Representative Mike Vereb introduced a bill (HB2533) called the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which would allow victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.”

The bill was written in response to political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech at Goddard College, and is a clear attempt to silence Mumia and other prisoners and formerly incarcerated people. We believe that this legislation is not actually an attempt to help victims, but a cynical move by legislators to stop people in prison from speaking out against an unjust system.

While to us this seems like a clear violation of the first amendment, unfortunately the PA General Assembly doesn’t appear to agree, and they have fast-tracked the bill for approval and amended another bill (SB508) to include the same language. The legislation could be voted on as early as Wednesday.

If this bill passes, it will be a huge blow to the movement against mass incarceration. People inside prisons play a leading role in these struggles, and their perspectives, analysis, and strategies are essential to our work. Incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who write books, contribute to newspapers, or even write for our Voices from the Inside section would run the risk of legal consequences just for sharing their ideas.

That’s why we are asking you to take action TUESDAY OCTOBER 14 by calling Pennsylvania lawmakers to tell them that prisoners should not be denied the right to speak.

Please call your legislators and demand that they vote NO on HB2533 and SB508. You can look up contact information at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/.

We are also asking folks to call the following Senate leaders and ask them to stop the bill from moving forward:

Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne  (717) 787-1349
Senate Minority Whip Anthony Williams  (717) 787-5970
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi  (717) 787-4712
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (717) 787-7683

– See more at: http://decarceratepa.info/freespeech#sthash.OJAHxMbA.dpuf

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Legislative Leaders welcome End to Hunger Strike; Reaffirm Commitment to Public Hearings

September 05, 2013 
Sacramento – Today Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, welcomed the end to the California prison inmate hunger strike after 60 days.
 “I am relieved and gratified that the hunger strike has ended without further sacrifice or risk of human life,” Senator Hancock stated.  “”The issues raised by the hunger strike are real – concerns about the use and conditions of solitary confinement in California’s prisons – and will not be ignored.”
“I’m happy that no one had to die in order to bring attention to these conditions,” Ammiano said. “The prisoners’ decision to take meals should be a relief to CDCR and the Brown administration, as well as to those who support the strikers.”
The end to the hunger strike comes five days after Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, announced that they will hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that have led to the inmate hunger strike. The two legislators asked the inmates to end to the hunger strike so that energy and attention can be focused on the issues that have been raised.
According to Senator Hancock, “The inmates participating in the hunger strike have succeeded in bringing these issues to the center of public awareness and debate, Legislators now recognize the seriousness and urgency of these concerns and we will move forward to address them..”
“I’m especially gratified if the call for hearings helped bring this about,” Ammiano said. “However, our real work begins now, as we will soon start preparing for hearings that I hope can bring an end to the disgraceful conditions that triggered the hunger strike.”
The first hearing is expected to take place in October and will focus on two key issues raised by the hunger strike:
1.  The conditions of confinement in California’s maximum security prisons.
On April 9, 2013, a U. S. District Judge ruled in a class action law suit that inmates being held in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades, had adequately demonstrated that the State of California may be denying them protection from cruel and unusual punishment and granted the plaintiffs the right to a trial.
2.  The effect of long-term solitary confinement as a prison management strategy, and a human rights issue.
Senator Hancock stated, “California continues to be an outlier in its use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement has been recognized internationally and by other states to be an extreme form of punishment that leads to mental illness if used for prolonged periods of time. Since many of these inmates will eventually have served their sentences and will be released, it is in all our best interest to offer hope of rehabilitation while they are incarcerated – not further deterioration.”
“We know these prisoners have committed crimes,” Ammiano said, “but I have to repeat: It does not justify the way the state is treating them in the name of all Californians. We want California to be a leader in effective and enlightened corrections and true rehabilitation.”
The two legislators cited a report by Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, “Even if solitary confinement is applied for short periods of time, it often causes mental and physical suffering or humiliation, amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if the resulting pain or sufferings are severe, solitary confinement even amounts to torture.”
They also referred to the 2006 report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons, a bipartisan national task force. The report found that between 1995 and 2000, the use of solitary confinement in the United States had increased by 40 percent, far outpacing the 28 percent growth rate of the overall prison population.  The Commission concluded that solitary confinement is counterproductive to public safety, and costs twice as much as imprisonment in the general population. The Commission recommended ending long-term isolation of inmates.