Free Mississippi Movement

From: Free Alabama – Mississippi Movement Blogtalk Radio Show:

Please listen to the recording of August 8th FREE ALABAMA-MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT’S blogtalkradio show as we continue our “HANDS OFF OF OUR WOMEN AT TUTWILER” series ahead of our “MARCH ON TUTWILER” AND rally at the State Capitol on August 23, 2014, beginning at 11 a.m.

Also, we will get an update on our FAMILY… in Georgia, and learn about new developments and oppressive tactics that are being carried out by the State against the Men and Women who want their FREEDOM over there also.

“MISSISSIPPI BROWN” will be back again and we look forward to another great show.

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Bill Seeks To Privatize Half Of Ohio Prisons

Thank you to the people at Ohio’s Death Row on Blogger for bringing this to our attention –

Ohio prisons could soon become corporations if lawmakers pass a bill that would privatize up to half of the state’s correctional facilities.
An e-mail sent by the Ernie Moore, the director of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, warned workers of the possibility, 10 Investigates’ Paul Aker reported on Thursday.
Supporters of the bill said privatizing prisons could save tax dollars, but the prison system’s union employees worry it means they will be out of work.

Continue Reading on ONNtv 

Read Senate Bill 269 Here

More information can be found here;
http://www.ocsea.org/badforohio/

(Even though the above link is for Ohio Civil Service Employees they do have resources that could be utilized by citizens on that page.)

From FBOP Prisoner Ronald Kelly

I am writing after listening to a few of your speeches. I would like to bring to your attention the fact that there are over 2.3 million people in prisons in the U.S. compared to only 71,000 in Japan. We have one in ever thirty one adults in the U.S. in jail or on supervised release.
I have heard you say that the U.S. is not a nation of torture, and we are not terrorists – – I must disagree based on the current criminal justice system. When you send a citizen to prison for 151 months with no possibility of parole for low level drug use, you are imposing cruel and unusual punishment as well as torturing that citizen, and also their families, for some petty act, which is barbaric.
One might say, “Oh, it’s just 151 months” but that is 12 years and 7 months, “months” are used because it sounds more friendly than years, but it’s still a petty offense and it’s still torture for the citizen and the families. This policy leaves families without the support of the head of the house, which in turn causes the cycle to start all over again with the children of the broken home ending up in trouble and ultimately in prison. Everyone is quick to place the responsibility on the drug user, but when is the government going to accept their part of the responsibility for all these broken homes and children who are unnecessarily fatherless for decades?
With all these broken homes and families torn apart at the hands of an overzealous government, is it any wonder why the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world – – even higher than third-world countries, with 5% of the world’s population we house 25% of the world’s reported prisoners. I ask you: “has putting these petty offenders in prison for decades made life any safer in our communities? In another ten years, would these communities not be safer if the fathers were home to assist raising the children? What do you think these kids are doing while the mother is at work and the father is in prison? They are running the streets becoming the next generation of prisoners! The system perpetuates!! Has it made the import of drugs any less? Of course it has not!
Based on the loss of father’s income, some families are forced to turn to the very thing that cost the loved one their freedom, just to survive. The “war on drugs” which is really the “war on people” has got to change, just like the Iraq to Afghanistan, so must the policy on drugs change to helping, rather than destroying, the people and their families. It is well supported fact that locking people up with draconian sentences for petty drug offenses has not stopped, or even slowed down the flow or use of drugs in this country – – indeed, it made it even worse.
Moreover, why is the federal government prosecuting low level drug possession when the respective states already have laws for this same conduct? Is this the proper role of the federal government? Surely not. Illustratively, federal drug possession under 18 U.S.C. 841 (b) (1) (C) carries up to 20 years while in the State (Oklahoma) it has a maximum of 4 years. The state sentence would be eligible for parole while the federal sentence is not. Is this an even application of laws, fair and equitable?
In the federal system, I receive good time credits of only up to 47 days a year (congress authorized 54, but BOP has devised a scheme resulting in only 470, while in the state (Oklahoma) I could receive 44 days a month (3 days less than all year in the feds), and again, be eligible for parole. Even worse, upon completion of the excessive federal sentence, I must go out and serve yet another 3 years “supervised release.” In the state, when I complete my incarceration, I would be done – – why, pray tell, am I even in the federal system and not the state?
My case originated when another man got arrested with drug and guns by state police. He made a deal with the fed to set someone up – – that someone was me. The reward for his “cooperation” was a sentence reduction from 96 to 24 months while I serve 151 months when he was the one who got busted committing crimes.
Another area that should be of concern is the so-called criminal history sentence “enhancements” based on alleged “prior convictions” for which a person has already been punished. Illustratively, this practice took my sentence from 78months to 151 months, effectively punishing me twice for a crime I completely served my sentence for. Notably, it’s much easier to be convicted of a second offense based on the stigma of being an ex-felon with any prior conviction. Why am I being punished again for the first crime? I am serving 73 more months than otherwise applicable based on a crime I did time for, resulting in double punishment.
Thank you, for your consideration of this important matter. I trust you will take corrective measures to stop this absurd treatment of American citizens.
Respectively,
Ronald D. Kelly

The Rape of American Prisoners

Excerpt From The Rape of American Prisoners
By David Kaiser, Lovisa Stannow

“Ray Brookins worked for the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), the state’s juvenile detention agency. In October 2003, he was hired as head of security at the West Texas State School in Pyote. Like most TYC facilities, it’s a remote place. The land is flat to the horizon, scattered with slowly bobbing oil derricks, and always windy. It’s a long way from the families of most kids confined there, who tend to be urban and poor; a long way from any social services, or even the police. It must have seemed perfect to Brookins—and also to John Paul Hernandez, who was hired as the school’s principal around the same time. Almost immediately, Brookins started pulling students out of their dorms at night, long after curfew, and bringing them to the administration building. When asked why, he said it was for cleaning.

In fact, according to official charges, for sixteen months Brookins and Hernandez molested the children in their care: in offices and conference rooms, in dorms and darkened broom closets and, at night, out in the desert. The boys tried to tell members of the staff they trusted; they also tried, both by letter and through the school’s grievance system, to tell TYC officials in Austin. They did so knowing that they might be retaliated against physically, and worse, knowing that if Brookins caught them complaining he could and would extend their confinement, and keep on abusing them.[3] They did so because they were desperate. But they were ignored by the authorities who should have intervened: both those running the school and those running the Texas Youth Commission. Nor did other officials of the TYC who were informed by school staff about molestation take action.

Finally, in late February 2005, a few of the boys approached a volunteer math tutor named Marc Slattery. Something “icky” was going on, they said. Slattery knew it would be futile to go to school authorities—his parents, also volunteers, had previously told the superintendent of their own suspicions, and were “brow beat” for making allegations without proof —so the next morning he called the Texas Rangers.[6] A sergeant named Brian Burzynski made the ninety-minute drive from his office in Fort Stockton that afternoon. “I saw kids with fear in their eyes,” he testified later, “kids who knew they were trapped in an institution where the system would not respond to their cries for help.”

It continues on with,

“The Rangers forwarded Burzynski’s report to Randall Reynolds, the local district attorney, but he did nothing. Even though it’s a crime in all fifty states for corrections staff to have sex with inmates of any age, prosecutors rarely bring charges in such cases. For a time, from the TYC’s perspective, the problem seemed to go away. The agency suspended Lemuel “Chip” Harrison, the superintendent of the school, for ninety days after concluding its investigation—he had ignored complaints about Brookins and Hernandez from many members of the staff—but then it promoted him, making him director of juvenile corrections. Brookins found a job at a hotel in Austin, and Hernandez, astonishingly, became principal of a charter school in Midland.

Rumors have a way of spreading, though, however slowly. Eventually some reporters started digging, and on February 16, 2007, Nate Blakeslee broke the story in The Texas Observer. Doug Swanson followed three days later in The Dallas Morning News, starting an extraordinary run of investigative reporting in that paper: forty articles on abuse and mismanagement in the TYC by the end of March 2007, and to date more than seventy. Pyote was only the beginning. The TYC’s culture was thoroughly corrupt: rot had spread to all thirteen of its facilities.

Since January 2000, it turned out, juvenile inmates had filed more than 750 complaints of sexual misconduct by staff. Even that number was generally thought to underrepresent the true extent of such abuse, because most children were too afraid to report it: TYC staff commonly had their favorite inmates beat up those who complained. And even when they did file grievances, the kids knew it was unlikely to do them much good. Reports were frequently sabotaged, evidence routinely destroyed.

In the same six-year period, ninety-two TYC staff had been disciplined or fired for sexual contact with inmates, which can be a felony. (One wonders just how blatant they must have been.) But again, as children’s advocate Isela Gutierrez put it, “local prosecutors don’t consider these kids to be their constituents.” Although five of the ninety-two were “convicted of lesser charges related to sexual misconduct,” all received probation or had their cases deferred. Not one agency employee in those six years was sent to prison for sexually abusing a confined child. And despite fierce public outrage at the scandal, neither Brookins nor Hernandez has yet faced trial. In the face of overwhelming evidence, but with recent history making their convictions unlikely, both claim innocence.”

Read Complete Essay Here

Torture at a Louisiana Prison

CounterPunch

By Jordan Flaherty

The torture of prisoners in US custody is not only found in military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. If President Obama is serious about ending US support for torture, he can start here in Louisiana.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is already notorious for a range of offenses, including keeping former Black Panthers Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, in solitary for over 36 years. Now a death penalty trial in St. Francisville, Louisiana has exposed widespread and systemic abuse at the prison. Even in the context of eight years of the Bush administration, the behavior documented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola stands out both for its brutality and for the significant evidence that it was condoned and encouraged from the very top of the chain of command.

In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, twenty-five inmates testified last summer to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prison nearly a decade ago. These twenty-five inmates – who were not involved in the escape attempt – testified to being kicked, punched, beaten with batons and with fists, stepped on, left naked in a freezing cell, and threatened that they would be killed. They were threatened by guards that they would be sexually assaulted with batons. They were forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. They were bloodied, had teeth knocked out, were beaten until they lost control of bodily functions, and beaten until they signed statements or confessions presented to them by prison officials. One inmate had a broken jaw, and another was placed in solitary confinement for eight years.

While prison officials deny the policy of abuse, the range of prisoners who gave statements, in addition to medical records and other evidence introduced at the trial, present a powerful argument that abuse is a standard policy at the prison. Several of the prisoners received $7,000 when the state agreed to settle, without admitting liability, two civil rights lawsuits filed by 13 inmates. The inmates will have to spend that money behind bars –more than 90% of Angola’s prisoners are expected to die behind its walls.

Systemic Violence

During the attempted escape at Angola, in which one guard was killed and two were taken hostage, a team of officers – including Angola warden Burl Cain – rushed in and began shooting, killing one inmate, Joel Durham, and wounding another, David Mathis.

The prison has no official guidelines for what should happen during escape attempts or other crises, a policy that seems designed to encourage the violent treatment documented in this case. Richard Stalder, at that time the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, was also at the prison at the time. Yet despite – or because of – the presence of the prison warden and head of corrections for the state, guards were given free hand to engage in violent retribution. Cain later told a reporter after the shooting that Angola’s policy was not to negotiate, saying, ”That’s a message all the inmates know. They just forgot it. And now they know it again.”

Five prisoners – including Mathis – were charged with murder, and currently are on trial, facing the death penalty – partially based on testimony from other inmates that was obtained through beatings and torture. Mathis is represented by civil rights attorneys Jim Boren (who also represented one of the Jena Six youths) and Rachel Connor, with assistance from Nola Investigates, an investigative firm in New Orleans that specializes in defense for capital cases.

The St. Francisville hearing was requested by Mathis’ defense counsel to demonstrate that, in the climate of violence and abuse, inmates were forced to sign statements through torture, and therefore those statements should be inadmissible. 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. ruled that the documented torture and abuse was not relevant. However, the behavior documented in the hearing not only raises strong doubts about the cases against the Angola Five, but it also shows that violence against inmates has become standard procedure at the prison.

The hearing shows a pattern of systemic abuse so open and regular, it defies the traditional excuse of bad apples. Inmate Doyle Billiot testified to being threatened with death by the guards, “What’s not to be afraid of? Got all these security guards coming around you everyday looking at you sideways, crazy and stuff. Don’t know what’s on their mind, especially when they threaten to kill you.” Another inmate, Robert Carley testified that a false confession was beaten out of him. “”I was afraid,” he said. “I felt that if I didn’t go in there and tell them something, I would die.”

Inmate Kenneth “Geronimo” Edwards testified that the guards “beat us half to death.” He also testified that guards threatened to sexually assault him with a baton, saying, “that’s a big black…say you want it.” Later, Edwards says, the guards, “put me in my cell. They took all my clothes. Took my jumpsuit. Took all the sheets, everything out the cell, and put me in the cell buck-naked…It was cold in the cell. They opened the windows and turned the blowers on.” At least a dozen other inmates also testified to receiving the same beatings, assault, threats of sexual violence, and “freezing treatment.”

Some guards at the prison treated the abuse as a game. Inmate Brian Johns testified at the hearing that, “one of the guards was hitting us all in the head. Said he liked the sound of the drums – the drumming sound that – from hitting us in the head with the stick.”

Solitary Confinement

Two of Angola’s most famous residents, political prisoners Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, have become the primary example of another form of abuse common at Angola – the use of solitary confinement as punishment for political views. The two have now each spent more than 36 years in solitary, despite the fact that a judge recently overturned Woodfox’s conviction (prison authorities continue to hold Woodfox and have announced plans to retry him). Woodfox and Wallace – who together with former prisoner King Wilkerson are known as the Angola Three – have filed a civil suit against Angola, arguing that their confinement has violated both their 8th amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment and 4th amendment right to due process.

Recent statements by Angola warden Burl Cain makes clear that Woodfox and Wallace are being punished for their political views. At a recent deposition, attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, “Lets just for the sake of argument assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent Miller.” Cain responded, “Okay. I would still keep him in (solitary)…I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them…He has to stay in a cell while he’s at Angola.”

In addition to Cain’s comments, Louisiana Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell has said the case against the Angola Three is personal to him. Statements like this indicate that this vigilante attitude not only pervades New Orleans’ criminal justice system, but that the problem comes from the very top.

The problem is not limited to Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola – similar stories can be found in prisons across the US. But from the abandonment of prisoners in Orleans Parish Prison during Katrina to the case of the Jena Six, Louisiana’s criminal justice system, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world, often seems to be functioning under plantation-style justice. Most recently, journalist A.C. Thompson, in an investigation of post-Katrina killings, found evidence that the New Orleans police department supported vigilante attacks against Black residents of New Orleans after Katrina.

Torture and abuse is illegal under both US law – including the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment – and international treaties that the US is signatory to, from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified in 1992). Despite the laws and treaties, US prison guards have rarely been held accountable to these standards.

Once we say that abuse or torture is ok against prisoners, the next step is for it to be used in the wider population. A recent petition for administrative remedies filed by Herman Wallace states, “If Guantanamo Bay has been a national embarrassment and symbol of the U.S. government’s relation to charges, trials and torture, then what is being done to the Angola 3… is what we are to expect if we fail to act quickly…The government tries out it’s torture techniques on prisoners in the U.S. – just far enough to see how society will react. It doesn’t take long before they unleash their techniques on society as a whole.” If we don’t stand up against this abuse now, it will only spread.

Despite the hearings, civil suits, and other documentation, the guards who performed the acts documented in the hearing on torture at Angola remain unpunished, and the system that designed it remains in place. In fact, many of the guards have been promoted, and remain in supervisory capacity over the same inmates they were documented to have beaten mercilessly. Warden Burl Cain still oversees Angola. Meanwhile, the trial of the Angola Five is moving forward, and those with the power to change the pattern of abuse at Angola remain silent.

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org.

Research assistance for this article by Emily Ratner.