California prisoners in AZ: CCA Eloy LaPalma: Jewish prisoners fasting for religious rights

This concerns the California prisoners who were transported involuntarily out of state to a private prison (CCA) in Arizona.Their religious rights are being trampled on and they have started a fast in protest. Please show support!
From: Arizona Prison Watch:

May 11, 2013

Dennis DeConcini
Arizona Board of Regents
2020 N. Central Ave., Suite 230
Phoenix, AZ 85004-4593
d.deconcini@att.net

Dear Mr. DeConcini:

I am a Phoenix area artist, freelance writer, and human rights activist known for my concern about Arizona’ prisoners. This week I was contacted by the wife of a California Department of Corrections prisoner in Corrections Corporation of America’s LaPalma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ. They’ve been having a lot of trouble in their prisons in Eloy lately. As you can see from the letter and attachments below, several Jewish prisoners have begun to fast after extensive efforts to resolve the problems with CCA’s lack of respect for their religious rights. If what they report is true, then CCA is out of compliance with the law and there’s no excuse for it.

I’m sure this is something you’ll be deeply concerned about, as I am, and expect that you will put in a good word for the US Constitution with Warden Jim MacGregor at LaPalma prison. He can be reached at 520-464-3200. Since you’re so proud to be on the CCA board and used to be a US senator, this seems to be something you should take some responsibility for resolving.

We all look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Margaret Jean Plews


Margaret J. Plews, Editor
Arizona Prison Watch
P.O. Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036
480-580-6807

May 10, 2013

Annie Santiago
Martinez, CA 94553
925-812-1694
a.santiago1012 @ yahoo.com

RE: PRISONERS FASTING over Anti-semitism and religious rights violations at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) LaPalma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ.

My name is Annie Santiago.

My husband, Kenneth Santiago, is a prisoner of the state of California, in a private prison in Eloy, Arizona run by Corrections Corporation of America. His CDC # is F03822.

Kenneth reports that as of May 7, 2013, he and several other prisoners at LaPalma Correctional Center began to fast. They are doing so in hopes of focusing the attention of the larger faith community on their more than 1 ½ year long struggle to compel the prison administration to come into compliance with the US Constitution, recent court settlements, and the norms for human decency, regarding Kosher food service for California prisoners located in Arizona.

Documentation of the problems at LaPalma and the struggle of Jewish prisoners against harassment, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and retaliation is attached. More will be available soon, as will correspondence directly from the prisoners themselves about their objectives that is, if they haven’t been stripped of their belongings and thrown in the hole already.

Yesterday morning an officer confronted my husband and the other men who were fasting, threatening to punish them with detention if they didn’t eat. Warden Jim MacDonald told me in the afternoon that he was going to look into it, but he asserted that “hunger strikers” would indeed be inviting disciplinary action, so please do not characterize this as a “hunger strike”.

These men are fasting in a deeply spiritual tradition, not setting their mattresses on fire or inciting riots. Why are they not even afforded the most simple respect for their efforts to adhere to their faith?

Please, whether you are media or a member of the faith community in Arizona or California, help my husband and the other prisoners get the outside world’s attention on that place there’s a bigger problem there than just what’s happening to them. Contact me at the number above for more information.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Annie Santiago

Letter to Governor Brown of California-page 1
Letter to Governor Brown of California, page 2
from prisoner Kenneth Santiago to a sympathetic Rabbi
But first, the complaint was in-house with CCA’s “unsung hero”,
 Chaplain Tim O’Dell… who apparently did not come to the rescue. 

Inmates, Vermont prisons in conflict over Muslim prayer services

In: Burlington Free Press
Nov. 28, 2011

An inmate’s right to practice his religion is well-worn territory in Vermont’s prisons.

In 1994, Muslim inmates at the St. Albans prison complained they had to fight for their right to practice their religion. Prison officials said the issue represented growing pains as they became accustomed to an increasingly diverse population.

In 2007, the state, which was under pressure from national religious rights groups, changed its rules to allow inmates to attend any religious service of their choosing.
In 2008, the state paid a $25,000 settlement to a Jewish inmate who accused the prison of denying him kosher food for Passover.

So it would seem in 2011 that inmates’ access to weekly prayer services would be well-established.
Not so, said inmate Gregory Sierras, a Muslim who said he and other inmates this year have had to fight for their right to hold Friday prayer services and receive pre-dawn and after-dusk meals during Ramadan in the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport.

Read the rest here

Rally April 10th at OSP against Solitary Confinement and Discrimination

18 Years of Solitary Confinement is Enough! If you heap the harshest possible punishment on the negotiators, what incentive will there be to negotiate during the next uprising?

Protest the Solitary Confinement of the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners and the Discrimination against the Religious Practices of Native American Prisoners by Rallying at the Gates of the Ohio State Penitentiary – Sunday, April 10, 2:30 PM
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd., Youngstown, OH

On April 10, 1883, The U.S. Secretary of the Interior forbid Native Americans from practicing their religious practices and customs, such as Sun Dances, claiming they were “un-American.”

Rally to protest inhumane treatment in Ohio’s supermax prison, OSP.
The Lucasville Uprising was April 11, 1993.
Bring signs and banners.

Gather in the parking lot of the church next to the entrance gate to OSP.
For information about car pooling and directions from the Cleveland area, call 216-925-9108 or email lucasvillefreedom@gmail.com.

A collaboration of the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network and New Black Panther Party – Cleveland Link.

Note added April 7th: Please also (re-)read this article by Bomani Shakur, written in 2007, about April 11th.

Hunger Strike for Religious Rights for Native Americans

Update March 14th:
The hungerstrike ended in victory, having met some demands. A petition with 800 signatures was presented and that too helped put pressure on the authorities.

Update March 5th, 2011: 


As of word received this morning, when Native American hunger striker Jason Campbell was moved to segregation (the hole) after refusing his ninth meal, the authorities confiscated a religious necklace he has had permission to have for years. Please protest this injustice and support his right to have simple objects that he needs for his religious worship. See contact info below.

The following is a statement from Jason Campbell, an inmate in Ohio State Penitentiary where Lucasville uprising prisoners Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur and Jason Robb recently won significant improvements in the terms of their confinement through a 12-day hunger strike and an international campaign of support. Campbell chose Feb. 27 to start his hunger strike because it is the 38th anniversary of the liberation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement.

Thank you for your interest in my current plight. I am grateful that there is at least one voice still willing to speak up on behalf of those in my position.

Since my incarceration in 2003, I have diligently fought for the religious rights of incarcerated Native Americans in Ohio prisons. I feel – seeing that I have the ability, that it is my responsibility to insure that we have the same protections under the law that other faith based groups generally enjoy. Personally, I have requested everything I could think of, trying to get as much approved as I could – as I know it would set the tone for what others will be allowed in the future. Basically, I am being prevented from practicing my Native beliefs in every way. I have requested and been denied all of the following: Tobacco, tobacco ties(twists), moccasins, feathers, beads (sewn into objects like a head band or medicine bag)), fur, animal hair (such as horse and buffalo), head band (of a color other than white – where beads are concerned), sacred objects (for Medicine Bag and Medicine Bundle), Native American flute, hand drum, rattle, access to sweat lodge (for purification), and to have a ‘Sun Dance’ ceremony.

I also have requested and have been approved for: A ‘prayer pipe’, Medicine Bag, and a Medicine Bundle, but I must point out that these are useless without: tobacco for the prayer pipe, and sacred objects for the Medicine Bag and Medicine Bundle. Without tobacco, I am unable to pray. Without sacred objects for the Medicine Bag and Medicine Bundle, they are just empty vessels – void of their purpose.

One last thing. My hunger strike is not considered “official” until after I refuse my ninth meal – which will be Wednesday, March 2nd, at breakfast. When I get to the ninth meal and refuse to come off of the hunger strike, I will be moved to the segregation block (the Hole). I’m told it is to prevent other prisoners from giving me food. In fact, I believe that it is to punish me into coming off of the hunger strike by putting me in a cell with no electricity. If you can find a way to address this as well, it would be much appreciated.

I hope – fervently, that this information can help you in assisting me – and through me, all other Native Americans in Ohio prisons. Present and future. Thank you again for your help. – “Mitakuye Oyasin” (to all my relations)

Sincerely, Jason Campbell #476-229

Please express your thoughts about this situation to:
Governor John Kasich, Riffe Center, 30th Floor, 77 South High St., Columbus, OH 43215-6117,
614-466-3555, http://governor.ohio.gov/ShareYourIdeas.aspx

Gary Mohr, Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 770 West Broad St., Columbus , OH 43222, 614-752-1164, Gary.Mohr@odrc.state.oh.us

David Bobby, Warden, Ohio State Penitentiary, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd., Youngstown, OH 44505,
330-743-0700 or fax 330-743-0841 or email JoAnn.King@odrc.state.oh.us

governor.ohio.gov

Prison chaplain on leave pending state investigation (2008)

This is an article we came across today, that shows incapacity and unwillingness by those in power to handle criticism or even suggestions for improvement by their own human resources in the NV Dept. of Corrections. Since March of 2008, nothing has improved. Today, we desparately need humanitarian people like this prison chaplain, because working with people in prisons means working with human beings. One has to be a human being to understand the needs of other humans.

Mar. 26, 2008
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Associated Press
CARSON CITY — Prison chaplain Jane Foraker-Thompson has been placed on leave with pay by Nevada prison administrators in what she describes as harassment and retaliation because of her defense of inmates’ religious practices and beliefs.

State corrections chief Howard Skolnik confirmed that Foraker-Thompson is on administrative leave “pending completion of an investigation.”

Foraker-Thompson said she was working at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center last week when she was called into the warden’s office and told she was being put on leave. She said administrators gave her no reason and would not tell her how long she’d be on leave.

The chaplain said she thinks one of the reasons is her critique of the prison system that she gave to state lawmakers last year. She added that critique figured in the formation of a panel studying the state’s criminal justice system.

Foraker-Thompson said another reason for the action against her might be her recent response to three lawsuits filed by prisoners against the prison system.

In that response, she said, she refused to deny any wrongdoing by Nevada State Prison administrators. The lawsuits allege a violation of the prisoners’ rights to practice their religions.

“I told the truth,” Foraker-Thompson said. “Things have happened at NSP that need to be exposed to the light of day. It has become a hell hole for the prisoners, as well as some of the staff, those with integrity and honor.”

Prison smoking ban won’t apply to religious ceremony

Las Vegas Sun

By Cy Ryan
Friday, July 24, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.

CARSON CITY – Despite a newly imposed ban on smoking at Nevada prisons, American Indians will still be able to puff tobacco in their ceremonial pipes during their religious ceremonies.

Howard Skolnik, director of the state Department of Corrections, has told a state advisory Indian committee that the pipe smoking practice will be allowed to continue as long as there are not abuses.

Skolnik and Senior Deputy Attorney General Janet Traut expressed concern that many non-Indians would invade religious ceremonies in the sweat lodges just to get a smoke.

There’s a rumor at the prison that a single cigarette is going for $50, she said. “Inmates really value it.”

The smoking ban applies to both inmates and staff.

Regulations allow only those who have ties with Indian tribes or groups to participate in the sweat lodges ceremonies.

Concern has been expressed that some non-Indians have participated in the religious ceremonies for a long time. Skolnik told members of the Advisory Committee on the Treatment and Religious Freedom of American Indian Inmates in Nevada Correctional Facilities that he is willing to consider those individual cases.

Rocky Boice, a member of the advisory committee, said after the meeting that the prison system has been trying for several years to dissolve the sweat lodges. Boice, a sweat lodge leader who visits the various prisons in Northern Nevada to conduct ceremonies, said he feels the prison is in violation of “a lot of federal laws” involving freedom of religion.

“It’s something that we have got to keep working on,” said Boice. “We have got to keep these ceremonies going. It’s all the Native Americans have in there, the right to practice their native spirituality.”

The sweat lodge is a circular structure in the prison yard, covered with blankets or other materials. Rocks are heated on the outside by fires and then brought into the lodge and placed in the center. Water is poured on the rock to produce steam.

The Indians sing and pray and at the end of the ceremony smoke the pipe. Boice said the smoking of the pipe releases the prayers of the inmate. And these are “purification ceremonies” says Boice.

“The Native American religion is the oldest in the United States and we have to defend it,” said Boice.

Boice also complained that the raw food at these ceremonies was banned. But Skoknik told him this was done by the state Health Division. Cooked food is allowed in these ceremonies where the Indians sit around the heated rocks during the religious offerings.