Support the Texas Prison Work-Strikers: Stop retaliation against Texas prisoner population

This comes from the IWW Incarerated Workers Organizing Committee:

Demands of Texas prisoners / incarcerated workers

As of Monday, April 18th, prisoners in Texas have been on rolling labor strikes for two weeks. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is retaliating by locking the prisons down and depriving prisoners of even the standard abysmal human necessities they are forced to provide. Retaliation against people who refuse to work for free is one of the tools prison administrators use to assure that prisoners can continue to be exploited in today’s modern day slave system.

If you have a minute, please call the following administrators and read the scripts below:

*Brad Livingston, Executive Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-2101 or (512) 463-9988
*Bryan Collier, Deputy Executive Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-6251 or (512) 463-9988
*Jay Eason, Deputy Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-6318 or (512) 463-9988
*TDJC Ombudsman Office (936) 437-4927 ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov
*TDJC Office of the Inspector General (936) 437-5030 oig@tdcj.texas.gov
*TDCJ Executive Director (512) 463-9988 exec.director@tdcj.state.tx.us

EASY Script:
“Hi I’m calling in support of striking prisoners in Texas and their demands for good time, an end to $100 medical copay, an independent grievance procedure and an end to human rights abuses. Stop enslaving our brothers and sisters and assure that your staff is not retaliating against striking workers by giving them write ups, eyes on Texas!”

CHALLENGING Script:
“Hi I heard about the prisoners labor strike and I’m calling to find out what sort of progress you are making toward meeting the prisoners demands.” Here is the list of demands for you to discuss.

~~~~~

If you have a little more time and want to have an even more significant impact we need help determining which prisoners are being retaliated against on any given day. Which prisons are on lockdown seems to change every couple of days.

There are nearly 100 prisons on this list of prisons and administrator phone numbers. Please add comments to the list so that we are better able to track what is happening and hopefully get at least a couple of calls in to every facility.

Script: “Hello, I’m calling to see if this facility is on lockdown right now.”

If they say no, say “I have heard that some prisons in Texas are on lockdown because of a labor strike associated with a list of demands from the prisoners”. Then start reading them this list of demands and letter from a prisoner.

If they say yes, they are on lockdown, ask them about the conditions the prisoners are facing and also ask them what directives they are relying on to guide their actions in this matter. Here are some of the reported conditions:

– Workers are threatened with major infractions for withholding their labor. These infractions could result in good time being taken away. Although good time seems to rarely be applied to anyone’s sentence, the threat of losing it is highly coersive.

– The locked down prisoners are not receiving the hot meals. This means hundreds or thousands of prisoners have had nothing to eat but bologna or peanut butter sandwiches since April 4th.

– Mailroom staff is delaying or interfering with the delivery of inmate mail.

– There are reports of lights being left on during the night or left off during the day, other examples of petty harassment from trifling guards and threats that the lockdown treatment will extend for weeks or even months.

– Interfering with the prisoner’s access to basic necessities like food, sleep and connection with their families and the outside world is inhumane.

– Please stop punishing the prisoners for asserting their basic humanity, if you want them to come off the workstoppage, you should meet their demands.

The prisoners need sustained pressure on these institutions, so please call on Monday and then make plans to follow up at least once more later in the week, if not every day. Thank you!!!

~~~~~

Also, Looking ahead to May 1st, we are asking people to carry the prisoners voices with them to whatever May Day events they may be planning or attending. Alabama prisoners have called for a month-long workstoppage starting on May 1st. If you’re already getting rowdy May Day, please also consider throwing a jail demo or a protest at the public face of a prison-labor exploiting corporation.

 

Free California Movement: Abolish the ‘legal’ slavery provision of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

A statement from the NCTT-Cor-SHU:

The NCTT-COR-SHU is geared up to launch a grassroots campaign, in conjunction with other human rights activists on the inside and outside to abolish the ‘legal’ slavery provision of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows for the enslavement, involuntary servitude, and ‘civil death’ of prisoners, parolees and EVERYONE convicted of a crime in the U.S.

This provision is the civil basis for prisoners and ex-prisoner disenfranchisement, compulsory prison labor, ‘legal’ labor and housing discrimination for those segments of the population who most need fair access, disfavorable access to legal redress, a diminished standard of 1st Amendment and other essential constitutional protections, diminished access to educational, vocational, and higher learning opportunities, and most damaging to society as a whole – legitimizing the dehumanization of these citizens under the ‘law.’

The primary vehicle we will seek to employ this campaign nationally is the formation of the “Free California Movement,” in conjunction with prisoners across the state, while encouraging the formation and solidarity of other “Free… Movements” in every state in the Union. We recognize that each state’s prison system has its own unique contradictions (for example, in many southern states, prison labor is wholly uncompensated, while in California many prison jobs come with a pennies on the dollar slave wage, and other institutions have P.I.A. compensation for prison labor), but what is UNIVERSAL across the nation is all of the dehumanizing, discriminatory and inhumane statutes prisoners and former prisoners are subject to – be they prison regulations or penal codes- ALL flow from the ‘legal’ slavery provision of the 13th Amendment.

We will be reaching out to prisoners, activists, progressives, family members, friends and citizens from all walks of life in the coming months to support this vital effort which is key to positively resolving the malignant contradiction of rampant inequality and social alienation in American society. We hope we can count on your support looking forward.

Dec. 28, 2014

NCTT-Cor-SHU

CSP-Corcoran-SHU, CA 93212

A Modern Day Slave Plantation Exists, and It’s Thriving in the Heart of America

This was written by Laura Dimon for PolicyMic
May 8, 2014

It was 1972. Thousands of American troops were battling communist forces in Vietnam. Nixon had won re-election by a landslide, but Watergate would soon usher in his demise. Space travel and technology were advancing rapidly.

Change was brewing across America, but one place stood still, frozen in time: Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola. When Robert King arrived that year, he felt as though he’d stepped into the past.

Read the full story here.

Former VT Prison Inmate’s Slavery Lawsuit Allowed To Move Forward

From: Boston CBS Local
August 4th 2012

BURLINGTON, VT (CBS) – A unique lawsuit filed against the state of Vermont is being allowed continue in the courts. A man is suing Vermont’s prison system, claiming they violated his 13th Amendment rights under the Constitution. The 13th Amendment bans slavery.

Finbar McGarry was a PhD student at the University of Vermont when he was arrested in December 2008 for a domestic disturbance.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Mark Katic talks about the case with David Frank of Lawyer’s Weekly

Charges were eventually dropped, but for six weeks, he says he was forced to work 14-hour days in the prison laundry for $0.25 an hour.

McGarry says that is slavery. He is suing for 1$1 million.
Dismissed by a lower court, on Friday the 2nd US Circuit Court ruled the lawsuit can proceed.

Read more: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2012/08/04/former-vt-prison-inmates-slavery-lawsuit-allowed-to-move-forward/

Here is an article about the lawsuit on Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/03/us-vermont-slavery-idUSBRE8721EJ20120803

Dispatch From Angola: Faith-Based Slavery in a Louisiana Prison

Would Jesus, himself a prisoner on death row and executed, approve of this all?

From: Colorlines
By: Liliana Segura
Aug 4th 2011

“Welcome to the 46th annual Angola Prison Rodeo, the Wildest Show in the South!” It’s 9 a.m. and I’m driving through the gates of Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola, and listening to KLSP, 91.7 FM. In the surrounding area, 91.7 is the province of American Family Radio, a conservative Christian station, but upon entering 70712—the prison has its own zip code—it becomes “the incarceration station,” currently playing factoids set to jaunty music. “Did you know that the Louisiana State Penitentiary had the first four-year accredited college program in prison in the United States?”

“Unique” is one way Warden Burl Cain likes to describe his prison, and it would be impossible to argue otherwise. With grazing cattle and rolling hills in the distance, it’s hard not to admire its strange, sprawling beauty, even as the towers come into view. The prison itself is absent from my GPS’s “points of interest,” yet Angola’s Prison View Golf Course—the first public golf course on the grounds of a state penitentiary—is not. At Angola’s official museum, opened by Cain in 1998, a retired electric chair and rusty prison contraband are displayed adjacent to a gift shop selling mugs and tote bags reading: “Angola: A Gated Community.”

Angola is the largest maximum security in the country, sitting on 18,000 acres of farmland and home to 5,200 men. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate of adult prisoners in the United States; thanks to the state’s unforgiving sentencing laws, at least 90 percent of Angola’s prisoners will die there. It’s a large-scale embodiment of a national phenomenon: elderly inmates are the country’s fastest growing prisoner population.

Yet Angola is also lauded as a revolution in corrections, its story told many times: Angola was once the “bloodiest prison in America,” where inmates slept with magazine catalogs strapped to their chests to protect themselves from stabbings. Things began to turn around in the 1970s, when a federal judge ordered a major overhaul. But most of the credit has gone to Warden Cain for imposing order through a new model of incarceration.

Like all of Angola’s wardens, Cain has continued the tradition of hard labor: most inmates work in the fields eight hours a day, five days a week, harvesting hundreds of acres of soybeans, wheat, corn, and cotton—picked by hand and sold by Prison Enterprises, the business arm of the Louisiana Department of Corrections. But unlike his predecessors, Cain, an evangelical Christian, has also made it his mission to bring God to Angola. Inmate ministers tell new prisoners that they can either work on their “moral rehabilitation” or remain a “predator”—“the choice is yours.” The radio station plays gospel music. On the walls leading to the execution chamber are two murals: Elijah ascending to Heaven and Daniel facing the lion. One of Cain’s favorite anecdotes is the execution of Antonio James, a born-again Christian whose hand he held just before giving the go-ahead to end his life. As James lay on the gurney waiting for lethal drugs to enter his veins, Cain said, “Antonio, the chariot is here…you are about to see Jesus.”

Angola_prison_rider2.jpgI’ve come to Angola for the area’s biggest tourist attraction: the sole surviving prison rodeo in the country. Five Sundays a year, thousands of visitors drive down this road toward an inmate-constructed, 10,000-seat arena to watch Louisiana’s most feared criminals compete in harrowing events like “convict poker” (four prisoners sit around a card table and are ambushed by a bull; last one seated wins); “guts and glory” (a poker chip is tied to the forehead of a bull and inmates try to grab it off); and the perennial crowd pleaser, “bull riding.” Prisoners can win prize money, but have no chance to practice before entering the ring. Critics and fans alike compare them to the gladiators of ancient Rome.

The rodeo long precedes Cain, but today it has become an extension of his philosophy of submission through “Experiencing God,” as the Southern Baptist instructional course he’s instituted at Angola is called. Proceeds pay for inmate funerals, maintenance on Angola’s inmate-constructed chapels, and programs aimed at “moral rehabilitation.” Cain once told Christianity Today that the program helps inmates “accept they’re in prison and that it’s God’s will that maybe they don’t get out—and that while you’re here you do your best for him.” The rodeo may break bodies, but Cain is in the business of saving souls.

A Gated Community

Angola_prison_tourist_2.jpgThe rodeo’s atmosphere is festive. Live music plays as families explore a massive crafts fair, checking out prisoner-made goods and an impressive variety of fried snacks, including “fried Coke,” a nod to one of the rodeo’s major sponsors. A billboard invites visitors to “Take Your Jail Cell Photos Here.” It’s not unlike a state fair, except that there are inmates everywhere. Wearing white t-shirts and dark pants, they sell art, leather goods, and concessions on behalf of a dizzying array of clubs—roast beef po-boys for the Horticulture Club, donuts for Vets Incarcerated.

“There’s really not much difference between this and a campus,” says Assistant Warden Cathy Fontenot, Angola’s head communications officer. “It’s like when you go to college and you’re looking for your major.”

The prison has invested heavily in its PR machinery and Cain has a reputation for being intolerant of negative coverage. Veteran journalist James Ridgeway was barred after writing an article that painted him in a less than favorable light, eventually winning back access with the ACLU’s help. Ridgeway’s troubles surely had as much to do with the years he has spent covering the plight of the Angola Three, a trio of Black Panthers convicted of killing a prison guard in 1972 and thrown into solitary confinement. Two of them, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, have remained locked in solitary for almost 40 years.

Fontenot bristles at the mention of the Angola Three. “We don’t have solitary confinement,” she says flatly. Instead, she explains, there’s “extended lockdown,” where prisoners are confined alone in 9-by-6 foot cells for 23 hours a day.

The first prisoner I meet is Lane Nelson, a model inmate selling subscriptions to Angola’s prisoner-run magazine, The Angolite. Sentenced to death for a 1981 murder, Nelson came within days of execution before his sentence was overturned and commuted to life.

Nelson picked cotton when he got off death row. “It was hard,” he chuckles. “You had to get a quota—you had to learn real quick.” Like most at Angola, Nelson had no experience in farm labor. Unlike most, he’s white. (Nelson is also the rare example of a convicted murderer who has left Angola; he was granted clemency and released in January.)

Just before the arrival of Warden Cain, Nelson published an article about five prisoners confined to “extended lockdown” the longest, among them Woodfox and Wallace. The article revealed how the history of solitary confinement is tied to the history of Angola itself:

Angola was a plantation first, housing slaves who cut sugar cane for the master. At the end of the 19th century it evolved into a prisoner lease system, with sentenced prisoners being rented to area companies. In 1901, Angola officially became a state-operated penitentiary, but in name only. It remained a plantation, with prisoners crowded into large wooden buildings and working from sunup to sundown in sugar cane and cotton fields—rain or shine, 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week.

Beatings aside, the most effective way to discipline prisoners was “short-term solitary confinement,” first in “an iron casket buried into the ground,” then the “pisser”—a series of windowless cells (“no bunk, no toilet, no ventilation”). Today, visitors to Angola’s museum can read part of this history in “The Angola Story,” a pamphlet that illustrates how much the prison has evolved.

Sentences, too, have evolved. “Lifers” in Louisiana were once eligible for parole in as little as five years. In 1926 the state legislature installed the “10-6 rule”: prisoners sentenced to life were eligible for release after 10 years and six months. This held true until the 1970s, which saw a precipitous decline in parole recommendations and the rise of “tough on crime” reforms that would soon dominate nationwide.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 ruling in Furman v. Georgia, which briefly suspended the death penalty, Louisiana abolished parole for a range of violent crimes. “Within less than a decade Louisiana went from turning all lifers loose in ten-and-a-half years or less to keeping virtually all of them in prison for their natural lives,” writes historian Burk Foster. As former head of the Louisiana Department of Corrections C. Paul Phelps once warned, “the State of Louisiana is posturing itself to run probably the largest male old-folks home in the country.”

Read the rest here
—–
Would Jesus, himself a prisoner on death row and executed, approve of this all?

Davis: The Challenges of Prison Abolition

Celebrate the International Observation of the Anniversary
of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade:

ABOLISH THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!!

——————–

this is a great article from a few years back, posted in History is a Weapon, with Angela Davis making the connections between the institution of slavery and the prison industrial complex of today.

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The Challenge of Prison Abolition:

A conversation between Angela Y. Davis and Dylan Rodriguez

2004

History is a weapon

Angela Y. Davis teaches in the History of Consciousness program at the University of California (215 Oakes College, Santa Cruz, CA 95060), and has been actively involved in prison-related campaigns since the events that led to her own incarceration in 1970. Dylan Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor at University of California – Riverside and was involved in the formation of Critical Resistance. Rodriguez’s first book, Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the Formation of the U.S. Prison Regime will be published in 2005 by the University of Minnesota Press.

Dylan: Your emergence as a radical prison activist was deeply influenced by your experience as a prisoner. Could you talk a bit about how imprisonment affected your political formation, and the impact that it had on your eventual identification as prison abolitionists?

Angela: The time I spent in jail was both an outcome of my work on prison issues and a profound influence on my subsequent trajectory as a prison activist. When I was arrested in the summer of 1970 in connection with my involvement in the campaign to free George Jackson and the Soledad Brothers, I was one of many activists who had been previously active in defense movements. In editing the anthology, If They Come in the Morning (1971) while I was in jail, Bettina Aptheker and I attempted to draw upon the organizing and legal experiences associated with a vast number of contemporary campaigns to free political prisoners. The most important lessons emanating from those campaigns, we thought, demonstrated the need to examine the overall role of the prison system, especially its class and racial character.

There was a relationship, as George Jackson had insisted, between the rising numbers of political prisoners and the imprisonment of increasing numbers of poor people of color. If prison was the state-sanctioned destination for activists such as myself, it was also used as a surrogate solution to social problems associated with poverty and racism. Although imprisonment was equated with rehabilitation in the dominant discourse at that time, it was obvious to us that its primary purpose was repression.


Along with other radical activists of that era, we thus began to explore what it might mean to combine our call for the freedom of political prisoners with an embryonic call for the abolition of prisons. Of course we had not yet thought through all of the implications of such a position, but today it seems that what was viewed at that time as political naivete, the un-theorized and utopian impulses of young people trying to be revolutionary, foreshadowed what was to become, at the turn of the century, the important project of critically examining the political economy of a prison system, whose unrestrained growth urgently needs to be reversed.

Dylan: What interests me is the manner in which your trial — and the rather widespread social movement that enveloped it, along with other political trials — enabled a wide variety of activists to articulate a radical critique of U.S. jurisprudence and imprisonment. The strategic framing of yours and others’ individual political biographies within a broader set of social and historical forces — state violence, racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, the growth and transformation of U.S. capitalism — disrupted the logic of the criminal justice apparatus in a fundamental way. Turning attention away from conventional notions of “crime” as isolated, individual instances of misbehavior necessitated a basic questioning of the conditions that cast “criminality” as a convenient political rationale for the warehousing of large numbers of poor, disenfranchised, and displaced black people and other people of color.

Many activists are now referring to imprisonment as a new form of slavery, refocusing attention on the historical function of the 13th Amendment in reconstructing enslavement as a punishment reserved for those “duly convicted.” Yet, when we look more closely at the emergence of the prison-industrial complex, the language of enslavement fails to the extent that it relies on the category of forced labor as its basic premise. People frequently forget that the majority of imprisoned people are not workers, and that work is itself made available only as a “privilege” for the most favored prisoners.

The logic of the prison-industrial complex is closer to what you, George Jackson, and others were forecasting back then as mass containment, the effective elimination of large numbers of (poor, black) people from the realm of civil society. Yet, the current social impact of the prison-industrial complex must have been virtually unfathomable 30 years ago. One could make the argument that the growth of this massive structure has met or exceeded the most ominous forecasts of people who, at that time, could barely have imagined that at the turn of the century two million people would be encased in a prison regime that is far more sophisticated and repressive than it was at the onset of Nixon’s presidency, when about 150,000 people were imprisoned nationally in decrepit, overcrowded buildings.


So in a sense, your response to the first question echoes the essential truth of what was being dismissed, in your words, as the paranoid “political naivete” of young radical activists in the early 1970s. I think we might even consider the formation of prison abolitionism as a logical response to this new human warehousing strategy. In this vein, could you give a basic summary of the fundamental principles underlying the contemporary prison abolitionist movement?

Angela: First of all, I must say that I would hesitate to characterize the contemporary prison abolition movement as a homogeneous and united international effort to displace the institution of the prison. For example, the International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA), which periodically brings scholars and activists together from Europe, South America, Australia, Africa, and North America, reveals the varied nature of this movement. Dorsey Nunn, former prisoner and longtime activist, has a longer history of involvement with ICOPA than I do since he attended the conference in New Zealand three years ago. My first direct contact with ICOPA was this past May, when I attended the Toronto gathering.

Dylan: Was there anything about ICOPA that particularly impressed you?

Angela: The ICOPA conference in Toronto revealed some of the major strengths and weaknesses of the abolitionist movement. First of all, despite the rather homogenous character of their circle, they have managed to keep the notion of abolitionism alive precisely at a time when developing radical alternatives to the prison-industrial complex is becoming a necessity. That is to say, abolitionism should not now be considered an unrealizable utopian dream, but rather the only possible way to halt the further transnational development of prison industries.


That ICOPA claims supporters in Europe and Latin America is an indication of what is possible. However, the racial homogeneity of ICOPA, and the related failure to incorporate an analysis of race into the theoretical framework of their version of abolitionism, is a major weakness. The conference demonstrated that while faith-based approaches to the abolition of penal systems can be quite powerful, organizing strategies must go much further. We need to develop and popularize the kinds of analyses that explain why people of color predominate in prison populations throughout the world and how this structural racism is linked to the globalization of capital.

Dylan: Yes, I found that the political vision of ICOPA was extraordinarily limited, especially considering its professed commitment to a more radical abolitionist analysis and program. This undoubtedly had a lot to do with the underlying racism of the organization itself, which was reflected in the language of some of the conference resolutions: “We support all transformative measures which enable us to live better in community with those we as a society find most difficult, and most consistently marginalize or exclude” (emphasis added)1.


A major figure in ICOPA even accused a small group of people of color in attendance of being “racist” when they attempted to constructively criticize the overwhelming white homogeneity of the conference and the need for creative strategies to engage communities of color in such an important political discussion. Several black student-activists I met at ICOPA told me how alienated they felt at the conference, especially when they realized that the ICOPA organizers had never attempted to contact the Toronto-based organizations with which these student-activists were working: a major black anti-police-brutality coalition, a black prisoner support organization, etc.


So I certainly share your frustrations with ICOPA. At the same time, I find myself wondering how a new political formation of prison abolitionism can form in such a reactionary national and global climate. You have been involved with a variety of prison movements for the last 30 years, so maybe you can help me out. How do you think about this new political challenge within a broader historical perspective?

Angela: There are multiple histories of prison abolition. The Scandinavian scholar/activist Thomas Mathieson first published his germinal text, The Politics of Abolition, in 1974, when activist movements were calling for the disestablishment of prisons — in the aftermath of the Attica Rebellion and prison uprisings throughout Europe. He was concerned with transforming prison reform movements into more radical movements to abolish prisons as the major institutions of punishment.


There was a pattern of decarceration in the Netherlands until the mid-1980s, which seemed to establish the Dutch system as a model prison system, and the later rise in prison construction and the expansion of the incarcerated population has served to stimulate abolitionist ideas. Criminologist Willem de Haan published a book in 1990 entitled The Politics of Redress: Crime, Punishment, and Penal Abolition.



One of the most interesting texts, from the point of view of U.S. activist history is Fay Honey Knopp’s volume Instead of Prison: A Handbook for Prison Abolitionists, which was published in 1976, with funding from the American Friends. This handbook points out the contradictory relationship between imprisonment and an “enlightened, free society.” Prison abolition, like the abolition of slavery, is a long-range goal and the handbook argues that an abolitionist approach requires an analysis of “crime” that links it with social structures, as opposed to individual pathology, as well as “anticrime” strategies that focus on the provision of social resources.


Of course, there are many versions of prison abolitionism — including those that propose to abolish punishment altogether and replace it with reconciliatory responses to criminal acts. In my opinion, the most powerful relevance of abolitionist theory and practice today resides in the fact that without a radical position vis-a-vis the rapidly expanding prison system, prison architecture, prison surveillance, and prison system corporatization, prison culture, with all its racist and totalitarian implications, will continue not only to claim ever increasing numbers of people of color, but also to shape social relations more generally in our society.


Prison needs to be abolished as the dominant mode of addressing social problems that are better solved by other institutions and other means. The call for prison abolition urges us to imagine and strive for a very different social landscape.

Dylan: I think you make a subtle but important point here: prison and penal abolition imply an analysis of society that illuminates the repressive logic, as well as the fascistic historical trajectory, of the prison’s growth as a social and industrial institution. Theoretically and politically, this “radical position,” as you call it, introduces a new set of questions that does not necessarily advocate a pragmatic “alternative” or a concrete and immediate “solution” to what currently exists. In fact, I think this is an entirely appropriate position to assume when dealing with a policing and jurisprudence system that inherently disallows the asking of such fundamental questions as: Why are some lives considered more disposable than others under the weight of police policy and criminal law?


How have we arrived at a place where killing is valorized and defended when it is organized by the state — I’m thinking about the street lynchings of Diallo and Dorismond in New York City, the bombing of the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in 1985, the ongoing bombing of Iraqi civilians by the United States — yet viciously avenged (by the state) when committed by isolated individuals? Why have we come to associate community safety and personal security with the degree to which the state exercises violence through policing and criminal justice?


You’ve written elsewhere that the primary challenge for penal abolitionists in the United States is to construct a political language and theoretical discourse that disarticulates crime from punishment. In a sense, this implies a principled refusal to pander to the typically pragmatist impulse to demand absolute answers and solutions right now to a problem that has deep roots in the social formation of the United States since the 1960s. I think your open-ended conception of prison abolition also allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the prison-industrial complex as a set of institutional and political relationships that extend well beyond the walls of the prison proper.


So in a sense, prison abolition is itself a broader critique of society. This brings me to the next question: What are the most crucial distinctions between the political commitments and agendas of prison reformists and those of prison abolitionists?

Angela: The seemingly unbreakable link between prison reform and prison development — referred to by Foucault in his analysis of prison history — has created a situation in which progress in prison reform has tended to render the prison more impermeable to change and has resulted in bigger, and what are considered “better,” prisons.


The most difficult question for advocates of prison abolition is how to establish a balance between reforms that are clearly necessary to safeguard the lives of prisoners and those strategies designed to promote the eventual abolition of prisons as the dominant mode of punishment. In other words, I do not think that there is a strict dividing line between reform and abolition.


For example, it would be utterly absurd for a radical prison activist to refuse to support the demand for better health care inside Valley State, California’s largest women’s prison, under the pretext that such reforms would make the prison a more viable institution. Demands for improved health care, including protection from sexual abuse and challenges to the myriad ways in which prisons violate prisoners’ human rights, can be integrated into an abolitionist context that elaborates specific decarceration strategies and helps to develop a popular discourse on the need to shift resources from punishment to education, housing, health care, and other public resources and services.


Dylan: Speaking of developing a popular discourse, the Critical Resistance gathering in September 1998 seemed to pull together an incredibly wide array of prison activists — cultural workers, prisoner support and legal advocates, former prisoners, radical teachers, all kinds of researchers, progressive policy scholars and criminologists, and many others.


Although you were quite clear in the conference’s opening plenary session that the purpose of Critical Resistance was to encourage people to imagine radical strategies for a sustained prison abolition campaign, it was clear to me that only a few people took this dimension of the conference seriously. That is, it seemed convenient for people to rejoice at the unprecedented level of participation in this presumably “radical” prison activist gathering, but the level of analysis and political discussion generally failed to embrace the creative challenge of formulating new ways to link existing activism to a larger abolitionist agenda. People were generally more interested in developing an analysis of the prison-industrial complex that incorporated the local work that they were involved in, which I think is an important practical connection to make.


At the same time, I think there is an inherent danger in conflating militant reform and human rights strategies with the underlying logic of anti-prison radicalism, which conceives of the ultimate eradication of the prison as a site of state violence and social repression. What is required, at least in part, is a new vernacular that enables this kind of political dream. How does prison abolition necessitate new political language, teachings, and organizing strategies? How could these strategies help to educate and organize people inside and outside the prison for abolition?

Angela: In order to imagine a world without prisons — or at least a social landscape no longer dominated by the prison — a new popular vocabulary will have to replace the current language, which articulates crime and punishment in such a way that we cannot think about a society without crime except as a society in which all the criminals are imprisoned.


Thus, one of the first challenges is to be able to talk about the many ways in which punishment is linked to poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other modes of dominance. In the university, the emergence of the interdisciplinary field of prison studies can help to trouble the prevailing criminology discourses that shape public policy as well as popular ideas about the permanence of prisons. At the high school level, new curricula can also be developed that encourage critical thinking about the role of punishment. Community organizations can also play a role in urging people to link their demands for better schools, for example, to a reduction of prison spending.

Dylan: Your last comment suggests that we need to rupture the ideological structures embodied by the rise of the prison-industrial complex. How does prison abolition force us to rethink common assumptions about jurisprudence, in particular “criminal justice?”

Angela: Since the invention of the prison as punishment in Western society during the late 1700s, criminal justice systems have so thoroughly depended on imprisonment that we have lost the ability to imagine other ways to solve the problem of “crime.” One of the interesting contributions of prison abolitionists has been to propose other paradigms of punishment or to suggest that we need to extricate ourselves from the assumption that punishment must be a necessary response to all violations of the law.


Reconciliatory or restorative justice, for example, is presented by some abolitionists as an approach that has proved successful in non-Western societies — Native American societies, for example — and that can be tailored for use in urban contexts in cases that involve property and other offenses. The underlying idea is that in many cases, the reconciliation of offender and victim (including monetary compensation to the victim) is a much more progressive vision of justice than the social exile of the offender. This is only one example — the point is that we will not be free to imagine other ways of addressing crime as long as we see the prison as a permanent fixture for dealing with all or most violations of the law.

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/davisinterview.html

Davis: The Challenges of Prison Abolition

Celebrate the International Observation of the Anniversary
of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade:

ABOLISH THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!!

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this is a great article from a few years back, posted in History is a Weapon, with Angela Davis making the connections between the institution of slavery and the prison industrial complex of today.

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The Challenge of Prison Abolition:

A conversation between Angela Y. Davis and Dylan Rodriguez

2004

History is a weapon

Angela Y. Davis teaches in the History of Consciousness program at the University of California (215 Oakes College, Santa Cruz, CA 95060), and has been actively involved in prison-related campaigns since the events that led to her own incarceration in 1970. Dylan Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor at University of California – Riverside and was involved in the formation of Critical Resistance. Rodriguez’s first book, Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the Formation of the U.S. Prison Regime will be published in 2005 by the University of Minnesota Press.

Dylan: Your emergence as a radical prison activist was deeply influenced by your experience as a prisoner. Could you talk a bit about how imprisonment affected your political formation, and the impact that it had on your eventual identification as prison abolitionists?

Angela: The time I spent in jail was both an outcome of my work on prison issues and a profound influence on my subsequent trajectory as a prison activist. When I was arrested in the summer of 1970 in connection with my involvement in the campaign to free George Jackson and the Soledad Brothers, I was one of many activists who had been previously active in defense movements. In editing the anthology, If They Come in the Morning (1971) while I was in jail, Bettina Aptheker and I attempted to draw upon the organizing and legal experiences associated with a vast number of contemporary campaigns to free political prisoners. The most important lessons emanating from those campaigns, we thought, demonstrated the need to examine the overall role of the prison system, especially its class and racial character.

There was a relationship, as George Jackson had insisted, between the rising numbers of political prisoners and the imprisonment of increasing numbers of poor people of color. If prison was the state-sanctioned destination for activists such as myself, it was also used as a surrogate solution to social problems associated with poverty and racism. Although imprisonment was equated with rehabilitation in the dominant discourse at that time, it was obvious to us that its primary purpose was repression.


Along with other radical activists of that era, we thus began to explore what it might mean to combine our call for the freedom of political prisoners with an embryonic call for the abolition of prisons. Of course we had not yet thought through all of the implications of such a position, but today it seems that what was viewed at that time as political naivete, the un-theorized and utopian impulses of young people trying to be revolutionary, foreshadowed what was to become, at the turn of the century, the important project of critically examining the political economy of a prison system, whose unrestrained growth urgently needs to be reversed.

Dylan: What interests me is the manner in which your trial — and the rather widespread social movement that enveloped it, along with other political trials — enabled a wide variety of activists to articulate a radical critique of U.S. jurisprudence and imprisonment. The strategic framing of yours and others’ individual political biographies within a broader set of social and historical forces — state violence, racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, the growth and transformation of U.S. capitalism — disrupted the logic of the criminal justice apparatus in a fundamental way. Turning attention away from conventional notions of “crime” as isolated, individual instances of misbehavior necessitated a basic questioning of the conditions that cast “criminality” as a convenient political rationale for the warehousing of large numbers of poor, disenfranchised, and displaced black people and other people of color.

Many activists are now referring to imprisonment as a new form of slavery, refocusing attention on the historical function of the 13th Amendment in reconstructing enslavement as a punishment reserved for those “duly convicted.” Yet, when we look more closely at the emergence of the prison-industrial complex, the language of enslavement fails to the extent that it relies on the category of forced labor as its basic premise. People frequently forget that the majority of imprisoned people are not workers, and that work is itself made available only as a “privilege” for the most favored prisoners.

The logic of the prison-industrial complex is closer to what you, George Jackson, and others were forecasting back then as mass containment, the effective elimination of large numbers of (poor, black) people from the realm of civil society. Yet, the current social impact of the prison-industrial complex must have been virtually unfathomable 30 years ago. One could make the argument that the growth of this massive structure has met or exceeded the most ominous forecasts of people who, at that time, could barely have imagined that at the turn of the century two million people would be encased in a prison regime that is far more sophisticated and repressive than it was at the onset of Nixon’s presidency, when about 150,000 people were imprisoned nationally in decrepit, overcrowded buildings.


So in a sense, your response to the first question echoes the essential truth of what was being dismissed, in your words, as the paranoid “political naivete” of young radical activists in the early 1970s. I think we might even consider the formation of prison abolitionism as a logical response to this new human warehousing strategy. In this vein, could you give a basic summary of the fundamental principles underlying the contemporary prison abolitionist movement?

Angela: First of all, I must say that I would hesitate to characterize the contemporary prison abolition movement as a homogeneous and united international effort to displace the institution of the prison. For example, the International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA), which periodically brings scholars and activists together from Europe, South America, Australia, Africa, and North America, reveals the varied nature of this movement. Dorsey Nunn, former prisoner and longtime activist, has a longer history of involvement with ICOPA than I do since he attended the conference in New Zealand three years ago. My first direct contact with ICOPA was this past May, when I attended the Toronto gathering.

Dylan: Was there anything about ICOPA that particularly impressed you?

Angela: The ICOPA conference in Toronto revealed some of the major strengths and weaknesses of the abolitionist movement. First of all, despite the rather homogenous character of their circle, they have managed to keep the notion of abolitionism alive precisely at a time when developing radical alternatives to the prison-industrial complex is becoming a necessity. That is to say, abolitionism should not now be considered an unrealizable utopian dream, but rather the only possible way to halt the further transnational development of prison industries.


That ICOPA claims supporters in Europe and Latin America is an indication of what is possible. However, the racial homogeneity of ICOPA, and the related failure to incorporate an analysis of race into the theoretical framework of their version of abolitionism, is a major weakness. The conference demonstrated that while faith-based approaches to the abolition of penal systems can be quite powerful, organizing strategies must go much further. We need to develop and popularize the kinds of analyses that explain why people of color predominate in prison populations throughout the world and how this structural racism is linked to the globalization of capital.

Dylan: Yes, I found that the political vision of ICOPA was extraordinarily limited, especially considering its professed commitment to a more radical abolitionist analysis and program. This undoubtedly had a lot to do with the underlying racism of the organization itself, which was reflected in the language of some of the conference resolutions: “We support all transformative measures which enable us to live better in community with those we as a society find most difficult, and most consistently marginalize or exclude” (emphasis added)1.


A major figure in ICOPA even accused a small group of people of color in attendance of being “racist” when they attempted to constructively criticize the overwhelming white homogeneity of the conference and the need for creative strategies to engage communities of color in such an important political discussion. Several black student-activists I met at ICOPA told me how alienated they felt at the conference, especially when they realized that the ICOPA organizers had never attempted to contact the Toronto-based organizations with which these student-activists were working: a major black anti-police-brutality coalition, a black prisoner support organization, etc.


So I certainly share your frustrations with ICOPA. At the same time, I find myself wondering how a new political formation of prison abolitionism can form in such a reactionary national and global climate. You have been involved with a variety of prison movements for the last 30 years, so maybe you can help me out. How do you think about this new political challenge within a broader historical perspective?

Angela: There are multiple histories of prison abolition. The Scandinavian scholar/activist Thomas Mathieson first published his germinal text, The Politics of Abolition, in 1974, when activist movements were calling for the disestablishment of prisons — in the aftermath of the Attica Rebellion and prison uprisings throughout Europe. He was concerned with transforming prison reform movements into more radical movements to abolish prisons as the major institutions of punishment.


There was a pattern of decarceration in the Netherlands until the mid-1980s, which seemed to establish the Dutch system as a model prison system, and the later rise in prison construction and the expansion of the incarcerated population has served to stimulate abolitionist ideas. Criminologist Willem de Haan published a book in 1990 entitled The Politics of Redress: Crime, Punishment, and Penal Abolition.



One of the most interesting texts, from the point of view of U.S. activist history is Fay Honey Knopp’s volume Instead of Prison: A Handbook for Prison Abolitionists, which was published in 1976, with funding from the American Friends. This handbook points out the contradictory relationship between imprisonment and an “enlightened, free society.” Prison abolition, like the abolition of slavery, is a long-range goal and the handbook argues that an abolitionist approach requires an analysis of “crime” that links it with social structures, as opposed to individual pathology, as well as “anticrime” strategies that focus on the provision of social resources.


Of course, there are many versions of prison abolitionism — including those that propose to abolish punishment altogether and replace it with reconciliatory responses to criminal acts. In my opinion, the most powerful relevance of abolitionist theory and practice today resides in the fact that without a radical position vis-a-vis the rapidly expanding prison system, prison architecture, prison surveillance, and prison system corporatization, prison culture, with all its racist and totalitarian implications, will continue not only to claim ever increasing numbers of people of color, but also to shape social relations more generally in our society.


Prison needs to be abolished as the dominant mode of addressing social problems that are better solved by other institutions and other means. The call for prison abolition urges us to imagine and strive for a very different social landscape.

Dylan: I think you make a subtle but important point here: prison and penal abolition imply an analysis of society that illuminates the repressive logic, as well as the fascistic historical trajectory, of the prison’s growth as a social and industrial institution. Theoretically and politically, this “radical position,” as you call it, introduces a new set of questions that does not necessarily advocate a pragmatic “alternative” or a concrete and immediate “solution” to what currently exists. In fact, I think this is an entirely appropriate position to assume when dealing with a policing and jurisprudence system that inherently disallows the asking of such fundamental questions as: Why are some lives considered more disposable than others under the weight of police policy and criminal law?


How have we arrived at a place where killing is valorized and defended when it is organized by the state — I’m thinking about the street lynchings of Diallo and Dorismond in New York City, the bombing of the MOVE organization in Philadelphia in 1985, the ongoing bombing of Iraqi civilians by the United States — yet viciously avenged (by the state) when committed by isolated individuals? Why have we come to associate community safety and personal security with the degree to which the state exercises violence through policing and criminal justice?


You’ve written elsewhere that the primary challenge for penal abolitionists in the United States is to construct a political language and theoretical discourse that disarticulates crime from punishment. In a sense, this implies a principled refusal to pander to the typically pragmatist impulse to demand absolute answers and solutions right now to a problem that has deep roots in the social formation of the United States since the 1960s. I think your open-ended conception of prison abolition also allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the prison-industrial complex as a set of institutional and political relationships that extend well beyond the walls of the prison proper.


So in a sense, prison abolition is itself a broader critique of society. This brings me to the next question: What are the most crucial distinctions between the political commitments and agendas of prison reformists and those of prison abolitionists?

Angela: The seemingly unbreakable link between prison reform and prison development — referred to by Foucault in his analysis of prison history — has created a situation in which progress in prison reform has tended to render the prison more impermeable to change and has resulted in bigger, and what are considered “better,” prisons.


The most difficult question for advocates of prison abolition is how to establish a balance between reforms that are clearly necessary to safeguard the lives of prisoners and those strategies designed to promote the eventual abolition of prisons as the dominant mode of punishment. In other words, I do not think that there is a strict dividing line between reform and abolition.


For example, it would be utterly absurd for a radical prison activist to refuse to support the demand for better health care inside Valley State, California’s largest women’s prison, under the pretext that such reforms would make the prison a more viable institution. Demands for improved health care, including protection from sexual abuse and challenges to the myriad ways in which prisons violate prisoners’ human rights, can be integrated into an abolitionist context that elaborates specific decarceration strategies and helps to develop a popular discourse on the need to shift resources from punishment to education, housing, health care, and other public resources and services.


Dylan: Speaking of developing a popular discourse, the Critical Resistance gathering in September 1998 seemed to pull together an incredibly wide array of prison activists — cultural workers, prisoner support and legal advocates, former prisoners, radical teachers, all kinds of researchers, progressive policy scholars and criminologists, and many others.


Although you were quite clear in the conference’s opening plenary session that the purpose of Critical Resistance was to encourage people to imagine radical strategies for a sustained prison abolition campaign, it was clear to me that only a few people took this dimension of the conference seriously. That is, it seemed convenient for people to rejoice at the unprecedented level of participation in this presumably “radical” prison activist gathering, but the level of analysis and political discussion generally failed to embrace the creative challenge of formulating new ways to link existing activism to a larger abolitionist agenda. People were generally more interested in developing an analysis of the prison-industrial complex that incorporated the local work that they were involved in, which I think is an important practical connection to make.


At the same time, I think there is an inherent danger in conflating militant reform and human rights strategies with the underlying logic of anti-prison radicalism, which conceives of the ultimate eradication of the prison as a site of state violence and social repression. What is required, at least in part, is a new vernacular that enables this kind of political dream. How does prison abolition necessitate new political language, teachings, and organizing strategies? How could these strategies help to educate and organize people inside and outside the prison for abolition?

Angela: In order to imagine a world without prisons — or at least a social landscape no longer dominated by the prison — a new popular vocabulary will have to replace the current language, which articulates crime and punishment in such a way that we cannot think about a society without crime except as a society in which all the criminals are imprisoned.


Thus, one of the first challenges is to be able to talk about the many ways in which punishment is linked to poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other modes of dominance. In the university, the emergence of the interdisciplinary field of prison studies can help to trouble the prevailing criminology discourses that shape public policy as well as popular ideas about the permanence of prisons. At the high school level, new curricula can also be developed that encourage critical thinking about the role of punishment. Community organizations can also play a role in urging people to link their demands for better schools, for example, to a reduction of prison spending.

Dylan: Your last comment suggests that we need to rupture the ideological structures embodied by the rise of the prison-industrial complex. How does prison abolition force us to rethink common assumptions about jurisprudence, in particular “criminal justice?”

Angela: Since the invention of the prison as punishment in Western society during the late 1700s, criminal justice systems have so thoroughly depended on imprisonment that we have lost the ability to imagine other ways to solve the problem of “crime.” One of the interesting contributions of prison abolitionists has been to propose other paradigms of punishment or to suggest that we need to extricate ourselves from the assumption that punishment must be a necessary response to all violations of the law.


Reconciliatory or restorative justice, for example, is presented by some abolitionists as an approach that has proved successful in non-Western societies — Native American societies, for example — and that can be tailored for use in urban contexts in cases that involve property and other offenses. The underlying idea is that in many cases, the reconciliation of offender and victim (including monetary compensation to the victim) is a much more progressive vision of justice than the social exile of the offender. This is only one example — the point is that we will not be free to imagine other ways of addressing crime as long as we see the prison as a permanent fixture for dealing with all or most violations of the law.

Wisconsin Prison Watch – November 2008 Newsletter

Friends,

By the time you receive this newsletter we will have elected a new president. The important word in the last sentence is ‘we’, because the right to vote is not available to thousands of Wisconsin citizens. About 70,000 Wisconsinites are under some sort of oppressive state authority. Not all of those 70,000 are precluded from voting, but most are. Many of those denied the right to vote are working and paying taxes which makes us wonder about the taxation without representation issue. Who is representing us?

Aside from the voting problem, census figures show the 53rd state assembly district claims about 5,000 prisoners as “constituents” of that district even though their legal residences are elsewhere – mostly from Milwaukee Co. These census figures are important in proportioning seats in the legislature and funds (Federal and others) to those communities.
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As a note of clarification, our WPW legal team is engaged in research and the evaluation of general legal questions about the criminal (in)justice and prison system. The team is not a legal resource for specific legal questions about pending litigation or procedures. Any opinions given will address general topics of legal process. We cannot offer legal assistance to prisoners.
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Have you been getting the proper and prescribed treatment for your Hep-C? Prisoners in Illinois won a huge class action suit due to lack of treatment. It appears that the Illinois and Wisconsin policies are identical and the same goes for the lack of treatment administered. We are in conversation with the attorney who won the Illinois suit. He is studying the possibility of bringing the same class action against the WIDOC. Stay tuned, we’ll keep you informed.
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Speaking of class action suits, has anyone heard from the folks in Frisco, TX and the Parole class action suit? We haven’t. We became concerned a couple of months ago when communication ended and the primary architect of this suit filed a parole related suit on his own behalf. Of course he claimed that, if he wins, it will help all similarly situated prisoners. We’ve heard that before and it appears that his appeal for “class members” was a way to bolster his own case and argument. That’s how we see it; let’s hope we’re wrong.
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The rally in front of DOC headquarters turned out pretty well considering how the effort was undermined by the “leader” of PAM who actually sent out an email to around 150 prison activists, legislators and press that the “rally has been canceled”. We’ll not speculate on the motivations but suffice it to say that the PAM leadership has developed a cozy relationship with Alfonzo Graham. I’m going to be generous here and attribute this stupid behavior to naiveté and a belief that “working with the system” will get something accomplished.

Hence the split and new organization called Prison Action Wisconsin. This split has been another frustrating setback in the organizing effort, but it was essential. Aside from the above described foolishness PAM was also heading down the “post release assistance” path intent on becoming another toothless organization looking to feel good about itself by “helping” returning prisoners. The mission of addressing conditions of confinement and parole abuse were becoming secondary to the mission.

PAW will remain focussed on the criminality of the DOC in their abusive treatment of prisoners; on the degrading and inhuman warehousing of our loved ones; on the utter failure of the DOC to complete its stated mission; on the merry-go-round of needed programs – parole consideration – early release – carrot dangling manipulation.

One of our comrades, 15 years in on an excessive 30 sentence just came up for parole. He had over 100 letters of support, letters from State Representatives, a letter from one of the jury members who was shocked at the original sentence. No conduct reports in over 10 years, a job waiting, family waiting, lots of support. He got a 36 defer. Just another example of the ideologically driven parole commission.
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The ten year Critical Resistance anniversary conference in Oakland, CA was a great gathering of prison abolitionists and activists. Former Panthers, community organizers and young anarchists all came together for a weekend of networking and workshops. The primary message coming out of all the talks and workshops was ORGANIZE!!! Organize in the communities, organize in the prisons, organize, organize, organize.

Attending the CR10 conference reinforced the truth that PRISONS DO NOT SOLVE SOCIETAL PROBLEMS – THEY MAKE THEM WORSE. If you think prisons are about rehabilitation and punishment, you’re looking at it the wrong way, prisons are about controlling populations, poor populations. As our economies collapse and jobs become even scarcer, we can expect desperation and crime to increase. As state budgets tighten we will see a tug of war for funds; social programs will be slashed as repressive systems get funding, speeding up the regressive spiral. The next few years will be very interesting and if we prepare, if we organize, we will be able to resist the oppressive machine. We can either hang together or separately hang.

in solidarity, WPW & PAW

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Employment Discrimination Based Upon Arrest and Conviction Record
by Dujuan Walker

In my last piece I discussed the John Doe Statute and how this statute may be used by prisoners to help enforce their rights. In this issue I will address a legal problem which seems to plague almost every prisoner upon their release to the community: Illegal employment discrimination based on arrest and conviction record. Many former prisoners are finding that employers are basing their decision not to hire strictly upon the former prisoner’s past criminal background. In many situations, as I will discuss below, this practice is illegal and in violation of Wisconsin State Statutes s.. 111.335 et. seq. If you are discriminated against based upon your arrest and conviction record, you may be able to recover damages in civil court AND get the employer to hire you at that place of employment. The following information is quoted directly from a fact sheet published by the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division (ERD-7609-P).

How does the law define (Wisconsin Fair Employment law, Wisconsin Statutes. 111.31-111.395) arrest record?
Arrest record is defined as information that a person has been questioned, apprehended, taken into custody or detention, held for investigation, arrested, charged with, indicted or tried for any felony, misdemeanor or other offense by any law enforcement or military authority.

How does the law define conviction record?
Conviction record is defined as information indicating that a person has been convicted of any felony, misdemeanor or other offense, has been judged delinquent, has been less than honorably discharged, or has been placed on probation, fined, imprisoned or paroled by any law enforcement or military authority.

Can an employer discharge a current employee because of a pending criminal charge?
No. An employer may, however, suspend an employee, if the offense-giving rise to the pending criminal charge is substantially related to the circumstances of the particular job or licensed activity.

Can an employer refuse to hire a person because or a record of arrests that did not lead to conviction?
No. An employer is not allowed to ask about arrests, other than pending charges.

What can an employer ask regarding arrest and conviction records?
An employer may ask whether an applicant has any pending charges or convictions, as long as the employer makes it clear that these will only be given consideration if the offenses are substantially related to the particular job. An employer cannot, legally, make a rule that no persons with conviction records will be employed. Each job and record must be considered individually.

Can an employer refuse to hire an applicant because of a lengthy record of convictions or conviction for a crime the employer finds upsetting?
An employer may only refuse to hire a qualified applicant because of a conviction record for an offense that is substantially related to the circumstances of a particular job. Whether the crime is an upsetting one may have nothing to do with whether it is substantially related to a particular job.

What is meant by substantially related?
The law does not specifically define it. The “substantially related” test looks at the circumstances of an offense, where it happened, when, etc. – compared to the circumstances of a job – where is this job typically done, when, etc. The more similar the circumstances, the more likely it is that a substantial relationship will be found. The legislature has determined that certain convictions are substantially related to employment in child and adult caregiving programs regulated by the Department of Health and Family Services.

What if an employer believes a pending charge or conviction is substantially related but the employee or applicant believes it is not?
In this situation, the employee or applicant may file a complaint and the Equal Rights Division will make a determination as to whether there is a substantial relationship, with either party having the right to appeal the decision.

Can an employer refuse to hire or discharge a person with a pending charge or conviction because other workers or customers don’t want the person with a conviction there?
No. The law makes no provision for this type of problem. The employer must show that the conviction record is substantially related to the particular job. Co-worker or customer preference is not a consideration.

Is it a violation of the law if the applicant’s conviction record is a part of the reason “for not being hired, but not the who!e reason?
Yes. A conviction record that is not substantially related to the particular job should be given no consideration in the hiring process.

How should an applicant answer questions on an application regarding conviction record?
It is best to answer all questions on an application as honestly and fully as possible, and to offer to explain the circumstances of the conviction to the employer.

Should an employer ask about the circumstances of a conviction during an interview?
Yes. An employer must obtain enough information to determine if the conviction record is substantially related to the job. If the employer decides there is a substantial! relationship, employment may be refused but the employer must be prepared to defend the decision if the applicant believes there is not a substantial
relationship and files a complaint.

What should a person do if refused employment or discharged because of an arrest or conviction record (that is not substantially related)?
Complaints about violations of the law protecting persons from discrimination because or arrest and/or conviction may be filed with:

State of Wisconsin Department Of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division
201 E Washington Ave. Room A300
P.O. Box 8928
Madison, WI 53708
Telephone: (608) 266-6860

819 N. 6th Street
Room 255
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Telephone: (414) 227-4384

For more information on this issue see, for example, County of Milwaukee v. LIRC, 139 Wis. 2d. 805, 407 N.W. 2d. 908 (1987). Keep in mind that the filing of a complaint with the Equal Rights Division is a prerequisite to filing any court action against the employer for refusing to hire you based upon arrest or conviction record or firing you because of arrest and conviction record. You have 300 days from the date of the incident to file a complaint with the ERD or else your issue is time-barred. In many cases, the issue is resolved without litigation ever being necessary. Many employers would rather just hire a former prison than deal with litigation by the former prisoner or his/her attorney. Also, the ERD may find during their investigation that the employer did in fact discriminate against you because of your past. Many employers try to cover it up by listing some false reason for refusing to employ people but still many employers will admit that they “Do not hire felons” or “Will not consider non-competitive (felon)” applicants. Either way, we need to make sure that these employers are held responsible for their violations of the law and crimes against the public.

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Census Bureau counts Wisconsin prisoners in wrong place; access to state and county government distorted
Prison Policy Initiative

The federal Census counts state and federal prisoners as part of the local population, and that creates big problems for state and local government, charges a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative.

“Governments rely on the Census to count the population so they can update legislative districts,” said Prison Policy Initiative Executive Director and report co-author Peter Wagner. The Supreme Court’s “One Person One Vote” rule requires that legislative districts each contain the same number of people, so that each person has the same access to government. “Unfortunately, the Census Bureau has counted 20,000 prisoners in the wrong place,” said Wagner.

Historically, Wisconsin’s state legislative districts are drawn by federal judges and far more equal in population than in most states. “Only 4 states drew more perfect districts” said report co-author John Hejduk. “But we found a district where 10% of the population is prisoners; that’s a problem 5 times larger than what the federal judges who drew the districts were trying to avoid.”

“The problem is even larger in some rural areas,” said Wagner. The report, Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Wisconsin, finds rural county and city government districts that are as much as 79% prisoners. “This allows the real residents of a district with a prison to unfairly dominate their local government.”

The report calls on Wisconsin to lobby the Census Bureau to change how prisoners are counted; and urges counties and cities with prisons to follow the lead of Michigan’s counties and draw legislative districts that are not based on flawed Census counts of prisoners.

Counting incarcerated people as residents of prison towns skews demographic data

Counting incarcerated people as if they were residents of prison towns leads to misleading portrayals of such communities.

Wisconsin has the second highest Black incarceration rate in the country,[4] and the fifth highest racial disparity in incarceration,[5] with Blacks 10.6 times as likely to be in prison as Whites. Counties with large prisons, though, tend to be disproportionately White: 87% of the state and federal prison cells are located in counties that are have a larger White population than the state as a whole. In Dodge County, 89% and in Marquette County, 91%, of the Black population reported in the Census is not residents, but prisoners.[6]

The prison communities also tend to be small enough that incarcerated populations are a significant portion of the total “residents” counted by the Census. Twenty-four percent of the population reported in the Census for Waupun City (in Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties) is actually prisoners at the Waupun, Dodge and John C. Burke Correctional Facilities. About 5% of the “residents” counted in Dodge and Jackson Counties are actually prisoners. In Marquette County, more than 8% of “residents” are incarcerated.[8]

There is also a geographic disparity in who goes to prison in Wisconsin. The residents of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Rock counties are much more likely to be incarcerated than the residents of other counties. The residents of Milwaukee County are more than twice as likely to be in prison than the average resident of the state, and more than 7 times as likely as the residents of prison-hosting Dodge County. Milwaukee County contains 18% of the state population and is home for 42% of its prisoners.[7]

The Census Bureau’s practice of counting prisoners as residents of the prison location complicates using the Census for demographic analysis of rural communities, but this problem is overshadowed by the serious damage the prisoner miscount does to state and local democracy.

Redistricting and “One Person, One Vote”

The basic principle of American representative democracy is that every vote must be of equal weight. When governments draw districts with equal populations, they ensure that each resident has equal access to government, no matter where she or he lives. When districts are of substantially different sizes, the weight of each vote starts to differ: in underpopulated districts, each vote is worth more, and in overpopulated districts, a vote is worth less.

The U.S. Supreme Court first declared that the “One Person, One Vote” principle applied to state legislative redistricting in the 1963 landmark case Reynolds v. Sims.[9] The Court struck down an apportionment scheme for the Alabama state legislature that was based on counties and not population. In 1960 Alabama, Lowndes County, with 15,417 people, had the same number of state senators as Jefferson County, with 634,864 people, giving the residents of sparsely-populated Lowndes County 41 times as much political power as the residents of densely-populated Jefferson County. The Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause required that districts be drawn to be substantially equal in population.

Subsequent U.S. Supreme Court cases defined the limits of “substantially equal.” In White v. Regester, the Court ruled that the State of Texas was not required to justify how it drew lines resulting in an average district deviation of less than 2% and a maximum deviation of 9.9%.[10] Today, most states draw their districts so that the smallest district is no more than 5% smaller, and the largest no more than 5% larger, than the average district. This keeps the difference between the largest and smallest district within 10%.

Wisconsin has historically applied a much higher standard, drawing districts with a maximum deviation of less than 2%. Only four states currently have districts that are more equal in population than Wisconsin’s.[11] For three decades, federal judges have drawn the state Assembly and Senate legislative district maps. In 1982, at the first redistricting since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas to have a population deviation of 10%, the federal judges who drew Wisconsin’s districts set a higher standard, explaining that “We believe that a constitutionally acceptable plan should not deviate as high as 10%, and should, if possible, be kept below 2%.”[12] The plan they drafted met even that high standard: “The deviation in our plan is a scant 1.74%.”[13]

In 1992, the court drew a plan with an even smaller total deviation from exact population equality: 0.52%.[14] In 2002, the court drew a plan with a deviation of only 1.48%, still within the 2% threshold established in 1982.[15]

Wisconsin rightly prioritizes population equality when drawing districts, but the Census Bureau has undermined these efforts by crediting thousands of prisoners to the wrong place.

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Freedom
by Phillip Torsrud
WCI, Waupun, WI

Many entities like taking credit for the freedom that the American people have. Politicians, the military, even the media at times use the mantra, “fighting for our freedom”. It’s a surprise that the scientists and engineers who develop our weapons don’t feel the need to explain that if they didn’t invent the atom bomb, stealth bomber, M-16, etc…, we would not be the “leader of the free world”. Perhaps the billions of dollars we spend on our weapons industries keeps them from wasting time explaining how much we need them to maintain our freedom.

The problem is that a free country cannot remain so if people believe that it is someone else’s responsibility to provide them with their freedom as though it were a service. The justification for personal freedom is that people have a conscience that makes them aware of the significance of being free and the faculties to exercise that freedom responsibly. When people lack a conscience or are irresponsible, they are sanctioned through a loss of freedom. This can range from taking away someone’s driver’s license to putting them in prison.

While sanctions have always existed, the current trend of legislating away personal freedom is a reaction to a tremendous number of irresponsible people who abuse their freedoms. Rather than do the real work needed to develop’ a society of educated, fully developed adults who can function in a free society, people are satisfied with simply reiterating the sanctions we’ve always had by passing a new law. This is an offered service, which only results in empowering the government. Does this address the dysfunctional nature of the people who abused their freedom? Empowering the individual to take responsibility for their community and self is the only workable solution in a free society.

Freedom is a revolutionary idea, and only in recent history became a social norm. As societies constantly organize and reorganize, whatever party takes on the power of the establishment in our ever shifting political landscape will try to control people, markets, ideas, etc… to serve their agenda. Therefore, the individual is always faced with the dilemma of conforming, or staking out their values against the herd of sheep who will trample over their own freedoms in pursuit of a leader who promises to do their work for them. Free societies depend on individuals with the backbone to reject these false promises and thereby manifest their identity and maintain their culture.

Today, Americans have a false sense of freedom that is manifested in style, not substance. Through the clothes they wear, the way they talk, tattoos, body piercing, or even riding a motorcycle, Americans like to present a facade~ of having a rebel mentality, implying how deeply they value freedom. Yet when a problem arises, the first institution they call on to solve it, is the government. No matter what the cost in freedom or money, only the government is thought of as having any problem solving ability.

In France, there are 63,000 inmates in prison, and 1,100 are for terrorist related activity. That works out to almost 1,000 inmates for every million people. Wisconsin would have around 5,000 inmates at those rates, but instead has over 23,000 inmates, and zero for terrorist related activities. Paris itself has more people that all of Wisconsin, and has more visitors per year than any place on earth, some of whom commit crimes.

After liberating France from the Germans, the French now value freedom more than Americans. In France, incarceration is only used when absolutely necessary. Why is it the last option? So that the government can invest in an educational system that is far better than ours, national health care, and an infrastructure that makes people want to go there to live or travel. It’s called having your priorities straight. Since the French are educated, they would never allow their politicians to use fear to turn their nation into a police state. Only people with a slave mentality would sacrifice their future by wasting so many precious resources on institutions that only offer the illusion of safety.

Freedom starts in the mind. it is an idea that once embraced becomes an attitude. When a sufficient number of people adopt that attitude it becomes a movement. When that movement is successful, a society begins to have institutions that reflect that attitude in their policies. The reason that America’s national anthem ends with, “in the land of the free and the home of the brave,” is because freedom and bravery go hand in hand. The freedom to live a worthwhile life will never be risk free. America will never be a free country until it stops living in fear.

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The Day My Mother Was Sent Away
by Wenona Thompson

The day my Mother was sent away

The day my mother was arrested was the beginning of my life’s destruction.

No one will ever actually understand me until their mother is legally separated from them.

I know what my mother did was wrong, or against the law, but I already don’t have a father now they done took away my mother.

I can’t seem to understand this, for where is my mandatory love, attention, discipline, understanding, and home education gonna come from?

A lot of people assume that my mother is the cause of these changes. But regardless of who cause such problems, the consequence are not solving them.

For so long I tried to make sense out of these state rules and regulations, but for some reason I can’t understand why there isn’t any alternative punishment for crime-convicted mothers with babies.

I know this may not be true, but is the state trying to rectify the problem, prolong it, or maybe just create something totally new? Hmm, I truly don’t know.

I’m now an older lady with children of my own, facing many issues not only within myself, but also the issues of my mother, who I impatiently await to re-meet.

I sometimes ask myself if this punishment my mother and I are receiving is accurate. In all honesty I say it is not, for this was my mother’s first offense and the crime was not violent.

But still, the state changed my life goals and also the goals of my mother, my children, and my sisters and brothers the day my Mother was sent away.

This story is one of many wonderful, heartbreaking stories excerpted from the zine:

WRITERS BLOCK: The voices of women inside

available from:
Women and Prison Program
c/o Beyondmedia Education
4001 N. Ravenswood Ave. #204C
Chicago, IL 60613

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Gil Scott-Heron -1975

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

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Et Cetera

Secondhand Hearsay

The editor of WPW was with a lawyer supporting a lawsuit initiated by an ex-prisoner. The lawyer mentioned an interesting story, as follows: He was at a dinner party with some muckymucks (judges, DAs, lawyers, etc.) including a high ranking member of the DOJ. The DOJ official told him that he knows the DOC is corrupt and they (the DOJ) were silently pleased that a few good lawyers and prisoners were bringing some of the abuses to light so the corruption can be weeded out. This story should be a shout out to all jail-house lawyers – give yourself a pat on the back! The work you are doing does matter! There is an understanding, throughout the system, that the DOC is out of control. Keep up the good work!

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Institutional Inertia or, On the Job Training

A prisoner at WSPF created a disturbance at his cell door when he knocked his meal tray off the door trap, into the hall. Two guards were at the scene, a new guy and a long timer. After some words, the long timer kicked the trap shut. A day or two later the CR arrived indicating how the prisoner had misbehaved. Later, the prisoner asked the new guard why there was no mention of how the other guard had kicked the trap shut. The new guard said, “I included that in my report but the white shirt had me rewrite it, leaving that part out.” Lesson learned.

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For Some, Rules Apply

Our friend Matlock sends us word from KMCI that Deputy Warden Beck went on a foul mouthed abusive tirade directed at a group of prisoners. This kind of behavior is specifically NOT ALLOWED and is unprofessional, so Matlock went looking for an Inmate Complaint form and discovered that retribution and cover-up are swift and sure. He received 4 CRs – inciting a riot, group resistance, failure to obey an order and, disruptive conduct. He was thrown in the hole and kicked out of his required program with only two weeks to go. After sending letters to the press and legislators and outside supporters, the two major tickets were dropped and he was offered a chance to start his programming over next month. The two tickets that remain are being contested and if we know Matlock, a lawsuit against Beck is smoking in the typewriter.

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PRISON ACTION WISCONSIN
P.O.Box 05669
Milwaukee, WI 53205
prisonactionwisconsin@gmail.com

Parole Commission Chair Alfonzo Graham
Wisconsin Parole Commission
3099 E. Washington
Madison, WI 53707

Dear Chairman Graham,

Our group has developed the following five points to express our deep frustration with the policies of your office. A clear response to these points would help us begin to understand how the Commission functions. Many of these concerns were expressed with our signs and chants in front of your office on September 22nd but we wanted to more clearly articulate these concerns and offer you an opportunity to respond.

Thank you
PAW steering committee

What we Believe, What we Want

1. We believe the Parole Commission is keeping prisoners longer than the intent of the legislature and sentencing judges. We believe the Parole Commission is keeping prisoners longer than is good for them, their families, and the community.

We want serious and realistic parole consideration at the legislatively mandated parole eligibility date.

2. We believe the Parole Commission is ideologically driven and making parole decisions based on politics.

We want the “tough-on-crime” mentality within the Parole Commission to end and parole decisions to be made on the basis of what is good for the community and good for the prisoner.

3. We believe the Parole Commission operates in a capricious and irregular manner.

We want consistency, predictability and transparency of process. We want prisoners and prisoner families to know and understand exactly what needs to be accomplished by prisoners for a meaningful parole consideration.

4. We believe the parole criteria, “has not served enough time for punishment”, is too subjective, arbitrary and beyond the scope of the Commission.

We want that criteria eliminated, as the punishment time was determined by the sentencing judge who was aware of all the facts of the case and who was guided by legislative intent.

5. We believe the criteria for meaningful parole consideration are ambiguous and the commission has no “standard” for measuring a prisoner’s success.

We want the Parole Commission to develop a standard model of criteria that gives guidance to parole commissioners, prisoners and DOC staff on the “parolability” of individual prisoners.

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Hunger Strike Continues
by Warren Lilly #447655
New Lisbon Correctional

A friend of mine, upon hearing that I’d been maced and tazered by the guards at New Lisbon prison, urged me to “make them earn their pay” by continuing my hunger strike. I appreciate the support. I’ve refused prison food and authority for over four years and will not bow down, even to escalating violence.

However, something bothered me about my friend’s statement of support. That something was his unwillingness to “make them earn their pay.” During my four years of hunger striking I’ve met hundreds of prisoners who’ve stood behind my strike, way, way behind it. So far behind that they actually became invisible. I could still hear their distant and muffled shouts of “Go for it!”, but I just couldn’t see who was shouting it.

Such distant support makes it impossible t fight anything but a very lopsided war. One where the enemy, the Justice system, freely and purposely destroys our lives while we, the prisoners, just as freely give up our lives and freedoms.

We cower in the face of the imagined indestructibility of our enemy. We make it easy for our enemy to scorn, despise, and abuse us. We believe their propaganda that says we we are worthless and powerless, and that they have the right to control and waste our lives.

We fear to take even the riskless chances to fight for freedom and life or to assert our personhood. Less than a hundred of the twenty-two thousand prisoners answered my call to fast with me on Sundays then to send our moralless governor a letter demanding change.

To those who fasted I send my heartfelt thanks and ask you to continue fasting and recruit others. Hold a “fast-in” after the skipped meals to gather and write letters of support for the cause and protest of imprisonment to the governor.

To those who fear to fast, I ask what risk is there in forsaking a meal in support of a stand, or writing a letter of protest? We have let our fears conquer our personhood and rule our reason, and by doing so have abandoned life and liberty in favor of the false safety of cowardice.

I’m reminded of the time in my youth when people would say “when the revolution comes I’m gonna…” Well, the revolution never came because no one brought it forth. Now, like then, people sit and wait for others to blaze the trail so that they can travel it without sacrifice, without difficulty, without personal strife.

I waited forty years for the revolution to come. I let the world go from bad to worse, and now at nearly sixty years of age, the truth has dawned on me, a very simple truth: If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

“If it’s to be, it’s up to me”. So powerful a revelation in such a simple and yet painfully obvious truth. A god is not coming to save me or make right the wrongs of others, good is not about to spring from bad nor virtue from evil, and the only thing that will happen to those who treat me cruelly is that they will prosper upon my misery. Those are the lessons of life. Another lesson, a hope filled one, is that those who strive for justice and peace and freedom achieve it.

The revolution is here, the revolution is now, do something to sustain it, stand up for something. Begin by reading the letter to the governor and understanding this protest, then hold a “fast-in” and get those letters mailed. Find a non-violent way to “make them earn their pay”.

Stop buying the propaganda that your life is worthless, that you are powerless, and that they have the right to control and waste your life. Stop cowering before the paper tigers and giant shadows cast by imperious runts. Abandon your fears, be driven by the simple truth, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”.

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REVOCATION: The Life Blood of Corrections
by Mike Weston #000155
RCI, Sturtevant, WI

Late in his tenure as secretary of the Department of Corrections (DOC), Michael Sullivan said on television that men would “No longer be sent back to prison for rule violations”. The sole exception to this radical mandate would be failing a urinalysis test, implying possession and use of forbidden head candy.

Given that the never-ending flow of humans returned to the doc as rule violators never ended, it is eminently logical to hold that king Tommy Thompson promptly called Sullivan and demanded of him a reply to “ What the hell are you doing!?” The new policy was silently rescinded…..

The king was erecting his prison empire and here one of his lap dogs was attempting to abort the birth by terminating the death march from liberty to the slow death chambers of the DOC.

Since some 54% of the prison population is comprised of probation and parole (P+P) violators, it is uniquely self-evident that the system would collapse were the DOC’s division of community corrections (DCC), under whose egis exist the apparatchiks of P+P, the agents, indeed ordered to cease revocating all those who have not violated a statute (and releasing now all those returned for violations).

When one rationally presumed sanity might crawl out from ‘neath the detritus of the king’s reign with the ascension to the throne of Jim Doyle, an alleged democrat who, erroneously it appears, was touted as left-to-moderate on social issues, all that really eventuated is that Doyle is the mirror-image of his supposed arch enemy and nemesis, King Tommy.

When it comes to “corrections”, both willingly sacrifice lives and untold wealth from the pockets of citizens. So as to maintain the prison empire at its artificially inflated state of over 22,000 prisoners.

Tommy did it deliberately, Doyle is too afraid to end the farce which has the DOC at least twice the size it should be by all rational and realistic determinants. For example, Minnesota’s prison population is 7,000. Wisconsin and the Gopher state are virtual clones in that all of the relevant demographics are mirror-images of one another.

The populations are the same, numerically, racially, economic status, education and the like; crime rates and offenses categories match well as do arrests and convictions. And yet, Minnesota knowingly incarcerates two-thirds less people than “wonderful WIsconsin”. Why here?

Indeed, on a per capita basis, Wisconsin is a “leader” in locking way human beings, despite the fact that our crooks, as a rule, are virtual “pussycats” compared to criminals in most other states! For instance, which Wisconsin warden would “trade” his prisoners one-for-one with the warden of San Quentin? Again, why here?

In the December 2007 issue, in their article on parole and politics in WIsconsin, the authors provided the answer by quoting U.W. Law professor Walter Dickey’s public statement; “men are being kept in prison because of money and politics”. Obviously, they cannot be kept there if not first sent there…. and remember, Professor Dickey was the first DOC secretary, he knows of what he speaks – while Doyle and State and Federal Justice personnel ignore the criminal activity implicit in Dickey’s charge.

The criminal justice” and “corrections” systems are growth industries and are subsidized by Wisconsin and federal funds flooding law enforcement and corrections like hurricane rains. No other industry has the stability, money and growth potential of the DOC – the fat sow at the public trough gulping down more tax dollars than any other element of Wisconsin government.

The plethora of “correctional” facilities planted throughout the kingdom by Tommy are the cash cows for the locales in which they fester. Tommy gained power and support from weed beds as well as “rewards” from the Federal government for locking up everyone in sight, i.e., the poor and minorities, and bribes from construction companies and others building and equipping the prison empire: they donated millions to Tommy’s campaign, to his puppet successor, McCallum, and to our “enlightened” current governor, remember “money and politics” rule in sending people to and keeping them in prison…

There is a distinct racial factor in all of this: Milwaukee and Racine, more than other counties, deny legitimate opportunities to minorities and then jail them at record rates when they rebel at being suppressed and denied their humanity.
It is fully documented that WIsconsin owns the nation’s highest incarceration rate of minorities: further, over two-thirds of Wisconsin prisoners are African American. Another effect of racism is that many lack educational levels commensurate with their ages. This debilitation is both aggravated and reinforced by the deficient, nickel and dime DOC education system which is little more than a mill grinding out “graduates” now blessed with a GED certificate signifying nothing of merit.
These “programs”, completely devoid of substance and depth, are offered under the guise of “rehabilitation”, but are either debilitating or serve simply to reinforce the criminality they purport to treat.

The manifest and cumulative results of incarceration, ever demonstrable, are in fact the stated reinforcement of criminality leading to the DOC’s egregious failure to redirect the lives of prisoners. The goal of the DOC (it is clear), its very raison d’etre (reason for existence), is infact to ensure recidivism.

The methodology is simple: The economic and political systems create criminals, their “criminal justice” system sends the felons to the DOC which later sends those people to the DCC who then seek out petty, trivial or false “reason” to revocate one’s liberty. The DCC files revocation papers with the third leg of this eternal triangle, the department of administration’s division of hearings and appeals who send the violators back to the DOC!

Once the revocation process begins, fughetdaboutdit! administrator David Schwarz rarely reverses a verdict to revoke liberty: he and his boss, DOA secretary Mike Morgan, are also Doyle lap dogs ordered to revocate as many probationers and parolees as possible to maintain the inflated prison population.

The system is clear: send people to the DOC, reinforce their problems, send them to the DCC, find “reasons” to revoke, send them to DOA’s hearings and appeals who then ship them back to the DOC – round and round she goes, where she stops is the permanent count of 22,000 humans in prison on a daily basis.

Doyle prides himself on adopting two African American boys and on his support for Senator Obama, while he oversees a racial disaster in the state and in the DOC – his DOC.

Doyle and his crew fear that if the river to nowhere ended, half to DOC would shut down: that is not true. Every facility is overcrowded, if all rule violators were released each facility would still have all their beds filled when they go from the current four, three or two in a room to single man rooms.

This would free up the people, time and resources to truly attempt to help those in prisons sent by the courts, not DCC and DOA for a rule violations.

Governor, implement Sullivan’s aborted policy to not revocate for rules violations…

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WANTED – ARTWORK BY PRISONERS

Wisconsin Books to Prisoners was the recipient of a powerful set of posters created by 20 printmakers from the JUSTSEEDS Visual Resistance art collective. These posters were created in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of Critical Resistance, a prison abolitionist movement, and call attention to the human rights catastrophe in U.S. jails and prisons, and the use of policing, prisons and punishment as a “solution” to social, political and economic problems.

The posters and artwork by prisoners will be displayed at a gallery in Madison –mostly likely in February of 2009. Art that addresses the condition of prisons and the daily drudgery and cruelties of prison life would be particularly appreciated.

Please do not send anything that you want returned or is not copyright free. Also, please let us know how you wish to be (or not be) identified. Many thanks in advance to those who make contributions to this event.

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Inmates Bring Civil Rights Class Action Against Becker County

Becker County, Minnesota and several of its law enforcement officials are facing a civil rights class action lawsuit. The suit, brought by inmates at the county jail, alleges that the county illegally monitored and possibly recorded confidential and privileged telephone calls between inmates at the jail and their attorneys.

According to the suit, the inmates of the jail and their attorneys are informed in writing that attorney/client telephone calls are confidential and consequently not subject to monitoring or recording. However, the suit alleges that illegal monitoring of telephone calls to discuss inmates’ cases has taken place, and the information gained has been used against the inmates during prosecution.

Editor’s note – This article caught our eye because we heard from a comrade at WSPF who discovered that a privileged phone call made to his attorney had been recorded. We called the warden who confirmed that “all day room phones are monitored and prisoners calling their attorneys from those phones should not expect privacy”. He also said that “we are going to post this information at those phones.” The signs were not yet posted a week after our conversation with the warden.

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