WelcomeTo My World

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Statement from Lynne Stewart

picture from google

We received the following message from Lynne and share it with all of you who have rallied and mobilized the world over in her support.

You stood by her with letters, emails and telephone calls to the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, Attorney General's Office, U.S. Department of Justice, members of Congress, the White House and U.S. Embassies.

The enduring global movement for social justice has persevered - ever inspired by Lynne Stewart's steadfast refusal to bend the knee, submit to coercion or official duplicity.

Your steadfast support in Defense of Lynne Stewart embodies the injunction of Rosa Luxemburg: "In the beginning, was the deed!"

We are grateful to you all.

12/31/12 3:24 pm

My Dears:

Well, the impossible takes a little longer !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We learned this morning that the US Attorney's office has made the motion for my compassionate release and that the Order was on Judge Koeltl's desk.  Since on the last go-round he stated in Court that he would treat it "favorably", we are now just waiting expectantly.

The wonderful thing is that Ralph is here in Ft Worth for a visit and will bring me back to NYC with him.  We don't know when but the rules state that the warden has 2 days to let me go after he receives the order so it could be as early as Friday or a few days more. Whatever it is, I can't stop crying tears of Joy !!  I can't stop thinking of all the marvelous people worldwide who made this happen ..you know because each of you played an integral role. My daughter  Z is already lining up Sloan Kettering and we will have to see if there is a probation qualification attached to the Order and how it will affect me.  After that Ralph will start making arrangements to rent Yankee Stadium for the Welcome Home... Smile

So If this reaches you before midnight tonight raise a glass of bubbly to the joy of all of us that the old girl is OUT !! 

Love Struggle,

Freedom Archives  www.freedomarchives.org

Questions and comments may be sent to claude@freedomarchives.org


Free All Political Prisoners!

No Visits until Further Notice

 picture from google
Posted in Spanish on December 28, 2013 by ICFC5

Letter to the families of the Cuban Five

By Alicia Jrapko, the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five

On Saturday December 21, Bill Hackwell and I drove 700 kilometers down the rich Central Valley of California, then over a road through a mountain pass that took us to the high Mojave Desert decorated with the distinctive Joshua trees with a view of mountain ranges, some visibly covered in snowfall, backed by an intense blue sky pink sky coinciding with sunset

We always take this endless trip to visit our friend Gerardo Hernandez, with each trip we hope it will be our last because that would mean that had returned back to his homeland to be with Adriana, his friends and all his loved ones. But as long as he remains  in prison, each kilometer of these trips are worthwhile because they lead us to him.

Today on arrival at the prison we found a sign that said “There will be no visits until further notice.” We were not the only ones to share the surprise and disappointment of this note. A number of families there came from all over to visit their loved ones; mothers, wives, children, parents who came to share this day close to Christmas with their family member in prisoner .We were touched by a woman, with tears in her eyes, who said: ” I cannot believe it … I’ve traveled all the way from New Jersey to visit and I have to go back without seeing him.” We figured out everything this woman had to go through to get there; a six-hour flight from one end to the other end of the country, spending a night in a hotel, and figuring out transportation to this isolated place only to meet a cold poster pasted on the entrance to the prison: “There will be no visits until further notice ”

The first thing that came to mind was Gerardo, who continues to resist with all kinds of stoicism, facing invincible tests over his fifteen years of unjust imprisonment and his example inspires us. But we also thought about the lack of compassion of this system that collectively punishes all prisoners for the indiscipline or breach of any individual. Never taking into account, in the slightest, the sadness of these families who are now struggling to understand why they could not embrace their loved one behind bars.

A few miles away the frenzy of large retail chains in the race to increase profits during the holiday season (promoted by media hype night and day), and people buying and spending beyond their means was taking place. This contrasted so greatly to the scene that unfolded in the parking lot of the Victorville Penitentiary this morning. Isn’t Christmas supposed to be some kind of holiday of happiness?

Years have passed for all of us. It has more than 11 years since Bill and I began visiting Gerardo and while it has been a great honor and privilege for us and we never forget that there are millions of Cubans and thousands of caring friends who would like to have this privilege. We will not deny the feeling of sadness that came over us today after the missed visit. What are you going to say to the families of the five who over the years have had to go through all kinds of extreme difficulties and unjust experiences? Our experience today helps us appreciate and love them more.

As always happens to us after each visit, and even without being able to see Gerardo, we returned more convinced than ever of the need for more forces to continue fighting for the return of the Five to Cuba.

The struggle continues!

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org

Questions and comments may be sent to claude@freedomarchives.org


Free All Political Prisoners!

People Pressure: Activists cry foul as govts crack down on protests

Throughout the year, protests have gripped countries worldwide, with the public using it as an effective method of getting their message across to the authorities. But as RT's Maria Finoshina reports, this kind of freedom of expression is now under threat in some states which claim to be bastions of democracy.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Women in solitary confinement: ‘The isolation degenerates us into madness’

by Victoria Law
A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system this past summer, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Increasingly, solitary is finding its way into the mainstream media and onto activist agendas. Nearly all of the attention, however, has focused on solitary confinement in men’s prisons; much less is known about the conditions and experiences inside women’s prisons.
At Central California Women’s Facility, more than a hundred women are held in isolation.
During October’s legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California, lawmakers asked prison officials about women in solitary confinement. Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) stated that 74 women were held in the Security Housing Unit at the California Institution for Women (CIW) and a handful of women were awaiting transfer from the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). CDCR does not separate people in the SHU with mental illness from those without mental illness. CDCR officials did not address the number of people in the Administrative Segregation (or Ad Seg) Unit. According to CDCR statistics, as of September 2013, 107 women were held in Ad Seg at CCWF, which has a budgeted capacity of 38. The average stay was 131 days. Twenty women had been there longer than 200 days, two had exceeded 400 days, and another two women had exceeded 800 days. At CIW, 34 women were in Ad Seg with an average stay of 73 days. Two women have exceeded 200 days.
Lawmakers’ inquiry prompted advocacy group California Coalition for Women Prisoners to send an open letter to Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner requesting that she investigate conditions of solitary confinement in women’s prisons. The group noted that, with the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women to a men’s prison and the transfer of several hundred women to California’s other two women’s prisons, the use of solitary confinement has dramatically increased.
To justify the increase, CDCR has cited “enemy concerns” or a documented disagreement between people that may have led to threats or violence. Those designated as having “enemy concerns” are locked in their cells 22 to 24 hours a day and lose all privileges. CDCR reports do not separate the number of people in Ad Seg or the SHU for rules violations versus those confined because of “enemy concerns.” The California Coalition for Women Prisoners has noted that many of these “enemy concerns” are based on incidents that happened years ago and may not be valid today.

With the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women to a men’s prison and the transfer of several hundred women to California’s other two women’s prisons, the use of solitary confinement has dramatically increased.

Dolores Canales has a son who has spent 13 years in Pelican Bay’s SHU. Canales has also had firsthand experience with solitary confinement. While imprisoned at CIW, she spent nine months in Ad Seg, where she was confined to her cell 22 hours a day. “There, I had a window. The guards would take me out to the yard every day. I’d get to go out to the yard with other people,” she recalled.
But the isolation still took its toll: “There’s an anxiety that overcomes you in the middle of the night because you’re so locked in,” she described. Even after being released from segregation, Canales was unable to shake that anxiety. She broke into a sweat and panicked each time she saw a group of officers even though she had broken no rules. “I just can’t forget,” she stated years after her release from prison.
Although the spotlight on solitary has focused largely on California, every women’s prison has a solitary confinement unit. Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution for Women has a Closed Management Special Housing Unit (CM SHU) where women are confined to their cells 23 to 24 hours a day. “There is no free movement or social interaction,” reported one woman. “We just sit locked in a concrete and steel room the size of a small residential bathroom.”
Chowchilla Freedom Rally march 'Bring our loved ones home' 012613 by Wanda, web
On Jan. 26, 2013, the Chowchilla Freedom Rally brought hundreds to the town where California’s main women’s prison is located to bring to public attention the dire conditions there – overcrowding at 175 percent of capacity and over a hundred women in solitary confinement. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
In Indiana, Sarah Jo Pender has spent nearly five years in solitary. “My cell is approximately 68 square feet of concrete with a heavy steel door at the front and a heavily barred window at the back that does not open,” she described. “Walls are covered in white; the paint chipped off by bored prisoners reveals another layer of primer white. No family photos or art or reminder notes are allowed to be taped to the walls; they must remain bare. Our windowsills would be a great place to display greeting cards and pictures, but those are off-limits, too … “There is a concrete platform and thin plastic mat, a 14-by-20-inch shelf and round stool mounted to the floor, and a steel toilet-sink combo unit. We get no boxes to contain our few personal items. Everything must fit on the shelf, bed or end up on the floor.”
Her cell is searched daily by guards although, like everyone else in the prison, she is strip searched any time she leaves the unit for a doctor’s appointment or a no-contact visit. When she is taken to the showers, she is handcuffed, then locked into a 3-foot-by-3-foot shower stall with a steel cage door for a 15-minute shower. As is the case across the country, visits are conducted behind glass.
Pender was placed in solitary confinement after successfully escaping from prison in 2008. With the assistance of a guard who had been having sex with her and several other women in the prison, she escaped. After 136 days, she was found, re-arrested and returned to prison, where she began her unending stint in solitary confinement.
Because Pender is considered a high escape risk, the administration has taken steps to isolate her even within the segregation unit. “Other women could talk to each other through their doors, but they were instructed to never talk to me or else they’d be punished,” she recounted. “The male guards were never to speak to me unless there was a second guard present, and only to give me orders. Female guards only spoke when absolutely necessary, per orders, except they chatted freely with any other prisoner.”
As in many jails and prisons, those with mental health concerns are often placed in segregation. “One of them is going to be released to society this month,” Pender wrote. “She has been in solitary for six or eight months because she has repeatedly cut herself with razors, including her throat, several times. Their solution: Lock her in a room and don’t give her a razor.”
Another woman spent two and a half years in segregation, originally for disruptive behavior. Her stay was extended each time she hurt herself. “She cut her wrists in the shower. They found her, took her to the hospital, stitched her up, put her back in lock and wrote her up for self-mutilation.
“She ripped the stitches out and got another battery write-up. Threw a mop bucket at the sergeant for another assault write-up and was completely maxed out on her sentence, so they let her go home from solitary. She returned that same year with new charges. She never got therapy while here – or any mental health care that she obviously needed.”

As in many jails and prisons, those with mental health concerns are often placed in segregation.

While Pender did not enter with preexisting mental health concerns, years of little to no human contact has taken its toll. At times she feels lethargic and depressed. In 2010, she had a psychotic break, which lasted nine months. Since then, she has been on and off half a dozen kinds of psychotropic medications.
“I didn’t need the meds for the two years I spent in godawful Marion County Jail and didn’t need them for five years at Rockville prison,” she recalled. “But when you lock people in rooms for long periods of time, the isolation degenerates us into madness, or at least depression.”
WomenGÇÖs prison solitary confinement cell
Women who report being sexually assaulted by prison staff face abuse and isolation in a tiny cell like this.
Others with no preexisting mental health conditions have also been affected. “I watched a woman claw chunks out of her cheeks and nose and write on the window with her blood,” Pender said. “My neighbor bashed her head against the concrete until officers dragged her out to a padded cell. Two other women tried to asphyxiate themselves with shoestrings and bras.” In Florida, faced with the prospect of ten months in CM SHU, a woman attempted suicide. “I had hung myself and was quite dead when the guards cut me down. My heart must’ve stopped because of the loss of involuntary functions, but still they wrapped me in a sheet and rushed me to medical and succeeded in reviving me,” she recalled.
Despite being locked in a cell the size of a bathroom for the foreseeable future, Pender hopes the increased outrage about solitary confinement leads to concrete changes. What would she ask people to do?
“They can help by contacting their legislators and judges about their views on long-term solitary confinement. They can help by supporting small groups of activists and organizations who are passionate about this topic.
“Many people don’t have the desire to donate two hours of their week or month to a group, but what about two hours of their monthly wages? Or the book of stamps and box of envelopes that has been collecting dust since email was invented?
“There are lots of ways to help change the system. Whatever you choose to do, just DO something. Just having conversations with others about the subject is doing something. Someone else might volunteer to type up and format a newsletter. Help design a website. Circulate the info. Make phone calls to organize events. Anything is better than turning the page to the next article and forgetting about us, leaving us alone in our cells,” she said.

Sent to solitary for reporting sexual assault

It seems absurd that a person who has been sexually assaulted would be punished for speaking up, especially since prison policy prohibits sexual contact between staff and the people whom they guard. Yet, in many women’s prisons, many of those who report rape and other forms of sexual assault by prison personnel are sent to solitary confinement.
After enduring over a year of repeated sexual assaults by a guard, Stacy Barker became one of 31 women incarcerated in Michigan who filed Nunn v. MDOC, a 1996 lawsuit against the Department of Corrections for the widespread sexual abuse by prison guards. The following year, Barker was repeatedly sexually assaulted by an officer, who was also a defendant in Nunn.

In many women’s prisons, many of those who report rape and other forms of sexual assault by prison personnel are sent to solitary confinement.

After a month of silence, she reported the assaults to a prison psychiatrist. Barker was immediately placed in segregation and then transferred to Huron Valley Center, which was then a psychiatric hospital for prisoners. There, she reported that hospital attendants verbally harassed her.
In October 1997, Barker attempted suicide. Barker did not receive counseling or psychiatric evaluation. Instead, three male guards stripped her naked, placed her in five-point restraints (a procedure in which a prisoner is placed on her back in a spread-eagle position with her hands, feet and chest secured by straps) on a bed with no blanket for nine hours. She was then placed on suicide watch. She reported that one of the staff who monitored her repeatedly told her he would “bring her down a few rungs.”
Rally at Chowchilla women's prison to protest overcrowding.
At last January’s Chowchilla Freedom Rally, where most of the protesters were young women of color, the mood was determined but also sad as these supporters and loved ones of prisoners listened to speakers tell of the hell the women are going through on the other side of the prison wall. – Photo: Scott Braley
Placing women in solitary confinement for reporting staff sexual harassment or abuse is far from rare. In 1996, Human Rights Watch found that, in Michigan, incarcerated women who report staff sexual misconduct are placed in segregation pending the institution’s investigation of their cases. The placement is allegedly for the woman’s own protection. The five other states investigated also had similar practices of placing women in segregation after they reported abuse. Not much has changed in the 13 years since Human Rights Watch chronicled the pervasive and persistent sexual abuse and use of retaliatory segregation in 11 women’s prisons. Former staff at Ohio’s Reformatory for Women have stated that women who reported sexual abuse are subjected to lengthy periods of time in solitary confinement, where cells often had feces and blood smeared on the wall.
In Kentucky, a woman who saved evidence from her sexual assault was placed in segregation for 50 days. In Illinois, a prison administrator threatened to add a year onto the sentence of a woman who attempted to report repeated sexual assaults. She was then placed in solitary confinement.

Placing women in solitary confinement for reporting staff sexual harassment or abuse is far from rare.

In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) became law, ostensibly to address the widespread sexual abuse in the nation’s jails and prisons. Among its recommendations was “the timely and comprehensive investigation of staff sexual misconduct involving rape or other sexual assault on inmates.”
However, this has not stopped the widespread practice of utilizing solitary to punish those who speak out. An investigation into sexual abuse at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Women found that women who report sexual abuse “are routinely placed in segregation by the warden.”
Some prison systems have also created new rules to continue discouraging reports of staff sexual assault. At Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, a woman reported that prison officials responded to PREA by creating a rule called “False Reporting to Authorities.”
“A lot of us do not report any kind of staff misconduct because history has proven that any kind of reports true or false are found [by the administration] to be false,” she stated. “When it was found to be false, the people were immediately found guilty and sent to administrative segregation.” In some cases, a woman may not even file an official complaint but may only be speaking within earshot of another staff member.
“I didn’t want to believe it, but then I experienced it first hand with a close acquaintance of mine. She had conversations with a guard and he asked sexually explicit questions about what she would be able to do in bed because of her disability and it went on for a while.
“She came to me and said she didn’t want to be around him and she told an office worker about him and he ended up writing a report on her, before she could do it to him, and she was eventually questioned. I was questioned and I told the investigator that I believed her and that the officer was a pervert and flirted openly with any girl who was desperate for a man’s attention.
“I told him I felt like he was a predator and shouldn’t be working at a women’s prison. I later found out she went to the hole and was going to be Ad Seg’d just like the others but she left on her mandatory parole to go back to court and was re-sentenced and brought back. Luckily they didn’t Ad Seg her when she came back. I’m not sure why they dropped it but maybe it was because she was gone for a while.”

Some prison systems have also created new rules to continue discouraging reports of staff sexual assault.

Under PREA, those accused of sexual assault are sent to solitary confinement even before the charges are proven. In California, Amy Preasmyer was placed in solitary confinement after being accused of sexual assault by another woman.
“I was abruptly removed from my bed late in the evening to face an extended wait and then a transfer to Ad-Seg,” she reported. “Upon entering my newly assigned chambers at 3 a.m., I found the toilet was backed up and a DD3 (EOP) [person with a disability] had urinated everywhere prior to me, leaving extremely unsanitary conditions and aromas.” She was not allowed to access supplies that would allow her to clean or disinfect her cell.
Although she was eventually cleared of all charges, being in Ad Seg forced her to miss her final examinations for college. During that time, she also lost the privilege to shop, walk outside or even call home.
Preasmyer reflected on the double standard between prison staff and prisoners accused under PREA: “Had this woman falsely accused an officer, would that officer have been arrested and forced to relinquish rights pending results of the investigation into the accusation? Would the employee suffer a wage loss? Would disciplinary action and consequences be rendered to the accuser once charges turned out to be baseless?”
After reading Preasmyer’s article in her segregation cell in Indiana, Sarah Jo Pender, who has spent five years in solitary confinement after an officer helped her escape, agreed. She noted that, although the officer who helped her escape had had sex with her and seven other women in the prison, he evaded a sexual misconduct charge as part of a plea bargain.
Victoria Law
Victoria Law
He was sentenced to seven years in prison and released after two years. As far as Pender knows, he spent no time in solitary confinement. On the other hand, the superintendent at the Indiana Women’s Prison has told her that she will remain in segregation so long as she is incarcerated so that he knows where she is at any given time. We might know more about the prevalence of isolating those who report sexual abuse if that threat didn’t hang over their heads. But it does, bullying who-knows-how-many into silence. As one woman in Texas reported:
“When officers and inmates are found to be involved, the common course of action here is to move her to another facility. If she consented in any way, she will be placed in Ad Seg. Being moved with the jacket of a prior officer relationship can make time very difficult. And, if they found any reason to write the inmate a major case, it also costs her at least a one-year parole set-off. Being moved, time in isolation, a label and a set-off? Those are powerful motivations to keep a girl quiet.”
Victoria Law is a writer, photographer, and mother. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. She is the author of “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women” (PM Press 2009), the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and a co-founder of Books Through Bars – NYC. She wrote this as two stories for Solitary Watch, “Women in Solitary Confinement: ‘The Isolation Degenerates Us Into Madness’” and “Women in Solitary Confinement: Sent to Solitary for Reporting Sexual Assault.”She can be reached by mail at Victoria Law, P.O. Box 20388, Tompkins Square Station, New York, NY 10009, or by email at vikkimL@yahoo.com.

Christmas and New Year is the worst time of year for Schapelle Corby

Christmas and New Year is the worst time of year for Schapelle. It is the time which most reminds her of her family, her old life, and her years of loneliness and fear.

This year she has remained in her cell continually, as she has previously when struggling to see any light or hope, not even venturing out to see her family. She is traumatized at being caught by the media, who are allowed into the prison for Christmas events. She is again in turmoil.

These are her own words, from 2006:

"The isolation is mental torture. Christmas only heightens the pain of my situation"

"New Year's Eve was also depressing as it just represented another year stolen from me"

"I miss my family, my friends, and my life so much. My soul hurts with loneliness despite being surrounded so closely by so many people.

"This Christmas I've also missed my sister Mercedes. She's gone to Australia to have her third baby and it's our first Christmas apart since this ordeal started. I'm glad that her children enjoyed a normal Christmas this year though, instead of having Christmas lunch laid out on a dirty cement floor with Aunst Schapelle in jail, as they've done the past two years."

"I may wear make-up and I may look OK, but I'm not OK. The pain some days, especially around Christmas, is unbearable. I didn't do this. I'm hanging on tighty to a knot at the end of a rope and I know I could slip off at any time."

She has had ten of these to bear. TEN.

Those in Australia who buried the proof of her innocence, lied, and covered-up, haven't spared a second thought for her. The rest of the politicians look the other way, and could not care less. The media do the dirty work, sedating the public with endless lies and smears against her and her family.

To them, she is expendable.... which means that everyone reading this post is expendable too.

Our new year’s resolution is simple: We resolve to free Schapelle. We resolve to make this her last Christmas of torment, no matter who we have to confront.

Together we can and will do it. We have to.

The truth:

‪#‎auspol‬ ‪#‎humanrights‬ ‪#‎Schapelle‬ ‪#‎Canberra‬ ‪#‎Bali‬

A brief review of 2013 and the austerity robbery.

A letter a day to number 10. No 610.
Tuesday 31 December 2013. A brief review of 2013 and the austerity robbery.
Shares are encouraged and welcomed. If this letter speaks for you and you wish to send your own copy please feel free to copy and paste, and alter for your own needs, the text for your own letter.
Website updated, letters and replies plus bonus material featuring Mr Suggs, Eeyore and Ribbit.
Also on the website, download the support compilation three album set from Atona. Not to be missed.
Dear Mr Cameron,
As the year winds to its end let’s just remember what austerity has been all about – robbing the poor to pay the rich.
Once again we’ve seen the finance sector dishing out eye watering bonuses, many of the recipients being responsible for the banking crash and Osborne going to the EU court to protect their bonus greed.
Meanwhile, you have relentlessly attacked the poor, blaming them for austerity, making them responsible for recovery, imposing swinging welfare cuts and the bedroom tax, doing away with employment rights and attacking the legal aid system and driving people into poverty.
So lets just be perfectly clear, the ordinary people of the UK had nothing what so ever to do with the crash and yet have been ruthlessly hounded by your government with especial attention being paid to the very poorest, the sick and disabled many of whom are now dead, with the revelation at a parliamentary hearing that the poor on benefits are called ‘stock’ by Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP.
For the poorest workers in the country, far from making work pay, you have ensured it doesn’t with 6.7 million workers now in poverty, many workers being driven into pointless jobs through vicious sanctions and wholesale abuse in job seeking through completely unreasonable, unmanageable and unachievable demands.
Samuel Johnson and many others have said “A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.” Well, we have your measure and the measure of your government, Mr Cameron, as you have presided over a merciless war on the poor with the promise of worse to come in the most unequal country in the western world.
As 2014 looms my faith is in the good, decent and honest ordinary people of this country who are living the reality of your austerity robbery, I wish them a happy, better and prosperous new year and you and your government of liars and cheats a life as far away from politics as possible.
— in Peasedown Saint John.

New Year's Message of Hope

Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg looks back at the organization's successes in 2013 and plans for 2014. "This is our great discovery," he says of the past year, "slaveholders and traffickers are astonishingly vulnerable, while their intended victims can be amazingly powerful."

Production Credits: Editor: Chris Billing; Music: Dominic Messinger, Photographs: Peggy Callahan, Kevin Chagnon, Kay Chernush, Terry FitzPatrick, Zorba Leslie, Zia Mazhar, Robin Romano. Video & Executive Producer: Terry FitzPatrick

Our Racist Justice System

The criminal justice system is mired in prejudice and racism, with rich and poor facing very different police and courts. How can we make a better system of justice that finds a better way of treating people from vastly different backgrounds? We discuss the issue with attorney Mike Cavalluzzi and journalist Frank Girardot in this Crime Time.
Watch the full episode here:

Jobless Benefits Cut For 1.3 Million, Despite Highest Long-term Unemploy...

http://www.democracynow.org - On Saturday, 1.3 million Americans lost their last lifeline from the federal government: an emergency unemployment insurance program. Although long-term unemployment is still at its highest level since World War II, Congress failed to renew the program in the budget deal it passed just before adjourning for winter recess. The program provided up to 47 weeks of supplemental unemployment insurance payments to jobless people looking for work. Now, just a quarter of unemployed Americans will receive jobless benefits -- the smallest proportion in half a century. Allowing the program to sunset is expected to have wide-scale ramifications for the economy at large, axing job growth by around 300,000 positions next year and pushing hundreds of thousands of households to the brink of poverty. We are joined by Imara Jones, economic justice contributor for Colorlines.com.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

CeCe McDonald gets out of prison in just a little over 2 weeks.

 picture from google

Supporters are looking for a few donations. If you have any of these things laying around the house please feel free to drop them off for CeCe at The Exchange, 3405 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis.

*Twin sized bed frame: Headboard/footboard/ralls/all that!
*Sewing supplies: Needles, threads, pins, fabrics, cutting boards, notions, patterns, etc.
*Gift cards to Target, Grocery Stores, Joanne fabrics, Walgreens, etc. — 

For those out of state: items (gift cards, sewing supplies) can be mailed to this address:
Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition,
3405 Chicago Ave, Suite 103
Minneapolis, MN 55407 
RE: CeCe McDonald


Free All Political Prisoners!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Child Poverty UK

Because of the Governments benefit cuts, more and more families are living under the poverty line.
This affects children over the UK.
Please share this and give some support.

Argentine rape victim, 14, denied abortion

Price of Silence Picture

Lawyers for a 14-year old Argentine rape victim say they are appealing against a court decision to deny the girl an abortion.
The girl discovered early last month that she was pregnant after being raped by her mother’s partner.
The teen and her mother, who live in the conservative city of Salto, sought an abortion at a local hospital.
But a family court judge denied her petition to terminate her pregnancy, instead ordering her to give birth and surrender the baby for adoption.
Continued: http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbint/831321033-argentine-rape-victim–14–denied-abortion
Price of Silence

Going Underground: "Atos not fit for purpose" - Dennis Skinner on benefi...

Afshin Rattansi goes underground on how Atos treat the disabled, speaking exclusively to veteran Labour MP, Dennis Skinner. It seems the company is trying to fill a quota, as it pushes the most vulnerable in society back into work. And has the government covered up the truth about the miners' strike at Orgreave? Ian Lavery MP says it's time we heard the truth about the violent crackdown. Plus, love Branston pickle, Cadbury chocolate and everything else British? You're in for a let-down.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Our own political action committee can expand the prisoners’ rights movement

by Jose Villarreal
I was pleased to read about the current talk of creating a political action committee (PAC) for prisoners. There was a time when I despised the whole oppressor political apparatus, but I was lucky enough to have comrades who explained that there is nothing wrong with being involved in local politics because these are the ways that we can transform our communities at the current stage in our struggle.
'End the Torture' by Jose Villarreal
Drawing in pen and pastel by Jose Villarreal
Local politics, we should remember, is how we got the three strikes law modified. It will be how we get long-term solitary confinement overturned as well as abolishing the death penalty. Now, of course, we will never totally liberate the people through the ballot box, but in this stage we need to chip away with small reforms that will move us closer to more substantial forms of struggle and self-determination in the future. Any efforts taken in the political realm will, of course, be coupled with other efforts here at the prison level – and this is necessary. We can’t expect external efforts – outside activists, PAC, legislature etc. – to bring us to victory on their own any more than we can expect internal efforts – prison strikes, appeals etc. – to bring us to victory on their own accord.
Each effort or phenomenon, both internal and external, relies on the other, and only in unity can we be brought to victory in our efforts. So in this aspect, a PAC should be viewed as one such tool in our activist tool box which will help move us forward and begin to reclaim all the things that have been taken from prisoners in the past decades.
I believe a PAC is a great idea and displays the natural evolution of the prison movement for human rights.
I can see a PAC being useful not just for shaping current and future laws but to help shape public opinion in our future hunger strikes, work strikes or boycotts. At the same time, I think much more can be done as well to supplement any possible PAC.
When I think of the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013 and the numbers of participants and outside support, we obviously made history but did not get CDCR to comply with the five demands. We know the state bends to pressure, so this pressure was not enough. As good as it was, we needed more.
Thirty thousand people is a huge number, and we had outside activists at the front lines and some family members out in society getting involved, but still the state did not comply. So I think about how we can get more support in order to tip the scale and ensure the next round that the state does comply.
As I previously said, I believe a PAC is necessary at this stage, but while we create and build the PAC we should also be looking to mobilize in other areas as well. During the hunger strikes, I thought what if the barrios and the hoods throughout California were working in active support of our hunger strike and five demands. Wouldn’t this tip the scale in our favor? I thought, just in San Jose, where I was born and raised, if the barrios were activated to support our hunger strike, what a difference this would make, not to mention every barrio and hood in California.

I can see a PAC being useful not just for shaping current and future laws but to help shape public opinion in our future hunger strikes, work strikes or boycotts.

There is so much that can be done with future barrio action committees (BAC) or hood action committees (HAC); entire areas can be mobilized in our communities at the grassroots level where most of us prisoners come from. The people from these oppressed communities are out natural resources, so when we seek to create change and mobilize our people, we should start within our communities because this is where people’s power will flourish.
The neighborhoods we all come from have all the sustenance we need to grow as a human rights movement. From the little homie on the corner to the professional in the office, if these sectors can be mobilized, we will tip the scale next round.

During the hunger strikes, I thought what if the barrios and the hoods throughout California were working in active support of our hunger strike and five demands. Wouldn’t this tip the scale in our favor?

Some of the things these neighborhood committees can take up to support a future peaceful protest or ongoing struggle for the five demands is going door to door educating and mobilizing the neighborhood about state repression and how our communities are targets, creating leaflets and other literature while organizing marches in support of prison human rights efforts, creating newsletters, newspapers and websites dedicated to our prison rights and five demands, raising money to support our efforts for justice.
We want to educate our people and get our youth involved in our efforts, because prisons will continue to exist for some time and thus prison oppression and torture will exist with it in some form, so we should begin today to build our base of support. Our future generations will need these bases in their struggles to survive in these dungeons.
If we had well-developed bases of support when we initiated the strikes, we could have mobilized California in ways unseen in the history of U.S. activism. Peaceful protests could have spilled out to the social media, schools could have walked out of class, a day without work or spending no money, freeways shut down, etc. all over California.
Our youth are very creative and passionate. There are so many possibilities to gain more support in us reaching these five demands and beyond. And the longer the state takes in granting our demands, the more we will learn, educate and organize to strengthen our peaceful protest movement.
We’ve got to remember and learn from history and what it took to get the oppressor nation to budge. During the Civil Rights Movement, it didn’t just take those being oppressed to act in civil disobedience; it took people across all nationalities to act. It took politicization of oppressed people to be mobilized in self-defense groups. It took class collaboration with many sectors from lumpen to petty bourgeois. Even religious groups were mobilized to make the empire budge. The freedom riders and the uprisings in Black ghettos added to the momentum, but no single effort in itself made the movement successful.

If we had well-developed bases of support when we initiated the strikes, we could have mobilized California in ways unseen in the history of U.S. activism.

The U.S. war on Vietnam saw the same outcome. At the time, Chicanos were 6 percent of the U.S. population but were 20 percent of the U.S. military deaths in Vietnam. This led to the Chicano Moratorium, which was Chicanos protesting the war in the thousands by marches and other efforts.
But many people refused to go to Vietnam from all nationalities and many boycotted the draft. Political parties, religious folks, even many celebrities were voicing their disgust with the U.S. war on Vietnam. Muhammad Ali was very vocally against it, and still others took more provocative actions. College campuses erupted in protest.
When the settler state was dismantled in apartheid South Africa, it wasn’t only the people of Azania struggling. Rather it was also people around the world struggling with them in many ways.

The longer the state takes in granting our demands, the more we will learn, educate and organize to strengthen our peaceful protest movement.

My point is we will not be successful if our struggle for human rights in these dungeons stays confined to just prisoners struggling. We can’t even resort to only relying on outside activists. Instead, the only way to bring the pressure on the state that we need to obtain our five demands will be by expanding the prisoners’ rights movement. This expansion should include a PAC, BAC and HAC for victory.

The only way to bring the pressure on the state that we need to obtain our five demands will be by expanding the prisoners’ rights movement.

I wanted to contribute to throwing some ideas out there to kick around. Only by speaking up and adding to the realm of ideas can new conversations and new ideas come forth. Once more, I look forward to the PAC cause. I got five on it.
Send our brother some love and light: Jose Villarreal, H-84098, PBSP SHU, C11-106, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

To all the homies on lock and solitary

by Abdul Mujahid Khalil, aka Lester Smith
In response to the story, “California can lead the movement to limit solitary confinement,” by Margaret Winter of the ACLU in the November Bay View, well, fellas, hot damn! It’s about time. That story is 100 percent genuine.
Locked In, The Rpoes, Epi 201
Rodriques Dukes peers through the tray slot of his cell in Hays State Prison’s Isolation Unit in Georgia. – Photo: Derek Bell
Speaking from experience, long-term solitary confinement not only is extremely costly, it destroys the mental stability of a lot of men and women. On Aug. 17, 2010, or so, I endured my first experience in the Georgia Department of Corrections SMU (Special Management Unit), aka Hi-Max. In Georgia, DOC is notorious for lashing out at prisoners in retaliation for standing up against torture, inhumane living conditions or any other draconian regime prison officials employ, which led to my housing and that of many more during the wake of the Dec. 9, 2010, peaceful sit-down in the Georgia prisons. While in solitary with those accused of said protest, I learned a lot and taught a lot, only to be targeted by GDOC’s upper echelon Regional Directors Steve Upton and Johnny Sikes and some of the Sikes brothers, who are all employed in high-ranking positions in GDOC with a nepotism regime growing in supremacy, truly a good ol’ boy system, literally.
California has my full support on all their endeavors, a great accomplishment you all rode and continue to ride against CDC. Maybe one day the sleeping giants of Georgia will follow suit.
Just this year, GDOC has quadrupled the solitary lock-up by shutting down at least two regular units at select prisons and reconstructing them for long-term solitary. Macon State, Telfair State and Smith State Prisons are a few. Rather than take corrective measures upon staff or buildings that are in federal and state violations and unkept conditions, GDC would rather lock us down as a solution. This is a huge mistake!
The Bay View article mentioned above spells out statistically the disaster of this regime, even conveying the language of the In re Medley case from 1890 – over a century of factual findings of what harm solitary can cause and what race is predominately in solitary. That’s a no-brainer: Blacks!
To get a better grip on this epidemic that we face, the financial strain it takes to operate these units needs to be known by the exploited taxpayers who finance these torture chambers. Take the state of Mississippi, for example, which has largely abolished solitary, getting assistance from the federal Department of Justice and the ACLU, of course.

Just this year, GDOC has quadrupled the solitary lock-up by shutting down at least two regular units at select prisons and reconstructing them for long-term solitary.

The domino effect must ensue with us as the players demanding, not asking, demanding reform. I am currently back on SMU status after being released October 2012 and recycled to four different prisons from October 2012 until October 2013. The very same prison where Miguel Jackson had been brutally beaten with a hammer by prison guards sent myself and others to Georgia State Prison’s SMU Unit after an altercation erupted between prisoners and guards. I will say the entire incident was triggered by some BS; a few good brothers got caught up in a foolish manner.

The state of Mississippi, for example, has largely abolished solitary.

As we sit in solitary at GSP [Georgia State Prison, built in 1926], a structure that is a hazard to one’s health by way of asbestos that contaminates buildings G, F and E and all other old parts of this spot. Buildings L and M were demolished as a result of asbestos, which prisoners Larry Sanders, aka Maceo, and others blew the whistle on. GDOC Commissioner Brian Owens and/or James Donald had covered up the asbestos factor so that employees and prisoners would not be on point to file lawsuits against GDOC.
It’s a shame they didn’t expose this through the media or Bay View to put GDOC officials on blast. I’ve alerted federal authorities with regards to the atrocious acts that have been swept under the rug.

The domino effect must ensue with us as the players demanding, not asking, demanding reform.

You brothers and sisters out there in the West, keep riding. The West was won by the last ones standing. Your fight is all our fight. Those in other states who are not participating will reap the fruits of your labor – a damn shame if you ask me. I say everybody on lock should join this one by any strategic method possible. You all stay up!
Send our brother some love and light: Abdul Mujahid Khalil (s/n Lester Smith), 977285, GSP, 2164 Ga. Hwy 147, Reidsville, GA 30499.

Exoneration only the first step in making amends to the Scottsboro Boys

by Southern Poverty Law Center
The state of Alabama may be a step closer to exonerating all of the Scottsboro Boys – nine Black youths falsely accused of raping two white women 80 years ago in a case that called the nation’s attention to the deadly racial injustice of the Jim Crow South.
Scottsboro Boys jailed w their attorney Samuel Leibowitz, web
The Scottsboro Boys, nine Black youngsters ages 13-19, were pulled off a train into court in 1931 after two young white women falsely accused them of rape; one later recanted. The sheriff protected them from being lynched, but all were tried in quick trials before all-white juries and all but the youngest had been sentenced to death only two weeks after being arrested. When they won retrials the following year, the Communist Party hired famed defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz, shown here with his clients. Though he wasn’t able to free them all, he won the Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial discrimination in jury selection.
But as state lawmakers prepare to introduce legislation to clear the youths’ names, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen warned that it’s also “incredibly important” to ensure today’s criminal trials are free from discrimination that can lead to such injustices today. “Today, are criminal defendants always provided with effective assistance of counsel? Today, are our juries chosen free of racial discrimination?” he asked at a news conference at the Alabama State House announcing the legislation. “Until we can answer yes to both of those questions, the shadow of the Scottsboro Boys will continue to linger.”
The plight of the Scottsboro Boys began on March 25, 1931, when a sheriff’s posse stopped a train in Paint Rock, Ala. Nine Black youths were arrested and taken to the county seat of Scottsboro, where an all-white jury wrongly convicted them of raping two white women – convictions that resulted in initial death sentences for eight of the youths.
One of the women later recanted the story. After a series of appeals, reversals and retrials, charges were eventually dropped against five of the Scottsboro Boys, though they had already served more than six years in prison. The other four received sentences between 75 years and life. Three of them were paroled by 1950, and the other died in prison in 1952. Clarence Norris in 1976 became the only Scottsboro Boy to receive a pardon.
Two of 9 Scottsboro Boys freed, arrive Penn Station NYC, Olen Montgomery (glasses), Eugene Williams (suspenders) 072637 by AP
Olen Montgomery (wearing glasses) and Eugene Williams (with suspenders) arrive triumphantly in Penn Station, New York City, on July 26, 1937, after charges against them and two others had been dropped two days earlier. – Photo: AP
The case resulted in landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that barred the systematic exclusion of Blacks from criminal juries. It also led the high court to establish the right of defendants in criminal cases to have effective counsel. The new legislation includes “The Scottsboro Boys Act,” which would establish procedures to allow the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider a posthumous pardon – a power it does not have today. A resolution in the state House of Representatives that acknowledges the Scottsboro Boys were “the victims of a gross injustice” and exonerates them will be introduced as well.
But as Cohen noted at the news conference, the legacy of the Scottsboro Boys – and the two cases that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court – extends far beyond the nine Black youths pulled off a train in Alabama eight decades ago.
“Those two cases are in many ways a monument to the injustice the state of Alabama inflicted on the Scottsboro Boys,” Cohen said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded to ensure that the promises of the civil rights movement became a reality for all. SPLC can be reached at 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104, (334) 956-8200 or online at http://www.splcenter.org/contact-us.

Imagine If America's Incarcerated Population Were Its Own Country -- Revealing the Disturbing Statistics

The following was posted on Popular Resistance here [3]. And was originally published here [4] in the Charlotte Observer.
You already know that the United States locks up a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world. If you look at local, state and federal prison and jail populations, the United States currently incarcerates more than 2.4 million people, a figure that constitutes roughly 25 percent of the total incarcerated population of the entire world.
A population of 2.4 million is a lot – enough, in fact, to fill up a good-sized country. If the incarcerated population of the United States constituted a nation-state, what kind of country would it be?
Above: A visual representation of states in the United States by the rate of incarceration under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities. It does not include inmates in jail, May 17, 2011.
Here’s a profile of Incarceration Nation:
Population size: As a country – as opposed to a prison system – Incarceration Nation is on the small side. Nonetheless, a population of 2.4 million is perfectly respectable: Incarceration Nation has a larger population than about 50 other countries, including Namibia, Qatar, Gambia, Bahrain and Iceland.
Geographic area: There are more than 4,500 prisons in the United States. Let’s assume that each of those prisons takes up about half a square mile of land – a reasonable (and probably quite low) estimate given that most prisons are, for security reasons, surrounded by some empty space. That gives Incarceration Nation an estimated land area of about 2,250 square miles: small, but still larger than Brunei, Bahrain and Singapore.
Population Density: No matter how you look at it, Incarceration Nation is a crowded place. If we assume a land area of 2,250 square miles, it has a population density of roughly 1,067 people per square mile, a little higher than that of India. In 2011, federal prisons were operating 39 percent above capacity; in many state systems, overcrowding was much worse.
A nation of immigrants: Like many of the smaller Gulf States, Incarceration Nation relies almost entirely on immigration to maintain its population. You might even say that Incarceration Nation is a nation of displaced persons: most of its residents were born far away from Incarceration Nation, which has a nasty habit of involuntarily transporting people hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from their home communities, making it extraordinarily difficult for residents to maintain ties with their families.
Birthright citizenship? An estimated 10,000 babies are born each year in Incarceration Nation. Most are “deported” within months, generally landing with foster families. But Incarceration Nation does have its own form of birthright citizenship, if you can call it that: as many as 70 percent of children with an incarcerated parent end up incarcerated themselves at some point.
Gender balance: International attention to gender imbalances has tended to focus on China, India and other states, but Incarceration Nation has the most skewed gender ratio of any country on Earth: men outnumber women by a ratio of about 12 to 1.
Racial and ethnic makeup: If Incarceration Nation were located in a geographical region matching its racial and ethnic makeup, it would probably be somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps near Brazil. Roughly 40 percent of the incarcerated population is of African descent, another 20 percent is of Hispanic descent, and the remaining 40 percent are Caucasian or mixed. For the average American, this means that one’s odds of spending time in Incarceration Nation depend greatly on gender and race: a white woman has only a one in 111 lifetime chance of ending up incarcerated, while a black man has a whopping one in three chance.
Health: One study found that the incarcerated are “more likely to be afflicted with infectious disease and other illnesses associated with stress.” More than half of Incarceration Nation’s citizens are mentally ill, with depression rates roughly on a par with those experienced by citizens of Afghanistan.
Per Capita Spending: Judged by per capita government spending, Incarceration Nation is a rich country: its government spends an average of about $31,000 per year on each incarcerated citizen. Internationally, only little Luxembourg spends as much on its citizens as Incarceration . Some people make a lot of money from Incarceration Nation. Incarceration Nation employs about 800,000 people as prison guards, administrators and the like – almost as many people as are employed in the entire U.S. automobile industry. But the real money goes to the operators of private prisons and the companies that make use of prison labor. Large private prison companies (such as CCA, the Geo Group, and Cornell Companies) boast impressive annual revenues. In 2011, for instance, CCA had annual revenues of over $1.7 billion.
Labor Standards: If you think low labor costs in countries such as China and Bangladesh are a threat to U.S. workers and businesses, labor conditions in Incarceration Nation will dangerously raise your blood pressure. UNICOR, a.k.a. Federal Prison Industries, employs 8 percent of “work eligible” federal prisoners. Hourly wages range from 23 cents an hour – about on a par with garment workers in Bangladesh – to a princely $1.35 for “premium” prisoners, comparable to the hourly wage of Chinese garment workers.
Who benefits from these low wages? The U.S. Department of Defense, for one. The DOD is UNICOR’s largest customer; in fiscal year 2011 it accounted for $357 million of UNICOR’s annual sales. UNICOR makes everything from Patriot missile components to body armor for the DOD.
No one likes to talk about this, of course: “We sell products made by prison labor” isn’t the kind of slogan likely to generate consumer enthusiasm. But to those in the know – as an online video promoting UNICOR’s call-center services boasts – prison labor is “the best-kept secret in outsourcing.”
Maybe Incarceration Nation really is a foreign country.
See more stories tagged with:
[1] http://www.popularresistance.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/rosa-brooks
[3] http://www.popularresistance.org/what-would-the-usas-incarcerated-be-if-it-were-a-nation/
[4] http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/12/17/4551794/americas-incarceration-nation.html
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/incarceration
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/prison-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Schapelle Corby The Truth

Exposing the cover-up that sent an innocent woman to jail in Bali, Indonesia. Schapelle Corby arrived in Bali on October 8th 2004, only to find a 4.2kg bag of marijuana in her boogie board bag when apprehended by customs officers. Schapelle was sentenced to 20 years. Currently in her 10th year in jail and Schapelle is still suffering for a crime she did not commit. The Expendable Project has uncovered the truth behind this horrible injustice and it is up to us to get it out there. WWW.EXPENDABLE.TV


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Davontae Sanford

Davontae Sanford 26/12/2013

A Life Sentence for Dealing Crack Cocaine

Subscribe on YouTube: http://bit.ly/U8Ys7n
Jesse Webster has been incarcerated 18 years for dealing cocaine; his family hopes President Obama will commute his sentence.

Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/19jPw0J



It is with some surprise and sadness that we must report that once again the progress of wrongfully incarcerated Russell Maroon Shoatz has been delayed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), thereby continuing his over twenty years of torturous uninterrupted solitary confinement. On Thursday, December 19, 2013, prison officials at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Frackville informed Maroon that the prison would not release him into its general population, claiming that there is another prisoner at SCI Frackville who Maroon has a “separation” from (the two cannot have contact with one another). For this reason, SCI Frackville stated that the prison would not be sending the required documentation for review of his solitary confinement to PA DOC Secretary Wetzel. Instead, Maroon was told that SCI Frackville intended to transfer him to another prison that could then consider him for release into the general population.

After Maroon’s successful completion of a prison-initiated “step down program” designed for the very purpose of ending his long-endured torture, his family, friends, and legal team were cautiously optimistic that the consistently positive reports coming directly from prison authorities would result in his humanitarian release, at least into prison general population. Every twenty days during the sixty-day “step down” initiative, Maroon’s case came under administrative review, and he passed all areas of concern – including the evaluations of some of the most conservative of guards – with flying colors. SCI Frackville’s position is contrary to what Maroon had previously been told: complete the 60-day step-down program successfully, and the formal review of his solitary confinement will occur. Now, prison officials are declaring that it is necessary to transfer Maroon for the third time in less than a year despite his perfect record of compliance.

Maroon has carefully observed, and supporters have followed, the strictest of adherence to Pennsylvania Department of Corrections policies, in a clear decision to abide by the DOC efforts to correct an inhumane injustice which has begun to gain world-wide attention. Maroon continues to act in good faith. This callous, bad-faith reversal on the part of the Program Review Committee puts the case back into the court system and the political sphere – where we must once again raise the stakes in spotlighting this unprecedented and cruel behavior. As we are well aware, the continued solitary confinement of Maroon violates every United Nations and international legal guideline against the treatment of the incarcerated, especially long-held prisoners who are now senior citizens.

As the world mourns the passing of unrepentant former political prisoner Nelson Mandela, and prepares for the season celebrating peace on earth, good will towards others, this news raises the question of who is truly behind Maroon’s continued torture? Free Maroon Campaign chair Matt Meyer noted, “As someone fortunate enough to have met with President Mandela personally, and in direct contact with South African Archbishop Tutu who remains extremely concerned with the ongoing condition of Russell Maroon Shoatz, it is clear that those in Pennsylvania in positions of power have not taken to heart the most basic human rights issues involved. Mandela always reminded us that the truest test of the legitimacy of a government is how it treats its prisoners. Archbishop Tutu, so well known for his commitment to reconciliation, understands that this set-back, however temporary, reveals that the current government of Pennsylvania has utter disregard for basic decency and the lives of its less well-to-do citizens.”

The Campaign is currently developing strategies in response to this new situation, and reminds supporters that this holiday season is an especially important moment to collect names of clergy, lay people, and community leaders – to add to the Call by the three Nobel Peace laureates who are demanding Maroon’s immediate release (see attached). Names and titles of new signers of this Call should be forwarded to the Campaign (freemaroonshoatz@gmail.com) by the end of business day, Friday, January 10, 2014.

Maroon asks that all supporters and friends be sure to “stay vigilant.” As we work to protect our incarcerated elder, let us re-commit ourselves to creative and powerful work in Maroon’s tradition and upholding his legacy – keeping our focus “straight ahead” towards freedom.


The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound  - Isaiah 61:1
Russell Maroon Shoatz, a senior citizen (age 70) and grandfather who currently suffers from impaired vision because of cataracts, was originally imprisoned in January 1972, after years of playing a leading role in the Black freedom movement of his native Philadelphia PA. As was an endemic pattern during the 1960s and 70s, prominent community organizers doing civil and human rights work were prime targets of the FBI's illegal Counter-Intellience Program, with special focus on Dr. Martin Luther Jr., Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers - which Shoatz was a member of. He has been held for thirty-plus years in solitary confinement. Such “prolonged” solitary confinement is a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, according to UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez.

In April and May 2013, in the wake of Maroon’s transfer to a different prison, many concerned activists called and wrote letters to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) on his behalf. They received replies suggesting that his transfer to the general prison population was in process. In August, however, Shoatz was transferred once again to a third facility, with no change in the conditions of his confinement.

To mark the date of Maroon’s 70th birthday on August 23, 2013, three Nobel laureates - Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, President Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, and Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland - sent a letter to PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel that read, in part: “We affirm, in the strongest possible humanitarian terms, that now is the time for the immediate and unconditional release from solitary confinement and restricted housing of Russell Maroon Shoatz. After decades of solitary confinement – including the past 22 consecutive years – there is no reason for further delay. Continued confinement in 23-hour-a-day isolation is nothing short of torture.”

We, religious and other community leaders, join these three distinguished voices, along with a host of others, calling on the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to release Russell Maroon Shoatz into the general prison population. The time has long since passed. It would be an appropriate step to mark that time of year when we should all attempt, once again, to remind ourselves of our humanity.

Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz


Free All Political Prisoners!