MARGARET J PLEWS
PO BOX 20494
PHOENIX, AZ 85036

arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com

480-580-6807

Established: July 18, 2009
Editor: Peggy Plews


This site is to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist's perspective.
We don't simply need to shut down the prisons: we need to rewrite the way the rules around perpetrating harm against people and property are made in the first place, so that humanity, not politics or profit comes first. The current system doesn't prevent people from being victimized as it is - it simply prescribes rules for who does and doesn't get hurt or get to violate others, and mostly punishes the poor, the seriously mentally ill, and people of color. That's not a good enough foundation for a system based on achieving true justice.

From re-prioritizing our world, our ideas around what is crime and how to punish it would look much differently...Critical Resistance is a good source for more info on that.

I'm a freelance writer and human rights activist with no legal training or college degree. But if you are the loved one of a prisoner who needs help fighting for themselves, feel free to contact me - I'll do what I can. Emailing me works best: arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com but 480-580-6807 is ok too.

AZ PRISON WATCH ACTION ITEMS:

RESIGN, CHUCK RYAN

RESIGN, CHUCK RYAN
Petition by the family of Tony Lester, victim of suicide in AZ DOC custody.

Prisoners and Families: Send your SOS to the DOJ!

We really need those of you out there who have been in an AZ prison, have lost a child or other family member in an AZ prison, or have a loved one in an AZ prison now, to write a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (that one is mine) about the need for a federal intervention here, and send me a copy, with a nice photo, if you have one, of the beloved prisoner - I don't have to post your letters and pictures, but please tell me if I may, with or without names.

If you need some motivation, see what the Governor had to say to him about the swell state things are in here. Don't let her pass that BS off on him unchallenged.

When the truth of prison rape and violence is made public and appeals for relief come directly from those affected, the rest of the community identifies better with prisoners as people, and it puts more pressure on the feds - as well as the governor- to act. And you are the ones with the most at stake here. So, please back me up on this argument I'm making, folks. If the feds listened to me, they'd have been here long ago - I need your support!

And don't just "like" me on Facebook or the Daily KOS - SHARE SHARE SHARE!!!

US Attorney General Eric Holder
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington DC 20530


Send word to your loved ones in prison to write the AG as well, and to send me copies if they want me to post their letters, too.

THE I-Files: Teens in Solitary Confinement

Published on Jun 26, 2014


"Alone" was produced Daffodil Altan. It was reported by Altan and Trey Bundy, edited by David Ritsher and Andrew Gersh, and filmed by Marco Villalobos. The senior producer was Stephen Talbot. The executive producer was Susanne Reber.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prison (HBO)

Published on Jul 20, 2014

America's prisons are broken. Just ask John Oliver and several puppets.
**************

AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Scottt Watch: Jamie back in Hospital

I'm not sure how the prison can withhold her hospital location from Mrs. Rasco, or what action the campaign would like us to take on it. If anyone out there has a connection with the kidney foundation, an organ donation group, a politically active women's health clinic or rights organization, a disability rights group - anything like that in Mississippi (we need the locals) - we need some community organizations with an appropriate stake in these issues to begin making concerned inquiries of their state legislators, requesting some immediate relief for Jamie that includes her family in the treatment planning process and allows Gladys to donate a kidney, if that's necessary. I think right now we may still just be the usual suspects.

The men's medical care is bad too, but if we focus most closely on women's health care in the Mississippi prisons - including getting documentation about rights' violations and grievances from other prisoners - we may be able to help get more voices lobbying for Jamie's health care from different places in the Mississippi community  by expanding our characterization of her identity. 

That is, while Jamie is a wrongfully-convicted victim of the state at risk of dying in prison before her innocence can be proven, she is also a mother (we could use help from groups that advocate for moms in prison, even though her son is an adult now),  a black woman (whose health care is notoriously substandard), a poor woman needing medical care (is it her poverty, her sentence, her specific illness, or standard MDOC policy that is preventing her from getting the proper treatment?), as a critically ill adult child (parents' groups of disabled children may be helpful), as a woman with a major mood disorder (Alliance for the Mentally Ill may help advocate), as a woman with a disability (disabled rights activists in Mississippi would be able to see quickly that the value of Jamie's life to society has been diminished not just by her criminalization, but also by virtue of her disabilities - they don't like it when disabled people are cut out of the health care rations, and get left to die when life-saving measures are still available). 

That Jamie appears to have advanced kidney disease is significant - the Kidney Foundation should be interested to hear that she can't get her special diet, and that her sister offered her a kidney and that the prison won't allow the transplant...so many people suffer and die waiting for transplants, I don't see how the prison could make that a blanket policy. It should at least be seriously explored. Would they prohibit Gladys from making a donation to a non-prisoner? Would they permit the transplant if costs could be mitigated in some way? 

Someone who knows more about these details needs to contact the kidney foundation and organ transplant groups in Mississippi and ask them to make a formal inquiry into prison policies and what treatment options kidney patients and people needing transplants in prison do and don't have available to them. They can probably make a legal and moral case which may be more compelling than what we can come up with. help the DOC figure out other resources for treating these patients.

------------
Nancy Lockhart (January 30 at 5:18pm)
 
Mrs. Evelyn Rasco has confirmed through a sergeant and nurse at the prison that Jamie was rushed to the hospital due to a decline in her condition earlier today. The prison will not confirm anything further, whatsoever, not even whether Jamie is still alive or where specifically she has been taken (the hospitals will not confirm whether Jamie is a patient at any of them either).

We had received a report a few days ago that Jamie should have been  returned to the Medical Bldg. at the prison due to severe weakness and difficulty carrying out her activities of daily living, however this did NOT happen.

Jamie Scott should have remained hospitalized long ago due to her kidney failure and other health issues that are impacted by such a serious development!! The prison has played games with Jamie's life long enough and should have never moved her back from the hospital to begin with!

We need to know Jamie Scott's condition and what is happening to her. She must not, once again, be returned to the prison to continue to deteriorate, her medical care must be taken out of the prison's hands!

Updates will follow as soon as they are available! Please keep checking in as much as you are able!

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BACKGROUND INFO AT: http://www.freethescottsisters.blogspot.com

Pregnant and Shackled: Hard Labor for Arizona's Immigrants

By Valeria Fernandez, New America Media
Posted on January 28, 2010, Printed on January 30, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/145428/

PHOENIX, Ariz.-- Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, an undocumented immigrant charged with using someone else’s identity to work, gave birth to a boy on Dec. 21 at Maricopa Medical Center. After her C-section, she was shackled for two days to her hospital bed. She was not allowed to nurse her baby. And when guards walked her out of the hospital in shackles, she had no idea what officials had done with her child.

Like Mendiola-Martinez, pregnant inmates in Maricopa County Jail are routinely denied bond because they are undocumented immigrants. That means they can’t get out of jail for their childbirth, even if they are awaiting trial for a minor offense.

In some cases, undocumented immigrants are shackled as they are transported to the jail-contracted hospital, and shackled during and after childbirth.

Hospital authorities don't control this practice and medical personnel involved in these cases declined to be interviewed.

All hospitalized inmates are treated in the same manner as Mendiola-Martinez, according to Lt. Brain Lee, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He said she had a “soft restraint” attached on one leg to her bed to prevent escape.

That soft restraint was a 12-foot-long chain.

“I could barely walk, I don’t think I could have escaped or even dared to run. I don’t think there was a need for them to do that,” said 34-year-old Mendiola-Martinez.

She says she was shackled during the two last months of her pregnancy too. Every time she had a pre-natal appointment, she waited in a small un-ventilated room with 20 other women. She had to sit in the floor. The chains were heavy and hurt her waist. Mendiola-Martinez often wept. She feared that her sadness could hurt the baby.

Unequal Justice

Mendiola’s story would have been different if she hadn’t been undocumented. She would have been released on bond before her baby was born because she had committed a non-violent crime, according to David Black, a criminal defense attorney who took her case pro-bono.

But in November 2006, Arizona voters approved a law that denies undocumented immigrants the right to post bail. Proposition 100 was authored by Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, as a way to keep undocumented immigrants who had been charged with “serious crimes” from being released.

The Arizona legislature included among those accusations minor offenses like possession of false documents, which undocumented immigrants frequently use to obtain employment.

The law, which is unique in the nation, is being challenged in the U.S. District Court of Arizona by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the basis that it violates the Constitution by unjustly denying a select group of people a fair hearing. The lawsuit, however, doesn’t include the cases of pregnant women.

“I think Prop. 100 puts migrant women at a disadvantage and treats them unfairly,” said Bob McWhirter, a senior attorney with the Maricopa Legal Defender’s office.

About 1,500 pregnant women come through the Maricopa County Estrella jail every year. In 2009, 35 of them gave birth while in custody, according to Maricopa Medical Center records. More than 70 percent of the women detained in Maricopa County jails are accused of non-violent crimes and haven’t been sentenced yet. About 11 percent of them are undocumented immigrants. Health and county authorities say they don’t keep records on the immigration status or ethnicity of the women who give birth.

In October 2008, a federal judge ruled that conditions at the Maricopa County Jail, overseen by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, were unconstitutional and jeopardized the health and safety of the prisoners. The judge ordered jail officials to ensure that detainees received proper medical care, medicine and food that complied with federal standards. That same year, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care said the county’s jails did not comply with federal standards due to their failure to submit reports on jail conditions.

More Shackling Cases

Although Mendiola-Martinez’s story is not unique, it is difficult to track how many other women have shared her experience because most of them have been deported. Yet other detainees attest to the poor treatment of pregnant immigrants inside the county jails.

In October 2008, Alma Chacón, an undocumented immigrant arrested during a traffic stop for having outstanding unpaid tickets, delivered her baby in a “forensic restraint,” according to hospital records. Chacón said detention officers shackled her hands and legs during childbirth. She couldn’t nurse or hold her baby until she was released from immigration custody almost 70 days later.

Chacón’s case caught the attention of the federal Department of Justice, which is currently conducting a civil rights investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office.

The sheriff’s office says it doesn’t have a policy regarding the shackling of pregnant women. Spokesperson Aaron Douglas said they had no intention of changing the practice. But when questioned directly by New America Media about these cases, Arpaio said that everything was done “legally.” Yet, he added, he may consider reviewing the practice.

Still, critics point out that pregnant inmates who have been sentenced to state prison are treated better than inmates who are awaiting their sentencing in Maricopa County jails.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, which oversees state prison inmates, initiated a policy in 2003 that states: “A pregnant women will not be restrained in any manner while in labor, while giving birth, or during the postpartum recovery period.”

In 2008, the Federal Bureau of Prisons barred the shackling of pregnant inmates in federal prisons except when it was necessary for security concerns. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn’t have a specific policy prohibiting their use. But advocates at the Rebecca Project, which is part of a national anti-shackling coalition, said they are in conversation with ICE to put regulations in place.

The practice of shackling women during childbirth is frowned upon by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They say that shackling women during labor, delivery and post-partum is dangerous to a woman’s health and that of her unborn child.

Maricopa County is not unique in the practice of shackling pregnant women. Only six states in the nation have laws regulating the use of restraints on pregnant inmates: California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas and Vermont.

Advocates are hoping to include Arizona on the list.

Voces por la Vida, a pro-life group in Phoenix directed by Rosie Villegas-Smith, is leading the charge for anti-shackling legislation.

“Undocumented women are the most vulnerable here because they don’t have a right to be released on bond,” she said.

Villegas-Smith says Arizona lawmakers are endangering the health of women and children in the name of fighting illegal immigration.

“I think a distinction has to be made and some humanity brought into Maricopa County laws, to allow [undocumented] nursing mothers and pregnant women to have their children outside of detention,” said Delia Salvatierra, Mendiola’s immigration attorney.

When contacted by New America Media, Rep. Martha Garcia, D-Phoenix, said she would try to introduce a bill to ban the use of shackling.

“My main concern is that women are traumatized by being shackled and what this does to their babies, too,” said the legislator, who is involved in the public health outreach program Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.

“It makes me really angry that this is happening in the state of Arizona, because I believe the treatment of immigrants is worse here than anywhere else,” Garcia added.

The issue will be hard to push in the Arizona state legislature. Over the last five years, conservative Republicans have supported a series of anti-immigrant laws, aimed at creating a hostile environment in the state to push migrants out.

The most recently enacted law, House Bill 2008, requires state employees to report immigrants who apply for public benefits to ICE. The law, sponsored by Republican leadership as part of a special session budget package, is causing pregnant immigrant women to be afraid of requesting free pre-natal services and health care.

Humanitarian Release

On Dec. 24, the date of her sentencing, Mendiola-Martinez was brought into the courtroom in a wheel chair, her hands and legs shackled.

“It was never my intention to hurt the victim. Please forgive me and let me go back to my children,” she told the judge. She was sentenced to time served and two years of probation. ICE didn’t take her into custody after her release from jail for “humanitarian reasons,” according to Vincent Piccard, a spokesperson for that agency.

Mendiola-Martinez was able to hold her baby again on Christmas Day. She takes joy in being with him and smiles when she watches him sleep. Secretly, though, she searches his face for any sign that her depression in jail might have had a negative effect on him while he was in her womb. Her children are U.S. citizens, but her future in the country where she’s lived for the past 15 years is still uncertain.

“I wish they would change things,” she said of current immigration laws. “Because when they do this to us, they do it to our children.”

© 2010 New America Media All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/145428/

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009

update from friends at the NCCJR National Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform:

--------------

January 21, 2010


The bi-partisan National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 (S. 714) was passed out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary today by voice vote. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) would create a commission to conduct a thorough evaluation of the nation's justice system and offer recommendations for reform at every stage of the criminal justice system.

The establishment of such a commission could not come at a more critical time. With 2.3 million people in prisons and jails, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Federal and state governments spend more than $50 billion each year on corrections, and the population behind bars continues to grow.

A new approach to crime prevention is necessary and the time for reform is upon us. The commission created by this legislation would establish an organized and proactive approach to studying and advancing programs and policies that promote public safety, while overhauling those practices that are found to be fundamentally flawed.
Sentencing Project's letter of endorsement

Farewell Comrade Zinn: A Voice No Government Can Suppress.


Howard Zinn is the only history teacher I ever had who made sense, and it wasn't school where I found him. It was in the bookshelf of the man I fell in love with many years ago. Tim was something of a radical, and prided himself on his literacy about radical political thought. Much of my library was started by him, with folks like Zinn and Chomsky. 

Zinn was a soldier-turned-war resister, and an elder of our civil rights movement. Bearing eloquent witness to the struggles of radicals and revolutionaries for decades, he used his voice as a channel by which to amplify those voices engaged in resistance everywhere. In so doing, he fought tirelessly for human liberation - including the freedom of our political prisoners. As he unpacks the history of the great social movements of western civilization - and against western civilization - he resurrected extraordinary leaders and agitators, like suffragist Alice Paul, abolitionist Daniel Walker, and the journalist who kept the Red Record on lynchings in the Jim Crow South, Ida B. Wells. 

His trademark, though, is the tribute he pays to the ordinary citizen - the ordinary human being - as being the force for social change, and his insistence that we exercise our power collectively to reshape our political and socioeconomic landscapes. He has a knack for finding obscure stories about uprisings and rebellions - and heroic acts of everyday resistance to capitalist exploitation and American hegemony - and for retelling our history, as seen through the eyes of the oppressed, not the oppressors.


Zinn was such a visionary, and despite his astute analysis of the multitude of ways in which our world is troubled, he always seemed to manage to maintain hope that if we keep at it, then someday the good guys will win.  I think that's because he has always been on the front lines, not just publishing or lecturing about social movements, but remaining fully engaged in our collective social and spiritual evolution. We are blessed for the work he did, and the many tools he left behind for the rest of us to use.  Here, by the way, is one of them - a site made from his work for parents and school teachers: The Zinn Education Project.


Tune into Democracy Now to catch Zinn's comrades Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, and Anthony Arnove reflecting on his life and work. Here is typical Zinn, from the intro to the "Voices of a People's History of the United States..."

This is a voice I will miss... 


"I can UNDERSTAND pessimism, but I don’t BELIEVE in it. It’s not simply a matter of faith, but of historical EVIDENCE. Not overwhelming evidence, just enough to give HOPE, because for hope we don’t need certainty, only POSSIBILITY."

- Historian, Human Rights Activist Howard Zinn (1922-2010)



--------------------

By Howard Zinn 

When I decided, in the late 1970s, to write A People's History of the United States, I had been teaching history for twenty years. Half of that time I was involved in the civil rights movement in the South, when I was teaching at Spelman College, a black women's college in Atlanta, Georgia. And then there were ten years of activity against the war in Vietnam. Those experiences were not a recipe for neutrality in the teaching and writing of history.

But my partisanship was undoubtedly shaped even earlier by my upbringing in a family of working-class immigrants in New York, by my three years as a shipyard worker, starting at the age of eighteen, and then by my experience as an Air Force bombardier in World War II, flying out of England and bombing targets in various parts of Europe, including the Atlantic coast of France.

After the war I went to college under the GI Bill of Rights. That was a piece of wartime legislation that enabled millions of veterans to go to college without paying any tuition, and so allowed the sons of working-class families who ordinarily would never be able to afford it to get a college education. I received my doctorate in history at Columbia University, but my own experience made me aware that the history I learned in the university omitted crucial elements in the history of the country.

From the start of my teaching and writing, I had no illusions about "objectivity," if that meant avoiding a point of view. I knew that a historian (or a journalist, or anyone telling a story) was forced to choose, from an infinite number of facts, what to present, what to omit. And that decision inevitably would reflect, whether consciously or not, the interests of the historian.

There is an insistence, among certain educators and politicians in the United States, that students must learn facts. I am reminded of the character in Charles Dickens's book Hard Times, Gradgrind, who admonishes a younger teacher: "Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life."

But there is no such thing as a pure fact, innocent of interpretation. Behind every fact presented to the world -- by a teacher, a writer, anyone -- is a judgment. The judgment that has been made is that this fact is important, and that other facts are not important and so they are omitted from the presentation.

There were themes of profound importance to me that I found missing in the orthodox histories that dominated American culture. The consequence of these omissions has been not simply to give a distorted view of the past but, more importantly, to mislead us all about the present.

For instance, there is the issue of class. The dominant culture in the United States -- in education, among politicians, in the media -- pretends that we live in a classless society with one common interest. The Preamble to the United States Constitution, which declares that "we the people" wrote this document, is a great deception. The Constitution was written in 1787 by fifty-five rich white men -- slave owners, bondholders, merchants -- who established a strong central government that would serve their class interests.

That use of government for class purposes, to serve the needs of the wealthy and powerful, has continued throughout American history, down to the present day. It is disguised by language that suggests all of us, rich and poor and middle class, have a common interest.

Thus, the state of the nation is described in universal terms. When the president declares happily that "our economy is sound," he will not acknowledge that it is not sound for forty or fifty million people who are struggling to survive, although it may be moderately sound for many in the middle class, and extremely sound for the richest 1% of the nation who own 40% of the nation's wealth.

Class interest has always been obscured behind an all-encompassing veil called "the national interest."

My own war experience, and the history of all those military interventions in which the United States was engaged, made me skeptical when I heard people in high political office invoke "the national interest" or "national security" to justify their policies. It was with such justifications that Harry Truman initiated a "police action" in Korea that killed several million people, that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon carried out a war in Southeast Asia in which perhaps three million people died, that Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada, that the elder Bush attacked Panama and then Iraq, and that Bill Clinton bombed Iraq again and again.

The claim made in spring of 2003 by the new Bush that invading and bombing Iraq was in the national interest was particularly absurd, and could only be accepted by people in the United States because of a blanket of lies spread across the country by the government and the major organs of public information -- lies about "weapons of mass destruction," lies about Iraq's connections with Al Qaeda.

When I decided to write A People's History of the United States, I decided I wanted to tell the story of the nation's wars not through the eyes of the generals and the political leaders but from the viewpoints of the working-class youngsters who became GIs, or the parents or wives who received the black-bordered telegrams.

I wanted to tell the story of the nation's wars from the viewpoint of the enemy: the viewpoint of the Mexicans who were invaded in the Mexican War, the Cubans whose country was taken over by the United States in 1898, the Filipinos who suffered a devastating aggressive war at the beginning of the twentieth century, with perhaps 600,000 people dead as a result of the determination of the U.S. government to conquer the Philippines.

What struck me as I began to study history, and what I wanted to convey in my own writing of history, was how nationalist fervor -- inculcated from childhood by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, waving flags, and militaristic rhetoric -- permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own.
I wondered how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or cluster bombs on Afghanistan or Iraq, because wars, especially in our time, are always wars against children.

The Spoken Word as a Political Act

When I began to write "people's history," I was influenced by my own experience, living in a black community in the South with my family, teaching at a black women's college, and becoming involved in the movement against racial segregation. I became aware of how badly twisted was the teaching and writing of history by its submersion of nonwhite people. Yes, Native Americans were there in the history, but quickly gone. Black people were visible as slaves, then supposedly free, but invisible. It was a white man's history.

From elementary school to graduate school, I was given no suggestion that the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World initiated a genocide in which the indigenous population of Hispaniola was annihilated. Or that this was the first stage of what was presented as a benign expansion of the new nation, but which involved the violent expulsion of Native Americans, accompanied by unspeakable atrocities, from every square mile of the continent, until there was nothing to do but herd them into reservations.

Every American schoolchild learns about the Boston Massacre, which preceded the Revolutionary War against England. Five colonists were killed by British troops in 1770. But how many schoolchildren learned about the massacre of six hundred men, women, and children of the Pequot tribe in New England in 1637?

Or the massacre, in the midst of the Civil War, of hundreds of Native American families at Sand Creek, Colorado, by U.S. soldiers?

Nowhere in my history education did I learn about the massacres of black people that took place again and again, amid the silence of a national government pledged by the Constitution to protect equal rights for all. For instance, in 1917 there occurred in East St. Louis one of the many "race riots" that took place in what our white-oriented history books called the "Progressive Era." White workers, angered by an influx of black workers, killed perhaps two hundred people, provoking an angry article by the African-American writer W. E. B. Du Bois, "The Massacre of East St. Louis," and causing the performing artist Josephine Baker to say: "The very idea of America makes me shake and tremble and gives me nightmares."

I wanted, in writing people's history, to awaken a great consciousness of class conflict, racial injustice, sexual inequality, and national arrogance.

But I also wanted to bring into the light the hidden resistance of the people against the power of the establishment: the refusal of Native Americans to simply die and disappear; the rebellion of black people in the anti-slavery movement and in the more recent movement against racial segregation; the strikes carried out by working people to improve their lives.


When I began work, five years ago, on what would become a companion volume to my People's History, Voices of a People's History of the United States, I wanted the voices of struggle, mostly absent in our history books, to be given the place they deserve. I wanted labor history, which has been the battleground, decade after decade, century after century, of an ongoing fight for human dignity, to come to the fore. And I wanted my readers to experience how at key moments in our history some of the bravest and most effective political acts were the sounds of the human voice itself.

When John Brown proclaimed at his trial that his insurrection was "not wrong, but right," when Fannie Lou Hamer testified in 1964 about the dangers to blacks who tried to register to vote, when during the first Gulf War, in 1991, Alex Molnar defied the president on behalf of his son and of all of us, their words influenced and inspired so many people. They were not just words but actions.



To omit or to minimize these voices of resistance is to create the idea that power only rests with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth, who own the newspapers and the television stations. I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of color, or women -- once they organize and protest and create movements -- have a voice no government can suppress.

America's Missing Voices

Readers of my book A People's History of the United States almost always point to the wealth of quoted material in it -- the words of fugitive slaves, Native Americans, farmers and factory workers, dissenters and dissidents of all kinds. These readers are struck, I must reluctantly admit, more by the words of the people I quote than by my own running commentary on the history of the nation.

I can't say I blame them. Any historian would have difficulty matching the eloquence of the Native American leader Powhatan, pleading with the white settler in the year 1607: "Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love?"

Or the black scientist Benjamin Banneker, writing to Thomas Jefferson: "I apprehend you will readily embrace every opportunity, to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions which so generally prevails with respect to us, and that your Sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are that one universal Father hath given being to us all, and that he hath not only made us all of one flesh, but that he hath also without partiality afforded us all the Same Sensations and [endowed] us all with the same faculties."

Or Sarah Grimké, a white Southern woman and abolitionist, writing: "I ask no favors for my sex. . . . All I ask of our brethren, is that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy."

Or Henry David Thoreau, protesting the Mexican War, writing on civil disobedience: "A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart."

Or Jermain Wesley Loguen, escaped slave, speaking in Syracuse on the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850: "I received my freedom from Heaven and with it came the command to defend my title to it. . . . I don't respect this law -- I don't fear it -- I won't obey it! It outlaws me, and I outlaw it."

Or the populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease of Kansas: "Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street."

Or Emma Goldman, speaking to the jury at her trial for opposing World War I: "Verily poor as we are in democracy, how can we give of it to the world? . . . [A] democracy conceived in the military servitude of the masses, in their economic enslavement, and nurtured in their tears and blood, is not democracy at all."

Or Mississippi sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer, testifying in 1964 about the dangers to blacks who tried to register to vote: "[T]he plantation owner came, and said, 'Fannie Lou. . . . If you don't go down and withdraw your registration, you will have to leave . . . because we are not ready for that in Mississippi.' And I addressed him and told him and said, 'I didn't try to register for you. I tried to register for myself.'"

Or the young black people in McComb, Mississippi, who, learning of a classmate killed in Vietnam, distributed a leaflet: "No Mississippi Negroes should be fighting in Vietnam for the White Man's freedom, until all the Negro People are free in Mississippi."

Or the poet Adrienne Rich, writing in the 1970s: "I know of no woman -- virgin, mother, lesbian, married, celibate -- whether she earns her keep as a housewife, a cocktail waitress, or a scanner of brain waves -- for whom the body is not a fundamental problem: its clouded meanings, its fertility, its desire, its so-called frigidity, its bloody speech, its silences, its changes and mutilations, its rapes and ripenings."

Or Alex Molnar, whose twenty-one-year-old son was a Marine in the Persian Gulf, writing an angry letter to the first President Bush: "Where were you, Mr. President, when Iraq was killing its own people with poison gas? . . . I intend to support my son and his fellow soldiers by doing everything I can to oppose any offensive American military action in the Persian Gulf."

Or Orlando and Phyllis Rodriguez, opposing the idea of retaliation after their son was killed in the Twin Towers: "Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald/ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Pierre Hotel. We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son's death. Not in our son's name."



What is common to all these voices is that they have mostly been shut out of the orthodox histories, the major media, the standard textbooks, the controlled culture. The result of having our history dominated by presidents and generals and other "important" people is to create a passive citizenry, not knowing its own powers, always waiting for some savior on high -- God or the next president -- to bring peace and justice.
History, looked at under the surface, in the streets and on the farms, in GI barracks and trailer camps, in factories and offices, tells a different story. Whenever injustices have been remedied, wars halted, women and blacks and Native Americans given their due, it has been because "unimportant" people spoke up, organized, protested, and brought democracy alive.


Howard Zinn is the author with Anthony Arnove of the just published Voices of a People's History of the United States (Seven Stories Press) and of the international best-selling A People's History of the United States. This piece is adapted from the introduction to the new Voices volume.

Copyright C2004 Howard Zinn
By permission of Seven Stories Press
This piece first appeared at Tomdispatch.com.

Suspected prisoner homicide: Eyman's SMU

Wow. This kid was sixteen when he was sent up for murder. It actually looks like he was prosecuted for two murders, and got two 20-year consecutive sentences.



Sixteen. That's troubling. We need to get to these kids a lot sooner than that.



I'm concerned that with the closing of the state department of juvenile corrections, the counties will elect to try older children as adults more often, simply to get the state prison to pay for their incarceration from the adult funds, rather than have to come up with more programming and appropriate residential options for juveniles at the local level.



-----------------------
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
JANICE K. BREWER GOVERNOR
1601 W. JEFFERSON PHOENIX, ARIZONA 85007 (602) 542-3133
CHARLES L. RYAN DIRECTOR
NEWS RELEASE For Immediate Release
For more information contact:

 Barrett Marson                                                                                  Bill Lamoreaux
www.bmarson@azcorrections.gov                                                     www.blamorea@azcorrections.gov


January 26, 2010
Inmate Death Notification

Florence, Ariz. - Inmate Alexandru Usurelu, 22, ADC #181716 was found unresponsive in his housing unit at ASPC-Eyman’s Special Management Unit. Usurelu was pronounced dead by the emergency medical responders just after 8 p.m. Monday from an apparent homicide.

Usurelu was admitted to ADC on Dec. 4, 2003, after a conviction for 2nd degree murder from Maricopa County. He was sentenced to prison for 40 years.

Usurelu was housed in a two-man cell and his cellmate is a suspect. The investigation is ongoing and being conducted by the department's Criminal Investigations Unit.
----------------

Here's another 22-year old dead. Same day, different prison. Not clearly homicide - but not suspected suicide.
-------------

January 26, 2010
Inmate Death Notification


Tucson, Ariz. – Inmate Ulises Rodriguez, 22, ADC #240623 was found unresponsive in his two-man cell at ASPC-Tucson’s Cimarron Unit. Rodriguez was pronounced dead by the emergency medical responders just after 8 a.m. Monday.

Rodriguez was admitted to ADC on Dec. 22, 2009, after a conviction for discharging a firearm at a structure.

He was sentenced to prison for 10 and a half years.

The suspicious death is under investigation by the department’s Criminal Investigations Unit.
###

Damage Done: the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

This we must change this session of Congress, with Webb's Commission on Criminal Justice Reform.

---------------------------------

I. Summary

Because a prisoner ordinarily is divested of the privilege to vote, the right to file a court action might be said to be his remaining most fundamental political right, because preservative of all rights. —United States Supreme Court, McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 153 (1992).
This amendment will help put an end to the inmate litigation fun-and-games. —Senator Robert Dole, during Senate debate on an early version of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, September 29, 1995.
What was a sentence for a white collar crime that should have ended many years ago will never end. I got a life sentence. —Keith DeBlasio, December 8, 2008. DeBlasio was raped while incarcerated in a federal prison and contracted HIV as a result.
Carved in stone over the entrance to the United States Supreme Court are the words “equal justice under law.” And for more than 140 years, the US Constitution has guaranteed to all persons the “equal protection of the laws.”[1] But for those in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities in the United States, the promise of equal justice is illusory. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), passed by Congress in 1996, denies equal access to the courts to the more than 2.3 million incarcerated persons in the United States. 

The PLRA subjects lawsuits brought by prisoners in the federal courts to a host of burdens and restrictions that apply to no other persons. As a result of these restrictions, prisoners seeking the protection of the courts against unhealthy or dangerous conditions of confinement, or those seeking a remedy for injuries inflicted by prison staff and others, have had their cases thrown out of court. These restrictions apply not only to persons who have been convicted of crime, but also to pretrial detainees who have not yet been tried and are presumed innocent. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any other country in which national legislation singles out prisoners for a unique set of barriers to vindicating their legal rights in court.[2]

The PLRA’s restrictions include:

The exhaustion of remedies requirement. Before a prisoner may file a lawsuit in court, he must first take his complaints through all levels of the prison’s or jail’s grievance system, complying with all deadlines and other procedural rules of that system.[3] If the prisoner fails to comply with all technical requirements, or misses a filing deadline that may be as short as a few days, his right to sue may be lost forever.

The physical injury requirement. A prisoner may not recover compensation for “mental or emotional injury” unless she makes a “prior showing of physical injury.”[4] Under this provision, prisoners who have been subjected to sexual assault and other intentional abuse by prison staff have been denied a remedy. Indeed, because of this provision, many of the abuses that took place in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison would not have been compensable if they had occurred in a US prison or jail.

Application to children. The provisions of the PLRA apply not only to adult prisoners, but also to children confined in prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities.[5] The exhaustion requirement has proven to be an especially formidable barrier to justice for incarcerated children, particularly in light of court rulings that efforts to exhaust on their behalf by parents or other adults do not satisfy the PLRA.

Restrictions on court oversight of prison conditions. The PLRA restricts the power of federal courts to make and enforce orders limiting overcrowding or otherwise remedying unlawful conditions in prisons and jails.[6]
Limitations on attorney fees. If a prisoner files a lawsuit and wins, establishing that her rights have been violated, the PLRA limits the amount her attorneys can be paid.[7]

The PLRA’s sponsors argued that the law was necessary to deal with “frivolous” lawsuits brought by prisoners. Some prisoners, like some non-prisoners, do file frivolous suits, and the PLRA includes the reasonable requirement that prisoner cases be subject to a preliminary screening process and be immediately dismissed if they are frivolous or malicious, or if they fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted.[8] But the cases described in this report show that other provisions of the PLRA have resulted in dismissal of claims involving serious physical injury, sexual assault, and intentional abuse by prison staff—claims that no reasonable person would characterize as frivolous.

Unlike many other democracies, the United States has no independent national agency that monitors conditions in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities and enforces minimal standards of health, safety, and humane treatment. Perhaps for this reason, oversight and reform of conditions in these institutions has fallen primarily to the federal courts. Beginning in the 1970s, lawsuits brought by prisoners led to improved medical care, sanitation, and protection from assault. While significant problems remained, by the time the PLRA was passed in 1996, US prison conditions had been transformed in just a few short decades.

The effect of the PLRA on prisoners’ access to the courts was swift. Between 1995 and 1997, federal civil rights filings by prisoners fell 33 percent, despite the fact that the number of incarcerated persons had grown by 10 percent in the same period. By 2001 prisoner filings were down 43 percent from their 1995 level, despite a 23 percent increase in the incarcerated population. By 2006 the number of prisoner lawsuits filed per thousand prisoners had fallen 60 percent since 1995.

If the effect of the PLRA were to selectively discourage the filing of frivolous or meritless lawsuits, as its sponsors predicted, then we would expect to find prisoners winning a larger percentage of their lawsuits after the law’s enactment than they did before. But the most comprehensive study to date shows just the opposite: since passage of the PLRA, prisoners not only are filing fewer lawsuits, but also are succeeding in a smaller proportion of the cases they do file. This strongly suggests that rather than filtering out meritless lawsuits, the PLRA has simply tilted the playing field against prisoners across the board. The author of a comprehensive study on the impact of the act concludes that “the PLRA’s new decision standards have imposed new and very high hurdles so that even constitutionally meritorious cases are often thrown out of court.”

Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin State Prison and former director of the California Department of Corrections, told Human Rights Watch that she believes the PLRA has endangered the progress that has been made in prison administration:

I do think the PLRA does need to be reformed. I think that there’s prison experts around the country who would agree with that.... I’m told that many people in [the American Correctional Association] believe that as well. That they’re starting to see abuses.... A lot of the corrections professionals were telling me that they had concerns that a lot of the steps forward they’d made in Texas were reverting because of the PLRA. And I can see that happening in California too.[9]
Drawing on interviews with former corrections officials, prisoners denied remedies for abuse, and criminal justice experts, this report examines three provisions of the PLRA—the exhaustion requirement, the physical injury requirement, and the law’s application to children—and their effect on prisoners’ access to justice.
Thirteen years after the passage of the PLRA, it has become apparent that Congress went too far. Congress must act now to amend the PLRA, to restore the rule of law to US prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities, and ensure that “equal protection of the laws” is not an empty promise.[10]

National CJ Commission Act of 2009

from the folks at the Sentencing Project:
--------------

Senate Committee Passes National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009
 
January 21, 2010

 The bi-partisan National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 (S. 714) was passed out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary today by voice vote. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) would create a commission to conduct a thorough evaluation of the nation's justice system and offer recommendations for reform at every stage of the criminal justice system.

The establishment of such a commission could not come at a more critical time. With 2.3 million people in prisons and jails, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Federal and state governments spend more than $50 billion each year on corrections, and the population behind bars continues to grow.

A new approach to crime prevention is necessary and the time for reform is upon us. The commission created by this legislation would establish an organized and proactive approach to studying and advancing programs and policies that promote public safety, while overhauling those practices that are found to be fundamentally flawed.

read the sentencing project's letter of endorsement
read about the NCJCA

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jamie Scott, Prisoner Abuse, Self-defense.

Things are not looking any better for Jamie, folks. I've been working all morning on this and still have more links to embed for you, but here's a start. Please read and think and act today.


Mississippi's prison health care services are privatized. Here's a little info about the company that contracts with Mississippi to provide their prisoner health care, Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (that’s the link to their rap sheet with the guys at Private Corrections Working Group; there are more news links at the bottom about New Mexico's investigation. Just Google Wexford if you want their propaganda). 

That's who's doing the day to day care. The Mississippi Department of Corrections is no doubt in on it, of course - they monitor the contract, and I'm sure they set the limits for what they'll pay them for - which bring this back to the Governor's office and the legislature, really. Dealing with the people at the level of the prison administration – even the medical administrator - seems to be a waste of time.  

Now, I'm no lawyer – I’ve been going to school for nearly 2 decades and still haven’t been able to finish my BS in Justice Studies, so keep that in mind. But I've been reading up on some of this stuff that's been coming to my attention lately, and I think I should at least pass what I do know – or think I know – along. We’re not going to get better care for anyone unless the state knows we're well-armed and that Jamie's complaints can't get tossed out right off the bat for her failing to "exhaust administrative remedies" (thank Bob Dole and Bill Clinton for championing the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which is routinely used to deny relief or protection to victims of institutional abuse in correctional settings on technicalities. Signed in 1996, it gutted federal protection of prisoner rights and legal recourse. We need to tear that thing up and start over.)

The Mississippi Department of Corrections, of course, knows full well that Jamie needs to be grieving every single thing in writing, if she isn't already - or there will never be recourse if they continue to harm her. They probably won't be advising her to take that route; here’s their administrative remedy policy. She then needs to get copies of that documentation out of the prison on a regular basis, because prisons are notorious for searching litigants' cells and destroying whatever possible evidence they may have against them (I'm sure Mississippi is already covering themselves on this one). As far as I know, no prison employees have ever been prosecuted for destroying evidence (which usually includes prisoner as well as state property) that might be used against their institution - though you know what would happen to any of us if we tried to destroy evidence the state had against us in a civil or criminal case...

I wonder how much of this has to do with the “duly convicted” being constitutionally designated as slaves of the state? The 13th Amendment really did leave us with some problems.

Don't ask how someone as sick as she is should be expected to know all the hoops she has to get through to get help, and then leap through each one. I don’t think the law takes that into account. Or the fact that some states – like Arizona – go to extremes to make it hard for prisoners to access the resources necessary to represent themselves or even just assert their civil rights. You have to know the law and grievance procedures from the start, because the steps involved have time frames for filing and responding to grievances (I guess that’s to protect the right of the state and their employees to a timely settlement of such issues – though we never seem to get timely settlements). Judges seem to love to tell prisoners that ignorance is no excuse.

As far as I can tell there's no assurance that you'll be protected from retaliation if you do pursue grievances - there will likely be retaliation of some kind. But this is how prisoners - women prisoners, in particular - have managed to change the conditions of their incarceration - they grieve everything and take it to court.

It should not just be Jamie grieving her care - all the other women who have suffered harm as a result of the same shoddy standards need to grieve too. En masse – but make sure it’s the best of the best cases you put forward if you’re showing a pattern of civil rights violations (that’s necessary to prove a Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act violation. Personally, I think the potential claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act need to be explored more. By an attorney, not me.)

If/when it gets to court, the first thing that the judges will look at is whether or not the prisoner (not the prison) followed proper procedures to seek relief before getting there. It just isn't fair to the poor prison administrators if prisoners they've harmed don't have to overcome extraordinary hurdles to even get their case heard in the courts. For some women that’s meant filing a grievance about sexual harassment by guards while the officers their complaint is about continue to have access and exert influence over their lives through the course of the “investigation.” It’s very easy to hurt a prisoner and get away with it. Women are set up to be assaulted by other inmates just as readily as men are.

In many cases the prisoner is also threatened with being prosecuted for filing frivolous complaints or false charges if their perpetrator ends up being cleared of everything. I don’t know how often most DAs take that approach with women who aren’t imprisoned who report that they’ve been victimized, or if that tactic is just reserved for prisoners who accuse the people with the authority of state violence and the keys to their chains of being the criminals.

In any case, there’s a tremendous disincentive for prisoners to report rape, assault, or other abuse or neglect. They will not necessarily be protected from their assailants once they make their accusation, and there are so few people in the system whose primary interest or responsibility is prisoner welfare – everyone works for the state, to serve the interests of the state. It is in the best interests of the state to cover up the more atrocious examples of corruption and abuse, as well as to minimize public shock over the dehumanizing nature of standard operating procedures for prisons. But it is in the best interests of the people (that’s us) to know what’s going on in those places – throughout the criminal justice system, really – and to be empowered to change it.

There are some good links in this article about Wexford's adventures in New Mexico prisons, where they eventually lost the contract to do business and got sued. Similar stories seem to follow them around the country. Scott family and friends might want to see what more you can find out about this company's history in Mississippi. Are there any lawsuits by prisoners pending there? You’ll need to dig deeper than Google – dig into the state’s court websites. How long have they been around? Check out what folks in the Mississippi Prison Talk community have to say about the health services. Are there patterns of neglect surfacing there? What about grievances that have been filed at the prison or throughout the system?

I’ll put more thoughts on strategy for the Scott Sisters’ family and friends into a separate private message. In general, though, the more supporting documentation you have that is accessible and organized now, the more likely it will be we can get an investigative journalist in and help you get legal assistance as this unfolds. First the fight to save her life, and the lives of other Mississippi prisoners – this is injustice regardless of what Jamie’s convictions or sentence may be, though it’s clearly all about how little a lifer is worth to the rest of us. The justification for this kind of rationing is the same slippery slope that made it okay to conduct medical experiments on African Americans, on prisoners, insane asylum patients, soldiers, and the mentally impaired for so long: their lives just aren’t worth the lives of the members of the “public” (still considered to be white upper-middle-class America -many of whom, of course, are repeat offenders of some crime that have just never been caught).

Well, as a member of the American public (albeit the poorer class), I have to say that I don’t care much for Nazi science and “medicine” being practiced in America in my name, against my people, over my strenuous objections. Nor do I think will many other people, if this is brought up in the context of a conversation about the history of southern prisons, prisoners and the crimes of the medical profession in America.

Especially when it comes to black women. Scholars who have studied women’s resistance to slavery should also be shining some light on women resisting their criminalization and the conditions of incarceration or the terms of their punishment – women resisting violence.

That’s what Oprah should really be most interested in herself, if anyone can get her ear: her PR people are probably just thinking in terms of human interest stories and ratings, but Oprah herself would pick up on the broader ramifications of the Scott family’s fight - the ways in which racism today is so cloaked and insidious, and the depth of the injustice still done to so many as a result. The racism is systemic and multi-facetedgender, class, sexual identity/orientation, etc.) – we need to elevate it to the proper level right away, because most of the prison administrators (and probably most guards in the department) are people of color themselves who have been well-indoctrinated to support the state line and positioned to act as examples of how non-racist the state is. (intersecting with

Jamie's life has been determined by the state to not be worth certain medical and environmental interventions that would be standard if we were basing prisoner health care on community standards (for the poor, of course). But we don't use community standards for them anymore - we base prisoner health care on what is “constitutionally mandated” - which is about as bare bones as you can get. Prison doctors basically have to commit at the very least negligent homicide or intentionally mutilate you in the course of what constitutes more than just gross malpractice to prove that you didn't get a constitutionally-mandated level of medical care. And the damage done to you as a result of the neglect or abuse has to be permanent (or lasting, as of the time of the case).

That's what's so wrong with prison health care across the country - the laws have been changed at some point to lower standards because too many prisoners were winning lawsuits, prisons were having to clean up their acts and cut back on the rape and violence, and the states were facing hefty federal fines. Prisoners weren’t being “frivolous” with lawsuits any more so than non-prisoners – they were defending themselves against state violence and dehumanization, and finally getting justice done.

And most of us out here since the 80’s with a voice and a vote who should have known better let most of it get undone again because we weren’t paying attention.

We need to pay attention, now. And we'll have to get these laws changed again – which means hitting candidates now with questions specifically about the Prison Litigation Reform Act (good ACLU fact sheet for prisoners), the Prison Abuse Remedies Act, and – in Arizona – what we need to put into Marcia’s Law to protect our people from abuse and rip out the prison systems revolving door and meat-grinding machinery. That means a lot of folks here need to study-up. We need to be more literate than the Department of Corrections on our stuff – and have the empirical evidence in hand.

Can you imagine if it was that hard to prove negligence or malpractice in the community? If people could just so casually be left to die – all the while begging for help – because our medical providers have to determine whether or not our lives should be saved based on some formula applied to our crimes of our youth or addictions and the nature of our punishments, there would be a health care consumer revolt. Help me pin this down folks - do some research out there. This is what's happening in every state I'm coming across: dealing with just about any health care issue for prisoners the standard of care to research is "constitutionally-mandated".

I'll have more on this issue, because the same minimum standards of care for prisoners and mandate that one exhausts all administrative measures before seeking relief in the courts is a huge problem for prisoners in Arizona, of course. In the meantime, here's who we could end up with providing our prisoner health car too (the people who do Mississippi and once did New Mexico....), if they bid on our ADC medical care contract, too (everyone knows that our prison health care services are supposed to be privatized this year, too, right?).

By the way, in doing all this research I came across an interesting article on the last Medical Director for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. At some point along the way this woman would have made decisions to ration prisoner health care – maybe even signed off on cutting Jamie’s life short by excluding certain treatments from the prisoner “benefits” plan. I wonder if the fact she embezzled nearly $100,000 from the department has anything to do with the fact that they can’t “afford” to give Jamie – a woman accused of stealing $11 over 15 years ago - her medically-recommended diet even as her kidneys are failing. That woman is likely to get house arrest for her crimes. She’s arguing that prison would be cruel and unusual for her because she was in a position of authority over inmates.

It’s not a good thing for an abolitionist to say – I’m far from perfect, folks – but it sounds to me like a prison term for the former medical director of that place might actually, for once, bring a measure of justice to the institutions’ victims. I have to admit, I do want some of these people to pay more than restitution – I want a chunk ripped out of their lives, too. I want them to know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their abuse…which is precisely the kind of mentality that landed us where we are today, with mass incarceration, and increasing numbers of young people being thrown away for life. I guess if the violent retaliation Americans call criminal justice isn’t changed by us, who will it be changed by? Do we really want to leave this multi-headed hydra as our generation’s legacy?

I don’t think so. At some point here, in the course of protecting our people and dismembering this beast, we need to figure out what we’ll do with the perpetrators of state violence if we ever get our hands on them. We need to make them examples of restorative justice, not more retribution. When we seek justice, we need to avoid dehumanizing and brutalizing others as they do, and instead use every opportunity to help people and communities heal and be kinder in the future. As for the ones with no conscience – the sociopaths and CEOs who would rape the world for their own greed or grisly pleasure – I’m still not sure what to do with them, but they don’t get an embrace and another chance to offend from me. We need to protect people from them – beginning with protecting our prisoners.

Here’s the latest bad news on Jamie and the State of Mississippi. Please do stop and drop Gladys a note, too, and let her know what you’re doing to help. It will mean a lot.

-------------------------------

Nancy Lockhart sent a message to the members of Free The Scott Sisters.

Subject: Urgent Update - Jamie Scott ~ By Sis Marpessa ~ ACTION IS NEEDED!

Jamie Scott is presently locked down in a cell in the infirmary on a hospital bed on the men's side of the prison.  She has had some of the toxins removed from her body through a temporary catheter, but she is still seriously ill and should be hospitalized! The prison has known that Jamie was sick for some time, yet her condition was allowed to manifest and deteriorate to this level and we do not trust them to provide her with sufficient medical care at all, their track record with Jamie is horrendous!

Jamie Scott was a healthy young woman in 1993 when she was snatched away from her family for no good reason and locked down in tortuous conditions for 15 yrs, now her condition is life-
threatening, must this horrific injustice now become a death sentence?!

Gladys Scott is extremely upset by all of this, as you can well imagine.  As reported earlier, she has offered one of her own kidneys for Jamie and was told that as a state prisoner she doesn't qualify.  With each passing day she is becoming more and more alarmed and could really use some cards/ letters from supporters:

Gladys Scott #19142
CMCF/B-Bldg.
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550


Please continue to contact the governor's office, we cannot rest or believe that our efforts are in vain.  Call into talk radio, enter info on as many blogs, Ning groups, etc., as possible, we need to really make a very loud NOISE in order to be heard! We need all of your ideas and talents, thank you all!

JAMIE SCOTT, #19197, IS SUFFERING CRUEL AND INHUMAN PUNISHMENT!

BE DIRECT BUT PLEASE BE COURTEOUS

(same numbers/contacts as in previous posts)



 --------------

The Wexford Files

from the Santa Fe Reporter

By: 01/16/2008
Our ongoing investigation into prison health care in New Mexico.


Outtakes, March 21: "Let There Be Light"
Outtakes, Feb. 7: "Audit ABCs"
Outtakes, Jan. 10: "Under Correction"
Top 10 Stories of 2006, Dec. 20: "Prison Break"
Outtakes, Dec. 13: "Wexford Under Fire"
Outtakes, Nov. 29: "Backlash"
Outtakes, Nov. 22: "Unhealthy Diagnosis"
Outtakes, Nov. 8: "Prison Audit Ahead"
Outtakes, Oct. 25: "Medical Test"
Outtakes, Oct. 18: "Corrections Concerns"
Outtakes, Oct. 4: "Medical Waste"
Outtakes, Sept. 13: "Checkup"
Outtakes, Aug. 30: "Inmate Care Critics"
Outtakes, Aug. 23: "Unhealthy Proposal"
Cover story, Aug. 9: "Hard Cell?"

Monday, January 25, 2010

Manning BOP update: Confidential.

Here's the response I received just now from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Don't even know if it was a real person who wrote it - no one signed it, but this is the only admin email address they give us. My guess is that we kick this up another level, but I'll post the next move from Jericho when I get it.

----------------

CUM/Exec Assistant~ CUM/Exec Assistant~ Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 11:22 AM
To: Margaret Plews
Cc: MXRO/Exec.Assistant~.MXRADM1.MXRDOM1@bop.gov
Ms. Plews:
 
Good afternoon.  Please be advised inmate Manning, Thomas # 10373-016, medical concerns are being closely monitored and evaluated.  Mr. Manning has been made aware of his current condition, and has been informed of the treatment plan to be implemented by our Health Services Staff at FCI Cumberland.  Due to privacy rules, we are precluded from sharing any specific information regarding Mr. Manning's medical condition or any treatment plans in place.  If you require any additional information you may file a Freedom of Information Act request at the below address.  Thanks.
 
 
Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Section
Office of General Counsel, Room 841
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20534

Mississippi & Illinois Prison Watches Born.

Necessity has given birth to a new Illinois Prison Watch and Mississippi Prison Watch, thanks to our comrades at the Prison Reform Community Center. Anyone interested in administering and authoring for either site - or a prison watch in any other state - please join PRCC through their links and contact Rebecca or Annabelle about how you can help. here is all sorts of room for creative license. In the meantime, we'll just keep building them and adding new articles as they arise.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mississippi: Medical Neglect is a Violent Crime.


For anyone who's just dropped in: Whoever you are, wherever you're from, please stop for a moment. We're asking you for maybe five minutes of your time a few days a week for the next little while to help change a family's life. We aren't even asking for money - maybe a few stamps or long distance phone calls. Just be a fellow human being who cares about what happens to them, and about justice. There's evidence that these women were wrongly convicted, but regardless, I don't see how anyone can read anything other than racism into a double-life sentence for an $11 robbery in which no one was hurt. That's the penalty for claiming your innocence in America. The guys who really pulled it off got the deal. 

As for the State of Mississippi: you should consider yourselves on notice that medical neglect has already been found to constitute cruel and unusual punishment in the case of prisoners in America. The suffering and neglect that Jamie Scott is experiencing now should really be litigated not only as a civil rights matter, but as a criminal assault on her as well. I frankly think her family has standing to sue the state for their prolonged agony, too. How do you compensate a child for taking their mother away from them for so many years? Or a mother for taking her daughters? How will you compensate them if you let her die, and then she's exonerated? 

Who, exactly, is Mississippi contending that it needs to protect from these women, anyway? You're essentially threatening to execute a young woman who has a fairly convincing innocence claim out in the American public now. Her life is in your hands, and you say she's not even worth enough to feed a medically-recommended diet to. That sounds to me like a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. You don't want those people mad at you, too. They don't like being discounted and left to die invisibly in any kind of institutions.


We say Jamie's life is worth the special diet and more: her humanity is not what’s in question here: yours is. Medical neglect of this magnitude should constitute violent crime of the torture variety, and we doubt that Jamie is the only victim in your prisons. You are positioned kind of like an EMT standing over a woman whose life could be saved by the medicine you have in your hand, but you won't administer it because it's not on the formulary for the poor. One twisted rationale holds that it's cheaper to let them die in medical crisis than to treat them properly for chronic, expensive conditions.  Besides, what value is a life that's going to be spent in prison, anyway?


The relationships people have with each other in prison should never be underestimated; they will likely either help facilitate healing or cause more damage. There's been much documentation about the harm done people in prison when they have little human contact. There's also a whole lot on how prisoners have helped eachother. We are in no position to denigrate the relevance of one woman's existence, even if she is buried for life - double life - under a mountain of State secrets and hidden behind concrete walls. 

Prisoners often have only each other to turn to to help them survive what is an extraordinarily traumatic ordeal. Even if one isn't among the many who end up being physically or sexually assaulted in the care of the state, there is the constant dehumanization, humiliation, stress, and threat of state and interpersonal violence in prison. It is like surviving a war zone; people there are the casualties and collateral damage of our economy, and we put many who have already been victimized in with serious predators. We put them into prison instead of hospitals or safe housing, where many might otherwise be.  

Anyway, the contributions of lifers to others passing though their world can be of great value - I can think of a few people serving long sentences who have probably helped more than a handful of other prisoners leave prison more intact than they would be otherwise - which is a service to all of society.  Charisse Schumate is an example of just one woman who died in  prison saving the lives of fellow prisoners.


Of course, it would be much cheaper all the way around to send the Scott sisters home and let Jamie get community-based health care. Anyone who argues that they pose some kind of threat to society that justifies tens of thousands more dollars a year being spent on imprisoning them needs to take another look at who really endangers the American public: the real criminals all got bailouts last year, while the rest of us got laid off, driven into bankruptcy, and foreclosed on. 


We all know that Jamie would not be seeking what should be lifesaving treatment in a prison trailer clinic if her family was wealthy. Socioeconomic class is not supposed to be the measure of the value of a person's life, however - not by most religious or ethical standards; certainly not by Christian standards. Yet the State of Mississippi is able to imprison, bury and execute her (in that order) only because she is poor, and despite the lack of due process observed – due only upon receipt of payment, apparently - you consider her case to be closed and the sisters to be long since disposed of. 

This kind of punishment and execution was not part of Jamie's sentence, though. Those of you who are prison bureaucrats and medical professionals involved in the process of denying prisoners health care: be prepared to defend your actions against the people you've hurt, or stand with us and help us change the way your system routinely chews up poor people of every color (and no color at all) and calls it justice. 


Arizona does that too, of course. They all do. That's why we're rising everywhere in resistance when we see this kind of thing happening anywhere. We may not have a lot of say in states where we aren’t residents, but we’re citizens of the US, and each of us has a core group of activists and two US senators (as well as a handful of congress members) we can lobby, and Mississippi may well become an example of what’s wrong with “corrections” in America today, not what’s being done right. 

If that’s not a fair characterization, we encourage you to correct us with a reply. Perhaps we'll end up lobbying for federal funds to help your state implement reforms you've been dying to make - as long as they're the kind of reforms which lead us away from this madness instead of reinforcing the very foundations of the prison industrial complex. We will not be collaborators with you, but we will invite you to collaborate with us.


But first you must do something about the Scott Sisters. Have you ever even faced their family? Have the Scott sisters left anyone's family grieving for them like Mississippi has?


You can expect a furious new Prison Watch to emerge from the heart of Mississippi out of this, where even more volunteers will amplify the Scott family's voice, and those of other men and women who have been forgotten, neglected and abused in your prisons. They will work to protect and liberate prisoners of the state, and organize around not only the conditions they are subject to, but also around these larger issues of racism, classism, and misogyny as they are expressed in your own piece of our massive prison industrial complex. Lawmakers and law enforcement in Mississippi cannot claim ignorance or suggest that this kind of abuse of women prisoners when it comes to their health care is an aberration - or exaggeration - any further.  

The truth will pour out of there in story after story like this as prisoners and their families, and ex-prisoners and honest public servants begin to amplify their voices. All the political tools of mass manipulation about prisons, criminals, and justice will be dragged out for critical analysis by the people who know how the system really works, what really goes on inside, how it got to be this way, and what needs to be done to change things. That's what happens in state after state, once the websites go up. I suspect more people realize they don't have to be ashamed for being or loving a prisoner and standing up for their rights, and they finally begin to talk about things they've had to hide. it's very healing, I think. You can be the enemy they're being hurt by, or you can join our side.


Unless it becomes part of the solution - whereas now it is apparently an obstruction - this administration at the Mississippi Department of Corrections may end up being retired before the current governor. As far as we're concerned (that would be the collective "we" of the "America the beautiful" that Mississippi is a part of), the citizens you have the most immediate and pressing duty to protect are the ones who are vulnerable precisely because they are in your custody. If you can’t protect them from your own staff, prisoners, and machinery, you sure can’t be trusted with the rest of the public’s safety.

Jamie needs to get the best care possible so she can live long enough for both her and Gladys to be exonerated or pardoned. Bad enough that the state is responsible for wrongful imprisonment; it may be best not make it wrongful death, too.

We will continue to report and respond to updates from the Scott family. This post goes to Mississippi’s elected officials and the DOJ, as well as media, to make sure they are all on notice. And, of course, it’s going out to all of our sister prison watches as well.

Let’s fire up Mississippi.


Margaret J. Plews
Arizona Prison Watch
-------------------------------

Nancy Lockhart sent a message to the members of Free The Scott Sisters.

--------------------
Subject: SICKENING ROLLER-COASTER RIDE FOR JAMIE SCOTT!! ~ From Sis. Marpessa

SICKENING ROLLER-COASTER RIDE FOR JAMIE SCOTT!!


Mrs. Rasco was informed at 6:00 a.m. that Jamie Scott was returned to the prison infirmary after having been told that her body was full of toxins and that the medication she had been receiving at the prison contributed to the condition she is in today! In typical sadistic fashion, the prison told Jamie that they are not paying for her to have a special diet and that they will be moving her back to the horrible, leaky and moldy building where she was living.  As if all of that wasn't bad enough, she was further informed that she will be taken to a trailer to receive dialysis instead of the hospital!

While Atty Jaribu Hill is working on legal support for Jamie, we MUST continue to advocate for her.  Mrs. Rasco wants us to flood the governor's office as he has released inmates in the past who have been convicted of far worse crimes than which Jamie and Gladys are accused.  Mississippi is also making
deep budget cuts which have included discussions around the release of inmates, and there is no reason on this earth why Jamie Scott should continue to be locked down in her serious medical condition, it is cruel, inhumane, and DEADLY, she has many aggravating conditions, is severely depressed, and there must be COMPASSION!

If you work in the medical field please make that known when calling/writing so that it can be made plain that there are medical professionals aware of this prison's culpability in this previously healthy young woman's deterioration into such a serious condition, which they continue to downplay to this very moment!

We also continue to feel strongly that if we could put the light of mainstream media on this case that it would make a huge difference. PLEASE include calls and e-mails to the media.  If you're from overseas, please make sure that they know that fact.

Thanks again to you all, we have an enormous fight on our hands and we need all of the help we can get!  We know that they expect us to give up, but we must push even harder!
----------------------

JAMIE SCOTT, #19197, IS SUFFERING CRUEL AND INHUMAN PUNISHMENT!

BE DIRECT BUT PLEASE BE COURTEOUS

Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Fax: 601-359-3741
(If you reach VM leave msgs, faxes, and please send letters)

(FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ANY AND ALL MAJOR MEDIA YOU HAVE INFORMATION FOR, DON'T BE LIMITED BY THESE LISTINGS AT ALL!)

MISSISSIPPI MEDIA:

WLBT
(601) 960-4426 newsroom
(601) 355-7830 newsroom fax
http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;www.wlbt.com/Global/story.asp?S=241208&nav=menu119_8_8
"Stribling, Wilson" <wstribling@wlbt.com>, ( Asst News Director )

WAPT TV
calling 601-922-1607. To report news tips, call 601-922-1652.
to submit news to the MGR, news anchor or anyone use this link
http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;www.wapt.com/contact/index.html

WJTV
Phone: (601) 372-6311
Fax: (601) 372-8798
http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;www2.wjtv.com/jtv/online/site_information/contacts/

FOX40
601-922-1234
http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;www.my601.com/content/contactus/default.aspx

GENERAL MEDIA:

NBC TODAY SHOW: Today@Nhttp://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;BCUNI.com


NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Nightly@Nhttp://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;BC.com


Listing of NBC/MSNBC Show e-mails at http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10285339/

NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112
Phone: (212) 664-4444
Fax: (212) 664-4426

CBS FEEDBACK FORM: http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.php
CBS NEWS
524 W. 57 St., New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-975-4321
Fax: 212-975-1893

ABC NEWS CONTACT FORM: http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3271346&cat=Good%20Morning%20America
ABC NEWS
77 W. 66 St., New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-456-7777

CNN NEWS TIP FORM: http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;www.cnn.com/feedback/tips/newstips.html
CNN
One CNN Center, Box 105366, Atlanta, GA 30303-5366
Phone: 404-827-1500
Fax: 404-827-1784

Joe Madison: Joe.Madison@xmradio.com

Geraldo Rivera:  atlarge@foxnews.com

USA Today
7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108
Phone: 703-854-3400
Fax: 703-854-2078

Associated Press
450 West 33rd St., New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-621-1500
Fax: 212-621-7523
General Questions and Comments: info@ap.org

Dr. Gloria Perry, Medical Department (601) 359-5155
gperry@mdoc.http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;state.ms.us

Margaret Bingham, Superintendent of Central Mississippi Corrections Facility
(601) 932-2880
mbingham@mdoc.http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;state.ms.us
FAX: (601) 664-0782
P.O. Box 88550

Pearl, Mississippi 39208

Christopher Epps, Commissioner of Prisons for the State of Mississippi
601-359-5600
CEPPS@mdoc.http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;state.ms.us
723 North President Street
Jackson, MS 39202


Emmitt Sparkman, Deputy Commissioner
(601) 359-5610
esparkman@mdoc.http://www.facebook.com/l/c6f0f;state.ms.us

Congressman Bennie Thompson
Washington, D.C. Office
2432 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-5876
(202) 225-5898 (Fax)


Jackson, Mississippi Office
3607 Medgar Evers Blvd
Jackson, MS 39213
(601) 946-9003
(601)-982-5337 (Fax)

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings
Washington Office
2353 Rayburn Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515
Tel: (202) 225-1313
Fax: (202) 225-1171

Congressman Jeff Miller
Washington D.C.
2439 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4136
Fax: (202) 225-3414
Toll Free Phone Number to District Office
Pensacola, Florida
Phone: 866-367-1614

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