The Elections are Coming! Our Future is in Our Hands

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1 Spring 2014 Issue #22 The Official Newsletter of the Human Rights Coalition for the union of Prisoners Families Human Rights Coalition Dedicated to Protecting the HUMAN RIGHTS of All! The Elections are Coming! Our Future is in Our Hands See Human Rights Report, beginning on page 26 How Do Legislators view their constituents?pg.30 Seth Williams Against 6th Amendment? See Page 38

2 In This Issue Political Artwork Enough By California prison artist: Mr. Richard G. Hall, Jr. C For more comics see: hall/ From The Desk of The Editor. 3 All Power To The People Parole for LIFERS Update 5 Russell Maroon Shoatz Released from... 6 Testimony of Piper Kerman 7 HRC Attended Hearing Before Senate 11 Mercy in the Justice System 12 Fight For Lifers Political Education Conference 19 Is Innocence Irrelevant? Christopher Zaki Berry 21 Lorenzo Johnson 22 Who Is Robert Holbrook and Why Shoulld Care? 24 What s The News? Human Rights Matters What if the Prison System Were its Own Country? My Night In Solitary Writings of Multiplicity Love Knows No Bars 22+ Years in Solitary 13 I Had a Remarkalbe Visit 14 The HomeFront: Serving Our Community! Pittsburgh Rises Against Human Rights Report The Elections are Coming 26 Ten Questions for Chaka Fattah 28 How Legislators View Their Constitu ents 30 People with Family Members in pris on are Human Rights/Prisoner Rights 32 The Babylon System - This Must Stop! The Niggification of America 47 Decarcerate PA! PAGE 2

3 From The Desk of The Editor How the Human Rights Coalition brought about the National Human Rights Prison Movement Welcome to The Movement, In 1994, my comrades and I saw that the national prison movement of the 1960 s 80 s was dying a slow death and needed resuscitation. We began viewing prison and community related issues of the death penalty, life imprisonment, indefinite solitary confinement, behavior modification units (i.e. control units), violence, crime, drug addiction, and police terror campaigns in our communities (public health and safety) as human rights issues. We decided to Kerry Shakaboona Marshall #BE-7826 Box A Bellefonte, PA transform the nation prison movement into a national human rights prison movement that is led and ran by politically conscious prisoners and the family of prisoners which eventually connect to the mass movement of oppressed people and place human rights at the center of our struggle. Thus, the HRC was born. We began advocating the HRC model and mission immediately to other political prisoners/politically conscious prisoners in the states of New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, New York, Ohio, Florida, Missouri, California, and Texas, and even internationally. HRC chapters were founded in Texas by my young comrades on death row, Shaka Sankofa and Hasan Shakur (R.I.P.) before they were murdered by state execution, while international HRC chapter were established in Germany and Spain by our European comrades. Meanwhile HRC-Philly and HRC-FedUp! (Pittsburgh Chapter) family member activists were attending conferences on prison issues across the nation educating activists from other cities on transforming the old national prison movement into the new national human rights prison movement and on forming PAC s to influence local, state, and federal elections including influencing the United Nations. We aimed to be the tail that was the dog. In the year 2000, while at SCI-Green super-max prison in Waynesburg, PA my comrades and I established the Human Rights Coalition (HRC-Philly) as a non-profit social welfare organization under 501 C (4) to promote human rights in the context of prison and community-related issues, to provide a social program for the benefit of prisoners families and our community, to organize our support base consisting of the families of prisoners - whom we identified as eligible voters under state law - from the then 48,000 state prisoners in Pennsylvania, and to establish a HRC-Political Action committee (HRC-PAC) that would utilize the families of prisoners and supporters to conduct grassroots political action campaigns and direct lobbying throughout the counties of Pennsylvania to influence local state elections, politics, laws, and policies in the interests of prisoners and our communities. This did not occur by happenstance. Today, fourteen years later and through much trial and error, the HRC is a coalition of about eight other organizations embarking on our first coalition led political action campaign to influence the 2014 Pennsylvania primary and general elections. Our agenda is to establish parole eligibility for LIFE imprisonment sentences; to establish a human rights statute (law) for Pennsylvania; to abolish LIFE imprisonment sentences for children under eighteen (18) entirely; to establish humane alternatives to long term solitary confinement; to establish a Families of Prisoners Bill of Rights law in PA; and to establish a spending cap for the Department of Correction s annual budget to increase funding for public schools, poverty programs, health care, and small business investment. Let s do this together. Let s struggle to Win. All power to the poor and oppressed people! Bro. Shakaboona, Co-Editor and HRC Organizer PAGE 3

4 Welcome To The Movement Magazine You ve just come upon a dynamic and unique magazine that informs the public and speaks raw truth to power by educating the masses in society on major social issues of the day as it relates to human rights. While some of the writing is by journalists and professionals, much of the writings printed in THE MOVEMENT magazine are by activists, prisoners, and the families of prisoners. We publish four issues of THE MOVEMENT magazine a year and all back issues remain posted on the website - THE MOVEMENT magazine is an independent Voice of the Voiceless. We are unapologetically for human rights and solidly against status quo, racism, poverty, militarism, and the so-called criminal justice system. We call for building a National Prisoners Human Rights & Abolish Prisons Movement, as well as forming coalitions with other social movements, throughout the United States to end the injustices of the establishment. THE MOVE- MENT magazine advocates for human rights, justice, equality, freedom, protection of Mother Earth, peace, and total social-political economic transformation of the United States. We especially encourage families of prisoners and prisoners (particularly women prisoners) to submit their writings of stories and experiences that critically examine the so-called Criminal Justice System (i.e., police, DA s Office, Public Defenders Office, courts, Parole Board, Dept. of Corrections, for -profit private prison corporations, and lobby groups) to THE MOVEMENT magazine. Each issue of THE MOVEMENT magazine focuses on the criminal Justice System, racism and poverty as human rights issues and what people can do to bring about change. Additional poems, art, political satire cartoons, announcements, and more are included. Unsolicited writings and graphics are accepted and welcomed. We won t guarantee printing but we d like to see your work. If you want your work or photos returned to you, then include a self-addressed stamped envelope. This and other correspondence should be sent via regular mail to: Human Rights Coalition Attention: Newsletter Committee 4134 Lancaster Avenue Philadelphia, PA Call for Contributors THE MOVEMENT magazine is looking for quality, writing, especially from the families of prisoners, prisoners, and former prisoners that contribute to critical thought and reflection in the various sections of this magazine. In particular we are interested in the following: Feature articles: In-depth, analytical articls that critically examine the criminal justice System, poverty, racism, and that provide solutions to those issues. Book reviews/political satire art/poetry: Is there a book you d like to review for THE MOVEMENT magazine? Do you create political satire cartoons or other artwork? Do you write poetry? Let us know and send us copies of your work. Letters: We love to hear from you. Families of prisoner and prisoners send a shout-out letter and visiting room photo for our Love Knows No Bars section, and send your letters to the Editor for our new Writings of Multiplicity section of THE MOVEMENT. Please let us know if we have your permission to print your letter. Moving? Don t forget to send us your new address! Subscriptions THE MOVEMENT magazine provides FREE family subscriptions to the families of prisoners! Please support this effort by subscribing or donating. Families of prisoners subscriptions: FREE 1 Year prisoners subscription: $12 1 Year public solidarity subscription: $24 We publish four issues of THE MOVEMENT magazine per year. Winter Issue - mailed first week of January Spring Issue - mailed first week of April Summer Issue - mailed first week of July Fall Issue - mailed first week of October See our subscription form inside to subscribe on page 10. PAGE 4

5 ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE Parole For Lifers Update! Out of the ashes, the Phoenix rises once more to fight for parole for lifers. The sentence of life without parole is a de facto death sentence. Unless we act to change it none of us lifers will survive. There is only one remedy, a legislative bill providing parole eligibility for lifers. There has been much work going on to bring this goal into fruition. The movement to secure parole for PA lifers is growing and taking great strides to get it done. This time we are taking a page from President Barack Obama s campaign play-book. Nobody gave him a chance to win. The powerbrokers said it was too soon for a Black president. Instead of accepting his predicted defeat, he took the bull by the horn and defied the gravity of their words to become our 44 th U.S. President. His secret weapon was a grassroots campaign; i.e., average Joes and Janes, mom and pop businesses, small donations, street teams and hard workers who believed in his cause. This is the direction the movement for PAROLE FOR PENNSYLVANIA LIFERS has taken: a GRASSROOTS campaign. On August 31, 2013 held a United Community Day & Freedom Rally. Their flyer advertised that the following organizations would be involved: PAsentencing.Com Street Team Members; representatives from Decarcerate PA; M.O.V.E.; Human Rights Coalition (HRC); Fight For Lifers (FFL); Philadelphia Innocent Project; Citizens For Social Change and Rehabilitation (CSCR), Inc., and more. One of the rally s goals was to educate the public concerning Parole For PA Lifers. On October 19, 2013, FFL, PO Box 7691, Philadelphia, PA 19101, (215) , held a Political Education Conference regarding various issues including those concerning lifers. Key amongst its goals was to educate the public about the realities of serving life in Pennsylvania. The Lifers at SCI-Dallas donated several pieces of art which were auctioned off during the conference. The proceeds from the auction are being donated to the Fight For Lifers Organization. Many other organizations participated, including those cited above. Also, right now Mr. J.D. Gibson, President and CEO of CSCR turned over 7,000 signatures to the HRC. In turn, the HRC has turned them over with others they have amassed to PAsentencing.Com, who, together, will present them to the General Assembly in an effort to get legislators to support parole for PA Lifers. (See, the HRC newsletter, THE MOVEMENT, 2013 Issue #17 (pg. 49)). At the same time an appeal has been made to RESIST, which is a foundation that gives small amounts of money to grassroots organizations all around the country for social change. If running is forth coming, it will be used to mount a robust campaign to effectuate our cause. In the meantime, the public relations campaign is back in effect. In order to get support for a lifer s bill, we have to change public opinion. Nobody is going to handle this for us, so we must take the initiative and do it ourselves. The man who awaits upon another to till his fields, to harvest his grain and to bake his bread, will never eat. This has been our problem, waiting on others to till, harvest, and deliver our freedom to us. It will never happen. Since the reward belongs to us, we must shoulder our fair share of the work. As such, the Inquirer newspaper and Clear Channel Outdoors have agreed to work with us. I m talking about newspaper layouts, billboards and other advertisement tools to garner public support for our cause of Parole For Lifers. In order to pay for this marketing blitz, an escrow account will be set up so we, individually, all 5,000 of us, can deposit whatever amount of money we can raise to help our cause. The account and the organizations administering it will be made available to all interested parties for optimum transparency. Currently, Mr. J.D. Gibson of CSCR is handling the Inquire advertisements. Therefore, any lifer or his/her supporters can send their donations to: C/O Mr. J.D. Gibson, 445 North 52 nd Street, Philadelphia, PA or send to If we want this nightmare of life without parole to end, then we must pay. This should be no problem, since what you are buying is priceless: your freedom. It is time to ante up. Fraternally yours, Omar Askia Ali-Sistrunk #AF-0814 P. O. Box 1000 Houtzdale, PA PAGE 5

6 ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE RUSSELL MAROON SHOATZ RELEASED FROM SOLI- TARY CONFINEMENT FIRST TIME IN GENERAL POP- ULATION IN MORE THAN 22 YEARS From Abolitionist Law Center, February 20, 2014 February 20, 2014: Pittsburgh PA Russell Maroon Shoatz was released from solitary confinement into the general prison population at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Graterford this morning, ending more than 22 consecutive years in solitary confinement. The news was confirmed by Maroon during a legal call with an attorney from the Abolitionist Law Center. Maroon s son, Russell Shoatz III, said, We are very excited that this day has finally come. My father being released from solitary confinement is proof of the power of people organizing against injustice, and the importance of building strong coalitions. I especially want to thank all of those who have supported the collective struggle to end my father s solitary confinement, including my siblings and members of the Shoatz family, the Human Rights Coalition, Abolitionist Law Center, Scientific Soul Sessions, the entire legal team, UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez, the 5 Nobel Peace Laureates, the National Lawyers Guild, Center for Constitutional Rights, along with the dozens of other organizations and thousands of individuals who have participated in this effort. The move comes after Maroon, who turned 70-years-old in August 2013, was transferred to three different Pennsylvania prisons in the past nine months. It marks the first time that Shoatz has been in the general prison population in the state of Pennsylvania since 1983, when he was placed in solitary confinement due to his work with the Pennsylvania Association of Lifers to abolish lifewithout-parole sentences. For a 17-month period between , Maroon was held in the general prison population at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. Maroon brought suit in May 2013 on the grounds that he has been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that prison officials have deprived him of his procedural and substantive due process rights for keeping him in solitary confinement without meaningful review and on insufficient grounds. He is represented by Reed Smith attorneys Rick Etter and Stefanie L. Burt; Bret Grote and Dustin McDaniel of the Abolitionist Law Center; Daniel Kovalik of the United Steelworkers; and retired Reed Smith partner, Hal Engel. On Monday, January 27, United States District Magistrate for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Cynthia Reed Eddy, issued a decision denying defendants motion to dismiss in the case of Shoatz v. Wetzel. The ruling allowed Russell Maroon Shoatz to move forward with the legal challenge to his more than 22 consecutive years in solitary confinement. The campaign to release Shoatz from solitary confinement has also been gathering increasing international attention, including the support of five Nobel Peace Prize Laureates: Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Jody Williams from the United States, and Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina. Several U.S. civil and human rights organizations endorsed his release from isolation, as well as growing number of clergy. In March 2013, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Juan Mendez, called on the government to cease the prolonged isolation of Mr. Shoat[z]. (see Democracy Now! interview with Juan Mendez discussing Maroon at this link). Abolitionist Law Center Executive Director, Bret Grote, said, My talk with Maroon today was very moving. There are no words to adequately convey the significance of his release to the general population for him and his family. This is a significant victory for a growing people s movement against solitary confinement and the human rights violations inherent in mass incarceration. If we continue to work hard and support one another in this movement, these victories could very well become a habit. The Abolitionist Law Center would also like to thank all our donors for your support, without which this victory would not be possible. The fight continues, both on behalf of Maroon and the many other prisoners being subjected to inhumane conditions. Please consider adding to your support by donating to our current fundraiser, so we can continue to press for justice in the Pennsylvania prison system. PAGE 6

7 ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE Hearing before the Senate Committee, Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Con- sequences Testimony of Piper Kerman Tuesday, February 25, 2014 Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Cruz, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, I want to thank you all for this opportunity to address you and for organizing this important hearing. I spent 13 months as a prisoner in the Federal Bureau of Prisons system from , with most of my time served at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury, Connecticut. From my first hours of incarceration, whispers and warnings about solitary confinement better known as the SHU came with frequency and from all quarters, prisoners and staff alike. One of the first women to befriend me in prison had just spent a month in the SHU for a minor infraction. Solitary confinement is a prison within a prison. But unlike the hive-like communities of people that exist behind prison walls, which have conflicts but also opportunities for redemption, 24-hour lockdown leaves you completely alone in a six-by-eight foot cell for weeks, sometimes months and even years. Here, the terror and the lasting damage of incarceration may be increased thousand fold. This in unproductive for individuals, the institutions and the outside communities, to which the vast majority of prisoners will return. If you are familiar with my book, Orange is the New Black, you know I m the first to acknowledge that unlike many prisoners, I have the resources and support to take my own experiences in prison and use them to try to make critical improvements to this country s criminal justice system. Since my release, I have worked with many criminal justice-involved women who need help advocating for the changes they need to be safe and to get back on their feet. I am here today in that capacity. If you ve watched the Netflix program adapted from my book, you may recall an episode in which the character that is based on me spends time in the SHU. Although today I will share many stories about solitary confinement, I mercifully did not spend any time in solitary. However, the way solitary confinement is handled on the show is an accurate depiction and the silencing effect of the SHU is very real. Women in Solitary Confinement When we think of solitary confinement, most of us don t picture women being subjected to this form of extreme punishment. But the truth is that women prisoners are routinely subjected to solitary confinement in jails, prisons and detention centers across the (Continued on page 8) PAGE 7

8 (Continued from page 7) United States. Increasingly, the American public and our leaders are learning about the profound negative psychological impacts of solitary confinement and the excessive number of people held in these conditions, but I want to talk about the unique harms and dangers of subjecting women prisoners to this practice. Women are the fastest growing population in the criminal justice system and their families and communities are increasingly affected by what happens behind bars. At least 63% of women in prison are there for a nonviolent offense. However, some of the factors that contribute to these women s incarceration can also end up landing them in solitary confinement. Mental health problems are overwhelmingly prevalent in women s prisons and jails, which have a much higher percentage of mentally ill prisoners than in men s facilities. High incidences of sexual and physical assault are a reality for women in prison, jail, and immigration detention centers, both before and during their incarceration. These facts are very important in relation to the use of solitary. It is critical for our criminal justice system to address the unique situation of women in prison especially those women subjected to the social and sensory deprivation of solitary confinement. While I was in prison, I saw many women sent to the SHU for minor infractions such as moving around a housing unit during a count, refusing an order from a correctional officer, and possession of low-level contraband like small amounts of cash (which is largely useless in prison) or having women s underwear from the outside rather than prison-issued underwear. All of these infractions drew at least 30 days in solitary. Sometimes women are sent to the SHU immediately upon their arrival in prison because there aren t any open beds. This is especially terrifying if a woman has never been in prison or jail before, which is often the case. Stories about the SHU are rampant some told directly by the women who experienced solitary first hand, but often passed along from prisoner to prisoner. They all evoke terror and a conviction to keep you head down and report nothing that you see, her or experience for fear that you may be locked down in isolation. I have submitted for the record the full written testimony of Jeanne DiMola, who spent one year of her six-year sentence in solitary. She describes with chilling detail the neglect and abuse she endured while in the SHU and the impact the experience of extreme isolation still has on her as she works hard to get her life back on track. Jeanne writes: When you have no one to talk to inside a grey, dingy cell with its blacked out window, you start talking to yourself, then you think you inner self at least deserves an answer, so I began answering myself. I asked myself what if I got swallowed into this black hole in my cell and just disappeared. I asked myself if it would be better off for my family if this thorn in their side went away for them so they can truly forget me. The best way I can describe being in this small box when life is going on without you is you are dead and the cell is your coffin. Everything goes on without and around you. But you stay the same stagnant. Mental Illness Mental health experts tell us that solitary confinement is psychologically harmful, especially for people with pre-existing mental illness. Serious mental illness can also result from prisoners experiences in solitary confinement. In studies of prisoners held in solitary confinement for 10 days or longer, people deteriorated rapidly, with elevated levels of depression and anxiety, a higher propensity to suffer from hallucinations and paranoia, and a higher risk of self-harm and suicide. In solitary confinement units, some prisoners can be found sitting in puddles of their own urine, others smeared in their own feces. The sounds of prisoners shrieking in their cells and banging their fists or heads against the walls in nothing out of the ordinary. Extreme and grotesque self-mutilation is also all too common, such as prisoners who have amputated parts of their own bodies or, in one particularly disturbing case, a prisoner who sewed his mouth shut with a makeshift needle and thread from his pillowcase. Others attempt to or succeed in committing suicide. Regular correctional staff is simply not equipped to deal with the medical issues that are so prevalent within solitary confinement units. Nearly 75% of women in prison are diagnosed with mental illness. The conditions of confinement are especially difficult for mentally ill people, as adherence to prison rules is simply more difficult for them. This leads to destructive and intense cycles of infractions and punishment. Prisoners with mental illness suffer in ways that make their behavior difficult to manage They often end up in solitary confinement as a result of behavior that beyond their control. They are essentially punished for their illness. Putting women with mental illness in solitary confinement only exacerbates a pre-existing illness. They often leave prison in far worse shape than when they went in. Women with mental illness will have great difficulty getting back on their feet and returning successfully to the community unless we mandate through all correctional systems that mentally ill women should not be held in solitary confinement, and should instead be appropriately managed with full medical care. Consider the story of Jan Green. A 50-year-old grandmother and mother of four, Jan was sent to Valencia County Jail in New Mexico on a domestic violence charge that was later dropped. Staff at the jail knew she had mental health issues when she come in, but instead of giving her treatment, they pepper sprayed her for refusing to wear jail-issued clothing, and eventually put her in solitary confinement where she spent nearly two years in a 8-by-7-foot cell with a mattress on the floor for a bed. Because the water in her cell did not work properly, Jan was unable to wash her hands or shower. Not only did her shower head not work, it dripped constantly. The jail refused to give her toilet paper or sanitary napkins for long periods of time to the point where whew s force to wipe (Continued on page 9) PAGE 8

9 (Continued from page 8) herself with paper bags from sack lunch. When her family picked her up from jail, she was soiled from dried menstrual blood that had accumulated over several months. Jan s mental health deteriorated from the constant water drips, being deprived of sanitation, and endless hours of isolation to the point that she spiraled into total psychosis and was ultimately deemed incompetent to stand trial. Her daughter s ongoing attempts to get medical care for her mother failed. Not once was she seen by a psychiatrist or medical doctor. After months in solitary, Jan s lack of exercise and the poor hygiene caused her sock to rot into an open wound on her foot. After nearly two years in solitary, the criminal charges against Jan were finally dismissed and she was released from custody. Her daughter describes the mother she used to know as outgoing and outspoken, but solitary confinement shattered her as a person. When asked about Jan Green, the warden responded: We re just not equipped with dealing with mental health populations, stating that it was an economic decision not to provide mental health care. Physical and Sexual Abuse The effects of physical and sexual abuse are also worsened by solitary confinement. I have a vivid memory from early in my prison sentence: a woman who had done a lot of time shared a cautionary tale. She told me about a friend of hers who had gone home not long before; her friend had been sexually abused by a correctional officer, and the abuse was discovered. She told me: They had her in the SHU for months during the investigation. They shot her full of psych drugs she blew up like a balloon. When they finally let her out, she was a zombie. It took l long time for her to get back to herself. They do not play here. Fear of being put in solitary as protective custody has a chilling effect on women prisoners willingness to report sexual abuse, which is commonplace and sometimes rampant in prisons, jails, and detention centers. Another long-time prisoner warned me about a specific correctional officer, calling him a predator; her warning came with a reminder if a woman ever reported him, she would be locked in the SHU. The terrible threat of isolation makes women afraid to report abuse and serves as a powerful disincentive to ask for help or justice. In addition, solitary confinement itself can compound the impact of past physical and sexual abuse. A majority of women in state prisons across America report being victims of past physical or sexual abuse. In many prisons across this country, women in solitary confinement are watched by male guards during showers, when undressing and when using the toilet. For the majority of women prisoners who have been victimized by men in the past, being watched by male guards during their most private moments can cause acute psychological suffering. A recent Equal Justice Initiative 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. In the notorious Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky, a woman who saved evidence from her sexual assault (an epidemic problem within the prison with multiple victims) was reportedly placed in segregation for 50 days. At the Dwight Correctional Center in Illinois, a woman alleged in court documents that she was repeatedly raped by prison staff, eventually resulting in a pregnancy and the birth of her son. When the women tried to report the assaults, she was placed in solitary confinement, and threatened with a long sentence. Women who are sexually abused by prison guards are forced to decide between reporting the attack and risking placement in solitary, where they will suffer extreme pain and psychological deterioration, or staying silent and risking further abuse of themselves or others. The use of solitary confinement for protective custody perpetuates the cycle of abuse and makes women s prisons more dangerous for the women who live behind their walls. Impact on Children and Families In addition to the damaging effects solitary confinement has on women prisoners, children and families also suffer. Solitary confinement impedes access to important pre-natal and women s health care services. In fact, pregnant women in solitary confinement often receive no medical care. Yet pregnant prisoners in America are still sent to the SHU. I want to tell you about a female inmate in Illinois who I ll call Meghan out of respect for privacy. She had battled depression for years, and found herself pregnant behind bars. Because of her pregnancy, Meghan had to discontinue some of her mental-health medications. She also needed extra sleep. One day, a guard decided Meghan didn t get up fast enough for mealtime and sent her to solitary confinement as punishment. In solitary, Meghan didn t get her prenatal vitamins. Her requests for water were denied sometimes for several hours, despite the heat in her isolation cell and the known danger of dehydration during pregnancy. Worse yet, the extreme social isolation in solitary further hampered her fight against clinical depression. Solitary confinement can also cause lasting damage to families and children. The majority of women in prison were their children s primary or sole caregiver prior to incarceration. When these women are incarcerated, maintaining any semblance of a relationship with their children largely depends or regular visitation. A child s need to see and hold his or her mother is one of the most (Continued on page 10) PAGE 9

10 (Continued from page 9) basic human needs. Yet visitation for prisoners in solitary confinement is extremely limited, with contact visits often forbidden, and often all visitation privileges revoked. This is true even if the infraction is minor, like possession of contraband or disobeying an order. These visitation restrictions mean that, when a mother is held in solitary confinement, her children s visits are either limited to interactions through a physical barrier, such as a glass partition, or eliminated altogether. Through a partition, a child cannot give his or her mother a hug, or hear her voice clearly. The separation is clear. Solitary punishes innocent children. Conclusion For many female prisoners, solitary confinement exacerbates the mental health issues and histories of trauma and abuse with which they already struggle. Most women in prison have not committed violent crimes and are not prone to resort to violence while incarcerated. Solitary confinement is an extreme form of punishment, het its use within women s prisons is routine sometimes even sinister when it serves to silence women who are being victimized. We should all share the same goal here: to curb the unnecessary use of solitary confinement in any form. This is possible, and it happens when correctional leaders and staff do the right thing. Last week, I visited the Marion correctional Institution, a medium security men s state prison in Ohio. It houses a little more than 2,600 men. Since 2011, they have reduced the number of beds at Marion Correctional needed for administrative segregation long-term solitary confinement by 48 beds, from 175 to 127. They have cut one SHU unit and converted those beds into different, more productive housing. They did this along with an increase in population of approximately 900 men. This change was not the result of a special initiative focused on the SHU. Rather, within the entire institution, the warden and his staff increased prisoners access to meaningful activities and rehabilitation, to work opportunities, and to incentive-based programs, and in the process they saw solitary confinement numbers come down. This is good for the institution as a whole - prisoners, staff and administration and proves the point of getting good outcomes in correctional systems: it is always a question of strong leadership and recognition that it is human beings that fill our prisons and jails. As the Federal Bureau of Prisons pursues an independent assessment of its solitary practices, I urge it to include an assessment of practices at a women s facility, such as the FCIs at Tallahassee, Dublin or Alderson, and take action to limit the use of solitary on women. I ask the assessors to visit as many women s facilities as possible, and to include in the assessment confidential discussions with the women who are incarcerated in those facilities. I am exceptionally proud to say that last week, my home state of New York announced sweeping reforms of the use of solitary confinement, including the prohibition of placing pregnant women in disciplinary solitary confinement. New York is the first state to agree to this important provision, and the Bureau of Prisons and other states should adopt the same set of sensible comprehensive reforms. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important hearing and to help the Subcommittee address this very significant issue. I am hopeful that it will mark the next step in urgently needed and long-term oversight and reform. (Continued from page 11) viduals who have personally experienced solitary confinement, know that this is not the way this process goes in reality. At the completion of this testimony, questioning by the Senate Committee appeared that they also challenged the reality of the scenario he presented. My impression was that there was definitely a separation in what Director Samuels was presenting and how things really are. One question asked to him clearly revealed that he had no first-hand knowledge about of a RHU cell. Specifically, he did not know the size of the average RHU cell and could not answer the question correctly even after several tries. Fortunately, there were several testimonies that followed his by other panel members. Testimony of Piper Kerman, author and former prisoner who wrote a memoir "Orange is the New Black", that was adapted into a series on Netflix, that looks into the lives of women in prison. Damon A. Thibodeaux, the nation s 141 st death row inmate exonerated on innocence grounds after 15 years in solitary confinement testified on his personal experience. As I mentioned previously those in attendance could not comment or add to the testimonies; therefore HRC would like to take this time to state that there is a huge amount of information that has not been discussed about the effects of long-term solitary, the accountability of prison officials, the use of solitary confinement as tool for retaliation and the list can go on and on. The public should be aware that the inhumane practice of solitary confinement has a devastating impact on ALL, not only the mentally ill, women, and youth. The Human Rights Coalition s members are anxious to provide another dimension of solitary confinement before the next Senate Committee s Hearing Reassessing Solitary Confinement III. PAGE 10

11 ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE HRC Attended the Hearing before the Senate Committee, Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences By: Karen Ali Hearing Chairman, Senator Durbin and HRC members Witness, Piper Kerman and HRC Members Tuesday, February 25, 2014, HRC members, Theresa, Patricia, Matt, Andy, Karen, and Jonathan took a trip to the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington DC to attend a hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the, Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. This Hearing was on Reassessing Solitary Confinement II, The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences. There was a long line of community activists who represented various positions on the effect of solitary confinement on prisoners, and the outer community that many of these individuals will be released to. Many expressed concern for the population this separation practice is used on; for example, children, pregnant women, mentally ill, political prisoners and others. These groups came from locations across the United States, from New York to California. When we were permitted to enter the hearing room we were informed, that there would be no outburst or display of placards permitted. However HRC s Theresa did wear her infamous orange DOC jumpsuit and was permitted to enter. The hearing was chaired by Senator Durbin with Senator Cruz along with other United States Senate members of the subcommittee. A pre-scheduled panel of speakers was on the agenda to cover various areas of restrictive housing they had knowledge and experience with. Also the panel members were prepared to speak on the effective or ineffectiveness of placing prisoners in Restricted Housing Units. Again these panelists gave their evaluation of this practice, the type of inmates place in restricted housing, as well as the reasons prisoners were placed in these environments and for what length of time. The first panelist to speak was Charles Samuels, Jr. Director, Federal Bureau of prisons. He spoke of how his department, since the first hearing on reassessing solitary confinement held in June 2012, had accomplished a great deal in terms of reviewing, assessing, and refining the Bureau s approach to putting prisoners in restrictive housing. He further stated that his department believed that the prisoners were not only there for the right reasons but also for an appropriate duration of time. Director Samuels quoted numbers of inmates that are confined, the percentages labeled violent, those sanctioned for violating prison rules and others considered gang members. He stated that to effectively carry out the mission of the Bureau which is to protect public safety by running a safe and secure prison, and to provide inmates with treatment and training necessary to become productive and law abiding citizens upon their release from prison, therefore at times they must remove some offenders from general population. He stated the use of this practice is usually only for brief periods of time, and to say these inmates are not isolated as commonly thought, they have opportunities to interact with not only staff, other inmates, family and friends in the outer community through telephone calls and visits, as well as a range of programming opportunities were available to them. As he continued to speak from the many reports and statics collected by his administration those in the audience seemed to shuffle in their seats because those of us who work closely with indi- (Continued on page 10) PAGE 11

12 ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE Mercy in the Justice System By THE EDITORIAL BOARD - NY Times FEB. 9, 2014 The constitutional provision that gives the president virtually unlimited authority to grant clemency was not an afterthought. The founders understood very well that there could be miscarriages of justice even under the rule of law. By allowing the president to commute unjust sentences or pardon deserving petitioners who had served their time, they sought to ensure that the workings of the courts could be tempered with mercy. Presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Lincoln, and Truman viewed the clemency process as a central mission of the office. But the concept of mercy went out of fashion by the 1980s, when the country embarked on a mandatory sentencing craze that barred judges from exercising leniency when it was clearly warranted and placed the justice system almost entirely in the hands of prosecutors. As a consequence, even first-time offenders were largely viewed as beyond redemption. These laws drove up the prison population 10-fold and filled the jails with young, low-level drug offenders who were confined far longer than their offenses warranted. They also created a large and growing class of felons, who are trapped permanently at the margins of society by post-prison sanctions laws that bar them from jobs and housing, strip them of the right to vote and make it difficult for them to obtain essential documents like driver s licenses. The perpetual punishment model of justice has had far-reaching consequences. Politicians stayed as far away from clemency as they could, fearing that voters would view them as soft on crime. Meanwhile, at the Justice Department, the clemency process which had been a cabinet-level responsibility fell under the authority of prosecutors who seemed to view even reasonable lenience as a threat to the prosecutorial order. The time required to handle clemency applications went from months to years; the backlog grew; the stream of mercy that had once flowed began to dry up. The clemency system, in other words, is in a state of collapse. The Justice Department admitted as much last month, when the deputy attorney general, James Cole, asked the criminal defense bar to help the department find suitable candidates for clemency among the many thousands of people who were casualties of the mandatory-sentencing era. Mr. Cole specifically mentioned nonviolent, low-level drug offenders who are serving life or near-life sentences that are considered excessive under current law. He was clearly referring to people prosecuted under the abjectly racist 1986 federal law that punished people caught with crack cocaine far more severely than those caught with the powdered form of the drug. In 2010, Congress reduced, but did not eliminate, the sentencing disparity, and thousands of people sentenced under the original law are still living behind bars. President Obama commuted the sentences of eight of them in December; even so, his has been one of the least merciful administrations in modern history. The Justice Department s sudden interest in the clemency problem is good news, but asking defense lawyers for help is a haphazard approach. What s needed is wholesale reform of the department s pardon office, which has proved itself ineffective and incompetent, partly because the current process relies on the department to evaluate its own work. One sound idea is to create a clemency review panel outside the Justice Department, perhaps as a part of the executive office. Mr. Obama could form an advisory board, or reconfigure the pardon office to include defense lawyers, sociologists and other experts who would bring a broader perspective to the issue. The goal would be to give the president unbiased information that would enable him to exercise fully this important aspect of executive power. A version of this editorial appears in print on February 10, 2014, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: Mercy in the Justice System. From: PAGE 12

13 22+ Years in Solitary I missed the call detailing Maroon's release into population. I notice comments about Maroon's release on the Internet. I called Sec. Wetzel's office. What is it now Theresa, said his assistant. Is my daddy in population? Oh let's see, what was his status last week? I've a history of calling this office, therefore her hesitation said it all. I didn't need to hear her say, yes he's in population. I just said bye, and hung up. I sat there in silence, I couldn't move. Although it is very unusual for me, I couldn't speak. My phone began ringing off the hook. Desperate, passionate, and dedicated supporters were calling. That's what it took to free him y'all. Yet I'm still unable to speak. I began to gain control. I take the time to give props to the creator, Maroon's parents, and my ancestors. I needed drums to send this so peaceful incredible message. The battery in my phone is dying from all the calls. I smile as I view my phone log, calls from outside of the United States. I begin saving every voice and text message. Once able to speak to my sister and brother, We gotta get to the prison. No time to wait. Both my siblings are ready to leave. Once again I can't move. I haven't touched my dad in 22 plus years. I had to allow the excitement to wear off. I would have screamed at the top of my lungs DADDY, notifying the entire visiting room, falling to my knees and beating the floor with my fist. Didn't want to ruin my nearly perfect 40 year visiting record, therefore I'm not in the picture. I stayed home while contacting HRC members, and supporters. dad. Well I learned their help is very slow, nil to none. So I had to suit up, in my fight for Maroon gear. You know I still wear my orange prison jumpsuit. Gotta make sure I get my message across, because what kind of system would keep a human being in a box 20 plus years? That's another article we'll do another day. Six years ago I found myself trapped in the cell with my dad. I said to myself, "Now How The Fuck Did I Get Here". My dad and I now shared a cell. My dad writes daily, Russell Maroon Shoatz has contact visit with his children for first time in over 22 yrs. meanwhile I'm crouched at the slot in the door. I'm screaming let us out. Daddy at the desk, child no one can hear you. No one has heard me in years. My physical body would leave the cell daily but my mind was trapped there with my daddy. Today still not free, and the memories linger... Yet Still I Rise. Y'all listen carefully, never give up! I remember early on, HRC and I would inform legislators about the abuse and solitary confinement. They would act as if we were whispering, as if they couldn't hear us. Some tried ignoring us, that only made us stronger. The movement doesn't stop, nor does it take a break. I've taken in nine foster kids into my home this year. I've decided to help youth in my community. Too many of our youth are suffering from the outright disrespect they're experiencing daily. Recently I heard a senior citizen say, " I'm so afraid of the youth. When I was coming up it was the other way around, I was so afraid of the seniors. They watched your every move and had the OK to slap you upside your head. I need you to get your families involved. We live in a world that cares less about women, children, and medical. This country is in a financial uproar, and in order to survive we must work together. Women are the back bone of our communities. Women grow most of the food in the world, do most of the labor and are paid the least. The first person you probably called after arriving behind the walls, was a woman. So next time you speak to that women ask her to assist HRC. Fighting for her father, Theresa Shoatz meets with Sen. Greenleaf My Brother Russell and sister Sharon worked 20 plus years for Maroon. Ten years ago they welcomed me aboard. Uneducated, and unaware of the struggle ahead of me, I wasted two of those years believing everything the PA DOC told me. The PA DOC said, "Theresa we'll help your Many thanks, for y'all support, and I love y all. Thanks, Jerome Coffey. Recently when I had nothing left you showed me the way, encouraging me while dealing with the death of your father. Thanks to my HRC & HRC-FedUp family, to my brothers behind bars KM, JJ, KS, AG, GRBB,TC, MJ, EC. Love Y all, Theresa Shoatz PAGE 13

14 JEROME HOAGIE COFFEY On 8/2/13 I had a remarkable visit by Fred Ho (author, musician, activist, and prolific writer) along with Dustin McDaniel an up coming people lawyer from the law firm, Abolitionist Law Center located in Pittsburgh, PA. The visit was extremely enlightening on my behalf due to twelve years in solitary confinement (no human contact except CO s escorting me from the cell to showers and noncontact visits with restraints) and 8/2/13 was my 25th day on General Population as well as my first contact visit in twelve years, and this contact visit helped me rehabilitate my humanity as a result of prolonged isolation and so on. To make it short, I was excited to see my friend Fred Ho who educated me over the years about saving the world through love, peace, and humanity. Read his book: Wicked Theory, Naked Practice: A Fred Ho Reader, The University of Minnesota Press, In closing, as the saying goes a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Yes it s been nine months and I am, still, on General Population at SCI-Houtzdale. I assist all my comrades in the struggle who remain in solitary confinement. I will not be counted among the broke Old Heads I am not impressed with cable, commissary, ice machines, ice cream... etc. In the struggle. In solidarity. Stay alert. Stiff resistance. Fred Ho, Jerome Hoagie Coffey, and Dustin McDaniel Jerome Hoagie Coffey AS-1558 P.O. Box 1000 Houtzdale, PA Condolences to Bro. Jerome Coffey in the passing of his father, Lawrence Johnson on December 7, With Deepest Sympathy, HRC I Love You Daddy:) Shout out to Anthony Otero at SCI-Benner. We love you and stay strong. From Uncle Jim and Nikki. To: Timothy Wilkins Lackawanna County Prison PAGE 14

15 The HomeFront: Serving Our Community! Pittsburgh Rises Against Gender Based Violence on Valentine's Day Over 300 people gathered on Friday February 14th, 2014, in Downtown Pittsburgh to participate in a global day of action to end gender based violence. The ANEW Rising Women's Collective, New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice, One Billion Been Rising and Let's Get Free came together to lead different parts of the day s events. Over 70 different groups endorsed the action including labor rights leaders, women shelters, arts organizations, sororities and legal justice & human rights groups. The festivities kicked off in a march and vigil against domestic violence and in memory of Ka Sandra Wade, a local activist and friend who was killed last year by her ex-boyfriend. Her story stayed in the news because it exposed problems within police policies on responding to 911 calls for unknown trouble. Her family and advocates for women worked tirelessly to change those policies. Members of the ANEW Rising Women s Collective gathered at the portico of the city council building to hold the vigil. The One Billion BEEN Rising program started around noon. The youth really came out! There were so many enthusiastic young people. It was amazing! The creative messaging was an awesome presence! While it felt so different having the event inside at the hotel because Market Square was a dangerous sheet of ice, all the banners and signs really transformed the place. In months leading to the event many volunteers worked at the Neighborhood Print Shop in Braddock to screen-print placards, patches and posters for the action. A local men s group that organizes to unlearn and challenge sexism made some beautiful signs that were meant to be held by men. They said things like, I love feelings. Violence against women is a mens issue. Gentle and proud. Men can change. A series of posters were generated based on Andrea Smith s platform what should organizing around ending gender based violence look like?... Ruth Martial, etta cetera, and Bekezela Mguni read aloud A letter to our sisters, ourselves, and the movement for radical social change and liberation. This letter was collectively written by One Billion BEEN Rising crew in response to important criticism to Eve Ensler and the 1BR organization by many feminist leaders of color all over the world. The letter expresses solidarity with the women and communities that have been (Continued on page 16) PAGE 15

16 (Continued from page 15) harmed by the racism within the One Billion Rising movement. Ruth also spoke about how for the last 25 years, February 14 th has been a day of action for missing and murdered indigenous women in the United States and Canada for decades. The purpose of this day - Annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) - is not only to honor and remember the women but to demand justice and an official inquiry. These murders and missing persons cases are almost never even investigated. Some blockades have just gone up in Mohawk territory to protest the lack of response just in the last few days. The article Ruth quoted was by Lauren Chief Elk of the Save Wiyabi Project and you can find at: Black Rapp Medusa performed a powerful poem she wrote while she was incarcerated. She spoke of the many women she met while incarcerated in Texas who had been locked up for self defense. Bekezela Mguni La Tasha Mayes of New Voices Pittsburgh; Women of Color for Reproductive Justice spoke about the case of Marissa Alexander. La Tasha got the whole crowd wishing Marissa a Happy Valentine s Day. In the beginning of March opposition to Marissa s quest for justice escalated. The campaign website reads Demonstrating a stunning abuse of power, Florida State Prosecutor, Angela Corey, announced that she aims to increase the prison sentence for Marissa Alexander from 20 to 60 years in the upcoming July 28th trial. In 2012, Alexander an African American mother of three in Jacksonville, Florida was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years for firing a warning shot upwards into a wall to defend her life from her abusive estranged husband. She caused no injuries. Alexander successfully appealed the unjust trial and was granted a new trial. In November 2013, after serving nearly three years in prison, she was released on bond to home detention until her new trial. Yet as a consequence of winning the appeal to hopefully secure a more fair trial, Alexander now faces the alarming prospect that the original devastating sentence could be tripled in the new trial. In the upcoming trial, Corey says she intends to seek three 20 year sentences for Alexander to be served consecutively rather than concurrently, tripling the mandatory minimum to 60 years. Free Marissa Now member and victim s advocate, Sumayya Fire, stated, Remember that this entire case boils down to a woman defending her life from her husband who attacked her, strangled her, threatened to kill her, whose beatings have sent her to the hospital and likely caused her to have premature labor. A husband who confirmed in a deposition that he beat her, that he was in a rage when he attacked her, and that he has beaten other women with whom he was involved. Remember that when Marissa Alexander fired her warning shot to save her own life, she caused no injuries. Now she s facing the very real possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison for that act of self-defense. That should send a chill down the back of every person in this country who believes that women who are attacked have the right to defend themselves. Anyone who believes that domestic violence is unjust should be deeply shaken by Corey s abusive prosecution of Marissa Alexander and should be advocating for Alexander s freedom. Ngani Ndimbie spoke on behalf of the the ACLU. Several towns in PA have so-called nuisance ordinances which punish tenants who call the police with eviction even if they are calling to report a serious crime such as domestic violence. This is what happened to Lakisha Briggs, of Norristown, PA, who was threatened with eviction after she called the police for protection from an abusive ex-boyfriend. The ACLU of Pennsylvania is representing Lakisha Briggs and will fight the Norristown ordinance in court, but there is still more to be done. In response to the case, legislators drafted House Bill No If passed, HB 1796 will prevent tenants and landlords from being penalized for requesting police assistance. The bill has already passed in the State House and has made its way to the State Senate. Contact your state Senator and urge him or her to support HB Ginny Hildebrand from Stop Sexual Assault in the Military performed a chilling folk song that outlined four different scenarios highlighting forms of sexual violence with the chorus sounding if it could happen to you it could happen to me. Joseph Hall, our amazing sound technician, read the man prayer and it was echoed by people who identify as men. Additional expressive and motivating performances were presented by the Improve Dance Troupe - Interplay, The Raging Grannies, and the poet Joy Yejide KMT, who posed the question, How can you be silent when your silence is violent? Our silences are killing us. Members of Let s Get Free The Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee took the stage wearing soft ball style Free Charmaine t-shirts. Charmaine s mother, Donna Hill, and Attorney Bret Grote, spoke about the tragic details of this case. (Continued on page 17) PAGE 16

17 (Continued from page 16) Charmaine Pfender was 18 years old when she took a life in self-defense and 19 years old when she was sentenced to life-without-parole for protecting herself against rape. She has served 30 years in prison. When the man she was on a date with pulled a knife and attempted to rape her, Charmaine struggled back, reached for a gun and fired a warning shot. When she tried to flee her attacker, he chased after her with a knife in hand, so she shot and killed him. Charmaine should never have been convicted of murder. She fought for her life against a knife-wielding man who was attempting to rape her. This is self-defense, not a crime. Donna asked everyone present to join her and Charmaine s supporters in a march to the courthouse. With the enthusiastic sounds of the Mayday Marching Band, all the beautiful banners and balloons, it really was a Valentine s Day march - bursting with bright colors and messages of love. Let s Get Free, The Women in Prison Defense Committee along with Charmaine s mother, Donna Hill, Attorney Bret Grote, and a delegation of approximately 20 community leaders and concerned citizens braved the metal detectors and delivered chocolates and a letter wrapped in red ribbon to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala calling upon him to re-open Charmaine s case and to drop the charges against her. Meanwhile, the band and merry activists held down the court yard that sits in the middle of the building. Echoes of their songs could be heard through the halls, and curious lawyers, court attendees, and city workers lined the windows looking down at the colorful demonstration that circled the fountain. The delegation was told that Zappala was not in his office and was asked to wait for a long time to deliver the letter, in spite of the face that the campaign made a point to inform his office that they would be delivering the letters a week prior to the action. Finally, the spokesperson of the DA s agreed to meet with Donna and Bret. While they listened, the office seemed to pass the buck and responded dismissively Let me refer you to an office in the Northside. Don t waste your money sending postcards for your cause. Our office doesn t investigate prosecutorial misconduct. The delegation left the courthouse feeling undeterred and unsurprised by the response and walked into the loving arms of the 25 or so supporters who were STILL waiting and chanting in the court yard! Donna symbolically liberated a teddy bear from inside a balloon We WILL free (Continued on page 18) PAGE 17

18 (Continued from page 17) my daughter. We left the courtyard with the words of Assata Shakur on our lips, It is our Duty to Fight for Our Freedom! It is our Duty to Win! We must love each other and support each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains! 5 DAYS LATER - ZAPPALA WROTE BACK On February 19, 2014, Let s Get Free received a letter from the District Attorney. Zappala writes, Ms. Pfender was convicted by a jury of several crimes including first degree murder in March of Although my jurisdiction in this case has long been relinquished, I have nonetheless assigned an assistant to review the transcripts of the testimony in the trial. That assistant has been directed to communicate with the attorney who has contacted the office on Ms. Pfender s behalf. While he is distancing himself from any obligation to do more than a review of the transcript, his prompt response and promise of review demonstrates a positive first step in the newly launched campaign to Free Charmaine! We won t stop until the charges are dropped! From the Editor: We apologize that this article has been edited due to space constraints. The entire article can be found at: (Continued from page 32) crimes? They had no say in the matter at hand. I am talking about an honest court with the ability to judge people by the totality of their being rather than just based on some accusations made against them by their enemies. Moreover, what about the innocent people killed in these drone strikes, people who just happen to be in the area of the strike? They call those morbid and deadly attacks collateral damage. If we re going to build a true Human Rights Movement then we must truly be ready to take a long look at all the issues affecting humanity, and at who is causing people all this suffering! This will require honesty and integrity on the behalf of those involved in such a movement. We must look at what is taking place in all these prisons around the country and understand that this is a prison nation. It will continue to swallow our children until we do something to stop this insanity. This prison nation will do everything within its power to convince us that our children are inherently criminal and deserve what is happening to them, but the real criminals are the people who create and profit off of the agony of others. David Lee, #AS3041, can be located at SCI Coal Township, 1 Kelly Drive, Coal Township, PA PAGE 18

19 The HomeFront: Serving Our Community! Fight for Lifers-East (FFL): Political Educational Conference Greetings Friends: Fight for Lifers-East (FFL) would like to extend our sincerest apologies to the men of SCI Dallas for the tardiness of this letter of gratitude acknowledging your contributions to the FFL Political Education Conference back on October 19, The outpouring of community support and attendance during the FFL Conference was due largely to your ability to reach out to your family members and friends encouraging them to join us in solidarity to make this historical event a tremendous success. Due to your exceptional artwork contributions we were able to raise approximately $300 during our Silent Auction which was conducted two weeks prior to the FFL Conference. In addition, Fight for Lifers-East (FFL) would like to thank all of you who supported our Political Educational Conference on October 19, Our outreach efforts have strengthened in recent months providing FFL the opportunity to forge relationships with several institutions and community justice groups. In Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, a comprehensive campaign to abolish life sentencing is developing and FFL has played an integral role in shaping the agenda for this progressive movement. FFL has continued to advocate for individuals serving/affected by life sentences and for parole for lifers. Below is a brief outline highlighting what we were able to accomplish at the FFL Political Education Conference A. MORNING a. WELCOMING ADDRESS (Kariymah McClary, Chair of FFL) b. ORIENTATION/INFORMATIONAL SESSION (Kay Harris, nationally renowned Criminologist & Advisor to Reconstruction and Thomas Ford, President of EXIT-US) i. Statistical data review, informing attendees about judicial process, prison population, homicide disposition/ conviction and sentencing ii. Exploring issues and questions to inform our interaction with candidates for District Attorney and Common Pleas court judge B. LUNCH a. MEET THE CANDIDATE SESSION (Moderated by Thomas Ford, EXIT-US) i. Court of Common Pleas judicial candidates 1. Sierra Thomas Street 2. Giovanni Campbell b. SILENT AUCTION (Jamillah Von, Project Home & Advisor to Reconstruction and Tamara Major, Secretary of FFL) i. Art Supplied By SCI-Dallas Prisoners C. AFTERNOON a. KEYNOTE INTRODUCTION (Lucinda Hudson, Reconstruction Board member and Executive Director of Parkside Association of Philadelphia) b. GUEST SPEAKER i. Judge Jeffrey K. Sprecher, Court of Common Pleas, Burks County Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines at the core of restricting judges in their decisions c. FIGHT FOR LIFERS EDUCATION INITIATIVES i. The Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), a constitution violation of due process and interfering with access to the court. (Hakim Ali, Board Secretary of Reconstruction, Inc.) (Continued on page 20) PAGE 19

20 (Continued from page 19) Our current activities ii. Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP), sentencing children as adults, thus allow the courts to send children to prison for the rest of their lives. (Anita Colon, PA State Coordinator for the National Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth and FFL member) iii. Commutation, presently the only way in which a Lifer in PA can be released from prison. (Joan Porter, Commutation Specialist) Since the Conference in October 2013, FFL has convened several meetings with the Human Rights Coalition, Decarcerate PA and Lifers from various institutions to expand our advocacy toward abolishing the life sentencing. Reconstruction, Inc. our parent organization is organizing to conduct workshops in Juvenile halfway facilities and community centers to share the content from the FFL Conference. FFL remains persistent in our advocacy on behalf of individuals serving/affected by life sentences and for parole for lifers in Pennsylvania. The struggle continues; however, FFL remains resolute in our commitment to shape the agenda for this progressive movement. MEN, THANK YOU FOR YOUR STEADFAST COURAGE AND UNWAVERING SUPPORT! We look forward to expanding upon this exchange of ideas with you, your family members and the general public as we move forward... In Solidarity, FIGHT FOR LIFERS/RECONSTRUCTION S PR COMMITTEE Editor s Note: Attention Pennsylvania prisoners. Due to the overwhelming censorship and banning of issues of THE MOVEMENT by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) and its State Correctional Institutions (SCI) the Human Rights Coalition (HRC) will be seeking legal redress for the violations of its First and Fourteenth Amendments rights. To that end the HRC is asking that PA inmates to do the following: 1.) Notify the HRC when their incoming publication of THE MOVE- MENT is censured by IPRC, 2.) Appeal the IPRC decision to the Superintendent and to Final Appeal Review, and 3.) Mail a copy of your final appeal and the PA DOC s Final Appeal Determination to: Human Rights Coalition Attention: Newsletter Committee 4134 Lancaster Avenue Philadelphia, PA THE MOVEMENT is mailed quarterly to all prisoners who ve requested a copy in the following manner: Winter Issue - mailed first week of January Spring Issue - mailed first week of April Summer Issue - mailed first week of July Fall Issue - mailed first week of October PAGE 20


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