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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Break silence on brutal Florida prisons

This is from the Bradenton Herald, July 12, 2014:

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, chair of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, suggested this week that, "If there is a problem," within the Department of Corrections and the prisons and detention centers that it runs, "let's fix it."
However, there's no "if" about it -- there is a problem, a huge one.
Inmates are dying in Florida's prisons, victims of torture and brutality. No one has been charged in these suspicious deaths, much less stood trial, despite the fact that one fatality has caught the public's attention -- the appalling case of Darren Rainey, who was scalded to death in 2012.
The FBI is investigating a prison riot in Suwannee. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also looking into an inmate's mysterious death there. An inmate in a Panhandle facility died after being gassed repeatedly by corrections officers. And there are others.
Few state authorities, from Gov. Scott's office to his inspector general to the head of Corrections, have leaped forth to avow that they will get to the bottom of whistleblowers' and inmates' credible allegations of institutional cruelty, tacitly tolerated by those in charge.
In fact, the silence has been so shocking that, thankfully, James McDonough, who headed Florida's DOC under Gov. Jeb Bush, was compelled to go public, spurring long-overdue action:
• Tuesday, Mr. McDonough said in an e-mail: "I am revolted by what I am hearing, just as I am by what I am not hearing." He added, "These cases did not end tragically last week; they ended in horrific and suspicious deaths some years ago. Where has the leadership been?"
Snoozing, apparently.
• Wednesday, the current chief of DOC, Mike Crews, finally roused, declared himself "outraged" -- two years after Rainey's death and two months after the Herald disclosed that he was strong-armed by prison guards into a shower stall and burned to death under searingly hot water.
• Thursday, a now-energized Mr. Crews suspended Jerry Cummings, the warden of the Florida City facility where Rainey died.
But none of this should be construed as leadership on Mr. Crews' part. Backing and filling is more like it, unfortunately. Mr. Cummings is on paid administrative leave, but the two correctional officers who are said to have locked Rainey in the shower are still on the job.
Read the rest here, and also in the Huffington Post
lawsuit filed by four prison investigators claims Florida's prison system is badly mismanaged and the results have been deadly.
The four filed a federal whistle-blower complaint on Monday alleging that state prisoners were beaten and tortured, that guards smuggled in drugs and other contraband in exchange for money and sexual favors, and that guards used gang enforcers to control the prison population. They claim those actions were either tacitly approved or covered up.
One of the most grisly examples of abuse mentioned in the suit, which was filed last week, is the death of 27-year-old inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo in September, 2010.
According to former inspector Aubrey] Land, Jordan-Aparo, serving an 18-month term for credit card fraud and drug charges, was placed in solitary confinement and gassed multiple times by guards after he had begged to be taken to the hospital for a worsening medical condition. Land, who said he stumbled on the death of Jordan-Aparo while investigating other “garden-variety” corruption and abuses at Franklin, said the prison’s medical staff, corrections officers and supervisors later conspired to fabricate reports and lie to law enforcement about the events leading to the inmate’s death.
Another case mentioned in the suit is that of 50-year-old mentally ill inmate, Darren Rainey.
In May, 2014, the suit says, Rainey was put inside a scalding hot shower at Dade Correctional as punishment for defecating on the floor of his cell.
Read more here. and act appropriately to stop these abuses and change the system!





Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2014/07/12/5250885/break-silence-on-brutal-florida.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Voices from Solitary: “Death Row Diary” of Florida Man Scheduled to Die Tonight

From: SolitaryWatch

Voices from Solitary: “Death Row Diary” of Florida Man Scheduled to Die Tonight
June 12, 2013 By Voices from Solitary

William Van Poyck, 58 years old and on death row at the Florida State Prison in Starke, is scheduled to die at the hands of the state tonight at 7 pm. In 1987 he was convicted of murdering prison guard Fred Griffis in a failed jailbreak attempt. Poyck has spent nearly 26 years on death row in solitary confinement. He has written to his sister about his life in prison, and in recent years she has published his letters to a blog called Death Row Diary. In these letters, Poyck writes about everything from the novels and history books he is reading and shows he has watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life–punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution. He also comments on the bill recently passed by the Florida legislature that will accelerate the schedule of executions in Florida. The excerpts selected here focus on the inhumane treatment he and other individuals on death row endure as they move ever closer to their own finalities. His last entry was written on May 28, when he had “15 days left to live.” –Abby Taskier

. . . . . . . . . . .

January 4, 2012
Well, another year is upon us. I feel like I ought to have something profound to say but all I can think of is the too many – over 40 – years I’ve spent sitting in a cell or prison dormitory watching another new year slide into my life. New Year’s is supposed to represent hope and potential but it’s hard to convince yourself that hope and potential abounds when you’re doing hard time! Anyway, 2012 is the supposed end of the world according to the Mayan calendar…I don’t put too much stock in apocalyptic predictions; humans have been making them since the dawn of time, after all, without any success, and I’m an optimist by nature. But I confess that as I survey the world around me and what we humans are doing to planet earth it is increasingly difficult to envision a good ending…

The search team came and tore up my cell last week; it was a surgical strike (they came for me alone) and I was later told that “someone” wrote a snitch kite on me claiming (falsely) I had a weapon in my cell. I’m fairly certain it was someone trying to get a DR (disciplinary report) dismissed by dropping a dime on me on the hope they’d shake me down and find something, any kind of contraband, and the rat would then get credit for it. But I had no contraband so the snitch struck out. If the administration had any integrity they’d write the rat a DR for “lying to staff.” I spent several hours putting my cell back in order; it looked like a hurricane came through, all my property scattered everywhere. This is the kind of bullshit you have to put up with in prison; it’s the nature of the beast…

I just learned that Governor Scott has signed another death warrant and someone is on death watch on the bottom floor of Q-wing. Scott didn’t waste any time after the holidays; he seems determined to execute a record number of people at the pace he is setting…This is a depressing turn of events, a lousy way to begin the new year, at least from my perspective. The execution, when it occurs, will undoubtedly please some people, so it’s all a matter of perspective…

February 9, 2012
Yesterday the prison was locked down all day for the standard “mock execution”, the practice run which occurs a week prior to the actual premeditated killing. For the mock execution they lock down the joint, bring in an array of big wigs, and go through a dry run to make sure the death machine is in working order, everyone on their toes. The big wigs are just voyeurs, here to vicariously kill someone while allowing themselves the bare moral cover of not actually pushing the knife between the ribs. Their minions do the actual dirty deed while they can go home with technically clean hands. These mock executions are as depressing as the real thing, in the sense that it’s dispiriting to watch an entire organization (a prison, with all its constituent parts) so seriously dedicate their time and energies to practice killing a fellow human being, as if this is a good and natural thing to do. It takes some peculiar mental (not to mention moral) gymnastics to justify this to oneself, but we humans have proven ourselves immensely adept at self-delusion and hypocrisy, especially when we bring religion into the equation. We are really, really good at killing others in the name of God. We are a strange species, aren’t we?

February 25, 2012
Robert Waterhouse was scheduled for execution at 6:00pm this evening. In accordance with the established execution protocol he was strapped to the gurney and the needles were inserted into each arm about 45 minutes prior to his appointed time. Just before 6:00, however, he received a 45-minute stay which morphed into an almost 3-hour endurance test as he remained on the gurney as the seconds, minutes and then hours slid by at an excruciatingly slow pace, waiting for someone to tell him if hope was at hand, if he would live or die. Just before 9:00 he received his answer, the plungers were depressed, the syringes emptied and he was summarily killed. Here on the row we can discern the approximate time of death when we see the old white Cadillac hearse trundle in through the back sally port gate to pick up the body, the same familiar 1960′s era hearse I’ve watched for almost 40 years, coming in to retrieve the bodies of murdered prisoners, which used to happen on a regular basis back when I was in open population. I’ve seen a lot of guys, both friends and foes, carted off in that old hearse. Anyway, pause for a moment to imagine being on that gurney for over three hours, the needles in your arms. You’ve already come to terms with your imminent death, you are reconciled with the reality that this is it, this is how you will die, that there will be no reprieve. Then, at the last moment, a cruel trick, you’re given that slim hope, which you instinctively grasp. Some court, somewhere, has given you a temporary stay. You stare at the ceiling while the clock on the wall ticks away. You are totally alone, not a friendly soul in sight, surrounded by grim-faced men who are determined to kill you. Your heart pounds, your body feels electrified and every second seems like an eternity as a Kaleidoscope of wild thoughts crash around franticly in your compressed mind. After 3 hours you are drained, exhausted, terrorized, and then the phone on the wall rings and you’re told it’s time to die…

June 10, 2012
…Doing my own laundry (most of us do it) has become even more of an imperative over the last year or two. For starters, you cannot exchange your state clothes for clean stuff at the weekly laundry exchange because all the laundry issues now are old, ripped-up rags, stuff right out of a cartoon version of the rags Napoleon’s army wore as they withdrew from Russia. There is no money available here for any new clothing. The sheets, towels, socks, T-shirts and drawers are almost black with filth; they look like what mechanics use in garages to clean up with. The laundry has taken to cutting all the sheets in half lengthwise and cutting all the towels in half (sewing up the edges) to try to make things stretch. More basic than that, though, is that for at least a year, maybe two, the laundry has simply quit using any soap when it “washes” the clothes. They stuff they pass out stinks worse than it does when it’s turned in. If you do get something from the laundry, the first thing you and have to do is wash it. Most people do what I do, they bribe someone to get ahold of a couple of new sheets and a new towel, and then they just keep them, washing them by hand every week. Since we cannot obtain any laundry soap (for reasons unknown they stopped selling it to us 10 years ago) we’ve gotta use canteen-bought shampoo to do our laundry (VO-5 is the cheapest). And of course, we’ve gotta wash all our stuff in our toilets; this sounds gross to the uninitiated, but we keep our stainless steel toilets scrubbed clean. You then plug it up and flush it until it fills, then add shampoo and laundry and go to work. This is old-school and is universal in prisons around the country (although 95% of prisons have made this obsolete by offering real laundry services. But Florida in general and Florida State Prison in particular are 30 years behind the times and the administration seems to revel in its backwardness). Hell, this prison doesn’t even have hot water to the cells…

September 13, 2012
In the early morning hours of August 30, my friend Tom, who lived 2 cells down from me groggily awoke to find his face and pillow covered in blood and his tongue bitten about half off. He had no memory of what occurred. That morning his speech was slurred (over and above his extreme difficulty in speaking with a then-swollen, bloody tongue) and I noticed his thinking was confused. I told him he’d most likely had a seizure in his sleep (he has no history of seizures) and that because he was on high cholesterol medication he may have had a small stroke. Over the following days Tom suffered progressively severe headaches almost constantly and began sleeping excessively. His speech became increasingly slurred and his mental faculties were clearly compromised. I, and others, constantly urged Tom to try to get up to the clinic to see a doctor (even though the two doctors here are notorious quacks) and so he began trying to stop any passing nurses (who go down our row to deliver medications to some) to explain his situation, but none of them were interested. Most just said “put in a sick call slip.” At my urging Tom declared a “medical emergency” which is supposed to get you right up to the clinic. But instead, a nurse came to the wing, briefly examined Tom’s swollen (and now infected) tongue, gave him two Tylenol and told him he was just “out of luck” since no doctor was on duty on a Saturday night.

Meanwhile, day by day, Tom got worse. He knew something was wrong with him but seemed unable to figure out what to do. I wrote up a sick call slip for him (by this time his handwriting was illegible and he could not put his thoughts together) and the next day a “nurse” or M.T. (medical technician) came to “examine” him. He listened as Tom labored to explain what happened, starting with the seizure, then told Tom “Well, some people do this [bite their tongues almost in half] to get attention.” The M.T. then walked away…

October 2, 2012
…I stuck my mirror out, upon hearing the door roll, and saw Tom, a big bandage on his head, tottering slowly and unsteadily down the tier to his cell. That was on the 13th. For the next 5 days he laid on his bunk, often moaning, while receiving no medication at all (despite the surgeons having prescribed many drugs). Finally, after 5 days he began getting some, but not all, of the prescribed meds (no pain meds, of course). Importantly, he did not get the most crucial one, the one to stop his brain from swelling. So he was suffering mightily until just 5 or 6 days ago when he finally saw a free-world oncologist who was shocked that he was not getting the brain swelling medication. After another 3 days he finally began getting that one and he told me the relief was immediate. I knew it was bad when he kept telling me he had fluid coming out of his ears. He’s been told he’ll get chemo and radiation treatment but that remains to be seen…

October 25, 2012
Well, the execution has been cancelled, to the dismay of some around here. Ferguson was scheduled to die on the 16th, but just before then he got a 48-hour stay. Over the next week he got three such temporary stays from three different courts, with the sole issue being his sanity to be executed. Finally, it was supposed to happen for sure 2 days ago, on the 23rd, and we woke up to the standard execution-day procedures, eating all three meals very early, the entire prison being on lockdown, and all guards wearing their dress uniforms. As execution time (6:00 pm) neared the old white hearse pulled up outside the back sally port gate waiting to come in and pick up the body. As 6:00 came and went I assumed the execution had occurred but around 7:30 a guy on the other side of my wing, which looks out on the back gate and the rear of Q-wing (the death house), called me through the vent and said the hearse never came in, but instead had finally driven off. On the 11:00 news it was reported that the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, had given Ferguson a stay of execution and that the US Supreme Court then approved the stay. (The accuracy of that precise chronology is debatable because reporters are notorious for mangling stories involving court decisions). At any rate, he got some kind of stay; how long that stay is remains unknown to me. I heard on one news report that the Eleventh Circuit granted the stay in order to decide “whether it is unconstitutional to execute the insane”…Now we go back on lottery watch, waiting to see whose death warrant the governor signs next, which is a great mood elevator for the upcoming holidays…

Last night’s mail brought me (and others) a notice that the mailroom had impounded and confiscated the latest issue of Newsweek because, the notice stated, it contained an article about “pot use in America.” Censorship like this, which implies serious First Amendment principles, used to be, and is supposed to be, rare. Only when an article clearly and unequivocally creates a substantial threat to the security of a prison should it be censored. But, over the years, the Florida DOC has gotten progressively petty (and ignorant) on this issue (since the law now practically forbids prisoners from filing law suits anymore) until we’ve reached our present state where these impoundments have become almost daily and for the most absurd reasons imaginable… With nothing to keep them in check (lawsuit-wise) the prisons do just whatever the hell they want to, knowing they are immune from challenge…

November 8, 2012
Another death row guy has died of cancer. I ran into Michael Bruno (whom I’ve known for over 20 years) in late July when I took a day trip to RMC (Regional Medical Center) for my upper GI tests. Bruno looked weak and had a persistent cough (the same cough Tom now has) and he’d just been diagnosed with lung cancer…He seemed to be doing pretty well, but on Friday, October 19th, he suddenly got ill and two days later he was dead. The cause of death, we were told, was septic shock, and I’m guessing the infection found its way into his system via the “port” they’d inserted into his chest to funnel the chemo directly into his lung. Prisons are filthy so putting a port into a guy’s chest while making him live in a cell is pretty much a prescription for disaster. This is especially true here in Florida where the DOC long ago quit issuing and buying (we used to manufacture them) the various cleaning chemicals we used to use to clean our cells and the whole prison, from powdered soap, liquid soap, disinfectants, bleach; all that is gone now and we must buy and use shampoo from the canteen to wash our clothes and clean our cells. This whole decrepit building is filthy and falling apart…

February 27, 2013
My old pal Tom died on Friday, Feb 8th at 4:10 pm, alone in the clinic isolation cell at UCI. I hate that he died alone, locked in a tiny cell with no property (no radio, TV or anything to occupy his mind) and nobody to converse with, just laying on his bunk, staring at the ceiling, waiting for his final escape. His loved ones, who were able to travel from Texas and North Carolina to visit him for three hours just two days before he passed away wrote and told me that he was very weak and gaunt, could not keep down any food or liquids, but was lucid enough for a meaningful visit, though just barely so. Although I know his death was inevitable and imminent, I’m surprised at how much it has affected me. I’ve seen an awful lot of death during my many years in prison (way too much death, in all its myriad variations), including some friends, but Tom’s has knocked the wind out of me.

Later last night they moved Paul off death watch on Q-wing and put him in the lone empty cell on my floor [after he received a stay of execution]. That’s gotta be a Hell of a transition; you are hours away from execution, you’ve had your final visits (imagine how emotional that is), made your peace with the inevitable, perhaps eaten your last meal, then, in a finger snap, you’re told you won’t be dying after all (at least not that night) and you are back on a regular death row cell talking with the Fellas. I’ve seen a number of guys go through this over the years, one of whom was just twenty minutes from execution in the electric chair when he got his unexpected stay. They moved him next to me and I was startled to see that his hair had turned almost entirely white during the six weeks he was on death watch. He died quietly in his sleep from a heart attack about six years later, right here on this floor.

It’s surprising to me that more prisoners here don’t kill themselves given the long term extreme isolation and punitive conditions, the hopelessness that comes from being confined for years in a tiny cage with virtually no property and certainly no programs or anything to engage the mind or offer any shred of hope. I’m referring specifically to the 1,000 men in close management status here (close management being a euphemism for long-term solitary confinement lasting years and years). Death row conditions are marginally better; at least we get visits and we can buy a little TV or radio (or now an MP3 player), but the flip side is that we spend decades in these cells and unless you possess a stout mind (and body) this inevitably erodes your constitution, often without you even knowing it. I’ve seen too many men go insane, a sad and scary thing to behold, or just throw in the towel and kill themselves, or get the state to do it for them by giving up their appeals and demanding to be executed…

April 10, 2013
On April 10, Larry Mann was executed downstairs. Seven days later Governor Scott signed another death warrant, for a guy out of Orlando named Elmer Carroll, who happened to be my next door neighbor. We were out on the rec yard when a lieutenant holding a bunch of chains showed up and took Elmer away, and while they didn’t tell him why they were taking him in I knew something was up. When I came back in, his cell was stripped and he was down on the bottom floor of Q-Wing on death watch…

The governor is wasting no time executing people, he’s killing a guy every 60 days, as regular as a metronome. Still, that is insufficiently bloodthirsty for a majority of our state representatives. This morning I watched, on the local Public Television Channel, the floor debate in the House on a bill designed to “speed up the death penalty.” Various politicians stood up to argue pro and con, and several invoked the Bible (notably the Old Testament) to justify killing us all as quickly as possible, while one guy repeatedly referred to all of us as “animals.” I have not read the bill so all I know about its particulars is what I could glean from the comments made by those who spoke up for or against it…One representative stated that if the bill becomes law (and it surely will) Florida “will execute between 13 and 90 prisoners in the next six months.” I don’t know if that’s accurate but he must have had some basis to come up with those particular numbers. Those who argued against the bill, urging caution and reminding the crowd that Florida leads the nation (by far) in death row prisoners exonerated, often 10, 15, 20 years after conviction, were steamrolled down by the Republican supermajority and the bill passed by a wide margin…

May 3, 2013
Today Governor Scott signed my death warrant and my execution date has been scheduled for June 12th, at 6pm. I wasn’t really surprised when they showed up at my cell door with the chains and shackles; for the last month or so I’ve had a strong premonition that my warrant was about to be signed, but that wasn’t something I wanted to share with you.

Sis, you know I’m a straight shooter, I’m not into sugar coating things, so I don’t want you to have any illusions about this. I do not expect any delays or stays. This is it. In 40 days these folks will take me into the room next door and kill me…

When your warrant gets signed so many things suddenly become trivial. I’ve already thrown or given away 95% of my personal property, the stuff that for years seemed so important. All those great books I’ll never get to read; reams and reams of legal work I’ve been dragging around, and studying, for 2 decades and which has suddenly lost its relevance. My magazines and newspapers stack up unread; I have little appetite to waste valuable, irreplaceable hours reading up on current events. Does it really matter to me now what’s happening in the Middle East, or on Wall Street, or how my Miami Dolphins are looking for the upcoming new season? What’s the point? Ditto the TV; I’m uninterested in wasting time watching programs that now mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. The other day I caught myself reaching for my daily vitamin. Really?, I wondered, as the absurdity hit me. Likewise, after 40 years of working out religiously, that’s out the window now. Again, what’s the point?…

May 12, 2013
On Tuesday they came and measured me for my execution/burial suit. Sometime soon I’ll be given the details on how “the body” will be disposed of following the legally required autopsy (will my cause of death really be a mystery?). I understand the State will pay for a cremation should I choose this form of disposal (I do) and my ashes will be available at a Gainesville Funeral home; but don’t quote me on that yet. Discussing the practical aspects of my upcoming death was a little disconcerting, but I took it in stride.
I’ve been on death watch for 10 days now and I have 31 days left to live. (It seems surreal when I write that out, and just as surreal that all those around me accept this as a normal and natural thing). My cell (one of three) is next to the execution chamber so I won’t have far to walk. There’s another guy down here with me, his execution is set for 2 weeks before mine so assuming he doesn’t get a stay I’ll have a front row seat to how the final days and hours play out. Aren’t I lucky?

May 19, 2013
I’ve got 25 days left to live. It isn’t normal to be able to write something like that, and that sense of surrealism permeates every hour down here. Making a man spend his last six weeks ticking off every minute, hour and day of his life left on earth constitutes cruel and unusual punishment by any definition. And it certainly constitutes, as a matter of law, two of Florida’s statutory aggravating circumstances (used by the state to justify the imposition of death sentences), to wit: 1) the killing is cold, calculated and premeditated; and, 2) the killing is heinous, atrocious and cruel. Although I’ve fully accepted my circumstances, I know it’s going to happen and I’ve come to terms with it, that does not obviate the fact that it just isn’t right to do this to people, and for society to accept this as normal or natural, well, it speaks more about our society than it does about those being so efficiently dispatched down here in the bowels of this penitentiary…

There are now three of us down here on death watch; all our executions are spaced 2 weeks apart. The guy with senior status (Elmer) is set to die on May 29th, 2 weeks before me. Last week the Florida Supreme Court denied his last-ditch appeal and he’s got no place left to go. He does not know much about the law or court procedures but he told me he knows there is now nothing between him and his date with death. He’s resigned to his fate and I hear him pacing the floor a lot, a pacing that is gradually morphing into a listless shuffling, as if all hope has deflated from his body, like air leaking from a punctured tire. It’s a sad, melancholy sound when you know its context. I choose to remain active, vital and alive, my spirit, intellect and even my humor undiminished, and I’ll remain so until they shoot that poison into my veins and snuff out the candle of this physical vehicle…

May 22, 2013
I have 21 days left to live. The fickleness, the arbitrariness, the fleeting nature of life itself is on display daily throughout our world but as good an example as any occurred here on Monday morning when, as I was being dressed out here on Q-Wing for a visit, a sudden radio call brought the wing officers rushing upstairs where they found a prisoner (non-death row) hanging in his cell. After 20+ years in prison this guy (Earl) had finally given in to the utter hopelessness that can seize the heart and spirit of any man mired forever in an American maximum security prison. The irony wasn’t lost on me that while 3 of us on death watch are fighting to live, this poor soul, living just 10 feet above us, stripped of all hope, had voluntarily surrendered his life rather than continue his dismal existence. When nothing but a lifetime of suffering lays ahead – with no hope, no promise, no opportunity to change your fate – the idea of utter annihilation can come to look appealing in contrast. When everything has been taken from you, the one thing you have left, that nobody can take away, is the decision to live or die. In that context choosing death can look like freedom…

Today my neighbor, Elmer, went on Phase II of death watch, which begins 7 days prior to execution. They remove all your property from your cell while an officer sits in front of your cell 24/7 recording everything you do. Staff also performs a “dry run” or “mock execution”, basically duplicating the procedures that will occur 7 days later. This is when you know you’re making the final turn off the back stretch, you know your death is imminent, easily within reach, you can count it by hours instead of by days. Right now I’m on deck; when Elmer goes I’ll be up to bat (that’s enough sports metaphors for now)…

May 28, 2013
Tomorrow Elmer will be executed and I’ll be next up to bat, with 15 days to live. A situation like this tends to make you reflect on the elusive nature of time itself, which some folks – physicists and metaphysicists alike – claim is an illusion anyway. Real or not it sure seems to be going someplace quickly!…

This may be my last letter to reach you before you begin your journey down south to be by my side for my final days. These many visits I’ve recently received from those who love me have been a blessing for me. I’m acutely aware that some guys on death watch have absolutely nobody to help them bear their burden during their last days and hours on earth, not a soul willing to share some love. It’s a terrible thing to die all alone…

I read in a recent newspaper article that the brother and sister of Fred Griffis, the victim in my case, are angry that I’m still alive and eager for my execution. These are understandable human feelings. I have a brother and sister myself and I cannot honestly say how I would deal with it if something happened to you or Jeff at the hands of another. I have thought of Fred many times over the years and grieved over his senseless death. I feel bad for Fred’s siblings though if seeing another human being die will truly give them pleasure. I suspect when I’m gone, if they search their hearts, they will grasp the emptiness of the closure promised by the revenge of capital punishment. There’s a lot of wisdom in the old saying “An eye for an eye soon makes the whole world blind…
. . . . . . . . . . .
Update: William Van Poyck was executed by lethal injection, and pronounced dead at 7:24 pm on June 12, 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mulling over Martinez: Why a Recent Supreme Court Case might get you into Federal Court in Style

Published earlier in: Florida Postconviction Legal Perspectives (FPLP),  Vol. I, Issue 10, pages 11-14, Oct. 2012

By Gray R. Proctor

Greetings! I want to talk about an issue in federal habeas corpus review, specifically procedural default. A recent Supreme Court case might have an unexpected effect: allowing defendants to choose whether to bring their claims of ineffective assistance of counsel – and perhaps other claims that cannot be brought at trial or on direct appeal – directly in federal court, without going through Florida state court in a 3.850 motion or similar device. I’ll explain the case, what it can definitely do, what I think it might do, and how that might help you. Accordingly, this month I need to open with something you might expect from an attorney: a disclaimer. This column is not legal advice. I make no prediction about how any court will apply the law to your case. Rely on the opinions I express here at your own
risk.

On March 20, 2012, the Supreme Court decided Martinez v. Ryan.1
Changing the law for most federal habeas petitioners, Martinez established that if the petitioner had no attorney or had an ineffective attorney on state postconviction review, the petitioner’s failure to bring certain claims will no longer result in procedural default (explained below). Martinez applies only to those claims that could not have been brought at an earlier stage of criminal proceedings when the petitioner did have a right to counsel. I use the example of ineffective assistance of counsel in this column, but there will be others. I may consider which other claims could benefit from Martinez in a future piece. I also do not consider the role of Martinez for federal prisoners bringing their §2255 motions, but it seems to me that it could allow them to bring new claims on appeal from the denial of their § 2255 motions.

Prior to Martinez, federal habeas courts had held that because no right to counsel exists after direct appeal, these claims were defaulted if not brought in state court even if counsel made an egregious error. To recap the events leading to the Supreme Court decision: Proceeding pro se on federal habeas review of his Arizona state conviction, Luis Martinez brought an ineffective assistance of counsel claim that had not been presented in Arizona postconviction proceedings below. The state argued that Martinez’s claim was therefore procedurally defaulted on habeas review.1

Martinez countered by arguing that his claim fell within the “cause and prejudice” exception to
procedural default because it wasn’t his own fault that the claim hadn’t been raised. The cause here: Martinez’s postconviction attorney2 failed to raise the ineffective assistance claim in state courts.
The state’s reply, well supported by existing case law, was that ineffective assistance of counsel couldn’t serve as “cause” for claims not brought on collateral review.4

Existing law provided that where a right to counsel exists, the Sixth Amendment “requires that responsibility for the [procedural] default be imputed to the State” rather than the petitioner.5
Without such a right, a petitioner was bound by the acts of the attorney, who was deemed to be his agent just as in a civil case.

Martinez lost in the district court. On appeal, he argued that he was entitled to effective assistance of counsel on collateral review, at least with respect to his claim of ineffective assistance of trial or appellate counsel, because he could not have brought that claim at trial or on direct appeal.6

Thus, he had never had any right to counsel’s assistance in bringing this particular claim. To quote from the Ninth Circuit’s opinion:

Martinez asserts that he is entitled to the effective assistance of counsel in connection with his first state petition for post-conviction relief. He asserts that a right to the assistance of counsel attaches to the presentation of a claim of error at the first tier of review, relying upon Halbert v. Michigan, 545 U.S. 605, (2005) and Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 (1963). Martinez recognizes the general rule that “there is no right to counsel in state collateral proceedings,” see Coleman, 501 U.S. at 755, 111 S.Ct. 2546, but asserts that there might be an exception where "state collateral review is the first place a prisoner can present a challenge to his conviction." 501 U.S. at 755.

.... On the one hand, the Court's decisions in Halbert and Douglas recognized a federal
constitutional right to counsel in connection with a criminal defendant's direct appeal from his
conviction (or the equivalent of direct appeal). On the other hand, in Ross v. Moffitt, the Court
declined to recognize a right to counsel in connection with a criminal defendant’s pursuit of secondtier review. 417 U.S. 600 (1974).8

To briefly review the relevant law: Douglas established that the Equal Protection Clause guarantees effective
assistance of counsel on direct appeal, because “where the merits of the one and only appeal an indigent has as of right are decided without benefit of counsel, we think an unconstitutional line has been drawn between rich and poor.”9

Halbert involved Michigan’s procedure granting its courts of appeal discretion to reject appeals of guilty
pleas. Although the Supreme Court had previously refused to extend the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of effective counsel to appeals in state supreme court or the Supreme Court, 10 it held in Halbert that the right to counsel does extend to discretionary review which is “likely the only[] direct review the defendant’s conviction and sentence will receive.”11

To return to Martinez: the Ninth Circuit decided that “there is no federal constitutional right to the assistance of counsel in connection with state collateral relief proceedings, even where those proceedings constitute the first tier of review for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.”12

To again quote that court:

This case is more like Ross than Halbert. In Ross, the petitioner had already received direct review of his convictions, and had already received the assistance of counsel in connection with that first appeal. Likewise, here, Martinez has already received direct review of his conviction and received the assistance of counsel in connection with that appeal. In Halbert, by contrast, the petitioner sought the functional equivalent of direct review, the first appeal of his conviction. Even if collateral review presents the first tier of review for Martinez' ineffective assistance of counsel claim, we conclude that Martinez' action is not analogous to a direct appeal — or the first opportunity for him to obtain review of his conviction — so as to entitle him to effective counsel.13

The Martinez court adhered to the existing law on the “cause” element of the cause and prejudice exception to procedural default: that an attorney’s actions cannot serve to excuse default unless her client had a right to
counsel at the time of the error. Thus, Martinez lost again.

Martinez won in the Supreme Court, but not on the right-to-counsel issue. The Supreme Court recognized that it was still an open question, but found that “[t]his is not the case . . . to resolve whether that exception exists as a constitutional matter.” Instead, the Supreme Court changed the doctrine of procedural default:

Where, under state law, claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel must be raised in an initial review collateral proceeding, a procedural default will not bar a federal habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial if, in the initial-review collateral proceeding, there was no counsel or counsel in that proceeding was ineffective.

Just as it did in Maples v. Thomas14 earlier this term, the Martinez Court decided that an attorney’s misconduct in postconviction proceedings excused a procedural default, regardless of whether a right to counsel exists.

Forget for a moment the question of whether there’s a constitutional right to counsel on collateral appeal. Your guess is as good as mine when that will be resolved or what the answer will be. Let’s talk about how Martinez can help you if you didn’t have appointed counsel on Florida postconviction review.

The obvious benefit goes to those of you who want to bring a new claim of ineffective assistance in federal court that you didn’t think of on Florida postconviction review. Most of you did not study the law until you were faced with filing your 3.850 or 3.800 motions, so you may have discovered new legal theories that didn’t occur to you during the first round of review. Or, new facts may have come to light that allow you to make claims that didn’t seem plausible before. These would have been procedurally defaulted before Martinez, but now you can probably bring them. If this describes you, you can skip the next two paragraphs and see how else this will help you obtain the benefits of fullscale de novo federal review of your claim – and possibly appointed counsel as well.

For those of you who have not yet filed a Florida postconviction motion, Martinez could also do something for you that you might not realize: if you’re not appointed an attorney on collateral review, Martinez may give you a meaningful choice between having your claims heard in state or federal court. I’ll explain why you might want to do that before, but first I want to warn you that deliberately failing to bring claims in state court is still a very risky strategy. Martinez is a new case, and federal courts haven’t decided what its limits are. Conceivably, federal courts could rule that if you “deliberately bypass” the state courts15 by failing to bring a claim that you know you could have brought, Martinez does not apply – and then your claim will never be heard at all.

That said, it seems clear to me that Martinez makes the federal court a viable forum when it applies. The reason is that if Martinez applies, there’s no lower court decision to contend with. Let me explain why that makes a big difference.

First of all, a Martinez-excused claim should be much more likely to receive an evidentiary hearing. 28 U.S.C. §2254 provides that petitioners who have “failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court” will not receive an evidentiary hearing unless the petitioner can show that no reasonable factfinder would have found the petitioner guilty if his constitutional rights had not been violated.16

“Failed” here doesn’t just mean that you didn’t do it; it means that it’s your own fault. A habeas petitioner “fails” to develop the factual basis of a claim when there exists “a lack of diligence, or some greater fault, attributable to the prisoner or the prisoner’s counsel.”17

Martinez holds that it’s not your fault you didn’t bring a claim if you didn’t have counsel – at least, with respect to procedural default. The reasoning seems equally applicable to evidentiary hearings. If so, evidentiary hearings on Martinez-excused claims will be governed by the more generous standard of Townsend v. Sain:

[A] federal court must grant an evidentiary hearing to a habeas applicant under the following
circumstances: If (1) the merits of the factual dispute were not resolved in the state hearing; (2) the state factual determination is not fairly supported by the record as a whole; (3) the fact-finding procedure employed by the state court was not adequate to afford a full and fair hearing; (4) there isa substantial allegation of newly discovered evidence; (5) the material facts were not adequately developed at the state-court hearing; or (6) for any reason it appears that the state trier of fact did not afford the habeas applicant a full and fair fact hearing.18

You ought to be able to meet that standard. Even better, you’ll be appointed an attorney under the rules of habeas procedure.19

It is not 100% certain that you’ll be entitled to constitutionally effective assistance from that attorney,
but I think it extremely likely, and in any event it’s not certain that you won’t enjoy the Sixth Amendment guarantee from your federal habeas attorney.20

I leave it to you to decide whether the average attorney appointed for a federal habeas case will be better than the average attorney appointed in Florida state postconviction proceedings.

The other benefit pertains to questions of law. If you bring a claim in state courts and the state court gets it wrong, you’re in trouble, because the federal court can’t just fix it. Federal habeas courts are likely to be bound by that state court decision – especially for Strickland claims. For any claim “adjudicated on the merits in State court,” the standard of relief requires federal courts to find “a decision that was contrary to, or involved an application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.”21

So if the state court decision is wrong, but not unreasonably wrong, you still lose. Strickland already gives counsel a presumption of effectiveness, leading the Court to speak of “the doubly deferential judicial review that applies to a Strickland claim evaluated under the § 2254(d)(1) standard.”22

Because there is no state court decision to defer to, Martinez-excused claims can prevail if the district judge thinks they should. Also, if you would definitely win under Eleventh Circuit (federal court of appeals) law but might not under Florida law, avoiding the “as determined by the Supreme Court” requirement is an attractive option. If you brought your claim in state court and lost, case law from the Eleventh Circuit law would not apply.

These are my thoughts on Martinez so far. In addition to letting you bring your claim in federal court, it helps you avoid the parts of AEDPA23 that have crippled federal courts. Whether your claim is better heard in state or federal court is not possible to predict in a general sense, but you might decide that the possibility is worth the risk. As always, I wish you luck.

Notes

Note 1. 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012).

Note 2. See, e.g., Jones v. United States, 153 F.3d 1305, 1307 (11th Cir. 1998) (applying doctrine of procedural default to claims by federal prisoners under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 that were not raised at trial or on appeal); Snowden v.
Singletary, 135 F.3d 732, 735-76 (11th Cir. 1998) (explaining that claims not “exhausted” in state court are procedurally defaulted if they could no longer be raised at the time the federal court consider a 28 U.S.C. §2255 petition).

Note 3. Arizona is one of a few states that appoint counsel for every first postconviction proceeding. Ariz. Rule Crim. Proc. 32.4(c)(2). Rule 3.111(b)(2) of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure allows appointment of counsel on postconviction review, but does not offer any criteria for deciding when counsel should be ppointed. Rule 3.851(b) makes appointment of counsel mandatory for postconviction proceedings in capital cases.

Note 4. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 753–754, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 115 L.Ed.2d 640 (1991).

Note 5. Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 555, 107 S.Ct. 1990, 95 L.Ed.2d 539 (1987) ("We have never held that prisoners have a constitutional right to counsel when mounting collateral attacks upon their convictions").

Note 6. Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986).

Note 7. Massaro v. United States, 538 U.S. 500 (2003) (explaining that “almost all jurisdictions prefer that ineffective assistance claims be presented on collateral attack”).

Note 8. Martinez v. Schriro, 623 F.3d 731, 736-37 (9th Cir. 2010). Following the quoted text is a useful review of the law
governing the right to counsel both at trial and on appeal.

Note 9. At 357.

Note 10. Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600 (1974).

Note 11. Halbert v. Michigan, 545 U.S. 605, 609 (2005).

Note 12. 623 F.3d at 739-40.

Note 13. Id. at 740.

Note 14. Maples v. Thomas, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 912, 922-23, 181 L.Ed.2d 807 (2012) (finding cause and prejudice to excuse procedural default in capital case where the petitioner’s counsel destroyed the principal-agent relationship
by abandoning him without notice, but explaining that where no right to counsel exists, a petitioner is bound by the acts and omissions of his attorney under “well settled principles of agency law”) (quotation omitted).

Note 15. “Deliberate bypass” is an older standard for deciding whether a claim was procedurally defaulted. Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391 (1963). This standard is no longer applied in habeas corpus. Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72 (1977). Nevertheless, it could be revived for petitioners who fail to bring a claim for the sole reason that they want to secure the benefits I discuss in this column.

Note 16. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2)(B) (emphasis added). In addition to this requirement, a petitioner must show that theclaim either relies on a new, retroactive rule of constitutional law or depends on facts that could not have been discovered earlier. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (e)(2)(A).

Note 17. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420, 432 (2000).

Note 18. 372 U.S. 293, 313 (1963)

Note 19. Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Court, Rule 8(c) (“§2254 Rules”) (“If an evidentiary hearing is warranted, the judge must appoint an attorney to represent a petitioner who qualifies to have counsel appointed under 18 U.S.C. § 3006A.” (governing appointment of counsel for indents)).

Note 20. McGriff v. Dep’t of Corr., 338 F.3d 1231, 1235 (“If the Supreme Court had intended a § 2254 petitioner to have a more substantial right to counsel than those provided by the Constitution, we would expect to see language to that effect in the text of the rule. We find no such language in Rule 8(c). We therefore turn to the Constitution not for authority, but instruction.”).

Note 21. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).

Note 22. Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 123 (2009).

Note 23. The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, passed in 1996, significantly narrowed the scope of federal habeas review.

About the Author

Gray R. Proctor is currently on the Board of Directors for the Florida Postconviction Legal Aid Organization and practices law in Orlando, Florida, representing clients in criminal appeals and state and federal habeas corpus proceedings. Gray R. Proctor's legal career really began during his second year at Vanderbilt University Law School.

Professor Nancy King (co-author of West's Criminal Procedure treatise and Assistant Reporter for the Advisory Committee for the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure) had just undertaken her groundbreaking empirical study of federal habeas litigation in district courts, and Gray was lucky enough to serve as a research assistant on that project. Over the course of the habeas project, Gray reviewed over 800 non-capital habeas cases and 100 capital habeas cases throughout the country, documenting which claims and defenses were raised and the eventual ruling. This study is cited by Justice Scalia in the Martinez dissent.

Professor King also served as faculty advisor for Gray's published senior thesis, "Ngo Excuses: Proving, Rebutting, and Excusing Exhaustion in Prisoner Suits after Woodford v. Ngo and Jones v. Bock," 31 Hamline L. Rev. 471. Professor King would later serve as Gray's co-author in “Post-Padilla: Padilla’s Puzzles for Review in State and Federal Courts,” 23 Fed. Sent. R. 239, an article about how Padilla's
ruling would have to be filtered through federal postconviction rules. His particular interest in Padilla is whether it will be applied retroactively; the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on this issue in Chaidez v. United States, and those who wish to place bets on how it will be decided should contact Gray directly.

Immediately after law school, Gray served as law clerk for the Hon. Brian Owsley in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Gray then moved to Richmond, Virginia, serving for two years as a pro se law clerk (drafting opinions in uncounseled prisoner filings) at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is affectionately known as "the Rocket Docket" for its unusual
speed and efficiency.

Afterward, Gray served as a Staff Attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, drafting memoranda and opinions for appeals of criminal cases, postconviction proceedings, prisoner civil rights suits, and the occasional miscellaneous federal suit.

Gray left the Fourth Circuit to serve as deputy director of the American Bar Association's National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, a free, internet-based catalog of laws and regulations in every United States jurisdiction that impose a civil consequence due solely to a criminal conviction (think felon disenfranchisement). Gray continues to serve in that capacity under Director and former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret C. Love, balancing his commitment to that project with his appellate, postconviction, and civil rights law practice in Orlando, FL.

Gray R. Proctor, Esq.
1199 N. Orange Ave.
Orlando, FL 32804
phone: 321-445-1951
fax: 321-445-5484
gray@appealsandhabeas.com

Monday, December 24, 2012

Scott names insider as Florida prison secretary

From: Miami Herald
Dec. 17th 2012

BY BILL KACZOR
ASSOCIATED PRESS

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's new prison chief on Monday inherited a deficit of about $60 million and a legal dispute over privatizing inmate health care that he says could put his agency much deeper in debt.

Michael D. Crews spoke about the challenges he's facing as secretary of corrections a couple hours after Gov. Rick Scott announced his appointment to succeed Ken Tucker, who retired. Crews had been deputy secretary since last year.

"I have total confidence in the people that I have the opportunity to work with here that we are ultimately going to get to where we want to be as an agency," Crews told reporters.

He began his 26-year career in corrections and law enforcement as a probation and parole officer. Later, he worked as a correctional officer and then had various jobs in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement including director of the agency's professionalism program and chief of its bureau of standards.

Scott, a former hospital chain CEO who was new to politics when elected in 2010, again has turned to an insider after initially appointing people without Florida government experience to many key posts when he took office nearly two years ago.

His initial appointee as corrections secretary, former Indiana prisons chief Edwin Buss, lasted just six months. Scott forced him out in August 2011 after initial health care privatization bids would have benefited a consultant whom Buss had hired. Scott's office also overrode a decision by Buss to give MSNBC access to Florida's prisons for its "Lockup" program.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/17/3145896/scott-names-insider-as-florida.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, September 27, 2012

AFSC Releases “Survivors Manual” By and For Prisoners in Solitary Confinemen


From: SolitaryWatch, July 31st, 2012
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

The American Friends Service Committee has put out a new edition of the vital publication Survivors Manual: Surviving in Solitary -- A Manual Written By and For People Living in Control Units. The volume is a collection of letters, stories, poetry, and practical advice on surviving solitary confinement in prisons. AFSC released the following announcement last week:

Solitary confinement, characterized by 23-hour a day lockout with minimal exercise and lack of human contact, affects an estimated 100,000 prisoners in federal and state prisons in almost every state. Thus the need for "Survivors Manual," which was first issued in 1998, is even more vital.

In this powerful collection of voices from solitary, people currently or formerly held in isolation vividly describe their conditions and their daily lives. They also write about how they struggle to keep mind, body, and soul together in an environment that is designed to break them down. Many also analyze the political, economic, and social forces that shape their torturous situation. The collection also includes some stunning artwork and poetry.

A PDF of the manual is available online at the following link:

http://www.afsc.org/document/survivors-manual-surviving-solitary

Copies can also be purchased for $3 each at the following site:

http://www.quakerbooks.org/survivors_manual.php

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Plz Sign: Immigrants Are Not For Sale



Please Sign the petition of My Cuentame:

The short video is on the Correction Corporation of America & the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their attempt to open the country's largest private immigration detention facility in south Florida.

The video features south Floridians voicing their criticism both against CCA's/ICE's facility and against the phenomena of private immigration detention centers/prisons. The petition asks Rep. Debbie Wasserman to stand with her constituents and "say no to CCA."

IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT FOR SALE

We call on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-20) to WITHDRAW her current endorsements for CCA’s project.

The Obama Administration announced a change in the priorities for detentions and deportations, to focus on real national security concerns, not on separating parents from their children or deporting DREAMers who are only seeking a better future.

It is time for ICE to stop the immigrant money making machine and tell CCA to GO AWAY from Southwest Ranches.

SIGN PETITION and tell REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ To Say NO to CCA!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

National Occupy in Support of Prisoners Day: Feb 20th



Website: Occupy4Prisoners.org

Read the book by Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Statements from People in Prisons for February 20th – National Occupy in Support of Prisoners Day

From: http://occupy4prisoners.org/statements-from-people-in-prisons/

(Please note that there are more statements being submitted, please continue to check back for more! If you are having an action on February 20th, please feel free to incorporate these statements as part of your program. If you have a statement to submit please send to occupy4prisoners@gmail.com.)

In Respect to the February 20th 2012 Protest
We are With You In Spirit !!!

TO: All Occupy Wall Street Participants

FROM: Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement Hunger Strikers in Solidarity (PHSS)
Sitawa Jamaa, s/n Dewberry C35671; Todd Ashker C58191; Antonio Guillen P81948; and Arturo Castellanos C17275

Corporate Amerika has coalesced its efforts around the exploitation of Human Beings, while using the political apparatus of the U.S. government, federal, state and local to institute policies that set in motion the creation of a corporate police state, which has targeted the poor as a surplus for incarceration and exploitation.

Those of us housed in solitary confinement throughout California and Amerika, support “Occupy Wall Street” and understand the necessity to resist against corporate greed. We will no longer willingly accept the subjugation, oppression and exploitation of Humanity.

Banks and the “prison industrial complex” are corporate empires that prey on the souls of Humanity. Therefore we officially join you all in Struggle.

One Love, One Struggle
Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement
---------
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Souls on Ice
(Col.writ. 2/2/23) @’12 Mumia Abu-Jamal

When I heard of the call, just raised in Oakland, California, to “Occupy the Prisons”, I gasped.

It was not an especially radical call, but it was right on time.
For prisons have become a metaphor; the shadow-side, if you will, of America, With oceans of words about freedom, and the reality that the U.S. is the world’s leader of the incarceration industry, its more than time for the focused attention of the Occupy Movement.
It’s past time.

For the U.S. is the world’s largest imprisoner for decades, much wrought by the insidious effects of the so-called ‘drug war’—what I call, “the War on the Poor”.

And, Occupy, now an international movement, certainly has no shortage of prisons to choose from. Every state, every rural district, every hamlet in America has a prison; a place where the Constitution doesn’t exist, and where slavery is all but legalized.

When law professor, Michelle Alexander, took on the topic, her book, the New Jim Crow, took off like hotcakes – selling over 100,000 in just a few months.

And where there are prisons, there is torture; brutal beatings, grave humiliations, perverse censorship–and even murders—all under a legal system that is as blind as that statue which holds aloft a scale, her eyes covered by a frigid fold of cloth.
So, what is Occupy to do?

Initially, it must support movements such as those calling for the freedom of Lakota brother Leonard Peltier, the MOVE veterans of August 8th, 1978, the remaining two members of the Angola 3: Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, Sundiata Acoli, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, and many other brothers and sisters who’ve spent lifetimes in steel and brick hellholes.
But, the Occupy Movement must do more.

As it shifted the discussion and paradigm on economic issues, it must turn the wheel of the so-called ‘Criminal Justice System’ in America, that is in fact, a destructive, counter-productive, annual $69 billion boondoogle of repression, better-known by activists as the Prison-Industrial-Complex.
That means more than a one-day event, no matter how massive or impressive. It means building a mass movement that demands and fights for real change, and eventually abolition of structures that do far more social damage than good.

It means the abolition of solitary confinement, for it is no more than modern-day torture chambers for the poor.

It means the repeal of repressive laws that support such structures.

It means social change—or it means nothing.

So let us begin—Down With the Prison Industrial Complex!
----------
Lynne Stewart
This occupy rally is what Must happen at every jail in the United States–a direct challenge to Arbitrary Power that thinks it can lock up those with the greatest grievances against the system and systematically demonize them to their fellow citizens.

I speak now for all the 2 Million but of course. particularly on behalf of those political prisoners who actively fought and tested this unjust system and now suffer in SHU’s, and other forms of Solitary, for that. Many have been tortured for the last thirty years or more. When they were captured in the heady political days of the ’60s and ’70s, we were convinced that fundamental change was inevitable –indeed that it was right around the corner. It still remains inevitable but now we understand the protracted struggle necessary to breach this evil system.

I for one am recruited to accomplish the freedom of political prisoners and as my comrade Chairman Fred says “FREE ‘EM ALL” !!!
------
Khalfani Malik Khaldun
Greetings:
All power to the people. I am in support/solidarity with your work to expose the contradictions existing at San Quentin prison, and all prisoners across the country.

Please extend my clenched fist salutation to brother Kevin Cooper/those men on death row.

I am a political prisoner here in Indiana. I have been in prison for 26 years now, with 18 years in isolated confinement. I am currently being held in a Secure Housing Unit, where the conditions are cruel and unusual punishment, and there are deplorable violations of state and federal policy all across the unit.

Those in charge have used criminal tactics to keep many of us in perpetual isolation. We could use some organized, principled help here in Indiana. Could you provide me and e-mail or other address of other occupiers in solidarity against prison injustice? We need to organize a force here to Occupy the Indiana SHU. I have some committed supporters…along with others we can move mountains. I agree with Kevin: just never forget us.

Khalfani Malik Khaldun (L. McQuay) #874304, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility
SCU A-1205 PO Box 1111 Carlisle, IN 47834
---------
Kevin Cooper

We Dissent – An Occupy Death Row Production

A few of the definitions of the word dissent are: to withhold assent; to differ in opinion; difference of opinion; religious nonconformity; a written statement in which a justice disagrees with the opinion of the majority.

The above word “Dissent” and these few definitions speak in part to what all the different “Occupy Movements” are about.

While they all, each and every one of them, have different thoughts, ideas, tactics, agendas, and people who they represent, they all have, for the most part, “dissented” from what has been going on, and going on for decades, in this world and country.

We all disagree with, and do not want to be part of, the norm anymore! Nor do we want what is considered “normal” to be part of us, because the status quo is outright harming us on all of life’s different levels.

We all are saying in our own unique way that we don’t trust the people who are running the system, just as we don’t trust the system itself.

All across the world, people who don’t eat the same food, or wear the same garb, speak the same language, belong to the same religion or pray to the same named God, if they do pray, are dissenting.

Everywhere, people are standing up and fighting back, and speaking out from under the universal umbrella of humanity. This umbrella provides protection for the oppressed, from the oppressor.

The Occupy Movement as a whole is another form of the universal umbrella for human rights. From within this movement, we dissenters can speak the truth as to how the status quo, the ruler’s agenda, has a negative effect on “We the People” and this one planet we all must live on, and share.
Something must be seriously wrong and it is not us! The system is wrong and it’s has always been wrong and will always be wrong!

Some in the top 1% use their subordinates to ask, “What is it that they want?” Each movement within Occupy may want different things, especially since we all come from different places and have different real life and death experiences.

So while I can’t speak to what any one movement wants per se, I can speak to what all these different occupy movements don’t want.

We don’t want terrorism of any kind, against any people. We don’t want pollution of the air or water and other natural resources that Mother Earth produces; We don’t want a government that uses the mainstream news media to help a President send its people to war based on lies; We don’t want war in any of its forms; We don’t want sexism, racism, classism, or poverty!
We don’t want corruption, the death penalty, the prison industrial complex — either public or private prisons. We don’t want unions to be busted, nor do we want jobs sent overseas to other countries. We don’t want to go without healthcare or a good education. We don’t want police brutality or intimidation of any kind!

These few things mentioned above should go a long way to help people understand that there are two sides to every story, and while many seem to want to focus on just one side… “What is it that they want?” they must now come to terms with some of what we don’twant! If they do, then they will truly understand why we dissent. Everything that we don’t want is a very real part of what is wrong within this country and world, and it is having a very negative affect on the quality and quantity of life of the masses of people—the poor!

All these manmade ills are happening and have happened simply because of greed and the very real fact that the powers that be – They really don’t care about us!
So, we respectfully dissent!
---------------
Jane Dorotik, CIW

The 2.3 million individuals that we as a nation incarcerate has become one of the defining qualities of this country of ours. Never before in the history of civilization has a country locked away so many of its own people. Have we as society become so violent, so incorrigible that we must lock away so many? How did we get to this point under the guise of ‘public safety?’

The cost of incarcerating women is immense. The average annual cost to incarcerate a woman is $50,000 and the average cost to incarcerate a woman over 55 is a staggering $138,000. Because of their role as mothers, the costs and consequences go far beyond the criminal justice system. Their children are either raised by other family members or are sent to the state’s foster care system. Children whose parents are incarcerated are 4-5 times more likely to become incarcerated themselves, thus perpetuating the intergenerational incarceration cycle. Since 1991, the number of children with a mother in prison has increased by more than 131% and nationwide more than half of children whose mother are incarcerated are under age 10.

The prison system is a system gone awry, gravely compromised and rampant with abuses. It is a terrifying breeding ground for anger, hatred, sexism, homophobia and dominating exploitation of other human beings. We are warehousing people, punishing them and then returning them to society worse off than when they entered the system. The violence that then comes out of these prisons is a much greater threat to public safety than any foreign terrorist group ever could be.
--------
Krista Funk, Central California Women’s Facility
The bankers are legal racketeers. They are rewarded for their crimes. But the people at the bottom of the 99%, the poor, we are warehoused in the Prison Industrial Complex. They take away our ability to vote once we are inside because that might change the way things are. The rich get richer, the poor give up, and out of desperation they turn on their families and their communities. This cycle has to change!
-----------
Herman Wallace # 76759
Elayn Hunt Correction Center,
St. Gabriel, Louisiana

Most all U.S. citizens benefit in some way from the capitalist mode of production, a system that exploits underdeveloped nations as well as 99% of it’s own nation’s people. This creates a vast contradiction that causes much emotional pain.

In 1865, Union Generals admitted to Lincoln that they were on the verge of losing the war and could only turn the tides if Lincoln would free the slaves. Of course, slaves were never freed, it was only the form of slavery practiced in the South that was disrupted, moving from chattel slavery to wage slavery as has been so well documented.

Defy permits to occupy, civil disobedience is a form of struggle, and where there is no struggle, there is no change.

We must strengthen our forces by uniting with the Occupy movement and liberation movements throughout the world in order to disrupt the capitalist mode of production and send capitalism to it’s grave.

Free All Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Consciousness
All Power to the People
Herman Wallace
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Robert King
First of all I would like to applaud and salute those in the Occupy movement for focusing on the hideous corruption of corporate America and the effects this corruption has on all of us in the 99%, including the well over two million individuals that fill our detention facilities and their families.

“Being in prison, in solitary was terrible. It was a nightmare. My soul still cries from all that I witnessed and endured. It does more than cry- it mourns, continuously. I saw men so desperate that they ripped prison doors apart, starved and mutilated themselves. It takes every scrap of humanity to stay focused and sane in this environment. The pain and suffering are everywhere, constantly with you. But, it’s was also so much more than that. I had dreams and they were beautiful dreams. I used to look forward to the nights when I could sleep and dream. There’s no describing the day to day assault on your body and your mind and the feelings of hopelessness and despair “

There is far more than a causal relationship between the Occupy Movement and the work so many of you are doing to change the criminal justice system.

The same people who make the laws that favor the bankers, make the laws that fill our prisons and detention centers. We have to continue to make the connection between Wall St. and the prison industrial complex. The growth of the private prison industry is just one symptom of this unholy alliance.

I stand in solidarity with the Occupy 4 Prisoners rally and hope these rallies shed further light on the insidious effects of prisons for profit and politics.
Free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience,
Robert King
Angola 3
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Steve Champion

I want to thank all the participants of Occupy San Quentin for being here today. Thank you for reading my statement.

My name is Steve Champion. I’ve been incarcerated for over 30 years and twenty-nine of those years and counting, have been spent on San Quentin’s death row.

We are living in a critical time in history. There is a global and domestic crisis going on. Our body politics is under siege because it is dominated by crony capitalism and social and economic indifference. We are fast moving toward a bicentric society of “haves” and “have nots.” If we fail to take a strong stand to transform this nation then we can expect an ill forecast for the future.

One of the most powerful unions in the state of California is the Correctional Peace Organization Association (CCPOA). As tuition for students are being raised, schools being shut down, cuts being made in the fields of Education, Social programs, Nurses and other care-givers, everyone is being forced to make a sacrifice. But we don’t hear cuts being made in the salaries of Prison Guards. Why is that? Because the CCPOA (through rigorous lobbying in Sacramento) have the ear of California State Legislators. They make huge campaign contributions to both the Governor and State Legislators. This allows them to peddle influence and get implemented the policies they want in place.

What this ought to tell those of us who are concerned about social justice, prison reform and the abolishment of the death penalty is we have to up the ante of our struggle. If we want to see the eradication of the death penalty and the prison, requires a multifaceted approach. It is not enough for prisoners to struggle on the inside; it is not enough to picket, protest or occupy specific places. Those things are important. But we also need to have a robust voice and seat among the decision makers who shape, influence and create policies that we vehemently oppose. We need to build a grassroots political organization to challenge those in power.

Too often, our social movements are on the defensive. We react as opposed to being proactive and taking initiative on programs we want implemented and policies we want changed. Building a grassroots political organization can facilitate a lot of the fragmentization that exist in our movements by uniting us. It would give focus to our objectives. If we don’t do this, then who? If we don’t do this now, then when?

The one percent who dominate the political and economic system in this country is not an accident. It was carefully planned. They want a government for the one percent and by the one percent, but not by the people.

We have to strengthen and intensify our struggle. We have to become more committed. We have to remember that our struggle isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. What we do today will alter the course of history tomorrow. Thank you.

Long live the struggle.
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Todd Ashker Letter of January 26, 2012
You all know we’ve been on a “counter propaganda” campaign here since Dec. 09 and much of what myself, Castellano, Sitawa, and Mutope have in mind in our writings about our struggle & resistance 24/7 is in line with our counter propaganda campaign!! Actually, I’d prefer criminal prosecution because 1) I’d be acquitted and 2) the publicity it would garner would be real great for the cause. Now that it’s not a DA referral (I expect due to legislative inquiry), I expect to be railroaded & found guilty administratively (first time guilty of a serious rule violation since Jan 94).

This will be used by the Board of Parole Hearings to issue me a longer parole hearing deferral when I go in Aug 2012 (probably a 7-10 year deferral). It will mean no art material or photos for a year, etc., etc., etc. This bogus CDC 115 RVR should be getting propagated out there as much as possible as well as other CDCR/PBSP dirty shit.

This is where I (and many others) stand on this struggle: For more than 30 years CDCR policy and practice has been “us vs. them” — viewing us as the enemy who they are at war with.

The 1st thing one does in war is propagate against and dehumanize the enemy. For 22+ years PBSP has been propagated as housing “the worst of the worst,” responsible for all the state’s gang problems.

We see it in reverse. CDCR (the prison industrial complex) are the criminals committing multi billions in fraud and many murders each year (law makers and courts are enablers and just as guilty). CDCR is housing us to put money in their pockets. All of which is part of the bigger problems – the class war in this country, the 1% vs. the 99% (the poor v. ultra rich). It’s no longer a “people of color v. white man” issue; it’s a “poor vs. ultra rich” issue. The so-called middle class is long gone.

We’re at war (the poor 99% including the prisoners) and the people in power are scared to death and they should be. Most of us should have been out long ago. A life sentence has never meant “life” until the last 30 years. Most of us are many years beyond our minimum eligible parole dates.
We’re not serving a legally valid sentence anymore. We’re here illegally, immorally, and unethically based on politics and money.

Our supporters need to propagate against the system at every opportunity and tie our struggle to that of the poor and disenfranchised at large.
This is just the start. We plan to force CDCR to open up all the level IV General Populations and spend money on our benefit, such as rehab programs, etc. and force change to sentences and paroles.

Our supporters need to see the system for what is really is and to educate people about it to bring more support in. It’s important to humanize and decriminalize us to the mainstream. Granted we’re “convicted felons,” but we’ve already served above and beyond any form of a valid prison term.
We shouldn’t even be recognizing that these CDCR “criminals” have any power over us. We really should be actively resisting our illegal confinement a lot more and our people outside should be doing so too, with all of our beings, until these “criminals” cut us loose or kill us.

Right now we’re waiting – waiting to get out to these General Population prisons. Then we’ll straighten out the B.S. on them so these people can no longer justify warehousing everyone. Then, we’ll go from there. People need to realize these “criminals” are the real enemy who we’re at war with and act accordingly in a smart way. The time is coming when they will fall and it’s not too far in the future. But we all must stay strong and do our part to make it happen. We need strong outside support. People should not fear nor be intimidated by CDCR’s “crime syndicate” staff. They’re really cowards in truth and need to be forced to get right.
As always, I send my best to all.
In solidarity and with respect,
Todd
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FROM CCWP WOMEN (Alisha, Veronica, Margarita)

Truth is…

The picture I’m about to paint can only be heard,
so listen closely to every word.

Innocent until proven guilty?
They can’t be serious,
In a system where
Drug dealers get more time
than serial killers,
juveniles get tried as adults,
before they become one.
I guess nobody musta warned’em
about playing with knives and guns.

Guilty by association?
That’s what it’s called
then they get hauled
off to the pen,
where some girls become boyz and some boyz
become women.
Sitting around
unaware of who they are,
wounded while in the belly of the beast.
I call’em invisible scars,
the kind that can’t be healed
by Neosporin and stitches.

Went in walkin’
came out switching.

Could you imagine what it’s like?
Being told that the beginning
is really the end of your life.
3 strikes and you’re out!
Some think it’s a game,
but it’s really outta my hands.
Lord knows, I’m not tryna do life
on installment plans.

Everybody wanna be a part
Of the occupy system,
I need to occupy my life and
find something to do with it,
otherwise it’s useless.

Some may mistake my words as verbally abusive,
But the truth is…

How do we expect our kids to grow
from concrete,
accept defeat,
have to fend for themselves
in cells where it is dark
and hot as hell?
More parents come to see kids in jail
than they do at graduations.
That’s cuz the new diploma
is parole or probation

Fucked up situation
No contender.

“Now I’ll be gone until November”
Listening to a public pretender
telling me to plea
Y?
Cuz I’m young, black, and sell crack in da streets.
Babies committing robbery,
1st degree.

Even with blind eyes
I could see it ain’t cool.
They building prison programs
and tearing down schools.
We all got an opinion
just like we all have a choice.
No one can hear you speak
if you don’t use your voice!

Alisha Coleman, SF County Jail

My name is Veronica Hernandez and I am a 20-year-old young woman that has been incarcerated since I was 16-years-old and tried as an adult at 17-years-old.

Prior to being charged as an adult I was appointed a no-good attorney that couldn’t have cared less about me or the outcome of my case and consequently; had put absolutely no effort into representing me adequately. There are no law libraries or legal services at Juvenile Hall so a juvenile rather it be for better or for worse had literally no choice but to be dependant on his or her court-appointed attorney and trust that him or her will lead them in the right direction. Unfortunately, for me that direction was to adult court where I now face a life sentence should I be convicted.

In California, 16-years-old are eligible to be tried as adults and in some states, the minimum age to be tried as an adult is 13-years-old and in others, there is no age limit at all depending on the nature of the crime. Regardless of the age, juveniles that are tried as adults are subjected to harsher punishments that juvenile court judges lack the power to impose such as life without the possibility of parole or sentences that are so outrageous like “43 to life” or “51 to life” that those sentences might as well be life without the possibility of parole.

Although a juvenile’s right to a hearing before a case can be transferred to adult court was established by Kent V. U.S. (U.S. Sup. Ct. 1966) there are still cases that get transferred to adult court without a hearing at all and that is known as a “direct filing.” The D.A> can file a direct filing on a juvenile that is 14-years-old or older and that contradicts California’s so-called minimum age of 16-years old or older to be eligible at being tried as an adult and a juveniles so-called right to a hearing.

The human mind doesn’t stop developing until the age of 25, so it is ridiculous that a judge can even be given the power to determine that a juvenile can never be rehabilitated and will remain at the same state of mind that the juvenile was in at the time of their crime was committed for the rest of his or her life. Aside from ridiculous…it is outrageous…oppressive…opprobrious…and something that needs to cease…abolish this oppression and give children the chance at life that each and everyone of them deserves.

Veronica Hernandez, SF County Jail
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My name is Margarita and I’m gonna tell you my story. I ran away from home at 11 years old and fucked up my whole life and career. My dad used to molest me when I was very young. I can remember as far back as age 2. He sure did some foul things to me. I didn’t know any better but he use to tell me if I said anything he would take me off the team. You see I raced downhill snow skiing on the U.S.A. women’s division ski team and I was very good at what I did. My father knew it to so he used that as bait. By molesting me and doing ungodly things to me that father’s wouldn’t dream of doing to their daughters.

I was very active growing up, a tomboy some would say. I raced motorcross, BMX, swimming, dance, karate, etc. I traveled all over for my snow skiing though. I ran away at my last speed skating race when I was 11 ½ years old. My parents were already divorced. I told my mom what Daddy did at age 6. Of course she didn’t believe me so she put cameras in the room and caught him on tape. Back then we wanted it kept quiet. My dad owned the leather factory and growing up in Black Hawk, California would have ruined his name. Anyways, I left and went to Los Angeles, from Los Angeles to Watts, California. At age 13 ½ I caught my first case and was convicted as a young adult; the first female for a 187 at age 14 to be convicted as an adult. I got 15 years to life and did 12 years. I started in Juvie and then transferred to Youth Authority and from Youth Authority to California Institute for Women.

Me and this other inmate caught an escape. We stole the fire truck at CIW and was transferred to Chowchilla. There I did my first stretch of 8 years; 4 in lock-down and 4 on the yard. They tried to give me 3 years more in lock-down for an assault on a C.O. He came into my cell and tried to rape me. So, when I was out in the day room, ironing my pants, I took the iron and hit him over the head with it. I stayed 6 months in confinement. I also had a petition going around letting all the girls sign it cause I wasn’t the first victim he did this to. But he wasn’t gonna keep getting away. I ended up with 560 signatures and he was escorted off the yard and his rights were stripped from him. No longer in the state of California or in the United States can he become a legal Correctional Officer in any federal or state prison.

After that I did my last 4 years at N.C.W.F. Stockton, California. I left Stockton and went straight to Delancy Street where I did 5 years and graduated here in San Francisco. I was sitting on top of the world. I had 2 cars, 2 bank accounts, 3 jobs, doing super good then one day I said, “Fuck it all.” I left my apartment in Oakland with everything I owned, closed both bank accounts and withdrew the money I worked hard at and my savings which was a total of $30,000 dollars. Down the drain. I smoked it, shot it, all that. But thank the lord and knock on wood that I never went back to prison but if I don’t stop and start giving a fuck I will be. I’ll be on the first train smoking. Which now leads me to San Francisco County Jail.

Margarita, SF County Jail
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Enceno Macy

The Chance to Make a Difference by Enceno Macy With no access allowed to computers or internet, prisoners in this state receive news only via major networks on a few prison-controlled tv channels. We therefore knew little or nothing of the Occupy Wall Street actions until police brutality drew reluctant media coverage. Quietly, many of us cheered. Prisoners are after all the most disenfranchised and voiceless segment of the 99%. Our very survival is totally at the mercy of an industry that makes obscene profits, grossly overcharging a literally captive market for out-dated, condemned food products, factory-reject clothing, expired medicines, and defective, unsalable merchandise. The Occupation has now faded from corporate news, but for a while there I dared to hope they would persist and maybe even score some victories against our corporate masters. I want to cry out now to each of them not to give up, not to blow this chance to make a difference. I was so young I blew my own chance without even knowing I had one, and trying to regain it has been a long, hard journey. The young mind, caught up in self, focuses mostly on the immediate future and the common daily occurrences that directly affect a youth’s current situation. Young people therefore often fail to comprehend the world as a whole. Other countries might as well be other planets, politics and global relations are grown-ups’ business, and things appear generally to be everlasting. Caring, compassion and empathy are often limited to the things and people closest and most familiar to us at the time: our family, friends, possessions and pets. Some kids may grow up more worldly, but the above is what I knew and was at 15 years old: simple and self-absorbed. I came to prison then – back when cell phones were rare and primitive and Palm Pilot was the only hand-held computer.

When I came to jail, Clinton was considered the closest thing to a minority president that we would get. Global warming and peak oil had not become common terms or concerns. Terrorism wasn’t being used to justify conflicts and military campaigns that depleted our debt surplus and contributed to a crashing economy. Our planet wasn’t being murdered as blatantly with countless pollutants in our air and water (or to be honest, I hadn’t noticed). Prison does different things to different people. For some it is a chance to regroup and prepare to try harder to get away with the things that put them in their cage to begin with. Others try to change, try to look at themselves and correct their flaws. Maybe they will seek the help of a church or A.A., or they attempt to exercise will power that they’ve never had. Some with long sentences end up trying to improve their education to advance their character, knowledge and understanding. Having gone through only my ninth grade year (and failing terribly) at the time I fell, it was imperative that I take the path of improvement.

I didn’t have a curriculum, only my mom’s encouragement and support from a few family friends. Often my interest would fade in and out, and I had no specific subject I wanted to learn about. To see my journey clearly, I need to be honest and share my progression and the reasoning behind it. Influenced by my surroundings (see my race article from a year ago), I first got into radical black literature. Growing up on the wrong side of the law, I equated the police and all authority as my enemy, a very basic association with why my life was so hard. The pro-black books I picked up referenced the police under a blanket that included politicians and the government as a whole.

This is where my adolescent anger turned, against “The Man,” or “Them.” That part of my education was generally negative. I think of it now as an old way of thinking, but what it did was open me up to the idea of oppression. From there my perception widened, and I saw that many different races and cultures fall into the category of the oppressed. For a couple of years, I studied many aspects of history and saw how governments always find someone to keep a foot on. I looked at all the attempts to change that had been made, and I saw the changes that were made were mostly for appearances and that things stayed fundamentally the same under the surface: there were always the haves and the have-nots. I was disgusted with people for accepting this, for believing what their government told them, and for how they treated each other.

I saw society as cold, selfish, and unfair. It seemed to me that social reforms and public outcry did nothing to address the true reasons why things were the way they were. I felt America needed a wake-up call – to be reminded of the basics and be brought back to their roots as humans, to be reminded of what it means to need each other. I thought the only true way things could be fixed was by breaking them. I was going to cause a revolution. I was going to build a nuclear bomb. This began my next phase.

I began to research how to build this bomb. My ambition was short-lived, as I discovered how hard it is to get uranium or plutonium. But I uncovered something else that totally changed my way of thought and the direction of my path. Understanding how a nuclear reaction worked introduced me to physics and, in turn, to theoretical physics. It opened my eyes to how big the universe is and how small my various concerns are within it. Studying physics made me think of things below the surface and causes of actions that may be subtle or indirect. I began to relate this to human nature, and to think about the circumstances that led people to think and act the way they do. What happened was that I discovered empathy. I no longer blamed people themselves for what they did and thought, but instead looked to things like upbringing, education and lack of diverse experiences as the cause. I learned that a person may treat another a certain way based on preconceptions of the other person’s style, culture, or race. For example, I ran into a kid early in my sentence who had been taught by his community that black people had special muscles, bones, and blood vessels that whites didn’t have; that’s what made him dislike and fear minorities and gave him a racist outlook. Could I blame him or hate him for what he had been taught? It was hard to see people in this new light. I hadn’t usually felt much sorrow for anything except myself before, but now I felt it for all the people who couldn’t fend for themselves – for babies born into such a deceptive and cruel world, for victims of bullying, for kids brain-washed to believe racist or sexist or political lies. Just when I was having this revelation, 9-11 happened, and this country went to bully a less organized, less advanced country out of their oil and way of life. To me, democracy may not have been the worst form of government, but even if it were the best, forcing it onto a thousands-of-years-old culture without its consent was wrong. To me, it was the same as a father (not unlike the one I’d had) beating his child to correct a flaw and causing far more damage than good. Meanwhile, all around me I saw people every day treat each other with the lowest level of regard and respect over the smallest issues. The mentality in here is to bring others down to build yourself up, and what I saw going on in the world was a horrifying mirror of what goes on in prison. Although I don’t agree with the murders and retain my own doubts about the truth behind 9-11, I look at the official story and ask anyone to think what they might do if they watched someone bully others over and over as the U.S. has done. Would you not wonder when your time will come? Would you not try to appear stronger and more aggressive than you are in order to put off the bully? Each person may differ greatly in opinions about it, but at that time I felt empathy for the alleged attackers’ desperation. I had to be much the same as they, acting stronger than I was so as not to fall victim to the gangs and predators that are the top of the food chain in here.

People in prison have plenty of time to think. Fundamentally, all we are doing is waiting – waiting to get out and begin to resume a life, or waiting to die. This is not living. The only part you might consider living is the mind, but for many lost souls, not only is their mind not living or even existing, it may already be dead. I kept mine alive by reading and learning, tried to keep up on headlines and the alternative versions of events that my mom would send me from the internet. While I have been waiting, my mind has brooded on how things could change. Hope for change is not enough. Too often hope is mistakenly used as a crutch by people who do not know what to do – not an excuse, but an unconscious substitute for taking things into their own hands.

By no means do I refer to someone ill hoping to live or someone with a life sentence hoping to get out. No, I mean a voter who votes for an asshole and hopes he will change things for the better. Then when the elected party fails to deliver on his promises, the voter keeps on hoping instead of demanding changes or taking assertive action. That isn’t hope, it’s delusion, the kind of delusion that feeds chronic gamblers. I am thirty years old and have never been allowed to vote. Maybe because it’s forbidden I have a warped view of what voting is: either a cruel joke or something people ought to take a lot more seriously.

Either way, I have serious doubts about the process, because necessary changes won’t be made through elections, which are too easily rigged by money. So when they ask, I encourage people to find out what they can do and then go and do it. Don’t wait for rigged elections or for others to lead you. Complaining of an injustice will do nothing to solve it or make it right: channel your anger or grief into doing what you can do, without dwelling on what you can’t. Otherwise, you may just be contributing to the problem. Outside the wire, many people take for granted the resources made available to them every day. They fill their cars with gas and complain about its prices, but never think of how many people died in order to power their vehicles. They get frustrated that wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes devastate their property and disrupt their lives, but reject the concept of global warming. Whether they want to believe the idea or not, what happened to the old saying, “Better safe than sorry?” Wouldn’t it be reasonable to avoid non-biodegradable products, shrink their carbon footprint, and use less fossil fuel and more recycled materials rather than contribute to the possibility that climate change is real? I have sat or lain awake many nights pondering how detached humans are from their connection to the earth. The slumbering breath of my cellmate is a background of white noise to visions of hunger and illness and suffering all over the world. As a youth I did not see my connection to the suffering.

I used to get down on myself for not being able to make any difference and for not having the discipline to do the few things I could do to help. But no one is perfect, as we all know. I came to understand that what I was capable of doing and what I could afford to do were two different things, and that I have to act within the confines of my situation. I am not rich or free. I have little control over what items I can recycle. I can not go door to door with petitions advocating change. For other reasons, you also may not be able to afford the time or resources, either, but doing what is possible, however small, may help you sleep better at night – maybe not totally at peace, but at least with a shred of satisfaction. To keep a goal of change always in mind, a person has to truly care about an issue or cause. Initial rage may die out – a product of the moment. Think of something like the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Do you remember how sad you felt? Or how much you hoped FEMA would be able to help? Do you still care as much as you did at first? If so, there are still plenty of victims in need of assistance. If you truly care and want to help, you might spend part of your next vacation helping build and repair houses in New Orleans. Just because those people’s sufferings are no longer in the news doesn’t mean they stopped existing or stopped needing what we can do. That’s just one example, illustrating how important it is to remember what caused us to feel concerned and want to take action – and to stick to it even after the issue fades from the news. There is blessing not only in being helped but in being able and willing to provide that help. You are lucky if you have the chance to make a difference, because some of us don’t have that opportunity. My many progressions and transformations, too numerous to mention, came from educating myself. Once I understood my connection to the things I saw wrong in the world, I looked for changes I could make to help. Efficient energy use is something I now think about daily, and the disaster of the tsunami in Sri Lanka inspired me deeply to want to be trained in search and rescue operations. I wanted so badly to go over there and save lives, even if it was just filling sand bags. Today it’s hard for anyone to help, as the economy shrinks, the jobless rate is higher than any time since the Great Depression, and people are losing their homes right and left.

I know even more things will hinder me in the uphill battle I face with my impending release because so many obstacles face ex-cons: Although our rules and laws are now officially colorblind, they operate to discriminate in a grossly disproportionate fashion. Through the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement, millions of poor people, overwhelmingly poor people of color, have been swept into our nation’s prisons and jails, branded criminals and felons . . . and then are ushered into a permanent second-class status, where they’re stripped of the many rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement, like the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits.

I am far from the kid who wanted to build a bomb, and though I have a voice from in here, I cannot make the difference that I want to, which is sad and frustrating at this point. My goal now is to equip myself with the knowledge and strength to be able to fight for a cause when the time comes. What would happen, I wonder, if just one relative or friend of every prisoner and ex-con in the U.S. got together in an Occupy event? That would be more than 2.2 million people – enough to have an impact, maybe? When that seems impossible, I tell myself over and over again what I wish I could tell the Occupiers:

whatever differences you try to make, there will be those who oppose you and tell you your goals are impossible. Don’t let them stop you no matter how powerful they are or how futile it may seem. Giving up makes all your efforts – and others’ – worthless. If you’re passionate enough and determined enough, you may find the satisfaction and peace I mentioned earlier.

Prison not only confines, it also limits my choices, so the differences I can make are few. But thanks to Planet Waves, I do have a voice, and maybe convincing others who can make a difference is the best action we can take. In some cases it takes only a single voice to change everything. The world is not ours, we are borrowing it from future generations. The only meaningful pursuit is to find something outside of ourselves to care about: to love the world and everything in it as the gift that it is.
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Sean Swain

Occupy, Liberate, De-Colonize: A Statement for Occupy Columbus from Prison by Sean Swain

In 2007, in a published interview I observed that if Ohio prisoners simply laid on their bunks for 30 days, the system would collapse. I wasn’t talking about just the prison system, but Ohio’s entire economy.

I came to that conclusion because I recognized that 50,000 [Ohio] prisoners work for pennies per day making the food, taking out the trash, mopping the floors. We produce parts for Honda and other multi-nationals at Ohio Penal Industries (OPI), making millions of dollars in profit for the State. If we stopped participating in our own oppression, the State would have to hire workers at union-scale wages to make our food, take out the trash, and mop the floors; slave labor for Honda and others would cease.

Ohio would lose millions of dollars a day in production. The State’s economy would not recover for a decade.

When I made that observation, I didn’t know for certain that I was right. I suspected I was. But more than a year later, prison officials came to get me. My cell was plastered with crime tape. All of the fixtures, including lights, sink, and toilet, were removed and inspected, something that I haven’t seen happen in 20 years of captivity. I was taken to segregation and slated for transfer to super-max.

The reason? My observation in a year-old published interview, that Ohio’s economy would collapse without prison labor. That’s when I knew my observation was right. The enemy confirmed it.

I eventually avoided super-max because friends and supporters made enough noise, but I am now on a Security Threat Group list even though I have never been part of any organization, and my incoming mail is screened.
I share all of this in order to underscore how seriously and irrationally terrified the state is about the possibility of anyone awakening the prisoner population to its own power. The state is hysterically shit-their-pants petrified of an organized prisoner resistance, the way plantation owners feared a slave uprising.

I was subjected to repression in 2008. Since then, the situation for the State has become even more dire. Given austerity cuts and privatization of a few prisons, the guard-to-prisoner ratio has drastically dropped, leading to more disruption in the standard prison operations. On top of that, the Kasich administration’s efforts to bust public workers’ unions, though a failure, has destroyed morale of guards and staff, the majority of whom now only care about collecting their pay checks. With each downturn in the economy, the prison system takes more essential services from prisoners- from medical to food to clothes -and thereby increases hostility and resentment of the prisoner population.

With very little effort, very little money, and a great deal of advanced planning, Ohio’s prison population could be inspired to completely disrupt the operation of the entire prison complex. If such a disruption were to occur, it would cause more than the economic collapse of the State that I already discussed. Such a disruption would ultimately seize from the State the power the power to punish. This would pose more than a simple political problem for the government: in such a scenario, it loses all power to enforce its edicts and impose itself; the government ceases to be the government.

Such a development would be a great benefit to the Occupy Movement. While Occupy directly challenges the crapitalist system, it must be remembered that the global crapitalist Matrix uses governments as factory managers. If you protest private bankers, you get beaten by public cops. Given the recent bail-outs, the public trust is nothing more than a corporate slush-fund. It is nearly impossible in this blackwater-enron out-source era to tell where governments end and corporations begin- and vice-versa.

The prison complex is an essential component to the larger crapitalist Matrix. If an Occupy-prisoner collaboration in Ohio could take the prison system out of the enemy’s control- if the Occupation could expand to the prisons -we can collectively create a prototype for the larger movement to replicate, building momentum that collapses prison complex after prison complex, paralyzing state government after state government, spreading like a computer virus, liberating and de-colonizing the most-essential and intimidating bulwark against freedom the empire relies upon: the prisons.
For those of you who are part of the 99% but don’t really want to identify with this segment of the 99% and object to the possibly causing all of these criminals to go free, I remind you: The most hardened and irremediable criminals, the most ruthless killers and rapists, currently run the Fortune 500; they dictate US foreign policy; they drive cars emblazoned with “To Protect and To Serve”. You serve the agenda of those criminals if you turn your back on these “criminals.” Without us, you’re not the 99%. If my math is right, without us, you’re only about 94%.
This 5% is only waiting for the invitation. You can let your enemy keep his slaves and possibly defeat you over time, or you can liberate his slaves and defeat him quickly. To me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a matter of actually living up to what you present to be– something your enemy has never done.

We’re still waiting for that invitation.
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William Noguera

Orange County Superior Court Department 39
Friday, January 29th, 1988 – in open court:

“William Adolf Noguera, it is the judgement and sentence of this court that for the offense of murder, you shall suffer the death penalty. Said penalty to be inflicted within the walls of the State Prison at San Quentin, California in the manner prescribed by law and at a time to be fixed by this Court in a warrant of execution; it is the order of this court that you shall be put to death by the administration of lethal gas. Said penalty to be inflicted within the walls of the State Prison at San Quentin, California. You are remanded to the care, custody and control of the sheriff of Orange County to be by him delivered to the warden of the State Penitentiary at San Quentin, California within 10 days from this date. In witness whereof, i have hereunto set my hand as judge of said Superior Court and have caused the seal of the said Court to be affixed hereto. Done in open Court this 29th day of January, 1988. Signed, Robert R. Fitzgerald, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of Orange. Good luck to you, Mr. Noguera.”

That sentence was read to me over a quarter of a century ago and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember thinking;

I feel like one,
who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted
whose lights are fled
whose garlands dead
and all but departed”

I was alone, but something inside of me came to life…at that exact second. Since then, I have become an author and artist whose work has transcended these walls and given me a voice not easily silenced.

For this, I thank each and everyone of you who has come out today and let me know I am not alone and that my voice, even in the middle of a storm, can be heard…

I continue on because of you and because the hearts tally of the griefs I have undergone from childhood upwards, old and new, and now more than ever, for I have never not had some new sorrow, some fresh affliction to fight against…

In Solidarity

William A. Noguera
---
Leonard Peltier Statement
Monday, February 6, 2012

http://lpdoc.blogspot.com/2012/02/06-february-anniversary-message-from.html

06 February Anniversary Message from Leonard Peltier
Greetings to my relations, my friends, and to my many supporters the world over.

It is that time again. Another year has passed, and on February 6th I will be marking 36 years since my arrest. During all this time, my family and allies have discovered just how far the government will go to wrongfully convict and imprison someone they know is innocent. They do this as a message­first to Indians, and further to anyone who might stand up to injustice­as if to say, “We will do as we please”.

From the day of my arrest until now, through you my supporters, I have been honored with many activist and humanitarian awards. I thank you for keeping awareness of me and my case alive. Your commitment has really been a special experience for me.

In addition many celebrities, political figures, and organizations have called for my release, including 55 members of Congress. This last November, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed a permanent resolution calling for my release. Well let’s hope its not that permanent. The NCAI has committed to being directly involved with my case so that the message from Washington to Indian people does not remain, “We will do as we please”.

Still, despite all this attention and with all the leaders and people of conscience calling for my release, I have been kept in this iron cage. They have even kept me longer than their own laws say they can. With evidence corroborating that I did not receive a fair trial, with proof of government misconduct, with admissions by government officials that they do not know who killed those two agents that day at the Jumping Bull property, here I sit. “We will do as we please.”

Recently, as many of you know, an act was passed and signed into law that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial. This is perhaps the final straw, the final nail in the coffin of American freedom, the end of habeas corpus and due process. “We will do as we please.”

We Indians said it for generations: If they can kill us indiscriminately, they will do it to anyone. If they can take our land, they will do it to anyone. If they can kidnap our children and take them to prison schools, they will do it to anyone. If they can starve us and lie to us, they will do it to anyone. If they can wrongfully imprison us, they will do it to anyone. Now, sadly, this is another Indian prophecy fulfilled. “We will do as we please.”

Our ancestors and tribal people all over the world prophesized a time of upheaval and great change. I believe that time is fast approaching. I believe a part of this is the government’s ongoing overreach of its authority­until the people rise up and tell Washington, “You will NOT do as you please! We are NOT your slaves! We will NOT be subjugated! We will NOT be ruled by an iron fist! We will NOT allow you to steal our liberty or our justice!”

My friends, my relatives, my supporters­Be a part of this latest, perhaps the last “Indian uprising”. Make your voice heard! Be a part of the brave Movement to come, the Movement that will change the course of human history. Make change and hope and peace and justice a part of your personal legacy. Be the change that you envision and know in your heart must take place.

Do this, and on the day you take your last breath and prepare to meet Creator, you will know your life on this Earth was well spent. Close your eyes knowing you used your breath and energy to Creator’s good purpose. Smile as you cross over knowing you changed the world so that the next seven generations can know a good life. Do these things and know that I am with you. I will embrace you as my relations­in this life or the next.
Mitakuye Oyasin.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier
-------
Gerardo Hernandez

On behalf of the Cuban 5 we send you our solidarity on this the National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners. We know first hand about the injustice inherent in the US judicial system. In our case we are serving long sentences for defending our country against terrorist attacks by monitoring groups whose whole existence is to carry out violent acts against Cuba. It is our hope that what you are doing today will bring attention to the plight of those behind bars and help bring about a more humane society that provides jobs, housing, education and opportunity instead of incarceration.
A big embrace to you all
Venceremos!
Gerardo Hernandez
Victorville Penetentiary

http://occupy4prisoners.org/statements-from-people-in-prisons/