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We’re moving at the end of May!!

We will be packing up and then moving for the rest of May (May 21-May 31), so we will NOT be having our regular workdays filling packages, and thus are putting a pause on new volunteers. We’re still finalizing a new space. So stay tuned. Since we’ll be between locations and setting up for the next 3 weeks, please email us to get involved. If you’d like to help with the move, email us at prisonbooks@gmail.com.

If all goes as planned, we should be in a new space by the second week of June. Once that’s set, look for a new post with details!!

Thanks for your patience as we work on our move! We look forward to continuing to send books to people in NC and AL prisons and zines nationwide for many years to come.

“While there is a soul in prison I am not free.”

In solidarity,

Prison Books Collective

Prison Books Collective needs a new home (again!)

We are again looking for a new home, by the end of May!! Please help. From April 2016 to now, we have been renting a room in a business in Durham. We have appreciated our new home and have gained many new volunteers, but we can’t afford the rent!! It is costing us $300/month to rent the space, and we really need that money to send books!  Our current lease ends on May 31, and we’d like to have a new place by late April.

A brief description of our needs: a space to store our books, folding tables and chairs, space for letters and office supplies, and room to have at least one weekly workday with 10-12 volunteers. We need a space that’s open and accessible to volunteers, that has parking and access to a bathroom, along with electricity (ideally heat and AC).

One idea is to share space with a church or non-profit. We’re ideally looking for a free space, but may be able to afford a small amount of monthly rent ($50-$100). We are hoping to stay in the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. We’d also consider further out, if the space was free and met our needs!

If you have contacts with any groups that have space they can share with us, or if you have a space we can use, let us know!! Email us at prisonbooks@gmail.com or post on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/prisonbookscollective/

What are our basic needs?

  • Shelves for books along one or more walls (our current shelves are about 15 feet across, by 8 feet high)
  • Access to a bathroom (it can be in an adjacent building, as long as it’s open to volunteers)
  • Space for a file cabinet for storing zines, and space to store letters and office supplies
  • Room for 2-3 folding tables and 10-12 folding chairs to be stored
  • Weekly use of the space for a 3 hours session (We’ve always had our workdays on Sunday afternoons, but we can shift if needed.)
  • Parking: about 5-6 cars, plus occasionally more when we have a group
  • Climate-controlled space without humidity problems and with heat. Ideally AC, but we can deal without. (We’ve worked for years out of garage-like spaces but climate control helps protect books and keep volunteers comfortable)
  • Occasional collective meetings in the space
  • The ability to share the address of the space with the public when we advertise our volunteer workdays via our website, fliers and Facebook, etc.

Our wishes:

  • Access to the space for collective members on non-workdays, to drop off supplies, pick up packages to mail, pick up book donations, sort and shelve books, etc.
  • Group nights (we sometimes have larger groups want to volunteer with us, and we’d like the option to host them on a different day than our regular workday)
  • Ability to receive mailed boxes of books (we occasionally get book donations from publishers, and they mail us the books)
  • Occasional book sales (about 2 times/year). This would involve: The week prior, storing boxes of books in the space. The day before, setting up. The day of, taking over the space we use for the workday (or another space, if our new home has a different space in mind)
  • Being able to host fundraisers. We had a comedy show once. Maybe bingo

Please share this post with others in your network, let us know if you have ideas for a space (prisonbooks@gmail.com). And if you’re able, we’d appreciate a donation to offset costs of the move (and our weekly postage expenses to mail books!).




Fundraiser at Nightlight Bar & Club

We’re excited to announce that we’re partnering with Nightlight in Chapel Hill for a benefit show on Friday, Feb. 17 at 8 pm!Nightlight-Flier-Feb17-edit

What: Benefit Event for Prison Books Collective!! Help us send free books to people locked in NC and AL prisons!
When: Friday, February 17, 2017, 8-11 pm
Where: Nightlight, 405 W. Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill, NC
Cost: $10 ($8 for students, seniors and low-income)
Performers: Nicki Rivers + band, Reflex Arc + friends: extended set, UNC Wordsmiths
RSVP on Facebook and invite your friends!

More details:

Nicki Rivers + band
Nicki studied vocal performance at the New School of Jazz, New York, NY. She has performed in various venues from Japan to Paris, and has studied with Jazz masters from Shelia Jordan, to DeeDee Bridgewater, Drum Maestro Chico Hamilton, bassist Harley White, and mentored by pianist Jim Bell.
https://soundcloud.com/user-921602553

Reflex Arc + friends: extended set
A two piece experimental and improvisational band. Crowmeat Bob plays a variety of horns + sometimes electric guitar while Ginger Wagg plays a variety of body parts, spaces, and emotional states.
http://www.gingerwagg.com/reflex-arc/sugg6u38j7i9jrajatff5idpt1qofk

UNC Wordsmiths
Spoken Word Poetry
https://www.facebook.com/UNCwordsmiths/

Can’t make it to the event? You can still support us!

2016: Crisis & Opportunities by Russell Maroon Shoatz

Long-time political prisoner, Russell Maroon Shoatz, recently wrote this analysis of this past year in politics. It starts with an analysis of the global stage, and then focuses on the U.S. It then ends with a call to action.

Read the full article.

Globally, 2016 has been dominated by political, economic, and social changes in the Northern Hemisphere. Massive upheavals have been occurring, seemingly churned up by the millions of asylum seekers fleeing wars and economic- and climate-related depredations in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

The upshot of these upheavals brought proto-fascists to challenge the welfare states of Western Europe and the guinea pig economic systems of the former Soviet states. The Left there has either been crushed (Greece), is now on the ropes (Spain and England’s Left Laborites), or is circling the wagons (Germany and the Scandinavian countries), while Russia under Putin is using its military muscle to try to replicate what China has been doing in the economic sphere: remain independent of the U.S. and Western economic domination.

Read the full article. And learn more about Russell Maroon Shoatz.

Support Us!

Thanks for your interest in getting reading materials into the hands of people locked in our nation’s prisons and jails. We send books to people in North Carolina and Alabama. We also send zines (small booklets) to people in prisons around the country.

  • DONATE MONEY: Our biggest need right now is for money! We’re pretty much out of money. So in order to keep sending books and zines into prisons, we need your help!        We currently spend about $800 per month on: postage ($400), rent for our space ($300), copies/printing ($50), supplies ($50), and website ($5)!  Your help is so critical!!  Note: we’re hoping our next space will be lower cost or free, so stay tuned for our new costs.
  • VOLUNTEER: We are not currently accepting new volunteers (from May 19, 2017 through mid-June 2017). We hope to resume accepting new volunteers by mid-June. We’re working on moving to a new space! Our lease is up May 31, 2017, so we need to be moved by then. We expect to continue our public workdays are every Sunday, from 1 to 4 pm. Learn more about volunteering. Contact us.
  • DONATE BOOKS: In anticipation of our planned move, we are pausing on book donations until we’re settled in our new space. You can contact us to check when we’ll resume accepting book donations: prisonbooks@gmail.com



We are accepting book donations again!!

Great news! We are once again accepting ALL book donations! As a reminder, books must be softcover and in20161101-lowonbooks very good/good condition (and no writing inside).

We’re getting very low on Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery and African-American/Black non-fiction. We know you have books you’ve been setting aside just waiting for us to start accepting donations again! Now is your chance!

Check out our donate books page for more info.

Email is at: prisonbooks@gmail.com to arrange a pick-up or drop-off. Or check out our contact page for other ways to get in touch.

Please do NOT stop by our space to drop off books without checking with us first.

The power of language

Note: The headline in the original story uses the very term that the Office of Justice Programs has stopped using. We have re-written the headline below.

Justice Dept. agency to alter its terminology for formerly incarcerated people.

Source: Washington Post

May 4, 2016

The Justice Department is taking a number of steps to reintegrate those released from prisons and jails into society, most notably during the recent National Reentry Week, such as asking states to provide identification to convicts who have served their sentences and creating a council to remove barriers to their assimilation into every day life. Here, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who has headed the Office of Justice Programs since 2013, announces in a guest post that her agency will no longer use words such as “felon” or “convict” to refer to released prisoners.

By Karol Mason

During National Reentry Week last week, federal prisons and prosecutors’ offices and local organizations held job fairs, community town hall meetings, special mentoring sessions, and outreach events aimed at raising public awareness of the obstacles facing those who leave our prisons, jails, and juvenile justice facilities each year.  The American Bar Association has documented more than 46,000 collateral consequences of criminal convictions, penalties such as disenfranchisement and employment prohibitions that follow individuals long after their release.  These legal and regulatory barriers are formidable, but many of the formerly incarcerated men, women, and young people I talk with say that no punishment is harsher than being permanently branded a “felon” or “offender.”

This new policy statement replaces unnecessarily disparaging labels with terms like “person who committed a crime” and “individual who was incarcerated,” decoupling past actions from the person being described and anticipating the contributions we expect them to make when they return.  We will be using the new terminology in speeches, solicitations, website content, and social media posts, and I am hopeful that other agencies and organizations will consider doing the same.

Full article on Washington Post.

Re-Entry in Alabama

In this article from Alabama Public Radio, the author talks about how hard it is for people leaving Alabama prisons, and efforts to assist them with re-entry. It mentions several of the prisons we receive requests from. We need to recognize that most of the people currently in prison will be getting released. What are we as society and individuals doing to help them integrate back into society and life on the outside? Ban the box is certainly a good start. But so much more needs to be done!

A note about language in this piece: this article refers to people as ex-convicts. This is dehumanizing language that identifies someone by something they have done, rather than by who they are as a human. In fact, the U.S. Office of Justice Programs committed to ending their use of that term earlier this year. So read this article just for the mentions of some of the places we serve in Alabama.

Prison Reform: “Re-entering Society”

 

For many prisoners at the Limestone Correctional Facility, the heavy bang of a steel gate is the first thing they hear when they enter the Alabama prison system. It’s also the last thing when they come out.

 “They give you a bus ticket and a check for ten dollars and they say “Have a nice life.”

That’s Brenda Lee Kennedy. She was incarcerated in the Montgomery Work Release Center for nearly five and half years before being released in November of last year.

Why should Alabama care? [Joyce White Vance, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama] says because a lot of Alabamians have done jail time…

 “The numbers that come out of the Alabama Department of Corrections say that one in four adults in Alabama has had either a felony or misdemeanor conviction.”

That’s a lot of job application forms with the little check box that asks if you’ve been convicted. Many businesses shy away from hiring people who check that box with a  yes…

Joyce Vance’s office is unusual because it’s the first in the nation to hire an attorney specifically to get inmates back into the work force when they get out of prison. The private sector is trying to help too.

Read the full article on the Alabama Public Radio website, or listen to the audio.

A Message from Eric G. King to His Supporters & Information on His Recent Transfer


PLEASE CLICK HERE TO WATCH ERIC’S VIDEO STATEMENT

On Friday morning Eric boarded a plane, leaving C.C.A. Leavenworth behind for good. He was transferred to the Grady County Jail in Chickasha, Oklahoma, which is the facility the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) uses to house prisoners during transfer when the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City is full.

He will stay at the jail while the BOP prepares to transfer him to his designated facility. Prisoners typically stay at these transitional facilities for 1-4 weeks or even longer before being transferred, but we don’t know how long he will actually be there or where his designated facility will be.

As of right now, Eric is not receiving vegan food. Hopefully this will change quickly. We will be monitoring the situation and will ask for help putting pressure on the jail if his dietary needs are not met.

Please take a moment to send Eric a card or a letter of encouragement and solidarity during this stressful moment. Please note that his number has temporarily changed while he’s in this county jail, but he will get his old number back when he’s transferred to a federal facility. For now, please write to him at:

Eric King #114522306
Grady County Jail
215 N. 3rd St.
Chickasha, OK 73018

Also, Eric now has email access. If you would like to communicate with Eric via email while he is in Grady County, go to Smart Jail Mail, make an account, select “Grady County, Oklahoma” and enter Eric’s name. The system will send a “request” to Eric to confirm that he wants to get emails from you. It costs $0.50 per email. You add credit to your account via credit card and you pay for both the emails you send to Eric as well as the ones he sends back to you.

Over 130 Organizations Challenge EPA to Consider Prisoners in Environmental Justice Action Plan

For immediate release: July 29, 2016

EPA Must Consider Prisoners in EJ Action Plan

From our comrades at the Prison Ecology Project. We are one of the signatories to the letter to the EPA.

The full letter to the EPA.

from PrisonEcology.org

The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) submitted a public comment to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday that provides input on the agency’s final draft of the EJ 2020 Action Agenda, highlighting the lack of consideration for environmental justice among the millions of prisoners in the United States. The comment was co-signed by 138 social justice, environmental and prisoners’ rights organizations from across the country.

Last year, HRDC submitted a 10-page comment signed by 93 organizations during the comment period for outlining the initial “framework” for EJ 2020, and later joined with the Sierra Club to generate over 12,000 emails of support for their position. Despite this advocacy, the EPA failed to include any mention of prisoners in the EJ 2020 final draft.

As a result, HRDC has further built on its efforts to make this a priority for the EPA by adding new heavy-hitting national organizations such as Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as prominent individuals including Sylvia Hood Washington, editor-in-chief of the Environmental Justice Journal, and Dr. Robert Bullard, considered to be the “Father of Environmental Justice.”

HRDC’s updated comment elaborates on problems nationwide which illustrate a clear need to protect prisoners as a population that faces extreme environmental justice impacts. For example, prisons and jails built on or near landfills, toxic waste dumps, Superfund cleanup sites and coal mining sites, or that are vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding and environmental hazards like contaminated water. Additions made in the updated comment include references to the recent Flint water crisis, a federal judge’s ruling condemning arsenic in Texas prison water, and impacts of Valley Fever on Hawaiian prisoners in Arizona, indicating that this is an ongoing issue.

The updated comment filed with the EPA can be found online here.

“It’s encouraging to see the EPA attempting to increase the effectiveness of protecting vulnerable communities that have been overburdened by industrial pollution, but a significant component is missing when impacts on millions of prisoners and their families are ignored,” said Panagioti Tsolkas, coordinator of HRDC’s Prison Ecology Project.

According to the comment submitted by HRDC, there is overwhelming evidence that the population of people in prison represents one of the most vulnerable and uniquely-overburdened demographics in our nation. The comment notes that prison populations are almost entirely low-income and that black, Hispanic/Latino and Native Americans areconsistently overrepresented in all 50 states.

Environmental permits that fail to meet the environmental justice standards set in place 20 years ago under Executive Order 12898 may violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI of the Act explicitly prohibits discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funds; if an agency is found in violation of Title VI, it may lose its federal funding. The prison sector should not be an exception.

“Those unfamiliar with the conditions in America’s prisons may balk at our allegations but the EPA cannot claim to be among the uninformed,” Tsolkas stated.

On February 5, 2015, Tsolkas conducted an interview with an EPA representative from Region III who explicitly stated that environmental justice guidelines have not been applied to prisoners for the purpose of reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, because the EPA uses data that fails to take prisoner populations into account.

EPA Region III, which encompasses the Mid-Atlantic, conducted an initiative in which numerous prison inspections by the agency resulted in enforcement actions between 1999 and 2011, ranging from issues involving the disposal of hazardous waste to violations of air and water standards, primarily due to prison overcrowding. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General has also cited various violations of health, safety and environmental laws, regulations and Bureau of Prisons policies related to industrial operations within federal prisons.

Yet the EPA has never cited the health and safety of prisoners exposed to such environmental conditions as a factor in prison inspections or in the permitting of new facilities. It has also failed to note the blatant discrimination that is inherent in toxic prison conditions, despite the fact that Title VI provides a mandate for addressing such discrimination which other agencies have recognized.

As Dr. Robert Bullard, a signatory to HRDC’s comment, stated in a recent listening session directed at the EPA, “It is incredible that in 45 years, EPA never met a case of environmental discrimination—not even in the southern region of the country … in a region that was notorious for practicing discrimination under ’Jim Crow’ segregation[.]”

HRDC executive director Paul Wright observed, “Ironically, prisoners are frequently counted for the purpose of gerrymandering voting districts. So why are we missing the mark in terms of environmental protections for those forced to live inside toxic prisons, such as facilities built on coal mining sites or waste dumps?”

A map showing various examples of prison-related environmental issues, created through collaboration between the Prison Ecology Project and Humboldt State University, can be found online here.

 


About HRDC:  The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues, and operates the website www.prisonlegalnews.org