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The Uncomfortable, Taboo Reality Facing Many Female Prisoners

Female inmates interact in their cell at the Timpanogos Women's Correctional Unit during a media tour Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, at the Utah State Correctional Facility in Draper, Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he's opposed to the idea of allowing a state commission to pick a location to build a new prison instead of leaving the decision with the Legislature. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

From ATTN/ By Laura Donovan

Earlier this year, ATTN: reported on an overlooked issue for homeless women: lack of accessibility to feminine products on the streets. Some of the women interviewed said they had stopped menstruating, which can be caused by extreme stress and poor nutrition, among other things. Female inmates also have trouble accessing these personal hygiene products, and the prison guards are often not much help.

Chandra Bozelko, who spent more than six years at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, writes that she experienced this problem firsthand while serving time, and the experience posed sanitary risks to her and the other prisoners. According to Bozelko, she and her fellow inmates were given about 10 menstrual pads each per week. This might seem sufficient for a four to seven day cycle, but it is important to remember that many women outside prison go through several pads a day, especially on heavier menstruation days, so the limited number of pads distributed to prisoners can result in female inmates using one pad far longer than they should.

“[The situation allowed] for only one change a day in an average five-day monthly cycle,” she writes. “The lack of sanitary supplies is so bad in women’s prisons that I have seen pads fly right out of an inmate’s pants: prison maxi pads don’t have wings and they have only average adhesive so, when a woman wears the same pad for several days because she can’t find a fresh one, that pad often fails to stick to her underwear and the pad falls out. It’s disgusting but it’s true.” (more…)

Understanding the Human Cost of Imprisonment

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The problem is not just that “prison conditions” are abusive, but that the cumulative effects of imprisonment itself constitute cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

From Truth Out/ By Lacino Hamilton

No one who spends time in prison leaves unscathed. I have been incarcerated for more than 20 years in Michigan state prisons, where I remain today. I know from experience that prison is so much more than confinement to a cell.

Prison disposes of and makes invisible a growing underclass, prison’s majority clientele. It also incapacitates those who have shown – through their imagination, audacity and defiance – that they possess what it takes to push and pull something bigger than themselves, such as a social justice movement. Prison functions to expel self-determination, exacerbate weaknesses, exhaust strength and suppress expressions of intelligence, in an aim to produce a robot-like mass that will follow the rules of prison.

It is a tragedy of the first magnitude that millions of people have been subordinated to the will of others; reduced to dependence on these authorities for the most basic services; isolated from the rest of the world’s population; confined to a fixed habitat; coerced to work for little or no compensation; and subjected to a prison culture that breeds a profound sense of psychological depression, personal worthlessness and social despair – all in the name of justice, law and order, or whatever justification is fashionable at the time. (more…)

Refusal to Call Charleston Shootings “Terrorism” Again Shows It’s a Meaningless Propaganda Term

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From The Intercept/ By Glenn Greenwald

In February 2010, a man named Joseph Stack deliberately flew his small airplane into the side of a building that housed a regional IRS office in Austin, Texas, just as 200 agency employees were starting their workday. Along with himself, Stack killed an IRS manager and injured 13 others.

Stack was an anti-tax, anti-government fanatic, and chose his target for exclusively political reasons. He left behind a lengthy manifesto cogently setting forth his largely libertarian political views (along with, as I wrote at the time, some anti-capitalist grievances shared by the left, such as “rage over bailouts, the suffering of America’s poor, and the pilfering of the middle class by a corrupt economic elite and their government-servants”; Stack’s long note ended: “the communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed”). About Stack’s political grievances, his manifesto declared that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.

IRS building

IRS building

The attack had all of the elements of iconic terrorism, a model for how it’s most commonly understood: down to flying a plane into the side of a building. But Stack was white and non-Muslim. As a result, not only was the word “terrorism” not applied to Stack, but it was explicitly declared inapplicable by media outlets and government officials alike. (more…)

The Final Straw: Hunger striking against the TIER Program at Georgia State Prison

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From The Final Straw

This week you’ll be hearing an interview with Earthworm (Dell) of Atlanta Black Cross and Sandy, who’s the mother of an inmate at Georgia State Prison, about the TIER program being implemented there. The TIER program is the means by which the certain prisons in Georgia are reducing the time outside of cell for prisoners down to mere hours a week from multiple a day based on minor accusations and infractions and sometimes with no clear process towards getting out or limit of stay. While inside, these prisoners are kept on a minimal diet with no commissary, often no access to the library for legal research along with other issues.

In response to the conditions under TIER at GSP, numerous prisoners initiated a hunger strike back in April, with one continuing to this day.

More on what’s going on with TIER at GSP, check out http://atlblackcross.org, to read the words of the prisoners themselves via their letters posted and transcribed there. You can also find addresses for the prisoners at that site. A good intro article can be found here

Also mentioned was the Free Alabama Movement, which is a multi-state network of incarcerated folks (Alabama & Mississippi, plus affiliates in CA & VA) organizing non-violent protests to the exploitation of their labor for profit, the racialized system of incarceration in the U.S. and the horrible conditions of their incarceration. More on the project, including links to their prisoner-sourced podcasts can be found at http://freealabamamovement.com/
For our interview with members of the FAMM, check out this link

Finally, referenced was the case of Kalief Browder, incarcerated at the New York prison of Rikers Island from the age of 16-19, without trial on the accusation of stealing a backpack. Browder committed suicide 2 years after his release, in June of 2015. (more…)

Marius Transferred to the SHU! Please Write Him a Letter!

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From Free Marius Mason

On June 16th, we received notification from Marius that he has been transferred to the SHU—or Special Housing Unit, also known as solitary confinement—for, we believe, 30 days as a result of an alleged violation of prison disciplinary rules. We still do not know the basis of these allegations, but we believe they involve a violation of his right to counsel. At this point, Marius does not have all of his property in the SHU, and his normal phone privileges and all e-mail privileges have been suspended. Marius’s lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, has not yet received the incident report, but based on what she has has heard from prison officials, she believes the disciplinary action to be unjust.

Marius is currently in good spirits, but solitary confinement is a terrible and dispiriting form of punishment. Marius can still send and receive letters, so please show your support and solidarity by dropping him a line!

Please be aware that any mail sent to Marius will be under even more scrutiny than it was before, so we ask you to be cautious in writing to him about his situation. Also, mail addressed to ‘Marius Mason’ has been getting rejected, so we ask you to use the following address in your correspondence:

M Mason #04672-061
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

The Death Penalty Is Cruel. But So Is Life Without Parole.

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From The New Republic / By Stephen Lurie

Prison cells don’t attract many spectators, but executions have always drawn crowds. Paradoxically, the names and identities of death row inmates only come to matter when their execution had been scheduled: from impending death we take a sudden interest in life.

Despite the incongruity, this isn’t all that surprising. Twenty-first century America is still susceptible to the time-honored spectacle of state-sanctioned death, even if much of the attention now scrutinizes, rather than cheers, the practice. Recently, there have been many stories typical of the current fascination with American capital punishment, most notably Ben Crair’s piece in this magazine and Jeffrey Stern’s in The Atlantic. Like other recent examinations of the death penalty, both accounts focus specifically on the act of execution by lethal injection; each covers botched executions and the question of cruel and unusual punishment in the death chamber itself. Stern’s story centers on the act and ramifications of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett’s execution: A paramedic—and later, a physician—fail to find a vein in a dozen stabs into Lockett’s flesh so the execution can proceed. (Which it does, equally gruesomely.) Crair’s investigation deals with the national execution drug shortage—including Lockett’s experience along with many others—and highlights Ohio prisoner Joseph Wood’s story; his execution was so mishandled that he “gasped and snorted for one hour and 57 minutes… the longest execution in modern history.”

For Stern and Crair, as well as many human rights-minded activists and advocates, the death chamber is a potent and useful example of inhumanity. Other, newer abolitionists—like the legislators in Nebraska that voted to abolish the death penalty there last month—focus on the act of execution as well. While the death chamber is itself horrific, abolitionists would be remiss to ignore the more common punishment: the immense cruelty of a prisoner’s long wait for execution. The “death row phenomenon” and associated prison conditions cause significant psychological and physical harm; a so-called “death before dying” is both internationally condemned and domestically pervasive. If the end to capital punishment in the U.S. is based on concern for human beings—whether in a religious or moral sense—the reform movement must be concerned with the prison conditions left when death is not on the table. (more…)

From Eco-Prisoner Support to Eco-Resistance Against Prisons

“Freedom for the earth, fire for the prison” Greek banner celebrating June 11

Reflections on June 11 and its Potential

From Earth First! Newswire/By Panagioti

Hopefully by now you’ve returned safely home from a quaint letter-writing potluck or an epic road blockade in solidarity with the incarcerated environmental activists and eco-revolutionaries of the world. Perhaps you’re now ready to sit and reflect, and maybe even start thinking about what we should do next year. If that sounds like you, please read on.

Let’s start with the history

It’s been 11 years since the first time that activists coordinated an international day of solidarity action around the case of environmental prisoner Jeff Luers. Luers was charged with a relatively small crime, damaging several SUVs in a car dealership lot, but sentenced to 22 years in prison with the explicit intention of sending a chilling message to the environmental movement. It’s a history that could easily be forgotten, given how quickly the webpages that document these things tend to come and go. It felt lucky to find an existing link on Portland IMC that so thoroughly captured that event (and it felt disconcerting that the majority of hyperlinks embedded in there were dead.) The date in that call-out was actually June 12, and people planned actions throughout mid-June in response to that call.

The article included reportbacks from 23 events including places as a far as Russia, Norway and Australia, with a focus on the event in Jeff’s hometown prior to incarceration, Eugene, OR. His parents showed up to greet a crowd of several hundred with this message:

Good evening… .Thank you all for coming… .Today is intended to be a day for public education and awareness about Jeff and his case… .The FBI, in it’s bulletin to law enforcement agencies, has chosen to make it sound like an ELF (Earth Liberation Front) call to action. That’s wrong, but it got Jeff and his case some good publicity in places such as Morgantown, West Virginia and Palm Beach, Florida that may not have developed otherwise….My wife, Judy, and I want to thank all of the organizers and attendees at this event and similar events around the world designed to bring attention to the injustice done to our son, Jeff “Free” Luers.

Russian anarchists tag ‘FREE JEFF LUERS’ on US embassy, 2004

Russian anarchists tag ‘FREE JEFF LUERS’ on US embassy, 2004

Aside from getting Jeff’s parents to turn out for it, there were some other unique and important components to the first “June 11″ event. (more…)

Stop Poisoning Millions in Prison

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From Nation Inside

Summary of pending HRDC comment to the EPA on the inclusion of prisoner populations in environmental justice demographic statistics and regulatory input for permitting

Later this week, the Human Rights Defense Center’s (HRDC) Prison Ecology Project will be providing input on the EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda Framework. While it is encouraging to see the EPA attempting to increase the effectiveness of protecting vulnerable communities that have been overburdened by industrial pollution, we also find that there is a significant component to in the dialogue thus far: recognition of impacts on the vast number of prisoners and their families.

The need for something like EJ 2020 comes from the unfortunate reality that many of the environmental permit approvals that have taken place in recent decades, and continue today, fall into a category of Jim Crow-era policy. Few industrial sectors exemplify this more clearly than the prison industry.

If we can recognize the problem with forcing people to live in close proximity to toxic and hazardous operations, then why are we missing the people who are forced to live on the inside of such facilities? (more…)

Will Hillary Clinton Abolish the Prison State Her Husband Created? Don’t Count on It.

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From Truth Out / By Robert Saleem Holbrook

As the front-runner for the democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has been saying all the right things and making all the right moves. At an April 28 Columbia University forum on Criminal Justice, Hillary Clinton gave a passionate speech calling for the reform of the criminal justice system, intoning that, “We don’t want to create another incarceration generation,” in reference to the present generation of youth impacted by mass incarceration.

Clinton called for the reform of mandatory minimums and ending the marginalization of formerly incarcerated citizens. It was a very “politically correct” speech; Clinton hit all the talking points on mass incarceration. The question is: Can Hillary Clinton be trusted to dismantle the prison state her husband built? Don’t count on it; and, if history is our guide, we can expect more of the same under Clinton if she is elected president.

Former President Bill Clinton is best remembered for presiding over one of the longest periods of economic prosperity in US history. However, the gem in Clinton’s presidential legacy is an unprecedented era of prison expansion and the mass incarceration of the nation’s citizens, with the overwhelming majority of those incarcerated under Clinton being Black and Brown. (more…)

Anarchist Perspective on Mass Prisoner Resistance Movements

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From Anarchist News / By Ben Turk

There is a widespread, growing and committed resistance movement happening in US prisons across the nation. This movement is not going away, and with more outside support and national coordination, it could be powerful enough to reshape not only the US prison system, but the entire society.

At the time of this writing thirty prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary, the supermax prison in Ohio are recovering from a hunger strike that has lasted over 30 days. Prisoners in Georgia, accused of leading the largest prison work stoppage in US history in 2010 are on hunger strike demanding relief from torture conditions they’ve been subjected to in solitary confinement as reprisal for their non-violent protest. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) has been dealing with threats, beatings and lockdowns they’ve been subjected to in reprisal for the mass work stoppages that shut down three Alabama facilities for weeks in January of 2014.

Massive hunger strikes that rocked California’s prison system in recent years are now getting slow results in favorable court decisions for their class action lawsuit. Prisoners in IllinoisGeorgiaVirginiaNorth Carolina and Washington State have all engaged in historically large protests in recent years. In February, thousands of immigrant prisoners in a federal detention facility in Texas refused to work, and protested and sabotaged the facility, rendering it uninhabitable. At around the same time women at an Arizona county jail were on hunger strike refusing to eat the moldy food they’d been served.

The above examples are only the most coordinated and best publicized of these protests. Many prisoners see individual acts of courage and resistance as necessary for their identity and survival. When the country locks up as large a portion of its population as the US does, prisoner protests are inevitable and almost constant. (more…)