Latest Posts

Chelsea threatened with indefinite solitary confinement

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From Free Chelsea Manning

August 12, 2015

Aside from her 35-year prison sentence, Chelsea Manning is now facing indefinite solitary confinement to be determined in a hearing next Tuesday, August 18.

Worse yet, Chelsea faces this incomprehensibly severe punishment as a result of ridiculously innocuous institutional offenses, including the possession of books and magazines related to politics and LBGTQ issues (which she received openly via the prison mail system), and having a tube of toothpaste that was past its expiration date (apparently deemed “medical mis-use”). The catalyst for this attack on Chelsea seems to have been an incident in the mess hall where she may have pushed, brushed, or accidentally knocked, a small amount of food off of her table. She then asked to speak to her lawyer when confronted by a guard. The absurd charges were tacked on later.

These charges obviously could never justify indefinite solitary confinement- one of worst forms of psychological torture. Chelsea is now regularly publishing op-eds in the Guardian newspaper, and recently won the ability to begin hormone therapy by threatening to sue the military. It’s clear this is an attempt to silence Chelsea’s voice.

Our friends at Fight for the Future (FFTF) have created a petition where you can sign on to a letter condemning the US Army’s treatment of Chelsea. (more…)

Rest In Power Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell

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From NYC Anarchist Black Cross

On Wednesday, August 12th, our comrade in the struggle for revolution, Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell was murdered. The context for his murder remains unclear, save for the fact that it happened in the midst of a prison riot. We have no faith that the state will do anything to determine how or why Yogi Bear was murdered and presume cops and corrections officers are relishing his death. We do not doubt the possibility that he was specifically targeted and those in authority did nothing to protect him.

In the early 1970s, while imprisoned in San Quentin State Prison, Hugo Pinell made contact with revolutionary prisoners such as George Jackson, one of the Soledad Brothers, and W.L. Nolen. On August 21, 1971, there was a prisoner uprising in Pinell’s housing unit at San Quentin, led by George Jackson. On that date, Jackson used a pistol to take over his tier in the Adjustment Center. At the end of the roughly 30 minute rebellion, guards had killed George Jackson, and two other prisoners and three guards were dead. Of the remaining prisoners in the unit, six of them, including Pinell, were put on trial for murder and conspiracy. Together, they were known as The San Quentin Six. Three of them were acquitted of all charges, and three were found guilty of various charges. Pinell was convicted of assault on a guard.

Activists in prison to this day continue to mark the San Quentin prison rebellion as Black August, often with fasting. (more…)

Hooray! Marius Is Out of the SHU!

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From Marius Mason

We have good news! Marius was transferred out of the SHU (or Special Housing Unit) on Saturday, August 1st, after nearly a month and a half of solitary confinement.

At this time, we do not know how the alleged violation cited by prison officials as the basis for his punishment will affect Marius in the long term, but we do know that in addition to the time he spent in the SHU, more restrictions have been placed on him that further limit his already limited life in the Administration Unit at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.

While we are overjoyed that Marius is out of the terrible and dispiriting world of solitary confinement, we cannot forget where Marius is—prison. The Administration Unit at Carswell is gymnasium-sized, holds up to 20 prisoners, and is frequently and unpredictably locked down for hours on end due to violence and suicide attempts resulting from the claustrophobic and oppressive conditions.

We urge all of you to write Marius a letter or drop a line with a postcard. Your solidarity matters!

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

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For August 2015 Is Now Available

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8/13/15 UPDATE: Maliki Shakur Latine is no longer at Clinton Correctional Facility.

His current address is:

*Latine, Maliki Shakur * # 81-A-4469
Shawangunk Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, New York 12589

Hello Friends and Comrades,

1) Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for August. As always, please post this poster publicly and/or use it to start a card writing night of your own.

2) We’re happy to announce that an updated manual on how to start a prison books group is now available for download and printing. Our collective has been talking about putting this zine out for years and we are thrilled to finally be releasing it. We hope that this humble contribution will help other prison books groups get started and expand the important work of sending political, legal, and self-educational resources to prisoners. How To Start A Prison Books Collective

3) The Prison Ecology Project has an online fundraiser going on to help get off the ground. They are creating tools to dismantle toxic prisons. So far, they are the only group focused on the intersection of environment and mass incarceration. Currently they are building a database of the five thousand prisons and jails around the country, finding the weak points in the environmental realm, and providing tools to organize locally. You can donate here.

4) Be sure to check out the latest Political Prisoner/Prisoner Of War every-other week update by the  NYC-Anarchist Black Cross. There are lots of important updates on many political prisoners.

Until Every Cage Is Empty,

The Prison Books Collective

New Zine: How To Start A Prison Books Collective

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We’re happy to announce that an updated manual on how to start a prison books group is now available for download and printing. Our collective has been talking about putting out this zine for years and we are thrilled to finally be releasing it. This manual is designed to help the reader start and maintain a prison book program. It is not meant to be taken as an absolute, but as friendly advice when devising your own policies and procedures. We hope that this humble contribution will help other prison books groups get started and expand the important work of sending political, legal, and self-educational resources to prisoners. You can download it on our Resources page, or by clicking here.

Mass Incarceration and Bipartisan Unity: An Anarchist Perspective

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From The Agency/ By Kristina Khan

As momentum builds behind the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, I begin to wonder how much time and energy will be pulled away from the revolutionary anti-racist work of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and funnel instead into the fervent campaigning of Democratic candidates. Within the horrific, seemingly endless loss of Black lives, there has erupted a new era of racial justice work, much of it surprisingly and wonderfully radical in nature. Entire communities are calling for localized conflict resolution, the dismantling of institutional white supremacy, and even the abolition of police and prisons.

Democratic presidential nominees are very clearly aware of the power of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and are taking advantage of this momentum to build their platforms and gain votes. And as I correctly predict every election season, I dread that many people around me will fall for the illusion of a better future through the election of so-and-so only to be disappointed just months after inauguration day. In my current work as an anarchist in the small town of Champaign, Illinois, I organize with several other committed people against jail expansion – a local manifestation of institutional racism. As election season nears I am beginning to grow anxious about what direction our group will take.

Just two days after Freddie Gray’s funeral, Hilary Clinton gave a speech in New York where she called for an end to mass incarceration. Clinton, a Democrat who once called for more prisons in the 1990s now joins the growing list of politicians and corporate thugs who are suddenly concerned with the U.S. prison population. Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, Mark Holden (senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries), the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for American Progress, President Obama and many others are all apparently very concerned with the prison industrial complex or at least that’s what they have been saying; and they’re all willing to come together in unity to fix the problem. If you look more closely, however, you will find that many of these “advocates” have supported, both politically and financially, policies and people who are directly responsible for the United States achieving the highest incarceration rate in the world. (more…)

Prisons, Ecology and the Birth of an Empire

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From Earth First! Newswire/ By Panagioti

Strange sometimes how worlds collide. Nine years ago I found myself in the swamps of the northeastern Everglades listening to an independent, traditional Seminole activist asking for support in challenging the state and federal government’s plans to fund a celebration of 500 years of Florida—a history that began, in many ways, with the founding of one of the best known tourist traps in this country’s history.

If Christopher Columbus is a symbol marking the origin of Manifest Destiny’s rampage across the western hemisphere, then conquistador Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who established the colony of St. Augustine, built the first literal foundation under that genocidal, ecocidal mindset.

Today, as I occupy my time developing the Prison Ecology Project, aimed at mapping the intersections of incarceration, ecology and environmental racism, it’s hard not to also view St. Augustine as the first prison town of what would become the U.S. Empire—a nation that has distinguished itself in the modern world by simultaneously pushing global policies that have facilitated an unprecedented pillaging of the planet for resources and for locking people up at a never-before-seen scale or pace in human history. (more…)

$2.5 Million Settlement Paid To Family Of Michael Kerr, Inmate Who Died Of Thirst In Solitary

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From WRAL

— State officials will pay out a $2.5 million settlement to the family of a mentally ill prisoner who died of dehydration last year five days after he was left in handcuffs in solitary confinement.

Correctional officers found Michael Anthony Kerr dead on March 12, 2014, after transporting him from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to Central Prison in Raleigh.

An Army veteran who suffered from schizoaffective disorder that went untreated for at least six months, Kerr was serving a 31-year sentence at Alexander Correctional for firing a weapon at private property and repeated felony convictions. He had been held in solitary confinement for more than a month before his death. (more…)

Review: Maya Schenwar’s ‘Locked Down, Locked Out’

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By Ani M.

Truthout editor-in-chief, Maya Schenwar was kind enough to send the Prison Books Collective a copy of her new book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. The book is half journalism and half her memoir of the years her sister was alternately incarcerated and struggling with addiction. Since personal narrative is my favorite framework for gleaning new information, I claimed the book first with the promise to read quickly and beg her for more copies to send into prisons if it was any good.

At the Prison Books Collective we read a copious amount about prisons every week and very little makes it on to our social media and even less on to our website. As abolitionists, we find too many informative articles take a tone about just punishments that we reject. Or the reforms proposed in articles are ones that create new improved prisons instead of moving to abolish them. Much is written about the difficulties of transitioning people from incarceration to life on the outside; too little is written about the necessity of transforming life on the outside to eliminate incarceration.

Maya Schenwar’s Locked Down, Locked Out is a steady seduction. As she states early on, because she is white, from an intact nuclear family, well educated and prestigiously employed, people can hear the story of her sister and perceive it as a subject of inquiry, something to question: What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? Schenwar is a likeable first person narrator with whom it’s easy for a similarly situated audience to identify as she searches for the answer to her own questions. How did her sister end up in prison more than once? Why did her family decide it was the safest places for her to be? What would be the real alternatives to that choice? (more…)

After Obama Clemencies, Activists Question Scope of Bipartisan Prison “Reform”

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From Truth Out/ By Victoria Law

On July 13, President Barack Obama granted commutations to 46 people, including 13 serving life sentences, in federal prisons for nonviolent drug offenses. More than 35,000 people, or 17 percent of the federal prison population, have applied for early release since his administration announced its Clemency Project for people in federal prisons for nonviolent drug offenses in 2014.

“We’re at a moment where some good people in both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and folks across the country, are coming together around ideas to make the system work smarter, make it work better,” the president said in a Facebook video posted July 13.

Less than three weeks earlier, on June 25, 2015, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective (SAFE) Justice Act. The bill calls for allowing sentence reductions for federal drug war prisoners, a move which could potentially affect half of the current federal prison population.

The latest in bipartisan criminal legal reforms, the act has been championed by organizations from the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union to the Koch brothers, the Police Foundation and Right on Crime. But, notes Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which also supports the act, “The bill does not repeal any federal mandatory minimum sentences or reduce drug mandatory minimum sentences across the board, but instead limits the application of federal mandatory minimum drug sentences to the highest-level offenders, as Congress originally intended.” (more…)