Tag Archive: Illinois

Mass Incarceration and Bipartisan Unity: An Anarchist Perspective

BlackMenMassIncarceration

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…)

Anarchist Perspective on Mass Prisoner Resistance Movements

the-struggle-continues-graficanera-NO-COPYRIGHT

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…)

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’

 ‘They were held incommunicado for much longer than I think should be permitted in this country – anywhere – but particularly given the strong constitutional rights afforded to people who are being charged with crimes,” said Sarah Gelsomino, the lawyer for Brian Jacob Church.

‘They were held incommunicado for much longer than I think should be permitted in this country – anywhere – but particularly given the strong constitutional rights afforded to people who are being charged with crimes,” said Sarah Gelsomino, the lawyer for Brian Jacob Church.

From The Guardian

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead. (more…)

Despite Retaliation, Menard Inmate Urges Further Solidarity

cantwontFrom Anti-State St. Louis

The following is a letter from one inmate at the High Security Unit (HSU) at Menard Correctional, encouraging continued acts of solidarity despite retaliation.

I am sorry to report that the guys here at Menard, HSU have again been subjected to oppressive, retaliatory acts at the hands of these evil, sadistic pigs.

On April 12, 2014 at approx. 8 a.m. a construction crew showed up outside of our windows w/ large, metal square boxes with slots in the front. By 11 a.m. they were attached to our windows. We can not see outside anymore, nor do we get any sunlight, or air circulation. These taken in conjunction with our solid steel cell doors are going to make it unbearable this coming summer.

These shutters were placed on our windows specifically for our communication with you brothers and sisters during our “peaceful protest.” DO NOT let this retaliatory act prevent you from future protest, though we can’t see you, we will still be able to hear you and “that type” of support motivates the brothers in here like nothing else! (more…)

Reportback: NATO 3 Sentenced to 5 to 8 Years, Receive Credit for Time Served

nato3From comrades from NATO 3 Support:

Today in the Cook County Criminal Courthouse, the NATO 3 were sentenced to between 5 and 8 years in prison. The prosecutors had argued that they should receive 14 years and serve their sentences consecutively, whereas the defense attorneys had obviously argued that they should receive light sentences, if not simply being sentenced to time served. Brian Jacob Church was sentenced to 5 years, Brent Betterly to 6 years, and Jared Chase to 8 years. They will all serve this time at 50% of the sentenced time (e.g., 6 year sentence equals 3 years served) and will receive credit for the two years they have served pending trial. Upon release, they will each have two years of supervised release as well.

Supporters packed the courtroom for the NATO 3 today despite the draconian restrictions placed on public attendance by the judge. While the prosecutors had plenty of cops lined up to smear the defendants on the stand during the sentencing hearing, their side of the courtroom was notably empty. Not even Anita Alvarez, the head attorney who has been so vocal about the defendants being terrorists, was around today. After the jury issued its verdict, Alvarez claimed in an interview that the prosecutors had not lost the case even though all of their terrorist claims had been rejected. She melodramatically asked if the reporters had forgotten about the Boston Marathon bombing. She even asked one reporter if he would like a Molotov cocktail thrown at him.

Predictably, the prosecutors continued this ludicrous line of reasoning by repeatedly comparing the NATO 3 to the Boston Marathon bombers—with the only difference being that undercover cops had found and stopped them before they did what the bombers had done. This comparison is, of course, absurd and offensive. The defense objected to this comparison but was, predictably, overruled. Also predictably, the judge promoted this twisted perspective in his explanation of his sentencing. (more…)

NATO 3 get prison terms ranging from 5 to 8 years

nato3From Corporate Media

Three out-of-state men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 5 to 8 years in prison today for making crude Molotov cocktails in the days before the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012.

Prosecutors had sought 14-year terms for each of the men, raising the specter of the Boston Marathon bombings during their arguments at the sentencing hearing.

The so-called NATO 3 — Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly — were convicted in February of possessing incendiary devices but were acquitted of more serious terrorism charges, a fact stressed by their attorneys. Church was sentenced to 5 years, Chase to 8 years and Betterly to 6.

Chase’s attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, contended that prosecutors didn’t seem to understand they lost the terrorism case and were trying to “salvage a lousy, rotten case” with stiff prison sentences.

“They still don’t get that the whole world is laughing at them,” Durkin told Judge Thaddeus Wilson. (more…)

Call-In Day Monday April 28th In Support of Menard Hunger Strikers

call-inFrom Anti-State St. Louis

On this upcoming Monday, April 28th we are asking and encouraging people to participate in a Call-In Day in support of the prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois who are facing retaliation for engaging in a hunger strike in January. Prisoners there have been beaten by guards and metal boxes have been placed over their windows—preventing future engagement with noise demonstrations outside the prison, but also preventing sunlight from coming into their cells and increasing the sensory deprivation they experience in solitary confinement.

We hope that any pressure on the administration can draw attention to the inhumane treatment prisoners are forced to endure and help prisoners get their demands met.

 We are trying to focus our calls between 10am and noon on Monday, April 28th: But calling at other times is also useful.

Warden Kim Butler  (New as of April 2014 and the first woman warden at Menard–a 20-year veteran of the Illinois Dept of Corrections).
618-826-5071 ext. 2225

Illinois Department of Corrections
Director Lisa Weitekamp
217-558-2200 x. 4166

CONTEXT FOR THE CALL-IN DAY (more…)

Retaliation Against Hunger Strikers at Menard–Windows Blocked, Strikers Beaten

349804_Menard Correctional CenterFrom Anti-State St. Louis

The following consists of excerpts, lightly edited by Alice Lynd, from letters by eight men in Administrative Detention at the Menard Correctional Center in Illinois, dated April 12-14, 2014.

Windows covered

On the morning of Saturday, April 12, 2014, maintenance workers drilled big metal boxes on the outside of our windows. We can no longer see out the windows and barely any sunlight comes in.

All of the windows in the High Security Unit are being covered (blocked) with a steel covering in retaliation of our hollering out to the protestors that marched outside the facility during our last hunger strike.

We were told, “How you like your view now?”

With summer approaching, not only will our air flow circulation be affected, but we . . . have steel doors. We will now be forced to live in what will amount to an extremely hot tomb. I’m thinking there has to be a whole lot of information available dealing with . . . the effects of no natural sunlight in an area of indeterminate placement. (more…)

Update on Hunger Strike at Menard Correctional in Illinois

Force-Feeding-by-Michael-Russell-081113-webFrom The San Fransisco Bay View

On Jan. 15, 2014, approximately 25 prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center went on hunger strike. The hunger strikers have been told the prison administration is working on obtaining a preliminary injunction to force feed them. They expect to continue the hunger strike even if they are force fed. “We need as much outside support as possible,” the prisoners say. Please call or email: Gov. Pat Quinn, Warden Rick Harrington, Illinois Department of Corrections Director Salvador Godinez.

The following information is drawn from letters received from prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois, and compiled by attorney Alice Lynd.

Jan. 21, 2014 – On Jan. 15, 2014, approximately 25 prisoners in Administrative Detention at Menard Correctional Center went on hunger strike. Officers shook down their cells and took any food they found. The hunger strikers were sent to see medical staff and charged $5 for medical treatment.

On the way back from seeing medical staff, one prisoner (said to be Armando Valazquez) was pushed onto the stairs while in handcuffs by two officers. Those officers then kicked and stomped on his back, picked him up and then slammed his face into the plexiglass window on a door. One officer was sent home early that day. Prisoner Velazquez was moved to the Health Care Unit and the prisoners have not seen him since.

The hunger strikers have been told the prison administration is working on obtaining a preliminary injunction to force feed them. They expect to continue the hunger strike even if they are force fed.

“We need as much outside support as possible,” the prisoners say. (more…)

Prisoner Sent to Solitary for Having “Copious Amounts of Anarchist Publications”

Mark "Migs" Neiweem.

Mark “Migs” Neiweem.

By Will Potter/ From Vice

An inmate in Illinois has been in solitary confinement since July for possessing “copious amounts of Anarchist publications” and “handwritten Anarchist related essays,” according to prison documents.

Mark “Migs” Neiweem is a prisoner at the maximum security Pontiac Correctional Center who, in addition to the publications and his writings about the prison industrial complex, was also found in possession of anarchist symbols including a “Circle A” and “Circle E” (the latter, which stands for equality, is described in prison reports as representing “class warfare, the 99%”).

“I’ve been doing this work since 1979 and I can’t think of another case where someone has gotten a disciplinary report for something so obviously political as this,” said Alan Mills, who is Neiweem’s lawyer and a professor at Northwestern University.

Neiweem also had documents in his cell from the Anarchist Black Cross, which the Illinois Department of Correction says is “a political organization and openly supports those who have committed illegal activity in furtherance of revolutionary aims.” That’s a menacing way of saying that the group writes letters to prisoners and solicits donations so they can buy food from the prison commissary. (more…)