Tag Archive: prison ecology project

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

Mass Incarceration vs. Rural Appalachia

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Feds want to build a maximum-security prison on top of a former mining site in eastern Kentucky

From Earth Island Journal/ By Panagioti Tsolkas

For all practical purposes the [Cumberland Plateau] has long constituted a colonial appendage of the industrial East and Middle West, rather than an integral part of the nation generally. The decades of exploitation have in large measure drained the region.
— Harry M. Caudill, author, historian, lawyer, legislator, and environmentalist from Letcher County, in the coalfields of southeastern Kentucky (May 3, 1922 – November 29, 1990)

The United States Bureau of Prisons is trying to build a new, massive maximum-security prison in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky — and there’s a growing movement to stop it.

The prison industry in the US has grown in leaps and bounds in the past 20 years— a new prison was built at an average rate of one every two weeks in the ’90s, almost entirely in rural communities. As of 2002, there were already more prisoners in this country than farmers. The industry seems like an unstoppable machine, plowing forward at breakneck speed on the path that made the world’s largest prison population.

Today, about 716 of every 100,000 Americans are in prison. Prisoners in nations across the world average at 155 per 100,000 people. And in the US, Southern states rule the chart, . Viewing these states as countries themselves,  Kentucky ranks at lucky number seven.

“Sounds terrible…” you may be thinking, “But what does it have to do with the environment?” (more…)

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

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…)

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For July 2015 Is Now Available

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Hello Friends and Comrades,

1) Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for July. As always, please post this poster publicly and/or use it to start a card writing night of your own. There is only one birthday listed this month, so please also write to Delbert, Marius, and Barrett this month.

2) Earlier this week we found out that Delbert Africa was denied parole by the PA Parole Board and was given a two year hit. We are urging people to please take the time to sign this petition that we have aimed at the United States Justice Dept.

Also, please send a note of support to Delbert: (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…)