Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Shut down the Security Torture Units

San Francisco: October 18 In solidarity with other prison activist organizations, MIM, RAIL, the Barrio Defense Committee (BDC) and the Prison Reform Unity Project held a four hour rally in San Francisco demanding the Security Housing Units (SHUs) in California prisons be shut down.

October 18 was the day of rallies across the country called for by the Prison Reform Unity Project. MIM and RAIL have been on the streets in San Francisco and Oakland most Saturday's protesting the SHU, collecting petition signatures and distributing literature, so we organized this protest on the 18th as a part of our ongoing work around this issue.

The SHU is another name for a [torture] control unit. Internationally condemned as a form of torture by the UN, Control Units are prisons within a prison. Prisoners are locked in these cells for years at a time under conditions that include solitary confinement, 23+ hours a day in a tiny cell, sensory deprivation, no education, no job training, and little exercise. Under these conditions many prisoners have serious mental and physical health problems.

In California close to 3000 prisoners are locked in the SHU, disproportionately Blacks and Latinos. Many of these prisoners are put in the SHU as punishment for their political activism behind the bars. California SHU prisons are notorious for their human rights violations.

This demonstration was effective in reaching large numbers of people on the streets of San Francisco on a busy Saturday afternoon. MIM, RAIL, the BDC, and the African Peoples Solidarity Committee (APSC) committed members to spending the afternoon at the rally.

We were joined by members of a few other prison activist organizations who helped collect petition signatures or just stopped by to show support and talk about organizing work. We set up a literature table, some big banners and a cardboard replica of a SHU cell at the protest, with signs around the outside condemning these torture units.

A wooden SHU replica built by the APSC has worked well a rallies in the past but is very difficult to transport. Activists in San Francisco have been experimenting with other models and we would welcome design input. The set up at this protest was very effective at getting people's attention. A 6 by 8 cell is very small and the visual provides an excellent reference for people on the streets while we explain the conditions prisoners face in the SHU.

Many copies of MIM Notes were distributed with a cover story on the SHU hearings in Los Angeles. And hundreds of petition signatures were gathered from passers by who stopped to learn more about the SHU prisons.

Several people asked incredulously if these were really in the United $tates and were shocked to hear that we were talking about California prisons. This education work is one of the important reasons we hold protests like this one.

A member of the Barrio Defense Committee whose son is locked up in the SHU spoke eloquently about the need to hold these protests: "The legal battles in the courts of the US government are not enough to seek justice, but it's the will and determination of the people and so the people must be informed and won over to shut down these institutions of repression.

These actions must continue throughout continuously. These actions will not only free my son Jose Luis but all of our gente from these prisons of hell!" Props also go to the BDC activists whose primary language is Spanish but who struggled with English speaking people walking by and engaged in some heated arguments refusing to let the language barrier stop them from doing this important work.

Activists at this rally agreed we need to organize more regular actions like this one, in cities around the bay area including San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland and San Francisco. We need help from people in these area and throughout the Bay Area who would like to help organize a rally in their city. It doesn't take hundreds of people to make a big impact.

For more info on the battle to shut down control units across the country
See Fight the Criminal Injustice System
From: mim124@mim.org Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003

By Prison Activists Posted 27 October 2003


Solitary Confinement: Mental illness in prisons
As noted earlier, inmates [prisoners] with mental illness are over represented in our toughest prison settings. Symptoms of mental illness (i.e., delays in response time, paranoia, difficulty interpreting the actions of others, command hallucinations, and so on) can make complying with prison rules difficult.

Post-Incarceration Sentences
Pat: "The 1990s brought a new front in the war on drugs, featuring a new layer of the Prison Industrial Complex, which has the effect of ensuring that people coming in contact with the criminal punishment system remain within the grasp of the Prison Industrial Complex even beyond prison walls."

Inside Prison, Outside the Law
Every year, tens of thousands of prisoners in state and federal custody are attacked. The exact number who die is difficult to determine: According to the nonprofit Criminal Justice Institute, in 2000, the most recent year for which figures have been compiled, 55 prisoners were murdered, 39 died "accidentally," and 118 died for unknown reasons.

Day Seven of the Fast for Freedom in Mental Health:
PASADENA, CALIF: On the seventh day of a hunger strike by six psychiatric survivors to oppose human rights violations in the mental health system, the American Psychiatric Association faces a direct and unprecedented challenge from a Scientific Panel of 14 academics and clinicians.

Supreme Court Justice Criticises Sentencing Guidelines
San Francisco, August 9, 2003, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said today that prison terms are too long and that he favours scrapping the practice of setting mandatory minimum sentences for some federal crimes.

US prison population 2.1 million
The US prison population grew more than twice as fast last year as in 2001, bringing the total number of people held behind bars in the United States to more than 2.1 million, a record, according to a government report.

McKean Federal Prison: An Alleged Model
McKean, a federal correctional institution [? prison], does everything that "make 'em bust rocks" politicians decry--imagine, educating inmates [prisoners]! And it works. [Allegedly works.]

Prisoners Justice Day Press Release (Montreal)
On August 10th, 1974, Eddie Nalon bled to death in a solitary confinement unit at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison near Kingston,Ontario when the emergency call button in his cell failed to work. An inquest later found that the call buttons in that unit had been deactivated by the guards.

Notebook of a Prison Abolitionist
In his autobiography, Frederick Douglass recalls how as a slave he would occasionally hear of the "abolitionists." He did not know the full meaning of the word at first, but he heard it used in ways that he found appealing.

Study Warns of Rising Tide of Released Prisoners
Washington: More than 625,000 former prisoners will be coming back into U.S. society this year, part of a record flow of prisoners who will face crushing obstacles in finding work and housing and repairing long-fractured family ties, according to a newly released study.

Incite Statement Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex
We call social justice movements to develop strategies and analysis that address both state AND interpersonal violence, particularly violence against women.

Second International Conference on Human Rights & Prison Reform
**This second gathering will be much smaller and more in depth in participation. A report on the human rights violation of discrimination in regard to prisoners will be produced. This report will be given to the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights which will be having its annual meeting near our conference and is the"think tank" for the human rights agenda of the United Nations.

Judged Forever- The Orange County Register
US: California's largest job-placement program for parolees will be shut down May 31 after an Orange County Register investigation found that ex-convicts were sent to questionable jobs [?] and that the state was charged for placements that did not occur. [? According to the ruling-class]

California Family Visiting Case
US: CALIFORNIA: Today (5/03/08) in Superior Court around twenty friends and family members of inmates from CSP Solano showed up to show their support in the Gordon vs. CA Department of Corrections (Case #322862) which deals with the subject of bringing back Family Visits to all inmates.

Prison Rates Among Blacks Reach a Peak, Report Finds
An estimated 12 percent of African-American men ages 20 to 34 are in jail or prison, according to a report released yesterday by the Justice Department.

Justices question prison visitation policies
WASHINGTON: In a case that could affect the visitation rights of millions of prisoners, Supreme Court justices on Wednesday struggled with the question of whether inmates have a constitutional right to visits with friends and family.