Prison Torture Never Ends

Heat in Texas prisons, no AC in prison in the summer
Wynne Unit, the prison Jamie is in. These fans are the only cooling system even when it is over 100 degrees. Since there are no open windows all it does is blow hot air around. Credit source: beaumontenterprises.compip

Jamie has been at the Allred unit in Texas for nearly three years. Before that, Wynne Unit. How much is an inmate supposed to tolerate from staff and guards? They can do anything they want to them and there is nothing an inmate can do. Why is that? Everyone knows it. Anyone with the power to stop it – doesn’t. They can file a grievance but the system is not set up where the inmate wins. When the medical unit and staff knowing screw around with someone’s health, aware of the consequences to the inmate, I wonder if they stand around and laugh about it in the break room? They push inmates to break them and so often succeed. Here is what is happening . . .

I received a letter from Jamie yesterday. He is close to getting out of adseg – administrative segregation – a fancy word for solitary. Locked up in a cell 23/7, except for Jamie it’s 24/7 because he’s trying to stay away from the guards by refusing showers and rec. He bathes using the sink. He knew they’d try to press his buttons to keep him down. He’s had no write ups in a long time.

He wrote to me that the nurse is refusing to give him his seizure medication for epilepsy. At his point of writing it had been three days. He keeps asking her for it and she refuses to bring it. Have you ever watched someone have a grand mal seizure? The prison won’t give him the medication that works best for him. I already went rounds with the medical unit over that and they wouldn’t budge. So he still has more seizures than he should. But not taking anything, and as any protection leaves his body it will induce more. Add to that the terrible heart in a closed cell with no ventilation makes me angry.

Guards work three 12 hour shifts. One of the guards put his hands in his food just to try to make Jamie angry so he could retaliate and write him up. He won’t eat now if this guard is on shift. He only eats breakfast, which is pitiful, but not lunch or dinner when this guard works. He’s close to losing it. I could feel it. I wrote to him today to turn away. Don’t let them take away your chance of getting out of adseg. He can’t study for his GED until he is classified G2. First he has to get to G4. This process could easily take another 1-2 years. At G4 he can leave his cell for chow and limited time in TV rec room. He’s been this route before. They can, and do, take it away in a heart beat and it takes years to climb back out. He’s had 11 years of this. If seems deliberate. The guards get a perverse pleasure from abusing people with permission. Jamie has been in adseg this time for almost 3 years because he needed to move prisons because of physical abuse that included beatings by guards at the Wynne Unit. They moved him – and gave him 3 years of adseg to go with it.

I also bought him food today. It’s like gas station convenience food. Not even one can of vegetables on the list. Snacks. But also tuna, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sardines, coffee, Raman noodles and such. They only allow someone on the outside to purchase $20 a month or $60 a quarter. But I wasn’t due to buy him more until Oct. I sent it to another man, probably next to him, who doesn’t have anyone helping him. He’ll probably pay him in food. They go on lockdown soon – for 30 days – every 90 days. They cut food rations so without extra food and that guard who’s messing with his food he’d get hungry. There are so many inmates with no one on the outside. It’s easy to see why so many don’t make it when they get out

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Most of you who follow this blog know I put out a monthly newsletter called  ITFO NEWS. Each month I focus on a different prison issue. The one being published at the end of the week is on Incarcerating The Innocent. It’s an important topic because many lives are ruined even when there is no solid evidence to convict them. I’m having a book give-away this month. Each new person who wants to try ITFO NEWS can enter their name and email address HERE and have a chance of winning a signed copy (or ebook if you prefer) of “Waiting on the Outside” by Sharron Grodzinsky. If your name is randomly pulled by Sharron, you’ll receive one of ten free copies, shipped free. 

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This book is timely for what is happening today. It is a true story of a young man still in prison today who got involved in the KKK as a teenager, attracted to craziness, violence a drugs and couldn’t find away out. Young people are easily swayed. You need only to look at pictures in our media to see who the recruits are. Any mother who has lived with the fear of raising an out of control teenager will find this book hard to put down. Did it start when he was a child? This story shows you what unconditional love is. Will he make it now when he gets out? Will the KKK let him go? 

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Jamie’s Facebook page   – current events in the world of injustice

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How One Inmate Changed The Prison System From The Inside : Code Switch : NPR

 

NPR story.jpg
Martin Sostre

An article from NPR that is an interesting read.  A little bit of history, realizing that the issues people face today have been going on for quite a long time.

Source: How One Inmate Changed The Prison System From The Inside : Code Switch : NPR

 

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My Dear Grandchildren- I am Afraid For You

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 My Dear Grandchildren – I Am Afraid For You

Over the last eleven years I began my study into America’s prison system. I never knew anyone who went to prison before my daughter’s boyfriend was arrested. I knew nothing about prison except what I saw in movies. Until I was in my 40’s there weren’t any weekly TV series that took place in prison. All the shows with cops showed them a pillars of the community. They we the good guys. No wonder it is so hard to see them as bad guys now. Good cop, bad cop, they all look the same. So the average person has had no way to understand what happened inside prisons unless they had family locked up. Then they learned the truth about our justice system and their plans for them and their families.

My grandson’s father and I began writing to each other. I was appalled by the things he told me about how they were treated. How could they treat people like that? It’s inhumane. So I began to study and read everything I could to find about what it is like to be black in this country because it looked like it was almost all blacks in every photos I saw. There are a lot of white people in prison, too, but if you go by the photos in the news it is portrayed as black mass incarceration. Why? Were black people that bad? Or were black people, being suppressed since slaves were freed, and became a tool to be used to get presidents elected.

In 1975, when I was twenty-one, I met a man who said he worked for a government agency I won’t name because at that time he made me promise not to. Besides, he may still be alive. He was infiltrating the top level of the KKK in Houston. He never told me any names. I don’t even know if his name was real. For five years he would drop in on me wherever I lived. He would tell me things but never enough that I could repeat and get him in trouble. I think he just needed someone to talk to sometimes. We talked about race problems and how important it was for the government and the KKK to make people continue to believe black people were inferior in their minds; incapable of deep rational thought. Inferior. Keeping racism going important politically. He even asked if I wanted to join to see for myself. I remember laughing about it then, but I didn’t join. I do remember thinking that maybe black people were a different species of human and not as good a white people. After all, the government kept up the idea that blacks have a criminal gene that makes them a danger just because they are black. In 1980 this man came by my house after the birth of my second child. He gave me a card and a gift, held the baby for a few minutes and said he had to go. I never saw him again. I have often wondered what happened to him.

Something had been going on for a long time and most white people had been brainwashed into believing it. To this day they STILL believe it. Some are waking up, but not enough. There is still an enormous fight for equality. The government still tries to tell people that people of color – all people of color are inferior or to be feared. Now we have to build really big walls to hide behind or to keep people out and keep people in,  like Berlin.  Separate families. Some on one side and some on the other. This is to keep the fear fresh in their minds.  There are still people who want to believe this, and thinking it sets them up on a superior pedestal. But all it really does is exactly the opposite. It tears us apart.

MY GROWING UP YEARS

Before this, throughout my life, I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t see it affecting my life. I wasn’t black. In fact, my entire life growing up I was scared of black people. I was scared of the kids I went to school with. Why? Because they were different and no one explained that to me. Why were they kept separate? We fear what we don’t understand. Was it something I read? Who taught me to be afraid? Was it the fact that they lived on their side of town and “we”  white people lived on our side of town, which we knew as the better side of town.  

Black people weren’t allowed to live on our side oof town. I heard things. If a black family were to move into our neighborhood, property values would go down. I heard they didn’t know how to take care of their houses. Proof? Look how poor their houses were. Black kids walked down my street to get to the big park at the end of the block. They always walked on the side of the street by the ice cream factory, never in front of the houses. They never talked to us. We never talked to them. No one told me why. I was never told to be friendly. It was just understood they were different and we didn’t mix with them.

My mother sold Tupperware. Over the years she had dozens of women who she managed in her unit. Many times, when we later talked about this, she always told me how she wasn’t prejudiced. She had a black woman in her unit – one black woman in all those years. She told me how nice she was. We also had a black cleaning lady named Violet who came once a week. The only time I ever went into the black neighborhood was to go with my mother to drive Violet home. The bread factory was there and the smell when it was baking was intoxicating.

Since black people were never talked about in my house, and black kids didn’t go to the same schools, I had no black friends. there were none to talk to. But they weren’t talked about negatively, either. Still, I grew up afraid of them.  But I was also curious. What did their hair feel like? Did their skin feel like mine? People fear what they don’t understand. Later in life, visiting my street, it was run down. Many houses were turned into rental properties. I saw black families. An old neighbor said, “See what happens when the blacks move in?”. But it wasn’t because of blacks, it was because of renters. Renters don’t put money into keeping a place looking good and the owners of that property don’t keep it up for renters. Too often renters – any renter – trashes the property. It was sad looking at my old house, and it was white people living in it.

When I think back, it was so easy for so many people to believe what they were told. After all it was our government telling us what to believe. We also believe how our community believes, in social issues and religion. How could we not believe our government who we thought was trying to protect us. We had no way of knowing the true intentions. We were taught to be ignorant. No adult ever talked about the race issues. At last no one talked to the kids, especially in the 60’s. Not one word was said. I graduated high school in 1972, still knowing nothing.

This summer I will be going to my 45th  class reunion. Many of these same students will be there. I’d like to talk to some of them about that time period in our lives.  Do they remember? Maybe they can help me understand what happened. I’m connected to some of them on facebook. I never thought before how this affected them. How many had families who were caught up into what America did to so many black families. How do we undo the damage we all did by falling in line and believing the garbage our government put out over our trusted evening news and our trusted newspapers? Too many people still believe it and watch programs like Fox News which doesn’t tell the truth any more than the rag sheets like The Enquirer. It’s pathetic what people believe as the truth.

Nothing in my life has devastated me more, and has caused more pain in my heart than watching the ripping apart of the dignity and lives of so many people. having the life sucked out of them in prison and continue to be destroyed even after they are released. What is the difference between them and the kids in my home town? How can we all get together and meet and catch up and not talk about the elephant in the room. Are my white classmates prejudiced against my black classmates? Is this small group of people somehow different from the rest of America’s? Do they understand the reason for why Black Lives Matter? Black lives have never mattered, so All lives can’t matter until black lives matter. It hurts my heart like nothing else ever has. I didn’t understand. I do now. Yes, other lives have been trampled on in this country by the white man, but my families blood is mixed now with black blood so this is also the degradation of my people, too. I can’t separate who I am from who you are.

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Grandsons you are young. My granddaughter, you are almost grown and are too removed from me for you to understand who I am, and hopefully one day you may want to know who I am. When caught between two parents who love you it is easy to think the truth belongs to only one. As you mature I can only hope someday you will look for the other half that completes the truth and helps you understand how much you’ve lost by not being able to understand both the white and the black families you are part of. I have been fighting the best way I know how to educate people who don’t understand.

I have read hundreds of articles and watched dozens of videos and movies. I have written and read hundreds and hundreds of lnd.ters from inmates and written hundreds of articles to bring alive the fact that the people in prison are ordinary people like you and me who breathe and hope and dream. Yes, some are violent criminals but we also have violent people on the outside and some of them are the people who are supposed to protect us. But the majority of the people in prison are there to make money for corporations like  CCA ( Corrections Corporation of America) who still depend on slave labor for profit. They created a monster with an appetite that needs to be fed.

It is you boys I worry about the most because not much can be done to protect you. When the white cop looks at you they won’t see the white in you. You will have no privilege in their eyes. You will be another dangerous black kid and if you breath wrong they will shoot you. They may just shlot you anyway and make up a story that they thought you were reaching for a fictional weapon. They will only see black. You can’t stay protected inside your white mother’s house forever, always in her presence. She isn’t worried enough. “I’ve taught my sons to respect authority.” But has authority been taught to respect her sons? No.

I watched a movie tonight. “13th”  I could hardly make it to the end. It talked about The death of Emmet Till. This is the third time in two weeks I have read of him even though he died so long ago. How coincidental is it that the woman, now age 81, who accused this boy of flirting with her when he was 14 and white men beat and mutilated him, came clean in 2007 and said she lied. It’s too late now. But it is only now, ten years later that it is in the news. The courts decided not to prosecute the guilty parties. I thought there was no statute of limitations on murder. If Emmet had lived he would be 70. The woman went into hiding and it doesn’t sound like she had a happy life. Why did she do it? How could anyone do that? But they do – to this day, they still do. Grown men killed this child because he was black. White people have killed black children and men to this daplllpppy. They are mentally sick to hate people because of the color of their skin.

How man people have died and the killer. got away with it by saying they were afraid of the color of his skin? We can’t even prosecute them? They are killed for sport because they think of black people as being unworthy. Who is to say one day a white person would say they are afraid of you and decided you needed to die. Or maybe they decided you looked like a dangerous child and handcuffed you, took you out of school and sent you to juvenile detention. It happens every day. You will be judged, not by who you are, but by what you look like.

It is easy for a white person to say, “I’m not racist!”  But would you be suspicious of someone just because he wore a sweatshirt with a hood. Would you cross to the other side of the street if he was walking toward you? Would you fear for your life in a black neighborhood because you think they are all drug dealers and criminals? Have you been brainwashed to be afraid?

Until American government stops what they are doing, and I don’t see that happening, my family isn’t safe. The black race has never been safe and I never understood that.  Not deep inside where it counts. I knew everything that happened but I didn’t know how it felt. I didn’t understand the repercussions.

Could white politicians all clambering to be the next “law and order” leader; think of the destruction they have been advocating as they declared the black man dangerous?  It is still happening. TWO DAYS AGO,  Our top Republican, Paul Ryan, who can’t decide if he is for or against Trump, as he contemplates his own career, declared black people are inferior, lazy, and don’t want to work. We should take away all social structures to help poor people and the rich white men should mentor them and teach them how to do things. I gagged with vomit.

I knew then that this new Trump administration wasn’t done doubling down on black people but he has also added anyone else who isn’t white to the list. Yet Trump declared while campaigning, “Black people are going to love me! They have never had it so good as they will with me! Vote for me! What have you got to lose!”  Then he threatens the city of Chicago. Clean up your city or Ill send in the Feds!”

America is a scary place because of all the different people they hate – in the name of God. Murder charges for doctors who perform legal abortions. Lock up grade school kids for an after school fight. Lock up a little girl for shaking her first at a cop. Run down a protester with your car and kill him? That’s okay. Report the news as a journalist and get locked up. This is our America now.

Grandsons, I will do my best to protect you. I will do my best to reach as many people as I can to help them understand what has happened. This is my promise to you. This is my reason for living. It is the focus of my day – every day.  I love you dearly as I do all of my seven grandchildren, but you are the ones who will have to fight for the privileges my other grandchildren will take for granted because they are white.

I’m so sorry.

***************

The piano improvisation was the first recording made since the surgery on my arm. When it was injured I feared I would be unable to play again.  It has taken a few months but gradually I am able to lift my arm and make my fingers move. There is still nerve damage that makes it painful to move my wrist back and forth, and press fingers down with even, controlled pressure.  It is very painful to sit up straight for any length of time.  In order to play gigs I have to be able to sit and play three 45 minute sets, so I have a lot of work to do.

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Prison Policy Initiative: a Must Read

caught-1013600__340 (1)This has a lot of good information for those who are interested in finding out what is really going on with our prisons. Like anything else we read in the media, they only print what the people in power want us to know, and the truth is often buried. There is no trust and honesty in the media and this year should have shown everyone that. That also includes the prison industrial complex and why we have the prison system we have.

I hear awful things some people say about inmates because they don’t understand, or realize, many of them aren’t guilty, or they have been pushed through the school to prison pipeline, or they have been targeted because they are black or other minorities. I’m not saying that there are not some pretty horrendous people in prison, because there are. But it the percentage – 6 to 1 – black to white that are locked up. It is how the American people have been told over and over that blacks are prone to crime and are less intelligent, that justifies what they did.Or they say blacks do more drugs. But the numbers say otherwise. The truth has been coming out now.

We have learned how the war on drugs was fabricated by the Nixon administration, pushed forward more by Regan, and then Clinton adds three strikes and you’re out – which he says he so regrets now. That is bullshit. This was all done to control who can vote in the years to come. Disenfranchise the black vote, who on average do not vote republican, and it is easier to control the elections. The more blacks they lock up the better it is for them. This fact is now well documented. It is also why the Nixon Admin made marijuana a class one narcotic as dangerous as heroin. The mass demonstrations against the illegal war in Viet Nam were getting in their way. Lock up all the pot smoking hippies.

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credit source:  herb.co

It sounds silly when you look at the sentence by itself, but when you understand how many lives were ruined over these two things and neither of them has had anything done to alleviate it until THIS year, shows why we have 2 million more prisoners now than before Nixon. Pot is probably the least dangerous drug there is. There has not ever been one overdose and people don’t commit crimes when high. They’d have to stop laughing and eating to plan a crime. Yet still, for decades, the prisons have been jammed with people and the corporations have made a fortune over enslaving people to make their products. And most of you have no clue you buy products made by slaves who don’t get paid.

All of this has to stop, and people are now finally waking up. We have crushed a race of people who haven’t deserved what we have allowed to happen to them, and too many white people still think they deserve more privileges because they are white. This country is imploding from so much selfishness. Take the time and educated yourself. Stop getting your news from places like FOX or you only continue to be ignorant of the truth. Stop following along like sheep, believing what you read. Read all sides of an issue. Educate yourself.

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Information for Friends and Family of Inmates

I have copied part of the press release by Prison Policy Initiative from March 4, 2016. What an eye-opener. It is a must read for anyone who has family or friends incarcerated,or for anyone who pays taxes and wants to know what is happening to their money in terms of effectiveness. We need reform. There are so many people incarcerated who should be treated differently, yet the judicial system continues to incarcerate them. Please go to http://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2016.html to view the statistics and pie charts. (Because they are not static, I could not copy them here).

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2016

By Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy
March 14, 2016
Press release

Wait, does the United States have 1.4 million or more than 2 million people in prison? Are most people in state and federal prisons locked up for drug offenses? Frustrating questions like these abound because our systems of…

View original post 2,071 more words

Prison Industry:Big Business or Slavery?

open prison door in jail or prisonThis article was written two years ago so the numbers are higher than what is written here.  There are more people incarcerated.  Last year it was 2.3 million.  I don’t know what it is now. But the situations are the same or worse. It is easy to see what has happened to the citizens of our country because of how every little thing included jaywalking will put you on the fast lane to jail, and if you are black, you can count on it. What has happened to entice big business to use the slave labor in prisons in one reason why the government wants to keep it that way.  The contracts that were signed promising to keep the prisons full is why the joke was pulled on the people when they said they were releasing 600 federal inmates.  They couldn’t touch the ones in state prisons.  Instead of 600 prisoners being released it was actually only 20% of American prisoners that left prison and most of them were on their way out anyway.  The rest were on house arrest or were immigrants coming across the border.  But the media made it sound sooo good – 6000 people. Except that it was a scam to make you think they were doing something about it.  They can’t and they won’t.  Too many corporations use the slave labor inside the prisons.  Read on . . .

 

Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?

 

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Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million – mostly Black and Hispanic – are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.”

The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”

CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP

According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:

. Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

. The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.

. Longer sentences.

. The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.

. A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.

. More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.

HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES

Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.

During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.

Who is investing?

At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum.

cca. prison corporations, prison industrial complex
photo source: correctionsproject.com

And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.

Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).”

PRIVATE PRISONS

The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.

Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added – which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES

Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.

After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 – ending court supervision and decisions – caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.

( I believe since then, there were people who tried to put a stop to this but I don’t know the outcome.)

STATISTICS

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

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Torture of U.S. Political Prisoners

I read this article today. It is a prime example of how we torture people in our prisons or give them unjust sentences. Some of these people are guilty and some aren’t, but there is such determination to destroy their lives, not based on whether the sentence is just, but because they weren’tliked. Their ideologies weren’t liked. They were punished with these sentences and kept in solitary confinement when it wasn’t necessary. This is the wrong use of our “injustice” system. It is way beyond what should have been. Their sentence did not fit the crime, if they did indeed commit a crime in the first place.

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The sentences for long term political prisoners are extreme. And cruel, revenge for the prisoner’s challenge to the system rather than appropriate punishment for alleged crimes of self defence or for the unplanned tragedies of political actions. Because many here were provably targeted by law enforcement programs to silence them and are likely to be innocent, the length of prison terms falls into a pattern of racist and political oppression.

The prisoners are consistently from Black or left wing resistance groups after moderate leaders within the system were assassinated. The arrests and sentencing come from a time when police actions against Black Panthers were overtly criminal (Fred Hampton) and covertly part of a military and law enforcement war against the left, anti war resistance, the poor. Allegations against leaders of Black communities couldn’t be relied on as   factual. While “life imprisonment” is better than death who will tell us that it’s bearable? Beyond sentencing, some cases show repetitive patterns of withholding medical care to the point of extrajudicial punishment, particularly where the prisoner was accused of crimes against police (ref. Oct. 13, 2013). The additional extra-judicial punishment of holding a prisoner for years in solitary confinement is finally being recognized as a crime. It’s torture. Political prisoners targeted for their convictions, their organizing, their truths, suffered more than most of us can sustain, and some have survived. Their lives weren’t allowed to be lived. Their suffering was caused and intended to scare everyone else. We remember political prisoners because they keep alive our hope that there will always be people who say no to what is unacceptable.

Thomas William Manning of the Ohio Seven: according to Medical Justice of the Jericho Movement Manning remains at FMC Butner where he was transferred in 2010: his knee replacement surgery was performed in 2012 but kept him in a wheelchair since his damaged shoulder didn’t allow him to progress with physiotherapy. Shoulder surgery, for an injury which by my understanding was caused by police (on arrest he was picked up and dropped until something broke), continues to be denied him as ‘not medically necessary.’ Appropriate private medical treatment was effectively denied with his parole, November 2014. He’s expected to be freed August 20, 2020. Tom Manning became an artist in prison and there’s an art book of his paintings out – For Love and Liberty: Artist Tom Manning, Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner.  [1]

Albert Woodfox, of the Angola 3 was finally released February 19, 2016. The State of Louisiana appealed three former judicial attempts to free him, and kept him in solitary confinement. At the final trial the prisoner pleaded nolo contendere in a plea bargain which gains his freedom without admission of guilt but lets him plead to lesser charges for which he has already served the time. This time he can’t be placed back in a cell. The extreme injustice remains that as an innocent, Albert Woodfox served 43 years in solitary confinement. His lawyer is bringing legal action against the State of Louisiana for its policies of solitary confinement.  [2]

Russell Maroon Shoatz: in 2013 counsel for Russell Maroon Shoatz sued Pennsylvania’s State Corrections Secretary, John Wetzel, and the Greene Correctional Institution Superintendent, Louis Folino, for cruel and unusual punishment without recourse to remedy. This directly attacked the solitary confinement policies of the State’s Department of Corrections. The case protests the cruelty of solitary confinement as applied to Shoatz for over 22 years. It may help other Pennsylvania prisoners. On February 15, 2016 the federal court judge ruled that Shoatz’s case should be decided by a jury trial. At the hearing Shoatz’s lawyer was able to provide a report by Juan Mendez, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture who found the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment beyond the current norm of civilized nations.  [3]

Mumia Abu Jamal: his case has allowed a challenge to a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections policy on treatment of patients with Hepatits C. There is a known treatment for the disease. It costs about eighty-four thousand dollars in the U.S.. If not treated Hep C may develop into cirrhosis of the liver which is lethal. Even when diagnosed with Hep C U.S. prisoners are not usually treated for the disease because of the expense. Abu-Jamal’s lawyers are challenging the DFOCV policy of triage which waits to give expensive treatment until there is a Hepatitis C caused medical emergency which is possibly fatal. The hope is to gain Abu-Jamal among other prisoners the life-saving treatment. The effects on Abu-Jamal through lack of appropriate medical treatment as revealed through trial testimony, are awful, similar to the effects of torture, and these were unrefuted.  [4]

Leonard Peltier: the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC) has confirmed that a preliminary diagnosis of the prisoner’s condition by an MRI shows an abdominal aortic aneurism. Aware of Peltier’s illness before June 2015, initial results were available about January 10th, 2016. Consistently, prison authorities have moved very slowly to address Peltier’s medical difficulties to the point of endangering his life for the forty years of his imprisonment so far. Treatment of a potentially fatal aneurism requires an exception – it was to be operated on before mid-January. Peltier notes in an article of Feb. 23rd that no operation was forthcoming since he’s in a maximum security prison and inmates don’t get treatment until the problem is terminal. There was always serious doubt of the validity of Peltier’s conviction. There is strong doubt he’s being held legally now. He needs and deserves the clemency students across the country will be demanding February 27th.  [5]

Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: one of the most important alternative voices in America, Al-Amin remains without pardon in prison serving a life sentence. I believe he’s innocent of the charges against him. At Butner Federal Medical Center a bone marrow biopsy on Jan. 23, 2014 revealed the presence of myeloma cells. The condition was to be monitored every several months. Then he was returned to the remote ADX Florence Colorado, an over-controlled maximum security prison for the most dangerous prisoners. It’s considered one of America’s worst. On Sept. 3, 2015 a prisoner was able to contact the Prison Movement with the news that Al-Amin was in a medical emergency. [6]

Robert Seth Hayes: in July 2015, Medical Justicenoted that Seth Hayes was beginning to receive some treatment for his Hepatitis C and diabetes but none for “chronic bleeding and abdominal growths.” Despite previous emergency alerts and notices he continues without adequate health care at Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York. Medical Justice claims his diabetes is not under control and as of November 2015 he was having trouble breathing.Medical Justice has asked he be taken to a pulmonary and heart specialist immediately. Medical treatment so far is inadequate to the point of intentional harm. Hayes is a Vietnam war veteran and Black Panther sentenced back in 1973 to from 25 years to life. It’s 2016 now. He’s denied his freedom and his health.   [7]

Sekou Odinga: imprisoned for his part in the 1979 freeing of Assata Shakur and his part in the Brinks robbery of 1981, with a mandatory release date of 2009, Sekou Abdullah Odinga (Nathaniel Burns) left prison on parole Nov. 25, 2014. He passed about half his 34 years time in solitary confinement. [8]

Dr. Mutulu Shakur: under laws no longer in effect Dr. Shakur won his release date of Feb. 10, 2016, after serving 30 years of a sixty year sentence. On Feb. 4th he received notice of a scheduled parole hearing on April 4th and so remains in Victorville U.S. Penitentiary (California). He is being held illegally. Authorities hold against him the planning of the Brinks robbery of 1981 where two policemen and two guards were killed, and attribute to him the successful escape of Assata Shakur (Joanne D. Chesimard) from a New Jersey prison to Cuba. A doctor, healer and teacher he should be allowed to continue his work of wholeness, caring for people in New York. [9]

Judith Clark has served 35 years of a minimum 75 year sentence; she’ll be eligible for parole at the age of 107. She drove a getaway car for the 1981 Brinks robbery which Dr. Shakur is said to have planned. She was not accused of any violent act and the intolerable length of her sentence reflected the court’s judgement of her political thinking and expression rather than her degree of guilt. She refused a lawyer as did David Gilbert still in prison, and Kuwasi Balagoon who has died in prison. Her statements to the court were honest but radical. Of the same group Kathy Boudin plead guilty which brought her a twenty year sentence and she left prison on parole in 2003. The New York Times reports that former presidents of the New York Bar association have joined in a plea of clemency for Judith Clark. Under current law an appeal to the governor is the only means of finding her a release from prison. The length of the sentence is so clearly unjust it reflects poorly on the sanity of the legal system. [10]

Under the norms of civilization, each of these prisoners would be freed. But each of these cases is abnormal, contravening any international expectation of justice. The length of the sentences is consistently skewed from the norm. The sentences are primitive, scented with revenge and racist hatred. These prisoners among all the public doesn’t know about had their lives taken away because of what they believed and who they cared for. From a time when law enforcement was corrupt, racist, and as programmed to right wing extremism as it is today, the charges against the prisoners do not match up with the prisoners’ histories, writings , concerns, deeds over the years, whom they’ve proved themselves to be. So the allegations are either hard to believe, or within a logic of self defence. The courts’ astounding long sentences were intended to wipe out the left wing. In a United States that promises freedom who would have the outrageous ignorance to deny any of these a pardon.

Gouache drawings by Julie Maas

Notes:

  1. “Tom Manning,” current, Medical Justice; “Tom Manning (prisoner) explained,” current, Explained Today‘ “Tom Manning,” current, Wikipedia.
  2. “Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 released from prison in Louisiana,” Steve Almasy, Feb. 19, 2016, CNN; “Albert Woodfox released from jail after 43 years in solitary confinement,” Ed Pilkington, Feb. 19, 2016, theguardian.
  3. “22 Years in Solitary May Be Cruel & Unusual, Federal Judge Says,”Rose Bouboushian, Feb. 18, 2016, Courthouse News Service; “How a Former Black Panther Could Change the Rules of Solitary Confinement,” Victoria Law, Feb. 22, 2016, The Nation.
  4. “Mumia Abu-Jamal vs John Kerestes et al,” #15cv967, Dec. 18, 2015, The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [access:<http://www.prisonradio.org/sites/default/files/letters/pdf/Abu-Jamal%20v%20Kerestes%20PreliminInjunctionTranscript%2012-15%20%281%29.pdf >].
  5. “New Health Emergency for Leonard Peltier,” Jan. 6, 2016, International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; “Leonard Peltier’s MRI Confirms Abdominal Aortic Aneurism Diagnosis,” Levi Rickert, Jan. 10, 2016, Native News Online.net; “Call for National Student Day of Action: Demand Obama Grant Clemency to Leonard Peltier!” current,peltierstudentnationalaction.wordpress.com; “What Can I Say?” Leonard Peltier, Feb.23, 2016, NetNewsLedger.
  6. “Stop the execution of Imam Jamil, the former H. Rap Brown, by medical neglect in federal prison”, the Imam Jamil Action Network, Sept. 6, 2015,BayView; Biopsy results released for Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)”, Karima Al-Amin, Aug. 8, 2014, BayView; “Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown),” current, Medical Justice
  7. “July update on Seth Hayes: Call for support,” July 5, 2015, Medical Justice; “Robert Seth Hayes Urgent Medical Update,” Nov. 16, 2015, Medical Justice.
  8. “UC-Irvine welcomes ‘political prisoner’ involved in cop killings,” Dave Huber, Feb. 10, 2016, The College Fix; “Free ‘Em All: 50 Years Later, Black Panthers Are Still Fighting for Freedom,” Asha Bandele, Feb. 18, 2016Huffington PostAlternet.
  9. “Mutulu Shakur,” current, Family & Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur; “Mutulu Shakur has not been released from Prison ,” Pologod, Feb. 12, 2016, The source; “Dr. Mutulu Shakur: More than Tupac’s stepfather!” Feb.18, 2016,BayView.
  10. “As Ringleader in ’81 Brink’s Robbery Goes Free, a Plea for Its Getaway Driver,” Jim Dwyer, Feb. 9, 2016, The New York Times; “Judith Clark’s Radical Transformation,” Tom Robbins, Jan. 12, 2012, The New York Times Magazine.

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Unanswered Questions of Right and Wrong – What Do You Say?

black prisoners at San Quentin
photo source: http://www.nytimes.com

So many unanswered questions of right and wrong. Ten years ago, before I met Jamie, I was totally clueless about how the prison system worked and how it connects to our past history of slavery.  I didn’t know anyone in prison.  My knowledge came from the same place everyone gets their information – TV and movies – and slanted propaganda the media is paid to report, depending on which political party that particular news organization is affiliated with.

There is a need to justify to American citizens why there has been such an enormous need to lock up a high percentage of our “lesser than us” citizens – more than almost all other countries combined.  This is the mass incarceration of blacks. The people needed to fill the prisons were expendable. They were, and still are, the blacks, and then minorities, and now foreign citizens, AKA illegal aliens. It is so important to keep us afraid of them, even though we created the need to be afraid in the first place. Why?

white power, racism
photo source: wbez.org

Why has it been so important for white people to believe black people have a higher propensity to be criminals than white people?  Has it been our ego? Could we not stand the thought that black people are just as good as we are?  No, we had to keep them down – keep them in their place.  Why do black people have to be so much more afraid of police than white people? We know that is a fact.  All of us know it, yet it continues to happen.  Why do my half-black grandchildren have to be afraid that a cop will shoot them in the back?  Because that is what cops do, and get away with, because black people are so dangerous, so they tell us.

Why do so many white people think they are better than blacks?  Do they think they are good Christians?  They say they are good Christians.  Some racist people will even tell you they aren’t racist because they don’t want other people to know.  I’m not lumping all Christians into that mix, because even black people are Christians, even though they aren’t supposed to be. “Dirty niggers”, we have called them so many times.  It’s hard to even type the letters it is so disgusting.  But not printing them doesn’t make it go away. I could type half the word and put ** in the middle for the missing letters, but that doesn’t change the word, either.  Since the time black people have been slaves, we – the white people couldn’t picture black people being equal to us. The white race did a horrible things to this race of people with beautiful colored skin of many shades.  White people have tried for a hundred years to acquire their beautiful brown tones of skin.  Because of the law of cause and effect or, you reap what you sow, is strict, a price will be paid for what was done.  Even though the current generation of people were not alive while slavery was being enacted there is something drastically wrong because some kids are still being raised with the same hate their parents were probably raised.

Now, with everything going on today in the world with terrorism in the middle east, that we created, children are now being taught to hate Muslims, as if Christianity was such a loving religion. So much blood has been shed in the name of Christianity.  The degree of hate I hear from those who say they are Christians is sickening. Any child now who is racist learned it from the adults in his life – and that is inexcusable.   Again I say, not all Christians fall into this group, but it is enough of them that it stands out.

There is something massively wrong with America, starting with the people who govern it.   What we were never told, as the prisons swelled with people, was the real reason why we had to lock up so many people.  Sure, there was the war of drugs, but that wasn’t the real reason.  That was just the easiest reason for the public to swallow.  Our government knew all along  this was never going to get rid of drugs or crime.  What it did was allow certain corporations to make a heck of a lot of money, and those corporations gave politicians a lot of campaign money.  now they have to support what these corporations want.   The people in power had to prey on the minds of people who were susceptible to believing black people were dangerous.  They needed a reason to destroy black families.  It was the only way to legally continue to enslave them. Take away the fathers, and make sure they were kept poor. Lock up their kids in juvenile detention for poor or nonexistent excuses. Treat black kids differently than white kids.  Make sure they have a hard time getting an education.  Show society that black people are beneath white people.  If you are ignorant and think being white makes you smarter, or you deserve more, then there is no hope for you.  Because, no matter what you believe, it doesn’t make it true.

Cops have killed too many people with the stupid excuse they were afraid for their lives as they shot the person as he was walking away from them.  That excuse won’t work any more.  People are angry.

While locking up so many people, no one put enough thought into how much it was going to cost to keep them locked up. They also didn’t think about how much money it would take to care for them medically.  And what about the elderly? Who pays for them? Everyone – we all pay – it comes out of every taxpayer’s pocket. But who cares?  Not the corporations with the contracts.

cca. prison corporations, prison industrial complex
photo source:
correctionsproject.com

So much money is being made by the prison industrial complex – fine upstanding American corporations who want their products to be made by incarcerated slaves for free or close to it. Do you boycott these companies?  No – you don’t – because you have no idea which companies I’m talking about.  Have you even thought to find out who these corporations are?  No, and they count on that.

You get angry when animals are hurt.  You get angry over the vets who are mistreated.  You get upset about the homeless, but you think the inmates in prison deserve what they get.  In the prisons there are corporations who bid on the commissary products they sell, and corporations who are supposed to supply the food, and corporations who are supposed to take care of medical needs, and corporations who are supposed to supply educational needs.   But they can only make the big bucks by denying these things to the inmates as often as possible. Do you think they are going to give up their profit when they have more money than anyone to fight it?

In prison, Jamie is being denied medications for his heart.  Just this week I have called 4 days in a row trying to reach someone in the medical unit to ask why.  I can never reach the right person, or they are out of the office and they won’t return my calls.  Is there an attorney reading this who can help me?   The prison doesn’t care if they kill him. Would you stand for that if it was YOUR family?  Is anyone angry for the inmates who aren’t receiving care, or do you fall for the propaganda that they deserve it? Do you believe they get three squares a day and free medical?  Are you the kind of person who believes what you read and doesn’t look at the other side of the story?

These things make me angry.  I know there are really bad people in prison, but every single one of them is a human being.  The percentage of the really bad is small compared to the rest of the prison population who got a sentence that did not fit the crime, or is innocent.  Add to that the ones who are mentally ill and have no way to get the help they need.  I’m not trying to say that everyone imprisoned should be let go.  I’m talking about the ones imprisoned who are there to fill a bed so more profit can be made. These are the ones given extraordinarily long sentences that serve no purpose beyond financial gain.  The parole board won’t parole them even though they have numerous letters of recommendation that they be given their life back.  These are the people inside who help fill the percentage dictated in the contracts the corporations have with the prisons.  These contracts say  the prisons have to be kept full or the government has to pay them for empty beds.  Do you know about this? It doesn’t matter that these are real people whose lives have been destroyed to fill a quota.

Our injustice system is sick.  It is the same system that will arrest a young girl for using the camera on her phone to document a cop abusing his role and hurt a student and then arrested the girl who took pictures of the abuse.  We protect the criminals with a badge and instead lock of the citizens who are whistleblowing the cops.  How long can this country function with these corrupt standards?  How many people have to have their lives destroyed for the sake of the profit for someone else?  Why is this allowed? I know there are people and organizations who are trying to stop it. Why isn’t it working?  Who is pulling the strings?  Not one of us is safe.

I have read monstrously stupid comments that people leave on the internet when they have been sucked into the propaganda and lies.  You would think by now they’d be tired of being sheep, led around by their noses. Even so, many of those who do know the truth do nothing.  They read – they sing to the choir – but when it comes right down to helping any of the people who have been destroyed by this system it is too much for them. How can people not want to help?  If each person reached out to even one person, what a difference it would make. So many people are fanatical about saving unborn children but they do NOTHING to help a living human being who needs to know that he matters. No, that is too much to ask.  What has anyone done for one of these babies, born into an abusive home who ends up in a foster home and then over 70% of them end up in prison because of that abuse?  What have you done for these people?  The people who want to control other people’s pregnancies are a bunch of hypocrites.  You climb onto a cause and shoot off your mouth but really have no concern for people. If you did, you’d do something for someone already living.

This election cycle there is a lot of talk for the first time about changing our prison system but there has been no talk about the contracts the prison corporations have.  So, to me, it sounds like a farce.  Tell the people what they want to hear, knowing it will just be another thing that will never happen, just like all the promises were got in the past that never happened.  But people will vote based on the promises that mean nothing. Then, when it is too late to do anything, they will get angry when the promises aren’t fulfilled.  Then they will call their elected leaders names.  Big deal, what will that accomplish? People need to do something now, not when it is too late.

Are you beginning to understand?

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Yep, Slavery is Still Legal – The 13th Amendment

13th amendment

 

Stop slavery

Jamie’s last letter also has a newspaper article included with that title. Parts of the article resonated with him and he underlined those places. Because he is living through what this newspaper is writing about it must have resonated fairly strongly with him. He carefully tore out the article to send to me.  I think it came from a USA Today by Jim Liske, the president of Prison Fellowship.  I don’t know the date except that it is fairly recent.

“13th AMENDMENT – Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United states, or any other place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Black vs White death penaltyWhen slavery was abolished there were many ways it could be worked around by increasing what was a crime for black people. The most glaring was the death penalty. There was only one crime that would send a white man to death row – Murder. Not so for the black man. There were dozens of crimes that would get him hanged. When we look at our prisons today and see the percentage of white vs black not much has changed.

A compilation of newspaper articles of glaring racial discrimination startingin 1961, which still exists today in the form of “white privilege”.  An interesting read by the Equal Justice Initiative – A History of Racial Injustice –  http://racialinjustice.eji.org

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-and-death-penalty

“On Sept 15, 1963, the bomb that killed four girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala, showed America just how far we had to go to fulfill the promise of justice and equality for all, even a century after the 13th amendment ended slavery. Half a century after the bombing, the struggle is not over, in part because language in that same amendment still undermines the equal humanity of more than 7 million Americans who have been convicted of a crime

Ratified at the end of the Civil War, the amendment abolished slavery with one critical exception: Slavery and involuntary servitude actually remain lawful “as a punishment for crime”. In other words, according to this punishment clause, with the wrong controlled substance in your trunk,  there is nothing in the 13th amendment to ensure you won’t be considered a slave of the state. The language was ambiguous enough to be grossly abused. Son the clause was being used to reinstate slavery under another guise.

In 1866, just a year after the Civil War, a black man convicted of theft in Maryland was advertised for sale in the newspaper as punishment. The word “vagrancy” was code for being young, black and unemployed -could yield similar results.

Decades later famed abolitionist Frederick Douglas described how the widespread “convict lease system” exploited the punishment clause “States claim to be too poor to maintain state convicts within prison walls, Hence the convicts are leased out to work for railway contractors, mining companies and those with LARGE FARMING PLANTATIONS.” These companies assume control of the convicts, work them as cheap labor and pay the states a handsome revenue for their labor. Nine-tenths of these convicts are negroes.” So many blacks were behind bars because law enforcement tended to target them.

Importantly, Supreme Court decisions ensured no one today is sentenced to actual “slavery” as a form of capital punishment but Douglass’ critique still rings true. Black men are incarcerated six times the rate of white men, thanks in part to uneven enforcement and sentencing in the “war on drugs”. While drug use rates vary little among the races, people of color stand a much better chance of being searched, prosecuted and convicted than whites and government studies have shown they serve longer sentences.”

Whenever corporations have taken over any institution and it became “for profit”, quality went down and prices went up. Two other good examples of this is education and medical care. The prisons became an excellent source for free, or nearly free labor. There are so many American corporations as well as foreign corporations who benefit from this. There is a lot of talk on the internet about lowering the prison population. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. I don’t believe it will amount to much. All corporations have stockholders to appease. Arrests may go down but sentences will go up. Our government has 20 year contracts with the corporations that run the prisons. That contract demands 90-100% capacity or they will have to pay the corporations money per empty bed that could amount to millions of dollars.

Slavery never ended. It’s time we do something about it. It is an ugly side of America.

Black and white hands

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Dr. Angela Davis – Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex

Angela Davis
(Sonni’s note: I read this article today. Look at the date. It was written seventeen years ago. Do you think there has been any positive change or has the problem has only got worse? There are so many people who don’t pay attention because they don’t think it affects them. But it does. It affects everyone. It affects the job market, it adds to the greedy nature of many of our leaders in government. It affects our communities and the way we think about those people. The media brainwashes people into thinking that somehow black people has less quality than white people and they deserve to be locked up because they are a danger to society. If you, or anyone you know has that attitude, be sure to send this article to them. Post it on your social media pages and reblog it onto your own blogs. If you go to the pages section near the top of this blog tap on the menu button. You will find a YouTube video of a more recent TED talk of Angela Davis.

Read this entire article. It’s worth it. It says everything I’ve been trying to explain over and over.  We need more people who think this change is important to our society and to our country.

 Dr. angela davis

by Angela Davis

Thu, Sep 10, 1998 12:00 PM EDT

What is the Prison Industrial Complex? Why does it matter?  Angela Y. Davis tells us.

Imprisonment has become the response of first resort to far too many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems often are veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category “crime” and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.

Prisons thus perform a feat of magic. Or rather the people who continually vote in new prison bonds and tacitly assent to a proliferating network of prisons and jails have been tricked into believing in the magic of imprisonment. But prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business.

The seeming effortlessness of magic always conceals an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work. When prisons disappear human beings in order to convey the illusion of solving social problems, penal infrastructures must be created to accommodate a rapidly swelling population of caged people. Goods and services must be provided to keep imprisoned populations alive. Sometimes these populations must be kept busy and at other times — particularly in repressive super-maximum prisons and in INS detention centers — they must be deprived of virtually all meaningful activity. Vast numbers of handcuffed and shackled people are moved across state borders as they are transferred from one state or federal prison to another.

All this work, which used to be the primary province of government, is now also performed by private corporations, whose links to government in the field of what is euphemistically called “corrections” resonate dangerously with the military industrial complex. The dividends that accrue from investment in the punishment industry, like those that accrue from investment in weapons production, only amount to social destruction. Taking into account the structural similarities and profitability of business-government linkages in the realms of military production and public punishment, the expanding penal system can now be characterized as a “prison industrial complex.”

The Color of Imprisonment

Almost two million people are currently locked up in the immense network of U.S. prisons and jails. More than 70 percent of the imprisoned population are people of color. It is rarely acknowledged that the fastest growing group of prisoners are black women and that Native American prisoners are the largest group per capita. Approximately five million people — including those on probation and parole — are directly under the surveillance of the criminal justice system.

Three decades ago, the imprisoned population was approximately one-eighth its current size. While women still constitute a relatively small percentage of people behind bars, today the number of incarcerated women in California alone is almost twice what the nationwide women’s prison population was in 1970. According to Elliott Currie, “[t]he prison has become a looming presence in our society to an extent unparalleled in our history — or that of any other industrial democracy. Short of major wars, mass incarceration has been the most thoroughly implemented government social program of our time.”

To deliver up bodies destined for profitable punishment, the political economy of prisons relies on racialized assumptions of criminality — such as images of black welfare mothers reproducing criminal children — and on racist practices in arrest, conviction, and sentencing patterns. Colored bodies constitute the main human raw material in this vast experiment to disappear the major social problems of our time. Once the aura of magic is stripped away from the imprisonment solution, what is revealed is racism, class bias, and the parasitic seduction of capitalist profit. The prison industrial system materially and morally impoverishes its inhabitants and devours the social wealth needed to address the very problems that have led to spiraling numbers of prisoners.

As prisons take up more and more space on the social landscape, other government programs that have previously sought to respond to social needs — such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families — are being squeezed out of existence. The deterioration of public education, including prioritizing discipline and security over learning in public schools located in poor communities, is directly related to the prison “solution.”

Profiting from Prisoners

As prisons proliferate in U.S. society, private capital has become enmeshed in the punishment industry. And precisely because of their profit potential, prisons are becoming increasingly important to the U.S. economy. If the notion of punishment as a source of potentially stupendous profits is disturbing by itself, then the strategic dependence on racist structures and ideologies to render mass punishment palatable and profitable is even more troubling.

Prison privatization is the most obvious instance of capital’s current movement toward the prison industry. While government-run prisons are often in gross violation of international human rights standards, private prisons are even less accountable. In March of this year, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest U.S. private prison company, claimed 54,944 beds in 68 facilities under contract or development in the U.S., Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Following the global trend of subjecting more women to public punishment, CCA recently opened a women’s prison outside Melbourne. The company recently identified California as its “new frontier.”

Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (WCC), the second largest U.S. prison company, claimed contracts and awards to manage 46 facilities in North America, U.K., and Australia. It boasts a total of 30,424 beds as well as contracts for prisoner health care services, transportation, and security.

Currently, the stocks of both CCA and WCC are doing extremely well. Between 1996 and 1997, CCA’s revenues increased by 58 percent, from $293 million to $462 million. Its net profit grew from $30.9 million to $53.9 million. WCC raised its revenues from $138 million in 1996 to $210 million in 1997. Unlike public correctional facilities, the vast profits of these private facilities rely on the employment of non-union labor.

The Prison Industrial Complex

But private prison companies are only the most visible component of the increasing corporatization of punishment. Government contracts to build prisons have bolstered the construction industry. The architectural community has identified prison design as a major new niche. Technology developed for the military by companies like Westinghouse is being marketed for use in law enforcement and punishment.

Moreover, corporations that appear to be far removed from the business of punishment are intimately involved in the expansion of the prison industrial complex. Prison construction bonds are one of the many sources of profitable investment for leading financiers such as Merrill Lynch. MCI charges prisoners and their families outrageous prices for the precious telephone calls which are often the only contact prisoners have with the free world.

Many corporations whose products we consume on a daily basis have learned that prison labor power can be as profitable as third world labor power exploited by U.S.-based global corporations. Both relegate formerly unionized workers to joblessness and many even wind up in prison. Some of the companies that use prison labor are IBM, Motorola, Compaq, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Microsoft, and Boeing. But it is not only the hi-tech industries that reap the profits of prison labor. Nordstrom department stores sell jeans that are marketed as “Prison Blues,” as well as t-shirts and jackets made in Oregon prisons. The advertising slogan for these clothes is “made on the inside to be worn on the outside.” Maryland prisoners inspect glass bottles and jars used by Revlon and Pierre Cardin, and schools throughout the world buy graduation caps and gowns made by South Carolina prisoners.

“For private business,” write Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans (a political prisoner inside the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin, California) “prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries. New leviathan prisons are being built on thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret — all at a fraction of the cost of ‘free labor.’”

Devouring the Social Wealth

Although prison labor — which ultimately is compensated at a rate far below the minimum wage — is hugely profitable for the private companies that use it, the penal system as a whole does not produce wealth. It devours the social wealth that could be used to subsidize housing for the homeless, to ameliorate public education for poor and racially marginalized communities, to open free drug rehabilitation programs for people who wish to kick their habits, to create a national health care system, to expand programs to combat HIV, to eradicate domestic abuse — and, in the process, to create well-paying jobs for the unemployed.

Since 1984 more than twenty new prisons have opened in California, while only one new campus was added to the California State University system and none to the University of California system. In 1996-97, higher education received only 8.7 percent of the State’s General Fund while corrections received 9.6 percent. Now that affirmative action has been declared illegal in California, it is obvious that education is increasingly reserved for certain people, while prisons are reserved for others. Five times as many black men are presently in prison as in four-year colleges and universities. This new segregation has dangerous implications for the entire country.By segregating people labeled as criminals, prison simultaneously fortifies and conceals the structural racism of the U.S. economy. Claims of low unemployment rates — even in black communities — make sense only if one assumes that the vast numbers of people in prison have really disappeared and thus have no legitimate claims to jobs. The numbers of black and Latino men currently incarcerated amount to two percent of the male labor force. According to criminologist David Downes, “[t]reating incarceration as a type of hidden unemployment may raise the jobless rate for men by about one-third, to 8 percent. The effect on the black labor force is greater still, raising the [black] male unemployment rate from 11 percent to 19 percent.”

Hidden Agenda

Mass incarceration is not a solution to unemployment, nor is it a solution to the vast array of social problems that are hidden away in a rapidly growing network of prisons and jails. However, the great majority of people have been tricked into believing in the efficacy of imprisonment, even though the historical record clearly demonstrates that prisons do not work. Racism has undermined our ability to create a popular critical discourse to contest the ideological trickery that posits imprisonment as key to public safety. The focus of state policy is rapidly shifting from social welfare to social control.

Black, Latino, Native American, and many Asian youth are portrayed as the purveyors of violence, traffickers of drugs, and as envious of commodities that they have no right to possess. Young black and Latina women are represented as sexually promiscuous and as indiscriminately propagating babies and poverty. Criminality and deviance are racialized. Surveillance is thus focused on communities of color, immigrants, the unemployed, the undereducated, the homeless, and in general on those who have a diminishing claim to social resources. Their claim to social resources continues to diminish in large part because law enforcement and penal measures increasingly devour these resources. The prison industrial complex has thus created a vicious cycle of punishment which only further impoverishes those whose impoverishment is supposedly “solved” by imprisonment.

Therefore, as the emphasis of government policy shifts from social welfare to crime control, racism sinks more deeply into the economic and ideological structures of U.S. society. Meanwhile, conservative crusaders against affirmative action and bilingual education proclaim the end of racism, while their opponents suggest that racism’s remnants can be dispelled through dialogue and conversation. But conversations about “race relations” will hardly dismantle a prison industrial complex that thrives on and nourishes the racism hidden within the deep structures of our society.

The emergence of a U.S. prison industrial complex within a context of cascading conservatism marks a new historical moment, whose dangers are unprecedented. But so are its opportunities. Considering the impressive number of grassroots projects that continue to resist the expansion of the punishment industry, it ought to be possible to bring these efforts together to create radical and nationally visible movements that can legitimize anti-capitalist critiques of the prison industrial complex. It ought to be possible to build movements in defense of prisoners’ human rights and movements that persuasively argue that what we need is not new prisons, but new health care, housing, education, drug programs, jobs, and education. To safeguard a democratic future, it is possible and necessary to weave together the many and increasing strands of resistance to the prison industrial complex into a powerful movement for social transformation.

Angela Davis is a former political prisoner, long-time activist, educator, and author who has devoted her life to struggles for social justice.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Earlier written post: Upfront and Personal About the the Prison Industrial Complex

Prison Punishment Records: The Price of Penal Servitude

….I found this blog today. This is the first blog I’ve seen of the history of the penal system going back to the mid 1800’s. Our prisons today use many of the same practices with the same horrible results. Solitary confinement causes mental illness. I hope you take the time to read other stories she has, that also have handwritten letters and documents. Please leave all comments on the original blog.

WaywardWomen

‘Life should mean life’ is a popular adage that you might overhear in a pub, on public transport, even in the queue at the supermarket. It is hard to judge how widely, or sincerely, held this belief is – but it is certainly one that most of us have come across whether it be in an abstract discussion with others, or in popular commentary of notorious legal cases. For example, each time the issue of paroled for famed offenders such as Myra Hindley has arisen most newspapers, politicians, and popular figures can be relied upon to take the stance ‘tough on crime, tough on criminals’. But who, in reality, does this benefit?

When an offender is sentenced to penal servitude they disappear largely from public consciousness. Most of us are content to know that offenders are ‘behind bars’ serving their sentences. If we hear about life inside prison walls it…

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