Wednesday, January 1, 2014

National Lawyers Guild Applauds the Compassionate Release of Lynne Stewart

This is great news! Lynne Stewart to be released!

December 31, 2013
Contact: Tasha Moro, 212-679-5100, ext. 15
NEW YORK —Today Judge John G. Koeltl granted the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) request for the compassionate release of Lynne Stewart. This is heartening news. Ms. Stewart is 74 years old and has terminal cancer with a life expectancy of less than 18 months. She has been serving a ten-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center Carswell (FMC Carswell) in Fort Worth, Texas, in connection with her defense of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.
 
As her condition has continued to deteriorate, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and several legal and social justice organizations have twice called on Attorney General Eric Holder to direct the BOP to grant compassionate release. Given that Ms. Stewart’s medical condition clearly falls within recent reforms to the BOP’s compassionate release program announced by Holder in August, and that the warden at FMC Carswell had earlier approved her release, the NLG urged that the process of consideration be expedited.
 
“From arrest to sentencing, Lynne Stewart's case was used by the Department of Justice to send a chilling message to attorneys: think twice about who you represent! For speaking to a Reuters reporter about her client’s viewpoints – in violation of an administrative order – an ailing Ms. Stewart was sentenced to a decade in prison. Today’s small measure of justice does little to repair the damage wrought by the government’s unjust prosecution of an advocate whose service to society has been widely documented,” said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the NLG.
 
Robert J. Boyle, one of Lynne Stewart’s attorneys added, “We are gratified and thankful that the government has agreed to Lynne’s compassionate release request. She has dedicated her life to fighting for justice for the underserved and unpopular. Lynne can now return home to her family and to the community that loves her.”
 
Ms. Stewart is a longtime member of the National Lawyers Guild. Since her initial indictment, Guild members have educated the public about the many ways her case runs afoul of the Constitution. The Guild’s 2005 publication The Case of Lynne Stewart: A Justice Department Attack on the Bill of Rights is available at nlg.org.
 
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

True soldiers needed

From: SF Bay View
By: Amy Buckley, Dec. 24, 2013

Through the years women have played important roles in the revolutionary movement. Today it seems that women have lost interest in being a revolutionary, but it is time for that to change.
  
[Woman prisoner – Photo: Julie Schwietert]

Women, we have some big shoes to fill, but we can do it if we just step up. It is time to make a lifetime commitment to fighting to end oppression, injustice and inequality. It is time to join forces with our men and be true soldiers for the betterment of the world.


As women, we are most affected by capitalism and war casualties. We are also most persecuted by men. It is time for these things to stop!

Women make up 53 percent of the world’s population, so imagine the difference we can make if we unite and work together. We have so much to offer the movement. Not only are we able to organize and teach, but we also bring fresh perspective to a male-dominated movement.

We must step up and educate ourselves and our children, being willing to give our all for what we believe. Our children are the future, and it is up to us to teach and guide them, to prepare them to take over the movement and make a difference.

Our men can do only so much on their own. They need good strong women to stand with them and for them. Women who see the need for change and are ready to do whatever is necessary to bring that change to fruition.

We need you! We need women who are true soldiers, committed wholeheartedly to the struggle. Are you that woman?

How willing are you to stand united no matter what obstacles come your way? Together we can bring an end to oppression. The question is, how badly do we want it?

We live in a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Oppression rules and the oppressed can never get ahead. This has been accepted for far too long, and it is time for change.
People all over the world are beginning to unite, working together, organizing occupy movements and rallying against oppression, injustice and inequality, among other things. This is only the beginning of things to come.

Women make up 53 percent of the world’s population, so imagine the difference we can make if we unite and work together. We have so much to offer the movement. Not only are we able to organize and teach, but we also bring fresh perspective to a male-dominated movement.

As I stated previously, we need true soldiers, so allow me to elaborate on what a true soldier is. True soldiers do not allow fear to rule their lives. They understand the price they may have to pay and are more than willing to pay it.

A true soldier lives and breathes the struggle – to give up is not an option! They will gladly lay down their lives for what they believe and for their comrades. True soldiers stand unmovable in the face of adversity and give their all in every battle. They do not admit defeat for they know that every battle won brings them closer to winning the war on oppression. Are you a true soldier?

Women, for too long we have let our men fight, primarily on their own, to bring about change. It is time to step up and join our men in the revolution. We should be working alongside our men and each other, fighting as hard as they have and still are.

For every man in the movement, there should be a woman – there is power in numbers. The movement needs us!

The future of our children is at stake. It is our responsibility as women and mothers to set good examples for our children. The changes we fight for today are so they will no longer have to suffer. We owe it to our children, our men and ourselves to join the fight for change. If we don’t, who will?

Women, for too long we have let our men fight, primarily on their own, to bring about change. It is time to step up and join our men in the revolution.

Today I am calling all true soldiers – warriors willing to join the movement and fight to the end for the betterment of the world we live in, soldiers who will stand up and make a difference.
To the soldiers who are no longer with us – Marilyn Buck, George Jackson and more – and to those who are still fighting today, I salute you! All power to the people!


Send our sister some love and light: Amy Buckley, 150005, WCRCF C-Pod, 60 Stokes King Rd., Greenville, MS 38701.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Message from Marie Mason Calling for Compassionate Release of Lynne Stewart

From: Blog for and by Marie Mason, Dec. 18, 2013:

I would like to add my voice to the many who have called for Lynne Stewart to be granted compassionate release. Though we are nominally at the same prison facility at Carswell, we have been unfortunately unable to meet. The Admin Unit (where I am housed) is an isolated unit, separate from the rest of the facility here. But I would have been proud to make her acquaintance and to thank her for her years of tireless work on behalf of those in need of defense and advocacy. From all that I have read about her, she is a formidable attorney – both fearless and compassionate.

It is tragic that this hero of the people, this astute, talented and conscientious woman, is prevented from accessing the care she needs to give her the best chance at survival, and to at least be given the closeness and connection to her partner, Ralph, and family during this time of grave illness. I have had the opportunity to thank the Warden here for speaking on Ms. Stewart’s behalf in her request for compassionate release. If the decision were his, Ms. Stewart would be home now. So I am still hopeful that other prison officials will also come to the opinion that Ms. Stewart should be allowed to go home.

I hope that the ever increasing numbers of good hearted people working together to apply some pressure will eventually bring about her release. If you are able to call or write on Ms. Stewart’s behalf, I urge you to do so now. She is precious to us all, and worth fighting for. Wishing you well, Ms. Stewart, with love and solidarity
- Marie Mason

A life and Death appeal from Lynne Stewart:
by Lynne Stewart

I need to ask once again for your assistance in forcing the Bureau of Prisons to grant my compassionate release. They have been stonewalling since August and my life expectancy, as per my cancer doctor, is down to 12 months.
Ralph Poynter, Lynne Stewart shouting, smiling
Ralph Poynter and Lynne Stewart, loving husband and wife – re-unite them now! – Photo: Channer TV
They know that I am fully qualified and that over 40,000 people have signed on to force them to do the right thing, which is to let me go home to my family and to receive advanced care in New York City. Yet they refuse to act.

While this is entirely within the range of their politics and their cruelty to hold political prisoners until we have days to live before releasing us – witness Herman Wallace of Angola and Marilyn Buck – we are fighting not to permit this and call for a BIG push.”

Send our sister some love and light: Lynne Stewart, 53504-054, FMC Carswell, Unit 2N, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth TX 76127.

Take action between now and the New Year


Telephone and send emails or other messages to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels Jr. and Attorney General Eric Holder:
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels Jr.: (202) 307-3250 or 3062, info@bop.gov
  • Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Justice: (202) 353-1555, AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
Contact U.S. embassies and consulates in nations throughout the world.
Send an International Action Center petition: iacenter.org/NewLynneStewartPetition/.
Send a petition from Change.org: change.org/petitions/new-petition-to-free-lynne-stewart-support-compassionate-release
Let us create a tidal wave of effort internationally. Together, we can prevent the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart.

Jailers as judges


In a new 237-page report entitled “A Living Death,” the American Civil Liberties Union documents unconstitutional practices permeating federal and state prisons in the U.S. Focused on life imprisonment without parole for minor offenses, the ACLU details conditions of 3,278 individual prisoners whose denial of release is deemed “a flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment” occurring on an increasing scale.

The ACLU labels the deliberate stonewalling as “willful,” a touchstone of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice’s flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. These conclusions corroborate the findings of Human Rights Watch in 2012: “The Answer is ‘No’: Too Little Compassionate Release in U.S. Prisons.”

The report is definitive in exposing arbitrary and illegal conduct that infuses every facet of the treatment accorded Lynne Stewart. “(T)he Bureau [of Prisons] has usurped the role of the courts. In fact, it is fair to say the jailers are acting as judges. Congress intended the sentencing judge, not the BOP to determine whether a prisoner should receive a sentence reduction.”
Lynne Stewart’s medical findings show less than 12 months to live as stipulated by her oncologist at FMC Carswell. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has failed to file the legally required motion declaring solely that the matter is “with the Department of Justice.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Women in Solitary Confinement: Sent to Solitary for Reporting Sexual Assault

By Victoria Law, on SolitaryWatch
December 12, 2013

It seems absurd that a person who has been sexually assaulted would be punished for speaking up, especially since prison policy prohibits sexual contact between staff and the people whom they guard. Yet, in many women’s prisons, those who report rape and other forms of sexual assault by prison personnel are often sent to solitary confinement.
After enduring over a year of repeated sexual assaults by a guard, Stacy Barker became one of 31 women incarcerated in Michigan who filed Nunn v MDOC, a 1996 lawsuit against the Department of Corrections for the widespread sexual abuse by prison guards. The following year, Barker was repeatedly sexually assaulted by an officer, who was also a defendant in Nunn. After a month of silence, she reported the assaults to a prison psychiatrist. Barker was immediately placed in segregation and then transferred to Huron Valley Center, which was then a psychiatric hospital for prisoners. There, she reported that hospital attendants verbally harassed her.
In October 1997, Barker attempted suicide. Barker did not receive counseling or psychiatric evaluation. Instead, three male guards stripped her naked, placed her in five-point restraints (a procedure in which a prisoner is placed on her back in a spread-eagle position with her hands, feet and chest secured by straps) on a bed with no blanket for nine hours. She was then placed on suicide watch. She reported that one of the staff who monitored her repeatedly told her he would “bring her down a few rungs.”
Placing women in solitary confinement for reporting staff sexual harassment or abuse is far from rare. In 1996, Human Rights Watch found that, in Michigan, incarcerated women who report staff sexual misconduct are placed in segregation pending the institution’s investigation of their cases. The placement is allegedly for the woman’s own protection. The five other states investigated also had similar practices of placing women in segregation after they reported abuse.
Not much has changed in the thirteen years since Human Rights Watch chronicled the pervasive and persistent sexual abuse and use of retaliatory segregation in eleven women’s prisons. Former staff at Ohio’s Reformatory for Women have stated that women who reported sexual abuse are subjected to lengthy periods of time in solitary confinement where cells often had feces and blood smeared on the wall. In Kentucky, a woman who saved evidence from her sexual assault wasplaced in segregation for fifty days. In Illinois, a prison administrator threatened to add a year onto the sentence of a woman who attempted to report repeated sexual assaults. She was then placed in solitary confinement.
In 2003, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) became law, ostensibly to address the widespread sexual abuse in the nation’s jails and prisons. Among its recommendations was “the timely and comprehensive investigation of staff sexual misconduct involving rape or other sexual assault on inmates.” However, this has not stopped the widespread practice of utilizing solitary to punish those who speak out. An investigation into sexual abuse at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Womenfound that women who report sexual abuse “are routinely placed in segregation by the warden.”  Some prison systems have also created new rules to continue discouraging reports of staff sexual assault. At Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, a woman reported that prison officials responded to PREA by creating a rule called “False Reporting to Authorities.”
“A lot of us do not report any kind of staff misconduct because history has proven that any kind of reports true or false are found [by the administration] to be false,” she stated. “When it was found to be false, the people were immediately found guilty and sent to administrative segregation.” In some cases, a woman may not even file an official complaint, but may only be speaking within earshot of another staff member.
I didn’t want to believe it but then I experienced it first hand with a close acquaintance of mine. She had conversations with a guard and he asked sexually explicit questions about what she would be able to do in bed because of her disability and it went on for a while. She came to me and said she didn’t want to be around him and she told an office worker about him and he ended up writing a report on her, before she could do it to him and she was eventually questioned. I was questioned and I told the investigator that I believed her and that the officer was a pervert and flirted openly with any girl who was desperate for a man’s attention. I told him I felt like he was a predator and shouldn’t be working at a women’s prison. I later found out she went to the hole and was going to be ad. seg’d just like the others but she left on her mandatory parole to go back to court and was re-sentenced and brought back. Luckily they didn’t ad. seg her when she came back. I’m not sure why they dropped it but maybe it was because she was gone for a while.
Under PREA, those accused of sexual assault are sent to solitary confinement even before the charges are proven. In California, Amy Preasmyer was placed in solitary confinement after being accused of sexual assault by another woman. “I was abruptly removed from my bed late in the evening to face an extended wait and then a transfer to Ad-Seg,” she reported. “Upon entering my newly assigned chambers at 3 a.m., I found the toilet was backed up and a DD3 (EOP) [person with a disability] had urinated everywhere prior to me, leaving extremely unsanitary conditions and aromas.” She was not allowed to access supplies that would allow her to clean or disinfect her cell. Although she was eventually cleared of all charges, being in Ad Seg forced her to miss her final examinations for college. During that time, she also lost the privilege to shop, walk outside or even call home.
Read the rest here. This is the second part of a two-part series by Victoria Law.

Women in Solitary Confinement: “The Isolation Degenerates Us Into Madness”

From Victoria Law on Solitarywatch:

A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system this past summer, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Increasingly, solitary is finding its way into the mainstream media and onto activist agendas. Nearly all of the attention, however, has focused on solitary confinement in men’s prisons; much less is known about the conditions and experiences inside women’s prisons.
During October’s legislative hearing on solitary confinement in California, lawmakers asked prison officials about women in solitary confinement.  Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) stated that 74 women were held in the Security Housing Unit at the California Institution for Women (CIW) and a handful of women were awaiting transfer from the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). CDCR does not separate people in the SHU with mental illness from those without mental illness. CDCR officials did not address the number of people in the Administrative Segregation (or Ad Seg) Unit.
According to CDCR  statistics, as of September 2013, 107 women were held in Ad Seg at CCWF, which has a budgeted capacity of 38. The average stay was 131 days. Twenty women had been there longer than 200 days, two had exceeded 400 days, and another two women had exceeded 800 days. At CIW, 34 women were in Ad Seg with an average stay of 73 days.  Two women have exceeded 200 days.
Lawmakers’ inquiry prompted advocacy group California Coalition for Women Prisoners to send anopen letter to Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner requesting that she investigate conditions of solitary confinement in women’s prisons. The group noted that, with the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women to a men’s prison and the transfer of several hundred women to California’s other two women’s prisons, the use of solitary confinement has dramatically increased.
To justify the increase, CDCR has cited “enemy concerns” or a documented disagreement between people that may have led to threats or violence. Those designated as having “enemy concerns” are locked in their cells 22 to 24 hours a day and lose all privileges. CDCR reports do not separate the number of people in Ad Seg or the SHU for rules violations versus those confined because of “enemy concerns.” The California Coalition for Women Prisoners has noted that many of these “enemy concerns” are based on incidents that happened years ago and may not be valid today.
Dolores Canales has a son who has spent thirteen years in Pelican Bay’s SHU. Canales has also hadfirsthand experience with solitary confinement. While imprisoned at CIW, she spent nine months in Ad Seg, where she was confined to her cell twenty-two hours a day. “There, I had a window. The guards would take me out to the yard every day. I’d get to go out to the yard with other people,” she recalled. But the isolation still took its toll: “There’s an anxiety that overcomes you in the middle of the night because you’re so locked in,” she described. Even after being released from segregation, Canales was unable to shake that anxiety. She broke into a sweat and panicked each time she saw a group of officers even though she had broken no rules. “I just can’t forget,” she stated years after her release from prison.
Although the spotlight on solitary has focused largely on California, every women’s prison has a solitary confinement unit. Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution for Women has a Closed Management Special Housing Unit (CM SHU) where women are confined to their cells 23 to 24 hours a day. “There is no free movement or social interaction,” reported one woman. “We just sit locked in a concrete and steel room the size of a small residential bathroom.”
In Indiana, Sarah Jo Pender has spent nearly five years in solitary.  “My cell is approximately 68 square feet of concrete with a heavy steel door at the front and a heavily barred window at the back that does not open,” she described. “Walls are covered in white; the paint chipped off by bored prisoners reveals another layer of primer white. No family photos or art or reminder notes are allowed to be taped to the walls; they must remain bare. Our windowsills would be a great place to display greeting cards and pictures, but those are off-limits, too… There is a concrete platform and thin plastic mat, a fourteen-by-twenty inch shelf and round stool mounted to the floor, and a steel toilet/sink combo unit. We get no boxes to contain our few personal items. Everything must fit on the shelf, bed or end up on the floor.”
Her cell is searched daily by guards although, like everyone else in the prison, she is strip searched any time she leaves the unit for a doctor’s appointment or a no-contact visit. When she is taken to the showers, she is handcuffed, then locked into a 3 foot by 3 foot shower stall with a steel cage door for a 15-minute shower. As is the case across the country, visits are conducted behind glass.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

It takes one Shift to Ruin a Future

We received the following reality-check from someone caring for a person in prison:

To the Reader:

My friend in a Colorado prison wrote this essay. Candy is grandmother, not a master criminal, and sees what is happening. As a troubled teenager, she first went into a system that did not want to prevent crime, only to punish after its commission. 

She asked me to help her show people how the government is wasting our tax dollars and ignoring chances to prevent recidivism. Employees who don’t care what happens as long as they get a paycheck, are as detrimental working in prisons as in any business. Would you want them working for you? They are.

IT TAKES ONE SHIFT TO RUIN A FUTURE

By Candy Ra Coppinger

There are many lives sitting here in prison today. All have made bad choices. Many still do. Many come from all sorts of dysfunctional backgrounds—all sorts of abuse. We cry out for help.

The system places people in power or authority to see to our well-being. You may ask, “Are they still being neglected and abused behind the walls?” There is the aggressive, controlling officer who downgrades you; the one who uses unnecessary physical force on you. How about the officer, who, as a woman was having a violent seizure, was screaming and cussing at the individual on the floor with convulsions? Or the one who knows you are having a conflict with another inmate, instead of trying to diffuse it, keeps the strife going? What about the officer who brings in contraband to exchange for sex with a prisoner?

Your taxes are supposed to provide better medical care, education, and security. Instead, the administrative offices here were redecorated. You should see the beautiful cherry desk in the warden’s office. They can’t afford medical staff or teachers.

A COPD hearing is the due process given to inmates who break facility rules. The Colorado Code of Penal Discipline has rules that cover violations from not making your bed, to smoking a cigarette, to bartering and trading items you purchased from the commissary. Do you have any idea how many people are convicted at these hearings by an anonymous “kite?” (An unverified note saying, “Inmate #123 is guilty, but I can’t testify in public.”) So much for trying to do right if someone dislikes you.

Many inmates have no outside financial support. All inmates are required to work. The average 40 hour per week job pays $12.60 a month. Twenty percent of the $12.60 goes toward paying restitution and/or child support. That leaves approximately $9.00 on which the inmate must live for a month. If you have a civil case, such as a tort or a lawsuit pending, that takes another 20%. Don’t have a medical emergency. There goes another $5.00. Need hygiene items? What happens to the personal care products that religious organizations donate? Items must be purchased from the canteen. With little money, their convenience store prices redefine the term indigent.

Official policy says having affirmative family support is important. Explain this to your 75 year old grandmother who had her letter returned because she forgot to put the unit number on the envelope. Then, you recall the night when your spouse got drunk and loud. The neighbors called the police. Now, you can’t correspond or visit with him because of the domestic violence dispute. That you’ve been married for ten years and he’s trying, alone, to raise your two children doesn’t matter. If you can’t write him, what makes you think you can parole home to your spouse and children? It’s hard to maintain family support when you can’t communicate.
All the instability you had growing up—the inconsistency of what you could do or not—don’t worry. You’ still have all that instability and inconsistency in prison.

Everything depends on who, what, when, where and how. Right and left do not connect. Once you settle into a room with people with whom you’re compatible, you’ll get moved to a room that is chaotic. What is stability? Where do we get it?

You may ask how these kinds of things ruin a future. They are keeping a person in his or her distorted thinking. They are continuing the cycles that led many to incarceration: instability, inconsistency, lack of communication. Every time you cut educational programs, or use that funding for something else, you are taking away a person’s opportunity to grow and become a productive member of society. When you can’t or won’t provide an individual adequate medical care, is that not telling him or her they don’t matter? Are we not continuing to keep these individuals from having the hope and desire to have a better life within the legal parameters of our society? When you hire substandard employees, you are placing lives in their hands.

Ask yourself, is that shift I’m running ruining a future or raising prospects for a better future?

CRC 5/12/13

Write to Candy for support:

Candy Ra Coppinger #59072
La Vista Correctional Facility
PO Box 3
Pueblo, CO 81002
USA