Page 15 of 19

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Thu Nov 07, 2019 12:30 pm
by blindpig
An Introduction to Police Abolition

Photo by Brandon Soderberg

Like the conversation surrounding reparations, the idea of abolishing the police has shifted in recent years from something (wrongfully) viewed as radical to the kind of an idea many are trying to get a handle on in clear, pragmatic ways: Do we rely too much on police? Is there actually a correlation between police presence and crime reduction? What would it look like to no longer have the police? And here in Baltimore, amid plenty of police corruption, shouts of “abolish the police” went from being something chanted at protests during the Baltimore Uprising to something that was nearly mainstreamed amid the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) scandal which revealed seven police officers robbing people, dealing drugs, and planting guns and during the GTTF trial, where more than a dozen other officers were implicated. To get a better sense of what police abolition means and what it looks like, I spoke to abolitionist and restorative practices specialist Bilphena Yahwon.

Lisa Snowden-McCray: Before we discuss police abolition, you recommended starting first by just defining “abolition.” Can you define abolition?

Bilphena Yahwon: Tanuja Jagernauth provides a very clear and simplified definition of abolition: “Abolition is emptying cages and shutting down prisons, dismantling the systems that created them, and creating community-based processes for preventing, intervening in, transforming, and repairing after harm..” Abolitionists understand that the prison system and justice system as we know it was created to supplement for the “end” of slavery. Prisons are where unthinkable violence are allowed to thrive and they very much so resemble plantations (Angola prison in Louisiana sits on what used to be a plantation and is where the Angola Three spent the longest time in solitary confinement in U.S. history). There is a reason why the 13th Amendment deemed slavery unconstitutional with the exception of slavery as punishment for a crime. There is a reason why prison walls are bursting with black folks. Abolitionists question how we can truly receive justice and accountability from such a system.

LSM: And it police who are putting people in prisons—especially black people. So to get rid of on we must get rid of the other?

If we understand that the justice system was created to funnel black folks in prison for economic gain (carceral capitalism), then we know that police officers are the suppliers of the people. About $80 billion is spent each year on correctional facilities with the intention of receiving that profit back. Policing is the engine behind the justice system and ensures that prisons are filled with labourers and will therefore produce profit. Police officers are charged with enforcing the laws and are able to make their own interpretations of what is legal and illegal. They get to decide who will enter into the justice system and who will not (the decriminalization of opioids is an example of this). The documentary “Crime + Punishment” on Hulu examines police quotas and how despite quotas in New York policing being banned in 2010, officers are still expected to make a certain amount of arrests. In the documentary one officer says that he was explicitly told to “arrest black males between the ages of 14 and 21” and faced consequences for refusing to do so.

We also cannot ignore the roots of policing. Policing as an institution in U.S. comes out of slave patrols who were tasked with catching runaway enslaved people and preventing rebellions. If we know that the justice system cannot provide real justice and accountability then we know that policing cannot provide real safety because it is inherently anti-black. Michael Brown taught us this. Aiyana Jones taught us this. Atatiana Jefferson taught us this. Prison is modern day slavery and police officers are modern day slave patrols. This why the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense had armed panther patrols—it was a response to police brutality.

LSM: What are some common misconceptions about police abolition?

BY: The biggest misconception is that the absence of policing as we know it is the absence of safety. A lot of people think that police abolition means letting “rapists, murders and pedophiles run free”—as if the very same police officers we place our trust in aren’t the murders and rapists we claim to be ridding our communities of. According to the National Center for Women and Policing, 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. There are numerous cases of police officers killing their wives. We also know that sexual assault runs rampant within policing and Black women and sex workers are particularly vulnerable. Daniel Holtzclaw who was convicted in 2015 of raping multiple women over a period of six months is just one example. We also can easily look at the GTTF (Gun Trace Task Force) Trial in Baltimore to see how officers used their badge to aid gangs, participate in drug trafficking rings, plant drugs and weapons, steal money from homes and even carried out robberies. GTTF was able to thrive for years and without any consequences.

Is this the policing we are so invested in? Are these the people who are supposed to keep us safe? Furthermore, most police officers are not even from the communities that they police and therefore lack awareness of the culture of the people they serve. In Baltimore in 2010, about 3 in 4 police officers did not live in the city. White people make up 28% of the population in Baltimore city but make up 45% of Baltimore city’s police force.

LSM: Are there any places in the U.S. or in the world living successfully without police? Where?

BY: I think it’s important to understand that the purpose of policing varies from country to country. There is a reason why year after year the U.S. has the great honor of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. This is not to say that violence and corruption does not exist in other country’s police forces, but the militarization of U.S. policing allows it to function in a different—a way that has influenced other countries as well. While there are sovereign states who do not have armed forces or policing as an institution, I do not know of any western country that is without police. This is proof of the globalization of policing. Even with police, there are countries who have disarmed policing. This includes Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Britain, and Ireland.

LSM: After the death of Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman in Texas who was shot by a police officer, I saw some people saying that you shouldn’t call the police for wellness checks for folks (as Jefferson’s neighbor did). Can you talk a little bit about alternatives people could go to in that specific situation?

BY: Atatiana Jefferson is an example of how strong communities can often provide the needs that we look to policing for. If her neighbor had a relationship with Atatiana built in trust, he would have been more likely to check on her himself rather than calling the police. And if he himself didn’t feel comfortable, he would have been able to reach out to another neighbor to do so. I don’t think people understand how fairly new of a thing the U.S. police force is. The first organized police force with full time officers was created in Boston in 1838. People calling police for noise complaints, parking issues and welfare checks wasn’t always the norm and is why community associations exist.

LSM: How might for example, a community association go about differently than a neighbor calling the police?

BY: Mariame Kaba shared on Twitter recently how she was able to create a system within a neighborhood she lived in that decreased calls to police through community building. Through community meetings, they created a group of neighbors to create an apartment complex phone tree. Issues were resolved and folks were able to receive assistance through this system. What Mariame did in her community is another example of how community associations can serve to address issues people may be inclined to call the cops for.

LSM: So what can you someone living in a neighborhood, the individual do to decrease the need to call the police?

BY: There are a number of ways to imagine a neighborhood operating without police and I’ll list a few.

-Get to know your neighbors and discuss community safety that begins with redefining crime and is honest about how black neighbors are criminalized.

-Create a safety plan with neighbors that maximizes the area of expertise of those within the community. Is there a social worker who can be a first responder if necessary? Is there a nurse or doctor who can be called? Is there someone trained in CPR? Someone who knows how to administer opioid overdose reversal drugs? Etc. Police officers are not trained in trauma informed care and can often escalate and agitate those in distress. Neighbors can have the relationship and tools needed to de-escalate incidents better than officers.

-Implement a restorative justice based approach to address crime and conflicts in your neighborhood. Restorative Response Baltimore offers RJ based processes to communities for free.

-Create an alternative to calling the police list that can be shared throughout your community. Include resources for domestic violence, suicide prevention, homeless shelters, rehabs etc.

The May Day Collective and Solidarity & Defense produced a joint zine called “12 Things to do Instead of Calling the Cops” that provides more alternatives. ... abolition/

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 6:18 pm
by blindpig

Spotlights like this one provide original commentary and analysis on pressing criminal justice issues of the day. You can read them each day in our newsletter, The Daily Appeal.

In April, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report on conditions in Alabama state prisons, detailing the findings of a more than two year investigation. The DOJ found “overcrowding, dismal conditions, a lack of staff, and deliberate indifference from prison officials contributed to rampant unchecked violence, sexual abuse, and extortion,” reported Raven Rakia for The Appeal. The DOJ report elaborated on what had come to national attention that month, when more than 2,000 photographs were smuggled out of one notorious Alabama prison and published in various outlets, including the New York Times and Splinter. The pictures, believed to have been shared by a corrections officer at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, showed rampant violence and bloodshed, abysmal medical care, and untreated mental health issues.

The revelations were not new to people in Alabama’s prisons who, Rakia wrote, “have tried to expose this reality for years.”

But as Melissa Brown of the Montgomery Advertiser points out in an article this week, incarcerated people’s own accounts of life inside these places has rarely been sought out or heard in a way that matches their importance. “All too often,” she wrote, “the voices of the people directly affected by the Alabama prison system are not heard.” In fact, “Nearly every day, accounts released by state officials are reported without verification, despite the fact multiple federal institutions have found that [the Alabama Department of Corrections’] own employees have lied in their record-keeping and under-counted violent incidents as severe as murder.”

Brown shares the accounts of multiple men incarcerated in Alabama prisons who spoke up about the degrading, violent conditions in prison. “I have found myself living in hell,” said Wendell Roberts. Another man described the elderly men incarcerated decades after their convictions. “What threat are they to society? I’m talking about people in their 80s. Some of them in here are blind. They have to put their hand on another person’s shoulder to go to the chow hall or the store.”

The men describe a situation in which the state has abdicated any responsibility for the people it imprisons. They speak out at what they assume will be significant risk to themselves.

The impeachment hearings underway in Washington are a reminder that in times of crisis, we rely on people who speak up, sometimes at great personal risk, to alert us to grave danger and wrongdoing. The horror of our criminal legal system—its racism and violence, the millions of years taken from millions of lives, the indifference to human suffering and disregard for human potential—will never command the coverage of a presidential impeachment proceeding. Incarcerated people who share their experiences from our prisons—taxpayer-funded institutions, Brown points out—may never be hailed as heroes.

But the risk they run in speaking out is real. In today’s Washington Post, Jessica L. Adler looks at how people in prison have spoken out for decades but “even as legal precedents and criminal justice policies have changed,” people “have been consistently and flagrantly intimidated, discredited and worse, with far-reaching consequences.” She mentions the example from 1975 of one woman who told a federal judge “that she was placed in solitary confinement for 54 days and beaten after making her dissatisfaction with prison administrators known, in part by publicly singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’”

In the April article, Rakia reported on alleged state retaliation against people in Alabama prisons who said they were being punished for trying to improve conditions and reduce violence. Members of the Free Alabama Movement and Convicts Against Violence alleged that they were transferred and placed in solitary confinement because of their organizing work inside prison. One man described the conditions they found themselves in after the transfers to The Appeal: “They were just put in the cell with no soap, no toiletries, no toothbrush, no nothing—nothing but a mattress. Some of them didn’t even have a sheet or blanket. They were transferred from St. Clair to Holman with nothing. The COs [corrections officers] took all their property. They were left in there for about a week, I think, before DOC even gave them any tissue.”

During the 2018 national prison strike, Rakia reported on how the organizers of the strike had “decided to remain anonymous in their interactions with the public to try to prevent the type of retaliation” experienced by previous prison strike organizers.

What they feared was violence by corrections officers. “Several guards beat alleged strike leader Terrance Dean unconscious” after a 2010 Georgia strike,” wrote Rakia. ““The system is not a game to be played with,” one organizer told her. “The one thing [strike organizers] always said was don’t put your face out there, don’t put your name out there under any circumstances because if we’re doing five or 10 years [in a] supermax, there’s nothing [the public] can do” to prevent reprisals.”

“Correctional officers who retaliate … cannot be regarded as rogue actors,” wrote James E. Robertson in a 2009 law review article. “They act within the norm.” That norm is the product of the “surplus power” of prison staff, the gaping power differential state policymakers create between the incarcerated and guards. “The cell door symbolizes surplus power,” Robertson wrote, since it is the officers, not the people in the cells, who decide when the door is opened or closed. That power differential builds off the unchecked latitude handed to officers, “rule enforcement powers that readily mask retaliatory intent” because of “the frequent vagueness of disciplinary rules,” which give them “ample leeway in deciding when and where to enforce these rules.” They have the power to write disciplinary tickets backed up by little or no evidence and the power to throw someone in an isolation cell.

In New York, the suspicious death of a man in one of the state’s most notorious prisons would not have come to light but for the efforts of incarcerated people to speak about it, despite these risks. Last month, Jan Ransom of the New York Times wrote about the January death of 67-year-old John McMillon, billed as a heart attack by department officials but described as the result of a brutal beating by nine men incarcerated with McMillon who said they witnessed what happened. In a follow-up piece, Ransom described how her reporting was driven by the willingness of people in prison to talk to her, in some cases even allowing her to use names.

The reasons they gave for talking to her were strikingly similar to what men in Alabama told Melissa Brown: feelings of fear, vulnerability, fellowship, and responsibility. In New York, Ricardo Rosado told Ransom, “If it had happened to me, I would want someone to do the same thing.”

In Alabama, one man told Brown, “If I die in here, I don’t want it to be a waste. Maybe what I’m saying will save somebody.” ... Ms.twitter

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:51 pm
by blindpig

Some pre-trial prisoners and immigration detainees are forced to work without pay in violation of the 13th Amendment, according to attorneys.
In a class action lawsuit filed Wednesday, attorneys accused the Alameda County, California, sheriff and Aramark Correctional Services of forcing some pre-trial prisoners and immigration detainees to work without pay in violation of the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, except if used as punishment for a person who has been convicted of a crime. As of June, about 85 percent of people at the jail had not been sentenced, according to state data.

“The work plaintiffs performed was not a part of daily housekeeping duties in the jail’s personal and communal living areas,” the complaint reads. “Rather, it was forced labor for the profit of Aramark.”

Attorneys filed the suit on behalf of eight named plaintiffs—pre-trial, convicted, and immigration detainees who worked for Aramark while incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail—as well as all past, present, and future prisoners at the jail who work for Aramark. The complaint argues all should be paid, including those who have been convicted.

According to California state law, prisoners who work for a private company must be paid wages that are comparable to their non-incarcerated counterparts. Jails can deduct from a prisoner’s earnings—such as for taxes and room and board—but a prisoner must receive no less than 20 percent of their wages. Prisoners at Santa Rita Jail clean the kitchen, prepare food for fellow inmates, and make meals for other jails in California, according to a 2017 health inspection report. Aramark is a for-profit food services company which contracts with the Santa Rita Jail.

Sheriff Gregory Ahern and Aramark are also violating the state’s equal pay act by, the suit claims, “assigning women prisoners fewer and less desirable hours to work based on gender.” Female prisoners work a four-hour night shift, and men work an eight-hour day shift. If they were paid, the suit argues, women would be denied the opportunity to earn as much as their male counterparts.

“This corporation is benefiting from people inside,” Carey Lamprecht, who worked as an investigator for the suit, told The Appeal.

The sheriff’s deputies threatened incarcerated workers with longer sentences or solitary confinement to coerce them to work, the suit alleges. As of the filing date, no prisoner has received a lengthier sentence for refusing to work, according to Lamprecht. The plaintiffs are asking for unspecified damages and for the court to declare these labor practices unconstitutional and illegal.

Sheriff’s office spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly confirmed that incarcerated workers are not paid by the sheriff’s office or Aramark. However, he said, workers are not threatened or coerced. On the contrary, he told The Appeal, they are grateful for the opportunities to work.

“I think it’s all part of a very well-defined movement against county jails in regards to deincarcerating and defunding county jails,” Kelly said of the suit.

Aramark did not respond to The Appeal’s requests for comment. The district attorney’s office declined to comment.

Advocates have previously accused Ahern of operating a jail that routinely subjects prisoners to inhumane conditions. Since Jan. 1, 2014, more than 40 people have died at the jail, 16 of them by suicide, according to a report by KTVU. So far this year, nine people have died at the jail, though the sheriff’s office claimed three of the people died after they were released under the office’s compassionate release program, according to the report. However, all three were listed as in-custody deaths on the coroner’s reports, the report notes.

Prisoners and their families have sued Ahern over a wide range of abuses at the jail, including an incident when deputies allegedly forced a woman to give birth alone in solitary confinement. In July 2017, Candace Steel was eight months pregnant when she was arrested on misdemeanors. While at the jail, she began cramping and could not walk. A jail nurse accused Steel of exaggerating her symptoms, and deputies placed her in an isolation cell as punishment, according to Steel’s suit. She screamed for hours, but was ignored, the suit claims. Deputies finally opened the cell when they heard a baby cry, according to her complaint. The sheriff’s office and other defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The case is still in litigation.

This month, another suit filed against the sheriff alleged that incarcerated workers at the Santa Rita Jail must wash sheets, towels, and other linens from the coroner’s office, which are soiled in human bodily fluids. “While these linens are transported in bags clearly marked as ‘biohazard,’ these linens are given to jail laundry workers, who have no protective clothing,” reads the complaint.

Kelly, the sheriff’s office spokesperson, confirmed that prisoners wash sheets from the coroner’s office, but denied that they handle biohazardous materials.

“If they are biohazard they are bagged and destroyed and not opened by inmates,” he wrote in an email to The Appeal. “Sheets that are not considered a hazard are washed by the work crew.”

The conditions at the jail are so dire, according to advocates, that male prisoners launched a work stoppage and hunger strike in late October, which lasted about a week. In response to the men’s strike, Sheriff’s deputies forced women—including two of the named plaintiffs—to work in their place, according to the suit filed this week. The deputies threatened to withhold meals from female prisoners if the women did not work, the suit alleges.

Kelly told The Appeal that during the strike, female prisoners “stepped up, came forward.”

“They were very helpful to us when the labor strike occurred,” Kelly said. “We did not single them out in any way. As a matter of fact, it was the opposite. We were really happy that they came in.”

For the last two years, activists have called on the county board of supervisors to perform a financial and performance audit of Ahern’s office, but they have failed to do so, said Jose Bernal, senior organizer and advocate with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, one of the groups that launched the #AuditAhern campaign.

“Over 400 prisoners went on strike asking for basic dignity,” Bernal told The Appeal. “Santa Rita Jail is a very dangerous, dangerous place.” ... servitude/

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Sun Dec 15, 2019 3:37 pm
by blindpig
A Tennessee Cop Accused of Searching a Black Man's Anus on the Side of the Road Is Now Facing 44 Criminal Charges
He also allegedly forced a woman he arrested to be baptized.
By Emma Ockerman
Dec 11 2019, 2:22pmShareTweetSnap


A young Tennessee cop already facing a barrage of disturbing allegations — including forcing a woman he arrested to be baptized and probing a black man’s anus on the side of the road — was just indicted on 44 criminal counts.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Wilkey, 26, was arrested Tuesday on charges including rape, sexual battery, false imprisonment, extortion, stalking, assault, oppression, and reckless driving, according to court documents.

Wilkey has been on paid administrative leave since July, when dash-camera footage revealed he and his partner had beaten a black man on the side of the road before conducting an invasive body cavity search. That incident, which sparked widespread community outrage, was referred to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for further review, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The resulting findings were referred to the local office of the Hamilton County District Attorney General, which brought Tuesday’s indictment.

The indictment doesn’t fully describe the circumstances surrounding each alleged crime, but the allegations, in part, mirror those featured in at least four lawsuits brought this year against Wilkey for alleged misconduct. Some of the charges mentioned in the indictment — reckless driving and stalking, for example — were not previously mentioned in lawsuits.

The lawsuits were brought by Robin Flores, a local civil rights attorney and former police officer who has agreed to represent several of Wilkey’s alleged victims, some of whom are minors alleging they faced invasive body searches from Wilkey. It’s not clear what happens to those civil lawsuits now that Wilkey is facing criminal charges.

“I want to reassure our community, each and every day the men and women of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office are to perform their duties in a deliberate, honorable, and professional manner. We are charged to protect this community and its citizens and this is a responsibility I take very seriously,” Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said in a statement Tuesday night. “My staff and I will continue to follow the steps laid out by Civil Service and cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office throughout the course of this investigation.”

The Hamilton County attorney, meanwhile, did not immediately return a VICE News request for comment on the allegations against a county employee, nor did Wilkey’s personal attorney.

Here are some of the allegations Wilkey is facing:

Forced baptism
Wilkey was indicted on charges of extortion and false imprisonment relating to the February arrest of Shandle Riley. She’s currently suing Hamilton County, Wilkey, and his partner, deputy Jacob Goforth, alleging that her civil rights were violated. Riley is mentioned by name in Tuesday’s indictment.

Riley was on her way to visit her child and had just pulled into the driveway when Wilkey initiated a traffic stop, according to the lawsuit filed in October. Wilkey told Riley he pulled her over because he believed she had methamphetamine, ordered her out of the car, and allegedly began conducting an invasive body search. He also asked her to take off her bra and shake her bra and shirt out.

When he asked her whether she had anything illegal in her car, she mentioned she had a “roach” in her pack of cigarettes but that she didn’t have any other drugs.

It’s at that point that Wilkey allegedly called her a “piece of shit,” according to the lawsuit, and asked her whether she had been “saved” by Jesus Christ. Wilkey allegedly told Riley that he felt “the spirit” compelling him to baptize her, and asked that she go retrieve some towels. If she would agree to be baptized, he would let her off with a criminal citation for the marijuana, according to the lawsuit.

Wilkey allegedly asked that Riley get in her car and follow him to a nearby lake, which Riley felt she couldn’t refuse. Then Wilkey allegedly stripped down to his underwear and led Riley into the water so he could baptize her.

“Plaintiff was shivering uncontrollably, and felt horribly violated,” according to the lawsuit. The other deputy, Goforth, was present but did not participate in the baptism, nor intervene.

Roadside body cavity search
Wilkey was charged Tuesday with rape and obstruction for a July 10 incident that’s not described in detail in the indictment. However, the date of that incident and unlawful arrest matches the date in a lawsuit filed by Flores over the alleged roadside beating and body cavity search of the black man, James Mitchell.

Wilkey allegedly pulled over Mitchell for over-tinted windows, and because he smelled of marijuana, according to the lawsuit against Wilkey, Hamilton County, and Deputy Bobby Brewer. Wilkey ordered Mitchell and his girlfriend out of the vehicle. Wilkey allegedly handcuffed Mitchell and began searching him, at which point Mitchell told Wilkey he had an untreated and large hernia and the search was causing him pain.

Wilkey and Brewer then beat Mitchell with “fists, knees, and feet,” according to the lawsuit. Then they removed Mitchell’s pants, bent him over the hood of his car, and “conducted an anal cavity search” without consent on the side of the road. The female passenger, Mitchell’s girlfriend, of the car was forced to watch, according to the lawsuit, and feared she’d be dealt the same punishment, or that Mitchell would be killed. Instead, he was transported to jail on multiple charges — including resisting arrest — made bail, and went to the hospital for tears in his anus, contusions, and the aggravated hernia, which later required surgery. The charges against him were dismissed. ... al-charges

Weird posting Vice but they were the outfit which first paid attention to the prison revolt. Go figure.

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:07 am
by blindpig
17 DEC2019

Jared Ware JARED WARE 0 2 1

Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina. Photo via Google Maps. Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina. Photo via Google Maps.

As most South Carolina prisoners started their day on October 23, activists attempted to deliver a demand letter to the United States Embassy in London. The letter condemned inhumane conditions in South Carolina’s prisons and called for international intervention.

Within a matter of hours, demands written by prisoners were delivered or read at three United Nations facilities and shared with visitors at the U.S. Embassy. Protesters almost 5,000 miles apart in the U.S., Caribbean, and the United Kingdom requested international humanitarian action on behalf of S.C. prisoners.

In addition to removing the metal plates the South Carolina Department of Corrections placed on the windows so prisoners could access natural light and open ventilation from the outside, the prisoners demanded SCDC meet international standards for vocational training and educational programming, outdoor recreation, healthy living conditions including lighting, heating and ventilation, clean drinking water, and a nutritious diet.

Activists said armed guards prevented them from entering the U.S. Embassy in London. Instead, they handed out flyers to people waiting in line to request visas and snapped a photo with a hashtag #Justice4SCPrisoners before leaving.

Hours later, the same petition was dropped off at the United Nations International Seabed Authority in Kingston, Jamaica by a member of the Left Alliance for National Democracy and Socialism (LANDS). The demands were read aloud at UN offices in Washington DC within minutes by the DC Abolition Coalition and the local chapter of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC).

When New York City’s IWOC chapter attempted to deliver the demands to the U.N. offices in that city after 4 pm, U.N. security told them to put away the letter and refused to receive it, the activists said. IWOC members read the demands aloud and tried to unravel a banner for a photo, but security confiscated the banner and told organizers they could not take photos in the Visitor Center. Security then instructed organizers to “go downstairs to talk it out.”

IWOC members refused and left before security escalated the situation any further.

Demanding Fresh Air And Sunlight
The demand letter written by SCDC prisoners cites multiple areas where SCDC’s treatment of prisoners does not meet the international standards laid out in the “Nelson Mandela Rules,” which are the U.N.’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

A South Carolina prisoner with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, who is referred to in this article as “Al,” agreed to speak with Shadowproof under the condition of anonymity to prevent retaliation by corrections officials.

Al claims that SCDC has at least one unit on all of the medium and high security prisons, where prisoners have been denied regular movement for well over a year. Prisoners in these units have endured a form of lockdown.

“And they haven’t been moving since the national tragedy at Lee Correctional [Institute],” Al said, referring to a violent incident in 2018 that left seven prisoners dead and approximately two dozen injured.

Al described a process of intentional restriction of movement that has been developing for years.

“They cut these flaps, port-holes in the door, to where they can feed you in and out, like solitary or something,” Al told Shadowproof.

“In some locations they’re even putting the cages up on the shower doors, so you won’t be able to walk in and out the shower. When they lock you down, and they do decide to give you a shower, they’ll be able to escort you like you’re on maximum security and lock you in the shower for five or ten minutes, and then handcuff you, bring you back out and escort you back to your cell. So all that is new.”

“There’s barely any [recreation] really going on outside of the special privilege unit and you know they got one of those on each one of these level 3 facilities,” Al added, ”so if there’s not a privilege unit, you’re not really seeing a whole lot of recreation.”

In November, Al claimed that he had received outdoor recreation only three times over a two month period, for only half an hour each time. He said the reason that he was given for receiving less than the standard hour was that the facility was “short of staff.”

With no one able to move, Al said, “you’re finding a lot of aggravation behind the doors, a lot of fights behind the doors, about a month ago we just had a cellmate killed in South Carolina.”

Al also echoed the demand letter’s concerns about the lack of quality food and water in the facilities. “I’m scared to eat out of the chow hall,” he said.

Shadowproof also interviewed “Tina,” the spouse of a prisoner who is part of an informal support group for prisoners and their families in South Carolina. Tina agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing her visitation privileges.

“Taking away the sunlight reduces vitamin D. That not only causes clinical depression but [prisoners] get sick easier and it can also cause cancer!,” Tina said.

“The suicide rate is ridiculous, and it is sad that they feel that that is the only way out. But what else do you do when you are left to sit idle in the dark and can’t do anything but think?”

“I’ve seen mold and brown water. Food that looks like it was pulled from a dumpster after rotting for a while,” Tina shared. “Men trapped in smoke filled rooms while fire alarms are blaring without a CO in sight, a man severely wounded while CO’s just step over him instead of rendering aid.”

She also noted examples of prisoners in extreme pain who are denied medical attention and the egregious lack of dental care for prisoners with extremely painful dental issues. She said she spoke with people “with tooth pain so bad they want to rip [their teeth] out themselves and they can’t even get Tylenol while they wait to be seen by a dentist, which is extremely rare.”

Covering Windows With Metal Plates
When SCDC began placing the metal plates over the windows in 2017, prisoners recognized it as an unusual step. As the demand letter notes the plates violate the Mandela rules.

Within days of the action at the U.N., prisoners in South Carolina reported that a few inches were cut off the metal plates in some facilities.

After coverage in Common Dreams and Truthout, journalist Kelly Hayes contacted SCDC to inquire about the status of the metal plates on the windows. In an email to Hayes on November 7, Chrysti Shain, director of communications for SCDC, stated, “We are going through the process of removing those from all of our maximum-security facilities. We have finished some and others are ongoing. The process takes awhile [sic] to complete each institution.”

From his vantage point inside SCDC and from talking to prisoners in other facilities, Al learned some plates had small pieces removed, yet no metal plates were removed at any Level 3 (high security) facilities.

When Shadowproof shared SCDC’s statement with Al in November, he laughed at the department’s suggestion that the process “takes awhile.”

“They have prisoners that work in the maintenance department that actually put [the plates] up. All they gotta do is call down to the prison and say ‘remove them’ and the prisoners will go down and remove these plates from the windows. Because all that matters is the equipment. They had the equipment to put them up, they have the equipment to pull them down.”

“About the same time that statement was written,” Al added, “SCDC gave the directive at at least two or three locations to cut the plates down a little more lower.”

Shadowproof reached out to SCDC to follow-up on Chrysti Shain’s November claim that metal plates would be removed, and to request a response to Al’s description of SCDC leaving plates up with modifications. SCDC did not respond to our inquiries.

In discussing the Mandela rules around air and sunlight, Al noted that SCDC “used to have someone to come around and check the air and light quality in the cells. Well, they confiscated those devices from those particular personnel. They’re no longer allowed to come around and check for that anymore. And it makes perfect sense because if they get hit with a lawsuit then this information, this data, don’t need to be placed out there.”

In early December, not only had SCDC still not removed any metal plates from windows in Level 3 facilities, but according to AI, they started painting them a “rusty brown.”

Al was under the impression that SCDC thought “the silver was too obvious from the sky view. So now it blends in.”

He was not optimistic that officials, who are using prison labor to cut small strips off the metal plates and paint them brown, were preparing to remove them any time soon.

Years Of Escalating Crisis
SCDC prisoners have described their horrendous conditions for years and their persistence has only increased a sense of hopelessness and despair among incarcerated people.

Amid a water crisis at McCormick Correctional Institute in 2017, prisoners reported that metal plates were put over the windows.

After publishing a conversation with prisoners about this oppression on the Beyond Prisons podcast, one of the prisoners reached out to say prison officials played a recording of his voice to other prisoners, seeking to identify the whistleblower’s identity.

Beyond Prisons removed the recording in an effort to protect sources—an incident that was retold by Columbia Journalism Review during the 2018 prison strike.

The metal plates, which block sunlight and restrict outside air flow into prison cells, have become emblematic of the repressive nature of SCDC.

The conditions facing the majority of SCDC prisoners date all the way back to the violence at Lee in 2018 and mirror those endured by people placed in Restrictive Housing Units (RHU)—an extreme form of solitary confinement that represents some of the harshest conditions in SCDC.

In 2016—one year before the metal plates began appearing in SCDC cells—a judge ruled that the state’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners was, “inherently flawed and systemically deficient in all major areas.” The ruling to a massive court settlement around SCDC’s use of solitary confinement and treatment of mentally ill prisoners, with which monitors say the prison system has yet to substantially comply.

Mental Health Settlement Yet To Provide Relief From Harsh Conditions
A March 2019 report from the Implementation Panel (IP) for SCDC’s mental health settlement agreement focused on prisoners held in Broad River and Lee Correctional Institute’s RHU. It concluded the “IP is extremely concerned about the very serious deficiencies in mental health care specifically with regard to inmates who are housed in RHUs and the resultant very serious and continuing harm,” stemming from “systemic failures” of SCDC to implement recommendations designed to address deficiencies identified in the settlement agreement.

As has been described by other prisoners within SCDC, the report illustrates that most mentally ill prisoners lack recreation opportunities entirely, and prisoners go a week between showers.They also face prolonged isolation “for reasons that do not require RHU confinement for more than 60 days.” The UN defines solitary confinement as torture at fifteen days.

Despite the lengthy stays in the RHU, “the majority of inmates have not received out of cell recreation since their RHU placement,” according to the report.

The harmful results of SCDC’s policies is self-evident. The prison system had the highest suicide rate in state history in 2018.

Prisoners claim their conditions foster an environment of division and hopelessness, which culminated in the deadliest day in a quarter century of U.S. prison history at Lee Correctional Institute on April 15, 2018.

Eight hours of deadly negligence and violence that day led prisoners to reach out to other incarcerated people across the U.S. to launch a national prison strike. They issued ten demands via Jailhouse Lawyers Speak (JLS) focused on policy issues they believed would alleviate some of the most harmful aspects of prison conditions.

The prison strike stimulated national conversations and led to #Right2Vote pushes for prisoners, detainees, and formerly incarcerated people. The strike demands have also influenced presidential criminal justice reform platforms, particularly that of Senator Bernie Sanders, whose platform attempts to address at least six of the ten demands.

The most discussed strike demand was for an end to prison slavery–, an important issue in South Carolina where 86 percent of prisoners not in solitary confinement are assigned to jobs and—except for 1,300 prisoners in the Prison Industries program—the remaining prisoners work for no pay at all.

Despite claiming that no S.C. prisoners participated in the 2018 prison strike, Director Bryan Stirling presented in a document to State Representative Edward Tallon that seemed to show otherwise.

Between June of 2018 and June of 2019, SCDC charged prisoners with disciplinary offenses for refusing or failing to work in their assigned positions 323 times, convicting them of these charges 164 times. In fact, over a three year period from 2016 through 2018, the state of South Carolina had charged prisoners with refusal or failure to work 1,311 times.

To further illustrate the draconian nature of SCDC prison conditions, the document presented to South Carolina’s House Legislative Oversight Committee noted that prisoners had been gassed with chemical munitions on 457 occasions over a six month period. In 388 incidents, the chemical weapons were used under unplanned circumstances, but on 69 separate occasions SCDC gassed prisoners with chemical munitions as part of planned assaults, in which there was “no immediate threat of harm to one’s self, others, or public safety.”

An Urgent Call For International Solidarity With S.C. Prisoners
In September 2019, prisoners reached out to outside organizers to appeal to the U.N. together. Their concerns over continuously deteriorating conditions impacting prisoners are clearly warranted.

Over a 43-day period between October 3 and November 15, 2019, SCDC notified the public of the deaths of ten prisoners. The state ruled that five deaths were suicides, two were suspected overdoses, two were investigated as homicides, and the cause of death for the tenth has yet to be publicly released by the department.

When asked if the prisoners and families she communicates with feel conditions have improved, Tina said, “Unfortunately I have only seen things getting progressively worse.”

While SCDC blatantly ignores the terms of the mental health settlement, Director Bryan Stirling is eager to point to his partnership with the mainstream criminal justice nonprofit, the Vera Institute in what seems to be window-dressing to prisoners.

“[Vera] runs the character unit at Lee, and it’s run very similar to the way SCDC runs its [separate] character [based] units. So we’re still waiting to see when the human rights part comes,” laughed Al.

IWOC’s Karen Smith said organizers showed up for this international display of solidarity and action because “U.S. government entities have not only turned a blind eye to the abuse and suffering inside S.C. prisons but continue to fund it.”

“Incarcerated people in that state are calling for UN intervention to expose the horrors they live with daily. Activists heard that call and tried to appeal to as many UN offices around the globe as possible.”

In Jamaica, Christophe Samspon, the member of LANDS who dropped the petition off at a local UN facility, bluntly stated their rationale for getting involved, “Mass incarceration is a legacy of slavery, and race politics is my primary concern in the US.”

Al praised the actions of the activists on the outside. “I think it’s awesome. I think it creates more of a bridge of energy between the inside and the outside just to know that so many people in so many different places were willing to come together just to speak about the issues of South Carolina. Now of course personally—and not only personally but as part of an organization myself—I think there’s actually a little bit more there that the U.N. needs to hear.”

Prisoners may have the opportunity to expand the list of concerns, as the official request to the U.N.’s Office of the Special Rapporteur is still pending. Organizers with Fight Toxic Prisons are still looking for help from an international human rights lawyer to draft a formal request.

“By giving something to the U.N., that means we’re engaging the international community. And that has been one of our hopes in South Carolina, and particularly as part of the organization, to engage the international community,” Al noted.

“We have to have the solidarity of the international community,” Al concluded, “That’s what we’ve been sorely lacking, not just in South Carolina, but around the nation. I’m appreciative of the international community and everybody that stood up for us.” ... ns-worsen/

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Fri Jan 03, 2020 6:10 pm
by blindpig

“I don’t want to die in the pen, Take me away from the state penitentiary & early release me back to my family. I’m in the belly of the beast. No sleep. Praying for peace. Listening to the News on Tv, All I hear is WAR. I just want a little taste of freedom- reunite with my mom & kids. Enjoy life.”

via ExposeMDOC Jan. 3, 2020 3:10 AM
Stories of the growing unrest in MDOC prisons statewide have been circulating since the killings of 4 inmates at 3 separate facilities statewide in the last 5 days. While the killings have shed light on what is currently happening in MDOC, there were many signs that unrest was on the horizon as we reported as recently as September of 2019 regarding the state of conditions in the MDOC facilities including at least 2 of the facilities where inmates have been killed. From hunger strikes, to molded food, to raw sewage flooding the cells, to the bodies of inmates who have remained in cells for hours after dying as a result of a lack of healthcare at understaffed facilities – there is much more than what meets the eye as it relates to the circumstances that have culminated in both the deaths of inmates at the hands of fellow inmates and also potentially at the hands of correctional officers and troopers. MDOC claims that the “inmates are under control”, but the issue with the statement is that unless the actual conditions of the inmates change at the facilities, the frustrations the inmates have expressed will still exist. In Other Words, This is Far from Under Control. According to sources with knowledge of the internal ongoings of the current situation in Parchman there are now at least 4 more people dead, 20 injured and the possibility that officers and troopers are shooting with impunity.


Below is a timeline of the events of which we have been made aware including the deaths of the inmates at the 4 facilities and events that have subsequently occurred at each prison since they have been locked down:

Sunday December 29, 2019
Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute inmate Teranndance Dobbins (age 40) allegedly died due to injuries he received from a reportedly gang related hit on his life.

Terrandance Dobbins Age 40 – Image via MDOC

December 31st, 2019

2019 Walter Gates (age 25 ) was killed at Mississippi State Prison (also known as Parchman Farms) when a prison fight broke out amongst inmates.
MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall resigns.

Walter Gates Age 25 – Image via MDOC
January 2nd, 2020,

in a coordinated attack, Gregory Emary (Age 26), an inmate at MDOC Regional Correctional Facility in Chickasaw County, was killed.

Gregory Emary, Age 26 Image via MDOC

An unnamed person killed at Parchman.
Armed State Troopers Occupy Parchman.
MDOC Issues A report to Media that everything is under control.

Possible video of man who appears to be hanging in Parchman cell surfaces. We are not sure if this actual incident occurred on yesterday but the video surfaced yesterday at approximately 7 pm last night Warning Graphic:
(video at link)

A Message Contradicting the MDOC is relayed to Black With No Chaser that Multiple people have been shot since the state troopers arrived, that there are at least 4 dead and approximately 20 or more injuries.

Below is a timeline of the events of which we have been made aware including the deaths of the inmates at the 4 facilities and events that have subsequently occurred at each prison since they have been locked down:

Sunday December 29, 2019
Southern Mississippi Correctional Institute inmate Teranndance Dobbins (age 40) allegedly died due to injuries he received from a reportedly gang related hit on his life.

Terrandance Dobbins Age 40 – Image via MDOC
December 31st, 2019
2019 Walter Gates (age 25 ) was killed at Mississippi State Prison (also known as Parchman Farms) when a prison fight broke out amongst inmates.
MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall resigns.

Walter Gates Age 25 – Image via MDOC
January 2nd, 2020,
in a coordinated attack, Gregory Emary (Age 26), an inmate at MDOC Regional Correctional Facility in Chickasaw County, was killed.

Gregory Emary, Age 26 Image via MDOC
An unnamed person killed at Parchman.
Armed State Troopers Occupy Parchman.
MDOC Issues A report to Media that everything is under control.
Possible video of man who appears to be hanging in Parchman cell surfaces. We are not sure if this actual incident occurred on yesterday but the video surfaced yesterday at approximately 7 pm last night Warning Graphic:

A Message Contradicting the MDOC is relayed to Black With No Chaser that Multiple people have been shot since the state troopers arrived, that there are at least 4 dead and approximately 20 or more injuries.

An image shared of the state troopers and correctional officers standing outside Unit 29 at Parchman

This is what inmates on lockdown at Parchman were served for dinner last night.

That the inmates that were in Unit 29 (where Walter Gates and Unnamed Deceased were being housed) are now moved to Unit 32. Unit 32 is sometimes referred to as a “Death Trap.” Unit 32 is a CLOSED UNIT that has not been utilized since 2010. It is the former Death Row Facility and Was Closed Due to Poor Conditions when the ACLU won a Victory to have it shut down due to the deaths of multiple inmates in the facility.
According to wikipedia: The $41 million unit opened in August 1990, increasing MSP’s maximum security bed space by over 15 percent; during that year Mississippi officials said that the prison needed more maximum security space after Unit 32’s opening.Prior to Unit 32’s opening, MSP had 56 “lockdown” cells for prisoners they designated as difficult prisoners.[12] By 2003 the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of six inmates, alleging poor conditions in Unit 32’s death row.[87] In 2007 three inmates in Unit 32 were murdered by other inmates in a several month span.[88] During that year a guard at Unit 32 said that under-staffing contributed to the security lapses.[88] In 2010 MDOC and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reached an agreement to close Unit 32.
Inhumane Conditions Foster Inmates Frustrations
There have been other reported deaths throughout the prisons but are unconfirmed at this time. While many news outlets have been referring to the situation at Parchman as a Riot, Black With No Chaser sources indicate that there has not been a riot and that facts are being misrepresented to media outlets.

First-hand accounts from sources have indicated the reason behind the violence is due to understaffing, poor prison conditions including food quality, rodent infestations, and sewage back ups. According to the sources, these are issues that have gone unaddressed for an extended period of time and prison administrations have ignored the conditions. Additionally, there has been a spike of heroin use within the prison walls and a lack of treatment and mental health resources, according to those with knowledge of the facilities. Factors such as these have fostered justifiable frustrations with inmates in facilities throughout the state, and these derelict conditions, coupled with a lack of oversight, has lead to a precipitous rise in deaths due to neglect, lack of access to proper healthcare, poor diets, and violence and gang activity in Mississippi’s prison system.

Coincidentally, just two days prior on December 31st, 2019, MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall abruptly resigned amidst the backdrop of the prison system’s failures, as well as, the transitioning in of the Reeves administration.

According to a statement released by MDOC per their Facebook page, all prisons have been locked down statewide in an attempt to gain control of the situation. However, inmates say those efforts are futile until prison conditions are improved dramatically.

Currently, Mississippi prisons are severely understaffed. According to MDOC’s website, The starting salary for prison guards is right above $25,000 annually making it very hard to recruit and maintain personnel. In addition, standards are low to attain jobs within the state prison system in the first place, often times guards come from the same backgrounds as those who are incarcerated. Reporting on a basis of anonymity, inmates have said many of the guards are gang affiliated as well, and are complicit in the prison infighting. Because the prisons have been on lockdown statewide since Dobbins’ death, there are questions arising regarding how access to the other inmates that subsequently have died since Dobbins when the lockdown restricted movement within the prisons throughout the state. These circumstances have given rise to speculations amongst many regarding whether or not access to inmates that have been killed was allowed or simply by happenstance at all 3 facilities.

This is a developing story. Updates will come as we get more information. ... doc-walls/

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:28 pm
by blindpig
How We Investigated Mississippi’s Modern-Day Debtors Prisons

A tip led us to a little-known program that affected hundreds of poor workers.

The tip we got at Mississippi Today seemed a little unlikely: a woman in state prison was also working at McDonald’s—and not voluntarily. But sure enough, we found Dixie D’Angelo, a woman with court-ordered debts of $5,000 because she damaged a friend’s car. She had been sentenced to something called a restitution center, where she worked four different restaurant jobs to try to earn enough to pay off her debts and get out of jail.Read the story: Think Debtors Prisons Are a Thing of the Past? Not in Mississippi.

Two reporters, Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu, ultimately found that hundreds of people were in similar situations because of the state’s little-known restitution center program. Basically, we discovered, Mississippi was running a modern-day debtors prison.

We met with inmates and their employers across Mississippi, beginning at fast food restaurants around Jackson, traveling to the Mississippi Delta and the Gulf Coast.

We found people using court documents and a list of work-camp inmates that the corrections department later removed from its website.We interviewed more than 50 current and former restitution center inmates and a dozen national experts. We filed 30 public records requests. Using more than 200 sentencing orders, we built a database detailing how judges ordered people to the centers and how much money they had to pay.

With the help of Andrew R. Calderón at The Marshall Project, we analyzed that material as well as other data we got from the state. We requested population reports from the Mississippi Department of Corrections, which tell us the inmate population in each restitution center at the beginning of each month. The reports also include information like the average number of inmates employed in a given month and how many absconded, and more.

While the corrections department and most judges we contacted denied repeated interview requests for this story, we relied on hundreds of pages of court documents, hearing transcripts and policy manuals to corroborate the inmates’ stories.Anna Wolfe is an investigative reporter who writes about poverty and economic justice for Mississippi Today, an independent nonprofit newsroom.Michelle Liu has covered criminal justice issues for Mississippi Today through the Report for America initiative since June 2018. ... t=post-top

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Wed Jan 29, 2020 12:06 pm
by blindpig

January 2020 Message from Joshua Williams

This is my speech to all my people in the fight, so sit back and listen.

I say to the people all around the world, fighting against slavery, fighting against racism, fighting against the system, I say to you, don’t get tired. Keep fighting. Be strong, because one thing about us is we are stronger than racism. We are stronger than the police who’s trying to kill us off. Anbd the thing about that is when the police kill a black man or woman or a white man or woman: another one is born, stronger than the last one.

People of the nation: I speak to you in peace. I speak to you in love. People of the world, I speak to you and in struggle I say, I’m here with you. Fighting along side of you. Because there are many fights. You can be fighting against cancer, for suicide prevention, against bullying and voter suppression—whatever it is, I say to you: stay strong. Don’t give up. I know you tired. I am, too. But the moment we give up on America is the moment we give up our lives, because we give up the fight.

I say to the police of every department there is: there is a storm brewing, and the longer y’all kill people and get away with it, the hotter the pot gone get.

Now, police: if y’all trying to talk peace, it’s too late. I speak for the families that can’t see their child anymore because your triggerhappy finger took them off the earth. I speak for Michael Brown’s mom when she was crying her fucking soul out right next to me in Canfield, forced to see her fucking son dead on that ground, not for one minute or ten minutes but four fucking hours. This is the type of shit I’m talking about.

People of the world, this is the shit I’m fighting for. Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Danye Jones, Darren Seal, and so much more.

And to all of you who fight with me: let’s go all the way. Let’s overthrow this corrupt system and police our own self.

If you reading this, at this very moment, no matter where you at, this is our creed. Say it out loud and declare with me—you ready?—here we go:


If you read that and meant it, you ready. I will tell you all, there is no finish line for me. I will fight for everybody till there is no blood left in my body, and till I breathe my last breath. I will be on the frontlines, fighting against the police. Who’s with me? Love you guys. ... illiams-3/

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 11:42 am
by blindpig
Register to participate via
Zoom Video conference

The COVID-19 pandemic poses as a death threat to all people who are incarcerated. The system of racist mass incarceration is now poised to commit mass murder of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and migration detention facilities. Yet there is a growing struggle, inside the walls and in our communities, to free our people now!
Workers World Party believes that prisons are concentration camps for the poor and the oppressed. This includes the thousands upon thousands of migrants and refugees who are confined in camps across the country. The system of mass incarceration does not exist to punish crimes or rehabilitate those who commit them; it exists to control excess labor population, to cage workers that capitalists find threatening or unnecessary. We must end this system once and for all.

In this Thursday's webinar, Workers World members and allies will discuss this dire threat and report on the struggles to free our people on both sides of the walls.
Webinar Registration
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Microsoft (Outlook)
FREE THEM ALL! Covid-19 & Racist Mass Incarceration
The COVID-19 pandemic poses as a death threat to all people who are incarcerated. The system of racist mass incarceration is now poised to commit mass murder of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and migration detention facilities. Yet there is a growing struggle, inside the walls and in our communities, to free our people now!

Workers World Party believes that prisons are concentration camps for the poor and the oppressed. This includes the thousands upon thousands of migrants and refugees who are confined in camps across the country. The system of mass incarceration does not exist to punish crimes or rehabilitate those who commit them; it exists to control excess labor population, to cage workers that capitalists find threatening or unnecessary.
 We must end this system once and for all.

In this Thursday's webinar, Workers World members and allies will discuss this dire threat and report on the struggles to free our people on both sides of the walls.

Hosted by:
-Makasi Motema: organizer with Peoples Power Assemblies NYC

Speakers include (more to be added soon!):
-Bryant Arroyo, jailhouse lawyer and writer for Workers World, incarcerated in SCI Frackville, Pennsylvania
-Susan Abulhawa: Author of Mornings in Jenin and Against the Loveless World. She is a Workers World Party comrade and Palestinian activist.
-Sophia Williams: Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
-Kevin Caron: Georgia Detention Watch to report on Stewart Detention Center and campaign to shut down Atlanta City Detention Center
-Monica Moorehead: Editor, Marxism, Reparations and the Black Freedom Struggle, Managing Editor of Workers World newspaper
-Gloria Rubac: organizer, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement
-Mirinda Crissman: writer for Workers World newspaper’s Tear Down the Walls prisoner page
Apr 9, 2020 07:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada) ... JMez9Jvs8g

Re: Police, prison and abolition

Posted: Sat May 02, 2020 1:03 pm
by blindpig
During pandemic, Austin, TX police kill Mike Ramos days after damning city report
By Brianna GriffithMay 01, 2020

Mike Ramos with his hands in the air, moments before Austin police killed him. Screenshot from cell phone video footage posted on Facebook, used with permission.

On April 24, Austin, Texas police killed 42-year-old Mike Ramos in a parking lot near an apartment complex.

Police were responding to an anonymous call. The caller said they saw people doing drugs, including a man in a white shirt waving a gun.

Ramos, who was wearing a black tank top, put his hands in the air and showed officers that he had no weapon. An officer fired a “non-lethal” beanbag in Ramos’ direction. After Ramos was shot with the “non-lethal” round, he got back in his car and attempted to drive away, at which point police opened fire and killed him.

The police execution of Ramos happened in the midst of a devastating pandemic when police are supposedly limiting public interaction except in the most serious circumstances. It also happened just 7 days after a damning city report revealing systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and a culture of retaliation at all levels of the Austin Police Department.

A public execution as bystanders begged APD not to shoot

As with so many police shootings, the Austin Police Department’s first instinct was to spin the story and criminalize the victim. What actually happened is far from their lies.

Cell phone video of the incident shows Ramos with his hands in the air at the time he was first shot. Onlookers begged the six cops on scene not to shoot Ramos, but one officer opened fire, striking Ramos with a “non-lethal” round.

In the heat of the moment, when police are training weapons in your direction and adrenaline is pumping, a “non-lethal” shot absolutely feels like a shot. Ramos assured APD that he was not a threat, and APD responded with a violent assault. Who, believing that the police were already shooting to kill, would not seek cover in their own vehicle? When Ramos attempted to drive away from the confrontation, a second officer opened fire and killed him.

APD’s spin on the killing emphasizes Ramos’ supposed failure to comply with police orders. They also insinuated that Ramos’ vehicle (not necessarily Ramos himself) was connected with other crimes, although they have yet to provide evidence for these claims. KVUE reported that APD “believed the vehicle could have been involved in burglary and evading police in Austin on Thursday.”

This information is a non-sequitur that does not explain APD’s behavior. Police were allegedly looking for someone “doing drugs” and waving a gun with a white shirt. They instead found a man in a black shirt, clearly without a gun, whom they promptly executed. Even if we took APD’s still uncorroborated claims at face value, they cannot appoint themselves judge, jury, and executioner to dispense death at will.

APD is working with Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, herself facing intense public criticism for victim-blaming and mishandling sexual assault cases, to “investigate” the shooting.

Even in the midst of a global health crisis, when APD claims to be suspending most of their policing activity, racist police violence continues. Whatever they might claim, police departments in a capitalist state are not designed for public safety. White supremacy, sexism, homophobia, and violence are at the very core of their mission.

APD’s pattern of violence and bigotry

Even compared to other U.S. police departments, APD stands out in its use of violence, especially against Black, Brown, poor, and mentally ill people. A 2019 study by the University of Texas shows that among the 15 largest U.S. cities, APD has the highest rate of police shootings during mental health calls. APD killed 24 people in shootings between 2010 and 2016, at least a third of which had confirmed mental health conditions. Austin also has the highest per-capita rate of police killings in Texas. In the country, Austin ranks 13th in total number of police killings.

APD’s violence and cavalier attitude have prompted many studies over the past several decades. The latest study into APD’s culture of violence was released on April 17, just one week before police executed Mike Ramos. This study was prompted by a flurry of allegations of improper conduct. Among other allegations, whistleblowers alleged that Assistant Chief Justin Newsom routinely used the n-word on duty, Chief of Staff Troy Gay sought homophobic “conversion therapy” for a family member with Police Chief Brian Manley’s approval, and Manley collaborated with top brass to conceal evidence of these problems. The report corroborated the complaints about the culture at APD:

“Reports came to us, from different ranks, races and genders, advising of the fact that the racist and sexist name calling and use of derogatory terms associated with race and sex persists. Anecdotal history indicated that even members of the executive staff over the years had been known to use racist and sexist language, particularly when around the lower ranks or other subordinates.”

The report also mentions “accounts of retaliation span[ning] almost thirty years” as well as a pattern of missing documents related to officer discipline. APD has a “180-day rule” for police officer misconduct. If a cop acts improperly, they can only be punished if the investigation is concluded in 180 days or less. Put another way, a cop can brutalize someone in January, and if the department does not conclude its investigation by July, the cop will walk away completely free. The report found evidence that APD has avoided punishing officers of wrongdoing simply by letting the 180-day period pass. In addition to obstructing justice, APD has also publicly feuded with city leadership and the Office of Police Oversight.

Before the 2019 allegations, APD was facing a different nationwide scandal for mishandling over as many as 1,400 rape cases, having “exceptionally cleared” these cases without charging anyone. The department lurches from scandal to scandal with no accountability.

Justice for Mike Ramos!

Even during COVID-19, community members are finding ways to speak up, support each other, and fight back against police oppression. A growing list of organizations is calling for the resignation of various police and city officials. Spontaneous protests erupted the day of the shooting. Depending on the response of the family and community, the coming days may also see socially distanced “car protests” that allow the community to engage in meaningful resistance while also protecting public health.

The systemic sexism, racism, homophobia, and culture of violence at APD are part and parcel of the capitalist American “justice” system. These problems cannot be solved just by replacing the police chief or his administrators. No amount of “reform” or “retraining” can solve the systemic white supremacy of American police.

But if the people of Austin are able to oust APD’s top brass through protest and determined resistance, it will serve as an example of what we can accomplish when we fight for it. Demand justice for Mike Ramos and an end to all racist police killings!

To help the Ramos family

A Gofundme has been set up to help the family of Mike Ramos. This is being organized by his mother, Brenda Ramos. You can donate directly to this fundraiser here. ... rationnews

Well, that didn't really have much to do with the pandemic.

Austin, that island of liberalism in Texas.....