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July 29, 2015

Monday, August 30, 2010

Conditions of confinement: Sheriff Joe's jail is our responsibility, too

From Arizona Prison Watch

The following is a revised and somewhat more radical version of my post earlier today. Sorry for any redundancy to those who get this in their email or by feed. - Peg


Amnesty International poster: Write a letter, save a life.

For those who missed Stephen Lemons' review of Shaun Attwood's new book, "Hard Time: A Brit in America's Toughest Jail", it's worth the read. I'd post it here but I've already packed in too much for the night. It is, of course, about the Maricopa County Hell they call a jail. Hit Shaun's blog, "Jon's Jail Journal" too, if you haven't already. He posts letters from prisoners there, and is a good friend to many who would otherwise have no audible voice.

As for the conditions of confinement in our jails and prisons: I don't understand why the Department of Justice hasn't held Arpaio criminally responsible for his abuse of so many people over the years - from medical negligence to conspiracies to deprive us of our civil rights. Their failure to do so thus far is akin to the feds' consent for every harm he's done under his tenure, and complicity with every additional prisoner he neglects or kills. I'm really starting to worry that they plan to make some kind of closed door deal with him, then pack their bags and walk away.

The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act covers prisoners precisely because the People so often end up needing protection from the sadistic cruelty of those wielding power in our name, and few in America are more disenfranchised and vulnerable than those disposed of in jails and prisons - citizens and "aliens" alike. They include our elderly, our poor, our sick, troubled youth, our mentally ill, our developmentally disabled - all those people we once institutionalized elsewhere (and have thrown out into the streets) are thrown into the stew.

Of course, the more vocal idiots in our community argue after every article about prisoner abuse or suicide that because they are in a jail or prison they deserve whatever they get, whatever that may be. Just because those readers like to stone prostitutes, though, doesn't mean they are themselves without sin. Nor do they represent all of us. Those people are twisted bullies hiding behind fake identities looking for someone to kick who's already down. They've probably commented on this blog of Stephen's, in fact.


That's a tangent I can't stop from exploring in this context. The media shouldn't give such people the platform on which to celebrate brutalization, suicide, and murder, including among prisoners, in the first place. That's not supporting freedom of speech - it's just intimidating the voices of reason and humanity into silence. Giving hateful people our shared public space empowers them to use shame to perpetrate cruelty, and it perpetuates the stigma felt by prisoners' families who read "good riddance" from the community after their loved ones die. They screen such things out of printed "letters to the editor"; why not moderate their public forums? Only abusive and rich people seem to get amplified when they speak - the rest of us get censored, even if we head the nightly news.

Frankly, most of "free" Arizona should be locked up, looking at the multitude of laws that require jail or prison for those who break them - and at how unbelievably easy it is to put someone away, especially in this state. We are just privileged or very lucky if we've escaped such a fate so far. Those who think they will never be prosecuted because they really aren't "criminals" need to check out the Arizona Justice Project. There are all sorts of innocent people behind bars.

Once in a while the law reaches out and touches us where we never thought it would - and since it's not a common occurrence in our white, middle class communities, we are sure that there is just a deviant in our midst, or it is a fluke of the justice system that will work itself out. Dad's in an accident while on painkillers following surgery and goes to prison because he had an old DUI. Presumably he will get treatment in prison, but he's already been sober for 5 years - instead he just loses time from his kids' lives and his ability to support his family. The neighbor is arrested for embezzling to save the house from foreclosure and her kids from homelessness - losing everything and everyone in the process. We pay over $20,000 a year to incarcerate her for five years - and God knows how much to put the kids in foster care - while her banker gets a bonus from the taxpayer bailout.  


I hope everyone out there finds those images as disturbing as I do. It happens all the time.

As for the wrongfully-accused: Americans don't really presume innocence, which is why Joe's jail was allowed to get so bad. We recoil from the accused as soon as they hit the news because the possibility that agents of the almighty law might be corrupt or wrong threatens our sense of social order. We sacrifice Innocence like she's the designated virgin just to maintain the illusion that the guilty among us are eventually caught, and that those who are caught are always guilty. 

People who are innocent tend to believe that the truth will prevail, and if it doesn't they end up being punished worse than the real criminals who make a deal. Real-life case in point: Courtney Bisbee, the school nurse accused of touching a 14-year old liar and branded as a child molester, was a feather in the cap of the detective who arrested her and the prosecutor who got the conviction. To assure that the rest of us got our taste of blood, the judge slammed her with 11 years for fighting it out in court instead of taking a plea bargain that would have had her back home with her child by now.

Stephen Lemons even investigated Courtney's case and advocated on her behalf (here and here, too), but no one wants to hear the new evidence that would exonerate her because it implicates incompetence - or worse. For law enforcement's ego and our sense of order, she's been in prison for at least 6 years now. Maybe Romley is the man who will have the courage to help set her free - we'll see. He was the Maricopa County Attorney when she was originally prosecuted, so if he steps up to the plate and looks at it in a new light, I'll be impressed. Andrew Thomas was too much of a political coward.

In these ways the brutality of our courts, Joe's jail, and Ryan's prisons hits home. It's not a freakish thing for families to be ripped apart by "justice" in poor and minority communities - it's all too common. The legal system works exactly as it's designed to there, oppressing resistance to white supremacy and defiance of the rules of capitalism at every turn. Justice is the sheep's clothing that America dons to promote the interests of the few, and the myth that we are a model of democracy is what blinds us - and Her - to the deceit. 

But Justice is not supposed to prey on the rest of us "ordinary Americans"- it is supposed to protect us. It only seems to be when we fall from grace ourselves (or get falsely accused and imprisoned) that we begin to see the system for what it is. We get inside and see people doomed to spend the rest of their lives in prison for charges as petty as fraud, while murderers walk away with money in their pocket after 15 or 20 years. Looking around, we also realize that the majority of the people behind bars are not a public safety threat - most are public nuisances, eyesores, "sinners" and surplus laborers who legislators thought would be better hidden away. Those still claiming their innocence are all too often out-maneuvered by the state in legal proceedings, and seldom have the luxury of an attorney to help them once appeals are exhausted. 


Look closely and you'll see that America's prisons and jails have, by and large, replaced our mental hospitals, poorhouses, and plantations. And they are major money-making machines for those in power, as long as they skimp on human rights and basic needs like food and health care. That's why the prisoners who would expose them are discredited, discounted, and silenced in every way possible.

Never mind that the desperate and vulnerable are being relegated and abandoned
in these hellholes to sociopaths who will rape and torture them for the fun of it, or even kill them just to score a new gang tattoo. To the private and public prison industries alike, each new body is just an addition to their growing empire - they have no interest in anyone's innocence or special circumstances, and no reason to help prevent or reduce the effects of crime in our communities. 

Despite lamenting about the high recidivism rate (usually as an excuse to be better funded and more brutal), jails and prisons are just as well-paid for recycling the people they chewed up once already. Buying the industry's line of BS, a terrorized public decides that parole officers and prosecutors are always professional and responsible and work in a functional system, so it must be the criminal's own fault for getting put back in - he should have learned his lesson the first time. Our perceptions are too often shaped by the expectation that what we pay nearly 10% of our state budget for includes some effort at "rehabilitation" (hence the AZ Department of Corrections' designation as such, not the "Department of Confinement"). The criminal justice system isn't rehabilitating anyone - they're spending our money lobbying the governor and legislature to pass more laws and assure more prison sentences for less serious crimes than ever.

The prison industrial complex as a whole (of which Sheriff Joe is actually just a small part) cultivates the rest of us to feel exploited and victimized, though, so that we seem defenseless and helpless without them. Then they glorify themselves as our protectors (though they usually arrive after the crime, not in time to prevent it), and we willingly pay them some other kid's lunch money to keep it up.
It's a racket. Actually reducing crime and making us all more safe would just cut into their power and profit margins.  

Anyone who believes such a system really upholds justice or promotes the public good is delusional or has been duped. Law enforcement is an integral part of the fascist decimation of our rights, not the power protecting them. We - the People - are the only power that will protect liberty and justice for the future, but only if we have our eyes wide open and are ready to risk jail, prison, defamation, and even execution in the process. If we are not, then we have surrendered that which is most important in life for nothing more than illusion. We are on a leash, instead of in a cage. At least some prisoners, with their integrity intact, mange to remain free.

The DOJ is grossly negligent for failing to act aggressively under CRIPA against the MCSO, and therefore shares the blame for emboldening our greedy, bigoted, fear-mongering lawmakers and enforcers to continue to imprison, injure, and kill those of us whose nationality or skin color or gender or politics or religion they hate.
But we are also responsible for letting this go on so long without holding either the feds or Arpaio accountable ourselves. So, here are the names and contact info for the people at the DOJ who should be investigating the real public enemies - and taking action - under CRIPA, regardless of what else they're doing. Please call or write on behalf of those fighting  a losing battle to defend their lives. Don't wait for your loved one to end up in trouble: he or she may be the next prisoner of the MCSO or Arizona Department of Corrections to die.

So could you or I.


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DOJ - Special Litigation Section

Mailing Address

Special Litigation Section

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530
For FEDEX: 601 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Telephone Number
(202) 514-0195
toll-free at (877) 218-5228

Fax Numbers
(202) 514-0212
(202) 514-6273


Acting Chief
Judy Preston
(202) 514-6258

Principal Deputy Chief
Tammie Gregg
(202) 616-2009

Deputy Chiefs
Julie Abbate (Acting)
(202) 353-4637
Mary Bohan (Acting)
(202) 616-2325
Luis Saucedo (Acting)
(202) 353-0299

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Global Action Days Announced in Support of Accused WikiLeaks Whistleblower Bradley Manning

25 August 2010
MEDIA ADVISORY – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:
Jeff Paterson
press [at] bradleymanning [dot] org
+1-202-640-4388

Individuals and activists plan events internationally to show support for the accused WikiLeaks whistleblower on September 16-19.

Washington DC, August 24, 2010 — On September 16-19, 2010, activist organizations and individuals will take to the streets to call on the United States government to drop the charges against Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. Manning, 22, has been held in isolation since May, charged with releasing classified documents including a video that shows American troops shooting and killing 11 people, including two Reuters employees, in 2007.

Manning’s imprisonment has resulted in an international outcry, with groups and activists throughout the US and abroad demanding his release and calling for transparency in America’s war policies. Famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has said that if Mr. Manning is related to the leak, then he is “a new hero of mine.”

The timing of these International Days of Action coincides with the approximate dates of WikiLeaks’ next scheduled document release.

Supporters of Bradley Manning are calling for his immediate release and that all charges against him be dropped, regardless of which person or persons contributed to the release of the WikiLeaks documents. Filmmaker Michael Moore, who joined the Bradley Manning Support Network’s Advisory Board over the weekend, stated: “Whoever is responsible for the Afghanistan leaks is a courageous patriot who should be celebrated for bringing the truth of this war to the American people. Whether or not Pfc. Bradley Manning is the leaker, he must be set free.”

Learn more: http://www.bradleymanning.org/days-of-action/

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Groups Say Government Failure To Protect Prisoners From Sexual Violence Is Unacceptable

August 17, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and a broad coalition of religious, political, human rights and civil rights groups today called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately adopt a set of proposed standards aimed at eradicating sexual assault in the nation's prisons.

The standards, issued over a year ago by the blue-ribbon, bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), would, if adopted by Holder, provide an important guide for corrections professionals to eliminate sexual abuse in their facilities and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. The coalition previously called on Holder to adopt the standards in a letter sent last week.

"The commission's proposed standards merely put into words what the Constitution already requires," said Amy Fettig, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. "Prison officials have a constitutional obligation to provide prisoners with protection against violence and sexual abuse, and Attorney General Holder should implement the standards without delay."

The proposed standards would also help hold corrections officials accountable by helping reform-minded officials indentify their facilities' strengths and weaknesses while ensuring that those who continue to deny the high incidence of sexual abuse of prisoners are no longer able to minimize the extent of the problem.

The proposed standards also include important provisions which would make it easier for prison rape victims seeking their day in court to file lawsuits challenging their inhumane treatment. Since the 1996 passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), victims are forced to exhaust the internal complaint processes of their correctional institution before filing a lawsuit – processes that are often comprised of arbitrary rules that are impossible for prisoners to navigate.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 60,000 prisoners – one of every 20 – were sexually assaulted last year. The problem is even worse in juvenile institutions, where one in eight juvenile detainees were victims of sexual assault last year.

"There is a deeply ingrained culture of acceptance when it comes to prison rape in too many prisons and jails across the country," said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project, who testified before NPREC and served on a committee of experts that helped develop the standards. "The proposed standards are a milestone in the long battle to end a shameful era of rampant violence and abuse within our nation's prisons and there is no excuse for the Attorney General's delay in adopting them."

The proposed standards were issued by NPREC after a comprehensive study of the issues surrounding prison rape, including site visits, public hearings and consultations with corrections experts, academics, survivors of sexual abuse in detention, health care providers and others.

According to the coalition's letter, while many corrections leaders strongly support the proposed standards, some officials have exaggerated the cost of implementing the basic measures outlined in the proposed standards. Cash-strapped states like California and Oregon have already begun to implement the standards without substantial additional costs. And the cost of failing to address the problem of prison rape is huge – one state prison system, for example, recently paid $100 million after more than 10 years of expensive and protracted litigation, to settle lawsuits filed by women who were sexually abused by staff at a women's facility.

The ACLU today is also calling on Congress to pass the Prison Abuse Remedies Act, which would eliminate barriers created by PLRA for all prisoners seeking protection of their rights in federal court.

"The Prison Abuse Remedies Act is currently sitting idle before Congress. Passage of this bill could protect millions of our nation's prisoners from unnecessary suffering," said Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "This country currently incarcerates over 2 million Americans in increasingly abusive conditions. We cannot continue to leave them without recourse. Congress should pass the Prison Abuse Remedies Act before this legislative session is up."

Along with the ACLU, the letter sent to Holder urging adoption of the NPREC standards was signed by a wide array of organizations from across the political spectrum, including Prison Fellowship, the American Conservative Union, Focus on the Family, the Southern Baptist Convention, The Sentencing Project, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Immigrant Justice Center.

A copy of the letter is available online at: http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/coalition-letter-attorney-general-holder-prison-rape-elimination-act-prea-standards.

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Friday, August 6, 2010

Danny Fitzsimmons - Former Member of UK Parachute Regiment to Stand Trial In Iraq

Peter Devine
August 04, 2010
Manchester Evening News
The Whitworth family of a former soldier facing trial in Iraq for shooting dead two men and wounding another are becoming increasingly concerned about his mental health.

Former para Danny Fitzsimons has been locked up in an Iraqi prison for the past 12 months.

At the weekend, Fitzsimons, a former member of the Parachute Regiment, turned mercenary, made a desperate plea for the British government to get him released from the jail and to be brought home.

Today, a judge is expected to determine the date when his trial will take place, but according to his stepmum Liz, the length of time it has taken has created major concerns for his father Eric and the rest of the family.

In an exclusive interview with the Rochdale Observer, his stepmum explained: "Eric is on anti-depressants with his GP because of the terrible conditions Danny is being held in, and it has all been a very, very stressful situation with no end in sight. Danny feels like he has been abandoned by the military. Some of the people who have been held in Iraqi prisons, and whom we have spoken with, have said they would rather face the death penalty than serve a life sentence in those conditions.

"Mentally, it must be a very, very tough for Danny because he is not being allowed outside, not getting adequate food and water and he is sharing a cell with 17 others who don't speak English, and we are very concerned. He is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and needs urgent treatment which he can only get back in the UK."

According to his stepmum Danny has lost two stone in weight since his incarceration began explaining: "We have seen photos of him and he looks very thin. Danny always used to keep himself fit and never had any weight to lose, so our fears are for his physical and mental health. The sooner this trial goes ahead the better because once that is over and done with it, it is then that the fight begins to bring him home."

Danny is facing trial, for allegedly shooting dead Briton Paul McGuigan and Australian Darren Hoare, both 37, and injuring a third man last August.

At the time of the offence Fitzsimons, and the two dead men, were working with firm ArmorGroup as private security guards in Baghdad. The deaths followed a drunken fight in which Fitzsimons claims self defence.

He told the Sunday Mirror that he killed his victims in self-defence as he battled terrible mental trauma from the nine years he spent serving in Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.

Danny, 30, from Middleton, said: "I know my actions that night have caused a lot of pain to the relatives of the dead men. To their families and children I am truly sorry. I believe I need to be in a mental hospital in Britain and not in an inhumane dungeon in Baghdad. Many ex-soldiers like me are left to fight our demons alone.

"I stand little chance of a fair trial in Iraq and the psychiatric assessment here was a joke. Bring me home and let me get the help I so desperately need. I chose my life and stand by it but I don't believe I deserve to be left to rot. Please don't let me hang in Iraq."

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Petition To The British Government:

This petition has been raised because of the British Governments failure to assist the repatriation of one of its own British Citizens who is presently facing the death penalty in Baghdad due to an unforeseen circumstance that lead to the death of two of his work colleagues.

We want the British Government to act and request that they do by repatriating Danny home for a fair and just trial

X Paratrooper Danny Fotzsimmons at the time of this incident was know to be suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) an illness suffered by many servicemen and women who have endured harsh warfare, this is entirely relevant to those service personnel who have served in and are serving in the areas of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Danny Fitzsimmons was a proud member of the British Paratroop Regiment, due to suffering from his PTSD he left the service of the regiment and undertook other duties with a Global Private Security Company, many x service personnel leaving the services undertake this type of employment due to their experience and professionalism.

Unfortunately, Danny Fitzsimmons reached a point in his life where his PTSD illness reached its climax. At the time of the event, Danny was probably not aware of his location, why he was there or what was happening. Due to the aggressive state of affairs between Danny and his colleagues, Danny probably slipped back in time to a period of warfare. This obviously pushed Denney over the edge and his natural defences kicked in resulting in the death of two of his colleagues.

This unfortunately resulted in the death of two of his colleagues, Danny in now facing the death penalty in Iraq, Danny is a British subject a British x serviceman who served his country with honour and pride, please do not let him down because he never did you.

Danny needs to return home to face a fair trial, a trial that will take into account the full circumstances of the events that unfolded that dreadful day, please don’t let him die in the hands of the Iraq justice system please sign the petition and show your full support.

SIGN PETITION FOR DANNY HERE


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