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July 29, 2015

Friday, November 26, 2010

Letter from Leonard Peltier on Thanksgiving / Day of Mourning 2010

From: Freedom Archives
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Greetings, my relatives.

It seems another year has gone by since the last time we gathered like
this. I say we, although I am not there with you in body, my spirit
certainly is. We have coined this day, a day of mourning, as opposed
to a day of thanksgiving. It's a shame that for the most part
thanksgiving is relegated to only one day. And mourning is something
that relates to unhappy circumstances that have taken place. We
certainly can't change what has happened. This very day is ours and
tomorrow hasn't happened yet and, is uncertain. I really don't like
to dwell on the mourning aspects of life but instead, on what we can
do to prevent those unhappy and sometimes terrible times in our
history. I may have mentioned it once before but I once read about a
union organizer named Joe Hill that was framed by the copper mine
owners to be executed. And I believe he said what really needs to be
said upon his death. His words were "don't mourn, organize". And
those are also my sentiments.

There are a lot of things that happened in the past that can be
prevented in the future. There are losses that can be regained. But
we must organize to do it. We must find it within ourselves to be in
touch with the Creator for I can tell you from a heartfelt fact that
when they've pushed you away, into a dark corner, not just your body,
but your mind, your soul, your spirit, there is no one that can
sustain you but the Creator himself. Dark moments come and go in all
our lifetimes. And there are those in political office, who will try
to turn your head away from the obvious truths. They will lie to you
about what they believe. They will try to get you to follow what they
consider politically correct while ignoring the truth, such as
protests against the Mosque being built within blocks of the fallen
Trade towers, which incidentally was a monument to wealth and wealth
seekers. I am not trying to demean the innocent people whose only
cause of their death was seeking a place of employment to feed their
families. While they protest the Mosque, no one mentions the Native
American sacred places that by treaty are seriously violated daily.
Our Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, sacred to many tribes, have
the faces of many of our oppressors carved on them. The place of
vision seeking, Bear Butte in South Dakota, sacred to us for
millennia, has a bar built at the foot of it and there is talk of
having helicopter flights around it to attract tourism. And, there is
even talk of drilling for oil and gas.

Every time I have to write or I should say dictate, one of these
statements, I try to think of what I would say if this was the last
time I got to speak. The thing that comes to mind in some of our
sacred ceremonies and that is thoughts of our relationships with the
ones we love and the Creator of all life. Not to take away from the
theme of this day, but if you can hold the person you love, be
thankful. If you can walk on green grass, touch a tree, be thankful.
If you can breathe air that didn't come through a ventilation system,
or a window with bars, be thankful. If you can stand in an open field
or some other place at night and look up at the heavens, be thankful.
No one appreciates the simple things as much as a man or woman locked
away. I know sometimes some of my friends may have thought I had
become institutionalized and there may be some element of my thinking
behavior that has become calloused from this continued imprisonment.
But I have not for a moment forgotten the needs of my people and the
atrocities committed against them or the circumstances that all the
poor and impoverished face in this world at the hands of those who
take more than they need and exploit for gain, the futures of our
children. I paint pictures of them sometimes, people I've known,
people I've met, places I've seen, and places I've only seen in my
minds eye. And if my paintbrush was magical, rest assured I would
paint for myself one open door.

I wrestle with what to say to you and words are sometimes so
inadequate. So if you are free today, un-imprisoned, be thankful.
Give the person next to you a hug for me. May the Great Spirit bless
you always in all ways with the things you need. May you find joy in
doing what is right and righting what is wrong and seek to be the best
example of what a human should be in our lifetime.

In the Spirit of those we mourn, those who gave their lives and those
whose lives were taken from them.

I really don't know what else to say because in writing this, my heart
has become heavy with the emotions of this time.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, who gave his life for what was right and
tried to right what was wrong.

Your Brother,
 Leonard Peltier
----                                        
Time to set him free... Because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Friends of Peltier
http://www.FreePeltierNow.org

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

www.Freedomarchives.org 
Questions and comments may be sent to claude@freedomarchives.org

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"No Country for Second Chances"-- Obama still has not granted one pardon and has turned down 605 requests for commutations

Thanks to the Real Cost of Prisons.


"No Country for Second Chances"-- Obama still has not granted one pardon and has turned down 605 requests for commutations

No Country for Second Chances
By GEORGE LARDNER Jr.
Washington
November 23, 2010- NY Times

LAST February, after long delays, the Justice Department sent President Obama hundreds of recommendations on requested pardons, each one carefully selected for a quick decision under standards for clemency that presidents have followed for decades.

Under these standards, no pardon can be recommended unless a petitioner has been out of prison and law-abiding for at least five years.

Most of the recommendations President Obama received called for a no, but some, according to people who recently left the administration, strongly favored a pardon. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama has yet to judge a single person worthy of his grace.

If by tomorrow he pardons no one but turkeys, President Obama will have the most sluggish record in this area of any American president except George W. Bush. He’ll have outdone George Washington, who granted a pardon after 669 days. And he will also have outlasted Bill Clinton, who took three days longer than Washington to grant his first pardons. If Mr. Obama waits until Christmas Eve, he will make even his immediate predecessor, who waited until Dec. 23, 2002, seem more generous.

Last month, President Obama turned down 605 requests for commutations — from prisoners who wanted their sentences shortened — and 71 for pardons.

It’s difficult to understand why the president has been so unwilling to grant any clemency. As someone who has taught constitutional law, he knows that the founders gave him, and him alone, the power “to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States except in cases of impeachment.” It is likely that he also knows that a disproportionate number of federal prisoners are black, that mandatory sentencing guidelines have left many of them with excessive sentences and that at least a few of them deserve clemency, whether they’ve asked for it or not.

The president has not only the power but also the responsibility to grant clemency when it is warranted. A pardon can help a worthy former prisoner qualify for a job or a license. But mainly it restores the person’s civil rights, including the right to vote.

What could be holding up Mr. Obama? There is no question that the federal pardon process is flawed. It has been handled by a tiny staff in the Justice Department’s office of the pardon attorney, which has worked for years in a climate of official hostility to any grants of clemency. (As Samuel Morison, a lawyer who worked in the pardon attorney’s office, recently wrote, the view inside the Justice Department is that the pardon attorney should mainly “defend the department’s prosecutorial prerogatives.”) Recommendations for a pardon or a commutation require a great deal of investigation; in most cases, the pardon attorney’s easiest course is to advise that the president say no.

Read the rest here.

George Lardner Jr., an associate at the Center for the Study of the Presidency, is working on a history of the presidential pardon power.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/opinion/24lardner.html?_r=1&ref=opinion


---------
See also this poem written in 1893 by Voltairine de Cleyre:


John P. Altgeld
(After an incarceration for six long years in Joliet state prison for an act of which they were entirely innocent, namely, the throwing of the Haymarket bomb, in Chicago, May 4th, 1886, Oscar Neebe, Michael Scwab, and Samuel Fielden, were liberated by Gov. Altgeld, who thus sacrificed his political career to an act of justice.)

There was a tableau! Liberty's clear light
Shone never on a braver scene than that,
Here was a prison, there a Man, who sat
High in the halls of State! Beyond, the might
Of Ignorance and mobs whose hireling Press
Yells at their bidding like the slaver's hounds,
Ready with coarse caprice to curse or bless,
To make or unmake rulers! — Lo, there sounds
A grating of the doors! And three poor men
Helpless and hated, having nought to give,
Come from their long-sealed tomb, look up, and
live,
And thank this Man that they are free again.
And He — to all the world this Man dares say:
“Curse as you will! I have been just this day.”

Philadelphia, June 1893

Washington post: Hard time and testimonials

From: Washington Post

By Courtland Milloy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 7:37 PM

I've been hearing testimonials from celebrated black ex-offenders lately about how going to prison may have been the best thing that ever happened to them. And, frankly, it makes me queasy.

"It only takes for them to slam the doors on you one time for you to know that, 'Look, this is serious,' " Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick told NBC sportscaster Bob Costas on Sunday.

Just the slam of a cellblock door - and when it opens again 23 months later, Vick emerges not only a better man, we are told, but a better football player as a result of the experience.

As far as I'm concerned, Vick could have kept that to himself. So what if he is on the road to "redemption" after serving time for operating a dog-fighting ring? The last thing we need is a black pitchman for prisons.

All you have to do is read Michelle Alexander's new book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," to know there is nothing redemptive about a criminal justice system in which 44 percent of prison inmates are black in a country where blacks make up only 13 percent of the population.

"Once swept into the system, one's chances of being truly free are slim, often to the vanishing point," Alexander writes. "The fact that more than half of the young black men in any large American city are currently under the control of the criminal justice system [or saddled with criminal records] is not - as many argue - just a symptom of poverty or poor choices, but rather evidence of a new racial caste system at work."

Alexander argues that "nothing short of a major social movement" can dismantle such a demonizing system. But too many black athletes and entertainers seem to be working overtime to keep the system shored up.

Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., the 28-year-old rapper known as Lil Wayne, was released Nov. 10 from Rikers Island prison in New York after serving eight months on a weapons violation. He could have spoken out about being caged up with so many black men, at least wondered aloud how it is that in some states blacks make up more than 80 percent of those jailed on drug charges, as Alexander points out, when blacks are no more likely to use drugs than whites.

Instead, Lil Wayne comes out boasting about being rested and ready to party. He also thanked his millions of fans for making him the first rapper in history to release a top-selling album while in prison.

Life behind bars is but a breeze. What a lie.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vote for Susan Burton on CNN: A New Way of Life

Vote for Susan Burton to make her CNN nr 1 Hero of 2010.
Vote today! Susan Burton.

Susan Burton has helped more than 400 female ex-convicts get back on their feet.

A new door is what Burton's program -- A New Way of Life Reentry Project -- gives to just-released female offenders. By providing a sober place to live and other support services, she's helped more than 400 women get back on their feet.

She meets new arrivals at bus stations or prison gates, saying "welcome home."

Please visit the website of Susan's project A New Way of Life.

Friday, November 5, 2010

AZ: Suicide/homicide rates skyrocket at AZ Department of Corrections

From Arizona Prison Watch

I obtained prisoner death records last week from the AZ Department of Corrections, and the stats on suicides and homicides since Brewer took office are mind-boggling: they're twice the rate as they were when Janet was governor; this fiscal year (beginning July 2010) the suicides are on track for being three times the annual rate.

In no instance of the recent suicides has there been documentation that ADC staff had any culpability - though I've had more than one family member tell me that their mentally ill loved one had been taken off of their psychiatric medications in prisons before their suicide or homicide.
That sounds to me like a pattern of institutional neglect.

Anthony Lester's death remains a mystery to me, by the way - the ADC record detailing his death lists his injuries as self-inflicted (his jugular, his right wrist, and his leg were all cut with a razor) , but a document compiling the deaths for the year calls it a homicide. Tony's family was told it was a suicide - a "highly preventable" one, which they tried to warn the ADC he was at risk for. They have other information suggesting that he believed he was in imminent danger from a gang, though. Until I get confirmation to the contrary, I'm leaving him in the suicide category.

Tony suffered from schizophrenia, and was sentenced to more than a decade in prison due to two women being slightly injured trying to prevent him from cutting his throat
(both required band-aids at the scene) during a psychotic episode. He had to be restored to sanity before he could go on trial, of course. That's par for Maricopa County's treatment of people with mental illness who needed psychiatric hospitalization before or at the time of their "crime". If I could sick the DOJ on every responsible judge and prosecuting attorney, I would, because that's a violation of the Olmstead Decision, as far as I'm concerned. The Olmstead Decision was a Supreme Court verdict that determined that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires states to deinstitutionalize and place people with disabilities in the least restrictive setting possible.

Arizona, after 20 years of Arnold v. Sarn litigation, is still underserving the seriously mentally ill in the community. Here they're just criminally prosecuted for the symptoms of their illness and thrown into the most restrictive setting possible - state prison (often maximum security) - largely because the state lacks adequate outpatient and inpatient alternatives for individuals at risk of harming themselves or others (we spend it all on corrections instead. If ADC Director Ryan had any courage, he'd call that what it is and tell the state where to put their money and the courts where to stuff their convictions).

Why else would a judge give a man with schizophrenia three years for climbing a utility tower in a thunderstorm to be closer to God? Why would he even be prosecuted for that in the first place? I think they actually believed they were protecting him from himself. Sadly, Shannon Palmer ended up being murdered by his cellmate two years in.


The deaths by "natural causes" are also extremely young - go to the ADC's website, under ADC in the News, for death notices. There's an archive on that page, too. I suspect that it's complications from the effects of the Hep C virus that's killing people so young inside. I'll be analyzing the documents I obtained further to confirm that, and post it when I compile it all.

Here are the links for the APW posts about the more recent suicides:


Special Management Unit: Prisoner suicide at ASPC Eyman (11/4) - James Galloway


Prison suicide and gangs at Florence Central (10/01) - Duron Cunningham, Rosario Rodriguez-Bojorquez


Additionally, I missed a couple of suicides in my compilation that I didn't have info on until now:

Douglas Nunn 33 (8/29/09) - ASPC-Florence/Central

Patricia Velez 25 (4/28/10) - ASPC-Perryville/Lumley

All 3 of the women who have killed themselves in the past year and a half hung themselves and were housed in Lumley, where the maximum security yard is. All three were in their 20s. I don't know if Patricia had a mental illness or not: a psychological report was sealed by the court when she was sentenced to 7.5 years for aggravated assault and fleeing a law enforcement vehicle. Geshell and Sasha, the other two women from Lumley who killed themselves, did have evidence of a serious mental illness when sentenced.

Two of the men who killed themselves recently were both from ASPC-Florence/Central. The largest number of male suicides in any one prison have occurred at ASPC-Eyman, however.

Sometime in the next couple of days I'll break down the suicides and homicides by race and age, and tell you how they compare to stats for the overall prison population, as well as to rates in the general population. It seems to me that if all the violence boiled down to a gang war, the Aryan Brotherhood is winning.

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