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July 29, 2015

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"If the Risk Is Low, Let Them Go": Efforts to Resolve the Growing Numbers of Aging Behind Bars

Reblogged from: Truth-Out
Article by Victoria Law
Jan. 10, 2014

Imagine your grandparents and great-grandparents in shackles or dying behind bars. By 2030, the prison population age 55 and over is predicted to be 4,400 percent more than what it was in 1981. Some state and federal prison systems look at alternatives.

The recent release of 74-year-old Lynne Stewart has made headlines. Stewart, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, was granted compassionate release December 31, 2013, after a protracted struggle by Stewart and supporters across the country. Stewart, whose cancer has spread to her lungs, lymph system and bones, will spend her remaining months with her family in Brooklyn.

But what about the aging and infirm people incarcerated nationwide who lack Stewart's fame and support? The United States has some 125,000 prisoners age 55 and older, quadruple the number in 1995. Various human rights groups, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and the Vera Institute of Justice have issued warnings about the increased numbers of aging, elderly and incapacitated behind bars. In response to these increases, several states, such as Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, are in the process of building hospice and geriatric units within their prison systems.

But what other solutions are there?

"If the Risk is Low, Let Them Go"

In New York, advocates - including formerly incarcerated people - have launched the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) campaign. More than 9,200 people (nearly 17 percent) imprisoned in New York are 50 or older. While the state's prison population dropped this past decade - from 71,466 in 2000 to 56,315 in 2011 - the number of people 50 and older has increased by 64 percent.

Lead organizer Mujahid Farid knows the obstacles facing people seeking parole. Farid was arrested in 1978 and sentenced to 15 years to life for an attempted murder. By the time he was eligible for parole in 1993, he had earned four college degrees as well as certificates for numerous other programs. None of these accomplishments mattered. He was denied parole based on his 1978 conviction. Farid appeared before the parole board ten times over the next 18 years before he was granted parole in 2011.


"I realized it wasn't personal," he told Truthout. "They're not looking at your personal development. They're simply looking at your conviction." After his release, Farid met with advocates, including other formerly incarcerated people, to discuss how to overcome the hurdle within the parole system. Out of these discussions came RAPP.  Under the slogan "If the risk is low, let them go," RAPP mobilizes to change the routine in which parole and compassionate release are denied to those who have spent decades in New York's state prisons.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Illinois prisoners in Menard High Security Unit plan to begin hunger strike Jan. 15

Reblogged from: SF Bay View
by Staughton Lynd 
Jan. 14, 2014
The following information is based on numerous letters from prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois written in December 2013. These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.
Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.

The IDOC website says, “Menard Correctional Center was established on the banks of the Mississippi River in 1878. ... Menard is the state’s largest maximum security adult male facility.”
After the Tamms Correctional Center was closed in January 2013, several High Security Units have been opened in other prisons throughout Illinois. The High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center is one of several such units housing prisoners in administrative detention who were in Tamms or who have filed grievances or complaints and others who would not have met the criteria for transfer to Tamms.

The men were transferred to Menard and continue to be kept in the High Security Unit without any notice, reasons or hearing. Prisoners who were transferred without so much as a ticket are being forced to complete a nine month three phase program – originally Tamms’ stepdown program – to earn back privileges they did nothing to lose.
The Illinois Department of Corrections has been unable to locate any records responsive to a Freedom of Information Act request for any administrative directives that deal with the “phase program.” The Menard rule book says that administrative detention is a non-disciplinary form of segregation from the general population that is reviewed every 90 days by the warden. However, the phase program is nine months. Therefore, no one is being considered for release until at least nine months after entering the system.
The 90-day review is supposed to be a review where release is considered. Instead, it is only a hearing where the prisoner is not present, and its only purpose is to determine if he should move from one phase to the next. To date, nobody has been released after the nine months. No notices are being given after any of these alleged hearings, and no basis for decision of continued placement is given either.

These prisoners expect to go on hunger strike on Jan. 15, 2014, due to their placement and retention in severe isolation, under inhumane living conditions, without notice, reasons or hearing. This will be a peaceful protest.

Prisoners have been filing grievances asking for uniform written policies that provide for constitutionally adequate notice of why an inmate is being placed in administrative detention and periodic review in the form of informal hearings that allow the prisoner to refute the alleged reasons for placement and retention in administrative detention.
Prisoners say that their conditions of confinement are deplorable. According to prisoners, conditions in the High Security Unit include
  • severe isolation without any mental health evaluation or treatment;
  • uncleanliness, rodent infestation and lack of any cleaning supplies to clean cells – no disinfectants, no toilet brushes;
  • no written policies requiring the daily sweeping and mopping of the wings;
  • lack of heat in the cells and only one small, thin blanket;
  • showers are moldy and often cold;
  • no hot water in the cells to wash up or clean eating utensils;
  • unauthorized deviation from the statewide menu, low calorie intake has prisoners losing weight;
  • not issued individual coats, have to share smelly coats with numerous men;
  • access to their legal materials limited to approximately once a month, delays in receiving legal mail;
  • no educational opportunities even though non-disciplinary prisoners should have the same access to education as the general population.
Many prisoners in the Menard High Security Unit are planning to turn in emergency grievances as well as begin a hunger strike on the morning of Jan. 15, 2014. They expect retaliation, possibly including beatings of inmates who are regarded as troublemakers.

Retaliation can be expected. These men ask for our support and action. And they ask us to spread the word.

How you can help

Prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center ask you to make phone calls to the warden, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the governor on Jan. 15, 16 and 17, 2014, to check on their conditions, demands, and welfare. Please call:
Staughton Lynd, attorney, professor, historian, author, playwright, and civil rights and peace activist, can be reached at salynd@aol.com.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

CDCR Implements New Brainwashing Tactic, [possibly] Mandatory 'Journaling,' as Part of Step-Down Program

Reblogged from: NCTTCorSHU.org:

This piece was written as a follow up to two previously published essays (see: Legislative alert: CDCR’s Step-Down Pilot Program is in fact systematic, mandatory brainwashing  and: Creating Broken Men, pt 2) on the mandatory brainwashing by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) of thousands of people confined in Secure Housing Units (SHU’s).

Re: CCR Title 15, Section 3040 new rules changes relating to Section 700.2 of the Step Down Program [p.42-45]

-------------------------------
A recap of the discussion we started here:

1. One of our brothers who has been in the SHU for 25 years was taken to the review board and they attempted to bribe him with the promise of transfer to another prison and contact-visits in Step 3 of CDCR’s Step-Down-Program (SDP) if he agreed to participate in Step 2 for six months – most centrally the “self-directed journal” outlined in Section 700.2 [p.42-45] of CDCR’s “Security-Threat-Group-Pilot-Program” – their hope being if he does it, then countless other younger, more vulnerable prisoners can be herded into this brainwashing program. He of course refused.

2. We had an opportunity to review one of the journals (The Con Game) and it’s even worse than we thought – well, more accurately, it’s exactly what we knew it would be: a blatant character invalidation and brainwashing tool.

3. Most disturbing of all, they've announced a director’s rules change to provisions of CCR Section 3040, which introduces mandatory brainwashing for EVERY PRISONER IN CDCR – called “cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)” – and attaching it to this same regulation that governs mandatory work and education assignments while confined to CDCR.

I think I may have been unclear as to what we were speaking of as it relates to these journals. “Interactive journaling” (for which “The Change Companies” has a registration in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) is just one component of the “Cognitive Restructuring ” [or “brainwashing”] Program” described in paragraph 700.2 of the Step-Down-Program (SDP) p.42-45.

The 21 Journals are simply the first phase of  “… an integrated, cognitive behavior change program…” If this first Journal theme is any indication, the primary purpose of these Journals is “character invalidation,” validating conservative authoritarian views as “responsible thinking and beliefs,” and developing a psychological profile by which to alter the core psychology of the subject.

There is much more involved in this, but these primary components are necessary in any form of brainwashing. What makes this so insidious is they use language that actually seeks to characterize sociological phenomena like poverty or educational underdevelopment as absolutely irrelevant factors in the subject’s decision to violate the state “law” or rebel against personal property – and it’s solely and completely the subject’s “fault;” and this runs contrary to all objective sociological and economic research and evidence available. 

For example, the Journal The Con Game begins by stating:

Changing your criminal behavior is a tough job… in order to begin making positive changes to the way you think and act, you must first break through your con game. This journal will help you recognize your faulty beliefs and encourage you to change your behavior. .. Be careful! Answer honestly. Don’t be a victim of your own con game.

It goes on to a section “Don’t fall for myths… that support the con game,” which is a collection of conservative, right-wing political views on social issues overly simplified and couched in unambiguous absolute language.

For example:

Myth: Criminals are the victims of society. They are products of dysfunctional families, abusive childhoods, bad neighborhoods, poor schools, and an unfair economic system. “My criminal behavior isn't my fault. I just learned to survive the best way I knew how.” Truth: Each person is responsible for his or her own thinking and behavior. Many people grow up in difficult circumstances and lead responsible, crime-free lives. Task: Explain how you have practiced this myth in the past.

The real truth is, both of these views have a direct impact on the viable choices and ultimate decisions of the underclass whether “the law” is a barrier to their survival. The choice between starvation and theft is an easy one – the human imperative of survival will always win out. 

There are not “many” people who grew up in underclass communities who lived “crime-free lives” -  the underground economy in most underclass communities is as legitimate as the “mainstream” economy. This is a sociological fact. This absolutist view – this black and white notion of human survival in capitalist America is the sole province of the conservative right and simply ignores empirical socioeconomic data and proof.

These journal-authors continue to seek to impose a supply-side solution to a demand-driven problem; this covers 2 very different types of social behavior: predatory crimes (robbery, home invasion, car-jacking) and market-based crimes (drug trafficking, prostitution, illegal gambling, etc.) – neither can be significantly reduced from the supply-side. 

“Supply & demand” in this case is a question of social conformity vs. human need. “Supply” in the case of ‘predatory’ crimes is the number of people (poor) beyond the threshold of social conformity due to economic need and “demand” is the relative socioeconomic conditions and/or desperation compelling them to act to relieve that economic distress.

As long as the conditions (social & economic, i.e. poverty, disproportionate concentrations of wealth, lack of opportunities, hopelessness, etc.) which compel low income populations to commit predatory crimes exist, there will be enough of the poor willing to “break the law” to meet their needs….  And they know this.

At the same time, there has never been a single case in history where a black market was defeated from the “supply”-side. From prostitution to prohibition, from gambling to illicit drugs – the story is the same. Supply-side controls act, much like price supports in agri-commodities, to encourage production and increase profits. At best a few mid-level intermediaries get knocked out of business. 

But as long as demand persists, the market is served more or less as before. In the meantime the failure to “win the war” on this or that vice becomes a pretext for increasing police budgets, expanding law enforcement powers, pouring more money into the voracious maw of the prison industrial complex, and apparently funding wholesale brainwashing programs to condition guys to believe none of this is true and it’s just all their fault.

These journal-editors go on to explain your “barriers to change…” They state, 

If you want to make lasting, positive life changes, you will want to carefully cultivate your thoughts and behaviors. The first step is to recognize those negative or criminal traits... If you don’t make a strong and consistent effort to change these beliefs and behaviors they will continue to lead you towards … criminal activities.

They list 8 “barriers” (entitlement, insecurity, manipulation, selfishness, lying, cutting corners, superiority, and dominance) then ask you to read their descriptions of each, admit you conduct yourself like this, then “Give an example of how you might think of act this way.” This is a classic character validation – to successfully complete this section you must state you are an insecure, entitled, manipulative, selfish, lying, superior, domineering, corner-cutter – a piece of scum.

They go on to state: 

Go over your answers you have given in this section, now use the space below to describe those areas you are willing to change today to drop the con game.

Now men like us don’t even think this way, and to be honest, this process is aimed at these youngsters, not us.

The journal-editors go on to ask you to explain (give an example):

-
          You are good at convincing people of your point of view
-
          Are you good at coming up with things people want to hear most?
-
          Are you successful at getting people to trust what you say when you are lying?

As this goes on and on, basically you have to explain how you’re a manipulative liar – classic character invalidation; they even ask you to admit you’re like a reptile:

A chameleon is a reptile that can change its color so as to blend in with its surroundings. How has your past behavior been similar to the actions of a chameleon? Explain.
Et cetera for 22 pages. They even go so far as to instruct you to ignore your instincts to resist this conditioning, stating:

Feelings of fear and doubt are part of being human. As you begin to make positive changes, these feelings will appear from time to time… It will be helpful if you fully accept who you are today… you have an opportunity to continue along the path toward responsible thinking and behavior. Maintaining positive change requires you to concentrate on continually challenging your beliefs and actions. All the work you are doing will allow you to reach a point of inner peace. Accept the real you, not the “con” you.

Just the words themselves are chilling. I am a revolutionary, a progressive, a righteous man – my beliefs and actions are just and correct, they would subject much younger, less developed, and more impressionable men to this process transforming them into docile, subservient, broken slaves parroting the ideas and beliefs of the Tea Party Republican caucus.

Again, this is just the preparatory stage, conditioning the mind of the subject to accept he is just a scumbag because he was born a scumbag and his only hope is to acknowledge this, denounce himself and adopt their predetermined set of “responsible beliefs, thinking, and ideas” and you don’t have a choice in the matter.

This matter is so sick, they accompany the words with imagery designs to impress upon your subconscious mind the brainwashing objectives they seek you to adopt. As I told you in a previous communique “The Change Companies” have their copyright registration notice on page 2 which includes a trade-marked “process.” However, it has been redacted. It looks like this (see ill.): 

A covered -up trademark "process"
So they don’t even want us knowing what process is being used against us. This is one of the reasons we need to get as much information as we can on “The Change Companies.” 

It is our understanding that they do have this same “process” being used in other states, but only California is making it compulsory. If someone wants to subject themselves to systematic brainwashing techniques – by all means feel free; the U.S. has become ever more complacent in accepting behavior modification in their daily lives in everything from weight loss and anger management – to stopping smoking – but these things are both mild and most importantly voluntary– what we’re talking about here is a radical, 4-year long (1 year at minimum – if you start in step 4) alteration of the core psychology of tens of thousands of prisoners to reflect the attitudes and beliefs of authoritarian conservatism, of the state and interests of its ruling class (to be docile, submissive to authority, long suffering toward exploitation and socioeconomic disenfranchisement, and above all to not seek any change in the system itself – to ask their status and role of oppressed man/woman).

I sincerely do not believe anyone has looked into the legality of this program – no more than they looked off into the NSA’s practice of spying on every American in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world either.

The COMPAS Program: Correctional Offender Management and Profiling for Alternative Sanctions

The “Compas Program” (which is part of the “cognitive behavioral therapy” initiative they've just made mandatory for everyone in CDCR with a release date) begins with a “compass assessment” quiz which’ answers will be used to not simply discern which brainwashing components to employ against the subject – but to build a forensic profile of the subject’s friends, family, and community. 

This is truly sinister and diabolical what is going on here in California.

Some samples of questions this COMPAS assessment asks to people who have to do these journals:

Family of origin:
Q: How is your relationship with parents (parental figure) and / or siblings?

Peers:
Q: In the last couple of years before this incarceration, how many of your friends / acquaintances were taking illegal drugs?

Substance abuse:
Q: Did you use heroin, cocaine, crack or meth as a juvenile?

Residence / Stability:
Q: In the last 12 months before this incarceration, how often did you move?

Social environment:
Q: In the neighborhood you lived in before this incarceration, did some of your friends or family feel they needed to carry a weapon to protect themselves?

Q: In the neighborhood you lived in before this incarceration, was it easy to get drugs?

Education:
Q: What were your usual grades in High School?

Vocation:
Q: Thinking of your financial situation prior to this incarceration, how often did you have conflict with friends/family owe money?
Q: Thinking of your financial situation prior to this incarceration, how often did you have barely enough money to get by?

Leisure / recreation:
Q: In your leisure time prior to this incarceration, how often did you feel bored?

Social isolation:
Q: "I felt lonely."

Criminal personality:
Q: To get ahead in life you must always put yourself first.

Anger
Q: Some people see me as a violent person.
Q: If people make me angry or lose my temper, I can be dangerous.

Criminal attitudes
Q: A hungry person has a right to steal.
Q: When people get into trouble with the law it's because they have no chance to get a decent job. 
Q: When things get stolen from rich people they won't miss this stuff because insurance will cover the loss.
Q: Many people get into trouble or use drugs, because society has given them no education, job or future.

With this information, they compile a profile to determine which brainwashing techniques and programs will best achieve the ends they seek - and then enroll you forcibly. If you refuse, they write you a 115 for "Refusing a direct order" - or in case of the Step-Down-Program  - leave you in Step 1. 

No better representation of authoritarian excess exists than CDCR's brainwashing programs.

Not only do CDCR want to be able to march into those Legislative Hearings in February trumpeting how they have this program underway and men are going for it – they want to use men like us to convince all these other men that it’s okay to submit to this also.

-------------------------------
Written on Dec. 18th 2013 in a letter to the webmaster of NCTTCorSHU.org. 


at 4:32 AM 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Joyous message from Lynne on New Year’s Eve at 3:24 p.m.

This is great news, we wish it was earlier! Congratulations to Lynne Stewart and her loved ones:

From: DemocracyNow via SF Bay View:

My Dears:

Well, the impossible takes a little longer! We learned this morning that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has made the motion for my compassionate release and that the order was on Judge Koeltl’s desk. Since on the last go-round he stated in court that he would treat it “favorably.” We are now just waiting expectantly.

The wonderful thing is that Ralph is here in Ft. Worth for a visit and will bring me back to NYC with him. We don’t know when, but the rules state that the warden has two days to let me go after he receives the order, so it could be as early as Friday or a few days more.

If this reaches you before midnight tonight, raise a glass of bubbly to the joy of all of us that the old girl is OUT!

Whatever it is, I can’t stop crying tears of joy! I can’t stop thinking of all the marvelous people worldwide who made this happen. You know, because each of you played an integral role.

My daughter Z is already lining up Sloan Kettering and we will have to see if there is a probation qualification attached to the order and how it will affect me. After that, Ralph will start making arrangements to rent Yankee Stadium for the Welcome Home … smile.

So if this reaches you before midnight tonight, raise a glass of bubbly to the joy of all of us that the old girl is OUT!

Love, Struggle,

Lynne
------------- 
From the National Lawyers Guild (NLG):

For immediate release:
December 31, 2013

NEW YORK —Today Judge John G. Koeltl granted the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) request for the compassionate release of Lynne Stewart. This is heartening news. Ms. Stewart is 74 years old and has terminal cancer with a life expectancy of less than 18 months. She has been serving a ten-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center Carswell (FMC Carswell) in Fort Worth, Texas, in connection with her defense of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.

As her condition has continued to deteriorate, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and several legal and social justice organizations have twice called on Attorney General Eric Holder to direct the BOP to grant compassionate release. Given that Ms. Stewart’s medical condition clearly falls within recent reforms to the BOP’s compassionate release program announced by Holder in August, and that the warden at FMC Carswell had earlier approved her release, the NLG urged that the process of consideration be expedited.

“From arrest to sentencing, Lynne Stewart's case was used by the Department of Justice to send a chilling message to attorneys: think twice about who you represent! For speaking to a Reuters reporter about her client’s viewpoints – in violation of an administrative order – an ailing Ms. Stewart was sentenced to a decade in prison. Today’s small measure of justice does little to repair the damage wrought by the government’s unjust prosecution of an advocate whose service to society has been widely documented,” said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the NLG.

Robert J. Boyle, one of Lynne Stewart’s attorneys added, “We are gratified and thankful that the government has agreed to Lynne’s compassionate release request. She has dedicated her life to fighting for justice for the underserved and unpopular. Lynne can now return home to her family and to the community that loves her.”

Ms. Stewart is a longtime member of the National Lawyers Guild. Since her initial indictment, Guild members have educated the public about the many ways her case runs afoul of the Constitution. The Guild’s 2005 publication The Case of Lynne Stewart: A Justice Department Attack on the Bill of Rights is available at nlg.org.

Contact: Tasha Moro, 212-679-5100, ext. 15
# # #

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