Inmates in prisons across the country have been striking since September 9th, the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riots. Prisoners are utilizing both labor strikes and hunger strikes to protest mass incarceration and prison labor conditions. One organization heavily involved in the strike, the Free Alabama Movement, issued a press release highlighting the use of underpaid or unpaid prison labor by governments and corporations. As the strike has continued, inmates in multiple states have reported retaliation and harsh treatment in response to their actions, including solitary confinement of organizers and the use of tear gas and riot gear.
In Massachusetts, inmates at Souza-Baranowski correctional center staged a peaceful protest on September 8th in response to new proposed regulations regarding visitation and communication. One such regulation would limit the number of visitors on each inmate’s pre-approved visitor list to five at a time. Advocates argue that these regulations interfere with prisoners’ ability to stay connected to their family and community support systems.
“What if, a few times a week, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were streamed on the prison’s internal station, channel 3? … The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected.”
Read the full NYTimes article, by John J. Lennon, here.
The Marshall Project recently reported on the Bronx’s Fulton Correctional Facility, a former prison now to be used “as a reentry center for newly released inmates”, among other repurposed prisons and jails.
Click here for the full article.
“Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us,” says Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service.
The United States prison system is widely regarded as broken. Prisons were supposed to “rehabilitate” offenders who have wronged society by punishing them with a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the United States prison system has failed to rehabilitate thus producing high recidivism rates and overall crime. In Sweden, they are testing a new approach to crime. Oberg, the director-general, believes in addressing the inmate’s needs in order for he or she to correct the behavior that led them to prison in the first place. Sweden’s prison rates are significantly lower after they implemented this approach. They’ve also been fortunate enough to actually close prisons because of the lowered crime rate.
“It was serious—but I knew leukemia is very treatable. I didn’t understand what was happening or why she wasn’t receiving treatment”- Sue Ellen Allen (left) on her friend Gina’s (right) lack of medical care.
In a previous post, attorney Joel Thompson was on HuffPost Live to discuss the inadequate healthcare and medical treatment inmates receive when they become a prisoner of the state. One woman, Sue Ellen Allen, has experienced both sides of medical treatment. Six months before she was to enter prison, Sue Ellen Allen was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer. Cancer, in itself, is scary. Cancer, while a prisoner, is unimaginably terrifying.
Before she entered prison, Sue Ellen Allen was given competent doctors and availably ready medical treatment to manage the pains of cancer and chemotherapy. Then, she entered prison, and her life and illness were suddenly ignored and worthless. Her chemotherapy treatments were delayed, she was not given any medicine to reduce the nausea, and when she got a mastectomy, she was handcuffed and shackled throughout the entire procedure. Despite all this pain and misery, Sue Ellen Allen found light in her friend, Gina. Gina was another cancer patient in prison who was also a victim of delayed chemotherapy treatments. Together, they cared for each other through their pain and formed a bond Sue Ellen Allen would never forget. Sadly, Gina succumbed to her leukemia very quickly, and passed away on June 19, 2002.
Click here to read the full article.
Click here to learn about Gina’s Team, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education of incarcerated citizens.
Help Lady Liberty Out and Read the Full Article Here.
It seems as if criminal justice reform has been a mainstream topic since the 1970’s, but continuously we see prison reforms being halted or ignored by congress. The “tough on crime” approach was of major attention when New York City promised to harshly tackle the issue, but now that talk of reforming has taken place, the actual chance to take action on it seems to be absent from campaigns and ballots. Why? Well, most people pay attention to the problem of crime and then demand change, not the problems affecting criminals. However, as the article points out, America wears a scarlet letter of mass incarceration, which is an embarrassment for our country. And with so many people being affected by prison sentences, more people should be demanding change for the current system. Just because the crimes are happening behind prison walls doesn’t mean we can turn a blind eye. In fact, the author suggests, by reforming the criminal justice system, we will see a positive change in other areas, most notably, the economic inequality gap.
Mark Olmsted vowed to never forget his fellow inmates that he would leave behind after his release from a nine month prison stint, and he certainly did not. When he got out he continued to keep in contact with his former cellmates, sending them money here and there or just a friendly letter to let them know they haven’t been forgotten by the outside world. As he continued to campaign for prison reform, he received surprising, and seemingly impossible, tweets from an inmate in an Alabama prison. Turns out that some inmates in southern area prisons are networking via contraband cell phones to inform us, the outside world, of their lives and prison conditions. This network has come to be known as the Free Alabama Movement. A part of it’s statement purpose reads, “And this Movement isn’t about getting ‘some outside support,’ or having our family ‘call the politicians or mayor’s office,’ ‘call the news station’ and on and on and on. The reason for this is simple: we can’t form a movement conditioned on ‘outside’ people without first unifying the ‘inside people.'” So, take a moment out of your day to hear the truth about prisons and prison life from the best experts there could possibly be: the inmates themselves.
Free Alabama Movement Official Website– Here you can listen to the prisoners who have been forgotten, silenced and ignored. Listen to them, let their voices be heard, and spread their message further along in the outside world.
AND the Free Alabama Movement is ALL over youtube, recording their lives on the inside and exposing the hard truths to the outside.
Not only are there youtube videos being posted by FAM, but one inmate actually hosts a talk show from inside the prison, allowing for other inmates with contraband cell phones to call in and speak on his online radio station.
HuffPost Live Segment “Questions Over 15 Deaths in New York Jail”
HuffPost Live had a segment dedicated to the lack of healthcare prisoners receive while incarcerated, and most importantly, why we should care about the healthcare rights of inmates. Joel Thompson, a PLAP attorney, was invited to be a guest contributer to the segment, enlightening viewers about the carelessness and corruption that plauges inmate healthcare. Watch the clip above to hear it from Joel Thompson himself, as well as other guest speakers, Bradley Brockmann, Jake Pearson, Lumumba Bandele.
Above, a photo from the scene at Keene State College’s Pumpkin Fest this weekend.
We’ve been hearing about the Ferguson protests since the day Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer, Darren Wilson. The media has described the protesters as everything from “thugs” to “domestic terrorists” that are out to destroy their town of Ferguson. However, anyone who has been following the story knows that the protests by these “unruly thugs” is nothing more than a prime example of the media’s racism and the ways it criminalizes young African-American men. Compare the “riots” of Ferguson to the chaos of Pumpkin Fest at Keene State College this past weekend and you’ll be able to see the problems that plague the intersection of race and media exposure. Why weren’t the young, privileged white men referred to as “thugs” and “domestic terrorists” as they stood atop flipped cars and threw beer bottles at police? Imagine the images we saw from Keene State this past weekend were of the Ferguson protestors- would the media be using language such as “high spirited” and saying the protests had “gotten out of hand?” Ferguson protestors are using civil disobedience to protest the way they are being gravely mistreated and negatively profiled by police officers because of the color of their skin, resulting in extreme violations of their civil rights. Keene State rioters were blatantly disobeying police officers because, as one student is quoted as saying, “it’s a blast to do things you aren’t supposed to be doing.”
New documetary film “The Throwaways” follows Ira McKinley, a filmmaker and ex-convcit, as he guides viewers through nearly empty city of Albany, New York while shedding light on the prison and police problems that have plagued marginalized populations for years. Ira McKinley describes his life before prison, explaining that his father was shot and killed by cops when he was just 14 and he quickly became “addicted to the life.” To support his new lifestyle, including a crack habit, he began robbing stores which ultimately landed him in prison until 2002. After he was released, he describes how hard it was for him to re-enter society as an ex convict, deeming himself a “marked” citizen. Ira McKinley bravely takes viewers into a world of racial profiling, which he refers to as “The New Jim Crow,” based on the book by Michelle Alexander, mass incarceration, and the slow death of once heavily populated, black communities.
Click here to watch the interview or read the full article.
Click here to learn more about Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
Click here for “The Throwaways” documenary website.