Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jena 6

MEETING, August 9, Jamaica Plain

***Free the Jena 6***

Black high school students in Louisiana victimized by the racist criminal injustice system

Six black high school students in Louisiana are facing decades of jail time each. Convicted by an all-white jury, 16-year-old Mychal Bell's promising football career has been cut short by Louisiana's racist criminal justice system. The Jena 6 are charged with attempted second degree murder for beating up a white kid, Justin Baker, who made racist remarks about the black students at the school. During the trial, discussion of the context of the beating was banned. Several weeks before, white students hung nooses under a "white tree" that black kids had sat under. To the black residents of Jena, "Those nooses meant the KKK, they meant 'Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,'" Casteptla Bailey, the mother of Robert Bailey, one of the accused, said. The school board, with only one black member, differed. They gave the students responsible short, in-school suspensions. Shortly after, black students were beaten at a party. The assailants, all white, were charged with simple assault.

The racist attack on the Jena 6 proves that, 50 years after the civil rights movement, Jim Crow is alive and well. We need a new civil rights movement to crush racism, from the Jena 6 to the racist abuse that occurs on the streets of Boston every day. Only our protest can change a system dedicated to racism and injustice. Come to a meeting to discuss who benefits from racism, why Jim Crow still stalks the halls of our schools, and most of all WHAT WE CAN DO TO DEFEND THE JENA 6:

Thursday, August 9
7:00 PM

42 Seaverns Avenue, Jamaica Plain
(Take the Orange Line to Green St., take a left out of the station, and walk up Green St.) Take a left onto Alfred St. (after passing Chestnut Ave. on your right). Go up one block and take a right on Seaverns. 42 is on your right.

Sponsored by: International Socialist Organization
For more information call 617-648-0561
or e-mail

Monday, July 30, 2007

States Export Their Inmates as Prisons Fill

Chronic prison overcrowding has corrections officials in Hawaii and at least seven other states looking increasingly across state lines for scarce prison beds, usually in prisons run by private companies. Facing a court mandate, California last week transferred 40 inmates to Mississippi and has plans for at least 8,000 to be sent out of state.


From the U.S. Sentencing Commission: Public comment requested on public policy &

From the U.S. Sentencing Commission: Public comment requested on public policy & retroactivity

The US Sentencing Commission (http://www.ussc.gov), the USSC has just officially put out these two important federal register notices:

  • Federal Register Notice of Proposed Priorities and Request for Public Comment (submitted July 27, 2007). As part of its statutory authority and responsibility to analyze sentencing issues, including operation of the federal sentencing guidelines, and in accordance with Rule 5.2 of its Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Commission is seeking comment on possible priority policy issues for the amendment cycle ending May 1, 2008. Public comment should be received on or before August 23, 2007.
  • Federal Register Notice (submitted July 27, 2007). Request for public comment regarding retroactive application of amendments pertaining to cocaine base (crack) and to criminal history.

Inmate hangs himself at MCI-Cedar Junction

Inmate hangs himself at MCI-Cedar Junction
By Aubrey Gibavic, Globe Correspondent July 30, 2007

A federal inmate was found dead early yesterday after he committed suicide in his cell in a segregation unit at MCI-Cedar Junction, authorities said.

An advocate for inmates quickly condemned the death, the third this year in a segregation unit at a state prison, and called for the immediate closure of the section, referred to as 10 Block.

"Ten block is a death trap and needs to be closed immediately," said Leslie Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, a nonprofit prisoners' rights group. She called the event unconscionable and sad.

Correction officers conducting scheduled rounds in half-hour increments at the Walpole facility found Miguel Velasquez, 33, of Lawrence, hanged in his cell shortly before 1 a.m., according to the state Department of Correction.

Three hours before he was found, Velasquez had been transferred to a cell in the segregation unit after a fight with another inmate.

Diane Wiffin, spokeswoman for the Department of Correction, did not have details on the altercation.

Officials at the jail performed CPR, but Velasquez was pronounced dead at 2 a.m. at Norwood Hospital.

The death is under investigation, prison officials said.

Velasquez had been an inmate at the state prison since Oct. 20. He was a federal detainee awaiting trial for possession of a firearm and ammunition, Wiffin said.

"Every suicide is a tragedy, and any death in prison is an unfortunate occurrence," said Wiffin. "We extend our deepest sympathy to the family."

Velasquez's family could not be reached for comment.

Between 2005 and 2006, at least 10 inmates killed themselves in Massachusetts prisons.

In March, inmate Russ Dagenais committed suicide in the segregation unit at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

The Department of Correction, which oversees about 11,000 inmates in 17 facilities, has been working to implement the 29 recommendations of a report released in February by Lindsay M. Hayes, a national specialist in prison suicide prevention.

Hayes criticized the department's handling of inmates at risk for suicide.

"We are in the process of implementing each of the 29 recommendations," Wiffin said yesterday. "We take the Hayes report very seriously."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Survey's focus: prison sexual assaults

Survey's focus: prison sexual assaults
Shelli DeRobertis, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/29/2007 12:00:00 AM PDT

CHINO - At least 200 inmates at the California Institution for Men participated last week in a survey about sexual assault behind bars.

About 80,000 inmates at 148 nationwide prisons and 300 jails are expected to take part in the survey, which is being conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The survey's purpose is to study the incident rates of sexual violence amongst inmates - including between inmates and staff - to help reduce sexual assault in detention facilities. The survey stems from the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. It requires annual surveys be conducted in 10 percent of the nation's prisons each year, according to Allen J. Beck, department director and statistician for the Bureau of Justice.

"The act itself is designed to give transparency to what occurs in prison cells," he said. "And through transparency change can occur."

For the past three years, Beck said the bureau has collected data on allegations and substantiated characteristics of when and where the assaults happened, and what the consequences were.

The 2005 survey results reported 6,241 allegations of sexual violence, up from 5,386 in 2004. Of those numbers, 38 percent of allegations involved staff sexual misconduct, 35 percent nonconsensual inmate-on-inmate sexual acts, 17 percent staff harassment and 10 percent abusive inmate-on-inmate sexual contact.

Beck said this most recent survey is expected to be completed by the third week of August. Along with the findings of the survey, the three highest ranking prisons with the most sexual assault incidents will be identified to Congress, he said.

An October congressional hearing in Washington will review the findings, where information from prison administrators is expected to offer insight into the problem that many prisoners shy away from talking about.

But 200 consenting inmates from each randomly selected prison answered questions for the study.

The survey is completely anonymous, Beck said, and structured to take about 25 minutes on a touch screen computer that also offers voice assistance.

Inmates answered questions pertaining to rape or sodomy, which for purposes of the study were classified as the most serious sexual assault, to lesser forms of sexual abuse not involving penetration.

"Inmates are not usually going to come forward with that kind of allegation," said corrections Lt. Mark Hargrove, CIM spokesman, who has been with the department for 20 years.

He said sexual assault allegations by one inmate about another are not frequent at CIM, but the institution trains all inmates and staff on how to report abuse, a process required by .

He said it also treats all sexual misconduct the same, whether the allegation is against a staff member or another inmate.

Lt. Laurence Neff, who manages the sexual violence training at CIM, said each staff member receives four hours of training on how to recognize, deal with and report prison rape.

He said that by raising awareness on the issue it may help victims report sexual assault.
"Men are not so quick to disclose they've been sexually assaulted," he said.

But they are informed of what happens when an allegation of sexual abuse is made, "up to the point we prosecute the individual and present it to the district attorney," Neff said.

He said that regulations are supposed to create an attitude change on sexual violence by also creating a calmer prison environment.

"It informs the inmate population it's not going to be tolerated, and there's means available to that inmate being assaulted," Neff said.

He said correctional officers and the community may be safer for it in the long run.
"They (inmates) ultimately end up assaulting the staff to remove themselves from the sexual assault," Neff said.

Punishment for assaulting an officer requires an inmate to be removed from their cell.
He also said inmates who suffer sexual assault in prison eventually end up in the community.

"Without us providing them the appropriate emotional and physical remedies, they go out in the communities and victimize our families," Neff said.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Prosecutor tapped to fix crime lab

Big Dig investigator is hired by governor
By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff July 28, 2007

A senior prosecutor working on the attorney general's investigation into a fatal ceiling collapse in a Big Dig tunnel has been hired by the Patrick administration to fix the troubled state medical examiner's office and the State Police crime lab.

John Grossman, 40, deputy chief of Attorney General Martha Coakley's Criminal Division, will become the state's top forensics official, replacing LaDonna Hatton, who resigned as undersecretary of public safety last month after a series of problems surfaced at the crime lab and the medical examiner's office.

Grossman, who also prosecuted two men accused of mounting the guerrilla marketing campaign that disrupted the city in January, said he is not sure when he will start his new job, but expects the Big Dig investigation to wrap up soon. Coakley is considering whether to bring manslaughter charges against any of the companies who built the tunnel or oversaw construction.

"The opportunity came up, and it's an opportunity I'm honored and humbled to be given," said Grossman, who has been working on the Big Dig case full time for the past year. "I'm confident that whatever happens here, I'm part of a great team working on the Big Dig. Whether I'm here or not is not going to really affect anything."

Grossman, of Newton, was hired 12 years ago by Attorney General Scott Harshbarger and previously served as chief of the Corruption, Fraud, and Computer Crime Division. He has prosecuted a range of defendants, including six men who distributed child pornography over the Internet and two California women who bought $120,000 worth of diamonds and fancy clothes with a stolen credit card.

In his new job, Grossman will implement changes called for in a recently released consultant's report that found significant management problems at the crime lab and identified 16,000 cases in which evidence, some dating as far back as the 1980s, was never tested.

The study by Vance, a consulting firm with offices in Braintree, was ordered after problems surfaced with the processing of DNA test results at the lab. Other investigations by the FBI and the state inspector general's office followed and are still pending. Coakley, a former district attorney, and several of her former colleagues have challenged the study's findings.

The medical examiner's office came under scrutiny in March, when unclaimed bodies began to pile up at its overcrowded South End headquarters and in a refrigerated truck parked behind the facility.

In March, Carl Selavka, the director of the crime lab since 1998, was forced to resign; in May the chief medical examiner, Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, was placed on administrative leave after the body of a Cape Cod man was buried in the wrong grave after an autopsy. Findings of a separate Vance report on the medical examiners' office has not yet been released.

Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke said choosing Grossman for the $125,000-a-year position was very simple.

"We have a couple of agencies in crisis," said Burke. "When you go about looking for people with experience in law enforcement and an understanding of the agencies that fall under forensic services and have experience managing people, that's a small universe. . . . John stood out."

Burke also cited Grossman's expertise in cybercrime and computer forensics, which he said "will bring a very needed asset to this agency."

"A lot of what will drive our future will be technology-based," Burke said.

Grossman's first assignment, Burke said, will be to examine the agencies in immediate crisis and craft a restructuring plan.

He will not begin until the Big Dig probe is over, Burke said. "The investigation would naturally take precedence over anything we're involved in at the moment," said Burke. "At such time as he and the attorney general agree his work is complete, we'll gladly welcome him into the fold."

Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., who supervised Grossman in the attorney general's office, said he is well-qualified to correct "problems that have unfortunately persisted for some time."

"He's well known and respected amongst State Police and prosecutors and is a very intelligent guy," said Leone, former chief of the attorney general's Criminal Division. "If they get a plan and fund it and commit to it, this is something that can be turned around."

"As DA's we've done the best we could with what we've had," Leone said. "This is an outstanding opportunity to move both the lab and the medical examiner's office forward."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Green Party says racially biased US justice system needs drastic overhaul

Press Release

Green Party says racially biased US justice system needs drastic overhaul

Forwarded by:

PO Box 1234
860 657 8438
Hartford, CT 06143


Working to end race and class drug war injustice, Efficacy is a non profit 501 (c) 3 organization founded in 1997. Your gifts and donations are tax deductible

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Backlog at crime lab is in dispute

Prosecutors say it's 2,000 cases
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
July 26, 2007

Top prosecutors accused the Patrick administration yesterday of overstating the backlog of untested crime scene samples at the State Police crime lab in a way that is undermining public confidence in the justice system.

In a joint interview with the Globe, Attorney General Martha Coakley and the Essex, Middlesex, Berkshire, and Cape and Islands district attorneys said the backlog is only 2,000 active cases, not 16,000 as the administration and a consultant have said.

"We are shocked in the sense that they said there is a 16,000-case backlog because we know it isn't there," said Coakley, who was Middlesex prosecutor for eight years before being elected attorney general in November.

"It is our obligation to say [the consultant] is not 100 percent correct, and on this particular point it gets a big headline -- and it is particularly misleading."

Earlier this month, the Executive Office of Public Safety unveiled a $267,000 study it commissioned on the crime lab after problems emerged with the processing of DNA test results. The study found major problems with management and also identified 16,000 biological samples dating to the 1980s that had gone untested.

Officials at the Office of Public Safety said that the cases included about 1,000 deaths and more than 6,600 sexual assaults and said that 10,000 of the samples were found in cold storage, though they stressed at the time that there was "only the remotest of possibilities" that slaying suspects or rapists were walking free.

Told of the prosecutors' criticisms yesterday, Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke insisted that the study found 16,000 untested biological samples that must be processed. He said there is only a difference in semantics between his numbers and the lower estimate preferred by prosecutors.

"I think we are on the same book and page about it," Burke said by telephone. "Everyone is looking at these cases to determine their status, and there will be cases where no action needs to be taken."

Prosecutors said thousands of the untested samples are from suicides, drug overdoses, and criminal cases where other evidence or guilty pleas made the biological evidence unnecessary at trials. Or the material is biological evidence simply being stored at the lab.

They said Burke should have limited his public comments about the lab to the 2,000 active investigations awaiting DNA testing. To say otherwise wrongly creates the impression among the public that prosecutors are hiding exculpatory evidence in cold storage at the lab, the prosecutors said.

"We are all disturbed that there would be some implication that somehow we are covering up or hiding something, because that's just not true," said Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett.

"You'd be talking about a global conspiracy and that's just not going to happen," he added.

"Eleven DAs trying to protect cases they'd already adjudicated because they knew there was a warehouse with exculpatory evidence -- that's nonsense."

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe said he has reviewed 50 deaths dating to the 1980s in which biological samples were sent to the crime lab. In only a handful of those criminal cases was DNA testing not completed, and the forensic evidence wasn't needed, he said.

"Just the fact that they could produce that information shows that this isn't some situation where there is a closet there with 16,000 or 10,000 or even 3,000 cases sitting around that nobody knows anything about or had paid any attention to," O'Keefe said.

The state's public defender agency, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, is seeking data on all 16,000 cases to see whether it can identify any wrongfully convicted prisoners.

Burke said the administration will dedicate the money to fix the management and staffing problems identified by the consultant. An estimated $6 million is needed to test the samples where the statute of limitations has not expired, officials have said.

"The governor is committed to fixing the lab and that will be done," Burke said.

While critical of some findings, the prosecutors emphasized that the Vance report found no problems with the science performed at the lab.

"We have never had any reason to have anything other than the utmost confidence in the results we get from the crime lab," said David F. Capeless, the Berkshire prosecutor. "The lab isn't in any way connected to a case involving a wrongful conviction. It's only been to prove that, in fact, the person was innocent."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Transgender inmate sues state over prison rape claims

July 24, 2007 - Southern Voice

A transgender woman who claims she was repeatedly raped and beaten by a male cell mate went to court this week to challenge a state policy that assigns inmates like her to men's or women's prisons depending on whether they have undergone sex-change surgery. Alexis Giraldo, 30, claims that Folsom State Prison guards ignored her complaints of abuse and returned her to the same cell until a subsequent assault got her placed in protective custody and eventually moved to another facility.

A transgender woman who claims she was repeatedly raped and beaten by a male cell mate went to court this week to challenge a state policy that assigns inmates like her to men's or women's prisons depending on whether they have undergone sex-change surgery.

Alexis Giraldo, 30, claims that Folsom State Prison guards ignored her complaints of abuse and returned her to the same cell until a subsequent assault got her placed in protective custody and eventually moved to another facility.

Giraldo, who was born a man but lives as a woman and takes hormones to feminize her appearance, is suing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for emotional distress and violating her constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

"Prisons are violent places, and male prisons are especially violent places," said Greg Walston, a San Francisco lawyer who took on Giraldo's case pro bono. "You take that boiling cauldron and you put one woman in there – which is exactly what happened here – and it's like throwing a fresh piece of meat into a lion's cage."

The San Francisco jury hearing the case has been asked to award Giraldo unspecified damages. Superior Court Judge Ellen Chaitin has been asked to order prison officials to come up with a new system for housing transgender inmates.

The California Attorney General's office, which is representing the corrections department and Folsom staff members also named as defendants in the lawsuit, said Friday that it would not comment on the case.

Briefs filed by the state argue that Giraldo initially was in a consensual sexual relationship with her cell mate in violation of prison policy, did not report specific rape claims, and refused offers to be moved to a different cell. Once she made it clear she was being forced to service her cell mate against her will and strangulation marks were found on her neck, she was removed to protective custody, the state maintains.

"Plaintiff alleges that he informed prison staff on a number of occasions about these events. However, the documentation maintained by prison personnel – including some of the defendants in this case – does not bear out these assertions," the state's brief states.

Several counties in California, including San Francisco, have created separate units specifically for transgender prisoners. But like other states and the federal Bureau of Prisons, California assigns inmates to prisons based on their genitalia rather than physical appearance.

Biological men who dress and act like women but have not had sex reassignment surgery can be assigned to a psychiatric prison like the one to which Giraldo eventually transferred or the general population of a regular men's prison.

Teda Boyll, a retired guard and supervisor in California, testified for Giraldo as an expert witness on Friday, saying that in her opinion Folsom officials failed to adequately investigate Giraldo's concerns and assure her safety.

"There are some warning signs," Boyll said. "When an inmate says, 'I am getting pressured for sex,' it means it is already happened or it is imminent he will have to provide nonconsensual sex to another inmate."

Giraldo was sent to Folsom for shoplifitng and a parole violation in January 2006 and spent three months there before she was transferred to the medical prison. She was paroled earlier this month and is scheduled to testify on Friday afternoon.

Her former cell mate, who is serving a sentence for armed robbery, is also scheduled to testify in the case.


Stuffing prisons with black men is not the way to reduce crime

July 24, 2007

Under the Sun
Stuffing prisons with black men is not the way to reduce crime
By Harold Jackson
Inquirer Columnist

One of my four brothers graduated from the University of Iowa, but being an African American male, I don't think I want to spend too much time in the Hawkeye State.

Only about 2 percent of Iowa's population is African American, but blacks are 13.6 times more likely than whites to be imprisoned there. That's more than twice the national average, which is bad enough. Hispanics nationally are imprisoned at double the rate of whites.

I shouldn't pick on Iowa, though. I live in New Jersey, where African Americans are imprisoned at 10 times the rate of whites. Over in Pennsylvania, it's five times.

You would think the disparities would be worse in the Old South states. But in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, where blacks make up larger portions of the population, they are only about three times more likely to be imprisoned than whites.

These incarceration statistics were released last week by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group that promotes alternatives to prison. The numbers are sure to prompt recitations of that old Richard Pryor joke: I went to the courthouse to find justice, and that's exactly what I found: Just us!

But it's not funny.

The racists among us, blatant and closeted, will be quick to attribute the imprisonment disparity to the misguided belief that African Americans are inherently prone to criminality. I've seen no valid studies supporting that view. But numerous scholars have correlated crime to conditions of poverty - and African Americans
remain disproportionately poor.

In that regard, conditions are better but still similar for many African Americans to what sociologist W.E.B. DuBois observed when he researched The Philadelphia Negro, published in 1899.

"We have had a period of financial distress and industrial depression," DuBois wrote. "The ones who have felt this most are the poor, the unskilled laborers, the inefficient and the unfortunate, and those with small social and economic advantages; the Negroes are in this class, and the result has been an increase in Negro crime and pauperism."

DuBois said crime is "the open rebellion of an individual against his social environment," an environment with "homes badly situated and badly managed, with parents untrained for their responsibilities; the influence of social surroundings which by poor laws and inefficient administration leave the bad to be made worse."

Sure sounds like parts of Philadelphia today, or parts of almost any big city and even some rural areas.

But the relationship of poverty to crime isn't the only reason for the discrepancy between black and white incarceration rates. Prejudice still plays a role, as it did in DuBois' day.

"In convictions by human courts the rich always are favored somewhat at the expense of the poor, the upper classes at the expense of the unfortunate classes, and whites at the expense of Negroes," he wrote.

DuBois noted that what we would call white-collar crimes today - forgery, embezzlement - were not prosecuted with the same vigor 100 years ago in a "commercial community" like Philadelphia. Lesser crimes such as "petty thieving, breaches of the peace, and personal assault and burglary" received more severe punishment.

Today's parallel might be in the inequitable prosecution of drug crimes, a major factor for the racial discrepancies in U.S. prison incarceration rates.

According to Human Rights Watch, two out of every five black persons sent to state prisons nationally in 2000 were convicted of drug crimes. Although blacks constitute no more than 15 percent of all drug users, 63 percent of drug offenders sent to state prisons were black.

Why that discrepancy? Studies show the majority of drug offenders sent to prison in the last decade were convicted of low-level drug possession or sales. Where do most of those arrests occur? In low-income neighborhoods populated largely by African Americans.

Why? Because it's much easier to make a bust in poor neighborhoods where drugs are sold in open markets than in suburban neighborhoods where drug abuse is largely hidden.

It's not that African Americans are more likely to abuse drugs. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse says whites make up about 72 percent of America's illegal drug users; blacks, 15 percent. But blacks are most likely to be caught - and sent to prison.

Criminal behavior should be prosecuted wherever it occurs. But easing the poverty that afflicts too many minority communities would have a profound effect on reducing the crime within them. That will take more jobs and better education to qualify for jobs.

In the meantime, more drug treatment programs and more sentencing alternatives for nonviolent criminals makes more sense than building prison after prison for members of a community targeted more for where they live than for what they have done.

To read "Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity," by Marc Mauer and Ryan S. King for the Sentencing Project, see http://go.philly.com/uneven.

Contact deputy editorial page editor Harold Jackson at 215-854-2555
or hjackson@phillynews.com.

Source URL: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/harold_jackson/8676437.html

SPR Applauds Expansion of New York's Custodial Sexual Misconduct Statute

SPR Applauds Expansion of New York's Custodial Sexual Misconduct Statute

Stop Prisoner Rape Applauds Expansion of New York's Custodial Sexual Misconduct Statute

Governor Eliot Spitzer has signed into law Chapter 335 of the Laws of 2007, amending New York's custodial sexual misconduct law (at Penal Code Section 130.05) to expand the definition of "employee" to include volunteers and contractors who provide "direct services" to inmates.

"This amendment is critically important," said Lovisa Stannow, Stop Prisoner Rape's Executive Director. "Until now, these employees have been beyond the reach of the sanctions provided under the state's custodial sexual misconduct law."

While the state Legislature stopped short of SPR's proposal to expand coverage to all volunteers and contractors performing services in the state's corrections facilities, Chapter 335 represents a strong step forward in New York's response to the sexual abuse of prisoners. Chapter 335 applies to state and local facilities, and will take effect in November 2007.

CA-Justice Now-Stop Gender Responsive Prison Expansion

From: Susan Mortimer Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 4:05 PM
Subject: [MaSHaRC] CA-Justice Now-Stop Gender Responsive Prison Expansion

Justice Now's Vanessa Huang was in Boston (MIT) this spring to speak at a national women's conference. SHaRC members and one couragageous state representative attended her press briefing about women prisoners (and their allies) who call for an end to "gender responsive" women's 'correctional facilities' in California. More than 3,300 female prisoners signed a petition to oppose prison expansion and the co-optation of feminist language to make such facilities more palatable to "progressive legislators".

We in MA must hold our legislators and policy makers accountable, too. The use of code language such as "gender responsive" prisons, "helping women" and "parity" distracts from what is really being done to the powerless, invisible people locked away in the Commonwealth. Calling for women's facilities in every county is irresponsible, inequitable and inefficient. Funds must be allocated for healthy communities, schools, detox beds, treatment on demand - not ever more incarceration!


Date: Sat, 21 Jul 2007 17:32:54 -0700
From: "Vanessa Huang" <vanessa.y.huang@gmail.com>
Subject: [PRISONACT] calls needed to stop prison expansion in california! (forward widely)


More than 3,300 people in California's women's prisons along with many organizations and advocates across the state together recently stripped Assembly Bill 76 of new prison construction via "Female Rehabilitative Community Correctional Centers" (FRCCCs). Some organizations removed our opposition to AB 76 after the bill's author took amendments removing provisions for prison expansion.

*However, AB 76's current language which doesn't allow for the repurposing or closing down of California's women's prisons without unprecedented legislative approval coupled with the Governor's budget provisions for an additional 4,500 prison beds in FRCCCs, ensures a back-door expansion of California's women's prison system.*

Proponents of the FRCCCs state their purported goal as "helping women," pointing to the CDCR's Family Foundations Program where women in prison live with their children and receive "services" as a model for their work.But the facts speak for themselves: Family Foundations recently came under investigation for patterns of abuse of babies and preschool-aged children resulting in a stillbirth, a child suffering a fractured skull, the wanton neglect of a child with brain cancer, and other lives put at risk.

Time and again, the CDCR has failed to provide effective services, and time and again, the resulting human rights abuses and gross medical neglect are uncovered.

*Instead of building more prisons dressed as "alternatives", we need to reduce the number of people in prison now through legislation like AB 1539 medical release for terminally ill and incapacitated people in prison* and to re-appropriate prison funds to support truly community-run programs that work with people returning home from prison. Funds earmarked for prison construction and operation should go into public resources distinct from the criminal legal system, such as women's health care, housing, education, job support and skill training.


*Senate President Don Perata / 916-651-4009*

--I'm calling to urge the Senator to oppose AB 76 and "Female Rehabilitative Community Correctional Facilities," which would be extremely damaging to women. While AB 76 no longer contains the FRCCCs, the current language which doesn't allow for the repurposing or closing down of the women's prisons without unprecedented legislative approval coupled with the Governor's push for additional beds in FRCCCs, ensures a back-door expansion of the prison system. Previous facilities based upon this model have revealed extensive and severe patterns of abuse.

--I'm also calling to urge the Senator to support AB 1539, medical release for terminally ill and incapacitated people in prison. Rather than building more prisons, we need to reduce the number of people in prison, and AB 1539 presents the perfect opportunity.

*Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger / 916-445 2841 *

--I'm calling to urge the Governor to stop pushing for "Female Rehabilitative Community Correctional Facilities," which would be extremely damaging to women. Previous facilities based upon this model have revealed extensive and severe patterns of abuse.

--I'm also calling because I was encouraged by the Governor's remarks earlier this year suggesting he might support medical release for terminally ill and incapacitated people in prison. I urge him to sign AB 1539 into law.

Rather than building more prisons, we need to reduce the number of people in prison, and AB 1539 presents the perfect opportunity.

Vanessa Huang
Campaign Director
Justice Now
1322 Webster Street, Suite 210
Oakland, CA 94612
510 839 7654 x4#
510 839 7615 fax

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Call for political art

Red Sun Press is hosting the third annual "Critical Views", a juried Political Art Show in conjunction with Jamaica Plain Open Studios. Submission due date is August
31, 2007.

Nancy Nichols
Red Sun Press

U.S. Conference of Mayors Declare Drug War a Failure

July 18, 2007
News Feature
By Bob Curley

The mayors of America's large cities have unanimously approved a resolution stating that the drug war "has failed" and calling for a harm-reduction oriented approach to drug policy that focuses on public health.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted the resolution during its June 21-26 annual meeting in Los Angeles, calling for a "new bottom line" in drug policy that "concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own; establishes quantifiable, short- and long-term objectives for drug policy; saves taxpayers money; and holds state and federal agencies responsible."

Sponsored by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, the resolution states that the drug war costs $40 billion annually but has not cut drug use or demand. It slams the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) drug-prevention programs -- specifically, the agency's national anti-drug media campaign -- as "costly and ineffective," but called drug treatment cost-effective and a major contributor to public safety because it prevents criminal behavior.

"This Conference recognizes that addiction is a chronic medical illness that is treatable, and drug treatment success rates exceed those of many cancer therapies," the document states.

The resolution condemns mandatory minimum sentences and incarceration of drug offenders, particularly minorities, and called for more control of anti-drug spending and priorities at the local level, where the impact is most acutely felt.

"U.S. policy should not be measured solely on drug-use levels or number of people imprisoned, but rather on the amount of drug-related harm reduced," according to the resolution. The document calls for more accountability among federal, state and local drug agencies, with funding tied to performance measures, more treatment funding and alternatives to incarceration, and lifting the federal funding ban for needle-exchanges.

The resolution, which will be used to guide the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Washington lobbying on addiction issues, passed with minimal debate, clearing two committees and the general assembly by unanimous votes.

"The mayors are clearly signaling the serious need for drug policy reform," said Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who worked with Anderson's staff to draft the resolution.

Daniel Robelo, a DPA legal research assistant, said the resolution could become an "incredibly powerful" advocacy tool for DPA and other drug-reform groups. "While it has no legal effect, it has a powerful symbolic effect," he told Join Together.

Alexa Eggleston, director of national policy for the Legal Action Center, which advocates for increased investment in addiction treatment and prevention, praised the mayors for acknowledging "that alcohol and drug addiction is a treatable medical illness and is supportive of expanding treatment to the approximately 21 million Americans with alcohol and drug problems who need it, expanding effective prevention initiatives in communities nationwide, and fighting discrimination against people with addiction histories by repealing discriminatory laws and policies that prevent them from accessing employment, insurance, and other necessities of life."

But Tom Riley, a spokesperson for ONDCP, called the resolution a "grab bag" of DPA positions and a publicity stunt by proponents of drug legalization. "We don't think it's very serious," he said of the resolution, adding that to declare the drug war a failure "is a slogan rather than a policy proposal."

"Most of the mayors our office talks to consider drugs a huge problem in their communities and are anxious to get more resources for prevention, treatment and law enforcement," said Riley. "I don't know many mayors who are in favor of drug legalization." Anderson is no newcomer to the drug issue; he has previously called the drug war "phony, inhumane, and ineffective," and his official biography calls him "an outspoken advocate for drug policy reform." He received the DPA's 2005 Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for outstanding achievements in the field of drug policy reform.

Nor is Anderson alone in his harsh criticism of the drug war: Newark Mayor Cory Booker, seen as a rising political leader, recently stated that he's prepared to go to jail to protest a war on drugs that he sees as shackling African-Americans into poverty and feeding crime and murder in his city.

"I'm going to battle on this," Booker recently told the Newark Star-Ledger.

"We're going to start this in the gentlemanly way. And then we're going to do the civil disobedience way. Because this is absurd."

Booker says he wants to see nonviolent drug offenders placed in treatment programs and halfway houses, not prisons, and to stop banning ex-offenders from jobs.

"The drug war is causing crime," he said. "It's just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark."


This and other news about the war on drugs can be found at

July 25th Call in Day to Governor Patrick for CORI Reform

Please call on July 25th and forward....



Wednesday July 25th, 2007
9 a.m.-5 p.m.

- There is currently a CORI reform bill at the state house ~ it is called House Bill 1416 (The Public Safety Act)
- The governor is planning on coming out with his own CORI proposal, which may fall short of the reforms we need
- We must ensure that his CORI reform proposal includes changes to the sealing laws and adds anti-discrimination protections for job seekers.

Governor Deval Patrick promised reforms to the CORI system. The time for change is now!

On Wed. July 25th, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. call the Governor's Office and make your voices heard.

Please voice the two demands below.


1) Lower the waiting period for sealing a CORI to 3 years for a misdemeanor and 7 years for a felony. The current law requires a 10-15 years waiting period to seal a record. These long waiting periods prevent us from moving on with our lives and securing decent employment.

2) Demand an "anti-discrimination" law that only allows employers to check a CORI after they decide that the applicant is qualified for the job. Employers that ask about a criminal record on job applications generally weed out job seekers before they even consider our resumes or qualifications.

Please make two calls on Wednesday, July 25 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Governor Deval Patrick's Office, (617) 725-4005

Mary Beth Heffernan's Office, (617) 727-7775
Under Secretary of Criminal Justice
*This is Deval's point person on CORI*

Any CORI Bill that doesn't include these two demands is not real CORI reform. We need meaningful changes now.


This call-in was brought to you by the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, Jobs With Justice, Partakers, Inc., Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement (EPOCA) and the Boston Workers Alliance.

For more info, call Makis at UMN at 617-980-2313.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A call to artists in remembrance of Sacco & Vanzetti

The Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society is honoring the two anarchist Italian immigrants on the 80th anniversary of their unjust execution. In the 1920s, their trial roused people all over the world and brought them into the streets to decry state repression. Why is Sacco and Vanzetti's case still relevant today and why is it more important than ever to remember Boston's radical history?

We are inviting YOU to answer these questions through your music, theater, films and artwork.

August 23, 24, and 25, 2007. Music and theater festival, artshowing, march from Copley to North End, street theater, film showing.

Actors, musicians, puppeteers, brass bands, visual artists, and new media artists are encouraged to respond to capital punishment, the war on terror, government repression of immigrants, anarchists and other radicals.

For more information about how you can be involved please email talktrash [at] riseup.net or info [at] saccoandvanzetti.org.

To download a pdf flyer with this call click here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Sentencing Project Examines Racial, Ethnic Prison Disparity in New Report

July 18, 2007

A new analysis by The Sentencing Project provides a regional examination of the racial and ethnic dynamics of incarceration in the U.S., and finds broad variations in racial disparity among the 50 states. The report, Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity, finds that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six (5.6) times the rate of whites and Hispanics nearly double (1.8) the rate.

The report also reveals wide variation in incarceration by state, with states in the Northeast and Midwest exhibiting the greatest black-to-white disparity in incarceration. In five states - Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Wisconsin - African Americans are incarcerated at more than ten times the rate of whites.

"Racial disparities in incarceration reflect a failure of social and economic interventions to address crime effectively and also indicate racial bias in the justice system," stated Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project. "The broad variation in the use of incarceration nationally suggests that policy decisions can play a key role in determining the size and composition of the prison population."

The report extends the findings of previous analyses by incorporating jail populations in the overall incarceration rate and by assessing the impact of incarceration on the Hispanic community, representing an increasing share of the prison population. The state figures for Hispanic incarceration also reveal broad variation nationally. Three states - Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania - have a Hispanic-to-white ratio of incarceration more than three times the national average.

Prior research from the Department of Justice has demonstrated that if current trends continue, one in three black males and one in six Hispanic males born today can expect to go to prison. Rates for women are lower overall, but exhibit similar racial and ethnic disparities.
To address the broad disparities in the criminal justice system, The Sentencing Project urges policymakers to implement a variety of measures. These include:

Revisit the domestic drug control strategy, including recalibrating sentencing laws, such as the federal cocaine statutes which result in disproportionate numbers of low-level offenders being prosecuted;

Revisit the wisdom of mandatory minimum sentencing and restore appropriate judicial discretion to incorporate individual circumstances in the sentencing decision;

Establish enforceable and binding standards for indigent defense that ensure the provision of quality representation for all defendants;

Mandate that all legislation affecting the prison population be accompanied by a Racial Impact Statement to document the projected consequences for persons of color.






Nov-L: A first! Congress holds hearings on the Informant System

Dear Friends:

The first Congressional hearing on informants is now underway! You can watch the hearing on the House Judiciary Committee website (linked from here: http://judiciary.house.gov/). It should be archived for later viewing as well.

Below is the ACLU press release.

Civil Rights Advocates, Members of Congress to Speak Out Against the Dangers of the Informant System Following the Atlanta Police Shooting of a 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston

CONTACT: Rachel Perrone, ACLU Washington Legislative Office, (202) 675-2312, media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - Civil rights leader Reverend Markel Hutchins, the American Civil Liberties Union, Professor Alexandra Natapoff of Loyola Law School, and members of Congress will hold a press briefing immediately following today's House Judiciary Committee hearings on the dangers of the informant system as used in drug law enforcement. Today's hearing was prompted by the tragic death of a 92-year-old Atlanta woman, Kathryn Johnston, who was shot during a botched SWAT raid of her home. The raid was based on information fabricated by police, who falsely attributed it to a confidential informant. Civil rights advocates and members of Congress will call for an overhaul of the informant system and the institution of oversight mechanisms and safeguards to prevent future injustices.

What: Press briefing on the misuse of informants
When: 12:30 pm, immediately following House Judiciary joint oversight hearing
Where: The Horseshoe Lobby of the Rayburn House Office Building

"The informant system is a ticking time bomb in need of immediate reform. Ms. Johnston's death has sounded the alarm: we've handed over too much police work to informants," said Jesselyn McCurdy, legislative counsel at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Informants can be useful tools for law enforcement, but there must be oversight of their use if our system of justice is to live up to its name."

In November 2006, Atlanta police conducted a paramilitary-style raid of Ms. Johnston's home based on information of suspected drug activity at her address. Fabricating information they claimed came from an informant, police improperly obtained a warrant for a "no-knock" raid that allowed them to burst into Ms. Johnston's home without warning. In the course of an internal investigation conducted after the raid, two police officers admitted to fabricating evidence in order to secure the warrant and pressuring an informant to cover for their misconduct.

"Our system must operate on evidence and probable cause, not trust alone. Here, we trusted police officers without requiring corroboration of their claim that an informant provided information. An elderly woman lost her life as a result," said Rev. Hutchins, who represents the family of Kathryn Johnson. "Unless Congress acts to reform the informant institution, more innocent people will be caught in the crossfire. It is simply unacceptable that an elderly woman was shot to death in her own home by police officers entrusted with preserving the public's safety. "We must resolve the systemic failings responsible for this tragedy."

For additional information, including the ACLU's policy paper outlining specific reform proposals, written testimony from hearing participants, and detailed background on the informant issue go to:

Nora Callahan
Executive Director

If you live near Kansas City, Missouri on July 29, 2007, there will be a Group Discussion: Get Stop Snitchin' Right!, at 1:00 pm at Haag Hall, UMKC College, 5200 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO. I'll be there! See
http://www.myspace.com/th3associat3s for more information from the sponsors of this event.

I will be at the Seattle Hempfest on August 18-19, 2007, Seattle, WA. For more info, see

October 3-6, 2007 on your calendar, I'll join other November Coalition members in Philadelphia, PA for an Arts In Criminal Justice Conference, sponsored by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and hosted by Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program.

December 5-8, meet me and other allies at the 2007 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

November Coalition Foundation
282 West Astor
Colville, WA 99114
(509) 684-1550

Working to end drug war injustice, the November Coalition is nonprofit educational foundation -- donations are tax deductible.

Visit us on the web at

Fw: SHaRC Inquiry

Please get your member of Congress onboard for H.R.623 Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2007 by Congressman Charles Rangel.



Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Prison AIDS Prevention Programs

OPINION - July 18, 2007 - NY Times

Editorial: Fighting AIDS Behind Bars

Public health officials now recognize that condom-distribution programs are integral to any meaningful AIDS prevention program.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Crime lab neglected 16,000 cases

Evidence was never analyzed, probe finds
By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff July 15, 2007

Evidence samples from thousands of crime scenes across Massachusetts, including nearly 1,000 homicides and other deaths and 6,500 sexual assaults, were never analyzed by the State Police crime lab, according to an investigation of the lab ordered by the state.

The lab's failure to process potentially crucial DNA evidence from 16,000 cases means that killers and rapists could be walking free, said two law enforcement officials who have seen the report. The backlog of samples, found in a refrigerated room at the Maynard laboratory, dates to the 1980s and is "of crisis proportions," the report said. The backlog is far greater than previously disclosed; lab administrators had acknowledged a backlog of only about 2,000 cases.

The investigation also found 4,000 rape evidence kits from as far back as 1989 that were never even opened to determine whether there was biological evidence that could help prosecutors identify and charge rapists, the officials said. The study, ordered by the state Executive Office of Public Safety in March, was conducted by Vance, an international risk management consulting firm with an office in Braintree. In their 57-page report, scheduled to be released tomorrow , the consultants conclude that the crime lab's problems, "allowed to fester, led to a crisis which unnecessarily undermined public confidence in a critical law enforcement function."

The two law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the study has not been made public, briefed the Globe on the report, but declined to provide a copy. The report also points to deficiencies that include "lack of audits or independent outside reviews, serious questions concerning the qualifications of personnel . . . incomplete and improper documentation, and profile mistakes." It did not conclude that any DNA testing was conducted improperly or raise questions about any cases that have already been prosecuted.

"The degree to which this report demonstrates a disturbing lack of oversight at the crime lab during previous administrations is deeply troubling," said one official. "The Patrick administration has said it plans to continue its overhaul of the lab and quickly implement many of the recommendations of the report as well as aggressively address the unacceptable backlog that was created by negligent oversight."

The Patrick administration will likely hire a private company and spend as much as $6 million to analyze samples from cases where the statute of limitations has not expired, said the official. State public safety officials will also contact police departments and prosecutors to determine if there are cold cases that they may now be able to solve. The analysis could involve thousands of cases, according to the official.

The state hired Vance to conduct a $267,000 top-to-bottom review of the lab's operations after problems surfaced with the handling of evidence in the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, the FBI-funded computer network that serves as a national registry for DNA samples collected from convicted criminals and arrested individuals. State crime labs compare crime scene DNA evidence to genetic profiles in the national database to try to identify suspects.

The civilian head of the crime lab resigned under pressure in March. The administrator of the lab's DNA database was fired in April, three months after he was suspended for allegedly mishandling CODIS test results, including 13 cases in which he did not tell law enforcement officials about positive DNA matches in unsolved sexual assault cases until after the statute of limitations had expired

Last month, the state's top forensics official, who supervised the crime lab and the troubled state medical examiner's office, also resigned. The FBI, the state Inspector General, and the State Police are also investigating the lab. Joseph Dorant , president of the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists, the union that represents the laboratory workers, said backlogs of crime scene samples that are waiting to be analyzed are not unique to Massachusetts.

"The staffing at the crime lab hasn't caught up to the pace of the technology," he said. "The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association did a report recommending that the lab hire an additional 50 chemists. We have some of the best forensic scientists in the state. In the last five years the state has put millions of dollars into a new crime lab and new equipment but now we need the forensic scientists to do the testing. We have a good staff."

In its report, Vance describes a national DNA backlog, but says the situation is much more severe at the crime lab. According to the report, during the laboratory's most productive year, in 2006, it tested samples from 500 cases, up from 200 the year before. In 2006, the laboratory, which had an annual budget of $16.2 million, received a funding increase to hire additional staff. Chemists at the lab, the report said, worked on an average of four cases a month -- about half the national average.

Joseph F. Savage Jr. , chairman of the New England Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that seeks to exonerate wrongfully convicted people through the use of DNA evidence, said the report "confirms our fears that the lab was a disaster."

Savage, who had called for an investigation into the laboratory by the inspector general, Gregory W. Sullivan, added: "We look forward to getting the complete facts when the Inspector General completes his independent investigation."

Testing of the yet-to-be-analyzed samples could turn up suspects in cases in which someone else has already been convicted and lead to exoneration. Jack McCarthy , a spokesman for the inspector general, declined to comment on the Vance report or his office's investigation.

Public safety officials hope to reorganize the lab, placing all of the state's forensic services, including the arson and ballistics investigative units, under one director to save money and make training standards more uniform. Among the report's 27 recommendations, the report suggests that the state conduct a national search for a new lab director.

Andrea Estes can be reached at estes@globe.com.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

7/17/07 Hearing on Ordinance to Ban Crack Pipe Sales in Boston

The office of Chuck Turner, District 7 City Councilor announced today that the Government Operations Committee of the City Council, chaired by District 5 City Councilor Rob Consalvo will hold a hearing on Tuesday, July 17th at 4 pm in the City Council Chambers regarding the ordinance Councilor Turner filed to ban the sale of "crack pipes" in Boston.

In discussing the importance of the ordinance, Councilor Turner said "It makes no sense that as a City we are spending resources to stop the use of illegal drugs and then allow our stores to sell items which have no other use but to facilitate the use of illegal drugs".

"The development of this ordinance, Councillor Turner continued, "represents a collaboration between activists in the Nation of Islam and our office. I am grateful for their reaching out and asking for our support in removing crack pipes from stores within the City of Boston."


Friday, July 13, 2007

Jamil Al-Amin in isolation and on hunger strike

(the former H. RAP BROWN)

News bulletin: Wednesday, June 11, 2007

Imam Jamil Al-Amin, a Political Prisoner who has been held in Administrative Segregation ever since he entered the State Prison at Reidsville, Georgia. has been recently moved into a condition of further isolation. Imam Jamil Al-Amin, while continuing to protest his unlawful arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing and a long list of Grievances which include among other things the opening of clearly identifiable "legal " mail.. all of which he has filed suit against the prison. Jamil Al-Amin protests against this latest Human Rights violation as well. As a matter of protest as well as a matter of protecting himself in this further isolated situation Imam Jamil is REFUSING TO EAT.

IMAM JAMIL AL-AMIN says that this act and others are examples of institutional retaliation against him for filing suit against the prison. We asking concerned individuals and organizations, agencies etc. to write,, e-mail or telephone the Warden at the prison in Reidsville: 300 First Ave South, Reidsville, GA. 30453, #912-557-7301.

Send a letter of inquiry or telephone and inquire about the following.

Keep it short and do not mention unproven things or anything that may cause prison officials to summarily dismiss you.

1. Ask what is the reason for Imam Jamil Al-Amin's recent move to a situation in which he is further isolated.
2. Express concerns for his safety.
3. Ask why Imam Jamil Al-Amin is being held in Administrative Segregation




Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 863-9977

The Beating of Black Lawyers

July 5, 2007
by Mumia Abu-Jamal

    No matter who we are, or where we live, folks in Black America have grown up with the lesson of the importance of education as a tool of social mobility.
    That's why lawyers are generally so highly regarded in many Black communities, as people who have  undergone years of legal education.
    But that respect doesn't go far beyond the community.
    Cops in Brooklyn, New York recently showed what they thought of lawyers by beating them up!
    Well-known human rights attorney Michael Tarif Warren, and his wife, Evelyn (also a lawyer), were driving down Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Avenue, when they spotted a Black youth being chased by cops across a McDonald's parking lot.
    The youngster was tackled to the ground and handcuffed, when the Warrens saw a Sgt. Talvy begin kicking him in the head, the ribs, and stomping on his neck.
    The 2 attorneys stopped their car, walked within 10 feet of the beating, identified themselves (as lawyers), and told the cops to stop beating the youth, and simply take him to the nearest precinct.
    The Sergeant's response was to shout, "I don't give a f**k who you are, get the f**k back in your car!"
    The Warrens returned to the car, where Michael began to write down notes of what he saw, and the license plate numbers of the cop cars present.
    Before he could finish his notes Sgt, Talvy walks up to the car, and began to repeatedly punch him through the window, shouting "Get out of the car!"
    Warren was then dragged out of his car, his clothes ripped in the process.
    His wife, obviously upset at these events, demanded to know why he was attacked, and was promptly punched in the face by this same cop!
    Both Warrens were arrested and driven to the 77th precinct and charged with obstruction, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
    Within hours hundreds of Brooklynites converged on the precinct, demanding the release of the Warrens. People came from all walks of life, for Tarif has a long history, almost 30 years, of representing people who have been victims of police or prosecutorial misconduct in the city.
    Groups like the December 12th Movement, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the International Action Center, and many others quickly mobilized support for the Warrens.
    In an interview in the New York Daily Challenge, Evelyn Warren spoke for many people when she said, "We are professionals, if they do this to us in broad daylight on a crowded street, what do they do in the dark when no one is around?  That's what I'm concerned about."
    She and others called not only for the removal of Talvy, but of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as well.
    When Black lawyers are beaten in the streets, what about average folks?
    What about you?


New York State Officials Hear from People Concerned About Forced Electroshock of Simone D!

Make Sure These Officials Hear from *You* Now!

New York State may have won its court battle to give more forced electroshock to Simone D. inside Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.

But now we are in the court of international public opinion.

And people are speaking out!

Here is a link to an updated alert on the MindFreedom web site with hyperlinks to all four NY officials along with updated news.

It takes you just a moment to e-mail your concern! Go to:


or use:


The offices of all four officials confirm they are are hearing from the public. PLEASE RE-DOUBLE your efforts to contact New York State officials in a civil way.

If you have not contacted these four officials do so now. If you have contacted any and you have not received a satisfactory answer, try again until you do.

You may e-mail or fax at any time. Phone during business hours Eastern Time. KEEP IT UP!!! DON'T STOP!!!

You are having a nonviolent IMPACT! Because of MindFreedom complaints, the web administrator for the New York State Office of Mental Health told us their web feedback form is now fixed.

Remember what Simone D. told New York State, in Spanish: "Electroshock causes more pain! I suffer more from shock treatment!"

So how can the richest country in the history of the planet refuse to provide this Spanish-speaker with mental health team who speaks Spanish... But they can afford a legal fight in court to give her more and more forced electroshock?

Go immediately to this link and ACT NOW:


or use:



And for extra effort, we've added a fifth New York State official: Please phone up the offices of Senator Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, and ask in a civil way what her stand is on these human rights violations occurring in her own state:


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Juvenile Justice

July 12, 2007

Juvenile Justice

One of Congress's most crucial tasks will be to strengthen and update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Passed in 1974, the law required the states to move away from the practice of locking up truants and runaways — and to refrain from placing children in adult jails — in exchange for federal grant dollars.

Congress's goal then was to move the states away from failed policies that often turned young delinquents into hardened criminals and toward a framework based more on mentoring and rehabilitation. But the states have increasingly classified ever larger numbers of young offenders as adults, trying them in adult courts and holding them in adult prisons.

The damage wrought by these policies is vividly outlined in a federally backed study issued this spring. It reports that children handled in adult courts and confined in adult jails committed more violent crime than children processed through the traditional juvenile justice system. Other studies show that as many as half of the juvenile offenders sent to adult courts were not convicted there — or were sent back to the juvenile system, but often after spending time in adult lockups. Equally disturbing is the fact that youths of color are more likely to be sent to adult prisons than their white counterparts.

Reauthorization hearings begin today and members need to listen closely to what the experts are saying. Trying children as adults — except in isolated cases involving extreme violence — is both inhumane and counterproductive.


Monday, July 09, 2007

A Crack in the System

For the fourth time in 20 years, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has asked lawmakers to reform mandatory cocaine sentencing policy. Might this be the year Congress listens?

Christopher Moraff July 9, 2007

A flurry of recent legislative activity may finally signal an end to what critics call a blatantly racist federal sentencing policy.

Now over 20 years old, the sentencing guidelines set forth in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 mandate a minimum incarceration of five years for possession of five grams of crack cocaine -- the same penalty that is triggered for the sale of 500 grams of powder cocaine, or 100-times the minimum quantity for crack.

Opposition to the so-called "crack disparity" has grown steadily through the years and today spans the political spectrum from the conservative Rand Corporation to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The guidelines have also drawn the ire of more than a few federal judges, some of whom have begun testing the boundaries of the law by refusing to instate the mandatory crack minimum.

The seven-member U.S. Sentencing Commission, which serves under presidential appointment, has repeatedly asked Congress to reform the law. In 1995, the Commission attempted to overturn the crack disparity on its own by attaching an amendment to its recommendation, but that effort was defeated by a strong bipartisan backlash.

Since then, the Commission has seen fit to leave it up to Congress to reform the guidelines, and has made it a point to say so every five years. That the law has yet to be repealed is a testament to the persistence of age-old fallacies regarding race and class.

While drug use rates are similar among all racial groups, African American drug offenders have a 20 percent greater chance of being sentenced to prison than white offenders, according to Commission statistics. In 2005, more than 80 percent of crack cocaine defendants were black.

Meanwhile, President Bush's recent commutation of Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's "excessive" 30-month prison sentence for outing a CIA agent has only added insult to injury.

"If President Bush truly believes that the power of commutation is necessary to correct injustice, there is no shortage of cases of people languishing in federal prisons for unconscionably lengthy sentences who are deserving of such attention," says Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Mauer's group -- along with others such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) -- is part of a vocal coalition aimed at pressuring lawmakers to take action to reform the law. Mauer recently testified before a House subcommittee hearing on mandatory minimums, telling Congress that mandatory penalties for crack cocaine "inevitably result in disproportionate prosecutions of low-level offenders, precisely the opposite of what federal policy should encourage."

At its core, the crack law is a glaring example of the bad policy decisions that often follow a national tragedy -- in this case the overdose death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias. Within months of Bias' death in June 1986, Congress pushed through the law with overwhelming support from both parties, and in 1988 extended the mandatory penalty to include simple possession of crack.

"Congress was responding to a media and political frenzy and passed the law in record time, really, without any input from experts or drug abuse specialists to determine what the appropriate response might be," explains Mauer. "It was a very narrow approach that failed to take into account the broad subject of substance abuse."

While it was eventually revealed that Bias actually died of a powder cocaine overdose, the racist notion that as a young black man he must have been smoking crack persisted in the media. That misinformation, coupled with the mounting hysteria surrounding the recently launched "War on Drugs," lent credence to a new zero-tolerance movement.

The long-term ramifications of the law soon became obvious. Over the past two decades jails and prisons across the country have been filled to capacity with low-level dealers and users, while suppliers continue to evade justice. According to data from The Sentencing Project, a sampling of those incarcerated under the guidelines in 2000 showed roughly 66 percent were low-level street dealers, while only half-of-one percent qualified as "high-level" suppliers.

Subsequently, an entire generation of young, poor, mostly black men is spending large chunks of time behind bars, some for no more a crime than holding a few rocks.

"The effect has been significant," says Mauer. "The Sentencing Commission has laid out in clear terms that this policy was a failure; that it isn't an effective way of addressing the problem of drug addiction -- that is, it just isn't working -- and because of the obvious racial disparity that was built into it."

The racial component of the law is especially troubling. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that between 1994 and 2003, the average time African American drug offenders served in prison increased by 77 percent, compared to an increase of 28 percent for white drug offenders. As a result, African Americans now serve, on average, virtually as much time in jail for drug offenses as whites do for violent crimes.

"The policy of the federal government is having a devastating effect on our communities and that these laws continue to be maintained show, at the very least, a callous disregard for our people and our communities," said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington Bureau, testifying before the Sentencing Commission in November. "It is this disregard for the fate of our people and our community that continues to erode our confidence in our nation's criminal justice system."

This year, as it has four times in the past two decades, the Commission recommended that lawmakers repeal the crack sentencing mandate. In a 202-page report released on May 15, the Commission maintained its consistently held position that the 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio significantly undermines the various congressional objectives set forth in the Sentencing Reform Act and urged Congress to take legislative action to reform the system.

Some lawmakers appear to have finally taken that message to heart.

"I think increasingly there's been a bipartisan movement for some kind of reform," says Mauer. "Back in 2002, Senators Jeff Sessions and Orrin Hatch introduced a sort of compromise proposal that would have raised the threshold for crack while lowering the threshold for powder. That was significant because it was coming from two leading conservatives. That was a turning point of sorts; I think since then both in the House and Senate there's been more support for change."

Currently there are six bills making their way through Congress aimed at addressing the disparity; but not all legislation is created equal.

In June, senators Hatch (R-Utah) and Joseph Biden (D-DE) each introduced legislation aimed at reforming the law, and a similar bill introduced in January by Sessions (R-AL) is currently on the docket of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the House, Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) each have bills pending.

But the bills vary greatly in their approach, ranging from Bartlett's Machiavellian H.R. 79 -- which wouldn't reduce the mandatory minimum for crack cocaine at all, but rather would apply the same five-year minimum to powder cocaine -- to Biden's Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007, which would repeal the mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack and focus federal attention away from street-level dealers and onto so-called "cocaine kingpins."

In a floor statement introducing the bill, Biden railed against the crack law's misguided rationale. "This is a terrible flaw in the criminal justice system, based on the bogus notions that the crack form of cocaine is inherently more addictive than the powder form and crack users are more violent than powder users," Biden said. "That logic just hasn't played out."

A similar bill, the bipartisan Fairness in Drug Sentencing Act of 2007, was introduced by Hatch, along with senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Arlen Specter (R-PA). But like the earlier Sessions bill, it would only reduce the crack/powder disparity to a ratio of 20-to-1, not eliminate it altogether.

For his part, Mauer says it's encouraging that legislators are finally addressing what he calls the "unconscionable racial disparities" inherent in the federal crack sentencing guidelines; but he insists it's only a first step.

"This is by far the most significant pace of reform we've seen in some time," says Mauer of the legislation currently in process. "Under the circumstances, I think equalization is the only defensible alternative, but even then they impose a mandatory sentence, which we think is fundamentally flawed. Crack is just part of the broader issue of mandatory minimums, and it's typical of what's wrong with this system."

Christopher Moraff is a Philadelphia-based writer and reporter and a frequent contributor to The American Prospect Online. He is senior editor of the monthly online magazine Common Sense.