Friday, January 25, 2008

The $40M Ripoff

Hello Friends and Allies --- Most of you have followed the escalating rate of prisoner deaths in the Commonwealth's lock-ups.

You probably followed the December 2007 Boston Globe series on alleged suicides in 2006 and 2007. Three times the rate of the rest of the US.

SHaRC takes exception to the way the series played out and how certain state entities collaborated to frame this deadly epidemic.

The Commonwealth- almost to a department- has come up with its own solution to the 'problem' it created and still perpetuates: Residential Treatment Units within the Department of Correction. The agencies are all happy to look for another $40 million to build these specialized units where DOC staff and medical/pysch folks would be specially 'trained' to work with "mentally ill" prisoners.

What could be so wrong about this proposed solution?

In the coming weeks we will publish articles written by prisoners and their relatives. These folks know more than any legislator could ever learn or admit!

You will hear what happens when staff culture turns therapists, doctors and nurses into violent 'predators'.

The first document (below) was submitted by Albert Gagne, a 62 year old man presently incarcerated at NCCI-Gardner.

He responds to representaive Ruth Balser's proposed bill for Residential Treatment Units. Balser is also a pyschologist.

Mass Correctional Legal Services supports this concept, as does the Disability Law Center, the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition and other non-profit advocacy types. It is obvious such entities are not alied with prisoners but with legislators and corrections.


I recently learned that the Legislature has allotted or intends to allot 40 million dollars to the MA Department of Correction to set up mental health tiers (Residential Treatment Units) its prison system, a system that has always and will always be the Number One contributor to mental illness in the United States prisons.

Verbal and physical abuse of prisoners by guards and prison administrators is routine and constant. This is a story for another time. I would like to focus at this point in time on the Massachusetts Mental Health System and my 45 years of experience within this evil and devastating taxpayer-supported horror.

Let me start with my experience at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane from 1963 to 1996. I have had a total of seventeen commitments to this horror chamber and a very well documented horror chamber in fact.

Most of my commitments were to the “Old” Bridgewater State Hospital where for years I was forced to witness and experience some of the most inhumane treatment of mentally ill human beings ever recorded in Massachusetts. Over the years, along with thousands of mental patients I was constantly subjected to vicious physical beatings at the hands of so called “corrections officers.” This happened in view of and with the approval and participation of so-called mental health professionals. Again, these are facts, which are very well documented and undisputable.

In addition to the horror just described, I was unfortunate enough to witness and be subjected to punishments such as: being tied down in four point restraints for weeks at a time while naked and cold; forced to urinate and defecate on myself while being fed through a tube; and hosed down with a fire hose when the smell was overpowering to the guards and staff of so-called mental health professionals.

I was forced to witness lobotomies conducted on wooden tables, constant shock treatments, overdoses of powerful drugs, forced feedings and years of isolation in segregated punishment cells. Some people were held as long as 20, 30, and 40 years. Cells were full of urine, feces and vomit. These conditions were ordered by and/or ignored by so called mental health professionals.

I personally observed the most horrific abuse and brutality of human beings by guards and mental health professionals, including my own, ever documented, and well documented it was.

One need only to visit the archives or observe the film “Titicut Follies”, produced by a Mr. Fredrick Wiseman, which was banned for more than 20 years in Massachusetts because of its horrific contents. I was there when Mr. Wiseman was making this film and even though the prison guards and mental health staff knew they were being filmed, they continued to abuse and brutalize the patients, all in the name and disguise of “treatment.”

For more than 32 years the New Bridgewater State Hospital has existed and to this very day, the mentally ill human beings who have the unfortunate stigma of being civilly committed there are subjected to many of the same abuses and brutality as described above: beatings, restraints, over-medication with powerful doses of drugs; and weeks, months and years of isolation in cells.

Let me move on now to my experience with the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the Prison Hospital for the Criminally Insane, located in Springfield, Missouri. In June of 1972 I was transferred to the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute Indiana, for allegedly inciting a riot in March at Walpole State Prison. While at Terre Haute I had altercation with the warden of that prison which resulted in my stabbing him and thus my transfer to Springfield Missouri.

Upon my arrival at this so called Prison Hospital I was placed in a cell block with 6 other prisoners from various U.S. prisons, who were like myself, considered “the worst of the worst” and uncontrollable.

This cellblock was known as the “Behavior Modification Unit” and home to the Federal Bureau of Prisons “S.T.A.R.T. Program.” This was a program of sensory deprivation and brainwashing tactics created for the Federal Government by the Harvard University behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. START’s predecessor was first and ‘successfully’ used against the North Koreans during the Korean War.

I was placed in a small cell and kept in total darkness for 60 days. The entire cell was painted black, including the windows. I could not even see my hand in front of my face. After 60 days some alleged doctor surrounded by guards came to the second tier of the program where I would be afforded light and one book to read each week. I responded by punching him in the mouth. The door was slammed in my face.

About one half hour later the door to the cell was opened and several prison guards, one of whom fired a tranquilizer dart into my chest, confronted me. In less than 30 seconds I was completely helpless and could not so much as blink an eye. (I learned much later that this drug caused a simulation of death.) I was very much aware of my surroundings, was stripped of all my clothing and four pointed in another cell on a bed of springs. (No mattress, no linens, and no blanket)

Later that day a mental health doctor came and sat on the side of the spring bed and made statements such as “You don’t like the way you feel right now do you Mr. Gagne? We can continue to do this for as long as necessary, for as long as it takes and if necessary. We can make you feel a lot worse than you are feeling right now, and so one way or another you are going to obey the rules and if you continue with your resistance things are going to get a lot worse for you. On the other hand, if you obey the rules and change your behavior you will be rewarded.”

To make a long story short this ‘treatment’ lasted some two months. Every three, four or five days they would remove the restraints, give me the first food and water that I had for those number of days and allow me to take a shower, after which I would punch the doctor or guard in the mouth and the entire situation and process would begin again.

This went on for about three months. I lost more than 70 pounds and the drug they used on me rotted out all my teeth. It was not until several months later that I learned all of the other prisoners endured the same torture that I had endured at the hands of these ‘mental health professionals’.

Some three months into this ‘mental health program’, a group of Quakers, led by Ms. Faye Kopp, toured the prison to visit conscientious objectors doing time for resisting the draft, during the Vietnam War. They inadvertently came upon this torture block and were granted permission to tour the block.

When they observed us in the conditions described above they left the prison and contacted the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. The ACLU then contacted their office in Kansas City, which obtained a federal court order to enter and photograph of us in the conditions described above. The ACLU filed suit on our behalf.

The case was tried and the court ruled that they program of torture was unconstitutional, not because it was torture and was on the verge of killing us, but because we did not volunteer to participate in the program! We were subsequently returned to the prisons from which we came. (I believe Ms. Kopp now lives in Vermont and runs a program for battered women.)

All of the facts as described above are very well documented in psychology textbooks and in the archives of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Several years ago PBS Channel 2 interviewed B.F. Skinner’s daughter. When asked what she thought was her father’s greatest disappointment involving his work she stated without hesitation: the behavior modification program he implemented for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Federal Medical Prison in Springfield Missouri. Unlike his earlier ‘successful’ brainwashing programs in North Korea and later in Vietnam, Skinner’s 1970s U.S. prison experiment in torture and sensory deprivation was ‘unsuccessful’.

She went on to state that as result of this failure, B.F. Skinner was forced to re-write all of his papers and tests on the subject for he had come to find out and realize that unlike the Koreans and Vietnamese, who never experienced the tortures and sensory deprivations that he and his associates imposed upon them, that we seven prisoners had in fact been subjected to not only the same torture, nut even more severe tortures for most of our lives within the prison system. (In my case all my life at home and in juvenile facilities and reform schools prior to and after that age of ten (10) years old.)

So by the time of our arrival at Springfield Missouri, in other words, he and they could not do anything to us that hadn’t been done to us before we came on the scene except to kill us, which if not for Faye Kopp he most likely would have accomplished.

All of these absolutely true facts clearly show that like oil and water, mental health and corrections do not mix. The history of the Massachusetts Department of Correction and Mental Health in the prison context is one of absolute failure and disaster, and extremely detrimental and disastrous for society. Both camps have been and continue to be a failure both individually and collectively. Nothing verifies these points more than the following facts.

In 1986 the Massachusetts Attorney General, Department of Mental Health and Department of Correction were successful in convincing the Legislature to abolish the law, which allowed for the civil commitment of sexually dangerous persons to an “alleged” treatment center. As a result the DOC was given full operational control of treatment. This decision was immediately challenged by the civilly committed “prisoners” at the Center in two cases in Federal Court Brudger v Johnston and Pearson v Fair and during the trial before Judge David Mazzone, which lasted for several months at great cost to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.

During the trail the then Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, Philip Johnston, testified in great length to the following facts:

1.) That there is no such thing as a sexually dangerous person in the clinical world of mental health.
2.) That there was no treatment for sexually dangerous persons that they had no idea why these persons committed sex crimes.
3.) That sex offenders like most criminals suffered from antisocial personality disorder, which cannot be treated.
4.) That it was his opinion that sex offenders should be dealt with within the criminal justice system and not in a clinical manner.
5.) A Dr. Robert Fine, who at that time was Deputy Commissioner of Forensic Mental Health for the MA DMH, echoed this testimony. He is presently a “profiler” for the United States Secret Service.

As a direct result of their hypocritical testimony M cl. C 123-A was abolished and control of the “Treatment Center” given to the DOC. All of this was and is disturbing to say the least, but even more disturbing and outrageous is the fact that before the formal trial started and throughout it’s entirety, the DOC, assisted by DMH, was quietly and quickly as possible releasing sexual psychopaths out of the Treatment Center - despite warnings from various Treatment Center staff that this would end in disaster. The DOC and DMH were attempting to lower the Treatment Center population to a level whereby they could convince the Legislature to close the place for good.

As a direct result of this outrageous contempt for the safety of the general public, and as predicted, innocent human beings, women, children were slaughtered by the likes of Michael Kelly who raped and murdered at least three (3) women after his release. David Brown, also known as Nathan Bar-Jonah, murdered and cannibalized a young Montana boy after his release at the request of Treatment Center Staff. There were many, many, many more incidents.

As soon as these incidents began, the hypocrites in the DOC, DMH, and the Legislature and the press, who had all conspired and championed the abolishment of M.G.L. c. 123A immediately covered their arses (as they are doing once again with their 40 million dollar scam) by demanding for and reinstating M.G.L. c. 123A, calling again for the life time commitment of sex offenders. (All of this was a total contradiction to their previous sworn testimony in Federal Court.)

Suddenly, sex offenders were once again ‘mentally ill’ and could be ‘treated’. (Indeed, the DOC has invented their own treatment for sex offenders including beatings, isolation in isolation cells, constant verbal and psychological abuse both here and at the Treatment Center.) In an effort to provide this charade of treatment they have and continue to hire private contractors who provide treatment which they claim does not exist; so-called therapists and/or clinicians who have no qualifications, licenses or experience in the field of mental health or treatment of sex offenders. This is done with absolute contempt for prisoners and no concern for public safety. This is a matter of record.

Now, in 2008, the DOC and all their lackeys in the press and legislature, as stated above, are pretending to respond to the increasing suicides trying to cover their arses by setting up these phony mental health tiers and blocks – to cover their arses.

First of all, it is totally insane for anyone to believe that the same individuals, who refer to all prisoners as scumbags and maggots and who are the major cause of these suicides through their constant verbal, physical, and psychological abuse daily, weekly, yearly for decades, now suddenly have great concern for ‘mentally ill’ prisoners and wish to provide quality health care and treatment. Indeed, even as I write, the DOC is implementing new rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, here at MCI Gardner which have never been necessary and that are extremely abusive and punitive in nature and spirit. According to former and present DMH and DOC officials, all of us criminals suffer from recognized mental health illness of “anti-social” personality disorder; therefore we are all mentally ill and should be in mental facilities not prisons.

The DOC recently opened an alleged mental health tier here in Thompson Hall, consisting of 21 cells housing 42 prisoners, a very small percentage (4.2) of prisoners in this facility of over 1,000.

This tier separates the 42 mentally ill prisoners from the general population in living quarters only. They are not separate from general population in any other manner. They receive little or no treatment or counseling. It is plain and simple: a total sham. Only a fool would “believe” that 10, 12 or 20 of these tiers or blocks are going to cost 40 million dollars.

From more than 45 years’ experience of being locked up in this state’s prison system I can assure you all that less than 10% of the 40 million dollars will be used to support this scam while the rest will be directed to DOC staffing, security, hiring more unqualified guards and to support the extensive perks they all receive but which are hidden from public scrutiny.

The bottom line is this: If a person is mentally ill then for a society’s sake they belong in a mental health facility and as far away from the Department of “Correction” as possible. If there is anything in our society that should be abolished it is the penal and juvenile systems as they currently exist. They are, have always been and will always be extremely detrimental to society.
The billions of dollars on DOC failures would best be spent on the root cause of this insanity, which has been recognized and diagnosed as anti-social personality disorder.

I would like to conclude this statement in this manner. It is no surprise to me to learn that this 40 million dollar scam and cover-up by the DOC, the press and various members of the Legislature is being supported by the Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services.

I doubt that there is a prisoner in the Massachusetts prison system past and present who does not have anything but contempt for this state and taxpayer-supported agency, since their appearance well over 35 years ago. They continue to earn the dubious distinction as absolute sellouts and have as such contributed to the existing and extensive abuse within the DOC. They have contributed by avoiding and ignoring abuse, brutality and cruelty inflicted on prisoners and the civilly committed mental patients in the custody and control of the DOC.

Prisoners see and believe that MCLS continues to suck-up to the DOC and other state agencies and officials; looking the other way for some 30 years, while the Commonwealth along with its lackeys in the press have run amuck over the civil and human rights of all prisoners in the Commonwealth.

MCLS is careful to pick and choose issues and prisoners that will not jeopardize its funding. Within the prisoner community they have absolutely no credibility, never have and never will. If there is anything in this state that needs to be abolished in addition to the DOC it is Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services. They are, have always been and will always be extremely detrimental to prisoners and society as a whole.

In closing, I absolutely defy anyone to disprove a single claim in this document from me as false or misleading.

Respectfully submitted,

Albert Gagne, NCCI-Gardner

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Speak Out Against Raids on Immigrant Workers



Boston May day Coalition
Sergio Reyes

Speak Out Against Raids on Immigrant Workers
Friday, January 25, 2008 - 4pm-6pm
In front of the J.F.K. Building, Government Center, Boston

Boston, Mass., January 10, 2008 – The Boston May Day Coalition attended the seventh World Social Forum convened in Nairobi, Kenya in January of 2007. The delegation distributed and presented a proposal seeking transnational unity in the struggle for migrant workers rights. This international event provided the opportunity for the delegates to establish contact with the many activists who were working in their respective nations on issues regarding repression against migrant workers and related issues, similar to the BMDC work here in the USA.

The International Council of the World Social Forum has agreed that instead of convening its eighth World Forum this year (2008), it will conduct a global week of action ending on January 26. In view of the USA’s war against immigrant workers and particularly “undocumented” workers, The Boston May Day Coalition must respond to the vicious character of recent raids in the state of Massachusetts. The first massive raid was conducted almost a year ago (in March 2007) by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New Bedford. More desolation and raids in the cities of Nantucket, Chelsea, East Boston, Revere, Somerville and most recently Milford followed this initial raid. The Boston May Day Coalition denounces what appears to be a media strategy to justify ICE raids as a search for “criminals”. The Boston May Day Coalition denounces and condemns all ICE raids against immigrants and calls upon people not to be deceived by this strategy.

The BMDC will demonstrate its global solidarity with migrant workers and express its dismay with the failed system of human rights in the USA. The BMDC will also denounce the anti immigrant sentiment projected by the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates as well as the continued repression against undocumented workers. The reality is that approximately 12 million undocumented workers contribute to the wealth of this country and their countries of origin and yet are perceived as criminals.

The BMDC affirms that no worker is illegal and demand that the USA government stop the raids and deportations of these workers, and recognize them as productive contributors to our society and welcome them! The time is NOW to embrace our fellow workers, welcome them into our labor unions and communities.

# # #



Viernes, 25 de enero de 2008, 4pm-6pm
Frente al edificio federal J.F.K, Government Center, Boston

Boston, Mass., 10 de enero de 2008. La Coalición Primero de Mayo de Boston (CPMB) asistió al Séptimo Foro Social Mundial en Nairobi, Kenia en enero del 2007. La delegación distribuyó y presentó una propuesta para buscar la unidad transnacional en la lucha por los derechos de los trabajadores migrantes. Este evento internacional le dio la oportunidad a nuestros delegados para contactar a muchos activistas que trabajan en sus respectivos países contra la represión de los trabajadores migrantes de igual manera que la CPMB lo hace acá en los Estados Unidos.

El Consejo Internacional del Foro Social Mundial acordó que en vez de convenir el Octavo Foro Social Mundial este año 2008, se llevará a cabo una semana global de acción que culminará el 26 de enero. Tomando en consideración la continua guerra contra los emigrantes y en particular los trabajadores migrantes indocumentados, la CPMB responderá en protesta a los ataques recientes en el estado de Massachussets. La primera redada masiva tuvo lugar casi un año atrás, en marzo del 2007, contra trabajadores en New Bedford. La policía de inmigración y aduanas (ICE) continuó las redadas en Nantucket, Chelsea, East Boston, Revere, Somerville y recientemente en Milford. La CPMB denuncia la nueva estrategia de ICE para justificar las redadas. Cada ataque contra los emigrantes ahora se presenta como un operativo para arrestar 'criminales'. La CPMB condena todas las redadas de ICE contra los emigrantes y llama al pueblo a no dejarse engañar por esta estrategia.

La CPMB, de igual manera, expresa su solidaridad con todos los emigrantes victimizados en el mundo y repudia el fallido sistema en los EE.UU. que lo lleva a violar los derechos humanos de los trabajadores migrantes y sus familias. Igualmente denunciamos la propaganda anti-inmigrante proyectada en la campaña presidencial por parte de republicanos y demócratas. La realidad es que cerca de 12 millones de trabajadores indocumentados contribuyen con creces a la riqueza de este país y sus países de origen y sin embargo son catalogados como criminales.

La CPMB afirma que ningún trabajador es ilegal y demanda que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos pare las redadas de estos trabajadores y les de reconocimiento como seres humanos productivos en la sociedad. De tal manera, en vez de perseguirlos se les debe dar la bienvenida! Es tiempo ya que los reconozcamos como compañeros de trabajo, y les demos acogida en nuestras uniones y en nuestras comunidades.

# # #

Sign the on-line petitions to:

1. Stop the Raids and Deportations, and
2. Demand that the U.S. sign the UN Convention on Migrant Workers Rights

Please go to

Powerless in Prison: Sexual Abuse Against Incarcerated Women

Powerless in Prison: Sexual Abuse Against Incarcerated Women
By Nicole Summer, RH Reality Check
Posted on January 15, 2008, Printed on January 23, 2008

"I am 7 months pregnant [and] I got pregnant here during a sexual assault. I have been sexually assaulted here numerous times! The jailers here are the ones doing it!"

-- excerpt from a letter from an inmate in a jail in Alabama to Stop Prisoner Rape.

Surviving a sexual assault and then navigating the health care system to receive adequate counseling and reproductive medical attention is daunting enough for those who walk freely on the outside. For women in prison, these hurdles can seem insurmountable. Unfortunately, sexual assault, particularly guard-on-prisoner sexual assault, is a fact of life for many incarcerated women, and the ensuing implications for their reproductive health are many.

The power dynamics in prison severely disadvantage the prisoner, who is at the absolute mercy of her guards and correctional officers, relying on them for necessities such as food and for the small privileges and luxuries such as cigarettes. Guards have unlimited access to prisoners and their living environment, including where they sleep and where they bathe. With such an imbalance of power, the likelihood of sexual assault increases. Sexual abuse in prison can range from forcible rape to the trading of sex for certain privileges. While the latter may seem consensual to some, the drastic power disparity makes the idea of "consent" almost laughable. In fact, all 50 states have laws that make any sexual contact between inmates and correctional officers illegal, "consensual" or not. "It's always unacceptable and illegal," says Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape.

While guard-on-prisoner sexual assault is common, putting a number on the instances is difficult because so many assaults are unreported. As with sexual assault on the outside, many survivors in prison are ashamed and embarrassed to come forward, fear that their claim will be hard to prove or fear that their attackers will retaliate. In prison the fear of retaliation is heightened, as the prisoner continues to live with her attacker controlling her daily life. And inmates who report a sexual assault are frequently put in segregated isolation, ostensibly to protect them from retaliation, but this isolation can be emotionally and physically draining, and well, terribly isolating. And many women in prison have been sexually abused in the past, before they were incarcerated, or are accustomed to using sex to get what they want, on the inside or the outside. "A lot of women don't view it as abuse," says Deborah Golden, staff attorney at the D.C. Prisoners' Project of the Washington Lawers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. About 80 percent of women inmates have already experienced some kind of sexual or physical abuse before prison, says Sarah From, director of public policy and communications at the Women's Prison Association.

Despite the widespread underreporting, some statistics exist. First, there are about 200,000 women incarcerated in the U.S. (in federal, state, local and immigration detention settings), a number that is growing exponentially and that makes up about 10 percent of the total prison population. Amnesty International reports that in 2004, a total of 2,298 allegations of staff sexual misconduct against both male and female inmates were made, and more than half of these cases involved women as victims, a much higher percentage than the 10 percent that women comprise of the total prison population. It can vary from institution to institution, but in the worst prison facilities, one in four female inmates are sexually abused in prison, says Stannow.

The risk of pregnancy as the result of a sexual assault is, of course, a concern for many survivors, incarcerated or not. But obtaining emergency contraception or an abortion, if one is desired, may be more difficult for women on the inside. Because many inmates do not report the sexual assault immediately (if at all), using emergency contraceptionis usually not possible, if it is even available. While prisoners' rights and reproductive rights organizations report hearing few complaints about emergency contraception being inaccessible to women in prison, they are unconvinced that it is widely available. Golden believes emergency contraception should be made readily available and should be on the prison's prescription formulary.

Unlike access to emergency contraception, access to abortion by inmates has seen its way through the courts. Crucially, women do not lose their right to decide to have an abortion just because they are in prison; rather, the issue is how the prison accommodates (or refuses to accommodate) her decision. "There are constitutional minimums," says Diana Kasdan, staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. Although the details can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, prisons must provide access to an abortion if one is desired. "Providing access" can range from providing transportation to an off-site medical facility, to allowing for a furlough or to providing abortions on-site, although Kasdan says she has not heard of the latter. A court in Arizona recently ruled that a court order to obtain transportation for an abortion cannot be required, and a federal court in Missouri ruled last year that a prison cannot refuse to pay for the transportation of inmates to receive abortions.

Paying for the abortion itself is yet another issue for women inmates, and it is a patchwork quilt of inconsistency throughout the states. Some state prison systems fund abortions, some states refuse to pay for what they consider "elective" abortions and some states simply have no official written policy, research by Rachel Roth has shown. Only two states specifically mention sexual assault in their prison abortion policies; both Minnesota and Wisconsin allow for government-subsidized abortions when the pregnancy results from a sexual assault. The federal Bureau of Prisons also pays for the abortion in the case of sexual assault.

In prison, the possibility of a coerced abortion can hang over an inmate who discovers she is pregnant as the result of a sexual assault by a guard. In a letter to Stop Prisoner Rape, one inmate writes:

A rumor had spread through the facility that I was pregnant. I'm not sure how the rumor got started, but medical staff came to my cell and forced me to provide a urine sample that they could use to test for pregnancy. They did not ask me any questions, offer me any support, or seem at all concerned for my well-being. That same night, three guards, two female and one male, came into my cell, sprayed me in the face with mace, handcuffed me behind my back, threw me down on the ground, and said, "We hear you are pregnant by one of ours and we're gonna make sure you abort." The two female guards began to kick me as the male guard stood watch. The beating lasted about a minute, but it felt like ten or more. Afterwards, the male officer uncuffed me and they left.

The prisoner's rights as a mother, if she becomes pregnant and chooses not to terminate the pregnancy, are complicated, to say the least. Few jurisdictions allow women to keep their children in prison with them once they are born. Frequently, if there is no family member on the outside to take the child, the child will enter the foster care system, and the state will move to terminate the parental rights of the mother because she is absent. The parental rights of mothers in prison is a fraught and complicated issue, one that goes well beyond the particular problem of sexual assault by guards.

Access to counseling after a sexual assault in prison is virtually nonexistent. An inmate cannot simply call a hotline, since all calls are monitored and she has no privacy. When one inmate sought mental health care from prison services after a sexual assault, she was offered sleeping pills, says Golden. "There's no capacity in prisons for talk therapy," she says. And any counseling inside the prison is not confidential. Some community therapists will come in on visiting days to counsel an inmate, but usually only at the behest of a lawyer, says Golden.

Despite the overwhelming power imbalance, guard-on-prisoner sexual assault is preventable, insists Stannow. Efforts such as making sure the staff is well trained, educating the prisoners about their rights, eliminating impunity for guards and following up on reports of sexual abuse would go a long way toward prevention, she says. Congress had similar goals in mind when it unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003. PREA aims to establish zero-tolerance standards of sexual assaults, to increase data and information on the occurrence of prison sexual assault and to develop and implement national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction and punishment of prison sexual assault. "PREA has been enormously important in ending sexual violence in detention," said Stannow. "Congress made clear that it's a problem that must be addressed." Perhaps most excitingly, PREA created a federal commission to generate binding national standards regarding sexual violence in detention. But "the existence of the law doesn't mean the problem is gone," Stannow continues. "Now we need to make sure that we build on the momentum of the law to make every corrections system in the country acknowledge that sexual violence in detention is a major problem, and does everything it can to end it."

One of the largest obstacles to eliminating prison sexual assault is the "social invisibility" of prisons. The general public neither knows nor cares about the plight of the incarcerated, and thus cannot demand that its government properly protect prisoners' bodily integrity and rights. Perhaps PREA is the beginning of the end of this social invisibility.

Nicole Summer is a writer and lawyer living in New York City.

Justices broaden officers' immunity

Justices broaden officers' immunity
08:34 1/23/2008, Headlines
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officers are immune from lawsuits for mishandling, losing or even stealing personal property that comes under their control in the course of their official duties, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a 5-to-4 decision. The case was brought by a federal prison inmate, but the ruling was not limited to the prison context. It was an interpretation of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which applies to federal employees’ liability for damages and generally waives immunity from being sued.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Governor's CORI Proposal TODAY!

Boston Globe Alert - Governor's CORI Proposal TODAY!

Dear CORI Reform Supporters,

The Governor's CORI Proposal is being released today. The proposal is a start, but there are still some major reservations that we have. It is an exciting day, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. Please stay tuned for our response to the proposal and our call for next action steps.

Thank you, Aaron - Boston Workers Alliance


Breaking bars to jobs
By Adrian Walker Globe Columnist / January 11, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick is about to address one of his major campaign promises, and there will be no shortage of strong reaction.

Today, Patrick will unveil his plan to overhaul the state's Criminal Offender Record Information law, better known as CORI. The administration has mapped out its approach largely behind closed doors.

Patrick's proposal was outlined by Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke in an interview yesterday. An executive order will instruct state agencies to consider criminal history only as the last step in the hiring process, as opposed to blanket policies barring hiring offenders. In addition, applicants would be automatically rejected only if their criminal history had direct bearing on the job involved.

"If someone was being hired as a bookkeeper and had a conviction for larceny, that would be relevant," Burke explained. "If someone was being hired for an [information technology] job and had a conviction for assault and battery, you would make a judgment."

Other parts of the plan will require legislative approval. The legislation, also being filed today, would shorten the time records are sealed. Currently, records are sealed for 15 years for a misdemeanor and 20 years for a felony; in Patrick's proposal, those figures would become 5 years and 10 years, respectively.

CORI was a contentious issue during Patrick's campaign for governor. Advocates of changing the law, who were among his earliest supporters, have argued for years that criminal histories unfairly restrict opportunities to secure jobs and housing. They say so many organizations and companies have access to the records that the intended protections have lost their meaning. Defenders of the current law say employers deserve to know whom they are hiring.

Advocates of change seemed unsure how to react. "We're trying to decipher it to see if it really does what we want it to do, to determine if this is something that is really going to help people," said Horace Small of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods.

Senator Dianne Wilkerson of Roxbury said she does not believe the proposal goes nearly far enough. She has argued that juvenile records should be inaccessible but aren't. She also maintained that the proposal does not go to the heart of the issue, which is that people with criminal records have trouble finding work and rebuilding their lives.

"I think those people who have difficulty finding work because of CORI are not going to have much relief after the release of the governor's plan, and that to me is the most unfortunate part of it," she said. "The only real test is whether last year's no becomes this year's yes."

Catherine Hennessey is one of the people who has known firsthand the difficulties of navigating the job market after prison. She served a six-month sentence in 1989 for drug possession and conspiracy. She began working nine years ago for the Cambridge Health Alliance, as a temporary worker in the physical therapy department. But she wasn't hired permanently until four months ago, because the agency, like many health care agencies, had a policy of not hiring ex-convicts.

"It's just not fair to have a lifetime ban in an industry that has so many opportunities," she said yesterday. "When people are trying to rehabilitate themselves, they have no options."

In truth, the proposed measures are a bit timid, especially given Patrick's often-stated commitment to the cause. But it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Not everyone will think so. But it makes no sense to shut convicts out of the job market. The founding idea behind CORI was to allow convicts to lead productive lives after prison. But over several decades it has come to have the opposite effect, partly because the law is so porous.

How the proposed legislation will fare in election year, in a Legislature with plenty on its plate already, is anyone's guess. Its fate will stand as a test of whether Patrick's ability to govern can catch up to the soaring rhetoric that made him governor in the first place.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

Source URL:

Aaron Tanaka
Boston Workers Alliance
51 Roxbury St.
Roxbury, MA 02119

p. 617.427.8108
c. 617.359.0336
f. 617. 442.9404

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Massachusetts Presidential Primary: February 5

A quick public service reminder: the Massachusetts Presidential Primary is February 5th. The last day to register to vote in this Primary and/or change party enrollment for this Primary is January 16th, a week from yesterday. There are also some special election primaries to select nominees to fill vacant seats left by Rep. Marzilli, Rep. Correia, Rep. Petersen, and Rep. Festa.

If you have moved since the last election or never voted or registered, registering now will permit you to vote on Feb. 5th.

Presidential Primaries are elections. When citizens vote in a Presidential Primary for a particular candidate, they are actually voting to allocate their state’s delegates to a particular candidate before the national conventions. Each state is assigned a number of delegates based on population of the state. Those delegates will attend the national conventions in the summer to select the party nominee for President for each party. Voting in a Presidential Primary gives the average citizen an opportunity to participate in determining the party’s nominee for President and to influence the party platform.

You do not need to be enrolled in a party (registered as a Republican or Democrat or Green or Libertarian, etc.) in advance to vote in a primary. But, you will have to enroll in a party on the day of the Presidential Primary in order to participate in it. That means, when you go to your polling place, you will have to say, "I want to vote on the ____ (Republican/Democrat/Green/Libertarian, etc.) ballot." And, if memory serves, that will mean that you will remain enrolled as a member of that party after the primary unless you choose to indicate otherwise.

We have voter registration guides here and you can also download the voter registration forms here Be sure to follow the general and state specific instructions when filling it out. These must be postmarked by January 16th.

You can contact the Secretary of State's office with questions about primaries or registering to vote at the numbers below.

Telephone: (617) 727-2828
Toll-Free: 1-800-462-VOTE (8683)
Fax: (617) 742-3238

I am available to answer any questions that I can and hunt down answers for those I cannot. Please let me know if I can help in any way.

We encourage all of our friends to participate in this important process and let their voices be heard.

Happy New Year!


Deborah H. Fournier, Esq.
Associate Director of Public Policy
AIDS Action Committee
294 Washington Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02108

Don't forget, the only folks in Massachusetts who cannot vote due to incarceration are those who are incarcerated POST TRIAL for a FELONY CONVICTION. All others can vote -- those on probation, parole, and those with criminal records CAN vote. those who are incarcerated pre-trial and those who are incarcerated post-trial for misdemeanor convictions CAN vote.

CORI: Juveniles Must Be Included in the Executive Order

It is critical that Governor Patrick doesn't leave out the thousands of juveniles that are negatively harmed by current CORI practices. Please Call Governor Patrick and tell him it is CRITICAL that the following language be included in the Executive Order:

"Only summer camps shall receive juvenile court activity record information records; when juvenile court activity record information is disseminated, employers shall receive court activity records of juveniles limited to cases which contain adjudications of delinquency; all other adjudicatory dispositions of juveniles shall not be disclosed."

Call the Governor at 617.725.4005 or email him at the following link:

Lisa Thurau-Gray states:

Juvenile records are released to housing authorities, private enterprises—from banks to fast food restaurants, hospitals (sometimes 12 years later), day care centers, and to the summer youth employment programs. Youth with records are denied entry to a panoply of training programs—just by dint of having a record.

Even juvenile records which disclose a youth's case has been dismissed or the youth has been acquitted are used to justify not hiring youth. The release of this information to employers represents the trumping of the arrest information over the disposition of the juvenile judge—an employer sees the charge and assumes there is danger. This dissemination of data vitiates the whole point of the court proceeding by making the fact of the arrest the most salient piece of information.

''Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Union of Minority Neighborhoods

83 Highland St
Roxbury, Ma 02119

2 Harris Ave
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Friday, January 04, 2008

Juvenile justice and the pardon

Juvenile justice and the pardon
January 3, 2008

LEAVING ASIDE for a moment the self-serving presidential campaign rhetoric that has brought to the front page Mitt Romney's refusal to pardon a decorated war veteran, we should ask how it is possible for a juvenile at the age of 13 to have a public criminal record that would require pardoning as if the individual were an adult at the time ("Mass. pardon case at center of GOP storm," Jan. 2).

Juvenile court is supposed to be a confidential legal setting. The whole purpose of juvenile justice is to recognize adolescence and the need to treat juveniles as if they are less responsible for their actions than adults. A juvenile's record of delinquency is not a permanent record of criminality but a temporary one that is to be wiped clean when the juvenile turns into an adult.

The juvenile court's mission remains important in providing youths with the second chance that they need to become productive, law-abiding adults.

The fact that Anthony Circosta as an adult had to petition to be pardoned for an offense that he committed at 13 is a sad indictment not only of a former governor who consistently refused to grant any petition, but of a state that prides itself on its ability to provide justice.

The writer is a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University.

WOULDN'T IT be rich for Governor Patrick to show up his predecessor by issuing a long-overdue pardon to Anthony Circosta? Nothing would send a stronger message regarding justice and sensitivity.
PHIL HALL, Fairfield, Conn.

Death of Suffolk inmate is being investigated

Death of Suffolk inmate is being investigated
By Megan Woolhouse, Globe Staff | January 3, 2008

Suffolk County jail officials and the Boston Police Department are investigating the death of an inmate on New Year's Eve as he was transferred to the maximum-security section of the Suffolk County House of Correction.

Relatives demanded an independent investigation, saying that they had seen his body and that he appeared to have been beaten.

Officials disputed the family's account. They said Darryl Lee Leslie, 41, died shortly after 9 p.m. as he was being transported out of minimum security.

Steve Tompkins, jail spokesman, said officials learned Leslie was "planning a violent attack" on another inmate and were moving him to more restrictive quarters when he became disruptive.

"During the move, he fell into unconsciousness," Tompkins said last night. He would not elaborate, but he said a preliminary investigation by the sheriff's Internal Affairs Division found no wrongdoing by guards. "There was no excessive or unwarranted force used," Tompkins said.

Tompkins said he did not know the names or the number of guards involved in the move. Leslie, who was 6 feet 6 inches tall, would have been accompanied by two or more guards, he said.

Leslie's body was sent for an autopsy by the state medical examiner's office last night, Tompkins said.
He had been incarcerated since Aug. 17 for violating his probation, Tompkins said, adding that Leslie had been in and out of the 1,600-inmate jail over the years on charges of larceny, assault and battery with a box cutter, and receiving stolen property. Tompkins said Leslie had also served time in state prison for armed robbery.

Thomas Leslie, the inmate's younger brother, said yesterday that the family was outraged to learn of his death and questioned whether the guards used force. Thomas Leslie said morgue employees let him and a sister view their brother's head yesterday; the rest of the body was under a white cloth. His face appeared bruised and swollen, he said.

Tompkins said the family had not been allowed to see the body.