In its latest attempt to silence & threaten the safety protesters, Turkey has made it illegal to give emergency medical aid without the government’s say so:
Turkish government measures curbing the freedom of doctors in administering emergency treatment have been condemned by medical and human rights groups, with professionals accusing the government of intimidation and seeking to criminalise urgent assistance to street protesters.
President Abdullah Gül signed into law the contested bill drawn up by the government of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, compelling doctors and health professionals to apply for government permission before they may administer emergency first aid.
Medical personnel could face jail terms of three years and fines of up to 2.25m lira (£600,000) for breaking the law. The crackdown by the governing Justice and Development party (AKP) is seen as the latest in a long line of repressive measures enacted since Turkey was rocked by a wave of anti-government street protests last summer.
The legislation is part of an omnibus bill approved by parliament this month. Critics denounced it as an attempt to criminalise doctors and silence dissent.
Dr Vincent Iacopino, of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), said: “Passing a bill that criminalises emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protesters is part of the Turkish government’s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices. This kind of targeting of the medical community is not only repugnant, but puts everyone’s health at risk.”
Dr Hande Arpat, of the Ankara Chamber of Medical Doctors, who volunteered during last summer’s protests, said the government had written medical history by passing a law that runs counter to all principles of medical care.
"Not only does the law go against all of our professional and ethical duties, [and] international human rights agreements that Turkey is party to, but it also contradicts the Turkish criminal code that obliges all medical professionals to provide medical aid to those who need it," he said.

In its latest attempt to silence & threaten the safety protesters, Turkey has made it illegal to give emergency medical aid without the government’s say so:

Turkish government measures curbing the freedom of doctors in administering emergency treatment have been condemned by medical and human rights groups, with professionals accusing the government of intimidation and seeking to criminalise urgent assistance to street protesters.

President Abdullah Gül signed into law the contested bill drawn up by the government of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, compelling doctors and health professionals to apply for government permission before they may administer emergency first aid.

Medical personnel could face jail terms of three years and fines of up to 2.25m lira (£600,000) for breaking the law. The crackdown by the governing Justice and Development party (AKP) is seen as the latest in a long line of repressive measures enacted since Turkey was rocked by a wave of anti-government street protests last summer.

The legislation is part of an omnibus bill approved by parliament this month. Critics denounced it as an attempt to criminalise doctors and silence dissent.

Dr Vincent Iacopino, of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), said: “Passing a bill that criminalises emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protesters is part of the Turkish government’s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices. This kind of targeting of the medical community is not only repugnant, but puts everyone’s health at risk.”

Dr Hande Arpat, of the Ankara Chamber of Medical Doctors, who volunteered during last summer’s protests, said the government had written medical history by passing a law that runs counter to all principles of medical care.

"Not only does the law go against all of our professional and ethical duties, [and] international human rights agreements that Turkey is party to, but it also contradicts the Turkish criminal code that obliges all medical professionals to provide medical aid to those who need it," he said.

I decided to become a human rights activist when I realized how easy it was for officials to make a decision and force women to be examined in the most intimate parts of their bodies. Russian officials should not stay unpunished, they cannot have this kind of absolute power over us.

Maria Alyokhina, one of the recently freed Pussy Riot members on her prison sentence, including forced gynecological examinations almost every day for three weeks.

Alyokhina & bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were freed from prison after nearly two years for singing a song about Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral. The two were released as part of an amnesty initiated by Putin and backed by the Russian parliament last week, which is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution. The women qualify because they have young children.

Alyokhina told Russian television that had she been given the chance, she would have turned down the offer of amnesty, and served out the remainder of her sentence, which was due to finish in March.

Withdrawal of Prawer Plan bill “major achievement” for PalestiniansDecember 13, 2013
The Israeli government today announced that it had withdrawn a bill that proposed the expropriation of land and the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of Bedouins from 35unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of present-day Israel.
Known as the Prawer Plan, the Israeli government scheme was met with mass protests throughout historic Palestine, including several “Days of Rage.”
As Linah Alsaafin and Budour Youssef Hassan commented for The Electronic Intifada in September:
These protests have succeeded in drawing local and international attention to the threats posed by the Prawer proposal, and mobilized youth to take to the streets, including many who were not politicized. They also managed for the first time in a while to unite efforts across the fragmented sections of Palestinian society for one cause, as Palestinians in the 1948 territories, the West Bank and Gaza Strip all organized protests on the days of rage.
These protests, which faced state violence and intimidation, are being credited for making it impossible for the bill to move forward to become law, at least for the time being (Haaretz reported today that it “is not clear whether the bill has been shelved or just temporarily postponed”).
As news emerged that the bill was about to be withdrawn, some Israeli officials, such as foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, stated that in its current form, the plan had been, if anything, too generous to Bedouins.
Haaretz also reported that contrary to the Israeli government’s claims, the Prawer Plan had never been approved by the Bedouin community.
“The withdrawal of the Prawer Plan bill is a major achievement in the history of the Palestinian community in Israel,” Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, stated today.
“It shows that popular action, legal advocacy and international pressure can succeed in defending the rights of 70,000 Arab Bedouin residents of the unrecognized villages in the Naqab to live with freedom and dignity on their own lands and in their villages.”
The group added:
The government was forced to reveal the Plan’s details after intensive media attention and public activism against the Prawer Plan in recent weeks. On 30 November 2013, thousands demonstrated against the Prawer Plan in Hura and Haifa, where they were met by police who used excessive force and made dozens of arrests. Adalah and other volunteer lawyers defended the detained protesters in court and filed official complaints to the Police Investigation Unit (“Mahash”) against the police’s violent conduct.
While today’s announcement marks a major victory, the rights of Bedouins in the Naqab are still under threat.
Adalah added that “the cancellation of the bill is a platform to continue the dedicated work in the struggle to prevent the Israeli government from implementing the Prawer Plan. The government’s plans for the Naqab will lead to the demolition, evacuation and confiscation of Bedouin homes and lands, among which is the village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, which will be destroyed in order to build a Jewish settlement and a forest over its lands.”
Source

Withdrawal of Prawer Plan bill “major achievement” for Palestinians
December 13, 2013

The Israeli government today announced that it had withdrawn a bill that proposed the expropriation of land and the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of Bedouins from 35unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of present-day Israel.

Known as the Prawer Plan, the Israeli government scheme was met with mass protests throughout historic Palestine, including several “Days of Rage.”

As Linah Alsaafin and Budour Youssef Hassan commented for The Electronic Intifada in September:

These protests have succeeded in drawing local and international attention to the threats posed by the Prawer proposal, and mobilized youth to take to the streets, including many who were not politicized. They also managed for the first time in a while to unite efforts across the fragmented sections of Palestinian society for one cause, as Palestinians in the 1948 territories, the West Bank and Gaza Strip all organized protests on the days of rage.

These protests, which faced state violence and intimidation, are being credited for making it impossible for the bill to move forward to become law, at least for the time being (Haaretz reported today that it “is not clear whether the bill has been shelved or just temporarily postponed”).

As news emerged that the bill was about to be withdrawn, some Israeli officials, such as foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, stated that in its current form, the plan had been, if anything, too generous to Bedouins.

Haaretz also reported that contrary to the Israeli government’s claims, the Prawer Plan had never been approved by the Bedouin community.

“The withdrawal of the Prawer Plan bill is a major achievement in the history of the Palestinian community in Israel,” Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, stated today.

“It shows that popular action, legal advocacy and international pressure can succeed in defending the rights of 70,000 Arab Bedouin residents of the unrecognized villages in the Naqab to live with freedom and dignity on their own lands and in their villages.”

The group added:

The government was forced to reveal the Plan’s details after intensive media attention and public activism against the Prawer Plan in recent weeks. On 30 November 2013, thousands demonstrated against the Prawer Plan in Hura and Haifa, where they were met by police who used excessive force and made dozens of arrests. Adalah and other volunteer lawyers defended the detained protesters in court and filed official complaints to the Police Investigation Unit (“Mahash”) against the police’s violent conduct.

While today’s announcement marks a major victory, the rights of Bedouins in the Naqab are still under threat.

Adalah added that “the cancellation of the bill is a platform to continue the dedicated work in the struggle to prevent the Israeli government from implementing the Prawer Plan. The government’s plans for the Naqab will lead to the demolition, evacuation and confiscation of Bedouin homes and lands, among which is the village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, which will be destroyed in order to build a Jewish settlement and a forest over its lands.”

Source

Air strike kills 15 civilians in Yemen by mistake

December 12, 2013

Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

"An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital," one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said.

The United States has stepped up drone strikes as part of a campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the most active wing of the militant network.

Yemen, AQAP’s main stronghold, is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice.

Human Rights Watch said in a detailed report in August that U.S. missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

Stabilizing the country, which is also struggling with southern separatists and northern rebels, is an international priority due to fears of disorder in a state that flanks top oil producer Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.

On Monday, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen.

Source

From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Confirmed drone strikes: 55-65
Civilians killed: 21-56
Children killed: 5
Injured: 67-150
Total killed: 269-389

Possible extra drone strikes: 85-104

I came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic to continue preaching peace and non-violence. This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle. I can only say that I felt morally obliged to do what I did.
Nelson Mandela, "An ideal for which I am prepared to die"Mandela made this statement from the dock at the opening of his trial on charges of sabotage, Supreme court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20 1964
Save Food Not Bombs: Last Sunday, October 6th Sacramento Food Not Bombs was kicked out of the Cesar Chavez Park by the Sacramento police. Volunteers were greeted by about 15 officers when they arrived at the park when they normally do in time to start sharing the meal they created by 1:30pm. They were told that our stuff would be confiscated and we would get a summons due to an ordinance that has yet to even be passed that would prevent any group from handing out free hot meal in the park.Last week advocates for the poor were told to stop sharing meals with the hungry in Sacramento and Santa Monica, California, Taos, New Mexico, and Olympia, Washington.Groups were confronted and threatened with arrest in Boulder, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and other cities across the United States this summer. In all over 50 cities in the United States have passed laws banning or limiting the sharing of meals with the hungry in the past two years with enforcement on the increase this fall.Our food is vegan, organic and no one has ever reported being made ill eating with Food Not Bombs. The goal of giving the public the impression we are required to get a permit is to justify forcing us to stop. We have no paid staff and our food is a gift and unregulated by the authorities. Like all acts of commission no permission from the government is necessary.Please support Sacramento Food Not Bombs. We will be risking arrest on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Cesar Chavez Park at 1:30 PMKeith McHenryco-founder of the Food Not Bombs MovementP.O. Box 424Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA575-770-3377

Save Food Not Bombs: Last Sunday, October 6th Sacramento Food Not Bombs was kicked out of the Cesar Chavez Park by the Sacramento police. Volunteers were greeted by about 15 officers when they arrived at the park when they normally do in time to start sharing the meal they created by 1:30pm. They were told that our stuff would be confiscated and we would get a summons due to an ordinance that has yet to even be passed that would prevent any group from handing out free hot meal in the park.

Last week advocates for the poor were told to stop sharing meals with the hungry in Sacramento and Santa Monica, California, Taos, New Mexico, and Olympia, Washington.

Groups were confronted and threatened with arrest in Boulder, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and other cities across the United States this summer. In all over 50 cities in the United States have passed laws banning or limiting the sharing of meals with the hungry in the past two years with enforcement on the increase this fall.

Our food is vegan, organic and no one has ever reported being made ill eating with Food Not Bombs. The goal of giving the public the impression we are required to get a permit is to justify forcing us to stop. We have no paid staff and our food is a gift and unregulated by the authorities. Like all acts of commission no permission from the government is necessary.

Please support Sacramento Food Not Bombs. We will be risking arrest on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Cesar Chavez Park at 1:30 PM

Keith McHenry
co-founder of the Food Not Bombs Movement
P.O. Box 424
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA
575-770-3377

Campaign to free Mexican political prison spurs global protestsOctober 7, 2013
Protests swept across Latin America, Europe and the United States in September to demand the release of Mexican political prisoner Alberto Patishtan Gomez after a Chiapas court rejected his legal challenge and upheld his 60-year sentence. In New York City, people protested outside the Mexican Consulate to demand the “immediate and unconditional” liberation of Patishtan. Similar protests were held in Barcelona, ​​Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Bogotá and several cities in Mexico, including in Veracruz, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico City and Cuernavaca.
More than 16,000 people have signed Amnesty International’s letter demanding freedom for the Tzotzil teacher, while in Mexico City, a group of activist and organizations formed the Committee for Freedom for Patishtan.
Since his imprisonment began 13 years ago, Patishtan has become one of the most recognizable political prisoners in Mexico — not only because no one outside the Mexican justice system believes he is guilty, but also because of his ongoing efforts to promote human rights from within prison. His story is both exceptional and, unfortunately, all too common.
Patishtan comes from the town of El Bosque, situated in the high mountains in Chiapas, a southeastern state of Mexico that borders Guatemala. He is indigenous maya Tsotsil. Since his imprisonment, he has focused on defending the rights of fellow indigenous people in prison, who often find themselves unjustly imprisoned for not being able to speak Spanish and not having access to a translator during trials. Known to his friends as “El Profe,” a nickname for teacher, Patishtan was already a community organizer before being imprisoned. Many contend that it was for this crime — that of challenging the established power structures — that he must face the rest of his days in prison, rather than the official alleged crime of murdering seven police officers.
“This struggle started about 13 years ago,” Patishtan explained a few weeks ago from the patio of his prison cell. He appeared surprisingly optimistic for having just learned, only a few days earlier, that the Chiapas state tribunal had decided to reject his arguments.
“This blow gives us more energy to re-double our attack,” he said. “I have to continue the path I’m on. My mission is to fight for justice and liberty of all who deserve it.” His legal defeat wasn’t the only bad news; he’d recently learned that cancerous tumors had returned, despite a previous operation.
Charges and contradictions 
In 2000, Patishtan was accused of murdering seven policeman in an ambush on July 12, 2000, near the town of El Bosque. One survivor of the attacks identified him as the attacker, while another stated that the attackers were hooded and therefore he couldn’t identify anyone’s faces. From the day of Patishtan’s arrest until now, his case has been filled with irregularities and contradictions.
According to multiple testimonies and official documents submitted during the trial, Patishtan was attending a work meeting with other rural teachers during the time of the ambush. But this alibi didn’t help his case, and further evidence — such as the fact that one of the witness testimonies was taken when medical records show the man to have been unconscious — wasn’t accepted.
In fact, the procedural irregularities in Patishtan’s case began as early as his arrest and detention, seven days after the homicides occurred, although there was no warrant. After two years of trial proceedings, the Tsotsil professor was sentenced to 60 years in prison on March 18, 2002. He has appealed multiple times without success.
September’s legal challenge exhausted the last possibility of his being declared innocent by Mexican courts. The only recourse in Mexico would be to seek a presidential pardon, although Patishtan has said he won’t ask for one because it wouldn’t clear his name. (His family, however, has supported the option, and his son, Hector, has appealed to a group of senators seeking to amend the criminal code to allow the president to pardon those who have not had access to adequate legal defense.)
His only other options would be to seek a declaration of amnesty, appeal for a humanitarian release due to his brain tumor, or to appeal to international courts such as the Inter-American Human Rights Court.
Full article

Campaign to free Mexican political prison spurs global protests
October 7, 2013

Protests swept across Latin America, Europe and the United States in September to demand the release of Mexican political prisoner Alberto Patishtan Gomez after a Chiapas court rejected his legal challenge and upheld his 60-year sentence. In New York City, people protested outside the Mexican Consulate to demand the “immediate and unconditional” liberation of Patishtan. Similar protests were held in Barcelona, ​​Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Bogotá and several cities in Mexico, including in Veracruz, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico City and Cuernavaca.

More than 16,000 people have signed Amnesty International’s letter demanding freedom for the Tzotzil teacher, while in Mexico City, a group of activist and organizations formed the Committee for Freedom for Patishtan.

Since his imprisonment began 13 years ago, Patishtan has become one of the most recognizable political prisoners in Mexico — not only because no one outside the Mexican justice system believes he is guilty, but also because of his ongoing efforts to promote human rights from within prison. His story is both exceptional and, unfortunately, all too common.

Patishtan comes from the town of El Bosque, situated in the high mountains in Chiapas, a southeastern state of Mexico that borders Guatemala. He is indigenous maya Tsotsil. Since his imprisonment, he has focused on defending the rights of fellow indigenous people in prison, who often find themselves unjustly imprisoned for not being able to speak Spanish and not having access to a translator during trials. Known to his friends as “El Profe,” a nickname for teacher, Patishtan was already a community organizer before being imprisoned. Many contend that it was for this crime — that of challenging the established power structures — that he must face the rest of his days in prison, rather than the official alleged crime of murdering seven police officers.

“This struggle started about 13 years ago,” Patishtan explained a few weeks ago from the patio of his prison cell. He appeared surprisingly optimistic for having just learned, only a few days earlier, that the Chiapas state tribunal had decided to reject his arguments.

“This blow gives us more energy to re-double our attack,” he said. “I have to continue the path I’m on. My mission is to fight for justice and liberty of all who deserve it.” His legal defeat wasn’t the only bad news; he’d recently learned that cancerous tumors had returned, despite a previous operation.

Charges and contradictions 

In 2000, Patishtan was accused of murdering seven policeman in an ambush on July 12, 2000, near the town of El Bosque. One survivor of the attacks identified him as the attacker, while another stated that the attackers were hooded and therefore he couldn’t identify anyone’s faces. From the day of Patishtan’s arrest until now, his case has been filled with irregularities and contradictions.

According to multiple testimonies and official documents submitted during the trial, Patishtan was attending a work meeting with other rural teachers during the time of the ambush. But this alibi didn’t help his case, and further evidence — such as the fact that one of the witness testimonies was taken when medical records show the man to have been unconscious — wasn’t accepted.

In fact, the procedural irregularities in Patishtan’s case began as early as his arrest and detention, seven days after the homicides occurred, although there was no warrant. After two years of trial proceedings, the Tsotsil professor was sentenced to 60 years in prison on March 18, 2002. He has appealed multiple times without success.

September’s legal challenge exhausted the last possibility of his being declared innocent by Mexican courts. The only recourse in Mexico would be to seek a presidential pardon, although Patishtan has said he won’t ask for one because it wouldn’t clear his name. (His family, however, has supported the option, and his son, Hector, has appealed to a group of senators seeking to amend the criminal code to allow the president to pardon those who have not had access to adequate legal defense.)

His only other options would be to seek a declaration of amnesty, appeal for a humanitarian release due to his brain tumor, or to appeal to international courts such as the Inter-American Human Rights Court.

Full article

The Real Toy Story: Chinese factory workers & the toys they make
Photos by Michael Wolf

In 2010 the average monthly salary, including overtime, for a migrant worker was CNY1,690 (UK£150 / US$240), insufficient to cover basic needs for workers and their families. In 2009 alone, approximately 1 million workers suffered industrial injuries whilst about 20,000 were victims of occupational disease.

From The Guardian: Big brands such as Disney, Lego and Marks & Spencer pay only a fraction of the shop price of products to the factories that make their products. In summer 2011 – as factories geared up to cope with demand for the Christmas period – investigators spent three weeks in the industrial cities of Shenzhen and Dongguan. In some cases, they found that employees:

■ worked up to 140 hours overtime a month;

■ were paid up to a month late;

■ claimed they were expected to work with dangerous tools and machines without training or safety measures;

■ had to work in silence and were fined up to £5 for going to the toilet without permission.

For more photos & to see how they were exhibited, click here.

How one immigrant community secured itself against Obama’s record deportationsSeptember 3, 2013
Late in George W. Bush’s second term as president, his administration ran a pilot Secure Communities (S-Comm) program that targeted immigrants that, at least on paper, sought out immigrants with criminal records to be removed from the U.S. In 2008, 14 jurisdictions participated in the trial run. Just five years later, the Obama administration has expanded S-Comm to more than 3,000. Critics say that S-Comm has damaged communities by sweeping up a broad swath of nonviolent offenders and even citizens. But those communities are also fighting back—and sometimes getting local law enforcement on their side.
S-Comm works to streamline deportations. Any time a person is arrested or booked, they’re fingerprinted. Under S-Comm, those prints are then crosschecked by the FBI and ICE, which has a long list of criteria for immigrants who could be deported. If the agency suspects a match for deportation, the state or local jail is asked to detain the person in question for an additional 48 weekday hours.
Although S-Comm is supposed to target immigrants only, U.S. citizens have been detained for deportation. Gerardo Gonzalez Jr., for example, is a U.S.-born citizen who should never have appeared as a match on the S-Comm program. Nevertheless, ICE requested a detainer after he was arrested in Los Angeles and Gonzalez spent more than 4,000 hours on hold. He was finally released after filing a lawsuit. More than 1,000 U.S. citizens have found themselves in a similar situation. 
The majority of those targeted by S-Comm, however, are immigrants—who are often also held beyond the specified 48 workday hours. Jacinta Gonzalez, who’s the lead organizer for the Congress of Day Laborers in New Orleans, says that plenty of the group’s 250 or so members that attend regular assemblies have been affected by S-Comm for minor infractions. “We’ve even had members who have been falsely charged,” says Gonzalez. One member, Mario Cacho, served a short sentence for not paying a fine related to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge. Instead of being released afterwards, he was held in a New Orleans prison for six months on an ICE detainer. Cacho finally filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice and ICE expedited his deportation. Gonzalez says many more the group’s members who don’t have criminal records have been detained for two days anyway. 
The Congress of Day Laborers had been organizing since 2010 to get Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman to stop cooperating with ICE on the detainers. So far, more than a dozen cities, counties and states around the nation have already stopped collaborating with ICE to hold anyone who doesn’t pose a real threat to their community—but the majority of those have been symbolic victories in places where local and state officials have not held many people on detainers to begin with.
In New Orleans, however, where immigrants moved in to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina eight years ago, the local community has been hit hard by S-Comm. “Members started realizing that the only real integration [into New Orleans] was taking place in the criminal justice system,” says Gonzalez. 
For years, it seemed that Sheriff Gusman wouldn’t budge. Gonzalez says the sheriff explained that his agency had no choice but to participate in S-Comm, which is true. Yet by law, ICE detainers are carried out voluntarily. On top of that, the federal government has unilaterally decided that it will not incur the administration and housing costs related to detaining people in local and state jails under S-Comm; those detainers eat up funds in a state that arguably still hasn’t recovered from Katrina. Pending lawsuits this year, as well as a city council resolution against ICE detainers passed in May pressured Gusman to change his internal policy—but to no avail. That changed this month, however, when the sheriff became the first in the South to stop cooperating with ICE detainers, except for serious criminal cases, such as murder and rape.
Gusman wasn’t available for comment, but Gonzalez says that it wasn’t until the sheriff started talking to people who were directly affected by S-Comm that he started to reconsider the way his agency was keeping the people he was sworn to protect in a constant state of fear. Addressing a state senator who was angry with the sheriff’s decision, Gusman explained that his new “policy is about freedom and fairness,” that protects Constitutional rights, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. He also cited “the cavalier nature” of ICE requests. 
In a newly released video, the sheriff is seen attending one of the Congress of Day Laborers meetings, listening to harrowing stories before helping close the meeting by shouting, “No papers! No fear!” That a sheriff in the deep South is shouting a slogan coined and used by the immigrant rights movement indicates just how much work has been done to change the way at least some in law enforcement are thinking about immigration.
And though the policy change is new, Gonzalez says the community is already feeling the difference that comes with the trust and comfort of knowing that their local sheriff isn’t playing into a flawed program that, instead of making people safer, was tearing a community apart. 
Source
I think a lot of credit is given to local law enforcement here, but it’s important to remember that the community’s protest power & pressure really led to these changes. 
On a national scale, there must be a cohesive, intersectional movement for a more humane & effective immigration overhaul.

How one immigrant community secured itself against Obama’s record deportations
September 3, 2013

Late in George W. Bush’s second term as president, his administration ran a pilot Secure Communities (S-Comm) program that targeted immigrants that, at least on paper, sought out immigrants with criminal records to be removed from the U.S. In 2008, 14 jurisdictions participated in the trial run. Just five years later, the Obama administration has expanded S-Comm to more than 3,000. Critics say that S-Comm has damaged communities by sweeping up a broad swath of nonviolent offenders and even citizens. But those communities are also fighting back—and sometimes getting local law enforcement on their side.

S-Comm works to streamline deportations. Any time a person is arrested or booked, they’re fingerprinted. Under S-Comm, those prints are then crosschecked by the FBI and ICE, which has a long list of criteria for immigrants who could be deported. If the agency suspects a match for deportation, the state or local jail is asked to detain the person in question for an additional 48 weekday hours.

Although S-Comm is supposed to target immigrants only, U.S. citizens have been detained for deportation. Gerardo Gonzalez Jr., for example, is a U.S.-born citizen who should never have appeared as a match on the S-Comm program. Nevertheless, ICE requested a detainer after he was arrested in Los Angeles and Gonzalez spent more than 4,000 hours on hold. He was finally released after filing a lawsuit. More than 1,000 U.S. citizens have found themselves in a similar situation. 

The majority of those targeted by S-Comm, however, are immigrants—who are often also held beyond the specified 48 workday hours. Jacinta Gonzalez, who’s the lead organizer for the Congress of Day Laborers in New Orleans, says that plenty of the group’s 250 or so members that attend regular assemblies have been affected by S-Comm for minor infractions. “We’ve even had members who have been falsely charged,” says Gonzalez. One member, Mario Cacho, served a short sentence for not paying a fine related to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace charge. Instead of being released afterwards, he was held in a New Orleans prison for six months on an ICE detainer. Cacho finally filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice and ICE expedited his deportation. Gonzalez says many more the group’s members who don’t have criminal records have been detained for two days anyway. 

The Congress of Day Laborers had been organizing since 2010 to get Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman to stop cooperating with ICE on the detainers. So far, more than a dozen cities, counties and states around the nation have already stopped collaborating with ICE to hold anyone who doesn’t pose a real threat to their community—but the majority of those have been symbolic victories in places where local and state officials have not held many people on detainers to begin with.

In New Orleans, however, where immigrants moved in to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina eight years ago, the local community has been hit hard by S-Comm. “Members started realizing that the only real integration [into New Orleans] was taking place in the criminal justice system,” says Gonzalez. 

For years, it seemed that Sheriff Gusman wouldn’t budge. Gonzalez says the sheriff explained that his agency had no choice but to participate in S-Comm, which is true. Yet by law, ICE detainers are carried out voluntarily. On top of that, the federal government has unilaterally decided that it will not incur the administration and housing costs related to detaining people in local and state jails under S-Comm; those detainers eat up funds in a state that arguably still hasn’t recovered from Katrina. Pending lawsuits this year, as well as a city council resolution against ICE detainers passed in May pressured Gusman to change his internal policy—but to no avail. That changed this month, however, when the sheriff became the first in the South to stop cooperating with ICE detainers, except for serious criminal cases, such as murder and rape.

Gusman wasn’t available for comment, but Gonzalez says that it wasn’t until the sheriff started talking to people who were directly affected by S-Comm that he started to reconsider the way his agency was keeping the people he was sworn to protect in a constant state of fear. Addressing a state senator who was angry with the sheriff’s decision, Gusman explained that his new “policy is about freedom and fairness,” that protects Constitutional rights, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. He also cited “the cavalier nature” of ICE requests. 

In a newly released video, the sheriff is seen attending one of the Congress of Day Laborers meetings, listening to harrowing stories before helping close the meeting by shouting, “No papers! No fear!” That a sheriff in the deep South is shouting a slogan coined and used by the immigrant rights movement indicates just how much work has been done to change the way at least some in law enforcement are thinking about immigration.

And though the policy change is new, Gonzalez says the community is already feeling the difference that comes with the trust and comfort of knowing that their local sheriff isn’t playing into a flawed program that, instead of making people safer, was tearing a community apart. 

Source

I think a lot of credit is given to local law enforcement here, but it’s important to remember that the community’s protest power & pressure really led to these changes. 

On a national scale, there must be a cohesive, intersectional movement for a more humane & effective immigration overhaul.

US judge approved force-feeding California inmates who have been on hunger strike since July 8August 19, 2013
A federal judge approved a request from California and federal officials on Monday to force-feed inmates if necessary as a statewide prison hunger strike entered its seventh week.
Officials say they fear for the welfare of nearly 70 inmates who have refused all prison-issued meals since the strike began July 8 over the holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades.
They are among nearly 130 inmates in six prisons who were refusing meals. When the strike began it included nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California prisons.
Prison policy is to let inmates starve to death if they have signed legally binding do-not-resuscitate (DNR) requests. But state corrections officials and a federal receiver who controls inmate medical care received blanket authority from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to feed inmates who may be in failing health. The order includes those who recently signed requests that they not be revived.
Henderson oversees the ongoing lawsuit over inmates’ medical care. The filing Monday came as prison officials and inmates’ attorneys argued over whether strikers should be allowed to voluntarily begin a liquid diet.
"Patients have a right to refuse medical treatment. They also have a right to refuse food," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.
However, “If an inmate gets to the point where he can’t tell us what his wishes are, for instance if he’s found unresponsive in his cell, and we don’t have a DNR, we’re going to get nourishment into him. That’s what doctors do. They’re going to follow their medical ethics,” Hayhoe said. “We’d take any and all measures to sustain their life.”
The process, which prison officials call “refeeding,” could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.
Prison officials already can seek a court order forcing an individual inmate to take food, though they have not done so. Now they and the receiver’s office are jointly asking for blanket permission to take that step without seeking orders on a case-by-case basis.
The federal and state officials were joined in the request by the Prison Law Office, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that represents inmates’ welfare in ongoing lawsuits that led to a federal takeover of the prison health care system and a requirement that the state sharply reduce its inmate population to improve conditions.
They want Henderson to let the chief medical executive at each prison act if a hunger striker is at risk of “near-term death or great bodily injury” or is no longer deemed competent to give consent or make medical decisions.
Moreover, do-not-resuscitate directives would not be honored if the medical executive reasonably believes the inmate was coerced into signing the request or if an attorney representing the inmate revokes the request.
Do-not-resuscitate orders signed by a hunger striker at or near the beginning of the strike or during the hunger strike would automatically be deemed invalid.
"Force-feeding violates international law to the extent that it involves somebody who doesn’t give their consent," said Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents 10 inmates suing to end prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Lobel said prison officials should look for alternatives, including providing the inmates with a liquid diet of fruit and vegetable drinks as they have requested, or negotiating with inmates over their demands.
However, Lobel said he will not seek to overturn Henderson’s order.
Prison officials said Monday that inmates are free to consume a liquid diet, but will be counted as having ended their hunger strike if they consume anything more than water, vitamins and electrolytes.
The most high-profile case of force-feeding prisoners has been the involuntary feeding of several dozen terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay through nasal tubes.
Other federal judges have turned down bids by the Guantanamo Bay inmates to stop the force-feeding. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said in a ruling last month that numerous courts said it is the government’s duty to prevent suicide and to provide life-saving nutritional and medical care to people in custody.
California incarcerates about 3,600 inmates in what are known as Security Housing Units, some because of crimes they committed in prison and others for indefinite terms if they are validated as leaders of prison gangs.
Four prisons have the units: Pelican Bay in Crescent City, Corcoran, California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and California State Prison-Sacramento.
The highest-ranking gang leaders are held in what is known as the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay. Four leaders of rival white supremacist, black and enemy Latino gangs have formed an alliance to promote the hunger strike in a bid to force an end to the isolation units.
Source

US judge approved force-feeding California inmates who have been on hunger strike since July 8
August 19, 2013

A federal judge approved a request from California and federal officials on Monday to force-feed inmates if necessary as a statewide prison hunger strike entered its seventh week.

Officials say they fear for the welfare of nearly 70 inmates who have refused all prison-issued meals since the strike began July 8 over the holding of gang leaders and other violent inmates in solitary confinement that can last for decades.

They are among nearly 130 inmates in six prisons who were refusing meals. When the strike began it included nearly 30,000 of the 133,000 inmates in California prisons.

Prison policy is to let inmates starve to death if they have signed legally binding do-not-resuscitate (DNR) requests. But state corrections officials and a federal receiver who controls inmate medical care received blanket authority from U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco to feed inmates who may be in failing health. The order includes those who recently signed requests that they not be revived.

Henderson oversees the ongoing lawsuit over inmates’ medical care. The filing Monday came as prison officials and inmates’ attorneys argued over whether strikers should be allowed to voluntarily begin a liquid diet.

"Patients have a right to refuse medical treatment. They also have a right to refuse food," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the receiver’s office.

However, “If an inmate gets to the point where he can’t tell us what his wishes are, for instance if he’s found unresponsive in his cell, and we don’t have a DNR, we’re going to get nourishment into him. That’s what doctors do. They’re going to follow their medical ethics,” Hayhoe said. “We’d take any and all measures to sustain their life.”

The process, which prison officials call “refeeding,” could include starting intravenous fluids or snaking feeding tubes through inmates’ noses and into their stomachs.

Prison officials already can seek a court order forcing an individual inmate to take food, though they have not done so. Now they and the receiver’s office are jointly asking for blanket permission to take that step without seeking orders on a case-by-case basis.

The federal and state officials were joined in the request by the Prison Law Office, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that represents inmates’ welfare in ongoing lawsuits that led to a federal takeover of the prison health care system and a requirement that the state sharply reduce its inmate population to improve conditions.

They want Henderson to let the chief medical executive at each prison act if a hunger striker is at risk of “near-term death or great bodily injury” or is no longer deemed competent to give consent or make medical decisions.

Moreover, do-not-resuscitate directives would not be honored if the medical executive reasonably believes the inmate was coerced into signing the request or if an attorney representing the inmate revokes the request.

Do-not-resuscitate orders signed by a hunger striker at or near the beginning of the strike or during the hunger strike would automatically be deemed invalid.

"Force-feeding violates international law to the extent that it involves somebody who doesn’t give their consent," said Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents 10 inmates suing to end prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Lobel said prison officials should look for alternatives, including providing the inmates with a liquid diet of fruit and vegetable drinks as they have requested, or negotiating with inmates over their demands.

However, Lobel said he will not seek to overturn Henderson’s order.

Prison officials said Monday that inmates are free to consume a liquid diet, but will be counted as having ended their hunger strike if they consume anything more than water, vitamins and electrolytes.

The most high-profile case of force-feeding prisoners has been the involuntary feeding of several dozen terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay through nasal tubes.

Other federal judges have turned down bids by the Guantanamo Bay inmates to stop the force-feeding. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said in a ruling last month that numerous courts said it is the government’s duty to prevent suicide and to provide life-saving nutritional and medical care to people in custody.

California incarcerates about 3,600 inmates in what are known as Security Housing Units, some because of crimes they committed in prison and others for indefinite terms if they are validated as leaders of prison gangs.

Four prisons have the units: Pelican Bay in Crescent City, Corcoran, California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and California State Prison-Sacramento.

The highest-ranking gang leaders are held in what is known as the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay. Four leaders of rival white supremacist, black and enemy Latino gangs have formed an alliance to promote the hunger strike in a bid to force an end to the isolation units.

Source

Depressed and driven to the point of desperation, Nabil joined a hunger strike in February. This was not Gitmo’s first hunger strike, but it has attracted the most attention. As it gained momentum, and as Nabil and his fellow prisoners got sicker, the Obama administration was backed into a corner. The president has taken justified heat as his bold and eloquent campaign promises to close Gitmo have been forgotten. Suddenly, he was faced with the gruesome prospect of prisoners dropping like flies as they starved themselves to death while the world watched. Instead of releasing Nabil and the other prisoners who have been classified as no threat to the United States, the administration decided to prevent suicides by force-feeding the strikers.

Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.

Indefinite solitary confinement violates human rights by Dr. Angela Davis
August 13, 2013

California prisoners are now in their 33rd day of a hunger strike; what they are risking their health and possibly their lives for is basic: an end to indefinite solitary confinement, a practice that most countries recognize as a violation of basic human rights.

Yet both Gov. Jerry Brown and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Jeffrey Beard are intransigent in their refusal to engage in honest negotiations with the prisoners.

Theirs is a system deep in crisis, mired in decades of lawsuits challenging numerous violations of the legal rights of prisoners that have yielded relatively little in terms of fundamental change. Headlines from the last month alone reveal the inability of current leadership to respect the most basic rights of California prisoners:

On Aug. 2, in spite of assertions by Brown that prison conditions have improved, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to delay a court order for California to release nearly 10,000 prisoners by year’s end to improve conditions in state prisons.

The three-judge panel overseeing the state’s prisons ruled that California must cut its prison population to deal with unconstitutional prison conditions such as substandard medical and mental health care caused by overcrowding. The CDCR is appealing this decision yet again.

On July 29, medical experts filed a report to a federal court monitor documenting substandard health care at Corcoran State Prison that represented “an ongoing serious risk of harm to patients” that results in preventable deaths. There was no comment from the Governor’s Office.

On July 7, the Center for Investigative Reporting broke a story about the fact that 148 women in state prisons received tubal ligations without required state approvals from 2006 to 2010. Former prisoners say doctors pressured women into being sterilized and targeted those whom prison officials deemed likely to commit crimes in the future. Brown offered no comment.

On July 1, California corrections officials reluctantly agreed to move up to 2,600 prisoners at risk of contracting valley fever out of Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons after being ordered to do so by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.

The judge was critical of the department’s handling of valley fever outbreaks within its prisons, saying the death of 36 prisoners over the last six years “clearly demonstrated (the state’s) unwillingness to respond adequately to the health care needs of California’s inmate population.”

Again, no comment from the governor or the CDCR.

Instead of closing the prisons because of high health risks, Asian prisoners are being transferred to those prisons because of statistically lower “risks.”

Those with the power to make changes have dug in their heels, insisting that there is no crisis.

It comes as no surprise that we are asked to believe that the CDCR does not really hold prisoners in solitary confinement because they may have access to radios or televisions. We shouldn’t be surprised that the death of Billy Sell, a participant in the hunger strike for two weeks until the day before he died, is officially considered a death “unrelated to the hunger strike.”

We shouldn’t be shocked when Beard attempts to cover up the inhumanity of keeping prisoners in solitary for decades with no hope of release by calling the hunger strike “a gang power play.”

It’s important to remember that the United States stands alone in its extensive use of indefinite long-term solitary confinement; in Britain, solitary is banned for more than three weeks. In Pelican Bay, more than 500 people have been held in solitary for more than 10 years, and more than 78 have been held in solitary for more than 20 years.

There is a growing human rights movement across the country, led by prisoners and their families, that names this practice for what it is: torture. Some states like Illinois and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary confinement units without any threat to institutional safety.

The California prisoners’ hunger strike is a courageous call for the California prison system to come out of the shadows and join a world in which the rights and dignity of every person is respected.

Source

Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.
Yuri Kochiyama

BDS victory at TIAA-CREF

Jonathan Cunningham provides the backdrop to a new step forward for the boycott, divestment and sanctions struggle—this one against the Israeli company SodaStream.
July 22, 2013

Supporters of the BDS movement against Israel call on shoppers not to buy Sodastream

THE BOYCOTT, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that has been protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine took another step forward this month when the giant retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF announced it was divesting $9 million from SodaStream, an Israeli company that makes its carbonation machines in the occupied West Bank.

TIAA-CREF has been facing pressure from a new arm of the movement: We Divest, a campaign launched by Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) in 2010. Days after the SodaStream divestment was announced, We Divest organized a national day of action on July 16 to up the pressure on TIAA-CREF to divest from other companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The first step in the campaign at TIAA-CREF came last February when over 200 shareholders filed a resolution asking the fund to divest from companies that “contribute to or enable” human rights violations—in particular, those ongoing in Palestine. TIAA-CREF refused to put the proposal to a proxy vote among shareholders—and won approval for this move from the Securities and Exchange Commission. In response, activists all over the U.S. held demonstrations, protests and actions in front of TIAA-CREF offices.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE CAMPAIGN against TIAA-CREF is part of a larger solidarity effort for Palestine. In 2005, a coalition of more than 170 Palestinian organizations called for international supporters to initiate boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns—to boycott Israeli products and companies, divest from businesses that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and demand government sanctions for Israel’s violations of international law.

The goal of the BDS campaign is to support the Palestinian struggle to secure an end to the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, to stop the system of institutionalized racial discrimination against Palestinians in Israel, and to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. The model for BDS is the international divestment campaign against apartheid South Africa which helped the Black freedom struggle finally topple the racist regime.

In recent years, BDS activism has become very effective in highlighting the crimes of the Israeli system—and the complicity of other governments, especially the U.S., that support it. The movement has been gaining momentum rapidly. The world-renowned physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking joined the academic boycott of Israel earlier this year, and this year alone, universities stretching from Oslo in Norway, Sydney in Australia, Sheffield in Britain, York in Canada, and Berkeley in California, among many others, have taken steps toward divestment.

This is the backdrop to the actions at TIAA-CREF. Jewish Voice for Peace started the We Divest campaign to pressure the fund—whose full name is the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund—in 2010. TIAA-CREF was chosen after it was pressured in 2009 to divest from Africa-Israel Investments, whose construction projects were viewed by activists to be in violation of human rights and international law. The following year, the We Divest campaign moved from being led by JVP to being structured as a coalition, with a representative of participating organizations serving on a National Coordinating Committee.

In February 2011, 20 shareholders filed a resolution asking TIAA-CREF to “engage” with companies doing business with occupying forces. This resolution might seem weakly worded, but it inspired the administrators to take drastic measures. Their first response was to disallow a vote by shareholders on the proposal and to request SEC approval for this action.

After the resulting outrage among activists and the promise of protests at its doorstep, TIAA-CREF moved its annual shareholder meeting from New York City to Charlotte, N.C. Despite the change of venue, however, dozens of activists still showed up outside the shareholder meeting to demand divestment from Israeli apartheid.

This year’s proposal is much more direct than the one submitted in 2011. It demands that TIAA-CREF “end investments in companies that, in the trustees’ judgment, substantially contribute to or enable egregious violations of human rights, including companies whose business supports Israel’s occupation.”

This resolution had 10 times as many shareholders backing it. The unequivocal wording produced stronger opposition from pro-Zionist forces. TIAA-CREF has been threatened with a lawsuit by Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center (ILC), if it allows the resolution to come to a vote. ILC is a Tel Aviv-based nonprofit that focuses on issues related to the Palestinian struggle for justice. Its work includes blocking other BDS work around the globe, as well as legal efforts to keep Gaza’s southern border closed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE CAMPAIGN to pressure TIAA-CREF has generated two distinct victories. In July 2012, TIAA-CREF removed all Caterpillar stock—worth more than $72 million—from its “Social Choice” fund. And now this year, TIAA-CREF divested more than $9 million from SodaStream.

Andrew Dalack of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network explained why SodaStream has become a central focus of the BDS campaign:

SodaStream insists in its marketing materials that they are “Building Bridges, Not Walls,” but the truth is that it profits from a system of illegal occupation and settlements, based on walls and checkpoints that control, humiliate, and criminalize millions of people. It appears TIAA-CREF was able to see through the empty slogans and identify SodaStream as a company that in no way could be passed off as “for the greater good.” We commend them for that.

This victory reinforces the obvious—if TIAA-CREF sees the problem with an investment in SodaStream, it should acknowledge the problem with investment in other companies that profit from Israel’s occupation and allow shareholders to vote on the resolution to divest from apartheid.

Activists around the U.S. gathered in protest of TIAA-CREF’s blatantly undemocratic decision to block a shareholder vote. The day of action was July 16, the date of the shareholder meeting when the resolution would have been voted on. Actions took place in at least 12 cities, including Charlotte, N.C., (where the meeting was held), Denver, Chicago and New York City.

In Denver, an action called by the Colorado BDS Coalition (CBC) took place in front of the TIAA CREF building at 17th and Broadway. CBC chose TIAA-CREF as its primary target in April of this year, following a conference of solidarity activists. CBC is made up of several organizations and individuals, including the International Socialist Organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, Friends of Sabeel, and Front Range Jewish Voice for Peace.

In New York City, the BDS group Adalah turned out several dozen activists who performed mime, songs and creative divestment chants outside the Midtown headquarters of the pension giant. Known for transforming public protests into cultural events, Adalah-NY once again used street theater and music as a means to attract attention from the rush-hour crowds heading toward Grand Central Station a few blocks away.

The crowd favorite was a hearty rendition—complete with dance moves—of the group’s call for TIAA-CREF to divest, sung to the tune of the ’70s hit “YMCA.” Lyrics and video of the demonstration/performance will be posted to the Adalah-NY website.

Source

Hey, look what my brother (involved in the BDS organizing in Denver) wrote for SocialistWorker. 

Please stop “reforming” Pelican Bay: Solitary confinement is tortureJuly 17, 2013
"I took my first photograph last November. That’s one picture in 17 years," Pelican Bay prisoner Jimmy Flores writes to me. He lives in the California prison’s Secure Housing Units (SHUs) - solitary confinement - where he passes 22.5 hours per day locked alone in a windowless concrete cell. Aside from letters, he is denied all contact with the outside world. "Up until last year, nobody knew what I looked like back home."
Seventeen years.
On the outside, we package our time in smaller parcels. Our calendars split our days into half-hour segments. If I am two minutes late for my conference call, the people already on the line will need to make awkward small talk for approximately 1.5 minutes. On Facebook, you can find out that it was 33 minutes ago that your friend posted a picture of their powder-faced dog eating a donut, “about an hour” since another announced the advent of a “Complicated Relationship.” And if it’s been less than a minute since Truthout’s last tweet about Pelican Bay, Twitter can break the time down for you in seconds.
In the SHUs, the markers are different: The number of years since a family visit, which consists of an hour and a half spent talking on a phone through a plexi-glass wall. The number of months since a letter was received.
"It’s been years since I’ve seen the sun or the moon," SHU prisoner Abraham Macias*writes to me. He explains that in the SHUs, “yard time” consists of an hour spent alone in a “concrete box.” He writes: “Occasionally I’m blessed to have sunlight angle into the yard, but it’s not often.”
Every 4-6 weeks, Macias gets a letter from his mother. Three or four times per year, one from his daughter arrives. The papers accumulate slowly, tucked into a few manila envelopes stacked in the corner of his cell.
Nine days ago, nearly 30,000 California prisoners began a hunger strike, fasting in solidarity with those in solitary confinement, to protest their treatment - in particular, inadequate food, lack of contact, indefinite stays, and the dubious measures used to determine who “should” be placed in SHUs. Theoretically, the units are supposed to separate gang “associates,” but practically anything may be used asevidence of this association, including possession of African-American history journals or prisoner rights literature, saying "hello" to another prisoner, or using theSpanish words ”tio” and “hermano.”
Though the numbers of hunger strikers have dwindled over the past week, many of the folks incarcerated in SHUs have vowed to strike to the point of death: “Myself and others will end up in a hospital on feeding tubes until our demands are officially signed off on,” Paul Redd, an SHU prisoner, told Truthout.
The point? To raise publicity around solitary confinement, putting pressure on prison authorities to make changes.
The first few days of this month’s hunger strike garnered a fair amount of news coverage: The sheer numbers of fasting prisoners, coupled with the SHUs’ shockingly gruesome conditions, made for scintillating media fodder. But as the strike pushes forward and the numbers teeter, will the publicity keep up? Will the “public pressure” continue, as the news cycle tumbles forward, as our minutes and seconds are assigned to new bits of information, fresh “news alerts” and emails and Facebook updates and tweets? Will the prisoners - with no access to any of those media - be forgotten, and will their strike, therefore, “fail”?
The question is a familiar one. In the summer of 2011, a vast majority of the prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHUs began refusing to eat. They were joined in solidarity by thousands of prisoners across California and Arizona. Over the course of two three-week hunger strikes, they made plain their demands: basic human rights, fairer treatment, enough food, an alternative to "debriefing" and a modicum of programming (such as trainings and classes).
The 2011 hunger strike received a decent amount of publicity. The New York Timesand Los Angeles Times took note, some networks picked it up, and eventually, the California Department of Corrections felt compelled to respond. They promised changes. The media buzz dissipated.
A year later, the department implemented a few “reforms”: The minimum number of years served in the SHUs was reduced from six to four, though no maximum was set. Some inmates’ cases were reviewed to determine whether they could be transferred out.
Yet over the past year, the number of inmates locked up in SHUs across the state has actually risen. Criteria for SHU placement have broadened. Medical care remains meager. There’s still not enough food.
These changes constitute “reforms” in the way that school closings in poor communities have been dubbed “education reform,” or the way in which Reagan’s tax cuts for the super-wealthy were championed as “tax reform.” Early advocates of the prison system—the folks who brought us solitary confinement in the first place—called themselves “reformers,” too.
The “reform” label didn’t fool people like Flores and Macias. For them, the story hadn’t passed. They still measured their time in excruciatingly dilated increments. Sixteen: the number of years since Flores has heard his son’s voice. Eight: the number of years left until Macias can leave his cell for home. (That date is set in concrete as thick as the walls that confine him; SHU prisoners can’t accumulate “good time.”)
And so, the hunger strikers’ demands in 2013 are essentially the same as they were in 2011. And without sustained public pressure - the kind that recognizes that even when the 24-hour news cycle moves on, injustice remains very much alive - they will be the same demands issued the next time around. If there is a next time.
In a poem, Macias refers to his only means of communication, written correspondence, as “the forgotten craze.” He refers to his time as “forgotten days.”
Indeed, solitary confinement is by its nature easy to “forget,” for those of us who aren’t confined. Once the “reforms” are enacted and the media cycle gallops onward and away, no one’s reminding us! And as our minds keep pace with the energetic technologies that feed them, those who are cut off from those technologies exist in an alternate temporal dimension, becoming, as Jimmy Flores phrases it in a letter, “souls of people’s past.”
But forgetting is still a controllable act, and we on the “outside” don’t have to do it.
As we reflect upon our position in political space and time, we must remind ourselves that our fast-paced steps are part of a longer, slower movement toward possibilities of justice that may open the light into the dim, windowless corners of our society.
*Name changed.
Source

Please stop “reforming” Pelican Bay: Solitary confinement is torture
July 17, 2013

"I took my first photograph last November. That’s one picture in 17 years," Pelican Bay prisoner Jimmy Flores writes to me. He lives in the California prison’s Secure Housing Units (SHUs) - solitary confinement - where he passes 22.5 hours per day locked alone in a windowless concrete cell. Aside from letters, he is denied all contact with the outside world. "Up until last year, nobody knew what I looked like back home."

Seventeen years.

On the outside, we package our time in smaller parcels. Our calendars split our days into half-hour segments. If I am two minutes late for my conference call, the people already on the line will need to make awkward small talk for approximately 1.5 minutes. On Facebook, you can find out that it was 33 minutes ago that your friend posted a picture of their powder-faced dog eating a donut, “about an hour” since another announced the advent of a “Complicated Relationship.” And if it’s been less than a minute since Truthout’s last tweet about Pelican Bay, Twitter can break the time down for you in seconds.

In the SHUs, the markers are different: The number of years since a family visit, which consists of an hour and a half spent talking on a phone through a plexi-glass wall. The number of months since a letter was received.

"It’s been years since I’ve seen the sun or the moon," SHU prisoner Abraham Macias*writes to me. He explains that in the SHUs, “yard time” consists of an hour spent alone in a “concrete box.” He writes: “Occasionally I’m blessed to have sunlight angle into the yard, but it’s not often.”

Every 4-6 weeks, Macias gets a letter from his mother. Three or four times per year, one from his daughter arrives. The papers accumulate slowly, tucked into a few manila envelopes stacked in the corner of his cell.

Nine days ago, nearly 30,000 California prisoners began a hunger strike, fasting in solidarity with those in solitary confinement, to protest their treatment - in particular, inadequate food, lack of contact, indefinite stays, and the dubious measures used to determine who “should” be placed in SHUs. Theoretically, the units are supposed to separate gang “associates,” but practically anything may be used asevidence of this association, including possession of African-American history journals or prisoner rights literature, saying "hello" to another prisoner, or using theSpanish words ”tio” and “hermano.”

Though the numbers of hunger strikers have dwindled over the past week, many of the folks incarcerated in SHUs have vowed to strike to the point of death: “Myself and others will end up in a hospital on feeding tubes until our demands are officially signed off on,” Paul Redd, an SHU prisoner, told Truthout.

The point? To raise publicity around solitary confinement, putting pressure on prison authorities to make changes.

The first few days of this month’s hunger strike garnered a fair amount of news coverage: The sheer numbers of fasting prisoners, coupled with the SHUs’ shockingly gruesome conditions, made for scintillating media fodder. But as the strike pushes forward and the numbers teeter, will the publicity keep up? Will the “public pressure” continue, as the news cycle tumbles forward, as our minutes and seconds are assigned to new bits of information, fresh “news alerts” and emails and Facebook updates and tweets? Will the prisoners - with no access to any of those media - be forgotten, and will their strike, therefore, “fail”?

The question is a familiar one. In the summer of 2011, a vast majority of the prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHUs began refusing to eat. They were joined in solidarity by thousands of prisoners across California and Arizona. Over the course of two three-week hunger strikes, they made plain their demands: basic human rights, fairer treatment, enough food, an alternative to "debriefing" and a modicum of programming (such as trainings and classes).

The 2011 hunger strike received a decent amount of publicity. The New York Timesand Los Angeles Times took note, some networks picked it up, and eventually, the California Department of Corrections felt compelled to respond. They promised changes. The media buzz dissipated.

A year later, the department implemented a few “reforms”: The minimum number of years served in the SHUs was reduced from six to four, though no maximum was set. Some inmates’ cases were reviewed to determine whether they could be transferred out.

Yet over the past year, the number of inmates locked up in SHUs across the state has actually risen. Criteria for SHU placement have broadened. Medical care remains meager. There’s still not enough food.

These changes constitute “reforms” in the way that school closings in poor communities have been dubbed “education reform,” or the way in which Reagan’s tax cuts for the super-wealthy were championed as “tax reform.” Early advocates of the prison system—the folks who brought us solitary confinement in the first place—called themselves “reformers,” too.

The “reform” label didn’t fool people like Flores and Macias. For them, the story hadn’t passed. They still measured their time in excruciatingly dilated increments. Sixteen: the number of years since Flores has heard his son’s voice. Eight: the number of years left until Macias can leave his cell for home. (That date is set in concrete as thick as the walls that confine him; SHU prisoners can’t accumulate “good time.”)

And so, the hunger strikers’ demands in 2013 are essentially the same as they were in 2011. And without sustained public pressure - the kind that recognizes that even when the 24-hour news cycle moves on, injustice remains very much alive - they will be the same demands issued the next time around. If there is a next time.

In a poem, Macias refers to his only means of communication, written correspondence, as “the forgotten craze.” He refers to his time as “forgotten days.”

Indeed, solitary confinement is by its nature easy to “forget,” for those of us who aren’t confined. Once the “reforms” are enacted and the media cycle gallops onward and away, no one’s reminding us! And as our minds keep pace with the energetic technologies that feed them, those who are cut off from those technologies exist in an alternate temporal dimension, becoming, as Jimmy Flores phrases it in a letter, “souls of people’s past.”

But forgetting is still a controllable act, and we on the “outside” don’t have to do it.

As we reflect upon our position in political space and time, we must remind ourselves that our fast-paced steps are part of a longer, slower movement toward possibilities of justice that may open the light into the dim, windowless corners of our society.

*Name changed.

Source