We received word last night that Jeremy had been placed in the Segregated Housing Unit (SHU), also known as solitary confinement. He had previously been placed in solitary confinement during pretrial detention. Make no mistake: We firmly believe Jeremy has been placed in solitary confinement as retaliatory punishment for filing complaints against the prison for withholding his mail. The prison had begun rejecting books and even legal material related to Jeremy’s own case. Jeremy had written that he was willing to take his grievances to the highest possible level in order to see them resolved. Because we feel this is a retaliatory measure, calling the jail or jail officials may be seen as aggression and may provoke the prison to further retaliate against Jeremy.
“We’re glad that Marissa’s name is still in the media,” said Sumayya Fire, member of Free Marissa Now, “but the headline should be ‘Survivor of Domestic Violence Saves Her Own Life, Still Threatened with Appalling 60 Year Sentence.’ Another helpful headline would be ‘85%-90% of People in Women’s Prisons Experience Sexual and Domestic Violence before Incarceration.’ Why aren’t we having a national discussion about the ways that survivors of violence, especially black women, are systematically criminalized? The media needs to be all over this trial because of the dangerous and historic precedent it will set for the right of all women to defend themselves from domestic violence and sexual assault. If the trial ends in a life sentence for a woman whose life was threatened and caused no injuries when defending herself, all women’s right to self-defense will be weakened.
Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter. The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence. Prosecutors had claimed Slatten, the convoy’s sniper, viewed killing Iraqis as “payback for 9/11” and often “deliberately fired his weapon to draw out return fire and instigate gun battles” or tried to smash windscreens of passing cars as his convoy rolled through Baghdad.
Protests on October 22 against intensified police killings, tortuous conditions being inflicted on tens of thousands of incarcerated people, and young people treated like criminals, guilty until proven innocent if they can survive to prove their innocence, will mark 19 years of the annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Continuing defiant protests in Ferguson, MO, in response to the police killing of Michael Brown are part of heightened resistance to police murder all across the country. Against this backdrop, people in more than 38 cities across the U.S. are planning to take to the streets and act in other ways on Wednesday. The Organization for Black Struggle has called for civil disobedience outside the jail where people arrested in Ferguson have been imprisoned.
Facebook wants assurances from the Drug Enforcement Administration that it’s not operating any more fake profile pages as part of ongoing investigations. Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, said in a letter Friday to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart that law enforcement agencies need to follow the same rules about being truthful on Facebook as civilian users. Those rules include a ban on lying about who you are. Sullivan’s letter was in response to a New York woman’s federal lawsuit claiming that a DEA agent created a fake online persona using her name and photographs stored on her cellphone. In court filings, Sondra Arquiett said her pictures were retrieved from her cellphone after she was arrested in July 2010 on drug charges and her cellphone seized.
Pennsylvania legislators are trying to stop prisoners from speaking about their ideas and experiences. Last week, PA Representative Mike Vereb introduced a bill (HB2533) & SB508 called the “Revictimization Relief Act,” which would allow victims, District Attorneys, and the Attorney General to sue people who have been convicted of “personal injury” crimes for speaking out publicly if it causes the victim of the crime “mental anguish.” The bill was written in response to political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s commencement speech at Goddard College, and is a clear attempt to silence Mumia and other prisoners and formerly incarcerated people. We believe that this legislation is not actually an attempt to help victims, but a cynical move by legislators to stop people in prison from speaking out against an unjust system.
A quick but comprehensive trial today in US District Court in Baltimore, MD, for 3 women who protested drone targeting at the National Security Agency at Ft Meade, MD, resulted in acquittal on one charge and conviction but low fines on the other two charges. Allowed to speak rather freely, in less than 3 hours Marilyn Carlisle and Ellen Barfield of Baltimore, and Manijeh Saba of Somerset, NJ, and their activist colleague Malachy Kilbride of Camp Springs, MD, essentially put NSA surveillance for drone targeting on trial by showing photos, naming names and mourning children killed by drones, and asserted their First Amendment and Nuremberg justifications. As defendant Saba in the closing statement said, “Why would we, in a democracy, be expected to obey an order that violates exercise of our Constitutional rights and responsibilities?” Refusing to comment on drones or the NSA, Magistrate Judge Timothy Sullivan exclaimed that it was “way beyond my pay grade” to make rulings on government policies.
Supporters of Marissa Alexander emphasize that October is also the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration. They urge both anti-domestic violence and anti-mass incarceration activists to make the connections between the issues. Priya Rai, a staff member of domestic violence victims’ advocacy organization API Chaya, explained, “Instead of protecting women in our communities, particularly from domestic violence, women are subjected to unjust policies that result in more barriers to their safety and well-being, as well as that of their families. Women of color are more likely to be arrested or detained themselves for acts of self-defense that are interpreted from a viewpoint of stereotypes and seen as aggression. Therefore, it is vital that we call attention to the plight of Marissa Alexander as she awaits her new trial.
Al-Azhar Students’ Union has said that there are over 150 students on hunger strike and they are subjected to severe torture, including verbal and physical abuse inside prisons. In a statement the union said that prisons’ administrations threaten the hunger strikers with burning, killing them or moving them to be with criminal detainees. The prisoners, the statement said, are banned from getting water for long periods of time. One hunger striker is the head of the Faculty of Commerce in Al-Azhar University, Usama Zaid, who is in Abu-Za’bal Prison. According to the statement the prisoners receive bad medical treatment and are even subjected to torture inside the prisons’ clinics. Hunger strikers are put in solitary confinement for long periods or put with criminal prisoners, who are encouraged to beat and kill them without being liable to judicial trials.
The release of the Bureau of Justice statistics for 2013 is perhaps the Rio moment for the movement against mass incarceration. This may be the time for the movement to seriously reflect on the limitations of cherry picking “non-violent offenders” and diverting a few people into drug courts or community service. Ending mass incarceration requires a different kind of movement, one with the active participation and leadership of millions of poor people of color. While policy reports and legislative lobbying can play an important role, as theBlockadia activists in North America are emphasizing, direct action from the critically impacted also needs to be added to the agenda. Let us hope that long before 20 years after this “Rio moment,” the movement against mass incarceration will not be lamenting the miniscule impact our actions have had on this systemic problem and still be wondering why a piecemeal, expert-driven approach has not changed the world. And let us also hope that by that time, the vagaries of climate change have not rendered our efforts too late.
A U.S. citizen imprisoned in Egypt following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi is near death after refusing to eat for 230 days, say human rights activists and his family, who are pleading for his immediate release. Mohamed Soltan, 26, who holds dual citizenship and graduated from The Ohio State University, was arrested in August 2013 during a crackdown against pro-Morsi supporters in Egypt’s Rabaa Al Adeweya Square. Soltan was working at the time with a media committee that was reporting violations by security forces against against pro-Morsi supporters since the former Egyptian president’s ousting, according to Amnesty International. Soltan was initially moved from prison to prison to conceal his whereabouts. He was later placed in solitary confinement and imprisoned at al-Aqrab maximum security prison as punishment for going on a hunger strike, the human rights group said.
Cairo’s misdemeanor court has sentenced 17 Al-Azhar students to four years in jail on charges of organising an illegal protest. The defendants were accused of illegally protesting and inciting violence at Al-Azhar University on 12 January of this year. Among the 17 students sentenced, five are females. The defence team plans to appeal the verdict. Meanwhile, Egypt’s prosecutor-general on Wednesday ordered the release of 116 students from different universities ahead of the start of the new academic year on 11 October. Hundreds of students were arrested during the last academic year over protests against the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi and also over the detention of their colleagues by security forces. Al-Azhar University – the oldest Islamic university in the world – saw some of the worst unrest among universities, with near daily protests often spiralling into violent confrontations with police.
The fury of Ferguson descended on the seat of St. Louis County with a vengeance Tuesday night with demonstrators unleashing a torrent of chants, invective and threats at a County Council that listened for two hours in stunned silence. Protesters demanded the arrest of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown to death on a Ferguson street five weeks ago, the removal of County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch from the Brown case, the resignations of County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and accountability from the elected county legislative arm. But the bulk of the ire was directed at Steve Stenger, the 6th District Democratic councilman facing Republican state Rep. Rick Stream in the November general election in the race for county executive. Several speakers demanded that Stenger call on his “BFF (Best Friend Forever)” St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch to resign by noon today. McCulloch was the councilman’s chief political ally in Stenger’s primary defeat of incumbent County Executive Charlie Dooley four days before Brown was shot to death.
Federal officials are planning a new for-profit family detention lockup for immigrant children and their parents in South Texas. The 2,400-bed “South Texas Family Detention Center”—as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is referring to it—is slated for a 50-acre site just outside the town of Dilley, 70 miles southwest of San Antonio. The detention center is part of the Obama administration’s response to the surge in children and families from Central America crossing the Texas-Mexico border. In a statement to the Observer, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said the facility was intended “to accommodate the influx of individuals arriving illegally on the Southwest border.” The property is part of Sendero Ranch, a “workforce housing community,” better known in the oil patch as a “man camp” for oilfield workers. Sendero Ranch is owned by Koontz McCombs, a commercial real estate firm connected to San Antonio mogul Red McCombs. Loren Gulley, vice president for Koontz McCombs, said the company is still negotiating the deal but Corrections Corporation of America—the world’s largest for-private prison company—is expected to run the detention center, and Koontz McCombs would lease the existing “man camp” to ICE. A detailed site map provided to Frio County shows a large fenced campus, including both residential housing as well as a gym, chapel and “community pavilions.” The “man camp” has enough space to temporarily house 680 detainees while new structures are being built, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said.
In Orange County, Calif., the probation department’s “supervised electronic confinement program,” which monitors the movements of low-risk offenders, has been outsourced to a private company, Sentinel Offender Services. The company, by its own account, oversees case management, including breath alcohol and drug-testing services, “all at no cost to county taxpayers.” Sentinel makes its money by getting the offenders on probation to pay for the company’s services. Charges can range from $35 to $100 a month. The company boasts of having contracts with more than 200 government agencies, and it takes pride in the “development of offender funded programs where any of our services can be provided at no cost to the agency.” Sentinel is a part of the expanding universe of poverty capitalism. In this unique sector of the economy, costs of essential government services are shifted to the poor.