Empty the Cages: Former Political Prisoners Speak Out

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https://www.facebook.com/events/754237618050159/

Join ABC and political prisoner support chapters across the continent in our annual panel discussion featuring former U.S. political prisoners:

Thursday October 13th
Doors open at 6:30pm
Speakers 7-9pm
Location: Whittier Community Center, 2900 Downing St.

Spanning generations of political struggle for liberation in the U.S., we are proud to help host this panel that will prove to be informative, inspirational and will help us build a stronger movement of support around resistance to repression by the State.

Speakers:
Sekou Kambui
Daniel McGowan
John Tucker
More TBA
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Sekou Kambui:
Sekou is a New Afrikan/Cherokee former political prisoner who survived 47 years of incarceration. Throughout the 1960’s, Sekou participated in the Civil Rights movement, organizing youth for participating in demonstrations and marches across Alabama, and providing security for meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Sekou became affiliated with the Black Panther Party in 1967 in Chicago and New York. While in Detroit, he became a member of the Republic of New Afrika, before returning to Birmingham. Back in Alabama, Sekou coordinated community organization activity with the Alabama Black Liberation Front, the Inmates for Action (IFA) Defense Committee and the Afro-American People’s Party in the mid 1970’s. Sekou was also a soldier in the Black Liberation Army (BLA) during these years before his capture.

In 1975, Sekou was falsely arrested and charged with the murder of two white men: a KKK official from Tuscaloosa and a multimillionaire oil man from Birmingham. There was absolutely no evidence against him, only coerced testimony from individuals who subsequently recanted their statements. The judge refused to allow the recanted statements to be stricken from Sekou’s record. He continued the fight throughout his time in Prison. On June 30th, 2014, Sekou was released on parole.
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Daniel McGowan:
Daniel is an environmental and social justice activist from New York City. He was charged in Federal court on counts of arson, property destruction and conspiracy, all relating to two actions in Oregon in 2001, claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). McGowan was facing a minimum of life in prison if convicted when he accepted a non-cooperation plea agreement. His arrest is part of what the US government dubbed Operation Backfire; a coordinated, multi-state sweep of over 15 activists by the federal government who have charged the individuals with practically every earth and animal liberation action in the Pacific Northwest left unsolved. Many have considered this round up indicative of the government’s ‘Green Scare’ focus which has activists being arrested and threatened with life in prison. Many of the charges, including Daniel’s, were for crimes whose statute of limitations were about to expire. Daniel was released from prison on December 11, 2012.
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John Tucker:
John was one of five antifascists arrested in May 2012, after an altercation between white supremacists and antifascists in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park that left ten injured fascists, three of which needed hospitalization. The case of the Tinley Park 5 received an overwhelming amount of public support. Despite the fact that the meeting was organized by violent white supremacist organizations including the National Socialist Movement, Council of Conservative Citizens, and Ku Klux Klan, the state showed their cozy relationship with white supremacy by refusing the accused antifascist activist bail or a plea deal comparable to any other criminal defendant in Cook County. In January 2013 the Tinley Park Five accepted a non-cooperating plea deal. John Tucker was released in February 2014. As of September 2014, all of the TP5 are released.
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Donations are encouraged, and will go towards the 6th Annual North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference.

If you can’t make it and would like to help cover travel costs for the panel and the conference, please donate here!
https://fundly.com/na-abc-conference?showsteps=1

We’ll see you there!

Political Prisoner Gary Tyler Released!

On Friday 4/29/16, political prisoner Gary Tyler was release from Angola prison!

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Posted on huffingtonpost.com:

Louisiana Prisoner Freed After 41 Years Of Unconstitutional Life Sentence

At 16, Tyler was the youngest person on Louisiana’s death row.

Gary Tyler who has been incarcerated since he was 16 is shown in this image before his release from Angola prison in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. on April 29, 2016. Courtesy Joan Griswold/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters

A Louisiana man walked free from the state’s notorious Angola prison late on Friday after serving 41 years of an unconstitutional life sentence over the shooting death of a white high school student during a violent and racially charged chapter in the state’s fight to segregate schools.

The high-profile case of Gary Tyler, 57, ended when he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 21 years – just over half of the time served – and told he could go home Friday, according to a statement released on behalf of Tyler and his attorneys.

Tyler is among a generation of prisoners who faced harsh conditions and years or even decades in solitary confinement for convictions during racially charged events in Louisiana.

Angola is considered among the toughest of the state’s prisons, once a part of a Deep South plantation and known for seething racial tensions and harsh treatment of inmates.

At age 16 in 1974, Tyler was the youngest person on Louisiana’s Death Row, where an all-white jury sent Tyler, who is black, to die for the slaying of 13-year-old Thomas Weber, a fellow Destrehan High School student in St. Charles Parish in southern Louisiana.

Tyler was aboard a bus filled with black students who were passing an unruly crowd of white students when Weber was shot, the statement said. Police found a gun on the bus and Tyler was charged with capital murder and tried as an adult.

After his death sentence, black and white students who testified against him recanted their stories. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals called his conviction fundamentally unfair and said he was never given his right to the presumption of innocence. But he never received a new trial.

In 1976, his death sentence was commuted to life after the state’s mandatory death penalty was ruled unconstitutional. In the following two decades, the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Paroles voted three times to lessen his sentence.

Still, Tyler served eight years in solitary confinement and more than 30 years in the general population, where he became a mentor and a leader. His case drew national attention as an example of the unfair convictions and over-the-top sentencing and treatment of minorities in the Louisiana justice system at the time.

In 2012, life without parole for juvenile offenders was also ruled unconstitutional, and earlier this year, a court decided the ruling should be retroactive – giving prosecutors a legal avenue to reduce Tyler’s sentence with a guilty plea on Friday.

Political prisoner Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa has joined the ancestors

DABC Note: Rest In Power Mondo. We never forget.

From Examiner:

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Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa died on March 11, 2016 of respiratory failure at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary. Mondo was serving a life without parole sentence for the 1970 murder of an Omaha policeman, a crime Mondo vigorously denied all the way to his prison deathbed.

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Mondo was born in Omaha, Nebraska, as David Lewis Andrew Rice on May 21, 1947. Educated in parochial schools, Mondo was a young Catholic activist in high school, testifying to the Nebraska legislature about the pernacious influence of pornography on youth. Mondo was a member of several church youth groups and became active against housing and employment discrimination. Mondo led a pray-in at the Douglas County Courthouse to oppose discrimination.

A performance artist, Mondo became active in guitar masses at Holy Family Church and was quick to volunteer for community activities. Mondo began writing for “underground” newspapers and monitored complaints against Omaha police. Mondo’s work with welfare rights groups led to his employment at Greater Omaha Community Action as a neighborhood outreach worker.

As a young man, Mondo seemed to be everywhere, doing everything. Then racial riots in Omaha and the 1969 police shooting of fourteen year-old Vivian Strong sharpened Mondo’s focus and Mondo joined the Black Panther Party. Serving as an officer in the United Front Against Fascism and later the National Committee to Combat Fascism, Mondo attracted the unwanted attention of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover who ordered Mondo and his collegue Edward Poindexter removed from the streets.

The August 17, 1970 bombing murder of Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr. was the perfect opportunity for FBI agents working under directives of the infamous clandestine COINTELPRO counterintelligence operation. Mondo and Poindexter were blamed for directing fifteen year-old Duane Peak, the confessed bomber. The FBI Laboratory withheld a report on the identity of the anonymous 911 caller that lured Minard to his death. The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, in a fierce rivalry with the FBI, processed the evidence and claimed Mondo had dynamite powder in his pants pocket. Unknown to jurors, who never heard the 911 recording, the ATF evidence had been tampered with after Mondo surrendered. An Omaha World-Herald photo of Mondo with his hands, which tested clean, jammed into his pockets at the time of his surrender proves the dynamite particles were added after Mondo was in custody.

Mondo and Poindexter were convicted after an unfair trial in 1971. Mondo appealed to federal court and U.S. District Judge Warran Urbom ruled Mondo’s rights had been violated and ordered a new trial or Mondo’s release. A three-judge federal appellate panel upheld the order for a new trial. However, the United States Supreme Court used Mondo’s case to restrict prisoner appeal rights and retroactively applied the restriction on Mondo. Justice William Brennan called the decision “profoundly disturbing.”

Mondo’s case returned the Nebraska Supreme Court which ruled Mondo ran out of time to appeal while he was in federal court. Mondo never received the new trial four federal judges had ordered. Mondo’s last appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court was denied without even a written decision.

Mondo was repeatedly recommended for parole back in the mid-1990’s but was denied eligibilty by the Pardon Board. A sticking point in Mondo’s efforts for freedom was his refusal to admit to any role in the Minard murder.

While in prison, Mondo gained the respect of inmates and guards alike. Mondo abandoned Christianity and became a Muslim. Finally, Mondo evolved to his own religious views best described as an agnostic pagan and adopted a vegetarian diet. Mondo painted and wrote poetry, essays and plays and while in prison wrote several books.

Mondo was a mentor to many prisoners over the years as he tried to move them from a life of crime to one of commitment to community. Mondo edited the Harambee Flame, a prison journal of his pan-African beliefs and philosophy.

“After several years in the penitentiary I decided it didn’t make any sense for me as an African to have a European name. I had to improvise,” explained Mondo. “My name basically means wild, natural man-child of the sun in four African languages.”

Wopshitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa and Ed Poindexter, now called the Omaha Two, have been in prison forty-five long years. Failed by the justice system, Mondo was not bitter. Mondo’s body was caged but his mind was free:

“Today, too many of our young people—in particular, males—are slaves to guns, slaves to violence, slaves to the idea that their African lives aren’t worth anything, slaves to the idea that their lives aren’t worth living. Today, we should be reflecting on what to do to counter the messages being delivered to our children and youth by school curricula, television, movies, video games, the music industry, and other institutions that are making slaves of our youth to violence, materialism, etc. Today, we should be reflecting on what to do to free ourselves from the invisible chains that bind our heads and spirit.”

BREAKING! Albert Woodfox is Freed TODAY on his 69th Birthday!!

From Angola 3 News:

MEDIA COVERAGE:   UK Guardian  II  Washington Post  II  NBC  II  The Advocate (with new photo)  II Times-Picayune

Woodfox-Albert-out

(PHOTO: Albert Woodfox following his release just moments ago!! Photo from Democracy Now!)

Take a deep breath everyone,

Just moments ago, Albert Woodfox, the last remaining member of the Angola 3 still behind bars, was released from prison 43 years and 10 months after he was first put in a 6×9 foot solitary cell for a crime he did not commit. After decades of costly litigation, Louisiana State officials have at last acted in the interest of justice and reached an agreement that brings a long overdue end to this nightmare. Albert has maintained his innocence at every step, and today, on his 69th birthday, he will finally begin a new phase of his life as a free man.

In anticipation of his release this morning, Albert thanked his many supporters and added: “Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges.  I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.”

Over the course of the past four decades, Albert’s conviction was overturned three separate times for a host of constitutional violations including prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense, racial discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson, and suppression of exculpatory evidence. On June 8th, 2015, Federal Judge James Brady ordered Albert’s immediate release and barred the State from retrying Albert, an extraordinary ruling that he called “the only just remedy.” A divided panel of the 5th Circuit Court of appeals reversed that order in November with the dissenting Judge arguing that “If ever a case justifiably could be considered to present ‘exceptional circumstances’ barring re-prosecution, this is that case.” That ruling was on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court when news of his release broke.

On behalf of the Angola 3 – Albert Woodfox, Robert King, and in memory of Herman Wallace – we would like to sincerely thank all the organizations, activists, artists, legal experts, and other individuals who have so graciously given their time and talent to the Angola 3’s extraordinary struggle for justice. This victory belongs to all of us and should motivate us to stand up and demand even more fervently that long-term solitary confinement be abolished, and all the innocent and wrongfully incarcerated be freed.

For more information about the Angola 3, visit angola3.org.


STATEMENT FROM ALBERT”S LEGAL TEAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2016

Contact: Laura Burstein, laura.burstein@squirepb.com, 202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c)

Albert Woodfox, Longest-Serving Solitary Confinement Prisoner, to be Freed from Prison After Four Decades

Statements from Albert Woodfox – One of the ‘Angola 3’ – and Attorneys George Kendall and Katherine Kimpel

February 19, 2016, West Feliciana, LA — Albert Woodfox, who spent more time in solitary confinement than any prisoner in U.S. history, will be released this afternoon from custody after more than four decades in the Louisiana prison system. Mr. Woodfox, who turned 69 today, continues to maintain his innocence for the murder that sent him to solitary confinement for more than four decades. He pled no contest to two lesser crimes before being set free.

“I want to thank my brother Michel for sticking with me all these years, and Robert King, who wrongly spent nearly 30 years in solitary.  I could not have survived without their courageous support, along with the support of my dear friend Herman Wallace, who passed away in 2013,” said Mr. Woodfox.  “I also wish to thank the many members of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Amnesty International, and the Roddick Foundation, all of whom supported me through this long struggle.   Lastly, I thank William Sothern, Rob McDuff and my lawyers at Squire Patton Boggs and Sanford Heisler Kimpel for never giving up.  Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges.  I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.”

The extreme and cruel solitary confinement endured by Mr. Woodfox and his fellow prisoners, Herman Wallace and Robert King, known as the “Angola 3,” drew international condemnation.  The unnecessary and inhumane use of solitary confinement was particularly stark in light of Mr. Woodfox’s exemplary conduct record for decades.  In fact, in the midst of litigation, the Wardens of both institutions where Mr. Woodfox was held in solitary confinement admitted that he had exemplary conduct records.

“Although we are overjoyed that Albert Woodfox is finally free, it is indefensible he was forced to endure decade after decade in harsh solitary confinement conditions, longer than any prisoner in the history of the United States,” stated George Kendall, attorney with Squire Patton Boggs, LLP.  “Albert survived the extreme and cruel punishment of 40 plus years in solitary confinement only because of his extraordinary strength and character.  These inhumane practices must stop. We hope the Louisiana Department of Corrections will reform and greatly limit its use of solitary confinement as have an increasing number of jurisdictions around the country.”

Mr. Woodfox and Mr. King, along with Mr. Wallace, brought a civil lawsuit in 2000, challenging the constitutionality of the State of Louisiana’s use of indefinite solitary confinement.  Mr. Woodfox and Mr. King confirmed that a primary goal of the ongoing litigation is to help bring light to the fact that there is no penological justification for how the State of Louisiana currently uses solitary confinement and to create incentives for reform.  As Mr. Woodfox explained, “I can now direct all my efforts to ending the barbarous use of solitary confinement and will continue my work on that issue here in the free world.”

Their case, which is pending, is supported by extensive reports from two nationally-recognized corrections experts.  Those most recent experts’ reports, from 2015, are publicly available and include extensive detail about the State system’s failings (http://bit.ly/1PUqjiG; http://bit.ly/1oNAfUv).  As a federal judge wrote, the extreme length of Mr. Wallace’s and Mr. Woodfox’s solitary confinement was “so far beyond the pale that this Court has not found anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence.”  See Wilkerson v. Stalder, No. 00-304 (M.D. La. Feb. 1, 2005) (Doc. No. 105 at 21).

“It is past time for our nation to leave behind its shameful legacy of being one of the only developed countries in the world that still relies so heavily on the outdated and ineffective corrections practice of indefinite solitary confinement,” commented Katherine Kimpel, partner at Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP. “That Albert Woodfox served over four decades in solitary confinement shocks the conscience and is a national embarrassment.  We should take advantage of the growing national consensus regarding corrections reform to ensure that, if our society were to be judged by entering our prisons, we would not be found lacking.”

Attorneys for Mr. Woodfox said he will now be able to receive the medical attention he desperately needs.

If you would like to speak with attorneys for Mr. Woodfox or leading experts on solitary confinement conditions and reform, please contact Laura Burstein or Jamie Moss at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com, 202-626-6868 (o), 202-669-3411 (c); or jamie@newspros.com, 201-788-0142.

‘Angola 3’ Case Background

In 1972, Brent Miller, a young, white guard at Angola prison, was killed. At a time when Angola prison was highly racially polarized, investigators eventually honed in on four suspects who were politically active Black Panthers.  Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were two of those men.  No forensic or physical evidence linked Mr. Woodfox or Mr. Wallace to the crime, the fingerprints found at the scene, or the bloody knife found nearby. Several alibi witnesses placed both men in different parts of the prison and away from the scene of the crime at the time of the murder.

Mr. Woodfox was originally convicted in 1973 of the murder solely on the testimony of three inmate witnesses.

However, as Mr. Woodfox learned decades after his original trial, these inmates were provided attractive incentives by the prison officials for their testimony, including promises of improved housing and a pardon.  State officials also suppressed inconsistent statements by these witnesses.

Eventually, Mr. Woodfox’s 1973 conviction was overturned because of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury that indicted him.  He was retried in 1998.  Despite the fact that two of the State’s three inmate witnesses had died, and despite the fact that they never were adequately cross-examined because of evidence hidden by prison officials, their transcripts from the prior trial were admitted into evidence and Mr. Woodfox was again convicted.

After many years of appeals, his 1998 conviction was set aside in later 2014 and he was recharged in 2015.  His lawyers waged a vigorous campaign to exclude from any new trial the prior testimony of the deceased witnesses who never were adequately cross-examined.  However, both the trial judge and the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Louisiana denied those motions, meaning that the prior statements would again be used against Mr. Woodfox at a new trial.

Although Mr. Woodfox and his legal team remained optimistic about the possibility for an acquittal at a new trial, concerns about Mr. Woodfox’s health mounted as he approached his 69th birthday. Mr. Woodfox decided to bring the case to a conclusion with today’s action. His plea of “nolo contendere” or “no contest” to two lesser charges is not an admission of guilt. It means simply that he does not contest that the State would present evidence at a new trial from witnesses who said he committed this crime. Mr. Woodfox continues, as he always has, to maintain his innocence.

December 7th: Ten years later

From Daniel McGowan 12/7/15:

Ten years ago today, I was finishing up stuffing holiday cards for my employer when 2 beefy men asked me if i was indeed, Daniel McGowan. Once I was handcuffed and being frog-marched through the office, I knew what it was about.

At the same time, 6 of my codefendants were getting arrested at the same time. Others were receiving grand jury subpoenas as well. Sadly, all the people arrested that day became cooperating witnesses save for William Rodgers, who I knew as’Avalon’, who took his life in a county jail on the Winter Solstice, two weeks after we were arrested.

Of course, other arrests followed in the months after that, with a handful of codefendants refusing to play the game. We came together in solidarity to fight the charges and reduce the potential sentence as much as possible. For that, I will always have gratitude to Jonathan Paul, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher (though it would be disingenuous for me to not point out the latter two peoples’ identification with esoteric fascist movements currently).

I was bonded out of jail, fought my case on house arrest for a year and months after that, worked out a plea that did not involve naming names or becoming a witness against anyone. It had repercussions for me including more time and no protection from grand juries (and surely, two years later, i was called before one as a witness and put on civil contempt of court). That said, I cannot have seen it going any other way. My regrets with the case is that more of my co-defendants did not stick with us and move forward together-something that had been the idea when worst case scenarios had been discussed years prior.

10 years later, its obvious to me every time i go to any activist event that many younger activists do not know this history. I suppose it is the struggle we all face-how to remember and memorialize, but not live in the past and nostalgia. I can tell people to watch If a Tree Falls or read Green is the New Red (thanks, Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman & Will Potter) but that is an incomplete picture. How then, do we, move forward in our fight for justice and pass on to others what we learned? Its a longer question.

I use the word “I” often in this post and perhaps others as I am talking about the past but at no point have I ever felt alone and not connected to others. Without these stalwart, loyal and amazing people in my life, I know with certainty that things would have gone a totally different way:

Jenny Malone- my former partner and best friend. The rock. The Wizard of Oz behind every aspect of the support campaign and the ‘trying to keep me sane’ campaign. G.O.A.T.  EXES 4EVAH!

My family especially my sister Lisa who funded my legal defense, let me live with her while on house arrest and did not waver or flinch one time. These people taught me loyalty.

Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan better known as FAF.
This small group worked their asses off, put on so many shows, sold a zillon t-shirts, made my court dates, wrote articles, supported me mentally, emotionally and financially, put their lives on hold for some time to make sure I would have a life to come home too. So much gratitude to all of them. I am not even in touch with all of them, which to be honest, saddens me but I have nothing but lifelong gratitude for all of them. Shoutouts to Andrew, Ainsley, Eliza, Kitty, Corey, Sideshow, Cindy, Marianne and Ryan.

This article may be the best article I have seen on the topic though its quite dated. Check it out.

Write my codees:

Rebecca Rubin #98290-011
FCI Dublin
5701 8th Street – Camp Parks
Dublin, California 94568
Birthday: April 18

rubin

Rebecca Rubin is serving a 5 year sentence for her role in a series of Earth Liberation Front (ELF) actions including the arson of the Vail Ski Resort Expansion and US Forest Industries. She also participated in the liberation of horses and the arson of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse Facilities in Litchfield, California and Burns, Oregon. Rebecca is expected to be released in September, 2017.

 

You can buy Rebecca a book (or 5!) at http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2EEY8SICPOC9D

Justin Solondz #98291-011
FCI Oakdale I
Post Office Box 5000
Oakdale, Louisiana 71463
Birthday: October 3

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Justin Solondz pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson for his involvement in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson of the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001 and the Romania Chevrolet dealership in Eugene, Oregon. Justin was imprisoned in China for three years prior to extradition. His anticipated release date is 9/23/2017.

Prisoners’ Rights Attorneys Press Constitutional Challenge to Experimental Prison Units

From Center for Constitutional Rights:

Contact: press@ccrjustice.org

October 28, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed a district court ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) secretive, highly-restrictive Communications Management Units (CMU). In 2014, CCR’s lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, uncovered hundreds of documents detailing the BOP’s process for designating prisoners to CMUs. Among other issues, the documents revealed that the BOP did not draft criteria for designating prisoners to the CMUs until three years after the first unit opened; that different BOP offices tasked with designating prisoners have different understandings of the criteria; that the reasons provided to CMU prisoners for their designation are incomplete, inaccurate, and sometimes even false; and that political speech exercised by prisoners was used as a factor in their CMU designation. In its ruling, the district court did not consider these documents, instead finding that the CMUs are not sufficiently unusual, harsh, or restrictive to trigger due process rights.

“The Bureau of Prisons has kept everything about their Communications Management Units opaque—from how you end up there to how you get out,” said plaintiff Daniel McGowan. “I only learned through this lawsuit that I was sent to the CMU because I continued to care about politics when I was incarcerated and because I wrote letters to my friends on the outside about social justice issues. Other people in the CMUs should have the right to learn why they were actually sent there, too.”

In addition to having their telephone and visitation access heavily restricted, CMU prisoners are categorically denied any physical contact with family members, forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on contact visitation is unique in the federal prison system and causes suffering to people in prison and their families.

“Communications Management Units impose harsh restrictions on prisoners’ communication with their families and with fellow prisoners for years at a time,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol. “All we are seeking is an explanation of why these prisoners are being singled out for such a restrictive unit, and the chance to contest false or retaliatory placements.”

In addition to appealing the district court’s due process ruling, CCR is also appealing adverse rulings on their claims that prisoners were held in the CMUs in retaliation for First Amendment protected political and religious speech.

The CMUs were quietly opened in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois, in 2006 and 2008, respectively, to monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world.  Sixty percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim, though Muslims comprise only six percent of the federal prisoner population.

The documents uncovered in CCR’s lawsuit were described in detail in a recent TED Talk by journalist Will Potter.

Read the brief filed today and for more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR’s case page. For more on the Center for Constitutional Rights work on mass incarceration, visit our issue page.

The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher are co-counsel in the case.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.

 

Denver Former Political Prisoner Panel 9/24/15

From Unicorn Riot:

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On September 24, 2015, the Anarchist Black Cross along with other political prisoner support groups from across North America held an annual panel discussion called “Resisting Repression from the Inside Out: Former Prisoners Speak.”

https://livestream.com/accounts/12767816/events/4156501/videos/100187998/player?width=640&height=360&autoPlay=false&mute=false

Held at the Tivoli Student Union in Denver, the panel featured former U.S. political prisoners. The talks focused on clarifying what a multi-generational struggle for liberation looks like, the evolution of resistance to state repression, and the personal horror of living inside of the prison industrial complex.

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Jihad Abdulmumit shares a scenario on self-determination & self-defense.

“[Getting letters in prison] is what kept me human.” Panel of former prisoners speaks out in #Denver https://t.co/rptcLW6klU Live now!

— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) September 25, 2015

The freedom fighting former political prisoners who spoke on the panel are (taken from Denver ABC):

Lynne Stewart photo by Rochelle B.

Lynne Stewart photo by Rochelle B.

Lynne Stewart:
Lynne Stewart, a radical human rights attorney who has devoted her life to the oppressed – a constant advocate for the countless many deprived in the United States of their freedom and their rights. Lynne was falsely accused of helping terrorists in an obvious attempt by the U.S. government to silence dissent, curtail vigorous defense lawyers, and install fear in those who would fight against the U.S. government’s racism, seek to help Arabs and Muslims being prosecuted for free speech and defend the rights of all oppressed people. She was arrested in April 2002 and arraigned before Manhattan federal Judge John Koeltl, who also presided over her trial in 2004. She was convicted, and received a 28-month sentence in October 2006. However she was free on bail until 2009, when the government appealed the sentence. In late 2009 Lynne was re-sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Due to declining health from stage IV breast cancer, Lynne was freed from prison on December 31, 2013!

Mark Cook photo by Rochelle B.

Mark Cook photo by Rochelle B.

Mark Cook:
In 1967, Cook became active in a growing leftist paramilitary underground in Seattle, which perpetrated a series of high profile bombings and robberies. In and out of prison, he was co-founder of the Black Panther Party chapter in the Walla Walla State Penitentiary and served as its Lieutenant of Information for many years. In 2000, he was released after serving 24 years in prison for his participation in a bank robbery and jail break associated with the George Jackson Brigade in Seattle. The GJB was a leftist urban guerrilla group in the Pacific Northwest that carried out bombings, bank robberies and other actions to overthrow the U.S. government.

Jihad Abdulmumit photo by Rochelle B.

Jihad Abdulmumit photo by Rochelle B.

Jihad Abdulmumit:
Jihad is a community activist, motivational speaker, author and playwright. As a youth he became intensely involved in the Black Liberation Movement and Vietnam War protests. He joined the Black Panther Party at sixteen and eventually went underground in the ranks of the Black Liberation Army. In the mid-seventies prior to his incarceration, Jihad was also the Coordinator of the Rochester Federation of Youth in Rochester, New York – a youth organization that sponsored community economic development projects and weekly political education and black history classes, and worked with juvenile delinquents and high school drop outs. Jihad was a domestic political prisoner and prisoner of war and served 23 years of his life in prison for his involvement in the Black Liberation Movement.

Kazi Toure photo by Rochelle B.

Kazi Toure photo by Rochelle B.

Kazi Toure:
As a member of the United Freedom Front (UFF), Kazi was imprisoned for his role in 20 bombings combating Apartheid in South Africa and United States Imperialism in Central America. The UFF has been called “undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist [guerrilla groups] of the 1970s and ’80s” and struck powerful blows to South African Airways, Mobil, IBM, Union Carbide, & various courthouses and US Military targets. Toure was convicted on federal charges of possession of firearms, and Seditious Conspiracy—conspiring to overthrow, put down, destroy by force and violence the US government. He is one of few, if any, New Afrikans to be charged of this act.

Eric McDavid photo by Rochelle B.

Eric McDavid photo by Rochelle B.

Eric McDavid:
Eric McDavid is a green anarchist who was entrapped by an FBI informant and charged with a single count of conspiracy to use fire or explosives to damage corporate and government property. After serving nearly 10 years in prison his judgment and sentencing were vacated when it became known that the FBI had failed to disclose potentially
exculpatory evidence to the defense. Eric pleaded guilty to a lesser charge that carried a 5 year maximum sentence. He was released almost immediately. McDavid is a victim of a long history and concerted effort by federal and state entities in the United States to target anarchists and other radicals.

Jerry Koch photo by Rochelle B.

Jerry Koch photo by Rochelle B.

Jerry Koch:
Gerald “Jerry” Koch, a New York City anarchist and legal activist, was first subpoenaed in 2009, and again in 2013, to a federal grand jury investigating the same event. Jerry refused to testify both times and was found in contempt of court on May 21, 2013. He was imprisoned for eight months at Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, and released on January 28, 2014, after his lawyers filed a “Grumbles motion” arguing that the sentence had become punitive and should be ended. The grand jury is a secretive tool of repression that aims to intimidate and punish those who refuse to collaborate with the State. Grand juries have been part of a new, escalating wave of repression against anarchists nationwide.