Chicago LGBTQ Inmates Speak Out Against Solitary Confinement, Homophobia

From Shadowproof:

Pride-Flag-torbakhopper-CC-ND-Flickr

LGBTQ prison abolition group Black & Pink began publishing letters from inmates in solitary confinement last month in an effort to shed light on the abuse and harassment they suffer.

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One prisoner recounts, “It’s very easy to be thrown in segregation merely for walking in a way an officer finds too sissylike.” (Blackandpink.org)

In a post introducing the series on their website, Black & Pink explained that last summer, their Chicago chapter contacted to over 100 inmates in isolation to ask for their experiences. They received nearly 40 responses, mostly from the Illinois Department of Correction and Marion federal prison.

The group writes:

We live in a time of growing knowledge of, and outrage about, solitary confinement. We hope this blog series expands our collective understanding about the horrors of solitary confinement and its particular impact on queer and trans people. More importantly, we hope it becomes another tool to help us end solitary confinement for all people, to move us away from a culture built on punishment and isolation and towards a culture based on restoration and community.

The true number of queer and trans inmates in solitary confinement is basically unknown. In addition to being subject to administrative segregation, punitive segregation and ‘therapeutic housing,’ many LGBTQ prisoners are placed in protective custody, in which they are moved to isolation to supposedly protect them from harm and harassment by other inmates. Protective custody figures are not included in tallies for solitary confinement.

The first installment of Black & Pink’s provides the public with a glimpse into the experiences of LGBTQ prisoners in isolation, including those not just targeted by other inmates but singled out by guards for the way they act or look as well. One inmate wrote:

It’s very easy to be thrown in segregation for merely walking in a way an officer finds too sissylike. I’ve been thrown in segregation because an officer felt my fingernails were too longs and girlie. My friend was thrown in segregation cause her eyes were lined.

Another told Black & Pink:

Often LGBTQ inmates are placed there simply because they are not wanted in the general populations. Some correctional officers use the opportunity to harass the LGBTQ inmates. We are literally in a cage and cannot just walk away! And most of the time we don’t deserve to be in solitary confinement

Sixteen percent of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report [PDF] said they had been incarcerated “for any reason,” compared to less than three percent of the general population who said they had been incarcerated “at some point in life.” Seven percent of respondents to the survey said they had been arrested and incarcerated by law enforcement solely on a basis of their identity and sexual orientation.

This discrimination is life threatening and takes many forms behind bars, going well beyond the use of solitary. Last year, for example, a class-action lawsuit brought by inmates alleged sheriff’s deputies in San Bernadino County, California, skipped legally-mandated safety checks for LGBTQ inmates “due to unwarranted dislike by SBCSD employees and an unwarranted fear of AIDS.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that between 2011 and 2012, “inmates who reported their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other were among those with the highest rates of sexual victimization.” That study [PDF] found roughly 12 percent of LGBTQ prisoners and over 8 percent of jail inmates reported being “sexually victimized” by another inmate, with an additional 5.4 percent of prisoners and 4.3 percent of jail inmates victimized by staff.

The abuses faced by queer and trans prisoners — particularly those who are black or brown — deserve far greater attention.  I look forward to the rest of this series and reading the first hand experiences of trans and queer inmates in isolation.

NATO 3 sentenced to prison

From comrades from NATO 3 Support:

Today in the Cook County Criminal Courthouse, the NATO 3 were sentenced to between 5 and 8 years in prison. The prosecutors had argued that they should receive 14 years and serve their sentences consecutively, whereas the defense attorneys had obviously argued that they should receive light sentences, if not simply being sentenced to time served. Brian Jacob Church was sentenced to 5 years, Brent Betterly to 6 years, and Jared Chase to 8 years. They will all serve this time at 50% of the sentenced time (e.g., 6 year sentence equals 3 years served) and will receive credit for the two years they have served pending trial. Upon release, they will each have two years of supervised release as well.

Supporters packed the courtroom for the NATO 3 today despite the draconian restrictions placed on public attendance by the judge. While the prosecutors had plenty of cops lined up to smear the defendants on the stand during the sentencing hearing, their side of the courtroom was notably empty. Not even Anita Alvarez, the head attorney who has been so vocal about the defendants being terrorists, was around today. After the jury issued its verdict, Alvarez claimed in an interview that the prosecutors had not lost the case even though all of their terrorist claims had been rejected. She melodramatically asked if the reporters had forgotten about the Boston Marathon bombing. She even asked one reporter if he would like a Molotov cocktail thrown at him.

Predictably, the prosecutors continued this ludicrous line of reasoning by repeatedly comparing the NATO 3 to the Boston Marathon bombers—with the only difference being that undercover cops had found and stopped them before they did what the bombers had done. This comparison is, of course, absurd and offensive. The defense objected to this comparison but was, predictably, overruled. Also predictably, the judge promoted this twisted perspective in his explanation of his sentencing.

If anything, the court’s blatant, unabashed explanation of this worldview shows all the more clearly how the NATO 3 were set up from the beginning. The undercovers entrapped them so that the case would exactly fit the prosecution’s designs, and the judge was more than happy to push this case along according to the desired script. This is no less of a conspiracy than what the defendants were charged with, albeit more nefarious because it is sanctioned by the spectacle of “justice” called the criminal legal system and enforced by the militarized policing apparatus that aids in the systemic oppression of the masses for the benefit of the elite. With this in mind, solidarity with the NATO 3 must necessarily include continuing to struggle against the economic and political forces that brought them to Chicago in the first place.

As the NATO 3 return to their cells to wait out the next few days before they are transferred to state prison, most of us will return to our homes and our lives. But we must not forget them or our other comrades behind bars. Stay tuned for updated addresses for the 3 so we can flood them with letters, postcards and books as soon as they are transferred. They have hard time yet to serve and we need to make sure they know that they are not alone.

In the near future, we will be sending out more detailed notes from today and updating our zine. In the meantime, check out our storify pages of tweets from the proceedings today.

* Post-trial motion hearing:
https://storify.com/FreeNATO3/nato-3-post-trial-motions
* State’s witnesses at sentencing hearing:
https://storify.com/FreeNATO3/nato-3-sentencing-hearing-state-witnesses
* Defense witness at sentencing hearing:
https://storify.com/FreeNATO3/nato-3-sentencing-hearing-defense-witness
* Aggravation and mitigation arguments:
https://storify.com/FreeNATO3/nato-3-sentencing-aggravation-and-mitigation-argum
* Statements by Jacob and Brent prior to sentencing:
https://storify.com/FreeNATO3/nato-3-sentencing-defendant-statements
* The sentences: https://storify.com/FreeNATO3/nato-3-sentences

The defendants will all need support while in prison, so please donate
to their support fund today! https://freethenato3.wordpress.com/donate/

Christopher French sentenced to 1 year for Chicago NATO actions

chrisfrenchturtleFrom the Chicago Tribune:

A Wisconsin man arrested during last year’s NATO protests pled guilty today to a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to just shy of a year in jail, according to prosecutors and court records.

Christopher French, 22, of Beaver Dam, Wisc., pled guilty to resisting arrest after prosecutors dropped felony aggravated battery of a police officer charges, said Cook County state’s attorney spokesman Steve Campbell said.

French had tried to break through a line of officers on bicycles near Van Buren Street and Wabash Avenue on May 20 last year, according to prosecutors.

French pushed an officer who was detaining a protester in the Loop about 8:45 p.m. that day, and then scuffled with police who tried to arrest him, slightly injuring three officers.

Cook County Criminal Court Judge Carol Howard sentenced to 364 days in jail, and given credit for the 84 days he spent in jail last year before posting a $10,000 bond, according to court records. He also was ordered to pay $254 in fines and fees, according to court records.

DABC Note: Chris’s mailing address is as follows:
Christopher French
2013-0815107
P.O. Box 089002
Chicago, Illinois 60608
Please review the Cook County mailing regulations, available here: http://www.cookcountysheriff.org/doc/doc_inmatemail.html
Please consider donating to his support fund, here: https://www.wepay.com/donations/chris-french-support-network_1

Chicago: Another arrest linked to Tinley Park antifa actions

jason hammondDABC Note: Other capitalist media outlets are making the connection between Jason Hammond and his brother, imprisoned Anonymous Hacker, Jeremy Hammond. More information on Jeremy and his case can be found here.

From the capitalist press:

A 28-year-old Chicago man has been charged for his role in a bizarre mob attack on a group of alleged white supremacists dining at a Tinley Park family restaurant in May 2012, officials said.

Jason Richard Hammond of the 3300 block of South Morgan Street was charged with armed violence, aggravated battery and mob action on Thursday, Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer said. He is the sixth defendant to be charged in connection with the melee.

On May 19, 2012, a group of 18 masked men charged into the Ashford House in the 7900 block of West 159th Street to confront a group of alleged white supremacists who were said to be at the eatery.

The masked men, all from the Bloomington, Ind., area, are members of the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement. Hammond belonged to same group, Neubauer said.

Security video shows the men in masks carrying batons and other clublike objects. Within minutes, a melee broke out between the two groups, and several bystanders were injured.

Brothers Dylan, Cody and Jason Sutherlin and two other men, Alex Stuck and John S. Tucker, were arrested by an off-duty police officer shortly after the attack and have since each pleaded guilty to three felony counts of armed violence in connection with the attack. Their sentences range from 3 1/2 to 6 years in prison.

The case is a high priority for the police department, Neubauer said. The attack occurred on a Sunday afternoon and disrupted a graduation party and a bridal shower, he said.

“These people came in masked with weapons and created mayhem in the place,” Chief Steve Neubauer said. “It was surreal.”

“You just can’t have those kinds of things going on, so we have worked on this thing relentlessly,” Neubauer said. He declined to discuss how the police department tracked down Hammond, noting that there are still 12 suspects who have yet to be arrested.

Nick Cardinal, the manager at Ashford House who was also on the scene at the time of the attack, said he was pleased by the latest arrest.

“They’re getting to the bottom of it and we’re happy to see results,” Cardinal said.

Chicago: Judge orders state to hand over info on police spying on the NATO 3

NATO5From NATO 5 Support:

The NATO 3—Brent Betterly, Brian Jacob Church, and Jared Chase—were brought before Judge Thaddeus Wilson again today for another status hearing leading up to their trial in September. The defendants looked well and were not shackled at the hands, only at the feet. There were also fewer sheriff’s deputies in the viewing gallery intimidating supporters.

As the September 19th trial date looms closer and closer, we must pack the courtroom gallery to let our comrades know we stand with them as they face this state repression. These status hearings have uncovered previously unknown information about the broad and sweeping surveillance program carried out by the Chicago Police Department against the activist community. They have also revealed the nature of the legal fight the NATO 3 are facing. Their lawyers continue to work hard on their defense and support funds are still urgently needed to help them prepare for trial. You can make a tax-deductible donation today by sending a check or money order with “8th Day Center/Nato 5 Defense Fund” in the memo line to:

8th Day Center for Justice
205 W. Monroe St. Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60606

You can also donate online at https://www.wepay.com/donations/nato-5-defense (these donations are not tax-deductible).

The judge has attempted to maintain a strict schedule, holding status hearings every two weeks to monitor the progress of outstanding discovery issues. The prosecutors have dragged out the discovery process past two set deadlines by withholding key information needed by the defense team. This information largely has to do with the extensive surveillance program of the Chicago Police Department and their months of spying on activists as well as their collaboration with federal police agencies.

In the last hearing, the judge ordered the prosecution to comply with a handful of discovery requests made by the defense. The main issue of contention was how much the broad surveillance investigation into Occupy Chicago, the Mental Health Movement, Chicago Street Medics, and other activist groups would be given up by the prosecutors and the Chicago Police Department as part of the trial. While the judge ruled that a majority of the discovery motions were irrelevant to the specific case of the NATO 3, he did order the state to comply with a number of discovery requests, including the following:

* the 1st Amendment worksheet produced by the field intelligence team in the course of the investigation and all subsequent re-applications

* text messages exchanged between different officers involved in the investigation

* Affidavits from the three police informants as well as additional officers within the Field Intelligence Team regarding the specific investigation of the three defendants, but not the larger investigation into Occupy Chicago

* The identification of officers involved in taking pictures during surveillance operations

* Any additional information on training programs undergone by the police informants

Today, the prosecution had not secured this discovery material, wasting more time to cover up the repressive state surveillance behind the targeting of the NATO 3. Matthew Thrun, Assistant State Attorney, claimed to have scheduled a meeting this Thursday with the 15 officers involved in the Field Intelligence Unit behind the clandestine spying and targeting operation carried out by the Chicago Police Department against activists. Thrun told Judge Wilson that they will have information on the deleted text messages and surveillance pictures after this meeting. The plan agreed upon by the prosecution and the defense is for the prosecution to be in compliance with the discovery orders in 2 weeks.

Two attorneys within the defense team then previewed motions to dismiss that will be filed by the next hearing. Michael Deutsch with the National Lawyers Guild, who is defending Brian Jacob Church, alluded to a pretrial motion to dismiss the arson charges, arguing that the facts of the indictment do not fulfill the statute. Attorneys for Brent Betterly alluded to their own pretrial motion to be filed by the next hearing to dismiss a variety of charges against him based on grand jury testimony.

Finally, the judge asked the prosecutors to what extent they had thus far received information from federal law enforcement agencies. In previous status hearings, the defense team requested discovery material from other agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Secret Service. The defense presented evidence of previous communications between these agencies through fusion centers on Occupy movement activities. The prosecutors stated that they had not received any information from the requests they submitted and the judge encouraged them to meet the scheduled deadlines.

The next court date is June 11, 2013 at 2 pm in Courtroom 303 of the Cook County Criminal Courthouse (26th and California).

Chicago: Undercover police officer from NATO 5 case still attempting to infiltrate local social movements

undercoverchicagocopdannyedwardsFrom Truthout:

On March 27, Chicago teachers and their supporters – including parents, students and community residents – rallied against the largest mass public school closure in US history. News of the mobilization sparked huge public interest before the demonstration – including from an undercover police officer calling himself “Danny Edwards.”

The day before the big rally, “Danny” reached out in individual emails to fellow volunteer street medics he had met a year earlier after he took a 20-hour training with Chicago’s local street medic collective, Chicago Action Medical (CAM). CAM’s volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs), nurses, doctors and trained street medics provide emergency medical treatment at local protests.

“Danny” – who admitted to us on May 6 that he is, in fact, a Chicago police officer – could have saved himself the trouble and his department the expense. After all, organizers had already coordinated directly with top CPD brass about their plans for the next day and widely promoted their intent to stage nonviolent civil disobedience.

After the CTU rally, “Danny” also tried to recruit at least one CAM volunteer street medic via email on April 30, the day before a May 1, 2013, immigrants’ rights march, to pair up with him as a partner. There were no takers, so he showed up alone at the rally sporting marked medic regalia.

His latest undercover sortie as a fake volunteer street medic bookends a hectic year for him.

Full story

Tinley Park 5 accept plea deals

From Chicago ABC:

The TP5 accepted the plea deal today
Jason 6 yrs
Cody 5 yrs
Dylan 5 yrs
John 3.5 yrs
Alex 3.5 yrs

Day for day good time, so half off. Plus 233 days credited.

More info as it becomes available. Always be sure to check tinleyparkfive.wordpress.com/ for more updates and case information.