Update on Sean and Urgent Call-In Action

From seanswain.org:

jpay_icons_cards_kiosk-875d27f1We haven’t heard much from Sean since his transfer to Warren Correctional, and it wasn’t until one of us visited him yesterday that we fully understood why. His access to communication has been frustrated by a whole new set of obstacles. Read on for the details, and the simple action you can take to remedy the situation.

I visited Sean yesterday at Warren Correctional, where he was unexpectedly transferred two weeks ago. Sean’s transfer to a medium security prison was accompanied by a drop in his security level, from 4A to 3A. (Ohio uses a security scale from 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest security. Within each security level, “A” status is a lower security level, whereas “B” status is a disciplinary level of security).

Despite the security level drop to 3A, Sean is being held in a 3B unit at Warren with no indication of when he will be moved. The 3B unit at Warren is heavily-controlled by gangs and membership is a requirement for phone access. Sean is generally a well-respected prisoner, both for his many years in prison and for his reputation as an anarchist shit-starter, but he is in uncharted territory at a new prison among young wild-asses who, unfortunately, tend to direct their anger and defiance at one another instead of at the prison itself.

Without phone access and with the JPay kiosk out of order after being destroyed so many times by prisoners who don’t use them anyway, Sean’s only method of communication is letters and he’s unable to record his radio segments or communicate with his lawyer in a timely manner. Sean has sent many “kites” (inner-prison mail communication) to the administration about his move to 3A and gotten no specific indication of when he will be moved.

Sean requests that we call the prison and talk to Deputy Warden Robert Welch, who Sean says is a reasonable guy and may be receptive to our requests. His number is 513-932-3388 ext. 2005.

It’s important, though, that when talking to the prison administration, we not say anything to turn negative attention toward other inmates. Let’s talk to the prison about their failure to transfer Sean to the unit he’s supposed to be on and not focus our complaints on the actions of other inmates—such as the gang control of the phones or the destruction of the Jpay kiosk. Let’s remember who the real enemy is.

Stuff to say to Deputy Warden Robert Welch:

-Sean is a level 3A prisoner and needs to be transferred to a 3A unit immediately.

-Sean is trying to keep is head down and not risk his new level 3A status. His placement in a level 3B unit puts him at risk of getting in trouble. He will be safer in a 3A unit.

Black August, 35 Years Ago, To Black Lives Matter, Today

From Popular Resistance:

blm-ferguson

Black August, a month of political prisoner activism and commemoration, can help remind us of the nation’s exponentially expanding racist prison system.

Protesters march through the streets of Ferguson. (Jamelle Bouie / Wikimedia Commons)

A year ago this month, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri exploded in the wake of the murder of eighteen-year-old Black teen, Michael Brown, at the hands of white police officer, Darren Wilson. The world watched closely as military Humvees and the national guard armed with tear gas and rubber bullets transformed an otherwise quiet town in the Midwest into a historic battlefront for the Black Lives Matter movement, the present-day Black liberation struggle born after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman over the murder of the Black seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Since the Ferguson riots last August, Black Lives Matter has radically shifted the national conversation on anti-Black racism and police brutality through massive protests, demonstrations, and online mobilizations that have galvanized a new generation of youth of color in the United States and around the world who refuse to allow the police to turn them into another murder statistic. Just last month, hundreds of Black activists gathered together in Cleveland, Ohio in a historic meeting for the inaugural Movement for Black Lives Convening, which featured panels and workshops on Black labor organizing, queer and trans justice, lessons from the Black Panther Party, among others.

A new Pew Research Center poll released this month further shows how Black Lives Matter is transforming the racial views of Americans (and particularly white Americans) in astounding ways. According to the poll, 59 percent of U.S. citizens believe that changes are necessary to afford equal rights to African Americans, up from 46 percent just last year, with a majority of whites (53 percent) agreeing. Black Lives Matter and related mobilizations across the country have forced white Americans to take racism and police brutality seriously to the point where most of them have come to agree that that police treat Blacks less fairly than other groups. That hot, tragic summer day in Ferguson and the riots they gave birth to last August launched a crucial movement to remind the world that Black Lives Matter.

Yet, as we take a moment this August to honor Ferguson and the past, present, and future of the Black Lives Matter movement, it might be useful to take a moment to recognize another important moment in the history of the Black freedom struggle taking place this month: Black August. More than thirty-five years ago, Black August was created by Black political prisoners in California’s infamous San Quentin State Prison in August 1979 to commemorate the long legacy of prison protest and other forgotten events in the history of Black freedom struggles. As cofounder Shuuja Graham told historian Dan Berger, “We figured that the people we wanted to remember wouldn’t be remembered during Black history month, so we started Black August.” In August 1971, Black Panther leader George Jackson was killed in a prison uprising, while his younger brother was killed the previous August attempt to free three prisoners. August was also the historic month in which Haitian slaves rebelled and launched the Haitian Revolution (August 21, 1791), initiating the successful destruction of chattel slavery on the island and the world’s first independent Black republic, and the month that Nat Turner led a slave revolt in southern Virginia (August 21, 1831). As a “kind of secular activist Ramadan,” as described by Berger, Black prisoners fasted, read, studied, and engaged in physical training and self-discipline. As Mumia Abu-Jamal notes, “August is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”

Over the coming months, Black August’s origins within the prison system can help remind us that as Black men and women are being murdered by police on the streets, hundreds of others are being shipped away and locked up in the nation’s exponentially expanding penitentiaries. The United States has the largest prison population in the world—even larger than China or Russia—and Black Americans constitute a disproportionate percentage of that population. According to the NAACP, African Americans comprise 1 million of the 2.3 million total prisoners in this nation, and are incarcerated six times more than whites. Even though Blacks and Latinos compose one quarter of the national population, they comprised 58 percent of all prisoners as of 2008. Although 14 million whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug, African Americans are being sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites thanks to racist drug policies beginning in the 1970s. As of 2001, one in six Black men had been incarcerated, but if current trends continue, one in three Black men born today can expect to be imprisoned at some point in their lifetimes.

Black August can also help us remember that big money is increasingly behind this prison-industrial complex that devalues Black life. The past forty years have witnessed an unprecedented boom in incarceration rates in the United States. According to a report published by the National Research Council, the prison population grew from 200,000 to about 2.2 million between 1973 and 2009, which meant that the U.S. held about a quarter of the world’s prisoners. The period of prison privatization emerged in the 1980s when neoliberal policies began to expand across the globe, with the first U.S. private prison business operating in Hamilton County, Tennessee in 1984 under the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Today, privately run prisons are ubiquitous across the nation, even being dramatized on screen as seen in the last season of Orange is the New Black. Meanwhile, on the backs of Black and brown prisoners, CCA reported US$1.7 billion in total revenue in 2011 alone.

And Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the beloved “lesser of two evils” for many progressives, is just as mired in this racist monster of the private prison system. Last month, it was reported that Clinton was accepting contributions from known lobbyists for two of the country’s largest private prison corporations, CCA and the Geo Group, in addition to her usual donations from Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry. In light of this news, it’s no surprise that Clinton refused to address issues of structural racism when she was confronted by a group of Black Lives Matter activists in New Hampshire earlier this month. “She was not willing to concede that the inherent anti-blackness in the policies that were enacted to address problems is the cause of the problems we have today,” activist Julius Jones stated.

In the streets or behind gray prison doors, Black August offers a moment to focus and honor the long African American freedom struggles that are the current movement’s predecessors.

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View  the original article: www.teleSURtv.net/english

Ohio: Prisoners end hunger strike, declare results

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012, Youngstown OH- OSP Hunger Strike Ends. After long negotiations with Warden David Bobby on Monday, May 7th, the hunger-striking prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) began eating again. Two of the men held out through Tuesday, unsatisfied with the agreement. The warden met with them separately, and they agreed to come off the strike. Warden Bobby reported that “by lunch time today, everyone was eating.” This was confirmed by two prisoner sources.

At this point, details on agreements are unclear, but sources inside say that the hunger strikers are satisfied and feel they achieved results. One source described the demands and the Warden’s response as “reasonable”. Without going into detail, the main concerns were in regards to commissary costs, state pay rates, phone costs, length of stay, and harsh penalties for petty conduct reports. The Warden said that he discussed “many things” at Monday’s meeting with strike representatives, “many things beyond the main demands” but he would not share any of the details.

The strikers are resting and recovering, but have mailed detailed information to outside supporters at RedBird Prison Abolition, which will be released to the public as soon as possible. The Warden admitted that one of the hunger-strikers was transferred to disciplinary segregation for an unrelated rule infraction, but stated that there were no reprisals or punishments for participating. One prisoner source agreed with this statement.

The hunger strike began on April 30th and was timed to align with May Day protests outside. Prisoners have stated an interest in “joining hands in struggle toward common goals” with protest and resistance movements like Occupy Wall Street.

Ohio: OSP prisoner hunger strike enters second week

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OSP Hunger Strike Enters Second Week.

Monday May 7th, 2011, Youngstown OH- Prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) continue the hunger strike they started on Monday April 30th, in solidarity with May Day.

The number of prisoners refusing food has fluctuated from 24 to 48 over the last week, as some prisoners joined late. Communication with the super max prisoners has been limited since the beginning of the strike, but a clear list of grievances and demands has emerged from at least two sources.

The two primary demands are:
1. Improved commissary practices and increased state pay. The prison commissary can set prices at up to 35% mark-up on basic necessities like shampoo, food, and soap. These prices fluctuate unexpectedly, and are often prohibitive to prisoners without outside support, as state pay is only $9 a month.

2. A transparent and accountable security level classification process. OSP houses level 4 and 5 prisoners, the highest security level in Ohio. Once prisoners are classified at these levels and transferred to OSP, there is no clear process for how they can reduce their level and get transferred out of the facility. Prisoners can spend years in OSP without any negative conduct reports and still have no hope of their level being reduced.

Other grievances include:

1. Food portions and quality have been reduced due to austerity measures.

2. Inadequate medical care. Also due to austerity cuts, prison officials have stopped send prisoners to outside treatment centers for MRIs and EEGs unless their conditions are considered life threatening. They also often ignore doctor recommendations for pain medications.

3. Lack of enrichment programming. There are strict bans on many books and movies, and the institutional television channel has little variety. One prisoner said they run the same programs on a loop every six months.

The two sources for these demands are an open letter written to the local Youngstown paper, by prisoner Marcus Harris, and phone conversations with a trusted anonymous source inside the prison. This source also stated that at least one hunger striker has been punished for his participation, sprayed with mace in his cell and sent to disciplinary isolation. This report has not yet been confirmed.

Warden David Bobby met with hunger strike representatives for 3 hours on Wednesday May 2nd. He says he will “continue to communicate with the inmates and listen to their concerns”. Thus far, the Warden has called a committee to review commissary practices, comparing them with other Ohio Institutions.

He says that the security level classification system is not uniform because it takes the reasons a prisoner was transferred to OSP into account. One prisoner source was familiar with this argument. He described a situation where someone got sentenced to Level 5 at OSP for 48 months or less. He got no negative reports for those 48 months, but was still denied a security transfer because of “the reasons he was originally classified Level 5, but they already knew that when the brought him in and told him it’d be 48 months or less”. This prisoner also said that consequences for petty conduct reports, like refusing to cuff up or return a food tray, have recently increased, “someone who used to be sent to the hole for 16 days, now might be dropped a level from 4 to 5”. He considers these changes an attempt to keep OSP full of prisoners as “job security” for the Warden and Officers.

The Warden said OSP currently has the most prisoners it has since it opened in 1996. He also said the current hunger strike is the biggest hunger strike since he became warden 4 years ago. It is also the second hunger strike this year. In February, twenty-five prisoners went on hunger strike for 3 days. Two major demands from that hunger strike were: increased recreation time, to the court required minimum of five hours a week, and improved commissary practices. The recreation time demand was met, but the prisoners say the current hunger strike “follows directly” from the neglected commissary demand from February. The warden says he does not remember what the demands in February were, and that the recreation schedule has changed repeatedly since the transfer of death row from OSP to Chillicothe last December.

Prisoner Mark Harris’s letter ends: “in short, we are sensory deprived, underfed, isolated with little to no movement, unable to hug our children, family and friends, and we are stuck for an overly extended period of time, with limited programming”. He requests that people use “whatever resources [they] have to help spread the word of our cause, to call and check up on us and our health and also to look into these matters”.

Warden David Bobby 330-743-0700
ODRC Director Gary Mohr 614-752-1164