As a new administration enters the White House, we want to make clear, immediate demands to reduce and reverse the harm done by the past year of pandemic negligence in prisons and jails.
Join us in a spirited motorcade rally through the Capitol, while we hand-deliver our petition to the Department of Justice and incoming nominee to the DOJ Civil Rights Division, Kristen Clarke.Supporters can also join us virtually for “Stakeholders Event” at 10:30 that morning.
We demand a expedited executive clemency for prisoners, as well as investigation and enforcement action in all federal, state and local prisons to stop the rampant spread of COVID-19 among prisoners who are unable to socially distance or access proper PPE to protect themselves.Reducing the number of people behind bars must be the number one priority.While the CDC has acknowledged the danger in prisons, it has fallen short of advocating the level of decarceration that is needed to truly implement its guidelines.BACKGROUNDThere are over 6000 state, local and federal prisons across the United States. Many of them have become hotspots of Covid-19, with disproportionately high impacts among Black and Latinx prisoners, particularly in Southern states.
A recent statement from the DOJ in regards to public nursing homes offers an example of the sort of power they have to push state, federal and local facilities towards safer settings for vulnerable prisoner populationsThe Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced on Aug 26, 2020 that is looking towards investigations under the federal “Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act” (CRIPA), which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing home facilities.
This can and should be applied to prisons and jails.In that statement, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband stated that “Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members…is one of our country’s most important obligations.”We agree. According to their website’s Pandemic Response Oversight page, the DOJ has completed two reports on COVID-19 in prisons (one in Lompoc, CA, the other at FCC Tucson, AZ).
This is a start, but its not enough.Research from Johns Hopkins and UCLA shows prisoners are 550% more likely to catch COVID-19, and 300% more likely to die from it than the general population.According to the New York Times COVID-19 Case Tracker, in mid-August 84 of the top 100 COVID-19 outbreak hotspots in the country were prisons and jails. Fifteen of them located in Florida’s incarceration system alone.A DOJ investigation into these state prisons systems could apply significant pressure to force life-saving changes.
If we do not get a sufficient response, we will take the issue to the United Nations to call for international attention on the reckless negligence of U.S. institutions with regards to the lives of prisoners in this pandemic.
I am in the “Satellite Camp” of the Otisville prison. I never asked for the camp and I was very surprised that I was assigned there. The camp is a very low security prison, and it has some benefits (this is the prison camp that Michael Cohen spent his limited time in). I think the greatest benefit is that I can go out into the fresh air around the camp anytime I want. I walk around the perimeter most days for a bit of exercise and air. In most areas the perimeter is defined by trees: evergreens, birch, and oaks. Out of the forest come dozens of deer every day, looking, of course, for something to eat in this lean time of year. We also see Canada geese and an array of colorful birds the size of sparrows.
Other benefits are that the food is decent and the other prisoners are pretty easy to get along with. Many of them are flat out friendly and caring. I live in a “pod” in the camp. A pod is not a cell; it has no doors nor bars. The walls of the pod are 5 ½ feet high. If I look out over the dorm space I can see the tops of the heads of the other prisoners. Presently 60 prisoners are housed here. It’s a somewhat older population than the main facility and it is predominantly Jewish, mainly Orthodox Jewish. I’m making friends with the Jewish guru in the place hoping to get my hands on Jewish Midrashic texts, which I find mind blowing.
Meanwhile, I have plenty to read. I am currently re-reading Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, as well as a book by Lisa Pease about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy entitled A Lie Too Big to Fail. It’s a 500 pager. I’m a quarter of the way in and I’m convinced that Sirhan Sirhan was not the lone shooter and did not shoot the fatal shot. I’ve finished Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, another 500 pager. It tells us all sorts of things we should have learned in high school and were never taught in college. I’m sure to read it a second time, that time taking notes.
Prior to my time in the camp I spent about 18 days in quarantine in the main facility. Basically, it was a sort of soft and civil variety of isolation. I was in a cell with my own toilet. Like any prison, however, you’re subject to some humiliation. I suppose this is to remind you that you are a prisoner. Without fail, in my experience, you are required to make your bed, but the linens don’t fit. Also, every prison has a series of stand-up counts, so they are assured that no one has escaped. One of our stand-up counts in quarantine was at 5:30 a.m. You could be berated if you are not standing at attention looking through the 12 x 5 inch window on the cell door, before they got there. There is no watch on your wrist nor clock on the wall. If you are sleeping, they will bang on the door till you rise. I’ve also noticed that they keep prison cells cold. This was more pronounced in my cell because the small window to the outer world was cracked and there was plenty of snow on the ground. Even after purchasing thermal underwear, a sweatshirt, and sweatpants, I was close to shivering every night from a maybe four to six a.m.
It took them four days before offering me a shower, and I wondered if the water would be hot or at least warm. (At the Camden County Jail in Georgia the shower was cold!) So, I was greatly relieved when I was able to get a good, hot shower.
Otherwise, my time in quarantine was… interesting. I very quickly received a Bible, a good book, and the first chapter of a book on Christian Yoga. Years earlier Fr. Steve Kelly, my co-defendant, sent me the photocopies of this book. While I have long been attracted to yoga, I’d never taken the time to develop a practice. Now I had a cell and more than 2 weeks to myself.
This variety of yoga is not primarily for exercise. It is primarily for meditation, which I’ve always found elusive. As it turned out, I not only had the time and the text to begin a practice, I also had a serious need for some meditation and discernment as I was going through a great deal of turmoil regarding the integrity of the Kings Bay plowshares action.
Too wit, the government is demanding restitution for property destruction. During conversations among the defendants who were on supervised release, this issue came up repeatedly, but seemed never to have been resolved. The court upon sentencing demands that the payment of restitution would begin immediately, meaning that, upon being given a job in prison some portion of my meager salary would be garnished.
Ideally, I was hoping that this prison would possibly have a non-paying job, like many other prisons do. No luck here. So, the question before me was, would I work and pay or not? Were I to do so I would be paying into a genocidal criminal conspiracy. And hopefully, what did my conscience say.
Again, in conversation with some of my out co-defendants ( meaning those out of prison) some said there were strong disincentives to refusing to work. I could be sent to a local county jail to do my time; I could be shipped around the country to several different prisons from here to California; or I might be put in long-term solitary confinement.
Personally, I thought the most likely outcome would be solitary confinement. I imagined that the recourse of being shipped to other prisons would be ruled out due to COVID. I didn’t know much about the conditions in solitary. I did come to learn that I could get some books, but possibly only the books in the prison’s library and only by having random samplings of these brought into the solitary cell periodically. I knew that I could receive mail, so part of me thought, okay, I could survive for 11 months like that… Maybe. And if I could get mail I could get the yoga instructions and then maybe I could survive.
I am by no means an evangelist, but it was through the daily readings, prayer, and yoga that I came to ask myself, “What would God want?” I cannot but think that God finds this existential threat to ourselves and this Earth that he created for us OUTRAGEOUS. And if I broke, the very effort would be appreciated. Didn’t Pope Francis say that “the very possession of nuclear weapons was to be firmly condemned”? Didn’t we break our promise to the world to pare down our nuclear arsenal as soon as possible and put them under international control, i.e., the Non-proliferation treaty? And didn’t the Russians offer us total nuclear disarmament in 1987, only to be refused?
So, shortly after I arrived at the camp I met my counselor and my case manager. I immediately told them I would not pay restitution, and, while they both seemed startled, they said, “Well, okay, you are within your rights.” !!!!! Who knew!
However, there are some consequences. I can only receive $25 per month in commissary and I will not be given any “good time” so I’ll be here until mid-November.
Carmen Trotta #22561-021 FCI Otisville- Satellite Camp PO Box 1000 Otisville, NY 10963
Born in a prison cell, Mike Africa Jr. spent decades fighting to have his parents freed from prison. On a Move with Mike Africa Jr. will illuminate the issues and struggles of the people, inform the uninformed, and give you nothing but the truth.
NYC ABC, along with several other individuals and prisoner support crews, now send hard copies to all political prisoners and prisoners of war we support.
If you consistently mail the latest updates to a specific prisoner, please let us know so we can insure there’s no overlap. The goal is to have copies sent to all of the prisoners we list.
We’ve also been told that some prisoners are not receiving the copies sent in, yet we aren’t getting rejection notices. If you are in steady contact with a prisoner, please ask them whether or not they are receiving the updates and let us know.
…And the work continues. We have no illusions that regardless of who is sitting atop the pyramid, those seeking to meaningfully confront the white supremacist power structures that the “usa” is predicated on will continue to be in the cross hairs of the police state and its carceral corollary. The fact that movement elders who did so in previous generations are still being held decades later, many in old age and deteriorating health, shows the spite the system harbors against them.
Muhammad Burton was accused in 1970 and convicted in 1972 on highly dubious charges, one of the “Philadelphia 5” accused of plotting to kill Philadelphia police officers. Muhammad has been behind bars for 50 years, including 11 years in solitary confinement. He has continued to maintain his innocence throughout the decades.
Please join NYC ABC and Page One Collective in writing to him. Pennsylvania prisons outsource their mail system through a Florida based corporation, Smart Communications. Letters should be addressed to Fred Burton.
Please take the time to write a letter to Muhammad Burton (and share a photo of your completed envelopes with us online): Smart Communications/PA DOC
Muhammad Burton AF 3896* SCI Somerset Post Office Box 33028 St. Petersburg, Florida 33733 United States *Address envelope to Fred Burton
An interview with anarchist political-prisoner Eric King with the Seattle-Tacoma chapter of Black and Pink.
In this time when authorities refuse to keep people safe from COVID-19, when rebellion is a fresh on our minds, and when the abolition of police and prisons is becoming a clear necessity to more and more people, we’ve got something to learn from an anarchist political prisoner like Eric King. Eric vandalized the office of a government official in Kansas City, MO, in solidarity with the Ferguson uprising, was arrested in September 2014, and then was sentenced to ten years for the window he broke in June 2016. Such a sentence is horrible, but not shocking. Prisons, after all, do more to keep hierarchies safe than people.
The following is an interview with Eric conducted through snail mail by the Seattle-Tacoma chapter of Black and Pink, a queer/trans abolitionist group that focuses on building community across prison walls.
Good Morning everyone. I’m not sure if this is such a good morning but i don’t know how to open this letter to everyone.Yes i heard the loser did not sign my clemency, i had this strong feeling yesterday that I wasn’t going to get it, i don’t know why i had it,? I guess it was the spirits telling me so i sat down trying to write you all a letter but my tears of self pity must have over whelmed me as i could not see to finish it so i had to stop for a while, thought about my family friends and people’s how it must be for them too . so i pulled myself together. and thought to myself well
I’m not going to give up.Its been a hard 45 yrs, and it will get a lot harder I’m sure as I aged and in the moments when hopelessness over takes me, but at my age all i can do is ask so many of you to stay with me and lets try again. b/cuz we have the only weapon we can use and that’s the constitution and the laws of this so called free democracy EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL, and must get everyone to know what the laws was that they violated not just the lawyers, But what a joke that is,!! IT HAS never has been this way for my people. and more then likely will never be. BUT I welcome all who will stay with me and fight on until i take my last breath.
Thank you. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Doksha,
Leonard Peltier #89637-132 USP Coleman I Post Office Box 1033 Coleman, Fl 33521
This month we are asking that folks write letters of support to former Black Panther, Kamau Sadiki. Kamau has been held in the Augusta State Medical Prison for years and suffered medical neglect. Right now, Kamau is in danger of needing his left foot amputated and needs to see a wound specialist. Before you join us next Monday to write a letter, please take a minute to tweet at @GovKemp & call the Augusta State Medical Prison at (706) 855-4700 to demand he be taken to the wound care clinic ASAP. At the letter-writing event, we will have an update about the medical campaign and send words of solidarity directly to Kamau so that he knows, and the prison knows, this situation is getting wider public attention.
At age 17, Kamau dedicated his life to the service of his people working out of the Jamaica office of the Black Panther Party. Kamau worked in the Free Breakfast Program each morning and then went out into the community to sell the BPP newspaper later in the day. At nineteen, Kamau was a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). Several members of the BLA, including Kamau, left New York City and lived in the Atlanta area for a short period of time. On the night of November 3rd 1971, witnesses observed three black males run from a van where a police officer was murdered at a gas station in downtown Atlanta. The witnesses failed to identify Kamau from a photographic line-up and there was no physical evidence that implicated him. In 1971, the Atlanta police department closed the case as unsolved.
In 1999, the FBI in pursuit of collaboration in their attempts to recapture Assata Shakur (the mother of one of Kamau’s daughters), a political exile in Cuba, threatened him with life in prison if he did not assist them. When he did not comply, the FBI convinced Atlanta police to re-open the case and charge Kamau. He was arrested in 2002 in Brooklyn, New York some thirty-one years later after the murder. In 2003, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and ten years to run consecutively for armed robbery. Much of his sentence has been spent in a medical prison because he suffers from Hepatitis C, Cirrhosis of the Liver, and Sarcoidosis. February 19th will be his 68th birthday so send him some birthday love as well!
This event will be held on Jitsi – we’ll post the meet link on social media the day of. You can also message us to get the link beforehand.
If you can’t join us on Monday, send him a message of hope and healing at:
Freddie Hilton #0001150688 Augusta State Medical Prison 3001 Gordon Highway Grovetown, GA 30813
We also encourage sending birthday cards to political prisoners with February birthdays: Veronza Bowers (the 4th) and Oso Blanco (the 26th).