Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Media, Miseducation, and Mumia Abu Jamal

Posted in BTR, Citizen Radio, media, politics, prison by allisonkilkenny on April 22, 2009

Listen here: http://www.breakthruradio.com/index.php?show=6692.

Mumia Abu Jamal

Mumia Abu Jamal

After the Unfunny But Totally Real Headlines, Citizen Radio discusses Australia, the cursed liberal media, torture memos, miseducation, prison, and Mumia Abu Jamal.

What’s more gross than grown adults pleasuring themselves to the thought of the U.S. military? When the press does it! Citizen Radio discusses the mainstream media, and how they’re miseducating America.

Next, Jamie talks about dropping out of high school and Allison comments on Noam Chomsky’s “On Miseducation,” a book that explores how institutionalized education encourages ideological domestication.

Upcoming guests include: Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Janeane Garofalo, and Jeremy Scahill.

Citizen Radio aids every Wednesday on BTR. Listen to our archives here. Join us on Facebook!

A Little Torture

Posted in Barack Obama, law, politics, prison, torture, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on April 17, 2009

justice“There is no such thing as a little torture.” — Alfred M. McCoy, author of A Question of Torture

The Bush administration is really an impressive force of nature. Whenever I was absolutely certain that their dastardly deeds couldn’t possibly get any more nefarious, Dick Cheney shot a family friend in the face, or George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to invade another country. When they finally left office, I assumed they couldn’t harm America’s reputation ever again.

I was wrong. The Justice Department finally made the infamous memos that sanctioned torture public this week. The details are horrific. Not only are barbaric measures like “walling” (slamming a person into a wall,) and stress positions deemed acceptable by legal experts, but also more inventive interrogation methods like placing live bugs in a confinement box (and telling the prisoner they’ll sting him). 

Politicians repeatedly regurgitate the fairy tale that America is a Nation of Laws. Except, the laws get broken all the time, and the archetypes of anarchy usually aren’t held accountable. Barack Obama has sought to reassure CIA operates, who participated in torture, that they can use the same defense Nazis could not use during Nuremberg. Namely, that they were just “following orders.”

This doesn’t bode well for justice enthusiasts, who hoped that maybe (just maybe) the Big Guys would be help accountable this time. That maybe John Yoo, Douglas Feith, Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney, David Addington, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and William Haynes would have to stand before the American people and explain why they thought sanctioning torture was acceptable.

That maybe they would finally have to explain why a little torture was okay.

We are a nation of laws only if the people in charge get to benefit from the rulings. We are a nation of laws only up until Lynndie England, but justice stops short of Donald Rumsfeld. We are a nation of laws for thieves and crooks, but justice can’t touch Goldman Sachs CEOs. The hypocrisy is rampant. It infests every facet of the justice system, and has left us with a broken two-tier system of justice.

The debate over torture is frequently aimed at Guantanamo. However, the problem is also domestic, although the victims are still the unprivileged. While the United States is home to just five percent of the world’s population, it contains 25% of the world’s prisoners. More than one in 100 adults are in prison. Most of those prisoners aren’t homicidal sociopaths. They’re nonviolent drug offenders. America is the only western industrialized country to still use the death penalty, but apparently injecting someone will a chemical that paralyzes their organs doesn’t constitute torture, even though the Nazis used the same method. Those that live inside our prison-industrial complex experience a form of torture every day. Prisoners face the threat of rape and are more likely to contract H.I.V., hepatitis and tuberculosis. 

This kind of domestic torture is frequently overlooked because it’s the “right people” suffering. Bad guys. Bottom-tier justice types: poor people, immigrants, people of color. And after all, it’s only a little torture. Terrorists and criminals deserve whatever happens to them. Waterboarding doesn’t even count as torture! It’s just a light spritz in the face! (Of course, even Bush’s own legal team knew it was torture and expressed their concern in footnote form.)

This cartoonish, simplified scope of reality would be laughable had it not been the ideologies held by the Bush administration for eight years. Innocent people are accused of crimes all the time. That’s why our smart ancestors put in place that whole “justice system” in the first place. Ya’ know, that thing about being able to face one’s accusers and present evidence to defend one’s self.

If justice is to come to Guantanamo (and it should,) it must also come to the United State’s domestic prisons where draconian drug laws continue case overcrowding and strain stark resources, which then breeds inhumane conditions. If justice is to come to torture victims, it must mean than the archetypes of the torture memos will stand beside the CIA agents that carried out the orders.

The American two-tier justice system must end, and a good start would be for the Obama administration to recognize that a little torture is never okay, no matter who is doing it.

Help End Rockefeller Drug Laws

Posted in prison, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on March 13, 2009

NYCLU

12036314_400x400_frontIt’s Finally Happening

New York must reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws

The Rockefeller Drug Laws, enacted in 1973, mandate extremely harsh prison terms for the possession or sale of small amounts of drugs. Intended to target drug kingpins, most of the people incarcerated under these laws are convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses. Many of the thousands of New Yorkers in prison under these laws suffer from substance abuse problems; many others struggle with issues related to homelessness, mental illness or unemployment.

The Rockefeller Drug Laws create stark racial disparities in prison populations and exact an enormous financial toll on all of New York State.

After 36 years, the chance for true reform of these laws is greater this year than it ever has been.

On March 4, the New York State Assembly passed a strong reform bill, the first step on the road to a new direction for New York.

The same progressive bill has now been introduced in the New York State Senate where it faces a much tougher road to passage. Many senators have been intimidated by the scare tactics and misrepresentations of prosecutors who don’t want to give up their power over New Yorkers’ lives. And recent media reports suggest that Governor Paterson, who was once the strongest champion of Rockefeller reform, wants to cut a deal to put a band-aid on these fundamentally broken laws. What we need is real reform, not piecemeal fixes.

Send a free fax to your senators and to Governor Paterson urging them to put 36 years of failed Rockefeller Drug Laws behind us, once and for all. Tell the Senate to pass S.2855, and tell the Governor to sign it into law.

To find out more information about the Rockefeller Drug Laws, click here.

Tell me more

Talking Points

– For 36 years, the Rockefeller Drug Laws have done nothing to stop drug abuse or help people struggling to overcome addiction in New York. Public health experts agree there is a better way: treatment and rehabilitation.

– The Rockefeller Drug Laws have created unconscionable racial disparities. While 72 percent of New Yorkers who have used illegal drugs are white, more than 90 percent of people incarcerated for drug offenses in New York State are black or Latino.

– The Rockefeller Drug Laws have destroyed lives, families, neighborhoods and whole communities for decades. More than 25,000 children have been orphaned by our state’s drug laws. Sixty percent of people who have been incarcerated can’t find work a year after release.

– New York State could save $267 million annually by treating and rehabilitating those who need it. Our state can’t afford the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

– Judges must have the authority to do what they think is best in the interest of justice and public safety. Mandatory minimum sentences bust be eliminated and judges must have the option of sending people to drug treatment and rehabilitation instead of prison.

– New York State needs alternatives to incarceration programs in every county in the State. Experts agree: Some drug users need mental health services, treatment, education, and job-training programs instead of a jail cell.

SIGN THE LETTER HERE

VIDEO: NY Legislature to Vote on Overhauling Draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws

Posted in politics, prison, racism, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

Democracy Now

n52476290354_57251The New York State Assembly is set to vote Wednesday on legislation that would allow judges to send drug offenders to substance abuse treatment instead of prison. The legislation would also allow thousands of prisoners jailed for nonviolent drug offenses to have their sentences reduce or commuted. It’s the latest step in a long campaign to repeal the draconian Rockefeller laws. The laws impose lengthy minimum sentences on drug offenders, even those with no prior convictions. The laws have disproportionately targeted people of color, while giving prosecutors de facto control over how long convicts are jailed. [includes rush transcript]

Video Guests:

Kirk James, served nine years under the Rockefeller drug laws as a first-time offender. He’s now a social justice activist.

Caitlin Dunklee, coordinator of the Correctional Association’s Drop the Rock, a grassroots campaign to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws.

Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, Representing New York’s 35th Assembly District in Queens, has led efforts in the New York state legislature to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws.

Watch videos here

(more…)

Staggering New Prison Statistics

Posted in prison, racism by allisonkilkenny on March 3, 2009

Democracy Now

Study: 7.3 Million Americans Now in Prison, on Parole or Probation

11prison_paper1

Here in this country, a new study has found the number of people in prison, on parole or probation has reached a record 7.3 million. One in every thirty-one adults is now in the US corrections system. Twenty-five years ago, the rate was one in seventy-seven. The Pew Center on the States found that corrections spending is outpacing government spending on education, transportation and public assistance. The National Association of State Budget Officers estimates that states spent a record $52 billion on corrections last year—that’s one in every fifteen general fund dollars.

###

NYT

Prison Spending Outpaces All but Medicaid

One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008, according to a new study.

Criminal correction spending is outpacing budget growth in education, transportation and public assistance, based on state and federal data. Only Medicaid spending grew faster than state corrections spending, which quadrupled in the past two decades, according to the report Monday by the Pew Center on the States, the first breakdown of spending in confinement and supervision in the past seven years.

The increases in the number of people in some form of correctional control occurred as crime rates declined by about 25 percent in the past two decades.

As states face huge budget shortfalls, prisons, which hold 1.5 million adults, are driving the spending increases.

States have shown a preference for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with $1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged.

Pew researchers say that as states trim services like education and health care, prison budgets are growing. Those priorities are misguided, the study says.

“States are looking to make cuts that will have long-term harmful effects,” said Sue Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States. “Corrections is one area they can cut and still have good or better outcomes than what they are doing now.”

Brian Walsh, a senior research fellow at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, agreed that focusing on probation and parole could reduce recidivism and keep crime rates low in the long run. But Mr. Walsh said tougher penalties for crimes had driven the crime rate down in the first place.

“The reality is that one of the reasons crime rates are so low is because we changed our federal and state systems in the past two decades to make sure that people who commit crimes, especially violent crimes, actually have to serve significant sentences,” he said.

Over all, two-thirds of offenders, or about 5.1 million people in 2008, were on probation or parole. The study found that states were not increasing their spending for community supervision in proportion to their growing caseloads. About $9 out of $10 spent on corrections goes to prison financing (that includes money spent to house 780,000 people in local jails).

One in 11 African-Americans, or 9.2 percent, are under correctional control, compared with one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent) and one in 45 whites (2.2 percent). Only one out of 89 women is behind bars or monitored, compared with one out of 18 men.

Georgia had 1 in 13 adults under some form of punishment; Idaho, 1 in 18; the District of Columbia, 1 in 21; Texas, 1 in 22; Massachusetts, 1 in 24; and Ohio, 1 in 25.

Peter Greenwood, the executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Evidence Based Practice, a group that favors rehabilitative approaches, said states started spending more on prisons in the 1980s during the last big crime wave.

“Basically, when we made these investments, public safety and crime was the No. 1 concern of voters, so politicians were passing all kinds of laws to increase sentences,” Mr. Greenwood said.

President Bill Clinton signed legislation to increase federal sentences, he said.

“Now, crime is down,” Mr. Greenwood said, “but we’re living with that legacy: the bricks and mortar and the politicians who feel like they have to talk tough every time they talk about crime.”

Mr. Greenwood said prisons and jails, along with their powerful prison guard unions, service contracts, and high-profile sheriffs and police chiefs, were in a much better position to protect their interests than were parole and probation officers.

“Traditionally, probation and parole is at the bottom of the totem pole,” he said. “They’re just happy every time they don’t lose a third of their budget.”

Immigration Enforcement Gone Bad

Posted in immigration, politics, prison by allisonkilkenny on February 22, 2009

New York Times

09The failures of the immigration system are many and severe, but the main problem is not that the country is catching too few undocumented immigrants. It is catching too many. Since the early 1990s, you could write the federal government’s immigration strategy on a cardboard sign: Deport Them All.

A report last week from the Pew Hispanic Center laid bare some striking results of that campaign. It found that Latinos now make up 40 percent of those sentenced in federal courts, even though they are only about 13 percent of the adult population. They accounted for one-third of federal prison inmates in 2007.

The numbers might suggest we are besieged by immigrant criminals. But of all the noncitizen Latinos sentenced last year, the vast majority — 81 percent — were convicted for unlawfully entering or remaining in the country, neither of which is a criminal offense.

The country is filling the federal courts and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It is diverting immense law-enforcement resources from pursuing serious criminals — violent thugs, financial scammers — to an immense, self-defeating campaign to hunt down … workers.

The Pew report follows news this month that even as a federal program to hunt immigrant fugitives saw its budget soar — to $218 million last year from $9 million in 2003 — its mission went astray. According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, of the 72,000 people arrested through last February, 73 percent had no criminal record. Border Patrol agents in California and Maryland, meanwhile, tell of pressure to arrest workers at day-labor corners and convenience stores to meet quotas.

The country needs to control its borders. It needs to rebuild an effective immigration system and thwart employers who cheat it. It needs to bring the undocumented forward and make citizen taxpayers of them.

For all the billions spent on fences, raids, patrols and prisons, the number of illegal immigrants has steadily grown to about 12 million last year from four million in 1992. So has the need to overhaul the many parts of a festering, broken system: to clear out backlogs in legal immigration, to rescue families from limbo, to throw sunlight on the shadow economy, to deter unlawful hiring, to replace chaos with lawfulness and order. All those priorities have languished in the deportation era.

Inmates Forced to Drink Poison Water

Posted in environment, health, prison by allisonkilkenny on January 7, 2009

Dr. B. Cayenne Bird

Discolored prison water

Discolored prison water

I would like to share with you a letter sent to me by Daniel Zuma, a member of our UNION prison reform group with a graduate degree who gives us a first person, professionally qualified description of water at Duel Vocational Institute, a prison at Tracy, California and conditions he personally witnessed after he was terrorized by law enforcement. He was harshly sentenced to three years on a first arrest for possesion of recreational drugs. A senior citizen who was harming no one, a well-educated, gentle person who used to be in state service, thrown into prison. Whom did this benefit? No wonder we have no state budget and so many people are walking around traumatized for life after a ridiculous prison sentence.

Here is Daniel’s shocking account. He is now out of prison, but he told me that he will never get over how his own life was devastated by what he endured and witnessed there. It is a key to why nobody is getting out of prison as a better person, but are instead broken in mind, body and spirit. Here’s the letter from a very courageous man whose government has destroyed him over a victimless “crime”. After his letter, I discuss other instances of poison water in the state’s prisons and call everyone to rally with us outside the San Francisco, California courthouse on February 4, 2009

Begin Letter from Daniel Zuma:

Dear Rev. Bird:

Nobody ever expects to go to prison, least of all someone who has never been in trouble before, and who has retired from a career in civil service. But, a friend of mine got caught for possession of drugs and they offered him his freedom in exchange for mine. The government broke down my front door, destroyed my faith in humanity, ruined me financially, and sentenced me to 3 years in prison for drug possession.

Prison did nothing about my drug use except to traumatize me to an extent that I would only be more likely to use them in the future (drug use is one of the defining criteria of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Prison also ruined my physical health, leaving me bitter and in chronic physical pain. To my surprise, the vast majority of the people I met in prison were there for non-violent offenses–mostly for drug possession, or for technical violations of their conditions of parole–things like “failure to follow directions,” failing to keep an appointment, or turning in a dirty drug or alcohol test; i.e., things that are not even crimes. Many were over 50 years old, like myself.

I was at Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy CA, where the water runs gray and sometimes brown from the tap. It tastes of industrial chemicals and fermented cow urine, since a dairy sits atop the shallow aquifer from which the prison draws 620,000 gallons per day. It´s disgusting even in the best of times; the staff won´t drink it; there are signs warning visitors not to drink it; and trying to wash anything white only makes them dirtier. In mid-May of 2006, Plant Ops did some routine maintenance changing over the pipes bringing water into the prison. They turned the water off to the entire prison for about 18 hours, and when they turned it back on, the water ran black and thick as paint for nearly a day, after which it gradually went back to its usual gray. The staff brought trash cans full of potable water into the large dorms, and gave the prisoners buckets to help flush the toilets.

The roughly 3,900 prisoners confined two to a cell were completely without water; 379 prisoners and eight staff members were seriously sickened by some sort of diarrheal disease, variously identified as the Norovirus, Campylobacter and, according to one Doctor I spoke to, “a mixture of fecal bacteria” that were never conclusively identified. DVI is a reception center–a feeder prison–which sends about 750 inmates per week to Mule Creek, Wasco, Folsom and elsewhere in the Central Valley. It is, therefore, the first stop for any epidemic entering the prison system. Between May 16 and May 23, 2006, 1,344 inmates and 14 correctional staffers at 10 prisons came down with the disease.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, DVI was used as a firefighter training facility. Chemicals would be ignited in an open pit and extinguished by firefighting personnel. Consequently, there are now high concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds, such as PCE, TCE, and DCE in the groundwater. The prison dairy contributes significant amounts of nitrates and fecal bacteria, which leach into the water table only 12 feet below. Instead of filtration, the prison relies on high levels of chlorination to suppress fecal contamination, so there are high levels of chlorides (i.e., the “C” in PCE, TCE and DCE) in the water.

In addition to manganese and iron, the water at DVI has a very high salt content due to it´s proximity to San Francisco Bay. So, the water is very “filling,” but it doesn’t quench your thirst. During intestinal disease outbreaks and in hot weather, it is very difficult to stay hydrated or to flush the accumulated toxins from your body. (This is a particular danger for the elderly, or the many inmates who are on psychotropic medications due to mental health problems.)

After 3 months of drinking the DVI water I developed a rash over 80% of my body, which was so itchy I would scratch myself bloody in my sleep. It also affected my joints and my vision, and only cleared up when I was able to obtain bottled water.

I went to Mainline Medical to try to get a prescription or a medical “Chrono” for bottled water, or else a transfer to another institution with clean water. I was told by Dr. Fox, the Chief of the Medical Staff, that they didn’t have the power to grant either request, and besides, I couldn’t prove medically that it was the water (even though my rash would come back when I started drinking the water again). I was advised to file a Medical 602 , an Inmate Appeal which, in keeping with the normal standard of incompetence in these matters, was routed to the prison´s Chief Engineer as a “quality of life” issue, who denied it on the grounds that there was nothing he could do about the water.

Unlike many inmates I was fortunate enough to have family who could send me my own money from the outside, and I was able to purchase 2-liter bottles for 90 cents each once a month at the prison canteen. But then CDC suddenly canceled these from the canteen inventory in favor of 20 oz bottles at triple the price. I filed an Appeal on the price increase, citing my own health reasons and the fact that clean water is a necessity of life and health. After nearly a year of working my way through the various levels of appeal, it was finally turned down at the highest level by CDC in Sacramento.

They said that the decision to raise the price on water was made at the state level by a committee and, having been made, it cannot be unmade just for me. Apparently, allowing all prisoners access to clean water–even at their own expense–was not deemed sufficiently reasonable to revisit the committee´s decision. I know from my own years of experience in state government that there is no impediment to modifying a contract of this sort. They simply did not consider the health of inmates worth the effort.

In the meantime, I began documenting cases of others who had filed grievances at DVI and found a consistent pattern of obstruction and delay–and, when appeals were granted, the outcomes were deliberately calculated to make the situation worse, so as to convince the inmates of the futility of trying to change the system by working within it. All of the organizational self-correcting mechanisms have been disconnected in CDC–there is no meaningful press access; no outside audits; no inmate self-governance; no checks and balances; no whistle blower protection; chaplains can be fired for disclosing substandard conditions; and a recent federal case brought by an inmate at Pelican Bay regarding the serving of hot meals has shown that even the federal courts cannot force CDC to follow its own rules–should a prisoner survive the year-long gauntlet of delay and reprisals that pervades the Inmate Appeals Process.

What I didn´t know at the time is that polluted drinking water had been known about for decades at DVI and elsewhere, but it has been largely ignored as overcrowded prisons overtax the aquifers from which they draw their water. Nitrate contamination due to fertilizers is especially common in rural areas, such as the Salinas Valley State Prison near Monterey; the California Institution for Men (CIM) in Chino; at the California Men´s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo; and the nearby California Institution for Women (CIW). Mule Creek State Prison´s water is contaminated with dry cleaning chemicals; Old Folsom´s water is contaminated by toxic waste from the old scrap metal, drum storage, industrial manufacturing areas, and a firing range. At Kern Valley State Prison, there are high levels of arsenic in the water. Alkalinity, asbestos and fecal contamination are issues at Avenal. Inmates have also been sickened by the water at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, and by outbreaks of Helicobacter pylori (a bacterium that causes peptic ulcers) at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco.

If there is any pollution in the local water table, it tends to get sucked into the prison because of the rates of pumping have to keep up with overcrowding. To make matters worse, prisons only concentrate these pollutants further, and they discharge them back into the host communities, who are forced to subsidize the cost of treating the excess sewage. Between 2000 and 2006, eight of California’s 33 state prisons have been cited for major water pollution problems. Folsom State Prison, for example, was fined $700,000 in 2000 for a massive 700,000 gallon sewage spill into the adjacent American River.

The media is banned from California´s prisons which is outrageous when a full blown humanitarian crisis is taking place out of public view, which I believe is the reason that journalists can´t interview specific inmates and often have their notes seized. There are four journalists in the UNION and hundreds of family members who refuse to cooperate with this unconstitutional media ban, even though there is severe retaliation against those who file lawsuits and report the news from inside. There is less retaliation against the family members for reporting the news, since there is no way for the wardens and guards to know the source of information. Every effort is made by CDCr and state employees to cover up wrongdoing, which doesn´t work when people are educated and  dedicated patriots who will write and make comments at the news sites. 

The UNION´s jailhouse lawyers are suffering increased and severe retaliation during the final phases of the Plata trial in a concerted effort to silence them. There is very little help coming from the State lawmakers and officials to do anything to stop the deliberate physical and psychological torture being inflicted. I will be writing more on this topic soon and have been invited to be a guest on a national talk show to discuss the fact that there is no one who will assist families or inmates with real intervention even in life and death emergencies, unless they are able to write big checks or have a friend in office, which is rare. Losing a loved one to Prison is emotionally and financially devastating, which is why there are no large public outcry ad campaigns. 

On February 4, 2009, we are going to rally outside the Federal Courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco at 9 am. In order to get national media involved, at least 500 folks need to be there to stand up against medical neglect and continued abuse of the mentally ill in California’s horrific prisons. While more than 100 family members attended our Nov 21 rally, we need five times more than that to make a stronger point that no one is addressing folks who are suffering and dying right now. Many are inmates who could be released right now to save the state billions and give some relief to the parents who are out of their minds with sick worry as an inmate dies daily. Many more will die before this gets resolved, but each of us must be the public outcry and fill up our cars for this historic day. Go here, hit print and mail 50 copies into an inmate to help spread the word, we are all unpaid volunteers in the UNION and cannot afford large mailings. This is a way everyone can help, we need crowds to bring in the national media so the lawmakers will do something to prevent more deaths which are highly visible right now. 

Here’s the flyer for Feb 4, when closing arguments before Judges Thelton Henderson, Lawrence Karlton and Stephen Reinhardt will take place in the Plata case. The power of noisy numbers is the only solution, suffering in silence doesn’t work. 

Over the last decade, I have published in my columns and editorials information about poison water at most of the prisons. The first time I encountered the problem was when I visited Calipatria State prison in 1999 and saw warning signs posted in the waiting room to the visitors that the water was dangerously contaminated and not to drink it. Alarmed, I contacted Sen. John Burton´s office about the inmates being forced to drink this water even with public safety notices, and his aide, Nettie Sabelhaus, assured me that the water was safe, in spite of the signs. 

When one of our UNION journalists whose sister in Norco came down with H-pylori, we were able to convince the Riverside press Enterprise to do an investigation, but they were able to slide out of having to correct the problem. That story is in their news archives, so when the second flare up of h-pylori was discovered, the evidence is there that we tried very hard to get assistance in 2004, which never came. 

Instead of treating some 200 women who had contracted this bug that causes ulcers and great gastrointestinal suffering in many folks who get it, the warden simply transferred all these women to other prisons to keep it out of the news and then retired from her position two weeks later before we could organize an outcry on this medical neglect. 

Yes, CDCr scattered all these women, ill with a contagious bug, without treating them before the UNION families could find their relatives and gather enough support for a lawsuit. It was quiet until the same situation of h-pylori in the water at Norco arose in the headlines again just last month. 

I hope that everyone with a loved one at Norco has filed a complaint with the Riverside County Grand Jury so that something will be done about this ignored problem. If nobody cares enough to make noise in the media, comment at the news sites and file complaints with grand juries, then problems are never corrected. The lack of objection in the form of comments at the news sites and large protests is what enables the medical neglect, torture and murder taking place in the prisons to continue. We have had some luck when 50 or more UNION members file complaints with some of the grand juries who are also lied to and blocked from doing real investigations. 

 

The more info the grand jury has, which are mostly made up of citizen´s from the community, the more chance for actual resolution. The prisoners cannot do this type of complaint effectively for themselves, it is necessary for the family members to file these complaints in large numbers. 

There is no place to go for help at any level, even in life and death emergencies. The lawmakers are elected into office with the dollars and votes of law enforcement labor unions in the majority of cases, so writing to most of them for help for inmates is a complete waste of time. That´s because the state runs off the dollars and budgets generated by the court system through fines and the human bondage industry is California´s largest. We, the people need to stop electing law enforcement’s picks for office, and start electing some who are smart on crime, and represent the rest of us for a change. 
This callousness is one reason why the feds have had no choice but to take over the prisoners´ medical care, due to the deliberate indifference of most state lawmakers and officials who are should be doing the right thing, but who clearly are unresponsive. What goes on in the dark is deadly and empowers the cruelty that takes place in our mismanaged dungeons and I, as an old-fashioned journalist who has devoted four decades of my life serving the public´s right to know, am never going to cooperate with this cover up, even though the price I pay for reporting about the abuses is very high, more than I can tell you here. 

Michael Rothfield of the Los Angeles Times did an important series on arsenic-laced water this week which the prisoners are being forced to drink in site of the danger of cancer and other symptoms of slow poisoning. 

I don’t remember “give them cancer” as being part of the prisoners´ sentences. And, when the state allows this torture to happen, the amount of money we’ll pay for their healthcare costs will go up. It’s wrong on multiple levels, including humanitarian and financial. Maybe you think this isn’t your concern. 

But do you know that there are three million Californians who never thought that they or someone they love would land in prison so someone you know is affected by the humanitarian crisis taking place in the prisons due to criminal neglect? Poison water is a public health crisis, but due to too much silence and inaction by the families that could force lawmakers to comply, this cruel and unusual punishment continues to exist. The fact that the State has known about arsenic in the water for several years and has no plans to resolve it is pure madness. What in God’s name is going here!! And why would anyone with a modicum of common sense buy into this? 

I would dearly love to add a lawsuit to the 100 or so that our UNION families have already filed over wrongful deaths due to water, but we are limited by funds and volunteers to do everyone´s fighting for them without more workers. 

I will continue to educate the public, so that if and when folks who are suffering ever decide to take legal action over their loved ones being forced to drink poison water, there will be a public record of it which was published nationwide. Our volunteer jailhouse attorneys pay for many of these battles out of their own empty pockets and suffer severe retaliation for even filing them, so the UNION families are choosing what we will take on in the future by vote only. Not all of the lawsuits we have filed are being litigated by jailhouse lawyers, some families are sacrificing everything they own to hire private lawyers to go into court in a system that favors the guards. 

With enough participation, more lawsuits would be possible, as nothing is for free, someone pays for every lawsuit the UNION families have filed, which is the only language the bureaucrats understand. Still, I do not like witnessing this slow murder and torture and would rather be able to do something about it, rather than stand like an idiot on the sidelines and simply watch it take place like so many folks do who place no value on prisoners´ lives or simply do not understand how to organize and end these practices.

We cannot have too many volunteers working on organizing a large voice to stand up for inmates beneath articles at the news sites, who will bring 20 protesters in their car on Feb 4, who will help with gas money and other costs of doing a meaningful campaign. 

Rev. B. Cayenne Bird 

 

UNION
rightor1@yahoo.com
p.o.b. 340371
Sacramento, Ca 95834
www.1union1.com/Join_the_UNION.html