DETROIT CONTINGENT OF CONCERNED COALITION TO RESPECT PRISONERS’ RIGHTS HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE OUTSIDE MOUND RD. PRISON DEC. 14
DETROITERS SUPPORT STRIKING GEORGIA PRISONERS
Many at press conference also served time
By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT – The Detroit contingent of the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights, which includes many who spent time in Michigan’s prison system, expressed their solidarity with striking prisoners in Georgia at a press conference Dec. 14.
“We are demanding that the government of the state of Georgia sit down and talk with the leaders of the prisoners,” said Kwasi Akwamu, a member of the Detroit chapter of All of Us or None of Us.
“They must begin a fact-finding mission to investigate the prisoners’ claims of inhuman treatment and violent retaliation. The inmates have not taken over the prisons, or committed any form of violence. Their action is a peaceful protest involving all different ethnicities, people affiliated with gangs, with religious groups, who have come together for a righteous agenda. They will be coming back into society. If they are treated like animals now, and they act like animals when they come back out, then we shouldn’t be surprised nor should we complain.”
Akwamu, Yusef Shakur and others sponsor a Second Chance Support Group for ex-prisoners in Detroit. They also run the Urban Network Bookstore in a poor neighborhood on Grand River west of McGraw in Detroit, selling publications to educate the city’s youth on the causes of their plight and their real enemies.
“There is a prison across the street here and a gravesite on the other side,” Shakur said. “There are more Black men in America in them than in any other country in the world. We represent a whole new social class. Most of us here today have been incarcerated at some time in our lives, and we are supporting our brothers and sisters against the practices that go on in Georgia, including the slave labor that the 13th Amendment still allows in punishment for crime.”
Shakur has published several books, as has Raphael Johnson, an ex-prisoner and former candidate for City Council who placed in the top 18 primary finalists.
Johnson called on rappers who glorify prison life styles and crime to render financial support to the prisoners in Georgia.
“Rappers like Gucci Mane and Young Joc, who glorify the crime scene and the penitentiary and the Department of Corrections in their rap and stage presence—we are calling on them to pool their resources and dollars to help assist these brothers in Georgia,” Johnson said. “Put their money where their mouth is or don’t rap about it—step up or shut up.”
Johnson quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who ruled that just because individuals are incarcerated does not mean they lose their human rights and the right to decent food, health care, living conditions, and other treatment.
Bryan Pfieffer said he also served time in another state.
“I am here today representing the Michigan Emergency Committee against War and Injustice (MECAWI),” Pfieffer said. “We stand in total solidarity with the brothers in Georgia. We demand jobs so that our brothers and sisters don’t end up in prison. Open up the walls, hands off the prisoners, no attacks on the prisoners’ rights or their persons.”
To contact the Detroit contingent of the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights, call Kwasi Akwamu at 313-285-8450, or go to the organization’s Facebook page. Continuing coverage is also available at http://voiceofdetroit.net.
Link to radio interview with Elaine Brown by Davey D on KPFA Radio, Oakland CA (excellent, thorough interview is about 10 minutes into the tape)
GEORGIA PRESS RELEASE:
Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights
Demand Governor Perdue and DOC Commissioner Brian Owens
Stop Violence Against Striking Prisoners
PRESS CONFERENCE December 13, 2010, 3:30 p.m.
State Capitol 100 Washington Street Atlanta, Georgia
NAACP State Chairman Edward Dubose joined by representatives from the Nation of Islam, elected officials and others, who have formed the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights, will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m. today at the Capitol to urge Governor Perdue and Department of Corrections Commissioner Owens to halt the violent tactics being employed by guards against thousands of striking prisoners. They have reached out to Perdue and Owens for meetings earlier in the day.
Begun on December 9, 2010, the prisoners’ peaceful protest has been historic in scope and in the unity of thousands of black, brown, white, Muslim, Christian, Rastafarian prisoners, including those at Augusta, Baldwin, Calhoun, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Rogers, Smith, Telfair, Valdosta and Ware State Prisons. For five days, now, these men have shut down all activity at most of these facilities.
The prisoners are petitioning the DOC for their human rights, including being paid for their labor, provided educational opportunities, decent health care and nutritional meals, a halt to cruel and unusual punishments, and just parole decisions.
The DOC has made itself unavailable to the press and prisoner family members, creating fears that, behind closed doors, the Department will escalate this peaceful protest to a violent confrontation. The Coalition is urging the DOC to come to the table in peace to address the prisoners’ concerns.
“Due to the harsh conditions faced behind bars and the need for prison reform, the men are staying in their cells as a form of peaceful protest. No officials or staff have been threatened and no property has been damaged. These men’s requests are reasonable and in accord with the basic respect and treatment every human being deserves,” said Elaine Brown, a social activist and former Black Panther Party leader. Brown is spearheading the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights. More information about the Coalition can be found on its Facebook page.
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Contact: Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights email@example.com
LETTER TO GEORGIA GOVERNOR
Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights
December 13, 2010
Via Hand Delivery
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
Governor of Georgia
203 State Capitol
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Dear Governor Perdue:
On behalf of the newly-formed Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights, a nation-wide formation, I implore you to direct the Department of Corrections, headed by Commissioner Brian Owens, to cease and desist from using violent tactics to force prisoners engaged in a non-violent labor strike to return to work.
The Coalition would like to sit down with you and Commissioner Owens to discuss ways to bring all parties to the table to address the prisoners’ concerns over human rights’ violations, including being forced to labor without pay. We will make ourselves available at any time.
We look forward to coming together with you and the Commissioner as soon as possible, toward a peaceful conclusion to the prisoners’ strike.
Edward Dubose, Chair, Georgia NAACP
Tell the Georgia Department of Corrections that you stand with protesting prisoners
Targeting: Brian Owens (Commissioner, GA Department of Corrections)
Started by: Wendy Jason
On Thursday, December 9, prisoners across Georgia joined in solidarity to demand that their basic human needs be met. You can help them gain access to the supports and services that will preserve their dignity by supporting their nonviolent protest. Please sign the following letter to Brian Owens, Commissioner of the GA Department of Corrections.
I’m writing to express my concerns over the conditions of Georgia’s prisons, and to urge you to address the needs of Georgia’s prisoners. After days of peaceful protest from prisoners across the state, no apparent action has been taken towards acknowledging their demands for measures aimed solely at preserving their dignity as human beings. Further, there have been reports that their nonviolence has been met with violence and the further deprivation of basic rights.
These acts of violence must stop, and the conditions of Georgia’s prisons must be addressed without further delay. I stand in solidarity with the prisoners and insist that they be treated with respect and dignity, and that you act now to begin fulfilling the following demands:
· A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.
· EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
· DECENT HEALTH CARE: In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.
· AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
· DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.
· NUTRITIONAL MEALS: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.
· VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.
· ACCESS TO FAMILIES: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
· JUST PAROLE DECISIONS: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.
I expect that you will convene a committee that includes prisoners, lawmakers, prison authorities, and prisoner advocates to take positive and concrete steps toward alleviating the inhumane conditions and lack of opportunities within Georgia’s correctional facilities.