Author Archive

Haiti Update: Vote on New Government?, PetroCaribe, and Immigrants Arrested in Bolivia

Update: Jean Henry Céant was confirmed as Haiti’s new Prime Minister following votes in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies on Saturday, September 16. 

In July, widespread protests in Haiti following an announced cut in fuel subsidies led to the resignation of Prime Minister Guy Jack Lafontant and dissolution of the cabinet. Since the resignation, Haiti has been without a functioning government. President Moïse nominated Jean Henry Céant to the post of Prime Minister on August 7, but his confirmation in Parliament has been delayed. Last week, with a scheduled recess looming, Céant formally presented his list of proposed ministers to Parliament.

The slate of ministers has proved to be controversial. Of the 18 ministers proposed, 6 were part of Lafontant’s government, and 3 have had their eligibility challenged. One of the nominees, Osner Richard named Minister of the Environment, has already been forced to step down on the basis of his holding dual citizenship (with the United States). Additionally, of the 4 appointed Secretaries of State, 3 were part of the previous government. The selections have led to widespread criticism that Moïse is controlling the selection process in an effort to keep the government under the control of his Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), despite opposition concerns about the government that led to the resignation of Lafontant back in July.  The PHTK holds the largest bloc of seats in both houses, but is far from a majority in either, and thus must hold together a coalition to get the slate of ministers passed. At this point, the votes do not seem to be there.

Deputy Jerry Tardieu, who represents Pétion-Ville as a member of the Verité party, has been among the outspoken critics of Moïse role in the selection process. From Haiti Libre:

I…recommend that the Executive reconsider the formation of the Government as soon as possible, leaving the designated Prime Minister free to choose leading figures who can inspire confidence in society and give the government a serious image. This indiscriminate insistence on imposing personalities stamped PHTK, even when they are competent, is contrary to the wishes of the living forces of the nation who had opted for the establishment of a government of openness that soothes and builds confidence. It proves that President Jovenel Moïse has still not taken the right measure of the events of July 6 and 7, 2018, does not understand the stakes of the hour and even less the risks for tomorrow.

To the [designated] Prime Minister Céant, I hope that he has the courage to resign if he can not have the free hand, that is to say the freedom to choose credible and competent personalities to form a Government capable of providing solutions immediately.

There was no vote before deputies recessed Monday. However, President Moïse ordered a special session of parliament, calling members back to Port-au-Prince to hold a vote on the new government. We’ll update when we hear the results of the special session.

PetroCaribe

Hanging over the process of selecting a new government is ongoing outrage over embezzlement of money through the PetroCaribe fund. PetroCaribe was a regional effort put forth by the Venezuelan government in 2006, that allowed governments to purchase oil at a discount in order to use funds for development projects. Under PetroCaribe’s agreement, the government purchases oil from Venezuela, paying back 60% of the purchase price within 90 days. The extra funds are to be paid back over 25 years at 1% interest. In theory, the extra funds are to be used to develop infrastructure, at rates below what multilateral lenders would provide.

In October last year a senate committee led by Evallière Beauplan (Northwest Department) released a scathing audit that showed misappropriation of funds through the awarding of $1.7 billion in non-bid contracts for reconstruction projects between 2008 and 2016. The beneficiaries of the contracts included people closely associated with former president Martelly (also of the PHTK) and his prime minister Laurent Lamothe. Some of the accused are part of the current government, like Wilson Laleau, who is Moïse’s chief of staff. Public anger over the corruption, which has left Haiti with over $2 billion in debt to Venezuela with little to show for it, continues to grow and played a significant role in animating the protests in July.

Some examples of the waste include (via the Miami Herald):

[C]onstruction overages that include the ministry of public works paying for 10 miles of road that actually measured 6.5 miles; the signing of a contract between the ministry of public health and a deceased person; large disbursements by government ministers with no documents to support the expenditures, and tens of millions of dollars paid to Dominican and Haitian firms for post-earthquake roads, housing and government ministries that never materialized or weren’t completed.

One of the most blatant allegations involved the reconstruction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, one of 40 government buildings that crumbled during the earthquake. The Dominican firm Hadom was awarded a $14.7 million contract, and paid $10 million up front, to construct the building that remains unbuilt. Hadom’s lucrative Haiti contract is among several given to Dominican firms after the quake that became the subject of separate probes in Haiti and in neighboring Dominican Republic, where Hadom owner and Dominican Senator Félix Bautista was accused of embezzlement. The Bautista case was eventually dropped by the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court.

As the economic situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate – projected growth this year was lowered to 1.2% by the IMF – frustration with the government only increases. A campaign asking Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a (“Where did the Petro Caribe money go?”) has launched on social media, and protests continue in the streets. The situation remains volatile. It is hard to know how much hinges on the new government, or what space it will have to operate within the confines of the neo-liberal policy constraints Haiti is forced to operate under, but if the new government returns many of the same players back to power, it will only fuel the opposition.

100 Haitians Arrested in Bolivia

Last week we reported on the increasing challenges faced by people who have migrated out of Haiti looking for new opportunities. Earlier this week, over 100 Haitians were arrested in Bolivia as they traveled through the country from Brazil and Chile – two countries where many Haitians have resettled since the earthquake in 2010.

The arrests also included two Haitians and five Bolivians (the four drivers of the buses and a woman who processed tickets), all charged with trafficking.

 

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Prison Strike Update: September 11, 2018

The last day called for the national prison strike was Sunday, September 9. As we’ve reported over the last couple of weeks, details on exact numbers and the kinds of actions that people incarcerated have participated in can be hard to verify. So, not a complete list, but organizers have confirmed 33 actions across 15 states and Nova Scotia, Canada. A list of verified actions can be found here.

There has also been some retaliations against strike leaders. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak’s (JLS) Amani Sawari:

Incarcerated leaders like Jason Walker continue to suffer from abusive treatment and staff harassment, Imam Hasan has been placed on a one year ban from outside communications and Kevin Rashid Johnson just went up for another transfer trial and is being sent for another out-of-state transfer. They are shipping organizers like cargo and JLS members are being hunted like animals as officials try to pluck them out of general population and tear them down due to the amazing work that they were able to to complete these past few weeks. 

The best way to keep up with news and solidarity actions in support of JLS organizers inside is to follow Amani Sawari, JLS’s communications leader at http://sawarimi.org.

The strike was a pretty huge success from a media standpoint. There was coverage of the strike in major media outlets, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Guardian. It was covered in a variety of smaller presses and blogs as well. Compared to the prison strike in 2016, which garnered very little national press, this strike captured people’s attention and hopefully will help move forward the reform agenda.

James Kilgore had a great article in Truthout, detailing the success of the media campaign and providing details on the organizations coordinating the work of those incarcerated and allies. In this section Kilgore discusses potential impacts of the strike actions.

As with any mass action in a repressive setting like a prison, there will be backlash from prison authorities. From the 2016 strike, leaders like Kinetic Justice of the Free Alabama Movement and Malik Washington, founder of the End Prison Slavery Texas Movement, have suffered long periods in solitary confinement. Already, those identified as “instigators” in Texas, Ohio and South Carolina reportedly have been sent to isolation. No doubt there will be more efforts by authorities to punish, vilify and isolate those they identify as leaders

Optimistic outcomes of the 2018 actions would be the restoration of Pell Grants, a measure already partially in motion, and a repeal of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. As Darren Mack said, “It’s urgent that elected officials respond to the 10 policy demands in order to tackle the systemic problems of mass incarceration and racist criminal justice policies that have led to tragic events like the Attica massacre and devastated millions of lives.”

But regardless of actions by elected officials, as Heather Thompson observed, “No matter how many folks were actually able to sit in or stop working or not eat, on the outside, vital attention was drawn to the issue of how horrific prison conditions are and also the longer history of prisoners standing up to be heard at places like San Quentin and Attica.”

The action, called by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and organized with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, was built around 10 demands. As a reminder (these need to be repeated over and over):

These are the NATIONAL DEMANDS of the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons:

[You can sign a petition here to send a statement of support of these demands to members of congress.]

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!

Work will continue to make these demands a reality!! Stay connected with, and support these groups:

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak 

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Read more about InAlienable.

Support the InAlienable program!

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Church reform is a necessary, but insufficient response to abuse

As most know by now, a grand jury investigated allegations of abuse of children by priests in 5 dioceses in Pennsylvania. Their report was released last month. After years of repeated incidents and revelations about abuse in the church, the report was on one level not surprising. And yet, the details of incidents are very disturbing. The report contains an appendix that documents allegation against 300 priests and illuminates a pattern whereby the priests were shielded from public exposure, moved to new positions, rarely disciplined, and only in a handful of cases prosecuted. It is hard to draw any other conclusion than that church leadership put concern for the institution, both its reputation and material resources, above the people they are expected to serve. Because the instrumental view of parishioners exhibited by this response is so diametrically opposed to the servant leader notion that buttresses the idea of the church, many have simply had enough – once again – with the hypocrisy.

Calls for reform abound, many of which call upon the “culture” of the church to change: These include confronting the clericalism of the church, calling into question celibacy and the requirement that priests be unwed, and demanding transparency from an institution too often clouded in mystery. From the traditionalists in the church, there are accusations of a “cult of homosexuality” in the hierarchy, and, at least in Archbishop Vigano’s charges, an accusation that Pope Francis shields those priests. These latter calls mistakenly equate homosexuality with a tendency to pedophilia, a claim for which there is no empirical standing.  

In discussing the events that have occurred since the grand jury report was issued, it is important to re-center the victims of abuse in the conversation. And here we must also look outside the church itself. In the United States 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Nearly 60,000 children were sexually abused last year alone and we know that reporting of sexual abuse undercounts significantly it’s actual occurrence – indeed it is estimated that only 12% of childhood sexual abuse is ever reported. In almost every case, the perpetrator of sexual abuse is someone known to the child, and one in three is a family member. Boys are more likely to be abused at a younger age – 28% of male victims are abused for the first time before the age of 10, compared to 12.3% of girl victims. 96% of the people who sexually abuse children are male, 80% are adults.

Given the hidden nature of abuse it is hard to know definitively what the trends are. Certainly, as little as it is reported, it is reported more now than in the past. There is more of an effort to provide services to victims and to train caregivers about signals to watch for as indicators of possible abuse. Yet, it still occurs, is still not reported, and often, when reported to those closely connected, it may well be covered up by institutions and families.

With this in mind, it is important to point out that most of the reform ideas put forward have little to do with addressing underlying causes of abuse, or the victims themselves.  The reforms speak more to institutional incentives to cover up abuse. Certainly, on those grounds alone, demanding transparency, demanding that church officials be required to report suspected abuse to civil authorities, and challenging the clericalism that permeates church culture are all important things to do in response to the crisis. But we are still left with men who abuse children, and the reality is that there is nothing exceptional about the men in the Catholic Church on this count.

When I was 13 a male teacher offered me oral sex – not the first teacher to make such offers, but the most direct. I felt like I was marked. Another teacher at the same school had a sexual relationship with a close female friend of mine that lasted over a year – she was 14 when it ended he was 28. Yet another friend was raped by a football player in (a different) high school. She reported it. When she grew angry with the school administration that nothing was done, she was suspended. I could go on. Most of us could, either from personal experience or those of people close to us. Think about that.

And so, I am admittedly bemused by the reform agenda on the Church as a primary response to the abuse “scandal.” As a friend noted a couple of days ago, as we prepared for a demonstration, perhaps that first demand should not be “end patriarchy,” or “woman priests now,” or “down with the hierarchy” (all laudatory goals I would support), but just this:

Stop abusing children!!

And after the demonstration at the Cathedral, we can carry that sign to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, local public and private schools, and the police department, with a stop at the Baptist Church along the way. Then maybe bring the sign home and hang it in living room.  

 

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Migration: From the Dominican Republic to Chile and the U.S., Haitians face increasing barriers

Haiti Update, September 10, 2018

Looming Crisis in the Dominican Republic

August 25 was the deadline for immigrants to present required documentation to regularize their status under the Dominican Republic’s controversial National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE). Close to 98% of the people impacted are from Haiti. Under the provisions of the PNRE, 230,000 people of Haitian descent had registered with the government of the Dominican Republic by an earlier deadline in 2015. However, formalizing their status requires them to present documents to the Dominican Republic’s government (birth certificates and passports being crucial). Very few Haitians have been able to secure these documents from the government of Haiti despite repeated promises that they would be issued.

To highlight the dilemma now faced by over 200,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, cane cutters protested at Haiti’s embassy in Santo Domingo this week to demand that documents be produced. Over 4,000 cane cutters from Haiti had paid 1000 pesos each in 2015 to secure documentation from Haiti’s government, and these documents have not been provided.

Meanwhile, Sonia Vásquez, the National Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, implored the government of the Dominican Republic to not begin mass deportations in response to the crisis, arguing that doing so would have a dramatic impact on many sectors of the Dominican Republic’s economy and society.

Tensions along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain high.  Back in March thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic fled across the border at Anse-à-Pitres. A Dominican man had been killed and wife assaulted in Pedernales  – Dominican authorities accused three Haitian men for the crime. As a result, attacks and threats against Haitians increased. Such incidents happen periodically, with the government of the Dominican Republic stereotyping Haitians as criminals and using the tensions for political purposes.

The International Office of Migration has been monitoring the border at regular and irregular crossing points since the earlier 2015 deadline passed, and have documented a large number of border crossings – over 240,000 from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The majority have been “voluntary” returns – but nearly a quarter have been official deportations.

Wave of Anti-Immigration Policies

Migration out of Haiti remains a high, but options of places to go have been reduced. Following the earthquake in 2010, Brazil opened immigration to Haitians. Close to 65,000 Haitians moved to Brazil looking for work in the years since, only to see the economy there collapse and their options narrowed. Many began a long trek to the United States – traversing 7,000 miles and 11 countries, a journey covered at length in an investigative report by the Miami Herald in 2016.

One of the danger spots for Haitians is Nicaragua, which has ramped up security along the border with Costa Rica since 2015, austensibly for reasons related to the drug war. Nicaragua’s recent political crisis has overtaken these issues – but as recently as February 2018 Haitian migrants and others were still routinely blocked from crossing through Nicaraguan territory.

Over the last several years, Over 100,000 Haitians have moved to Chile (equivalent to 1% of Haiti’s population). However, as was the case in Brazil, many have found work opportunities to be scant, and prospects further diminished by the increase in migration to Chile from people fleeing economic collapse in Venezuela. Then in April, newly elected right-wing President Sebastián Piñera eliminated the temporary visas that allowed Haitians to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, a status that had allowed them to then bring their families from Haiti.

Here in the United States, the Trump administration refused to renew Temporary Protective Status for Haitians, put in place following the 2010 earthquake. Which means 59,000 Haitians in the United States face expulsion in July 2019.

Meanwhile, international banks and multilateral lenders continue to bleed Haiti’s economy, while corruption scandals among Haiti’s U.S. protected elite, most recently questions about former president Martelly’s “management” of $3.8 billion in PetroCaribe Funds (which must be paid back to Venezuela), are ongoing. All of which is a reminder that foreign policy is immigration policy – even though we refuse to acknowledge that. The people of Haiti, like many others from Central America, the Middle East and Africa, are caught in the middle: Dislocated by war and greed, and increasingly unable to find safe haven elsewhere.

 

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Update on Prison Strike, September 5

Beginning on August 21, people incarcerated in prisons and jails and immigration detention facilities began a series of actions to raise awareness about the conditions of their imprisonment. Accompanying the call to action is a list of 10 demands for reform. The Prison Strike is now two weeks old – and will run until at least September 9, the anniversary of the Attica uprising.

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is launching a new coalition to carry the demands from the strike forward beyond September 9. You can read about that here – and get involved if you feel called to do so.

The latest update from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak includes the following confirmed activities over the past two weeks. It is important to get information out. Prison authorities have responded to media inquiries largely denying that anything is going on inside. As you might imagine, it is very difficult to organize sustained protest inside a prison. So, for those who have picked up this charge, we should lift up their efforts wherever we can.

Washington – Representatives of over 200 immigrant detainees at Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington declared a hunger strike on day one of the national prison strike. Amid fears of retaliation, 70 across three blocks participated. As of this time, seven continue to refuse food into a second week.

Georgia – Prisoners in Georgia State Prison “Reidsville” have reported a strike, according to Jailhouse Lawyers Speak.

South Carolina – Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is reporting that prisoners in the following facilities are on strike: Broad River Correctional Institution, Lee Correctional Institution, McCormick Correctional Institution, Turbeville Correctional Institute, Kershaw Correctional Institution, and Lieber Correctional Institution. The actions in these facilities include widespread workstrikes, with only a few prisoners reporting to their jobs, and commissary boycotts. McCormick prisoners have been subjected to strip searches everyday since August 21.

North Carolina – Prisoners at Hyde Correctional Institution in Swanquarter, NC demonstrated in solidarity with the strike. There have been unconfirmed reports of strikes at other institutions across the state.

California – At New Folsom Prison a hunger strike started by Heriberto Garcia on August 21 has spread to Lancaster State Prison outside Los Angeles: William E. Brown, Jr. and his group are also striking.

Ohio – At least two prisoners at Toledo Correctional Institution began a hunger strike on August 21. David Easley and James Ward were moved into isolation for participating and authorities have cut off their means of communication to outside contacts.

Colorado – Starting around August 7, ten prisoners at Sterling Correctional Facility announced a hunger strike against a two week long 24 hour a day lockdown of 38 administrative segregation prisoners.

Indiana – Prisoners in the segregation unit at Wabash Valley Correctional Institution initiated a hunger strike on August 27 demanding adequate food and an end to cold temperatures in the unit.

New Mexico – On August 9, prisoners at Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, NM organized a work stoppage against conditions at the prison, which is operated by private corporation GEO Group. Tensions at the prison reached a tipping point prior to the date of the strike and prisoners could not wait before initiating their protest. All facilities in New Mexico were placed on lockdown status on the morning of August 20. This statewide lockdown has since been lifted except for Lea County CF.

Florida – Jailhouse Lawyers Speak asserts that five Florida facilities are seeing strike activity: Charlotte CI reports 40 refusing work and 100 boycotting commissary. Prisoners at Dade Correctional say 30-40 on strike, Franklin Correctional reports 30-60, Holmes Correctional reports 70, Appalachee Correctional reports an unknown number.

Nova Scotia, Canada – at Burnside County Jail in Halifax prisoners went on strike and issued a protest statement in solidarity with the strike and naming local demands. They went through a lockdown and extensive negotiations with authorities. Those who refused to cooperate with humiliating body scans were punished by being locked in a dry cell (no water or working toilets) for three days.

Texas – IWOC was forwarded a message dated August 23 from inside administrative segregation (solitary) of Stiles Unit, Beaumont, TX, confirming that 2 prisoners are on hunger strike in solidarity with the national action: “I feel great. But very hungry! And not because I don’t have food but because of our 48 hours solidarity with our brothers and sisters. It’s the only way we can show support from inside of Seg. Let everyone know we got their backs.” IWOC has confirmed that Robert Uvalle is on hunger strike in solitary at Michael Unit, Anderson County, TX in solidarity with the nationwide strike. Robert has been in solitary for most of his 25 years inside.

This list of activity comes from a zine called Solid Black Fist, created for people incarcerated and allies during the strike. You can read the latest issue here.

Finally, last week, America magazine called the Quixote Center looking for a “Catholic angle” on the prison strike. Apparently we are one of the few faith based organizations to have endorsed the strike and the strikers’ demands. The article from Kevin Clarke came out Friday. You can read that here.

Keep up to date on the strike and solidarity activities:

Amani Sawari and Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

 

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Read more about InAlienable.

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Update on the Prison Strike August 29, 2018

The Quixote Center is one of over 300 organizations that has endorsed the demands of prisoners around the country who are engaged in various forms of protests that began last week and runs through September 9th.

It is difficult to get confirmation of actions that take place inside prisons, but today’s update from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak included the following items that were confirmed from the last few days:

  • 200 ICE detainees at NWDC, Tacoma WA initiate hunger strike and work stoppage
  • David Easley and James Ward are on hunger strike in Toledo CI, OH
  • 100 prisoners organized rally, displaying banners on the yard at Hyde Correctional Institution
  • Work stoppage of all prisoners, except 12-15 prisoners from the “privilege unit,” in McCormick CI, S.Carolina
  • ~100 prisoners rallied in yard with banners “Parole,” “Better Food,” “In Solidarity” in North Carolina
  • Palestinian political prisoners issued statement of solidarity from their prisons in occupied Palestine
  • Revolutionary artist Heriberto Sharky Garcia declares hunger strike at Folsom Prison in Represa, California
  • Non-violent protesters at Burnside Jail in Halifax, CA publish their demands in solidarity

There are a number of different ways to get involved, You can review the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee webpage for more details. Specific items include.

The strike has received a significant amount of press – to review articles you can check out Jailhouse Lawyers Speak here. A few examples:

Democracy Now!– From Attica to South Carolina: Heather Ann Thompson on the Roots of the Nationwide Prison Strike.

The Guardian– US inmates stage nationwide prison labor strike over ‘modern slavery’

BBC– US inmates nationwide strike to protest ‘modern slavery’

The Washington Post– Inmates across the U.S. are staging a prison strike over ‘modern-day slavery’

NPR– Inmates Plan To Hold Weeks-Long Strike At Prisons Across U.S.

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Statement of Solidarity with National Prison Strike

The Quixote Center stands in solidarity with people who are incarcerated in the United States and who are currently engaged in collective actions to raise awareness about the conditions of incarceration and demanding change.

We endorse the 10 point platform of the National Prison Strike:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!

We encourage everyone to get educated on the demands and to get involved in support of the strike however possible in your community. You can find updates and links to action items through the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee website.

 

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Oppose Kraninger’s Nomination to CFPB

President Trump has nominated Kathy Kraninger to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kraninger has very little experience for this post. Currently, she works for the Office of Management and Budget overseeing program planning and implementation for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. As a result, she has been a key player in coordinating immigration policy, especially the “zero tolerance” policy that led to thousands of children being separated from family members. Even though the program was in some fashion suspended, the nightmare continues for many families – as almost 600 children are still separated from families, weeks after a court ordered deadline to get all of these children back with their families.

Kraninger was hardly the architect of the programs, but her central role in planning and implementation of the zero tolerance policy should be called out, and certainly does not qualify her for a promotion.

This morning Kraninger’s nomination was given the greenlight by the financial services committee of the Senate, in a straight party-line vote (13 Republicans voting for, 12 Democrats against). The nomination now moves to the floor of the Senate, and we encourage you to raise your voice against it. You can call your Senator’s office through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224- 3121.

More background:

Letter from People for the American Way and other organizations, opposing Kraninger nomination.

Chicago Tribune story on Kraninger’s nomination

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National Prison Strike Begins Today

Beginning today, August 21, people incarcerated in at least 17 states will take part in coordinated non-violent actions to demand changes in the conditions under which they are held. The dominant strategy will be work stoppage organized in protest of unpaid or minimally paid work done by people incarcerated throughout the system. German Lopez, writing for Vox, explains.

“Prisoners want to be valued as contributors to our society,” Amani Sawari, a spokesperson for the protests, told me. “Every single field and industry is affected on some level by prisons, from our license plates to the fast food that we eat to the stores that we shop at. So we really need to recognize how we are supporting the prison industrial complex through the dollars that we spend.”

Prison labor issues recently received attention in California, where inmates have been voluntarily recruited to fight the state’s record wildfires — for the paltry pay of just $1 an hour plus $2 per day. But the practice of using prison inmates for cheap or free labor is fairly widespread in the US, due to an exemption in the 13th Amendment, which abolished chattel slavery but allows involuntary servitude as part of a punishment for a crime.

For Sawari and the inmates participating in the protests, the sometimes forced labor and poor pay is effectively “modern slavery.” That, along with poor prison conditions that inmates blame for a deadly South Carolina prison riot earlier this year, have led to protests.

In addition to work stoppages, people will engage in sit-ins, hunger strikes, and will encourage boycotts – though they ask people outside of prison to take direction on targets from those incarcerated.

The ten demands of the movement are:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded.


The full press release from the organizers of the prison strike is here.

The prison strike has been called from August 21 to September 9, dates that correspond to the three week period between the death of Black Panther and prison reform advocate George Jackson and the uprising at Attica State Prison in 1971. Since that summer in 1971, incarceration rates have increased dramatically in the United States, to the point where the U.S. is now the country with both the highest incarceration rate and the highest number of people behind bars.

Underlying these numbers is a vast network of for-profit companies that make money running prisons by providing “services,” and those that use the underpaid labor of those incarcerated to make products, grow food, and even fight fires.

A report from the Marshall Project on a strike called for September 9, 2016 states:

According to [data] from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 700,000 prisoners have daily jobs, helping to run a prison—mopping cellblock floors, mowing lawns, preparing and serving food. They act as GED tutors, they file papers in the chaplain’s office, and shelve books in the law library. A much smaller portion—an additional 60,000 inmates—participate in “correctional industries” programs designed to mimic real-world jobs; the federal prisons’ Unicor program, which had $472 million in net sales last year, is an example of these programs. An even smaller group (less than one percent of prisoners) work for free-world companies under the auspices of a federal program.

The Federal Program is the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIE) which

provides private-sector companies with incentives to set up shops in prisons using inmates as employees. States offer free or reduced rent and utilities in exchange for the decreased productivity that comes with bringing materials and supplies in and out of a secured facility and hiring employees who must stop working throughout the day to be counted and who are sometimes unavailable because of facility-wide lockdowns.

We stand in solidarity with people who are incarcerated, and whose humanity deserves to be respected. We join in their demand that public policy be built around that respect.

We will report on events as they unfold throughout the strike.

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Daily Dispatch 8/20/2018

A new series in which we (will aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

August 20, 2018

An article in The Hill discusses the impact of Attorney General Session’s recent decisions to reopen 8,000 immigration cases, which had been administratively closed, on judicial independence.  

ICE, ICE Baby: Trump is planning an event to celebrate the “heroes” of Immigration Customs Enforcement amidst growing calls for the agency to be dismantled by some Democrats.

Highlighting the political dog-whistling underneath this celebration, hard-line immigration sheriff Richard Jones, of Butler County, Ohio has been invited as well – Butler once sent a bill to Mexico for immigration enforcement costs.

Meanwhile, some of the “heroes” of ICE, detained a man while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital. The detention was caught on video. Maria del Carmen was left to fend for herself. ICE later claimed the man was wanted in Mexico on homicide charges, but released no details. Arrona has been in the United States for over 10 years.

A new study shows that the lack of Congressional action on immigration reform is creating a host of state and local initiatives that are undermining federal authority. 

Relatedly, Gaurav Madan, a volunteer with Sanctuary DMV, writes in the Washington Post that, in light of recent ICE enforcement actions, the District of Columbia needs to step up its commitment to being a sanctuary city and push back against the narrative of criminality that is cast upon immigrants. Local organizers sent a letter to the mayor demanding a public hearing of the steps the city was going to take.

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)