Juneteenth Parade – On June 18th the Human Rights Coalition (HRC) and the Coalition to Abolish Life Without Parole (CADBI) will host a Juneteenth Parade to celebrate the end of slavery and bring awareness to “modern day slavery” in the form of mass incarceration and prisoner abuse.
Join us in front of Eastern State Penitentiary at 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130 at noon for a parade that is fun, celebratory and, at the same time, eye opening.
Individuals in solitary are not just confined in isolation, they are prevented from accessing medical care, basic amenities, and face brutal abuse from prison guards. Below, an individual currently incarcerated in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at SCI Mahanoy describes how their health problems, which they got as a 9/11 rescue worker, were ignored and worsened once they were confined in the RHU.
“I am a 50 year old inmate at Mahanoy prison. My rights, if you want to call them rights, do not exist. I was placed in RHU and given no blankets, sheets, soap, pillow, towel, mattress, nothing, not even clean clothing or showers for the month of Feb and March of this year. A CO [Correctional Officer] assaulted me. On this day I was seen by medical in the AM for breathing difficulty due to my C.O.P.D. which is a direct result of being at ground zero in New York on 9/11 as a rescue worker. On this day a CO refused to let me go and to get my 4:30 treatment. He entered my cell for no reason and assaulted me over this treatment. On the video it shows him choking my neck with his hands. This has to stop.”
Countdown to the Human Rights Coalition’s Juneteenth Parade: 12 days!
[When: Sunday, June 18, 2017 / Where: Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130 / Time: Noon]
“Prisoners, their families, and organizations that work with prisoners must participate in this campaign to abolish control units and expose their abuses.”
This quote is from Brother Robert X Holbrook. He is currently incarcerated at SCI Greene, held in solitary in the Special Management Unit. To learn more about the case of Robert Holbrook and juvenile lifers in PA, read this story:
“The previous method employed by the prison system to break prisoners was to break “bones.” They relied on brute force and unrestrained violence. The method was flawed in that it usually only strengthened prisoner’s resistance and made them stronger. The prison system therefore directed its resources to develop a method of confinement that would destroy a prisoner’s mind and his will to resist. Given control units’ track record in driving men crazy, it is not surprising that the majority of prisoners sent into it are either politically conscious prisoners, prison lawyers, or rebellious young prisoners. It is this class of prisoners that occupies the control units in the prison systems across the United States.
Prisoners, their families, and organizations that work with prisoners must participate in this campaign to abolish control units and expose their abuses.”
Share these stories. #SolidarityNotSolitary #YouAreNotAlone
For those that just watched the new documentary 13th, it may be news that slavery was never fully abolished in the United States. Yet, for anyone who has been locked up, who has a family member locked up, or for anyone who’s had any serious, extended interaction with the U.S. prison system, that slavery is still alive and profitable is not news. In Pennsylvania, you may be paid $1.00 a day to cook then charged $3.50 at the commissary for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. It’s not just making license plates, it’s building school-desks for elementary school kids, cooking, doing laundry, cutting hair, even doing maintenance for the facility. Indeed, slave labor and de-facto slave labor is such an ingrained part of the private prison industry that the business model would not function without it.
Yet, a recent ruling by a Colorado district judge expands the means of resisting this institution of neo-slavery. In 2014, 9 people claimed the Aurora Detention Center forced them to work “without compensation and under the threat of solitary confinement.” The 9 plaintiffs were or are currently detained at the Denver area ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) facility. The plaintiffs are accusing the prison of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a historical law passed in 2000, which prohibits obtaining labor “by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint.” Around 400,000 people find themselves detained in immigration prisons each year. Roughly 60% of the prisons make a business out of detention. Aurora itself is owned by GEO Group, a corporation with upwards of a billion dollars of revenue per year.
The decision by Judge John Kane is at the nexus of the movement to abolish slavery. If we’re paid $2 a day to do someone else’s laundry, then charged the same to call our children, then that prison is our plantation. While the decision by the judge is just a “go ahead” for the lawsuit, the ruling does represent a precedent for upwards of 50,000 prisoners fighting for a living wage. It is also important to note that Judge Kane moved forward on the question of coerced slave labor, but struck down the portion of the suit demanding minimum-wage laws be applied to those imprisoned. The minimum wage in Colorado is $9.30; wages at the prison are as low as $1 a day.
The Aurora decision is a wind to the massive resistance growing against the United States’ draconian and predatory system of mass deportations and imprisonment. When Trump was elected, prison CEO’s throughout the country rejoiced. People detained, waiting for deportation, must be imprisoned somewhere, and there are small towns throughout the country whose prison cells open for business. Take, Raymondville, Texas. As soon as the prison opened in 2003 people both inside and outside the prison recognized its food as inedible, its conditions as unlivable, its consistent stream of sexual assault allegations as unimaginable. Yet, it wasn’t until 2015, after the prisoners took control and burned their cell blocks, that the prison lost its contract with ICE. Now, Raymondville, which is in the midst of a lawsuit of their own against MTC Corporation, sees hope in the mass deportations occurring around the country. In the arrest of family many do not see terror or violence, they see economic opportunity coming back to their deindustrialized town. Indeed, if Raymondville’s prospective new contract is anything like their old one, the town would receive $2.50 per day for each person incarcerated in it’s prison. Perhaps these are the jobs Trump so often spoke of “bringing back” to the United States.
Now, when we identify the conditions of the incarcerated as neo-slavery, GEO group in Colorado says it’s a “volunteer work program.” Then let’s just call a sharecropper a tenant, and a slave a piece of property. Again, the decision coming out of the Colorado district court is nothing but an allowance for part of the case to proceed. But, what the ruling does signal is a building of the toolbox, a stockpiling of precedents, and more momentum for the movement to abolish mass incarceration and its systematic enslavement of the people.
***The Human Rights Coalition (HRC) is a grassroots non-profit of predominantly prisoners’ families, prisoners, ex-offenders, and some supporters. HRC opposes the prison system as a “response” to social problems and advocates dismantling it and building in its place a system of accountability and healing, not punishment.
Christian Science Monitor, “Forced to WOrk? 60,000 Undocumented Immigrants May Sue Detention Center,” March 1, 2017
CIVIC: End Isolation, Immigration Detention Map & Statistics, accessed March 3, 2017
Los Angeles Times, “This industry stands to benefit from Trump’s crackdown on the border,” February 14, 2017
San Antonio Express News, “Willacy county officials mull offers to reopen defunct immigrant detention facility,” March 1, 201y
PDF for Menocal et al vs. GEO Group Inc., accessed March 4, 2007, http://deportationresearchclinic.org/Menocal-Et-Al_v_GEO_Cert-2-27-2017.pdf
October 18th, 2016 over 200 family members, allies, and registered voters rallied on the steps of our capital in Harrisburg, PA in support of HB 2135.
HB 2135 was introduced by Rep. Dawkins (photo below) and is now a bill in the PA House that would make people serving Death By Incarceration eligible for parole after 15 years. We believe that humanity and compassion is an innate human quality and that ALL should have the opportunity to redeem themselves of past offenses – we, each and everyone of us, have done something that we regret.
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There are over 5000 people serving Life Without Parole sentences in Pennsylvania. In PA, ‘life’ means your entire life, which is why many call it Death By Incarceration (DBI). This harsh sentencing does not improve public safety and disproportionately impacts poor people and people of color. We believe that denying people the right to transformation and redemption is an affront to everyone’s humanity. Join the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI) and our allies from across the state by contacting us at:
Mail: CADBI c/o Decarcerate PA, PO Box 40764, Phila. PA 19107
follow CADBI on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CADBIphilly