News from the Inside
Abdur-Rahman is calling attention to the fact that he was housed in a clearly unsafe situation, and that Superintendent Kenneth Cameron was aware of the dangers of top-bunking prisoners without guard rails, but failed to act to prevent injuries and potential fatalities such as his. He heard from several guards and prison nurses that falling from the top bunk has been a repeated problem.
Instances of dangerous neglect and abuse are certainly not new to SCI Cresson, which is currently under investigation by the PA DOC for failing to provide adequate mental health treatment to prisoners with mental illness and to protect such prisoners from harm, in addition to warehousing mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement units. The Human Rights Coalition has received reports of two suicides in SCI Cresson's solitary units within the last year, both claimed to be the result of inadequate or negligent mental health treatment and services.
Abdur-Rahman is asking that he be transferred to an institution closer to Philadelphia, where his family lives, where he believes he will feel safer and will be able to receive better support from his family and friends. He also feels that he will receive better treatment at a different facility, and seeks to get away from a history of harassment and retaliation by guards at SCI Cresson.
HRC is asking people to advocate for Abdur-Rahman's transfer to SCI Chester or SCI Graterford by calling the Superintendent at SCI Cresson; despite a legal name change, the prison still refers to Abdur by his old legal name, Curtis Price:
SCI Cresson Superintendent: Kenneth Cameron
Drawer A, Old Route 22
Cresson, PA 16699-0001
Protesters engaged in this action at the construction site to increase pressure on Governor Corbett and to shine a spotlight on his irresponsible and destructive expansion of Pennsylvania’s prison system.
"These new prisons represent an expansion of mass incarceration in Pennsylvania and a continuation of policies that lock people up instead of giving our communities the resources they need to thrive," said a statement released by Decarcerate PA after the arrests.
The protesters, all Philadelphia residents, were charged with criminal conspiracy, criminal trespass, failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order and disorderly conduct, and bail was set at 10% of $5,000 by District Justice Albert J. Augustine, according to police.
Across the Nation
The proposed Federal Communications Commission regulation would be a key turning point in a decade-long multi-organization campaign to protect the poorest families in the nation from predatory telephone charges. The announcement was made at a rally outside the FCC offices in Washington D.C. where several organizations submitted petitions containing more than 40,000 signatures calling for the regulation.
In September, Drew Kukorowski of the Prison Policy Initiative authored a Prison Policy Initiative report, “The Price To Call Home: State-Sanctioned Monopolization In The Prison Phone Industry,” calling for the regulation of the prison telephone industry. The report revealed that the three phone companies that dominate 90% of the industry set calling rates that are excessively high, “kick back” a portion of the revenue to the states, and in exchange receive monopoly contracts with state prison systems.
“This is a big step forward for fairness,” said Kukorowski. “The Federal Communications Commission is the only disinterested party with the power to protect the real consumers: incarcerated people and their families.”
The next step is for the FCC Commissioners to vote on the text of a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”. If approved, the FCC would open a new comment period for the public, and the prison telephone industry, to submit evidence on whether or not it should be implemented.
Maryland Secretary of Public Safety targets Friend of a Friend program: A popular prison program in the state of Maryland has become the subject of attack by prison officials who have used an innocuous incident as a pretext for restricting the program. After prison personnel discovered that Friend of a Friend (FoF) director Dominique Stevenson of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) inadvertently had a floppy disk on her person when she arrived in the lobby of the Roxbury Correctional Institute, Stevenson relinquished the disk at the request of prison authorities, and she was permitted to enter the institution to participate in the FoF program along with Benjamin Woods who also works with the Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI). Prison officials later utilized this otherwise insignificant incident to suspend the Stevenson and Woods and cancel the FoF program in Maryland.
After public outcry the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services issued a statement denying that the FoF program had been canceled, claiming it had only been temporarily suspended at Roxbury in order to investigate the incident of the floppy disk. The statement did not indicate what precisely had to be investigated. Other alleged incidents of FoF members bringing in DVDs, which had been permitted in the past, were referred to in the statement. Again, no explanation of how these alleged incidents threatened institutional security was proffered.
Dominique Stevenson replied that "The DPSCS statement is full of holes. . . . The DPSCS is trying to discredit us – we had nothing to do with what happened at JCI and protested the suspension. I’d like to know the outcome of that so-called investigation."
Political prisoner Marshall "Eddie" Conway, a former Black Panther who has served more than 40 years in prison after being framed, offered a defense of the FoF program, excerpts of which follow:
"The Friend of a Friend (FOF) program was started by a group of concerned men at the Maryland Correctional Training Center and the staff of the American Friends Service Committee in 2006. . . .
"Over the years the FOF has worked with several hundred prisoners and reached thousands of other prisoners through our outreach programs that include theater productions and guest lecturers from Howard University and Morgan State University. FOF has earned the respect of the Maryland prison population by setting a positive example for others to follow. The real impact of the program is that it has saved many prisoners from engaging in conflicts that could have led to the loss of life and/or additional time spent in prison. Saving lives is the most important task of the FOF program, and members incorporate methods that help younger prisoners gain the skills to negotiate the prison environment and the community beyond the walls.
"In this program we help prisoners, (78% are of African descent in the system in Maryland) understand their culture and history as well as their individual impact on their community. They are encouraged to accept responsibility and to create change in those communities. I believe for these reasons alone it is viewed by some Public Safety officials as a threat to the growth of the Prison Industrial Complex. While prison officials claim to have the best interest of the community at heart, their real interest is in their paychecks and positions of power. Programs like FOF break the cycle of re-incarceration and help prisoners to successfully re-enter the community. While FOF has worked to increase the peace in the prison system and the community beyond, other forces have continually attacked the program and worked to prevent unity among prisoners. Now, once again we have to defend our program from these attempts to get rid of it, and we need the help of everyone concerned with peace and justice so that we might keep up this work that has benefitted so many people. WE MUST SAVE A FRIEND OF A FRIEND!
"Please join our supporters around the country on November 15th and 16th for a call-in to Maryland Secretary of Public Safety, Gary Maynard. The number is 410-339-5005. Insist that this program be reinstated. Please feel free to email Gary Maynard at email@example.com as well.
For the full statement see this link. For an interview about this story with Dominique Stevenson and Benjamin Woods that elaborates on the pretextual nature of the prison officials' actions, and the political purpose behind the attack visit this link.
Pittsburgh area: Write On! – Letter writing to prisoners and HRC work night every Wednesday at 5129 Penn Avenue from 7 -10pm. To get involved with HRC/Fed Up! in Pittsburgh, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-654-9070.
You’ve been listening to the Human Rights Coalition’s PA Prison Report. HRC is a group of current and former prisoners, family members, and supporters, whose ultimate goal is to abolish prisons.