The Cleveland4 kids could really use your support! The FB page is facebook.com/freethe4,
We're on twitter as well (@Freecleveland4) and we have a website
cleveland4solidarity.org. You can also email letters to
firstname.lastname@example.org and the support group will mail them out for
you. (Just include a return address if you want them to write back) We
also have letter writing parties every month. (: , On our website you
can find all the info for writing, donating, and buying shirts. Along
with other various form of info and updates!
The current penal system in America is not working. It
doesn't take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that it
predisposes prisoners to recidivism (a relapse into a life of crime). Since man is ultimately a product of his environment, the current
system's products speak for themselves: failure. The system's practices
set its occupants up for exclusion from the mainstream success stories
Except for the families, friends, and
loved ones of prisoners and ex-prisoners, most Americans have not really
considered their plight and daily struggles. Though various studies
show that from one-half to two-thirds of parolees return to prison for
violating the conditions of their release, or for re-offending, few
(taxpayers, prosecutors, politicians, or CEOs of corporations) seem to
have really pondered the critical question: Why is this colossal
recidivism taking place on our soil?
Reintegration Circle in CA
Have the citizens of this great
industrious nation become so detached and desensitized that they could
care less about prisoners' lives? I hope not, because prisoners
desperately need your assistance in reintegrating back into society and
upholding the anticipation that they will become an asset to their
respective communities. According to Richard Gustafson, a columnist and
retired teacher who taught 30 years at Miami Valley Career Technical
Center, "National statistics indicate that recidivism is cut in half
with support from the community."
It is my unyielding belief that
recidivism is also tremendously reduced when the system pursues its
once-desired effect: rehabilitation. However, rehabilitation is a thing
of the past. It was in 1790 that the first penitentiary in this country
opened its doors to house criminals. The purpose of this new creation
was to place criminals in a confined area, where they might ponder over
their crimes, repent, and reform themselves. Hence, the term
"penitentiary." Much has changed in the last three decades due to the
influences of tough-talking, opportunistic politicians who reduced
funding for rehabilitative programs to almost nil. So much so that
rehabilitation, or producing a repentant person, is no longer the
...The current objective is to warehouse
prisoners and deliberately create thecircumstances for their failure.
This crude objective is being perpetrated to perpetuate "job security"
for parole officials, individuals in corporate America, and the like,
who benefit financially from the prison boom, which currently
incarcerates 2.1 million people in our nation's prisons. This new trend
of merely warehousing and punishing prisoners is not conducive to the
security and stability of this nation. All it does is mentally crush
prisoners' wills and doom them to inevitable failure.
As a result of this new trend, prisoners
are being released with no skills, no education, no support system, no
job, and only a few dollars in their possession to try to make it in
this dog-eat-dog world. Indeed, a recipe for disaster. It's implausible
for ex-prisoners to survive under these bleak conditions. Let us not
forget that unemployment, poverty, exclusion, and a lack of education
and guidance are the ingredients which led to their imprisonment. So how
can the system, or any rational human being, expect ex-prisoners to
succeed when they're still caught in a catch-22 cycle?
Although a job is an essential means of
support that helps people acquire the things they need, trying to secure
a job is an ex-prisoner's greatest obstacle. Except when family or
friends have been able to secure them employment, ex-prisoners are
refused work due to their criminal history, something they can't change.
With this revolving door being slammed in their faces, how do we expect
them to react when they're stuck between a rock and a hard place? They
then end up adopting the only culture they know: survival of the
fittest. In plain old English, they resort to exploiting their old ways
of living -- that is, victimizing others to survive. Because of this
induced failure, I share the below sentiments of El-Hajj Malik
El-Shabazz a.k.a. Malcolm X:
"I have no mercy or compassion in me for a
society that crush[es] people and penalize them for not being able to
stand up under the weight."
Yet, it is my yearning hope that society
will come to realize that in spite of their crimes, prisoners have the
same tools, the same potentials, the same basic human desires, and the
same capacity for change and positive development which all other
citizens possess. They just need assistance in effectively developing
their latent potentials. People change -- even I have changed. In fact,
life itself is a process of transformation.
With this said, it is my prayer that
people will call on their elected officials to push for rehabilitative
programs in prisons, as well as re-entry programs in society, that will
help prisoners reintegrate in their communities and become law-abiding
In the struggle for prison reform,
Siddique Abdullah Hasan
ABOUT: Siddique Abdullah Hasan is the founding editor of Compassion,
a newsletter to develop healing communication between capital
punishment offenders and murdered victims' families. The respected Sunni
Muslim prison Imam was sentenced to death for his alleged leadership in
the 1993 Lucasville prison rebellion. WHERE: He is currently on death row at
Ohio's supermax prison, in Youngstown, and is appealing his sentence. WHY: For more on his case, see Staughton Lynd's Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
(Temple University Press, 2004). CONTACT: To contact Hasan about writing a
column on issues relating to incarceration and prison life, send
Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) / # R 130-559 / OSP/878 Coitsville Hubbard RD /Youngstown, OH 44505
RedBird was asked to speak on prison abolition and how it relates rape culture and sexual assault. Here's the reading.
* * *
Hi, I'm Kate and I'm part of a group called RedBird Prison
Abolition here in Columbus. We support prisoners in Ohio. And I'm here because
I love taking things back. I wanna take this night back. I wanna take it back
to my mom and grandma and say look at this bad ass shit we're doing, (except I
wouldn't swear, because they don't like that.) I wanna keep having nights like this, and I want to hold them
up to rapists as a threat and as an example of the power that us here have to
not only defend ourselves but take the offensive against a culture that's been
steeped in rape for so long that some of us are way past bitter. Because we deserve
a hell of a lot better, and you bet we can get it.
The first step being that we ‘get it’. All around us it's
like we're standing in the middle of a big connect the dots drawing where the
dots are things like the justice system, crime, education, prisons, the war on
drugs, rape culture, the military... and the lines connecting them all are colored
white for supremacy, are exclusively straight and cis in their direction and
happen to be drawn by primarily male and able bodied men. It's despicable. And
I hope you all wanna smudge up this drawing as much as I do. (Am I in the right place for this? Yeah? Alright.)
I'm also here as a prison abolitionist because prison is an
integral part of keeping those dots connected, of upholding patriarchy and
white supremacy. Now you might be like, prison, Abolition, isn't that kind of
at odds with halting sexual assault? I mean, what about all the rapists who are
in prison? And that is an excellent question cuz the prison and justice system
do as much to halt or even diminish sexual assault as a fraternity. What about
those rapists? They're coming right back into our communities with less
stability and fewer opportunities to do much else than what gets people sent
back to prison. And this is of course if they even went to prison in the first
place. Often times people, especially white money men aren't even convicted.
Courts deal with rape and sexual assault on an individual
level, which is not without it's benefits, though the state daintily steps over
acknowledging systemic problems which often result in the severe detriment of
survivors. There is the case Marissa Alexander, who in 2010 after giving birth
nine days previously to her son defended herself against assault that, from
previous experience, she feared may be deadly. She fired a warning shot into
her ceiling. The court thought she didn't need to. It also thought her
assaulter's history of convictions and testimonies from others were
inadmissible. The prosecutor asked for a 20 year sentence, minimum, for Marissa
and got it.
There is also the recent case of CeCe McDonald who's assault wasn't
specifically sexual assault, but an assault where in court, the assailant's
swastika tattoo and three previous convictions for violent assault were ruled
inadmissible as evidence that attacks against her were motivated by her race
and gender identity. (CeCe is a Trans woman of color.)
To hell with this justice system, police and prisons. We can
do better than this.
Cuz here's where it stands now. The criminal court process
has a penchant for re-traumatizing people who choose to go that route, and many
do not for that very reason. The threat of conviction makes it less likely that
a ‘perpetrator’ will get past denial and own up to what they did, which is
often what one needs as a survivor to begin moving on.
This increases rates of PTSD and even sometimes ends up
incarcerating the survivor themselves.
The prison system does not rehabilitate people, it
traumatizes them, presents a sparse few opportunities upon release, save the
opportunity to do something that'll put you back in prison. All the
administration has to do is sit back and wait. It's quite the racket. Or
rather, industry. Ohio is one of the only states left with “rehabilitation”
still in its name. Most everybody else has dropped it.
And just a quick fact on prisons and female prisons, nearly
80% of people inside are mothers. Just think of what an effect this has on
families. In some states, women give birth to their children while restrained
in shackles. Talk about abuse. Women, men and people who prefer neither of those
genders get thrown in female prisons for all kinds of reasons, but the fastest
growing segment of the prison population is women of color.
When someone first
asked me to take a guess at this percentage (of growth) I failed utterly. The number of women
of color have increased in prisons by over 80, no, sorry, 800% in the last 36
years. That's from 1977. And this is NOT because black or latina women commit
more crimes than say white women. In fact, studies have shown that with regard
to drugs, whites have more of a habit. Communities of color are intentionally targeted (by police and law enforcement) for
incarceration-- making them basically shit otta luck when it comes to expecting
anything but slow torture from the justice system.
This is the system we're working with now. And I don't want
these things to stop us from doing the very best that we can with it when we do
use it. Especially when it benefits the survivor and is what they want. But I
want us to see it for what it is, as a system that makes money off of actively
destroying people's lives. And not just other peoples'. It effects all of us.
And, just to be clear, good riddance to rapists who get
locked up per survivors wishes, because this is an accountability. But let's
strive to do better than relying on prisons, police and prosecutors that
support the very things we're fighting against. People have done better in the
past using practices like restorative justice, talking circles, and even
societies that utilize vigilante justice deal with harm more satisfactorily
than the pervasive violence the prison system wreaks on our communities today.
Let's work toward accountability on our own terms and that meets survivors’
needs. Let’s learn to trust one another, as much as we can anyway and take back
Warden Johnson at Madison Correctional in Londond OH is no longer allowing books, magazines, and religious cassette tapes to be sent to prisoners who are blind. For 20 years the Cleveland Public Library provided these to blind prisoners, but not anymore... funny thing is Dispite the fact that this clearly violates the American Disability Act-- One prisoner informed us that he is still permitted to receive Field & Stream magazine where there's advice on how to make a 1,000 yard shot with a rifle. It also advertizes where to buy cheap ammunition and assault rifles.
David Hughes, the prisoner who got the magazine says, "It's ironic that I'm allowed this kind of literature since I'm in prison for shooting a Muskingum Co. sherriff car with the sherriff in it."
He says he would prefer that access to the Cleveland Library be returned, as what's going on now is humorous, yes, but he'd like to read something else.
from Madison Correctional Institution
Note: David wrote in a complaint that "Sighted prisoners have access to books, magazines and written religious material [...] through the prison library," which doesn't provide much for prisoners who are blind.
He also says that Disability Rights Ohio has been willing to do little about protecting prisoners' rights.
April 11th, 2013, Youngstown, OH- Four prisoners housed at Ohio State Penitentiary began refusing food today. Greg Curry, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb and Bomani Shakur, who have been housed at OSP since it opened, are demanding that media outlets be allowed to come for sit-down on-camera interviews with them. In a recorded announcement, Bomani Shakur described the hunger strike as a "protest [of] the state's unfair and unreasonable refusal to grant us access to the media... I am an innocent man. This is injustice, the state of Ohio is trying to kill me."
Numerous news sources have recently contacted the prisoners because of their involvement in the Lucasville Uprising twenty years ago. The hunger strike was timed with the anniversary of the uprising, along with a conference focused on taking another look at what happened in 1993.
"There are two important reasons for media access. The first is to humanize the prisoner... the second... [is to give] the prisoner a way to contribute to the search for truth about his alleged crimes" wrote long time prisoner advocate Staughton Lynd. "[When] a journalist and a prisoner can speak face to face... the reporter [can] ask follow-up questions as in a courtroom cross-examination." Lynd also cites legal opinions that advocate a right for prisoners to speak to the media. See Staughton's full statement at Re-ExaminingLucasville.org.
The prisoners announced the hunger strike during a brief informal telephone interview with The Associated Press, who ran an article on the eve of the hunger strike. Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Jason Robb were convicted of complicity in the murder of the hostage guard officer Vallandingham and condemned to death. They maintain their innocence and argue that as negotiators of the agreement that ended the uprising, they actually avoided further loss of life. Bomani Shakur (also known as Keith Lamar) and Greg Curry both surrendered on the first day of the uprising, but were charged and convicted of killing perceived snitches in the first hours of the disturbance. They both also maintain their innocence. Curry is serving a life sentence. Shakur has appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Supporters of the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners have planned a three day conference memorializing the Lucasville Uprising and re-examining the investigations and prosecutions that produced these convictions. The Re-Examining Lucasville conference will take place at Columbus State Community College on the weekend of April 19th-21st.
Advocates are also encouraging supporters to call Warden David Bobby at OSP and request that he negotiate with and allow media access. Warden Bobby can be reached at 330-743-0700 ext 2006. Supporters can also write to the prisoners at the following addresses.
Trans Identities and the Prison Industrial Complex by Alec Armstrong and Genelle Denzin
Our workshop will begin with a short presentation on
the ways our justice system has historically affected and still affects
transgender folks in the US. We will include discussion of current ODRC
policy on housing and healthcare for transgender people who are in
prison. We will examine recent instances of transgender people’s
experiences with the criminal justice system and instances of support
and organizing to address these issues. The rest of the workshop will be
facilitated discussion with the goals of thinking critically, creating
meaningful connections between people, and collaborating on ideas for