Filed under: Featured, In Contempt, Incarceration, Repression
Welcome back to In Contempt.
This month we have a state by state roundup of news, action, updates, and ways to support prison rebels. From Comrade Malik and Oakland’s Abolition and Solidarity shinning a light onto the continued spread of COVID-19 inside prisons and State facilities in California, the deadly situation in Texas prisons, an updated list of those in need of support in the wake of the George Floyd rebellion, to news of a prison revolt in Oregon – we have a lot to cover!
All this, plus prison rebel birthdays and more!
COVID-19 Hits Texas Prisons as Deadly Storms Roll In
The recent weather has had brutal effects in Texas, and Texas prisoners certainly won’t have had an easier time of it. Due to the restrictions on prisoners’ voices, it could be weeks before the full effects are known, but some news outlets have already started covering how the situation behind bars. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on a power outage at the Fort Worth juvenile detention center, which holds 105 children, and the Texas Tribune has further information about horrific conditions in state prisons, including nonfunctional toilets and serious shortages of drinking water. The Texas Jail Project has also been helping to share prisoners’ stories.
UPDATE: at least two texas prisoners have been hospitalized with possible hypothermia. Officials say both have significant comorbidities. https://t.co/3AmDiuYg6P
— Keri Blakinger (@keribla) February 20, 2021
In other Texas prisoner news, Mongoose Distro recently published a report on the mishandling of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Eastham Unit, and incarcerated writer and organizer Jason Renard Walker has been moved to the Boyd Unit. In a letter to supporters, he asked for people to contact the prison ombudsman at [email protected] to demand that all his property from the Clements Unit, including his typewriter, radio, and legal papers, are transferred to him at Boyd, and that the ombudsman fully investigate the grievance and complaint that he filed on 1-7-21.
Hunger-Strike Kicks off at Angola Prison
Prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola have launched a hunger-strike after being held in solitary confinement even past the end of their sentences.
According to a report in the Advocate:
Three inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary began a hunger strike this week after being held in solitary confinement past the end of their disciplinary sentences, but officials at the Angola prison say there is no space available for the men in the regular cell blocks.
Prisoner rights advocates with the Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition are slamming the department for failing to treat inmates humanely.
“Having served 44 plus years in solitary confinement, I am fully aware of the brutality of solitary. Hunger strikes are brutal, so I know from personal experience how desperate these men must be to resort to this,” said Albert Woodfox, who was released from Angola in 2016 after spending decades in solitary.
Biden Administration Continuing Program to End Mail in Federal Prisons
Alec Karakatsanis of the Civil Rights Corps has highlighted that the Biden administration shows no sign of ending a Trump-era program aiming to replace all postal mail to Federal prisons with scanned and printed copies.
From what we can tell so far: Biden admin transition team chose to keep this Trump pilot program to begin end physical mail in BOP, as is already happening in cruelest state prisons. It was probably easiest for Biden transition team to keep the company’s contract: these companies are powerful, BOP wants to surveil prisoner mail, they don’t care about families and prisoners, and b/c not enough people hold them accountable politically for this. Our staff still being barred from sending physical mail to a BOP institution and forced to send to this company–appears that BOP allows wardens to opt into or out of the pilot program. We are all so desensitized to this stuff that we don’t even recognize that, in a reasonable world, Biden transition would have immediately announced investigation and end to this profiteering instead of quietly continuing the contract that allows wardens to expand it. Keep in mind: Biden issued very mild (insufficient) order re: private prisons but didn’t touch all of the rampant profiteering inside and related to *public* prisons.
Although there’s not much coverage of this issue at the moment, it’s worth learning from the effects of the same policy when it was instituted in Pennsylvania, as covered in outlets such as The Appeal and Mother Jones. There, resistance to the policy included a number of lawsuits and a series of protests by families and outside supporters.
COVID-19 Continuing Threat in California Facilities; Community Rallies Behind Comrade Malik
Mar 7th, 12-2 pm in SF pic.twitter.com/RG1cMdetor
— Oakland Abolition & Solidarity (@OaklandAboSol) February 24, 2021
In California, Comrade Malik’s struggle at the GEO Group-run Taylor Street Center continues. The BOP and GEO Group are still seeking to send him back to prison for alleged parole violations after he spoke out about a COVID outbreak at the Center, but Malik and his supporters have filed their own lawsuit seeking to protect him from retaliation. Malik’s supporters are looking to actively organize to defend him and help push back against Geo Group, and you can plug into these efforts by contacting the SF Bay View or the Malik Washington Defense Committee. There’s now a linktree with several ways to support Malik and important upcoming dates, including a rally on March 7 and his next Zoom court date on March 10th.
Malik’s case fits into a broader pattern of repression by the BOP against outspoken prisoners, as can be seen in the case of Eric King, or Lynn Espejo, who was released on home confinement and then sent back to prison after blogging about prison conditions.
Adding to the pressure on GEO Group, a new 10-minute documentary has just been released consisting of footage shot by a Taylor Street resident, showing how the center mismanaged an earlier COVID outbreak in spring 2020.
Report from behind the wall at CSP-Solano: CDCr still endangering lives after a year of COVID
— Oakland Abolition & Solidarity (@OaklandAboSol) February 22, 2021
In other California prison news, Oakland Abolition and Solidarity have released a new report from CSP-Solano, showing how California prisons are still endangering lives a year into the pandemic.
Prisoners in St. Louis Launch Uprising Against Horrific Conditions
Last Saturday, inmates at the #StLouis Justice Center set off the third uprising since December in protest of horrible conditions + the spread of #COVID19. "We are dying at CJC in unheard of numbers and being intentionally infected at alarming rates." https://t.co/7EeJnTS2By
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) February 8, 2021
On February 6th, inmates at the St. Louis jail revolted. It’s Going Down has published a statement from an inmate discussing the horrific conditions that led up to the revolt, and Crimethinc has also published some analysis from local St. Louis anarchists. There have been reports of another uprising at the same jail in the days following the original revolt.
Police Drop Made-Up “ACAB Gang” Charges
#Phoenix police created out of thin-air the "ACAB gang" in order to justify charging protesters with potentially decades in prison. "The evidence shows police + prosecutors presented grand jurors with lies. The gang charges…the most egregious example." https://t.co/Q5fxy3yOmo
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) February 5, 2021
In Phoenix, Arizona, the controversial “ACAB 18” case, where prosecutors tried to charge a group of protesters as members of the “ACAB gang”, has been dismissed. It’s not been a great few weeks for Phoenix police, as bodycam footage showing police making comments like “gas them” and “stomp on them right away” while discussing protesters has surfaced, along with the news that Phoenix police officers once produced a special trophy celebrating shooting a protester in the groin, which featured a play on the nazi slogan “good night left side.”
Alabama Guards Attack Kinetik Justice & Other Prisoners
At Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama, guards violently attacked a number of prisoners, including organizer Kinetik Justice/Robert Earl Council, who had to be airlifted to hospital. The attack has been covered by Abolition Today and Democracy Now (coverage starts 11 minutes in), among other outlets. Phone zaps in support of Kinetik and Ephan Moore, another inmate who was attacked, continue to be organized.
Fight to Drop Charges Following I-94 Mass Arrest in Minnesota Continues
Unicorn Riot is #live outside the Hennepin County Government Center in #MN covering a rally, where locals are demanding that the charges be dropped from the I-94 mass arrest of 646 people in November. You can watch on our live channel, also on our Twitter.https://t.co/FDPXlgovkP
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) February 5, 2021
Unicorn Riot has coverage from ongoing cases of repression in Minneapolis, including the case of 646 people mass-arrested at a single protest, and five people who are now facing felony charges after a police attack on a New Years’ Eve noise demo.
Oregon Prisoners Rise Up, Take Control of Dorm
Guards fucked around and found out.
After guards tased somebody over bullshit, the whole dorm rose up and took control of 11 for three hours.https://t.co/uAWPXbq6UO
— Oakland Abolition & Solidarity (@OaklandAboSol) February 9, 2021
The Portland Mercury has a report on how Inverness Jail staff pepper-sprayed prisoners during a Covid-19 outbreak. From the report:
After watching a COVID-19 outbreak infect nearly one hundred inmates over the course of a week, a flare-up that paused court hearings and forced many dorms into lockdown, the residents of Dorm 11 responded with protest when a corrections officer reprimanded one of their fellow inmates. It’s not clear what exact incident sparked the 11 pm uprising, but by midnight, the dorm of 50 men had successfully forced all corrections officers out of Dorm 11.
Corrections staff responded by using a taser and shooting pepper spray into the crowded dorm, according to Chris Liedle with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), which oversees the county’s jails. But it wasn’t enough to subdue the crowd. Liedle said deputies with the Correction Emergency Response Team (CERT)—the jail’s equivalent of a SWAT team—were called to respond. By 3 am, the CERT deputies had forcibly restrained and removed every inmate.
.On Monday morning, Liedle said Dorm 11 residents were being held in individual holding cells.
Call to Action from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and Beyond
Nationwide call to action:
August 21st, 2021 and September 9th, 2021 in the spirit of Abolition please clear your schedules to organize demos at your local jails and prisons. Time to raise the awareness levels during these dates.
A full JLS statement will be forthcoming! pic.twitter.com/huk9IYSB3I
— Jailhouse Lawyers Speak – #DefundThePolice (@JailLawSpeak) February 23, 2021
It’s Going Down has a reportback from the National Freedom Day actions calling for mass releases. Dreaming Freedom Practicing Abolition is calling for people to help defend their comrade Stevie Wilson against retaliation from staff. The Prisons Kill project is fundraising for Tim, who was released recently and needs re-entry support, and for Mustafa, a revolutionary prisoner in Ohio who needs help paying for legal funds. The Final Straw has just put out an interview with Perilous Chronicle about their work recording prisoner resistance during the pandemic.
A few notable upcoming dates: As noted above, Malik’s defense crew are holding a rally in the Tenderloin (in San Francisco) on March 7th, March 8th is International Working Women’s Day, which is observed in some countries as a women’s strike, and March 15th is observed in some countries as a day against police brutality, so you or your crew might want to organize something for one of those days. Further ahead, there’s a call for a day of actions focused on parole on April 3rd, and further ahead still, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak have issued the following call:
Nationwide call to action: August 21st, 2021 and September 9th, 2021 in the spirit of Abolition please clear your schedules to organize demos at your local jails and prisons. Time to raise the awareness levels during these dates. A full Jailhouse Lawyers Speak statement will be forthcoming!
Everyone should support the defendants facing charges related to their alleged participation in the George Floyd uprising – this list of our imprisoned comrades needs to be getting shorter, not longer. Also, as this column was going to print, a post on Philly Anti-Capitalist brought our attention to the case of Anthony Smith in Philadelphia. Info on how to support them here. The status of pre-trial defendants changes frequently, but to the best of our knowledge they currently include:
Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal #70002-066
P.O. Box 562
Philadelphia, PA 19105
David Elmakayes #77782-066
PO Box 562,
Philadelphia, PA 19105
Shawn Collins #69989-066
PO Box 562,
Philadelphia, PA 19105
Steven Pennycooke #69988-066
PO Box 562,
Philadelphia, PA 19105
Washington County Jail
15015 62nd St. N
P.O. Box 3801
Stillwater, MN 55082
Washington County Jail
15015 62nd St. N
P.O. Box 3801
Stillwater, MN 55082
Loren Reed #36045508
P.O. Box 6300
Florence, AZ 85132
PO Box 730
Lovejoy, GA 30250
When writing to pre-trial prisoners, do not write about their cases or say anything that you wouldn’t want to hear read out in court. If you have any updates, either about status changes meaning that people should be removed from this list, or about names that are missing and should be included, please reach out.
Reverend Joy Powell
As a pastor and a consistent activist against police brutality, violence and oppression in her community, Rev. Joy Powell was warned by the Rochester Police department that she was a target because of her speaking out against corruption. On many occasions Rev. Joy had held rallies and spoke out against the police brutality and “police justifications” in Rochester NY. As a result, Rev. Joy was accused and convicted of 1st Degree Burglary and Assault.
An all white jury tried her; the state provided no evidence and no eyewitnesses. Rev. Joy was not allowed to discuss her activism or say that she was a pastor. The person that testified for her was not allowed to tell the court that he knew Rev. Joy through their activist work and through the church. Furthermore the judge Francis Affronti promised he was going to give her a harsh sentence because he did not like her. She was convicted and given 16 years and seven years concurrent.
The New York system uses Jpay, so you can send her a message by going to jpay.com, clicking “inmate search”, then selecting “State: New York, Inmate ID: 07G0632.”
Birthday: March 5
Reverend Joy Powell #07G0632
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 1000
Bedford Hills, NY 10507-2499
Kevan Thakrar has been fighting for his life for the last 11 years after a wrongful conviction. In 2008 at the age of 20 Kevan began serving a life sentence, with a minimum term of 35 years, under the highly controversial “joint enterprise” doctrine.
Kevan’s refusal to submit to racist abuse from prison guards has made him a target for reprisals. Notably, in 2010 he suffered a premeditated attack in his cell by HMP Frankland guards. When he fought back he was charged with attempted murder and GBH, and put in solitary confinement, where in one form or another he remains to this day. The charges were sufficiently brazen that a jury cleared him unanimously in a rare victory against the testimony of prison offices.
Despite his success in court, Kevan has been isolated in Closed Supervision Centres (a ‘prison within a prison’) across the country and currently at HMP Whitemoor. Closed Supervisions Centres are the most extreme form of imprisonment in the UK, modeled on the “supermax” prisons in the United States, and Kevan’s testimony is one of the few sources of information available to those on the outside. They are the ultimate punishment in the British prison system and subject people within them to brutal dehumanisation, degradation and demonisation.
Kevan Thakrar is a key voice from inside the UK prison system today, writing extensively on the conditions endured by people held in the worst prisons in the country. He is an IWW/IWOC member and has worked closely with groups such as Bristol Anarchist Black Cross.
UK prisoners can be emailed using emailaprisoner.com
Birthday: March 9
Kevan Thakrar A4907AE
HMP Full Sutton
Ruchell “Cinque” Magee
Ruchell is the longest held political prisoner in the U.S., having been locked up since 1963. Politicized in prison, he later participated in the Marin County Courthouse Rebellion, the attempted liberation of political prisoner George Jackson. Although critically wounded on August 7, 1970, Magee was the sole survivor among the four brave Black men who conducted the courthouse slave rebellion, leaving him to be charged with everything they could throw at him.
California uses Jpay, so you can send him a message by going to jpay.com, clicking “inmate search”, then selecting “State: California, Inmate ID: A92051”.
Birthday: March 16
Ruchell Cinque Magee #A92051
California Medical Facility
Post Office Box 2000
Jaan Karl Laaman
Political prisoner serving a 53 year prison sentence for his role as a member of the United Freedom Front, which carried out a variety of,m actions. Jaan played an active role in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa and US support for fascist death squads in Central America. Jaan is an editor of 4 Struggle Mag, and in 2017 he was subjected to harsh repression, including an extended spell in solitary, for writing two statements, one in support of the women’s strike and another commemorating the death of his friend Lynne Stewart.
The Federal system uses Corrlinks, a system where a prisoner must send a request to connect to someone on the outside before they can exchange emails, so if you’re not already connected to Jaan then you’re best off just sending him a card or a letter.
Birthday: March 21
Jaan Karl Laaman #10372-016
P.O. Box 3000
Pine Knot, KY 42635
Azat Miftakhov is a Russian anarchist who was arrested and tortured for allegedly breaking a window in an office of Putin’s United Russia party, and has now been given a six-year prison sentence for this alleged act. If you wish to send a message to Azat, the best thing to do is probably to contact his support team at [email protected].
Birthday: March 22
Mikita Yemelyanau is an anarchist political prisoner from Minsk, Belarus, serving a four-year sentence for an arson attack at a pre-trial detention center and for throwing paint at a court. Both actions were in solidarity with Dzmitry Palijenka, another anarchist political prisoner. Letters written in any other language than Russian or Belarusian may not reach prisoners in Belarus, but if you contact Belarus ABC at belarus_abc(AT)riseup.net or using this online form, they can translate your message and send it on for you.
Birthday: March 24
Address (for Russian or Belarusian letters only):
Yemelyanov Nikita Vladimirovich
ul. Krupskoy 99A, ST-4
Patrick O’Neill is one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, serving a 14-month sentence for his role in a direct action against nuclear weapons.
The Federal system uses Corrlinks, a system where a prisoner must send a request to connect to someone on the outside before they can exchange emails, so if you’re not already connected to Patrick then you’re best off just sending him a card or a letter.
Birthday: March 27
Patrick O’Neill #14924-018
Post Office Box 10
Lisbon, Ohio 44432
George Skatzes is a Lucasville Uprising prisoner, sentenced to death for his alleged participation in the 1993 uprising. George was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood at the time of the uprising, but has since left the organization and is quoted as saying that joining was “the biggest mistake of my life.” He has maintained close bonds of solidarity with the other Lucasville defendants such as Bomani Shakur and Siddique Abdullah Hasan ever since the uprising.
Ohio uses Jpay, so you can send him a message by going to jpay.com, clicking “inmate search,” then selecting “State: Ohio, Inmate ID: 173501”.
Birthday: March 29
PO BOX 5500
Chillicothe OH 45601