Blood in the sky


In prison I’ve died and rose again. Becoming the phoenix of my own creation, the Frankenstein of my own mind, facing a new battle, a new challenge, every single day, dying over and over again, just to keep rising, like the sun in the sky, who are both blood, in my eye and what I see is what they say, as they relate to each other, each and every day.

This is poetry for the imprisoned, written by the imprisoned body of a man whose mind is free when the sun rises, so do I, when the sun sets why does it leave its blood in the sky? Challenge me, I’ll honor you, betray me and I’ll always remember who you are, just like a scar on my heart, but that’s what they mean when they say time is art.

I´d rather see blood in the sky, than the blood of the land, but I only say that ‘cuz I’ve washed all the blood off my hands. no god, no master, what a beautiful disaster that would, could and should be. Will it be something that I’ll ever live to see and will it be something better than all of the misery and poverty that I’ve already seen?

Picture a snake, shedding its skin. Picture a caterpillar, a cocoon and a butterfly, try to remember the beginning and then, try to picture the end. Picture a picture in a paragraph. Picture a paragraph that made you cry, yell or laugh. What does it feel like to feel? Does it feel like freedom?

In prison I’ve died and tried again. I’ve lied and flied again. I´d hide and decide again; that it was time to ride and then ride again and with all my might I´d fight again and because I’ve done it before I might again, as the day turns to night again and if this is a dream I’m living in, then whose fight am I fighting in? Whose dream am I dying in? Again and again? But here I am, to begin again, as the blood dries in the sky, like the tears from my eyes, again I rise, still I rise, what a pleasant surprise.

EL COYOTE
ABC – NEVADA PRISON CHAPTER
ELY STATE PRISON
MAY 29TH 2007

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E.S.P.: The Basic Rundown


Ely State Prison is a so-called maximum security prison that was opened in 1989 out in the middle of nowhere, outside of a small miner’s town called Ely, Nevada. This prison is surrounded by the mountains of Nevada’s Great Basin. There are mountains on all sides of this prison. It is very secluded and a four hour drive to any of the nearest major cities.

There are eight units in this prison (not including the infirmary and the camp that sits outside of the prison) and all but one unit is locked down. When I came here in 1998 for battery on a correctional officer, this prison was still opened up, or less restricted I should say.

Units 1, 2, 3,and 4 are all disciplinary segregation units, also known as “the hole”. There are 2 wings on each unit. “A-wing” and “B-wing”. There is a control pod in between each wing (In ESP everybody calls the control pod “the bubble”). The officer in the control pod can monitor both wings and communicate with us (or eavesdrop on us) through the intercom.

Unit 3A houses all death row inmates, they get to come out together, in sections, for tier time and group yard (12 men at a time). Unit 3B is “the hole” or disciplinary segregation unit, that houses death row inmates who are doing “hole time” (or “D.S. time”). and death row inmates who are on protective custody status, and it also houses some of the regular inmates (non-death row) who are doing hole time.

All throughout these different disciplinary segregation units there are protective custody inmates, jail house snitches, and psych-patients housed on the same tiers as inmates who come back here from general population to do their hole time. This creates a weird atmosphere and a funny-style environment.

Units 5, 6, 7, and 8 are all considered General Population (“G.P.”), but unit 8 is the only unit 8 at is open. Unit 8 inmates get tier time and they all get to come out together on the big yard. Most of those inmates are allowed to have jobs that support and uphold the operations of the prison. They get to work in the kitchen, in the laundry, on yard labor crews, some are allowed jobs as barbers who come to the different units and cut the inmates’ hair.

Units 5, 6, and 7 were once General Population units, but now that this prison is slammed down I call it “General Populockdown”. We are allowed a few extra “privileges” and accommodations that we can’t get in the hole. Like, for example, we can wear our blues (in the hole we are only allowed t-shirts, socks, boxers, and an orange jumpsuit). We can order hobby craft and get items oft the commissary that we can’t buy in the hole. In order to get out of the hole and go to General Populockdown, the caseworkers say that we have to find a cellie. You have to have someone to live with. Someone that you will be locked down with in the cell for 23 hours a day. lts crazy. This place is a joke.

In the 10 years l’ve been here, I’ve seen this place go from bad to worse. Slowly but surely, they’ve taken so many things away from us and they’re creating an even more hopeless situation for us. Every time things change around here, they always change for the worst.

This is just a basic rundown of what its like here at E.S.P. right now. But there’s been widespread rumors that things are about to change in October of this year (2008). The rumors have it that they’re going to shut down unit 8 and bring in campers from the outside to work the inmate jobs that keep the prison functioning. If these rumors are true, its gonna be all bad for all of us. No hope, just misery.

Coyote
E.S.P.
August 2008

Prisons


Note: We will be publishing a series of (parts of) Zines from Coyote on here. Prisons is another one he sent us. These writings form part of “an impressive collection of writings and artwork created by incarcerated persons from all over the United States. All of these zines are published and distributed by Rayson through his South Chicago ABC Zine Distro.”

Anthony´s collection can be visited, on the DePaul University website (here you can view all titles in the collection of Anarchist and other writings). Thank you Anthony.

Prisons are not here to help us. Prisons are not here to rehabilitate. US prisons do not stop, deter, or prevent crime and they never will. The people in power can continue to lock people up and they can keep building more prisons and crime is still going to happen, because we live in an unbalanced world. Everybody wants to be in control, everybody wants to be able to control other peoples’ opinions, actions, and options. Nobody wants to break away and take control of their own lives.

It doesn’t matter whether we are in or out of prison. The way we are living as people is foul. If you are in prison, however, then you have the opportunity to really sit back and think about things. Whether you take advantage of that opportunity or not, is up to you. We can sit back and think about revolution, freedom, life, and death. We can sit back and think about creation and destruction. We can use this time to destroy our old ways of thinking and reconstruct new ways of thinking and new ways of living in the world.

Prison has no place in this society because there are as many criminals in this society as there are in prison. Even the people in power can be considered criminals. What kind of people are they who let the poor suffer while the rich get richer? What kind of people are they who value money more than another person’s life? The people in power get to define the meaning of a criminal only because they are the people in power. I could tell you that the people in power are as criminal as I am, but it wouldn’t matter because I am in prison and they are in power. What they decide to do with their power will never be in my best interests because who am I but a prisoner? What the people in power do with their power will rarely be in the best interests of the people, because who are they but powerless people?

So, they leave us with two options: we can be powerful or we can be powerless. We can have or we can have-not. Of course, everybody is going to try to be a person of power and the ones who don’t are going to be the ones who end up getting controlled by the people who have power. In this way, we conflict with each other as we strive for power.

All the while, the people who really have all the power benefit from our conflicts, because they’re the ones who control our options. As long as we give them that control, they are going to do whatever they want with their power, whether we like it or not.

This is what I think about while I´m in prison, but one should not have to be in prison to think about these things. I should not be in prison, because this prison should not be here. Think about that…..

From a cell, I salute you!

El Coyote 2007
Ely State Prison
Anarchist Black Cross
Prison Chapter

Note: Here’s a revolutionary idea: “Lets hear what ´the scum of the earth’ have to say!”

Imprisoned Radical Intellectual


A Pamphlet/Zine by Coyote: IMPRISONED RADICAL INTELLECTUAL

Something as beautiful as freedom; something that good; something that great could never be free. It seems like it always comes with a price. Trust me when I tell you that it’s a high price we have to pay for our freedom, especially if you come from the gutter, born into oppression, born into poverty, it’s a high price for anybody who has to live in this world of capitalism because they have found a way to make all people pay for the good things in life.

I feel like I’ve been paying the price for my freedom for the past 17 years, so when these gates open for me, when I can feel the fresh air in my lungs and when I can feel the sunshine on my face, I want the feeling I get to be worth it. I want the feeling that I get as soon as I step out of these gates to be worth all the pain, all the heartache, all the suffering that I’ve endured. I want that feeling to be worth all the madness I’ve gone through in my life. I want to feel it in my soul. I want my soul to know what freedom feels like!

I’ve paid for my freedom. I’ve paid for it with the pain of my soul, I’ve paid for it with the blood of my flesh, I’ve paid for my freedom with damage to my heart and damage to my mind and I know that because I know how this incarceration has scarred my psyche. I’ve paid for my freedom, so give me what I´ve got coming, give me what I´ve paid for!

Everybody in the world needs to feel a sense of purpose. A purpose for living. A purpose for being. A purpose for feeling good. A purpose for suffering. A purpose for dying. Many of us in this world are lost, confused, damaged, partly because we don’t know our purpose. We subject ourselves to all kinds of abuse and torment; we search for a meaning and a sense of self-worth in materialistic things, like money and possessions. We join gangs, join religious groups, join the military. Women will sell their bodies, not only for money but also for the sense of purpose and people will cling to the first thing that pays them any serious kind of attention. People will do drugs, chasing that feeling, chasing that high ‘cuz to them that high feels better that being conscious in this screwed up world. We are running around lost in this world with no real sense of purpose.

I’ve sat in these cells, in this prison, going through all kinds of crazy, fatal and drastic situations. I’ve been afflicted by so many devastating things, that have somehow become normal in our everyday lives and I’ve seen this madness, I’ve seen its face, I’ve looked in its eyes, and my heart has been afflicted by all of the pain and suffering that we have to go through in this world.

I’ve lived in this tormenting hell, going through the motions, just trying to live this penitentiary lifestyle and trying to keep my head above the water, but I’ve found that no matter how you do your time you will still be afflicted by all of this foulness, you will still be damaged. I’ve sat in these cells, sat in solitude, trying to find myself, looking for my own purpose in life.

There were times when I thought being a gangster was my purpose. There were times when I thought being a criminal was my purpose. There were times when I thought being a convict was my purpose. I was all of these things and still am a convict, but these are not my purposes in life, they’re my struggles. I realized, as I sat here and reflected that those were only purposes that served me, and vet there are thousands of people who suffer and struggle just like me and worse. The more I reflected on that, the more I realized that it´s not about me anymore. I will always be a part of the counter-culture, but I’ve realized that my purpose in life isn’t about me, but about striving to assist others who struggle alongside me.

As we sit in these cells searching for meaning, searching for truthful understanding, we begin to comprehend things in ways we´ve never understood them before. We begin to understand ourselves, our situations and our struggles and once you’ve embraced these understandings you begin to take steps towards purging yourself from your old ways of thinking and constructing the old ways into a higher realm of thought, until you become conscious, not only by how you think, but conscious in all that you do. Once you become conscious you don’t see things like you used to and you begin to feel renewed, enlightened and alive. You take on a new passion for life.

I am a social prisoner. I have become politically conscious and spiritually motivated while in prison for a “social crime”. I don’t feel the need to twist up my crime to make it seem like I am a political prisoner because I am content with being a social prisoner. I don’t feel the need to be considered as a political prisoner to make what I have to say seems valid. I am living in these trenches, behind enemy lines, everyday. I am going through it on a daily basis and as long as I am truthful with who I am and truthful with what I’m saying I know people will be able to connect to it and deem it as valid, and if for some reason certain people choose not to take me seriously, that’s their loss.

I can understand why some ‘rades might feel the need to be considered political prisoners, because political prisoners get all of the attention. But as social prisoners, as conscious prisoners, as anarchist prisoners, or as imprisoned radical intellectuals, we have a place in this struggle too and if you are resourceful enough and active enough and it what you have to say is valid and as long as people can connect to it, then you can get your voice heard just as much as any political prisoner, but if you’re just doing this to get yourself some attention, or just to get your voice heard, with no real intentions of striving to make a difference, then you’re doing it tor the wrong reasons. If you are serious about your concerns and serious about your activism it wouldn’t matter whether you were considered a political prisoner, or a social prisoner. All that matters is that we want to do something good and make a difference. We want to help people who can’t help themselves. When it comes down to it, that’s all that matters and if you ain´t about that then you’re only living tor yourself.

When people on the streets read this zine, I hope they will want to get more involved with prisoners in meaningful ways. When prisoners read this zine, I hope it will inspire them to take a critical look at their own situation, and maybe even help them to get organized and to start taking action to make things better where they’re at. I want people to understand that prisoners are a people who long tor real human contact, we long for real social contact, we long to establish and maintain real, truthful relations and meaningful, substantial connections with people on the outs. We need people to stand by us during these hard times, we need people to get involved in our struggles, and we need people to help us ourselves.

Being institutionalized, addicted to drugs, materialism, violence, being a member of a street gang and being a prisoner and trying to overcome all of these things, these are my struggles, these are my afflictions, but this zine isn’t about one man’s struggle, this booklet is about the system, about prison, it’s about all the people in prisons who struggle just like me. This zine is not about anarchism, it’s a zine about imprisonment, struggle, resistance, life and survival, written by an anarchist prisoner.
I see prison as a place that takes people who have been damaged by poverty, neglect, abuse, racism, and addiction and keeps them damaged and damages them even more, so that they’re always held down in life. I write this zine to expose a piece of what the system does to us, how we can survive it, why people need to get involved in prisoners struggles and movements and I wanted people to understand, from the perspective of one man who has gone through it and who is still living it and trying to rise above it.

People do not realize that I have been fighting most of my life. Snatched up as a youth, against my will no doubt, and placed in various institutions and juvenile facilities for 7 years. I got out when I was 18 and came to prison when I was 19. I was already “institutionalized” before even coming to prison. It is a struggle that has made me stronger, though it is a sad situation that many of us face in these graveyards.

I don’t write about it to brag about it (I’m not that “institutionalized”) because it’s nothing to brag about, it’s nothing to be proud of. Though I feel no shame or self-pity for my own painful experiences, I don’t feel proud of them either. There’s mixed emotions and mixed blessings that come with all of this. I am appreciative of the things that have made me stronger, disgusted that there are millions of us living like this, grateful that my mind is not only still intact, but even sharper than ever, and I’m heartbroken that there are thousands and thousands of people who won’t ever be able to rise above this madness and oppression, ever.

I write about it to show people how this barbaric system deprives us of our youth, deprives us of our emotions, deprives us of our senses, deprives us of our freedom and our humanity. From an early age, many of us are deprived of these essentials and slowly we begin to manifest into institutionalized, anti-social, predatory savages.

There are lots of people who don’t understand, can’t understand that I’ve spent the majority of my life in institutions and prisons since the age of 11, but this is a very real situation. People need to be made aware of what we are going through in these institutions, even prisoners need to know what’s happening to them, what’s really going on, underneath the surface. People need to understand that our lives are real and that the things that we are going through in here are very real, and mothers and parents need to understand that they should keep their kids out of the hands of pigs.

I write about resistance, because there is nothing more important than resistance in a situation like this. Resistance is a means to survival. I have been resisting all of my life, since the age of 11, and for the first 3 years of my captivity, from the ages of 11 to 13, I spent most of that time strapped to a bed, alone in a cold, desolate timed-out room, where the walls were pale and the air was state, not much different than where I’m at now, but I´m not physically strapped to a bed anymore but psychologically, I am confined to a world of darkness, because I cannot envision or even imagine what life would be like, outside of this cell, outside of prison. I’m 30 years old now and as I sit here and try to reflect on the fact that I’ve survived for 3 decades, I try to figure out what that means, and all I can think of, is that it means I’ve lived 3 years longer than Bobby Sands and if I can survive for another 3 years, I will have lived as long as Jesus Christ and I guess that means that I’m surviving.

My mind is sharper than the razor-wire that surrounds the prison that contains me. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have been able to survive this constant isolation and sensory deprivation for years on end, I’d already be brain-dead, or intellectually dead, or even delirious, like a lot of others in here who unfortunately suffer from some kind of mental illness. Nothing wrong with me, I’m no more messed up than most of the people in society. The only difference between them and me, is if you were to do a CAT-Scan or MRI on my brain, the image that you see on the cover of this zine, is the same as the image you’d see on the MRI: A BRAIN GRENADE! Explosive minds are created in these prisons, for those who resist, for those who think, and for those who strive to elevate themselves, in spite of the infectious and foul conditions we have to live in. Explosive minds, dangerous minds, revolutionary minds, for those who resist.
This place, this graveyard, cemetery, dungeon, hell-hole, whatever you want to call it to make you feel better about being in it, has devastating effects on all who dwell here, whether you’re resistant or not. But the more you resist the more you survive. I won’t say that being here and going through this madness hasn’t had any destructive or negative effects on me or hasn’t done any damage, I could never say that. This suffering, this madness has done plenty of damage to me, in so many ways and I may never recover from some of it, but the point is that nobody is immune to the effects of constant isolation, or constant prison madness. You cannot live like this and not be affected, no matter how strong you are or how much you resist, it has a devastating effect on everybody, more devastating for some than others, that’s why it’s important to stay active, stay healthy, and to keep resisting, keep striving, keep elevating yourself.

I’m conditioned to live in this place like this, I don’t have a life sentence, but I’m conditioned to live the rest of my life like this, living like a dog, and that’s sad. I have to get out of prison one day, some day and I’m going to have to get out and recondition myself and my mind, my life and readjust my way of thinking and living and that’s going to make surviving out there harder for me that it is to survive in here. In the back of my mind I know I have a life to go to out there, I have family and friends who love me and care about me, but as I sit here in the midst of this constant madness, all I can see is that I have made a life for myself, right here in this graveyard. I don’t yet recognize a life on the other side of these walls, fences, gates, so I don’t think about it much, I don’t think about getting released. So it’s a heartbreaking, painful situation for us in here. We can’t see a future for ourselves that exists beyond these walls, beyond this life; we don’t think about these things, we are stuck in a rut, stuck in a maze. We need people to get involved in our lives in real ways, get involved in our struggles in meaningful ways, to help us envision a life outside of prison; we need to have a c1ear picture of freedom inside our minds. We need people to help us grow, help us elevate, help us organize, help us survive, live and heal. We have a lot to overcome, a lot to heal from. We need people to help us see and recognize a life for ourselves on the other side of the darkness, and the people who don’t ever have a chance of getting out of here are in need of the most love.

A prisoner doesn’t need books to become a radical. If the lst amendment rights were completely stripped from prisoners and if they were to disallow any type of books, or reading materials into these prisons a prisoner can still be wild and radical as his or her heart is. They could take my books, zines and reading materials away from me, and if I just sit back and observe what goes on around here, thinking deeply about the things I see and think deeply of the underlying causes behind all of this, I can write about this madness all day long. So, you see ,we don’t need books to become radicals, we need books to become intellectuals. Books are powerful tools. Prisoners need people to send them books so that they can further their intellectual growth. We need people to send us zines and serious reading materials so that we can take it upon ourselves to resist the aura of intellectual death that permeates through these walls and steel doors. We need people to help us organize study groups and intellectual, spiritual and political movements on the inside of these coffin-like cells and to help us spread truth and intellectual growth amongst our comrades who dwell in these cemeteries with us. We need knowledge so that we can liberate our minds from this constant oppression, so we can gain consciousness and so we can take the initiative to rise ourselves, up and above this constant death, destruction and devastation.

I came to prison when I was 19 and I quickly learned and assumed the mentality and ways of being a convict, things aren’t what they were when I came to prison, they’ve gotten worse for us in here, but 1 haven’t changed much, I haven’t deteriorated. Once you’ve been sent to prison you have to keep in mind that there’s only 3 things that can be taken from you, or only 3 things that you can LOSE: Your mind, your manhood or your life. I’ve stood up many times, against my oppressors, and they came in and took my television, took my property and charged me restitution. But you see, they can take my T.V. (I don’t watch it anyways), but if I haven’t lost my mind, then they haven’t taken nada. They can take my privileges or my good time (life goes on) but as long as nobody has taken my manhood from me, they ain’t took nothing. They can take my money, my property or any other material possession they want, but as long as they haven’t taken my life, then they haven’t taken anything.

It’s been 10 years that I’ve lived inside the depths of the prison regime and I haven’t lost my mind, my manhood or my life, so I guess you can say I’m surviving. I was always taught that a convict is someone who sticks up for himself, stands up tor his rights and who looks out for other convicts and that it’s better to lose your so-called privileges than to lose your manhood, it’s better to take a stand than to be walked all over by people who think they’re mightier than you because they have the law on their side.

And so, in that sense, being a convict is like being a revolutionary, but on a smaller scale. Intact, all these struggles, riots, conflicts and acts of resistance against our oppressors is actually training and preparing us to take it to another level. We’ve turned these prisons into training grounds tor revolutionaries. We’ve come from being convicts and developed ourselves into imprisoned radical intellectuals, so you see; this has just been another way tor us to make a bad situation into a better one, because that’s what we do.

Rather than allowing ourselves to be destroyed by prison, we sit here contemplating, trying to find ways to destroy the prison. In Abbie Hoffman’s book, Steal this Book, when he gives instructions on how to build a pipe bomb, he writes, “The basic idea to remember is that a bomb is simply a hot tire burning very rapidly in a tightly contined space.” I think that’s what we are, we’re not just prisoners, as we sit and dwell and develop in the confines of these cells, our hearts burn like a raging fire, and our brains are like bombs, a hot fire burning very rapidly in a tightly confined space.

Consciousness permeates through these walls and fills the atmosphere of these graveyards, they can’t imprison consciousness, they can’t stop it, as long as we have our minds intact and continue to use them as weapons, and they can’t stop it. We sit here locked up, confined, and slammed down, thinking of freedom; the thing that’s so great, but costs so much, and the more we think about it, the closer we are to it.. ..

So here is some of my best, break the chains, smash the system writing, I hope you´re ready for this!

Until prisons have been abolished,
Coyote
ABC – Nevada
Prison Chapter
December 15th, 2007

NOTE:
Feel free to make copies of this zine and send it to prisoners, prison activist groups, free books to prisoner bookstores, newsletters and to advocacy networks, etc. Anyone who would like to write me, or make any comments, or who would like to get involved in my activism, struggles or movement could write to me at the address below. I am a prohibited from receiving letters directly from other prisoners, but would like to hear from everyone, everywhere.

This zine is dedicated to my fallen comrade: Silencio, (May you rest in resistance carnal) killed by the hands of the pigs in the Washoe County Sherriff’s Office, (the county jail in Reno, Nevada). We miss you Bro.

For letters of encouragement or support, write to:

Coyote Sheff #55671
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, Nevada 89301 – 1989

Or write to my comrade

Anthony Rayson
South Chicago ABC Zine Distro
P.O. Box 721
Homewood, lllinois 60430

Judge OKs suit alleging withheld Nevada inmate care

Mar 26, 6:26 PM EDT
Judge OKs suit alleging withheld Nev. inmate care

By SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit alleging prison staff withheld medical treatment from the condemned manager of the 1950s band Coasters, leading to his death from gangrene.

U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks said in an order filed Tuesday that the lawsuit filed by Patrick Cavanaugh’s family can continue against Ely State Prison Warden E.K. McDaniel and six other prison administrators and medical staff.

Read more here and here.

Reprieve on Death Penalty Debated

Reprieve on Death Penalty Debated
See original: LVRJ.

A bill debated Tuesday by Nevada lawmakers would impose a moratorium on capital punishment in Nevada until mid-2011, while a study is done on the cost of the death penalty.

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, chief sponsor of AB190, said it’s time to “determine if we are simply throwing away money.”

Anderson, D-Sparks, said he opposes the death penalty because of its racial inequity, difficulty of finding adequate defense attorneys and costs of the overall system.

AB190, discussed in the Assembly Committee on Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments, wouldn’t prohibit prosecutors from seeking a death sentence, but would prohibit the state from carrying out executions while the moratorium is in effect.

Several studies have said that the cost of capital punishment is greater than the cost of life in prison without parole.

Some estimates are that prosecution and appeals for death penalty cases amount to $3 million to $4 million per inmate — about three times the cost of life-in-prison sentences.

“It’s simply not a cost-effective way to do business,” said Michael Pescetta, an assistant federal defender who has been involved in many death penalty cases in Nevada.

“Death penalty cases cost more because the U.S. Supreme Court has said death is different,” Clark County District Judge Stephen Dahl said, adding that death penalty cases require a team approach, with more lawyers and steps in the process.

Although the bill doesn’t seek to end the death penalty, the committee heard testimony on why many people oppose capital punishment.

“Across the nation, almost no individual placed on death row could afford to hire an attorney,” said Rebecca Gasca, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. “It has been shown that the quality of legal representation is a better predictor of whether or not someone will be sentenced to death than the facts of the crime.”

Besides the fiscal impact to the state, Anderson said he has personal reasons to oppose the death penalty. After a member of his family was murdered, the accused was charged with the death penalty, and Anderson said that had a dramatic effect on his family.

Copyright LVRJ

Important Meeting coming up: to speak for positive change in Nevada prisons

This article was taken from the post on Make the Walls Transparent:

Author: Mercedes Maharis MA MS MA

Who? Nevada Board of State Prison Commissioners:

Governor Jim Gibbons
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto
Secretary of State Ross Miller

What? Meeting

When? 14 April 2009, 1:30 – 4:30 PM

Where? The Nevada Legislative Building
Room 1200, The Media Room
401 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701

and telecast to:

The Grant Sawyer State Office Building
Room 2450, The Gaming Control Board Room
555 E. Washington Avenue
Las Vegas. NV 89101

Why? To speak for positive change in Nevada prisons

If there are not at least 100 people at the April 14, 2009 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM Nevada prison commissioners’ meeting, positive change has no chance to move forward in Nevada prisons. Without public support, business as usual will continue.

I have no family in prison, but, I volunteered over a decade ago to teach meditation at the now closed Jean facility in the Nevada prison ministry. Prisoner medical and dental conditions, and yes, death, opened my eyes. Today they are more open than ever. I can’t believe that there has been no forward movement.

Ely medical abuse info is available in detail here:
http://www.aclu.org/prison/medical/33557res20080306.html

I have worked with prisoners who were released since teaching at Jean… gotten funding for their educations and used our own money, too, because the Nevada prisoners I knew had been unable to get skills training.

One died in our home, young, just three weeks before his graduation.

One transformed his life, got jobs, but is now permanently disabled and in a Nevada nursing home for life because of massive strokes. He was living proof that education works.

Prisoners die younger than most, along with the guards locked up with them. It’s a primitive system holding us all back when we could do the right thing offering programs and encouragement. Separation from society, if absolutely necessary, must be humane.

One disabled prisoner, committed suicide in a motel in Las Vegas because he could not get money for food or a place to live.

One went back to heroin use. Others, just plain giving up, have flat disappeared.

17 Nov 2008 I presented a letter and a brief analysis of the Nevada Department of Prisons, now Corrections to the Nevada Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice about medical and dental deficiencies in NDOC. I gave members the death lists up to 20 May 2007 hard to get through the years. You can find out the members of the committee to write to them and read my submissions (see minutes, exhibits of earlier meetings, too) and my conclusions here:

http://www.leg.state.nv.us/74th/Interim_Agendas_Minutes_Exhibits/Exhibits/AdminJustice/E112108Q.pdf

But, the members of the Nevada Advisory Committee on the Administration of Justice have failed to discuss the issues I presented, or to answer my earlier presentations and questions. Is stone cold silence their way to discourage inquiries about Nevada prison sentences turning into death sentences? We think so.

You may find more information of interest in their adjendas and meetings here:

http://www.leg.state.nv.us/74th/Interim/StatCom/AdminJustice/index.cfm

In my opinion, unaccredited to professional standards prisons in Nevada and everywhere must be shut down. The slaughter of prisoners and the callous disregard of human rights must stop.

The Nevada State Health Officer’s prison inspection reports take place only a couple per year take place now, but the health officer has no power to force Nevada prison officials to correct the violations that the inspector finds.

If you attend the meeting 14 April 2009, we may find out how many health violations the prison commissions have ordered during the past years.

Maybe Obama will help clean up prisons in the USA. I hope so.

Defense attorneys say $50 led woman to change testimony

Mar. 08, 2009

PROSECUTOR PRACTICE: Witnesses often get paid, shocking defense community

Defense attorneys say $50 led woman to change testimony

By CARRI GEER THEVENOT
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

When Rodkesha Thomas received $50 cash last year from the Clark County district attorney’s office, the crack addict had one thing on her mind: getting high.

And that was all the incentive she needed to lie for the prosecution at a robbery trial four days later.

Prosecutors say they routinely pay a $25 fee, plus mileage, to any witness who meets with them before trial. That news shocked members of the defense community, who argue that the practice violates the law and could be violating their clients’ rights.

“There are people who are broke, or who are homeless, or who are drug addicts who need a fix, and for whom $50 could potentially alter their testimony,” Clark County Public Defender Philip Kohn said. “And for that reason, we should know about payments so we can ask them that question and the jury can make that determination: Did $50 change or influence their testimony?”

Defense attorneys Daniel Bunin and Dayvid Figler said they didn’t know about the pretrial payments until they met with Thomas in January at the Las Vegas Detention Center.

The 23-year-old woman told them she had testified falsely against their client, robbery suspect Thad Aubert, after a Clark County prosecutor had handed her an envelope with $50 cash.

Bunin and Figler were skeptical at first. But a few days after they met with Thomas, Deputy District Attorney Michelle Fleck confirmed on the witness stand that her office had paid the woman for attending a pretrial conference.

“And we always do that with every witness when they come for pretrials,” Fleck testified.

Aubert’s lawyers have spread the word ever since.

“We started asking all these defense attorneys, and nobody knew about it,” Bunin said.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli said his office makes no secret of the payments.

Lalli, who joined the district attorney’s office 15 years ago, said Clark County prosecutors have been paying witnesses to attend private pretrial meetings as long as he has worked there. There’s no reason defense lawyers can’t do the same, he said.

“I think the statute allows and/or requires it,” he said.

Special Public Defender David Schieck said Lalli must say that because he can’t interpret the law one way for the prosecution and another way for the defense.

“Sometimes when we go out and even try to interview witnesses, we get accused of witness tampering,” he said.

Other defense attorneys expressed similar sentiments.

“If the shoe was on the other foot, they would put us in jail for something like that,” Assistant Federal Public Defender David Anthony said.

According to Nevada law, a witness is entitled to a $25 fee “for attending the courts of this state in any criminal case, or civil suit or proceeding before a court of record, master, commissioner, justice of the peace, or before the grand jury, in obedience to a subpoena.”

Numerous defense lawyers interviewed for this article, as well as a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said the statute clearly applies to court appearances — not private meetings with prosecutors.

A Clark County judge has said prosecutors are interpreting the law incorrectly.

But Lalli, head of the office’s criminal division, pointed to a section of the statute that says witnesses are to be paid the fee “for each day’s attendance, including Sundays and holidays.”

Courts don’t meet on Sundays and holidays, Lalli said. “That’s when people are preparing for trials.”

Records show that the Victim Witness Assistance Center, a unit within the district attorney’s office, paid out nearly $652,000 in witness fees in fiscal 2008. About one-third of that money went to law enforcement agencies. The rest went to lay witnesses.

The records do not differentiate between fees paid for court appearances and fees paid for pretrial conferences.

“I don’t really make a big distinction between those two things in my mind,” Lalli said.

To him, all the uproar over a $25 fee is much ado about nothing.

“Some suggestion that someone is going to come in and perjure themselves for $25 is somewhat ludicrous to me,” he said.

But testimony in the Aubert case suggests that’s exactly what Thomas did.

Thomas testified for the prosecution in 2008 at Aubert’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury. Bunin and Figler were appointed to represent him at his retrial, which ended in February with an acquittal. Thomas exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at the second trial and did not testify.

While preparing for the retrial, Bunin and Figler met with Thomas, who was held at the Las Vegas jail in a prostitution case. Thomas told them she lied at Aubert’s first trial because she was afraid of the prosecutors and because they gave her money, Bunin said.

When Fleck confirmed the $50 payment in court, Bunin and Figler asked District Judge Michael Villani to dismiss their client’s case based on prosecutorial misconduct. The next day, Feb. 3, Villani heard testimony on the issue.

Thomas testified again during the evidentiary hearing, describing how an investigator with the district attorney’s office found her before Aubert’s first trial at a crack house in downtown Las Vegas.

According to testimony at the evidentiary hearing, she met with Fleck a few days later and walked away with $50 cash, which included a $25 witness fee and $25 for a taxi. She received a separate $25 payment for testifying at Aubert’s first trial.

At the February hearing, Thomas said she recently had met with representatives of the district attorney’s office, including Fleck, at the jail and told them she was changing her story about the robbery.

“Why did you tell them that you lied the last time?” Figler asked her.

“Just so I could get out of the office and get my money and go smoke crack,” Thomas replied.

“And you’re saying that the $50 cash that was given to you was used for what purpose?” Figler asked.

“I wanted to go buy some dope,” said Thomas, who admitted she was high during a pretrial conference with Fleck last year and when she testified at the trial four days later.

Although the word “taxi” was written on a voucher for the $50 payment to Thomas, she testified she didn’t need a taxi because her boyfriend had taken her to the meeting.

Records show that the Victim Witness Assistance Center made mileage payments totaling about $299,000 in fiscal 2008. This fiscal year, the center has a $1.7 million budget to cover all witness fees and travel expenses.

Villani ultimately denied the motion to dismiss Aubert’s case, but he ruled that the statute pertaining to witness fees “does not apply to a pretrial conference.” The ruling applied only to the robbery case and will have no immediate effect on future payments.

Bunin is considering pursuing the issue in federal court.

“We’re looking into options,” Bunin said. “It’s possible that our client’s civil rights were violated when the information about the payment wasn’t disclosed prior to trial last year.”

Lalli said the statute provides a “modest way” of reimbursing witnesses who often must take time off work to meet with prosecutors. Without the payments, “we would have situations where witnesses would be unable to talk to us before court proceedings, and I’m sure that’s something the defense would like.”

Defense lawyers also have to prepare their witnesses, Kohn said. “We just don’t pay them, because the law doesn’t allow it.”

Figler said witnesses often hesitate to speak to defense attorneys in criminal cases. “Had we known there was this option of compensating them in cash for the inconvenience of coming into our office, maybe more might have come in, especially those to whom $50 is a lot of money.”

But Figler and Bunin both said the law doesn’t permit that. “Especially without disclosure,” Figler added.

Kohn and other defense attorneys also questioned whether prosecutors are paying witnesses for multiple pretrial meetings.

To that Lalli responded, “I don’t think we’ve got rogue prosecutors out there who are doing this.”

And Assistant Federal Public Defender Michael Pescetta wondered aloud whether prosecutors ever withhold fees for witnesses who show up for pretrial meetings and fail to provide information that helps the prosecution.

Kohn doesn’t believe that paying witness fees for pretrial conferences is a good use of public funds. But he said the Nevada Supreme Court may have to settle the more important question of whether Clark County prosecutors have been following the law.

“The whole judicial process is built on the concept that the truth will come out under cross-examination and through the adversary system. And if we don’t have all the information to develop a proper cross-examination … that robs the jury of crucial information upon which they can derive their verdict.”

Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

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http://www.lvrj.com/news/40918132.html