Mission Statement Occupy Las Vegas

Something is happening in Las Vegas, dear reader! No not glitter, glam and false smiles, but something real!
Please read the following mission statement from Occupy Las Vegas and join them if you can. If you are a family member or friend of someone in prison in Nevada, and you want to tell the crowds of Occupy, the 99%, of how our people in prisons are being mistreated, and our society is being disadvantaged because of the lack of human rights, re-education and rehabilitation, here is your chance to make your voice heard!
Please pass it on to people in prison, and if there is something to add (we think so), let the Occupy Las Vegas movement know!
Occupy Las Vegas has its website here.


Mission Statement: Occupy Las Vegas

The first questions that come out of anyone’s mouth whenever a new political movement arises are, “Who are they?” and “What do they want?”

They are good questions that should be answered.

WHO are we?

We are the 99% of Americans who have not benefited from the various financial bailouts, tax breaks, and other subsidies that the dominant 1% of the population have gained over the past several years.

We are students, veterans, homemakers, workers, the unemployed, those on Social Security benefits, those whose savings and investments were either wiped out or greatly diminished by the economic fluctuations starting in 2007.

We are those who have had our homes foreclosed upon, those whose homes are about to be foreclosed, those whose homes are now worth a fraction of what we paid for them, and those who have never owned a home and don’t expect to ever be able to.

We are the newly poor who wonder how everything for which we worked hard vanished so quickly and how we and our families are going to survive.

We are the long-time poor, who have never had much of a chance, let alone a voice, to make our own way in our current social and economic system.

We come from all backgrounds, races, and religions.

We are concerned about and more than a bit scared by the directions in which we see our lives, and the lives of our families, friends, neighbors going, the directions in which we see our nation and the whole planet going, and we are angry with those who have taken us in those directions.

We are part of a much larger global and national movement that wants real changes in how the world is run.

In short, we’re you, and you are one of us.

WHAT do we want?

We want an end to corporate money’s influence in politics, whether through campaign donations, PACs, or other groups. Money is not speech.

We want truly effective campaign finance reform, so that corporations and other interests have no overwhelming advantage over the rest of us in any part of American politics.

We want far greater legal accountability for public officials and corporate executives, and we demand that, if found guilty of committing crimes while in office, they are made to pay for those crimes in full, like anyone else.

We want our justice system to treat everyone equally regardless of origins or social class, at all levels and at every stage, from investigations to trials and sentencing.

We want an end to the continual attacks on our social safety net and on the rights of workers to organize themselves and, if need be, to strike to get better pay, benefits, and working conditions.

We want secure and sustainable investments and improvements in our social infrastructure, like schools and libraries, and to create an America where everyone may actually live in a decent and dignified manner, an America where everyone’s rights count and are respected by all.

This is who we are and what we want. We ask for no more and shall take no less.

We are the 99% and we will not be silenced.

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Inmates in Georgia Prisons Use Contraband Phones to Coordinate Protest

New York Times
By SARAH WHEATON
Published: December 12, 2010

The prison protest has entered the wireless age.

Inmates in at least seven Georgia prisons have used contraband cellphones to coordinate a nonviolent strike this weekend, saying they want better living conditions and to be paid for work they do in the prisons.

Inmates said they would not perform chores, work for the Corrections Department’s industrial arm or shop at prison commissaries until a list of demands is addressed, including compensation for their work, more educational opportunities, better food and sentencing rules changes.

The protest began Thursday, but inmates said that organizers had spent months building a web of disparate factions and gangs — groups not known to cooperate — into a unified coalition using text messaging and word of mouth.

Officials at the Georgia Department of Corrections did not respond on Sunday to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Smuggled cellphones have been commonplace in prisons for years; Charles Manson was caught with one in a California penitentiary this month. Officials worry that inmates will use them to issue orders to accomplices on the outside or to plan escape attempts.
But the Georgia protest appears to be the first use of the technology to orchestrate a grass-roots movement behind bars.

Reached on their cellphones inside several prisons, six participants in the strike described a feat of social networking more reminiscent of Capitol Hill vote-whipping than jailhouse rebellion.

Conditions at the state prisons have been in decline, the inmates said. But “they took the cigarettes away in August or September, and a bunch of us just got to talking, and that was a big factor,” said Mike, an inmate at the Smith State Prison in Glennville who declined to give his full name.

The organizers set a date for the start and, using contact numbers from time spent at other prisons or connections from the outside, began sending text messages to inmates known to hold sway.

“Anybody that has some sort of dictatorship or leadership amongst the crowds,” said Mike, one of several prisoners who contacted The New York Times to publicize their strike. “We have to come together and set aside all differences, whites, blacks, those of us that are affiliated in gangs.”

Read the rest here.

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We received this comment:

One way to start downsizing the prison-industrail complex is to call for an Intermediate Sanctions Bill (BDR 509) in the 2011 Legislature. The plan could reduce the prison population by 400 people next year. Please email Assembly Judiciary Chairman William Horne at william@williamhorne.com and tell him to support the Bill. Or better yet, call him at (702) 457-6963.

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/12/14/prisoner_advocate_elaine_brown_on_georgia

Black Agenda Report

http://prisonministry.net/NARPR
(sent in by Dahn Shaulis)
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Here are the demands of the Georgia Prisoner Strikers:

A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.

· EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.

· DECENT HEALTH CARE: In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.

· AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.

· DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS: Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.

· NUTRITIONAL MEALS: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.

· VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.

· ACCESS TO FAMILIES: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.

· JUST PAROLE DECISIONS: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.

Prisoner leaders issued the following call: “No more slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to support our cause. Lock down for liberty!”

Also see this website run by Thousand Kites: Support Georgia Prisoners and this interview on DemocracyNow.org with Elaine Brown, co-ordinator:

Here is a follow up on the website of Change.org.

From Arizona Prison Watch: Protest on 12-18 at AZ DOC


This comes from our Allies at Arizona Prison Watch, who do a good job in creating consciousness in the Prison Industrial Complex. They also supply a creative and clear voice to protest the killing of AZ inmate Marcia Powell in an outdoor cage, on May 20th, 2009.

Protest on 12-18 at AZ DOC by SWOP and others. Open Letter from the Sex Workers Outreach Project and allies to Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona DOC

When: Friday December 18th, 2009 NOON

Where: AZ Department of Corrections
1601 West Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Sex Workers and allies are coming together in front of the AZ Department of Corrections on December 18th, as part of International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, an annual event to call attention to violence committed against sex workers all over the globe. Marcia Powell was a prisoner of the State of Arizona who collapsed and died from heatstroke last May after being locked in an outdoor cage and ignored for four hours in 107 degree heat.

What: Protest Rally: Marcia Powell’s death, AZ Department of Corrections.

You are invited to join us in Tucson, Arizona on December 17, 2009 (performance art/public installation and a candelight vigil) and in Phoenix, Arizona on December 18, 2009 (protest rally on the steps of the Arizona Department of Corrections).

Bring red umbrellas, to stand in solidarity! Signs are welcome.

Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights!

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Open Letter from the Sex Workers Outreach Project and allies to Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Posted and delivered December 11, 2009.
­
December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created by Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA), a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serial “prostitute killers.” While some of these horrific stories received international media attention (Boston, Grand Rapids, Albuquerque, Tijuana, Hong Kong, Moscow, Great Britain, Cape Town, New Zealand), other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unsolved, sometimes forever.

Today we are here for Marcia Powell, who was incarcerated for solicitation of oral sex and sentenced to over two years in prison – despite being found so mentally impaired at the time of sentencing that she had just been appointed a legal guardian. On May 19, 2009, after informing prison staff that she was suicidal, Marcia was placed in an uncovered outdoor cage at Arizona’s Perryville prison for women, where she would presumably be “observed” until she was transferred to a more appropriate location. Reportedly, that’s what they did with women who caused problems there: they put them in a cage and “waited them out”. The same cages were used for “recreation” and as waiting rooms for those needing medical attention: the prisons filled up so cages were erected in the yards to add more space. Putting someone in there was routine; women were left in there all the time beyond policy, so no one thought much about Marcia complaining – except the other prisoners. Four hours later – after her pleas for water were ignored or mocked by guard after guard – she was found, collapsed, in 107-degree heat, and died on May 20th in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Marcia was the victim of dual forms of injustice, as a sex worker and as a prisoner. Sex Workers Outreach Project and other organizations are fundamentally opposed to criminalization of sex work. The prohibition of this work results in selective prosecution that puts some of the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of a system that robs them of their basic respect and dignity. For decades efforts to curb sex work have not only failed to reduce incidences of prostitution, but they have corrupted our justice system resulting in selective enforcement, racial profiling and inhumane treatment of those who don’t have the financial resources to fight back. Violence against sex workers is epidemic and rarely taken seriously. The criminalization of prostitution legitimizes this abuse so that sex workers are the targets of violent crime with little recourse. Marcia was referred to – after her death – as a “biological serial killer” in an employee blog (The Lumley Vampire). That suggests that her degraded social status as a “criminalized” sex worker had a considerable effect on the way she was treated at the hands of ADC staff the day she was left to die. It also raises the question of her abuse being the result of bias against her for a disability she may have also had.

Women prisoners are also the victims of an unjust system, facing extreme medical neglect, sexual harassment and abuse. The women’s prison population in the United States has grown 800% in the past three decades, twice the rate of the male prison population. 2/3 of women in prison were incarcerated for non-violent offenses. (Institute on Women and Criminal Justice). As the death of Marcia Powell in the care of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) shows, prison sentences can include the most extreme form of neglect and abuse.

We are here for Marcia and other prisoners, and sex workers, as we call for respect for human rights. As a result of an internal investigation, 16 people were disciplined. An investigation is currently underway to determine whether or not criminal charges should be filed in her death.

“It’s not enough to change a few people and policies. There is a culture embedded in the ADC that is pervasive throughout the prison system that reflects a disregard for the fundamental human rights of prisoners. There are exceptions to that, and the prisoners know who they are,” says Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch.

No critical analysis of the institutional culture that contributed to this abuse has been made public, but that analysis is essential to ending state violence.

In response to the death of Marcia Powell while in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections, we expect the following:

1. The Arizona Department of Corrections has an influential role in shaping policy. We ask that leadership be provided by the ADC in exploring models of restorative justice and addressing strategies such as criminal code and sentencing reform, early release programs for low-risk prisoners, community support through harm reduction, and re-entry programs to stop the revolving door syndrome that traps so many people.

2. An analysis of violence against sex workers (both inside and outside the Arizona prison system) should be conducted and a plan should be developed for reducing violence against sex workers in Arizona.

– An analysis of violence against sex workers (including male and transgendered workers) should include victimization while in state custody, police brutality, and domestic and occupational violence.

– Efforts to reform the prisons must go deeper than investigations into individual responsibility for Marcia’s Powell’s death. An analysis of how the culture of the correctional system employees/officers contributes to violence against prisoners is crucial.

3. A community-organized process for oversight in the prisons should be recognized which includes the voices of prisoners and their families.

4. Grievance policies should be reviewed and strengthened.

5. Cages should never be used to hold prisoners or to address overcrowding, which is the current practice. Overcrowding must be addressed through reducing incarceration and recidivism rates.

6. Allocate sufficient resources to address the special needs of prisoners with psychiatric and physical disabilities, including education about complications of medications.

7. May 20th should be observed each year in memory of Marcia Powell and other prisoners who died in state custody. On that day ADC should prepare a report addressed to prisoners, families and community-based oversight groups on human rights violations that have occurred over the past year and actions ADC has taken in response. The report should also include the Department’s plan for the upcoming year to improve respect for human rights.

Sex workers around the United States are shocked to see this criminalization result in a death sentence for a prostitution crime. This is one of many cases in which we observe conditions that are abusive, degrading and dangerous ranging from rape and other violence, to extreme medical neglect. These conditions violate the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) should be applied to all individuals.

In the wealthiest country in the world, where taxpayers spend billions on the prison system, it is horrific that this justice system has led to a death sentence for someone arrested for prostitution. It’s been over 60 years since the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has been adopted. The Arizona Department of Corrections has been woefully negligent, in following the human rights protocol, which Eleanor Roosevelt, along with so many others, have developed. In less than a decade we’ve almost doubled the amount spent on our prisons in Arizona, and the Arizona Department of Corrections fails even the most basic requirement, to keep prisoners safe.

We ask that the Arizona Department of Corrections look at the 30 articles in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and review the treatment of individuals in the prison system in the light of these principles. Every ADC employee/correctional officer should have training in human and prisoners’ rights principles and practices. ADC should provide leadership that demonstrates a respect for human rights.

We look forward to the day when prisons are no longer used to address our most pressing social problems. As social justice activists we challenge the discrimination that leads to criminalization and incarcerations. We promote human rights for all, as well as specific law reform. Recently enacted by the Arizona legislature, felony charges should be rescinded for prostitutioni charges. Although the ADC does not have jurisdiction over many aspects of these injustices, ADC does have great deal of influence in many of these matters and ADC is also directly responsible for how prisoners are treated within this system. Sex Worker Outreach Project, in tandem with Arizona Prison Watch and Friends of Marcia Powell expects that the ADC establish real justice in the death of Marcia Powell.

Sincerely,

Tara Sawyer
Board Chair
Sex Workers Outreach Project

Peggy Plews
Arizona Prison Watch
Friends of Marcia Powell

Penelope Saunders
Best Practices Policy Project

Carol Leigh
BAYSWAN