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Reposted from Daily Kos by JoanMar
Clara and her father shown from the rear, crossing a wooden bridge.
Jose and his daughter
José was only 12 years old when he snuck across the border with his brother. They fled from their Mixtec village home in the mountains of Oaxaca after their father had been kidnapped and held for ransom. It was no longer safe for them to remain amidst the violence resulting from the American-led war on drugs. They had an aunt in the United States and they were sent to her.

My niece, meanwhile, was growing up in a middle-class home in Washington state with her two sisters. Her mother is a school bus driver and her dad, the plant manager for a local manufacturer. She met José while in high school, they became sweethearts and moved in together after she graduated.

Working at his aunt's restaurant, José made enough to create a middle-class life for his wife, and within a few years, their daughter. Due to his undocumented status, all three were forced to live in the shadows of the American dream. They could not marry in the states, nor could their little girl, Clara, carry her father's name on her birth certificate.

José dancing with his daughter Clara.
But they prospered well enough and did most of the things any young family does; José escorted Clara to her first Father-Daughter dance, took her to Disneyland, and was utterly devoted to her.

In 2012, just before Christmas, José got a call from an old friend from Mexico who was going to be in the area the following week and wanted to meet for coffee. José readily agreed, and he and his brother met the friend at a local Denny's.

What José did not know was that his friend was under surveillance by law enforcement for drug trafficking. When the friend was busted, José and his brother were swept up as well and charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics based on their presence at Denny's that afternoon.

When the feds threatened to charge his wife as an accomplice, José accepted the offered plea bargain on the drug charge. In exchange for his guilty plea, he was sentenced to the time served, which at that point was a couple of months. What he could not have known because he was not involved in the trade, nor had he any exposure to law enforcement, was that the 60 days he had served was only the beginning of his problems. He now had a federal drug charge on his record.

So it was no surprise that his conviction on the misdemeanor charges of providing false identification and illegal entry to the states, got him three years and deportation. What was a surprise was what that prison term was to teach him, and the rest of us, about our mercenary prison system and the hell that it has created for non-citizens.

And that is what I would like to share with you below the fold.

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Sat Feb 21, 2015 at 07:30 AM PST

2nd, 8th and 13th Amendments

by cmifukan

Reposted from C.M. Ifukan by Denise Oliver Velez

The Hypocrisy of the Uncivilized

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Reposted from Angola 3 News by Denise Oliver Velez

Sign the new Amnesty petition to Gov. Jindal!

Amnesty International has just released a new video entitled "Free Albert Woodfox: 43 Years of Injustice," (on You Tube and Facebook) featuring an interview with Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The video was made in support of Amnesty's new petition campaign focusing on Albert's pending application for release on bail.

In 2013, declaring that “Four decades in solitary confinement can only be described as torture,” Mendez called for Albert's immediate release from solitary confinement. Speaking about Albert in this new video, Juan Mendez says:

"Mr. Woodfox is spending his days in solitary confinement…His convictions have been reversed and the State is appealing them, so in fact he should be considered an innocent man until his guilt or innocence is resolved."

"There’s no question that his conditions inflict on him the kind of pain and suffering of a mental nature that is associated with torture and I think that should stop."

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Reposted from JoanMar by 2thanks

The Support the Dream Defenders Daily Kos Group has recently initiated an important project to assist those around the country who need a helping hand from their government. One need not be a rocket scientist to know that once individuals and families have health insurance coverage, a major burden has been lifted over their heads.  Healthy citizens can be more productive members of society while contributing to a growing economy.  

In this regard, we could use some help from all of you.  

As you know, the Affordable Care Act - or, Obamacare as it has widely come to be known - gave all states in the union the option to expand their Medicaid programs, with substantial assistance from the federal government.  Most states currently under Republican control have deliberately, callously, and maliciously refused to do so.  It is disgraceful.  It is immoral.  And defies all standards of basic human decency.

With your help, we intend to do something about it, but need your active involvement and support.

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Reposted from Angola 3 News by Denise Oliver Velez

To all A3 supporters, please pick up the telephone and make 2 calls now.

Governor Bobby Jindal will be in London on Monday speaking at the House of Commons about democracy and human rights whilst the state of Louisiana impedes justice for Albert.

He has been invited by Damian Collins MP and The Henry Jackson Society so we need to call them now and let them know that Jindal should not be given a platform to speak as:

·      Louisiana incarcerates more people that anywhere in the world

·      He has refused to take action to end the injustice being perpetrated on Albert by the State of Louisiana despite his conviction being overturned 3 times

·      Albert is the longest serving prisoner in solitary in the world – 42 years.

Call / text / email today, over the weekend and Monday

1. Damien Collins MP 020 7219 7072 and 01303 253524 (and email

2. David Rutter +44 (0)20 7340 4520 or +44 (0)798 646 0557 for out-of-office hours (email

Reposted from shaunking by Denise Oliver Velez
Jerry Washington (Left), Latandra Ellington (Middle), Randall Jordan-Aparo (Right)
Jerry Washington (left); Latandra Ellington (middle); Randall Jordan-Aparo (right). All died in prisons at the hands of guards in the most unjust ways imaginable.
The United States has a prison crisis of epic proportions. With just five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the world's prisoners, the United States has, far and away, the highest incarceration rate, the largest number of prisoners, and the largest percentage of citizens with a criminal record of any country in the world.

The highly respected Prison Policy Initiative breaks it down:

The U.S. incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. In fact, our rate of incarceration is more than five times higher than most of the countries in the world. Although our level of crime is comparable to those of other stable, internally secure, industrialized nations, the United States has an incarceration rate far higher than any other country.

Nearly all of the countries with relatively high incarceration rates share the experience of recent large-scale internal conflict. But the United States, which has enjoyed a long history of political stability and hasn’t had a civil war in nearly a century and a half, tops the list.

If we compare the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states and territories with that of other nations, for example, we see that 36 states and the District of Columbia have incarceration rates higher than that of Cuba, which is the nation with the second highest incarceration rate in the world.

Now, what we are learning is that the United States is not just imprisoning people at an outrageous pace, but that men and women are dying in these prisons at all-time highs, often at the hands of guards, in the most awful and brutal ways imaginable. The state of Florida, it appears, is ground zero for the deaths of prisoners, and the crisis is so deeply corrupt and out of hand that it needs immediate national intervention.

In 2014, Florida recorded at least 346 deaths inside of their prison system, an all-time high for the state in spite of the fact that its overall prison population has hovered around 100,000 people for the five previous years. Hundreds of these deaths from 2014 and from previous years are now under investigation by the DOJ because of the almost unimaginable role law enforcement officers are playing in them.

Below the fold I will highlight some of the most egregious stories.

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Reposted from Meteor Blades by JoanMar
Ricky Martin, murdered March 2012 in Florida prison
Ricky Martin
"Accomplices" may be too mild a term for what happened at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution nearly three years ago.

Julie K. Brown at the Miami Herald reported the story Saturday after an intensive investigation by the newspaper.

I've done time in reform school where I was raped and otherwise brutalized. I've spent time in the adult slam as a political prisoner—for refusing to be drafted in the Vietnam War era. I've covered cops and courts as a reporter. I wrote, decades ago, extensively about the brutal mistreatment of prisoners. I've also covered the failure of progressives to put prison reform anywhere near the top of their concerns despite the fact our nation incarcerates people at a rate higher than any other nation by a long way and despite the fact that the majority of those in prison are there for nonviolent offenses.

Over the course of many years of such stuff, it's hard not to become a bit hardened to what's going on.

Nonetheless, Brown's story had me grinding my molars before I was a third of the way through. So, fair warning before you read the story:

Ricky Martin was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor of cell D1-117. His arms were tied behind him and his feet bound together with white strips of cloth.

A pair of bloody boxer shorts had been slipped over his head, and another piece of linen was wrapped around his neck. The slight, 24-year-old inmate was nearly naked, with his shorts pulled down to his ankles.

Bloody hand prints, smeared on the wall facing the cell door, told the story of his brutal death, and of cries for help—from him and others on his behalf—that went unheeded.

Martin, a convicted burglar from Naples who had seven months left on his prison term, was bludgeoned savagely. His skull was smashed. His face was swollen, bloody, black and blue, and he was cut all over his body.

That murder occurred within 36 hours of Martin's being transferred to the Santa Rosa lock-up.

More about this gruesome, infuriating story below the fold.

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Reposted from Angola 3 News by Denise Oliver Velez
Featured below is the full text of a public statement just released by the Association for Humanist Sociology. For more information, contact: Kathleen Fitzgerald, AHS President, or Rebecca Hensley, AHS Secretary, The AHS website is
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Reposted from Mokurai by Denise Oliver Velez

Gov. O’Malley to commute sentences of Maryland’s remaining death-row inmates

When the Maryland legislature outlawed imposition of the death penalty in criminal cases, it curiously did nothing about death sentences already imposed. In the two years since, one of the five prisoners on death row in MD died of natural causes, and it became apparent that Maryland could not carry out the other four sentences. This week it was announced that the problem is permanently resolved.

All four of those remaining will have their sentences commuted to life without possibility of parole. The expected argle-bargle in response goes on as usual.

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Reposted from Daily Kos by JoanMar

The Editorial Board at The New York Times concludes that Kids and Jails, a Bad Combination:

There are few bright spots in America’s four-decade-long incarceration boom, but one enduring success — amid all the wasted money and ruined lives — has been the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the landmark law passed by Congress in 1974. […]

The results speak for themselves. Even as the nation’s prison population has skyrocketed eightfold since 1970, to 2.4 million, the number of juveniles involved in the justice system has dropped by 30 percent since 2002.

Some judges, however, still put far too many kids behind bars by relying on an exception to the status offense rule that allows them to lock up juveniles who have been warned not to reoffend. In 2011, about 8,800 juveniles were detained for status offenses. This continues even though the evidence is clear that young people are less likely to commit future crimes if earlier interventions are based in their communities.

Now the law may be getting a long-overdue upgrade to address these and other issues. On Dec. 11, Senators Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, introduced a bill to reauthorize the act for the first time in more than a decade.

That's good. But as the Times board surely knows since the newspaper recently wrote about the hideous situation for juveniles at the Rikers Island prison complex, it's more than just the numbers of juveniles in the slam—and hallelujah that those numbers are down—it's what these minors endure while they locked up. It's also the fact that some 2,500 people now serving sentences of life without parole are doing so for crimes committed before they were adults. This despite the Supreme Court's 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs that mandatory LWOP sentences for juveniles unconstitutional and even discretionary LWOPs for juveniles can only be used in cases of homicide. Sadly, the Court failed to make the ruling retroactive and several states (Pennsylvania and Minnesota, for instance) have not reduced the terms of juveniles sentenced before those rulings.  Seventy-three of these inmates were 13 or 14 years old when they committed their crimes.

Below the fold are more pundit excerpts.

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Reposted from Daily Kos by JoanMar
Rikers Island van sign
A little too bold, according to federal prosecutors in New York.
Across America, there are some grim lock-ups for juvenile offenders. Not the least of the troubles for these youth comes from being incarcerated with adults in too many facilities. That should have been stopped a century ago, but in several states it hasn't. But that's not the only problem.

Take, for instance, the situation at Rikers Island Prison Complex. Brutality of guards toward teenage inmates and other out-of-line behavior by employees at the prison is so appalling that, following a report released in August, federal prosecutors have decided to sue New York City because correction officials are moving too damn slow to make the needed corrections.

That report, the outcome of a two-and-a-half-year investigation by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, found that the place was suffused with "a deep-seated culture of violence" and that "there is a pattern and practice of conduct at Rikers that violates the constitutional rights of adolescent inmates." That's being done by those paid to keep those adolescents safe while they are locked up.

Bharara documented so many problems with the juvenile lockup at Rikers that the report contains 10 dense pages of remediation recommendations. The summary is Dickensian:

• force is used against adolescents at an alarming rate and violent inmate-on-inmate fights and assaults are commonplace, resulting in a striking number of serious injuries;
• correction officers resort to "headshots," or blows to an inmate's head or facial area, too frequently;
• force is used as punishment or retribution;
• force is used in response to inmates' verbal altercations wiht officers;
• use of force by specialized response teams within the jails is particularly brutal;
• correction officers attempt to justify use of force by yelling "stop resisting" even when the adolescent has been completely subdued or was never resisting in the first place; and
• use of force is particularly common in areas without video surveillance cameras.

And that ain't all. Staff don't report their use of force adequately and there is false reporting, the inmate grievance system is inadequate, training of guards is inadequate, "prolonged punitive segregation for adolescent inmates is excessive and inappropriate" and there are "general failures by management to adequately address the extraordinarily high levels of violence perpetrated against and among the adolescent population."

Read more about his scandalous situation below the fold.

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Reposted from Daily Kos by Denise Oliver Velez
Aerial view of Central California Prison
Central California Women's Facility
Often used as a political football, the war on women has been going on for a very long time. It is not just reflected in the battle for a woman's right to control her own body, but also in efforts to gain financial parity. Neither battle seems to be going particularly well.

Women make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers, and the same percentage serve as primary or co-breadwinners of families. The poverty rate for female-headed families with children is 40.9 percent, compared to 22.6 percent for male-headed families with children, and 8.9 percent for families with children headed by a married couple. According to the American Association of University Women, the gender pay gap, as of 2013 is 78 percent overall. Both the poverty rate for female heads of household and the pay gap are worse for women of color:

Poverty rate female head of household with children Women's earnings as ratio of white male earnings
Native American 56.9% 59%
Hispanic 48.6% 54%
Foreign born 47.1% NA
Black 46.7% 64%
White, non-Hispanic 33.1% 78%
Asian 26.3% 90%
Women are poorer than men. A woman is two and a half times more likely than a man to be a single head of household. And women are more likely to have been victims of domestic abuse.

There is another area in which the women exceed men, and that is the increase in the rate of incarceration. Over the last thirty years, our prison population has exploded, going from 300,000 in 1980 to over 2.3 million today. The increase is due largely to the war on drugs that has targeted people of color and applied discriminatory mandatory minimum sentences, even for first-time offenders.

Not widely known however, is the fact that the number of women incarcerated over this period increased at nearly 1.5 times the rate of men.

Who they are and why they are in prison, below the fold.

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