Prison Slavery a Reality In U.S.
Prison Slavery A Reality In U.S.
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By referral, I have had the occasion of personally meeting with Mr. Dan Fiske, publisher of "Verdict," a magazine, an official publication of the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals, which is principally dedicated to making corrections to our American correctional institutions. They are a voice for abused prisoners. It is with his blessings, and that of the author of the below article, (Vol. 6, No.1, January, 2000) that this is brought to you. Mr. Fiske may be reached at (323) 934-2569, and is located at 1286 So. Sycamore Ave., Los Angeles, CA. 90019. (Let him know you read about their operation through www.jail4judges.org). -Ronald BransonSystem Death:A Partial InquestInto Crimes UnderColor of Law InCalifornia Prisonsby Richard R. Korn, Ph. D.Editor's Note: The author, a Professor of Criminology, has had extensive experience as a prison official. He has appeared as an expert witness in several important civil rights actions regarding prison conditions, and has recently brought his expertise to bear on conditions in the California State prison system. [Footnote - He has helped produce and appeared in four full-length documentaries on network television, has written 30 articles in sociological, psychological and criminological journal and numerous newspaper articles]At a time when the California prisons contain more prisoners than seven European countries combined, the State of California is preparing to construct a new one-third billion dollar prison in Delano, to contain the new inmates it expects to house. These moves are fueled by a nine billion dollar nationwide prison industry, massive political campaign funding by the Corrections Officers Association, and by the economic lure of prisoners who labor at everything from packaging computer software to placing airline reservations for major airlines. Prison slavery is a reality in the United States. ........the prison population in California has increased many times over in the last twenty-five years. ...It is a system that is both self-serving and self-destructive.It is a time, Professor Korn asserts, that the people of California and of the nation critically assess the results of these policies and end their rationality, brutality and injustice.....The Current SituationSince the 1980's, the correctional situation in California has deteriorated alarmingly. In an editorial entitled "State Prison Barbarism," January 9, 1998, the San Francisco Chronicle cited reports that:Corcoran State Prison guards have staged barbaric gladiator battles among inmates and have shot more than 50 convicts -- seven fatally -- when they failed to stop fighting when ordered. To make matters worse, top correctional officials were cynically citing increased prison violence to support requests for additional billions of dollars in state funding at the same time guards were pitting convicts against each other in hand to hand combat and betting on the outcome.When two officers reported these events to the FBI, the Department of Corrections tried to block the investigation.The Corrections Department cleared itself ... of allegations that guards staged deadly fights ... But in February, eight Corcoran guards were indicted on federal charges of staging gladiator-style fights between rival inmates. A State Senate Committee later documented these events in six hearings. Summarizing the findings, Senator John Vasconcellos criticized top correction officials for a 'reign of death' resulting in fatal shooting of thirty inmates from 1988 to 1994 -- seven of them at Corcoran. (San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 1999)A Prisoner's AccountDemian Johnson, a prisoner well known to me, provides a firsthand account of his own experience at Corcoran. He writes:In late 1989 a prison official wanted me to inform on gang members. I refused and was labeled a prison gang associate. As a result of this label I was sentenced to an 'indeterminate' term in the S.H.U. (Special Housing Unit).About a week after my arrival at Corcoran S.H.U., I was taken before the Classification Committee. The Program Administrator... explained to me the prison's 'No Warning Shots' policy, stating that the first gunshot fired to break up a fight would be 'for effect.' He advised me what to do in the eventuality of an attack: 'When someone attacked me I was... to throw up both hands in the air, in a defensive posture, and take two steps back. If I did this I would be considered a 'victim' and not issued a Rules Violation report or 'disciplinary.' If I didn't do this... I would be considered an aggressor, be shot, and, if I survived, would be issued a disciplinary for 'Assault and Battery,' which would extend my time in the S.H.U.One day Johnson found himself in the Yard, alone, with only one other prisoner:a southern Hispanic with a history of attacking Black prisoners. I, on the other hand, hadn't had a fight until that point, and I believe the staff wanted to see what I was made of. It was obvious that the two of us were 'matched up.'On the way to the yard, I looked at the Control Booth, and noticed... a Lieutenant, a Sergeant, and two Correctional Officers. The Sergeant carried a 37 mm gas gun, and both the Lieutenant and a Correctional Officer carried 9 mm assault rifles.The southern Hispanic entered the yard... and rushed toward me... I braced myself for the inevitable. I was determined not to get any disciplinaries, so I decided to follow the Classification Committee's instructions. I raised my hands in a defensive posture and took two steps back. This guy punched me in the head and was making slashing motions. He had a razor! As I ducked and dodged blows and slashes, I wondered why the Control Booth wasn't doing anything to quell the attack. I looked up momentarily and observed that the Control Booth was attentively watching the battle. Just then I was slashed -- I still have the scar. My instincts took over and I mounted a vicious defense. As I did so, I heard an explosion and was knocked to the ground by the impact of wooden projectiles. I was also issued a disciplinary for 'Assault and Battery' as a result of this incident.After this happened a few more times, ... I no longer followed the Committee's instruction... I ended up spending almost four years at Corcoran's S.H.U. where I accumulated numerous disciplinaries as a result of literally fighting to survive....Demian was finally able to prove that his designation as a "gang associate" was incorrect and invalid. As a result, he was transferred to New Folsom Prison, where he was elected MAC Chairman (convict representative to Custody). It was the misclassification as a "gang associate" which had resulted in his placement at Corcoran, where he was cut, shot at and burdened with disciplinary charges. Pointing out the invalidity of his original classification (and resulting charges) he recently requested a transfer to a lower custody institution.The request was turned down at the highest Central Office level. In rejecting his petition, the Classification Committee cited the numerous disciplinary charges he had received during the confinement at the Corcoran S.H.U. ...I found this astonishing, and I appealed on 29 October, 1999, to the California Department of Corrections Director, C.A. Terhune, for a reversal of the decision.I pointed out that Johnson's erroneous (and now corrected) designation as a "gang associate" had condemned him to almost four years in an inferno of officially instigated violence, where prisoners were pressured to battle one another, after which they were subject to being shot and then -- as a final insult after injury -- were charged with assault and battery. I wrote, "We now have the spectacle of a Central Office Classification Committee holding a prisoner responsible for the violence inflicted on him by officials."My letter to the Director has not received an answer.The failure of a Central Office Committee to rectify the injustice done to prisoner Johnson is consistent with other systemic dysfunctions. The Department of Corrections maintains an "Internal Affairs Division" (IAD) whose mandate is to investigate allegations of official malfeasance. The IAD functioned all during the period which saw the unchecked brutalities at Corcoran well documented by legislative hearings. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson, who presided at the suit against the atrocities alleged at Pelican Bay, has offered this assessment of the IAD:It is clear to the Court that while the IAD goes through the necessary motions, it is invariably a counterfeit investigation pursued with one outcome in mind: to avoid finding officer misconduct as often as possible... Not only are all presumptions in favor of the officer, but evidence is routinely strained, twisted or ignored to reach the desired result. ... (Federal Supplement, 84-15550, November 22, 1994)Conclusion... Penal justice in California has become absorbed by crime in California. More and more, correctional officials have been thinking like convicts, conspiring like convicts, and engaging in violence like convicts. Two things alone distinguished them from convicts -- and these distinctions were not in their favor.Unlike the convicts, the officials carry out their acts under color of law, in the name of the law, and with the protection of the law. And unlike the convicts who are sent to prison for their crimes, officers who commit crimes are rarely punished. Taken together, these differences abhorrent to the principle of equal justice under law, sealed the ethical death of the system.* * *To be commended here is Judge Thelton Henderson, the first person to consider the problem seriously and realistically. It is refreshing to hear of a judge who actually carried out his responsibility and did not continue the coverup of the officers involved, as is usually the case.To be condemned here is a correctional system that would incite prison riots so they may make their claim for the need of billions of dollars while murdering "offending" prisoners they have used for this purpose.Then there is the corporate interest of building the prison industry so they may benefit from slave labor of prisoners. The more prisoners, the bigger the slave force. And what does this do for unemployment and Americans seeking a place in the job market? Are we not devouring ourselves? "Crime" has indeed become a real profit industry for the State -- an industrysecond only to that of General Motors, and it doesn't even have to pay taxes on its profits like GM.J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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