Inmates in 17 States Plan Protest Over ‘Modern Slavery’ Prison Conditions

The inmates say they are protesting exploitative labor practices in correctional facilities. “Every single field and industry is affected on some level by prisons, from our license plates to the fast food that we eat, to the stores that we shop at,” said spokesperson Amani Sawari, adding that Americans “need to recognize how we are supporting the prison industrial complex through the dollars that we spend.”

Inmates in at least 17 states plan to refuse to work and, in some cases, refuse to eat to draw attention to poor prison conditions and what many view as exploitative labor practices in correctional facilities. The demonstrations are planned to start Tuesday and will continue to Sept. 9, which marks the anniversary of the bloody uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York state, reports Vox.com.

“Prisoners want to be valued as contributors to our society,” said Amani Sawari, a spokesperson for the protests. “Every single field and industry is affected on some level by prisons, from our license plates to the fast food that we eat to the stores that we shop at.

“So we really need to recognize how we are supporting the prison industrial complex through the dollars that we spend.”

Prison labor issues have received attention in California, where inmates have been voluntarily recruited to fight the state’s record wildfires for the paltry pay of just $1 an hour plus $2 per day. The practice of using prison inmates for cheap or free labor is fairly widespread, due to an exemption in the 13th Amendment, which abolished chattel slavery but allows involuntary servitude as part of a punishment for a crime.

For Sawari and the inmates participating in the protests, the sometimes forced labor and poor pay is effectively “modern slavery.”

That, along with poor prison conditions that inmates blame for a deadly South Carolina prison riot this year, have led to protests. Fixing the problems raised by the demonstrations will require money, something that cash-strapped state governments may not be willing to put up.

The strike comes two years after the largest prison strike in U.S. history, with protests in at least 12 states in 2016. Over 24,000 prisoners took part. The new demonstrations could end up even larger than those previous protests.

The inmates will take part in work strikes, hunger strikes, and sit-ins. They are calling for boycotts against agencies and companies that benefit from prisons and prison labor.

While 2016’s protests were largely planned for just Sept. 9 (the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising), they ended taking place over weeks or months as prison officials tried to tamp down the demonstrations and mitigate the effects of the protests. This year, the protests are spread out over three weeks to make it more difficult for officials to crack down.

The inmates have outlined 10 national demands. They include “immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons” and “an immediate end to prison slavery.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Inmates in 17 States Plan Protest Over ‘Modern Slavery’ Prison Conditions

The inmates say they are protesting exploitative labor practices in correctional facilities. “Every single field and industry is affected on some level by prisons, from our license plates to the fast food that we eat, to the stores that we shop at,” said spokesperson Amani Sawari, adding that Americans “need to recognize how we are supporting the prison industrial complex through the dollars that we spend.”

Inmates in at least 17 states plan to refuse to work and, in some cases, refuse to eat to draw attention to poor prison conditions and what many view as exploitative labor practices in correctional facilities. The demonstrations are planned to start Tuesday and will continue to Sept. 9, which marks the anniversary of the bloody uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York state, reports Vox.com.

“Prisoners want to be valued as contributors to our society,” said Amani Sawari, a spokesperson for the protests. “Every single field and industry is affected on some level by prisons, from our license plates to the fast food that we eat to the stores that we shop at.

“So we really need to recognize how we are supporting the prison industrial complex through the dollars that we spend.”

Prison labor issues have received attention in California, where inmates have been voluntarily recruited to fight the state’s record wildfires for the paltry pay of just $1 an hour plus $2 per day. The practice of using prison inmates for cheap or free labor is fairly widespread, due to an exemption in the 13th Amendment, which abolished chattel slavery but allows involuntary servitude as part of a punishment for a crime.

For Sawari and the inmates participating in the protests, the sometimes forced labor and poor pay is effectively “modern slavery.”

That, along with poor prison conditions that inmates blame for a deadly South Carolina prison riot this year, have led to protests. Fixing the problems raised by the demonstrations will require money, something that cash-strapped state governments may not be willing to put up.

The strike comes two years after the largest prison strike in U.S. history, with protests in at least 12 states in 2016. Over 24,000 prisoners took part. The new demonstrations could end up even larger than those previous protests.

The inmates will take part in work strikes, hunger strikes, and sit-ins. They are calling for boycotts against agencies and companies that benefit from prisons and prison labor.

While 2016’s protests were largely planned for just Sept. 9 (the 45th anniversary of the Attica uprising), they ended taking place over weeks or months as prison officials tried to tamp down the demonstrations and mitigate the effects of the protests. This year, the protests are spread out over three weeks to make it more difficult for officials to crack down.

The inmates have outlined 10 national demands. They include “immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons” and “an immediate end to prison slavery.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Can MS-13 Organize to Rival the Mafia?

The gang is trying to leverage local franchises into a cohesive, national brand. One expert cautions that, “they are just too violent. As other gangs have discovered, newsworthy violence is bad for business.”

Leaders of Mara Salvatrucha, the violent international street gang known as MS-13, had a 2015 internal meeting that which was recorded surreptitiously by U.S. authorities. They discussed better management of its its estimated 10,000 U.S. members along the lines of other corporate-style criminal gangs, such as the Mafia or drug cartels, the Wall Street Journal reports. “What we are asking is total cooperation,” a top leader said by speaker phone from El Salvador. “Let’s all work together, united, you know.” For years, MS-13’s impact on the U.S. was confined to specific neighborhoods and cities. As MS-13’s influence grew, so did its ambition to leverage local franchises into a cohesive, national brand. A series of trials that ended this summer in Boston shows how MS-13 is pushing to streamline its management structure and create uniform standards.

The question is whether the gang can impose order on its unruly, violent young members. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions cite gruesome acts by MS-13 members to push tight immigration policy. The attorney general calls MS-13 “one of the most dangerous groups in America,” while Trump calls its members “thugs” and “animals.” Democrats say the rhetoric is overblown. Law-enforcement officials say MS-13 membership has grown by several thousand members over the past decade. “They have definitely showed their organizational capacity in terms of ordering violence and in terms of recruiting and replenishing the ranks,” said Derek Benner of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Still, “the way they are acting right now, they are not going to reach the level of organization of, say, the Mexican Mafia or the Italian mob,” said George Norris, a gang expert with the Anne Arundel County, Md., State’s Attorney’s office. “They are just too violent. As other gangs have discovered, newsworthy violence is bad for business.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

ICE Arrests Man Driving Wife to Deliver Baby

The woman drives herself to a hospital to have the baby in a scheduled cesarean section. ICE defends the arrest in San Bernardino, Ca., saying the man was wanted for homicide in Mexico, an allegation his family disputes.

A man was driving his pregnant wife to a scheduled cesarean section in California last week when immigration officials arrested him, leaving her to drive herself to a hospital and have the baby on her own, the woman says. The couple had pulled into a gas station in San Bernardino on their way to deliver their child. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers came to their car window and asked for identification, said the woman, Maria del Carmen Venegas, the New York Times reports. Her husband, Joel Arrona-Lara, 35, did not have his driver’s license with him, and officers arrested him, she said. The arrest provoked outrage and fed into a growing anger toward ICE and the Trump administration’s sweeping immigration policies, which have expanded who is considered a priority for officers to arrest. Immigrants have been arrested while delivering a pizza or watering the lawn.

On Saturday, ICE Arrona-Lara, a citizen of Mexico, was in the U.S. illegally. Later, the agency said he was wanted for homicide in his home country. “Mr. Arrona-Lara was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges,” the ICE statement said. Emilio Amaya of the San Bernardino Community Service Center  contested ICE’s account. He said the ICE paperwork does not mention homicide.  Arrona-Lara’s family said he has no criminal history in Mexico. He was being held at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, Ca. Other than his status as an undocumented immigrant, he has no criminal record in the U.S., Amaya said. No matter what the warrant was for, that does not explain why officials appeared to disregard Venegas’s medical condition, Amaya said, charging that they “compromised the well-being of the child and the wife.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Nearly One in Five Prison Workers Have PTSD: Study

PTSD is as prevalent among prison guards as it is among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and more prevalent than it is among police officers, found a study by two researchers.

With sweltering units, remote locations, and low pay, Texas prisons have long struggled with high officer turnover and vacancy rates. Based on findings from a study in Washington state, there could be another factor impacting officer retention in corrections: post traumatic stress disorder, the Houston Chronicle reports. A study  in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that PTSD is as prevalent among prison guards as it is among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and more prevalent than it is among police officers. Co-authored by Lois James of Washington State University and Natalie Todak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the research relied on surveys sent to several thousand corrections employees in Washington state. Of the more than 300 who responded, 19 percent met the criteria for PTSD.

James says researchers found that prison workers “were getting massively insufficient sleep – we also found very high rates of insomnia. And quite high rates of nightmares.” She added that, “Most of the people in the sample have witnessed pretty severe suffering.” Black prison employees and women were at significantly higher risk for PTSD, James said. “We also found that greater time on the job was predictive of greater PTSD. And, interestingly, being assigned to night shift was associated with less PTSD,” she told the Chronicle. “In policing, night shift work tends to be associated with greater problems.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump Doesn’t Know How Much WH Lawyer Told Mueller

The president’s personal lawyers don’t know what White House counsel Donald McGann told the special counsel in 30 hours of interviews. Is everyone telling the truth? Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani said, “Truth isn’t truth.”

President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much White House counsel Donald McGahn told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, the New York Times reports. The lapse has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake. The president’s lawyers say they are confident that  McGahn said nothing injurious to the president during the 30 hours of interviews.  McGahn’s lawyer has offered only a limited accounting of what McGahn told the investigators. That has prompted concern among Trump’s advisers that McGahn’s statements could help serve as a key component for a damning report by special counsel Robert Mueller that the Justice Department could send to Congress.

After McGahn was initially interviewed by the special counsel’s office in November, Trump’s lawyers never asked for a complete description of what McGahn had said. McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, gave the president’s lawyers a short overview of the interview but few details, and he did not inform them of what McGahn said in subsequent interactions with the investigators. McGahn and Burck feared that  Trump was setting up McGahn to take the blame for any possible wrongdoing, so they embraced the opening to cooperate fully with Mueller in an effort to demonstrate that McGahn had done nothing wrong. On Sunday, Trump’s lead lawyer dealing with the special counsel, Rudolph Giuliani, said he had been told by former Trump lawyer, John Dowd, that “McGahn was a strong witness for the president.” Legal experts and former White House counsels said the president’s lawyers had been careless in not asking McGahn what he had planned to tell  Mueller’s prosecutors. Giuliani created a stir on Sunday when he said different versions of the truth are being offered to Mueller. Giuliani concluded, “Truth isn’t truth.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

15-Story Johnny Cash Mural Aims at Prison Reform

Artist and activist Shepard Fairey’s giant likeness of Cash gazing at Folsom State Prison in California was posted to call attention to prison reform issues, which the singer championed.

It’s hard to miss in downtown Sacramento: a giant red, orange and yellow likeness of Johnny Cash performing at Folsom State Prison. The new mural is famed graphic artist and activist Shepard Fairey’s contribution to this year’s Wide Open Walls festival. The 15-story mural shows Cash’s gaze pointing toward the Folsom institution, site of one of his most famous performances, the Sacramento Bee reports. Fairey, best known for the iconic “Hope” poster supporting Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and his clothing line OBEY, said the mural is a tribute to Cash on the 50th anniversary of his album “Live at Folsom Prison.”

The mural recognizes the singing legend’s passion for prison reform, a cause also embraced by Fairey. Cash staged close to 30 prison concerts over a 20-year period and two albums were based on those performances: “Live at Folsom Prison” and “Live at San Quentin.” In 1972, Cash testified before Congress about conditions that he observed during prison performances. “I have seen and heard of things at some of the concerts that would chill the blood of the average citizen,” Cash told the Subcommittee on National Penitentiaries. “But I think possibly the blood of the average citizen needs to be chilled in order for (change) to come about because right now we have 1972 problems and 1872 jails… ” Fairey said he hopes his mural will “ignite a conversation around the need for incarceration reform.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Women Charge Unreasonable Border Strip Searches

Six lawsuits say Customs and Border Protection officers subjected women who were not found with any contraband to harsh interrogations and genital probing. The government has settled another half-dozen cases for $1.2 million.

Lawsuits in New York, California, Arizona, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania charge that innocent women, including minor girls, who were not found with any contraband were subjected to harsh interrogations by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers that led to indignities that included unreasonable strip searches while menstruating to prohibited genital probing, reports the Center for Public Integrity. Some women were allegedly handcuffed and taken to hospitals where, against their will, they underwent pelvic exams, X-rays and in one case, drugging via IV. Invasive medical procedures require a detainee’s consent or a warrant. In two cases, women were billed for procedures.

Legal precedents grant federal officers at ports of entry the power, without warrants, to require people to strip for a “visual inspection” of genitals and rectums, and to submit to a “monitored bowel movement” to check for secreted drugs. At the same time,  a CBP detention-and-search handbook instructs officers to record a solid justification for every single step beyond a frisk, and to respect detainees’ dignity and “freedom from unreasonable searches” and to “consider the totality of the circumstances … when making a decision to search.” The handbook also warns officers against engaging in what could be considered either a “visual or physical intrusion” into vaginal or anal cavities. The suits underscore criticism that accountability for officer conduct is too weak — at a time when President Trump is beefing up the ranks of CBP officers and urging tougher crackdowns at the border. Settlements show that the government has opted to close some cases before trials. Six suits have resulted in settlements that cost taxpayers more than $1.2 million in payments to plaintiffs. A Canadian traveler who sued lost a jury trial in 2013. Other cases continue to wind their way through the system.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Hospital E.R.s Experiment With Opioid Treatment

The aim is to plug a gaping hole in a medical system that fails to provide treatment on demand, even as more than two million Americans suffer from opioid addiction. California is spending nearly $700,000 from the 21st Century Cures Act to provide treatment in emergency rooms statewide.

Every year, thousands of people addicted to opioids appear at hospital emergency rooms in withdrawal so agonizing it leaves them moaning and writhing on the floor. Usually, they’re given medicines that help with vomiting or diarrhea and sent on their way. Highland Hospital in Oakland, Ca., offers such patients buprenorphine.  One of three medications approved to treat opioid addiction, it eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Highland is among a small group of institutions that have started initiating opioid addiction treatment in the E.R., reports the New York Times. The aim is to plug a gaping hole in a medical system that fails to provide treatment on demand, even as more than two million Americans suffer from opioid addiction. “With a single E.R. visit we can provide 24 to 48 hours of withdrawal suppression, as well as suppression of cravings,” said Dr. Andrew Herring, who runs Highland’s buprenorphine program.

Locating a doctor who prescribes buprenorphine and takes insurance can be impossible in large swaths of the U.S. The wait for an appointment can stretch for weeks, during which people can relapse and overdose. A 2015 study at Yale-New Haven Hospital found that addicted patients who were given buprenorphine in the emergency room were twice as likely to be in treatment a month later as those who were handed a pamphlet with phone numbers. Herring persuaded the California Health Care Foundation to give a grant to Highland and seven other California hospitals to experiment with dispensing buprenorphine in E.R.s. Now the state will spend nearly $700,000 more to expand the concept statewide, part of $1 billion Congress approved for states to spend on addiction treatment and prevention under the 21st Century Cures Act. A few dozen hospital emergency departments, including in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Brunswick, Me., Camden, N.J., and Syracuse, have started offering buprenorphine.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Judge Backs Reunifying Families in Home Countries

A San Diego federal judge tentatively endorsed a Trump administration proposal to reunify hundreds of children with deported parents in their home countries.

A federal judge tentatively endorsed a government proposal to reunify hundreds of children with deported parents in their home countries, the Wall Street Journal reports. The approval could get the Trump administration closer to completing the tumultuous process of reuniting families separated under its “zero-tolerance policy” of prosecuting border-crossing adults. It comes after the government proposed in a court filing that it would “transport minors to their respective countries of origins” for deported parents who want to be reunified.

In a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego said the proposal was “an appropriate plan” and told the American Civil Liberties Union and Trump administration attorneys to meet and discuss it. “This will not be a perfect process; this is an enormous undertaking involving a situation of the government’s own making,” Sabraw said. “But we will never be able to come up with a process that is perfect or that restores all rights as if this incident never happened. All we can do is the best we can do under the present circumstances.” The administration has so far reunited more than 1,600 children with their parents, but more than 560 children remain in the custody of the U.S. government. About 360 parents have been deported without their children, and the government and the ACLU have been trying to locate them. Most of the parents are from Central America.

from https://thecrimereport.org