FedUp! is the Pittsburgh chapter of the Human Rights Coalition dedicated to upholding the rights of prisoners through providing resources and support, exposing injustices, and building relationships with people in prison and their advocates. We are a organization of concerned citizens, people in prison and their loved ones. Our focus is on high level security facilities in Pennsylvania.
On December 2nd, members of HRC FedUp! traveled to the Luzerne County Courthouse to deliver 250 petition signatures to District Attorney Salavantis asking her to drop riot charges against 5 PA prisoners colloquially named the Dallas 5. FedUp! members held signs and handed out flyers for a few hours and then delivered petitions to the DA's secretary. Members were asked to move from the steps and told by court security that there were rules governing picketing during trials. The trial for the Dallas 5 is set to begin next Monday.
This week, Shandre Delaney is interviewed on the Legacy of a Nation radio show about the case. Listen Here!
For Immediate Release
Contact: Shandre Delaney Phone: (412) 403-6101 firstname.lastname@example.org Family Members Petition DA to Drop Case Against Prisoners
Luzerne County, PA - December 2, 2013- Family members and supporters of PA state prisoners accused of riot at SCI Dallas in 2010 are calling on the District Attorney of Luzerne County to drop the case, before the trial set to begin on December 9th. They will deliver petitions to DA Salavantis and convene at the Luzerne County Courthouse today at noon.
In April of 2010, six prisoners who were incarcerated at SCI Dallas covered their cell windows with towels and barricaded their cell doors leading to cell extractions by prison guards. The prisoners were removed from their cells, pepper sprayed and tased by correctional officers, strip searched, and moved to different cells. The prisoners filed grievances against the prison on conditions of confinement and food deprivation leading up to the events and wrote to outside human rights agencies. The Department of Corrections filed riot charges against the prisoners in July of 2010.
Since 2010, one prisoner has been released from prison and plead out of this case, and another, Duane Peters, has been removed from the case and will be tried separately. Court watcher, Debby Rabold, attended a preliminary hearing for 5 of the prisoners on September 19th in Judge Lisa Gelb's court, and found that one of the prisoners had not been arraigned yet and one had not been transported to the hearing.
"If the District Attorney had any factual evidence against the inmates with which to proceed, the case would have been adjudicated long ago. Lacking evidence, the case has been continued month after month for over three years -- all at the expense of tax dollars which could have, and should have been, spent more wisely," Rabold said.
"After watching the 35 minute cell extraction video of Carrington Keys, it becomes clear that the conditions of confinement are inhumane," says Amanda Johnson of the Human Rights Coalition FedUp! "The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture concluded that solitary confinement for over 15 days could be defined as torture. No one should have to live or work under these principles and procedures. "
Prisoners who are housed in the Restricted Housing Unit within the PA Department of Corrections are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day with little recreation or social stimulation. Prisoners can be held in the Restricted Housing Unit for years for disciplinary or administrative reasons. The Disability Rights Network filed a lawsuit against the PA Department of Corrections last March on behalf of prisoners with serious mental illness being held in solitary confinement and not receiving treatment. The U.S. Department of Justice expanded their investigation from two to all PA prisons this past year.
Karimah's electric and gas have been shut off for lack of funds and she cannot get emergency heating assistance until the first week of November. Karimah zawjatul Khalid Muhammad supports her husband Sergio, who is in prison, and cares for three special needs kids. They are members of the Human Rights Coalition. You can read some of Sergio's writing here http://hrcoalition.org/node/255. We are raising money to help Karimah and her three kids get their utilities back on, which is $583 dollars.
You can send a check donation directly to the energy company at:
For Delon Lewis Account # 59404-15015
P.O. Box 37629
Philadelphia, PA 19101
The Human Rights Coalition FedUp! hosted a prison abolition discussion night the first Wednesday of the month to talk about the history, context, and intersectionalities of working for prison abolition.
"Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another."
This month we read a chapter from the book The Slave Ship A Human History by Marcus Rediker. The chapter was chapter 10, "The Long Voyage of the Slave Ship Brooks." It focuses on the role of imagery and working class, sailor narratives in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. A poster depicting horrific conditions of enslaved people was displayed before British Parliament and spread throughout newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Much like prisons today, slave ships were advertised by merchants and profiteers as safe, hygienic, and technologically forward enterprises. Under similar guises, local architecture firm, Astorino, has been spotlighted by Decarcerate PA Pittsburgh for their work in expanding maximum security housing and solitary confinement cells across state prisons. (See criminal justice portfolio and language) The idea that prisons can be made better and safer and that reform movements are enough, and that figuring out ways to make prisons more cost and energy efficient is challenged by the work of prison abolitionists.
poster by Andalusia Knoll 2004
Here is a preview of the chapter contents, within the questions we used to have a conversation:
1. "Every man condemns the trade, but it requires the exhibition of particular instances of the enormity, to induce those to be active in the matter" The image of the slave ship Brooks is a visual tool used to show horrible conditions and move people to respond. What images have moved you in this way? What images have worked for the prison abolitionist movement? Feel free to bring images you have seen to share. What images can we use and how?
2. "Knowledge must be concrete, material and human. Not an exaggeration, but a narration of miseries which cannot be exaggerated which extends to millions." Do you think working for prison abolition is the telling of a narration of miseries? What sources do you tune into to find out about or spread this narration of miseries? If our group is participating in the creation of the narration of miseries, how are we doing it and is there room to change or improve?
3. Clarkson emphasized sailors' experience (as members of preferred white race and preferred european nationality) to appeal to British government and public to look at slavery. He wasn't looking at the conditions of the enslaved people, but the conditions of the sailors charged with keeping them enslaved. The sailors were organized by a merchant class. How does this translate to the Prison industrial complex? How do corrections officers fit into the struggle for prison abolition? How has our group related to the correctional officer class in the past and how should we moving forward?
4. Compare and contrast: Similarities and differences from the strategies of abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the abolition of the U.S. prison industrial complex. e.g. Both abolitionists highlighted individual and collective acts of rebellion by slaves against conditions e.g. like prisons, slaveships were presented to government officials as safe, modern, hygenic advances in science and technology
5. Reformers: The book indicates that one way that Britain came to outlaw the transatlantic slave trade was by reforming regulations for how many enslaved people could be housed on one boat, making it unprofitable for merchant class to continue human business when regulations were high. How has/ will reform efforts help work towards prison abolition?
On Tuesday, June 25 at 1:15PM, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 530 Walnut Street (17th Floor) will hear oral arguments on an appeal filed by Abu-Jamal challenging his resentencing from death to life in prison without parole. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s supporters will gather at the courthouse at 11:30AM and wear red in support of the imprisoned journalist and the broader issues his case represents.
At issue is a motion filed by the President of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Judge Pamela Dembe, that failed to notify the defendant or his attorneys of his resentencing. In so doing, Judge Dembe violated Abu-Jamal’s rights to notice of sentencing, to be present and make a statement, and to be apprised of his right to appeal the sentence. These rights are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and by the laws of the state of Pennsylvania. Had Abu-Jamal not discovered and filed a timely appeal to Judge Dembe’s motion, his right to file future appeals would have been irreparably compromised.
“The unconstitutionality of Judge Dembe’s undisclosed filing echoes the history of due process violations in the Abu-Jamal case, which spans more than three decades. In the original trial the judge, prosecutor, and police conspired to suppress evidence of innocence and to obtain a conviction,” said Professor Johanna Fernandez of Baruch College. Dr. Suzanne Ross explains that “the prosecution's case was built on the specious premise that only three people were present at the time of the shooting, but a fourth person – the probable perpetrator – was seen fleeing the scene after Officer Daniel Faulkner was fatally shot, a fact that the presiding Judge, Albert Sabo, helped suppress.”
Judicial bias and contempt for the defendant also figure prominently in this history. As former Under Sheriff of Philadelphia County, Judge Sabo, could not objectively preside over a case involving the killing of a police officer. Yet he refused to recuse himself when his impartiality was questioned. In 1995, during Mumia’s Post Conviction Relief Act Hearing, Judge Sabo should not have heard and reviewed arguments against the judicial and prosecutorial violations of the very case over which he presided 15 years earlier. Again he refused to recuse himself. Years later, a court stenographer, Terry Maurer Carter, testified under oath that she heard judge Sabo, say to another judge, "I'm going to help them fry the nigger," referring to how he was going to instruct the jury.
In 2011, Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was confirmed unconstitutional when a Supreme Court motion allowed to stand the past rulings of four federal judges who had as early as 2001 set aside the death penalty in this case. In late 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for Abu-Jamal’s immediate release stating, "Now that it is clear that Mumia should never have been on death row in the first place, justice will not be served by relegating him to prison for the rest of his life….Based on even a minimal following of international human rights standards, Mumia must now be released…”
In an unprecedented action against mass incarceration, a statewide coalition is embarking on a 100 mile march across Pennsylvania to demand “A People’s Budget, Not a Prison Budget.” The march will start in Philadelphia at Love Park at noon on May 25 and conclude with a noontime rally at the state capitol building in Harrisburg on June 3, as the state legislature reconvenes to discuss the budget for next year. Marchers are demanding that the General Assembly refuse to pass a budget with increases in corrections spending. They further call for the governor to stop the $400 million construction of two new prisons in Montgomery County, outside Philadelphia. The march is being organized by Decarcerate PA, a grassroots campaign working to end mass incarceration in Pennsylvania by insisting that the state stop building prisons, reduce its prison population, and reinvest money into local community resources. More than thirty organizations are cosponsoring the march, including public school advocates, immigrant rights groups, faith-based communities, and a wide array of racial and economic justice organizations.
"Everyone in Pennsylvania has an investment in stopping prison growth." said Layne Mullett of Decarcerate PA. "That's why community groups, churches, labor unions, parents, teachers, students, formerly incarcerated people, legislators and entire families are getting involved. We know we all benefit when the state invests in education, not incarceration." The March for a People’s Budget is an impressive and creative step in a growing national movement against mass incarceration, according to several high-profile analysts. Voicing her support for the march, noted scholar and activist Angela Davis said, "This march is not just about one state budget. It is about enacting a vision of a society rooted in humanity instead of prisons. Decarcerate PA is an exciting part of a growing national movement to challenge the erroneous idea that prisons make us safer." These endorsers say the march is breaking new ground in the fight against mass incarceration.
Pittsburgh Solidarity at County Assistance Office
“Decarcerate PA’s march highlights a simple truth: Public budgets should be made by the people for the people,” said Ruth Wilson Gilmore, an award winning scholar of imprisonment and the past president of the American Studies Association. “In walking the walk, these historic marchers take the fight against prisons and austerity to a new level. What happens in Pennsylvania now can lift all who strive for a new national freedom agenda.” Like other states, Pennsylvania has embraced a path of austerity. In recent years,Republican governor Tom Corbett has cut more than a billion dollars from education, eliminated General Assistance, and slashed health care spending. Philadelphia alone is in the process of closing twenty-three schools. Yet the PA Department of Corrections is requesting an additional $68 million increase in next year’s budget, which will push the DOC budget over $2 billion for the first time in the state’s history. Further, the state proceeds to expand its prison system. “At a time when prison populations are finally beginning to decline nationally, it’s unfortunate that Pennsylvania is planning to build new prisons,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, a national prison reform group. “We’ve seen that sentencing and drug policy reform, along with a broader array of non-prison options, can have a significant impact on the number of people incarcerated.
Pittsburgh Solidarity at County Courthouse
Prison construction also assures that resources will be less available to invest in the communities most heavily affected by mass incarceration.” The March for a People's Budget includes rallies and community events in towns and cities along the ten-day march route highlighting the costs of social austerity. The march begins only two weeks after Philadelphia witnessed a massive student walkout in protest of school closings.
Pittsburgh solidarity at the banking offices!
Decarcerate PA formed in 2011. Last November, seven members of the group were arrested and charged with trespass and disorderly conduct following a sit-in on the construction site of two new prisons in Montgomery County, PA. The demonstrators sat at school desks and wore banners reading “fund schools, not prisons.” The charges are still pending. For more information visit www.decarceratepa.info/march