February 25, 2020
12:30p – 1:30p 
  • 546 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh PA
Dear friends, 

You are invited to join us on February 25th in calling on Attorney General Josh Shapiro to use his power on the Board of Pardons to vote yes on second chances, allowing people who have worked tirelessly to transform their lives to come home after decades of incarceration. 
Commutation is a difficult process that requires, among other things, a unanimous “yes” vote from the Board of Pardons. For the over 5,300 people currently serving life without parole sentences, it is one of their only pathways home. Despite his pledge to fight mass incarceration, Josh Shapiro has denied the opportunity to come home to more people than any other member of the Board. On February 25th, you have an opportunity to hold him accountable. 

Our communities deserve elected officials that believe in people’s capacity for transformation, and use their power in ways that encourage accountability and healing. Josh Shapiro is prioritizing what he thinks will get him the most points politically over people’s lives and our communities’ well being. It will take all of us to show him that Pennsylvanians believe in second chances, and demand that he show our loved ones mercy. 

People’s lives are on the line. Will you join us in demanding that when the Chair of the Board supports an application for commutation, Josh Shapiro vote in favor?

Action Alert: SCI Smithfield delivering solitary confinement instead of medical care!

Call now to protest SCI Smithfield's use of solitary confinement against prisoners!
Mark McClary is a prisoner at SCI Smithfield, where staff are throwing him in solitary confinement rather than issue him clearance for a medical condition. In his mother's words:
My son Mark suffers from depression and has always had a sleep disorder. The doctor at SCI Smithfield has diagnosed him for both of these conditions and has prescribed an antidepressant and a sleep aid for 100 milligrams each. However, some mornings he may oversleep due to the meds and he gets written up and thrown in the RHU (Restricted Housing Unit, one of PA's versions of solitary confinement). Medical is supposed to give him clearance and keep a card on his door stating that this inmate may need assistance waking up for count, and that staff should simply knock and wake him up. Prison staff are refusing to give him the clearance even though medical is aware and treating him for these disorders.
Why? He is also harassed by three officers for no reason. They totally abuse their authority by refusing him yard time, food, and a shower. No matter how they may personally feel about Mark, he is entitled to these things and no one should have the right to take them away. They make up lies to cover up their wrongdoing. He files grievances and talks to whoever he can, but nothing gets done and nothing changes. He only has these issues on this block with these three officers. He simply wants to be moved away from these guards but he continues to be placed right back with them. They are setting him up to be terrorized by these guards. While they watch over the inmates who is watching the guards? He reached out to me because his frustration is growing and he has done all he can on his end. Any help I can get for him is greatly appreciated. Despite my calls I am getting nowhere. Please call now!.
Thank you. A very frustrated and worried mother-
HRC receives dozens, even hundreds of reports similar to this every year. Call now- by helping out in this situation you're letting PA prison officials and legislators know that we won't take it any more!
SCI SMITHFIELD- Superintendent Kevin Kauffman (814) 643-6520
DOC Central Office- Secretary John Wetzel (717) 728-4109
Let your state senator and representative know! (find your PA legislators here…/findyourlegislator/index.cfm…)
Talking Points
-State that you are calling about Mark McClary ‪#‎HK‬-1530, who is being held at SCI Smithfield
-Inform them that you are aware that prison staff are attempting to use solitary confinement to resolve a medical situation, rather than take the very easy step of issuing a medical clearance to a prisoner who needs it.
-Emphasize that solitary confinement is a form of torture, that it can cause lasting mental damage after only a few days, that it is coming under increasing scrutiny both nationally and internationally, and its continued use by SCI Smithfield staff is absolutely unconscionable and must be stopped immediately
-Insist that Mark be issued medical clearance for his meds and that he be moved away from officers Klein, Douglas, and Ward
-Inform them that you have already contacted or will be contacting your state legislators (find your PA legislators here…/findyourlegislator/index.cfm…)

Actions Thursday! Downtown Pittsburgh

The city is currently in contract negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) so let's put pressure on our elected officials to do everything in their power to change this contract for the better.
1. Public access to disciplinary reports and police misconduct complaints
2. Grant the Citizen's Police Review Board subpoena power and authority to discipline officers
3. Police must reside in the city of Pittsburgh
Contact the Mayor's Office and demand he argue for the people of Pittsburgh in these contract negotiations to hold police accountable - 412 255 2626.
Rally outside the City-County Building on Thursday, May 7th before the arbitration hearing from 8:00am - 9:00am

Image of Tomi Lynn and Supporters outside the Allegheny Courthouse

Come out and support Tomi Lynn Harris' and the Allegheny County Jail Health Justice Project on May 7 at 3:00pm, in the courtyard of the Allegheny Courthouse.

We will be paying homage to Tomi's son, Frank Smart, who died in the care of the Allegheny County Jail in January of this year. Since Frank's death, two more people have died under the jail's contract with Corizon, a for-profit company providing healthcare to prisons. All of these deaths were preventable; ACJ and Corizon need to be held accountable.

Speakers include:
Tomi Lynn Harris
Michael David Battle
Julia Johnson
Mel Packer

ACJ Health Justice Project - Launch

Allegheny County Jail Health Justice Project to Launch at Jail Oversight Board meeting on Thursday (2/5)

HRC Fed Up!, along with jail workers, human rights advocates, community groups, and inmates’ family members seek an end to appalling health care at ACJ

CORRECTION: A press release sent out earlier in the week stated that there was going to be a meeting of the Jail Oversight Board this Thursday. This meeting has been postponed to next Thursday, February 12. The ACJ Health Justice Project will still launch on February 5 with a vigil for Frank Smart and a press conference.

PITTSBURGH- Allegheny County area advocacy organizations will announce the launch of the new Allegheny County Jail, Health Justice Project this Thursday, at 4:00 p.m. outside the Allegheny County courthouse, during a vigil for Frank Smart and a press conference.  The ACJ Health Justice Project seeks to ensure that members of our community incarcerated at ACJ receive comprehensive health care.

This Thursday marks one month since Frank Smart, 39, died, after less than a day in ACJ custody.  “I lost one whole child because of one pill. All he needed was one pill,” said Tomi Harris, mother of Frank Smart, who died at ACJ on January 5, 2015.  During a phone call hours before his death, Frank said that he was not being provided his anti-seizure medication.  Unfortunately, Mr. Smart was not the first member of our community to lose his life at the hands of Corizon Prison Health Management under the careless watch of Allegheny County officials.  It is time to act to ensure that no more fathers, sons, sisters or wives suffer dire health consequences as a result of unconstitutionally inadequate care created by Corizon’s poor management and cost cutting measures.

Over 18,000 residents of Allegheny County pass through ACJ each year.  Once there they are experiencing unacceptable delays in receiving medical care and the denial of necessary prescriptions simply because Corizon has deemed crucial medications too expensive.  Compounding matters, the medical staff at ACJ are being denied critical supplies and organizational supports they need to provide care: all with an almost $12 million annual cost to Allegheny County.

Despite repeated warnings and admonishments from public officials and private citizens alike, Corizon is refusing to even admit there is a problem.  This should come as no surprise from a national prison profiteer that has been named in over 660 medical malpractice lawsuits.

The ACJ Health Justice Project calls on Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Jail Warden Orlando Harper and the members of the Jail Oversight Board: Judge Cashman, Judge Williams, Ms. Lazlo, Ms. Moss, Sheriff Mullen, and Dr. Walker to step up to the plate and sincerely oversee the abysmal medical care at ACJ.  They cannot continue to look the other way when the mortality rate at the ACJ is twice that of the national average.  The ACJ Health Justice Project calls on these members of our County government to ensure that members of our community are not being sentenced to death at the time of incarceration at ACJ.  Corizon Health has shown time and time again that they do not care about the health and well being of our community.

Rich Fitzgerald, Warden Harper, Judge McDaniel, Judge Williams, Ms. Lazlo, Ms. Moss, Sheriff Mullen and Dr. Walker, have the responsibility to stop these human rights abuses.  Do not commit another taxpayer dollar to Corizon Health, show them the door this September.  Our community deserves better.

Organizations endorsing the project include the Abolitionist Law Center, the PA Institutional Law Project, United Steelworkers, New Voices Pittsburgh, We Change Pittsburgh, the Garden of Peace Project, the Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up!, and Fight Back Pittsburgh.

Contact:    Randa Ruge (rruge[at], 412-522-9687) or Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz (amorgan-kurtz[at], 412-434-6175)

Upcoming Event - Dissent Under Fire!

Dissent Under Fire!  Challenging the Prison Industrial Complex
A Revolutionary Party

Justice for Mumia Abu Jamal, the Dallas 6, and Jamal Knox

February 13th at 7:30pm
At the New Bohemian (887 Progress Street)

We're holding a fundraiser for the Dallas 6, prison whistleblowers being prosecuted for speaking out against torture in prisons, challenging SB 508 for Mumia Abu Jamal's case, and seeking justice for Jamal Knox, who was convicted for performing a rap song.

Speakers:  Pam Africa and Shandre Delaney
Performing:  Devyn Swain, 1Hood, Dos Noun

Help us raise $1000!
$10 to $20 suggested donation - no one turned away!

Parent and child friendly.

Facebook event:

More information at:

Medical Neglect at SCI Muncy

The Human Rights Coalition received reports from Stacey Detwiler, a prisoner housed at SCI Muncy, who is experiencing health problems and deliberate indifference from medical staff at the prison . Two months after being admitted to SCI Muncy and prescribed 9 new medications, Detwiler lost regular leg function and has trouble walking or standing without collapsing. She suspects her medication is not correct and has tried meeting with medical staff to resolve the issue. Staff refuse to intervene, saying she must wait until she is released in two years.  Detwiler’s laundry job pays $12 a month making it impossible for her to meet the $5 charge per sick call to get appropriate care.  Staff refuse to grant Detwiler any privileges offered to prisoners with similar health problems, claiming that she is not old enough to qualify for privileges, such as obtaining a white card to move to the front of the medication line.

In December of last year, Detwiler and other women reported to prison officials, racial comments made by Guard Wolfe.  Wolfe was removed from line duty for a short time, but then came back. Shortly after, Wolfe accused Detwiler of cutting the med line and charged her with 30 days in the hole for being in an unauthorized area. Detwiler reported being freezing in the RHU in February and having trouble doing breathing treatments in the cold cell. Juan Mendez, the U.S. Special Rapporteur on torture suggests 15 days in solitary confinement as a psychological limit for punishing people, yet the DOC doles out 30 days commonly, often in retaliation for filing grievances.

Additionally, Detwiler reports being denied food by Guards McElroy and Cramer. After collapsing on the way to the chow hall because of leg problems, Detwiler was sent to the infirmary. When attempting to get her meal later, expecting a peanut butter sandwich, CO Cramer told her he would think about it. After an hour and a half she alerted Sgt McElroy who informed her that there was no food left. Detwiler reports that other women have been denied food by McElroy and Cramer.  In addition to being a human rights violation, denying a prisoner food is against DOC policy.

Detwiler was convicted of 3.5 to 7 years for witness intimidation, after stopping over a neighbor’s house to see if she was going to go court for her son’s case.  Detwiler knew the women and had helped take care of her when the neighbor was a teen, but believe the court inflated the story to get a conviction.  Detwiler fears that she will not regain regular leg function and will have become disabled due to her lengthy prison sentence and lack of medical treatment.

Update: Federal Court Denies Motion to Dismiss and Grants Motion to Amend Complaint in Human Rights Coalition’s Censorship Lawsuit

A challenge to prison censorship of political and human rights literature in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) has seen two favorable developments in the past month.

On Thursday, May 15, United States Federal District court ruled that a lawsuit challenging censorship of political literature in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections will go forward. The court denied the defense’s request to dismiss some of the censorship claims and all of the supervisory officials named as defendants.

On June 13, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion to amend and supplement the original complaint, adding new claims for relief and one new defendant: DOC Secretary John Wetzel. The new complaint adds due process challenges claiming that prison officials failed to provide non-prisoners with notice and an opportunity to challenge when prison staff censor their mail. Additional claims challenge the criteria used by the DOC to justify censorship as being impermissibly vague, permitting prison staff to impose arbitrary standards when making censorship decisions.

Plaintiffs are seeking monetary and injunctive relief.
The lawsuit, _Holbrook et al. v. Jellen et al_., was filed in January on behalf of the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), prisoner Robert Saleem Holbrook, and College of Charleston Professor Kristi Brian against several employees of the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Coal Township and the DOC for confiscation of mail sent to Holbrook, a co-founder of HRC who is currently held at SCI Coal Township.

The suit details a series of confiscations of Holbrook’s mail since January 2012 that includes academic correspondence with a college professor, scholarly essays from the anthology If They Come in the Morning, a Black history book, and a newsletter published by HRC, The Movementwhich focuses on prison abuse, solitary confinement, and ways that prisoners’ family members can come together to challenge human rights abuses and injustice in the criminal legal system.

Plaintiffs are represented in the case by the Abolitionist Law Center, and David Shapiro, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law at the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law.