Challenging Censorship:Β  The People Verses the Virginia Department of Corrections

By Uhuru B. Rowe
November 30, 2018
E-mail: uhururowe76@yahoo.com
Facebook: https//:www.facebook.com/supportuhuru

Below is a link to an article that was published in the Daily Progress concerning a lawsuit filed by my attorney, Jeffrey E. Fogel, challenging the unconstitutional and retaliatory cencorship of my writings by prison authorities at Sussex II State Prison; the same kind of censorship that then 17-year-old valedictorian Lulabel Seitz experienced back in June during her graduation ceremony at Petaluma High School in Petaluma, California. When Lulabel made it known to school administrators that she had been sexually assaulted on campus, they failed to take action and even tried to cover it up. Fearing exposure of the matter to the public, she was warned by school administrators not to mention it during her graduation speech.

There are two possible options one can take after being abused: Either suffer in silence, perhaps out of fear of retaliation or further abuse from their abuser, or courageously stand up and speak out about their abuse and expose the individual or individuals responsible for their victimization like the women (and men) in the #MeToo movement. But there’s always a price to be paid when one chooses to defy authority and challenge the status quo by standing up and speaking out, and for Lulabel, that price came in the form of censorship. And so, as she began to speak about her sexual assault on campus and the school’s failure to fully and fairly investigate her claim, her microphone was turned off in an attempt to silence her.

Lulabel’s ordeal parallels, in no small way, what I experienced at Sussex 2 State Prison. During my last year there in 2016, prison administrators from the Warden all the way down to Institutional Investigators colluded to symbolically turn my microphone off by censoring my writings. This was done so that the abuse and neglect of the prisoners there, and those responsible for that abuse and neglect, would not be publicized to the masses. And there’s another parallel between Lulabel’s ordeal and my own: When her microphone turned off, people in the audience yelled, “Let her speak!” Similarly, the civil suit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00780) is seeking an injunction ordering the Virginia Department of Corrections to “Let him speak,” meaning, let me continue to writing about the living conditions within these prisons without government interference.

The civil suit is challenging the censorship of two of my essays in particular: “Sussex 2 State Prison is a Potemkin Prison” and “Life at Sussex 2 State Prison-Revisited.” But the civil suit very much applies to all of my writings, including those I will write in the future. If my writings have touched you, moved you, inspired you, enlightened you, or transformed you in any way, then I ask you to support and help spread the word about this case. Because, truth be told, you have just as much of a stake in the outcome of this case as I do. Why? Because whenever my writings are unconstitutionally censored, your First and Fourteenth Amendment rights are being infringed upon as well.

In Procunier v. Martinez, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 1809 (1974), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “Communication by letter is not accomplished by the act of writing words on paper. Rather, it is effected only when the letter is read by the addressee. Both parties to the correspondence have an interest in securing that result, and censorship of the communication between them necessarily infringes on the interest of each.” Simply put, I have a First Amendment right to write these political essays and have them posted to my blog and you have a First Amendment right to read them, and when they are censored, both of our First Amendment rights are being violated. That’s why I titled this essay, “The People Verses the Virginia Department of Corrections.”

So I ask you, the People, to share this link ** https://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/fogel-files-federal-suit-alleging-inmate-s-writings-improperly-censored/article_459c02d8-ef6e-11e8-a0a9-abf785b7864d.html ** with all of your social media contacts. Additionally, please e-mail my attorney at jeff.fogel@gmail.com and express your support for this case. The more publicity we can bring to this case, the better. The future of my writings and your ability to read them hangs in the balance.

Power to the People

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A Movement to EndΒ  Prison Slavery in Virginia

By Uhuru B. Rowe
November 24, 2018
E-mail: uhururowe76@yahoo.com

This is a link (www.bit.ly/vcepetition) to a petition to End Prison Slavery in Virginia which I ask you to Sign and Share.

When you hear the word slave what is the first image that comes to your mind? Because of the legacy of slavery in this country, most of you will probably envision an African, kidnapped from his or her homeland, forced into bondage, where he or she is forced to work for free in the fields of a plantation in the South during chattel slavery. That is indeed the most glaring example of slavery but what about a cafeteria worker, assembly line worker, maintenance worker, or a factory worker? If you don’t think these types of workers accurately represent slaves, then what if they existed in prison where they are paid mere cents on the dollar?

Incarcerated workers employed by the various Virginia Correctional Enterprise (VCE) sweatshops are paid an hourly wage of up to .80 cents. Non-VCE incarcerated workers are paid an hourly wage of either .27cents, .35 cents, or .45 cents for unskilled, semiskilled, and skilled work, respectively.

The first time I was at Greensville Correctional Center from 2003-2008, I managed to get a job working in the Wood Shop. The Wood Shop is run by the Virginia Correctional Enterprises (VCE) which is an industries program where incarcerated workers cabinets, dressers, bed frames, and other furniture products for various state agencies, including public colleges and universities.

For entry level workers like myself, I was paid the minimum of .55 cents an hour, but senior workers stood to earn the maximum of .85 cents an hour. At the time, I wasn’t as political as I am now. But when I was standing on the assembly line, assembling bed frames and high quality cabinets and dressers, and watched as the goods I’d just produce passed through Quality Control, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, and then shipped off to some unknown destination, I couldn’t help but feel exploited. It wasn’t until I learned about surplus value that I comprehended just how much we were being exploited.

In essence, the work we were doing in this Wood Shop was carpentry work. Entry level carpenters can earn anywhere between $12 to $15 an hour, maybe more. By paying me .55 cents an hour to perform the same work, the VCE/VDOC was saving between $11.45 and $14.45 an hour. When you consider the fact that there’s thousands of incarcerated workers being exploited in this manner, then you’ll understand just how much of a profit is being made off of our cheap labor.These profits constitute surplus value (super profits) that the VCE/VDOC gain as a result of incarcerated workers being paid a wage that is far less than the value of our labor.

This type of super-exploitation at the point of production is sanctioned by the 1871 Virginia Supreme Court ruling which renders anyone convicted of felony a “slave of the state,” and Virginia Code 40.1-28.9(B)(7) which exempts incarcerated workers from being classified as “employees of the state” and thus disqualified from receiving a living wage. Both of these laws are rooted in the Exception Clause of 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which renders anyone convicted of a crime (i.e. felony) a slave. A lot of you are unaware that the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution actually legalized slavery for anyone convicted of a crime. If you find this hard to believe, Google it, read it, study it, and start a conversation about. It’s important that we raise awareness about this issue and then organize to get these laws amended and/or repealed.

Why is this issue important? Receiving a minimum wage will allow incarcerated workers to provide much needed financial assistant to our families, many of whom are poor and low-income. Receiving a minimum wage will allow us to make restitution to the victims (or the families of the victims) of our crimes which is the highest form of restorative justice and social restitution. Most importantly, gaining a minimum wage for incarcerated workers will lead to the eventual end to mass incarceration which feeds on and perpetuates itself on cheap inmate labor and which has devastated poor/low income Black and Brown communities.

The online petition mentioned above is the part of the movement to End Prison Slavery in Virginia. The End Prison Slavery movement also consist of lobbying state legislators to introduce and pass legislation that’ll entitle incarcerated workers to receive the prevailing minimum wage per the Virginia Minimum Wage Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. So please, go to http://www.bit.ly/vcepetition and sign and share this petition to support this movement.

Thank you

“They Are Trying To Kill Us”

By Uhuru B. Rowe
November 16, 2018
E-mail: uhururowe76@yahoo.com

I knew when I chose the title for this post that many of you would consider it melodramatic. Maybe a bit sensational. In truth, the title for this post is actually the response I received from a young brother when I asked him for his opinion about the food we are served here at Greensville Correctional Center (GRCC). His response reflects a very real reality. The food here is abysmal in every since of the word. From the quality and the temperature of the food, and the portion size — they all fail to meet the definition of an adequate and nutritious diet guaranteed by Constitution. Let me explain this situation to you in detail so you won’t think I am exaggerating or that this just another gripe coming from a “radical” who’s hellbent on making “good” and “decent” prisons look bad.

If you to stand in the parking lot of GRCC and randomly ask twenty officers and staff what is meatrock, the knee jerk reaction you’ll get from nearly all of them is a frowning of the face, a shaking of the head from side-to-side, or a wry smile deployed to camouflage their discontent. You’d understand such a negative reaction only if you know about meatrock.

Meatrock is prison slang for a type of “mechanically separated chicken” that is served to us as a cheap processed meat source here at GRCC and other prisons in Virginia. Mechanically separated chicken sounds delicious, right? Before your mouth start watering, let me explain to you exactly what it is. Meatrock is actually the remaining scraps that left behind — i.e. tendons, connective tissue, and sometimes innards — after a chicken has been butchered. The tendons, connective tissue, any remaining flesh are then “mechanically separated” from the bone and thrown into a bin along with any innards and a multitude of cancer-causing additives and preservatives and ground together. It is then pressed into blocks, frozen, and shipped to prisons in boxes labelled “For Institutional Use Only.” Several incarcerated kitchen workers I’ve spoken to claims there is a disclaimer on some of the boxes that says “Not fit for human consumption,” which has led many of us believe that this “meat” product was originally intended to be used as animal feed until prisons started purchasing it as a cheap food source in order to cut costs in the face of an expanding prison budget.

Once at the prisons, it is served in several forms. It was originally served in the form of handmade meatball-like chunks that resemble medium sized rocks (hence the prison name “meatrock”). Because it is cheap, prisons across Virginia started ordering it as the main meat source for incarcerated people so that it can be used to create other cheap meals where it is chopped up and served as sloppy joe, or mixed with a small serving of macaroni, spaghetti, or rice. It has a putrid smell and tastes foul. It is so unappetizing, a dog wouldn’t even eat it. I have firsthand knowledge of that fact because when I was at Sussex 2 State Prison (S2SP), I snuck a piece of it out of the dinning hall and threw it on the ground in front of one of the guard dogs. The dog got up, walked over to it, sniffed it a couple of times, and then turned around, walked back to its handler, and sat down. What I concluded from this little experiment was that even a dog knows that this meatrock is detrimental to its health and would much rather starve than eat it, which is what most of us are doing at GRCC.

Meatrock — in its various forms described above — is served on nearly every lunch and dinner tray here at GRCC. On some days it is served for all three meals. Which means that we are either missing a whole lot of meals or opting to subsist on snacks from the prison’s canteen — which isn’t necessarily healthy either and which is something a lot of incarcerated peoole from poor families cannot afford to do.

It is the combination of our being forced to forgo meals in order to avoid cancer-causing processed meats and GRCC’s practice of deliberately underfeeding us in order to save money and to entice us into spending more money on snacks from the prison’s canteen in order to make money, which has created a very unhealthy environment here at GRCC. Unhealthy both for our physical and mental wellbeing. It is a known fact that a nutritiously deficient, low calorie diet causes weight loss, muscle atrophy, chronic listlessness and languidness, and promotes feelings of depression and thoughts of self-destruction. Some of these brothers even look emaciated. Such an unhealthy diet and all of the other oppressive and punitive conditions in these prisons are DELIBERATELY designed to blight our souls and break our spirits which actually runs counter to the motto of the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) which is “Public Safety First.” A vast majority of the VDOC practices as they relate to the management and treatment of incarcerated people actually functions to undermine public of safety, not protect it.

Why should you, the People, be concerned? Thousands of people are released from the VDOC back into communities each year. So the question then becomes what type of formerly incarcerated person do you want living in your community? One who has been humanely treated, properly rehabilitated, and leaves prison with a renewed sense of hope, purpose and direction, or one who has been abused, neglected, mistreated, dehumanized, and leaves prison in an angry, bitter, defeated, and predatory state? Your answer will reflect if you truly care about public safety. It will also reflect whether or not you, the People, are willing to aid and assist incarcerated freedom fighters in resisting and changing these conditions or if you will remain indifferent to our suffering which quite naturally increases the odds that we’ll re-offend and decreases the likelihood that we’ll have a positive and transformative impact on our families and communities.

Thank You

A Call to Action to Help Amend Virginia Code 19.2-298.01

By Uhuru B. Rowe
November 9, 2018
E-mail: uhururowe76@yahoo.com

Hello everyone!

This a link:

( https://actionnetwork.org/letters/stop-the-unfair-sentencing-trap-in-va)

to an online petition that I’m askings all of you to SIGN and SHARE with your online contacts. The petition is sponsored by Lillie Branch-Kennedy, founder of Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged and Disenfranchised (RIHD), a nonprofit criminal justice reform advocacy organization based in Richmond, Virginia. (www.rihd.org)

The purpose of the petition is to drum up support for legislation to Amend and Reenact Virginia Code Section 19.2-298.01(F) so that when a judge imposes a sentence that exceeds the discretionary sentencing guidelines, and fails to give a specific reason for doing so, that sentence will be reviewable on appeal. Even though a judge is required to give a specific reason why he/she has sentenced a defendant to a term outside the recommended sentencing guidelines, subsection (F) of this Code prohibits an appeal of that sentence even when a judge fails to do so. This petition seeks to amend subsection (F) of this Code which will make such a sentence reviewable on appeal where a judge failed to give a reason for going departing outside of the sentencing guidelins. Further, this petition seeks to make such an amendment retroactive so that those of us sentenced back in mid 1990s and early 2000s, will have an opportunity to appeal our sentences, including me. So please, sign this petition and share it with all of your online contacts.

Love is verb shown through action and unity is the most powerful force in the world. Will you set aside your differences and petty disputes in order to struggle for change and achieve a common goal? If you have a family member, friend, or comrade who is incarcerated, then your love for that person should motivate you all to come together in unity and get involved with these campaigns for criminal justice reform to help bring us back home to you and our communities.

Power to the People!

On the Need for Prison PolicyΒ  Changes at All Prisons in Virginia

By Uhuru B. Rowe
Updated November 11, 2018
E-mail: uhururowe76@yahoo.com

“Greensville Correctional Center will enhance the qualify of life in the Commonwealth by improving public safety. We will accomplish this through reintegration of sentenced men in our custody and care by providing supervision and control, effective programs and re-entry services in a safe environment which fosters positive change and growth consistent with sound correctional principles, fiscal responsibility and constitutional standards.” — Offender Orientation Manual (2017-2018)

The words (like the ones quoted above) which line the pages of the various Offender Orientation Manuals (OOM) issued by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) looks good on paper but in reality, they are seldom, if ever, put into practice by prison employees. At least not in the way they are supposed to be.

I was omptimistic when I first arrived at Greensville Correctional Center (GRCC) from Sussex 2 State Prison (S2SP) on October 2nd. GRCC is a lower security level prison than S2SP which means that it should be less restrictive, offer better food, allow more outside recreation, and allow for easy enrollment into programming and services which fosters the type of “positive change and growth” mentioned in GRCC’s Offender Orientation Manual. However, the opposite is true.

In a span of only four weeks, I can bear witness that the same culture of anti-rehabilitation and dehumanization that exist at S2SP also exist here at GRCC. Maybe not as extreme as the culture at S2SP. But the fact it exist at all on a security level 3 facility speaks to the very nature of prisons themselves regardless of what security level is ascribed to them. Which begs the follwing questions: If the VDOC is sincere about “enhanc[ing] the quality of life of the Commonwealth by improving public safety,” then why are prison officials allowed to abuse, neglect, mistreat, and dehumanize the people it incarcerates? Especially when an abundance of evidence shows that incarcerated people who are treated humanely and with dignity and respect, are far less likely to re-offend once released? Could it be that the VDOC isn’t truly concerned about improving public safety or it simply doesn’t know how to? In case it doesn’t, below is a list of proposed prison policy changes I, and many of my peers, believe will further reduce recidivism and contribute to the safety and security of people in society by improving the living conditions of people in prison.

πŸ“Œ1) ABOLISH THE ARBITRARY USE OF GROUP PUNISHMENT OR LEGALIZE GROUP PETITIONS. It is standard practice at all prisons in Virginia (Va) to punish incarcerated citizens as a group because of the misbehavior of one or more people. For example, a small group of prisoners were found to be controlling who accessed the phones. So GRCC officials decided to limit all incarcerated people in Housing Units 1, 5, and 8 to just five phone calls a day. This type of group punishment is unfair given that WE are prohited from organizing/circulating group petitions to redress our grievances and have been punished and retaliated against whenever WE have attempted to do so. If we are punished as a group then WE should have the right to redress our grievances as a group. Therefore, WE demand that either group punishment is abolished or WE be allowed to organize/circulate group petitions to redress our grievances.

πŸ“Œ2) PROVIDE HEALTHY AND NUTRITIOUS MEALS. According to the OOM, page 27, “Offenders assigned to [GRCC] are served meals that are nutritiously adequate …”. This is a blantant lie as the food served to us at GRCC is abysmal. At almost every lunch and dinner meal, WE are served a type of processed meat (known to us and staff as “meatrock”) which is mixed in either rice or noodles. It is common knowledge that a regular diet high in prcessed meats like “meatrock” increases the likelihood that a person will develop cancer and other ill health effects. Additionally, WE are routinely served food portions that are half the portions WE are supposed to receive which is causing us weight loss, lethargy, depression, malnourishment, and fatigue. Because such a poor diet low in calories and nutrients, and which increases our chances of developing cancer, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, WE demand that WE be served meals that are truly healthy and nutritious and are indispensable to the proper functioning of a healthy human being.

πŸ“Œ3) PROVIDE SAFE AND CLEAN DRINKING WATER. Incarcerated citizens in Va are forced to drink water that is brown, foul tasting and foul smelling as a result of it being contaminated with dirt, rust, and high levels of manganese, chlorine, and possibly other unknown contaminants like lead. Each time WE have complained about this water, WE are told it is safe to drink. However, because prison employees are advised not to drink this water and because of the negative side effects we’ve often experienced after consuming it (e.g. nausea, cramps, headaches, diarrhea) this is proof that the water is unsafe and is putting our health and lives at risk. Denying any human being — including those of us in jails, prisons, and detention centers — access to safe and clean drinking water constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. So WE demand that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Va Dept. of Environmental Quality routinely test the water and water filtration systems at all Va prisons to determine if WE are being provided water that is truly free of toxins and other pollutants. Additionally, WE demand that WE be provided two bottles of spring

Part 2 of On the Need for Prison Policy Changes

πŸ“Œ4) ABOLISH THE CAPITATED FINANCING SCHEME WHICH INCENTIVIZES SUBSTANDARD MEDICAL CARE. Medical services at nearly all Va prisons are contracted out to a private, for-profit corporation known as Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. (Armor). This contract is based on the “capitated financing” scheme which was exposed in the case of Scott v. Clarke, 2014 WL 6609087 (W.D. Va. 2014). Under this scheme, Armor receives a fixed amount of money, per prisoner, from the VDOC regardless of the level or quality of medical care it provides to us incarcerated citizens. Armor knows that the less treatment it provides, the greater its profits. As expected, this capitated financing scheme incentivizes substandard medical care and has resulted in delayed responses to our sick call requests; delays in the diagnosis and treatment of our illnesses; failure to refer us, or the delay in referring us, to outside specialists; failure to carry out a specialist’s prescribed course or method of treatment; and an almost complete denial of dental care due to the absence of a permanent dentist at most prisons. As the U.S. Supreme Court held in Brown v. Plata, 131 S.Ct. 1910, 1928 (2011), “Prisoners are dependent on the State for food, clothing, and necessary medical care. A person’s failure to provide sustenance for inmates may actually produce physical torture or a lingering death.” In order to bring an end to our physical torture and lingering death as a result of the substandard medical care provided by Armor, WE demand that the capitated financing clause be stricken from Armor’s contract with the VDOC so that WE can receive full medical and dental care. If Armor refuses to agree to such a restructuring of its contract, then WE demand that Armor’s contract with the VDOC be immediately terminated.

πŸ“Œ5) ABOLISH MEDICAL CO-PAY FEES. Anyone who has ever served time or studied prisons knows that many of the illnesses incarcerated people develop and suffer from are the direct result of poor living conditions like unhealthy food and dirty/contaminated drinking water. Because the living conditions in prison often cause or exacerbates poor physical health, incarcerated people should have access to free health care. Therefore, WE demand that Va Code section 53.1-32, which authorizes the VDOC to levy medical co-pay fees against incarcerated people in exchange for prison health care services, be repealed to allow FREE and FULL health care.

πŸ“Œ6) PROVIDE EQUAL ACCESS TO ACADEMIC/VOCATIONAL/TREATMENT PROGRAMS AND WORK ASSIGNMENTS REGARDLESS OF THE SENTENCE BEING SERVED. According to the OOM, page 3, “There will be equal access to programs and work assignments …”. This is also a blatant lie as incarcerated people serving a life sentence or the numerical equivalent to a life sentence (Lifers) are routinely passed over for enrollment in CTE (Career and Technical Education) and treatment programs in favor of those with shorter sentences. The end result is that most Lifers — who are the majority at most major institutions — have been on the waiting list for CTE and treatment programs for several years. This has created an environment where many of us are left with little to no mental stimulation or constructive activity and too much time spent in idleness where our mental faculties have begun to deteriorate. In order to remedy this problem, WE demand that all incarcerated people, regardless of their length of sentence or release date, have full and equal access to all available CTE and treatment programs.

πŸ“Œ7) REPEAL THE DRACONIAN MAIL AND VISITATION POLICIES. Under the new draconian mail policy which went into effect on April 17, 2017, all incoming letters from our loved-ones, including pictures and greeting cards, are photocopied. The original letters, pictures, and greeting cards are (allegedly) shredded in the institutional mailroom. Additionally, this mail policy places a three page (front and back) limit on all incoming letters from our loved-ones, which includes a copy of the envelope itself. (You can see the mail policy at

https://vadoc.virginia.gov/offenders/prison-life/mail.shtm.

Under the visitation policy which went into effect on April 22, 2017, the following are now required: 1) WE are now required to wear a state-issued jumpsuit that zips up in the back during visitation. These jumpsuits resemble those worn by patients in an old insane asylum. 2) Our visitors are required to exit the visiting area and return all the way back to the front entrance in order to use the restroom. If they wish to return to the visiting area, they must submit to another dehumanizing search. Making our visitors return to the front entrance to use the restroom takes away from the already limited time WE have to spend with our loved-ones. 3) Our visitors are now required to pass through a radiation emitting full body scanner which puts them (especially young children) at risk of developing cancer and which reveals the most intimate parts of their bodies. The VDOC’s crackdown on our mail and visitation — under the guise of trying to control the flow of drugs into the prisons — are meant to discourage, if not outright sever, the already delicate social ties existing between incarcerated people and our friends and family. Because these social ties play an integral role in helping us to maintain a positive attitude while in prison and helping us to successfully reintegrate back into society once released, WE demand that the mail and visitation policies implemented on April 17, 2017 and April 22, 2017, respectively, be rescinded.

πŸ“Œ8) INCREASE WAGES FOR ALL INCARCERATED WORKERS. Incarcerated workers employed by the various Virginia Correctional Enterprise (VCE) sweatshops are paid an hourly wage of up to .85 cents. Non-VCE incarcerated workers are paid an hourly wage of either .27cents, .35 cents, or .45 cents for unskilled, semiskilled, and skilled work, respectively. These are all state-sanctioned slave wages as incarcerated workers are not considered employees of the state per Va Code section 40.1-28.9(B)(7). This law was created specifically to disqualify incarcerated workers from receiving, at the very least, the prevailing minimum wage of the Commonwealth of Va. Because the current wage of incarcerated workers is tantamount to a slave wage, and because a minimum wage will allow incarcerated workers to support our families and make restitution to the victims (or the families of the victims) of our crimes which is the highest form of restorative justice and social restitution, WE demand that Va Code section 40.1-28.9(B)(7) be amended classifying incarcerated workers as “employees” of the state so that we’ll qualify for the prevailing minimum wage per the Virginia Minimum Wage Act (VA Code section 40.1-28.10) and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. section 206).

πŸ“Œ9) CREATE AN INDEPENDENT GRIEVANCE COORDINATOR/OMBUDSMAN TO PROCESS AND INVESTIGATE ALL PRISONER GRIEVANCES. The grievance procedure as it is presently constructed is inherently biased against incarcerated citizens who utilize it to lodge complaints and grievances to redress staff misconduct and inhuman prison conditions. This is so because in all cases the Grievance Coordinator/Institutional Ombudsman has had a prior cozy working relationship with the same prison employees he/she is tasked with investigating for acts of abuse, neglect, and human rights violations. This obvious conflict of interest has often resulted in our Informal Complaints and Regular Grievances being thrown into the trash and our Regular Grievances being rejected for bogus reasons in order to 1) maintain a strict code of silence and secrecy among VDOC employees; 2) cover up the abuse, neglect, and human rights violations perpetrated by prison employees in order to shield them from accountability; and 3) hinder us from filing/pursuing state and federal civil suits against VDOC employees because in order to pursue such a suit, the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that WE first exhaust all available administrative grievance remedies to their highest level. WE cannot exhaust these remedies if our complaints/grievances are thrown into the trash or if our grievances are rejected for bogus reasons. Because of the high level of corruption inherent in the current grievance system, WE demand that an Independent (non-VDOC employed) Grievance Coordinator/ Ombudsman be established for every prison. Such an Independent (non-VDOC employed) Grievance Coordinator/ Ombudsman shall be tasked with the duty of receiving and investigating any allegation of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and human rights violation alleged to have been perpetrated by any prison official/employee and shall report any findings of fact and conclusion of any investigation directly to the Governor of Virginia.

πŸ“Œ10) ALLOW CONJUGAL VISITS. The VDOC currently has a ban on conjugal visits. Such a ban contradicts its motto of “Public Safety First” because countless studies have shown that incarcerated people who are able to maintain healthy family relationships — including marital bonds — are less likely to re-offend. So if public safety is truly first on the VDOC list of priorities, then marital bonds between incarcerated people and our spouses would be strengthened and nurtured, not discouraged. Instead, incarcerated people are allowed to marry but are not allowed to consummate that marriage and people who were already married prior to incarceration are not allowed to engage in healthy sexual relationships with our spouses (even in a safe and secure environment) which not only punishes incarcerated husbands and wives but also our law-abiding spouses. The ban on the consummation of marriages and healthy marital sexual relations puts an extra strain on marriages already made fragile by mass incarceration and often leads to the breakdown of such marriages leaving many incarcerated people without a valuable support system upon our release. This runs counter to public safety. Therefore, WE demand that newly married incarcerated people be allowed to consummate that marriage and that conjugal visits be allowed at least on a quarterly basis at all security level 3 and below prisons in Virginia.

πŸ“Œ11) ALLOW THE NEWS MEDIA TO ACCESS ANY STATE PRISON AND CORRECTIONAL FACILITY. Incarcerated people are isolated and hidden away outside of the public eye within a vast network of prisons where there is little to no transparency. This makes incarcerated people vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and other criminal and inhumane acts perpetrated by our keepers. Therefore, WE demand that the print, internet, and television media be allowed unlimited, unrestricted access inside any state prison and correctional facility and be allowed to use any audio, video, or other recording equipment when surveying the inside of any prison and correctional facility and interview any incarcerated person. The implementation of this policy will allow for greater transparency and allow the media to expose to the public what has always been hidden behind a wall of corruption, lies, secrecy, and cover-ups by the VDOC.

Tens of thousands of incarcerated people in Va are released back into society every year. If the VDOC is serious about public safety, it will implement these policy changes. And if you, the People, are truly concerned about your safety and security, WE ask that you to join me in demanding that the VDOC implement these common sense policy changes.

Politically active Va. inmate, now in solitary, transferred three times after complaints about prisons

Published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, May 6, 2018, by Patrick Wilson

A politically active Virginia prisoner who organized inmates to file grievances about medical care, staffing and water quality was recently transferred to a high-security prison and placed in solitary confinement. Supporters and his wife fear he is being unjustly punished for activism.

Askari Danso, whose legal name is Dale Lee Pughsley, promotes black history and Rastafarian groups in prisons and recently organized a petition asking for better medical care and staffing at Sussex II State Prison, where he formed a human rights committee for prisoners.

After he left the Sussex II law library on April 24, he said he and his cellmate were handcuffed and moved to Sussex I, where they were each put in solitary confinement.

 

Continue reading “Politically active Va. inmate, now in solitary, transferred three times after complaints about prisons”

Wardens at Sussex I & II are out – what does it mean?

Staff report from The Virginia Defender – May 30, 2018
As posted to the Virginia Prison Justice Network website.

In the midst of a prisoner-led campaign to win better conditions at the Sussex II state prison in Waverly, Va., the wardens at both that prison and its sister facility, Sussex I, have been replaced.

Tracy Ray, the warden at Sussex II, has been removed from his position and replaced by Beth Cabell, previously the warden at St. Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake.

The new warden at Sussex I is Israel Hamilton, previously the warden at Haynesville Correctional Center in Richmond County. Both changes seem to have occurred within the last week.

Continue reading “Wardens at Sussex I & II are out – what does it mean?”

Different prison, same old abuse (Part 2)

Part #2

Behavior modification- made famous by psychologists like B.F. Skinner and John B. Watson- is defined as a form of psychotherapy that is concerned with the treatment of observable behaviors rather than underlying psychological processes, and that applies principles or learning to substitute desirable responses for undesirable ones. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition.) In other words, behavior modification broadly refers to the systematic manipulation of ones environment for the purpose of creating change in an individual’s behavior.

There are three basic types of behavior modification techniques that have been used in prisons–operant conditioning, classical conditioning, and aversion therapy. Aversion therapy was/is the most widely accepted method used on unsuspecting prisoners in order to suppress or associate an undesirable habit or behavior (as rebelliousness) by associating it with an unpleasant or punishing stimulus (as longterm solitary confinement and other forms of abuse and torture). The goal is to create a connection between the undesirable habit/behavior and the unpleasant stimulus so that a complete cessation or decrease in the undesirable habit/behavior will occur. (See Aversion Therapy and Behavior Disorders, S. Rachman and J. Teasdale)

One reason prisoners are subjected to group punishment/ behavior modification programs is so the government can document their effectiveness and then use those findings to formulate a much broader strategy to be used against people in society who are resisting oppression and fighting for liberation. These group punishment/behavior modification tactics were used during chattel slavery when rebellious slaves were lynched and hung from trees for other slaves to see in an effort to snuff out any revolutionary tendencies among the slaves fighting for liberation. It was also used during the radical 1960s and 1970s via J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI Counter-intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), and most recently during the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter and other anti-police brutality movements where protesters were/are aggressively opposed by and confronted with militarized Gestapo police and were/are unlawfully detained and subjected to police brutality in order to force compliance, obedience and acceptance of the status quo and to erase any idea and motivation for resistance among the broader populace.

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions…He will find his proper place and stand in it.”–Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Thought control is the sole purpose of group punishment/behavior modification–removing the ability of a person or group of persons subjected to it to think, reason, and act on their own. In other words, destroy the mind, keep the body which is then exploited by the capitalist-class for its endless source of cheap labor.

We must liberate our minds through a process of decolonization and reeducation. It takes a group commitment, group conviction, group solidarity, and most importantly, group struggle rooted in class-consciousness with the knowledge that we are a people of all races, colors, creeds, and sexuality suffering from a shared-oppression from a common enemy in order to seize power from the bourgeoisie.

To exist, collectively, we must resist!!
All Power to the People!!