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End Legal Slavery in U.S. PrisonsThe 13th Amendment (1865) ordered the abolition of slavery in the United States, except as punishment for a criminal conviction. In other words, federal law permits the use of prisoners and incarcerated persons for free labor by state officials as well as the private sector. From the late 1800s until now, unpaid prison labor has been the pattern, practice, and collective mindset of various states across America. Southern states have taken particular advantage of the wording of the 13th Amendment, and in turn, current resistance movements have risen out of prison-dense states like Texas and Alabama, where units are often compared to plantations. Over the past few weeks, prison activists in Texas and Alabama have organized a series of prison-labor strikes -- where they refuse to work their assigned jobs in protest of unpaid labor compounded with toxic and unsanitary working conditions. The prison-labor strikes have led to prison lockdowns, starvation tactics and brutality by guards. Thus far, three prison units in Alabama and fourteen units in Texas (including a women's unit) have been placed on lockdown in reprisal for a collective work-stoppage. RootsAction stands in solidarity with these prison activists fighting for their human rights, and we urge you to do the same. Prisoners, like all other human beings, should be compensated for their labor, whether with wages or with reduced sentences. Paying prisoners for their labor enables them, not only to better provide for themselves while in prison, but also to pay outstanding bills and unpaid court fees that have accumulated over time (and that may have landed many of them in prison in the first place). Compensating prisoners for their labor through a legitimate "Work Time" system that reduces their sentence grants hardworking prisoners the opportunity to be reviewed early by parole boards and released back into society. This system also relieves state taxpayers, through the simple fact that an earned early release is one less prisoner to pay for. END PRISON SLAVERY NOW Sign this petition to demand that Congress revisit the 13th Amendment and propose a new amendment to the Constitution that abolishes free prison labor and applies the federal minimum wage to all labor in the U.S. and its imperial territories.
Toxic Work Conditions in Texas PrisonsPrisoners within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are working, unpaid, in the TCI chemical plant without being issued the proper air-ventilated safety masks. In an open letter, TDCJ inmate David Martinez described the entire work area at the Coffield Unit’s Metal Fabrication Plant as having a faulty ventilation system. "It is not fully operational and does not protect prison workers or TCI employees from hazardous and toxic fumes that are put into the atmosphere by numerous projects like welding and painting," writes Martinez. The Metal Fabrication Plant Manager and his staff have devised a “warning system” that TDCJ inmates are very familiar with, Martinez says — a warning system that gives the Metal Fabrication Plant Manager a “heads up” when any kind of inspector or auditor is at the front gate — allowing the prisoners and Texas Correctional Industry employees to shut down all activities deemed illegal and unsafe by the Fire Marshal or any other oversight Agency. The Metal Fabrication Plant is currently devising a plan for expansion, filling an order for 5,000 new storage lockers, Martinez adds, while there are no current plans to fix the plant’s ventilation system, nor to restock masks and safety equipment for the inmates who work there. Many of the chemicals and substances used in the Coffield Unit’s Metal Fabrication Plant, and in many other units and plants throughout Texas, have clear warning labels that they have the potential to cause cancer. Martinez explains that Texas prisoners are being forced to work in a very dangerous environment and to engage in hazardous and illegal practices with no regard for their health or safety. "Many prisoners are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation," Martinez reports. "Prisoners are threatened with disciplinary action if they [complain, refuse to work or] do not sign Material Safety Data Sheets (which give the 'appearance' that Texas prisoners are being given the proper training and safety equipment) in this very volatile and hazardous atmosphere." David Martinez and thousands of other Texas prisoners need your immediate help and support! Sign this petition to demand that Texas state officials provide immediate relief to the affected prisoners and to facilitate investigation by a body that's not part of the prison administration
Contaminated Water Causes Cancer in Texas Prisons; Officials Ignore Complaints and Avoid Clean-upMark Schwarzer spent five years at Wallace Pack Unit, where he was exposed to high levels of arsenic discovered in the prison water supply. While serving time at Wallace Pack Unit, Mark was diagnosed with skin cancer. He attributes the cancer to his consumption of the arsenic-tainted water in the prison. Soon after, Mr. Schwarzer requested that his blood be tested for arsenic but University of Texas Medical Branch personnel vehemently refused. As a result of their refusal, Mark filed a Step I (I-127) grievance. In September 2015, not long after these events, Mark was involuntarily transferred from Wallace Park Unit, in Navasota, TX to Boyd Unit in Teague, TX. Mr. Schwarzer discovered that his Step I (I-127) grievance had been denied, and he filed a Step II (I-128) grievance at the Boyd Unit. The Unit Grievance Investigator at Boyd, Mr. Mark Fryhoff, has refused to produce a copy of Mr. Schwarzer's Step II grievance, claiming it has mysteriously disappeared. Without this document, these is no evidence at the Boyd Unit that Mark Schwarzer has filed a grievance or requested blood tests. Mark Schwarzer is suffering from arsenic-caused skin cancer, and because of Officer Fryhoff’s either intentional or irresponsible misplacement of the Step II (I-128) grievance, Mark is unlikely to receive the immediate testing and treatment that he is asking for. Losing grievances or failing to produce copies damages the integrity of the entire process. There are numerous incidents of TDCJ prison officials attempting to cover up contaminated water problems at its facilities. Texas prisons promote a pattern of conduct where TDCJ employees, including wardens, corrections officers and classification personnel, use their positions to retaliate against prisoners who file grievances or shed light on injustices and abuse. We must begin to hold these individuals accountable for their abuse of power! Please sign this petition, demanding that Senator Ellis and Senator Whitmire contact the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and mandate an inquiry and investigation into the unethical conduct of Boyd Unit Grievance Officer Mark Fryhoff.
Demand a full investigation on the unjust trial and conviction of Michigan Rev. Edward PinkneyEdward Pinkney is a well-respected minister and community activist who has been imprisoned and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for allegedly altering five dates on recall petitions in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In response to what Pinkney assessed as a corrupt giveaway of much of Benton Harbor’s public land to the multi-million dollar Whirlpool Corporation, he organized a petition drive to recall the mayor of Benton Harbor. The state of Michigan responded with bogus charges, his arrest and imprisonment. Pinkney is an admired civil rights leader in his home state, having organized the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization in response to the June 16, 2003, murder of 28-year-old African-American Terrance Shurn, who was being pursued by Benton Police. He also co-founded a branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Benton Harbor, Michigan in 2009. Reverend Pinkney and his supporters believe that his conviction is linked to a strategic governmental plan to halt his community activism and impede his efforts against former Benton Harbor mayor James Hightower and Whirlpool Corp. Black activists and radical leaders who stand up for justice are too often treated as criminals rather than heroes, and are ultimately forced into the U.S. criminal justice system. Political prisoner Pinkney has been recently moved to the Marquette Prison in Michigan, far away from his friends, supporters, and Benton Harbor home. He has been placed in conditions dangerous to his health and his telephone privileges have been revoked. As long as Rev. Edward Pinkney remains in prison, his family is left fatherless, and the organizations that he has dedicated his life to stand vulnerable to government dismantlement. Sign this petition to demand justice for Rev. Edward Pinkney! * Call Legislative Corrections Ombudsman Keith Barber to demand an investigation into Rev. Pinkney’s treatment: 517-373-8573. * Call Governor Rick Snyder at 517-373-3400. Tell him you are concerned about Rev. Pinkney’s safety in an environment of harassment, threats, intimidation, and hostility.
Demand adequate treatment and protection for inmate, Keith "Malik" WashingtonKeith "Malik" Washington is an activist and current prisoner of the menacing U.S. criminal justice system. Throughout his sentence, Malik has witnessed and experienced severe environmental neglect and its detrimental effects in Texas state prisons. He has written dozens of letters to legislators and activists revealing the horrendous conditions in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) facilities, including malnutrition, contaminated water and extreme overheating. Retaliation is real! Malik’s efforts, instead of being met with serious investigation and support, have been treated as a threat to Texas legislators and officials. In retaliation to Malik’s efforts to expose the environmental injustices in Texas prisons, he has been transferred to the Coffield Unit, the largest and most gang-present prison in the state of Texas. Malik has deliberately been placed in harm’s way by the TDCJ! According to Malik, there have been multiple threats made against his life from both guards and prisoners and it is very clear that he was transferred to Coffield because the TDCJ is retaliating against him for exposing environmental injustices in the TDCJ system. Malik needs to be protected from threats made from guards and gangs in the Coffield Unit, which the unit’s administration have encouraged. We demand that Malik immediately be placed either in a different unit or in some sort of protective custody. Malik has devoted his life to exposing injustices in prisons across the country through education and activism - even while confined to a prison cell. He has written numerous articles for online prison activist sites. One of his more recent articles is provided below: http://sfbayview.com/2015/07/tdcj-placed-me-in-harms-way-because-i-spoke-out-in-reference-to-the-extreme-heat/keith-malik-washington/ Sign this petition demand Malik’s immediate removal from the Coffield unit or immediate placement into protective custody within the prison!
Don't Let the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Get Away with MurderKeith Cole is a 61-year old black male prisoner whose life is in serious danger. In 2014 Keith Cole, along with 3 other prisoners, filed a federal civil complaint against extreme overheating in TDCJ facilities. The deadly heat lawsuit placed pressure on the Warden of the Wallace Pack Unit - where Keith was housed at the time - and thus made Keith a primary target for retaliation. The trial for the deadly heat lawsuit is set for February 2016. In this light, Keith was recently transferred to the McConnell Unit - one of the most neglected, dilapidated and understaffed prisons in Texas. Keith has a chronic heart condition that requires him to take multiple high-dosage medications daily and as a result, could suffer a heart attack at any time. The McConnell Unit is one of the few Texas prisons without emergency call buttons inside the cells. Keith Cole’s transfer to the neglected McConnell Unit is a deliberate attempt to place him in harm’s way before the upcoming trial in February. We worry that his medication is being withheld as retaliation for his extreme overheating lawsuit against the TDCJ. This lawsuit could change environmental standards affecting all TDCJ prisons, and Keith Cole's presence and testimony is needed to make that happen. Please sign this petition to demand that Keith Cole be immediately transferred to a unit with adequate, humane supervision and be placed in a cell with an emergency-call button!
Portland No More GuantanamosThere are 52 detainees at Guantanamo Bay who have never been charged with any crime and have been cleared by all levels of government for transfer, meaning they have been found to pose no security threat to the U.S. or the world. Most of these detainees were cleared for transfer in 2009 but have remained at the facility because of complications with returning them to their home countries. Their continued and indefinite detention is a violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and human rights treaties to which the United States is a party. The U.S. Congress refuses to accept these cleared detainees onto our own soil because the American people have been misinformed on the subject and continue to believe that all detainees at the facility represent “the worst of the worst.” The Obama Administration, which is working to close the facility, is sending ambassadors around the world asking for sanctuary for these detainees in other countries. We as a country need to step up and take responsibility for our own mistakes; if these detainees are no security risk, as the government asserts, we should be ready to accept them on our own soil. Progressive, informed U.S. cities must take the lead on this, if the U.S. Congress will not. If this resolution passes, it will be a victory for human rights law and will send a message to our own community that we do not subscribe to Islamophobic fears based on ignorance and misinformation. It will promote a more inclusive city that is welcoming to people of all backgrounds, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Other cities have already passed such resolutions: ◦ Berkeley, CA resolution: http://www.nogitmos.org/berkeleytresolutionclosingguantanamo ◦ Amherst, MA resolution: http://www.nogitmos.org/proclamationunitednationsinternationaldaysupportvictimstorture ◦ Leverett, MA resolution: http://www.nogitmos.org/resolutiontownleverettmaassistsaferesettlementclearedguant%C3%A1namodetainees
Tell Congress – End Secrecy on 9/11, Declassify the 28 PagesRemember the shocking revelation that the Bush White House let 140 Saudis fly out of the country in the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks, even though it claimed 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis? One of these flights had two dozen bin Laden family members on board and another had elite Saudi royals including Prince Ahmed bin Salman, a reported intermediary between Al Qaeda and the House of Saud. Then, causing great concern to high-ranking members of the Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee which in 2002 produced the first investigative report of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration blacked out 28 full pages that document members of the Saudi royal family as the principle financiers of the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite promising 9/11 family members that he would release them, President Obama has so far maintained the suppression of these 28 pages. Former Senator Bob Graham, who co-chaired the Joint Intelligence Committees' investigation, has said that the 28 pages “primarily relate to who financed 9/11 and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier.” Graham has also said that the 28 Pages reveal the Saudi funding came primarily through the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Saudi Arabian Ambassador at the time was Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the very same Bandar nicknamed “Bandar Bush” by George W. because of his longstanding close affiliations with the Bush family. In addition to Graham, both co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission and even former CIA Directors have called for their release. All of the members of Congress who have read the 28 pages are saying that releasing them would not compromise national security. Quite the opposite. On June 2, Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) went so far as to say that the 28 pages contain the "best intelligence" we have for preventing another 9/11. Senator Graham has said the U.S. government’s shielding of Saudi Arabia’s role in funding extremism helped pave the way for the rise of ISIS. The content of the pages is so shocking that Massie has also stated: “I had to stop every couple of pages and … try to rearrange my understanding of history … It challenges you to rethink everything.” On June 2, 2015, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a Senate bill, the Transparency for Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act of 2015 (S.B. 1471) – the companion bill to bi-partisan House Resolution 14 (H.RES.14). S.B. 1471 mandates the immediate declassification and release of the 28 Pages. We need your help to get a filibuster-proof majority of Senators to read the pages and become co-sponsors. Over 70 percent of the 400 questions compiled by the 9/11 Families Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission -- many on the U.S.-Saudi relationship -- were never answered, and now the Supreme Court has allowed the 9/11 victims’ families to sue the Saudis in federal court. They need your help to get the 28 Pages finally released.
Create Truth and Reconciliation Commission for U.S. and NATO WarsTunisia is the latest example of a nation using truth and reconciliation to address past horrors, specifically torture. The United States has not put an end to torture, to lawless imprisonment, to warrantless spying, or to any of the other criminal elements of its aggressive warmaking, which continues ever more free from even the pretense of adherence to law.
Admit that torture does not workThe popularity and acceptability of torture have soared in the United States and around the world. This is not simply because the United States has tortured. The U.S. government, many of its policies, its wars, and key torture supporters have not seen similar boosts in popularity. A major contributor to torture's improved image has been Hollywood, led by two productions that have popularized the false belief that torture can produce life-saving information. The U.S. Senate report's summary makes clear that torture has not worked in the real world. In fact, torture has generally not been used to stop an imminent attack, and has been used in some cases to compel agreement with lies about Iraqi links to al Qaeda -- lies aimed at starting a war. The fantasy situation in which a torturer knows his victim has life-saving information that cannot be obtained elsewhere, and that his victim won't lie, and that torture will work better than legal interrogation exists only in fiction. But belief in it creates acceptance of torture. Experts agree on this, but people need to hear it from the fictional experts they've heard of for it to seem real to them. People need to hear Keifer Sutherland, star of "24," and Kathryn Bigelow, director of "Zero Dark Thirty," admit that torture does not work in real life. Sutherland and Bigelow don't need to criticize or apologize for their art. They don't need to begin self-censoring. They just need to admit that they are aware of the facts, that torture did not help find Osama bin Laden, that torture has not prevented deaths or destruction -- quite the contrary. U.S. torture has been a recruiting bonanza for anti-U.S. terrorist groups. This fact is trumpted most loudly by defenders of torture and opponents of releasing reports, photos, or videos of what was done. The open secret that we need key public figures to acknowledge is that there's no up-side to weigh against the harm done. On March 1, 2015, the Independent claimed to change everything with this headline: "Revealed: How torture was used to foil al-Qaeda 2010 plot to bomb two airliners 17 minutes before explosion." The claims in the article are not well documented and quite possibly entirely false. There is no evidence that questioning without torture wouldn't have worked as well or better than torturing. The bomb in the story may have been planted in the first place as retaliation for torture. And the serious argument against torture is not "It's just wrong" but that allowing it creates its widespread use and contributes to other brutal policies including war that kill and injure countless people driving forward vicious cycles of violence. Torture creates enemies, causes horrific suffering, and dehumanizes the torturers including those who passively allow it. A torturer cannot know that someone has lifesaving information and is most likely to reveal it under torture. And once we pretend that a torturer might know that, we cannot stop the torturers from torturing large numbers of people. Learn more with: Gareth Porter: How the CIA Covered Up Its Lie on Torture and bin Laden http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28060-how-the-cia-covered-up-its-lie-on-torture-and-bin-laden Patrick Cockburn: CIA Torture Report: It Didn't Work Then, It Doesn't Work Now http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/torture-it-didnt-work-then-it-doesnt-work-now-9923288.html Donald Canestraro: Experienced Interrogator: Torture Doesn't Work http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/226866-experienced-interrogator-torture-doesnt-work
FIre Top Three Secret Intelligence OfficialsTorture is not the only secret program that has failed to produce intelligence with integrity – this failure is true of every part of the secret world from the CIA, which relies on foreign liaison hand-outs for the bulk of its “clandestine” intelligence to the NSA, which processes less than 1% of what it collects, to the NRO and NGA that are inept at “Big Data” and incapable of providing all-source fused data to the end-user at a desk in Washington or in a foxhole abroad. This is about far more than torture – this is about the complicity of military and civilian intelligence in assassinating thousands (with a documented 98% innocents along the way) while spending over a trillion dollars in a manner that is not helpful to Whole of Government strategy, policy, acquisition, and operations. SHORT URL for Open Letter: http://tinyurl.com/fire-intel-3
Stop Torture: Accountability: YES – Impunity: NOIt is now time to take action. The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in the torture report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. It is critical that we hold accountable those who authorized, those who legally sanctioned and those who implemented the torture policies.