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From Prison Focus Issue 44
Fall 2014

When we were at Corcoran in early October, one
man reported that, according to information
broadcast over the prison’s institutional TV channel,
the US District Court (Eastern District, Fresno Division)
was no longer accepting paper filings in 42 USC §1983 lawsuits.
All filings would have to be scanned and electronically
submitted by staff, he informed us to our dismay. This has
since been confirmed through a phone call placed to a clerk
at the Eastern District, who e-mailed this writer the order issued
by Chief Judge Morrison C. England on September 24,
2014, mandating the new procedure.

Judge England’s order begins, “This Standing Order…describes
a pilot program…whereby initial pleadings submitted
by prisoners in civil rights cases involving conditions of
confinement claims are electronically filed. As part of this
pilot program, CDCR agrees to collaborate with the Court
to include the following prison facility or facilities in the pilot
program: Corcoran and Pleasant Valley State Prisons.
This pilot program is designed to reduce the cost of processing
court fi lings in civil rights cases brought by incarcerated
Plaintiffs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.”

Judge England says that the order does not apply to claims
challenging “the fact or duration” of a person’s confinement;
it only applies to cases brought by incarcerated persons “who
assert claims involving conditions of confinement, such as
those brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Be that as it may,
claims challenging “the fact or duration” of a person’s con-
finement may fall within the purview of a lawsuit fi led under
§1983 (as when a person challenges his validation under §
1983). So, how does a person proceeding without an attorney
know whether or not he is required to electronically fi le
his §1983? (Those proceeding with an attorney needn’t worry
about England’s order, as attorneys are generally required
to electronically file under federal rules. But, incarcerated
persons proceeding with an attorney are a minority.)

England further specifies that the order “only applies to initial
filings by Plaintiffs which initial filings are defined as the
complaint, an application to proceed in forma pauperis without
prepayment of fees, or a motion seeking relief from this
Standing Order or a motion for emergency relief.” He further
pronounces, “Complaints shall not exceed twenty-five
(25) pages in length. Any exhibits attached to a complaint
shall count toward the twenty-five page limit. … In the event
a Plaintiff moves the Court to file a complaint longer than
twenty-five (25) pages, he or she must include the motion
with the proposed complaint to Court and must demonstrate
the grounds for the need to exceed the page limitation. Motions
to proceed in forma pauperis , motions to increase the
page limit and motions for emergency relief shall be no more
than fifteen (15) pages in total length combined.”
The problem inherent in relying on prison staff* to timely
and properly submit one’s lawsuit suing prison staff will be
obvious to most anyone reading this article. We can’t tell you
how many times we have heard of documents submitted in
support of administrative grievances going missing; or, how
many times we’ve heard of decisions on grievances being
delayed, leaving a person with little to no time to appeal.
To make matters worse, some of the most egregious cases
of retaliation and abuse that we are aware of involve men
who are active litigators proceeding in forma pauperis and
without attorneys.

We are similarly uneasy about any “collaboration” between
Corcoran and Pleasant Valley State Prisons and the
Eastern District, Fresno Division, geared towards reducing
the costs of processing court filings. What are the costs
that will be reduced? In any given year, how many §1983
lawsuits do incarcerated persons at Corcoran or Pleasant
Valley file in the first place? How will it save the court any
signifi cant amount of money to receive their fi lings electronically,
rather than in paper? Their fi lings still need to be
reviewed by a judge—assuming that they ever arrive at the
court once submitted to prison staff. Moreover, England’s
order only appears to apply to initial fi lings (complaints),
applications to waive fees (which are generally submitted as
two-page forms) and motions for relief from his order. So,
again, how does the new procedure result in any signifi cant
cost reduction to the court?

If Judge English wants to “reduce the cost of processing
court filings in civil rights cases brought by incarcerated
Plaintiffs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983,” then he would do
best to join the ranks of those of us who seek to eliminate the
types of abuses that lead to §1983 claims in the first place.

We encourage those of you who are incarcerated and are
dealing with the new filing procedures at Corcoran or Pleasant
Valley to write us. How are things are playing out on the
ground? Who are the staff members you have to interact with
in order to submit your filings? Who are the staff members
who call the final shots as to whether or not your filing will
be submitted? What are the outcomes you’ve met with?

*Title 15, §3041.3(a) specifies, “Inmates shall not access
any computer outside of their authorized work, vocational,
or educational assignment, or as needed for legal research
on the Law Library Electronic Delivery System, except as
authorized by the department’s Information Security Officer
(ISO). §3041.3(b) in relevant part states, “Inmates shall
not access any computer connected to a local area network
(LAN), except as approved by the ISO; nor shall inmates
access any computer which has any type of direct, outside
communication capability….”

Oct 01, 2014

CENSORSHIP REGS TO SQUASH PRISONER POLITICAL SPEECH

keywords: Censorship, Political Speech

From Prison Focus Issue 44
Fall 2014

On October 20, the CDC revised its proposed changes
to Title 15 concerning so-called obscene materials
issued in April 2014. The changes, as initially published,
were vigorously resisted by those with loved ones inside,
advocates and activists, who submitted hundreds public
comments in opposition. The CDC subsequently said that the
public had misunderstood its intent, and announced that the
Department would be going back to the drawing board.
In response to the recent revisions—which are nonsubstantive,
despite CDC’s talk of going back to the
drawing board—once again a resistance effort has been
mounted. (The deadline for public comments, November
10, will have passed by the time this edition of the
newsletter is disseminated.)

The revisions are basically in keeping the newly adopted
STG regulations, which went into effect on October 17, 2014.
They prohibit, at subdivisions 3006(c) and 3006(c)(19), “[w]
ritten materials or photographs indicating an association with
validated STG members or associates, as described in subsections
3378.2(b)(5)–(6).” This specifi cally includes:

● Any material or documents evidencing STG activity
such as the membership or enemy lists, roll call lists,
constitutions, organizational structures, codes, training
material, etc., of specifi c STGs or addresses, names,
identities of validated STG affi liates” [sic];

● “Individual or group photographs with STG connotations
such as those which include insignia, certifi ed
symbols, or other validated STG affi liates.”
(See subsections 3378.2(b)(5)–(6) as revised October 20.)

Meanwhile, subsection 3134(e) (Centralized List of Disapproved
Publications) has been revised to replace the term
“STG recruitment materials” with the phrase “STG written
materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”

Materials prohibited under the current Title 15, section
3006 (which is still in effect until Offi ce of Administrative
Law approves any changes) include “[p]lans for activities
which violate the law, these regulations, or local procedures”
(at 3006(c)(6), and “[m]aterial that is reasonably deemed to
be a threat to legitimate penalogical interests” (at 3006(c)(C)
(16) [emphasis added]). In contrast, subsection 3006(c)(19),
as revised October 20, imposes no standard of reasonability.
Thus, a person possesses contraband or “obscene” material if
s/he innocently possesses photo of a loved one or friend who
happens to be labeled a validated STG affiliate, for example.
(See subsection 3378.2(b)(6) as revised October 20.)

From Prison Focus Issue 44
Fall 2014

We seem helpless, both in the U.S. and around the
world, to stop the incessant fl ow of wealth to an
elitist group of people who are simply building on
their existing riches. The increasing rate of their takeaway is
the message derived from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth
Databook (GWD).

It’s already been made clear that the richest Americans
have taken almost all the gains in U.S. wealth since the recession.
But the unrelenting money grab is a global phenomenon.
The GWD confi rms just how bad it’s getting for the
great majority of us.

1. U.S. -- Even the Upper Middle Class Is Losing
In just three years, from 2011 to 2014, the bottom half
of Americans lost almost half of their share of the nation’s
wealth, dropping from a 2.5% share to a 1.3% share (detail
is here).

Most of the top half lost ground, too. The 36 million upper
middle class households just above the median (6th, 7th, and
8th deciles) dropped from a 13.4% share to an 11.9% share.
Much of their portion went to the richest one percent.

This is big money. With total U.S. wealth of $84 trillion,
the three-year change represents a transfer of wealth of over
a trillion dollars from the bottom half of America to the richest
1%, and another trillion dollars from the upper middle
class to the 1%.

2. U.S. -- In 3 Years, an Average of $5 Million Went To
Every Household in the 1%.

A closer look at the numbers shows the frightening extremes.
The bottom half of America, according to GWD,
owned $1.5 trillion in 2011. Now their wealth is down to
$1.1 trillion. Much of their wealth is in housing equity,
which was depleted by the recession.

The richest Americans, on the other hand, took incomprehensible
amounts of wealth from the rest of us, largely
by being already rich, and by being heavily invested in
the stock market. The following summary is based on GWD
figures and reliable estimates of the makeup of the
richest one percent, and on the fact that almost all the nation’s
wealth is in the form of private households and business
assets:

• In 3 years the average household in the top 1% (just over a
million households) increased its net worth by about $4.5
million.

• In 3 years the average household in the top .1% (just over
100,000 households) increased its net worth by about $18
million.

• In 3 years the average household in the top .01% (12,000
households) increased its net worth by about $180 million.

• In 3 years the average member of the Forbes 400 increased
his/her net worth by about $2 billion.

3. World -- 1% Wealth Grew from $100 Trillion to $127
Trillion in 3 Years

A stunning 95 percent of the world’s population lost a
share of its wealth over the past three years. Almost all of the
gain went to the world’s richest 1%.

Again, the gains seem almost incomprehensible. The
world’s wealth grew from $224 trillion to $263 trillion in
three years. The world’s richest 1%, who owned a little under
$100 trillion in 2011, now own almost $127 trillion. For every
dollar they possessed just three years ago, they now have
a dollar and a quarter.

From New York and LA and San Francisco to London and
Kenya and Indonesia, the rich are pushing suffering populations
out of the way to acquire land and build luxury homes.
The “winner-take-all” attitude is breaking down society in
the U.S. and around the world.

There’s a lot more in the GWD, and it doesn’t get any prettier.
It tells us what unregulated capitalism does to a society.
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, and the editor and main
author of American Wars: Illusions and Realities

From Prison Focus Issue 44
Fall 2014

Greetings brothers and sisters. On August 12, 2012
the Pelican Bay D-Short Corridor Collective issued
the historic Agreement to End Hostilities (A.E.H.)
in all prison and juvenile facilities and called for its extension
to our communities. The strategic and material benefi ts
for our ongoing human rights struggle, [for] thousands of
prisoners and their families is obvious.

What may be less obvious is the unprecedented opportunity
for social progress and community development represented
by the A.E.H.; and more precisely why its popularization
in the communities from which prisoners hail, and
all similarly affected communities nationally, is so vital. The
potential benefi t to our interests collectively is equally as vital
as the abolition of domestic torture units and mass incarceration
as a whole, and in fact, may serve as a new front in
that struggle.

In a recent “60 Minutes” exposé a New Jersey state trooper
and former Iraq/Afghanistan Occupation Force Veteran
began employing counter-insurgency techniques imported
from those Middle Eastern battlefi elds to “clear and hold”
poverty-stricken communities in New Jersey. As we watched
this program they employed everything from quantifi cation
of tattoo I.D. and inter-communal violence data, to “winning
the hearts and minds” of residents in order to increase informants
amongst the population. The increase in arrests and
convictions stats which followed came as no great surprise…
nor did the corresponding imprisonment that followed. We
noted the lamentable that followed. We noted the lamentable
economic condition of the state and this community, in particular
at the outset of the story, but only a passing reference
was made to potential economic development opportunities
that had any hope of empowering that community and those
that lived in it.

One of the prevailing factors which prompted this further
militarization of law enforcement was the alleged violence
between street tribes (i.e., “gangs”) and that surrounding the
local drug trade knowing full well these phenomenon are
structural aspects of the capitalist arrangement which force
many in those communities to form (or join) street tribes
for social empowerment or enter the underground economy
(narcotics traffi cking, etc.) as a survival activity, it reveals
this new counter-insurgency-inspired approach was just the
latest tactic to win public support for yet another streamlining
of the school/poor community to prison pipeline and expansion
of the prison industrial complex (PIC).

The NCTT is not simply an analytical body. It is an analytical
body whose goal is to provide practical solutions to
society’s ills. We immediately began to make inter-connections
on the theoretical level between these phenomena, the
Agreement to End Hostilities (A.E.H.), collective community
development programs, and a commitment to total community
inclusion. This New Jersey community could have
been any community in Watts, L.A., West Oakland or Southeast
San Diego. We thought: would such repressive and authoritarian
state measures be justifi able if an effective A.E.H.
was in place?

Furthermore, if there were community-owned and operated
economic ventures, educational development initiatives,
and socio-political empowerment platforms inclusive
of, and benefi cial to, everyone in the community would there
even be a need for the residents to sell dope to, or ride on,
one another?

If our communities were self-sufficient, politically-empowered,
and markedly less violent would that not translate
into less of our brothers, sisters and children being exposed
to the prospect of imprisonment and our communities being
subjected to the militaristic occupation tactics of the state? It
is our contention that the potential exists for this and much,
much more.

The violence and rebellion against private property and
bourgeoisie “law” which accompany the desperation of
poverty and social alienation have long been the foundation
for justifying the introduction and passage of draconian
laws and GeStaPo-style enforcement tactics in depressed
communities. We can assure you, the NYPD is not pushing
“stop and frisk” on the [denzins] of the Upper East Side.
These self-fulfi lling prophesies of underdevelopment have
decimated entire generations of young men (and women),
consigning them to the (maw of the) PIC. It has also been
utilized as the chief cornerstone in the state’s justifi cation
for the maintenance and expansion of SHU torture units. It
is the very basis of the “worst of the worst” propaganda that
Stainer and his ilk continue to spout.

The A.E.H., designed to preserve and expand the solidarity
of our prisoner human rights struggle has also had the
objective effect of further undermining the state’s untenable
position by taking that argument away from them. If intraprisoner
violence is no longer occurring as a result of the
A.E.H., how then can intra-prisoner violence be used as a
way to confi ne men to torture units indefi nitely as “the worst
of the worst?” It obviously can’t.

However, what may not be obvious is the A.E.H. provides
us with a unique opportunity to also take that argument from
community-based law enforcement agencies and remove
tenuous justifi cations they’re currently employing to terrorize
our communities. It is a crime to be poor in America.
From the indentured servitude and pauper’s prisons of the
18th and 19th century, to the array of criminalization measures
used today (i.e., “gang injunctions,” prohibiting citizens
from congregating with their own friends and neighbors;
“stop and frisk”- powers which legalize profi ling, and
mandatory drug testing for recipients of public fi nancial aid-
-the ugly essence of criminal presupposition) the U.S. capitalist
state has always sought to criminalize the poor.

The A.E.H. can alter the historic dynamic by providing
our communities with an environment in which to restructure
our socio-economic reality and common ground upon
which to pursue mutually benefi cial cooperative efforts, independent
of the hostile, antagonistic state and its modern
predatory capitalism.

But how would that look on the ground? To answer that
question we discussed the validity and practical application
of such an undertaking, in relation to the realities on the
ground. The fi nal interpretation of that analysis led us to two
basic conclusions:

1) Many of our younger brothers and sisters are so embroiled
in these cycles of violence and retribution that if the
A.E.H. were embraced en masse beyond the walls, not only
would it require a productive program of genuine material
benefi ts for them, to act as an incentive and fi ll the void previously
occupied with contra-positive activities, but

2) We’d also need principled and respected soldiers on the
ground to mitigate misunderstandings.

The remainder of this discussion will thus be a direct outgrowth
of these two primary prerequisites.

The NCTT-COR-SHU has previously articulated within
the context of comprehensive community development and
social transformation three pilot programs. It is our contention
that these same pilot programs and other initiatives specifi
cally developed for youth social empowerment, such as
“The Youth Community Action Program (YCAP)”, initiated
within the confi nes of a universally-adopted and mutually
enforced Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) can give us
the tools to reclaim our own communities from police state
occupation, rebuild them into bastions of collective prosperity
and shared success, while denying the PIC and the
capitalist state the opportunity to exploit our young homies,
g.homies, comrades and the intra-class/race contradictions
we’ve had to endure under this corrupt system (divide and
rule).

We took the time to explore the viability of these ideas
by engaging those right here in this torture unit (CorcoranSHU)
from every cultural group on whether this would be
something their homies and communities would be interested
in. If brothers and sisters didn’t have to worry about
being tripped on, or having to ride on cats that rode on their
homies, would they be interested in pursuing and working
in community-owned businesses and agricultural communes
that kept all the funds, fruits and employment in their community?
Prison industrialists, corporations and politicians
are consistently drafting laws to criminalize our daily lives
and cultures. Would they be interested in organizing all their
families, homies and home girls without felony records into
voting blocks and lobbying bodies to push legislation that
benefi ted their interests (i.e., abolishing the slavery provision
of the 13th Amendment that precludes those convicted
of a felony from voting, creation of community-based parole
boards so their loved ones could fi nally get a date, or
abolishing “gang injunctions” that criminalize associating
with friends and neighbors you’ve grown up with all your
life)? We held these conversations with young and old alike,
from every cultural group and affi liation, and the response
was universally positive. Some had never even viewed these
concepts as a possibility, but by the wisdom of the Pelican
Bay D-Short Corridor Collective the A.E.H. has given rise to
possibilities previously unimaginable.

It is our contention that a concerted effort by all cultural
groups and affi liations to extend the Agreement to End Hostilities
(A.E.H.) to all communities in society where we have
infl uence, coupled with designating specifi c personally-respected
and reputable soldiers - to ensure the A.E.H. is understood
and adhered to by their communities would give us
both the social climate and manpower to organize effective
closed-circuit economic initiatives, sustainable agricultural
communes, and block-vote democratic initiatives.

In so doing we would transform the socio-economic paradigm
in our communities, increasing the options and opportunities
of our peoples without having to submit to the expropriation
of our labor and talent by those who’ve built an
industry around our inequality and enforced human misery.

What are we suggesting is extending the A.E.H. to the
streets as a basis upon which to build an independent economy,
our own self-sustaining agriculture and organized political
power capable of ensuring our communities and loved
ones are no longer a marginalized segment of the population
preyed upon the fuel the prison industrial complex (for
more information on the NCTT three pilot programs go to:
NCTTCorSHU.org or see “A Discussion on Strategy for the
National Occupy Movement” @sfbayview.com and nettcorshu.org.

But there is even more opportunity for us here, brothers
and sisters. One of the universal complaints of responsible
thinking soldiers from all cultural groups is [that] our young
brothers and sisters are receiving no meaningful development
and are left to the tender mercies of the U.S. capitalist
counter-culture of predatory greed and reactionary violence.
They are emulating the irrationality inherent in the poor and
powerless preying on the poor and powerless as a path to
power and prosperity. This is not to castigate the quality of
our young soldiers but to acknowledge structural setbacks in
orientation and development.

Those who were following the “Each One, Teach One” tradition
are either (to a great degree) isolated in prisons, SHU’s
or have turned their backs on the community completely for
upward class mobility. There is even an unsavory segment
who are actually taking advantage of this situation of uneven
development for their own selfi sh gain. In either regard, all
of us can agree that increasing the quality of young men and
women being developed in our communities will empower
us all, further improve the problem-solving skills of our
young brothers and sisters, and improve the quality of life
for all our people(s).

To that end, we propose the adoption and implementation
of the “Youth Community Action Program” as a model
for both developing and empowering our young sisters and
brothers in the hoods, projects, barrios, rural towns, suburbs
and trailer parks where our communities are situated.
The Youth Community Action Program (YCAP) is both an
educational/training program and a co-operative economic
nonprofi t initiative which targets underclass youth and
neighborhoods employing volunteers from the youth’s own
community and family to work in concert with YCAP activists
in a two phase development initiative.

Phase I - Involves a fi ve (5) times a week, 2-½ hour (after
school) educational and training initiative that focuses
on history (from the true perspective, think: Zinn, Diop, and
Dela Valle); cultural awareness to retard racial confl icts and
strife between oppressed nationalities and citizens stemming
from stereotypes and misconceptions of Asian, New Afrikan,
Mexican/Latino, Euro-American, and Middle Eastern (etc.)
cultures; computer- and technological literacy, the arts (visual,
music, dance, etc.) and science/engineering; three out
of every fi ve days a week the fi nal hour will be devoted to
martial arts, self-defense training and strategic thought (to
promote self-discipline and critical thinking). Participants
must comply with participation in Phase I to be eligible for
Phase II inclusion.

Phase II - Involves establishing a collectively-owned community-based
venture which each youth participant will own
an equal stake in and be trained in the area of the venture
which best suits them. All will receive equal revenue portions/pay
(collective work and responsibility, equalitarian
distribution of wealth).

Perhaps one of the more enjoyable commonalities shared
by all the cultural groups engaged in A.E.H. is a fondness
for the custom-car cultures. Building on the intra-cultural
commonality, the pilot venture can be a custom-car garage
(think “pimp by ride”) where we can seek in-kind donations
of equipment and old cars (all tax-deductible), cash donations
and fundraiser revenues to fund the rest. Volunteers
from this industry will train such youngsters in exchange
for marketing publicity for their own ventures while we also
seek industry-related sponsors. The cars will be retrofi tted,
rebuilt and “pimped out” into custom low riders, donks, and
euro-tuners and then put on the lot for sale and website auction.
The proceeds from each sale or client “fi x-up” will be
split equally among the youth (50% of the profi t), 20% will
go to expand the nonprofi t initiative, 20% will go to a college
fund for them all, and 10% will fl ow back into expanding
the venture. We, in this manner, provide them with an economic
incentive to be indoctrinated into collective practices
and progressive activism, bring the community closer to one
another, and introduce a new source of revenue into the underclass
community where that chapter of YCAP is based.

The positive social impact on our communities for our
people who live in these communities should be signifi cant.
But equally impact-ful is all this progress would originate
with the A.E.H., and the A.E.H. originated from prisoners
in the SHU (the Pelican Bay D-Short Corridor Collective,
to be precise). Can you all imagine the political success for
our movement to abolish indefi nite SHU confi nement which
would glow from such irrefutably positive public opinion?
In the face of such success we would eradicate the myth that
we are “the worst of the worst” while exposing the intention
underdevelopment and predatory law enforcement practices
of a capitalist state which has effectively dehumanized our
communities, our families, our very children.

Central to understanding and responding to our indefi nite
torture as validated SHU prisoners and to human misery endemic
of underclass communities where the majority of us
come from is understanding the nature and structure of U.S.
capitalism and our relationship to the productive system.
The fact that we are holding this discussion with you from
a SHU, and underclass men/women are virtually the entire
prison population, is the best proof that the relationship between
our communities and the ruling class of the productive
system is a hostile one, one where we seek to wrest power
from them suffi cient to reclaim our humanity and enforce
our dignity in the arenas of social life, while they in turn
are disinclined to relinquish their authority to dehumanize
and exploit us. As long as we are bound by the paradigm of
the dominant culture, functioning within the labyrinth of our
own exploitation by a socio-economic structure which institutionally
disfavors both our communities and ourselves,
regardless of cultural character, will continue the cycle of
torture and misery.

What must be understood is the small social forces which
have deemed our communities “high crime areas” and we
(SHU prisoners) “the worst of the worst” are the same social
forces that have reduced the social ties between people to naked
self-interest and callous cash payment; the same forces
who have transformed personal worth into mere exchange
value, and subordinated countless of our hard-won freedoms
to their one and only freedom - the freedom of “free trade.”
We are mere commodities to them, piles of human fl esh they
can use to expropriate a specifi c annual amount of the social
product (taxes) depending on where they warehouse our
fl esh (G.P., SHU, Administrative-Segregation (Ad-Seg.),
etc.) - our exchange value tabulated by prison industrial
labor aristocrats (CCPOA, Administrators) and corporate
interests to determine exactly how they need to manipulate
public opinion and the electorate to maintain their privilege.
We have an opportunity with the A.E.H. to fi ght back!

We have the opportunity to forge a new socio-economic
and political paradigm which is structured outside the con-
fi nes of the dominant culture, and defi nitely serves the interests
of our communities, our families, us. The only question
is do we collectively possess the political will to carry the
Agreement to End Hostilities (A.E.H.) to its logical and victorious
conclusion?

But this is all theoretical, a discussion designed to promote
and inspire a glimpse of one possible future and encourage
us all to consider it. We have a chance to not only change
our communities for the better, but to defi nitively turn public
opinion in our favor in the protracted struggle to abolish
the domestic torture units SHU prisoners are condemned to
endure.

No matter where this discussion leads, the very foundation
of the premise would not exist if not for the wisdom of
the Pelican Bay D-Short Corridor Collective in enacting the
Agreement to End Hostilities (A.E.H.). We all, and society
as a whole, owe them their thanks. Think on these things.
They are cause for great meditation.

Jun 01, 2015

WORKING TOGETHER FOR A TORTURE FREE WORLD

Annie Kane

keywords:

From Prison Focus Issue 46
Summer 2015

On June 26, 2015, designated the International Day to Support Victims of Torture, a webinar was presented by the US Human Rights Network and chaired by

Juan E. Méndez, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. It invited viewers to submit questions and comments before and during the webinar, and provided a unique o-opportunity to hear experts discuss their work.

The event featured an impressive list of panelists in addition to Mr. Méndez, including Gerald Staberock, from World Organisation Against Torture, Carla Ferstman of UK hu-man rights organization, REDRESS, which helps survivors of torture obtain justice and reparation, and holds torturers accountable, Rev. Laura Markle Downton, Director of National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s U.S. Prisons & Policy Program, and Annie Sovcik, of Center for Victims of Torture which has offices in the United States, as well as in the Middle East and Africa.

Following are some interesting points that were presented:

● Definition of torture given by Mr Méndez: ‘the systematic taking of dignity’; the definition given by Annie Sovcik: “the intentional inflicting of pain on an-other.”

● Not all people who are tortured are “nice.” That doesn't matter. It is not a justification. Civil society must be mobilized against torture. There must be universal moral condemnation, we cannot afford double standards.

● Karla Ferstman noted that torture is about silencing dissent. It is allowed to flourish when there is no visibility.

● It is important to present the human face of torture victims in order to minimize the dehumanizing effects and influence on public opinion.

● In a survey of thirty-nine countries it was found that 35% of the population actually believed torture was justified after 9/11.

● Question raised: What happens to a country when it allows torture into the world’s bloodstream?

The webinar was moving, and well received. It was heartening to listen to these articulate committed people speak up on this issue.

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