Liberate the Caged Voices

Jul 16, 2020

The Champs are Back Unbroken:

Welcome Home Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Paul Redd and Lorenzo Benton!

By Kim Pollak 

 

“No, this isn’t an exaggeration. I am fighting to prevent class genocide... If you are politically involved, a jailhouse lawyer or just a natural leader, you are going to end up in the SHU” Nancy Grimes, the mother of a SHU prisoner, testifying during the public comment period in April 1999 about CDCr’s debriefing policy. (Prison Focus, Spring 1999)

 

“.… For many of us who were in the fight to abolish solitary confinement and end long-term SHU's for over 30 years, the fight to gain our freedom is a more challenging one, as the power-that-be seems to not be receptive to the positive changes within our lives or nor satisfied by our acts of restoring humanity to a place or a people, where there was little, if any.

…. After going on 42 years of incarceration and 16 parole denials, it does not appear it is getting any easier, as obstacles are constantly thrown before me, due to no fault of my own. Lorenzo Benton in a letter to California Prison Focus, January 2018

 

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa aka Ronnie Dewberry, Paul Redd and Lorenzo Benton have finally been released from the grip of institutionalized fascism after over 40 years each in the California state “correctional” system. These men were each locked up in the concrete depths of solitary confinement hell, at Pelican Bay State Prison, for their opinion, resilience and resistance, for approximately three decades each

 

Bato Talamantez from California Prison Focus explained that after the dreaded Secure Housing Units (SHU) had opened at "the Bay" circa 1991, concerned families, Human Rights’s activists and ex felons stood witness to that harsh dehumanizing prison era where the worst brutality and abuses came to light during the class action landmark court case of Madrid vs. Gomez. Supporters came to know, admire and respect the prisoner comrades inside and their consistent resistance to oppression. Throughout the years, Sitawa, Paul and Lorenzo, each denied parole multiple times and eligible years ago,  have continued to keep the Faith of Resistance Alive, within themselves and in those around them.

Sitawa and Paul specifically, along with other strong and principled thinkers of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective, organized and inspired 30,000 other imprisoned activists, to join in their struggle for freedom from the torture of solitary confinement. They played chess rather than checkers, and chose a peaceful strategy focused on solidarity. In doing so, despite non-cooperation from CDCr, they created and promoted the Agreement to End Hostilities, a statement that is still having impact on both sides of the walls today.

Even from within the most inhumane environment Sitawa, Paul and Lorenzo maintained their warrior spirit and inspired thousands of others near and far, inside and out.  They are stellar examples of resilience, integrity and an unwavering commitment to peace, justice and equality. California Prison Focus, Liberate the Caged Voices and KAGE Universal salute Satawa Nantambu Jamaa, Paul Redd and Lorenzo Benton, and welcomes them home with arms wide open!

 

Following are excerpts from an article titled written by Sitawa and his still-imprisoned comrade Jabari Scott, published in the Prison Focus Newspaper in October 2011 (Issue 44, Pg. 14), followed by a poem from Paul Redd. 

 

Solidarity Had the The Might to Move the Mountain of Prison Torture that Kept us Isolated and Voiceless - We Still Need You Now

We prisoners, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM), all our supporters, all state legislators and all citizens of California are being lied to and manipulated….

Gov. Brown and CDCr administrators are currently violating our United States constitutional rights, the California Code of Regulations and other rules, laws, policies and standards with the intent of breaking down and destroying men and women prisoners, family bonds and moral ethics here in California...

My very first run-in with these backward, mountain dwelling

slave drivers was during my journey from DVI Prison to CCI, better known as Tehachapi State Prison….

My week long journey was pretty much uneventful, but I was able to touch base and educate a few young up-and coming, politically conscious prison activists to a better understanding of ceasing hostilities and where we stand in our protracted peaceful protest.

…. It immediately became clear to me that my next two years were going to be another form of modern day slavery and that the past four years of protest – all we fought through and accomplished – had fallen on deaf ears here at Tehachapi.

This hellish modern day slave camp and all its staff have been brainwashed and indoctrinated into an old, prehistoric, backwards prison mentality of the 1960s and 1970s, minus the physical violence, which has been replaced by a new form of violence, mental assault through every facet of this institution and its officials. All of the rights that have been rightfully ours as prisoners are denied.

Staff knowingly violate daily every rule, policy, law, standard and constitutional provision that has been written to provide prisoners with their basic human

rights, and they do it as though they have no conscience at all and it is their normal way of life, that we prisoners should be thankful for and accept with a smile and “thank ya, sir.”

With that, they flex their muscles as though they stand on the absolute power of virtual impunity that allows them to constantly get away with the crimes they commit upon us prisoners daily. Thus, they boldly think we should bow to their whim.

… It was clear to me that this administration utilizes the methods of dehumanization by stripping prisoners of their dignity, one layer at a time.

 

Paul’s Prose

Pelican Bay Prison Express (Now Prison Focus), November 1995

What do you see? 

Decaying society torn apart, 

riddled in bullets, drugs, deaths, 

self-destruction, broken families (prisons without walls and or bars).

What do you see?  

Courtrooms full of angry youth,

both men and women, 

victims of a decaying society.

What do you see? 

Ourselves thrown into California’s prisons to be Warehoused, never confronting the real problem – how we allow ourselves to be exploited, manipulated.

Yes, we see what you see - yourself.

Yes, we are from you. We call upon our communities to take a stand.

Organize, join forces with outside entities. 

Demand that we as prisoners be provided with the proper and correct tools to uplift us 

culturally, historically, educationally, 

to eradicate this internal illness we have taken on. 

Do you see what we see? 

Then let us change it together from within.



 

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Jun 22, 2020

Warm embrace to everyone that was able to be on the Liberate the Caged Voices Roundtable Dialogues this morning. To gather in Ubuntu with Sitawa, just having been granted Medical Parole Release made this more than special- it was renewed hope, invigorated by radical love to keep moving forward. Can't stop, won't stop!

Details on current and upcoming actions will continue to be posted here on this blog page.

I will send out short email and FB notices to keep you in the loop. Please feel free- and I encourage you- to invite others to visit the CPF website and this page, by sharing on your social media platforms.

Here is the article by Sitawa referred to by JB of the Freedom & Justice Center, to get to know more of Sitawa, and the incredible work he has done, and is still doing:

https://sitawanantambujamaa.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/i-know-my-destiny/

Recommended book reading:

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

1619 Project- NY Times...also available as a podcast

UPCOMING ACTIONS:

Social Media campaign to address Gov. Newsom and SF DA, Chesa Boudin to be made aware of elders suffering Civil Death and LWOP sentences to support their release.

Campaign to build Community Release Board based on the principals of Strategic Release

 

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Jun 18, 2020

Liberate Our Caged & Tortured Elders

Liberate the Caged Voices, a program of California Prison Focus, provides a platform to hear directly from our caged community members, their families and loved ones to foster engagement with the local community, while exposing the truth of the toxic conditions experienced by California’s incarcerated people, and the impact on their families. Adding art and culture, the idea is to build awareness, solidarity, and human relationship amongst community members on both sides of the wall, and take collective action.

 

As COVID-19 uncovers the system failures across all sectors of human life, the call for Decarceration and the release of incarcerated people most vulnerable to the virus reveals the ongoing human rights crisis taking place within our prisons, and the need to abolish them. We hear that call! 

 

California is home to hundreds of elder prisoners subjected to decades of state sanctioned cruel and unusual punishment by indeterminant sentencing, torture of solitary confinement and California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s (CDCr) dehumanizing tactics, used to also punish the family and loved ones suffering alongside them. And now, to add insult to injury, these elders are being subjected to a potential death sentence by this virus and CDCr’s, and the Governor’s, reluctance to release them, despite their vulnerable status. Out of love and respect we will focus on these tortured elders.

 

They will not be forgotten or silenced.

 

We invite you to join us! Following the spirit of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUEPRINT, we will enter into dialogue, mutual empowerment, and reciprocal education to learn the truth of who these elders are, why they’re aging in prison and what we can do together to demand and facilitate their freedom, and freedom for all. 

 

#LiberateOurCaged&TorturedElders #MassDecarcerationNow #FreeThemAll

 

 

Ongoing virtual Roundtable Dialogues- third Saturday of every month

www.prisons.org

https://sfbayview.com/2014/02/how-torture-is-inflicted-on-prisoners-in-solitary-confinement

 

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Jun 12, 2020

International Day of Solidarity with All Long-term Anarchist Prisoners

 
https://june11.noblogs.org/2020-call/ -- Spanish version of the text below is available here
 

https://june11.noblogs.org/prisoners/ -- List of long term anarchist prisoners to support

 
The Final Straw, JUNE 11TH 2020: MARIUS MASON SUPPORT AND WORDS FROM JEREMY HAMMOND
 
 
 

June 11th: International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason and All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners. In the 16 years this tradition has been observed, June 11th has facilitated support and action inspired by imprisoned anarchists — from noise demonstrations outside of jails to letter-writing nights, from fundraisers to arson. Setting aside this day is one way of remembering anarchists who are serving long prison sentences, generating support for them, and inspiring solidarity actions.

Because social struggles phase in and out, this day is a way to make sure that our imprisoned comrades are not forgotten. June 11th is a way of combating amnesia, of trying to sustain a long-term memory in the anarchist space. June 11th is a day against oblivion.

The context of June 11th this year is one in which our lives have been wrenched out of normality. A scary time, but also a time for innovation. And an especially important time to remember and support our imprisoned loved ones. While calls to release people from jails, prisons, and ICE detention facilities during the pandemic are growing louder and having some success, it’s likely that many of our comrades’ names will not be on the list for early release. Whether it’s due to marginalized identities, terrorism enhancements, a history of standing up to guards and prison administration, or just being an outspoken anarchist, this means that their long sentences and already abhorrent health care and mistreatment could carry even worse consequences.

Our new daily lives and our responses to the pandemic can carry with them the memory and support for imprisoned anarchists. Where we are working fewer hours, we can write more letters. Where our kids are now learning from home, we can include prisoners’ names in lessons about courage and about state repression. Where we give ourselves over to mutual aid projects, we can take inspiration from our comrades and invoke their contributions and memories

In the last year, Connor Stevens of the Cleveland 4, all remaining members of the Conspiracy Cells of Fire urban guerrilla group in Greece, and Tamara Sol in Chile have been released from prison.

Eric King is still in segregation and now faces a 20 year charge related to self-defense actions he took in 2018. His support team has started a legal defense fund. He is scheduled to go to trial in the summer of 2020.

Anna Beniamino co-initiated a hunger strike against especially-repressive prison conditions in May 2019. Alfredo Cospito and other imprisoned anarchists in Italy later joined this hunger strike. Alfredo reported experiencing health problems related to the strike.

Michael Kimble was put in solitary after defending a prisoner from being beaten by guards. In February he and his support team launched a fundraising campaign for a lawyer to overturn his conviction.

Jeremy Hammond was called in October to testify in the same grand jury that re-imprisoned Chelsea Manning. Both refused to testify. In March, Jeremy was released from contempt as the grand jury concluded and was returned to the federal prison system, though he is currently being held in the Grady County Jail in Oklahoma.

Marius Mason continues to serve his 22 year sentence, currently at Danbury CT. He is petitioning for compassionate release for health reasons during Covid-19.

Lisa of the Aachen bank robbery case was recently restricted by a prison magistrate from being able to leave prison on weekends and during the day.

As members of the struggles of the ’60s and ’70s complete their sentences, and younger partisans of recent struggles emerge from shorter stints in prison, we can connect with them in mutually-enriching relationships. The challenges of being released from prison can be mitigated by a strong community of support; communities of support can deepen their own understanding of prison by direct interaction with former prisoners. These relationships can strengthen each of their participants, and expand beyond in the form of new projects and initiatives to free those still held captive.

One important and often neglected aspect of prisoner support is aid to the families of the imprisoned. Family members – often constituting a prisoner’s primary or only base of support – bear the emotional, financial, and mental hardships of their loved ones behind bars. The exorbitant costs of commissary, phone calls, and visits put undue strain on those who, in most cases, are already struggling to make ends meet. Social atomization, which leaves most of us feeling lost, can be hell for those whose close companions have been stolen by the state, and who lack communities of support. These struggles continue after prisoners are released, with friends and family trying to find them employment, places to live, help with parole or other forms of diffuse detention, etc. Project FANG provides travel funds to the families and friends of animal and earth liberation prisoners, allowing them to visit their imprisoned loved ones. The Rosenberg Fund for Children provides aid to the children of activists targeting by the state. Aside from supporting these projects, we encourage anarchists to form relationships with the families of anarchist prisoners: some may not share our ideas (though many do!), but they do share our desire to see loved ones in prison survive and thrive.

As the world descends further into crisis, we are less and less able to evade questions about how we live, what sorts of relationships we create together, and what worlds we wish to inhabit. On the one hand, there is ever-increasing state power, the slavery of the individual to the technological system, and the anomic loneliness of modern life. On the other, there are complex and difficult possibilities of decentralized lifeways in which individual freedom and shared joys mix in an alchemy which affirms both. Our bonds, tempered over years of living and fighting together, can prove the starting point for these new forms of existence. Those behind bars – who we have kept present with us in our garden plots and forest wanderings, in the melodies of our songs and in the adrenaline rush of our night work – are a part of the new world we hope for. Let’s not forget them for one moment.

 

 

 

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May 31, 2020

Hello beautiful people!

I want to acknowledge everyone who was able to attend our first of ongoing Roundtable Dialogues- and send a nod to those who will be able to join us in the future. The show of collective action, unity and shared humanity was stunning- small in number, but mighty power of people! I love you!

I want to pass on a 'thank you' from Sharon Martinas who was on the call listening- I didn't know until after the call ;), and she wasn't able to unmute herself...

This first post will be added onto over the next few days as I strive to get all the amazing information, suggestions, and ideas into one place. As I mentioned in the beginning and throughout the 'dialogue', this is a collaborative effort, guided by those living this experience of CDCr's human and civil right's violations, to increase our activism through our shared humanity, and our understanding of who's being caged and why they're aging behind the walls. Our focus on these elders as representatives of a larger picture is why our work together is vitally important- and we all have a part to play.

Here's what we can do immediately:

**Join us Saturday June 6 for a Car Rally to Avenal State Prison (3hr drive). Details TBD

Our collective signage will focus on the 40-50 elders that should be released immediately. Each sign will have the name, years in prison, number of parole denials. Each car can have multiple names...

 

Continue to get to know these men and the movement :

1) Check out the Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUEPRINT

2) Read article by Mutope Duguma on civil death: https://sfbayview.com/2011/07/shu-prisoners-sentenced-to-civil-death-begin-hunger-strike/https://sfbayview.com/2011/07/shu-prisoners-sentenced-to-civil-death-begin-hunger-strike/

3) Check out these videos (Lucas Guilkey) from CA Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition:

ALL OUT FOR CA PRISONER HUNGER STRIKE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw4bgeZpgdU

ABOLISH THE SHU TODAY!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqXFd7sz-Jw

4) Check out some of the programs, curriculum and other work these men have been doing and creating- FOR AND BY THEMSELVES and the community!: (Links to these docs will be coming shortly)

4) Read/get these recommended books and readings:

 

5) ROUNDTABLE DIALOGUE 5/23/2020

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZCjtXg3R2bo2ghd3nhOHLvTP3d03xVhu/view?usp=

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