Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jailhouse Lawyer Andre Jacobs: Some Background.

Below is an excerpt from a pamphlet published by the Committee to Free Andre Jacobs:

Andre is a 29 year old Black man unjustly imprisoned and heavily targeted for his filing of grievances and lawsuits in defense of human rights inside the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. We seek to build a network of civil and human rights organizations, human rights defenders, legal associations, and concerned citizens in order to provide financial, media, legal, and popular support for Andre. By highlighting Andre’s battles against wrongful convictions and solitary confinement, we aim to bring greater public awareness to the injustices of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Andre Jacobs’s childhood was plagued with abuse and alcoholism in his immediate family. In 1997, when he was only 15 years old, Andre was first sentenced to prison for non-violent offenses. In 2001 Andre was placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for a lawsuit he had filed after being assaulted by a guard, and the PA DOC illegally suspended his court-ordered mental health treatment. Andre remains in solitary confinement to this day.

In 2005, at the Federal Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Andre was dragged onto an elevator by U.S. marshals in front of his grandmother and beaten unconscious after the completion of a civil rights suit he had brought. Federal marshals conspired to frame Andre for assaulting them, despite his being cuffed and shackled at the time, and he was sentenced to an additional 17 years in prison as a result.

In 2008, Andre was awarded $185,000 by a jury in a civil rights suit after they determined that PA DOC staff had violated his rights. This was one of the four civil suits Andre has brought to trial from his solitary confinement cell, where he is held 23-24 hours per day in conditions of extreme social isolation, sensory deprivation, and subjected to constant acts of retaliation.

Against all odds, Andre has persevered through the torture, received a degree from Blackstone University, and is now a certified paralegal. Because of his talents as a jailhouse lawyer and his uncompromising defense of his rights and the rights of all prisoners, Andre has become a frequent target of racist guards and ranking officials and repeatedly subjected to assault, destruction of property, unlawful confiscation of legal mail, food tampering, withholding of medical care, starvation and deprivation of water, and placed on indefinite/permanent solitary confinement status by the secretary of the PA DOC.

Andre's resilience and refusal to submit to arbitrary, racist, and lawless authority has placed him in harm's way repeatedly and transformed him into an exceptionally talented and committed human rights defender. His story needs to be heard, his rights protected, and his cause championed.

"I am being killed psychologically. I've never had a chance at life and here people are conspiring to take my future from me. This is my first time in prison and it is truly a nightmare! I call on every organization, attorney, and member of society to assist me in educating the world in what goes on behind prison walls in America."--Andre Jacobs.

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