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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Pelican Bay State Prison Hunger Strike: Interview with Ed Mead of California Prison Focus.

A group of prisoners housed in Pelican Bay State Prison's Security Housing Unit, a housing assignment in which prisoners are restricted to their cells in solitary for at least 23 hours a day, has announced plans to begin a hunger strike on July 1st. According to a formal complaint published by a group of prisoners in the Summer 2011 issue of Prison Focus, one of the goals of the hunger strike is the implementation of 5 demands by the administration of Pelican Bay Prison.

They are:

1) Eliminate group punishments
2) Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria
3) Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons
(2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement
4) Provide adequate food
5) Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates."
--from the Human Rights Coalition PA Prison Report

We speak with Ed Mead--editor of the California-based newspaper Prison Focus and one of the organizers of the outside support for the Pelican Bay State prisoner hunger strike--about the living conditions for prisoners inside of Pelican Bay State Prison and the development and structure of this latest planned prison protest.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview with Psychriatrist Terry Kupers on the Damaging Effects of Long-Term Solitary Confinement on Prisoners.

In the wake of the recently released publication by the Human Rights Coalition called Unity and Courage: Report on State Correctional Institute at Huntingdon which contains prisoner and eyewitness detailed accusations of human rights abuses against prisoners in SCI Huntingdon Prison's RHU (Restricted Housing Unit), we speak with Psychiatrist Terry Kupers. Dr. Kupers has served as an expert witness on several cases in which the use of solitary confinement in United States' prisons is placed in critical focus. Namely, he has been asked to testify in U.S. courts on the damaging effects of solitary confinement on prisoners for such organizations as the ACLU and on behalf of Black Panther Party members.