Support Parole for Herman Bell: Letters Needed

herman-bellHerman Bell has been to the New York state parole board six times and has been denied each time. His next parole board appearance will be in early February 2016. Each time, the board – always made of up former law enforcement personnel and former prosecutors — reviews his very impressive record, the Bachelor’s and Master’s college degrees he has attained since being locked up, his job offers, his numerous letters of support from family, friends, and community members from many walks of life. They have before them evidence of all the ways Herman has helped so many people throughout the course of his confinement and is still leading a positive and progressive life despite being locked up now over four decades. And then they deny him parole based on their opinion that to release him would “deprecate” the serious nature of his charge of conviction. Is this rationale not, in effect, an illegal re-sentencing to life-without-the-possibility-of parole? When one goes to trial, there is a prosecutor, one’s defense attorney, a judge, and a jury. When one goes to the parole board, there is only the prosecution.

Here’s how you can help:

write-inHerman has taken responsibility for his part in the Black Liberation Movement’s resistance to racist authority. He has paid a great price – 42 years of imprisonment, thus far. He is going to the New York state parole board for the seventh time in February 2016 and deserves to be paroled, to come home to his family and community.

1 – Please write your letter to the parole board on professional letterhead. Your letter should be addressed to: “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Parole Commissioner”. The subject line should be “Herman Bell, 79C-0262.”

2 – Please indicate how you know Herman, or if you don’t know him personally, how you know of him.

3 – Please sign your letter and mail to Herman’s attorney:
Robert J. Boyle, 277 Broadway, Suite 1501, New York, NY 10007.
Herman very much appreciates your efforts and your support.

Message from Herman Bell Fall 2015

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Chelsea Manning threatened with indefinite solitary confinement

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August 12, 2015

Aside from her 35-year prison sentence, Chelsea Manning is now facing indefinite solitary confinement to be determined in a hearing next Tuesday, August 18.

Worse yet, Chelsea faces this incomprehensibly severe punishment as a result of ridiculously innocuous institutional offenses, including the possession of books and magazines related to politics and LBGTQ issues (which she received openly via the prison mail system), and having a tube of toothpaste that was past its expiration date (apparently deemed “medical mis-use”). The catalyst for this attack on Chelsea seems to have been an incident in the mess hall where she may have pushed, brushed, or accidentally knocked, a small amount of food off of her table. She then asked to speak to her lawyer when confronted by a guard. The absurd charges were tacked on later.

These charges obviously could never justify indefinite solitary confinement- one of worst forms of psychological torture. Chelsea is now regularly publishing op-eds in the Guardian newspaper, and recently won the ability to begin hormone therapy by threatening to sue the military. It’s clear this is an attempt to silence Chelsea’s voice.

Our friends at Fight for the Future (FFTF) have created a petition where you can sign on to a letter condemning the US Army’s treatment of Chelsea.

As FFTF notes, this is a disturbing attempt to silence Chelsea’s voice.Chelsea has been very active while in prison, speaking out through her twitter account about issues of government transparency, transgender rights, and the prison system. She’s been writing a regular column for The Guardian, and even wrote a bill to reform the Espionage Act and protect journalism.These absurd charges against Chelsea, and the outrageous threat of indefinite solitary confinement, are clearly an attempt to silence Chelsea’s important voice and cut her off from the outside world.We have to make sure this attempt to silence Chelsea not only fails, but backfires. Fight for the Future has created a petition to let the U.S. government know that the whole world is watching, and we won’t stand by while they jail and torture whistleblowers who stand up for democracy and free speech. Sign and share this petition right now!

Chelsea requested that her hearing be open to the press- but she was denied. If it’s not open to the public and the press, there will be no way to ensure that Chelsea isn’t unfairly subjected to one of the worst forms of psychological torture.

Below is an actual list of the charges that were sent to Chelsea (emphasis added).

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Here’s the list of books and magazines that were taken from Chelsea and not returned: Vanity Fair issue with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, Advocate, OUT Magazine, Cosmopolitan issue with an interview of Chelsea, Transgender Studies Quarterly, novel about trans issues “A Safe Girl to Love,” book “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy — The Many Faces of Anonymous,” book “I Am Malala,” 5 books by Robert Dorkin, legal documents including the Senate Torture Report, book: “Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential.”

“Given the materials that were confiscated, it is concerning that the military and Leavenworth might be taking action for the purpose of chilling Chelsea’s speech or even with the goal of silencing her altogether by placing her in solitary,” ACLU attorney Chase Strangio wrote. “Hopefully with public scrutiny the prison will respond by dismissing these charges and ensuring that she is not unfairly targeted based on her activism, her identity, and her pending lawsuit.”

Update: Take Action: 180 prisoners now on hunger strike; PFLP prisoners to strike Tuesday

hunger-strike-solidarity-700x357There are now 180 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on open hunger strike and hundreds more set to begin striking on Tuesday, 11 August. The wave of strikes was initiated after Israeli special forces attacked Palestinian prisoners in Nafha, injuring 30 prisoners in a violent nighttime raid, including Ahmad Sa’adat, Palestinian political leader and General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Groups of prisoners were isolated and transferred from Nafha and Palestinian prisoners launched a campaign of resistance.

TAKE ACTION: Click here for action steps to support Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

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Write/Fax-in to support Palestinian activist Amer Jubran, unjustly sentenced to 10 years in prison in Jordan

Amer-JubranFor more information about Amer’s case as well as a recorded statement by Amer on his sentencing, see freeamer.wordpress.com.

Please remember to send e-mails and faxes between Monday, August 10 and Wednesday, August 12, to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the Jordanian Cabinet members listed below.

write-inE-mails/Fax numbers:

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Fax: (41 22) 917 0008 (If faxing from US: 011-41-22-917-0008)
E-mail: registry@ohchr.org

Prime Minister and Defense Minister
Abdullah Ensour
Fax number 962-6-464-2520 (If faxing from US: 011-962-6-464-2520)
e-mail: info@pm.gov.jo

Minister of Interior
Salamah Hammad
Fax number 962-6-560-6908 (If faxing from US: 011-962-6-560-6908)
e-mail: info@moi.gov.jo

Minister of Justice
Bassam Talhouni
Fax number 962-6-464-3197 If faxing from US: 011-962-6-464-3197)
e-mail:  Feedback@moj.gov.jo

Sample Letter
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Call-in to Drop Charges against Cecily

call-inCall the Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance, who has the power to drop the charges against Cecily McMillan at any time. Let him know that it is time to act – (212) 335-9000.  Please also take a moment to sign the petition.  Cecily’s next hearing will be held this Wednesday at 9:30 am at 100 Centre Street, Part 41.  Her support team is also collecting donations to cover their expenses.

**Whatever your feelings towards the DA and justice system, it is imperative that this campaign of calls and tweets be respectful and courteous, for the success of the campaign and more importantly for the success of Cecily’s trial.**

Support Parole for Seth Hayes

SethThough Seth is presently awaiting an Appeals Unit release decision appeal, he is scheduled for his 10th parole hearing this June and can use letters of support.  Seth is currently in his 41st year of incarceration, and is in his mid 60’s.  Below is a long list of accomplishments.  One can choose from what Seth is currently working on or has already done, as well as a sample letter. The more personalized your letter is the better it is for the board. Thank you for your time and please add to your letter:

-State your relationship to Seth, family or supporter.

-State who you are (i.e. health care worker, citizen, mother, judge, carpenter, etc.)

-Please refrain from any profanity and be professional

write-inSend letters to Seth’s lawyer:
Cheryl Kates
P.O. Box 734
Victor, NY 14564

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Voice Opposition to Communication Management Units before March 25th

In order to try to comply with a prisoner’s lawsuit, the Bureau of Prisons has reopened the public comment period for the Communication Management Units (CMU). You may remember that the original comment period of 2010 netted 700+ letters and emails against the restrictions outlined in the proposal. The Department of Justice ended the comment period and has sat on their hands since then in terms of getting actual legal approval to run the CMUs.
write-inThe BoP has opened public comment period for just two weeks. Please check out the links below and send a clear message to them about these units and how they should be closed immediately.  Comments must be submitted by March 25.

Support Hunger Strikers at Immigration Detention Center

Hunger-StrikeLast Friday over 1200 detainees began a hunger strike inside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, one of the largest immigration detention centers in the country.

Immediately their massive protest made national news. In retaliation they are being harassed, and we heard yesterday that more than 20 of them were placed in isolation, cut off from communication.

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They’re striking for the most basic things: better food, better treatment and fairness. To bring it to light, they’re risking their own health inside the for-profit detention center owned and operated by the GEO Group. In just the past two days we’ve seen an outpouring of support but they need more to stay safe and see their demands met.

Please help by signing the petition and spreading the word. We want to get over 1,000 signatures by tomorrow at 5pm. The wives of the hunger strikers are holding a rally outside the detention center in the morning and the hungers strikers are counting on our support.

Finally: Please call/e-mail ICE today!

Conditions are worsening against hunger strikers and they are being threatened with force feeding.  We need to put
direct pressure on ICE. Please take two minutes to call and e-mail Daniel H. Ragsdale, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director TODAY to demand an immediate end to the retaliation against hunger strikers and an
investigation of GEO Group’s treatment of detainees.

call-inCALL: Michael P. Reid
Deputy Assistant Director
Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
202-732-4432

or EMAIL:
Daniel.H.Ragsdale@dhs.gov

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New Call & Write in Campaign for Russell Maroon Shoatz

free-Russell-Maroon-ShoatsAS TORTURE INCREASES, SO DO CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CLERGY, HUMAN RIGHTS LEADERS AND FIVE NOBEL PEACE LAUREATES CALL MAROON’S TREATMENT AN UNJUST “VIOLATION” OF UNITED NATIONS PRINCIPLES

*January 16, 2014*: 70-year-old Russell Maroon Shoatz, held in solitary confinement for a total of 30 years, has – for the third time in less than six months – been moved to a new prison amidst promises of eventual release into general population but actual emergency-level, dungeon-like conditions. Nobel Peace prize recipients Jody Williams (USA) and Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Argentina) have now joined the call for immediate release made by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and two additional Nobel laureates; Maroon supporters remain vigilant and concerned about the political game-playing behind these delays.

“Maroon’s new cell at SCI Graterford is under the ground, with human waste on the wall and no blanket in a freezing cell as his greeting upon arrival,” reported Ayanna Ra’uf, Maroon’s fiancé and spokesperson, who was able to talk briefly with him on the phone. Even the most conservative prison guards and officials at SCI Frackville, where Maroon was housed over the past months, were shocked by the sudden move; they had been won over to the justice of his cause by his cooperation and full adherence to prison regulations during a sixty-day step-down program which Maroon completed in late November.  Despite consistent promises that the step-down program, if properly completed, would lead to a formal recommendation for release from solitary, once again the actions of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) reveal more continued isolation and roadblocks.

“While we are glad that the lawyers for PA DOCS seem amenable to Maroon’s transfer to general population,” noted Ra’uf, “we cannot take anything they say for granted. Yesterday they told members of Maroon’s legal team that all prison officials involved in the decision-making process support Shoatz’ release into general population, and that he could be out of solitary in approximately one month’s time. Given the fact that we have been told this recently at least twice before, it is hard to keep hoping that they will do the right thing.” Litigation against PA DOC challenging Maroon’s continued restricted housing is set to move forward later this month.

The time is now to FLOOD SCI Graterford with letters, postcards and notes SENT TO Maroon HIMSELF, with the simple message – to him and to the authorities – that he is in our thoughts, and that we are watching and closely monitoring this unacceptable turn of events. We must let Maroon and SCI Graterford Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz know that a continuation of business as usual WILL NOT STAND. As we count down thirty days to the latest promise of when Maroon should be moved into general population, we must prepare to let all the authorities in Pennsylvania and the DOC know that no one’s career can be built on the back of Maroon’s continued torture.

*SEND LETTERS, POSTCARDS, AND SHORT, SIMPLE MESSAGES OF SUPPORT and LOVE to: Russell Maroon Shoatz #AF-3855, P.O. Box 244, Graterford, PA 19426-0246

call-in*CALL SCI Graterford Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz, 610-489-4151, to let him know:

– We are concerned members of the community who are monitoring the situations involving inmate Russell Shoatz and the conditions he is being held under, AND
– We are respectfully expecting that SCI Graterford will be accepting the information regarding Shoatz’ successful completion of the step-down program at SCI Frackville, and their recommendation that he be released from Restricted Housing into General Population

write-inCALL & SEND LETTERS OF CONCERN, RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED:  PA DOC SUPERINTENDENT JOHN WETZEL, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050, 717-728-4109  to let him know:

– We are frustrated and angry at the continued delays, and unfulfilled promises, regarding inmate Russell Maroon Shoatz.
– His consistent good faith efforts to abide by all State Correctional procedures for transfer to general population have successfully earned him the support of prison official and administrators.
– In light of recent US Department of Justice findings that Pennsylvania State Prisons have used solitary confinement in direct violation of inmates’ constitutional rights, and United Nations guidelines regarding the    illegality of using restrictive housing for punitive, long-term purposes, we write with concern that Shoatz’ continued placement in restricted housing constitutes an act of torture: cruel and unusual punishment.
– As voters and community members, we demand Shoatz’ immediate release into general population, and will continue to closely monitor this situation until Shoatz’ conditions are safe and legal.

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