Hunger Strikes At Three New Jersey Prisons

The filthy conditions, indefinite incarceration and escalating COVID infections have touched off desperate hunger strikes at three New Jersey county jails. Each  jail operates as a prison-for-profit, renting space at $120 a day for ICE to jail out-of-state migrant detainees.

The N.J. counties use the contracts to generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue annually. Immigrant detention has become a moneymaking “cash cow” raising more than $87 million in revenue.

There are four immigration detention facilities in New Jersey — Bergen, Essex, and Hudson County jails, and the Elizabeth Detention Center, run by CoreCivic, the private prison-for-profit company.

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Prisons And Jails Are COVID-19 Super-Spreaders

One in five prisoners in the U.S. has been reported to have had COVID-19. That’s 20% of people behind bars. And that is likely a “vast undercount,” according to Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex.

If compassion for prisoners does not move policy makers or the general public, then eyes should turn to a pair of recent studies, one by the Prison Policy Initiative and the other by the Marshall Project, focused on prisons and jails in the U.S. According to data in these two reports:

Prisons and jails are “super-spreaders” of the virus, not only among prisoners, but also among people in the communities where prisons and jails are located. 

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Why A 58-day vigil Is Going On Outside The Governor’s House

Demonstrators gathered outside the Executive Mansion on Sunday to demand that Gov. Roy Cooper use his powers of pardon and clemency to protect people who are incarcerated during the pandemic.

Members of Decarcerate Now NC, a coalition of organizations which say they’re working to end to mass incarceration, have been holding daily vigils outside the governor’s mansion since Election Day and plan to continue through Jan. 1, when Cooper begins his second term. That’s a total of 58 days.

“We stand vigil to bring attention to your Administration’s ongoing failure to prioritize and appropriately protect Black lives — indeed, any lives incarcerated in state prisons — from Covid-19.

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Our Unjust System Of Mass Supervision

Wisconsin’s disastrous system of mass supervision is at odds with our widely shared values of justice, human dignity and compassion. Detaining people struggling with poverty, housing insecurity, mental health issues and addiction issues for alleged rule violations is at odds with common sense approaches to justice. Yet, public officials in Wisconsin have been keeping its prisons and jails overcrowded for many years by doubling down on this unjust practice.

A new report by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU demonstrates the deep racial injustice and extent of the harm caused by mass supervision in Wisconsin.

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Is Burning Prisons The New Knocking Down Confederate Statues?

Saturday afternoon in Seattle, Washington, a construction site where a youth detention center was being built burned to the ground. 

The King County juvenile detention facility is assumed to have been set ablaze by some of the thousands of Seattle demonstrators who marched in protest to both the federal government terrorizing it’s neighboring city of Portland, Oregon, as well as policemen murdering innocent and unarmed Black Americans. 

The timing of the fire set to the youth prison feels deeply symbolic, especially in light of a Michigan court case where a Black teenage girl is currently serving time inside of a juvenile detention center after failing to finish her homework.

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What’s Keeping Thousands In Prison During COVID-19?

In U.S. prisons there have been over 55,000 known cases of Covid-19 and over 600 deaths (including corrections officers) since the pandemic started, a predictable situation that advocates have been warning about from the start. A recent study shows that people in prison are over five times more likely to contract Covid-19, and three times more likely to die from the disease if they contract it. Due to poor access to basic hygiene products and close quarters, prisons have long been hotbeds of disease outbreaks, and prisons across the country have housed some of the worst clusters of Covid-19 cases since April.

The Constitution requires that prison officials and governments protect incarcerated people from the inevitable continued spread of Covid-19 behind bars.

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Federal Prisons Locked Down To Quash Black Lives Matter Protests

On June 2, for the first time in 25 years, the Bureau of Prisons directed all federal jails and prisons to implement a full lockdown, confining nearly 160,000 people to their cells and severely limiting contact with the outside world. The following day, on the orders of Attorney General William Barr, the Bureau pulled some of its most militarized units out of BOP facilities and deployed them to confront protesters on the streets of Washington, D.C. 

Typically, a lockdown occurs in a single facility at the discretion of the warden, usually in response to temporary incidents like fights or, more rarely, longer-term issues like inadequate staffing levels. 

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Hard Times: ‘It’s Like They’re Trying To Kill Us’

American prisoners are incarcerated for years, often decades, often a majority of his or her life. Many prisoners serving more than a couple years are transferred from one prison to another, often multiple times, throughout their sentences. For this story, I spoke to three long-term Alabama prisoners about their experiences being transferred to a different prison mid-sentence or waking up to learn their friends have been transferred – including in the middle of a pandemic – and tried to square them with official policy.

Linda Mays, Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Communications Director, said that there are “numerous specific reasons that inmates are transferred” from one prison to another mid-sentence, but “it is impossible to explore every scenario” in which transfers occur. 

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Why Did The Bureau Of Prisons Impose A National Lockdown?

Following the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, a nationwide uprising of unprecedented proportions has swept  the U.S. in thousands of cities and towns, large and small, across all 50 states. This surge of mass resistance around issues of racial injustice, occurring against the backdrop of a major public health crisis and increasingly deteriorating economic conditions, has laid bare the failure of our capitalist system to protect working class communities of color. In addition to facing a much higher possibility of being endangered by an encounter with law enforcement, these communities are also coping with disproportionately high rates of unemployment and COVID-19 contagion.

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COVID-19 Behind The Walls

At least 48,764 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among prisoners. The data suggest that even these numbers may be underreported. Texas leads in the number of cases with 7,757, followed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons with 6,621 cases. Ohio, Michigan, California and Tennessee are right behind Texas and the BOP with 4,950, 3,991, 3,800, and 3,171 cases, respectively.

At least 585 prisoner deaths from the virus have been reported, with 91 from the federal BOP,  84 in Ohio, 69 in Texas, 68 in Michigan and the rest in other states. As far as prison staff are concerned, 10,342 cases and 42 deaths have been reported. (The Marshall Project, June 25) Across the country, 658 youth in juvenile facilities and 771 staff members have reportedly been infected with the virus.

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Raleigh Black Lives Matter Protest Reaches 35th Day

For the 35th consecutive day, Black Lives Matter protesters chanted, made speeches, waved signs and marched across downtown Raleigh on Saturday. They are protesting SB 168 which lawmakers passed nearly unanimously with no discussion in the wee hours of the morning on June 27, would shield death investigation records from the public when they are shared with the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Those records are now considered public under state law. 

“The fact that they’re trying to … pass this over on us and act like it’s no big deal like they’re just gonna ignore us — that is why we’re so much more ready to fight anything that comes our way,” said Lauren Howell, 21, an organizer with the group N.C. Born. “Because we know it’s not right.”

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Release The Prisoners: Ohio Jail 100 Percent Positive For Covid

In a recent report, the Ohio Immigrant Alliance stated that the Morrow County  Correctional Facility in Mt. Gilead is the first county jail in the state to be 100 percent COVID-positive. The jail, holding local prisoners as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, is also the first 100 percent COVID-positive ICE detention center in the U.S.

The Alliance accuses jail authorities of failing to follow their own protocols as well as ICE standards.

According to the Alliance report, “None of the inmates and detainees at Morrow County have been seen by a doctor in the facility, despite their COVID diagnoses. Nursing staff are not present at the jail overnight or on the weekends, and even when they are there, they often decline to provide health care, including Tylenol. Jail staff have repeatedly refused to call an ambulance for detainees in serious distress.

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Prisoners Mobilize For Black Lives And Against Brutality Behind Bars

Prisoners say that abuse reminiscent of the “modern-day lynching” of George Floyd is common practice behind bars. Swift Justice, who is also incarcerated at Kilby Correctional Facility and prefers a pseudonym, tells Truthout: “What happens in here is just like the rhetoric police on the street used to justify killings.” Outside of prison, the officers say, “‘He had a gun or appeared to have a gun,’” Swift explains. In prison, they often say, “‘he had a knife, or failed to comply with the direct order.’ And in here it’s hard to prove different and, we don’t have cell phones to capture it. These guys in here know it and it scares them! And rightfully so.”

Potential, another Black man confined at a different facility in Alabama, says that guards “know where the cameras are and where they aren’t. They take guys where there aren’t cameras and they will beat the sh*t out of them. That’s the system here. And the supervisors allow it

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Protesters Blockade Central Prison In North Carolina

June 13 marked the beginning of the third week of protests in Raleigh, N.C., the state capital and home of the murderous Raleigh Police Department and more than 70 other law enforcement agencies. Different days have drawn different groups with varying goals, but not a day has gone by without hundreds of people turning out on the streets to support Black Liberation and oppose the police.

Protests have focused on contesting city sites glorifying white supremacy. From the moment protests began at 5 p.m. on May 30, hundreds of people immediately besieged the Wake County Detention Center. Others gathered around Confederate monuments in the state capital, the Raleigh Municipal Building, which holds the offices of the mayor and city council, and the governor’s mansion. They also went to many sites of police killings around the city.

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#FreeBlackMamas Demand Prisoner Release

Philadelphia – Protesters, led by currently and formerly incarcerated women, trans and non gender-binary people, held a rally on May 15 in a city park next to Riverside Correctional Facility to demand the release of people held in Philadelphia jails and an end to unjust cash bail. The action featured speeches by women recently released from RCF, as well as people still incarcerated who joined by phone. Everyone respected social distancing and mask requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers on both sides of the prison walls planned the action. It was broadcast via radio so incarcerated people could listen to the speakers. Huge signs with slogans reading, “Free Our People!” and “Free Black Mamas!” were held up for people at RCF to see. In turn, they made noise and banged on cell doors to join the protest and demand their release.

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