Round up of prisoner solidarity from Black Flag #218, 1999.
MARK BARNSLEY UPDATE
The Sheffield Star was one of the papers that carried lies about Liverpool fans in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy. It continues its tradition - printing lies about ordinary people from Big Issue sellers to Mark Barnsley. The Star claimed Mark was a madman who attacked fifteen students with a knife. Now it attacks the campaign to free him saying that it is adding fresh agony to his "victims". Well one campaign achievement for a start!
June saw two actions in support of Mark. One was a picket of the court and The Star, joined by people from the Hillsborough campaign. After the pickets, leaflets were handed out in the high street. There was also a well-attended public meeting addressed by Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six, who drew together the themes of class and police cover-ups. One unwelcome guest at the meeting was a Star reporter who left after being offered the option of being removed. Contact the campaign for updates, a video of the meeting and their new Justice for Mark Barnsley t-shirts,
Justice for Mark Barnsley c/o 145-149 Cardigan Road, Leeds, LS6 1LJ
Write to Mark at WA2897 HMP Full Sutton, York, Y041 1PS
BACK IN THE USSR?
A travesty of justice is being acted out in the Krasnodar region of Russia. On July 20, the Pervomaysky district court in Krasnodar ruled on the case of anarchists arrested several months ago, The prison sentence for two of them was particularly harsh, especially as one of them, Larisa Schiptsova is eight months pregnant and subject to an amnesty, valid until the end of the year.
Larisa's lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, was harassed by the FSB in both Krasnodar and Moscow. The court failed to listen to all of the witnesses, and the main witness, Maria Randina, denied that Larisa had given her an explosive device. Pledges for amnesty were refused by the court, contrary to the regulations of the amnesty bill, which is valid until December this year.
The sentences were four years in a prison camp for Larisa Schiptsova and three years for Gennady Nepshikuyev; no amnesty or postponement of the sentences were allowed. These sentences were announced on the same day that the journalist Grigory Pasko was freed from prison in Vladivostok.The two cases are very similar, in both cases were the original serious crimes charges ("terrorism" in case of the Krasnodar Three, "betrayal of the country" in case of Pasko - for reporting information on nuclear waste in the Russian Pacific Navy) not presented in court. Nevertheless, once imprisoned, the accused didn't stand a chance of being acquitted - neither the KGB nor the procurator's office ever admit "mistakes" but press weaker charges and ask for softer sentences. Pasko was charged with violations of his responsibilities, sentenced to three years, amnestied and freed. He was also lucky to have public opinion on his side and extensive media coverage. The anarchists arrested in Krasnodar received much less media coverage. Not a single Russian national paper reported the court ruling the next day.
These prosecutions and the harsh sentences are entirely politically motivated. The anti-Semitic governor of the Region, Kondratenko, has said some outrageous things about the case. We (the Solidarity Federation) will be doing our utmost to bring this case to wider international attention and highlight continued abuses by the successors to the notorious Cheka and KGB.
Solidarity Federation – IWA
OREGON J18 PRISONER: AN URGENT CALL FOR SUPPORT
Two months on, anarchist Robert Thaxton remains in jail, awaiting sentencing for supposed attempted murder [throwing a stone at a cop] during the June 18 Reclaim The Streets Event in Eugene, Oregon. During his arrest, Robert was severely beaten. Eugene police have attempted to cover-up this beating and frequently continue to deny Robert's lawyer access to him. Robert has been singled out for prosecution because of his anarchist beliefs and in an effort by the Eugene police to put the whole June 18th event on trial.
Robert is 36, has a two-year-old daughter, and is a committed anarchist who has made many positive contributions to the movement over a considerable period of time - most recently writing for Anarchy, A Journal Of Desire Armed. Robert will not be hiding his beliefs during his trial. The claim that Robert threw a rock at a police officer is false. The only evidence is a report from the officer who beat Robert and who is known for harassing and singling-out activists. Robert acted as a peace-maker during the event but likely was singled out because of his activism.
All struggles are linked. Through his website, Robert provided considerable support for Leonard Peltier and other American political prisoners. It is important for all involved in the class struggle to see the link between different struggles and different political prisoners.
Eugene has been the site of an extremely militant and effective anti-gentrification struggle - as much development and speculation continues. The prosecution of Robert is an effort to increase repression in Eugene and could have a follow-on effect throughout the country. Robert still needs funds for his legal defence, He would also appreciate people writing to him in jail.
Rob can be written to at: Robert Thaxton #1370036, 101 West 5th Eugene, OR 97401. Jail letter restrictions are demanding and arbitrary. Paper should be new and perfectly clean (for some reason). All books sent should come from the publisher - although even books from AK press have been rejected. All donations should be sent to: Anti-Authoritarian Anonymous, PO Box 11331 Eugene or 97440. Any cheques or money orders should have the payee left blank.
Prisoner Justice Day this year was marked by a picket of Woodhill Control Unit in Milton Keynes. The unit has been operating as a prison within a prison since February 1998, and already has a reputation amongst prisons for brutality and inhumane conditions. Prisoners are held in cells with only a cardboard bed and a chair, and are allowed no books or magazines. In the words of one prisoner,
"A and D wings are treated like animals. They are fed through door hatches, no access to radios or drawing materials, £2.50 private cash, the cell windows don't open to prevent prisoners from talking to each other, 23 hour bang-up, one shower a week. The list is endless."
The regime at Woodhill makes no attempt at rehabilitation. Imagine being confined in a cell 23 hours a day with nothing to read, no craft projects or education materials to occupy your mind and no release date in sight. People can only become more fucked-up and aggressive under these conditions. In addition, violence and brutality from the screws is common, In special control units like Woodhill everything is arbitrary, there is no fixed release date, letters and visits are a privilege to be removed or restored at whim, These units are a means of isolating prisoners who fight back from others in the main prison system and are also a way of reducing solidarity by having prisoners on many different degrees of privileges or punishments.
"In truth Woodhill exists as an instrument of fear and political control over long term prisoners and is specifically intended to isolate and destroy both individual and collective response". John Bowden, HMP Parkhurst.
Prisoners in Woodhill and other prisons organised protests such as work strikes and hunger strikes to commemorate Prisoner Justice Day. Some active prisoners were moved out of Woodhill to other prisons a couple of days before, others were put in the segregation unit. The demo outside was well-attended with prisoners' families and friends outnumbering politicos, and the “Demolish Woodhill' banner was welcomed by a lot of visitors.
BIBA SARKARIA—FIGHTING FOR EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ASIAN WOMEN PRISONERS
Biba Sarkaria, who has for years fought for the rights of women prisoners has been waiting over 19 weeks now to hear the outcome of her own parole application which she made in April 1999. Prison policy states that every prisoner will hear the result of their parole application within six weeks, So why, asks Biba, am I still waiting?
Biba says that in all the time she has spent in prison (over ten years) she has only seen one or two Asian women get parole, home leave, town visits or tagging, no matter what their circumstances. She, herself has tried on many occasions to fight for home leave for Asian women whose fathers were dying or children seriously injured, but the authorities showed no compassion. However the same prison authorities (Cookhamwood) give white prisoners home leave, tagging, parole and the better prison jobs. While
"we (Asian women) are even taken to the local hospital with handcuffs and three prison officers. Last time they did that to me I refused to go."
She says that since April 1996 only one Asian woman at Cookhamwood has been given home leave, while many others have been refused with flimsy reasons. One governor said he was worried about his job if he allowed an Asian woman home leave.
While Biba awaits the outcome of her parole application, suffering from acute back pain (the result of a protest she made against the racism at Cookhamwood), and a serious heart condition; she is now also faced with the brutal decision of the prison authorities not to meet her request for specially prepared food. Biba who is a practising Sikh needs to eat food prepared in conditions which are hygienic and not mixed with foods forbidden by her religion (certain meat). Until now Biba was able to prepare this food herself or get fellow prisoners to prepare it as she is one of the (83 out of 150) prisoners who is allowed to prepare her own food. However recently (May 1999), the kitchen in which she used to cook has now been allocated to seventeen additional inmates. For Biba this has meant that she can no longer cook there. The fridge is full of food which has been there for days, the floor has not been cleaned in weeks and every health and safety regulation is being broken. Biba says:
"there's only one cleaner and she only comes once a week and there's only so much she can do. As for inspectors, the only inspectors we see are the ones who come here, talk, smile, drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and then go away."
The Asian women prisoners group is demanding that the Prison Authorities:
- Meet their legal obligation to provide Biba Sarkaria (and others in a similar situation) with the food she needs.
- Provide a response to Biba Sarkarias (fourth) application for parole
- Provide a response to her demand for an investigation into the racism at Cookhamwood prison.
Letters and faxes of protest should be sent to: Parole & Lifer Group, Terry McCarthy (Head of Parole Board), Abell House, John Islip Street, London SW1 4LH, or fax to: Jon Irving, Parole Unit, Room 126, Abell House, John Islip St, London SW1 4LH, Tel: 0171 217 5124 / 5216 / 3000.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State George Howarth, Minister Responsible for Prisons &i Probation, Fax 0171 273 2565.
The Home Secretary: Jack Straw, Fax: 0171 273 3965.
Asian Women Prisoners' Group, Londec, Instrument House, 205-217 Kings Cross Road, London WC1X 9DB, Tel: 0171-713-7907. Email [email protected].
Regular readers will know how US prisoners are used as virtual slave labour by many corporations. Right-wing politicians and the companies who run many of the prisons are understandably keen to ensure their literally captive labour force doesn't get too big for its boots.
So it is no surprise that a prisoner trying to organise a union among inmates in Missouri has come under attack. Jerome White-Bey has been told by prison superintendant Michael Kemna that not only is he not allowed to promote the union inside the prison, he can't do it outside either — whether by writing or having supporters publicise it.
As Jerome points out, the United States has a constitution to guarantee free speech, doesn't it? Protests to Michael Kemna, Superintendant, Crossroads Correctional Center, 1115 E Pence Road, Cameron Atob 64429 and Dora B Schriro, Director, Department of Corrections, 2729 Plaza Drive, PD Box 236, Jefferson City, MO 65102 USA.
Source - Albuquerque ABC
2300 Central Ave SE,
BOX 722 Albuquerque NM 87106, USA