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Prison Industry

Torture in the US Prison System: The Endless Punishment of Leonard Peltier

Torture in the US Prison System: The Endless Punishment of Leonard Peltier


    More than 20,000 inmates are caged in isolation in the United States at any one time. Originally designed as a temporary disciplinary action, solitary confinement has drifted into use as a long-term punishment. This act of inhumanity is a clear contradiction of the Eighth Amendment. During the Pelican Bay hunger strike that rippled into prisons across the country, a 66-year-old man with extreme medical needs, Leonard Peltier, was forced into "the hole" at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.

    Nightmarish as it is, what follows is fact.

King George III Won: Happy Fourth of July!

King George III Won: Happy Fourth of July!
By David Swanson

The Declaration of Independence is best remembered as a declaration of war, a war declared on the grounds that we wanted our own flag. The sheer stupidity and anachronism of the idea serves to discourage any thoughts about why Canada didn't need a bloody war, whether the U.S. war benefitted people outside the new aristocracy to whom power was transferred, what bothered Frederick Douglas so much about a day celebrating "independence," or what the Declaration of Independence actually said.

When you read the Declaration of Independence, it turns out to be an indictment of King George III for various abuses of power. And those abuses of power look fairly similar to abuses of power we happily permit U.S. presidents to engage in today, either as regards the people of this nation or the people of territories and nations that our military occupies today in a manner uncomfortably resembling Britain's rule over the 13 colonies.

Or perhaps I should say, a large portion of us take turns being happy or outraged depending on the political party with which the current president is identified.

The New Jim Crow: American Social Justice Tour

"The New Jim Crow: American Social Justice Tour" Featuring Professor Michelle Alexander

Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 6:30PM-8:00PM

Women's Civic Improvement Center, 3555 3rd Avenue, Sacramento, CA

A longtime civil rights advocate and litigator, Michelle Alexander won a 2005 Soros Justice Fellowship and now holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. Alexander served for several years as director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California, and subsequently directed the Civil Rights Clinics at Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor. Alexander is a former law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun on the US Supreme Court and has appeared as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. The New Jim Crow is her first book. [The following event is free admission to the public.]

March 11, 2010 DemocracyNow interview below

The New Jim Crow

Get Our Money Out of Prisons!

Get Our Money Out of Prisons!

Tell California Legislators that Simple Sentencing Reform Would Save the State $450 Million!

Please join the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Ella Baker Center in Sacramento on Monday, March 21, to demand that the State Legislature cut prison spending to protect important health and human services, including drug treatment, and education programs from further devastating budget cuts.

Rally at the State Capitol:
Monday, March 21

South Steps, California State Capitol, Sacramento

Free Lunch Provided

Go Ahead-- Blame the Governor

One of my favorite lines is:

"And all this from a guy whose exceptional health status when he came to America was due to socialized medicine."

Apparently it was good enough for him and the citizens of his country, but he does not think it is good enough for Californians.

Go Ahead-- Blame the Governor
by Sheila Kuehl

A Lame Duck Governor Fabricates A Hoped-For Legacy

After more than six years of carving up and flushing what used to be referred to as the California Dream, the Governor has looked around at the wreckage and decided to float the story that it wasn't his doing. Many have obediently picked up the narrative and amplified it through the press and online. The story, as set out, for instance, in the New York Times, goes: the Governor is a real independent, neither a rabid left-wing Democrat nor a salivating Tea Partier and, therefore, no one loves him any more. Somehow, even as he stands in the rubble of California, Arnold has spun this to be a good thing, when, instead, he is an embodiment of what Texas gadfly Jim Hightower meant when he said, "There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos."

NYT lauds the Gov. for tackling issues that have "bedeviled lawmakers for centuries". They conveniently skip, however, that announcing you are taking something on and getting anything done are two different things. He has, incredibly, managed to paint himself as the hapless victim of a stubborn legislature, when the opposite is true.

California's failed justice system exposed again. Yolo Cnty DA seeks life sentence for man who stole a $3.99 bag of cheese

Awesome! In a time of budget cuts, people going hungry, and without health care, Yolo Cnty is a tough on crime Barney Fife.

Ironic, since this comes not even a week after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy blasted the same justice system that locks people up at a cost of $32,500 per year

Yolo man's $3.99 theft of cheese could land him in jail for life

By Hudson Sangree

    A Yolo County man who put cheese down his trousers is facing a life sentence when he goes before a judge next month.

CATO Institute: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments

If you think "it can't happen here," click the pictures. P.S. That's the California State Capitol in the background of the 1st pic

CATO: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments

By Diane Cecilia Weber~CATO Institute [Report in PDF]


    One of the most alarming side effects of the federal government’s war on drugs is the militarization of law enforcement in America. There are two aspects to the militarization phenomenon. First, the American tradition of civil-military separation is breaking down as Congress assigns more and more law enforcement responsibilities to the armed forces. Second, state and local police officers are increasingly emulating the war-fighting tactics of soldiers. Most Americans are unaware of the militarization phenomenon simply because it has been creeping along imperceptibly for many years. ...


    What is clear — and disquieting — is that the lines that have traditionally separated the military mission from the police mission are getting badly blurred. Over the last 20 years Congress has encouraged the U.S. military to supply intelligence, equipment, and training to civilian police. That encouragement has spawned a culture of paramilitarism in American police departments. By virtue of their training and specialized armament, state and local police officers are adopting the tactics and mindset of their military mentors. The problem is that the actions and values of the police officer are distinctly different from those of the warrior. The job of a police officer is to keep the peace, but not by just any means. Police officers are expected to apprehend suspected law breakers while adhering to constitutional procedures. They are expected to use minimum force and to deliver suspects to a court of law. The soldier, on the other hand, is an instrument of war. In boot camp, recruits are trained to inflict maximum damage on enemy personnel. Confusing the police function with the military function can have dangerous consequences. As Albuquerque police chief Jerry Glavin has noted, “If [cops] have a mindset that the goal is to take out a citizen, it will happen.”8

    The lines that have traditionally separated the military mission from the police mission are getting badly blurred. Paramilitarism threatens civil liberties, constitutional norms, and the well-being of all citizens. Thus, the use of paramilitary tactics in everyday police work should alarm people of goodwill from across the political spectrum.

    This paper will examine the militarization of law enforcement at the local level, with particular emphasis on SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) units. The paper will conclude that the special skills of SWAT personnel and their military armaments are necessary only in extraordinary circumstances.

    The deployment of such units should therefore be infrequent.More generally, Congress should recognize that soldiers and police officers perform different functions. Federal lawmakers should discourage the culture of paramilitarism in police departments by keeping the military out of civilian law enforcement.

    A Brief History of the Relationship between the Military and Civilian Law Enforcement

    The use of British troops to enforce unpopular laws in the American colonies helped to convince the colonists that King George III and Parliament were intent on establishing tyranny.9

    The Declaration of Independence specifically refers to those practices, castigating King George for “quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us” and for “protecting [soldiers], by mock Trial, from Punishment, for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.” The colonists complained that the king “has kept among us, in Times of peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of, and superior to, the Civil Power.”

GOP spending a major player in California budget gap

Dan Walters: GOP spending a major player in California budget gap
By Dan Walters - - Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 22, 2008

Republicans are largely bystanders in a Legislature controlled by liberal Democrats – except when it comes to the state budget.

If they maintain discipline, the two-thirds budget vote requirement gives Republicans a pivotal role, one very evident in this year's game of political chicken over closing a $15 billion-plus deficit. But what kind of role?

Republicans posture as bulwarks against spending-crazy Democrats, but the hard facts prove otherwise. As a detailed chart published this week in The Sacramento Bee demonstrates, the two chief contributors to the state's chronic budget deficit have been spending that Republicans, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, championed.

Guilty till proven innocent

Guilty till proven innocent
Head Sacramento County public defender says the justice system is broken. Get used to it.

By R.V. Scheide -

Calipatria lies 574 miles south of Sacramento, a gritty desert outpost on the southeast side of the Salton Sea, not far from the Mexican border. The town’s singular claim to fame is its flagpole, the flag of which flaps in the breeze at sea level, 184 feet above Calipatria. Some 7000 souls live in this bleached out hellhole, counting the 4000 inmates at Calipatria State Prison.

A friend of mine recently returned from Calipatria, where she visited her son for the first time since he was sent to prison last fall. Last spring, the people of California made her son an offer he couldn’t refuse: Plead guilty to discharging a firearm during a robbery, or risk 25-to-life in open court for shooting a young woman in the leg. I was there in court the day the kid, still a teenager, copped the plea. The judge sentenced him to 22 years in prison. It was his first offense.