Friday, August 31, 2007

New from Germany

Hey all

here's a text we wrote about the last repression wave here in Germany.
Please spread it around and translate at will:)

The text is also available in italian (request at will).

anarchist greetings

abc berlin


What's going on in Germany?

- A short overlook about the last operations aimed to bring down the militant
resistance -

Once again within a few months we are forced to witness the dirty movements of
the BAW (General Federal Attorney): on the 31st of July, three comrades got
arrested near Berlin, allegedely after having placed some incendiary devices
under a few military trucks. A forth person has been arrested in his
accused of being one of the people who wrote the communqués of the
group. Three
other comrades are (at the moment) with free feet, but under
investigation. For
what exactly? Paragraph 129a, terrorist association: all of them are
accused of
belonging to the Militante Gruppe, a clandestine group active since 2001.
We borrow some words from the anti repression website Gipfelsoli in order to
clarify the happenings of the last three months.

This is the third of such operations within the last three months in Germany.
As of May 2007 there have been several raids following four investigative
procedures based on paragraph 129a in Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen, Strausberg and
Bad Oldesloe:
* On 9 May based on allegations of "forming a terrorist organisation for the
purposes of stopping the G8 summit" (under various group names, 18 persons) as
well as "membership in a terrorist organisation (militante gruppe, 3 persons,
based on attacks which took place since 2001).
* On 13 -19 June based on allegations of "forming a terrorist organisation
(under several group names, e.g. AK Origami). The allegations focus on arson
attacks on vehicles belonging to the military and to a company
involved in arms
manufacturing in Glinde (2002), Bad Oldesloe and Berlin (2004 and 2006).
* On 31 July based on allegations of "forming a terrorist organisation"
(Militante Gruppe, 4 persons arrested, 3 others searched and under
The federal criminal bureau explained several times to the press that the
following house searches had neither anything to do with the raids on
9 May nor
with the anti-G8 movement. However, as previous experience in 129-related
investigations and trials has shown, search warrants can be obtained based on
construed "research findings". This allows the authorities to gather
information on the radical left movement. In this way, these "findings"
contribute to investigative procedures in respect to future attacks; "facts"
which are supposedly "linked" with G8. Only 2% 129a cases lead to conviction.
The investigative files on the 9 May raids alone add up to about 80,000 pages,
about 200 notebooks. Apart from the raids, dozens of phone-tapping
permits have
been issued, as well as bugging cars and meetings. A witness who supposedly
identified a "suspicious person" after the arson attack on Thomas Straubhaar's
car turned 80 photos in to the federal criminal bureau.
Some of the persons concerned are accused of initiating a "militant group"
against the G8 2007. These allegations are based on telephone conversations
where members of the "Global Agriculture" working group spoke of "stepping up"
the campaign. The accused became suspects after visiting the web sites of the
companies they are criticising or having spoken on the phone about the
locations of the companies. This campaign would necessitate IT experts who
specialise in setting up mailing lists, servers and managing web sites.
A large part of the files consist of analyse of "self-incriminating writings."
This entails comparing how sentences are formulated, punctuation, grammatical
errors such as "weakness in the genitive case," or whether letters are
capitalized. Additional factors looked at are where the date is placed (right
or left of the page), written with or without zeros, use of words such as
"imperialism" or "precarity", references made by the author to particular
campaigns and left groups, whether the spelling is "dissent!", "dissent" or
"Dissent" (G8 or G-8 ) etc. Comparisons are also made between texts
for similar
expressions such as "raking in the money", "IWF", etc.
After every analysis a profile is drafted of potential authors of the
text: city
of origin, political affiliations, educational background, and position of the
author within their political spectrum. Some of the texts are subsequently
attributed to specific persons.
Data is compiled on the accused house mates, with whom s/he has phoned, phone
and internet service providers, at which demonstrations the accused was
detained, or which collaborative projects the person is working on.
Much of the data is not intended for exclusive use in the investigation of a
particular case. On the contrary, it appears that inquiries for further
information collection regardless of context were placed by the BKA at the
Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz),
political "crime unit" of the BKA. In any case, the circumstances clearly
indicate that the authorities have probed extensive information on the radical
left and anti-G8 movements since the beginning. Surveillance permits for the
radio cells in and around Mehringhof (autonomous left center in
Berlin) and the
HWP high school were requested for at least the first two "dissent!" network
meetings in Hamburg and Berlin, both of which were attended 250 persons. In
this vein, the authorities probably have logged every mobile phone which
registered with the local network there. The presence of informants at the
meeting itself also comes as no surprise.
All in all, after being lost in the darkness for long time, while the
campaign against the G8" (a 2 year long militant campaign spreaded all over
Germany, carried on from different automous groups, involving hundreds of
arsons and property destruction attacks) was striking hard especially in
northern Germany, repressive forces did try to put an end to this organising
these frame ups, before and after the G8 summit.
It was their attempt to intimidate militant and uncompromised
resistance, but it
did not really succeeded, neither in undermining the solidarity inside the
different areas of the autonoumous movement, nor in stopping the militant

So far a short summary of some facts.
What interestes us even more, is to spend few words about solidarity.
A positive thing to be noticed, is the good solidarity which developed
immediately after the first raids in May.
On the same night, demonstration took place everywhere, in Germany
but not only,
with Hamburg and Berlin on top of the cake.
Hamburg saw a spontaneous demonstration with more than 2000 people, with some
clashes afterwards, and Berlin brought up to 5000 people on the streets, all
under the motto ?We are all 129a!, ?We are all Militante Gruppe?.
As well, many direct actions followed the days after, among them one by the
Militante Gruppe which torched two police vans.
The goal of repression forces, to intimidate any radical resistance against G8
and capitalism, did not worked out as planned.
Above all, very few voices (mostly heads of Attac and such, but not
their basis)
were distancing themselves from the people under investigation or the militant
resistance. Also a very positive sign.

As well, some comrades in northern Germany have been already ?invited? from
the Federal General Attorney (BAW) to make declarations about their comrades
under investigation for the 13 ? 19 June operation.
The first person who received this ?invitation? went with other 40 solidal
comrades to the cops, declaring she refuses to declare anything, and ready to
face its consequences.
In Germany if you are called as witness and you refuse to testify, you can be
held up to 6 months in detention. The last case happened with the infamous
Magdeburg trial, where several people refuse to testify against their comrades
and one of them sat almost 6 months in prison following his refusal to

Back to this last strike against the alleged Militante Gruppe, it is
a fact that
three comrades are now sitting in jail under the usual heavy conditions. From
the very beginning on, many expressions of solidarity have been spoken
especially in regard to one of the prisoners. He was not arrested within an
alleged arson attack, and he works at the university, so he has a certain kind
of status in the eyes of many people. It does not seem like a difficult thing
for most people to give him solidarity as a criminalized teacher, victim of
some dodgey police frame up. And we, of course give him all our solidarity as
In the meanwhile, as we are writing this text, we are able to welcome this
comrade out of prison!
He came out after paying a caution (bail), but it is yet unclear if he will be
able to remain outside until the possible beginning of a trial.
The federal criminal attorney declared already that they will fight
against the
decision of letting him out.
On the other side, for a large number of people, such as the normal citizens,
university teachers and wannabe politicians within our movement, it is a way
more an undefendable thing to show support for those who perhaps
enterprised an
arson attack against some death machines of the German army.
Some people fear to be categorized as MG supporters or simply as ?ready to use
violence? from State forces, others condemn absolutely any form of violence,
even the one against mere things.
Generally some prefere to pay the price of not talking too much about
the three
comrades, because then it would result a difficulty to keep all the
aforementioned different supporters on the same boat.

We want to join the (many) voices out of the chorus and reclaim the
need to show
open support for the ones who might even found ?guilty? of some illegal
We do not distinguish between innocents and guilties: this category do not
belong to our anarchist background, neither we think should belong to any
sincere left radical and similars.
We must be capable of expressing our full support for anyone who is fighting
with his/her favourite means against this present society, let them feel they
are not alone and that we stand with them and for their eventual actions; of
course, this solidarity would not exclude a permanent, critical
debate with our
Therefore it is extremely important to not let ourselves be split between the
usual ?good? and ?bad?, the normal game played by the State and
Capital. It is important to show a clear and critical support to all our
imprisoned comrades, without any distinction.
And we are happy to see that there are several voices screaming the same, to
tell the truth well more than expected, a good sign, as well as
witnessing many
solidarity actions within the last couple of days.
Indeed, two rallies have been held in front of the prison where the
comrades are
being held, just as soon as they got transferred there, both were quite well
attended with an average of 300 comrades; but, even before this, one night
following the arrests, a car of the federal constitutional court got
torched in
A few days later an attempted arson against a justice building, in
Berlin again,
threw the cops and media into a panic.
Last weekend several cars belonging to companies involved within the nuclear
transport got burned, and among them a car property of the German army.
Meanwhile, a well attended solidarity meeting took place, many calls to
solidarity have been spread, leaflets distributed, banners dropped and money
To make it clear again: we do not let ourselves be frighten, but rather we
choose to struggle further than sitting home merely writing postcards to the
prisoners (although this is a very important part of our struggle as well).
It is also worh noting that the participation of reformists groups
such as Attac
bases and large part of the university world are also within the solidarity
At the Attac summer camp, 400 people made a spontaneous demonstration
the arrests, chanting ?we are all terrorists? (!).
This is probably just a papertiger origined by the fact that one of the
defendant is a sociologue, it is well worth to notice that perhaps some other
people around began to ask themselves a few more radical questions about the
actual state of things.

However, this occasion has been used to propose a general campaign for the
abolition of the paragraph 129a and b, and to go on the offensive generally
against social control: a large demonstration, planned also from reformists
groups for the 22nd of september, will see the appearance of a large,
autonomous block against social control and the abolition of the
infamous paragraph.
The extended usage of this paragraph seeks the criminalization of our
resistance, and in countries like Spain and especially Italy, where it is used
virtually every two months, it has become a scary normality.
Are we heading in the same direction?
As we wrote once in our brochure ?Repression against Italian anarchists?, it
is just a matter of time until every friendship will be catalogued under this

We repeat it again, for us there is only one terrorist organization,
and that is
the State.
Therefore it seems a big contradiction how people who actively oppose it are
compared to one of the main organization of death and terrorism, such as the
army, are being now called terrorists!
Something everybody can reflect on.

In closing, we do not have to forget that the problem is not only
represented by
the imprisonment of the ones close to us, but even more by the
existence of the
prison itself.
The existence of those grey walls, is a threat to us all and we must fight for
its destruction, day by day.

Freedom for Axel, Florian, and Oli!
For the suspension of all paragraph 129a and b inquiries!
Freedom for all!
Destroy all prisons!

Adresses of the imprisoned comrades (the third prisoner wishes his
adress not to
appear on public list for now):

Oliver Rast
Buchnummer 2355/07
c/o Ermittlungsrichter Hebenstreit
Herrenstraße 45
76133 Karlsruhe

Florian Ludwig
Buchnummer 2356/07
c/o Ermittlungsrichter Hebenstreit
Herrenstraße 45
76133 Karlsruhe

someuseful links:

ABC Berlin

Eric McDavid Alert - Less than 2 weeks to trial!


Dear friends and supporters,

Eric's trial is less than two weeks away and we want to make sure you are
up to date on everything that is happening.

On Thursday, August 23, Eric had his trial confirmation hearing. Trial is
on for September 10, but the first day will just be jury selection.
Opening arguments will start either the 11th or 12th. They are telling us
that trial will probably last three weeks, but we'll probably only be in
court Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. We MIGHT be in court on some
Thursdays and Fridays, but probably not. Also, Judge England will be out
of town the entire week of the 17th, so we will not be in court at all
that week. Essentially what this means is that trial will probably run
into the first week of October. Please keep these dates in mind if you are
planning on attending any of the trial. Again, please let us know if you
are planning on being here for trial, and make sure you come dressed
appropriately for court. We'll keep you posted as more information becomes

After a quick surge of incoming funds, we were able to meet the newest
matching funds in less than 24 hours! Thanks to everyone who helped make
that happen. However, things seem to have leveled off again and we now
only have two weeks to raise the remaining $1300 to meet our goal of
$15,000. This is necessary to ensure that all of Eric's legal fees are
paid. Again, if everyone receiving this alert would donate just $20 we
could easily reach our goal. Please visit and donate
today. Time is running short!

Also, if you are considering coming to trial in September and you need a
place to stay, we need to know when you will be here ASAP so we can begin
making arrangements.

Thanks to all of you. Your support and love has been invaluable over
these last 19 1/2 months.


Friday 31: Benefit movie showing for “Green Scare” defendant Briana Waters

Portland, OR: Benefit for Green Scare Defendant Briana Waters - video
showing of forest defense documentary

Support green scare defendant Briana Waters by coming to see WATCH, the
inspiring documentary of the first successful tree sit in America which
was produced by Briana Waters.
August 31st 2007
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Red and Black Cafe - 2138 SE Division
Sliding scale entry fee. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Hosted by Stumptown Earth First!


About Briana Waters:
Briana Waters is a devoted, loving mother and partner, a dedicated
musician and violin teacher, and a caring friend to many. It has come as
quite a shock to everyone who knows her that she has been wrongly accused
of participating in a politically motivated arson at the University of
Washington. These charges carry a draconian mandatory minimum sentence of
35 years in prison should she be convicted. Briana pled not guilty to the
charges, first brought on March 15, 2006, and was released pending trial.
Her trial is currently scheduled to begin on February 4, 2008. For more
information, see:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Kenneth Foster's Sentence Commuted!

In Rare Move, Texas Gov. Commutes Inmate's Death Sentence

Foster Was to Die Today for Murder, Even Though He Never Pulled the Trigger

By WILLIAM MARRA ABC News Aug. 30, 2007

Kenneth Foster, the man sentenced to die this evening even though he did not pull the trigger that killed Michael LaHood Jr. in 1996, was spared today by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Perry said in a statement. "I am concerned about Texas law that allows capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine."

Foster will now only serve a life sentence. A spokeswoman for the Governor said that Foster will be eligible for parole beginning in 2036. He had been tried for the murder alongside Mauriceo Brown, who shot LaHood after attempting to rob him. Brown was executed for the murder last year.

Perry's decision came about an hour after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-1 to recommend that Perry commute the sentence.

Foster was set to be executed for LaHood's murder. He did not actually pull the trigger that killed the man, but was convicted under a Texas law that makes an accomplice to murder subject to the death penalty.

Hampton had told earlier this month that he was not hopeful that Foster's appeal would be granted. "The odds are extremely low," he said then.

Foster's wife, Tasha Narez-Foster, was breathless and ecstatic after she heard news that clemency was granted.

"As soon as I realized what was happening I was crying&.I just just crying and now everything is going to be fine," Narez-Foster told "Right now we're just going to buy a bottle of champagne, open it up, and celebrate."

Though she has not talked to Foster since news of Perry's clemency was handed down, she was with him when he heard that the Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended clemency.

"Kenneth, his head fell to the table, he was hiding his head in his hands. It was just, oh I cannot begin to express what we're feeling right now," she exclaimed.

Foster was on death row today stemming from an incident in the early morning of Aug. 15, 1996. Foster, who was 19 at the time, had been driving around drunk and high on marijuana with three friends, committing armed robberies. At about 2 a.m., Foster's passenger, Mauriceo Brown, jumped out of the car, approached LaHood as he stood with his girlfriend, and tried to rob him. With Foster sitting in the car about 80 feet away, Brown shot and killed LaHood.

Foster has testified that he did not know that Brown -- who was executed last year -- was going to kill LaHood. Foster and Brown were tried together, and prosecutors charged that Foster, as an accomplice, could be held capitally liable under Texas' "law of parties."

"He was guilty. He was driving that car, he helped set that up, he was reaping the rewards. It was all of them working together on it," Susan Reed, the district attorney of Bexar County, where the case was prosecuted, told earlier this month.

Hampton agrees that Foster should be held liable for the crimes he did commit that evening. But he maintains that executing someone who was at the scene of a murder based on what they were thinking -- specifically, whether Foster knew a murder was going to occur -- is a miscarriage of justice.

Texas is the only state in the country where a person may be executed if a murder he or she did not anticipate or plan occurs during the course of another crime they committed, Hampton said.

Foster's wife, Narez-Foster, said this morning, before the pardon had been handed down, that her husband is "in very high spirits." She said she would see Kenneth in the afternoon, and that they were hopeful he would win his appeal.

"He said that he is very hopeful. He's thinking that everything is looking good. He is absolutely not sad. He's doing alright so far," Narez-Foster, sounding calm and composed, said today.

In an interview with The Associated Press before the pardon was handed down today, Foster -- who has become a poet and activist since entering prison, in addition to getting married earlier this year -- said that his actions that night were reprehensible. But Foster has maintained that he does not deserve to die for his actions.

"It was wrong," Foster told the AP. "I don't want to downplay that. I was wrong for that. I was too much of a follower. I'm straight up about that."

Governor Perry's Statement

Aug. 30, 2007
Perry Commutes Death Sentence

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today commuted the death sentence of Kenneth Eugene Foster of San Antonio to life imprisonment after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (TBPP) recommended such action.

On May 6, 1997, Foster was sentenced to death for his role in the 1996 capital murder of Michael LaHood. Foster sought to have his death sentence commuted to a life sentence arguing that he did not shoot the victim, but merely drove the car in which that the actual killer was riding. In addition, Foster was tried along side the actual killer, Maurecio Brown, and the jury that convicted Foster also considered punishment for both him and his co-defendant in the same proceeding.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster?s sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Gov. Perry said. "I am concerned about Texas law that allows capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine."

The TBPP voted 6-1 to recommend commutation, and the governor signed the commutation papers Thursday morning.

The governor's action means Foster's sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment as soon as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice can process this change.

Not Guilty fur farm verdict

ELP Information Bulletin (30th August 2007)

Dear friends

ELP has just received good news about an Austrian animal rights
activist being found Not Guilty by a Finnish Court after the activist
was caught filming inside a fur farm.

Below is a press release about the case:

Austrian activist found not guilty in fur farm trial in Finland

Verdict puts a stop to the criminalisation of legitimate animal
rights activism,
the activist says

In autumn 2003, 3 Austrian animal rights activists went to film fur farms in
Finland in order to inform the public on the conditions in these facilities.
The activists were attacked by fur farmers and arrested by police, held 3 days
in police custody and questioned. A Finnish activist suspected of
aiding the 3 had his home raided by police. Media and authorities brandished
the activistsas dangerous terrorists and the arrests as an important victory
to prevent a threat to national security. Eventually, two men were charged
with intrusion and spying on fur farms.

On 20th August 2007 the appeal court convened in Vaasa. The 3 judges heard
all the evidence of the activist explaining how he filmed on the fur farms and
delivered their verdict today: not guilty!

Dr. Martin Balluch, the Austrian activist found not guilty today, comments:
„For the democratic process in society to reach a decision on the
issue of fur farming, it is vital that the public is fully informed on what
fur farming means for the animals involved. In Austria, in 1998 Parliament
banned fur farming and all farms were closed down. For a similar democratic
decision in Finland and elsewhere, film footage of the conditions on fur farms
must be made public. We did nothing but provide this service to the community
– and were attacked by fur farmers, arrested by police and slandered by media and
authorities. The strategy of criminalising legitimate protest and investigative
work to make the conditions on fur farms public, is truly undemocratic and
should worry anyone believing in the freedom of speech and in the democratic
process. This verdict should now put a stop to this vendetta against people
being concerned about how society treats animals in their name.”

And he continues: “The Finnish tax payer will have put about 30.000 Euro into
this case. And that for no other reason than to stop pictures of Finnish fur
farms going public, i.e. for preventing the public to see the truth. This
verdict should send a clear message to the authorities and to fur farmers: it
is not just necessary and legitimate to investigate and publisize the
conditions on fur farms, it is fully legal as well. Those concerned citizens,
who sacrifice their valuable time and resources on behalf of society, to get
the evidence to trigger the democratic decision process on whether
certain ways of treating animals should be banned or not, must be applauded, not
harassed and threatened. Their actions are important contributions for our
society to develop more compassionate, caring and respecting forms of relationships
with animals. I should hope that the police have learned their lesson and change
their prejudices against animal rights activists.”


Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
BM Box 2407

Criminal justice England

It's time for politicians to take a radical approach to criminal justice

By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor, THE INDEPENDENT

Published: 30 August 2007

Britain's prison system is on the verge of collapse. Our crumbling jails have reached breaking point, prisoners are being released early and now, for the first time in their history, the men and women paid to guard the inmates have left their posts.
It's a desperate situation made worse by the grim truth that prison has failed to stop inmates re-offending. And suicide rates remain alarmingly high, a fact brought home by the death of another inmate yesterday.
How long can politicians continue to tell us that the only way to avert this crisis is by building more prisons? Britain already imprisons more people per capita than any other country in Western Europe and if the trend continues the number of inmates will pass 100,000 in the next decade.
Labour's response is to pledge 10,000 more prison places by 2012. The Tories have committed to using prison ships and disused army camps so that all inmates see out their sentences.
For many years Britain's penal reformers have been warning of where these increasingly draconian policies will lead.
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, says we are using a Victorian invention to tackle a 21st-century problem: "Prison does nothing to deter offending. Yet our obsession with placing punishment... over cutting crime has led to gross overcrowding."
Justice, the human rights group, says it is impossible to have a sensible debate about penal reform because it has been become bogged down in "electioneering rhetoric and swamped by legislative hyperactivity".
This week an ICM poll showed that only 40 per cent of the public thought the government should aim to send more criminals to prison, against 57 per cent who want to see other, non-custodial forms of punishment.
Now that politicians can see that radical alternatives to prison may no longer alienate the electorate they have little excuse for not trying something different.
An impossible task for a beleaguered institution

Published: 30 August 2007

Yesterday saw the first national walkout by members of the Prison Officers' Association in its 68-year history. The strike was, on the face of it, about pay. But there is more to it than that. The dispute is an alarming barometer of the state of the nation's prisons where staff morale is at rock-bottom.
As ever with the issue of prisons, the fact of low morale and the reasons for it should take no one by surprise. Earlier this month a national ballot among prison officers revealed 87 per cent ready to take industrial action. This time last year a strike was only narrowly averted. And statistics on stress, sickness and staff turnover have long revealed a dispirited workforce. That is because they are asked to do an impossible task in conditions of under-funding, overcrowding, and in a system which has never resolved whether it is about punishment or rehabilitation.
David Cameron yesterday emphasised the punishment agenda, in launching what the party's right wing heralded as his most significant policy pledges yet. He promised that a Conservative government would build or create more prisons, using prison ships and disused army camps. It would also abolish early release and make convicts serve their full sentences.
But the grim fact is that there are already too many people in the nation's jails. And in 10 years of government Labour has offered no new solutions, despite Tony Blair's pledge to address the causes of crime. Large numbers of people are imprisoned for comparatively trivial offences. Many prisoners are addicted to drugs or mentally ill and would be better treated elsewhere.
Building more prisons cannot be the answer. In the past decade 12 new jails have opened and most are already overcrowded. A result is that record numbers of inmates are committing suicide, staff sickness is higher than ever, drug use is widespread and purposeful activity such as education, employment or exercise for each prisoner is declining. Many prisoners are locked up idle for most of the day. Some prisons have even had to re-introduce slopping out.
We need to send fewer people to prison. The Sentencing Guidelines Council should gear its work towards reducing sentence lengths, cutting the number of short-term prisoners and countering the sentence-inflation built into the present system. The police and Crown Prosecution Service must divert more low-risk offenders from prosecution. Magistrates should cut the numbers on remand. Politicians must seek alternatives to prison for the large numbers of offenders who are no real danger to the community. The prison service must seek a new flexibility in mixing prison and community punishment in a single sentence – with halfway houses, weekend prisons, individual curfews, exclusion orders and other innovations.
Inside jails we need better education and drug rehabilitation programmes. Half of all burglary, vehicle crime and shoplifting is committed by drug-users, yet very few prisoners ever receive help with their drug problems, despite a host of government pledges. Half of all prisoners have the reading age of an 11-year-old or below. Yet although it famously costs £38,000 a year to keep someone in prison – sending them to Eton would be cheaper – less than 3 per cent of that goes on education. Small wonder that 58 per cent of all prisoners are reconvicted of a further offence within two years of leaving prison.
There is more to justice than locking people up. Prisoners are often multiply disadvantaged, in education, moral training and lack of family support. Addressing this would go a long way to reducing re-offending. And we would need to send far fewer people to prison in the first place.

Daniel McGowan has moved!

From: Family + Friends of Daniel McG <>
Date: August 30, 2007 9:27:06 AM EDT

I found out today that Daniel is no longer at MDC Brooklyn. I feel relieved that he is FINALLY moving on (it's been 88 days since sentencing, NOT 30 like probation had suggested in court) but it's also bittersweet, as today was visiting day and his niece was going to visit for the first time. Such is life, I suppose.

So, as of this morning he is at FTC Oklahoma City.

You can write to him at this address now:
P.O. BOX 898801

Here's hoping his travels are as short and painless as possible.

Thanks for your support,

Daniel McGowan is an environmental and social justice activist. He was charged in federal court on many counts of arson, property destruction and conspiracy, all relating to two incidents in Oregon in 2001. Until recently, Daniel was offered two choices by the government: cooperate by informing on other people, or go to trial and face life in prison. His only real option was to plead not guilty until he could reach a resolution of the case that permitted him to honor his principles. As a result of months of litigation and negotiation, Daniel was able to admit to his role in these two incidents, while not implicating or identifying any other people who might have been involved. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison on June 4, 2007 and began serving his time on July 2, 2007.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sept. 23rd-El Grito de Lares March NYC

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign and
ProLibertad Hotline: 718-601-4751

Join us Sunday, September 23rd in a march and rally for Puerto Rican
independence and self-determination.

Puerto Rico is the oldest colony on the planet, first invaded by
Spain in 1493, then in 1898 by the United States. After 109 years, it
continues under U.S. colonial rule.

Within those 500 plus years of invasion and occupation, the Puerto
Rican people have been engaged in anti-imperialist/ anti-colonial
resistance that continues to this day.

The Significance of the September 23rd date
September 23rd, 1868 is traditionally celebrated and commemorated as
the birth of the Puerto Rican nation, when Puerto Ricans rose up
against Spanish colonial rule in a revolt known as El Grito de Lares.
By 1898, Puerto Rico had achieved a form of autonomous self-rule,
which came to an end later that year with the United States invasion
of the island during the Spanish- American War. Puerto Rico has been
under the political rule of the United States ever since and has
continued to struggle throughout that time for its independence and

Well aware of this date's significance to the independence movement,
on September 23rd, 2005, U.S. FBI agents assassinated Filiberto Ojeda
Rios. Comandante Filiberto, who founded el Ejercito Popular Boricua
(the Puerto Rican People’s Army) – Los Macheteros, was a revered
revolutionary leader of the Puerto Rican liberation struggle. The
assassination of Filiberto on this date was a clear attempt to kill
the spirit of the ongoing Puerto Rican liberation struggle.

Why the UN location?
In spite of their attempt to kill our spirit, the FBI assassination
of Ojeda Rios served to rally additional support for the independence
movement. Since his death, the United Nations Special Committee on
Decolonization voted unanimously on a resolution calling for the
Decolonization of Puerto Rico. This resolution, in addition to
several declarations made on the colonial situation of the island
reiterates: “the Puerto Rican people constitute a Latin American and
Caribbean nation that has its own unequivocal national identity.” If
picked up by the UN General Assembly the Puerto Rican status question
will be addressed in September of 2008. This historical decision
would put Puerto Rico’s status issue on the UN agenda for the first
time since 1953. The September 23rd march will rally national and
international support so that the United Nations will make it a
priority to resolve the colonial situation in Puerto Rico once and
for all, through its natural right to be a free nation.

What, when and where?:
On Sunday, September 23rd of 2007:

12PM Begin gathering at Times Square (Broadway between 41st & 42nd)
1PM: Begin marching towards the United Nations
2PM: Rally at the UN- Dag Hammarskjold Plaza featuring speakers from
Puerto Rican and ally communities and live hip hop and bomba

For more information and march route/ program details visit:


Monday, August 27, 2007

Three Finnish Animal Rights Prisoners

Urgent ELP! Bulletin (27th of August 2007)

Dear friends

Today two Finnish activists were remanded into prison today on animal
rights related charges. A third person, who went to the police
station to see if they were okay, was also arrested although no one
knows on what grounds this third arrest happened. This third person
may also be remanded into custody!

All three people wish to remain anonymous, but would welcome messages
of support. Therefore please send urgent messages of support to:

Anonymous Prisoner A
Anonymous Prisoner B
Anonymous Prisoner C

Via the e-mail address

ELP will bring you more news on this breaking story as we receive it.


Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
BM Box 2407

Belgium ELP Support Network

North American ELP Support Network

New Itoiz Dam prisoner

Urgent ELP! Bulletin (27th August 2007)

Dear friends

Long term supporters of ELP will be aware of the Itoiz dam action in
Spain, where back in the late 1990s anonymous eco-activists sabotaged
the construction site of the controversial Itoiz dam causing so much
damage the construction was delayed by over a year. One of the
things the activists did was cut the cabbles of the machines which
took the dam wall blocks to the top of the dam.

As ELP reported at the time, following the action, eight men, who
were all linked to a lawful campaign against the construction, were
accused of involvement in this action. Despite being innocent all
eight feared they wouldn't get a fair trial so all eight went
underground. However despite not having their suspects in detention
that didn't stop the Spanish police who held a trial for the eight
men in their abscense. And surprisingly enough, as the eight weren't
there to explain their innocence, all eight were found guilty and
sentenced to four years and 10 months imprisonment.

As ELP supporters will be aware, over the following years a small
number of the Itoiz Dam suspects have been caught by the police and
thrown into prison.

The latest Itoiz Dam suspect to be captured is JULIO VILLANUEVA. He
was arrested ten days ago on the 17th of August 2007.

Please send urgent letters of support to:



British Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network
BM Box 2407

Belgium ELP Support Network

North American ELP Support Network

Katrina messages from political prisoners

The International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will take place in New Orleans from 8/29-9/2 sponsored by the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund, The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the National Conference of Black Laywers, the U.S. Human Rights Network and Common Ground Relief. Malik Rahim of Common Ground would like to provide a venue for comments from political prisoners about the victimization and criminalization of marginalized residents of New Orleans as well as any message of support they may want to share. If you're visiting or talking to prisoners that may want to be part of this historic tribunal, ask them to call Prison Radio at (415) 648-4505 and they will tape their message of solidarity"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Anarchist linked to local property crimes§ion_id=559&story_id=13801

Jeff Humphrey
Jeff Humphrey / KXLY4 Reporter
Last updated: Friday, August 24th, 2007 07:06:38 PM

Anarchy grafitti
The FBI has accused Travis Riehl of vandalizing a pair of recruiting stations, including spraypainting this window with the words "Leave us alone" and an anarchy symbol.

Related Videos:

FBI targets self-proclaimed anarchist for allegedly damaging federal property
SPOKANE -- In one of the first property crimes connected to Spokane’s growing anarchist movement, a grand jury indicted a Spokane man for vandalizing a pair of military recruiting stations in the city.
In October of 2005, someone threw a rock through the Air National Guard’s window and spraypainted the words “leave us alone” and an anarchy symbol on another window at the North Washington recruiting station.
Though the vandalism occurred in the middle of the night with no witnesses around, police recovered a paint can at the scene and were able to trace fingerprints on it to self-proclaimed anarchist Travis Riehl.
Riehl is a member of Spokane Lack of Action Collective (SLAC), a group that believes some non-violent property crimes are an acceptable form of getting people’s attention.
“We feel that corporations and logos and things like that that we are bombarded with, and ideologies and traditions, are all entrapping us and keeping us stagnant as a society,” Riehl states. “And we fell that atypical actions kind of break the spell that holds on people; we're trying to wake people up.”
Predictably, however, the FBI doesn’t share the same sentiments, and attempting to find the person responsible for breaking the law, they found plenty of evidence linking Riehl to the vandalism.
Court documents show that, in the days after the recruiting center was vandalized, early morning photos of the damage appeared on SLAC’s myspace page, with the date stamp on the photos matching the date an army recruiting center on the South Hill was also vandalized.
The FBI also determined that the pictures were taken by a Fuji Film Finepix 2600 digital camera and, after obtaining a federal warrant, agents recovered the same model camera from Riehl's North Spokane home.
As part of their investigation, the FBI – who handled the case since the Recruiting Station is considered federal property – secretly recorded Riehl inside his home. On the tapes, he could be found admitting responsibility for posting the pictures of the damaged recruiting stations.
Riehl also said he knows the people who set a Humvee on fire at a Liberty Lake car dealership back in 2004.
The Earth Liberation Front later claimed responsibility for the attack, but anarchists say a pro-environment, anti authoritarian philosophy is an important part of their platform.
"You can say a lot of the ideas would be anti-government," Riehl says, "But we would probably prefer that the idea is portrayed as pro self-government. We think people have the right and ability to govern themselves."
On advice from his attorney, Riehl would not discuss his upcoming trial, which gets underway in October.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WBAI Interview on Prison Legal News Public Records Litigation and more

This is an interview I did recently on WBAI in New York about PLN’s public records litigation on the Law and Disorder show, it is fairly wideranging and also touches on some topics like prison privatization, lack of accountability and transparency, etc. you can click on the link and listen to the show as well as download it. It aired on August 20, 2007.

Paul Wright, Editor

Prison Legal News

972 Putney Rd. # 251

Brattleboro, VT 05301


Seattle Office:

Prison Legal News

2400 NW 80th St. # 148

Seattle, WA 98117


Jailing Nation: How Did Our Prison System Become Such a Nightmare?

By Daniel Lazare, The Nation

Posted on August 20, 2007, Printed on August 22, 2007

How can you tell when a democracy is dead? When concentration camps spring up and everyone shivers in fear? Or is it when concentration camps spring up and no one shivers in fear because everyone knows they're not for "people like us" (in Woody Allen's marvelous phrase) but for the others, the troublemakers, the ones you can tell are guilty merely by the color of their skin, the shape of their nose or their social class?

Questions like these are unavoidable in the face of America's homegrown gulag archipelago, a vast network of jails, prisons and "supermax" tombs for the living dead that, without anyone quite noticing, has metastasized into the largest detention system in the advanced industrial world. The proportion of the US population languishing in such facilities now stands at 737 per 100,000, the highest rate on earth and some five to twelve times that of Britain, France and other Western European countries or Japan. With 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has close to a quarter of the world's prisoners, which, curiously enough, is the same as its annual contribution to global warming.

With 2.2 million people behind bars and another 5 million on probation or parole, it has approximately 3.2 percent of the adult population under some form of criminal-justice supervision, which is to say one person in thirty-two. For African-Americans, the numbers are even more astonishing. By the mid-1990s, 7 percent of black males were behind bars, while the rate of imprisonment for black males between the ages of 25 and 29 now stands at one in eight.

While conservatives have spent the past three or four decades bemoaning the growth of single-parent families, there is a very simple reason some 1.5 million American children are fatherless or (less often) motherless: Their parents are locked up. Because they are confined for the most part in distant rural prisons, moreover, only about one child in five gets to visit them as often as once a month.

What's that you say? Who cares whether a bunch of "rapists, murderers, robbers, and even terrorists and spies," as Republican Senator Mitch McConnell once characterized America's prison population, get to see their kids? In fact, surprisingly few denizens of the American gulag have been sent away for violent crimes. In 2002 just 19 percent of the felony sentences handed down at the state level were for violent offenses, and of those only about 5 percent were for murder. Nonviolent drug offenses involving trafficking or possession (the modern equivalent of rum-running or getting caught with a bottle of bathtub gin) accounted for 31 percent of the total, while purely economic crimes such as burglary and fraud made up an additional 32 percent. If the incarceration rate continues to rise and violent crime continues to drop, we can expect the nonviolent sector of the prison population to expand accordingly.

A normal society might lighten up in such circumstances. After all, if violence is under control, isn't it time to come up with a more humane way of dealing with a dwindling number of miscreants? But America is not a normal country and only grows more punitive.

It has also been extremely reluctant to face up to the cancer in its midst. Several of the leading Democratic candidates, for example, have recently come out against the infamous 100-to-1 ratio that subjects someone carrying ten grams of crack to the same penalty as someone caught with a kilo of powdered cocaine. Senator Joe Biden has actually introduced legislation to eliminate the disparity -- without, however, acknowledging his role as a leading drug warrior back in the 1980s, when he sponsored the bill that set it in stone in the first place. At a recent forum at Howard University, Hillary Clinton promised to "deal" with the disparity as well, although it would have been nice if she had done so back in the '90s, when, during the first Clinton Administration, the prison population was soaring by some 50 percent.

Although he is not running this time around, Jesse Jackson recently castigated Dems for their hesitancy in addressing "failed, wasteful, and unfair drug policies" that have sent "so many young African-Americans" to jail. Yet Jackson forgot to mention his own drug-war past when, as a leading hardliner, he specifically called for "stiffer prison sentences" for black drug users and "wartime consequences" for smugglers. "Since the flow of drugs into the US is an act of terrorism, antiterrorist policies must be applied," he declared in a 1989 interview, a textbook example of how the antidrug rhetoric of the late twentieth century helped pave the way for the "global war on terror" of the early twenty-first.

In other words, cowardice and hypocrisy abound. Fortunately, a small number of academics and at least one journalist have begun training an eye on America's growing prison crisis. Since there is more than enough injustice to go around, each has zeroed in on different aspects of the phenomenon -- on the political and economic consequences of stigmatizing so many young people for life, on the racial consequences of disproportionately punishing young black males and on the sheer moral horror of needlessly locking away real, live human beings in supermax prisons that are little more than high-tech dungeons. Their findings, to make a long story short, are that the damage cannot be reduced to a simple matter of so many person-years of lost time. To the contrary, the effects promise to multiply for years to come.

In American Furies Sasha Abramsky, a Sacramento-based journalist and longtime Nation contributor, convincingly argues that the best way to understand US prison policies is to think of them as a GI Bill in reverse. Just as the original GI Bill laid the basis for a major social advance by making college available to millions of veterans, mass incarceration is laying the basis for an enormous social regression by stigmatizing and brutalizing millions of young people and "de-skilling" them by removing them from the workforce. America will be feeling the effects for generations.

Bruce Western, a Princeton sociologist, offers the best overview. He notes in his new study, Punishment and Inequality in America, that mass imprisonment is actually a novel development. For much of the twentieth century, the US incarceration rate held steady at around 100 per 100,000, which would put it in the same ballpark as Western Europe today. But after a slight dip following the liberal reforms of the 1960s, the curve reversed direction in the mid-'70s and then rose more steeply in the '80s and '90s. Considering that Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Austria succeeded in reducing or holding their incarceration rates steady during this period, the US pattern was highly exceptional. But so are US crime rates. Between 1980 and 1991, US homicides hovered at between 7.9 and 10.2 per 100,000, as much as ten times the European average. (The rate has since fallen to around 5.7.) Combined with the crack wave that also exploded in the 1980s, the result was a deepening sense of panic that peaked in mid-1986 with the death of basketball star Len Bias from a cocaine overdose.

Although there was no evidence that crack had anything to do with Bias's death -- police found only powdered cocaine in his car -- the incident somehow confirmed crack as the new devil substance, "the most addictive drug known to man," in the words of Newsweek, and a threat comparable to the "medieval plagues," in the considered opinion of U.S. News and World Report (which would have meant that the country was facing an imminent population loss of up to 33 percent). Within a matter of months, Joe Biden had helped shepherd through to victory the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, an unusually horrendous piece of legislation that etched in stone the 100-to-1 penalty ratio for crack.

Still, it is always interesting to consider which deaths fill people with horror and which ones don't. The year before Bias's death not only saw 19,000 homicides in the United States but nearly 46,000 highway fatalities too, and yet Congress somehow refrained from criminalizing motor vehicles. Crack's status as the drug du jour of a certain class of inner-city blacks should have been the giveaway. What had Congress in a tizzy was not cocaine consumption so much as black cocaine consumption, which is why the subsequent repression was bound to be far harder on African-Americans than on whites. Although there is no evidence that blacks use drugs more than whites and indeed some evidence that they use them less, Western notes that black users are now twice as likely to be arrested for drugs and, once arrested, more likely to go to prison or jail. None of this is necessarily racist, at least not in the crudely explicit way we associate with men in white sheets.

The reason the police concentrate their efforts in black inner-city neighborhoods, Western notes, is that users congregate there in large numbers, and buying, selling and using tend to take place in public. (It's harder to make arrests behind the closed doors of some suburban McMansion.) If a judge is more inclined to send a poor black defendant to prison, similarly, it is not necessarily because he or she enjoys punishing someone with dark skin but because the judge, according to Western, may "see poor defendants as having fewer prospects and social supports, thus as having less potential for rehabilitation." If your weeping parents can afford to send you to private rehab, you're excused. If not, it's off to the state pen.

Racial and class biases are thus built into the very structure of the drug war. Western is particularly effective on the economic consequences of such grossly disproportionate policies. The standard account of American economic development since the 1970s, told and retold in countless undergraduate classrooms, is that economic deregulation and growth have done much to narrow the once-yawning wage gap between white and black workers. To quote the New York Times: "Unemployment rates among blacks and Hispanic people...are at or near record lows. Joblessness among high school dropouts has fallen to about half the rate in 1992. And wages for the lowest paid are rising faster than inflation for the first time in decades."

A rising tide lifts all boats, whereas all that labor-market rigidity has done for "Old Europe" is to saddle it with persistently high levels of unemployment, an alienated underclass and riots in the banlieues. But as Punishment and Inequality in America points out, if US economic policies look good, it is only because the country's enormous prison population is not factored into the equation. If workers behind bars are counted, then it quickly becomes apparent "that young black men have experienced virtually no real economic gains on young whites" and that the real black unemployment rate is up to 20 percent greater than official statistics indicate. Rather than freeing up the markets, Western writes, the United States has "adopted policies that massively and coercively regulated the poor." Where the Danes provide their unemployed with up to 80 percent of their previous salary and the Germans provide them with 60 percent, America has deregulated the rich while throwing a growing portion of its working class in jail.

In Marked, Devah Pager, who also teaches sociology at Princeton, uses a simple technique to show how mass incarceration has undone the small amount of racial progress achieved in the 1960s and '70s. Working with two pairs of male college students in Milwaukee, one white and the other black, she drilled them on how to present themselves and answer questions. Then, arming them with phony résumés, she sent them out to apply for entry-level jobs. The résumés were identical in all respects but one. Where one member of each team had nothing indicating a criminal record, the other's résumé showed an eighteen-month sentence for drugs. To help insure that the results were uniform, the résumés were then rotated back and forth among the testers.

The results? The white applicant with a prison record was half as likely to be called back for a second interview as the white applicant without. But the black applicant without a criminal record was no more likely to be called back than the white applicant with a record, while the black applicant with a record was two-thirds less likely to be called back than the black applicant without. The black applicant with a record therefore wound up doubly penalized -- as a black man and as an ex-con. With the chances of a call-back reduced to just 5 percent, the overall effect, Pager writes, was "almost total exclusion from this labor market." Considering that there are as many as 12 million ex-felons in the United States, a major portion of them black, the result has been to create a huge pool of the semipermanently unemployed where one might otherwise not exist. This is not to disprove sociologist William Julius Wilson, whose study The Declining Significance of Race caused an uproar when it was published in 1978. Wilson may have been right: The significance of race may well have been declining by the late '70s. But thanks to a government policy of mass stigmatization, it has come roaring back.

This is not only bad news for those arrested but bad news for those who have to foot the bill for their incarceration and for dealing with the social problems that labor-market exclusion on this scale helps generate. But there are other costs too. In Locked Out, Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen, professors of sociology at Northwestern and the University of Minnesota, respectively, point out that only two states, Maine and Vermont, permit felons to vote while incarcerated, that most limit felons' voting rights after they complete their terms and that, even if not legally disenfranchised, some 600,000 jail inmates and pretrial detainees are effectively prevented from voting as well. All told, this means that 6 million Americans were unable to vote on election day in 2004. This is not peanuts. Nationwide, one black man in seven has been disenfranchised as a consequence, while in Florida, the state with the most sweeping disenfranchisement laws, the number of those prevented from voting now exceeds 1.1 million.

From a right-wing perspective, this is nothing short of brilliant. After all, what could be better than disenfranchising an unfriendly racial group while persuading the rest of the nation that the group deserves it because its ranks are filled with violent criminals? Since felons and ex-felons tend to be poor and members of oppressed racial minorities, they tend to vote Democratic. Even though the poor are less likely to vote than those higher up on the socioeconomic ladder, Manza and Uggen say there is little doubt that, had the disenfranchisement laws not existed in Florida in November 2000, the extra votes would have provided Al Gore with a margin of victory so comfortable that not even the Republican state legislature could have taken it away. If the ranks of prison inmates and hence of disenfranchised ex-inmates had not multiplied since the '70s, much of the wind would also have been taken out of the sails of the great GOP offensive. Americans have not gone right, in other words. Rather, by taking control of the criminal-justice issue, the right wing has winnowed down the electorate so as to artificially boost the power of the conservative minority.

But how did the right gain control of this all-important issue in the first place? This is the problem that Marie Gottschalk, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, wrestles with in The Prison and the Gallows, an eccentric but compelling study of mass incarceration's ideological origins. While taking aim at the usual right-wing villains, The Prison and the Gallows also goes after various liberals and radicals who, inadvertently or not, also contributed to the construction of "the carceral state." Bill Clinton, for example, not only embraced the drug war and capital punishment -- he interrupted his 1992 presidential campaign to fly back to Arkansas and sign the death warrant for a mentally disabled prisoner named Rickey Ray Rector -- but also endorsed what Gottschalk calls "a virulently punitive victims' rights movement," going so far as to call for a constitutional amendment in 1996 as "the only way to give victims equal and due consideration."

This was important because the victims' rights movement represented an effort to inject a dose of vengeance into the judicial process and thereby blur the distinction between the private interest of the victim and the public's interest in maintaining order and justice. In Europe, reformers were also concerned with victims' rights. But "extending a hand to victims was seen from the start as primarily an extension of the welfare state," Gottschalk observes, whereas in America, where welfare is a dirty word, it was seen as a way of steering criminal justice in a more punitive direction.

Gottschalk's assault on '70s feminism is sure to raise the most eyebrows. She argues that the women's movement helped facilitate the carceral state by promoting a punitive approach to sexual violence that was unmitigated by any larger political considerations. This single-minded focus led to what The Prison and the Gallows describes as unsavory coalitions with tough-on-crime types. In the State of Washington, women's groups successfully marketed rape reform as a law-and-order issue so that, when the measure finally passed in 1975, it was "in part by riding on the coattails of a new death penalty statute."

In California a new rape shield became known as the Robbins Rape Evidence Law, in honor of one of its legislative sponsors, a conservative Republican named Alan Robbins. In pressing for limits on the cross-examination of alleged rape victims, feminists "generally did not consider what effect such measures would have on a defendant's right to due process," Gottschalk adds, even though due process at the time was under assault from a growing war on crime.

More radical elements, meanwhile, strayed into outright vigilantism. In Berkeley, antirape activists picketed an accused rapist's home. In East Lansing in 1973, they "reportedly scrawled Rapist on a suspect's car, spray-painted the word across a front porch and made warning telephone calls late at night." In Los Angeles, a self-styled "antirape squad" vowed to shave rapists' heads, cover them with dye and then photograph them for posters reading, This Man Rapes Women. A feminist publication called Aegis ran a notorious cover showing a gun with the warning, "You can't rape a .38; we will defend ourselves."

The National Rifle Association was no doubt delighted. Gottschalk contends that such activists wound up "profoundly co-opted," since "by framing the rape issue around 'horror stories,' they fed into the victims' movement's compelling image of a society held hostage to a growing number of depraved, marauding criminals." She notes that feminists threw themselves into the battle for the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 as part of an omnibus anticrime bill that "allocated nearly $10 billion for new prison construction, expanded the death penalty to cover more than fifty federal crimes, and added a 'three strikes and you're out' provision mandating life imprisonment for federal offenders convicted of three violent offenses."

Yet feminists' involvement was relatively modest two years later when a few liberals tried to rally opposition to Clinton's plan to abolish Aid to Families With Dependent Children, which heavily benefited poor women. Like their nineteenth-century forebears, who advocated bringing back the whipping post to deal with wife beaters, late-twentieth-century feminists got more excited about punishment than defending the welfare state.

Gottschalk is more than a bit brave in pointing this out. Still, her choice of historical examples to explain the growth of an increasingly vindictive national mood seems incomplete. As much damage as radical feminists may have done in undermining due process, they seem less important than certain antidrug activists -- in particular, certain black Democratic antidrug activists -- whose efforts ran on parallel tracks.

This means not just Jesse Jackson, who backed vigilante-style antidrug patrols by the Nation of Islam ("As long as this type of solution is within the law, it should be encouraged") but also Congressman Charles Rangel, the Manhattan Democrat who, as head of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse, spent much of the '80s baiting Reagan for being soft on drugs. "I haven't seen a national drug policy since Nixon was in office," Rangel lamented at one point. "So far, the Administration hasn't given it any priority." This is as clear a case of an ostensible liberal cheering on the forces of right-wing reaction as one could hope to find. US prisons are not bulging with rapists and wife beaters, but they are filled with drug offenders, some 458,000 as of 2000, which makes the brief space that Gottschalk allots to the drug war somewhat hard to fathom. It's like discussing Al Capone without mentioning Prohibition.

Sasha Abramsky is less interested in the ideological currents that helped pave the way for mass incarceration, although in American Furies he does spotlight the fascinating role played by a Berkeley-educated sociologist named Robert Martinson, who, after several years investigating the cornucopia of rehabilitation programs offered at the time by the New York State prison system, summed up his findings in a sensational 1974 article titled "What Works?" His answer: nothing. Martinson's frustration is understandable to anyone who has ever suffered through an encounter group. Yet his conclusions, published in the neoconservative journal Public Interest, were grossly one-sided: While many programs do not work, some clearly have a positive effect.

In short order, Martinson's article became the bible of the vengeance-and-punishment set, which seized on it as proof that rehabilitation was a lost cause and that the only purpose of prison was to penalize wrongdoers. Once this ideological impediment was removed, the criminal-justice system slid downhill with remarkable speed. If punishment was good, then more punishment was better. In short order, Massachusetts Governor William Weld was declaring that life in prison should be "akin to a walk through hell," while right-wing Senator Phil Gramm was promising "to string barbed wire on every military base in America" to contain all the criminals he wanted to round up. In Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, a colorful local character named Joe Arpaio got himself re-elected sheriff time and again by parading his inmates about on chain gangs, dressing the men among them in fluorescent pink underwear and serving prisoners food that, as he cheerfully admits, costs less than what he gives to his cats and dogs. "Voters like it everywhere," Abramsky quotes Arpaio as saying of such policies.

"I'm on thousands of talk shows. I never get a negative. I get letters from all over the world -- and I answer every one. They say, 'Come up here and be our sheriff.'" What makes this all the more repellent is that the people subjected to such humiliation and abuse are rarely killers or rapists but alcoholics, vagrants and other small fry doing time for such misdemeanors as possession and shoplifting.

Amazing how much damage a single article can do, eh? Yet when a conscience-stricken Martinson published a mea culpa in the Hofstra Law Review five years later ("contrary to my previous position, some treatment programs do have an appreciable effect on recidivism"), the media yawned. No big shots interviewed him on TV, and no politicians called to solicit his views. No one wanted to hear that rehabilitation programs work, only that they don't. Beset by personal troubles, professional setbacks and perhaps the realization of how grievously he had allowed himself to be misused, Martinson committed suicide by throwing himself out of a ninth-floor Manhattan apartment in 1980.

American Furies provides us with a vivid account of the horrors that have followed -- the low-level pot dealers and shoplifters sentenced to life in prison in California, Oklahoma, Alabama and other states where various "three strikes" or other habitual-offender laws pertain; the supermax prisoners condemned to spend twenty-three hours a day in barren concrete cells the size of walk-in closets; the epidemics of suicide and self-mutilation; and the stubbornly high levels of violence between and among prisoners and guards -- which law-and-order advocates seize upon as reason to build yet more supermax facilities. US prison policy is like a computer program that is designed to spit out the same answers no matter what data are fed into it: Arrest more people, put more of them in prison, build more cells to accommodate them.

Where will it end? As Martinson's story shows, American mass incarceration is not what social scientists call "evidence based." It is not a policy designed to achieve certain practical, utilitarian ends that can then be weighed and evaluated from time to time to determine if it is performing as intended. Rather, it is a moral policy whose purpose is to satisfy certain passions that have grown more and more brutal over the years. The important thing about moralism of this sort is that it is its own justification. For true believers, it is something that everyone should endorse regardless of the consequences. As right-wing political scientist James Q. Wilson once remarked, "Drug use is wrong because it is immoral," a comment that not only sums up the tautological nature of US drug policies but also shows how they are structured to render irrelevant questions about wasted dollars and blighted lives.

Moralism of this sort is neither rational nor democratic, and the fact that it has triumphed so completely is an indication of how deeply the United States has sunk into authoritarianism since the 1980s. With the prison population continuing to rise at a 2.7 percent annual clip, there is no reason to think there will be a turnaround soon. Indeed, Gottschalk writes that mass incarceration is so taken for granted nowadays that "it seems almost unimaginable that the country will veer off in a new direction and begin to empty and board up its prisons."

Still, she ends on a quasi-optimistic note by quoting Norwegian sociologist Thomas Mathiesen to the effect that "major repressive systems have succeeded in looking extremely stable almost until the day they have collapsed." Indeed, repression is itself often a sign of instability bubbling up from below. This is not much to pin one's hopes on, but it will have to do.

Daniel Lazare is the author of, most recently, The Velvet Coup: The Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the Decline of American Democracy (Verso). He is currently at work on a book about the politics of Christianity, Judaism and Islam for Pantheon.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Leeds ABC - Annual Report

Leeds ABC are a small, but active group. We are not an 'open' group, but can rely to some extent on the support of others outside the group who cannot commit to membership on a ‘full-time’ basis.

We have held a number of fund-raising activities over the past year, and as funds have allowed we have sent money to prisoners and/or the campaigns in support of them, for example we recently sent over 350 Euros to support an imprisoned Anarchist in Krasnador, Russia. We have also sent numerous International Reply Coupons and stamps to prisoners, as well as books and pamphlets.

Beyond financial solidarity, we have been involved in helping to support prison struggles in many parts of the world, and were particularly involved in the campaign to free Ruben and Ignasi, 2 Anarchists imprisoned in Barcelona, as well as in the campaign to support the Aachen 4 in Germany. We also do our best to support recently released prisoners as best we can.

We have held various talks and info nights to raise awareness of prison struggle, for example we organised 2 talks by Basque ex-prisoner Laudelino Iglesias Martinez (the second being a launch event for the pamphlet we had produced 'Down With The Prison Walls!' - A transcript of Laude's talk at Bradford '1 in 12' club.)

We have over the past couple of years managed to get together an impressive bookstall, stocking a wide selection of books and pamphlets on prison-related issues (as well as some other Anarchist and antifascist material.) We also stock DVDs, spoken word CDs, some music (prisoner benefits), T-shirts, badges, and our 'antifascist donor cards'! We have done stalls all over central and northern England at appropriate events such as prisoner info nights and benefits, the first national British Antifa conference, the Projectile Anarchist film festival, etc.

We have produced a range of publications in the past year, as well as working on a number of ongoing projects. In addition to Laudelino's pamphlet (mentioned above), we have printed an English version of a Salakheta pamphlet 'Women in Prison', 2 pressings of an interview given by Mark Barnsley in Germany a few years ago (published under the title 'With A Smile And A Twinkle In My Eye'), and we commissioned and published John Bowden's pamphlet 'Tear Down The Walls!' We have also published a new 4 page guide to writing to prisoners (available to download as a PDF) and a general ABC leaflet. Additionally, we've produced a series of badges and a new generic ABC T-shirt. Various other things have been produced, such as a DVD and spoken word CD.

We are working on a number of other publishing projects: an English translation of the talk given by the mothers of Xose Tarrio and Gabriel Pombo Da Silva has been a lengthy undertaking, but we are very pleased with the final result. We hope to release it soon as a DVD, but also as a pamphlet, which will include additional material on the Aachen arrests and translated extracts from Xose's book. Members of the group have also translated Gabriel's book into English, and are in the process of translating Xose's. We also hope to help translate John Bowden's book into other European languages.

Over the past months though, our main focus has been in supporting John Bowden and defending the ABC against smears of 'terrorism'. We have published a huge amount of material on the internet (in English and other languages) and sent it out by e-mail. We have organised 2 solidarity days, taking a good number of people to Edinburgh to picket the Scottish Parliament on the first, and helping organise events in Scotland, London, and Leeds for the second. We produced thousands of leaflets, did several banner drops, and picketed the Scottish Prison Service HQ. In Leeds we held a support event where people could use the phone to complain to the SPS, etc, send e-mails, and write letters, as well as sign our extra large postcard. Banners in Leeds are still in place and we will be hanging more. We have now produced thousands of 'Free John Bowden' stickers, which we will be distributing, and we are printing a series of postcards to further spread the word about the campaign. We initiated a 'Hands Off John Bowden!' postcard campaign to the SPS, which has resulted in them receiving thousands of cards. We have also been pursuing a number of complaints. While John Bowden remains in closed conditions, we know that the campaign has had a very positive effect in terms of his day to day treatment.

We have helped to establish a Scottish ABC group, and members of the group will be going to Scotland again shortly to give talks in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and try to organise other actions in support of John Bowden. We have also given advice and assistance to people in Belfast, where an ABC group has been recently re-established.

While none of the group possess the skills to set up a proper website, we have a Leeds ABC site on MySpace, which functions well enough, as well as having set up a 'Friends of John Bowden' page. In addition to sending out regular MySpace bulletins we have a large e-mail list to which we regularly send information and prisoner support bulletins.

Leeds ABC maintains good contact with other ABC groups throughout the world, and with prisoner support organisations outside of the ABC. Recently members of the group travelled to Europe to visit comrades and galvanise support for John Bowden, visiting groups and individuals in London, Lille (France), Gent and Antwerp (Belgium), Amsterdam, and Norwich, as well as a number of former Anarchist prisoners. They attended a prisoner support afternoon in Amsterdam at which dozens of letters and cards were written, and a card for John Bowden was signed by supporters in all the towns and cities visited. John Bowden’s pamphlet ‘Tear Down The Walls!’ has also now been translated into Dutch by Gent ABC, and we hope that a French version will soon follow.

All money raised by Leeds ABC is used for the direct support of Anarchist and class struggle prisoners. We pay ourselves no wages under any guise, have no bureaucratic costs or hidden ‘expense accounts’, and we fund our personal prisoner support activities out of our own pockets. We are however only ordinary working-class people, like the prisoners we support, and of limited means, therefore financial donations are always needed (the campaign in support of John Bowden for example has been a very costly one) as well as stamps to send to prisoners. Thank you to those who have made donations or organised benefit events in the past year.

Leeds ABC