Hi…I printed out this letter this morning, and sent it off to Rep. Kilpatrick, and plan to send it to other
local, state and national officials. It seems like a small thing to send a letter, but if lots of us are sending the letters,
maybe we can make a difference.
Honorable Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Chairwoman, Congressional Black Caucus
2264 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515-2213
Honorable Rep. Kilpatrick,
We are writing you as members of National Alliance for Prisoners’ Rights (NAFPR), a newly formed, grassroots advocacy organization whose work is informed by decades of collective experience of prison conditions and efforts to apply universal covenants and treaties to the treatment of incarcerated peoples. We seek your help in investigating and correcting serious abuses which are occurring right here in America, in our own prisons. You have demonstrated a concern for social justice for all citizens and we thank you for your efforts and ask for your help in attaining prisoner’s rights.
The problems of the correctional system in the United States have become very serious. It is a failing system.
The United States now incarcerates 1 out of every 100 adults in the country. This is 700 times the rate of imprisonment that existed in South Africa during the height of apartheid. In 2004 the United States surpassed Russia in incarceration rates to become the world leader. With 5% of the world’s population and more than 25% of the world’s prisoners, there are now more than 2.3 million people inside and upwards of 7 million either on parole, probation or waiting trial. One in every 33 people in the United States is under state control and that number is still growing. We cannot build our way out of this predicament.
The economic burden on the society of such levels of incarceration is huge and the potential of these members of society who are incarcerated is wasted. Over the course of a year 13.5 million people spend time in jail or prison, and 95 percent of them eventually return to our communities. Many of those who are incarcerated come from and return to poor African-American and Latino neighborhoods, and the impact on the stability of those communities has an effect on the health and safety of whole cities and states.
Crime, police and prisons have become one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy and there is pressure to maintain a level of occupancy. There are nearly 5,000 adult prisons and jails in the United States. Approximately 750,000 men and women work in U.S. Correctional facilities as line officers or other staff. Economically deprived areas of the country are confronted with growing pressure to accept the construction of a new facility in their area in order to provide jobs, creating a vicious cycle.
We acknowledge here the enormous role that racism; classicism, poverty, lack of education, and diagnosed medical and mental illness play in mass incarceration. Many individuals with diagnosed medical and mental conditions are inappropriately incarcerated. Most of the imprisoned in the United States are poor, and they are disproportionately African-American and Latino.
Individuals with diagnosed mental conditions could be better
By themselves our high rate of imprisonment and disproportionate distribution profoundly compromise our commitment to the democratic ideals of liberty and equality. But there is more. There is serious abuse taking place in our prisons, even leading to fatality and suicide.
The Commission of Safety and Abuse in America’s Crime Police & Prisons, in its recently released findings, reports high rates of disease and illness among prisoners, the increasing use of counter-productive high-security segregation, and other serious problems.
In addition, in recent years there has been a growing trend toward privatization of correctional facilities, with the associated focus on profits, increased rate of violence and with the result of many charges of lowered standards. The shift to corrections as an industry as a business rather than a service of governmental institutions, results in the inevitable push to create more and more prisons and prisoners. Treatment of prisoners tends to decline and abuse of prisoners to increase. In spite of assurances to the contrary, evidence of this continues to mount.
As the Commission noted, some of the people confined in our jails and prisons have committed serious and violent crimes. While we as a society might legitimately imprison them, we cannot allow anyone who is incarcerated to be victimized by other prisoners, abused by officers, or neglected by doctors. As a nation, we are asked to broaden our scope of analysis and compassion to include people who have done terrible things. But we are also called to live up to democratic principles and to assess whether our criminal justice system is operating according to these standards. Is it just? Does it uphold human rights?
We seek a criminal justice system that is driven by hope, fairness, and rehabilitation rather than fear, arbitrariness, and cynicism.
We are asking for your help with the following points:
1) Immediate adherence to International Covenants and Treaties which correlate to prisoner issues and conditions, including but not limited to the United Nation Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR); the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR); the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD); the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women (CEDAQ) and the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
2) Protection of prisoners from physical and psychological abuse by other prisoners, as well as by prison staff. Guarantee of community standards of medical care. Uniform standards for prison conditions, which adhere to, the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, adopted in 1948.
3) Rehabilitation and educational programs, since it has been established that education reduces crime.
4) Parole reform and other measures to reduce recidivism. The United States has the highest rate of recidivism.
5) Immediate, comprehensive and independent investigation of reported abuses by independent third parties entities which include prisoner rights advocates and family members. Access to prisoners by friends and families.
6) Legislation mandating equal requirements in hiring, salaries, and conditions for federal prisons, whether governmental or private and eventual elimination of prisons for profits. Mandated random drug screening for prison staff.
7) End to arbitrary arrests and excessive sentencing, which serve the sole purpose to populate prisons. End to arbitrary and excessive sentencing of children as adults.
8) Reform of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) so that the prisoners and their families are guaranteed lawful protection from physical and medical abuse and neglect.
For years many of us have worked to obtain results through our state correctional agencies, by campaigns, public actions, petitions, letters and calls, and have seen that work ignored, dismissed or trivialized. We believe that you will hear our voices and that you care about true justice. We urge you to conduct investigations and to pass legislation to correct the problems within our justice system.
Please reply to our appeal.
YOUR NAME HERE
This came to me (Sara) from the
NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR PRISONERS RIGHTS
C/O New Vision Organization, Inc.
BOX 66 BROCKTON, MA 02303
TEL/FAX (508) 941-5367
and these members who sent it to me:
* Idriss Stelley Action &Resource Center (ISARC)
* Black&Brown Equitable Drug Policies Coalition (BEDPC)
* Education Not Incarceration SF Chapter (ENI SF)