Tag Archives: prison system

Jeff Mizanskey: A Productive Member of Society Sentenced to Life in Prison for Marijuana

The following videos and post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Derrick Marshall, of Marshall & Associates  Investigations, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

This post was originally published at the Marshall & Associates Investigations blog under the title, “Jeff Mizanskey: Productive Member of Society.” The accompanying videos were posted at the “Citizens For JusticeYoutube Channel as part of a playlist that includes the interview of  Jeff Mizanskey by Derrick Marshall posted above, as well as a separate interview discussing the lack of medical care in prison that is embedded below.

Below the original post is a personal statement from Derrick Marshall explaining the background of the case, how he became involved, and his personal feelings about Jeff Mizanskey’s release.

Organizations which Jeff Mizanskey is associated with:

Jeff Mizanskey: Productive Member of Society

In 1996, Jeff Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a non-violent marijuana offense. He would spend nearly two decades in the Missouri Department of Corrections, before a group of family, friends, and supporters built a media campaign that led Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to commute his sentence, allowing him to be released on parole. On September 1, 2015, Jeff was released from Jefferson City Correctional Center to a crowd of loved ones and supporters.

Derrick Marshall of Marshall & Associates Investigations acted as Jeff’s private investigator while he fought for his freedom. Now a little more than a year after his release, Derrick visits Jeff at his worksite to see how he’s adjusting to society.

In the interview Jeff talks about how much money the tax payers spent to prevent him from being a productive member of society, short comings in the criminal justice system, and the failures of the drug war that led to him serving a life sentence for marijuana. He also opens up about how, although he is still somewhat uncomfortable talking in front of cameras, he believes it is absolutely necessary to create a desperately needed change in the system. Jeff strongly encourages others who have dealt with the prison system and lived to tell about it to speak out about their experience.

Jeff is currently running a construction crew, which he uses as an opportunity to teach younger men a valuable skill they can use to provide for their family. At the time of the interview, they were in the process of pouring the foundation for a tornado-resistant, octagon home near Jeff’s hometown of Sedalia, MO. He used the opportunity to demonstrate his skills for camera crew.

The owner of the home they are building, Herb Venable, described Jeff as a blessing and expressed disdain that the state would feel it necessary to waste taxpayer’s money to incarcerate a non-violent offender for such a draconian-sentence.

Jeff wrapped up the interview by thanking all their supporters for their continued support. He also took the opportunity to stress the fact that the current system needs a serious revamping. He firmly believes that unless we stand up to the status quo, we will remain in this position. He simply asks that everyone do their part.

– Derrick Marshall

My name is Derrick Marshall and I’m a private investigator with over 25 years of experience in the industry. Sometime back I became aware that a man was serving life in prison for non-violent marijuana offenses through a petition on Change.org. The more I dug into the story, the more outraged I became. The drug war had failed this man horrendously, as well as his family and the taxpayers at large, who were left to foot the bill for his continued incarceration. The anger swelled inside of me until I made a decision; I was going to help Jeff Mizanskey obtain his freedom.

Maybe I couldn’t do much. Maybe I couldn’t go in and secure his freedom, but I could sure do my part. To get in contact with the family, I’d have to do a little detective work. I zoomed in on a picture of Jeff’s brother, Mike, and noticed a bar sign in the back. Following up on the lead, I called the establishment to discover that his brother worked there. I introduced myself and told him I was at his family’s service until Jeff’s freedom was secured.

From that point, I spent hours on the phone with the family and Jeff’s attorney helping to develop a strategy to ensure Jeff was released as soon as possible. I ran background reports and contacted media outlets to spread the word about Jeff’s egregious circumstances and the efforts that were being made to correct this miscarriage of justice.

When I heard that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had commuted Jeff’s sentence to life with parole I had mixed emotions. I was happy that Jeff would be able to leave the confines of the cold grey walls that had held him so long. I was happy he would be able to hug and hold his family whenever he wanted. I was happy he could eat and sleep the way he wanted and enjoy life like a somewhat normal person. But he would still be on parole for the rest of his life. He would still have to pay the criminal justice system for the “privilege” of being monitored by a parole officer. He would still have to ask permission to go certain places and do certain things. He would still be subject to the obstacle course of rules, regulations, and fees that had caused the downfall of so many other parolees before.

But a year later Jeff was thriving. He was running a construction crew and actively speaking out against the system that had tried (and failed) to destroy him. He was teaching younger guys how to do construction work while providing them guidance in life. He was receiving the highest level of praise from all those around him and had graduated to the lowest level of parole possible, which meant he had proved himself to his parole officer. Jeff had come out and proved the system wrong and I couldn’t have been prouder.

I was proud of Jeff for making a way for himself in spite of the incredible odds against him. I was proud of Jeff for being a mentor to others and using his experiences to guide others to the right path. I was proud of Jeff’s family for sticking it out with him for so many years when hope seemed bleak and the opportunity for freedom seemed almost impossible. I was proud of myself for recognizing an injustice and dedicating my time towards fixing it. And I was proud that, at least in a small way, my efforts paid off.

This letter might make it seem like I’m bragging, which in a way I am, but there’s a deeper goal behind it. The private investigation industry is cutthroat. A lot of PI’s are trying to outdo other PIs. One-up them if you will. Many times these competitions have negative implications. Businesses and reputations suffers as two egos battle it out. Maybe for once, the next time somebody tries to one-up me, they will succeed…

Succeed in freeing a man from unjust circumstances brought about by a criminal justice system in need of serious repair. Succeed in returning a father to his children, a husband to his wife, and a son to his parents. Succeed in helping turn someone society has been told to forget back into a productive member of society. For once, I hoped my competition would outdo me, and the world would be a little better place because of it.

Beyond Sept. 9th, Support the Largest Prison Strike in History and Help Eliminate Prison Slave Labor

Note: Previously, CopBlock Network Contributor Josh Hotchkins also published a post previewing and discussing the prison strike.

The growth of the prison industrial complex has been discussed many times on the CopBlock Network, as well as the ways in which prisons have become a modern day form of slavery. The fact is that the United States now has the largest population of incarcerated people in the world by a large margin and every indication is that the government intends to expand that lead.

In addition, the privatization of prisons (which the Federal Government’s recent decision to stop participating in will make little real impact on) has created a form of slave labor that both violates human rights and encourages the corporations and politicians profiting off that system to lock more people up.

It’s also no secret that most, if not all, of us at the CopBlock Network oppose victimless crimes. The largest instance of prosecution for victimless crimes, as well as human rights abuses and violence perpetrated by law enforcement, involves the War on (Some) Drugs. The Drug War and the huge number of non-violent drug offenders that are sent to prison as a result are in large part responsible for the enormous expansion in the U.S. prison population over the past several decades.

On September 9th, which is the 45 year anniversary of the Attica State Prison Uprising, prisons around the country began strikes designed to force reform of prison labor policies and improvements to basic human living conditions within those prisons. Outside of the prisons, many groups around the country and even outside of the United States are holding solidarity actions in support of the prisoners taking part in the strike.

Whether you are now or ever have been directly effected by the growing prison industrial complex, there are many reasons why you should help halt its expansion and even to put an end to it.

Some of the companies that benefit from prison slave labor:

The Industrial Workers of the World’s Incarcerated Worker Organizing Committee is helping to promote and organize actions in support of the prisoners. You can also find updates at the website of “It’s Going Down,” an Anarchist-based website that posts information and announcements about grassroots actions.

Additional links for information and updates:

SupportPrisonerResistance.net
FreeAlabamaMovement.com
IWOC.noblogs.org
resonanceaudiodistro.org

Transcript of Video Included Above:

This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America

In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.

Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.

Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be anymore. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.

Non-violent protests, work stoppages, hunger strikes and other refusals to participate in prison routines and needs have increased in recent years. The 2010 Georgia prison strike, the massive rolling California hunger strikes, the Free Alabama Movement’s 2014 work stoppage, have gathered the most attention, but they are far from the only demonstrations of prisoner power. Large, sometimes effective hunger strikes have broken out at Ohio State Penitentiary, at Menard Correctional in Illinois, at Red Onion in Virginia as well as many other prisons. The burgeoning resistance movement is diverse and interconnected, including immigrant detention centers, women’s prisons and juvenile facilities. Last fall, women prisoners at Yuba County Jail in California joined a hunger strike initiated by women held in immigrant detention centers in California, Colorado and Texas.

attica-prison-uprising-riotPrisoners all across the country regularly engage in myriad demonstrations of power on the inside. They have most often done so with convict solidarity, building coalitions across race lines and gang lines to confront the common oppressor.

Forty-five years after Attica, the waves of change are returning to America’s prisons. This September we hope to coordinate and generalize these protests, to build them into a single tidal shift that the American prison system cannot ignore or withstand. We hope to end prison slavery by making it impossible, by refusing to be slaves any longer.

To achieve this goal, we need support from people on the outside. A prison is an easy-lockdown environment, a place of control and confinement where repression is built into every stone wall and chain link, every gesture and routine. When we stand up to these authorities, they come down on us, and the only protection we have is solidarity from the outside. Mass incarceration, whether in private or state-run facilities is a scheme where slave catchers patrol our neighborhoods and monitor our lives. It requires mass criminalization. Our tribulations on the inside are a tool used to control our families and communities on the outside. Certain Americans live every day under not only the threat of extra-judicial execution—as protests surrounding the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and so many others have drawn long overdue attention to—but also under the threat of capture, of being thrown into these plantations, shackled and forced to work.

Our protest against prison slavery is a protest against the school to prison pipeline, a protest against police terror, a protest against post-release controls. When we abolish slavery, they’ll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves.

Prison impacts everyone, when we stand up and refuse on September 9th, 2016, we need to know our friends, families and allies on the outside will have our backs. This spring and summer will be seasons of organizing, of spreading the word, building the networks of solidarity and showing that we’re serious and what we’re capable of.

Step up, stand up, and join us.
Against prison slavery.
For liberation of all.

The Attica Prison Uprising and Aftermath:

Additional Videos:

 

Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “More Prisons is Not Reform.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made.)

This post relates to recent riots within the United States prison system and specifically two riots at Holman Prison in Alabama, which took place in March of this year. Nick makes the point that it’s the underlying problems and abuses within the prison system itself and not just the singular symptom of overcrowding that caused those riots. Building even more prisons (which inevitably will also be filled to beyond capacity) is not the answer to those issues.

Previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on CopBlock.org can be found here, here, and here. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

More Prisons is Not Reform

Holman Prison in Alabama is home to death row and many there have little to lose should something go wrong. Given the degrading conditions of prisons and their lack of security for prisoners, it should come as no surprise that riots took place on March 11th and 14th.

The first riot happened when a prison guard was stabbed during a fight between two inmates. A prison fire was subsequently started by inmates so they could get access to another part of the prison. The riot included 100 inmates and went from Friday night into Saturday morning before control was re-established and the prison put on lockdown.

An inmate who was interviewed by WHNT 19 News over the phone explained, “What [the officer] did was not professional. They teach them not to do what he did. He went in swinging his stick and throwing inmates around. You know, if you try being in prison for 20 years, people get tired of seeing their fellow convicts get treated that way.”

On Monday while Holman was still on lockdown, an estimated 70 inmates barricaded themselves in a dormitory room after the stabbing of another inmate. WKRG News was able to get a phone call with an inmate there who “said inmates are fed up with deteriorating conditions and overcrowding within the prison system, something even Governor Robert Bentley has acknowledged is a serious issue in Alabama.”

Unfortunately the answer by both Bentley and media like Alabama.com has been to build more prisons.

Bentley and others agree that the riots are symptomatic of a system that isn’t working. But instead of trying to reduce sentences, challenge discriminatory practices or expand alternatives we’re given the choice to expand prisons.

Then again it shouldn’t be surprising that the response from the people in power to necessary and radical action on the part of inmates is milquetoast at best. Yes, the riots were necessary, despite perhaps being inadvisable. Prison riots are acts of desperation that will more naturally occur under such brutal and repressive systems. There’s no need for moral condemnation of the inmates; desperate people act desperately in an attempt to become empowered.

The proposed expansion of prisons from Bentley includes, “merg[ing] the state’s maximum security prisons — about 14 in all — into six prisons, four of them new.” But suspiciously Bentley has also pushed for a one-time exemption for letting a single company build these new prisons. The inevitability of sweetheart deals is much too great to be surmounted by well-meaning liberals.

Governor Bentley thinks focusing on older prisons and merging some will help save money. As true as this may be it still won’t bring back all of the casualties that the Alabama system has caused.

One casualty was death row inmate Timothy Jason Jones. Jones committed suicide in 2006 before he could be sentenced to death for a murder conviction. Jones was a drug user, aggressive, and shied away from his responsibilities by fleeing the scene.

But instead of trying to understand him, prosecutors called him a “monster” and confined him in a locked cell where he eventually killed himself. My point isn’t that Jones was a good person but that instead of giving him the chance to prove he could’ve been the state decided he’d be better off rotting in a cell.

There are are other ways to deal with justice.

Organizations like Common Justice and Community Works West both specialize in alternative forms of justice and specifically transformative and restorative justice. These organizations help inmates feel they can still successfully contribute meaningful things for themselves and their communities. They involve prisoners in their local communities and try to encourage meditation as ways to address underlying issues of crime. As organizations they may not deal with death row inmates specifically but their promise is great.

The success of these models helps release pressure from the overcrowded and bloated prison systems that the inmates expressly used as one of their underlying motivators. If we can help build alternatives to prisons that use positive collaboration instead of fear and dread, perhaps we can begin to more meaningfully address overcrowding.

Instead of expanding prisons, let’s work to expand alternatives.

Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Tutwiler Prison Will Live On.” Posts and other content can be submitted to the CopBlock Network via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. (Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made.)

This post relates to the impending closure of Julia Tutwiler State Women’s Prison, a facility located in Montgomery, Alabama that is notorius for rampant sexual abuse and other types of abuse, as well. Much like the clamoring for the closure of the detention center located at Guantanamo Bay, the perception is that simply shifting its residents to an alternate location will somehow eliminate those abuses, even though in reality the only real change will be geographical.

Tutwiler Prison Will Live On

Content Warning: Discussions of rape and sexual abuse

After over two decades of abuse, Julia Tutwiler Prison, located in Montgomery Alabama, will close. After almost two decades of prison guards sexually assaulting, abusing and raping inmates, Tutwiler prison will be closed. After nearly two decades of investigations, reformist legislature, promises on the part of the prison to improve, Tutwiler prison will close.

But Tutwiler prison will live on.

The governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, has said in a speech that Tutwiler prison will be closed so that Alabama may have a “complete transformation of the state’s prison system.” But adds that “These aging prisons will be consolidated and replaced by four, newly constructed state of the art facilities.”

And so Tutwiler prison will live on.

Tutwiler prison maintained its rampant sexual abuse even after a 2004 bill, advocated for by Amnesty International and the C4SS’s own Charles Johnson, had been passed. The bill was aimed at terminating and prosecuting abusive guards. But within the span of 2009-2013 only 18 cases of sexual abuse were reported in a prison well known for its widespread abuse.

As Charles Johnson notes, “the first basic obstacle is no matter how unambiguously written and strongly worded the law is, it is always nearly impossible ever to safely try to get a[n abusive guard] prosecuted from inside your cell. … The same overwhelming, full-spectrum life-and-death domination that facilitates the endemic, repeated rape also makes it impossible to defend yourself from them through legal processes.”

Removing this dynamic from prisons would mean prison abolition. And since we can safely presume Governor Bentley doesn’t believe in prison abolition, it’s safe to say that Tutwiler will live on.

Last year the US Department of Justice reported that Tutwiler had a population of women living in constant fear. They were in a highly-sexualized environment where abuse was so rampant that the prison was found to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

But all prisons are cruel and unusual.

Because of the aforementioned dynamics between prison guards and prisoners there will always be abuse and a reluctance to prosecute the abuse. In Tutwiler, reports from victims were discouraged by perceived or actual retaliation from prison guards. Guards at Tutwiler were often allowed to resign instead of being terminated. And thus were able to easily reintegrate themselves into another prison.

In this way too, Tutwiler Prison shall live on.

To make matters worse, the claims by victims of sexual abuse were frequently dismissed as the rantings of mentally ill patients. Polygraphs, known for their unreliability, were used as primary means to determine the validity of an accusation. Most insultingly, if the prisoners said it was consensual, then it was treated as such. And all of this only happened if an investigation actually occurred after an accusation, which it more often than not didn’t.

Treating accusations like this is not uncommon in prisons. A place where the abusers hold supreme power and have he legal system backing them engenders little accountability. Abusive prison guards are akin to police officers accused of murder in that they’re rarely indicted for, let alone convicted of crimes.

So, as you might expect, Tutwiler will live on.

ABC 33/40 recently reported that the Lovelady Center in Birmingham will take more than 100 inmates from Tutwiler. Lovelady is a rehabilitation facility for female convicts. But it’s also “faith-based treatment for women” and aims at converting the female convicts to Christianity.  Anyone who is either non-religious or isn’t interested in being proselytized is likely to feel excluded.

The rest of the women who will not be taken into those relatively merciful hands teeming with religious indoctrination will suffer in other ways. They may end up another number in recidivism statistics, or if they are freed, deal with the social isolation that comes with being a convict. Given that some will have their votes taken away, their job opportunities diminished and incredible social stigma, do you think they’ll stay out of prison for long?

Through these aftereffects, Tutwiler will live on.

And it will continue to live on until we abolish prisons.