Tag Archives: Prison

Innocent Man Framed For Murder by LVMPD Detectives and Las Vegas Prosecutors Freed After 22 Years in Prison

Demarlo Berry Released From Prison Innocence ProjectLast week, Demarlo Berry was released from a Nevada prison after serving 22 years for a murder he didn’t commit. He had been sentenced to life without parole in prison for a 1994 robbery at a Las Vegas Carl’s Jr. and the murder of Charles Burkes, the manager.

Based on media reports of his release, you would think that the Clark County District Attorney’s Office had supported and even played a significant role in his exoneration. That’s far from the truth, though.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

For years, Berry’s legal team has asserted that incredible trial testimony, as well as a written confession from another man in 2013, proves their client was wrongly convicted.

A Clark County judge on Wednesday signed the order of dismissal that secures the release. The Clark County district attorney’s office had agreed to dismiss the case Tuesday, following a monthslong (sic) investigation by members of the office’s newly formed conviction review unit.

Prosecutors for years had fought Berry’s claims of innocence with assertions of his guilt, but on Thursday they hailed the case as the first release resulting from the review unit established in October.

“They’ve finally done what we think they should have done all along,” (lawyer Craig) Coburn said.

For years, Coburn along with the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project had been fighting to prove he had been falsely convicted. However, Las Vegas prosecutors had fought just as hard against his release. That includes even after the real killer confessed all the way back in 2013.

Steven Jackson, who has been in prison in California for a separate murder since 1996, had voluntarily confessed and in the process provided details only the person who had committed the crime could possibly know. In addition, a woman provided an independent statement that Jackson had confessed to her shortly after the murder occurred.

In fact, the reality is that district attorneys, along with police officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, manufactured witness testimony against Berry to ensure his conviction. As can be heard in the audio file embedded below (at approx. 6:30), that witness later recanted his claim that Berry had made a jailhouse confession.

In the process, Richard Iden also stated that detectives from the LVMPD coached him on what to say and provided him with details of the crime to bolster his testimony. As reward for that false testimony, Iden was given a favorable plea deal. He was also paid off with free plane tickets home to Ohio to visit his family, a free hotel room during the trial, and cash “per diem” payments.

Of course, while District Attorney Steve Wolfson is busy patting himself on the back for “causing the release of Demarlo Berry from prison after 22 years,” there’s been no mention whatsoever of any sort of accountability for the prosecutors and detectives who illegally manufactured evidence in order to put him there. Nor is there any mention of why it took four years after the real killer had admitted his own guilt before they finally decided to stop fighting that release.

And BTW, Nevada is one of eighteen states in the country that don’t provide any sort of compensation to people who have been exonerated after false convictions. So, unlike the guy the prosecutors paid off to provide false testimony at his trial, Berry will get nothing from the State of Nevada for the decades he was wrongfully imprisoned.

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Five New Jersey Corrections Officers Sexually Abused Female Prisoners Over the Course of Two Years

Four New Jersey corrections officers have been indicted for sexual assault against nine women at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, NJ. Corrections Officers Jason Mays, Ahnwar Dixon, Brian Ambroise, and Thomas Seguine were all indicted by a Hunterdon grand jury for engaging in ongoing sexual abuse of inmates over the course of two years. All told, they are facing 26 charges between them.

A fifth man, Joel Herscap, previously pled guilty to official misconduct for engaging in a “sexual encounter” with an inmate. He was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison. Herscap worked as an institutional trade instructor at the prison prior to being arrested.

Via the Trentonian.com:

The rape culture at a New Jersey women’s prison has continued.

Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III announced at a press conference Monday morning that two more senior corrections officers were charged with rape at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton. That brings the tally to a total of five male employees, including four corrections officers, charged with the sex assault of nine female inmates at Edna Mahan over the past year.

Mays, 43, of Hillside, has been employed by the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) since May 2005. He was indicted on five counts of official misconduct, one count of a pattern of official misconduct and three counts of sexual assault, all second-degree crimes, and two counts of criminal coercion and criminal sexual contact, prosecutors said.

Dixon, 38, of East Orange, has been working for DOC since November 2004. He was indicted on two counts of official misconduct, one count of a pattern of official misconduct and one count of sexual assault, all second-degree crimes, and three counts of criminal sexual contact, prosecutors said.

“In these cases, the victims were particularly vulnerable as inmates,” Kearns said. “The corrections officers had complete power and control over every aspect of their lives behind bars.”

Kearns did not provide specifics of the recent arrests.

Charges were handed out starting early last year.

In February, another senior corrections officer was arrested for allegedly having sex with a female inmate. Thomas Seguine Jr., 34, of Phillipsburg, was charged with official misconduct and sexual assault.

Then three months later, a kitchen worker at the jail was arrested for reportedly exchanging cigarettes with two female inmates in return for sexual favors. Joel Herscap, 55, of Alpha, was charged with two counts of second-degree official misconduct, two counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact. Kearns said Herscap was recently sentenced to three years in jail on an official misconduct charge.

In October, Brian Y. Ambroise, 33, of Union, engaged in a sexual relationship with an inmate at the prison, authorities said, and was charged with official misconduct and sexual assault. The senior corrections officer was arrested following a joint investigation by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victims Unit and the New Jersey Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division.

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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:

 

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What is Expected to be the Biggest Prison Strike in History Began Sept. 9th, Here’s Why You Should Join Them

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:

 

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Proposed British Prison Reforms Don’t Go Far Enough to Address the Real Issues

This post was written by and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Gove’s Good Intentions for Prisons Don’t Amount to Necessary Action.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the CopBlock Network can be sent in to us via the CopBlock.org Submission Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Nick’s own writings.)

In the post below, Nick discusses reform proposals that have been put forward for British prisons by “Lord Chancellor” Michael Gove, a member of the British Parliament. Within that discussion he explains why he believes that, although the reform efforts are a product of good intentions on Gove’s part, they ultimately fail to address the real issues with the prison system and even if adopted will be destined for failure.

Although this post references the prison system within Britain specifically and reform efforts within that system, obviously there many similarities between the prisons inside the United States. Therefore, the commentary is equally relevant here as it is there.

Links to previous posts by Nick Ford that have been shared on the CopBlock Network can be found at the bottom of this post. If you appreciate the things Nick has written, you can support him directly here.

Gove’s Good Intentions for Prisons Don’t Amount to Necessary Action

In the UK the “Lord Chancellor” and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove wants to be remembered for his efforts to reform prisons. Writing in The Telegraph, Gove says “The emphasis of our penal system must be on more effective rehabilitation, because our current approach is costing us all dear. At present, nearly half – 46 per cent – of all prisoners are reconvicted of a crime within a year of being released.”

Gove’s emphasis on rehabilitation rather than on punishment is a welcome change for British citizens. Especially given the fact that Britain suffers similar problems that the US does when it comes to overcrowding in prisons. The Prison Reform Trust reports jail population has risen 90 per cent to 86,000 since 1993. In addition suicides and deaths in British prisons have been on the rise in recent years, leading to even more uncertainty about how to effectively handle criminals.

These calls for reforms come in tandem with Queen Elizabeth’s speech which included a use of satellite tags to allow prisoners to leave during the week and coming back on the weekend. This may allow them to get employment and thus hold down jobs while they transition into society. In addition, they may be able to see their families more easily than they had before.

These tags would likely apply to those who are already on their way out of prison but it may be broad enough to include even serious offenders. The pilot testing for this reform will be tried in September 2016 and particularly in the hopes of “reform sentencing”.

But however good these intentions are, they’re insufficient to undo the harms that prisons do.

Prisons are not, as Gove argues, an institution to “keep us safe” but rather focus chiefly on enforcing the rules of the state. Even within a sentence on stressing the containment element of prisons, Gove states that “When we put criminals behind bars we take them off our streets, prevent them from preying on the innocent and uphold the clear bright line between right and wrong.”

But where is the “bright line” of morality for individuals who have not harmed others but are still imprisoned? Are we to believe that everyone who has ever been imprisoned has somehow upheld this imaginary lack of gray in morality that Gove has discovered?

Not only that, but putting people behind bars alongside countless other criminals who have committed worse offenses is a poor attempt at instilling morality that lacks any sort of gray lines. These prisoners are more likely to learn about how morality is very much anything but black and white and they’ll likely learn how to become a much more effective criminal as well.

Moreover, Gove’s sense of moralism when he proclaims that he will “…reject the idea we should give up on any human being…” contradicts the central purpose of prisons. Prisons exist first and foremost to put the “criminal element” outside of our minds. This accentuating of out-group bias allows us to look the other way or even laugh at the misery prisoners go through.

Gove uses the satellite tags as another way the British government are working toward reforming prisons. But it’s just as easy to see this as another way to make the British citizenry legible to the members of the British parliament. These tags are also a clear expansion of the surveillance state in a country already well associated with surveillance cameras and 1984.

If “hope” is really at the heart of Gove’s idea of a better world, I recommend he look into different theories of justice all together. Consider the fact that if you truly believe that people can be redeemed that actually giving them that chance with their victims (or the victims families) is a more direct, cost-effective and moral way of resolving conflicts then locking them in cages.

Consider theories of restorative and transformative justice which put the individuals who are the center of the conflict as the aggrieved, instead of the state.  These forms of situating justice require real hope and love for others because it gives them the autonomy to make their own choices outside of the confining realms of prisons.

Other Posts on CopBlock.org by Nick Ford

  1. If You Want True Reform, Abolish The Police!
  2. Prisons Can’t be Exonerated of Their Role in The Police State
  3. Shifting Prisoners to New “State of the Art Facilities” Won’t Eliminate Prison Abuse
  4. Building More Prisons is Not the Solution to Prison Riots
  5. Jails and the “Justice” System Punish the Poor For Being Poor
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