Category Archives: Harvest 1997 (9/23/97)

Shame On Job Corps Union Busters!

Student employees of the Keystone Job Corps Center in Drums, Pennsylvania started an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizing drive on June 9th, 1997. The Job Corps recruits young people aged 16-24 who are interested in job training, getting a GED, or receiving a college diploma. Largely working class, these young people turn to Job Corps in an effort to secure a better future for themselves. But when they arrive at the Job Corps Center, recruits often find that they have been lied to about conditions, are subject to harsh restrictions on leaving the campus or expressing their civil rights, and can even be neglected by the infirmary to the point where their lives are endangered. Keystone Job Corps Center is managed by a private company called Management Training Corporation, but the young people in Job Corps are defined as employees of the federal government in their handbook.

On June 26, 1997, the Keystone Job Center suspended two of the union driveís most vocal supporters, Matt Wilson and Joe Marra, for 10 days pending final termination after an investigation. The reason was clear: Job Corps wants to have total, unchecked control over their wage-earning students. Joe was accused of inciting a riot by management while signing up a fellow worker. Matt was told he was harassing students, although no students had complained about him. Both were told that they were employees of the federal government 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and were not permitted to organize on company time. On the final signed report, the reason for their suspension was Inappropriate behavior that poses a threat to self or others.

The IWW demands that Job Corps immediately reinstate its organizers and calls for a no-tolerance policy in Job Corps for union busting.

Please call the Job Corps at 1-800-762-7288 and demand immediate reinstatement for Matt & Joe and an end to harassment of student employees at the Keystone Job Corps Center:

On August 23, the kind folks at Radio Mutiny, WPPR (West Philly Pirate Radio), came together with the IWW to help us fan the flames of discontent inside of Keystone.

Our mobile transmitter was packed up into a van, and we headed out to Drums, PA from West Philly. Our broadcast started around 9:45 pm. We called in to the dorms at Keystone (had arranged this earlier) and several people on the inside had smuggled in fliers which they quickly distributed. Pretty soon, everybody on the Center had their ear to the radio listening to our broadcast which included us reading from the banned issues of the local paper The Standard-Speaker, testimony from a friend of a young woman almost killed by the infirmary staff, a story from Solidarity Forever, a bit from the Dario Fo play Mistero Buffo, and an excerpt from Matt Wilson’s termination hearing. Plus lots of music: Last Poets, Rage Against the Machine, Utah Phillips, Public Enemy, Meat Beat Manifesto, Cypress Hill, Rhythm Activism, Funkadelic, Nine Inch Nails.

So we get about halfway into our broadcast (had 100 minutes of tape – all our battery can handle) and in pull the cops. Job Corps had sent around their security (Keystone Cops?!?) to find us – we were in our usual spot at the only pay phone in Drums, PA. The cops took a look at our rig and asked us if it was a bomb. They were worried because we were right outside of a post office (geez, if I wanted to take a post office – why the hell waste my time on Drums’ which probably has all of 8 letters inside?). Anyway, after some dithering around, we told them what it was and they didn’t really know what to do with us. They had no jurisdiction and weren’t really sure if it was illegal anyway. Sometime during all of this, a reporter from the Standard Speaker showed up and I did a quick interview. The cops talked to the pizza place, the proprietors of which had no problem with us being there (this is the regular IWW hangout while we wait for our people to be terminated, harassed, or sometimes released into our care.) So, the cops asked us to leave once it closed. They recommended that after pizza place closed that we move to the parking lot of a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts (yes, they really did.) When they found out it was the IWW, they said, Oh! IWW – why didn’t you just say so! because we’ve gained a little reputation out there – I dealt with the one cop before when Matt & Joe first got terminated. So, IWW is notorious in Drums, PA.

We took it mobile when the pizza place closed and circled the Keystone Center a few times. The Keystone Coppers followed us around for most of that stint. Don’t know what they hoped to accomplish by that.

The people on the inside were very happy to hear our broadcast. A few of the residential advisors called up my number to wish us well and tell us how energized it made everyone feel.

Letters

A shorter work-week in Ecotopia

Dear Slingshot:

With regard to a critique of my recently published articles, (see letters, issue #58) Jan Lundberg is to be commended for understanding that a saner society of the future would not work as many hours as we do at present. In spite of being on the right track in that regard, Lundberg claimed that I ‘believe in work, productivity, and everyone having plenty of stuff’, but the extent of my belief about productivity is that it is constantly increasing. The only condition under which I could be tempted to become a religious believer in productivity would be if constant gains were automatically compensated by instant reductions in the amount of time that we work, precisely in order to prevent over-exploitation of natural resources and the environment, exacerbation of class differences, explosive population growth, and to enable workers’ control and increasing freedom for producers of useful commodities and services.

In spite of my written record on these issues, I was amazed to find myself accused of ‘nudging people in a dangerous direction’, as though proceeding in the direction of less work, which we both believe in, were not good enough a reason for us to collaborate.

Fixing our problems with a new economic system to be known as ‘bioregional-based subsistence’ sounded wonderful to me, but, if the new economic system will be at all based upon changing property relations, there may be a hard row to hoe. If it took a Civil War to abolish as unpopular a form of property ownership as slavery, then enlisting the services of everyone whom Lundberg knows, or would like to know, may not suffice to change ownership of much else, so precious are the principles and privileges of private property to ‘the man on the street’.

Though exploiters would certainly like to see work-time maximized, the amount that we allow one another to work is not as absolute a principle as is property ownership. Until we adopt the philosophy that ‘too much work for me means too little work for my brothers and sisters’, we will remain in the grips of a dog-eat-dog philosophy of cutthroat competition that may have enabled societies of the past to prosper and triumph, but has since been superannuated by unprecedented levels of productivity, the result of which goes mainly to the rich. 98% of new wealth accrues to the upper 20%, while the lower 80% mindlessly ‘race each other to the bottom’ for bits of their measly 2% class share.

Billions of people all over the world feel as if no one gives a damn about anyone but themselves, because everyone is allowed to compete for scarce jobs. Remove this state of desolation by adopting reasonable measures to cut down on wasteful competition for jobs, and people will begin to give a damn, not only about themselves, but about everything else on the planet as well.

–Ken Ellis

What would Freud have to say?

What’s happening Slingshot collective:

Whenever I whip out my 1997 Slingshot Organizer, I get looks of envy from passersby. Sooo, to rid myself from wanton glaring and lecherous leers, except when I want to impress my coworkers with obvious (I pull out my 1997 Slingshot) organization capabilities, I want as many of those dang handy organizers as you can send.

Keep on lovin’

Martin Johnston

Refuse the California Police State

Dear Slingshot:

I just moved here. I went to the DMV to try to transfer my license from New York State to the Police State. First I was told that I needed a birth certificate. I called up my Dad and asked him to go to the town hall in Massachusetts (where he still lives) and get a copy of the record. He asked why, and I told him that I needed it to transfer my drivers license. Strange eh? So we both thought.

A week later I got the certified copy of the record of my distinguished birth. Sure enough, my birthday really was October 7. I then drove to the DMV (mind you, I’ve never had an accident or speeding ticket, or even parking ticket in my 15 years as a licensed driver). I jumped through the appropriate hoops, and got to the next to the last window, right before they are to take your photograph. Here is the sign Fingerprinting Mandatory. What the fuck?

I saw a whole line of dutiful citizens voluntarily lining up for their thumb printing. I took my completed application and told the woman at the desk I found it offensive they first wanted my birth certificate (to prove I was a citizen), but I sure as hell wasn’t giving them my finger prints. She was surprised to hear me, a non-threatening white female tell her I found this policy offensive. I said I’d have to think about it before I finished the process.

I asked the flip question how long before you start taking people’s blood? Don’t laugh, she said we might just start doing it. That made it very easy for me to make up my mind. I took my old trusty NY drivers license from the counter, and all my records and left the premises. I almost thought someone was going to prevent me from illegally leaving the building or something.

REFUSE to succumb to the Police State. I’ve been in CA for less than one month, and have had to refuse finger printing twice already, once at the DMV, once at my teaching job which also asked me to sign a loyalty oath. Pay attention to when your personal freedoms get slowly taken away. Soon you might forget you ever deserved them.

–Donna

Radio Free Allson Rocks Boston

Dear Slingshot

I’ve been a subscriber to Slingshot for about 5 years, I think, and it’s been well worth it. I am sending in my renewal soon (as soon as I get paid)….

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about our pirate/community radio station here in Boston. It’s called Radio Free Allston, and we broadcast four days a week, from 5 pm to 1 am at 106.1 fm. Our antenna should give us 20 watts, but mostly we get only 10, which gives us a broadcast radius of about 5 miles. We have news, public affairs, and music programming in five languages.

The difference between us and other pirates is that we are doing our best to involve everyone in the neighborhood, and we are broadcasting from right out in the open, figuratively and literally. Our regular home is in a gallery space in the Allston Mall, which is a collection of interesting small businesses – a vintage clothes shop, a movie store, (formerly a cool record store), a body piercing shop, and now us.

Every once in a while, we take the show on the road. We’ve done mobile broadcasts from a Homes Not Jails building takeover, a fundraising bike ride for a youth mentoring program, and a festival called Wake Up the Earth. At each one of these, we broadcast from a van with a huge Radio Free Allston banner on it, for maximum visibility. We have been written up in all the large and small newspapers in the area, and we were just featured on the evening news here in Boston. We have benefits for the station in the local clubs and our flyers are in all the record stores.

From what I’ve read of the stories of pirates who try to hide from the cops and the FCC, I like our strategy much better, although I probably wouldn’t be so brave if I were in it all by myself. At least this way, when the FCC comes knocking (heads), we will all be in the fight together, along with the people of the community.

I hope this info is useful to potential pirates, and I am very excited about all the micropower stations popping up all over the country. They’re starting so fast, no one can keep a complete list of them! Here’s a commercial for my show: I am known on-air as Tasty Aileen the Beauty Queen, and I host the Grrrly Show, which is by, about, and for the women who rock Boston. If anyone wants to write to me, or send me stuff to play, my address is: P.O. Box 2061, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. I am also the new webmaster of our old site, which is here: http://www.tiac.net/users/error/radiofreeallston/ although it may be moving, so you might have to search for it again.

Also, there is a fight going on in Cambridge, where they are trying to tear down a whole block of small businesses, including the Lucy Parsons Bookstore, and build, of all things, a hugeapartment building and a GAP! Please read about this effort and support it in any way you can – their website is here: http://www.worldmedia. com/madness/directtest/hnj4.htm or you can call the Save Central Square committee organizers John Bekken at (617) 783-4328 or George Salzman at (617) 547-5033.

Peace, Stacey.

p.s. Do you have any of those Slingshot organizers left? Here it is July, and I could really use one.

Inevitability of freedom

Greetings comrades of Long Haul,

I hope you are well and a continued spirit of struggle. As for me, I am well and confident of the inevitability of our freedom and our nation’s independence. Next year, July 25, 1898 will mark the 100th Anniversery of the imposition of U.S. colonial domination (of Puerto Rico). It is a time for action and concrete steps of international solidarity.

I would like to continue receiving your newspaper as well as news on our struggle.

In Struggle,

Edwin Cort├ęs P.O.W.

Marijuana Update

Oregon Recriminalizes Marijuana

In mid-July, Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, an allegedly liberal Democrat, signed House Bill 3643, which shifts possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a non-criminal violation to a class C misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail, a $1000 fine and loss of driving privileges for six months.

In 1974, Oregon was the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize marijuana by limiting punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a small fine. Previously, simple marijuana possession had been a felony crime across the U.S. In Texas and Rhode Island, simple possession could be punished with a life sentence. In 1970, California arrested 220,000 people on felony drug charges, mandating years in prison, for simple marijuana possession. Even with the felony laws, marijuana use increased, leading state after state after Oregon to decriminalize simple possession.

Eventually, 9 states, including California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina and Ohio, passed decriminalization laws and every state in the union decreased penalties for simple possession. In 1975, the California legislature made possession of less than an ounce of pot punishable by a maximum $100 fine, and prohibited cops from taking offenders to jail. (Offenders are given a citation like a traffic ticket.)

Drug law liberalization, which appeared to be moving toward legalization, lost steam in 1980 with the election of President Reagan. Now, in the wake of the passage of Prop 215 and Prop. 200 in California and Arizona, respectively, drug law reform is again on the agenda, and further liberalization or even legalization may be in the works. But Oregon is moving against the tide.

The Republican controlled legislature passed the recriminalization bill claiming that the decriminalization law was sending the wrong message to kids. So far, the recriminalization idea seems to be limited to Oregon.

DA Won’t Prosecute

On August 27, the Sacramento County District Attorney announced that it would not prosecute AIDS activist and patient Ryan Landers for smoking pot in public at a Sacramento Mall. Landers was cited by police on August 7 for lighting a joint while dining at an outdoor restaurant. He carried a letter from a doctor and a San Francisco Cannabis Cultivators Club ID. Patrick Marlette, an assistant DA, said the DA’s office concluded that Landers’ use of medical marijuana was not illegal under Prop 215. However, the city of Sacramento is considering a law that would prohibit pot smoking in public places. Landers, who says he needs to smoke marijuana several times per day, argues that prohibiting him from smoking in public would trap him in his house.

California Bill

SB 535, which would authorize $3 million for a three year UC study on the safety and effectiveness of medical marijuana, is gaining speed in the California legislature. After the Senate passed the bill with broad, bipartisan support, Devil-child Dan Lungren announced his support for the study on August 27. The irony of the announcement is high since during the Prop. 215 campaign, Lungren wrote that there were more than 10,000 studies available documenting the harmful physical and psychological effects of smoking marijuana. I guess Lungren’s short term memory is going as he starts his run for governor . . . .

Tony Serra Goes Public

Tony Serra, renowned criminal defense attorney, issued a press release on August 4 urging other lawyers and professionals to seek prescriptions for medical marijuana to treat stress. Earlier in the summer, Serra met with his doctor for three hours going over the medical indications for a pot prescription. Serra says that he has smoked three joints per night for the last 30 years to treat himself for his high-stress lifestyle. The doctor concluded that Serra was in a high-stress category and issued the prescription. Serra is now a member of the SF Cannabis Cultivators Club.

Stockbrokers, bankers, real estate marketers, politicians, doctors and lawyers should all seek a doctor’s recommendation to avoid the psychological and physiological consequences of stress. It is time to come off the booze and get on the cannabis wrote Serra. Hey, how about mothers, truck drivers, and college students! Serra denied that his daily medicine impairs him as a trial lawyer: You can’t practice law stoned so I don’t smoke during the day. But I work 60-80 hours a week, I’m a workaholic, and pot has never affected my ability to concentrate. I want other people to know that.

Club Founder Running for Governor

Dennis Peron, founder of the San Francisco Cannabis Cultivators Club, which was raided by heavily armed state police last year, announced that he plans to run for Governor of California in the Republican primary against Dan Lungren. Lungren, California’s Attorney General, ordered the raid on the Club and is currently attempting to have Peron sent to prison on drug charges arising out of the raid. Peron has argued in Court that the police raid, which came only months before the election which passed Prop. 215, was a political stunt by Lungren aimed at defeating Prop. 215 and boosting Lungren’s own political power.

Proposition 215 got more votes than Lungren did in the last election according to John Entwistle, a Peron aid. Dennis is a business owner, and he has a natural Republican constituency out there — highly educated, upper income people who don’t appreciate unwarranted government intrusion.

Some Buyers Clubs

C.B.C.B.Berkeley (510)486-1025

Oakland CBC (510)832-5346

C.H.A.M.P.San Francisco (415)861-1040

Flower Therapy, SF (415)255-6305

S.F. Growers Co-Op, SF (415)621-3986

Sweetleaf Collective, SF (415)273-4663

San Jose CBC (408)847-7008

Bulldog, Sacramento (916)556-3722

Los Angeles CBC (213)874-0811

Orange County CBC (714)543-5123

San Luis Obispo (805)239-9200

Ukiah CBC (707)462-7913

Marriage

I just met two women who were recently married, a new option that the LesBiGay community is fighting for. Even a good straight liberal can agree with the gay agenda on this one, equal rights to such benefits as tax breaks, medical insurance, pensions, hospital visitation, medical power of attorney, immunity from testifying against a spouse in a court of law, automatic transfers of housing leases, right to sue for wrongful death, and the billion other things that heterosexual married couples are entitled to.

The landmark 1996 case Baeher v. Mike in Hawaii opened the door, so to speak, to legal civil registration of marriage between same-sex couples. This marks the beginning of the end to sex discrimination in civil marriage in America, setting many states into motion trying to justify the discrimination they have perpetrated.

Of course gay marriage should exist as a choice. The open closet door couples could put their nuptials in the local newspapers and have very public weddings if they chose. These weddings could take the same range of possibilities as heterosexual weddings, anywhere from the religious to secular, elaborate to simple. Couples who remain in the closet could still benefit from a legal union and keep their marital status secret if they felt the need to protect their privacy. Of course, some couples would still choose not to enter into a legal civil marriage, just like their heterosexual counterparts who prefer to live together without the legal sanctions and benefits of marriage.

But is this normalization of the gay community something we really want? Doesn’t it make perfect sense that we all, regardless of our marital status, deserve medical insurance? Shouldn’t everyone be able to decide who they count as family? Shouldn’t we all bevalued as individuals, rather than as part of a couple–regardless of our sexuality? What will become of the lesbian and gay communities that we have worked so hard to develop once we are married off, living isolated lives in suburbia?

At this point in time, we have a real opportunity to escape from the patriarchal institution of marriage and the state that enforces it. But this requires that we create and maintain communities supportive of a wide variety of relationships–relationships that are not based on ownership and domination. Is our future as bleak as the heterosexual world’s, in which possessive marriages and the subsequent alienation of divorce is the norm? There’s a postcard going around now – Gay Marriage? May as well be straight! All I ask is that after you finish opening the new toaster ovens and silverware, please come back out and continue helping us change the world.

Critical Mass

…In San Francisco’s July 25 Critical Mass bike ride, more than 5,000 bicyclists ignored a ludicrous agreement between SF Mayor Willie Brown’s stooge, Supervisor Michael Yaki, and servile SF Bicycle Coalition members and disrupted automobile urbanism in the Financial District. It was a defeat for Brown, for sell-out bike-liberals, for the cops, and for the business interests who control them all. Our action also exposed the police function of the corporate news media; bourgeois journalists’ sham of objectivity evaporated in a torrent of lies, all deploring the fiasco and mess we caused for yuppies whose race to get their sport-utility vehicles stuck in normal freeway traffic was delayed for 30 minutes…

…What subservient souls decry about Critical Mass are its most vital features; its confrontational character and its highly effective anarchistic form, without leaders or representative figures to be co-opted by capital and the state. An absence of formal organization is not always a good thing, but here spontaneity functions well. Several thousand people took direct collective action against oppressive social relations without voting or groveling to bureaucrats. On that beautiful Friday evening we experienced solidarity and real community, unlike the atomization and defeat imposed by wage slavery and the market economy.

Since I have no respect for law or morality of any kind, I don’t see this issue in moral terms; it’s not a question of virtuous hippies on bikes versus evil car drivers. I don’t exaggerate the significance of bikes. Working class and poor people in particular have had automobile use forced on them by social engineering imposed by business interests; it has become hard to exist in this society without a car. But I feel nothing but contempt for people who identify with their role as car owners and whine about their supposed persecution by Critical Mass.

The automobile is the most murderous technological construct in history, not an imaginary problem or a disaster in the future, but as J.G. Ballard wrote in the introduction to his novel Crash, a pandemic cataclysm institutionalized in all industrial societies that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year and injures millions. Cars are causing unprecedented damage to the Earth’s atmosphere. Major wars are fought over their fuel sources. Car culture has deformed the face of the planet and the character of human beings’ relationships with one another. The automobile is the key commodity of a society where everything is a commodity, and as such is a legitimate target for attack.

Any mass collective action outside of and against the corporate order enrages our rulers–and can become a lightning rod for the discontents of a repressive alienating system. The cops are walking around with bruises on their butts. They’re running scared–how could they ticket or arrest thousands of combative bicyclists? Willie Brown better get Harrison Ford and Batman to help him out. We’ve proven we can take the streets–and there’s nothing he can do about it.

For full text contact: The Poor, the Bad and the Angry, POB 3305, Oakland, CA 94609.

The Murder of Mina Arevalo

On the morning after Thanksgiving, November 29, 1996, Sonoma County, California was rocked again by domestic violence homicide. Mina Arevalo, 40 years old and the mother of two young teenagers, was shot nine times by her husband Nick, who then committed suicide. Mina’s 13 year-old daughter discovered her parent’s bodies.

The homicide shocked a community still reeling from the murder of Teresa Macias, a Sonoma woman tracked down and shot to death by her estranged husband, Avelino, just seven months before. Avelino then shot and wounded Teresa’s mother, Sara, before turning the gun on himself. Law enforcement apathy and misconduct was so striking in the Macias case, it sparked a $15 million lawsuit against Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde.

Like the murder of Teresa Macias, Mina Arevalo’s death is an indictment of law enforcement’s response to domestic violence. And as with Macias, official records and interviews with friends and family show police had been called many times before.

Just six weeks before the murder, on October 12th, Rhonert Park police records show a domestic violence call to the Arevalo house. Their report says Mina was uninjured and didn’t want her husband arrested.

But when Mina later confided to a friend about the dark bruises on her arms, chest and neck, she said police, took a cursory peek in bad light and walked out. When she told them she at least wanted Nick to leave for the night, she said the officer told her, ëIt’s his house’.

It was probably this same incident Mina later described, saying police had laughed in her face. She said she asked for a Spanish-speaking officer and they told her, ëWe’re not her just to please you’, a friend states. Mina told her friend that Nick left the house that night, but returned as soon as police left. Enraged, he told her she was a fool for calling the police, and began to beat her again. Mina called the police again. They told her that if she didn’t quit calling they’d arrest her. They never came. Terrified, Mina slept in her van that night.

Tellingly, the original police report sent up to the district attorney on this incident shows a corroborating witness He said he saw the entire incident, the report states. That alone should have been enough to alert the police supervisor and district attorney there was enough evidence to press charges. The report should have been sent back to police for further investigation, instead the DA simply dumped the case for lack of corroboration. It wasn’t until December 4th, five days after the murder, that Officer Polik (in a move with no purpose but to cover his ass) wrote a supplemental report detailing the eyewitness’s statement. Yet again, law enforcement apathy literally kills.

But this was not the first police knew of Nick Arevalo’s violence. Neighbors repeatedly called to complain of his late-night shooting sprees. And police dispatch records show six calls to the Arevalo house in little more than a year, including one coded domestic dispute in August, 1995. The other 911 calls look harmless on their face — vehicle abatement and animal complaint, for example — but read on.

Friends and family confirm at least four times Mina called police to report the beatings. One call corresponds by date to one of the barking dog calls recorded by police dispatchers. On November 4th — less than a month before the murder and just two weeks after the last domestic violence call — Mina fled to a friend’s house after being beaten. She said she’d called police, but they never came.

So here we are, one year after Teresa Macias’ murder — one internal sheriff’s department investigation later, one State Attorney General investigation later, one Blue Ribbon Committee report later, who knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in domestic violence grants later, and what do we get? Another dead woman.

Another dead woman, and another report of police laughing in her face as they crack jokes with her batterer; threatening to arrest her and not him; failing to write an Emergency Protective Order; using her children as translators; leaving her in worse danger than when they arrived.

There’s no doubt that over the past six years, we’ve been able to wrestle some real change out of local law enforcement: more emphasis on prosecuting crimes against women, better police policies and special units, and enough training to bring most police agencies into this century. But at every turn we see that those changes extend about an inch deep, and then we run dead-on into the hard rock of unchanged police attitudes.

The backlash against every gain women make is still shocking. For example, we finally get a policy that makes the cops have to start arresting batterers, and immediately the number of women arrested on domestic violence charges skyrockets. (In Sonoma County, 1 out of 5 people arrested last year for domestic violence was a woman. This is despite national statistics showing that fully 95% of batterers are men.)

Clearly all the new policies, all the training programs, all the victim counselors in the world won’t change anything as long as the same people are in charge, and the makeup of our police forces continues to be overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male.

A key step in the right direction would be to hire women officers. After the 1991 police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, the Christopher Commission studied the LAPD and police violence. One of their findings was this; of the 120 officers with the most excessive-use-of-force reports, not one was a woman — despite the fact that 13% of LAPD sworn officers were women. At the same time, the study showed women officers weren’t reluctant to use force when necessary.

In fact the research shows that female police officers respond more effectively to crimes against women, have better communication skills, are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations, and use force less often than male cops.

Aren’t these exactly the qualities that were needed on March 24th in Rohnert Park?

Unfortunately, the odds are slim that a woman cop will respond to any given police call in Sonoma County. While women make up about 10% of police forces nationally, Sonoma County law enforcement is barely 5% women. Clearly those negotiation/defusing-violent-situation skills are just not what’s being valued.

In fact, the local sheriff’s department is actually going backwards. There are fewer female sworn deputies today than there were two years ago, while four women deputies currently have sex discrimination charges against the department — almost one out of two. Obviously they’ve got some real problems when it comes to women’s right to equal justice, in or out of the workplace.

With the current wave of killings by police, widespread public attention is finally being focused on police conduct. Demonstrations are frequent, a new group called COPA (Coalition Organizing for Police Accountability) has formed, and initial meetings have been called to form a citizen’s police review commission. This is a moment when many voices demanding real changes in law enforcement.

Women have to play key roles in this process to make sure we end up with a police review commission that investigates not just incidents of police brutality and violence, but also incidents of police neglect.

For more info about ‘Women defending women’ against police abuse in Sonoma county, contact the Purple Berets: (707) 528-9043, berets@wco.com.

Norma Jean Croy is Free!

After 19 years in prison, Native American lesbian political prisoner Norma Jean Croy is free! She made her first public appearance on International Women’s Day for an evening in solidarity with women political prisoners. Croy now resides in Oakland where she works as an auto mechanic.

USDA Set to Destroy Organic

In late summer or fall, the USDA will issue its long-delayed federal regulations on organic food. Despite precise recommendations from the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) to maintain strict organic standards — policies basically in harmony with those advocated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and the European Parliament — USDA officials have delayed as long as possible in announcing federal regulations on organics.

The main reason for the delay was agribusiness’ desire to be included in the potential profits (sales of organics have increased 20% a year since 1990). Hand in glove with the agribusiness industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA have promoted genetically engineered foods and high-chemical-input agriculture. Now the USDA finds itself in a quandary.

To define the word organic is to admit that a host of agribusiness practices such as pesticide use, intensive confinement of livestock, hormone injection, and genetic engineering are somehow less healthy. Yet, the USDA, FDA, and EPA have strenuously argued for years that these practices are perfectly safe. According to several inside sources in Washington who have seen the proposed rules, the USDA not only intends to disregard the NOSB’s explicit ban on genetically engineered food and intensive confinement of farm animals, but will actually make it illegal for regional or non-governmental organic certification bodies to uphold organic standards stricter than U.S. government standards.

If the USDA gets away with this in the United States, their eventual strategy will be to use the legal hammer of the GATT World Trade Organization to force European and other nations to lower their organic standards as well. This could cause serious repercussions internationally, where there is increasing opposition to genetically engineered food. It would have a huge impact and be viewed with utter dismay by the rest of the world, says Ken Cummins, of the International Accreditation Services, part of the International Federation of Organic Movements.

Inmates DON’T Get the Books Thrown at Them

Imagine going into your local library and trying to check out a book–only to have the librarian tell you that he’s taking away your library privileges. What for? you indignantly ask…and rightly so. I don’t like the way you’ve been looking at me, and besides, you smell kind of funny. Does this scenario sound absurd? It is, and yet this is what will happen in California’s prisons if the California Prison Authority decides to go ahead and implement drastic changes to the rules governing prisoners access to prison law libraries.

These new laws come at a time when California’s prison population is growing at an unprecedented rate, largely because of the drug laws and the Draconian Three strikes, you’re out law. The proposed restrictions on access to these libraries are also unprecedented. The Supreme Court had protected the rights of prisoners to law books in a series of decisions, starting with Gilmore v. Lynch in 1970. In this decision, the Court guaranteed prisoners reasonable access to the courts, and noted that the prisoners’ current access to the courts (and thus the law books) was so bad as to be unconstitutional.

Another landmark decision came in Lewis v. Casey, decided in 1977. The Court, which by this time had changed composition with a majority of Justices in favor of expanded civil rights, ruled that inmates have a constitutional right to meaningful access to the courts, and they must be provided with law libraries or legal assistance while incarcerated. The direct effect of these two decisions was the exposure of injustices within the prison system by informed inmates. Not only were abuses in prisons brought to light, but the court system itself was exposed as abusive and negligent of the rights of the poor prisoners.

This situation, however, is soon to change. The Prison Litigation Reform Act, introduced, fittingly enough, by former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), and sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), was designed to make it harder and more costly for inmates to file lawsuits while in prison, as well as to limit the federal court’s power to oversee conditions in local jails.

The loosely worded PLRA gives a green light to local authorities to not only violate prisoners’ civil rights, but to violate their right to access to the courts.

The first county to use the PLRA is Santa Clara County in California. The county is using this blank check to invalidate existing civil rights agreements in their prisons. The first state to make use of the PLRA is California, and it is not a coincidence that this state has the most electoral votes as well.

On 30 June 1997 the California Department of Corrections posted changes to the Prison Director’s rules. Under the guise that these new measures will save the State of California one million dollars, as well as ending the staggering number of frivolous lawsuits filed by those incarcerated, the Dept. of Corrections has instituted drastic new changes. One of the biggest problems inherent in these changes is that inmates are now restricted solely to initial pleadings. Initial pleadings are only the first step to a lawsuit, a notice of a lawsuits beginning. In other words, a prisoner can begin a lawsuit, but can do nothing to carry it out. A prisoner, for example, cannot fight for child custody under these new rules.

In reality, these changes in the rules are not to stop frivolous lawsuits or to save the taxpayers any significant amount of money. Rather, the intent of these changes is to restrict the prisoners access to the laws so much so that they will remain in prison, docile and impotent to do anything about their situation. Needless to say, this is great for the prison industry as well as for companies that contract with California’s prisons to exploit the cheap, captive labor.

The way these new rules will work in fact is simple. If a prisoner even raises his or her voice in the library (or if the librarian has a personal grudge against the inmate), the librarian can fill out a little slip of paper that bans the prisoner from the law library for three months. The wording: …upon documentation of abuse or misuse of law library resources, faculty, or staff working. An inmate could conceivably be banned from the library for writing in the books with a pencil.

If the inmate wished to contest this slip of paper, no longer would he or she be granted a hearing in front of three correctional officers. Instead, one administrator will decide the fate of the inmate’s privileges. There is no possibility of contesting this administrator’s decision.

These amendments to the Prison Director’s rules make it much more convenient for prison institutions to control the information inside the prisons and give a rosy picture to the public. Another effect of these amendments is an irony straight out of Kafka (or dictatorial governments): the prisoner is sentenced by a court of law, yet is denied access to that same law. The situation is akin to changing the rules of the game midway to finishing. That would be cheating in any reasonable game, yet that is exactly what will and is happening as we speak.

Write to the Department of Corrections to demand that these changes not be imposed:

Department of Corrections
Regulation and Policy Management Branch
PO Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001.

Private Prisons Industry Explodes

The private prison industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. This year it has set its sights on California. In just ten years, the industry has grown thirty-fold, from owning 3,122 prison beds in 1987 to owning 85,201 at the end of 1996. It has tripled in size just since 1993. Private prisons will take in $1 billion this year. With California’s prisons bursting at the seams with non-violent offenders, victimless criminals, and geriatric cases, the major corporations in the private prison biz seem set to make millions.

In late July, Corrections Corporation of American (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States, announced plans to build a $100 million, 2,000 bed prison in the Mojave Desert town of California City. CCA has no contract with the state to fill the prison, but is building the prison on speculation: Build it and they will come according to CCA supporter and state senator Richard Polanco of Los Angeles. David Myers, president of CCA, boasts that CCA has built prisons in other states on speculation and later persuaded governments to lock people in them.

While private prison corporations sell themselves as a cheap alternative to public imprisonment, their real function is to reap profits while frustrating public participation in the continuing incarceration boom. There is plenty of evidence showing that private prisons are actually more expensive than public prisons and that any alleged savings that do exist come from the fact that private prisons are contracted to hold low risk, easy to handle prisoners.

Private prisons aren’t cheaper

The 1,450 inmates already in 5 California private prisons are all minimum security, including many women and many low risk inmates in drug rehab. Rod Blonien, Sacramento lobbyist for Wackenhut Corrections Corp., the second largest private prison company in the US, predicts the state will use private prisons to store parole violators, women and geriatric inmates, and inmates with AIDS. A bill sponsored by Rep. Polanco which passed the California Senate and is pending in the House would require state officials to develop a plan by 1999 to place half of the state’s 10,000 women inmates into privately run facilities.

In Texas, which hosts one quarter of all private prisons beds and is the leader in prison privatization, private prisons get the best of the best of the state’s prison population, according to Allan Polunsky, who is chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice which oversees prisons in Texas. I truthfully feel that it has not been an economic bonanza as suggested by the companies doing business with our state notes Polunsky.

A 1996 General Accounting Office study found that existing studies were too flawed to allow it to determine whether or not privatization saved money. But the GAO noted that a 1995 Tennessee study, the most sound of the reports it examined, showed that a private prison run by CCA was slightly more expensive per inmate per day than comparable public prisons. ($33.78 per inmate per day for CCA vs. $33.18 for the state prison.)

In New Mexico, CCA is charging the state $95 per inmate per day for holding women inmates, which is about double what the state pays for overflow space in county jails. New Mexico pays about $60 per inmate per day in its own women’s facilities. The state maintains that CCA has overcharged about $2 million over the last 8 years it has run the Grant women’s prison there.

Private Prison Speculation

The main reason the private prison industry is booming is that private corporations build prison capacity on speculation using private money. State governments, who can’t keep up with rising prison numbers caused by the War on Drugs and mandatory sentence laws are desperate for more space. And private prison construction doesn’t require a prison bond measure to win an election. California voters have defeated prison construction bonds in the last three elections. Nor do legislators have to vote to build more prisons. The California legislature refused to budget any money for prison construction this year, despite the fact that the Department of Corrections predicts it will run out of prison space by the year 2000 and a prison takes at least 3 years to build. California now spends $3.8 billion on its prison system.

After 20 years of massive growth in prison populations, voters are turning down more prison construction in state after state. Despite the fact that much of he public continues to be motivated by tough on crime hysteria, they don’t want their taxes to go up or services to go down. Private prison speculation allows continued spiraling imprisonment rates without a public debate about what crimes society really thinks should be punished by imprisonment.

For example, San Bernardino is considering contracting with a private prison corporation to replace its aging juvenile hall. San Bernardino has already allocated all of its available debt funding for the next 30 years for hospital construction and can’t afford the $100 million required to replace the 1950s era juvenile facility. Private corporations have approached San Bernardino and offered to finance construction themselves. On August 19, the Board of Supervisors voted to seek state legislature lifting the ban on privately run juvenile detention facilities.

Prison Boom

The rise of private prisons is a natural outgrowth of the United States’ insane prison policies over the last 20 years. The number of federal, state and local prisoners in the U.S. has tripled since 1980 and now stands at more than 1.7 million people. In California in 1980, there were 23,511 inmates in State prisons. By 1997, it was over 152,000, a more than 6 fold increase. Government prison construction has boomed, but has been unable to keep up with demand for prison space, even given the tens of billions of dollars spent.

An estimated 25 percent of the prison population, 425,000 nationally or about 38,000 people in California, are in for drug offenses. Many other inmates who make up today’s record prison populations are in for offenses related to the War on Drugs, which has caused a rise in violence, gangs and property crimes. The War on Drugs has attacked the supply of drugs, dramatically increasing the price and making the drug war the government’s largest crop subsidy program. With drugs in high demand, turf wars claim lives and drug users can’t pay for their drugs with legal means. Until the War on Drugs is replaced with harm reduction policies or otherwise modified, the demand for an ever increasing number of prison beds will continue, and private prisons will continue to flourish.

Other causes of the imprisonment boom, and the rise of private prisons, are mandatory sentencing laws, the abolition of parole on the Federal level and in most state systems, including California, and Three Strikes laws. All of these policies, intended to get tough on crime, have lengthened sentences and taken away judicial and correctional discretion in how long inmates stay in prison. This has led to an aging of the prison population. Inmates who might have received lighter sentences because of their age or who might have been paroled when they grew elderly or infirm are now held in prisons.

The Private Prison Lobby

There is no clear evidence so far that private prison companies have had a hand in lobbying for stricter sentencing policies or harsher drug laws which expand prison populations and therefore economically benefit private prison corporations. But it is only a matter of time. It is clear that private prison firms have spent a lot of money on lobbyists in every state in which they have been successful. In Tennessee, which is considering hiring a private prison company to own the entire state prison system, CCA helped write the legislation for the hand-over.

Texas, the king of prison privatization, has seen the largest scandals associated with private prison corporation corruption, influence peddling and payoffs. In January, 1996, Andy Collins, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice left the Department and immediately went into business working with its former suppliers. After a business associate of Collins was arrested for attempting to sell freedom to a Texas prison inmate for $750,000, information about numerous contracts the TDCJ had made with companies owned by Collins came to light.

In Louisiana, the East Carroll Parish Sheriff resigned on August 28 and pleaded guilty to federal charges, admitting that he had accepted $340,000 in bribes from a private prison firm there.

The biggest danger private prison corporations pose to democratic control is their ability to use the vast resources generated from private imprisonment in the political process. All the private prison corporations have a direct financial interest in enlarging the police state, passing new and harsher laws, and locking up an ever greater proportion of the population.

Interestingly enough, one of the few vocal critics of private prison corporations have been prison guards unions. This is ironic because in the past, the prison guards’ unions have supported policies that increase imprisonment and therefore benefit their membership. But one of the ways private prison corporations cut costs is by hiring non-union, minimally-paid labor–undercutting the unions’ strength. California unionized prison guards, members of the 25,000 strong California Correctional Peace Officers Association, earn starting salaries of $32,000 a year plus benefits. Union president Don Novey insists he isn’t worried about union membership declining, while he complains that public safety should not be for profit.

Ultimately, prison guards’ unions and private prison corporations may combine their efforts when they realize they have a common interest in increasing imprisonment. Both have considerable political influence and lots of money to spread around. In Tennessee, for example, CCA came to an agreement with the state AFL-CIO to allow collective bargaining for future private prison guard employees if the state privatizes its prisons. CCA therefore muted a significant critic of its plans.

Civil Rights Violations

National attention focused on the human rights standards maintained by private prison corporations after a videotape surfaced in August showing inmates being beaten, kicked and bitten by dogs at a privately run county jail in Brazoria County, Texas. In addition to the beatings depicted in Brazoria County, there have been beatings or other human rights violations of inmates at private prisons in Youngstown, Ohio, Holdenvill, Oklahoma and Eagle Mountain, California.

Evidence is mounting that private prison corporations hire supervisory staff and guards who were known rights violators at public prisons. The president of CCA, David Myers, was accused of encouraging guards to assault inmates when he worked as a state prison warden in Texas prior to joining CCA. Guards under his command raided a rioting cellblock and then beat, subdued, and handcuffed inmates with riot batons.

Two other Texas prison officials who were punished for brutality against inmates now work as wardens of CCA private prisons in Texas. Sanders E. Estes, a warden at CCA’s Venus correctional facility, punched and kicked an inmate in an office while he was a captain at the state’s Ellis Unit. Joe Driskell, a warden at CCA’s Liberty County correctional facility, beat an inmate who had forged his name on a commissary slip when he was an assistant warden at Texas’ Eastham Unit.

And two guards accused of abuses at the Brazoria County Detention Center, Wilton Wallace and Daryl French, were fired and pleaded guilty to federal crimes relating to prisoner abuse in public Texas prisons in the 1980s.

With private prisons freer from public scrutiny than public prisons, which are hardly open to the press, the potential for inmate abuse and human rights violations are immense. And the profit motive encourages less training for guards and lowers standards in hiring and background checks.

Private Prisons = Big Profits

Private prison corporations have been phenomenally successful because of the boom in private prison construction. Almost 20 private corporations own or manage 120 private prisons in 26 states and Puerto Rico.

CCA, the industry leader, has 50 prisons in 18 states. It took in $292 million dollars in 1996 and will take in much more this year. Its stock price has more than doubled since March and now stands at about $40 per share, up from $4 per share in 1994. The stock is trading at a premium of more than 50 times last year’s earnings, a ratio usually only obtained by the hottest high tech companies.

Wackenhut Corrections Corp. manages 37 prisons in North America, Europe and Australia with a total of more than 27,000 beds. It had revenue of $137.8 million in 1996. It went public at $4.50 in 1984 and now trades at $30 per share after reaching a high of $45 in 1996. Investors in CCA and Wackenhut are getting rich on the imprisonment of others.

The strong market positions of CCA, Wackenhut and other private prison companies are allowing them to plan for rapid future development. Experts expect that private prison corporations will add prison beds at a 35 percent annual rate of growth, 7 times the rate of publicly run prisons. By 2001, there could be almost 300,000 private prison beds in the U.S. alone.

In July, CCA started a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) to provide CCA with investment capital to build more prisons. The REIT, CCA Prison Realty Trust, sold stock on Wall Street to get money to buy an initial 9 facilities from CCA. CCA will operate the facilities and pay rent to the REIT. The sale price for the 9 facilities, $308.1 million, is money CCA can now use for speculation on more prisons, like the $100 million facility planned for California. Whenever CCA finishes building another prison, the REIT will buy it, giving the cash back to CCA for more expansion.

Wall street likes the REIT concept: the stock, sold in a private issue at $21 per share, opened on the New York Stock Exchange at $30 on July 15. Everyone who bought at the initial private issue price made an instant $9 per share profit.

Wackenhut is also considering starting a REIT. Investment devices such as REITs will allow the rapid growth private prison corporations are betting on. With such strong economic incentives to continue the spiraling private prison boom, and with most politicians still unable to discuss, much less enact, criminal justice reforms such as harm reduction to replace the war on drugs, the future looks bleak and private prisons look like they’re here to stay.

How weird can it get?

The private prison craze may be getting a NAFTA twist. Officials in the California Board of Prison Terms have announced a plan to build a privately run prison in Mexico to hold undocumented Mexican immigrants arrested in California. The proposed prison would be a maquiladora using slave prisoner labor. James Nielsen, chairman of the Board of Prison terms and the main supporter of the idea, would like to see the prison contain a factory modeled after California’s Prison Industries Authority. It would be built as an industrial enterprise that derived income. Nielson envisions that the products would only be sold in Mexico and abroad.

It lets individuals go to their homeland to serve out their sentences at a great costs savings, and justice prevails according to Don Novey, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The proposal envisions a prison capable of holding 2,000 to 4,000 inmates. The Board of Prison Terms has spent $17,000 on a study of the idea and Arizona officials are already negotiating with Mexico to get their own private prison in Mexico. Nielson proposes a joint private prison in Mexico built for California, New Mexico. Arizona and the Federal government.

As of 1996, 19,000 Mexican nationals were imprisoned in California at a cost of $466 million per year. The number is expected to double by 2010 according to the Department of Corrections. The private prison factory idea gets rid of immigrants and yet still reaps the benefits of their labor, all while increasing the power of California’s criminal justice system.

There is another way

The rise of the private prison industry threatens to further erode public participation and grease the wheels of the imprisonment machine, making it easier to imprison a higher and higher portion of the population. Private prisons are worse for inmates, worse for employees, and don’t even save government money. And while you’ve read this article, an additional private prison bed has come on line.

Most of the private prison space is being built for people who shouldn’t even be in prison: AIDS patients, the elderly, non-violent, victimless criminals, drug offenders, parole violators.

The best way to fight private prisons is to fight the policies that are increasingly creating an enslaved, prison subclass. The War on Drugs and other over simplistic get tough on crime measures like Three Strikes need to be fought and overcome. There are viable alternatives to imprisonment for many non-violent, victimless offenders who are now sentenced to prison. Public pressure is the only way to turn the prison boom around and prevent the further expansion of private prison corporations.

For more information, contact the following organizations which favor criminal justice reform.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)
1612 K Street NW #1400
Washington, DC 20006
202-823-6700

The National Prison Project
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #410
Washington, DC 20009
202-234-4830

National Drug Policy Foundation
4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Ste. B-500
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 537-5005.