Compassionate Release for Sick and Dying Prisoners Deserves Your Support millions of education and human services dollars are being wasted on punishing very sick people. It's inhumane and serves no public safety interest
Tomorrow, April 12 is the deadline to fax support or opposition to a whole slew of new bills that will be heard next week before the Assembly Public Safety Committee. One that will save California millions of dollars is AB 1539 which deals with the compassionate release of permanently incapacitated and/or dying prisoners. No matter how hard anyone tries, they cannot punish the sickness out of inmates. The prison crisis exists because sick and elderly people are being held long past the time when they would pose any threat to society. Frail elderly and dying prisoners need healing. Society would be better off for making certain that the California Department of Corrections really enforces the existing laws and passes some new ones to bring us out of the dark ages with more humane incarceration policies. With 3 million potential voters now tied to a state prisoner, the bureaucracy already grown to an unmanageable size, and hundreds of thousands of families have been literally destroyed by the parasites feeding off the human bondage industry. It's time to insist that the legislators get smart on crime and stop the build of the bureaucracy and destruction of families. Hundreds of letters will need to be received before anyone will listen by 5 pm tomorrow. For a sample letter and more details on AB 1539 and other bills proposed to support or oppose click on this link. If more people would skip the game on TV and pay attention to what is being done in your name and with your tax dollars, we would have more justice everywhere and far less crime.
April 11, 2007
For nearly a decade the subscribers to our interactive UNION Daily Newsletter have fought one medical neglect battle after another and helped to find lawyers for 28 families who have filed lawsuits. Press conferences have been held to announce many of the filings and there has been extensive press coverage on dozens of them which you can view at our index page here.
The UNION families spent every day for the better part of a decade often being the only people to show up in the legislature for bills related to compassionate releases, medical neglect, abuse of the mentally ill in SHUs and hundreds of campaigns, rallies, press conferences too numerous to list here but our website and the Senate and Assembly archives are fully documented with our work.
I have written here in my column with the California Chronicle on this topic many, many times and have also been published numerous times in other publications including the Los Angeles Times, The Reporter in Vacaville which still has many of my articles over the years archived (if not you can order back issues or read a few of them here.
It was the UNION who worked with the National Prison Commission in providing dozens of detailed chronologies which opened America's eyes about medical neglect and brought about excellent ideas for solution which so far have been mostly ignored. During Judge Thelton Henderson's hearings the UNION families were the only ones present beside the dedicated staff of Prison Law Office and the California media until the very, very last day, then only a few people turned out.
When Robert Sillen was appointed Receiver, the UNION families filled up the entire right side of the courtroom at a special hearing called by John Hagar in Judge Henderson's courtroom in San Francisco last year. We were wearing pink carnations, representing the symbol of hope and trust that the death toll that we have witnessed over the years of hundreds of preventable deaths would soon end.
Two of the top news reporters in California are working on the story of Mark Grangetto, whose mother has filed two lawsuits naming everyone responsible for the medical neglect of her brain damaged son since birth. This is yet another UNION compassionate release campaign which we have actively supported with rallies, protests and even a senate hearing which still did not bring him the help he needs. Many of my columns here at the Chronicle have detailed how Mark Grangetto has unnecessarily deteriorated and is near death due to the callousness of unprincipled bureaucrats. His mother Nora Weber has spent more than $70,000 just for a few days of actual medical care. The details of this case is in the hands of the best prison issue journalist in the country right now and you'll be reading about it after the trial under his byline in greater detail. That's why I am not going to describe every horrific step of the campaign for Mark Grangetto at this time.
I need to mention it again here because the outcome of this case will affect every California prisoner and for that reason even non-UNION members should pack that Hanford courtroom this summer to support Nora Weber, a feisty and elderly mother who has spent her retirement money fighting for her son's life at a time when she should be relaxing in her rocking chair.
Currently twenty eight UNION families have sued more than 350 CDCR employees including prison guards, medical doctors, all who participated in wrongful death or abuse cases including a few people who were callous when appealed to for help. They're flaming mad after being served and forced to hire a lawyer to defend their cruelty and callousness but this is the primary form of accountability that has put prison reform on the front burner. It's the type of accountability that the State legislators would not do since so many of them are put into office to represent the interests of law enforcement labor unions and not the three million people who are related to a state prisoner. The UNION families' work on medical neglect and lawsuits that our families have filed in addition to backing most of the lawsuits filed by Prison Law Office for the past decade is why we have a federal receiver and why we stand on the edge of reform now.
Where the rubber met the road, the UNION was often standing there alone with no other "pretender advocates" present to actually fight these battles. And so it is with great pride and a well-documented track record of success through pressure that I recommend support of a bill brought by Leiber and Krekorian AB 1539.
The first step of the process is that it needs to get out of Public Safety Committee. We no longer have the sharp mind of Assemblymember Mark Leno in place as the head of the public safety committee. He has been replaced by Assemblymember Jose Solorio whom you can see in action by watching him at calchannel.com in some of the archives. He does not seem to know our issues very well, perhaps because he is new to this position and not many people are communicating the details that he needs. I shivered when I heard him commend the Attorney Generall's office and support District Attorneys as if they could be really trusted during the SB 40 hearing and recommend support for an unconstitutional law! Heavens to Mergatroid! None of us can relax with this legislature in session so full of new people.
What you need to do if you want to see this bill passed is fax a letter of support by this Thursday, April 12 to Assemblymember Solorio, the regular mail is too slow to make this deadline and the legislators almost never read email so send a fax. To read the rest of this article complete with fax numbers, a sample letters and other bills up for a vote, please click on this link or paste it into your browser,
B. Cayenne Bird is a 45-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. A descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln, and General Andrew Porter, she is passionate about human rights and criminal justice issues. A mother and grandmother with advanced degrees in Journalism, Liberal Studies, and Humanities (Cultural Anthropology) she has focused on prison reform making great strides in Calif. supporting the landmark Plata-Coleman case for a decade which resulted in major prison reform. She writes scholarly articles too but prefers op-eds.