Prison Reform Volunteers Neede Reform can only come from enou
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Since we won our campaign to get the legislators to pass a bill that could release frail elderly, terminally ill and medically incapacitated people in October, many people have written to me begging UNION members for help with their campaigns to end the harsh sentencing laws and the rampant injustice in the courts. So far, few if any of the 4500 people eligible for release are out, even though the feds would pick up millions in their medical costs. There are even some families who want to care for their dying loved ones and pay for their care themselves, but this is also being denied by the State.
I must remain dedicated to and focused upon the fact that a prisoner is dying almost every day and there still is no place for the desperate families to go for help, even in life and death emergencies. As long as there is no focus on preventable deaths, the lawsuits will continue to mount. What a shame that patient advocacy, which would cost far less than avoidable, costly litigation, isn't even on the list of possible solutions to the medical neglect crisis
Now we have a new CDCr agency Secretary, former prosecutor and Inspector General Matthew Cate taking over. Cate has been named in several of the UNION families' wrongful death lawsuits along with retiring director James Tilton for their role in failing to protect prisoners who begged for their help. I suggest that everyone who ever made a plea for help to Matthew Cate in his previous job as Inspector General send a letter to an editor, or post beneath the articles at the news sites about what happened to your loved one in prison when Cate ignored your appeal.
The journalists won't get the relevance of the keywords "a former prosecutor" which explains why there has been no remedy and will likely be no remedy. The punishers in power who have purchased people into office due to their loyalties to law enforcement labor union jobs would never hire someone who would actually do something about the prison crisis which has bankrupted our state.
Please google up another one of my columns, enter keywords Daniel Provencio, prison, California so you can get the details of but one of my efforts to get help for brain dead prisoners. Daniel Provencio finally did get paroled two weeks before he died due to the responsiveness of Senator Gloria Romero. All it took to get a dead man paroled was for me to call seven international press conferences to bring wide attention to the routine callousness of the bureaucrats which is costing the taxpayers millions. I will never forget Matthew Cate promising me personally to assist with life and death emergencies as the cameras were rolling and then doing nothing to keep his word afterward. Three lawsuits are still pending on the Provencio case which will need large attendance later this year. UNION members have named both Matthew Cate and James Tilton in a number of lawsuits, which is not making the news at the point. This is why posting at the news sites is so important by the people suffering under the weight of a full blown humanitarian crisis.
Tell the stories out at the news sites, to the journalists and help the education coalition and students understand that the human bondage industry has broken our hearts, our families and our budget all due to too much cronyism and political power which the punishers obtained because the rest of the voters were asleep. Apathy brought it all to this crisis point and only organizing action can bring it out.
There are no rescuers, no group representing prisoners in California can call 1,000 or more people to the Capitol to show the lawmakers we are intelligent enough to organize. This is where we need to focus on building up our troops so that we can do initiative campaigns because we have enough funds and volunteers lined up in advance.
No group has this in place except for Drug Policy Alliance who spent ten years building up to 25,000 members and raised $9 million dollars. This is the right way to do it folks. Having 500 small, fractured groups out there, especially those that just pass email and don't do any real campaign is not as smart as having one or two large ones.
The state runs on groups, if you haven't built yourself a voting machine, no one hears your voice.
Within the UNION network, we have some dynamic people who are working for reform without enough funds and volunteers. People on the sidelines who don't write to editors, post at the news sites, show up to important hearings three times a year at least in Sacramento, who never register voters or bring new people into the movement are blocking reform.
Everyone wants to win so this is how we need to break it down right now because permanent decisions are being made which impact all of us involved in prison reform, education or nursing.
UNION'S FOCUS FOR 2008 - STILL SHORT AT LEAST 480 VOLUNTEERS
The UNION members who do all the work and pay for our work voted in December that our campaigns for 2008 would be limited to
1. focusing on non-violent prisoner release,
2. support of a prison cap by writing to editors and attending hearings on this topic
3. and if we have enough workers, more work on our ten year campaign of AB 1539 and medical neglect.
We are still short a minimum needed 480 folks who can post simple comments at the news sites and who care enough about the prisoners to attend hearings. So the UNION is the place to subscribe if you want to see changes in sentencing, a prison cap imposed, AB 1539 put into effect (so far none of our UNION members who are dying or permanently incapacitated have been released.) We have carried the campaign for ending medical neglect for ten years but at this time, we do not have enough volunteers to really rally in large numbers if we can't get these life and death situations addressed. Everybody thinks someone else is going to do their share of the writing and attending hearings and pay for all the supplies, filings, copies, postage and so forth which cripples our efforts. The war is in Sacramento and in the courts, not at the prison level, so this is where we need more focus.
Support of our Wrongful Death and Abuse Lawsuits Coming to Court in 2008 and New Ones in the Process of Being Filed
The UNION families have a number of lawsuits for abuses and wrongful deaths coming to court this year. Since all reform is the result of lawsuits, initiative campaigns or electing the right people to office in the first place, it is important that we have the money and the volunteers it takes to keep these lawsuits in progress. We currently have a waiting list of people whose loved one died a suspicious death hoping to find a lawyer who will take the case on contingency. If you have a wrongful death lawsuit already in progress and have already hired a lawyer, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, we will see no change in medical neglect unless we keep the lawsuits coming and support the ones that have been filed. Email Stephanie Gooding at email@example.com if you will help with work and funds needed for our wrongful death lawsuits
Support for Packages Lawsuit filed in Federal Court Needed
One of our UNION members has filed a lawsuit in federal court against several of the prison guards at Salinas Valley Prison, especially C.O. Godinez, for stealing from inmate packages. There is an ongoing problem out there of guards operating above the law and we may protest the prison again this year. I've had 32 lbs of legal documents conveniently lost due to C.O. Godinez' vindictiveness and other mail blocked and interfered with as well. If you are one of the 350 plus family members involved in the theft of items from your packages by SVSP prison guards, you definitely want to subscribe to the newsletter and find out how you can help bring this legal action to a successful conclusion. There is no doubt that the criminals are wearing the badges and putting their people into office. There is no oversight or consequences for guards breaking the law and the only way to deal with it is for the UNION families to keep the lawsuits coming forward.
End the Drug War Workers Needed
There are two great initiatives underway and both deserve support. The Drug Policy Alliance has the money to hire signature gatherers but it still needs and deserves support
Amend Three Strikes Initiative Workers Needed
The initiative that involves one of our long time UNION members is the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2008 which has no paid signature gatherers. This means that in order to meet the deadline, it's sponsor, Frank Courser, needs 6500 or more volunteers to gather at least 300 signatures each by the deadline. You can pass the DPA petition at the same time and register voters, this field work must get done if we are to win reforms. Email Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will mail you petitions. Even when the volunteers and funds aren't there, we should always make the best showing possible or the legislators conclude we're too lame to organize. To help with the campaign now underway and needing 6000 or more signature gatherers email email@example.com
Juvenile Reform needs workers
If you want to bring about reform for juveniles, contact UNION member Lourdes Duarte who is also an organizer with Books Not Bars. They are doing a wonderful job because the parents of juveniles are more passionate about working for reform. Last year Books Not Bars and some other supporting groups of parents, won major legislation, more proof that organizing works. This is the main thrust of Books Not Bars, reform of laws and facilities affecting juveniles. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
So get off your apathy and email me to see how you can help the people who have invested years in bringing these campaigns to a boil, as well as learn how to fight back for yourself and others. There are no rescuers. Each campaign requires funds and volunteers, funds and volunteers, plug in somewhere because complaining alone is not an act of reform
If you're not getting the UNION Daily Newsletter, you have no idea where, when, how to fight back. The only blocks to reform are ignorance and apathy. We can overcome that problem and be a part of the solution which to organize, not agonize. The UNION is by subscribers for active subscribers only and we are concerned only with the campaigns within our subscriber network. There are a number of group leaders and members of the clergy who subscribe to the UNION newsletter as well but they are separate. If you want to see changes in the laws, better conditions then help out. Now. Your enemies do not have any trouble organizing more harsh laws against you, they show up to hearings, write to editors, raise millions to keep the oppression that feeds them in place.
Please print this off and mail it into at least one prisoner so they can know why they are living in terrible, even deadly conditions, because there aren't enough volunteers in motion to be able to win initiative campaigns or effectively fight back. Rev. B. Cayenne Bird
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.