The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out
[Legal] [Grievance Process] [Illinois]
expand

How To Get More Dayroom Time

Readers of Under Lock & Key, may this kite find you in the best of health and spirits. In the last issue, Spring 2024, No. 85, there was a request for prisoners to sign up for a petition and issues about no dayroom and yards. I have been down now 18 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections (I-DOC) and I want to help everyone who is seeking more out-of-cell time.

I Filed an 1983 Civil Action about this topic, Patrick Bakaturski V. Director et al, 3:23-cv-03609-SPM, which is currently pending merit review in the Southern District of Illinois.

The basis grounds of the civil suit is that under all of the Covid-19 lockdowns, the endless cell restriction violated my 8th amendment rights. Wexford Health Care signed an affidavit in Patrick Bakaturski v. Rob Jeffreys, 21-cv-00014-GCS, which stated that Wexford Health Care did not approve any of the Covid lock downs. Yet in every grievance I-DOC said I was on quarantine.

So How Do I Get out of the Cell More? What should be the Legal Argument?

First Look up Ashoor Rasho et al., v. Director John R. Baldwin, NO: 1:07-cv-1298-MMM-JEH, Mental Health Settlement agreement. If you go to page 20 you will see that I-DOC agreed that all prisoners under segregation statutes should get 20 hours per week of out of cell time. That means if you are being kept in the cell and not being given 10 hours of Day room and 10 hours of yard this violates your 8th Amendment rights. Under A.D.A. for general mental health every prisoner must get 10 hours of yard per week and at least 10 of day room or programs per week in maximum security prison. I am not in max anymore, but my prison is being ran as a unclassified max in violation of state and federal law. So under the same standard of a basic human right, I requested my 20 hours per week, 10 hours of day room and 10 of yard.

The legal argument is clear, 23 and 1 is unconstitutional. ALL max prisoners could fight to make their max a 21 and 3 by invoking the wording in the Mental Health Settlement. The Federal Government has already agreed in part that 23 and 1 is unconstitutional. You need to use page 20 of the settlement to support your grievances and legal arguments.

If anyone has any questions of how to file the grievance or would like to see the format on what might work in Federal Court. Key cite Bakaturski in Federal Court. If you can get a copy of the petitions I have filed pro-se.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We are not lawyers and do not offer legal advice. When we print tips like this it is up to the reader to determine how this information applies to your situation. The settlement above applies to the Illinois DOC, though strategies in those cases may be relevant elsewhere. We have long worked to shut down long-term solitary in all its forms. The settlement is one small tool to help prevent de facto long-term isolation from occurring in Illinois.

chain
[Black Lives Matter] [Civil Liberties] [Legal] [New Afrika] [National Oppression] [ULK Issue 85]
expand

Do Black Lives Really Matter?

Never Forget Tulsa - 21 June 1921

This question is not a matter of ancillary importance. Why? Because it seems as if after George Floyd was sadistically and undoubtedly murdered on camera for all to see by a person who was employed as a police officer supposedly standing under the motto of serve and protect (let them tell it), all of a sudden white America was finally awakened after 400 years of conveniently sleeping under the blanket of “better them than me.” (For the record of course “we know all white people are not racist”. Yeah, we know that to be a statement of gospel.)

I myself predicted seriously, when Rodney King (R.I.P) was beaten by obvious racist cops like a pair of weathered drums in Tommy Lee’s garage, that change would somehow slip through the cracks of injustice in the early nineties. However, that was daycare in comparison with what occurred on the unfortunate day of 21 June 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma after a Black shoe shiner was arrested for assaulting a white girl in an elevator. The Publisher of the local paper, eager to win a circulation war published a front page headline screaming, “To Lynch Negro Tonight.”

It was indeed a familiar occurrence for a Black man accused of sexually assaulting a white woman in the Deep South era. Rewind and fast forward to 21 June 1921 after the paper hit the streets an angry white mob began to gather outside of the courthouse where the Black shoe shiner (Dick Rowland) was being held (Rowland would be later released after the women refused to press charges). That alone reeks of rel-a-tion-ship. Some Blacks from the Tulsa neighborhoods of Greenwood – some were recently discharged war vets – began to descend upon the courthouse with the objective of saving Rowland from being lynched. Long story short, shots were fired and total chaos broke out. As a result over 12,000 whites were fully backed by the white police force. In all, 300 black lives were taken in vain, 1,200 homes burned to the ground and not a single (white) person arrested or ever held accountable for these untimely deaths of Black men, women and kids. To sugar coat the incident it was labeled a riot but in realty is was no less than ethnic cleansing genocide carried out on American soil. So do Black Lives Really Matter in the eyes of white America?

A couple of more Black lives in question, two of the greatest leaders to ever walk the earth, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mr. Malcolm X. At the time of their tragic assassination FBI agents were indeed on the scene under the orders of racist FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as if they where known terrorists. J. Edgar Hoover was said to express paranoid thinking that Martin Luther King would one day turn radical and his followers would no longer turn the other cheek to the nasty side of injustice and racism. Even though up until his fatal demise he showed not the slightest hint of radicalism. Malcolm X had continuously complained to law enforcement that his life was in danger and he often requested a gun permit, which was apparently never granted.

Now the very thing that initiated this question/article in my head as I sit behind enemy lines in a cell for allegedly selling crack cocaine that conveniently was found behind a pay phone on the South Side of Dallas, Texas: Here I’ve remained for the last 20 years as if I murdered the President. Make no mistake I am not miserable nor bitter as I continue to seek justice in my case. Yeah, I was found not guilty of the exact same indictment and found guilty of the exact same offense. This is overtly obvious Double Jeopardy under the 5th Amendment. It does take 20 years for the courts to grasp this simple and clear vital error which was made purposely to get a conviction due to the fact that I refused to cop-out to a charge I was totally innocent of.

So I have educated myself since I have been incarcerated and there is no way of avoidance on behalf of the courts. Every so called law enforcement affiliate that I have relayed this information to has turned a blind eye to my situation so as of now I am in a lawless environment and failure is not an option as the system attempts to sweep me under the rug so to speak to cover their criminal activity. Now tell me, do Black Lives Really Matter?


MIM(Prisons) adds: Studying Black history like Tulsa, and current events in Palestine, the connections are clear. While the imperialists haven’t dropped any bombs on New Afrika in a few decades now, the low intensity warfare and genocide continues here in the United $tates. It is fueled by white Amerikans’ paranoid delusions, which make them fear that the oppressed might treat them as bad as they have treated the oppressed. The fact is that the Amerikan project is further along than the I$raeli project, and pacification is in full effect. But the contradictions remain, and cannot be resolved without ending imperialism. The oppressed will not see justice until then.

chain
[Censorship] [Digital Mail] [Legal] [Texas] [ULK Issue 85]
expand

Updated Info on TX Lawsuit re: Digitalized Mail

Dear UL&K Editor & Staff,

When i originally wrote to you regarding my lawsuit on the digitalized mail, i had NOT yet been assigned a case no. i have one now:

Case No. 2:23-CV-00269
James Logan Diez v. TDCJ-CID
United States District Court
Southern District of Texas
Corpus Christi Division

Address of Court:
Clerk @ 1133 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Corpus Christi, TX 78401

Plaintiff’s Address (for Attorneys, Legal Aid, or Organizations)
James Logan Diez
2399291 McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Dr.
Beeville, TX 78102
  • Prisoners are NOT allowed to correspond with Plaintiff. ALL other INDIVIDUALS may write to Plaintiff using the name, #, and Unit, with:
P.O. Box 660400
Dallas, TX 75266-0400

WARNING Any fellow Texas Prisoner who wants to seek to join this suit as a Defendant WILL be required by the Court to pay applicable fees and court costs – so, don’t put your foot in the pond if you aren’t prepared to swim.

Again – as the Plaintiff – i am extending an open invitation to any Attorneys, Investigators, Paralegals, Researchers, Legal Aid Groups, or Sponsors who would like to offer assistance with this litigation.

  • ALL pleadings filed to date should be available for viewing/downloading on the Court’s public website.

With appreciation for ANY assistance extended into my hand – have a great day and Blessed be.

chain
[Civil Liberties] [Legal]
expand

Call to Coordinate Legal Battle in Texas

My fellow prisoners I am sending out this call for a massive assault upon our living conditions here in TDCJ; a massive RUIZ TYPE Lawsuit that should not only bring a change to our living conditions, but should bring about the release of thousands of us.

ORDER TO REDUCE PRISON POPULATION

On 4 August 2009, this three-judge court issued an Opinion and Order finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that crowding is the primacy cause of the constitutional inadequacies in the delivery of medical and mental health care to California prisoners and that no relief other than a “prison release order”, as that term is broadly defined by the PLRA, 18 USC 3626(g)(4), is capable of remedying these constitutional deficiencies – see COLEMAN v SCHWARZENEGGER, 2010. US.Dist.LEXIS 2711, BROWN v PLATA, 563 U.S. 493 and GRADDICK NEWMAN, 453 U.S. 923.

Each of these cases were started by prisoners in California and Alabama. We can, and must, do the same! We must do so because the conditions today are back to Pre-RUIZ. Thus, we need a massive lawsuit to bring change. Unfortunately, we must come up with a way to communicate. Since communication is often difficult to impossible I offer the following strategy: During the American slave trade, the top priority of each plantation was to ensure there wasn’t any communication between the slaves from one plantation to another. Shuttering the communication lines was, is and has always been the most effective way to control slaves/prisoners. Doing so is the dominant means of ensuring captives are not planning insurrections, escapes, revolutionary actions, and/or working together to get the very best class action suits filed in federal courts!

Ruiz was the lead plaintiff in the fantastically expensive and bitterly contested lawsuit that laid waste to the original and brutal Texas Department of Corrections (TDC, now known as TDCJ-Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice) control model. Had it not been for the benefit of the mail system the lawsuit probably would not have ever seen the light of day. During the time the lawsuit was being researched, rough drafted and crafted, the incarcerated were permitted to write each other and share notes, ideas and research of what the lawsuit should bring to the court’s attention. Needless to say, we cannot do that today. As a result, besides the recent “excessive heat” lawsuit filings by TDCJ prisoners and then taken over by the ACLU and other civil & human rights groups, there has been no sign of an effective federal suit against TDCJ since the original RUIZ in the 1970s and 1960s. The originality of the lawsuit had started with Ruiz, Fred Cruz and others of “eight hoe-squad.” It eventually fanned out to other writ-writers at several more of the 14 units/plantations in Texas. Every writ-writer in the State was either researching or actually writing up some filings to either send to Ruiz’s eight hoe-squad crew consideration.

From the disciplinary block of the Wynne Plantation, Ruiz’s document traveled first to Judge William Wayne Justice’s court house in Tyler. He sent eight illustrative complaints to the New York offices of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund to solicit representation for the indigent Plaintiffs. The rest is history. Unfortunately, we cannot write to one another, nor can we expect the fair treatment of a William Wayne Justice. We must come with overwhelming clear and convincing evidence for these ultra conservative judges. To make this point clear, I offer the following example, which is a case I personally litigated from here on the Coffield Unit. They put Armour on the Medical Chain, kept him away for about six months and played the chase-mail game with his mail. They handled us real ruff:

“Armour attached in his response a newspaper article, purportedly from a publication called the Texas Tribune, saying that TDCJ Director Bryan Collier testified in a court hearing that TDCJ failed to monitor temperatures on units where the agency houses inmates who are supposed to be protected by a settlement agreement covering the Pack Unit. Armour also attached four pages, 11, 12, 47 and 48, which are purportedly from a document called the Human Rights Report from the University of Texas. These documents recite from interviews with inmates about the heat, claim that TDCJ is aware of”inhumane conditions”, and sets out the conclusions and recommendations of the unnamed authors of the “report.” The Defendants have filed a motion asking that the article from the Texas Tribune and the excerpted pages from the Human Rights Report be stricken as hearsay. The Fifth Circuit has stated that newspaper articles are classic, inadmissible hearsay and cannot be used to defeat summary judgment.”

Please read ARMOUR v DAVIS, 2020 U.S.DIST-LEXIS 94986, and see that in addition to this the Judge claimed that 406-Affidavits of prisoners were not part of the record.

Thus, it is my hope that us jailhouse lawyers across the State of Texas will file lawsuits about our living conditions, and in the future we will attempt to get them consolidated and/or attempt to get the Justice Department to intervene. Also, I urge each of you to contact the National Lawyers Guild. They have four lawsuits that they are attempting to get Affidavits from all the units in TDCJ about the complaints they have filed: BAKER v COLLIER, 1:22-cv-01249, PANUS v O’DANIEL, 1:23-cv-00086, SIRUS v RELIGIOUS PRACTICE COMMITTEE, 1:22-cv-00191 and COX v COLLIER, TBA.

They can be contacted here:
FORBIDDEN BOOKS LIBRARY, LLC,
RE:NLG-PC Affidavit,
P.O.Box 534,
Scherevile, IN 46375

So, as the story unfolds, “mail-call” has lost the most important part of its strength when it comes to incarcerated individuals uniting as one band or group of people to fight the injustices of a system that holds them in perpetual bondage, whether that’s physically in prison or by means of supervised release to parole/probation. Let us not allow the lack of the ability to communicate to prevent us from carrying out the next multi-level federal case!

DARE TO STRUGGLE! DARE TO WIN!


MIM(Prisons) responds: We print this article for the information it contains, not necessarily to echo the call of this comrade. This comrade has a proven track record of legal campaigns. Those who operate strictly in the legal realm, whether jailhouse lawyers or organizations like the ACLU, can be comrades in united front with demands of the anti-imperialist movement.

What the comrade doesn’t address here is why we are back to conditions as bad as before the Ruiz case. The short answer is, there are no rights, only power struggles. We live in a system where the minority oppresses the majority. As long as that is true, the majority can never sit idly and have their needs met. They must struggle for them.

As this comrade is calling for a coordinated struggle, we agree. But it cannot be relegated to the courtrooms. That is why we did promote and support the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative in Texas prisons, which had a multi-pronged approach that was based in organizing the prison masses. The state seems to have won that round, but that is the type of strategy we need. Just as the International Criminal Court is not going to stop the genocide in Palestine, nor are peaceful protests in the United $tates, but they provide agitational support for the ongoing liberation struggle being fought on the ground by the masses. All of these forces are part of a united front effort, with different political approaches, supporting a common cause of ending genocide.

chain
[Civil Liberties] [Legal] [Alaska]
expand

Stop Due Process Violations In Alaska

Due Process

I have been doing time in Alaska off and on since 2004. I’ve seen all the dirty tricks the crooked C.O.’s use to violate our constitutional rights. I’ve seen one generation of crooked cops hand down their dirty tricks to the next. I see them violate our rights to the point prisoners don’t know their rights are being violated. As Hitler said, “if you tell a big enough lie often enough people will believe it…” It’s time we stand up and take our rights back. The two biggest Due Process violations are the failure to have witnesses physically present at the disciplinary hearing and the failure to permit requested evidence in the accused favor.

It is the law in the 9th circuit that witnesses must appear at a prisoners disciplinary hearing, (Bartholomew v. Watson, 665 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1982)). And that they may not use interviews to substitute for live witnesses (Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 525-26 (9th Cir. 1996). The blanket denial of live witnesses is impermissible, exclusions must be justified individually (Serrano v. Francis, 345 F.3d 1071, 1079-80 (9th Cir. 2003)).

However, in the past 20 years the Alaska Department of Corrections (AKDOC) has denied all live/physically present witnesses other than the crooked cops themselves! In the face of clearly established Constitutional law the crooked cops only permit written interviews of our witnesses. The answer we get most often is, “that’s just not how we do things.” When or if we appeal, our appeal on this point is denied without reason.

Instead of throwing our hands up in hopeless despair, I encourage you to file your administrative appeal with the court after you exhaust your appeals with the AKDOC. There was an attorney who retired about 7 years ago, Jon Buckholtt, who would do administrative appeals for prisoners, about 100 per year. Cases have been reversed and then expunged on this point alone.

I also would encourage you to contact your local ACLU and/or file a §1983 civil rights claim. Take back your rights!

chain
[Digital Mail] [Legal] [Texas] [ULK Issue 84]
expand

Challenging Constitutionality of Digital Mail, and related reports from Texas

On 20 October 2023 I filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the Texas Prison Administration’s contracting with a private sector, for-profit company in Dallas, Texas to digitalize all TDCJ-CID prisoner’s incoming personal/general correspondence and photographs for posting to the SecurusTech tablets issued to us in May 2023. I paid the full filing fee as well as the administrative and service fees.

I submit this information and the following to ULK for the following reasons:

  1. To seek unity across state and federal prison systems currently under digitalized mail policies.

  2. To provide fellow prisoners in all prison facilities with details on my challenge to digitalized mail so that we can coordinate a nationwide attack, and perhaps get an inter-state class action lawsuit that will be moved to the u.$. Supreme Court.

  3. To hopefully secure a Pro Bono assistance of attorney to ensure all the bases are covered.

While I was able to cover the initial $500 cost to file the complaint by sacrificing renewal of several magazine subscriptions and commissary “luxuries”, I do not have the financial ability to hire counsel or investigative resources, nor any further admin fees so I am going to need help.

The complaint’s Constitutional challenge relies on numerous First and Fourteenth Amendment issues of freedom of speech and due process, to wit:

1. Exaggerated Response:

TDCJ-CID administration claims the ban on physical mail is to stop the drugs/contraband that come through USPS mail. However, physical mail may account for less than 1% of incoming drug contraband, and such drug-laced articles of mail can be easily detected, isolated, and removed using the K-9 drug detection units that are maintained on every TDCJ-CID unit. Everyone, including the prison administration, knows that almost 100% of the drugs and contraband that enters prison facilities gets in through one of only three ways:

A. Corrupt admin/security employees.

B. Outside trustees picking up “drop” packets outside the security fence and bringing or passing them to inside trustees.

C. Private sector deliveries to the prison (kitchen and office supplies, or vendors for guards’ food orders and commissary supplies) having “special” cartons containing hidden contraband.

Yet, the prison administration takes almost no measures to check these primary sources for drugs/contraband.

2. “Chilling” and/or blocking legitimate freedom of speech and expression:

As a published op-ed columnist and essayist whose work has appeared in two syndicated newspapers, and on several internet sites that are operated by 501.3-c organizations, my readers range from Junior High students to nursing home residents, Democrats, Republicans, members of every other political party, housewives, secretaries, police officers and bartenders.

Often my readers want to write me but the venues I am published in rarely publish contact info, so readers google me to find out I am confined at a certain prison facility then google the facility to determine its address then send their letters to me there.

Prior to the digital mail policy, I received their letters (about 8-12 per week). After the policy, I have received NONE. The unit mailroom return to sender all “personal/general” mail that comes for a prisoner without explanation. Hence, this blocks my readers’ letters to me and “chills” their desire to communicate (they probably think I refused their letters). Students and the elderly who write me often don’t know to go to the prison website to check correspondence rules.

3. Denial of due process prior to restriction of mail:

I am a Naturist. I don’t use drugs, nor have I ever had anything to do with drugs. I have never been accused of, charged with, nor found guilty on any drug-related behavior in any administrative or criminal hearing, and have never been accused of or found guilty of smuggling/attempting to smuggle or posses “contraband.” That is, yet.

Without any form of due process I have been denied my lawful privilege and right to receive property sent to me (i.e. the physical letters and photos).

Physical letters and photographs have a sentimental “keepsake” value beyond any monetary valuation.

The u.$. Supreme and lower courts have held uniformly that copies/digital images of a document/photograph are not the same as the original. Ergo, sending me or any prisoner digital copies of their letters and photos (or even copies) is not giving them the property their letters/photos constitute.

The u.$. Constitution requires a due process seizure hearing before government can seize a citizen’s persynal property, whether that property is land, a vehicle, or an article of mail having value to the citizen.

Note: If the government, at such a hearing, can produce legitimate evidence that I have attempted to smuggle contraband/drugs through the USPS mail into the prison, then and only then would it be legally justified in enforcing a “digital mail only” rule upon me.

4. The digital mail “blanket” policy is overly broad:

The number of prisoners who attempt to smuggle drugs/contraband through the USPS mail is minuscule. 99% of prisoners would never even consider such a foolish act. Even prisoners who use and traffic drugs and other contraband generally don’t use the mail because (a) the volume of drugs that can fit in a letter doesn’t justify the risk and (b) it’s much easier to get large amounts of drugs brought in by one of the other venues.

All the digital mail policy does is punish hundreds of thousands of prisoners who don’t smuggle drugs or contraband in the first place. It’s analogous with fining the entire town’s citizens for excessive noise because there’s one “pothead rocker” playing eir stereo too loud.

Most prisoners use the USPS mail in a legal, rule abiding manner and never try to smuggle through the mail. First and Fourteenth Amendment rights are fundamental, and mail digitalizing policies abrogate those rights in an overly broad and exaggerated response to a security issue that would be more easily (and economically) dealt with in a less intrusive manner.

These four points (and their consequential points) are the primary basis of my complaint.

Do prison authorities have a legal right to impose and enforce mail digitalizing for security reasons? Yes. But only in a reasonable manner necessary to address the specific security problem without punishing prisoners who are not a party to the problem. Officials can not punish innocent prisoners nor strip them of constitutional rights merely because a tiny fraction of the prison population is causing a problem.

So if anyone wants to get on board to help get this issue litigated properly, get in touch with me ASAP. Today is 18 November 2023, don’t delay.


A comrade at Bridgeport Unit reports: I would like to inform you of a change in the Law Library Holding list as of November 2023 the Law Library has taken the PD-22 Rules of Conduct out of the Law Library. It seems as if any ammunition we can use to fight with they want to destroy it somehow. The other problem is this digital mail is taking forever to get to one’s tablet. I have received numerous letters that are 2.5 to 3 months old. This has become a problem for many. I did receive newsletter #83 in the month of November 2023.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We have reported on the history of censorship of TDCJ’s own documents in previous issues. While we had encouraged comrades inside to challenge this legally, one comrade has informed us that ey believes this to be a faulty strategy. We are not lawyers, so we provide these ideas for consideration:

TDCJ has the discretion to withhold, or delay, any administrative documents they may or may not deem to be challengeable in public information act. There is a logical reason behind certain “administrative documents” not to be made available for Texas residents (i.e. friends and families, including incarcerated prisoners off of general population). I’m sure by now that these certain “administrative documents” are not censored. For items or certain materials that are being withheld – whether it be a policy, procedure, regulation, or rule – it is a fact that a governmental department is not obligated to disclose public information. Governmental departments are obligated to disclose public information at the requestor for inspection and review. See Tex. Gov’t Code, Sec. 552.221 through Sec. 552.235. They are not censoring. They are REMOVING it. Trickery word.

Filing lawsuits in federal court pertaining to the items or materials being complained under the claim of censorship is supporting and encouraging those administrative suits in being DISMISSED (or dismissed with prejudice). Giving away $350-$400 for free without meaningful merit to be heard or read…

Please refer incarcerated people in Texas to search out an author by the name of Raymond E. Lumsden on numerous books: The Pro Se Section 1983 Manual; The Habeas Corpus Manual; Ask, Believe, Receive; The Pro Se Guide to Legal Research & Writing, etc. These books are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and FreebirdPublishers.com.


A comrade in Allred Unit reported: Just today I received your mail confirmation letter via my tablet. The letter is dated 14 September 2023, so it is taking over 2 months to get our mail and we cannot print it out. TDCJ rules on Digital Mail say that if a document requires an inmate’s signature it is supposed to be sent to the unit’s Law Library. I doubt that they will give it to us if it is not legal work though. They would not allow applications from transition houses in until recently “Forgiven Felons” got permission to send theirs in.

MIM(Prisons) adds: The digital mail is making it harder for us to even track censorship by not allowing prisoners to fill out and return forms, not to mention blocking opportunities for support upon release!, or receive notices from the institution as described below.


A comrade at Ferguson Unit reported: When you sent the ULK 82 & 83 bulk mailings they initially denied them entry, without giving me notice. They don’t even send such institutional forms like that via regular mail, it went electronic and i don’t have a tablet since September so i didn’t even know until early December when i finally got them to budge and print out the electronic mail. This mail shit is absolutely showcasing the inadequacy of these state actors and the exploitative corporations (Securus/JPay).


Warriors in White, a non-profit org supporting restorative justice wrote: Our newsletter was blanket-banned across the entire TDCJ system due to a change in mail policy, which required all mail to be sent to a central mail processing facility. This new policy was approved on 23 June 2023 but not updated in unit law libraries until 4 August 2023. No reason has been provided. At the end of October 2023, we received clearance and approval to again distribute the newsletter. But again, no reason for denial, and no notification for denials and newsletters returned has ever been provided.

Secondly, all TDCJ residents now rely on Securus tablets to receive mail. As of the end of October 2023, most are still receiving mail postmarked throughout August into the first week of September 2023. TDCJ policy clearly states all mail is to be processed within 72 hours (3 days), through the mail processing facility.

According to the TDCJ Mail System Coordinator, there is a staff shortage at the facility. Additionally, MSC has claimed they were unprepared for the amount of mail received at the new facility. This is quite hard to believe, when the TDCJ, in decades past, has logged every single piece of mail through its system both on computer and in paper log books.

According to the TDCJ Ombudsman, all mail is being processed within the 3 day limit and there are no staff shortages at the mail processing facility. According to Securus, they are unaware of any mail processing problems, and that “all mail is processed within 5 days unless it includes photos or pictures, in which case it may take a little longer.”

Further, the TDCJ is clamping down on peer-to-peer legal assistance. If you have a Securus tablet which receives programming from the Freedom Radio Legal Show on 106.5 The Tank, that info has been banned from the tablet due to overwhelming listener response. While gratefully received, TDCJ will no longer accept requests, etc. addressed to the legal show, one of a long list of new restrictions. So if you sent a newsletter request to Freedom Radio for a Warriors In White newsletter subscription, the Polunsky Unit mailroom has been destroying all requests since the beginning of June 2023 to the present. If you know someone who applied for the newsletter please resend your request to WIW-DOM PO Box 301, Huntsville, TX 77342. Please do not send legal questions to the PO Box as we are not ready for those yet.

chain
[Legal] [Texas] [ULK Issue 84]
expand

Resourceful Responses to Two Articles from ULK 83

Re: “Prisoner Put in Solitary for Organizing Political Education in Ohio”, by an Ohio Prisoner

Greetings comrade,

While I wish I could do more to help you combat the political repression you are experiencing within the Ohio gulags, I am sending MIM a leaflet in hopes that it may help you as a replacement for your “self help litigation manual” that you mention was (intentionally) lost. Comrades @ Midwest Books to Prisoners have formatted Columbia University’s “Jailhouse Lawyers Manual” (JLM) into zines (one chapter per pamphlet) and will send you 3-5 per request, for free. I hope these pamphlets will help you get around the pigs not allowing you to order books from the SHU.

|1321 N. Milwaukee Ave | PMB #460 | Chicago, IL 60622

Re: “Prisoners Punished for Drug Problem in Texas” by a Texas Prisoner

Though I will not pretend to know what goes on within the oppressive behemoth that is the TDCJ (being that I am going on 3 years here in a county jail in the Bay Area), I read recently after receiving ULK 83 a news snippet within the newest edition of the anti-authoritarian/anarchist website ItsGoingDown’s newsletter “IN Contempt #34” that might shed some light on the reasons behind the Sep. 6th lockdown for Texas’ gulags. I copy it verbatim:

The Texas-wide prison lockdown that began in September has now been lifted [this newsletter was posted Nov. 2nd 2023]. The lockdown was officially described as an effort to combat drugs, but some prisoners have questioned this and suggested it was actually an attempt to suppress prisoner unrest after a particularly brutal staff beating at Coffield Unit. From a Texas Tribune article:

“On Sept. 5 an inmate [sic] at the Coffield Unit stabbed a correctional officer [sic] in a high security unit. TDCJ officers [sic] responded to this incident with excessive force and prison system spokesperson Amanda Hernandez told The Texas Tribune established protocols were not followed. After an internal review of that incident, seven correctional officers [sic] were fired and another six officers [sic] resigned….”

I’m not 100% sure what the spokesperson for TDCJ meant by “established protocols were not followed”, but from the expansive reporting of Texas TEAMONE and others within TDCJ, we know that “excessive force” is standard operating procedure for Texas pigs.

MIM(Prisons) adds: We too distribute chapters of the PLM through our Serve the People Free Political Books to Prisoners Program. See page 2 for more info on how to to get books. Also see the other response regarding the Texas lockdown for more info on what was behind it.

chain
[Legal] [Theory] [ULK Issue 82]
expand

Law and the Courts of Late

The Supreme Court of the United $tates (SCOTU$) has been busy this past year. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade still fresh in the public consciousness, the last month has seen the demise of student loan relief and affirmative action.

None of these rulings are of grave interest to Maoists on Occupied Turtle Island. College is seldom in reach for the lumpen and proletariat of this continent, and affirmative action in universities (especially Harvard, the topic of this case) concerns the comprador classes of the oppressed nations more than it does the masses. Despite its faux celebration of diversity, the 15% “African-American” portion of Harvard’s student population is anything but representational. The interesting aspect of these rulings, insofar as they exist, is how the rulings relate to the broader Amerikan assimilation strategy of the oppressed nations. The rulings may indicate a more general wavering of assimilation as a strategy for semi-colonial management or that the strategy has been sufficiently completed such that it may begin gradual discontinuation. There is also the strong possibility that we are witnessing the legal expression of the reactionary wing of social-fascist hegemony overpowering its liberal elements.

Though the material impact of these rulings on Maoist organizing are not terribly significant (especially within prisons), the spree of rulings serve as an opportunity to reflect on the nature and purpose of law in bourgeois society. We’ll take the time here to briefly glance over the persynal ideologies and behaviors of two of the more noteworthy SCOTU$ members, use these to reflect on the liberal worldview of law more generally, then transition to a materialist explanation of law and justice. Let’s begin with some words from Chief Justice Roberts.

In a September interview with Colorado Springs 10th Circuit judges, 2022, Roberts described the “gut wrenching” experience of his daily commute to the Supreme Court. Following a draft opinion leak that revealed the Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, the building had been surrounded by a staff of guards and newly-erected barricades. This change was to the discomfort of Roberts and his colleagues, who shared stake in the tale that their careers were in justice, and not law. After lamenting the oppressive arm of the state’s failure to keep an appropriate distance from him, Roberts spent the majority of the remaining interview pearl-clutching over the public’s lack of faith in the Court’s independence from politics. He painted a troubling tale of what Amerika would look like if the courts were just a piece of political machinery like Congress of the Presidency. His persistence in the apolitical nature of SCOTU$ was unwavering.

Since then, details have come to light concerning the life of another member of the Court, longest-serving Judge Clarence Thomas, a man who shares in Roberts’ conviction of the apolitical nature of the Courts. To describe the findings of investigators who began breaking stories in April of this year as aspects of Thomas’ persynal life is misleading. We don’t believe there’s anything persynal about them. Of particular note in the latest news splash was Thomas’ close relationship with prominent Republican financier Harlan Crow, a collector of Nazi memorabilia and real-estate mogul of $29 billion in assets. Though Thomas forgot to put them on his financial records, flight records reveal he has enjoyed over two decades of apolitical weekly summer visits to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks, vacations on Crow’s superyacht, and flights on Global 5000 jets. Thomas’ grandnephew also enjoyed the generous patronage of Crow, who had paid his way through private boarding school. In 2005, a case involving Trammell Crow Residential Co. found itself before the Supreme Court. The company was being sued $25 million for (allegedly) using copywritten building designs. The order by the court denying the petition to hear the case consisted of a single sentence. Thomas did not recuse himself from the ruling.

This brings us to the fable we are told of the nature of law in the liberal world order. When we think of law, we are often brought to conjure images of court debates, evidence inquiry, or statuettes of scale-holding, blindfolded wimmin dressed in Graeco-Roman garb. These images are designed to have us associate law with the long history of philosophic investigation into the matter, of which there are over two millennia of content. More specifically, we are meant to sympathize with the enlightenment-era revival of these ideas, lest we think in units of cities and societies, as Socrates or Plato would have us do, rather than individuals, like Kant and the liberal framework he filtered these discussions through. But any talk of justice or morality is incomplete without discussing how these ideas change (or, much more likely, reinforce) the way humyn beings relate to each other in society. Indeed, it should tell us something that Amerikan conventions of justice derive from the social traditions of ancient Greek Hoplite classes. That is to say, the quarter of Greek society (in the case of Athens, the most “equalitarian” example one could choose from) that sat atop a social pyramid of slaves. Though the law did not extend agency to these lower classes, it was very concerned with them.

mis-justice lynching continues

Only the wretchedly naive buy into the Court’s mythos of impartiality. In part, this is due simply to how unsubtle they are about this reality. The Supreme Court, for instance, is known for its habit of pre-planning sessions to throw a few bones to liberalism before saving the announcement of profoundly reactionary rulings for the end (this particular session was no exception: loan relief and affirmative action were taken to roost only after the entre of indigenous adoption and limitations on gerrymandering). Though intentions don’t matter in politics as they are speculative and unknowable to anyone but the subject, the behavior of the Court in these matters is apparent; they are deeply concerned with their relation to partisan politics and structure their role in the state apparatus around this reality.

But all this is to miss the main essence of the bourgeois fiction about legal justice. The ideology of Roberts, and bourgeois dictatorship in general, insists on an illusion that neither the Greeks nor Kant were ever under the spell of. We find justice and law proposed to us as a single concept, yet the two are barely related. The illusion of the synonymity of justice and law depends on the thinker approaching law from an individualist perspective. It may, for instance, feel like justice when someone who starts a petty fight on the street gets charged, but law is not manufactured on the individual level; as policy, it is a society-wide institution and serves a society-wide function. Law serves a far more critical function than social conventions of justice. When you think of Lady Justice, do you recall that she carries a sword in her right hand?

Despite their ideological pretenses, the courts admit this distinction between law and justice in their united front of “originalist” interpretation. When interrogation of the practical effects of their decisions prevent the Justices from waxing over the moralist namesake of their title, the oft heard defense for their ultra-reaction is that their job is not to make ethical decisions, but to interpret the constitution as it was written. Even the antipode of this wing who believe the constitution is a “living document” work within the same framework: the text will give us the answers and it is therein that law will be made.

To posit legal interpretation as an objective endeavor (sometimes referred to as “textualist reading”) is a difficult argument to take seriously, despite two centuries of top Amerikan legal minds insisting that we do so. Indeed, “objective law” is an oxymoron. The Maoist understanding of legality is much less fanciful: law is the codification of social relations. Under capitalism, that means the writing down of acceptable parameters for ownership and exchange in such a way as to ensure the maintenance and expansion of current (capitalist) relations. This can be seen in the early history of law, which followed, in all its independent developments, agriculture – the great first-permitter of primitive accumulation.

The primary development that brings law into being is the social invention of the concept of ownership. This concept of ownership comes about necessarily in pairing with general law. Let’s look at law in its cell form to elaborate this point. Say I am a wheat farmer who labors to produce 20lb of grain. With bourgeois consciousness, I conceptualize this process as myself putting active labor into seed and soil, and seeing (throughout a growing season) that labor be embodied into a crop. Of note here is that I am not my labor. I made my labor, but it is not me. Instead, my labor has been embodied in the crop. This embodiment Marxists call value. However, at this stage, my labor embodied in the crop is only potential value. Value, for Marxists, is a social phenomenon. See, if I were the only person on Earth, objective determinations of value would be impossible as I could subjectively declare the worth of anything around me without challenge. As a farmer in a capitalist economy, however, I do not plant crops because I find wheat persynally valuable. No, I make it so I can sell it on the market. In this process of (market) exchange, the potential value of my product becomes realized value. For the value of my product to realize its value, it must be desired by another persyn who wants to impose their will on the product to the exclusion of others, including myself. This is a fancy way of saying that the buyer wants to be able to eat the grain or bake it into a cake without having to share it between now and then. Here enters the social concept of ownership. When I bring my wheat to market, I have a social right to it and become a social subject. When someone else wants to buy it, they are also a social subject, and if we agree to exchange, the social concept of ownership for the wheat transfers to them. In short: (i) I own the wheat, (ii) I sell them the wheat, (iii) now they own the wheat. When enough members of an ownership class get together and create a society-wide, binding contract to enforce their ownership over objects, that contract becomes law, and the apparatus that enforces this ownership code becomes the state. Wheat is an apt example because agricultural goods formed the foundations of the first states, ruled by land-owning classes.

In the second chapter of Volume 1 of Capital, Marx tells this very narrative (though in denser terminology),

“It is plain that commodities cannot go to market and make exchanges of their own account. We must, therefore, have recourse to their guardians, who are also their owners … In order that these objects may enter into relation with each other as commodities, their guardians must place themselves in relation to one another, as persons whose will resides in those objects, and must behave in such a way that each does not appropriate the commodity of the other, and part with his own, except by means of an act done by mutual consent. They must therefore, mutually recognize in each other the rights of private proprietors. This juridical relation, which thus expresses itself in a contract, whether such contract be part of a developed legal system or not, is a relation between two wills”.

From this humble origin, it may be seen that law is not derived from moral notions. The two are only related insofar as they are like products formed to justify the same class society. Worse, law in our time is inherently unjust, as it is no more than an appendage of the apparatus of the Amerikan state (or Amerikan imperialism when imposed on the world at large). Law is the codified will of a state, itself the guarantor of relations of production and exchange. As such, there are no prisoners who are not political prisoners. But law is not the frontline of class struggle.

Class domination, in both its organized and unorganized form, is much broader than what is officially enshrined by any wing of state power. Beyond mere law, the dominion of this regime is expressed in the dependence of the government on banks, capitalist, labor-aristocratic groupings, the persynal connections of state apparatchiks with the ruling class (a la Thomas), and the semi-colonial management of the oppressed nations. None of these relations have any official codification in law. Nevertheless, it is on legal grounds that bourgeois society protects itself in the continuation and expansion of these horrific realities. State authority, that special force separated from society we know all too well, may bridge the gaps on its own. Bourgeois law need not directly sanction bourgeois right, imperialism, and national supremacy. Indeed, it would be against ruling-class interest to be so explicit. Bourgeois law need only provide the framework to get these tasks done, the state will pick up the slack.

With this origin and purpose of law in mind, considering SCOTU$ as a non-ideological institution becomes as absurd as Justice Roberts’ faint of heart over what the outcome of his job looks like to the portions of humynity who live below the steps of the ornate buildings he spends his life sheltered within. For the masses, the juxtaposition of Hellenic architecture and barbed wire is so far from “gut wrenching” that it’s almost cliche. There is no more fitting a place for riot gear and sandbags than the courts, except perhaps Wall Street and Southern Manhattan.

chain
[Special Needs Yard] [Legal] [California] [ULK Issue 82]
expand

Legal Ruling Against Non-Designated Program Facilities (NDPFs)

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has historically separated General Population (GP) prisoners from Sensitive/Special Needs Yards (SNY) for safety and security. Traditionally those who were convicted of high notoriety crimes, or who suffered “past victimization” or those who were informants or former Security Threat Group affiliates were housed on SNY. Yet, over time, the SNY population skyrocketed to the point of overcrowding. SNY facilities became increasingly violent, stigmatizing those “sensitive needs” designations.

To address this, CDCR developed Non-Designated Program Facilities (NDPFs) – an inclusive housing model created supposedly to mitigate stigma and allegedly help promote and advance CDCR’s rehabilitative objectives. One brave brother filed a “writ of mandate” with the California Supreme Court for Sacramento County on 30 September 2022 ordering the CDCR to immediately cease and halt reintegrating “sensitive needs” prisoners into general population, and from transferring GP prisoners to Non-Designated Program Facilities.

I am one of many prisoners housed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), solitary confinement and have been written up and now face receiving additional time and will risk being transferred to a higher security level hundreds of miles from my family. My RVR (write up) reads that i am an immediate threat to the safety of self and others and that I “endanger institution security.” Since me refusing to house on a NDPF isn’t sufficient enough to retain me in Ad-Seg lock up, now the officers are claiming that i told them that i would assault their child molesters on NDPF yard.

The court found CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison’s enforcement of the NDPF policy in violation of the APA (the Administrative Procedures Act). Therefore the policy is an “underground regulation” that is void, entitling Villarreal to relief. The court granted his requested writ and prohibited Allison and CDCR from furthering and implementing the policy until “properly” adopted by the APA. see: Villarreal v. Allison, Cal. Super (City of Sacramento) Case NO. 34-2021-80003779.

So Allison has a non-discretionary duty to refrain from implementing the uncodified NDPF Policy, the APA mandates that “the rulemaking agency must comply with the law’s provisions” or the rule is void.

So here we have a victory. Thank you brother Israel Villarreal! Without struggle and sacrifice there can be no progress nor advancement. Allison is specifically required to examine and study prisoners before classifying them, the court said, but the NDPF Policy is analogous to the classification scheme in Stoneham v. Rushen (1982) 137 Cal. App. 3d pg 729. where prisoners successfully challenged an uncodified classification system as an invalid underground regulation.

chain
[Legal] [Release] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 82]
expand

Proven Strategies for Waging an Effective Campaign for Clemency in Virginia

[originally written for the Incarcerated Women’s Clemency & Support Project (IWCSP)]

I filed about five clemency petitions during the course of my 28 years of incarceration before finally being granted a pardon in 2022, by former Governor Ralph Northam. The first three petitions were filed “pro se,” meaning on my own. The last two petitions were filed with the assistance of counsel and with the support of state legislators. The last successful push for clemency was also aided by the Justice for Uhuru Coordinating Committee – a group of friends, abolitionists and student organizers from the College of William & Mary.

Borrowing from knowledge and practical experience gained from navigating the clemency process over two decades, what follows is a brief outline of what I believe is the most effective strategy in helping an incarcerated person and their loved ones to wage a successful campaign for clemency in Virginia.

The Law

Neither the Virginia Parole Board nor any court in Virginia has the authority to grant a petition for clemency.

Pursuant to Virginia (VA) Code section 53.1-229 and Article V, Section 12 of the Virginia Constitution, only the Governor has the absolute power and authority to grant clemency.

However, pursuant to VA Code section 53.1-231,

“the Virginia Parole Board shall, at the request of the Governor, investigate and report to the Governor on cases in which executive clemency is sought. In any other case in which it believes action on the part of the Governor is proper or in the best interest of the Commonwealth, the Board may investigate and report to the Governor with its recommendations.”

There’s a common belief that the Governor of Virginia has the power to grant mass clemency to a group of incarcerated people at one time. However, the Virginia Supreme Court in the case of Howell v. McAuliffe, 292 Va. 320, 788 SE 2d 706 (2016) ruled the Governor has no authority to issue group pardons because Article V, Section 12 of the VA Constitution requires the Governor to give a particular (specific) reason for granting each pardon which is something the Governor cannot do when issuing mass (blanket) clemency.

The Process

There are two types of clemency in VA: restoration of rights and pardons.

A petition for restoration of rights restores the rights one forfeits as a result of having been convicted of a felony and can only be sought by people who are not currently in prison. People with nonviolent felonies must wait three years after completion of their sentence before applying for restoration of their rights and people with violent felonies must wait five years. The restoration of rights does not restore the right to purchase or possess a firearm which can only be done by petitioning the appropriate Circuit Court pursuant to VA Code section 18.2-308.2. You can learn more about the restoration of rights process at https://www.restore.virginia.gov/

There are four types of pardons in VA:

  1. simple pardon
  2. absolute pardon
  3. partial pardon
  4. conditional pardon

A simple pardon, sought after a person’s rights have been restored, is an act by the Governor granting forgiveness for a crime for which one has been convicted. A simple pardon does not expunge the conviction from a person’s criminal record or restore the right to purchase or possess firearms.

An absolute pardon is granted when the Governor is convinced that a person is innocent of the charge(s) for which they have been convicted and freely and unconditionally absolves the person from all direct and collateral consequences of the crime. A person can petition for an absolute pardon only if they plead not guilty during trial proceedings and exhausted all appellate and other post-conviction remedies, including a Writ of Actual Innocence pursuant to VA Code sections 19.2-327 through 19.2-327.13.

A partial pardon can be conditional or unconditional and remits only a portion of the sentence and leaves the rest of the sentence intact. This is the pardon I received.

A conditional pardon is an act by the Governor which modifies or ends the entire sentence imposed by the court when there is “substantial evidence of extraordinary circumstances to warrant it” and does not become operative until the grantee satisfies a prerequisite and can be revoked if that prerequisite is not met.

There is also something called Executive Medical Clemency where the Governor grants conditional release to an incarcerated person who is terminally ill with three months or less left to live.

Preparing and Filing the Petition

It took me, my lawyer and supporters working together as a team about a year researching and collecting all the pieces for my pardon petition. And by pieces, I mean certificates and diplomas earned since I’ve been in prison, supplemental online petitions, and support letters from family, friends and state legislators who recognized the injustice in my sentence and sympathized with my plight enough to be willing to support me. It is important to collect all these pieces and attach them to the petition as supplements and exhibits at the time of filing because they may not be accepted or considered if they are sent in separately at a later time.

Whether the incarcerated person is applying for a pardon on their own or if someone on the outside is applying for it on behalf of the incarcerated person, it is important (and mandatory) for the incarcerated person to first complete the “Virginia Pardon Petition Questionnaire” and mail it to the VA Secretary of the Commonwealth (SOC). This form can be obtained from the prison’s law library or requested from the SOC Office. Unaware of this requirement, my attorney filed my pardon petition, and the SOC rejected it because I had not completed this questionnaire. So, the pardon process does not and will not begin until this questionnaire is completed.

The Organizing

Organizing here refers to any action (before and after a petition is filed) that will raise awareness about a person’s case and gain community support for their pardon request.

Two of the most important things that should be done before a pardon request is filed are 1) creating a social media presence and 2) creating an online petition on http://www.change.org.

With organizing, gone are the days when news of a planned event had to be promoted via word of mouth and crudely handcrafted flyers. In this day and time, social media is king and one post about an injustice that has occurred can quickly go viral resulting in hundreds and thousands of people showing up at a planned protest in opposition to that injustice. We have seen how vital social media has been for the birth and sustainability of the #MeToo, #SayHerName and #BlackLivesMatter movements. It can be just as effective for a campaign to free someone from prison just as it did for mine.

I would add that social media is more critical to freeing someone from prison than the pardon application itself. Why? Because to be incarcerated for 20 to 30 years is to be erased and rendered invisible to the masses, especially to people born after a person was incarcerated. Case in point, many of the people on the Justice for Uhuru Coordinating Committee (JUCC) were students from the College of William & Mary and were born a decade after I came to prison. So, social media can help bring incarcerated people and their freedom campaigns out from the obscurity of the prison industrial complex and connect them and their campaigns to young abolitionists who are doing most of the on-the-ground agitation and organizing.

Like mine, a change.org petition can function as an abbreviated version of and supplement to the actual pardon petition that will be filed with the SOC Office. With the help of social media, my online petition garnered over 2600 signatures from people all over the county. Others have gone viral (with the help of influencers and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian) racking up tens of millions of signatures like in the case of criminalized survivors Chrystul Kizer and Cyntoia Brown. These signatures, in addition to character letters from family, friends and state legislators, can show proof that the community at-large supports a person’s pardon request and are not opposed to a person’s early release from prison either because they believe the person was sentenced unjustly or (to use carceral language) has been rehabilitated and will not pose threat to public safety.

Another thing that should be organized are public rallies. My team organized a rally both before and after my petition was filed.

The first one, organized by my attorney before she filed my pardon application, was held at the state capital. Though it received a low turnout, word of it spread to staff in the Governor and SOC offices and members of the General Assembly resulting in a veteran state senator showing up, listening and speaking to those in attendance. This is why it is strategically important to hold a rally at the state capital even if only a small amount of people show up. The second rally, organized by the JUCC after my petition was filed, was held near the Virginia Commonwealth University and managed to draw about 80 people. Posts on social media helped the second rally to achieve a greater turnout and connected the JUCC to other community groups and organizers who decided to sign my petition and support my campaign. It is important to note that all rallies at the state capitol, however small, must be pre-approved by the Department of General Services. The number to call for this department is 804-786-3311.

Another thing that should be organized are carefully timed emails and phone calls directed at the SOC, the pardon staff, and the Chief of Staff for the Governor after a pardon petition has been filed. There is a common belief that contacting the SOC and pardon staff will have an adverse impact on a person’s pardon request and will even result in a pardon application being prematurely denied. This may be the case if the calls/emails come across as demanding or pressuring officials to grant a pardon request. Those are not the kind of calls/emails I am recommending here. Based on my own experience and insight gained from someone working in former Governor Northam’s administration, it is helpful to have a person to make a follow-up email to the pardon staff about six months after a petition is filed to inquire about the status of the petition. [The email to the pardon staff is pardons@governor.virginia.gov]. Most importantly, all supporters of the incarcerated person (including any political supporters) should make calls to the SOC and the Governor’s Chief of Staff a week before a Governor’s term is set to expire to (politely) reiterate their support for a person’s pardon request and state the reasons the incarcerated person would be a good candidate for clemency. [The phone number to the SOC is 804-786-2441, and the phone number to the Governor’s Chief of Staff is 804-786-2211].

Keep in mind that on any given day, the SOC, pardon staff, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, and the Virginia Parole Board’s Special Investigations Unit tasked with investigating pardon requests and making recommendations to the Governor, are handling thousands of pardon applications, often with limited staff. Making these calls will help make a person’s pardon application stand out, prevent it from being given a rubber stamp denial for reasons other than the merits of the case, or left in a stack of papers on top the Governor’s desk when their term expires which, unbeknownst to many, happens more often than not.

One last note I want to make is that parole and pardon requests are often denied on the basis that early release of the incarcerated person will pose a serious threat to public safety.

Ultimately what needs to happen in order for a clemency campaign to be successful is that the incarcerated person and his/her/their team must garner as many supporters as possible so that the voices of the people who want the person out of prison are louder (and more powerful) than the voices of the people who want to keep the person in prison.

chain