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Organising for Abolition Skill Share: This Weekend!

516508How can we build a movement for prison abolition in the UK? How can we build literacy and understanding around terms like ‘prison abolition’ and ‘prison industrial complex’? How do we do this work with those healing from prison and create a supportive culture of care and solidarity? How do we do this work with people completely new to radical politics or alternative thinking?

This weekend is a chance for people from around the UK to come together to explore, create and critique how we can work together for prison abolition.

We will explore language, popular education tools and practices, community organising and more.

Where: St Werburghs Community Centre, Bristol

When: Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th May 2014, 10 – 4pm

Logistics: Unfortunately we cannot financially support everyone with travel costs, however if you get in touch soon enough we can do our best. We can source sleeping space for people to stay in Bristol. There is room for about 25 people max & we welcome a diversity of people to make it happen.

We are designing the programme with everyone’s input. So far we have sessions introducing popular education, movement history (mainly UK & US), organising an ABC group/doing solidarity work, detention centres & migration, supporting someone through court, rape & domestic violence, community & radical accountability processes. There will also be sessions with info about the prison industrial complex in the UK so we are all up to speed.

Please email us ASAP beforehand so we can collectively design the weekend together –  info@prisonabolition.org

Russia: Repressions summary for January-February 2014

via Autonomous Action/Moscow ABC

fa6d7cfdb568From now on, we are going to publish summaries of repressions against anarchists, antifascists and social activists in Russia on a regular basis, as well as on how the state opposes our activity. In the January-February issue: sudden amnesty of antifascists in Moscow, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, attempt to ban “Avtonom” zine due to

“extremism”, detentions during Jan19 actions, verdicts in Moscow, Murmansk, Petersburg and other “heroic deeds” of cops from “E”-department. If you think that we have missed something in our article, or you know about other cases of repressions, please write to abc-msk@riseup.net On donations for ABC-Moscow check guidelines from here: http://wiki.avtonom.org/en/index.php/Donate

Continue reading

John Bowden: Americanisation of the British Criminal Justice System

A recent Government announcement that it was considering introducing U.S. style prison sentences like a hundred years custody for the most serious offences is on one level a straightforward attempt to undermine a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling that life sentence prisoners should be given some hope that their sentences will be reviewed before they die, and on another level evidence that the Americanisation of the British criminal justice system continues to increase and deepen.

Apart from the probable introduction of prison sentences that are in effect a slow form of capital punishment, an American penology has characterised the treatment of British prisoners for quite some time in the form of the treatment model with its psychology-based programmes and courses designed and inspired by Canadian and U.S. ideologies regarding “offending behaviour”, which is attributed not so much to social andenvironmental causes but more the individual pathology of the “offender”. So the fact that the prison population is drawn disproportionately from the poorest and most disadvantaged group in society is of absolutely no significance and instead a crude behaviourist notion prevails that providing prisoners can be re-socialised into behaving in a “normal” way then “offending behaviour” can be exorcised from their thinking before they’re released back into the same desperate economic and social circumstances.

Predictably, the” treatment model” with its programmes and courses has had absolutely no appreciable effect on recidivism rates.

As in American prisons, prison-hired psychologists in Britain have carved out a veritable industry for themselves in the prison system by subscribing to the belief that inequality, disadvantage and poverty have absolutely nothing to do with why most people end up in prison and instead everything to do with individual pathology in the form of inherent personality disorders and an inability to distinguish right from wrong. And again as in the U.S. prison psychologists in Britain have now become an integral part of the system of control and repression in prisons, legitimising it with a language and narrative of “treatment” and addressing prisoner’s “needs and risks”. So entrenched have psychologists now become in the prison system that, like their American counterparts, they often willingly assist in the use of the worst forms of repression against prisoners labelled the most “difficult” and “unmanageable”.

American prison officials penchant for euphemisms to disguise the reality of it’s worst practices and forms of punishment, such as “special management units” where in fact prisoners are clinically isolated and psychologically brutalised, is a tendency that finds expression in British prisons also now. “Close Supervision Units” and “Intensive Intervention Units”, overseen and managed by both jail managers and psychologists, are also places where “difficult” prisoners are subjected to extreme punishment and a denial of basic human rights, often to the extent where many are driven to insanity.

The American “treatment model” of prisons probably finds it’s most extreme expression in the U.K. Prison system in the from of the “Dangerous Personality Disorder Units” (DPDU) created and overseen by psychologists from the psychopath-spotter school of psychology that defines all “anti-social” behaviour on the part of the least powerful and wealthy as symptomatic of psychopathy. In the totalitarian world of prison either fighting the system or confronting the institutionalised abuse of power that prevails there is sufficient to have oneself labelled a “psychopath” by psychologists anchored mind, body and soul to the prison system. In the case of life sentence prisoners such psychologists now have the power to decide if they’re sufficiently risk-free to be released.

It is not just within the prison system that the American influence is apparent, it’s also recognizable in the radically changed role of probation officers and criminal justice system social workers from what was traditionally “client-centred” liberal occupations to a overtly “public protection” centred extension of the police and prison system. Now a closer equivalent of the American parole officer, probation officers and criminal justice system social workers in the U.K. now see their role as one of policing parolees or “offenders” on supervision orders and returning them to jail for the slightest technical breach of their licence conditions. The massive increase in the use of community supervision orders as a from of social control has created a veritable ghetto of marginalised people in poorer communities who exist constantly in the shadow of imprisonment and omnipotent power of their supervision officers. This mirrors what has been taking place in some U.S. states as the global economic crisis has virtually eradicated legitimate employment in poor communities and replaced it with an alternative economy of illegal drugs, resulting in the almost mass criminalisation of young working class men, especially those from poor Afro-American communities. In such U.S. states and deprived communities prisons now replace factories where the new underclass are increasingly concentrated and forced to work as cheap labour for multinational private security corporations that now own and operate a significant portion of the American prison system. This new prison industrial complex is laying roots in the U.K. too and it is from the poorest de-industrialised communities that it draws its sources of cheap labour and human commodities.

This U.S. cultural influence on the criminal justice system is far greater in the U.K. than anywhere else in Europe, which accounts for it having the largest prison population in Europe and the longest prison sentences. It is also forever vulnerable to the American style prison riot when despair and hopelessness overshadows prisoners lives completely and there is essentially nothing left to lose. As a model of either justice or retribution the American criminal justice system is riddled with corruption and failure, and yet Britain slavishly attempts to imitate it in its quest to achieve absolute social control at a time when the lives of the poor are being made increasingly unendurable and society continues to fracture and polarise.

John Bowden
February 2014
HMP Shotts

“Prison united all of us”

Interview with anarchist prisoners in the so-called “Bolotnaya Case”, former sailor Alexei Polikhovich, 22 (pictured), and historian Stepan Zimin, 21. They are amongst the many people charged with participation in the May 6, 2012 clashes with police during an opposition rally in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square. Both face a sentence of five-and-a-half year in penal colony, having spent over a year in pre-trial detention.

Excert from an article by Yulia Polukhina, Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Januray 24, 2014. The questions, same for all interviewees, were passed to the detainees via their lawyers.
http://www.novayagazeta.ru/inquests/61917.html

Q: You have unwillingly became a defendant in a political trial. Did you have pronounced political views before? Have they changed after you were imprisoned?

Polikhovich: I am a libertarian socialist. This is rather a social philosophy, a worldview rather than political view. A libertarian wants to build a new society on the principles of free union, equality, self-administration, federalism, respect for an individual, co-operation rather than rivalry. A libertarian would not be making electoral pledges, or fight for a position in the parliament or in a government. A libertarian’s fight is for the people of the whole world – in the streets of Athens and Barcelona, Mexico City and Lima, and not in the corridors and lobbies of power. A libertarian is the most consistent opponent of a Nazi and an authoritarian communist, of a religious fundamentalist and of an exporter of ultra-liberal democracy, an enemy of hierarchies, verticals, dogmas, institutions of oppression, prisons. A libertarian is, without a doubt, an opponent of our main prison, which was described by Max Stirner: “Every state is a tyranny, be that a tyranny of one person or a tyranny of the many… The state seeks to hinder every free activity by its censorship, its supervision, its police, and holds this hindering to be its duty, because it is in truth a duty of self-preservation.” The latter is particularly true in today’s Russia.

Zimin: I am an adherent of anarcho-communist, anti-fascist views. Although for me they are life’s principles rather than rigid frames of ideology. The best expression of the main point and essence of anarchism was made by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his tiny essay ["Discourse on Inequality"]: “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this imposter; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”
It is a huge mistake to think that anarchism is general chaos, lawlessness, the final result of which is Hobbes’ war “of every man, against every man”. In fact, it pursues the aim of building a society based on mutual aid and solidarity of all of its members, regardless of gender, race and religious creed.

Q: Why do you think the trial’s most important part was hidden away to the Zamoskvoretsky Court, away from the large hall of the Moscow City Court and then from the large hall of the Nikulinsky Court?

Polikhovich: After the charges against four out of twelve defendants were dropped [in the December 2013 amnesty] ourselves and our lawyers can physically fit into the small hall of the Zamoskvoretsky Court. In her own domain [judge] Natalya Viktorovna [Nikishina] can find it easier to control the events, the final game will be played in her field.

Zimin: I do not think it is directly connected to the sentencing. It’s just that the number of defendant has noticeably dropped, a small courthouse in central Moscow is much more convenient than Nikulinsky, the journey to which takes up a long time. Seeing that the trial lasts for eight months already, and we leave at six in the morning and return in a prison van after midnight, it is now easier to reach the trial courthouse, simply on everyday level.

Q: Do you have a sense of moral victory?

Polikhovich: I don’t feel anything of the sort.

Zimin: I feel moral victory not so much due to transfer of the trial from one courthouse to another (after all, it only changed the surroundings), but rather because the court investigation has finished, and after hearing all the arguments of the prosecution, I am once again convinced of our innocence. In all the time that I was listening to the compositions by the so-called “victims” and their colleagues who served as witnesses, watching video recordings, I had the same thought: so who really has to sit in this aquarium?

Q: Some of the “Bolotnaya Case” folks were amnestied; when they were released in the courthouse, you celebrated that as though they were your relatives. Now some time has passed. What do you feel for the amnestied people?

Polikhovich: We had a laugh over this question. Does it assume that now, after some time has passed, we are supposed to have changed our attitude? I am sincerely happy for Masha [Baronova], Kolya [Kavkazsky], Lyonya [Kovyazin] and Vova [Akimenkov], especially for the latter. This trial has made us close, and I think we would never lose touch.

Zimin: On the day that they were released in the courthouse, there was a feeling as though you are getting released yourself. The sense of pride in them cannot be honestly put into words! And how could I not be happy for the people who were in handcuffs next to me in the morning, and were free by the evening. You know, back in the day, Leon Trotsky wrote: “Prison united all of us.” I think that these words can be well applied to our situation. You can’t say it in a better way.

Q: Do you think of what the sentence might be, what do you expect, do you believe that it can at least partly depend on the lawyers’ work and on your position?

Polikhovich: I try not to hope and not to expect anything. I am prepared for any outcome. I think that the main conceptual decision on us will be made by the top officials but within that conception of the sentence there can be some variations, some individual approach. The lawyers have done a lot to dispel illusions concerning fairness of our prosecution, and for seven months they have been proving the invalidity, absurdity and biased nature of the charges, I am very grateful to them. We will find out very shortly whether their work has made any difference to the final outcome.

Zimin: The main thing that depends on my position in court is my attitude towards myself. We made the entire journey from arrest to the sentencing, and I think that each one of us has come to the conclusion that Russia’s law-enforcement system (like all other similar systems) is far from perfection, to say the least. Half of all norms in the Criminal Code and in the Criminal Procedure Code are violated or not fulfilled.
Under such conditions, our lawyers have to be greatly thanked for expertly and consistently defending us under the conditions of abuse we are subjected to. As for the sentence, whatever happens, in the end it will all be good, we will keep on fighting. No pasaran!

Stepan Zimin

Addresses of Stepan and Alexei. Note that these 2 prisons do not admit letters in English, so translate your text (f.e. with google translate or other similar program) before sending, or pass postcards and photos).

Alexey Polikhovich Alexey Alexeevich Polikhovich, 1990 g.r. FKU SIZO-2 UFSIN Rossii po g. Moskve ul. Novoslobodskaya d. 45 127055 Moskva Russia

Stepan Zimin Stepan Yurevich Zimin 1992 g.r., FKU SIZO-5 (Vodnik) UFSIN Rossii po g. Moskve, Vyborskaya 20, 125130 Moskva Russia

Online petiton for John Bowden

To the Parole Board for England and Wales, and the Scottish Prison Service: Release John Bowden!

JB

Click here to sign the petition

This is a petiton on behalf of long-term prison resister John Bowden about his ongoing struggle with the Parole Board. They decided recently that just because he is critical of the prison system and does not toe the Prison Service line he should continue to be incarcerated, well beyond his original tariff period.

See this link for an article written by John about his parole hearing:

https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2014/01/515044.html

 To the Parole Board for England and Wales, and the Scottish Prison Service,

 We wish to register our concern about the treatment of John Bowden who is clearly being held in jail at the moment as a form of preventive detention and not for any legitimate reason associated with genuine risk to the community or real belief in his propensity to commit crime. We feel that because of John’s association with attempts to expose and highlight abuses of power within the prison system and wider criminal justice system he has been targeted for victimisation and his continued detention is an example of that. At two successive parole hearings to review his continued detention in 2011 and 2013 no evidence what so ever was presented to suggest that John was continuing to be held in jail for reasons of “public protection” or that the focus of his struggle was anything other than the abuse of state power in the treatment of prisoners or ex-prisoners being “supervised” in the community.

Following his 2013 parole hearing John was informed by both the Parole Board and the prison authorities that unless he stopped publicly exposing abuses of power by prison and criminal justice system officials his release from jail would be prevented. John’s continued detention therefore is of itself a blatant abuse of state power.

 The use of preventive detention to punish and silence legitimate complaint is a clear abuse of human rights and we wish to make it absolutely clear that we intend to highlight John’s situation at every opportunity and in every possible way.

Albert Woodfox Update

A3 Newsletter, January 21, 2014:
Albert Woodfox’s Hour in the 5th Circuit Court and His Message to Supporters
(PHOTO: A3 supporters at the 5th Circuit Court on Jan. 7)


For those who were unable to attend, Albert’s oral argument in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, defending Judge Brady’s decision to overturn his conviction for a third time, is now complete (click here to listen).  As expected, the proceedings were brief and rather mystifying.  It was clear that most of the judges had already spent a great deal of time reviewing and considering the case, and were just tying up a few arcane legal loose ends.

The State’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell watched carefully as his team urged the Court to reverse Judge Brady’s decision and reinstate Albert’s conviction based on their now overruled version of the statistical story, and a misplaced deference to the broad powers given by the AEDPA.  As you may recall, the AEDPA is a federal law used as the primary reason for reinstating Albert’s conviction in 2010.  It allows Federal Courts to defer judgment to previous Louisiana rulings against Albert if those rulings were not “unreasonable” or “contrary to clearly established federal law” – an insidiously squishy standard.

Albert’s supporters filled the courtroom completely and his legal team deftly rebutted the State’s claims and fielded a handful of questions from the 3-judge panel, which included Judges Jolly and Higginbotham (both Reagan appointees), and Judge Southwick (a George W. Bush appointee).  Judge Jolly was tied up in transit so participated only by phone and did not ask any questions of either side.

A decision is expected in coming months.  Although it took the 5th Circuit almost a year and a half to rule last time, we are more confident than ever that a swift decision will soon come in Albert’s favor, finally releasing this innocent man from the solitary cell he was unjustly relegated to now nearly 42 long years ago.

The arguments were covered by the AP and in the Times Picayune both before and after. We will update you as soon as we have any additional information.

–Read Amnesty International’s statement for Jan. 7, where Amnesty once again called for Albert’s immediate release.

MEDIA:  Lauren McGaughy, Times-Picayune  II  Daily Journal / Associated Press  II  UPI

VIEW / DOWNLOAD:  A3 info flyer for Jan. 7  II  Listen to audio from the oral arguments  II  Rev. Patricia Bates / NRCAT statement

(Take action for Albert here)

Message from Albert Woodfox to Amnesty International and all Angola 3 Supporters
I would like to take this time to express my profound gratitude to all the wonderful friends, supporters and comrades around the world for your unbelievable solidarity and support!

I’m not sure what the New Year means to you. For me, it’s the realization that another year of mental and emotional torture has started! I constantly ask myself, is this the year of justice and freedom? Or just another year of the same?

Is this the year that I lose my battle against constant attacks of claustrophobia, mental and emotional pain and suffering?  Is the year that I run out of creative ways that allow me to ignore time and space, and the weight of the world crushes me, instead of making me stronger?

Will the loss of one of the greatest human beings that has ever lived, my friend and comrade Herman “Hooks” Wallace, finally tip the scales of sanity against me? As the years pass, the questions have started to surpass my hopes for freedom and justice!

To the many people around the world, who have taken us (A3) into your lives, your hearts, and said that I know you, and what you have given to this world, and have taken the time to write to me, and the Louisiana State officials, you have no idea what a source of strength and courage

(Click on image for a larger version of page one of Albert’s letter.)

you have been in my darkest moments!

It is impossible to personally respond to the 1000′s of letters, and cards, to encourage me to stay strong, don’t give up, don’t lose hope and fight on. Thank you, the message is heard! I ask that this letter feels as if I am reaching out to you personally, and saying in solidarity and struggle! All Power to the People!

In Struggle!

Albert “Shaka Cinque” Woodfox
January 13, 2014

 

Albert’s Birthday Reminder: 

Send Love, but not CDs or Stamps

As Albert’s 67th birthday approaches, on February 19, we want to remind supporters that he is not allowed to receive stamps or cds.  Cards and messages are always the best gift, but if you want to send more, the best way is to give some funds to his www.jpay.com account (#00072148) so he can buy stamps, cds or other personal items from the prison store.

Through jpay, he can receive emails, although any photos sent will be black and white. If you send an email, jpay will ask if you want to pay extra for him to have money to respond via email. However, Albert is unfortunately not allowed to send email, so do not choose this option.

His mailing address is:

Albert Woodfox
#72148
David Wade Correctional Center, N1 A3
670 Bell Hill Rd.

Kevan Thakrar moved to HMP Whitemoor

Kev was transferred to the segregation unit of HMP Whitemoor on the 17th of December 2013.

Please use the exact address below as some of his mail is going to his brother who is also there.

Rather than being on the CSC unit he is on a punishment regime. No explanation has been given for this, apart from that he has refused to engage with interventions. This is nonsense as no psychologist came to see him in HMP Manchester. They only moved him because of the Judicial Review that he had taken out against the prison authorities.

Right now he is in a cell with no heating, nor access to showers or phone calls on a daily basis, and no access to gym equipment at all. He expects to stay at least until the 21st of January when there is a CSC Managament Committee Meeting. Please write to him at:

Kevan Thakrar – A4907AE
Segregation Unit
HMP Whitemoor
Longhill Road
March
Cambridgeshire
PE15 0PR

Running wild and free for Bristol ABC!

“Move quickly, comrade. The old world is right behind you!”

noborders-logoIn support of Bristol ABC a comrade is running the Hell Runner 10 km obstacle course on January 4th 2014. Here’s what is in store for him. It’s gonna be a struggle!!:  http://www.hellrunner.co.uk/hell-down-south/

Your contribution is greatly appreciated and vital for the endless work of support and solidarity for rebel and revolutionary prisoners around the world, as well as the ongoing struggle for prison abolition.

If you would like to sponsor Bristol ABC’s hell runner please contact bristol_abc(at)riseup(dot)net

Don’t make us chase you now!

soli-migrants

New Year’s Eve Prisoner Solidarity Noise Demo Outside Horfield Prison

NYE_

In response to the International Call Out for Solidarity Demonstrations outside Prisons this New Year’s Eve, Bristol Anarchist Black Cross have called for our own demonstration to coincide with the start of the new year and to remind those locked up that they are never alone and will never be forgotten!

New Year’s Eve Prisoner Solidarity Noise Demo!
Outside Horfield Prison
Meet 7:30PM @ St. Andrews Park
31/12/13

International Prisoner List 2014

prison butterflyThe struggle continues…

Download the December 2014 prisoner list here:

 

INTERNATIONAL PRISONER LIST Dec 2013 Open

INTERNATIONAL PRISONER LIST Dec 2013 PDF

INTERNATIONAL PRISONER LIST Dec 2013 Word