Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘prison’

California and Death Row

Dear Gabriel,

I saw Troy Davis today in California.

Come to think about it — he was there when Oregon’s governor refused to allow another execution to take place on his watch. And I’m positive that Troy was in Connecticut this past spring — on the day its legislature made it the 17th state to do away with the death penalty.

The state of Georgia may have executed Troy Davis one year ago today, but I continue to see so much of Troy’s legacy reflected in our fight to end the death penalty worldwide.

Now it’s California’s turn. This November, we have an historic opportunity to pass a ballot initiative on the death penalty. Amnesty International has been a proud supporter of the campaign that has been heating up here. Our student and community activists have been busy gathering support for Prop 34, organizing events and activities to educate their communities about the sad reality of California’s flawed system and the chance we have to change things.

Pledge to vote YES on Prop 34 — replacing California’s death penalty with life without parole!

California could join the growing number of states turning their backs on the flawed death penalty system. Proposition 34 is a ballot initiative that will not only save the state $130 million a year, but it eliminates the risk of executing an innocent person forever!

Another Troy Davis could live right here. In fact, some say he already does. A man named Thomas Thompson was executed in 1998 amid serious doubts about his guilt. And five men sentenced to death under current California law were later cleared of the murder charges that put them on death row.1

We believe the death penalty is never the right answer. And as long as the death penalty is on the books, then we will always risk executing the innocent.

Ending the death penalty in California this year would not only be a resounding victory for human rights in our state, but will make a deep impact on the rest of the country.

But first, we need your support. We need your pledge. We need your vote in November.

See you at the polls,

William Butkus
Field Organizer, Western Region
Amnesty International USA

California Paying For Death

Dear Gabriel,

For the first time ever, California voters have a chance to replace the deeply immoral death penalty by voting YES on Proposition 34.

The poll numbers are tight and they indicate that Californians are ready to end the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. But before they make the right decision to vote YES on 34, we need to give them the facts about how — beyond the loss of life — the death penalty imposes a very real financial burden on our state.

To do our part, we are partnering with our friends at the YES on 34 Campaign to help them reach the seven million voters necessary to win in November.

We need all hands on deck to end the death penalty in California. Can you chip in $3 today to help the YES on 34 Campaign get its state-of-the-art phone bank campaign off the ground?

The YES on 34 Campaign’s volunteers have started calling through the voter lists to reach as many voters as possible. But if we raise enough funds, they will be able to launch a state-of-the-art phone banking program with technology that allows hundreds more volunteers to phone bank from their own phones anywhere in the state.

With about seven weeks left until Election Day, your contributions are crucial. If we are going to end the death penalty in California, we are going to do it through grassroots communication.

A recent editorial endorsement from the Sacramento Bee, which for the first time in its 155 years of service took a position to end the death penalty, summed up the need for educating our state’s voter on the facts around YES on 34:

In November, California voters will have a chance, through Proposition 34, to end the death penalty and replace it with a system of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. We urge you to vote for it. While capital punishment remains popular in California, polls suggest that a majority of those surveyed would accept ending the death penalty if it were replaced with a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Numerous longtime supporters of capital punishment have concluded our system can’t be fixed and are supporting Proposition 34 because of it.1

The money you contribute today to fund YES on 34’s state-of-the-art phone bank campaign will directly boost our chances to end the death penalty. One-on-one contact is the single most effective way to turn a “no” vote into a “yes” vote.

Chip in $3 today to end the death penalty in California.

Thank you for taking action.

Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Grateful To Be Alive & Free

Dear Gabriel,

Two months ago, I did not know if I would make it out of prison alive.

I live in Cameroon, where being gay is illegal. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people like me exist in constant fear of hate and violence.

Last year I was convicted of “homosexuality and attempted homosexuality” and thrown in Kondengui central prison in Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon. In this hellish place, I was singled out for being gay and cruelly attacked on multiple occasions.

Today I am deeply grateful to be alive and a free man. Though my release from prison is provisional, I fear that without Amnesty International’s support I would still be there.

I am raising my voice for Amnesty, because Amnesty raised its voice for me. Please, stand together with me to defend human rights with Amnesty.

There are many more like me, unjustly imprisoned for who we are.

It is your solidarity that lifts us from despair.

In prison, when I received my first letters from Amnesty supporters, I knew that I belonged to a big family, a worldwide family. Your letters were a beacon of hope in that dark place.

You touched my heart. You never gave in.

My hope is that one day all LGBTI people will be able to walk free in Cameroon – indeed everywhere – holding our heads high, without any danger or discrimination.

Your support represents hope for all who suffer the indignities and pain of human rights abuses. I celebrate my freedom, but I will not rest until we are all truly free.

I ask you to give now, during Amnesty’s September Membership Drive, so that your gift will be matched and go even farther.

I wish happiness for you,
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede
FORMER PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE, CAMEROON

Dogs Go To Jail For Good

From SF Gate
by Carolyn Jones
31 July 2012

Inmates Rehabilitate Problem Pooches

Couch-eaters, barkers, escape artists, leash-haters and other bad dogs got a reprieve from canine jail Tuesday, thanks to a cadre of trainers who know a thing to two about bad behavior.

The dogs, who were near death row at the Peninsula Humane Society because of their misdemeanors, graduated from an eight-week intensive training program that transformed them into the world’s most lovable pets.

The miracle workers behind the metamorphosis? Fellow inmates – of the two-legged variety.

A collaboration between the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and the Peninsula Humane Society pairs problem dogs with prisoners in the minimum-security Maple Street Complex Facility in Redwood City.

Inmates gain skills

The dogs move into the jail, sleep in crates at night, and spend roughly 16 hours a day with their inmate handlers. They learn how to sit, stay and not chew shoes, as well as get along with people and other dogs.

In short, they are rehabilitated into contributing members of society.

As for the inmates, they learn a few new tricks as well. Humane Society staff instruct them how to train and groom dogs, giving them some job skills for when they’re released. And as a side benefit, the inmates get plenty of slobbering and trusting love in a place not usually known for its cheerful ambiance.

“It’s a big stress reliever. It makes you feel good,” said Mark Karwowski, 49, of Emeryville, who is serving 3 1/2 months for drunken driving. “You get to be normal for a while.”

‘Hard to say goodbye’

Karwowski bid farewell Tuesday to Belle, a 2-year-old pit bull-rottweiler mix who had “socialization issues” when she arrived at the cell block two months ago. Among other transgressions, she had a penchant for attacking other dogs.

Karwowski worked with her slowly, introducing her gradually to one, and then two, then three other dogs, rewarding her with treats when she was friendly and removing her from the dog party when she raised her hackles.

On Tuesday, Belle was a model of affability, sitting calmly throughout the graduation festivities with nary a sideways glance at her four-legged classmates.

“It feels good to see her do so well,” Karwowski said. “But it’s a little sad. It’s hard to say goodbye. It makes me miss my dog at home.”

The program originated three years ago from a sheriff’s deputy who had heard of a similar program in another state. It’s been so successful in San Mateo County that numerous other jails, including San Francisco’s, are considering it.

In all, 79 inmates have participated, training 40 dogs. All 40 have been adopted, many by their inmate handlers after they’re released or by guards, deputies and other jail staff who became smitten with the canine convicts.

Potential as pets

The dogs are mostly strays whom Humane Society staff deem to be good candidates for rehabilitation. They’re too poorly behaved to be adopted, but with some schooling and love they have the potential to become good pets.

“These are dogs that aren’t thriving in the shelter, for whatever reason,” said Maria Eguren, the Humane Society’s director of training and behavior. “But over here, it’s like they’re in a home. They do much better. Everyone’s morale goes up.”

Sheriff’s staff noticed benefits for inmates that reach far beyond dog training skills.

“A lot of the inmates have problems dealing with emotions. Working with dogs teaches them to let their emotions out in a positive way,” said Lt. Alma Zamora. “They get something to love.”

Overcoming flaws

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Sierra, a 1-year-old Husky with pedigree looks but a few personality flaws, such as begging, whining and lack of housetraining.

Starfordshire Taimani, 27, of East Palo Alto turned her into a show dog. The fluffy pup was the star Tuesday, sitting proudly as several dozen county workers and other passers-by smothered her with affection.

Read entire story at SF Gate.

Let Her Prove It

Gabriel –

The “all time champ in wrongful convictions”? Kirstin Lobato was 19 when she was sent to prison for murder — despite the fact that no physical evidence tied her to the crime scene, multiple witnesses testified that she was almost 200 miles away at the time, and other evidence pointed to a completely different person.

Crucial DNA evidence ignored: For ten years, law enforcement officials have refused to test DNA evidence from the crime scene, even though it could exonerate Kirstin and find the real killer. Kirstin’s friend Michelle Ravell says the reason is clear: they know it could prove they’ve kept an innocent woman in prison for ten years. But now, there is new hope.

You can help exonerate an innocent woman: A new District Attorney has just been appointed, and he has the power to agree to new DNA tests. Michelle says it’s a chance for him to right an historic wrong — and she knows that if he hears from thousands of people across the country, he’ll be convinced to take this opportunity to uncover the truth.

Click here to sign Michelle’s petition asking District Attorney Stephen Wolfson to allow DNA testing in Kirstin’s case.

Change.org

——————

Here’s more information about Michelle’s campaign, in her own words.

Kirstin Blaise Lobato is an innocent woman stuck in prison while evidence in her case goes untested for DNA.

In 2002 at 19 years old, Kirstin was convicted for the murder and sexual assault of a homeless man named Duran Bailey in Las Vegas. But there was no physical evidence tying Kirstin to the crime and the evidence that was tested for DNA actually excluded her. There were four identifiable crime scene fingerprints – none matched Kirstin’s. A bloody shoe print was found next to the body and a footprint expert testified that it came from a “U.S. men’s size 9 athletic shoe.” Pubic hair found on the victim was tested for DNA and the results excluded both Blaise and the victim as the hair’s source. Multiple people testified that Kirstin was nearly 200 miles away from Las Vegas at the time of the crime.

What happened to Kirstin could happen to anyone. But now, Kirstin has the opportunity to prove her innocence if Clark County District Attorney Stephen Wolfson makes two very reasonable decisions: to allow DNA testing of crime scene evidence and to not file any opposition to Kirstin’s appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The Innocence Project, an organization whose DNA testing work has freed 292 innocent people from prison, has offered to pay to test and re-test 13 pieces of evidence related to the crime using the latest in DNA technology and Wolfson still won’t allow it.

In addition to the DNA evidence, Kirstin has proven her innocence by way of her Habeas Corpus petition’s new evidence grounds. If the State of Nevada District Attorney doesn’t oppose her Appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, justice will finally be served and she can regain her life.

Clark County District Attorney Stephen Wolfson has a chance to do the right thing and to seek true justice in the murder of Duran Bailey.

Please sign this petition and ask District Attorney Wolfson to allow DNA testing of crime scene evidence and to not file any opposition to Kirstin’s appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Click here to sign the petition
.

140 Innocent Women and Men

Dear Gabriel,

Since reinstatement of the death penalty in the U.S., 140 innocent men and women have been freed from death row.

The SAFE California Act will replace California’s death penalty with a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole as the maximum punishment for murder. This means convicted killers will remain behind bars forever – but with no risk of executing an innocent person.

Please support the SAFE California Act to replace the death penalty with life without parole.

Thanks for all you do!

Bob Fertik

Dear Activist,

Texas executed an innocent man in 1989. That is the stunning conclusion of a groundbreaking new report published recently by Columbia University that shows Carlos De Luna was wrongfully convicted and executed for a crime he did not commit.

The news shook me to my core: It could have been me.

I was wrongfully convicted when I was 16 years old and served 20 years in prison before proving my innocence. I was mistaken for the true killer, just like Carlos De Luna. That terrible mistake took two decades of freedom from me — but it took Carlos De Luna’s life.

I need your help to make sure California never executes an innocent person:

Click here to sign my petition supporting the SAFE California Act this November — an initiative to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole!

Each moment I’ve spent with family and friends since proving my innocence has been full of joy.

But I can’t stop thinking about Carlos De Luna’s family and friends. How will they ever experience that kind of joy again? How will they ever believe again that justice will prevail, knowing that Carlos was executed for a crime he did not commit?

If there’s one thing my wrongful conviction taught me, it’s that mistakes can always be made. The only way to guarantee that no innocent person is ever put to death in California is to replace the death penalty with life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Protect the innocent in California: Sign my petition supporting the SAFE California Act to replace the death penalty today.

Every wrongful conviction is a tragedy, but with the death penalty that tragedy becomes irreversible.

That’s why I must speak for Carlos De Luna — and we all must. Please help me get the message out: The time has come to replace the death penalty in California, to protect the innocent, and make California safer for all families.

Together, we will ensure that no innocent person is ever executed here in California.

Sincerely,
Franky Carrillo

P.S. Please stand up and make your voice heard: Sign my petition supporting the SAFE California Act to replace the death penalty today!

“Insult” President, Go To Jail

Dear Gabriel,

Behareh Hedayat — a student activist in Iran — is serving 10 years in prison on charges including “insulting the President.”

Her insult?

In a speech, she said, “Organizing a protest means being beaten, being arrested, being disrespected, being tortured for confessing to false things, being in solitary confinement, being expelled from university.”

On December 31, 2009, she was arrested and sentenced simply for advocating for greater freedom in Iran. There are reports of her ill-treatment and medical neglect.

Until she is free, Amnesty will fight for her release. You can be a part of that fight by donating to Amnesty.

We know her release is possible. Our movement has helped young reformers many times before.

Fellow Iranian student activist Ahmad Batebi was sentenced to death in 1999 when a photo of him holding a bloody t-shirt worn by an injured student protestor appeared on the cover of the Economist. After nearly a decade, of persistent activism on his behalf by Amnesty members, he was granted a medical furlough, during which he escaped jail and fled Iran. With Amnesty’s support, he was granted asylum in the United States.

To mark Amnesty’s 51st birthday on May 28, we plan to recruit 1,500 new supporters who can help keep urgent pressure on governments like Iran by:

Mobilizing protests that raise the profile of specific cases of concern.

Empowering activists to put pressure on key leaders through creative tactics.

Participating in global efforts like Amnesty’s Write for Rights initiative, the world’s largest annual human rights event.

Investigating human rights abuses through research missions to key countries.

We must not let the government of Iran hold the future of the Iranian people hostage. You believe in human rights. Help us continue the fight. Help Amnesty with a gift of support.

You can help us make 2012 the year that Behareh Hedayat walks out of prison a free woman.

Sincerely,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Campaign Director, Individuals at Risk
Amnesty International USA

Help Family In Bahrain

Dear Gabriel,

No one wanted it to come to this, but it has.

My father, prominent Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is on a 9-week hunger strike protesting the life sentence he received for peaceful protest.

In prison, security forces broke his jaw in four places and subjected him to severe physical, psychological and sexual torture. Since his arrest last year, my mother was fired from her job, my sister was arrested five times, and my brothers-in-law were arrested and tortured.

Authorities decide when to let anyone from my family see him. The human rights of my family and of thousands of peaceful Bahrainis like us have been deeply violated by the government.

My father doesn’t want to end his life. He wants to end injustice and violence against the Bahraini people.

Help me break through now, to save his life. Demand the immediate and unconditional release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.

Many governments have shamefully ignored the daily and widespread human rights violations in my country. As controversy swirls around Bahrain’s plans to host the Grand Prix auto race this month, Bahraini authorities desperately try to assure the world that all is back to “business as usual.” But the people of Bahrain continue to call for change, and my father may pay for that goal with his life. Pressure from people like you may force action.

As one activist to another, I ask for your help securing the release of my father and of all of the unjustly imprisoned activists in Bahrain. Delay could mean death.

Please take action for my father today. I am forever grateful for your support.

In solidarity,

Maryam al-Khawaja
Head of Foreign Relations, Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

40 Years of Isolation

Dear Gabriel,

No human being deserves this.

23 hours a day isolated in a small cell, four steps long, three steps across. Three times a week for exercise in an outdoor cage, weather permitting. A few hours every week to shower or simply walk. Rare, fleeting human contact with prison guards, let alone with family.

This describes four decades of existence for Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace in Louisiana, two members of the so-called “Angola 3” who pass their remaining hours “in the hole” to this day.

April 17 will mark 40 years — 14,600 days — of their nightmare. The conditions in which these two men are held, as well as the tragically absurd duration of this punishment, violate a host of human rights treaties to which the US is a party, including those covering basic standards for treatment of prisoners. Prisons simply shouldn’t operate this way in the US.

Demand an end to the cruel and unnecessary solitary confinement for Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace.

Our goal is to collect 14,600 petition signatures from just this email alone — one signature for every day each man has spent in isolation. Gabriel, can we count on your voice?

Woodfox and Wallace may be in isolation, but they are not forgotten. Our calls for justice will ring loud — on April 17 we’ll make sure Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal hears us when we arrive at his Baton Rouge doorstep with tens of thousands of petition signatures in hand.

We can’t let more days pass without justice. Herman Wallace is now 70 years old, Albert Woodfox is in his mid-60s, and both men are suffering from serious health problems — made worse by the appalling deprivation in which they live.

Ill, advancing in age, with clean disciplinary records for the last 20 years — what is so dangerous about these men that could possibly warrant this inhumane treatment, for so long?

Because the prison authorities see them as a threat. The “Angola 3” organized their fellow prisoners against inhumane treatment and racial segregation in the early 1970s. Angola Prison’s warden, Burl Cain, has suggested that Woodfox and Wallace’s continued isolation is based on their political activism — particularly their association with the Black Panthers.

The “Angola 3” case highlights the failings of a Louisiana justice system that is undermined by discrimination. No physical evidence links Woodfox and Wallace to the 1972 murder of a prison guard. Inmate testimony is questionable. And judges who twice overturned Woodfox’s conviction for the murder cited racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, and more.

14,600 days in solitary is far too many. But today, we can do something about it — demand justice for the remaining “Angola 3”.

And on April 17, we won’t take no for an answer in Baton Rouge!

For justice,

Bryna Subherwal
Individuals at Risk Campaigner
Amnesty International USA

Teachers In Bahrain

Dear Gabriel,

Boiling with civic unrest, yesterday marked a dangerous flash point in Bahrain.

Feb. 14 was the first anniversary of widespread protests against the government. The violent crackdown that followed those 2011 protests caused the country to slide into a crisis that still festers with human rights abuses. Yesterday, Bahraini protesters took to the streets to demand that the government keep its promises to make much needed political reforms.

The coming week will bring an appeal hearing for two teacher leaders — Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb — who were punished for organizing a peaceful teacher strike during last year’s protests.

Tell Bahrain’s government: Don’t jail teachers for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Tortured, denied due process, and unfairly convicted of “inciting hatred” and “attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force,” Jalila and Mahdi were sentenced to three and 10 years, respectively. Their next appeal hearing takes place on Feb. 19.

During a December hearing, Mahdi showed obvious signs of being beaten. Our sources say he remains in poor health, yet his lawyer’s request for release on bail was denied. Mahdi may die in prison, and the Bahrain government will have more blood on its hands.

Bahrain’s leaders have pledged reform, yet abuses continue. Protesters like Jalila and Mahdi brave violence day in and day out in their march for basic freedoms.

Show Bahrain’s human rights defenders that we have their back.

Demand justice for Jalila and Mahdi.

In solidarity,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Director, Individuals at Risk Campaign
Amnesty International USA

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