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Posts tagged ‘prisoner’

The Shining Fire Hydrant

Insight-Out: Leaving Prison Before You Get Out
From Hard-Knock Wisdom, Winter, 2014
Stories From Prison

fire_hydrant_brass077bddMy night was like any other night. It was 8PM, time for “close custody count”(All prisons have ‘institutional counts’ wherein they count each prisoner’s body to ensure no one is missing or has escaped. Not being there for count is considered a serious violation). The officer came to our cell and called my bunkie’s name after which he gave him the last two digits of his CDCR number. The same went for me. Half an hour passed and a neighbor comes to my cell and said they were paging me downstairs. I had not heard them calling for me. I went down to the podium and the cops said to me: “Why were you not in your cell for count!?” and I told them: “I was in my cell for count – as I have been every day and night for 12 years, and I have numerous neighbors that can verify that.”

It did not matter what I said. The cops told me to not do it again, and I am like, “Whatever.” Two days go by and I find out that the sergeant gave me a write up (a violation). I’m thinking, “Okay, I truly am not guilty of this and I have many witnesses who will say the same.” However, at the hearing the cop that counted said he looked in the cell two times and I was not there. It did not matter what I said or how many people I had who would say the same because I was found guilty and given forty hours of extra duty. I said to myself, “Screw this. I am not going to do the work. This is so unfair! I did nothing wrong and these guys are wrong about this.” I watched that count-cop count me and he did not look up from his count board once. His eyes never left that board. I filed a complaint against the officer. That is the last thing I wanted to do, but I was not wrong about this, they were!

I felt bitter about being ordered to do those forty hours of extra duty. In a phone call, I spoke to my mother about it and she wondered if I could perhaps just take it and, regardless of the circumstance and the injustice of it, see if I could do what would ultimately be best for me. She said she would accept what I would decide, but if I could, to act respectfully.

I reckoned if I refused to do the work, even though it came about unjustly, I would be guilty in their eyes. I chose to do the work anyway. I have always prided myself with doing exceptional work and I was desperately looking to find my pride in this situation, somewhere, no matter what. So, not only did I do the work, I did the best possible job I could do.

I was asked to shine up this brass fire hydrant. Though I still felt resentful about those forty hours of extra duty, I set off to shine up this hydrant and I really got into the job. As a result, this hydrant started shining very brightly. As the sun caught it, I could see my face in it and I noticed I was smiling from ear to ear. I began to laugh out loud for no reason other than enjoying that moment and seeing the result of my work. By putting all my conscious effort into shining up that fire hydrant, I had become bigger than the unfairness that led me to my assignment. I do not know how long I was at it but when I was done that hydrant it looked like the prettiest thing in the whole prison. Kinda like a small lighthouse standing proudly in an ocean of concrete, calling out on how to steer, on how to move through this place.

I realized I was shining too and it hasn’t left me. Many people commented on that hydrant all week; wondering how come that thing gives off so much light all of a sudden. I just smiled.

~ Birdman

Suu Kyi In D.C.

Dear Gabriel,

I wish you could have been with me when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese opposition leader and former prisoner of conscience in Myanmar, electrified the Amnesty Rights Generation Town Hall this morning at Washington DC’s Newseum.

Today’s heart-stopping moments are too many to recount – here is a small sample:

Aung San Suu Kyi spoke with unflagging conviction and courage, filling me with pride for the role Amnesty supporters like you played in securing her release and sustaining her spirits over the last 23 years.
Alex Wagner, our moderator from MSNBC, recalled how as a child visiting family in Burma she drove by Daw Suu’s compound with a feeling of fear, admiration, and yearning.

The entire audience proclaimed ourselves “all Aung San Suu Kyi” and held up a mask with her picture on it; the next moment we each turned our mask over to reveal the faces of other prisoners of conscience who remain behind bars.

Indeed, it’s been a long road, yet our journey is not over. Strengthen our work – donate to Amnesty International.

Aung San Suu Kyi is free, but prisoners of conscience around the world are denied their basic freedoms. We take up their cases with equal vigor. It is what makes Amnesty unique, and necessary.

The reason Aung San Suu Kyi made time during her visit to the United States to join our Town Hall was precisely because she wanted to inspire legions of activists to work on behalf of other prisoners the way they worked for her.

As Amnesty supporters, you and I have the power to change the course of history, to right great wrongs.

Realize that power with me today – make a gift today and your impact will be doubled.

I’ve set a bold goal of inspiring 50,000 gifts this month during our annual Membership Drive. Thanks to a generous donor, we can match every dollar of your donation made before Sept. 30.

Political repression comes in many forms. Take the case of feminist Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot, so poignantly represented at today’s Town Hall meeting.

Last month, three members of Pussy Riot were convicted of “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” for playing a protest song in a cathedral. They are headed to a prison camp for two years.

Today, Pyotr and Gera Verzilov, the husband and 4-year old daughter of present-day prisoner of conscience Nadja Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot, presented Daw Suu with a bouquet of flowers, as a torch passed from one generation of prisoners of conscience to the next.

Like Daw Suu’s imprisonment, the Pussy Riot conviction is a bitter blow to free speech. It reminds us never to take for granted the hard-fought human rights we have secured.

As long as people like the women of Pussy Riot are behind bars, we know what we must do. We must join and act for the greater good.

But Amnesty doesn’t work without you, so please, do your part to keep this movement strong – make a contribution to Amnesty International today.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Nossel
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

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

Indefinite Detention

From Nation of Change
12 January 2012
by Amy Goodman

Guantanamo at 10: The Prisoner and the Prosecutor

Ten years ago, Omar Deghayes and Morris Davis would have struck anyone as an odd pair. While they have never met, they now share a profound connection, cemented through their time at the notorious U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Deghayes was a prisoner there. Air Force Col. Morris Davis was chief prosecutor of the military commissions there from 2005 to 2007.

Deghayes was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to the U.S. military. He told me: “There was a payment made for every person who was handed to the Americans. … We were chained, head covered, then sent to Bagram [Afghanistan]—we were tortured in Bagram—and then from Bagram to Guantanamo.”

At Guantanamo, Deghayes, one of close to 800 men who have been sent there since January 2002, received the standard treatment: “People were subjected to beatings, daily fear … without being convicted of any crime.”

While Deghayes and his fellow inmates were suffering in their cages, the Bush administration was erecting a controversial legal framework to prosecute the Guantanamo prisoners. It labeled those rounded up “enemy combatants,” argued they had no protections under the U.S. Constitution, nor under the Geneva Conventions, no rights whatsoever. Guantanamo became a legal black hole.

When I asked Col. Davis if he felt that torture was used at Guantanamo, he said:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt. I would say that there was torture. Susan Crawford, a Dick Cheney protegee, said there was torture. John McCain has said waterboarding was torture, and we’ve admitted we’ve waterboarded. There have been at least five judges in federal court and military courts that have said detainees were tortured.”

Chained, kept in cages in orange jumpsuits, subjected to harsh interrogations and humiliations, with their Muslim faith vilified, the prisoners at Guantanamo began to fight back, through the time-honored tradition of nonviolent noncooperation. They began a hunger strike. In response, examples were made of Deghayes and the other protesters. He recalled: “After beating me in the cell, they dragged me outside, and then one of the guards, while another officer was standing, observing what was happening, [tried] to gouge my eyes out. … I lost sight in both of my eyes. Slowly, I regained my sight in one of the eyes. The other eye has completely gotten worse. And they went to do the same thing to the next cell and the next cell and next cell … to frighten everyone else from campaigning or from objecting to any policies.”

Deghayes now has sight in one eye. His right eye remains shut. After his release from Guantanamo, he was sent back to Britain. He is suing the British government for its collaboration in his imprisonment and torture.

Col. Morris Davis, disgusted with the military tribunal process, resigned his position in 2007, and in 2008 retired from the military. He went to work at the Congressional Research Service. After penning an opinion piece critical of the Obama administration’s embrace of the military tribunals, which was published in The Wall Street Journal in 2009, Davis was fired.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

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