Via Equal Justice Initiative:


The State of Missouri executed Cecil Clayton last night without a hearing to determine his competency despite evidence that he suffered from severe mental illness, dementia, and intellectual disability related to his advanced age (he was 74) and the severe brain injury he sustained in a sawmill accident. The execution raises serious questions about the fairness and legitimacy of the death penalty and its imposition on mentally ill and disabled people.

Cecil Clayton was happily married, raising a family and working hard at his logging business when, in 1972, a large splinter of wood ricocheted off his saw blade and pierced his skull, destroying about 8 percent of his brain. Doctors had to remove a fifth of his frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and problem solving. The image above is a brain scan showing in the lower right section that, as his attorney put it, he “had – literally – a hole in his head.”

After the accident, Mr. Clayton’s marriage fell apart, he began drinking, was unable to work, his reading and writing skills dropped to third- and fourth-grade levels, and he started suffering from violent outbursts, hallucinations, paranoia, and other symptoms of mental illness. Two years after the accident, he checked himself into a mental hospital for more than a year because he was afraid he couldn’t control his temper.

Mr. Clayton was sentenced to death for the killing of police officer Christopher Casetter in 1996. Medical experts who examined Mr. Clayton in prison found that at age 74, he couldn’t care for himself, tried but couldn’t follow simple instructions, and was intellectually disabled with an IQ of 71. In January, a forensic psychiatrist reported that Mr. Clayton could not explain “the current status of his case, what has been done on his behalf and what fate awaits him.”

The Eighth Amendment bars the death penalty for people who are intellectually disabled, and forbids the execution of someone whose mental illness or disability prevents him from understanding why he is being put to death. Inmates facing execution are entitled to a competency hearing where evidence of mental incapacity can be heard and assessed by a court.

But on Saturday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to deny Mr. Clayton a mental competency hearing before his execution. The majority found the evidence of Mr. Clayton’s brain damage and testimony from three psychiatrists who examined him wasn’t enough to hold a hearing on his competency to be executed.

After considering his appeal last night for more than three hours past the scheduled execution time, the United States Supreme Court denied a stay, although four justices would have granted a stay.

Four votes are required for the Court to hear a case; five are required to stay an execution. Traditionally, when four justices want to hear a death penalty case, a justice will provide the fifth vote necessary to stay the execution so that the review can proceed. But this is at least the second time this year that the Court has abandoned its “rule of five” and allowed an execution to go forward despite four votes to hear the case.

Originally scheduled for 6 p.m., the execution began at 9:13 p.m. and Mr. Clayton was pronounced dead at 9:21 p.m. He is the second person to be put to death this year by the State of Missouri, which executed a record-setting ten people in 2014.

Support The Strike At St. Clair Correctional Facility In Alabama!

Via the Free Alabama Movement:

Today, 48 hours before a peaceful work stoppage starts on Sunday, March 1, at St Clair Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Springville, Ala.,Riot police have been sent to the prison to beat, torture, and intimidate the men incarcerated at SCCF, whose demands include an end to severe overcrowding and filthy living conditions. Here’s how you can support the strike and help stop the brutality against the prisoners

1. Call SCCF’s warden, Carter Davenport, at (205)467-6111. Tell him to stop the retaliation against the prisoners, who have a right to peacefully protest against their inhumane treatment.

2. Send an email to the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC). Go to the ADOC’s website: http://www.doc.state.al.us/ Click “contact us” and then click constituent services. Type your message, addressing it to Warden Carter Davenport. Before sending your message, please sign it. (You don’t have to give your address.)

3. Spread the word to others. We must flood the prison with phone calls and the ADOC with email! 

'Support The Strike At St. Clair Correctional FacilityIn Alabama!Today, 48 hours before a peaceful work stoppage starts on Sunday, March 1, at St Clair Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Springville, Ala.,Riot police have been sent to the prison to beat, torture, and intimidate the men incarcerated at SCCF, whose demands include an end to severe overcrowding and filthy living conditions. Here's how you can support the strike and help stop the brutality against the prisoners1. Call SCCF's warden, Carter Davenport, at(205)467-6111. Tell him to stop the retaliation against the prisoners, who have a right to peacefully protest against their inhumane treatment.2. Send an email to the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC). Go to the ADOC's website,http://www.doc.state.al.us.Clickcontact us and then click constituent services. Type your message, addressing it to Warden Carter Davenport. Before sending your message, please sign it. (You don't have to give your address.)3. Spread the word to others. We must flood the prison with phone calls and the ADOC with email! Alabama Department of Corrections doc.state.al.us'

Losing lives while gaining profit: 4 deaths in 2 months is business as usual for CCA prison

Via San Francisco Bay View

by Anthony Robinson Jr.


“It should never be easy for them to destroy us.” – Comrade G

In the last two months – from Dec. 27 to Feb. 10, 2015 – four prisoners have died here at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, a private prison California uses to relieve its prison overcrowding; it is owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, CCA. These lives were lost due to indifference, unprofessionalism and lack of adequate training.

“Fight Mass Containment” – Art: Roger “Rab” Moore, G-02296, HDSP Z-168, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127.

The families of all four of these California prisoners had to pay to have the bodies of their loved ones shipped back from the prison in Mississippi to California. Neither CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) nor CCA would foot the bill.

Steve Lee was an Asian American man around 56 years of age who had spent over 15 years in prison and was due to be released in April 2015. He lost his life because a correctional counselor by the name of Strong gave him a directive to prop some chairs on top of a flimsy table to take down some Christmas decorations.

In the process of taking down the decorations – unsupported by a ladder or another human being holding the chair – Steve Lee fell as a result of the chair slipping back and cracked his head. He had to be placed on life support until it was decided to pull the plug.

Tyrone Madden, F-92969, was an African American man intending to play a pick-up game of basketball and collapsed due to a seizure. The medical staff’s response was so inadequate due to indifference and lack of training that after fumbling with their oxygen tanks and other equipment and finally arriving on the scene, they were not even equipped with the knowledge that during a seizure Tyrone had to be placed on his side so that he wouldn’t swallow his tongue. It was a lieutenant who finally placed Tyrone on his side after the prisoners were yelling for medical staff to do so. How is it that a lieutenant who isn’t properly trained in medical responses is even involved with medical emergencies?

These lives should not be written off like some tax ledger expense or covered up through corporate PR and misinformation. As Ho Chi Minh stated: “Even the prisoner can get out and help build up the society. Adversity is just a measure of one’s fidelity.” These men were fathers, sons, brothers, uncles: important pieces to the structure of someone’s life. They had the potential to get out of prison and be pillars for their communities.

These lives were lost due to indifference, unprofessionalism and lack of adequate training.

For too long, the measure of human lives from poor demographics or environments such as prison has been cut off from the metrics of humanity – and we have all suffered for it. When you have developed such a cavalier lack of concern for the life of another human being, then you begin to suffocate your own humanity. Mumia said, “I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about freedom.”

As evidence and an admission on their part of the wrongful death of Steve Lee, CCA tried to bribe the Asian Americans and others from N Building A Section with a chicken and pizza feast, which I am proud to say that they denied with a rebel yell that spoke volumes to the fact that incarcerated lives matter. Can you imagine being offered chicken as recompense for the wrongful death of a fallen brother?

This was a blatant attempt to pay off witnesses and buy silence by a corporation that has been exposed for its intent to put profits over humanity (see “Two slaves for the price of one” articles, Parts 1, 2 and 3). We must understand that the structured forms of protesting that we have been practicing have not yielded the humane results that we seek but have only reinforced the plurality of conditions suffered by not making the proper rebuttals to the systemic causes of our oppression.

This was a blatant attempt to pay off witnesses and buy silence by a corporation that has been exposed for its intent to put profits over humanity.

To the people of true humanity and civil merit and to those individ­uals, organizations and firms who profess to work towards the civil rights of humanity: We need your work, assistance and efforts now! Will you be on the wrong side of history?

We need a mobilized, con­crete effort to accompany your protest signs and hands up movements. If the only expense you are willing to afford to this civil rights struggle is the cost of paint and markers used to decorate your signs, then your movement has failed before the paint smeared on your hands dries.

At Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, CCA is in violation of numerous human rights and prisoners’ rights and regularly commits fraud and contractual negligence violations. We need lawyers and paralegals willing to take on CCA and CDCR for their federal 1983 civil suits and tort claims violations.

One of the reasons CCA and CDCR have been so emboldened in allowing such gross negligence and these violations to parade throughout their institutions is that the cost effective tactic to make a profit is measured against what they deem as the expense of true rehabilitation. This has become embedded more staunchly as civil rights and pro bono lawyers have shied away from prisoners’ lawsuits. The powers that be see that as permission to oppress and do away with an already out of sight, out of mind “underclass.”

I pray that you not allow another human life to pass here at TCCF while supporting through inaction CCA’s cavalier “business as usual” attitude in regards to human suffering and death!

These profiteers make the proper “adjustments” only when their eco­nomic bottom line is adversely affected. We must make the consequences of violating prisoners’ rights more expensive than the money they make or save by cutting corners and siphoning off rehabilitation efforts.

If your measure of humanity is more than mere lip service and your faith more than a mere apology, then contact me so that we can prove to the corporate profiteers that Incarcerated Lives Matter!

Anthony Robinson Jr.

There are enough prisoners willing to stand up for their human rights once they know that the public is willing to stand up and recognize them as human. There are enough good people working here at TCCF willing to testify to the policies and illegalities of CCA regarding the inhumane treatment they are trained to perpetuate against us prisoners once they know that organizations and lawyers are willing to stand up and recognize that Incarcerated Lives Matter!

We must make the consequences of violating prisoners’ rights more expensive than the money they make or save by cutting corners and siphoning off rehabilitation efforts.

A man can be measured by the possibilities he seeks in himself and others. All power to the people who are not afraid to fight for their freedom for fear of losing their chains!

I pray that you not allow another human life to pass here at TCCF while supporting through inaction CCA’s cavalier “business as usual” attitude in regards to human suffering and death!

Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Robinson Jr., P-67144, TCCF MC 67, 415 US Hwy 49 N., Tutwiler MS 38963.

Special Report: Lebanon County Correctional Facility, Lebanon, PA

I received the following via email. I decided to post here with permission. This needs to go viral and if not viral at least be seen by as many people as possible. People need medical treatment, to be treated in safe and humane surroundings; Its Winter, give them extra blankets… And the facility needs to be cleaned up- with correctional budgets at all time highs, there is no excuse. 


Just spent a week in Lebanon County Correctional Facility for violating curfew on probation. Inmates are literally freezing and being denied jackets and extra blankets. Additionally, the place has a dangerous mold problem throughout the facility including, but not limited to the wall of the gymnasium that leads to the kitchen and the air vents in cell blocks. The moisture from the showers and the spraying of the kitchen is the likely culprit but the situation isn’t addressed and I can’t imagine the place passing a random inspection. I would imagine they get advanced warnings of inspections and perhaps the situation is either overlooked or inspectors are paid off. This moisture also accumulates on the walls and windows in conjunction with the condensation and inmates are stepping through shallow puddles that spread to the foot of their bunks.

This is causing a serious health problem…the majority of the population is sick with various ailments and their “quarantine” for new inmates is a joke…new prisoners are not separated prior to seeing medical and receiving their TB tests – they are merely put into an open room on the same block as the other inmates on outmate (work release – where almost none of the inmates are actually working) who have been tested and cleared by medical, sharing use of the same facilities and day room objects/items. There is absolutely no attempt to separate these inmates from the others. The facility was also over maximum capacity by triple digits as of a week ago today and likely still is. While waiting to see medical I overheard medical staff tell correctional officers that they could no longer accept “sick call” slips from inmates as they had already received more of a work load than they could handle, meaning inmates aren’t given the medical attention that they have the right to and are requesting. This is absolutely heartbreaking. Nothing is done about this.

Oh and I witnessed an inmate scraping a substantial amount of ice off of the INSIDE of the window in room 8 of Outmate Upper just this morning.

Anyone or anywhere you could point me towards that might care or be able to take any kind of action. I’m sending this information to the editor of the local paper but coming from an inmate I doubt that I will be taken seriously.

Via Daniel Uffner

Mailing Address: 730 E. Walnut St.
Lebanon, PA  17042
Phone Number: 717-274-5451
Fax Number: 717-274-1338
Department Head: Robert J. Karnes, Warden

Seven Ways to Support People in Prison

By Victoria Law, Waging Nonviolence

I recently received a letter from a person asking how to get involved with supporting women in prison. The return address was from a small town that takes up 2.4 square miles and has approximately 14,000 residents. As far as the letter writer knew, there were no organizations — or even individual advocates — working around these issues nearby. The letter reminded me that not everyone is blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) enough to live in a city with opportunities to get involved in advocacy or direct support.

So what are some ways to support people behind bars if you’re not near any existing organizations or grassroots groups? Here are seven places to start:

1. Become a pen pal. Yes, I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Reach out to a person in prison and start a correspondence. For many, you may be their life line to surviving the isolation and dehumanization that prisons foster. Not sure where to find a pen pal? Check out Black and Pink, which connects LGBTQ people behind bars with people outside across the nation.

2. Amplify the voices and experiences of people behind bars. Prison walls don’t just keep people inside; they also mask abuses and injustices that we (hopefully) wouldn’t stand for in the outside world. Help get these experiences out into the wider world. If you have a blog, Tumblr, Facebook or any other form of media, ask your new pen pal(s) to write something for it. Ask if you can include some of their words in your own posts. Or set up a blog specifically to highlight their voices and experiences.

3. Send books. For many people behind bars, particularly those in solitary confinement, books are a sanity-saver. Books allow people to occupy their minds and temporarily escape their prison cells. You can either donate books to one of the many volunteer groups that send books to people in prison or, if you have a pen pal, ask how you can send books directly. (Note: Most jails and prisons do not allow individuals to send books directly from their homes, but many allow books from bookstores, publishers and vendors like Amazon. You can usually find the regulations on the website for the prison or jail.)

4. Send in news from the outside world. Prisons isolate people, not just from other people but also from feeling as if they’re part of the outside world. For instance, a woman in Florida told me that no one in the solitary confinement unit learned about 9/11 for three weeks. Talk about feeling disconnected from the rest of the country! Send in printouts from online news sources or splurge to give the person a gift subscription to a magazine (be sure the person can receive subscriptions first).

5. Participate in a call-in campaign. Prison abuses are allowed to flourish because there’s a sense that no one is paying attention. When people call in about a particular abuse or condition, the prison has to pay attention and make changes. When CeCe McDonald was first sent to prison, prison staff refused to give her the amount of hormones she was prescribed. Outside supporters organized a call-in campaign and, within a week, prison staff felt so “inconvenienced” that they began administering the proper dosage. Without that outside support, prison staff would have continued to believe that they could treat McDonald, a young black trans woman, any way they pleased. Call-in campaigns have also changed egregious conditions. For example, in November 2013, after family members reported that their loved ones in Chicago’s Cook County Jail lacked heat despite the temperatures dipping to eight degrees, a call-in campaign succeeded in having the heat turned on.

All of the above are ways to support people currently behind bars. But what about making sure that more people aren’t swept into the net of the criminal punishment system? Even if you live in a town without existing advocacy organizations, you can still make a difference.

6. Keep track of proposed policies and laws in your area. Attend community events or politicians’ forums and speak out against practices that would increase criminalization. A friend told me that he recently attended a local political event. There, residents expressed annoyance at a group of dancers who played music and practiced in a nearby park in the evenings. At first, residents were told to call the police. But someone stood up and argued against calling the police. He suggested that residents talk to the dancers, let them know that the music was disturbing residents and see if they could practice at an earlier hour, turn down the music, or somehow accommodate people’s concerns. His suggestion changed the tenor of the meeting and the residents, instead of pushing for police intervention, began to consider ways that they could address these concerns without relying on criminalization.

7. Raise awareness about the issues! This includes talking to people in person, posting on your social media pages, and putting a sign in your window or lawn. Organize a film screening or book group that brings people together to learn about the vast reach of mass incarceration. (A partial list of prison documentaries is herebut don’t forget about War on Terror entrapment, women’s self-defense, and solitary confinement. And here’s a list of books to get a conversation going.)

Continue Reading @ TruthOut 

An Inside Look at Florida’s Prisons

John Bundy was thrown in solitary confinement for this article.

It must not be in vain.

This is about our criminal justice system, a message for reform .


I have been incarcerated in the Florida Department of Corrections for more than two decades and am serving seven life terms, five of which are without possibility of parole.
I have witnessed many of the things that were addressed in the article “Group Calls for State Prison System Overall,” published in The Ledger on Nov. 14.
Prison reform has been a long time coming. What I am most impassioned about relates to the statement in the article, “In addition to punishing inmates, make a concerted effort to rehabilitate them.” Though I believe I understand the intent, I take issue with the language.

You cannot punish inmates and rehabilitate them at the same time.
A clear distinction must be made between those who broke the law and have been incarcerated and those who have been incarcerated and continue to break the law.
In the first instance, the individual has been incarcerated as punishment, separated from society and its benefits, privileges and freedoms. In the second, the incarcerated individual continues in his pattern of criminal behavior, undeterred by his self-inflicted loss.
I have been incarcerated and separated from society for crimes I committed against society, as punishment. I get that. For me it means long-term or permanent loss of everything that we take for granted every day.
I will never own my own business, earn a paycheck, own or drive a car, own a cell phone, order a pizza, surf the Internet, eat seafood, go fishing, walk on a beach, own a home, sleep in my own bed, celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, get married, have an intimate relationship with children and grandchildren.
I am constantly reminded of these things every day. The world is passing me by. Cell phones and the Internet did not even exist when I came to prison. My incarceration is the other death penalty, warehoused for life, sentenced to die in prison. So, I know what it means to say, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” And that is, perhaps, as it should be.
But the idea that I am incarcerated to be punished implies that you need to do more to me than I have already done to myself. In fact, it is exactly this ideology that is at the root of the prevailing mindset within DOC that it is somehow their job, duty and mission to further “punish inmates,” to make the incarcerated miserable.
This goes way beyond punishment. It is an unjustified contempt and prejudice toward inmates by those who use their vested authority to oppress and abuse, under the guise of “corrections” — not too unlike a dictatorship or the plantations of our shameful past.
Indicative of this mindset is a statement attributed to one of our heads of security here: “If these inmates are smiling, then I am not doing my job.” It is exactly this ideology, this mindset, which has led to systemic corruption, mismanagement and abuse — and has cultivated a culture of violence and callous indifference, where they feel completely justified in their actions and methodologies, that the ends justify the means. Those who propagate and facilitate this ideology intentionally and maliciously inflict mental and emotional distress and create a dangerous, volatile and abusive environment for both inmates and officers alike.
Whatever happened to the Golden Rule, to treat others as you would have them to treat you? Whatever happened to ethics, integrity, professionalism and the fact that they have sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of this state? 
If you want to make the incarcerated miserable, you need only teach them the value of what they forfeited, remind them of it often and lead by example. But do not think that whatever privileges that are extended to me in a prison environment can ever offset or mitigate what I’ve done to myself. Or, that the continued and ongoing punitive and abusive action, especially when unprovoked, will ever produce anything other than resentment, anger, fear and disregard for authority.
“If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for law.” Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1928.
It is somewhat a relief that these issues are finally receiving attention. The cycle of recidivism and financial burden is directly associated with Florida’s “outmoded and abusive” practices. Many, including James McDonough, retired Air Force colonel and former secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, have said that this is so deeply seated that it is irreparable.
Were I only facing a few years of incarceration, and eventual release, I might be willing to hold my breath. But given DOC’s current direction, and in light of recent events and rising inmate fatalities, nobody’s release is guaranteed.
An ever larger segment of the inmate population is facing long-term or indefinite incarceration (the other death penalty), as well as abuse and violence at the hands of those whose mission is supposed to be care, custody and control — whose mottos are “When they succeed, we succeed” and “Changing lives to insure a safer Florida.”
Sadly, history has shown that in many states prison reform only came on the heels of catastrophic meltdown, violence and bloodshed. For many it came too late.
Any talk of overhauling or reforming the Florida prison system must include addressing and rooting out this deep-seated and misguided mindset of “punishing inmates” and attempting to make them miserable; incarceration is, by its very nature, miserable, unnatural and abnormal.
In failing to do so, Florida will only continue to pound square pegs into round holes, at a cost to its citizens and public safety, and the culture of corruption, violence and abuse will continue to evade any superficial and cosmetic attempts at change.
John Bundy is an inmate at the Avon Park Correctional Institution and Incarcerated since age 20.

Via The Ledger

How the Government Put Tens of Thousands of People at Risk of a Deadly Disease

If it killed politicians instead of prisoners, this illness would be national enemy No. 1.


Sika Eteaki.

SIKA ETEAKI LAY IN BED, shaking uncontrollably. The pillow and sheets were soaked through with sweat, but now he couldn’t get warm. It felt like there weren’t enough blankets in all of Lancaster State Prison to keep him warm.

Just a few months earlier, Eteaki had turned himself in for illegal possession of a firearm. He’d been arrested with a gun while driving back from a camping trip. He and his family had used the pistol for target practice, for fun, but a spate of nonviolent priors from the decade before had prosecutors threatening to put Eteaki away for years. Since those early arrests, Eteaki had turned his life around. He now had four kids under five, a renewed faith in Mormonism, and steady work at a foundry. The prosecutor went easy, and after months of negotiation, Eteaki pleaded guilty to felony firearm possession and got eight months in Lancaster, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. In July 2010, Eteaki’s wife, Milah, drove him to the Long Beach courthouse, outside LA, where he surrendered and entered the system.

Eteaki lost more than 40 pounds. And still, no one seemed to know what was wrong with him.

A hulking if slightly overweight presence, Eteaki stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 245 pounds, with broad shoulders, tattoos, and close-cropped black hair. His family was from the Polynesian archipelago of Tonga, and he’d arrived at Lancaster a strong, healthy man. But a few months into his stay, he started getting headaches and running a fever. He’d landed a plum job in the prison’s cafeteria and didn’t want to risk losing it by calling in sick, so he suffered through what he figured was a particularly rough flu for a week. He stopped by the prison clinic and was given ibuprofen and told to drink more water. He didn’t get better. He went back to the clinic and got more of the same. After a few more days of delirium, Eteaki learned from another inmate how to get the docs’ attention: “Tell them your chest hurts.” The next day, he was admitted to the prison’s hospital with a high fever and a diagnosis of pneumonia.

The prison hospital cell was cold concrete. Doctors set up intravenous drips and pumped him full of antibiotics. Eteaki asked what he was getting, but answers weren’t forthcoming; they were making him better, they said. But his fever wouldn’t recede. For days it hovered around 103, 104. He was drowsy and couldn’t eat. He also couldn’t write or receive letters in the medical wing, couldn’t tell his wife where he was or why he’d been ignoring the letters he knew she sent daily.

After three weeks of isolation in the clinic, he heard chains outside his door. Guards came in and ordered him to change into an orange jumpsuit. They shackled his wrists and ankles, strapped a surgical mask over his nose and mouth, and transported him to a hospital in Lancaster. There, chained to a bed, he continued to deteriorate. Doctors came and went, performed tests, and cycled him through a series of drugs. He lost more than 40 pounds. And still, no one seemed to know what was wrong with him.

One night, as Eteaki drifted in and out of consciousness, someone came in and asked for his emergency contacts. “Holy shit,” he thought, “they don’t know what to do with me. They’re just going to leave me here.” He tried to sleep, but the chills and hacking cough and fear were too much. He cried and thought of his wife and children. He remembered the hymns he’d learned in church as a child. “I need thee, oh, I need thee,” he sang.
FOR CENTURIES, RESIDENTS OF California’s Central Valley have fallen ill with a mysterious disease that seemed to come with the great swirls of dust that periodically swept across the landscape. The illness, which killed some of its victims and left others debilitated and frail, appeared to choose its prey at random.

Valley fever, we know today, is born of a microscopic fungus that thrives in the valley’s fertile soil. Unlike most other infectious diseases, it does not spread through person-to-person transmission, but rather through dust particles that make their way into our lungs. Each individual fungus is a spore, a single-celled organism capable of asexual reproduction. When kicked up by cars or backhoes or tractors, spores can float across a county in an afternoon. They thrive in the dusty, dry swath of land that cuts from California to Texas, and billions of them are sent into the air with each subdivision we carve out from unclaimed expanses. Outside cities like Bakersfield or Fresno, you may inhale hundreds of these invisible fungal specks in a day. For most people, however, breathing in a few spores amounts to nothing—60 percent of people who inhale the fungi feel no symptoms at all. Thirty to 35 percent develop illness—usually flulike symptoms. Most people never even know they encountered the fungus—and for that reason, experts believe that valley fever may be much more common than official reports suggest.

Continue Reading @ MotherJones 

Fight Recidivism With Structure

Originally posted on SpeakOutUSA!:

This post is written by Steven Jennings, an inmate currently serving a 43 year prison term for four counts of first degree assault. You can read his blog by clicking on his name above.


During my 21 years of incarceration, I’ve seen a lot of men come and go. And then come back again. And then go. And then come back again! The most I’ve seen one guy come and go, is 5 TIMES! I also see guys get out and do really well. It’s easy to see who will come back and who will stay out.

The guys who go to school, participate in positive programming, and have a structured day, usually are the ones who stay out. But that’s only half of the equation. Because I’ve seen many men with structured programs, who get out

View original 472 more words

Barrett Brown: journalist and activist sentenced to 63 months

 Imprisoned journalist and activist Barrett Brown was sentenced in a Dallas Federal Court this morning to 63 months of incarceration within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Brown, a contributor to Vanity Fair and The Guardian, has already been detained for 28 months on charges stemming from his proximity to sources in the underground hacker collective Anonymous. Prosecutors asked Judge Samuel A. Lindsay to impose a sentence of 8.5 years on Brown while dozens of high-profile journalists, publishers, advocates, technologists and activists submitted letters to the Judge asking for a sentence of time served. Advocates for Brown, as well as journalist supporters have cited great concern that the prosecutorial overreach in USA v. Brown can have a chilling effect on journalism.

Barrett Brown Sentencing

Read the rest of the article here: The Sparrow Project



Here is the full text of Brown’s sentencing statement.

Good afternoon, Your Honor.

The allocution I give today is going to be a bit different from the sort that usually concludes a sentencing hearing, because this is an unusual case touching upon unusual issues. It is also a very public case, not only in the sense that it has been followed closely by the public, but also in the sense that it has implications for the public, and even in the sense that the public has played a major role, because, of course, the great majority of the funds for my legal defense was donated by the public. And so now I have three duties that I must carry out. I must express my regret, but I must also express my gratitude. And I also have to take this opportunity to ensure that the public understands what has been at stake in this case, and why it has proceeded in the way that it has. Because, of course, the public didn’t simply pay for my defense through its donations, they also paid for my prosecution through its tax dollars. And the public has a right to know what it is paying for. And Your Honor has a need to know what he is ruling on.

First I will speak of regret. Like nearly all federal defendants, I hope to convince Your Honor that I sincerely regret some of the things that I have done. I don’t think anyone doubts that I regret quite a bit about my life including some of the things that brought me here today. Your Honor has the Acceptance of Responsibility document that my counsel submitted to you. Every word of it was sincere. The videos were idiotic, and although I made them in a manic state brought on by sudden withdrawal from Paxil and Suboxone, and while distraught over the threats to prosecute my mother, that’s still me in those YouTube clips talking nonsense about how the FBI would never take me alive. Likewise, I didn’t have the right to hide my files from the FBI during a lawful investigation, and I would’ve had a better chance of protecting my contacts in foreign countries if I had pursued the matter in the courts after the raid, rather than stupidly trying to hide those laptops in the kitchen cabinet as my mother and I did that morning. And with regard to the accessory after the fact charge relating to my efforts to redact sensitive emails after the Stratfor hack, I’ve explained to Your Honor that I do not want to be a hypocrite. If I criticize the government for breaking the law but then break the law myself in an effort to reveal their wrongdoing, I should expect to be punished just as I’ve called for the criminals at government-linked firms like HBGary and Palantir to be punished. When we start fighting crime by any means necessary we become guilty of the same hypocrisy as law enforcement agencies throughout history that break the rules to get the villains, and so become villains themselves.

I’m going to say a few more words about my regrets in a moment, but now I’m going to get to the unusual part of the allocution. I’m going to make some criticisms of the manner in which the government has pursued this case. Normally this sort of thing is left to one’s lawyers rather than the defendant, because to do otherwise runs the risk of making the defendant seem combative rather than contrite. But I think Your Honor can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. I think Your Honor understands that one can regret the unjust things one has done, while also being concerned about the unjust things that have been done to him. And based on certain statements that Your Honor has made, as well as one particular ruling, I have cause to believe that Your Honor will understand and perhaps even sympathize with the unusual responsibility I have which makes it necessary that I point out some things very briefly.

I do so with respect to Your Honor. I also do it for selfish reasons, because I want to make absolutely certain that Your Honor is made aware that the picture the government has presented to you is a false one. But it is also my duty to make this clear as this case does not just affect me. Even aside from the several First Amendment issues that have already been widely discussed as a result of this case, there is also the matter of the dozens of people around the world who have contributed to my distributed think tank, Project PM, by writing for our public website, echelon2.org. Incredibly, the government has declared these contributors — some of them journalists — to be criminals, and participants in a criminal conspiracy. As such, the government sought from this court a subpoena by which to obtain the identities of all of our contributors. Your Honor denied that motion and I am very grateful to Your Honor for having done so. Unfortunately the government thereafter went around Your Honor and sought to obtain these records by other means. So now the dozens of people who have given their time and expertise to what has been hailed by journalists and advocacy groups as a crucial journalistic enterprise are now at risk of being indicted under the same sort of spurious charges that I was facing not long ago, when the government exposed me to decades of prison time for copying and pasting a link to a publicly available file that other journalists were also linking to without being prosecuted. The fact that the government has still asked you to punish me for that link is proof, if any more were needed, that those of us who advocate against secrecy are to be pursued without regard for the rule of law, or even common decency.

Your Honor, I understand that this is my sentencing hearing and not an inquiry into the government’s conduct. This is not the place to go into the dozens of demonstrable errors and contradictions to be found in the government’s documentation, and the testimony by the government. But it would be hypocritical of me to protest the government’s conduct and not provide Your Honor with an example. I will do so very briefly. At the September 13th bond hearing, held in Magistrate Judge Stickney’s court the day after my arrest, Special Agent Allyn Lynd took the stand and claimed under oath that in reviewing my laptops he had found discussions in which I admit having engaged in, quote, “SWATting”, unquote, which he referred to as, quote, “violent activity”, unquote. Your Honor may not be familiar with the term SWATting; as Mr. Lynd described it at the hearing it is, quote, “where they try to place a false 911 call to the residence of an individual in order to endanger that individual.” He went on at elaborate length about this, presenting it as a key reason why I should not receive bond. Your Honor will have noted that this has never come up again. This is because Mr. Lynd’s claims were entirely untrue. But that did not stop him from making that claim, any more than it stopped him from claiming that I have lived in the Middle East, a region I have never actually had the pleasure of visiting.

Your Honor, this is just one example from a single hearing. But if Your Honor can extrapolate from that, Your Honor can probably get a sense of how much value can be placed on the rest of the government’s testimony in this case. Likewise, Your Honor can probably understand the concerns I have about what my contributors might be subjected to by the government if this sort of behavior proves effective today. Naturally I hope Your Honor will keep this in mind, and I hope that other judges in this district will as well, because, again, there remains great concern that my associates will be the next to be indicted.

I’ve tried to protect my contributors, Your Honor, and I’ve also tried to protect the public’s right to link to source materials without being subject to misuse of the statutes. Last year, when the government offered me a plea bargain whereby I would plead to just one of the eleven fraud charges related to the linking, and told me it was final, I turned it down. To have accepted that plea, with a two-year sentence, would have been convenient. Your Honor will note that I actually did eventually plea to an accessory charge carrying potentially more prison time — but it would have been wrong. Even aside from the obvious fact that I did not commit fraud, and thus couldn’t sign on to any such thing, to do so would have also constituted a dangerous precedent, and it would have endangered my colleagues each of whom could now have been depicted as a former associate of a convicted fraudster. And it would have given the government, and particularly the FBI, one more tool by which to persecute journalists and activists whose views they find to be dangerous or undesirable.

Journalists are especially vulnerable right now, Your Honor, and they become more so when the FBI feels comfortable making false claims about them. And in response to our motion to dismiss the charges of obstruction of justice based on the hiding of my laptops, the government claimed that those laptops contained evidence of a plot I orchestrated to attack the Kingdom of Bahrain on the orders of Amber Lyon. Your Honor, Amber Lyon is a journalist and former CNN reporter, who I do know and respect, but I can assure Your Honor that I am not in the habit of attacking Gulf state monarchies on her behalf. But I think it’s unjust of them to use this court to throw out that sort of claim about Miss Lyon in a public filing as they did if they’re not prepared to back it up. And they’re not prepared to back it up. But that won’t stop the Kingdom of Bahrain from repeating this groundless assertion and perhaps even using it to keep Miss Lyon out of the country — because she has indeed reported on the Bahraini monarchy’s violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protests in that country, and she has done so from that country. And if she ever returns to that country to continue that important work, she’ll now be subject to arrest on the grounds that the United States Department of Justice itself has explicitly accused her of orchestrating an attack on that country’s government.

Your Honor, this is extraordinary. Miss Lyon isn’t the only journalist that’s been made less secure legally by this prosecution. Every journalist in the United States is put at risk by the novel, and sometimes even radical, claims that the government has introduced in the course of the sentencing process. The government asserts that I am not a journalist and thus unable to claim the First Amendment protections guaranteed to those engaged in information-gathering activities. Your Honor, I’ve been employed as a journalist for much of my adult life, I’ve written for dozens of magazines and newspapers, and I’m the author of two published and critically-acclaimed books of expository non-fiction. Your Honor has received letters from editors who have published my journalistic work, as well as from award-winning journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, who note that they have used that work in their own articles. If I am not a journalist, then there are many, many people out there who are also not journalists, without being aware of it, and who are thus as much at risk as I am.

Your Honor, it would be one thing if the government were putting forth some sort of standard by which journalists could be defined. They have not put forth such a standard. Their assertion rests on the fact that despite having referred to myself as a journalist hundreds of times, I at one point rejected that term, much in the same way that someone running for office might reject the term “politician”. Now, if the government is introducing a new standard whereby anyone who once denies being a particular thing is no longer that thing in any legal sense, then that would be at least a firm and knowable criteria. But that’s not what the government is doing in this case. Consider, for instance, that I have denied being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, both in public and private, ever since the press began calling me that in the beginning of 2011. So on a couple of occasions when I contacted executives of contracting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton in the wake of revelations that they’d been spying on my associates and me for reasons that we were naturally rather anxious to determine, I did indeed pretend to be such an actual official spokesman for Anonymous, because I wanted to encourage these people to talk to me. Which they did.

Of course, I have explained this many, many times, and the government itself knows this, even if they’ve since claimed otherwise. In the September 13th criminal complaint filed against me, the FBI itself acknowledges that I do not claim any official role within Anonymous. Likewise, in last month’s hearing, the prosecutor accidentally slipped and referred to me as a journalist, even after having previously found it necessary to deny me that title. But, there you have it. Deny being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, and you’re still a spokesperson for Anonymous. Deny being a journalist once or twice, and you’re not a journalist. What conclusion can one draw from this sort of reasoning other than that you are whatever the FBI finds it convenient for you to be at any given moment. This is not the “rule of law”, Your Honor, it is the “rule of law enforcement”, and it is very dangerous.

Your Honor, I am asking you to give me a time-served sentence of thirty months today because to do otherwise will have the effect of rewarding this sort of reckless conduct on the part of the government. I am also asking for that particular sentence because, as my lawyer Marlo Cadeddu, an acknowledged expert on the guidelines, has pointed out, that’s what the actual facts of the case would seem to warrant. And the public, to the extent that it has made its voice heard through letters and donations and even op-eds in major newspapers, also believes that the circumstances of this case warrant that I be released today. I would even argue that the government itself believes that the facts warrant my release today, because look at all the lies they decided they would have to tell to keep me in prison.

I thank you for your indulgence, Your Honor, and I want to conclude by thanking everyone who supported me over the last few years. I need to single out one person in particular, Kevin Gallagher, who contributed to my Project PM group, and who stepped up immediately after my arrest to build up a citizens’ initiative by which to raise money for my defense, and to spread the word about what was at stake in this case. For the two and a half years of my incarceration, Kevin has literally spent the bulk of his free time in working to give me my life back. He is one of the extraordinary people who have given of themselves to make possible this great and beautiful movement of ours, this movement to protect activists and journalists from secretive and extra-legal retaliation by powerful corporate actors with ties to the state. Your Honor, Kevin Gallagher is not a relative of mine, or a childhood friend. This is only the third time I’ve been in the same room with him. Nonetheless, he has dedicated two years of his life to ensure that I had the best possible lawyers on this case, and to ensure that the press understood what was at stake here. Your Honor, he set up something on Amazon.com whereby I could ask for books on a particular subject and supporters could buy them and have them sent to me. And he spoke to my mother several times a week. During that early period when I was facing over a hundred years worth of charges, and it wasn’t clear whether or not I would be coming home, he would offer support and reassurance to her, an effort that I will never be able to repay. He knows how much I regret the pain and heartbreak that my family has suffered throughout this ordeal.

A few weeks ago, Kevin got a job at the Freedom of The Press Foundation, one of the world’s most justifiably respected advocacy organizations. And, according to the government, he is also a member of a criminal organization, because, like dozens of journalists and activists across the world, he has been a contributor to Project PM, and the government has declared Project PM to be a criminal enterprise. I think that the government is wrong about Kevin, Your Honor, but that is not why I’ve brought him up. And although I am very glad for the opportunity to express my gratitude to him in a public setting, there are some gifts for which conventional gratitude is an insufficient payment. One can only respond to such gifts by working to become the sort of person that actually deserves to receive them. A thank-you will not suffice, and so I am not bringing him up here merely to thank him. Instead, I am using him in my defense. Your Honor, this very noble person, this truly exemplary citizen of the republic who takes his citizenship seriously rather than taking it for granted, knows pretty much everything there is to know about me — my life, my past, my work, from the things I’ve done and the things I’ve left undone, to the things I should not have done to begin with — and he has given himself over to the cause of freeing me today. He is the exact sort of person I tried to recruit for the crucial work we do at Project PM. I am so proud to have someone like him doing so much for me.

Your Honor, the last thing I will say in my own defense is that so many people like Kevin Gallagher have worked so hard on my behalf. And having now said all those things that I felt the need to say, I respectfully accept Your Honor’s decision in my sentencing.

Thank you.

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