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Principles Overview

We want to be able to earn our freedom through Rehabilitation.

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🔹We believe in restorative rather retributive punishment and that all so-called “Truth-In-Sentencing” laws must be repealed.

🔹This principle was created in response to the concept of “Truthful Sentencing” which calls for prisoners to serve 85% of there sentence before being eligible for any type of early release.

🔹This also includes the abolition of any type of parole eligibility. This move to have prisoners Truthfully Sentence began in the 80’s when Reagan intensified Nixon’s War on Drugs. His administration called for legislation that would get crack dealers (black drug dealers) off the streets for long periods of time.

🔹 As a result, the U.S. Congress passed a series of bills that increased the amount of time for prisoners locked up in the Federal prison system. In 1994 the U.S. Congress took Truthful Sentencing to the states at the behest of then President Bill Clinton.

🔹His administration introduced the now infamous Violent Crime Control & Law Inforcement Act aka ” The Crime Bill.” This legislation created a Truth-In-Sentencing (TIS) grant that was used as a fund for stated who abolished parole and mandated that all prisoners serve 85% of there sentence. Immediately, several states began to pass TIS laws that would make them eligible for the TIS Grant.

The problem was that most States didn’t change their sentencing statues to fit the new TIS laws. So where a person may have gotten 30 of 40yrs and been parole eligible within 5 to 10 years, because of TIS they now had to serve between 25 and 35 years before being eligible for any type of early release.

As a result prisoners all over the country have had to serve extremely long sentences without any chance of earning their freedom. And of course this disproportionately affects black communities who are losing loved ones for decades a time, because blacks get longer sentences than whites for the same crimes.

Moreover, men & women aren’t being given a chance to redeem themselves to their families or communities.

Here’s a vocabulary list of terms that all criminal justice activist must familiarize themselves with:

🔷 Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act (1994), aka “The Crime Bill”

    🔷 Supermaximum Security Prisons

      🔷Private Prisons

      🔷 Prison Industrial Complex

        🔷3 Strikes Laws

          🔷Victim’s Rights

            🔷 Mandatory Minimums

              🔷Prisoners Rights

              🔷 Civil Death

                🔷The 13th Amendment

                  🔷 Mass Incarceration

                    🔷Sentencing Reform Act (1984)

                    🔷 Anti Drug Abuse Act (1986)

                      🔷Omnibus Anti Drug Abuse Act (1988)

                        🔷Fair Sentencing Act (2010)

                        🔷 Truth In Sentencing

                        🔹We want fair adherence and application of “all” policies, rules, and regulations.

                        We believe there’s arbitrary enforcement and application of all policies rules and regulations.”

                        🔹This principle was created in response to our experience with staffs arbitrary enforcement of prison policy. “All” prisons have policies that govern every aspect of life inside. It is the duty of correctional officers & administrators to enforce the law fairly as well as adhere to it. However, in prison the notion of “Rule of Law” doesn’t exist. Staff routinely ignores policy! As a result, procedural due process exists without substance. We at Prison Lives Matter believe that in a climate where people are demanding better policing this must extend to the prisons where the worst policing is happening daily. We would like to see prison officers, treatment staff, and administrators forced to wear body cameras so that the public can determine if they are satisfied with the policing that they are paying for inside of prisons- Specifically the Supermaximum prisons.

                        🔹We want an end to the violations, abuses, and hindrances of the rights of prisoners.

                        We believe that violations of our rights are both neglected and encouraged by prison administrators”.

                        This principle was created in response to the Neo Conservative effort to establish a de facto “Hands off doctrine.” The whole idea of prisoners having rights afforded to them by the U.S. Constitution is a relatively new concept. For years the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear any cases concerning issues of prisoners confinement. The belief held by the court was that the 13th Amendment made prisoners (someone “duly” convicted of a crime) slaves to the state, and that the court was to remain “hands off” of issues concerning prison conditions. This became known as the “Hands Off Doctrine,” and it prevented courts all over the country from adjudicating claims deriving out of prison.

                        This practice went on for nearly a hundred years until finally prison activists, social justice activists, jailhouse lawyers etc. fought to have society and, resultantly, the Court recognize both the humanity and citizenship of prisoners. In a landmark case the Court exclaimed, “there is no iron curtain between the Court & Prisons,” which signaled the end of the Hands off doctrine. This lead to significant prison reform throughout the late 70’s and 80’s before conservatives went on there campaign to reel back all of the gains of prisoners rights activists. Over the past 30 years an extremely conservative Supreme Court has interpreted the constitution as affording prisoners the very least amount of liberty and as a result prisons have become these autocracies where administrators are given enormous amounts of discretion and deference. Thus, creating a de facto Hands off Doctrine that has essentially shut prisoners out of he Court. As a result, prisons are the least Democratic institutions in Amerikkka. Wardens, Security Chiefs, Unit Managers, etc. are allowed to do whatever they wish with our bodies no matter how arbitrary or capricious their actions may be. Prisoners are subjected to all types of violations to their person, property, and liberty without consequence. And because so many of these institutions operate in seclusion the people and the acts are in effect invisible. There are several hundred thousand men being subjected to various forms of physical and psychological torment at the hands of dictators calling themselves administrators. And whenever any type of inspection or auditing body comes to these prisons they make sure they hide the abuses & violations. We at Prison Lives Matter do not believe prisoners are slaves to the state! Let’s restore Democracy in Amerikkka’s prisons.

                        🔷We want fair adherence and application of “all” policies, rules, and regulations.

                        We believe there’s arbitrary enforcement and application of all policies rules and regulations.”

                        This principle was created in response to our experience with staffs arbitrary enforcement of prison policy. “All” prisons have policies that govern every aspect of life inside. It is the duty of correctional officers & administrators to enforce the law fairly as well as adhere to it. However, in prison the notion of “Rule of Law” doesn’t exist. Staff routinely ignores policy! As a result, procedural due process exists without substance. We at Prison Lives Matter believe that in a climate where people are demanding better policing this must extend to the prisons where the worst policing is happening daily. We would like to see prison officers, treatment staff, and administrators forced to wear body cameras so that the public can determine if they are satisfied with the policing that they are paying for inside of prisons- Specifically the Supermaximum prisons where prisoners suffer the most abuse.

                        🔷We want an end to the violations, abuses, and hindrances of the rights of prisoners.

                        We believe that violations of our rights are both neglected and encouraged by prison administrators.”

                        This principle was created in response to the Neo Conservative effort to establish a de facto “Hands off doctrine.” The whole idea of prisoners having rights afforded to them by the U.S. Constitution is a relatively new concept. For years the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear any cases concerning issues of prisoners confinement. The belief held by the court was that the 13th Amendment made prisoners (someone “duly” convicted of a crime) slaves to the state, and that the court was to remain “hands off” of issues concerning prison conditions. This became known as the “Hands Off Doctrine,” and it prevented courts all over the country from adjudicating claims deriving out of prison. This practice went on for nearly a hundred years until finally prison activists, social justice activists, jailhouse lawyers etc. fought to have society and, resultantly, the Court recognize both the humanity and citizenship of prisoners. In a landmark case the Court exclaimed, “there is no iron curtain between the Court & Prisons,” which signaled the end of the Hands off doctrine. This lead to significant prison reform throughout the late 70’s and 80’s before conservatives went on there campaign to reel back all of the gains of prisoners rights activists. Over the past 30 years an extremely conservative Supreme Court has interpreted the constitution as affording prisoners the very least amount of liberty and as a result prisons have become these autocracies where administrators are given enormous amounts of discretion and deference. Thus, creating a de facto Hands off Doctrine that has essentially shut prisoners out of he Court. As a result, prisons are the least Democratic institutions in Amerikkka. Wardens, Security Chiefs, Unit Managers, etc. are allowed to do whatever they wish with our bodies no matter how arbitrary or capricious their actions may be. Prisoners are subjected to all types of violations to their person, property, and liberty without consequence. And because so many of these institutions operate in seclusion the people and the acts are in effect invisible. There are several hundred thousand men being subjected to various forms of physical and psychological torment at the hands of dictators calling themselves administrators. And whenever any type of inspection or auditing body comes to these prisons they make sure they hide the abuses & violations. We at Prison Lives Matter do not believe prisoners are slaves to the state! Let’s restore Democracy in Amerikkka’s prisons.

                        🔷We want the prisons to stop allowing private companies to exploit our condition.

                        We believe we are being exploited with unfair price fixing, monetary punishments for disciplinary infractions, and inadequate medical treatment.”

                        This principle was created in response to the Prison Industrial Complex. In the Global Economy prisons have taken on a dual nature of becoming both a micro society and a staple industry. Crime is routinely politicized as a social problem that calls for public debated about the method & measure of the punishment of criminals. Yet the public is never asked by it’s political leaders to debate the role of prison in the Global Economy. We must begin by recognising prisons as societies. And as with any society the people within it produce, distribute, and consume products for survival and sustenance. The primary source of funding for prisons are tax revenues. With these tax revenues appropriated to Corrections agencies they are required to provide security, food, clothing, shelter, education, treatment, health care, and recreational services. The average annual cost of operating a prison housing roughly 1,000 prisoners can range between $8- $10 million. The most significant cost is security because correctional officers, counselors, dieticians, administrators, etc are entitled to minimum wage the largest appropriation is for salaries. These costs typically take up anywhere between a third and a half of the appropriation. Leaving Corrections managers in most cases the burden of trying to provide the remaining services with less than half the initial appropriation. What’s left is Corrections managers searching for bargain basement deals on food, clothing, medical, treatment, and recreation. So they go out and contract private companies to service prisoners. The problem is the companies have to make a profit so they have to provide the service at a significantly lower cost than the funding that’s remaining after security costs. This means an even larger decrease in quality of services. As a result prisoners are given the lowest, and most pathetic, food quality and medical care. Prisons all over the country offer low grades of processed meat as a main course for the overwhelming majority of meals (Here in Virginia processed meat is the “only” meat offered). Medical services are forbidden from offering preventive care. Basically what this means is don’t go to medical until you have the disease, illness, or injury! As outrageous as this sounds it doesn’t stop there. Corrections agencies also allow companies to bid for exclusive rights to sell products to prisoners. While most conservatives hail the greatness of the Free Market” many of them work to create and benefit from a captive market who have no choice but to use the services contracted companies provide. Phone service, Email services, Music services, Retail Market services (commissary) etc are all provided to prisoners at exorbitant rates. And these companies invest millions of dollars to produce a profit. Phones, Kiosks, Warehouses, Personnel etc are placed inside of prisons to help facilitate service distribution. As criminal justice advocate Michelle Alexander stated so eloquently in her classic work The New Jim Crow,

                        “a whole range of prison profiteers must be reckoned with if mass incarceration is to be undone, including phone companies that gouge families of prisoners by charging them exboriant rates to communication with their loved ones; gun manufacturers that sell Taser Guns, rifles, and pistols to prison guards and police, private health care providers contracted by the state to provide (typically abysmal) health care to prisoners; the U.S. military, which relies on prison labor to provide gear to soldiers in Iraq, Corporations that use prison labor to avoid paying decent wages… All of corporate interests have a stake in the expansion- not the elimination- of the system of mass incarceration.”

                        pp.231-232