British Political Prisoner
When approaching any political question on the inside of the nation's prisons, it is important for us to start from a radical rather than a liberal or reformist perspective. This is just as true when considering the growing issue of prison privatization.
My starting point is that it is good and progressive to work to extend democracy, as the ultimate realization of that ideal will necessarily result in the complete abolition of prison slavery and the establishment of a social order in which economic justice is an integral element of what today's rulers cynically call freedom. In other words, struggling to extend democracy is a battle that will extend all the way to the gates of power.
The struggle to merely change prison conditions, on the other ...
"Prisons are by their very nature coercive and oppressive institutions, designed to disempower and destroy the resistance of those confined within them, so any discussion of `reform' is largely meaningless and futile. Prisons, whether controlled and operated by the state or private companies, are weapons utilized by the powerful to keep the powerless in check, and to maintain an economic and social status quo beneficial to the former."
In his complaint Johnson alleged that the supervisory authority of Warden Sargent and DOC Director Lockhart over the medical staff of the prison made them subject to liability for deliberate indifference to his and other inmates' serious medical needs. The magistrate recommended the dismissal of the complaint against Sargent and Lockhart, who the magistrate concluded could not be held responsible because "respondeat superior is not applicable to §1983 actions."
On appeal Johnson argued that because Sargent and Lockhart were charged with supervisory authority over the medical system of the Cummins Unit they therefore are directly liable under section 1983 for their failure to properly supervise, direct, and control the prison's medical system and staff.
The Court of Appeals found ...
James Johnson, a prisoner at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, appealed from the district court's dismissal of his §1983 complaint. The complaint alleged that Johnson suffered an inguinal hernia, which was diagnosed in January 1984. The prison doctor recommended surgery to repair the hernia, and said it should take place immediately. The private company providing medical services to the prison, Health Management Associates (HMA), repeatedly put off the surgery until August, creating serious health problems for Johnson.
By Mike Vukasinovic
Following the de-nationalized policies of the Tory government of the UK, plans are afoot to privatize new remand centers and the escort of prisoners to and from court. This announcement comes as a prison officer's revolt is happening. The officers are refusing new inmates so that prison cells are being used. Prison authorities are allowing British prisoners to be 3 to a cell built for 1 over a 100 years ago, and locked up for 23 hours a day. Conditions have led to revolts but the governments reply has been heavy handed as usual. No dialogue, just more state repression. Still, the conditions continue. The Tories are deaf to anything that smacks of a climb down even when justice is at stake. Confrontation politics is their motto and to pour oil onto fires are their replies.
Prisoners are trying to organize into a liberation group. Whether it exists or not, no one yet knows. It may be a figment of the imagination of British prison officials.
Anyone interested in more information can contact:
Prisoners AidC/O Oxford ABC
Box ZZ, 34 Cowley Road
Private Gulags In England
The growing reactionary trend is not limited to the judicial arena, either. On the legislative front we are being confronted with a pair of draconian crime bills that make past legislative outrages look like liberal blessings.
Both the U.S. House and Senate have major anti-crime bills pending. In mid-July the Senate passed and sent on to the House a bill authorizing capital punishment for 32 different offenses - from treason to killing a nuclear regulatory inspector (watch out all you would be killers of nuclear regulatory inspectors). The Senate would also limit the appeals of death-row prisoners, making for quicker state-sanctioned murders; expand the police powers of the FBI; authorize massive funding for the building of new prisons, etc.
While the Senate's anti-crime ...
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Jr., resigned his seat, leaving President Bush to name an even more reactionary successor. Not only will the pro-choice Roe v. Wade ruling fall by the wayside, making life for women increasingly difficult, but we behind bars can expect an even faster rollback of gains won by prisoners as a result of their struggles during the late `60's and early `70's.
In these days of public hysteria and the continuing calls to build more prisons, this booklet is a sobering assessment of the failure of the American prison system, now celebrating its 200th anniversary.
The small book is available at $2.00 a copy for "free" people, and it is mailed at no charge to prisoners. For a copy write a note to:
American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
If prisoners can afford a small donation of stamps the A.F.S.C. could use them.
The Fortress Economy: The Economic Role of the U.S. Prison System is the title of a brand new 29 page booklet by the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers). It's an excellent book and I highly recommend it. The booklet will complement and enhance The Prison Issue, which I review elsewhere in this newsletter. The pamphlet gives a historical overview of the U.S. prison system from its very beginnings. It asks and answers questions such as: who goes to prisons; the use of prisoners as a source of cheap labor; and the trend toward "private prisons." It also addresses the dilemma of ex-prisoners, as well as much more.