UN Official on Torture to Speak at UCB Oct 18

United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Mendez will engage with families of incarcerated prisoners in solitary confinement, students, faculty, and advocates/allies to explore: Is solitary confinement as practiced by the California Department of Corrections cruel punishment and torture?

Friday, October 18, 6:00–8:00 at UC Berkeley Campus: 2060 VLSB. More info on Facebook at “United Nations Official Juan Mendez: The Intersection of Solitary Confinement and International Human Rights Law”.


All Out for 10/9 State Assembly Hearing on Solitary Confinement & Human Rights!

On September 5, the historic California prisoner hunger strike was suspended, after Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano agreed to hold legislative hearings to address conditions in the SHU. These hearings would not be happening if it were not for the pressure put on the legislature and media by people like you.

Although the third hunger strike is suspended, major demands remain unmet. Please join us for a rally and the joint Public Safety Committee hearing on the conditions in California prisons. Former prisoners, loved ones, lawyers, experts and advocates will testify before the legislature and rally with the people.

Help us make sure that the hearing is attended by our legislators by send a quick message here!

Where: Sacramento, CA Capitol Building

When: Wednesday, October 9, 2013

11:30 am Opening Rally (West Side of Capitol)

1-3:30pm Hearings (on the fourth floor of the Capitol Building)

4 pm Closing Rally

The Public Safety hearings provide an opportunity for us to amplify our own expert knowledge about the impacts of long-term solitary confinement, and are part of the strategy being pursued to win the 5 demands of the prisoner hungers strikes. Rally, mobilize and continue the Hunger Strikers’ campaign!

Bring signs and art to make the rallies visually stunning! Self-care and community-care: Bring a lawn chair if you want to rest at the rally and some water/snacks to stay healthy.

CARPOOL EAST BAY: Please RSVP to Tynan@curbprisonspending.org by Monday, October 7. Carpools will leave from MacArthur BART in Oakland at 9:30am on Wednesday.
CENTRAL VALLEY AND BEYOND: Email Tynan@curbprisonspending.org if you are traveling from the Central Valley or elsewhere in CA and want to build a carpool.

“We will be with the prisoners here in the courts, in the legislature, or out in the community. We will use every venue available to us, until the torture is ended.” – Marie Levin of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, sister of Hunger Striker Sitawa Jaama.

Chowchilla Freedom Rally

Occupy4Prisoners has endorsed this amazing event, and is hosting a benefit to support it. Please come to both if you can, and help spread the word! Contact occupy4prisoners@gmail.com or the info below.

Benefit Flyer




We are 3 weeks away from our statewide mobilization to Chowchilla to protest the unconstitutional overcrowding in California’s women prisons and show our support for our loved ones inside who are struggling to survive as the conditions worsen. As a result of the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), one of the remaining women’s prisons has now reached 179% capacity. A woman recently transferred to CCWF informed us that they were given clothes and bedding that “you wouldn’t want even your dog sleeping on.” Another person confirmed, “Everything we rely on to survive, including medical and legal, is highly impacted by overcrowding. Overcrowding is the issue. It causes everything else to come crashing down like dominoes.”

We need your help to show the U.S. Supreme Court, the government, and prison officials that not only are we witnessing this discrimination and abuse but we will not be silent! Join us in demanding an end to overcrowding! Our loved one’s deserve humane living conditions and their freedom! Bring them home!



Saturday, January 26, 2013


Contact chowchilla.rally@gmail.com or 415-255-7036 x 314

Caravans leaving from MacArthur BART in Oakland at 10:30AM and Chuco’s Justice Center in Inglewood at 8:30AM. We will gather at 2PM at SE corner of Ave. 24 and Fairmead Blvd off Highway 99 in Chowchilla.

Rally begins at 3PM at VSPW. 


Chowchilla Freedom Rally Benefit hosted by Occupy 4 Prisoners!

Saturday, January 19th 6 – 8PM

The Hold Out, 2313 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland

$5 – 10 donations, no one turned away

The benefit will feature “Fighting For Our Lives,” a short documentary about the history of resistance to medical neglect at CCWF & VSPW plus presentations by prison survivors, information about the protest and sign-making. We’re so grateful for the community support!

Can’t make the benefit but want to donate? Contribute online at womenprisoners.org

Solidarity actions encouraged! If you cannot make the rally or do not live in California, we encourage you to organize a solidarity action on the same day in your community. Hold a demonstration in front of the DOC offices or the county jail, organize a speak-out against prisons in a public space, stand in solidarity the Chowchilla Freedom Rally! Please let us know how we can support you! Contact info@womenprisoners.org

Interested in helping to organize this event? Join our coalition! Our next meeting is Wednesday, January 9, 2013 from 6 – 8PM at the CCWP offices. 1540 Market Street, Suite 490, San Francisco. Or contact adrienne@womenprisoners.org

The Chowchilla Freedom Rally Coalition includes members from California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Justice NOW, All Of Us Or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Fired Up!, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, Critical Resistance, Youth Justice Coalition, Global Women’s Strike, Occupy 4 Prisoners, Asian Pacific Islander Support Committee and the California Prison Moratorium Project.

Sept. 25 mobilization in Redwood City to stop the new jail

[Reposted message from CURB]
Dear CURB Members & Friends in the San Mateo Jail Fight,

We’re writing to give a report on the San Mateo Board of Supervisors meeting September 11th and to ask you to join us again on September 25th, when the Board will vote on the 2012-2013 county Budget.  First things first, everyone who planned for the meeting and attended should be congratulated – what a success!  200 people – individuals and representatives of organizations – packed the chambers.  The community made its voice heard: with this amazing turn-out, with a room full of “No New Jails” signs, and with 2 hours of passionate and informed public comment.

Speaker after speaker got up, shared their experiences and knowledge, and demanded that the Board cancel the jail funding and hold a public hearing on ways to reduce the jail population.   Together, they built a powerful case for why San Mateo County doesn’t want, doesn’t need, and can’t afford a new jail. Speakers described how recovery services and services for the homeless and people with disabilities have been drastically cut.  They talked about their personal experiences with the jail and prison systems. They gave statistics and historical background for why jails only hurt the communities they are supposedly keeping safe. And they named dozens of alternatives to building a new jail that would build a stronger, healthier and more just San Mateo County.

We were inspired by the strength of all the speakers, and touched by the courage of the Redwood City High School students who stood up to describe the impact of budget cuts on their education.  It was also inspiring to see people who were at the county for a jobs and services recovery fair come inside to speak against the jail and for investment in jobs, training, and drug treatment.  In general, the testimony from all the speakers was a challenge to the Board of Supervisors.  What message does it send to our young people when county government claims to be broke where their education is concerned, but is ready to turn around and spend $160 million plus on a jail?  Considering community needs, how can a new jail still be first on the County’s list of priorities?

While the Board of Supervisors hasn’t agreed to change course yet, there is clearly momentum and a movement building against new jails in the County and throughout the state.  San Mateo is surrounded by counties like San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda and Santa Cruz that have chosen community-based solutions instead of building new jails.  Contra Costa County just canceled plans for a new jail in the face of determined community opposition.  Los Angeles CURB members beat back a $2.66 billion jail expansion plan in LA and are fighting tooth and nail to stop any new cages from being built.

As we plan and work to speak at the next Board of Supervisors meeting, where they’ll be voting on the 2012-2013 budget, we are encouraged to realize that when the community comes together, it makes a difference.  We’re proud of the work we have done so far, excited for the next Board of Supervisors meeting on the 25th, and convinced that we can stop this jail.

Check-out all the great media from the action:

“Invest in People”! Chant in Protest of Planned San Mateo Co. Jail, You Tube Video
Split in San Mateo on How to Ease Crowded Jails, The Wall Street Journal 9/12/12
Drumbeat against San Mateo County’s proposed jail grows louder, Mercury News 9/12/12
Jail opponents rally at county center, Daily Journal 9/12/12
Hundreds pack San Mateo supervisors’ meeting, demand no new jail, SF Bay View 9/11/12
Group Opposes New San Mateo Co. Jail, NBC Bay Area 9/11/12
Jail Protestors Vow to Bring Fight to Supes, Redwood City Patch 9/11/12

Please join us::

ALL OUT: San Mateo Board of Supervisors
Tuesday, September 25th
8:30am Meet in Court Yard
9:00am Meeting Starts

Board Chambers 400 County Center, First Floor Redwood City

To RVSP for carpool leaving West Oakland BART at 7:15am, or for help with transportation from East Palo Alto, contact Emily at emily@curbprisonspending.org

 For more information: 510-435-1176info@curbprisonspending.orgwww.curbprisonspending.org

Opposing San Mateo County jail (CA)

Two good articles about CURB and Occupy Redwood City’s vocal opposition to building the new San Mateo County jail!

Next action will be on:
Tuesday morning September 11 at 9 am at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting in Redwood City
Board Chambers 400 County Center, First Floor Redwood City,
Contact Emily if you’re interested and need a ride – emily@curbprisonspending.org


New jail foes decry design alternatives
August 29, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Opponents of plans for a new, larger jail to ease overcrowding and replace the dilapidated women’s facility denounced two possible design ideas presented by the sheriff yesterday and asked supervisors to consider a third option — no jail at all.
Speakers before the Board of Supervisors said it can honor existing construction contracts and provide union jobs by building mental health and drug rehab facilities rather than a jail. Many vowed to fight a proposed sales tax measure for county services because they believe it was suggested to fund the jail’s operating costs and several said the programs and services planned for the jail could be better provided in the community.
The Chemical Way site in Redwood City purchased for the jail also came under fire as a “toxic waste dumpsite.”
“If it can’t have housing, why can it have prisoners for years?” asked Tom Winebarger.
The supervisors did not directly address the crowd’s concerns but told Sheriff Greg Munks they liked aspects of the two possible designs he shared yesterday, particularly as they relate to transitional housing and unfinished space known as a warm shell.
But speaker James Lee, an organizer with Occupy, said terms like “warm shell” and the need to replace the deplorable women’s jail should not be used to make the plan more palatable.
“These are all just ways to gild the cage,” Lee said.
Currently, the new 576-bed jail is expected to open in 2015 with a roughly $155 million construction price tag followed by $25 million to $27 million in annual operating expenses
Ground broke in June and jail planners and architects are narrowing down a design.
The first option is a low-rise building configuration with administrative/support services on the ground floor and inmate housing above. The second possibility is a mid-rise building configuration with administrative/support services in a two-story structure separate from inmate housing which will be located in a three-story building.
Munks and several members of the board said they favor the second option. Both designs separate male and female inmates and take into consideration the needs of inmates with longer or extended stay lengths under the state realignment. Realignment shifted some low-level offenders from state prison to county jails and kept some convicts local rather than sending them to prison.
Board President Adrienne Tissier will soon appoint two supervisors to a subcommittee to talk about what the warm shell space can look like and how community-based organizations can be expanded in the jail to make the best use of precious dollars. She also said those discussions will be shaped in part by learning more about the impacts of realignment of which a year update is due this fall.
“You don’t want to do things and then find out you don’t have the space to do it,” Tissier said.
But while the jail planners push ahead, opponents like those yesterday hoisting signs like “Schools not jails” and “Hope not jails” say there’s still time for reconsideration.
“It’s not too late to put the brakes on this new jail,” said Linnea Nelson, a criminal justice and drug policy fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: michelle@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

Group urges San Mateo County to put the brakes on a new jail

By Bonnie Eslinger

Daily News Staff Writer (San Jose Mercury News)

Posted: 08/28/2012 08:28:03 PM PDT
Updated: 08/28/2012 08:28:04 PM PDT

While San Mateo County marches ahead with its plan to build a new $160 million jail in Redwood City, a small but vocal group of activists continues to challenge the assumption that one is needed.

“You know, if you build a jail it will be filled and that’s just wrong,” Carol Cross, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Redwood City, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday after Sheriff Greg Munks presented two design options for the proposed jail at the corner of Maple and Blomquist streets on the east side of Highway 101.

Tom Linebarger said the county isn’t trying hard enough to reduce the jail population so he won’t support the proposed sales tax increase the board placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. Concerned that the money could be spent to operate the new jail, he said “me and everyone I know is going to work against this half a cent sales tax.”

Cross and Linebarger were among about 25 people who attended the meeting hoping to persuade the supervisors to boot the jail idea.

“I want to reiterate what everyone has said so far, it is not too late to put the brakes on,” Linnea Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union told the supervisors.

Munks has said a new facility is needed because the existing jails are overcrowded and the county expects to receive 200 to 300 additional inmates a year since the Legislature decided to house certain low-level offenders in county jails instead of state prisons. The daily number of inmates in the county jail system averaged 1,101 from 2001 to 2010, or 267 more than the system’s state-approved capacity, he said.

As planned, the new jail would open with 640 beds but contain enough “warm shell” space to accommodate an additional 192 if needed. Until then, the extra space will be used for social service programs designed to help inmates transition to life outside jail after their release.

“It would be our intent to finish this off with plumbing, with electrical, with all the different things that would be needed so that we wouldn’t have to spend as much if we had to activate it,” Munks said about the extra space during his presentation. “I’m still hopeful that we do not have to utilize it for inmate housing, that we could find a use that we could put in there that would contribute to our overall goals of reducing recidivism and preparing people to re-enter our communities.”

Munks also noted that both design options — one for a two-story jail and the other for a three-story facility — would included space on the 4.7-acre site for additional housing, if needed, in coming decades.

“Part of any jail project is looking out 20, 30 years, if there’s a need for expansion,” Munks said.

Before the protesters spoke, Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson addressed them by noting the new jail would make the best of a bad situation.

“One of the things that many people don’t seem to understand is we don’t recruit people for our jails,” Jacobs Gibson said. “That’s why we want to do the best job that we can once they get in our jails, which is our responsibility that we have, to make sure that everyone gets the best services possible and the services include ensuring whatever treatments and services that they need to ensure they go home and they don’t have to return to our jails.”

In response, Occupy Redwood City member James Lee said the county could build facilities for social services on the new site without a jail. “All these things that Supervisor Gibson is talking about that she wants to do in the jail, can be done better outside,” Lee said

Emily Harris, an organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget, which works to reduce prison and jail spending, said the board should hold a public hearing to review suggestions for reducing the number of inmates and alluded to a recent recommendation by the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury that it consider using electronic monitors on people awaiting court dates.

“There’s a lot more options we can look at before moving forward on the new jail,” Harris said.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@dailynewsgroup.com; follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.

Tuesday, April 24th – Occupy the Justice Department – Oakland – Rally, March and the INJustice System on Trial



In Solidarity with the Occupy the Justice Department protest in Washington, DC

End Mass Incarceration! Tuesday, APRIL 24th


4PM – RALLY at 14th and Broadway, Oakland

Occupy4Prisoners and supporters will rally at Oscar Grant Plaza, where awareness and understanding regarding the brutality and corruption within the United States INjustice system will begin to rise up.  We will be doing educational outreach about the prison system with music, speakers, a “Truth Mob” and amplifying the voices of people inside of prisons.

5PM – MARCH to Federal Building and Obama Headquarters

We will take to the streets to march as an expression of our solidarity with the 2.5 million people incarcerated in the country.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country, with 743 people in prison per 100,000 of national population.  Occupy4Prisoners brings to the attention of the greater Occupy Movement how we cannot forget the bottom 1% of the 99% in our greater struggle for justice and equality.

The march will continue past the Federal Building (13th and Clay) where representatives from the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia and the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal will speak.  Folks from the Bradley Manning Support Network will share information about Bradley’s plight when we reach the Obama Headquarters (17th and Telegraph.) Then we will march to…

6PM – THE INJUSTICE SYSTEM ON TRIAL – 19th and Telegraph

Once we arrive at the 19th and Telegraph Plaza, we will be putting the Injustice System on trial. Powerful local activists will preside over a trial that is actually about the truth.

The prosecutor will be Anita Wills, (Oscar Grant Committee and Occupy4Prisoners), the defense attorney will be Deborah Small, (Break the Chains), and the judge will be Jerry Elster (All of Us or None). The system will be played by Dan Siegel (National Lawyers Guild). 

The jury will be YOU!

These witnesses will be bringing evidence against the system regarding the following charges:

1. Targeting youth of color
Chris M, Occupy Oakland
Sagnicthe Salazar, Youth Together and Xicana Moratorium Coalition

2. Allowing murder and assault by police to go unpunished
Denika Chatman, Kenneth Harding Jr. Foundation
Carey Downs & Dionne Smith Downs, A Mother’s Cry for Justice

3. Enforcing racism at every level
Jabari Shaw, Rapper, Laney College Black Student Union
Manuel La Fontaine, All of Us or None and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

4. Holding political prisoners hostage
Kiilu Nyasha, Independent journalist and former Black Panther
Aaron Mirmalek, Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee Oakland

5. Torturing people inside the prisons
Sharena Curley, Oscar Grant Committee
Luis “Bato” Talamantez, California Prison Focus and one of the San Quentin Six

6. Conspiring to commit mass incarceration
Linda Evans, All of Us or None and former political prisoner
Ghetto Prophet, Onyx Organizing Committee and spoken word artist
More information:

Oakland Action for April 24th – Occupy the Injustice Department




End Mass Incarceration! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and ALL political prisoners!

4PM – Rally and Truth Mob at Oscar Grant Plaza, 14th and Broadway

5PM – March to Federal Building, then to:

6PM – Putting the Injustice System on Trial at 19th and Telegraph. Charges include: Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder, Inhumane Treatment of People in Prison, and more.

This action is in solidarity with the Occupy the Justice Department protest happening in Washington DC on April 24th, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s birthday. Occupy4Prisoners joins the growing list of endorsers.

DC Action website: www.occupythejusticedepartment.com 

O4P: www.occupy4prisoners.org /occupy4prisoners@gmail.com


April 24th Flyer_full

April 24th Flyer_halfsheet_2

Occupy the Justice Department – April 24th


“On April 24, 2012, Mumia’s 58th birthday, we will gather at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington, DC. A large-scale, vibrant and colorful rally will amplify our formal request that Eric Holder immediately meet with a delegation to discuss police corruption and civil rights violations in Mumia’s case and in the cases of hundreds of other defendants in Philadelphia. Some demonstrators will engage in acts of civil disobedience to draw greater attention to these injustices.”

Occupy4Prisoners endorses this action, and will be planning a solidarity action in the Bay Area – will update this site with more information soon.

“As one of the organizers of National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners and Occupy San Quentin, we are very excited to support Occupy the Justice Department and will send people from California to attend. We encourage all who know about this important effort to be there on April 24, 2012, to stand side-by-side with Occupiers and others who are no longer willing to accept injustice that we, the citizens of this country, suffer through the loss of family members and communities left decimated by policies of mass incarceration.”
                                                                  –Barbara Becnel
                                                                    Founder of Stanley Tookie Williams Legacy Network

Action Announcements – TODAY and TOMORROW

1) TONIGHT! (TUESDAY) Community Members Call for Restored Rights to People with Felony Convictions

Organizations Speak at Oakland City Council in Support of Resolutions to Support Prisoner Reentry
Press Contact:  Isaac Ontiveros, Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Ph. 510 444 0484
What: Oakland City Council MeetingWhen: Tuesday, March 20 2012, 6:30pm
Where: Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
Oakland—The Oakland City Council will hear three timely resolutions to support state legislation that would remove barriers to reentry for people with felony convictions. The measures, which would end the lifetime ban on public benefits for people with prior drug-related felony convictions and expand “ban the box” policies to city and county employment across California, come as more focus is put in local community responses to Governor Brown’s prison realignment plan.
“Preventing parents from receiving basic needs puts our state’s poorest children in harm’s way and burdens local communities that are challenged to find strategies to support successful reentry for an increasing number of low-income parents,” said Jessica Bartholow with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a leading anti-poverty organization working to pass this legislation. Currently, any Californian who has a prior drug related felony conviction is denied from accessing CalWORKs and CalFresh, public programs that grant access to affordable food, education, and child-care.

“It is crucial that people most vulnerable in our communities, especially people with felony convictions, have access to food, jobs, education and other important services when coming home from prison or jail,” notes Manuel La Fontaine, organizer for All of Us or None’s Oakland Chapter. La Fontaine continues, “If I didn’t have a support system when coming home from prison, I would have fallen through the cracks. I hope the City of Oakland supports these important resolutions.” Oakland has already adopted a city-level “ban the box”, a fair hiring policy that removes discriminatory questions about conviction history from an initial job application. This legislation would extend “ban the box” measures to all California cities and counties.
Alameda County is one of four counties to receive a passing grade on a recently updated Realignment Report Card issued by Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), a statewide coalition of over 40 member organizations. “We hope that Alameda County and the City of Oakland will continue to step out as a model county in response to realignment. We need them to show more counties how to support and develop policies that support people with felony convictions instead of locking them up and denying them access to jobs and basic programs and services,” said Emily Harris, Statewide Coordinator for CURB.
Representatives from Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Critical Resistance, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, All of Us None, California Partnership, Alameda County Community Food Bank, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Berkeley Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution, and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners will be speaking during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting.

CURB’s Report Card is available at: http://curbprisonspending.org/?p=1391

Tonight’s City Council will include:

Item #13 AB 828: CalFRESH (Swanson): http://oakland.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1080717&GUID=90B74D29-6EF5-47AD-AB8A-40DEEA6C9CF4
Item #14 SB 1060: CalWORKS (Hancock): http://oakland.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1080718&GUID=B7F42BD5-99D3-434F-BB8E-F19B96258702
Item #16 AB 1831: Hiring Practices (Dickenson/Swanson): http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_1801-1850/ab_1831_bill_20120222_introduced.pdf  
2)TOMORROW (WEDNESDAY) JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN – A Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin 

JOIN US IN OAKLAND / SF – Throw on your hoodies and come gather in Bradley Manning Plaza to show your support for justice for Trayvon Martin! Bring items to create an altar for Trayvon at the UN.

**WEDNESDAY, March 21st is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

We’re going to be gathering in Bradley Manning Plaza at 5:30 PM to rally and march to the United Nations Association at 6 PM!

Gather in Oakland at 14th & Broadway BART to ride together to Embarcadero: 4:30P, 5P and 5:30P. Please know we’d stay in Oakland but the march to the UN feels necessary.

Rally and March https://www.facebook.com/events/318735908182032/

New audio/video and report from Occupy San Quentin

AUDIO excerpts: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/03/17/18709496.php

VIDEO excerpt, Daniel Hazen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0G8qTcOF4M

VIDEO excerpt, Sara Shourd, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal: Shane, Josh, and Sarah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIrW50s0DLU

Free Speech Radio News: http://fsrn.org/audio/prisoners-activists-bring-attention-us-criminal-justice-system/9873


The Feb. 20 Occupy Day for Prisoners marked the historic merging of the Occupy movement with prison abolition organizations working in the trenches for decades. We believe it was crucial to join these forces, to further consciousness among Occupy activists about the other 1%, the 2.5 million incarcerated people. As the Occupy movement has brought economic injustice to the forefront of the political conversation, we envision Occupy for Prisoners expanding awareness of the racialized caste system of mass incarceration as both a foundational element and an outcome of centuries-old US racism and economic injustice.

Although human rights have never been consistently respected in American prisons, in the last few decades of explosive mass incarceration there has been a drastic decline in humane treatment. Activists in the Bay Area chose to demonstrate at San Quentin, which houses California’s Death Row and is representative of inhumane conditions nationwide. Imprisoned people are now more clearly included amongst Occupy zones – places that need to be reclaimed by a humanitarian and liberatory consciousness.

In the lead-up to the event formerly incarcerated people, led by All of Us or None, called for the day to be peaceful and non-violent, in order to protect formerly incarcerated people and families of those currently imprisoned attending. In response Occupy Oakland Non-Violent Caucus ran trainings in peaceful non-violent presence early on Feb. 20, prior to loading people on buses from downtown Oakland. During the rally Occupy For Prisoners activists, including clergy, formed a human buffer between protestors and heavily-armed San Quentin snipers and guards. In addition, the Connection Action Project set up a sacred prayer/empathy circle near the prison gate to offer emotional support. The day was entirely peaceful, with many opportunities for those most affected by the prison industrial complex to speak their truth, as well as for those relatively less impacted to act in solidarity.

The crowd that day, combining formerly incarcerated people, loved ones of those currently inside, Occupy activists and prison abolitionists, was family-friendly and included children and elders. Crowd estimates averaged around 800, and the colorful banners, artwork, and passionate speakers created a liberated zone even in the “valley of the shadow of death” that is San Quentin. Having an opening invocation by First Nation activist Lenny Foster and drumming by youth firmly established the peaceful and sacred intent of the gathering – to show that with the consciousness of unity and liberation we have the power to make great changes. This unity was also reflected in the words chanted as Occupy Oakland arrived – “Inside, outside, we’re all on the same side.”

The program provided a rarely seen public space for amplifying the voices of incarcerated people. Throughout the day, words from well-known political and politicized prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Kevin Cooper, the Pelican Bay hunger strikers, and Yassin Aref in addition to less well-known voices from inside the walls filled the air. devorah major, former San Francisco poet laureate, shared a powerful spoken word piece, and Jabari Shaw performed a rap on the prison system as modern day slavery . Linda Evans and Dorsey Nunn from All of Us or None and Barbara Bechnel from the STW Legacy Network were the emcees, and most of the speakers were formerly incarcerated people and their families.

The topics covered a wide range of struggles around human rights for imprisoned people: the abolishment of unjust sentences and inhumane conditions (especially solitary confinement), solidarity with hunger strikers, the needs of women in prison, freeing political prisoners, ending the repression of activists, and spending our taxes on the needs of our communities rather than prisons.

Mumia Abu-Jamal and Michelle Alexander among many others have called for a massive social justice movement to end mass incarceration in the US, and Occupy for Prisoners will continue to respond to those calls by organizing, politicizing, identifying the issues and building solidarity with all imprisoned, oppressed people. We will provide an energetic presence of movement-building outside the walls to reflect and support the dynamic and visionary organizing already occurring within the walls. The success of the national day of protest on Feb. 20 lends a militant optimism to the moment – LA LUCHA CONTINUA!

(For more about the day, see Wanda Sabir’s detailed article – with pictures – at http://wandasabir.blogspot.com/2012/02/occupy-san-quentin.html)