Things That Matter

Immigration Detainees Joined Prisoners Nationwide To Strike Against Living Conditions And Very Low Wages In Prisons

The U.S. has just experienced on of the largest prison strikes in U.S. history. People who are incarcerated in at least 17 prisons across the U.S. are protested their living and working conditions. From privatized prisons stacking humans in cells to prison systems replacing the U.S. Postal Service with companies that charge impossibly high fees to send an email, this strike matters.

Latinos are incarcerated 200 percent more often than non-Latino white folks and are often sentenced to more time than white offenders for the same crime. While that is an entirely separate issue based in racism and classism. However, the fact remains that there are Latinos in prison who likely wouldn’t be there for as long or at all if they were white.

The strike began on August 21, the 47th anniversary of Black Panther activist George Jackson’s death.

@IGD_News / Twitter

The strike was announced a week after the April 15 prison riot at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina. Seven inmates were killed and another 22 people were injured. The Lee riots were ignited as the result of substantiated correctional officer (CO) brutality. The brutality is well-documented in several lawsuits against the very same prison.

The strike ended on Sept. 12, but it is unclear is the strikes did anything to better conditions in the prisons.

@AmericanIndian8 / Twitter

The people incarcerated participated in work strikes, hunger strikes, peaceful sit-ins and spending boycotts. The protests were supposed to end on Sept. 9, the same day as the Attica prison riots. If you haven’t seen “Thirteen” yet, do yourself a favor and learn about the history of black slavery in the U.S. and how the latest systemization of subjugating minorities is all in the prison system.

The inmates are protesting what they’re calling “modern-day slavery.”

@MaxHPF / Twitter

It’s no coincidence that you’re only seeing brown faces on these promotional materials. People of color have long been arrested and policed at disproportional levels in comparison to their white counterparts.

Many states can legally force prisoners to work without any compensation.

@armedtosketch / Twitter

Most states require prisoners to work dangerous jobs, and when they are paid, the wages are very low. Just a couple weeks ago, The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) bragged via Twitter about it’s 2,000 “volunteer” inmate firefighters, including 58 youth offenders. The inmates were fighting dangerous wildfires for $1 an hour.

The program saves the state $90-$100 million a year. Despite their experience, the prisoners can’t get jobs as firefighters when they are released. That’s because California requires firefighter to be licenses emergency medical technicians (EMTs) but those with criminal records are often denied EMT licenses.

Detainees in immigration center joined in on the protest to call attention to ICE treatment and conditions.

@ajplus / Twitter

Caption: “Up to 200 detained immigrants at Northwest Detention Center in Washington are on a work and hunger strike to protest forced labor. They join striking inmates in up to 17 prisons across the U.S. who are protesting sentencing laws, poor treatment and ‘prison slavery.'”

No. 1 on their list of demands: recognize humanity.

@WSWS_Updates / Twitter

“Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.”

Second, they want “an immediate end to prison slavery.”

@mmbilal / Twitter

They want to immediately be paid the “prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.” What that means is most likely minimum wage, which would be a 5,300 percent increase in wages.

They also want the Prison Litigation Reform Act rescinded immediately.

@ajplus / Twitter

The PLRA was enacted in 1996 as a means to prevent prisoners from litigating within prison. It also prevents prisoners from taking legal action “with respect to prison conditions” until “administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” It basically lets correctional officers and prison administration to regulate themselves.

Prisoners need our help in making sure their demands are heard.

@abqdsa / Twitter

Included in their demands are more funding for rehabilitation services.

“No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.”

Caption: “Putting in work for the workers on the inside. #PrisonStrike #PrisonStrike2018”

Top Democrats stayed quiet on the prison strike.

@IGD_News / Twitter

It’s shocking but it’s true. Democrats who claim to be all for prison reform, like California Senator Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or Bernie Sanders have stayed silent.

Folks on the outside have rallied in support of the inmates, hoping to garner political attention.

@TheFinalCall / Twitter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running for the Congress, is one of the only Democrats to say something substantive.

In a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez shared an article along with this statement, “Today begins a nationwide prison strike demanding humane conditions & end to prison slavery. The U.S. incarcerates more than any other nation in the world. To change, we must acknowledge the direct lineage that mass incarceration has to slavery & Jim Crow.”

Inmates are demanding that their voting rights never be taken from them as an American right.

@MI_Abolition / Twitter

It’s nauseating to find out that the reason convicted felons have their voting rights stripped is a living breathing Jim Crow law. This is how you continue to keep American politics white and how to keep brown and black people out of politics.

Even anarchists have made themselves known in favor of inmates rights.

@TheBaseBK / Twitter

Caption: “Anarchists represented for the #PrisonStrike last night in Brooklyn. Revolutionaries must keep up the pressure for the #PrisonRebels as the fight inside escalates!”

We don’t know how big the prison strike really is.

@SawariMi / Twitter

That’s largely because the administration is trying to silence the prisoners. As of August 28, the highlighted states have confirmed prison action thus far, ranging from North Carolina labor strikes to several prisons going on lockdown after initiating strikes.

Some prison systems did bow to some pressure from the strikes.

@BRRN_Fed / Twitter

For inmates who have lost all ties to the life, family and world they built before being incarcerated, those 20 cents per minutes add up. Specifically, they add up to $25 saved per two hours of talking with their mami’s, esposos y hijos.

If you’re making $.14 an hour, that is gold.

We’re also seeing supporters get creative on the streets.

@cjdronanron / Twitter

Prisoners of the state are modern day slave laborers. The most important thing we can do to support prisoners is to raise awareness of their plight. “Orange is the New Black” was a great start to getting Americans to see the humanity in inmates and the injustices of the prison system, but it’s time to wake up to make change in real life.

Some of the protests called for violence against the prisons.

@Lefebvre_Sam / Twitter

Caption: “#PrisonStrike comes for the OkCupid billboards in Oakland.”

A report released on August 28 suspects that thousands of prisoners participated in 20 prisons, all the way to Canada.

@Evict_Twit_ter / Twitter

On the first day of the strike, more than 200 immigrants who are currently detained at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, publicly announced they were joining the strike in solidarity.

The truth is that since the 2016 strike, America cares more about inmates than ever before.

@IGD_News / Twitter

One can only assume that this is the start of a larger prison reform movement. As the strike gets further in the rearview mirror, it will be telling to see how states adapt rules and laws around how prisoners are treated.


READ: A New Study Shows The Financial Incentive For Corporations To Maintain Prisons And Detention Centers

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Human Smuggling Is Suspected In The Tragic SUV Accident That Killed 13 Migrants

Things That Matter

Human Smuggling Is Suspected In The Tragic SUV Accident That Killed 13 Migrants

Another tragic story has unfolded at the U.S. – Mexico border, this time involving the deaths of at least 13 people who were allegedly being smuggled into the United States. Although investigators are still working to piece together the tragic chain of events, one thing has become clear: we need serious immigration reform now.

13 people died in a tragic SUV accident near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The tragedy unfolded when a Ford Expedition carrying 27 people smashed into a gravel truck near the town of El Centro, about 30 miles from the border. Officials say that the Ford SUV and a Chevrolet Suburban, which was carrying 19 people, were earlier caught on video entering the U.S. as part of a smuggling operation.

The Suburban immediately caught fire after entering the U.S., but all the occupants managed to escape and were taken into custody by Border Patrol officers. It’s still unknown why the first vehicle caught fire.

The Ford SUV continued along its route when it collided with a gravel truck. Ten of the 13 people who died in the accident have now been identified as Mexican nationals, Gregory Bovino, the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector chief told the Associated Press.

“Human smugglers have proven time and again they have little regard for human life,” said Mr. Bovino.

An SUV designed for 7 or 8 people was carrying 27 people.

California Highway Patrol said that the Ford Expedition was designed to hold seven to eight passengers safely. But in this case all of the seats had been removed apart form the driver and front passenger seats in order to pack people in.

“When I pulled up on scene, there were bodies everywhere,” Alex Silva, the Holtville fire chief, told the LA Times. “I’ve been doing this for 29 years and that’s the worst scene I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to calls where we’ve had four or five people dead. I’ve gone to calls where we had a bus accident that had 24 people. But it wasn’t the fatalities that we had in this one.”

“I’ve never seen an SUV with 25 people in it. I can’t even imagine what that must have felt like being cooped up in there.”

Officials are confident the tragedy is connected to a human smuggling operation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said they suspected the deadly crash was tied to human smuggling after the Ford Expedition and a red Suburban were caught on surveillance footage coming through a breach in the border fence. Border Patrol agents insist they did not stop or pursue either vehicle, although community activists express skepticism. Either way, the outcome illustrated the high stakes involved in human smuggling.

While it’s unclear what caused the crash, Jacqueline Arellano, 38, who works with the nonprofit Border Angels, said crashes involving vehicles packed with people aren’t unusual in the region. Arellano, who grew up in El Centro, recalled a crash in 2003 in which she witnessed a Border Patrol vehicle chase an SUV packed with people on Highway 8 heading west toward San Diego.

Migrant advocates agree that major changes need to take place in our country’s immigration laws so that deadly tragedies such as this one never happen again.

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Menendez Brother Of 1989 Murders Forced Into Solitary Confinement After Receiving Hoax Marijuana Package In Prison

Things That Matter

Menendez Brother Of 1989 Murders Forced Into Solitary Confinement After Receiving Hoax Marijuana Package In Prison

Photo by Kypros/Getty Images

Just when you thought the Menendez brothers would be out of the public eye for good, a bizarre story thrusts them back into the spotlight.

Back in October, TMZ reported that Erik Menendez (of the notorious Menendez brothers murder duo) had received a package of marijuana at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.

Before the package could reach Menendez’s hands, a prison official intercepted it. Shortly after, Menendez was moved into solitary confinement, as receiving recreational drugs in jail is definitely a no-go.

According to TMZ, prison officials were investigating whether Menendez “planned on either distributing the weed or using it as currency, or whether it was just for his personal use.” But now, the case is closed.

Per the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, “the investigation is complete and the allegations against him were unfounded.”

There is no word about who would have thought to send Erik Menendez a package of marijuana while he is literally in federal prison. Sounds like someone who is almost as unhinged as he is.

Erik Mendenez, along with his brother Lyle Menendez, are both serving life sentences without parole for the murder of their parents, José and Kitty, Menéndez in 1989.

Back in the day, the trial of the Cuban-American Menendez brothers captured the attention of the nation.

The crime was incredibly unusual. Not only was it uncommon for two children to team up on the murder of both their parents, but the Menendez brothers seemingly had it all. The Menendez family was extremely wealthy and the boys were incredibly privileged–Lyle even attended Princeton University before he was suspended for plagiarism.

On August 20, 1989, a hysterical Lyle Hernandez called 911, claiming his parents had been murdered in their Beverly Hills home. When police arrived at the scene, they found José and Kitty Menéndez dead. José had been shot five times, while Kitty had been shot 10 times.

At first, 21-year-old Lyle and and 18-year-old Erik played the roles of grieving sons perfectly, so police didn’t suspect them.

But soon, the boys’ facades began to unravel. In the months following their parents’ vicious murders, Erik and Lyle began to spend their late parents’ fortune with abandon, buying luxury purchases like expenses watches and private tennis lessons.

The lavish spending provided police with an otherwise-absent motive and they began to investigate the brothers for their parents’ murders. In March of 1990, both brothers were arrested for the murder of their parents.

The two brothers claimed that they had been tortured by years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their parents. The subsequent trial became a media sensation–America was fascinated by these rich, seemingly innocent young men who murdered their parents in cold blood. After a long and drawn-out trial, the brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in July of 1996. They have been serving out their sentences ever since.

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