We have been made aware of an awful piece of the Governor’s budget proposal that that would affect thousands of folks in New York State (NYS) prisons, including all of the political prisoners in New York who we list in our guide. This call to action has been circulating and we hope that you will take part and pass it along as well:
Governor Cuomo has just proposed to limit visiting at New York State maximum security prisons to three days a week instead of the current seven. If passed, this measure will be awful for David Gilbert, Herman Bell, Seth Hayes, Jalil Muntaqim and thousands of other maximum security prisoners.
This proposal will seriously escalate suffering and family disruption. Under the current seven-day system, weekend visitors (many are women with young children) often wait two to three hours to see their loved ones. With reduced days, the wait will be longer, the visitor rooms more crowded, the visiting days and hours even more limited. This will be terrible for everyone and impossible for many.
It’s not uncommon for those of us in NYC ABC to write or talk about the importance of post-release support of political prisoners. We’ve seen comrades come home and know all too well that appropriate support can not end when they leave prison. What post-release support looks like is not a singular thing. Some folks need immediate support that might be financial, emotional, medical, or entirely something else. Others have communities of support to which they return and it is only years later that needs arise. We are at a point in time when two folks, at different stages of imprisonment, need your direct support. Both Zolo Azania—still imprisoned, but expecting to be released in early 2017 after 35 years inside, and Barbara Curzi—a former political prisoner released in 1991 who now faces a medical crisis, need those of us in radical and revolutionary communities to pitch in and help them out.
Excerpted from gofundme.com/HelpZoloRebuild:
Zolo will exit prison practically penniless and will face enormous financial challenges. He will need to pay for housing, food, clothing, transportation, furniture, a cell phone, utilities, and the many other expenses we all encounter.
Let’s ease Zolo’s path and make sure he does not confront his financial challenges—and all the challenges he will face, alone. Please generously donate .
Zolo is alive today due to his efforts and the work of his supporters and a strong legal team.
In spite of his difficult circumstances, Zolo is a positive person with a quick smile and a vibrant laugh. Let’s answer his positivity with support.
All funds will go directly to Zolo and will be deposited into a fund managed by a team that has supported him for 13 years. For more information contact zoloazania.org or the Chicago Committee to Free Black Political Prisoners.
Excerpted from Sacramento Prisoner Support:
Barbara is a former political prisoner, one of the Ohio 7, who, after their arrests in Ohio in 1984, went on trial for actions by the United Freedom Front against corporations who upheld apartheid in South Africa and contributed to the wars in Central America.
Unfortunately, Barbara was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. She is beginning an intensive six-month chemo regimen and then is expected to undergo surgery, possibly followed by radiation.
She was about to get a part-time job just before her diagnosis,to supplement her disability check but now instead finds herself way behind not only on her mortgage and utilities, but can’t get Internet and phones services back until she pays them off completely.
She returned to Massachusetts after her release from the federal prison system to rebuild her life with her children. As many former prisoners, and especially political prisoners, Barbara has struggled to find work and survive, but she is still deeply committed to the struggle for justice.
If you would like to contribute to the effort to minimize the stress to survive for Barbara, and help her make it through this battle, please see the linked “Go Fund Me” page at: https://www.gofundme.com/barbaras-loving-circle-2w49vnqs
We don’t typically promote online petitions, but this one has the potential to have influence in supporting parole for our comrade Herman Bell. The full text of the petition is below. Please sign and share with others http://www.thepetitionsite.com/677/086/596/in-support-of-parole-for-herman-bell-79c0262
To Chairwoman, Board of Parole, New York State, Tina M. Stanford
Grant parole to New York State prisoner Herman Bell
We are asking that Herman Bell be granted release on parole at his February 2016 hearing
Herman Bell has been in state custody since 1979 and has been denied release on parole 6 times since he first became eligible in 2004.
Every time Herman has been denied, it has been for the same reason-that releasing him would undermine the law and deprecate the seriousness of the crime. Herman has taken responsibility and expressed regret for the shooting of the police officer and has served 4 decades in prison for this offense. He is by all accounts, a much different person than he was in 1971 and further incarceration serves no purpose other than vengeance. We believe Herman has done everything he can to make amends for his crime and we ask that he be granted parole at his 7th parole hearing in 2016.
While incarcerated, Herman has been a model prisoner and a positive influence on those around him. He has been a mentor and father-figure to many young men in prison, helping them take advantage of every academic and vocational program they can to prepare for release and reintegration into society. In addition to earning a dual Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and sociology, and a Masters degree in sociology, Herman has coached football and basketball in order to have a positive influence on the many young men he has met during his 4 decades in prison. With Herman’s help, the Victory Gardens project was established in 1995 with two farmers in Maine. The project brought together people from diverse lifestyles and remote locations to plant, grow, tend, harvest, and then distribute the food free to our communities. This life-giving project enjoyed eight successful seasons distributing food in Maine, Boston, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx.
Herman’s continued denials at the parole board are sadly, not a rarity but the norm. The number of incarcerated people ages 50+ in New York has increased 81% from 2000 to 2013, even as the total number of people locked up has fallen by 23% during the same period. Today, 17% of incarcerated men and 15% of incarcerated women in the New York prison system are over 50 years of age- roughly 9,000 people. Herman is 67 years old.
This is an unnecessary crisis. Many of these elders should be released. New York routinely denies parole to elders behind bars, even though they pose no risk to public safety and are fully prepared to successfully re-enter and contribute to society. The recidivism rate of people who have served long sentences for serious felonies is 1.3%—lower than any other category of those released. Many, like Herman, have records of positive achievement in prison and are praised by prison officials as peacemakers and role models.
Kevin Chianella received a 2 year prison sentence for his participation in the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010. Chianella, 18 at the time, got a heftier sentence because he attacked a cop car with a canvas bag full of rocks. He is also presumed to have fueled and sustained a fire set on another cop car. Chianella, from Queens, was supported in court by his family, among them, his 90-year-old grandmother.
Now, we are nearing Kevin’s release. Not only will Kevin face the same financial hardships many face once released from prison, but he also owes friends and family members who took on significant financial burdens throughout his trial and imprisonment. With that, NYC ABC has organized an online fund raiser. To donate, visit youcaring.com/Chianella
Please remember that prisoner support doesn’t end when a comrade is released. Through halfway houses, supervised release, parole, or probation, there is usually state supervision beyond the initial sentence. Also, prison is traumatic. And of course there is the stigma of being a former prisoner that effects nearly every aspect of one’s life. All of this adds up to the less obvious, but equally necessary, support needed when our loved ones come home.
For more information on Kevin and his case, visit notorontog20extradition.wordpress.com
Robert Seth Hayes is one of the longest held political prisoners in the United States. He is 66 years old and suffers from multiple chronic and concerning medical problems. As you may know, the Medical Justice Project for Prisoners of War and Political Prisoners waged a medical campaign for Seth a few months ago regarding rapid and concerning weight loss as well as poorly controlled diabetes. Neither of these concerns have been addressed to date. The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYS DOCCS) states on its website that denial of adequate medical care is a violation of a person’s eighth amendment constitutional rights, so please help demand that Seth be provided with proper care.
Please join the phone and fax campaign!
Talking points and sample letter below.
THINGS YOU CAN DO:
1) On Monday, 4/27 and Tuesday, 4/28 please call:
- Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci, NYS Department of Corrections at 518.457.8134
- Dr. Carl J. Koenigsmann, Chief Medical Officer, DOCCS Division of Health Services at 518.457.7073
- Nancy A. Lyng, MS, Director of Health Services, at 518.445.6176
2) On Wednesday, 4/29 and Thursday 4/30, please fax (you can use a free online fax service like faxzero.com if needed):
- Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci at Fax: 518.457.0076
- Dr. Carl J. Koenigsmann M.D. at Fax: 518.457.2115
- Nancy A. Lyng, MS at Fax: 518.445.6157
Suggested talking points:
- State who you are calling about and include his prisoner number: Robert Seth Hayes, #74-A- 2280 at Sullivan Correctional Facility;
- Say that you are requesting:
nnn1) an assessment and modification of his insulin treatment,
nnn2) that he is given a full work-up to have potential malignancies been ruled out considering his weight loss, and,
nnn3) that he is finally prescribed a diabetic diet.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know what response you receive.
Brent Betterly of the “NATO 3″ is scheduled to be released on April 16th. His support crew has a campaign to raise money for Brent’s release. Donate at youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/prison-release-fund-for-brent-betterly/308054 to help welcome Brent home.
On May 16th, 2012, just prior to the NATO summit in Chicago, three Occupy activists were arrested and eventually charged with 11 felony counts, including four under the never-before-used Illinois terrorism statute. Brent Betterly, Maya Chase (formerly Jared Chase), and Brian “Jacob” Church came to be known as the NATO 3. The case went to trial in January of 2014, and the NATO 3 were acquitted of all of the terrorism charges. Unfortunately, the jury found them guilty of two felonies each— possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson and possession of an incendiary device with the knowledge that another intended to commit arson. They were given sentences ranging from 5 to 8 years in state prison.
Brent Betterly is the second of the three to be released. Please donate to his release fund to help ease the transition after 3 years behind bars. Donations are needed to help pay for Brent’s living expenses while he works to get back on his feet during the immediate aftermath of his imprisonment. Brent is the father of a young child who lives several states away. Funds raised will also help Brent maintain contact with his son.
If you’d like to write to Brent before his release, please address envelopes to:
Brent Betterly M44724
Sheridan Correctional Facility
4017 East 2603 Road
Sheridan, Illinois 60551
And if you have any questions, you can email email@example.com, or check out freethenato3.wordpress.com
We just found a handful of the Tinley Park Five t-shirts NYC ABC designed and printed as a fund raiser for those five antifa comrades. There are very few t-shirts left and we find it fitting to use them to support another comrade arrested and imprisoned as part of the Tinley Park action. So, we are offering these shirts to raise funds for Jason Hammond. Get your shirt at gum.co/JasonHammond
Supporting antifascists sends the message that white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists won’t be allowed to organize without facing opposition. By supporting Jason, you are not simply buying a t-shirt, you are placing yourself in a community of individuals committed to upending organized white supremacy. So even if there is not a shirt in your size, you can still make a donation and have the t-shirt as a reminder of Jason, the Tinley Park Five, and all the unnamed folks willing to risk their freedom to stand against fascism. Hang it on a wall, give it as a gift, cut it up and make it a patch, banner, or flag.
Jason Hammond pleaded guilty, while refusing to provide information on others, to state charges against him for participation in an organized direct action taken against a group of white supremacists in May 2012 in Tinley Park, Illinois. Jason is currently serving a sentence of nearly three and a half years in an Illinois state prison.