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‘The Aboriginal Gulag’: The Northern Territory’s Criminal Legal System

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 3:03am in

Editor’s note: This article was sent to the Australian Lawyer’s Alliance’s publication Precedent in the hope of offering critique of NT legal professionals’ complicity with the disgraceful status quo of mass Aboriginal incarceration. Precedent proposed heavy edits to the article, including the very notable extraction most of the critical references to NT legal professional organisations. Such proposed censorship of dissenting voices shows a shocking lack of willingness to critically reflect on uncomfortable truths in the legal profession and adds additional weight to the arguments presented below.


As you fly into Darwin you can’t fail to see through the window of your aircraft the real symbol of the Northern Territory. This initial image is no Eiffel Tower, and it’s certainly no Statue of Liberty. Neither is it some amusing giant crocodile. It’s an enormous, ugly footprint on the ground, 36 kilometres south of Darwin: the Darwin ‘Superjail’. In these Orwellian times it’s officially called the ‘Darwin Correctional Precinct’. Of course, it doesn’t correct anything or anybody and it’s not a ‘precinct’. It’s just a very big jail. It doesn’t as yet have signage declaring ‘Freedom is Slavery’ or ‘Work Sets You Free’. Perhaps later. Costing $1.8 billion, it represents the largest outlay ever made by any Territory government, and although it only opened at the end of 2014 it is already overcrowded, so a new one will be required soon.

Figures of shame

The Northern Territory’s imprisonment rate continues to be the highest on the planet. The adult imprisonment rate is four to five times higher than that of all other Australian states and territories. The detention rate for NT juveniles is six to seven times higher than that of all other Australian states and territories. The statistics beggar belief.

The highest international imprisonment rate is that of the United States: 655 people per 100,000 of  population, of whom 34 per cent are African American, 24 per cent are Hispanic and 30 per cent are white. The Australian national figure is 170, of whom 27 per cent are Aboriginal (yet only 3 per cent of Australia’s population is Aboriginal); New Zealand’s figure is 201, Canada’s 107, England’s 140, Victoria’s 170 and Western Australia’s 344.

The NT figure is a catastrophic 913, of whom 86 per cent are Aboriginal. All—100 per cent—children in NT detention are Aboriginal (yet only 30 per cent of the Territory’s population is Aboriginal).These NT figures are more disturbing by virtue of their marked acceleration in the last decade, particularly for women.

The Territory’s imprisonment rate has always been too high and disproportionately Aboriginal, but in the last ten years it has accelerated past Pluto.

How could such a shameful situation exist in 2020 Australia?

The drop in professional standards

Over the last twenty years, instead of pursuing excellence and improving professional standards, the NT legal system has deteriorated. Jurists and jurisprudence have been replaced by managers and ‘efficiency’.

I have been practising criminal law in this jurisdiction since 1987. In the last five years I have seen the ‘system’ go past tipping points to the extent that its functioning now falls somewhere between absurd and surreal. It is no longer an overworked, under-resourced and at times chaotic legal system. It is now not fit for purpose and has become a depraved jailing machine consuming Aboriginal men, women and children at an ever-increasing rate. Most of the players in this theatre of the absurd—Supreme Court justices, local court judges, and lawyers—are just going through the motions. Most of them have either become inured to the process or are unaware of any proper alternative to its absurdity and inadequacy. The criminal courts now operate like clearing houses rather than vehicles for due process.

Inadequate resources, inadequate time, inadequate experience, inadequate training and supervision, inadequate, inadequate.Inadequate. This has been one of the factors that have led to more, and longer, Aboriginal imprisonment. The legal profession has presented no real opposition to this incremental slide and is now effectively muted, if not signed up to this mediocrity.


Perhaps of more concern is that this legal ‘system’ is locked on this trajectory, which has now become unsustainable. It’s locked in because in 2020 there is very little, if any, genuine desire on the part of the players  in the system to change it. It has now become a given.  

Representative groups such as the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of the Northern Territory (CLANT) and the Northern Territory Bar Association (NTBA), and publicly funded service providers such as the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission (NTLAC) have become mere enablers of this disgraceful status quo. There is no longer any real opposition, protest or dissent from anywhere. No one in the NT legal world seems capable of saying; ‘No, I disagree’. The main explanation for this deplorable state of affairs, which of course will be strenuously denied by all, is racism.

The reality is that this calamity could never occur, nor would it be allowed to continue, if these imprisonment levels applied to non-Aboriginal Australians. This situation is another example of Australia’s woeful relationship with Aboriginal Australians. An important feature of Australian racism that plays a key role here is the way the true history of Australia’s relationship with Aboriginal people has been either ignored or buried. That silencing of Australian history was first articulated by Professor W. E. H. Stanner in his groundbreaking Boyer Lectures in 1968. Entitled ‘The Great Australian Silence’, the lectures reminded listeners not only of the historical injustices and massacres committed against Aboriginal people but how that history was deliberately buried and forgotten. Stanner explained that Australia’s sense of its past, its very collective memory, had been built on a state of forgetting that couldn’t ‘be explained by absentmindedness’. He called it a ‘cult of forgetfulness’ practised on a national scale. He also described white Australia’s ‘sightlessness’: the aversion of our eyes from the facts.

This feature also figures in explaining how this Aboriginal incarceration horror continues to worsen and has now become the norm in the Northern Territory.

An obvious recent example is the shameful treatment of Aboriginal children in Don Dale detention centre, the resultant White/Gooda Royal Commission, and the failure of that inquiry to effect any real change. Contrast that with another recent Royal Commission: the inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which led to real and significant changes, including large numbers of offenders being prosecuted and jailed. Could the explanation for these different outcomes be that the White/Gooda commission’s subject matter was merely the physical and mental abuse of vulnerable Aboriginal children detained in the custody of the state?

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory of Australia

The White/Gooda Royal Commission, set up by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in July 2016 to investigate the horrors exposed by the Four Corners program ‘Australia’s Shame’, confirmed the abuses that were being inflicted upon Aboriginal children in Don Dale and Alice Springs detention centres. Four Corners revealed, through graphic film, boys being tear-gassed, beaten, held down, spit-hooded, shackled, hosed and unlawfully placed in isolation. It showed what is now the unforgettable symbol of the NT legal system: Dylan Voller in a cell, bound to a chair, hooded, catatonic. The Royal Commission discovered unequivocally the individuals who were responsible for these unlawful and barbaric acts, and yet no one was charged. Further, despite the evidence revealing which individual politicians, high-level bureaucrats and detention-centre staff were responsible for the unlawful solitary confinements—for 14-year-old Jake Roper it was twenty-three out of twenty-four hours each day in a 3- by 2-metre cell for sixteen straight days and nights—no real consequences followed for any of them. Also, it was discovered during the hearings that, throughout this entire period, each and every one of the children who were beaten, abused, unlawfully kept in isolation and subjected to other cruelties were represented by lawyers from NAAJA or the NTLAC. What, if anything, did the lawyers do for their clients in this situation? And yet the Royal Commission refused to inquire into this highly relevant feature of the systemic racist abuse of these Aboriginal children. The refusal to scrutinise the performance of the children’s lawyers rendered it the White/Gooda Royal Omission of Inquiry.

Further, the fact that this Royal Commission failed so miserably is particularly dipiriting as, unlike the many previous reviews and inquiries, this one stated from the outset, through counsel assisting’s opening statement, that this was a Royal Commission that ‘had to produce action and results’.

Consistent with that, on the second day of evidence Pat Anderson, co-chair of the Referendum Council, chair of the Lowitja Institute, former president of NAAJA and co-author of the Little Children are Sacred Report, gave compelling evidence warning against more ‘nothingness’. While thumping the table, eyeballing both commissioners and holding the whole court spellbound, she implored them:

We spend a lot of time talking about Aboriginal issues and the problems and everything, but very little has been done.

It’s just the nature of these things. And I really fear—our hope is, Commissioners, that this isn’t the fate of this Inquiry. In fact, I would go so far as to say the very survival of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory depends on this Commission making a real impact here, that it not just be—we all feel good about talking about it, and we go away feeling all warm and fuzzy, and it’s dropped into a filing cabinet somewhere. That cannot happen here today—this, this, this report. Please, I beg you, do not just put it in a filing cabinet. You are morally bound to do something, not just talk about it. That’s all this country ever does is talk about blackfellas.

Her plea fell on deaf ears. The White/Gooda report and recommendations went into that filing cabinet more quickly than any of its many predecessors.

Referring to the shocking things seen on Four Corners, she went on:

You know 10 years ago when we did the Little Children Are Sacred (report) it was inconceivable that that might happen here even in the Northern Territory. I watched the Four Corners program, like most Australians that night, and…that was my thought, you know 10 years ago this would not have happened. So I think it is part of this general moral decay. Australia’s…in a really bad way here and I don’t know how you return it to a mature, sophisticated, civil society.

In November 2017 the White/Gooda commission made 147 findings and 227 recommendations. To date, few of these have been implemented, and some have even been contradicted. The interim report recommended the immediate closure of Don Dale and the construction of a purpose-built juvenile facility, not anywhere near the adult jail. The NT government ignored this. The children are still in the old Berrimah jail, and the new facility is slated to be built beside the adult Superjail.

The commissioners even failed to establish a mechanism to monitor the implementation of their recommendations, even though such mechanisms have often been established in relation to other Royal Commissions.

Meanwhile, Aboriginal children have continued to be detained in the ‘new’ Don Dale, which is the old, condemned, adult Berrimah Prison. Aboriginal children have now been locked up there since 2014. Aboriginal children have been detained in a condemned adult men’s jail for six years, and no one in the system is saying that that’s wrong. 

This includes NAAJA, CLANT and the NTBA, who are now embedded in this status quo and have become its functionaries. They say little and do less. The only people in the Territory who mount any opposition are the children themselves, who, confirming Martin Luther King’s words that ‘a riot is the language of the unheard’, regularly attempt protests and breakouts, and in one instance in November 2018 burned down the education section of the prison.


US Civil Rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer said back in 1964, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired’, and  Pat Anderson echoed these sentiments in her evidence to the Royal Commission.The mistreatment of Aboriginal children that the Royal Commission exposed was bad enough. That no action was taken against those responsible and that the inquiry’s recommendations have been ignored gives you a real insight into the Northern Territory and Australia in 2020. Welcome to the Aboriginal Gulag. This status quo is maintained with little prospect of change. The national outrage and shock following the Four Corners exposé have given way to the cult of forgetfulness. The day after Four Corners screened, Aboriginal journalist Stan Grant, describing his reaction, wrote in The Guardian, ‘Things once seen cannot be unseen’. However, once again, Australians have unseen.

Pat Anderson, Aboriginal activist of thirty years’ experience, and not a journalist, was spot on. All of this deterioration has occurred within a period of general moral decline. This failure sits within a jarring epoch in which we are losing our basic humanity. We now live officially in the post-truth age. The only positive word in the proffered analysis is ‘unsustainable’: this broken, failed system is bound to fall over before any effective improvements are made to it. Simmering and about to occur are further deaths in custody, further police tragedies like the Yuendumu shooting and further attempts by children to break out of detention.

We are at a critical moment. Climate change, COVID-19, economic collapse and more mean that this period of history has become an interregnum between the old and whatever is to come next. There exists a common thread between the Belarus protest movement, Yuendumu, the Hong Kong protest movement, Extinction Rebellion, Don Dale and more.

It’s time the lawyers and others within the Territory’s criminal legal system broke out of their day-to-day sense of normal. As the Black Lives Matter slogan says, ‘Doing Nothing Time Is Over’. 

What the victory of Territory Labor means for Aboriginal children and youth justice

Thalia Anthony, 10 Sep 2020

This commitment to law and order in a society that has deep roots in discriminatory justice practices—overtly legitimated under the NT Intervention in 2007—signals another four years of the state’s punitive management of Aboriginal children.

Corruption at the Heart of the Prison System

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 9:14pm in

There is a deep problem within the criminal justice system which needs to be addressed.

The post Corruption at the Heart of the Prison System appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Chris Hedges: The Cost of Resistance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 12:23am in

Princeton, New Jersey (Scheerpost) — Two of the rebels I admire most, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher, and Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, are in jail in Britain. That should not be surprising. You can measure the effectiveness of resistance by the fury of the response. Julian courageously exposed the lies, deceit, war crimes and corruption of the ruling imperial elites. Roger has helped organized the largest acts of mass civil disobedience in British history, shutting down parts of London for weeks, in a bid to wrest power from a ruling class that has done nothing, and will do nothing, to halt the climate emergency and our death march to mass extinction.

The governing elites, when truly threatened, turn the rule of law into farce. Dissent becomes treason. They use the state mechanisms of control – intelligence agencies, police, courts, black propaganda and a compliant press that acts as their echo chamber, along with the jails and prisons, not only to marginalize and isolate rebels, but to psychologically and physically destroy them. The list of rebels silenced or killed by ruling elites runs in a direct line from Socrates to the Haitian resistance leader Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the only successful slave revolt in human history and died in a frigid French prison cell of malnutrition and exhaustion, to the imprisonment of the socialist Eugene V. Debs, whose health was also broken in a federal prison. Rebel leaders from the 1960s, including Mumia Abu Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Kojo Bomani Sababu, Mutulu Shakur and Leonard Peltier, remain, decades later, in U.S. prisons. Muslim activists, including those who led the charity The Holy Land Foundation and Syed Fahad Hashmi, were arrested, often at the request of Israel, after the hysteria following 9/11, and given tawdry show trials. They also remain incarcerated.

Resistance, genuine resistance, exacts a very, very high price. Those in power drop even the pretense of justice when they face an existential threat. Most rebels, like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and the tens of thousands of rebels the U.S. has had kidnapped, disappeared and brutally tortured and killed throughout American history end up as martyrs.

Once a rebel is caged the state uses its absolute control and array of dark arts to break them. Julian, whose extradition hearing is underway in London, and who spent seven years trapped as a political prisoner in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, is taken from his cell in the high security Belmarsh Prison at 5:00 am. He is handcuffed, put in holding cells, stripped naked and X-rayed. He is transported an hour and a half each way to court in a police van that resembles a dog cage on wheels. He is held in a glass box at the back of court during the proceedings, often unable to consult with his lawyers. He has difficulty hearing the proceedings. He is routinely denied access to the documents in his case and is openly taunted in court by the judge.

It does not matter that Julian, being prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act, is not a U.S. citizen. It does not matter that WikiLeaks, which he founded and publishes, is not a U.S.-based publication. The ominous message the U.S. government is sending is clear: No matter who or where you are, if you expose the inner workings of empire you will be hunted down, kidnapped and brought to the U.S. to be tried as a spy and imprisoned for life. The empire intends to be unaccountable, untouchable and unexamined.

Julian Assange Cartoon

Illustratin by Mr. Fish for Scheerpost

The U.S. created in the so-called “war on terror” parallel legal and penal codes to railroad dissidents and rebels into prison. These rebels are held in prolonged solitary confinement, creating deep psychological distress. They are prosecuted under special administrative measures, known as SAMs, to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. They are denied access to the news and other reading material. They are barred from participating in educational and religious activities in the prison. They are subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They are permitted to write one letter a week to a single member of their family, but cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and must take the one hour of recreation in a cage that looks like a giant hamster wheel.

The U.S. has set up a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists. Their sentences are arbitrarily lengthened by “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail – although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials – are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level “terrorists” are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colorado, where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation. It is Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Julian is already very fragile. His psychological and physical distress include dramatic weight loss, severe respiratory problems, joint problems, dental decay, chronic anxiety, intense, constant stress resulting in an inability to relax or focus, and episodes of mental confusion. These symptoms indicate, as Nils Melzer, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture who met and examined Julian in prison has stated, that he is suffering from prolonged psychological torture.

If Julian is extradited to the U.S. to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act, each carrying a potential 10 years, which appears likely, he will continue to be psychologically and physically abused to break him. He will be tried in the burlesque of a kangaroo court with “secret” evidence, familiar to Black and Muslim radicals as well as rebels such as Jeremy Hammond, sentenced to 10 years in prison for hacking into the computers and making public the emails of a private security firm that works on behalf of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, and corporations such as Dow Chemical.

Roger is being held in Pentonville Prison in London which was built in 1842 and is in disrepair. He is charged with breaking bail conditions over an action that saw activists throw paint on the walls of the four major political parties, as well as conspiracy to cause criminal damage. A Green Party member leaked to the British police a recorded Zoom discussion Roger was having with three other members of Burning Pink, an anti-political party organized to create citizen assemblies to replace ruling governing bodies, as they discussed upcoming actions. The homes of the four activists on the Zoom meeting – Roger Hallam, Blyth Brentnall, Diana Warner, Ferhat Ulusu and Anglican priest Steven Nunn – were raided on August 25. Their electronic devices were confiscated by police and they were arrested.

Roger is housed in a dirty, vermin-infested cell and denied books and visitors. A vegan, he is forced to live on a diet of cold cereal and bread. On many days there is no hot food served in the prison. Violent altercations within the prison are commonplace. The overcrowded cells often lack lighting and heat. He has no change of clothes and has been unable to wash the clothes he is wearing for weeks. He stuffs bed sheets and paper in the cracks of the door to block mice and cockroaches. The toilet in his cell has no seat, is covered in excrement and does not flush properly. He goes days without access to the outside. His reading glasses are broken. He is waiting on a request for tape to fix them. The COVID-19 pandemic is in the prison. Two of the staff have died from the virus. Roger could be imprisoned in these conditions until February if he is denied bail in a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Roger’s arrest came as Extinction Rebellion was planning the blockade of the printing presses of News Corps Printworks, which prints the newspapers The Times, Sun on Sunday, Sunday Times, The Daily Mail and The London Evening Standard. The blockade took place on September 4 to protest the failure of the news outlets to accurately report on the climate and ecological emergency. The blockade delayed distribution of the papers by several hours.

“The days of standing up to tyranny have long faded,” Roger writes from prison. “The life-and-death struggle against Hitler and fascism is consigned to the history books. Today’s liberal classes believe only in one thing: maintaining their privilege. Their one priority is power. The number one rule is: preserve our careers, our institutions at all cost. The historical rule number one of fighting evil is the willingness to lose your career and to risk the closing down of your institution. The prospect of death and destruction is lost in a postmodernist haze. Leadership has decayed into sitting behind a desk, following public relations protocols (otherwise known as lying). Leading from the front, the first to go to prison Martin Luther King-style died with the passing of the World War II generation.”

“The game is up,” Roger continued. “The old alliance with the liberal classes is dead. New forms of revolutionary initiative and leadership are rising up. Members of the new political party Burning Pink have thrown paint at the doors of the NGOs and political parties calling for open dialogue and public debate. The response, true to form, has been a lethal and deafening silence. We are now in prison from where I write this article after a Green Party member recorded a Zoom call and passed it to the police. We have not been let out for exercise for the first five days. We have no kettle, no pillows, no visits. But we don’t give a shit. We are doing something about Evil.”

Feature photo | Protesters move a banner at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, in London, Sept. 21, 2020, as the Julian Assange extradition hearing to the US continues. Frank Augstein | AP

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He wrote a weekly column for the progressive website Truthdig for 14 years until he was fired along with all of the editorial staff in March 2020. [Hedges and the staff had gone on strike earlier in the month to protest the publisher’s attempt to fire the Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, demand an end to a series of unfair labor practices and the right to form a union.] He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: The Cost of Resistance appeared first on MintPress News.

Being wanted – even if only by the Police

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/09/2020 - 6:00pm in

The piece below is characteristically dishonest from Johnson – not only because he says he is investing in policing when he supported and was a member of a government that actually (should we say?) defunded the Police. However since he has promised to ‘refund’ them, then by all accounts there are now an extra 4,000... Read more

As US Courts Release Inmates amid COVID-19, Palestinian Political Prisoners Are Still Persecuted

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 1:27am in

The Holy Land Foundation case, on which I based my book “Injustice, The Story of the Holy Land Foundation,” included five defendants, all of whom were wrongfully charged and wrongfully convicted. The five, Mufid Abdulqader, Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Abdulrahman Odeh, and Mohammad Elmezain, were targeted because they were Palestinian Muslims. The U.S. government, along with the government of Israel, Zionist organizations in the United States, and the witnesses that helped the prosecution are all complicit in the crime of keeping these men in prison.


Trying to prevent a tragedy

Fearing that his deteriorating health conditions and advanced age make him a candidate for contracting COVID-19, a motion for modification of sentence based on extraordinary and compelling reasons was filed for Mohammad Elmezain on June 5, 2020. The government opposed the motion and June 23, 2020, Judge Sam Lindsay of the Northern District of Texas denied the motion.

The court arguments rely on false claims made during the Holy Land Foundation trial and ignore the severity of the health conditions of Elmezain.

The court claims it “does not downplay Defendant’s recent mini-stroke, physical limitations, and chronic medical conditions—diabetes, hypertension, arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, numbness in his hands, high cholesterol, back pain, and a continuous skin rash—or discount that being confined in a prison makes it more difficult for him or any prisoner to follow official precautions for social distancing and handwashing while in custody. Defendant has failed, however, to provide sufficient grounds for compassionate release. He does not establish that his conditions are sufficiently severe, have an end of life trajectory, and diminish his ability to provide self-care.”

Furthermore, it ]makes the outlandish claim that:

Defendant, however, apart from his physical limitations, good prison record, and participation in educational programs, he offers no evidence of his rehabilitation efforts or any attempt to confront the primary motive for his offense, specifically his ideology of persistent violence.”

Holy Land Five

Miko Peled poses with Mohammad Elmezain at California’s Terminal Island Federal Prison. Photo | Miko Peled


Mufid Abdulqader

A short while after the court’s decision regarding the fate of Elmezain, Mufid Abdulqder, another of the Holy Land Five Foundation defendants, tested positive for COVID-19. When I heard the news, my first thought was that if anything happens to him, if God forbid he does not recover, not only would the U.S. government and the judge in the case be to blame, but the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the entire Zionist apparatus in the United States would be responsible. My second thought was, how much can a good man suffer and still maintain his humanity.

Mufid is a tall man with broad shoulders and a keen sense of humor. “I work out two and a half hours every day, and I take only one day a week to rest,” he told me during one of my visits. He lets his gray beard grow long and he has his hair cropped very short, giving him a slightly wild and mischievous look. He is in his early sixties and has great plans for the future. “I plan to be fit and rich when I get out,” he explained, “if you don’t set goals and take care of yourself, no one will do it for you.”

Holy Land Five

Miko Peled poses with Mufid Abdulqder at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Photo | Miko Peled

Each time we met we would sit together and talk for hours, not feeling the time pass. From time to time, I would get us some snacks from the vending machine and we would eat and go on talking. He is a great storyteller and even though he is only a few years older than me, his life is rich with stories which he shares generously. In fact, once I got to know Mufid, it became obvious to me that generosity was one of his strongest characteristics.


A political prisoner

Mufid Abdulqder, like the rest of the Holy Land Foundation Five, is an inmate in federal prison because he is Palestinian and Muslim, and was targeted for political reasons. Had he been any other nationality or religion he would be a free man. As he and I sat in the visitation room of the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, he told me about his life and his family in Palestine. His family is from the town of Silwad, where his family home still stands. I visited the town and saw the house myself. Silwad is set on a hill and it has some of the finest views in all of Palestine.

Mufid Abdulqader Feature photo

Mufid Abdulqader’s family home in Silwad, Palestine. Photo | Miko Peled

Mufid’s brother is the former head of Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mash’al. My book provides a detailed report of how and why Mufid ended up in prison, but suffice it to say that when the U.S. government needed to demonstrate that it was “fighting terrorism,” the Holy Land Foundation was an easy target, and Mufid, although he was not part of the organization and only volunteered from time to time, was targeted because of his family connections.


COVID-19 in prison

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Mufid has been actively writing and warning about the risks to himself and other inmates. Here are a few excerpts from his emails:

Today is Friday, 6/26 and things got worse than before.  So far we have a minimum of 12 inmates as of right now who have tested positive for the CPVID-19 [sic].  I hope and pray  that I will not catch the COVID-19 virus.

July 1, 2020:

Today is my birthday and I am 62. We have so far well over 100 cases of COVID-19 among inmates and 3 staff.  The virus is spreading like fire and who knows who will be next.  There is no social distancing for 270 inmates in a building using the same bathrooms, sinks, showers, phones, computers.  Each 5 live in a room no bigger than 8X6.

He then added the following plea:

Please call, e-mail, write, text MLFA.  Call Khalil and tell him to tell Charlie (my attorney) to file an emergency motion with the court for me for home confinement.  Over 50 inmates in the past 3 months have been successful with getting out as the judges see that the BOP is not doing enough and the judges are releasing inmates with 10 and 15 years left on their sentences.  I have already served 12 years and the most they can keep me in prison is 4 more years.  Time is running out.  I don’t want to come out dead after serving 12 years on political charges.


July 5, 2020:

Hi Everyone,

It bears down on me…I can’t breath.  I am holding on for life, suffocating under the crushing anxiety of this invincible enemy called COVID-19.

July 8, 2020:

Yesterday the results of the test came back.  I have COVID-19.  I was moved from my building to another building where everyone has the virus.  So far I would say close to 500 inmates do have the virus.  BOP just moves you from one spot to another and hopes that you will be ok and you will beat the virus.  Over 102 inmates so far have died from the virus.

I am ok and I will make it Insha Allah.  I am in a room with 12 other inmates who have it and one of them is coughing uncontrollable all night long and they gave him Advil.  Keep me in your prayers.


July 10, 2020:

To all honorable human beings who stand for a free Holy Land Palestine, Jerusalem and my beloved great hometown of Silwad I want you to know that I do have the COVID-19 and  I do have symptoms such as coughing, chills, runny nose/congestion, shortness of breath, diarrhea and I am fighting every second of my life and winning Insha Allah.

July 17, 2020:

As of today Friday as reported by channel 8 ABC local TV station at 5:30 PM . Seagoville prison has 1077 inmates infected at a rate of 74% of all inmates with one staff death.  Scary!!!!!


Mufid Abdulqader

A poster from the campaign for Mufid Abdulqader’s early release

In an interview that Mufid’s daughter Sarah gave to the Coalition for Civil Freedoms, she mentions the appalling conditions and lack of care for the inmates by the Bureau of Prisons. “These people have families, and while my dad is innocent, even the others, are they not human beings, do we not need to care for them?” she asked.

The answer is that the lives of inmates in America do not matter. The prison system in the United States is created to punish inmates and then to continue to punish them throughout their incarceration. It is a cruel and unusual system and should be abolished.

As of the writing of these words, a motion for compassionate release has been filed on behalf of Mufid. The government has fourteen days to respond.

Feature photo | Miko Peled poses with Mufid Abdulqder at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana in 2015. Photo | Miko Peled

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post As US Courts Release Inmates amid COVID-19, Palestinian Political Prisoners Are Still Persecuted appeared first on MintPress News.

The Youth Who Turned a Prison Into a Farm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 3:56am in

On a crisp, windy day in March, 17-year-old Norman Garcia-Lopez tries to coax a donkey and a herd of 14 sheep from a fenced yard out to open pasture. “Come on, Miss Easter,” he says, holding a shallow bowl of food under the donkey’s nose. She steps through the door in the chain-link fence, and her fleecy charges follow soon after, bleating.

Garcia-Lopez isn’t on a typical farm. Surrounded by tall fences and razor wire, he and the group of high-school-aged young men affiliated with the nonprofit Growing Change are farming in an abandoned prison in rural Wagram, North Carolina. Since 2011, this group has been working to flip the Scotland Correctional Center — a facility decommissioned in 2001 and subsequently left to decay — into a sustainable farm and education center. They’re leasing the property at no cost from the state’s Department of Public Safety.

During its first several years in existence, Growing Change engaged young men who were on intensive juvenile probation and had been kicked out of their schools and homes. But after 2016, the young people involved decided to change the eligibility requirements for future participants. Now, they welcome their peers facing chaos at home, failure at school, trouble with mental health or substance abuse, and involvement with the criminal justice system. Many are also minorities or possess multiple ethnic identities in a country where racism and xenophobia are rampant.

prison farmMiss Easter leads the sheep from the enclosed prison yard out into the pasture to begin grazing.

Designed to help teens avoid the criminal justice system, which disproportionately imprisons people of color, the program provides the young men with mental health treatment and the chance to develop workplace skills and a sense of self-efficacy, or the idea they can get from one point to another if they have a plan.

“These are the young men on which we build our adult prisons,” says Growing Change Founder and Executive Director Noran Sanford. Being locked up as a kid is one of the most damaging, opportunity-stripping experiences a person can have, he says. “As a clinician, as a social worker, as a mental health therapist, [I can tell you] it is one of the greatest risk factors in nearly every problem we’re dealing with today in our adult population.”

In his prison-flip work, Sanford has his sights set on a number of problems at once: the high number of young people entering the criminal justice system; the absence of job opportunities for veterans; the decline in small, independent farmers in the area; residents’ lack of access to local, sustainable food; and the health disparities between urban and rural areas.

prison farmNorman Garcia-Lopez and Terrence Smith collect eggs from the chicken coop.

Scotland County Commissioner Carol McCall, a Growing Change board member and retired social worker, appreciates the intersectionality of the project. “The vision to take something discarded, unsightly, and unproductive and turn it into a working organization that serves a variety of purposes is unprecedented,” she says. “I’m really proud it’s happening right here in my own county.”

A wakeup call at a funeral

Growing Change serves three counties near the southern border of North Carolina in the eastern part of the state. The area is extremely diverse, home to equal parts Native American (primarily members of the Lumbee Tribe), Black, and white residents.

It is also extremely poor: More than a third of the people in the city of Lumberton, located in Robeson County, live below the poverty line; the county’s median household income is $33,700; and approximately 36 percent of the population is on Medicaid, compared with 18 percent nationally. Additionally, 21 percent of the people in Robeson County and 25 percent of the people in Scotland County experience food insecurity.

Compounding matters, these two counties had the worst health rankings in the state in 2019, making residents especially vulnerable to Covid-19. While Scotland County has not been too heavily hit by the virus yet, as of press time Robeson ranks among the top 10 counties in the state for infections, with case numbers on the rise. Because several of the Growing Change youth have underlying respiratory conditions, the group is careful to observe safety protocols — like working in small groups and pausing operations if someone close to them is tested for the virus (which has happened four times so far).

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A tall, thin white man in his early fifties with a long, graying ponytail, Sanford grew up in the area and was working as a social worker and mental health therapist for youth and families in the juvenile justice system when he received an unexpected wakeup call in 2009. A middle-schooler he’d been working with — who was smart, good with people and one of the best running backs Sanford had ever seen — was killed in a gang-related incident.

“I had to be honest with myself that the system had not done everything it could do, that I had not done everything I could do,” says Sanford. As a person of faith, he began to pray and spend structured time thinking about what he and the system could do differently.

At the same time, the old Scotland Correctional Center in Wagram, which he’d driven by dozens of times without considering, began to rise in his awareness. He learned that, up until the 1970s, North Carolina had made heavy use of inmates sentenced to chain gangs, including those housed at the Wagram prison, to build the state’s highways. Most of these prisoners were Black, and many had only been convicted of minor crimes. In 1979, North Carolina had more prisons and the highest incarceration rate of any state in the country.

prison farmNoran Sanford founded Growing Change in 2011 to help the youth he was working with as a mental-health therapist and social worker avoid the criminal justice system.

When Sanford presented his idea of reclaiming the abandoned property, many of the young people he worked with thought he was “kind of kooky,” remembers Terrence Smith, who was part of the first cohort of 12 and is now the other salaried employee of Growing Change.

But once Sanford walked the young men through the property, handed them the keys and asked them, “What do we do with this?” they grew excited about the possibilities, Smith says.

Instilling hope in people and place

In addition to providing off-site therapy, Growing Change puts youth in charge of creating and carrying out a collective vision for the former prison, situated on a 67-acre parcel a couple miles outside Wagram’s tiny downtown.

Although the master plan will take years to achieve, a number of elements are already in place: The current nine participants are keeping bees, rotationally grazing a herd of sheep they will use for wool and meat, caring for a flock of laying hens, composting food waste, tending a garden with organic methods, and managing vermiculture and soldier fly operations.

prison farmThe Scotland Correctional Facility, abandoned since 2001, sits on 67 acres outside of Wagram, North Carolina.

Down the road, they hope to create aquaponic tanks and cultivate mushrooms (in former prison cells) and introduce a certified community kitchen (in the galley), a prison history museum (in the barracks), a climbing wall (up a guard tower), a recording studio (in the freestanding hot box building), and staff quarters and office space.

A central focus of their efforts is giving back to their community. During the first few years, participants tended a garden and distributed free boxes of produce and flowers to their food-insecure neighbors. And when the pandemic hit in March, the youth partnered with various agencies including Carolina Farm Stewardship to distribute boxes of food to people in need, including restaurant workers and furloughed hospital staff. They also planted a new garden on the former prison softball field that they will harvest in late summer and donate.

This direct service allows outsiders to begin seeing the young men differently, Sanford explains. He also arranges opportunities for them to present the prison-flip model they’re developing to university and government leaders across North Carolina, as well as at places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“What traditional therapy often doesn’t touch is … the community,” Sanford says. “There has to be some kind of social efficacy developed, that [community members] can have confidence that these young people can change. They have to make a place for them at the table.”

prison farmRobin Patel exits the former guard tower the youth plan to flip into a community climbing wall.

Admittedly, Growing Change is ambitious. But it all fits in to how Sanford — who has won multiple awards and fellowships over the years, including the Soros Justice Fellowship in 2015 and the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016 — sets out to solve problems. “This is a systems approach,” he says. “I’m a systems practitioner, really.”

Davon Goodwin, an Army-veteran-turned-farmer who became involved with Growing Change after getting injured in Afghanistan in 2010, sees agriculture as a perfect fit for the youth, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) like he does. Farming can provide a refuge and sense of purpose for people who are struggling with trauma, he says.

“I don’t know what it is about soil, but it changes you — it humbles you, and it brings a sense of calm that the youth need,” says Goodwin, who sits on the Growing Change board, runs the Sandhills AGInnovation Center and credits farming for setting him on a good path during a dark time. “When you’re growing food, there’s fellowship that happens that doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

In addition to rehabilitating the youth and transforming the dark, oppressive space in Scotland County into something beneficial, Sanford hopes to provide a model for other places looking to do the same. Across the U.S., more than 300 prisons have been decommissioned, including 62 in North Carolina alone. Most are in poor, rural areas and have closed because of the declining number of inmates in the U.S., the consolidation of many smaller prisons into fewer larger ones, and, at least in North Carolina, Sanford says, a number of reforms affecting when people are sent to prison.

prison farmThe youth run the vermiculture and composting operations out of the former prison barracks, which contain rows of cells.

“At the core level, we are instilling hope,” Sanford continues. “When hope is gone, it creates a pretty vicious void that a lot of other grimmer things can get pulled into. And as low-wealth rural America is left further behind, then that vacuum is stronger. We’re breaking that stream.”

At work on the farm

After the released sheep settle into grazing, Garcia-Lopez heads back into the prison yard to start on another project, tying the chain-link gate shut behind him with a thick rope. A rooster crows.

“I’ve been here almost a year, and I’ve seen so much progress,” says the 17-year-old, wearing a black fleece jacket and blue jeans. “It’s neat seeing stuff coming together, even the small things.”

The teens, who are paid hourly, spend one dedicated day a week, plus additional work periods, on the farm. On this Saturday morning, multiple projects unfold across the flat yard and inside the brick barracks building full of steel-barred cells.

Over the past few weeks, the youth have built a minivan-sized chicken tractor out of wire and PVC pipe they salvaged from the prison drain field. Today, a few of them are reinforcing the joints with metal brackets so they can contain the chickens as they start grazing them behind the sheep. In a different corner of the yard, another group patches gaps in the chain-link fence so the roosters, who’ve been antagonizing the hens, can be put in their own “bachelor pad.” And inside the barracks, a third group modifies the aeration system they’ve built for the compost pile housed in a cell formerly used for solitary confinement.

The local cooperative extension and experts at the state’s two land-grant universities, N.C. State University (NCSU) and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, have provided guidance and support through the entire project. Students at the NCSU School of Design helped craft the property’s master plan, and experts in topics like rotational grazing, mycology and vermiculture also guide the youth.

Inside the barracks, Terrence Smith leans over the deep freezer that has been repurposed as a worm bin for a vermicomposting project. Smith uses a hand rake to stir the dark soil, exposing a number of wriggling worms. “I put five pounds of bananas in here a few days ago, and they’ve eaten the crap out of them — there’s only the skins left!” he says, impressed.

prison farmTerrence Smith checks on the worms in the vermiculture operation he’s helping get off the ground with the guidance of an expert at NC State University.

As the youth put the various elements of the massive project in place, Growing Change engages in a constant give-and-take with those around them. They receive around 600 pounds of discarded produce from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) each week; they redistribute the edible portions of that food to food banks, feed other scraps to the chickens and give the spoiled pieces to either the compost pile or the soldier flies, whose larvae they’re raising to help feed the animals.

In all they do, Sanford looks for ways to create revenue streams to help compensate the youth and pay for the program. The farm sells eggs and salad greens to a nearby university, and it plans to sell meat and wool from the sheep as well. Though the garden they’re tending this spring will supply free food to the community, they eventually plan to grow the ingredients for chowchow — a recipe that honors the various backgrounds of program participants: collards for the Black youth, tomatoes for the Native Americans, cabbage for the Scotch-Irish, and jalapeños for the Latinos — and offer the product for sale.

“Our county has many challenges,” Dr. Debby Hanmer, Growing Change board chair and founder of the sustainable agriculture program at the nearby UNCP. “I want us to be an example of what sustainable can look like, not just in agriculture, but in all things.”

‘They bring out a better side of me’

While large commodity farms dominate much of the landscape in this part of North Carolina, Garcia-Lopez, like most of the other teens involved, didn’t know much about farming when he became involved a year ago. “My first day, they were like, ‘What do you know about bees?’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely nothing!’” he says. He now helps oversee the beekeeping operation.

Michael “Fluffy” Adyson Strickland became involved two years ago and has also learned many new skills, but his primary charge is to tame the guard donkey, Miss Easter, who was unhandled and extremely skittish when she arrived in 2018.

“I saw her, and I clicked with her — I was one of the only people who could touch her at one point in time,” says the 16-year-old, who wears a hoody and rubber boots and has his thick hair tied up in a knot. “Once I started rubbing her back, Noran was like, ‘Do you want to start taming her?’” Eventually, the program hopes to be able to allow children in the community to pet the donkey.

“When I got here, it opened my eyes,” says Strickland. He might like to pursue environmental science, with the aim of being able to help other people care for the environment, he says.

prison farmMichael Adyson Strickland, Logan Stern, and Robin Patel (left to right) transfer roosters to a different part of the prison yard at the end of a work day.

The most powerful aspect of the program for Ryan Morin, a 15-year-old with side-swept hair and a tie-dye T-shirt, has been the relationships he’s developed with the other participants. “We were all in a compromised position [when we arrived], which left us vulnerable,” he says. “The first people we encountered, we found a special bond with them. They bring out a better side of me; they have shown me who I really am and what I can become.”

So far, the program has proven effective at its central goal of keeping young men out of prison—for the 24 youth involved over the five-year period from 2011 to 2016, an internal study found it was 92 percent effective at preventing recidivism and adult incarceration.

Some say that the ultimate impact can’t be determined until years from now, once the “troubled” youth have grown up more and charted their own paths. But Sanford says he has seen noteworthy changes. “You see youth who are learning how to work successfully; they are being able to get control of substance abuse patterns; they are working through and stabilizing some of their interpersonal relationships … And you see some healing within some family systems.” Additionally, Sanford says, participants have gone on to attend college, join the military and secure steady employment.

A decade after getting involved at the age of 14, Smith is a shining example. He grew up in an abusive household and, after being put on probation in seventh grade, was ordered to work with Sanford as a therapist.

The program “helped me stay grounded enough to complete high school — and look forward to something afterward,” Smith says. It also taught him to carry himself in a way that people respect and respond to.

Creating a model to share

In hopes of helping others replicate the model, Sanford is in the process of creating an open-source prison-flipping model with step-by-step instructions and online resources. He is planning to distribute it to each of the 300 communities with a closed prison later this year via the national cooperative extension system.

Sanford hopes to help others in rural America convert spaces meant to confine and punish into spaces that nourish and rehabilitate. “If you look at a lot of these issues, especially around incarceration, it’s [been] a 90 percent urban conversation,” says Sanford. He wants to see that change.

At end of the day, the young people wrap up their projects and gather in the area being secured for the roosters. Strickland and two other young men retrieve the orange birds from their pens and set them down; two immediately begin to fight, fluffing their feathers and jumping toward each other. The young men hover, tempted to intervene. “Let ’em go,” Sanford says. “They’ve got to work this out.”

This story originally appeared in Civil Eats. It is part of the SoJo Exchange of COVID-19 stories from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

The post The Youth Who Turned a Prison Into a Farm appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Black Cross: A Proposal for an Abolitionist Prisoner Support Group

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/07/2020 - 5:47pm in

image/jpeg iconBlack Cross.jpg

A proposal for a Black Cross, an abolitionist prisoner support group that seeks to abolish prisons and police.

With the Terror Bill now becoming Terror Law, we can expect an increase of arrests and suppression from the State.... The proposal for an abolitionist prisoner support group is made more urgent by the day as more and more are imprisoned and incarcerated for speaking truth to power.

Simoun Magsalin

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A Mental Health Service for Inmates that Reduces Recidivism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 7:00pm in

The odds of being pulled back into the criminal justice system once you’ve been in it are high — nearly 70 percent go back within three years. To break that cycle, Washington D.C. is trying something new: helping justice-involved individuals beat those odds by changing their thinking patterns, which could modify their behavior, and ultimately, their outcomes.

In addition to career training, housing support, mental health counseling, and substance abuse treatment, the city is in the process of piloting Thinking for a Change (T4C), an evidence-based cognitive behavior change program that addresses “criminogenic needs” — the patterns of thinking that can lead people to make irrational decisions, which can lead to incarceration.

“For people who have convinced themselves that they’re not going to be able to get a job, and that selling drugs is a much more effective way to make a living … Or their parents were incarcerated, and they think, ‘Well, that’s just who I am…,’ this is a program that could work,” said Brent Kiser, an executive fellow with FUSE Corps, a national nonprofit that matches professionals from the private sector with jobs in local government, who has been working with the District’s Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to strengthen services for justice-involved people.

As recent events in Minneapolis and elsewhere have once again made clear, endemic racism and unaccountable policing are major factors in people becoming justice-involved in the U.S. So are economic systems that perpetuate wealth inequality. T4C is just one element of a broader structural transformation that can improve outcomes for people who are at risk of becoming trapped by the criminal justice system.

T4C, which consists of 25 facilitated group sessions of eight to 12 participants, helps this population reflect upon the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that might be contributing to criminal behavior. It also addresses developing social skills, non-confrontational ways of resolving conflict and problem-solving by helping people role-play different challenging scenarios and build coping strategies.

“We need to provide services that are specifically tailored to justice-involved individuals. When you don’t do that, there’s a big gap in service delivery. You’re missing out on an opportunity to help people,” Kiser said.

Juliana Taymans, a co-author of T4C who has conducted training in more than 40 states, illustrated the benefits of the program by recounting a story about a former T4C participant who was walking to the bus one morning on his way to work and started feeling very hungry. “He didn’t have enough money to both buy something to eat and pay the bus fare,” she said. At first, the young man saw only two choices. He could buy food with the money he had and then sneak onto a crowded bus, hoping not to get caught. Or he could pay the bus fare, stay hungry and be miserable all morning.

Among other things, the T4C program teaches participants to look beyond the options that immediately come to mind. “As he thought about it, he realized there was a third choice. He could pay for the bus, go to work and ask to borrow a few dollars from a coworker to get some breakfast,” said Taymans. “He knew it was a gamble, but it was one that probably wouldn’t lead to trouble. He made that choice, and it ended up working for him.”

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Developed in 1997, T4C is considered a model intervention for justice-involved individuals. Studies on T4C and cognitive behavior therapy have found that people who complete the program have fewer probation violations, show significant improvements in social skills and problem-solving abilities, and recidivate less. One study, published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation in 2006, found that 33 percent fewer participants who completed a year of T4C committed new offenses.

Like most things in life, T4C is not a silver bullet. “It’s just one element of what needs to be addressed in order for people to successfully reenter their communities,” said Kiser. “You have to consider important things like housing and job preparation.” But none of this matters, said Kiser, if programs don’t simultaneously help people take a new approach to how they address day-to-day challenges.

Uncovering What’s Needed

When Kiser started at DBH, he joined its newly formed Forensic Services Division, which focuses on the needs of justice-involved individuals. After meeting with dozens of internal and external stakeholders to find out what was — and wasn’t — working, he discovered that no standardized protocols existed for the more than 60 core service agencies the District contracts with for clinical services. “We weren’t really sure what qualities these service providers had, and whether they were adequately meeting the needs of our justice-involved clients,” said division director Chad Tillbrook.

Another issue was a lack of evidence-based programming dealing specifically with criminogenic needs. Kiser knew about the T4C program from his work at a federal prison in Kentucky, where he had helped develop a residential drug-treatment program. “Part of this program was helping people address the way they were thinking about certain things,” said Kiser. “So, my question when I came here was, ‘Are treatment providers locally doing that?’”

They weren’t — at least not with an evidence-based, highly structured curriculum like T4C. So Kiser reached out to the National Institute of Corrections, which has a cooperative agreement with T4C to provide facilitator training to eligible criminal justice professionals and government contractors at no cost. Last summer, the Institute held initial training for about 85 staff from the District’s core service agencies. “I wanted to see what local staff would think about the program, and if they thought the concept was something that would be beneficial for them and their clientele,” said Kiser.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. In a survey that Kiser administered after the training, more than half of attendees said they were interested in receiving more advanced training. One of those attendees was Johari Eligan, director of DBH’s Access Helpline, a 24-hour telephone service that connects people to behavioral health services. “I wanted to know more about the program so that we could share that resource with justice-involved individuals who call us,” she says.

Her team of behavioral health specialists receives referrals through a jail liaison, who lets them know when people are coming up on their release dates and might need services. Formerly incarcerated individuals also call the Helpline directly.

“What I liked about the training was that it really emphasized getting individuals to slow down their thinking and reactions,” Eligan says. For example, attendees were asked to complete a “thinking report,” in which they described a situation that challenged them and then reflected on the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that surfaced. They then role-played how they might react in that situation. The training provided a clear understanding of what the T4C services can offer, says Eligan, who shared examples and handouts from the training with her team.

Kiser is now looking to expand the training to more core service agencies. Because of limited capacity and other restrictions, the National Institute of Corrections was not able to come in for a second training, making it necessary to contract with T4C directly. DBH had some mental health block grant funds, Kiser said, so he wrote a proposal, and the agency director approved their use to pay for Taymans to do the training. The funding is currently going through the administrative process, and Kiser hopes to conduct the next training once coronavirus restrictions are lifted and the session can be done safely.

In consultation with Taymans, Kiser determined the best program for the department’s clientele would be a shorter, more flexible version of the original T4C program called Decision Points. Rather than 25 closed-group lessons that build upon each other, Decision Points condenses the content of the full course into five stand-alone lessons that anyone can attend. That flexibility is important, because turnover in the criminal justice system is high, and justice-involved individuals often move from one facility to another within the system.

To implement T4C programming as widely as possible, the department is using a “train the trainer” model, in which core service agency staff will be trained not only to facilitate T4C sessions, but to teach others how to facilitate as well. Because turnover among front line staff at core service agencies can be high, DBH is seeking to train middle and upper management. “If we impart the importance of these programs and give leaders the tools to effect change within their own agencies, then we can make this more sustainable,” said Tillbrook.

Ultimately, the department seeks to coordinate and broaden the services available for justice-involved individuals so that they are less likely to reoffend. “If this is really working, they won’t be coming back into the system,” Kiser said. “That’s ultimately why you’re doing it.”

This story was produced by FUSE Corps and originally appeared in Next City.

The post A Mental Health Service for Inmates that Reduces Recidivism appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners in Tangerang and Bekasi in Indonesia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/06/2020 - 7:39pm in


Indonesia, Asia, prison

image/jpeg iconC5Q6DfdVMAAf5uN.jpeg

Anti Feminist Feminist Club, an anarcho-feminist collective in Indonesia, sent us this message asking for support for anarchist prisoners in Indonesia. We are reproducing this message.

There's a crisis already, time to burn. Fight or perish.

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80s Space Comedy From Two of the Goodies

Astronauts, written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, 13 episodes of 25 minutes in length. First Broadcast ITV 1981 and 1983.

I hope everyone had a great Bank Holiday Monday yesterday, and Dominic Cummings’ hypocritical refusal to resign after repeatedly and flagrantly breaking the lockdown rules aren’t getting everyone too down. And now, for the SF fans, is something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

Astronauts was a low budget ITV sitcom from the very early ’80s. It was written by the two Goodies responsible for writing the scripts for their show, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and based on the personal conflicts and squabbling of the American astronauts on the Skylab programme six years earlier. It was about three British astronauts, RAF officer, mission commander and pilot Malcolm Mattocks, chippy, left-wing working-class engineer David Ackroyd, coolly intellectual biologist Gentian Fraser,and their dog, Bimbo,  who are launched into space as the crew of the first all-British space station. Overseeing the mission is their American ground controller Lloyd Beadle. Although now largely forgotten, the show lasted two seasons, and there must have been some continuing demand for it, because it’s been released nearly forty years later as a DVD. Though not in such demand that I didn’t find it in DVD/CD bargain catalogue.

Low Budget

The show’s very low budget. Lower than the Beeb’s Blake’s 7, which often cited as an example of low budget British science fiction. There’s only one model used, that of their space station, which is very much like the factual Skylab. The shots of their spacecraft taking off are stock footage of a Saturn V launch, the giant rockets used in the Moon landings and for Skylab. There also seems to be only one special effects sequence in the show’s entire run, apart from outside shots. That’s when an accident causes the station to move disastrously out of its orbit, losing gravity as it does so. Cheap matte/ Chromakey effects are used to show Mattocks rising horizontally from his bunk, where he’s been lying, while Bimbo floats through the bedroom door.

Class in Astronauts and Red Dwarf

It’s hard not to compare it with the later, rather more spectacular Red Dwarf, which appeared in 1986, three years after Astronaut’s last season. Both shows centre around a restricted regular cast. In Red Dwarf this was initially just Lister, Holly and the Cat before the appearance of Kryten. Much of the comedy in Red Dwarf is also driven by their similar situation to their counterparts in Astronauts – personality clashes in the cramped, isolated environment of a spacecraft. The two shows are also similar in that part of this conflict from class and a Conservative military type versus working class cynic/ liberal. In Red Dwarf it’s Rimmer as the Conservative militarist, while Lister is the working class rebel. In Astronauts the military man is Mattocks, a patriotic RAF pilot, while Ackroyd, the engineer, is left-wing, Green, and affects to be working class. The three Astronauts also debate the class issue, accusing each other of being posh before establishing each other’s place in the class hierarchy. Mattocks is posh, but not as posh as Foster. Foster’s working class credentials are, however, destroyed during an on-air phone call with his mother, who is very definitely middle or upper class, and talks about going to the Conservative club. In this conflict, it’s hard not to see a similarity with the Goodies and the conflict there between the Conservative screen persona of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie’s left-wing, working class character.

Class, however, plays a much smaller role in Red Dwarf. Lister is more underclass than working class, and the show, set further in the future, has less overt references to contemporary class divisions and politics. The humour in Red Dwarf is also somewhat bleaker. The crew are alone three million years in the future, with the human race vanished or extinct with the exception of Lister. Rimmer is an ambitious failure. For all he dreams of being an officer, he has failed the exam multiple times and the B.Sc he claims is Batchelor of Science is really BSC – Bronze Swimming Certificate. Both he and Lister are at the lowest peg of the ship’s hierarchy in Red Dwarf. They’re maintenance engineers, whose chief duties is unblocking the nozzles of vending machines. Lister’s background is rough. Very rough. While others went scrumping for apples, he and his friends went scrumping for cars. The only famous person in his class was a man who ate his wife. The three heroes of Astronauts, however, are all competent, intelligent professionals despite their bickering. Another difference is that while both series have characters riddled with self-loathing, in Red Dwarf it’s the would-be officer Rimmer, while in Astronauts is working class engineer Ackroyd.

Britain Lagging Behind in Space

Other issues in Astronauts include Britain’s low status as a space power. In a speech in the first episode, the crew express their pride at being the first British mission, while paying tribute to their American predecessors in the Apollo missions. The Ealing comedy The Mouse on the Moon did something similar. And yet Britain at the time had been the third space power. Only a few years before, the British rocket Black Arrow had been successfully launched from Woomera in Australia, successfully taking a British satellite into orbit.

Personal Conflicts

There are also conflicts over the cleaning and ship maintenance duties, personal taste in music – Mattocks irritates Ackroyd by playing Tubular Bells, publicity or lack of it – in one episode, the crew are annoyed because it seems the media back on Earth have forgotten them – and disgust at the limited menu. Mattocks is also shocked to find that Foster has been killing and dissecting the mice he’s been playing with, and is afraid that she’ll do it to the dog. Sexism and sexual tension also rear their heads. Mattocks fancies Foster, but Ackroyd doesn’t, leading to further conflict between them and her. Foster, who naturally wants to be seen as an equal and ‘one of the boys’ tries to stop this by embarrassing them. She cuts her crew uniform into a bikini and then dances erotically in front of the two men, before jumping on them both crying ‘I’ll have both of you!’ This does the job, and shames them, but Beadle, watching them gets a bit too taken with the display, shouting ‘Work it! Work it! Boy! I wish I was up there with you boys!’ Foster also objects to Mattocks because he doesn’t help his wife, Valerie, out with the domestic chores at home. Mattocks also suspects that his wife is having an affair, which she is, in a sort-of relationship with Beadle. There’s also a dig at the attitudes of some magazines. In the press conference before the three go on their mission, Foster is asked by Woman’s Own if she’s going to do any cooking and cleaning in space. Beadle and his team reply that she’s a highly trained specialist no different from the men. The joke’s interesting because in this case the butt of the humour is the sexism in a certain type of women’s magazine, rather than chauvinist male attitudes.

Cold War Espionage

Other subjects include the tense geopolitical situation of the time. Mattocks is revealed to have been running a secret espionage programme, photographing Russian bases as the station flies over them in its orbit. The others object, and Ackroyd is finally able to persuade Beadle to allow them to use the technology to photograph illegal Russian whaling in the Pacific. This is used to embarrass the Russians at an international summit, but the questions about the origin of the photos leads to the espionage programme being abandoned. The crew also catch sight of a mysterious spacecraft in the same orbit, and start receiving communications in a strange language. After initially considering that it just might be UFOs, it’s revealed that they do, in fact, come from a lonely Russian cosmonaut. Foster speaks Russian, and starts up a friendship. When Mattocks finds out, he is first very suspicious, but then after speaking to the Russian in English, he too becomes friends. He’s the most affected when the Russian is killed after his craft’s orbit decays and burns up re-entering the atmosphere.

Soft Drink Sponsorship

There are also digs at commercial sponsorship. The mission is sponsored by Ribozade, whose name is a portmanteau of the British drinks Ribeena and Lucozade. Ribozade tastes foul, but the crew nevertheless have it on board and must keep drinking it. This is not Science Fiction. One of the American missions was sponsored by Coca Cola, I believe, and so one of the space stations had a Coke machine on board. And when Helen Sharman went into space later in the decade aboard a Russian rocket to the space station Mir, she was originally to be sponsored by Mars and other British companies.

God, Philosophy and Nicholas Parsons

The show also includes arguments over the existence or not of the Almighty. Mattocks believes He exists, and has shown His special favour to them by guiding his hand in an earlier crisis. Mattocks was able to save them, despite having no idea what he was doing. Ackroyd, the sceptic, replies that he can’t say the Lord doesn’t exist, but can’t see how God could possibly create Nicholas Parsons and Sale of the Century, one of the popular game shows on ITV at the time, if He did. As Mattocks is supposed to be guiding them down from orbit, his admission that he really didn’t know what he was doing to rescue the station naturally alarms Foster and Ackroyd so that they don’t trust his ability to get them down intact.

Red Dwarf also has its jokes about contemporary issues and politics. Two of the most memorable are about the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer being covered with a gigantic toupee, and the despair squid, whose ink causes its prey to become suicidal and which has thus destroyed all other life on its world in the episode ‘Back to Reality’. Other jokes include everyone knowing where they were when Cliff Richard got shot. Red Dwarf, however, is much more fantastic and goes further in dealing with philosophical issues, such as when Rimmer is incarcerated in a space prison where justice is definitely retributive. If you do something illegal, it comes back to happen to you. This is demonstrated when Lister follows Rimmer’s instruction and tries to set his sheets alight. He shortly finds that his own black leather jacket has caught fire.


Red Dwarf is able to go much further in exploring these and other bizarre scenarios as it’s definitely Science Fiction. Astronauts is, I would argue, space fiction without the SF. It’s fictional, but based solidly on fact, including generating gravity through centrifugal force. But critically for any comedy is the question whether its funny. Everyone’s taste is different, but in my opinion, yes, Astronauts is. It’s dated and very much of its time, but the humour still stands up four decades later. It had me laughing at any rate.