Journalist Barrett Brown Receives 30 More Days of Solitary Confinement in Prison

Barrett Brown

Jailed journalist and activist Barrett Brown has received 30 more days of solitary confinement in the prison, where he is serving a five-year and three-month sentence issued against him in January.

Brown, who had been put in “the hole” at the Fort Worth Correctional Institution previously, was put in solitary confinement in late June after staff “singled” him out “for a search” of his locker and “found a cup of homemade alcohol.”

As the Free Barrett Brown group indicated on July 20, Brown “had a hearing on his infraction and received an extra 30 days in the hole, plus 90 days of phone, visiting, commissary and email restriction.”

Brown was also informed that he was “placed on Central Inmate Monitoring,” which is a program that enables the Bureau of Prisons to apply more scrutiny to prisoners.

Central Inmate Monitoring (CIM) is for prisoners who “present special needs for management.” A copy of the 2007 policy indicates inmates are given this designation “so that critical decisions about their cases are carefully reviewed.” It is supposed to make the “institution environment” more “safe” by “case management decisions based on accurate information and sound correctional judgment.”

For example, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was sentenced to prison for 23 months for confirming the name of a covert agent to a reporter, was designated for CIM after he wrote his first “Letter from Loretto.”

The institution felt it had to apply this designation to Kiriakou because of his ability to have letters from prison published by Firedoglake and covered by various media organizations. Prison officials had mail he received opened. Officers would severely damage mail he received from supporters. His emails were also delayed multiple days.

Kiriakou was considered “dangerous,” according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. One document marked “FOIA Exempt: Do Not Release to Inmate,” warned, “PUBLICITY—Inmate has broad access to the press. Attached are articles in which inmate has been mentioned.”

Like Kiriakou, Brown has broad access to the press. He has been writing satirical columns from prison. This upsets BOP because it makes it harder to isolate and control Brown as a prisoner. (more…)

‘Come Back When You’re Dangerous’: How Police Are Failing The Mentally Ill

Natasha McKenna (Courtesy of Natasha McKenna’s family)

This post was originally published at MintPressNews.com.

Natasha McKenna was killed in February by a Special Emergency Response Team officer at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center in Virginia. She had been shot four times with a taser while her hands were cuffed behind her back, her legs shackled, and a mask secured to her face to prevent her from spitting.

The Washington Post reported that her last words were, “You promised you wouldn’t hurt me!”

The Fairfax County Police Department released the findings of an investigation into the death of the 37-year-old woman on Monday. Video of the incident has not been released to the public.

The official cause of death, as reported in April by the FCPD, is: “Excited delirium associated with physical restraint including use of conductive energy device.” Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are also listed as contributing causes.

The official “manner” of death, however, is ruled an “accident” in the autopsy report.

In other words, the SERT officer accidentally killed McKenna, who is survived by a 7-year-old daughter.

This seems typical for the way that black and brown people are treated by law enforcement in the United States – unarmed persons are killed, and the offending officers walk away with, at the most, a slap on the wrist.

Matthew Fogg, a retired chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service, agrees.

“As a Marshal and having handled prisoners, thousands of prisoners, in my career, this seems like it was an unnecessary use of force,” Fogg, who has no professional connection to McKenna’s case, told MintPress News. “You’re talking about a female here, only 130 pounds, and you’ve got her restrained, and you’re tasing her!”

“Why so much force?” (more…)

Obama Finally Acknowledges Mass Incarceration But Proposes Reforms That Leave Failed ‘War on Drugs’ Intact

Obama at NAACP 106th Annual Convention

For the first time in President Barack Obama’s administration, he used the phrase “mass incarceration” in a speech and appropriately called attention to the disproportionate impact incarceration has on black and Latinos in the United States.

The president also proposed several policy solutions that could potentially diminish the level of widespread injustice millions, especially nonviolent drug users, have endured. However, Obama declined to call for an end to the “War on Drugs” and proposed solutions would leave most of this destructive and failed strategy intact.

Mass incarceration makes our country worse off, and we need to do something about it,” Obama declared during remarks at the NAACP’s 106th Annual Convention in Philadelphia. 

Obama highlighted statistics that were probably all too familiar to those who have read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

…The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Think about that. Our incarceration rate is four times higher than China’s. We keep more people behind bars than the top 35 European countries combined. And it hasn’t always been the case — this huge explosion in incarceration rates. In 1980, there were 500,000 people behind bars in America — half a million people in 1980. I was in college in 1980. Many of you were not born in 1980 — that’s okay. (Laughter.) I remember 1980 — 500,000. Today there are 2.2 million. It has quadrupled since 1980. Our prison population has doubled in the last two decades alone…

Those are stunning statistics the country should not ignore. It is hugely important that a US president finally talked about this issue openly.

Obama also said, “In recent years the eyes of more Americans have been opened to this truth. Partly because of cameras, partly because of tragedy, partly because the statistics cannot be ignored, we can’t close our eyes anymore. And the good news — and this is truly good news — is that good people of all political persuasions are starting to think we need to do something about this.”

There has been a lot of critical activism on the issue of mass incarceration in the past five to six years. Individuals and organizations engaged in that struggle, coupled with the Black Lives Matter movement of the past year, have forced those in power to confront policies that dehumanize and devalue black lives. As Occupy changed the framework of discussion about economic inequality, Black Lives Matter created a space for Obama to talk about a set of issues too often labeled as Black issues and ignored by white America.

“Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. And that is the real reason our prison population is so high,” Obama added. “In far too many cases, the punishment simply does not fit the crime. If you’re a low-level drug dealer, or you violate your parole, you owe some debt to society. You have to be held accountable and make amends. But you don’t owe 20 years. You don’t owe a life sentence. That’s disproportionate to the price that should be paid.”

Obama had put out a “drug control strategy” that aimed to provide treatment for nonviolent drug users instead of simply putting them in jail. But never had he presented all the statistics showing the human and economic cost and connected how the government treats nonviolent drug users to mass incarceration.

Ahead of a planned visit to a federal prison, Obama stated, “We should not tolerate conditions in prison that have no place in any civilized country. We should not be tolerating overcrowding in prison. We should not be tolerating gang activity in prison. We should not be tolerating rape in prison. And we shouldn’t be making jokes about it in our popular culture. That’s no joke. These things are unacceptable.”

The president even highlighted his own Justice Department, noting that the Department now spends one-third of its budget on incarceration. (more…)