August 2022 Newsletter
We are very excited about the upcoming performances of "The Box" by the End of Isolation Tour. Those performances will be in Baltimore on August 17 and 18 and in the District on August 20 and 21. Tickets are on sale now from $20 to $50. Please make an effort to attend one of these performances.
Our upcoming "Human Rights at the Prison Door" will be on October 27.
We have included a special letter from prison which highlights how IAHR works behind the scenes to help incarcerated people receive appropriate medical care.
We are also bringing you a special report from the Prison Policy Initiative on where people in Virginia Prisons come from.
Finally, we urge you to support our mid-year appeal by making a donation as soon as possible.
End of Isolation Tour: August 17-21
Save the Date! 4th Annual Human Rights at the Prison Door-October 27
Letter from Prison: Sterling Fisher-Bey
New Data Reveals where people in Virginia Prisons Come From
End Solitary: Support IAHR
End of Isolation Tour will be in Baltimore on August 17 & 18 and in D.C. on August 20 and 21
Many of us are now coming out of isolation, but prisoners are not. For many of us, our fundamental beliefs have shifted during the pandemic, but many policies and structures remain the same. IAHR is a proud supporter of the End of Isolation Tour which uses legislative art to impact unjust policies and structures.
In July, The End of Isolation Tour (EIT) is launching a national, 10-city tour, presented by The Pulitzer Center, to bring immersive, transformative theater to communities across the country on the frontlines of imagining a world without prisons and the torture of solitary confinement. EIT centers around The BOX: a play about solitary confinement written by a survivor in collaboration with other survivors. Nearly half the cast are survivors of incarceration and torture. This tour is how we get these stories into the hands of people who are penning laws. It is how we connect survivors with legislators all across the country.
“Nearly ten years ago, I collected stories from people trapped
in the hellish deep end of prisons across the country.
Now, in a cruel twist of history, there could not be a more powerful
moment to bring these stories back.”
End of Isolation Tour founder, playwright of The BOX, and survivor
We invite you to join us in our support of this powerful project as we prepare for EIT’s tour bus to arrive in Baltimore at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum on August 17 and 18 and in D.C. at the Anacostia Playhouse on August 20 and 21.
Over the last seven years, Gay Gardner, a founder of IAHR and currently IAHR's Special Advisor on Virginia, has corresponded with hundreds of incarcerated men and women in Virginia's prisons. This correspondence reveals thousands of allegations of inadequate medical care and human rights abuses. Below you will find a letter from Mr. Sterling Fisher-Bey who is incarcerated in a Virginia State Prison. In the letter Mr. Fisher-Bey acknowledges IAHR's assistance in helping him receive medical care for a serious condition.
From: STERLING FISHER-BEY
Date: 6/24/2022 11:22:27 PM
To: Gay Gardner
Greetings Ms. Gardner, First Off, I Hope You Are Well Upon Receiving This Brief Missive And All Whom You Care For And Keep Close To Heart Also. I Don't Mean to try Your Patience But I Had To Send This Email So You Would Know How Very Important Your Assistance Really Was To Me.
I Was Called Over to Medical Yesterday, June The 23,2022 By Doctor O. Soon As I Came into The Room He Began Apologizing For The Mix Up And Lack Of Attention To My Medical Needs. I Stayed Calm and Collected And Listened To Him Speak.
He Took Me Through "All" Of My Paperwork And Showed Me That "HE" Had Not Dropped The Ball On Me; It Was The Other Staff's Responsibility, A Mrs. W. Seems As If The Internal Strife Behind The Scenes Is Causing The Inmate Population To Suffer. When We Suffer, "The Angels Come Out In Battle Array." (SMILE) Again He Just Kept Apologizing Shaking My Hand. Finally, We Get Down To Brass Tacks And He Informs Me That The Spot On My Lung Isn't Cancer. The Pains In My Lower Back are Not From A Nerve Issue. What I Have Is A Rare Condition That Isn't Commonly Seen. "MORGAGNI HERNIA" Is What It Is. And It's A Fatal Condition That's Often Misdiagnosed As Pneumonia. The Background Is Too Exhaustive To Write But It's A Very Interesting Read.
The Spot Was in fact A hole In My Lung That Allowed My Intestine To Enter Which Caused My Back Pains And Could Have Killed Me. I Kept Complaining That My lungs Would Not Fill Up With Air And I Could hardly Breath. I Was Told That If I Was Talking Then I Was Breathing. Little Did Anyone (notice) That This Condition Kills By Strangulation/ Suffocation. Had You and Your Organization Not Stepped In, I Hate To Even Think What My End Might Have Been. Doctor O. Said That My CT Scan Results Took So Long To Return Because The Doctors Didn't Know What To Look For. It Took 7 Days Before The Results Came In.
Where people in prison come from:
The geography of mass incarceration in Virginia
One of the most important criminal legal system disparities in Virginia has long been difficult to decipher: Which communities throughout the state do incarcerated people come from? Anyone who lives in or works within heavily policed and incarcerated communities intuitively knows that certain neighborhoods disproportionately experience incarceration. But data have never been available to quantify how many people from each community are imprisoned with any real precision.
But now, thanks to redistricting reform that ensures incarcerated people are counted correctly in the legislative districts they come from, we can understand the geography of incarceration in Virginia. Virginia is one of eleven states that have formally ended prison gerrymandering (while another three states have addressed the practice through their state redistricting commissions), and now count incarcerated people where they legally reside — at their home address — rather than in remote prison cells. This type of reform, as we often discuss, is crucial for ending the siphoning of political power from disproportionately Black and Latino communities, to pad out the mostly rural, predominantly white regions where prisons are located. And when reforms like Virginia’s are implemented, they bring along a convenient side effect: In order to correctly represent each community’s population counts, states must collect detailed state-wide data on where imprisoned people call home, which is otherwise impossible to access.
Using this redistricting data, we found that in Virginia, some of the state’s largest cities — Norfolk and Richmond — are sending the highest numbers of people to prison, but it is smaller cities — like Martinsville, Petersburg, Franklin — and less populous counties — including Buchanan, Lee, Dickenson, and Brunswick counties — that are missing a larger share of their population to incarceration. And a deeper dive into the data shows that even within cities there are dramatic differences in rates of incarceration between neighborhoods, often along racial and socioeconomic lines. These data show that — big or small — every community in Virginia is harmed by mass incarceration.
In addition to helping policy makers and advocates effectively bring reentry and diversion resources to these communities, this data has far-reaching implications. Around the country, high incarceration rates are correlated with other community problems related to poverty, employment, education, and health. Researchers, scholars, advocates, and politicians can use the data in this report to advocate for bringing more resources to their communities.
Momentum is building for Interfaith Action for Human Rights’ campaign to end torture in our region’s prisons and jails. Increasingly bold voices are being raised in our media, our places of worship, and our legislatures demanding change. As a result, the General Assembly in both Maryland and Virginia passed IAHR-initiated legislation in 2022 that brings us closer to ending inhumane solitary confinement. We and our allies have again proven that citizen action can make a critical difference in ensuring human rights!
But the more than 100,000 incarcerated people in our region need us to finish this fight and continue opposing all the many unconscionable abuses in our region’s prisons. I hope that you will consider making a generous gift to help us sustain our momentum. Whatever the amount of your gift, we deeply appreciate your support.
Ending systemic abuses is not enough. IAHR will intensify its focus in the coming year on building support for transforming the penal systems in our region from their current cruelty and futility to a focus on rehabilitation and recovery. Nearly 250 IAHR Pen Pal volunteers will continue to correspond with DC residents imprisoned in federal institutions thousands of miles from home providing, as one incarcerated person put it, “a shining star in my darkness of times.”
We continue to make great progress. The embedded video gives you a taste of the progress we have made over the last seven years.
The need, however, clearly remains. Please help us by making your contribution by clicking here or send your check to Interfaith Action for Human Rights, P.O. Box 55802, Washington, DC 20040.
Justice with Healing,