December 8, 2016 IAHR Newsletter
This week the IAHR Newsletter Includes Two Announcements, One Major News Article, and Two Appeals
Two Important Upcoming Public Programs for Maryland Residents
NY Times: The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons
Release Bradley Maxwell from Solitary Confinement in Virginia
Remember to Support IAHR with a Donation
The Open Society Institute–Baltimore will host a summit designed to create a community-driven blueprint for the new mayor and city council to address some of Baltimore’s most intractable issues.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Saturday, December 10, 2016 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
War Memorial Building, 101 N. Gay Street, Baltimore, MD 21202
Sherrilyn Ifill, Catherine Pugh, and Kurt Schmoke
The event is free and open to the public.
For more information about the event, please click here.
Maryland’s Pretrial Justice System: How to Fix It
A community forum on the problems of Maryland’s bail bond system
WHEN AND WHERE?
Monday, 12/19/16, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
Beth El synagogue (Kolker Room), 8101 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, Md. 21208
Phil Caroom-former prosecutor, defense lawyer, juvenile “master,” and retired Maryland trial judge
Delegate Shelly Hettleman- District 11- Md. House of Delegates
Donald Zaremba- District Public Defender for Baltimore County
Rev. Marvin Silver, Assoc. Conference Minister, Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ
- Even before their “day-in-court,” over 6,000 Marylanders daily wait in jail ---held only due to poverty as they cannot afford excessive money bail -- on average over $20,000.
- Awaiting trial, young people lose jobs, housing, and stress family-ties to the breaking point. Disproportionately, African-Americans and other minorities are impacted.
- Other U.S. states and regions have made major pretrial improvements –also saving taxpayer funds, improving public safety, and strengthening communities.
- Maryland’s General Assembly convenes Jan 11, 2017 and with your support we can make a difference. Find out how about proposed changes and what you can do.
On Sunday and Monday, December 4 and 5, 2016, the NY Times ran two lengthy articles on the New State prison system. The first article addresses how pervasive racism is within the NY prison system. The second article describes and documents how racism pervades decisions on granting parole.
The first is significant for IAHR because it paints a stunning picture of how racism affects decisions regarding who is sent to isolation. Here are some of the relevant passages from the article.
- At Clinton, a prison near the Canadian border where only one of the 998 guards is African-American, black inmates were nearly four times as likely to be sent to isolation as whites, and they were held there for an average of 125 days, compared with 90 days for whites.
- The disparities (in discipline) were often greatest for infractions that gave discretion to officers, like disobeying a direct order. In these cases, the officer has a high degree of latitude to determine whether a rule is broken and does not need to produce physical evidence. The disparities were often smaller, according to the Times analysis, for violations that required physical evidence, like possession of contraband.
- The agency (the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision) said that some racial disparities, like black inmates spent more time in solitary confinement than whites, could be explained by data The Times did not have access to—most important, prisoners’ full disciplinary histories. But the department provided no data to contradict The Times’ findings of a systemwide imbalance in discipline.
- The Times analyzed 59,354 disciplinary cases from last year. Systemwide, black inmates were 30 percent more likely to get a disciplinary ticket than white inmates. And they were 65 percent more likely to be sent to solitary confinement, where they are held in a cell for 23 hours a day.
- Race magnifies their problems. Of the 100 inmates statewide who were sentenced to the most time in solitary last year, more than half were minorities who at some point had been treated in prison mental health programs, according to the Times analysis.
This article paints the picture in great detail of what it means to be an African-American in one of the largest state prison systems. It also gives the reader a real sense of how decisions to send a prisoner to solitary confinement are often arbitrary and prejudiced.
The situation in New York is not that different than the prisons in Maryland and Virginia. In both states, great majorities of African-American prisoners are supervised by white correctional officers. In both states the overwhelming percentage of correctional officers are white. In both states, IAHR has gathered evidence that prisoners can be sent to solitary confinement for months, sometimes, years.
The staff and the IAHR board urge you to read both NY Times articles: The Scourge of Racial Bias in NY State’s Prisons and For Blacks Facing Parole in New York State, Signs of a Broken System.
Bradley Maxwell, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, has spent most of the last 15 years in “segregation” (solitary confinement) in Virginia prisons. For the first 10½ years, he was kept in solitary confinement because he refused to cut his hair for religious reasons.
Most recently, he has been in isolation continuously since October 4, 2015, without an explanation of the duration of his isolation or how much longer it will continue. This is inconsistent with international human rights standards and the Justice Department’s January 2016 guidelines for the use of “restrictive housing.”
We urge the Virginia Department of Corrections to either: (1) ensure that Bradley Maxwell is immediately released from segregation, or (2) provide him with a clear and complete explanation of why he cannot be immediately released from segregation, along with a path and a timeline for him to transfer to a less restrictive environment.
Please sign IAHR's petition to release Bradley from Solitary Confinement by clicking here.
If you believe that in the image of God resides in every human being and if you believe that every human being has the capacity to change, then support IAHR.
If you want to end the abuse of solitary confinement, counter anti-Islamic bigotry, and oppose the reintroduction of state sponsored torture, stand with Interfaith Action for Human Rights today. We need you with us.
Your support will help ensure that, in the weeks and months ahead, we're able to:
- Push for legislation in Maryland to put limits on how long a prisoner can remain in solitary confinement
- End cruel and unusual punishments in Lewisburg and other federal prisons.
- Expand our coalition in Virginia to end prolonged solitary confinement in Red Onion and Wallens Ridge Prisons.
- Promote more fully our banner campaign to counter anti-Muslim bigotry
We're going to have to work vigorously and constantly for the dignity of every human being. Your support today will go a long way in helping us prepare for the challenges to come. We will not allow our efforts to flag, and we need to know that you are with us now.
Thank you for your continued support and commitment — and thank you for standing with IAHR.