The social and political pandemonium following the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is allowing many governmental policies to be implemented with virtually no scrutiny from the general public. The most drastic of these measures to date has been the ability for repressive institutions within the United States government to increase their repression with impunity, particularly the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), law enforcement agencies and the prison system.
Within hours of the September 11th attacks political prisoners and POWs across the country were surgically removed from general population and thrown into Security Housing Units. They were classified as being placed in Administrative Segregation and detained officially "for investigation".
Known to be included in the roundup were Marilyn Buck, Tom Manning, Carlos Alberto Torres, Sundiata Acoli, Richard Williams, Father Philip Berrigan, Kojo Bomani Sababu, Haydee Beltran and Larry Giddings. Also targeted were muslims. These actions were the results of orders that originated in the US Department of Justice and came through the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Depending on the on which institution contacted and the individual political prisoner inquired after, the reason given for this unprecedented denial of access was different, despite the fact that the orders came from one source.
Each institution interpreted the order inconsistently. Some said that any prisoner having explosives on their records were segregated out, other said that it was - as in the case of Father Philip Berrigan - for his own protection. Father Philip Berrigan has never had a threat posed against him by another inmate. Who then was he being protected from? He has since been released to general population. Some, like Marilyn Buck and Tom Manning, were supposedly being held 'for investigation' despite the fact that both of them have been incarcerated for over 20 years. Muslims, in general, have been locked down and in some cases, such as Lewisburg and Leavenworth, remain locked down.
In Lewisburg, PA, for example, political prisoner Larry Giddings was held incommunicado for 21 days. He was finally released on Thursday, october 4th. The muslims that were locked down at the same time he was remain so. Also, known to be still on lock down are political prisoners Sundiata Acoli, Carlos Alberto Torres and Kojo Bomani Sababu. Very effort is being made to determine the status of others.
Political prisoners and prisoners in general have been subjected to lockdowns ostensibly for security reasons before. The big difference in these lockdowns is the fact that they are being denied access to lawyers by phone and/or visits. The right of access to courts has been a fundamental right that has not been violated before. This denial of access to lawyers makes it impossible for them to protest these unjust actions and conditions they are being held under as well as making it impossible for families, friends and supporters to determine how they are.
We submit that the real reasons for the lockdown of these political prisoners and prisoners of war at this time is to further alienate them and criminalize them. The government of the United States continues to deny the existence of political prisoners inside the prisons and jails of this country. They have denied that there are legitimate political struggles for freedom, liberation and human rights going on within the borders of the United States. They have long sought to label those involved in such struggles as "terrorists". We submit that this latest move against the political prisoners and prisoners of war is another step in defining them as terrorist and thereby vindicating themselves in their handling of these people - another step toward criminalizing dissent in the United States. This could only be the logical reason for what is happening here. These people pose no physical threat to the United States, unless the power of reasoned analysis is a threat.
In a paper presented at the 60th International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Conference in August of 1994 Vibeke Lehman, Library Services Coordinator fo the Wisconsin Department of corrections wrote; "In the United States, inmates in both state and federal prisons are guaranteed certain constitutional and civil rights. They include freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, the right to due process, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to adequate medical care, freedom from racial discrimination, and the right to access to the courts. Only in unusual circumstances and fr the sake of safety and security may limitations be imposed on these right." The US government has denied these prisoners these rights without just cause or and without legitimate reason.
US corrections authorities and politicians have traditionally used times of crisis to strip inmates of the few rights they retain and to mete out additional repression to political dissidents. In the wake of the tragic loss of life that we have all witnessed, we have seen the best of humanity as well as the worst. The behavior of those who attempt to use these hard times to strip their fellow human beings of their rights is as criminal as the anti-arab and anti-muslim hate crimes that we have nationally condemned. We need to hold Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Bureau of Prisonsdirectly responsible for these abuses of prisoners' rights.
We call on everyone with a conscious to write to the addresses below to let them know that their actions have not gone unnoticed and to demand an end to the lockdowns and a return the right to mail, visits and counsel to the prison population victimized by September 11th.
General John Ashcroft
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20534
FAX: (202) 514-5331
Phone: (202) 353-1555
Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534
FAX: (202) 514-6620
Phone: (202) 307-6300
S-11 Anti-War Page
Kersplebedeb Political Prisoner/Prisoner of War Page
Kersplebedeb Home Page