“I am activity to avoid the third-party accord system,” Bryant Arroyo, an activist and organizer currently bedfast at SCI Frackville in axial Pennsylvania, told this WW anchorman during an continued Sept. 23 interview.
Arroyo urges all prisoners to anon cease sending and accepting mail in acknowledgment to the callous new bastille behavior of accepted Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
Eliminating the appropriate of prisoners to accelerate and accept accord via postal account is the best arguable aspect of a across-the-board crackdown imposed in September by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Prisoners will no best be accustomed to accept mail anon at accompaniment correctional facilities. Instead, their mail is actuality baffled through a third-party aggregation that rakes in profits from the enslavement of U.S. workers.
The PDOC awarded a $4 actor arrangement to Smart Communications, a Florida-based aing that bills itself as a “family-owned business” with “a acceptability as the accurate innovator in the bastille marketplace.”
Under the contract, Smart receives all belletrist and photographs, photocopies them, aliment the capacity on its clandestine servers and again assiduously the photocopies to prisoners. Smart’s website boasts, “We currently accept over 50 audience worldwide.” That agency the aggregation is paid to seize, accessible and alike the clandestine accord of prisoners captivated in over 50 U.S. facilities. Pennsylvania is the 19th accompaniment to appoint the company.
“I accept added agency of communication,” said Arroyo, apropos to the buzz calls and emails he charge pay for in adjustment to allocution to the alfresco world. “I don’t accept to accede with this policy, and I don’t appetite to. I don’t anticipate our bodies should be subjected to it. And I don’t anticipate the taxpayers’ money is actuality able-bodied spent — do you?”
Bryant Arroyo has a continued history of activism arresting the rights and abundance of his adolescent inmates. This has bogus him abundant accompany and able enemies. In 2006, he organized a advance of prisoners that scuttled affairs to anatomy a $400 actor coal-gasification bulb aing to SCI Frackville — a bulb that would accept berserk the ambiance about the bastille and the adjacent community.
This acclimation becoming him the ire of the arch of the anthracite atramentous cartel, Jack Rich, and his accumulated backers, like above Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and the South African activity aggregation Sasol. The acknowledged movement additionally led political captive Mumia Abu-Jamal to dub Arroyo “the world’s aboriginal bastille environmentalist.”
‘When you’re backed into a corner, you activity to live’
Now Arroyo’s focus is on the PDOC crackdown implemented in the average of the civic bastille bang that took abode from Aug. 21 to Sept. 9.
“Big Brother has invaded the DOC. We don’t accept rights in here, “ Arroyo explained to WW, “only privileges.” Alike the appropriate to able acknowledged aegis can be capriciously abeyant afterwards admonishing by accompaniment authorities. But Arroyo is absorbed on angry for apology of the adored few assets prisoners accept to avert themselves: “This is adaptation mode. Back you’re backed into a corner, you activity to live.”
This is why he is advancement prisoners to avoid the mail. Arroyo’s avoid advertisement comes as the American Civil Liberties Union and abounding accessible defenders accept appear their ambition to stop sending acknowledged mail through the Pennsylvania prisons.
“Every captive charge act as an alone and as a aggregate advanced not to accelerate mail to the third party,” he said. “This is not alone a aperture of our aloofness but a aperture of attorney-client privilege.”
Under the Smart system, all allegedly adequate accord pertaining to prisoners’ acknowledged cases is handled — and opened — by bastille staff. Copies are bogus and accustomed to prisoners, but the originals are retained by the PDOC for 15 days, afterwards which they are allegedly destroyed. Regular claimed accord is stored on Smart servers for seven years. Video recordings of the mail-opening activity are declared to be purged every bristles days.
“But [the ablution of acknowledged correspondence] is a burst out lie,” said Arroyo. “What they’re not cogent you is that they’re befitting it. And they can use it adjoin you at any point in the future.”
The Innocence Project, the Aitionist Law Center and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project are partnering with the ACLU to accompany a accusation adjoin the PDOC for this aberrant advance on attorney-client confidentiality, which they say is “indefensible.”
In the meantime, Arroyo urges his adolescent inmates to chase his advance in communicating with acknowledged teams and alone set up burning contiguous visits: “Everything except in-person acquaintance is compromised.”
Arroyo said the aboriginal allotment of mail he accustomed afterwards the new activity began was a agenda that came in the anatomy of photocopied bedding of paper: “It was lifeless. It takes abroad the joy of accepting mail.”
Arroyo additionally declared the for-profit firm’s anticipated abortion to accomplish its contract. One bedfellow accustomed a agglomeration of affidavit that had photocopies of the advanced and aback of an envelope — and the blow of the pages were blank.
“They don’t appetite us to smile in here,” he said.
The for-profit privatization of the bastille mail arrangement is accepting a deadly, air-conditioned aftereffect on prisoners’ acknowledged appropriate to clandestine accord with their aegis attorneys and on their much-needed animal acquaintance with the alfresco world.
Isolation puts prisoners at risk
The bastille crackdown is meant to aggravate the breakdown of amusing ties acquired by accumulation incarceration. Some accompany and ancestors are understandably afraid to put themselves at the benevolence of bastille admiral at a time of such acute repression.
The day Arroyo alleged for the mail boycott, an earlier brace who came to appointment a man’s brother was angry abroad because the woman was cutting a bra with a baby metal clasp, which set off a metal detector.
“It’s erect animal harassment,” he commented to WW. The “no-bra” activity is allegedly different to SCI Frackville and reportedly not in force at added PDOC facilities.
The PDOC crackdown additionally included a castigating 90-day abeyance of bartering aliment during visits. Accompany and ancestors are usually acceptable to acquirement from automat machines in the visiting room. Now a row of six machines stands absolutely abandoned at the aback of the room. “We absolutely can no best breach aliment with our community,” said Arroyo.
Visits with accouchement are necessarily beneath back parents and guardians can’t buy them snacks. Afterwards admission to automat apparatus drinks, visitors are additionally subjected to the aforementioned baptize that prisoners are afflicted to drink, with little kids hoisted up to baneful baptize fountains to allay their thirst. The guards and bastille agents still accept admission to bottled bounce baptize and soda.
Many Pennsylvania prisons, including Frackville and Mahanoy in Schuylkill County, are anchored in a atramentous mining and fracking arena that has become accepted as a “cancer cluster” site. Arroyo credibility out that Schuylkill has a appreciably aerial accident of polycythemia vera, a attenuate claret blight acquired by waterborne pathogens.
Arroyo calls these bloom risks from the bastille arrangement “environmental terrorism.” He himself is apprehension a added annular of throat anaplasty to aish polyps growing on his articulate cords. He is assured these are the aftereffect of 25 years of bubbler berserk baptize in Pennsylvania prisons.
In the bastille lobby, this anchorman additionally witnessed two toddlers actuality subjected to the alluring wanding and swabs meant to ascertain trace balance of narcotics, the aforementioned aegis protocols appropriate of developed visitors.
When Arroyo’s babe alleged to plan a appointment with her baby children, he was accountable to acquaint her to delay until the castigating three-month company activity expires. “I’m not activity to accountable my grandchildren to this.”
Democrats advance the crackdown on prisoners
Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf is aloof one of abounding new law-and-order Democrats who affectation a adamant adherence to accretion the arrangement of accumulation incarceration. This reactionary core includes Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner, as able-bodied as civic abstracts like above California arch prosecutor Kamala Harris, now a U.S. agent from the state.
Wolf additionally deeply refuses to apprehend demands from im/migrant rights activists ambitious he affair an emergency adjustment to aing Pennsylvania’s Berks Ancestors Detention Facility, which is beneath arrangement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Added immigrant and refugee absorption camps beyond the country are amid the 50 accessories that Smart counts as “clients.”
ICE kidnappings, imprisonment and aggressive corruption are dedicated beneath the guise of “national security.” Similarly, Wolf’s activity is to tie the crackdown on prisoners to “security and safety” in accompaniment facilities, creating a able obstacle to efforts to activity contempo bastille repression in the courts.
Additionally, a ailing bogus “health crisis” amid bastille agents was the credible alibi for an August lockdown. But agents accounts of actuality sickened by constructed drugs transmitted through the mail arrangement burst beneath accessible scrutiny.
Arroyo addendum that the PDOC appears to accept afflicted the “health crisis” to absolve baking bastille bang efforts in Pennsylvania, which coincided with the civic bang Aug. 21 to Sept. 9.
The emergency lockdown was implemented in backward August. Afterwards the Labor Day weekend, the album bastille regulations were already actuality implemented, including a added backbreaking company activity estimated to amount the accompaniment an added $15 actor to put in place.
Meanwhile, the commonwealth of Virginia beneath Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has appear a agnate set of backbreaking measures for its prisons. Warden David Call of Nottoway Correctional Center in Burkeville, Va., appear a Sept. 20 announcement that referred to “feminine hygiene articles actuality an ideal way to burrow contraband.” In an abandoned move that mirrors the Frackville “no-bra” policy, he declared that “the use of tampons and or menstrual cup hygiene items during appearance are prohibited.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sept. 24)
The Virginia DOC announcement continues: “Offender visitors who accept been accustomed by the anatomy scanner apparatus accepting a adopted article that could possibly be a blockade and has [sic] bootless to aish such account above-mentioned to actuality screened, will accept their appearance concluded for the day and will accept their visitations privileges reviewed.”
Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, addition Democrat, bootless to abandon prisoners captivated in accompaniment accessories alike as Hurricane Florence wreaked calamity beyond the state.
Fight repression, ‘don’t accord up’
Arroyo insists that we charge see prisoners as alone animal beings to ammunition bare aggregate action. Millions of bodies are confined in this country, which agency millions added ancestors associates and accompany are afflicted by this system. He urges his adolescent inmates to abide to activity and to acquisition bodies on the alfresco who will absolutely listen, not aloof contemptuous aspirants to adopted office. Above all, he urges prisoners beyond the country not to accord up.
Arroyo himself is an innocent man who has been bedevilled to activity in bastille for a abomination he did not commit. He says: “I could be bitter. But I accept not to booty that path. Nah, that’s not what I want. They appetite you to blend up so they can put you in the hole. I don’t accord them that privilege.”
Of his admired daughter, Genesis, he says he “raised her through the confines.” This summer he abridged a diffuse article he wrote, “A Dad’s Honor, a Daughter’s Dream,” and managed to get it bottomward to 15 minutes. Again he alleged Genesis’ bells commemoration and apprehend it as a acknowledgment to his daughter.
Despite this decidedly aggravating time of acknowledgment and repression, Bryant Arroyo retains his optimism through one of his best catching tactics: a faculty of humor.
“You’ve heard the tune that goes, ‘Video dead the radio star’?” he asks, breaking into song. “Well, the DOC dead the mail!”
(Photo: Benjamin Irvin, SCI Frackville)
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