Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Slavery in Incarceration Nation: How to Organize a Prison Strike: Operation PUSH going down June 19th at a prison near you.??? Push back against the obscene profits made by profiteers off prisoner slave labor

"There are various industries that are run by inmates, and we intend to sit down and refuse to work—have an economic protest, if you would—to bring about change," says one of the nearly 100,000 inmates in the Florida prison system. His words, conveyed through anonymized audio recording, refer to "Operation PUSH," the latest in a series of recent prison strikes challenging the corrections system in the United States. According to the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a prison labor union, the Florida-based strike has reached at least 17 correctional facilities across the state. But according to the Florida Department of Corrections, there is no strike.
This Orwellian contradiction—intended to deter the spread of a movement by denying its very existence—is just one aspect of the difficulties that inmates face as they organize to demand improvements to prison conditions, labor practices, and criminal justice legislation. Even so, organizing among the incarcerated has been growing, aided by outside support and fueled by ingenuity.
The first thing to know about prison strikes is that they are not legally protected. "Inmates are not allowed to organize, due to a threat to the security and good order of institutions," reads the official Federal Bureau of Prisons mandate. Crackdowns on prison labor organizing were challenged as unconstitutional infringements on inmates' rights in a 1977 Supreme Court case Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, but the court overturned a previous judgment in favor of the union, arguing that First and Fourteenth Amendment protections do not extend to prison labor unions.
Yet, despite the lack of legal protection, prison strikes have recently been increasing in frequency, size, and intensity. Operation PUSH is only the latest example of collective action taken by inmates in Florida and beyond. September 9th, 2016, marked the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, where 1,000 inmates protesting for better living conditions and greater political rights were violently suppressed by corrections officers, state police, and national guards, who killed 33 prisoners. Inmates across the country observed the anniversary of the occasion with the largest prison strike in U.S. history, involving prisoners from up to 46 facilities in 24 states, who refused to work, staged hunger strikes, and disrupted operations. Disruptions in Florida were particularly extreme, with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) reporting days-long facility lockdowns, during which inmates were confined to their dorms and all visitors were barred.
Another nationwide strike occurred August 19th, 2017, coinciding with the "Millions for Prisoners March" in Washington, D.C., and related events in 16 other cities, where participants demanded the clause allowing prison slavery be removed from the Thirteenth Amendment. In anticipation, all FDOC institutions were preemptively put on lockdown for an indefinite period—an unprecedented move, according to theMiami Herald.
The recent growth of prison strikes has been bolstered by new systems of outside support. The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, for example, is comprised of both inmates and advocates. Founded in 2014, the IWOC began in response to a request for organizing assistance from the Free Alabama Movement, an inmates' rights group. By exploiting a loophole that allows prisoners to receive union literature (regardless of their inability to legally unionize), advocates began making contact. Corresponding, educating each other, and building relationships through sluggish prison mail, advocates and inmates together created and grew the union.
To date, the IWOC has 800 incarcerated members in 46 different states. It is just one of the primary groups supporting Operation PUSH, alongside other activist organizations pushing for prison reform, such as Supporting Prisoners And Real Change, the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, Dream Defenders, and the National Lawyers Guild, as well as Florida chapters of Black Lives Matter and the Democratic Socialists of America.
Because many of the basic techniques of traditional labor organizing, like holding meetings, are forbidden in prison, it's necessary that inmates be creative. Cole Dorsey is now an outside advocate with the IWOC's Oakland local, but he recalls his experience while incarcerated in Michigan for three years in the early 2000s. As prisoners are permitted to congregate for religious services, he and his fellow inmates met under the auspices of the Nation of Islam.
"We spent time talking about revolutionary politics, how prisons were a vital component of the carceral state, and how we needed to start relying on one another and building cultures of solidarity," Dorsey says.
As a group, their accomplishments ranged from connecting a soon-to-be-released prisoner with resources for housing, therapy, and benefits programs, to coordinating a protest involving the flooding of a cell block. For such secretive organizing, Dorsey points to the importance of "kites": handwritten notes surreptitiously passed between prisoners—or even via guards, if the price is right. Smuggled cell phones have also played a large role, allowing inmates to speak with outside advocates, journalists, and others without being subjected to the prying of prison administrators.
The entrance to Florida State Prison.
The entrance to Florida State Prison.
For their part, outside advocates take their cues from inmates. Operation PUSH, for example, was planned by prisoners independent from the IWOC.
"They asked for help organizing and spreading their campaign, and that is exactly what we do," says Karen Smith, secretary of the IWOC's Gainesville branch.
Advocates act as prisoners' lines to the outside world, conveying messages to family, friends, press, and, in cases of large-scale organizing, inmates at other facilities. They also provide prisoners with financial aid for stamps and writing materials, or to stock up on food and other supplies before a strike. And when repression does occur, advocates contest disciplinary records, coordinate call-in campaigns, and organize public demonstrations.
Regardless of the amount of outside support, prison labor organizing remains dangerous work for inmates. The IWOC reports that dozens of their contacts were placed in confinement prior to demonstrations planned for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Although the FDOC claims no repression has taken place ("There was no punitive action on the work stoppage because it didn't happen—there was no strike," says FDOC Director of Communications Michelle Glady), prisoners' letters to the IWOC attest to being confined, investigated, and threatened for their suspected involvement. In a letter to outside organizers, Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, an IWOC member incarcerated at Florida State Prison in Raiford, accuses the facility's warden of charging him with "inciting or attempting to incite a riot or demonstration" for writing an article about the strike for the anarchist website It's Going Down. Lawyers for Johnson allege that he was tortured in retaliation, locked in an unheated cell for days while temperatures dropped to freezing.
As grim as it may seem, prisoners remain determined to fight. Reached via smuggled cell phone, an anonymous IWOC member incarcerated at a facility somewhere in North Florida reports that Operation PUSH is ongoing, with day-long work stoppages occurring routinely. Smith confirms as much.
"It has taken on a life of its own," she says of Operation PUSH. "Although most of its originators are still in confinement and some are on their way to Close Management [restrictive housing, including solitary], we are hearing from people all around the state engaging in their own direct actions or experiencing retaliation for plotting to."
The next big day of action is set for June 19th—a day that's, not coincidentally, nationally recognized as the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S.
"We know several factions of prisoners who plan to carry on the PUSH demands," Smith says. "Whether it will be reported that way or if we will ever know the actual numbers is another thing."

Monday, May 21, 2018

Braving the Wilderness:Dealing with our (and their) Labels / and the Stereotypes others affix to us after the police knock on our door ,

Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW,
  has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong. Her TED talk—“The Power of Vulnerability”—is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world, with more than thirty million views.  

 Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and treatment   

By Gwenda Willis, PhD, Alissa Ackerman, PhD, & David Prescott, LICSW

The joint MASOC/MATSA conference took place earlier this month in Marlborough, Massachusetts. In a presentation on establishing person-first language across the fields of sexual abuse treatment and prevention, we (Gwen and Alissa) began our session introducing ourselves by several of the labels we hold. Gwen introduced herself as New Zealander, wife, friend, colleague, researcher, clinical psychologist, ATSA member and advocate. Alissa followed with mother, wife, lesbian, friend, colleague, professor, ATSA member, public speaker, advocate, and survivor, among others.

In this interactive presentation, we prompted attendees to explore the labels they use to describe themselves and the people they work with.  Like us, attendees were spouses, parents, clinicians and advocates.  Some were animal lovers and some were music lovers. All participants used positive labels to describe who they are. Next, we asked participants to describe who they work with and we explored which of these might not be self-selected by the very people we work with. Overwhelmingly, the labels we used to describe the individuals we work with were those that our clients might not use to describe themselves. Some of these labels included “victim”, “ex-prisoner”, “sexually violent person” and “offender”.

Importantly, there was agreement that use of such labels in our field is widespread: beyond their use in everyday conversation, such language is rife in the names of treatment programs, agencies, professional organizations and academic publications.  The American Psychological Association (APA), The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and most professional organizations even tangentially related to our field articulate the need for person-first language in their Codes of Ethics, and yet in our field, we tend not to honor this need. Do we have an ethical dilemma? 

As part of our presentation, we considered core ethical principles of helping professionals including respect for human dignity, professional integrity and beneficence and non-maleficence.  We discussed how the “victim” and “survivor” labels might be self-selected by some people and not others, despite similar lived experiences.  Similarly, we acknowledged that some individuals with pedophilic interests self-identify as “pedophiles” while other individuals with pedophilic interests would find the “pedophile” label repulsive. 

We cannot assume which labels people want to use to describe themselves and if we truly honor human dignity, we must call people by what they prefer to be called. It is a matter of basic respect. For example, in our introductions, Alissa used the label “lesbian” to describe herself, while Gwen did not, despite both of us being married to same-sex spouses.

Discussion turned to the inaccuracies that normative labels such as “offender” and “abuser” portray – that anyone assigned such a label has the same (i.e., high) risk of reoffending.  As professionals working to address misperceptions about sexual abuse we highlighted the importance of communicating accurately about individuals who have abused, in the hope that they will have opportunities to live safe, fulfilling and offense-free lives. We turned to labels with scientific validity, including “psychopath” and “pedophile”, and conversation returned to their potential to stigmatize and ostracise.  Finally, we explored how labels might hinder the work we do to promote distance from offending as well as healing from sexual abuse: What messages do the “offender” and “victim” labels communicate?  Possibly that this is how we see you. In the criminological literature, labeling theory suggests that the individuals internalize the labels we use to describe them and often live their lives accordingly.

How might we transcend potentially stigmatizing labels?  We introduced person-first language as an alternative to potentially stigmatizing language, which separates the person (e.g., man, woman, young person, individual, child) from a condition, disorder or behavior (e.g., individual adjudicated for a sexual offense, people who have committed crimes of a sexual nature). 

Labels are commonplace in every-day communication, and when self-selected they can aid communication.  However, assigned to us, labels have potential to stigmatize and harm.  As highlighted by Brene Brown (2017):

“The sorting we do to ourselves and to one another is, at best, unintentional and reflexive.  At worst, it is stereotyping that dehumanizes.  The paradox is that we all love the ready-made filing system, so handy when we want to quickly categorize people, but we resent it when we’re the ones getting filed away” (p. 48)

Person-first language avoids making assumptions about how someone wants to be labeled.  Additional exploration of issues raised in this blog and guidance on person-first language can be found in the 6th edition of the APA Publication Manual (American Psychological Association, 2010) and in Willis (in press).

In some quarters, the push towards person-first language has existed for years. It has occurred in other areas of psychology and human service (Willis, in press) as well as the field of treating adolescents who have sexually abused. Although it has long been known that adolescents can change dramatically over time, it is also worth remembering that adults can, and very often do, change as well. Further, the contexts in which they live their lives can change dramatically as well Now that our field knows what it does about building distance and managing risk, it is clear that the use of labels has now outlived its usefulness. Indeed, it can cause harm.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Brown, B. (2017). Braving the Wilderness. New York, NY: Random House.

Willis, G. M. (in press). Why call someone by what we don’t want them to be? The ethics of labeling in forensic/correctional psychology. Psychology, Crime & Law doi: 10.1080/1068316X.2017.1421640

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Religion in service to Patriarchy creates labels and stereotypes people as 'saints and sinners: Mike Pense is the the face of the Evangelical bigotry driving people away from religion


New research finds that, when evangelical organizations raise their profile by sponsoring a high-profile political campaign, a backlash ensues.

A religious cross is seen as the moon is illuminated by sunlight reflected off the Earth during a total lunar eclipse on October 8th, 2014, in Los Angeles, California.
Religion in America has been rocked in recent decades by two societal shifts: the rise of Christian evangelicals as a right-wing political force, and the increasing number of people who decline to affiliate with any faith tradition.
New research presents evidence that these trends, usually discussed separately, are in fact related. It reports the rate at which people disassociate themselves from religion is higher in states where the Christian right exerts its political muscle.
"Religious attachments fade in the face of visible Christian right policy victories," writes a research team led by Denison University political scientist Paul Djupe. "There is clear evidence that people—probably those without strong relationships with houses of worship—use the Christian right as a proxy for religion as a whole, and discontinue their religious identities as a result."
In the journal Political Research Quarterly, Djupe and his colleagues analyze the intersection of personal faith and religion-driven politics on a state-by-state basis.
Using polling data aggregated by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, they note the percentage of people in a given state who identified as atheist, agnostic, or "nothing in particular" (known collectively as "nones"), and how it has changed since 2006.
"A preponderance of the states appear to have experienced some degree of growth in religious 'nones' in recent years," they report. "This particular pattern holds whether the individual state in question is generally thought of as being a 'red' or 'blue' state."
But the rate of growth varied considerably from state to state—and not in the way one might predict. "Rising 'none' rates are more common in Republican states in this period," they report.
To determine why, the researchers measured the political clout of Christian right organizations in each state (utilizing the expertise of journalists and scholars). They also noted when and where these groups sponsored high-profile initiatives—usually ballot measures to prohibit gay marriage.
The researchers found that, while such efforts were often successful, they created a backlash "that did not redound to the benefit of organized religion in general." They estimate that, in states where such campaigns—and their backers—were widely publicized and debated, "religion lost somewhere between 2 and 8 percent of the population."
"By 2010, a ban (on gay marriage) was in place in 29 states," they write. "These states were more likely to be evangelical, and had smaller populations of 'nones' in them in 2006. But by 2010, that gap between the 'nones' in marriage-ban states and those in states with no marriage ban had been cut in half."
This suggests that, in those traditionally religious states, the anti-gay-rights campaign soiled the name of religion for a significant number of residents, and they responded by stepping away from their former faith.
"The decision to de-identify and disaffilate with religion are not solely individual, psychological processes," Djupe and his colleagues conclude. Rather, that deeply personal shift can be driven by reactions to "specific policy skirmishes that gather public attention and shape decision-making."
The results suggest evangelicals would be wise to consider the consequences of their political advocacy. In a clear case of unintended consequences, it appears to be driving people from the pews.