Written for Viewpoint Magazine, October 2014
Sin Barras is a prison abolition group based in Santa Cruz, California. We are not a registered non-profit, receive no government or foundation funding, and are unstaffed. We say this immediately because we are organizing in a moment of neoliberal non-profits and constant co-optation, so “grassroots” does not get the point across.
We are celebrating a recent victory that has improved medical conditions and treatment inside the Santa Cruz County Main Jail. Our celebration is not an endpoint, but a moment of re-invigorated energy, which we are using to reflect on our strategies and learn our next steps. We are trying to hold systems of incredible violence accountable and at the same time are working to render them obsolete. But one clear takeaway is that a militantand community-oriented direct action led to a year-long grand jury investigation of the inhumane conditions in our local jail. Of course the work continues, because we know deeply that the jail itself is inhumane. (more…)
Statement read at Salinas demonstration August 17th, 2014
Sin Barras (Spanish for “Without Prison Bars”) is a Santa Cruz grassroots organization to abolish prisons and support prisoners’ rights and struggles, part of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB).
Frank Alvarado Jr., murdered by the Salinas Police Department on July 10, was a member of Sin Barras. We met him in April in Watsonville, at the annual Walk to Stop the Silence against childhood sexual abuse. He signed a petition to stop jail and prison expansion and a letter to stop retaliation against CA Prisoner Hunger Strikers who are fighting the torture of long-term solitary confinement and for better conditions. He talked about having been locked up for eleven years and getting out and working to heal from prison trauma. The next week he joined us, spoke openly about his experiences inside and outside of prison, and worked for healing, resources, and rights for Formerly Incarcerated Persons. He took great joy in encouraging and helping everyone he met. (more…)
To Dr. Pushpa Iyer, Professor Edward Laurance and anyone else it may concern:
On October 9th, Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin is scheduled to speak on a panel titled “Police Legitimacy in Communities of Color” presented by the Center for Conflict Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Under Chief McMillin’s command, four unarmed Salinas community members — all Latino men — were shot and killed by officers in a span of four months. Between March and July of 2014, Salinas police officers shot and murdered Angel Ruiz, Carlos Mejia, Osman Hernandez, and our dear friend and activist Frank Alvarado. Mejia and Hernandez were allegedly shot because officers felt threatened by work tools that they were carrying. Ruiz had a pellet gun, and Alvarado had a cell phone.
We believe it is unethical and disrespectful to give Chief McMillin such a privileged voice in a space that is uncritical of his department’s policies and the violence he has continually justified. None of the community activists, family and friends of the murdered men were invited to present on the panel and likely view the space as hostile — given that they would have had to sit across from the person ultimately responsible for these deaths. (more…)
Last week, Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) came to Santa Cruz to facilitate a Letter to the Editor Training. We collectively wrote a letter at the training, Courtney submitted it, and it got published! Check it out:
Published: Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2014 – 8:09 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Sep. 12, 2014 – 10:48 am
Re “Health costs for counties with influx of inmates” (The Public Eye, Sept. 8): Thank you, Brad Branan, for writing a piece that illuminates the disastrous difficulty of asking county jails to provide adequate mental health treatment.
Our county jails are hemorrhaging. For Jerry Brown, realignment has meant the literal shift from prison overcrowding to jail overcrowding.
Let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistake that was made when the state decided to build its health care prison in Stockton, which proved to be a $900 million disaster. To cut health care costs, we must cut incarceration by responding to the War on Drugs as a medical crisis, rather than a criminal issue.
This looks like investing in community-based treatment centers that have a long-term vision of quality healthcare for everyone.
– Courtney Hanson, Santa Cruz
Sin Barras, The Pachamama Alliance, and the Resource Center for Nonviolence is co-sponsoring a ‘Racial Justice & Equity Event‘ with the Santa Cruz County Coalition to End Racism on Thursday October 2nd:
The event will expose the disastrous impact of Mass Incarceration and the “War on Drugs” on impoverished communities,and Communities of Color. We will address Racism in its institutional and structural forms through screening Michelle Alexander’s lecture: “The New Jim Crow” Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
We will begin with a short introduction describing Four Techniques for Revealing Racism, and the Four Levels of Racism, Personal, Interpersonal, Institutional, and Structural.
by Alex Darocy of Santa Cruz Indymedia
To send a strong message that “killer cops” are not welcome in Santa Cruz, community members gathered on August 26 to protest a speaking engagement at Bookshop Santa Cruz featuring Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin. “We are creating a public presence to say loud and clear that the Salinas police chief who oversaw the killings of four Latino men in four months is not welcome in our community,” read a flyer provided by Sin Barras, the Santa Cruz-based organization that called for the demonstration.
Between March and July of this year, four individuals have been killed by officers with the Salinas Police Department.
Outside of the book shop, which is located in downtown Santa Cruz, one demonstrator held a sign that declared, “Salinas: Our Ferguson.”
Several dozen individuals attended the protest, with some traveling from Salinas and other areas in Monterey County to make their voices heard. Organizers say they did not intend to disrupt the speaking event.
Six uniformed Santa Cruz police officers were present at the book shop for security, as was SCPD Deputy Chief Rick Martinez, who personally escorted Chief McMillan in and out of the building and was his driver.
Another sign held by demonstrators read: “Chief McMillin cannot speak for peace while justifying police murder.”
McMillin was invited to speak at Bookshop Santa Cruz by Monterey Herald reporter Julia Reynolds as part of a signing event for her book “Blood in the Fields.” According to the shop’s website, the book documents the history of Operation Black Widow, “the FBI’s questionable decade-long effort to dismantle Nuestra Familia [a criminal organization], along with its compromised informants and the turf wars it created with local law enforcement agencies.” (more…)
Murderers not welcome in our town!
This Tuesday Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin will be in Santa Cruz for an event at Bookshop Santa Cruz featuring Julia Reynolds and her book “Blood in the Fields.”
We are creating a public presence to say LOUD AND CLEAR that the Salinas police chief who oversaw the killings of four Latino men in four months is not welcome in our community.
Kelly McKillin’ has been actively justifying the murders, one of which took our dear friend and fellow activist Frank Alvarado.
***Bring signs, banners, your friends and fam & meet in front of the entrance! If you have questions, feel free to contact Sin Barras via email: email@example.com
Facebook event here.
Official event description here.
Incredibly racist & patronizing piece recently written by the chief here.
Sin Barras statement about Frank’s murder here.
In need of some community lovin’?
Let’s share stories over delicious drinks and tasty tapas at Discretion Brewing this Monday!
20% of Discretion’s bar proceeds will benefit Sin Barras and we’ll be there all day. Since our group is completely self-funded and not tied to any state or foundation funding bodies, we need your help with the hustle.
Spread the word, bring a friend, and let’s affirm our ongoing fight to end the caging of our communities. See you there!
Photo Credit – Bradley Allen
On July 8, we held a rally to commemorate the 1 year anniversary of the California Hunger Strike
. The rally was small but powerful because of who showed up. Cynthia Fuentes heard about the mobilization and drove from San Jose to participate. Her brother, an incredible writer, has been incarcerated in the SHU
. And when the mic got to her, she shared her experiences of heartbreak, frustration, and edurance, and tears welled up in her eyes and those of folks listening.
by Bradley Allen & Alex Darocy
In response to the killing of Frank, the Direct Action Monterey Network
called for a rally on Saturday, July 12, 2014
at the corner of S Sanborn Rd & Fairview Ave in East Salinas against police violence and to demand justice for Frank Alvarado. Demonstrators, including friends and family of Frank from Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, held signs with messages such as “Stop Police Brutality. Justice For My Uncle!,” “SPD Don’t Shoot Me. I’m On My Phone,” “Another Murder Brought To You By The SPD,” and “Stop Giving Cops Paid Vacation For Murder!”
Speakers at the July 12 rally included Frank Alvarado’s sister, Angélica Garza; Frank’s niece, Natalie Mendoza; as well as Courtney Hanson and Tash Nguyen of Sin Barras, a prison abolition group based in Santa Cruz.