January 24, 2015 | Noon at the Santa Cruz Downtown Clock Tower
Update 1/15: Check out Willow Katz and Courtney Hanson of Sin Barras on the national Sojourner Truth radio show this morning discussing jail deaths and the upcoming Cages Kill demonstration!
At least 6 people have died in the county jail while in the hands of the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Department and California Forensics Medical Group (CFMG) since August 2012. In April 2013, Sin Barras organized a historic march and speakout, highlighting sheriff violence faced by people inside the County Jail that inspired the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury to investigate the jail’s deadly conditions. The grand jury report named the April 6th demonstration as a primary catalyst for the investigation. In September 2014, the Grand Jury released its Final Report, which included recommendations to improve physical and mental health services in the jail. Nearly all of the research was met with utter denial from the Sheriff’s Department and CFMG, continuing a trend of disrespect for the community and confirming that they operate with little to no accountability.
Sin Barras is organizing a demonstration on January 24th to demand immediate medical and safety measures be met to reduce harm faced by those presently incarcerated. We demand that the County Board of Supervisors cancel its contract with CFMG and refuse to participate in the current wave of county jail expansion. These deaths are an act of collective punishment against people who are most in need of aid, and who are consistently denied community-based resources and drug treatment. While we fight for immediate solutions, we do so with a commitment to dismantling the prison system once and for all, brick by brick, wall by wall. The deaths in the jail are caused by the same pattern of unaccountability that recently allowed Officer Darren Wilson to walk free after killing Michael Brown. From Ferguson to Santa Cruz, it is clear that our criminal justice system targets the most vulnerable members of this society: women, trans and queer people, people of color, people with disabilities, the poor, and the homeless. Without overwhelming pressure from our communities, this pattern will continue. “The ideas which can and will sustain our movement for total freedom and dignity of the people cannot be imprisoned, for they are to be found in the people, all the people, wherever they are.” – Huey P. Newton
Updates will be ongoing // here’s what you can do right now: – Write a letter of solidarity with your organization
- Distribute through your networks & email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Spread the word on Facebook! – Co-sponsor the action & attend planning meetings!
- For meeting time and location, email: email@example.com
Co-sponsored by: Sin Barras, Santa Cruz County Community Coalition to Overcome Racism (SCCCCOR), Project Pollinate, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Santa Cruz
Endorsed by: Abolitionist Law Center, Pittsburgh, PA; Bettina Aptheker, UCSC, for purposes of identification; Cabrillo College Justice League; California Coalition for Women Prisoners; California Families Against Solitary Confinement; Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB); Direct Action Monterey Network; Family of Frank Alvarado Jr., killed by Salinas Police, July 10, 2014; Food Not Bombs; Freedom Archives; Global Women’s Strike and Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike; Haiti Action Committee; Human Rights Coalition (HRC)-Fed Up!, Pittsburgh, PA; International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ); Justice for the Dallas 6 Support Campaign, Pittsburgh, PA; Justice for Palestinians; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; George Lippman, Vice-Chair, Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, for purposes of identification; the MOVE Organization and Ramona Africa; National Boricua Human Rights Network; Dylcia Pagán, former Puerto Rican Political Prisoner held in US prison; Payday Men’s Network; Peak Women; Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC); Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSSC); Rabbi Borukh Goldberg; San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper; South Bay/Santa Cruz Facilitators group of the Pachamama Alliance; Queer Strike; Suppressed Histories Archives (Max Dashu); Bato Talamantez; US PROStitutes Collective; Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, All of Us or None, Payday Men’s Network, Darlene Wallach; Donna Wallach.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WHAT: Cages Kill! — Freedom Rally & March
WHEN: Saturday, January 24th @ 12 Noon
WHERE: The Clocktower, Downtown Santa Cruz (Water St. & Pacific Ave.)
Tash Nguyen 408.499.7912
Courtney Hanson 916.316.0625
SANTA CRUZ, CA —
At least 6 people have died in the Santa Cruz County Jail since August 2012 while in the hands of the Sheriff’s Department and California Forensics Medical Group (CFMG). In light of the most recent death in November, Sin Barras is organizing a demonstration this Saturday, co-sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Community Coalition to Overcome Racism (SCCCCOR), Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and Project: Pollinate. Sin Barras states that the purpose of the protest is to raise awareness around the deaths, to highlight the broader context of overcrowding and lack of healthcare inside California jails and prisons, and create a space for community empowerment. As an abolitionist organization, Sin Barras seeks reforms that fit into a larger project of halting jail expansion across the state of California and investing in community-based alternatives.
After a year-long investigation of these deaths, prompted by public criticism and concern, the Santa Cruz Grand Jury released a report including recommendations to improve physical and mental health conditions in the jail. One of the Grand Jury’s conclusions was that CFMG staff failed to identify and treat symptoms of methadone overdose, and had insufficient oversight and treatment facilities for people in the supposedly monitored units. The Sheriff’s Department and CFMG have publicly disagreed with almost all the findings of the report, and since then, another person has died.
In coordination with local, national, and international organizations, Sin Barras is mobilizing to demand that:
1. The Board of Supervisors cancel its contract with California Forensic Medical Group.
2. The Sheriff’s Department and CFMG accept responsibility for the unnatural deaths and implement the Grand Jury recommendations to expand Crisis Intervention Team mental health services.
3. Solitary confinement/administrative segregation and other forms of torture, such as the “restraint chair,” be abolished.
4. The County cancel the $24.6 million planned expansion of Rountree Detention Center and invest in community-based social services.
Sin Barras and their allies, including formerly incarcerated people and people who have lost loved ones inside the jail, argue that Santa Cruz needs to step up its efforts to expand alternatives to incarceration. The County should immediately cease its use of torture in the jail, particularly the practice of solitary confinement and use of the “restraint chair.” Paul Spector, RN and former employee of the California Department of Corrections, states that while manufacturer instructions say the chair is “not to be used for punishment… it’s only use is punishment, and sometimes death.”
At the rally, speakers will share personal stories that shed light on the violence of the prison system and strategies for building alternative forms of justice, including Fox Sloan, mother of Amanda Fox Sloan, who died in the jail July of 2013.
“Once our loved ones are incarcerated, we are shoved out of the picture, and our concern and care becomes irrelevant and annoying to those operating the jail. The jail as it is, is woefully ill-equipped to provide the care each individual needs. Many people need help and healing, options and avenues for restoration to a peaceful and positive life–not punishment for situations beyond their control, where they have suffered and are trying to survive,” said Sloan.
Statements of Solidarity
Payday Men’s Network
Payday, an international and multiracial network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike, sends our greetings and support to the Cages Kill – Freedom Rally today in Santa Cruz. The great range of local, national and international groups supporting the rally speaks to the stake we all have in holding officials accountable for murder and torture, wherever they or we are. The power of your actions in Santa Cruz strengthens campaigns of which we’re part: in Pennsylvania in support of the Dallas 6 – prisoner whistleblowers who are fighting “riot” charges for exposing gross prison abuses, including coerced suicide and use of a torture chair; and in the UK in support of Kevan Thakrar, a wrongly convicted immigrant prisoner held for years in solitary confinement, the form of torture favored by US and increasingly UK prisons.
We have been working for justice and in support of military refusers and whistleblowers – among them Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange – and other prisoners. (Our website is refusingtokill.net). Our experience is that the women family members are the mainstay of campaigns for justice the world over. We also take our lead from the great California Prisoners’ Hunger Strike and its deeply anti-racist Agreement to End Hostilities, which made the strike possible, and which is a challenge to us on the outside to cross the divides among us as effectively as the prisoners have. The Cages Kill – Freedom Rally has taken this to heart and deserves our every support.
Abolitionist Law Center, Dallas 6, Human Rights Coalition Statement for Cages Kill – Freedom Rally
This statement is on behalf of Human Rights Coalition, who are fighting for prisoner human and civil rights, the Abolitionist Law Center who are taking it into the courts and the Dallas 6 prisoners who are on the front line in the war against injustice, corruption and brutality. Collectively we are the voice and the boots on the ground for our brothers and sisters inside. We are in solidarity with the mission of Sin Barras and support their efforts to fight for change and to make a difference. What is happening in Santa Cruz is happening all over the country. We must build alliances in this war on the people and bring an end to the continued criminalization and targeting of vulnerable members of society. Our leaders must recognize that prison is not the answer to poverty and that there are viable alternatives. Furthermore, when someone becomes incarcerated, they do not lose their human rights, they do not lose their civil rights. Prisoners should be protected under the same laws as those who are put in place to enforce these laws. It is a right of prisoners to be in a safe and healthy environment and to not be subjected to any form of torture or abuse. We should not have to fight for accountability of those whose job is to serve and protect. A traffic stop should not end in death just as a prison sentence should not turn into a death sentence. This is a very important time in history and it is now or never that we must take a stand, by saying no to prison expansion, systemic racism and the lack of accountability of our law enforcement, justice system and prison system.
The Dallas 6 salute all those present at the Cages Kill Rally and express the following quotes in solidarity:
“They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Time and time again I see government officials in this sweet land of liberty abusing their power and taking advantage of those whom they have pledged to protect. They say justice is blind. Well I say, ‘if this current system is based upon justice, then maybe we need justice with a vision. Justice that can see clearly because blind justice is only leading to destruction.”
Even through the face of brutality and the injustices we endure, our fight will be a victorious one because of the people. I believe in the people. There is power in the people!
Andre Jacobs (poem)
We must replace corrupt judges
with honorable men
who love justice and kids
more than cash
and overcome the greed
or material wealth
as my conscious heart cries out in agony
for every color and creed
for real justice and equality
yeah, “justice for all”
Corruption is corruption and it is time we reclaim our rights and liberties without question. I am calling on anyone who may be affected by governmental encroachment on their rights to join us in solidarity in this movement to put an end to Judicial, Legislative and Political corruption of the Law Enforcement System, starting today, state by state, county by county.
South Bay/Santa Cruz Facilitators group of the Pachamama Alliance:
We of the South Bay/Santa Cruz Facilitators group of the Pachamama Alliance are committed to social justice in all its forms and stand in solidarity with Sin Barras in working to end the Prison Industrial Complex. To that end we endorse the Cages Kill-Freedom Rally on January 24 and support the working demands. We find the lack of accountability and inhumane practices of our own local criminal justice system shameful and will provide information to members of our group and encourage them to attend the rally as well as pass the word on to their own networks.
Statement in Support of “Cages Kill” Rally
Steve Pleich, Director, Homeless Persons Legal Assistance Project
Vice Chair, ACLU Santa Cruz County
“Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a jail.” Those words have never been so true as they are today. Because not unlike our brothers and sisters who are caged by those bars and imprisoned behind those walls, we too are caged and imprisoned. We are caged by a prison/industrial complex that is building new jails and prison cells at an unprecedented rate and we are imprisoned a policy of mass incarceration driven by a war on drugs and fueled by institutionalized racism.
It is said that the only history that matters is the history we make for ourselves. So on Saturday at the “Cages Kill” Rally let us stand in solidarity and saw in one loud voice “Not One Day More.” We will no longer be caged by prejudice and intolerance. Nor will we suffer others to be. We will no longer be imprisoned by failed government policy. Nor will we suffer others to be. Let it be known that we have come together at this time and in this place to free our brothers and sisters and ourselves.
And let that be the history we make together.