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JULY 21, 2011: Peg's Blogs on Hiatus...

As many friends and regular readers know, I've been dealing with a lot in my personal life, lately, while my workload has continued to grow. Rest assured that I'm in the best of company, and getting by with a little help from my friends. Still, I need to take a break and focus on centering myself. That means this site will be neglected even more than it has been.

Until I'm able to get a grip on blogging regularly and thoughtfully again here (or until someone else steps in to anchor the site), I encourage people to check out Carl Toersbijns' blog (he's a former Deputy Warden for the AZ Department of Corrections, and while not an abolitionist, he's a strong advocate for the prisoners with mental illness, and for broad-based prison reform in AZ). You may also want to drop in on Middle Ground Prison Reform's site for news.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

US Senate: More DREAMS Deferred...

These three are among the bravest, finest youth in America. John McCain and the US Senate have shamed us all.

Carlos, Marlene, and Francisco: I'm so sorry. I pray that someday all your DREAMS come true. This land desperately needs more good souls like you...

-------------------from America's Voice via Common Dreams-----------------

December 18, 2010
11:56 AM

CONTACT: America's Voice
Michael Earls
(202) 494-8555

Senate Votes Against DREAMs

WASHINGTON - December 18 - This morning, in a procedural vote requiring 60 votes to advance the legislation, the U.S. Senate voted against the DREAM Act by a 55-41 margin, effectively shutting the doors of opportunity to thousands of bright and talented young people who grew up in America and wanted to give back to the country they call home.

The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice:

"Today we won a majority of votes in the Senate. Last week we won a majority of the votes in the House. But because of a Republican filibuster we needed 60 votes to pass DREAM and we fell short.

To those who did the right thing and voted for DREAM, you had our back and we'll have yours. But to the majority of Republicans and the handful of Democrats who voted against the best and the brightest of the Latino immigrant community, your vote against DREAM will be remembered as long as you are in politics. Many of you have expressed your sympathy for the DREAMers. But today we did not need your sympathy. We needed your vote.

As disappointed as we are in those who slammed the door of opportunity on talented young people who are Americans in all but paperwork, we are buoyed by the nationwide outpouring of support for this cause, the unprecedented mobilization in support of DREAM across the nation, and the leadership and courage of the DREAMers who came to Washington to insist on making their DREAM come true.

Where do we go from here? We will continue fighting, organizing, mobilizing and educating. We will continue to build an ever more powerful movement. We will continue to speak up and speak out for immigrant youth, for immigrant families, for immigration reform that embodies the best of our ideals rather than the worst of our fears.

We get stronger every day. We may have lost this battle, but in the war between justice and injustice, inclusion and exclusion, courage and cowardice, victory is not a matter of if, but a matter of when."

America's Voice -- Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform. The mission of America’s Voice is to realize the promise of workable and humane comprehensive immigration reform. Our goal is to build the public support and create the political momentum for reforms that will transform a dysfunctional immigration system that does not work into a regulatory system that does.

------------So, what do we do now? A reminder from Arundhati Roy:---------

"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Go Dream Fasters!

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the DREAM Act, as indicated elsewhere in my blogs. But I have no doubts about the youth who have risked their own freedom, safety, and dreams fighting to get it passed - even in the latest, watered-down form: Those kids ROCK! They're already citizens of the country I believe we could be, in my book.

Anyway, look at what I found on 16th St. and Missouri when the sun came up this morning:

Okay, I admit, I was actually there last night, too. So were the Phoenix Police...good thing it's not against the law...

Drop by there this week and support these young people. They're fighting for a better world for us all...

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I have mixed feelings about the Nightmare that the DREAM Act has devolved into - but there are an awful lot of young people whose hopes and dreams are still invested in the passage of this legislation, and they've put themselves on the line for it. So, here's the latest, with links to call McCain and Kyl embedded below.

------------DREAM Act Update From the Phoenix New Times---------

John McCain vs. DREAM Act, Pt.2: Passes House, Senate Vote Today (w/Update)


Dream a little DREAM with me...

See an update on the status of the DREAM below.

The haters were defeated in the U.S. House yesterday, and the DREAM Act passed 216-198.

Today, the fight goes to the U.S. Senate, where the Republicans threaten a filibuster, and the Dems lack the 60 votes to invoke cloture.

I say, let them filibuster. Call their bluff. Let the GOP show its true colors, colors that sadly do not include "brown."

DREAMers need to sock it to the Senate phone lines. The Arizona Dream Act Coalition has all the phone numbers necessary, here. Let U.S. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl feel the heat.

To watch Dennis Gilman's latest pro-DREAM video, check out yesterday's blog post.

UPDATE: As "guest" notes below, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took a strategic step back today, and held off on starting the debate on the DREAM Act, as had been scheduled.

Even more reason to pound Kyl and McCain with phone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters. Don't let up. A spokesman for Reid told Fox News that the Dems want to bring it back up for a vote before the lame duck session is over. They better. To do otherwise would truly be lame.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The restoration of Jerry Kulp.

NOTE: I'm cross-posting this from AZ Prison Watch (originally posted 9/23/10) because Jerry was a child tried as an adult, who promptly suicided upon his arrival at the AZ State Prison minors unit in Tucson. This is terribly heartbreaking. I've since heard from his mom, who confirmed my suspicions about his psychiatric disability. - Peggy Plews

I looked and looked this week for memories in the ether from Jerry Kulp's short life. All I could find were his court and ADC papers. Jerry was a 17-year old prisoner on the Minors Unit at ASPC-Tucson last May when he committed suicide.

Jerry hadn't even been in prison a week; he must have just been terrified.
How could anyone on the Minors Unit miss all the signs he must have been broadcasting that he wasn't going to last long inside?

Jerry wasn't a gang member, from what I can tell. He was a seriously mentally ill child. He was given ten years upon pleading guilty to sexual assault, a crime I can't find the details of now. He was up on a number of other charges - armed robbery, kidnapping, etc. He committed them all on one occasion when he was 15.

At the time he was initially charged as an adult, Jerry was so mentally impaired that he required a guardian to make his legal decisions for him, and had to undergo several rounds of competency exams and "restoration treatment" in Joe's Jail over the course of 6-9 months to be fit for trial.

Does anyone else out there find that troubling? There seems to be a pattern here with mentally ill people being inappropriately prosecuted - kept in jail the whole time their trials are being postponed - (as if they already know that they're guilty and doing the time anyway) - while they medicate them into health. Once so restored, they promptly plead guilty and get sent to prison where they end up neglected or assaulted and killed.

I can't believe we prosecuted a mentally incompetent child as an adult, and then threw him into prison, but I guess we do that all the time. That can't possibly be legal. Why was this kid sent to prison instead of to a hospital, anyway? To teach him some kind of lesson? He seems to have suffered plenty enough. To scare the rest of us at his expense? No wonder we're so soul sick.

I'd like to speak to Jerry's friends and family, if you're out there. Some of us are organizing to make sure this doesn't keep happening to people like Jerry and me in Arizona's state prisons. My phone number is 480-580-6807. My email is Peggy Plews.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Trickle-down homophobia" and teen suicide.

-------------good post from

Anti-Gay Bullying Suicides: Who's Really To Blame?

by David Badash October 09, 2010

The media has been awash in news of recent teen suicides, teens literally bullied to death. Much of the mainstream press is reporting there were five or six teen suicides in the back-to-school month of September, all the result of anti-gay bullying. Sadly, that number is much higher. After reports from my readers, and after much research on local news sites, it is clear there were at least ten male teen suicides across the country in the month of September alone. There are reports that almost all of these teens -- many who had either come out as gay or were perceived as gay -- were bullied, and most if not all of the bullying was anti-gay bullying.

But let's be honest. What enables and maintains this culture of hate are groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) which exists to tell America that gays and lesbians aren't good enough for marriage. Or groups like Focus on the Family (FOF) which exists to tell America that gays and lesbians aren't good enough for anything, and even has a "pro-bullying" website, "True Tolerance," dedicated to teaching parents how to rid their schools of anti-bullying programs.

These are but two hate groups, groups whose real missions are neither to "protect" marriage, nor to "focus" on the family.

The Southern Poverty Law Center five years ago listed "a dozen of today's most influential anti-gay groups," including several they today classify as hate groups: American Vision, Family Research Institute, and the Traditional Values Coalition. Others, like the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Minnesota Family Council, and the Alliance Defense Fund should qualify as well.

Anti-gay groups, from the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family, to the Family Research Institute, and the Traditional Values Coalition, to local churches and other houses of worship which preach intolerance and hatred against the LGBTQ community, regularly inject hatred, oppression, and fear into America's families.

It's no wonder, as comedian and activist Sarah Silverman says, "Dear America, when you tell gay Americans they can't serve their country openly, or marry the person they love, you're telling that to kids." She says we shouldn't be "shocked wondering where all these bullies are coming from," because "they learned it from watching you."

America's children are under attack. But what difference is there between the schoolyard tormentor who literally bullies to death a gay or questioning youth, and their adult counterparts -- like the National Organization for Marriage, or Focus on the Family -- shrouded in Orwellian nomenclature, who provide them with the ammunition?

Kathy Griffin calls this "trickle-down homophobia." And she's right.

A sixteen-year-old lesbian who says she just came out to her family recently wrote on my website, "I wish my family will stop treating me like im a freak and love me the way they use to again. Iv been screamed at, emotionaly abused, called names like faggot , bitch , whore. Iv been told i have aids because i had sex with a female. Im trying to stay strong but sometimes you need help from others who been through the same."

Her words, the depiction of her treatment by her own family is exactly what children fear most when they even think about coming out to their families. For many, coming out can be a growing experience for the entire family. For other children, coming out can lead to homelessness and a path to suicide.

Gay and lesbian children and teens, even those who are merely "questioning," are between three and six times as likely to attempt or to die by suicide than their heterosexual peers. The radical and religious right, and groups like the Minnesota Family Council (MFC) would have you believe that is because these youngsters have made poor choices or are defective, that "they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle." In point of fact, the pain that drives these young people to suicide is not caused by being different, it is caused by others who tell them they are "different," and treat them as different.

These ten teens who succumbed to suicide are the ones we know about. Some had full support from their families. But there are countless others every year, hidden from the public by shamed families, too embarrassed to acknowledge either their own failure to see or address the problem, too consumed with guilt for having been unable or unwilling to prevent the bullying, or, sadly, for some, too embarrassed to even acknowledge that their child was "different."

Reading the messages written about these teens on Facebook pages and funeral home websites is heartbreaking. So is reading some of the "code" in the obituaries. No doubt, there are many of this nation's teenagers who love going to church with their girlfriends, but no doubt there are many teens who succumb to suicide because, much to their parents' distress, they love neither church nor a girlfriend.

This "trickle-down homophobia" has to come from somewhere. The torment and bullying doesn't start with parents, or even with the school-yard bully.

So, who are the real tormentors? Who is really to blame? It's time for America to start making the connection. It is unimaginably tragic that so many teens had to succumb to hopeless desperation and suicide for there to be an awakening in America. But I think the tide may be turning. I think America is starting to realize who the real bullies, the real tormentors are. They are the ones with a non-profit tax license, who are using it as a license to kill.

Tagging gets teen a year in juvie prison: for less than $5,000 in damages..

What a tragic way to order a community's priorities. Does no one have any creative, original thoughts on how to work with artistic youth acting out through vandalism? Like having him paint some murals, or put together an art show, or channel that energy more constructively somehow? He could be working off that restitution at a part time job, too.

Do these judges even know what kind of hell they send those kids to when they commit them to the Department of Juvenile Corrections? The gangs, the violence, the bullying, the despair? A year is a huge chunk to take out of a young person's life. They aren't rehabilitating him - they just sent him there to be punished.

A year in youth prison (which just prepares kids for many years in adult prisons) is going to cost the state more than five times as much to cover as the damage this kid did, and in the process subjects him to constant coercion. For what? To make an example of him.
I guess that means that any other kids who go tagging around town can expect to go to prison, too.

The biggest example I see being displayed here is of a rigid and abusive judge and city attorney. That's an example of what not to be like when you grow up, kids. I'd take the tagger as my friend over the people who put him away any day.

Tagging is not a violent crime, by the way. It is a nuisance. Incarceration is violent, however. Prisons keep their prisoners only because they have the authority to chain you up, lock you down, and even kill you if you try to run away. Sometimes people die in there well before their time. They aren't too good at keeping people from killing themselves or each other.

This isn't justice - it smacks more of vindictiveness and abuse.
Guess it's amazing they didn't prosecute him as an adult so they could really draw blood.


Yuma tagger sent to prison for a year

September 29, 2010 5:44 PM

The 17-year-old juvenile tagger known by the moniker of “SKREW,” who caused thousands of dollars in damage in graffiti in Yuma, has been sentenced to a year at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Manuel Villa, who is estimated to have caused between $4,000 and $5,000 in graffiti damage to residential and business structures, was sentenced recently to serve until his 18th birthday in juvenile corrections. He was also ordered to pay more than $2,000 in restitution.

The Yuma Police Department began seeking “SKREW” in early April as part of Yuma Mayor Al Krieger's new campaign to curtail unwanted graffiti and vandalism, dubbed TAGS (The Anti Graffiti Strategy). It includes stepped-up enforcement, more education, an awareness campaign and enhanced partnerships between city departments and other government agencies, schools, retailers and community groups such as 78-CRIME and Neighborhood Watch organizations.

According to YPD, “SKREW” had been actively tagging his moniker since the summer of 2009 to city of Yuma property, several residential properties, a bridge and at least two churches.

After the city of Yuma announced TAGS, YPD turned to the public to help identify him.

After receiving tips that “SKREW” may live in the Carver Park area, which was supported by the numerous incidents of graffiti throughout the area over the past year, YPD canvassed the neighborhood and contacted Villa in May.

After being confronted with overwhelming evidence, Villa confessed and was arrested.

“We now have an example of consequences for vandalism and graffiti damage,” said Dave Nash, spokesman for the city of Yuma.

Nash said so far this fiscal year, city crews have cleaned up 633 incidents of graffiti. For the week of Sept. 15-21, there were 71 reported incidents of graffiti, compared with 93 last week, an increase that is common for this time of year.

“We tend to see seasonal spikes this time of year when people come to Yuma,” Nash said.

Nash added that graffiti incidents range between 70 and 80 week to as low as 30 a week.

The city of Yuma encourages the community to keep up their effort in cracking down on graffiti by calling the Graffiti Busters hot line at 329-2828.

James Gilbert can be reached at or 539-6854.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reinforcing or Abolishing Children's Prisons: Reauthorizing the JJDPA

I received the following action alert in my box last night from Act For Juvenile Justice. I think the group was formed specifically to organize and lobby people to reauthorize the JJDPA.


Reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Now!

Congress has just 13 days to move forward fundamental federal juvenile justice legislation that will protect our most vulnerable children. Help keep children out of adult jails, end the over-incarceration of youth of color in the justice system, and devote more resources to effective juvenile justice programs that protect our young people and keep our communities safe.

Reauthorization of this important law is nearly 4 years overdue and Congress is scheduled to adjourn on October 8, leaving just 13 days for them to act.

Children and teens already caught up in the system can't wait another day.


Urge Congress to pass a reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act this year by signing the petitions below:

· Sign the House of Representatives Petition

· Sign the Senate Petition

Help us reach our goal of over 15,000 signatures by the end of September by forwarding this Action Alert to your networks.

Learn more by visiting


It's a pretty compelling email. I think almost everyone working on reforming the face of American of juvenile justice is pretty much on board with this - all their websites are screaming for us to update and renew the JJDPA, anyway. I've been caught up in a lot of other stuff lately, though, and I have to admit that I don't know enough about what's being included in the JJDPA and what's being left out yet to argue for it (not without qualifiers, at least).

Bottom line: I want to get rid of the prisons we put children into. For all I know, this act will just ensure we depend on them for at least another generation or two.

So, do your own digging if you're in a hurry to take a stand on this thing. There's info below about the different aspects of the JJDPA. As I research it more over the next few days, I'll try and introduce different perspectives, in addition to forming and articulating my own..


From the Center for Children's Law and Policy:

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act is the single most important piece of federal legislation affecting youth in juvenile justice systems across the country. It is the primary vehicle through which the federal government sets standards for state and local juvenile justice systems, and provides direct funding for states, research, training and technical assistance, and evaluation. Since the original enactment of the JJDPA in 1974, the periodic reauthorizations have been very contentious, as the Act's opponents have sought to weaken its protections for youth, reduce prevention resources, and encourage the transfer of youth to the adult criminal justice system.

CCLP Publications

  • Juvenile Justice: Lessons for a New Era [download]
    Executive Director Mark Soler and Senior Staff Attorney Dana Shoenberg have published an article that outlines how new research and experience should guide juvenile justice policy and practice reforms in several areas. Marc Schindler, Interim Director of the Washington, DC, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, co-authored the piece, which appears in Volume 16 of the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.
  • Fact Sheet: Community-Based and Home-Based Alternatives to Incarceration [download full version] [download short version]
    This fact sheet reviews the types of community-based and home-based alternatives to incarceration, their successes, and how the reauthorized JJDPA should encourage those placements.
  • Fact Sheet: Protection of Incarcerated Youth [download]
    The JJDPA currently does not address conditions and practices in juvenile facilities. This fact sheet suggests how the JJDPA can be strengthened through new provisions that bar dangerous practices and encourage states to reduce and eliminate the use of those practices.
  • Fact Sheet: Disproportionate Minority Contact [download]
    This fact sheet addresses how the DMC core requirement should be strengthgened in the reauthorized JJDPA and provides examples of jurisdictions that have achieved DMC reductions in recent years through targeted reforms.
  • Potential for Change: Public Attitudes and Policy Preferences for Juvenile Justice Systems Reform [download]
    This CCLP report contains new polling data on Americans attitudes about youth, race and crime, revealing strong support for juvenile justice reforms that focus on rehabilitating youthful offenders rather than locking them up in adult prisons. The public also believes that African American and poor youth receive less favorable treatment than those who are white or middle class.

  • Locking Up Kids Is Not the Answer [download]
    Executive Director Mark Soler co-authored an op-ed in the Contra Costa Times, entitled Locking Up Kids Is Not the Answer, that explains why the JJDPA's treatment of status offenders makes sense for youth involved in the juvenile justice system - particularly female youth.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

the Desaparecidos of 9/11

A friend passed these lyrics on to me today in remembrance of those most forgotten from the tragedy on 9/11/2001. Grief was spoken in our country in many languages that day - and it was silenced by fear. Still is.

This is for the families of the Desaparecidos everywhere.
Liberty weeps for you, too. May you someday safely bring your loved ones into our light.

Peggy Plews
Arizona Prison Watch


If I Give Your Name

by Emmas Revolution

Mi esposa, my wife, worked on the 80th floor
The company had hired illegals before
She got the job by word of mouth
That’s the way in the north when you’re from the south
They say 3,000 but the counting’s not done
Mi esposa está muerta
Three thousand and one

I have no papers, I have no rights
All my days end in sleepless nights
Missing you, silently
If I give your name
Will they come after me?

Mi hermano, my brother, the elevator man
A doctor in our country but you take what you can
I saw the photos in Union Square
But I could not leave his picture there
They say 3,000 but that’s not true
Mi hermano no volverá
Three thousand and two

Mi hija, my daughter, went in early that day
She had always been that way
Her daughter asks, "Where did she go?"
How to tell her, I don’t know
They say 3,000 but that can’t be
Perdí a mi hija
Three thousand and three

Mi padre, my father, I have no words
I tried to find you when I heard
They gave some ashes to families
But I’ll only have the ones I breathe
They say 3,000 there’s so many more
Three thousand and four

Mi esposa, my wife. Will they come after me?
Mi hermano, my brother. Will they come after me?
Mi hija, my daughter. Will they come after me?
Mi padre, my father. If I give your name,
Will they come after me?

Youth on Fire: Heroin and Hep C everywhere.

I read this last night and wept. This thing is going after our kids with a vengeance. It's already bigger than AIDS. What's it going to take for us to step up the to fight with everything we've got? How will kids get help while they still have hope if they're too afraid of arrest?

We can't just keep throwing addicts into prison and leaving them to die there, but in America, chains and cages for our people seem to be all we're willing to invest our resources in. How is that either good public health policy or justice?


Hepatitis C Spikes Among Young Heroin Users

Sep. 9, 2010, 6:27 AM

BOSTON — Heroin, a drug that claims nearly two lives in Massachusetts every day, killed a young woman in Cambridge late last month. She had just turned 18 when she overdosed alone in a bathroom.

“It was a real tragedy, it always is,” says Michael May, the outreach coordinator at Youth on Fire, a teen drop-in center in Cambridge. “She was really young, had been using for a long time and was a pretty key fixture in the community around here.”

May worked with the girl he can’t name and worries that the epidemic he fights every day is gaining steam.
“This summer has been very intense for heroin use in this area,” May says. “And we’ve been getting a lot of kids who, rather than a slow progression into injection drug use, have kind of jumped right into it.”

Needle Use On The Rise

This signals trouble for diseases transmitted through needles, which are also on the rise. The Department of Public Health says infection rates for Hepatitis C in 15- to 25-year-olds have almost doubled since 2002. But there’s no money in this year’s budget for Hep C prevention or to treat new patients.

Hepatitis C is passed through blood in needles, on cotton and on other equipment drug users share. It is 10 times more infectious through a needle stick than HIV. If untreated, Hep C inflames, scars and can ruin your liver.

Dan Church, an epidemiologist at the Department of Public Health, says a spike in Hep C among young heroin users is an urgent matter.

“It’s very alarming to see these numbers of cases with a disease that we really have not seen in this age group for quite some time.” So I think it’s very important that we start thinking about how we can prevent Hepatitis C and provide them education so they will not continue to transmit this disease unknowingly to other people,” Church says.

That is happening. Heroin users and counselors say Hep C is everywhere.

“Once I found out about Hep C, it was just like, yeah, everyone has Hep C,” says Gabe, a 23-year-old who fears arrest if he gives his last name. He started shooting heroin nine years ago but says he only uses occasionally these days.

Gabe does not have Hep C. He tries to keep a few clean needles on him as he moves between Boston and his other home base, Chicago, hopping freight trains, but it doesn’t always work out.

“I’ve definitely gone back and grabbed my old needles off the ground; I don’t know if someone used them, or somebody else’s got dropped there,” Gabe says.

“I generally kept them hidden in one spot but sometimes, you know…”

In Cambridge, and in the the state’s three other needle exchange programs, counselors work Hep C into their prevention talks even though state funding was eliminated this year. May, from Youth on Fire, has a list of precautions he urges users to take. But he knows they may not stick to them in the heat of the moment.

“If somebody’s in a hurry, if they’re sick, it’s just now, now, now,” May says, “and then after they get well is when the rational thinking comes back into play.”

What’s also scary, May says, is that many users aren’t too worried about Hep C.

Johnny, a 24-year-old who also won’t give his last name because he worries about being apprehended by police, sleeps in the woods and hangs out at “Youth on Fire” during the day. He has Hep C.

“It just makes you tired, that’s it. I mean, people can live with it for the rest of their lives right and not die,” he says.

Johnny may be able to manage Hep C with a good diet, rest and no drugs or alcohol. But even if he gets worse, he says he won’t seek treatment because “I heard it makes people really sick and it can kill you.”

Treating Hep C

Hepatitis C is difficult to treat. The drugs won’t kill but they can make patients feel like they have the flu on and off for six months to a year and are only effective in 30 to 40 percent of cases. But on the medical side, things may be looking up.

“We’re really on the dawn of a new era of treatment for Hep C,” says John Ward, director of the division of viral hepatitis at the Centers for Disease Control. “The drugs we have now aren’t specific for the virus.”
Ward says new drugs that are specific to Hep C could be on the market next year.

“When those [new drugs] come on, it will probably double the likelihood of being cleared of this virus and having to go through about half the weeks of treatment,” Ward says.

Ward is understandably excited about better treatment options. In addition to the new wave of young people infected with Hep C, one in 30 Baby Boomers have it, according to the CDC. They could have been infected through a blood transfusion if it occurred before 1992 or in a non-licensed tattoo parlor, but the main way people get Hep C is through intravenous drug use. Cynthia Jorgesen, who runs education and training programs at the CDC, says many people don’t want to recall a past that might have included Hep C.

“Because of that association with negative connotations,” she says, “a lot of people don’t assume they’re at risk because they’re not ‘one of those people.’ ”

Baby Boomers And Hep C

Sixty-five to 75 percent of Baby Boomers who have Hep C don’t know it. Ward says that’s because “they call Hep C the silent epidemic. You can live for decades and don’t know you are infected. The liver doesn’t complain much until it is very, very ill. So you don’t get sick often until it’s too late to help the liver.”

The CDC says death rates are expected to triple in the next 10 to 20 years if the Boomers don’t find out they have Hep C before they get seriously ill.

Most health insurance plans cover a Hep C screening if there’s reason to think you need one. The Department of Public Health is hoping word about Hep C will spread faster than the virus until there’s money again for prevention and new treatment.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

300 American Prisoners will be Raped Today.

Hey folks - Kids in detention and imprisoned youth are among the highest risk group for prison rape, so read this article then please head over to sign the petition to Holder at

----------------------From the New York Review of Books------------------

Prison Rape: Eric Holder's Unfinished Business

David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow

A new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) provides grim reaffirmation of something we already knew: sexual violence is epidemic within our country’s prisons and jails. According to the report, 64,500 of the inmates who were in a state or federal prison on the day the latest BJS survey was administered had been sexually abused at their current facility within the previous year, as had 24,000 of those who were in a county jail that day—a total of 88,500 people.

In fact, as we’ve explained before, the true national total is much higher. The BJS numbers don’t include thousands who we know are sexually abused in juvenile detention and other kinds of corrections facilities every year, nor do they account for the constant turnover among jailed detainees. Stays in jail are typically short, and several times as many people pass through jail in a year as are held there on any given day. Overall, we can confidently say that well over 100,000 people are sexually abused in American detention facilities every year.

As appalling as this figure is, mere numbers can obscure what is at issue here. So consider the case of Scott Howard. Scott was a gay, non-violent, first-time inmate in a Colorado prison when he was targeted by members of the “2-11 crew,” a white supremacist gang with over 1,000 members in prisons throughout the state. For two years he was forced into prostitution by the gang’s leaders, repeatedly raped and made to perform oral sex. Even after he told prison staff that he was being raped and needed protection from the gang, Scott was told that nothing could be done unless he named his abusers—even though they had threatened to kill him if he did. Because Scott is openly gay, some officials blamed him for the attacks, saying that as a homosexual he should expect to be targeted by one gang or another. And by his account, even those officers who were not hostile didn’t know how to respond to his reports, because appropriate procedures were not in place. They failed to take even the most basic measures to protect him.

Ultimately, despite his fear, Scott did identify some of the gang members who had raped him. Not only did the prison authorities again fail to respond, they later put Scott in a holding cell with one of his previous assailants on the day he was to be released from state custody. Again, he was beaten and forced to perform oral sex. Scott had a civil lawsuit settled in his favor recently, winning financial damages and seventeen policy changes that will now become mandatory in the Colorado prison system. Otherwise, however, nothing about his story is unusual.

In 2003 Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), legislation that, among other things, called into being the bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC), a panel of experts charged with devising national standards for the detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of sexual abuse in detention. But the implementation of these standards is now being held up, because, as Attorney General Eric Holder has explained, according to PREA the new rules should not “impose substantial additional costs compared to the costs presently expended by Federal, State, and local prison authorities.”

Last September, the Justice Department commissioned Booz Allen Hamilton to study what it would cost to implement the NPREC standards. Unfortunately, the results of that study are too flawed to be of much use. Even more concerning is that Mr. Holder has commissioned no study of the benefits of reducing prisoner rape; nor, apparently, does he plan to. Yet as a brief submitted to the Department of Justice by New York University Law School’s Institute for Policy Integrity makes clear, “substantial additional costs” can only be understood in relation to the standards’ projected benefits. Moreover, Mr. Holder is legally obligated to analyze the costs and the benefits of the new standards together: he cannot give greater emphasis to one half of the calculation than the other. By failing to perform proper analysis, the Attorney General is delaying the reform mandated by a unanimous Congress in passing PREA—and he has already missed his statutory deadline for issuing a final rule on the standards by more than two months.

Prisoner rape is far more a legal and moral issue than a financial one. Since cost considerations are impeding reform, however, it is worth taking a closer look at the true financial implications of sexual abuse behind bars. There are at least two ways in which the Department might try to estimate the value of reducing sexual abuse in detention. One—called “contingent valuation,” and used frequently by environmental economists—seeks to assign dollar-values to goods not traded in the marketplace. Using its techniques, a recent study concluded that the public values the prevention of a single incident of rape or sexual assault at $237,000, a greater worth than it places on preventing any other kind of crime except homicide.

Alternately, the Justice Department can try to quantify particular, identifiable savings and benefits of preventing prisoner rape, and weigh them against particular, quantifiable costs. The costs (no matter how benefits are measured) are the investments needed by corrections systems to comply with the recommended standards, divided by the Department’s estimation of the percentage by which the standards will actually reduce sexual abuse in detention. As for the benefits, a partial list of those to be considered might begin with the medical cost of treating rape victims, which must be shouldered by corrections systems. This is much more expensive in the prison setting than in the general community, because inmates must be transported to often-distant hospitals and escorted the whole time by security staff. And it is a cost that must be paid, not for every victim of prisoner rape, but for every instance. We can deduce from the new BJS study that victims of sexual abuse in detention suffer an average of three to five incidents apiece.

The Washington Department of Corrections estimates that the cost of providing mental health treatment for victims of prisoner rape or sexual assault—which is different from immediate medical care—is approximately $9,700 per victim. Neither category of care includes treatment for HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted infections, which are of course spread by prisoner rape and also impose great costs on prison health services. Making our prisons and jails safer should have a positive effect generally on the mental health problems that are endemic there. And reducing prisoner rape would also lower the number of suicides and unwanted pregnancies in our prison systems.

Quite apart from the horror it inflicts on the victim, failing to protect an inmate from sexual abuse contributes to the substantial legal costs our prison systems face. While it is extraordinarily difficult for an incarcerated victim to bring a civil lawsuit—the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) was enacted with the explicit purpose of limiting prisoners’ ability to be heard in court—prisons have still had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and fees to inmates who can establish that officials were “deliberately indifferent” in failing to protect them.

When inmates do report sexual abuse in prison, they are often put in “administrative segregation,” isolated housing that can entail being locked alone in a tiny cell for up to twenty-three hours a day. While this is purportedly done to protect them from more assaults, such housing is also used for punishment: inmates in solitary confinement are denied many programs and services, and the extensive isolation often causes or exacerbates mental and emotional problems. It is also enormously expensive. In California, for example, it costs an additional $14,600 per year to house a prisoner in administrative segregation.

Prisons and jails in which sexual abuse is widespread have been shown to be more dangerous than others generally. At such facilities, violence of every kind, importation of contraband, and other problems tend to flourish. Facilities with less sexual abuse thereby have lower overall security costs and fewer security breaches. When prisons are safer for inmates, they are also safer for corrections staff. The various measures called for by NPREC’s standards—among them better surveillance technology and external oversight—will provide a wide range of benefits for the facilities in which they are implemented, going far beyond the reduction of sexual violence.

Preventing prisoner rape will also help inmates successfully re-enter their communities when they’re released from prison (as almost all will be, eventually). Not only will recidivism be decreased and the enormous costs of re-incarceration lowered, this will lower the costs of disability payments, public housing, and other government-subsidy programs. As we know from our extensive work with survivors of prisoner rape, former inmates who have not been sexually abused are far more likely to become members of the legitimate workforce and pay taxes. Severe financial, emotional, and social burdens are removed from the families who support former inmates if their loved ones are released from prison without the lasting trauma of sexual abuse. And the children who depend on those former inmates will also do better. Today, more than a million children in this country have at least one incarcerated parent.

Testifying before a House subcommittee, Attorney General Holder said, “We want to effect substantive, real change, so that the horrors that too often are visited upon people in our prisons [are] eliminated…. It is something that I think needs to be done, not tomorrow, but yesterday.” That was on March 16. In mid-August a Department spokesman said that the Attorney General would send a proposed rule on the standards to the White House Office of Management and Budgets “in the fall.” Even then, however, it will take months for another layer of review. If well over 100,000 inmates are sexually abused every year, that is something like 300 every day, or even more. Since Attorney General Holder said that change needed to come “yesterday”—five months ago now—more than 40,000 people have been sexually abused in detention. Good corrections officers are doing what they can, but they are desperate for the support that binding national standards would give them. It is time for Mr. Holder to act.

August 26, 2010 2:15 p.m.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stop the Militarization of the DREAM ACT Petition

Hey All -

Here's a new petition from addressing some of the problems with the proposed DREAM Act. I was surprised to find it. Please take a close look and see if it's something you can support. If so, please follow the link at the bottom, sign and pass it on; there are only 499 signatures so far.

Stop the Militarization of the DREAM Act!

The DREAM Act has been promoted as a chance for many undocumented youth to gain "legalization." It has been touted as an education bill. However, college attendance rates are low for many undocumented immigrants, especially latino/as. Little is done to help undocumented youth go to college. Therefore, this will force many youth to choose the military option as their only choice for legalization. We believe this is immoral and an unfair choice.

If you believe that the DREAM Act is flawed because the only two options are college or the military. If you want to see the military option removed from the DREAM Act, please sign our petition


Though the DREAM Act provides a pathway to legalization for some youth by going to college, we believe that high school graduation rates and the resources available for our communities to obtain a higher education will give an unfair advantage to military recruitment. That is, we believe that the DREAM Act will cause a de facto draft. The military will prey upon the fact that the vast majority of undocumented youth will not go to college. It will prey upon undocumented youth because the DREAM Act does little to help youth go to college. While there may be youth who do in fact benefit, we believe that the cost of sending thousands of undocumented youth to war is an unfair, immoral and unjust price to pay.

That is why we urge you to remove the military component of the DREAM Act and replace it with 910 hours of community service or employment. The 910 hours of community service was actually in the original DREAM Act. We believe the service component was removed to force more youth to “choose” the military option.

Further, we applaud the youth who put their lives on the line and risk deportation in their struggles to pass the DREAM Act. We simply wish to push the DREAM Act in a more just direction, a direction which will not victimize immigrants in the US and civilians in countries which the US attacks.

We also recognize that the DREAM Act does not address our fundamental demand of LEGALIZATION FOR ALL. The DREAM Act does not stop the separation of families. The DREAM Act does not stop deportations. The DREAM Act does not stop the terrorism that occurs in our communities and our families everyday.


1) The original DREAM Act already had the community service component. We simply wish this component to be re-added and replace the military component.

2) Military contracts are never for two years. They are always substantially longer. The DREAM Act is deceitfully worded to make the public believe that two years of military service is enough. Military contracts are generally for eight years.

3) The military will prey upon undocumented youth because less than 30% of latino/s have ever been even one day to college*

4) Only 11% of latino/as have a college degree. *

5) While latino/as are not the only immigrants affected, it is latino/a blood which will be spilled, because we have the lowest high school and college graduation rate of any group in the US *

6) What kind of “choice” will youth have with these statistics? It is not a real choice. It is an illusion that it is a real choice. The youth could also “chose” to return to their country of origin, but we refuse that as a viable option as well. This is their home and the youth wish to stay here, the land which they recognize and call home.

7) The DREAM Act doesn’t help youth graduate high school. If a single piece of legislation could help the horrendous high school graduation rates for minorities in the US, a bill would have been crafted years ago. Education disparities are complex issues that would be difficult to fix with simple legislation. After decades of disinvestment, it will take years or decades to fix our education system.

8) The DREAM Act doesn’t help make going to college easier. States don’t have to give undocumented students in-state tuition, and only 11 do. The DREAM Act doesn’t give students this benefit. It also makes federal assistance out the question. Pell grants are probably the single greatest thing that could truly help college attainable.

*- these are figures from the latest available US Census -,_Statistics,_and_Research1_EN.asp?SnID=2

------------------SIGN THE PETITION--------------------

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back from the Dark Side: pondering transformative justice.

I'm sharing the following post from the Prison Abolitionist because it comes from a new blog whose author takes a special interest in abolishing the practice of incarcerating youth. We really need to start challenging ourselves to do better than throwing people in prison for everything - especially children. This begins the dialogue as to how to do that. My own remarks below are in italics and precede the article I borrowed.

- Peg


A twitter by Solitary Watch (good site on solitary confinement) turned me on to this blog, Prison Culture, and this page below that I landed on there couldn't be more appropriate right now (I also lifted the picture to the right from their site). The correspondence I've had with the survivor of a murder victim, the Kingman escapes, and a gang's attack on a friend's son in the AZ Department of Juvenile Corrections have been disturbing of late - as have the assault on me in May and the recent theft of my laptop from my home. My faith has been challenged by my outrage - I even wrestled briefly with my opposition to both life without parole and the death penalty upon learning about the older couple murdered by those Arizona escapees.

I don't have the answers for what to do with all the "bad people" in the world. I do still believe that what we're doing in the way of crime and punishment in America is a colossal tragedy - far more people get victimized and brutalized by the state and corporate America than we have in prison for lesser crimes. In fact, many of those in prison are the ones who have been - and are being - victimized by our misplaced fear and rage, and targeted by the bad people in power.

That's not to say that there aren't bad people in prison - there are plenty enough there. Many such people I would vote myself to segregate from the rest of society somehow, lacking better options for protecting the community from sociopaths. But a lot of sociopaths are extremely successful business leaders, police officers, lawmakers, psychiatrists, and so on who aren't about to be stopped by the systems they currently control, even though they harm far more people in more torturous ways than your everyday burglar or street gang member. It is the legitimacy of their conduct, in fact, that makes them so much more dangerous than people who have been criminalized due to their poverty, race, or citizenship status. Abuse is abuse, whether it's called a crime or not. So is discrimination, exploitation, and slavery. Most good sociopaths are obsessive about following the letter of the law, in fact, because the law is what favors and protects them, not the rest of us. It is their law, by and large, not ours.

Anyway, this post from Mariame at Prison Culture touches on a lot of the issues that compelled me to start blogging on the prison industrial complex in the first place, a little over a year ago now. I've just had a lot on my hands getting involved in the lives of the people being chewed up by it. It makes sitting down and pondering things once in awhile more difficult, while at the same time it makes such pondering more relevant and necessary, too - otherwise my every action becomes reaction which all too often stems from my own fears. I guess even abolitionists aren't immune from thinking and acting from a place of indoctrination rather than deliberation at times.

With that, here's the start of the piece that helped me begin to get focused again tonight - don't worry, I didn't stray too far. I'd encourage you to follow the link and read it through, then explore their blog and other links a little further if prison abolition is something that really interests you. Their focus is on ending the incarceration of youth. I'm presuming Mariame won't mind the compliment and promotion, but will be dropping her a line about setting up a link so you can find the site again.


What Does Transformative/Restorative Justice Actually Look Like?

August 7th, 2010
by admin (Miriame Kabe, according to twitter)

Whenever I talk about my work with others, I make sure to stress that it focuses on developing community-based alternatives to the traditional criminal legal system. I add that we do this using a transformative justice approach and lens. Many have responded to me by saying: “that’s not something that I can wrap my mind around.” This is usually followed by the questions: “What does transformative justice look like?” and “How would it work?” Actually I should back up to say that the first question is usually: “What about the violent and bad people? Surely you are not advocating letting them out of prison!”

I understand the fear that people have of the so-called “unknown.” People would rather rely on a criminal legal system that they KNOW is ineffective and unjust than to move to an approach that they view as “unproven” and perhaps even Utopian. It provides them with a sense of safety, however fragile. Hence, the constant and persistent question: “What about the bad people?”

I understand that people want to have some sense of accountability for harm that was done. I often answer questions about the “bad people” by asking individuals whether they feel that every “bad” person is currently incarcerated. If they say, no, I ask them if it is realistic to incapacitate every “bad” person on the planet. In fact, what does it even mean to be a “bad” person? Then I ask them to think about what factors determine who ends up behind bars. This is intended to push people to acknowledge the fact that not every “crime” is punished and that certain groups always seem to be more of a target for punishment than others. I point out that the majority of people who are incarcerated are non-violent offenders. I tell them that if they would agree to release all of those people only then am I willing to entertain their questions about the “bad” people. This serves as a way not to get bogged down in the endless discussion about whether “bad” people need to go to prison. Once all of the non-violent prisoners are freed, I am confident that we would be able to make the case that prisons are in existence to mask our failure for addressing the root causes of oppression. As such, more people would be freed still. We need to start opening the doors of the prisons and this necessitates deploying alternative approaches to addressing violence and crime.

I am prompted to write this post today after reading an article in the Daily Progress about restorative justice. I wanted to write about this topic because it is past time that those of us who are anti-prison activists step up to the plate and create actual community-based alternatives that do not rely on the criminal legal system to solve issues of violence and crime. We cannot simply rely on analysis of the problem of mass incarceration as important as that work is. We have to test our theories about using transformative approaches to addressing violence and crime. We have to be willing to take some risks and to also be prepared to fail some times. More of us have to put our ideas in practice. It takes courage because it is lonely and difficult work but we cannot expect to dismantle the prison industrial complex if we do not develop vehicles for community accountability with respect to violence and crime. We can start small and that is exactly what we are attempting in our organization.

Many people of good will are looking for concrete examples of restorative and transformative practice in action. Restorative justice as an approach to addressing violence and crime is only one step on a continuum of community accountability. That continuum is ultimately pointing our society towards TRANSFORMATIVE justice...

(go here for the rest. It's worth it.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Act for Juvenile Justice: Town Hall Meetings.

This comes to us from the Act for Juvenile Justice ( list-serve. It may also be a good opportunity to remind congress members of the role of federal oversight in state and local facilities if folks are having concerns about their children's treatment or safety that aren't being responded to by the appropriate court or institution.


Keep the Heat on Congress to Pass the JJDPA this Year!

Attend a Town Hall Meeting & Speak Out for Juvenile Justice Reform

During August, Members of Congress are heading to their home states for the “August recess” until September 13. While Congress may be leaving the record-breaking heat in Washington, DC, we need to keep the heat on them to pass Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act reauthorization legislation this year!

The JJDPA was first enacted in 1974 and provides federal funding to states that comply with a set of best practices aimed at avoiding the detention and incarceration of young people in juvenile and adult facilities. However, this law is three years overdue for reauthorization! The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a JJDPA reauthorization bill (S. 678) but it is awaiting action on the Senate floor. We’re awaiting the introduction of a House measure, expected just after the House returns in September.

It's a good law, and is needed now more than ever to provide more protections for court-involve youth and support state and local efforts to develop and implement evidence-based practices that are in the best interests of youth, families and communities nationwide.

Please show your support for JJDPA reauthorization by attending a Town Hall meeting during the August recess and speaking out for juvenile justice reform.

Actions you can take:

(1) Find out when your Members of Congress are hosting Town Hall Meetings: Check the websites of your members to see if they have scheduled a Town Hall meeting in your area. For the House, visit For the Senate, visit You can also call the main congressional switchboard (202)-224-3121 to get connected to your members’ offices. Some members may have Town Hall information on their Facebook page or you can check local newspaper listings.

(2) Spread the Word: Once you know if and when your members are hosting a Town Hall meeting, get the word out! Invite others to join you.

(3) Speak out: Ask a question or make a comment during the Town Hall. Be sure to say that you are part of the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Sample Question: “What actions will you take to ensure that the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Act is reauthorized by Congress this year?”

(4) Give us feedback: If you attend a Town Hall, let us know how it went! Were you able to make a comment or ask a question? If so, what did your Member of Congress say in response? Send your comments to

(5) Share: Spread the word with your friends by sharing this Action Alert!

For additional information, visit:

Visit us online at
Act 4 Juvenile Justice care of Coalition for Juvenile Justice
1710 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
Main: 202-467-0864 Email: