Prisoners' rights

4th Jan 2006
Houston, TX
Dear all,
Last I heard from Diane was on Saturday morning Dec 31st. As I mentioned to some of you already, she’s getting deeply involved in the issue of prisoners’ rights. She feels compelled to use her time inside to bring about some real changes in TX prison conditions. According to her, many of her cellmates have no representation and are even being denied state appointed attorneys. They are often prevented access to information about their case. In the absence of a robust support system outside, they’re stuck in a veritable vacuum. One of the women even lost an infant in childbirth due to abuse & neglect by authorities. With all the mail she’s been getting, the women are beginning to realize that Diane is an activist and a political prisoner. As a result, she’s being approached with a new tragic story almost every day.
Diane’s passionate about launching a prisoners’ advocacy group with support from Code Pink, if possible. She had decided to put off her fast until she could discuss her ideas with Jodie Evans. I set up a call for her with Jodie on Fri, the 30th. Diane mentioned a possible protest/action idea outside Victoria jail coordinated with a media campaign, as a culmination of efforts to draw attention to denial of prisoners’ rights. (Jodie, please fill in the gaps here.) She is confident that some of these women will be glad to act as spokespersons for the advocacy group. With all her calls being monitored and recorded, I am not sure how she’ll pull off any sort of action! But Diane did mention that she gets to seal her outgoing mail in front of a jailor and it’s sent out unread, uncensored. She also believes that much of her incoming mail is untampered. They’re only looking for drugs and such items. I guess they don’t expect anyone to dare organize the prisoners! Jodie, Diane mentioned that you were real supportive of her idea and would work on it. Please let me know how I can help.
Meanwhile, Tim Smith, a Calhoun County jailor who is also her mother’s Pentecostal preacher & a closet Diane supporter, visited her on the 30th Frid afternoon. He offered crucial advice on how and where to work the system. I am attempting to get all the information he has asked her to obtain on prisoners’ rights, Texas Prison Standards, Open Records Act, names and addresses of grievance officers & state agencies… Tim Smith however strongly cautioned her against any action outside the prison. He believes they would ship her out somewhere and cut off our access to her.
Tim Smith thinks that ACLU tends to put the fear of god in jail authorities down in Calhoun County. So I’ve been sending out requests for contacts high up in ACLU (TX) who may be able to improve her living conditions. A cell of her own…some peace and quiet. I think that’s the next best thing to getting her sentence reduced. She can do a lot of good, both for herself and the campaign, if she’s simply able to focus on her writing.
Last night, through activists I met at the Bioneers, I received an introduction to the Houston City Comptroller who’s the second most powerful elected official after the Mayor. She’s apparently very progressive. She’s never heard of Diane though. I have a call scheduled with her today. Alice, Margo, I need a copy of Diane’s book for Ms. Parker. I’ve also asked Nina Simmons for a video copy of Diane’s powerful plenary talk at the recent Bioneers. I think the book and tape will compel Ms. Parker to at least help us improve her conditions. She may also help in pursuing Diane’s prison abuse complaint against the Houston City jail. Any more ideas/advice is most welcome.
She hasn’t received any of our book pkgs so far. She did however get 4 copies of the ‘Chicken Soup’ series from Carol Klein’s publisher. She’s gladly trading them with her cellmates while she waits for her own stuff! She’s put in requests for legal reading material but no response so far. She’s extremely grateful for all the mail you’ve been sending. It helps her immensely. Keeps her safe too ‘cos they can see that she has a robust support system outside. Please keep writing as often as you can. Printouts of news, op-eds, political pieces…everything I’ve sent her so far has gotten through.
Katy Heim and other activists in Houston would like to organize a funds & awareness raising event for Diane. Alice, Margo can we get some signed copies of Diane’s books for the raffle? Any videos, films, any other ideas and materials will also be greatly appreciated. Carolyn, Patsy, I recd a copy of your latest edit couple of days back. May I have permission to show that at a fundraiser?
Many of you have asked about receiving phone calls from her. On most phone services it works as a simple collect call. When the automated operator calls, someone has to receive the call and press 5 to accept charges. If it goes to the machine, the first few lines of the operator’s instructions get recorded so you’ll know you missed her call. She can’t call to 1-800 numbers, board lines or cell phones. On some phone services, maybe the digital ones like Vonage, you may have to first set up an account by calling this number 1888 506 8407. All calls are recorded and monitored. The system automatically disconnects her if you attempt to have a 3-way call.
She’s most keen on doing radio interviews and whatever other media we can organize. Ben DeSoto, Carolyn Scott’s film contact in Houston has been trying hard to get a jailhouse interview. I am trying via other means too. Diana, no word yet from the Salon.com writer.
If everyone is back from the holidays, can we please have a conference call to decide upon the media &/ campaign strategy? If someone takes the lead on strategy, I would be happy to help with the organising.
Hope everyone’s having a great new year.
Best, Kinnu.

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