5/10/2004 Newsletter


  • CUAPB Night at Justice, The Movie
  • Back to Chaska to Fight for Justice
  • Harrington Chosen for St. Paul Police Chief
  • Mistreatment, Torture of Prisoners in Iraq and US

A great new movie, Justice, that was made right here in the Twin Cities is having its world premier tomorrow night and CUAPB will be there. Some of us saw versions of the film during production and it knocked us out!

This great film, starring Roger Guenvuer Smith (All About the Benjamins, Get on the Bus, Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X), Monica Calhoun (Baghdad Café, The Best Man, The Players Club), and Anna Maria Horsford (Minority Report, Set it Off, TV show "Amen"), is about a movement started by a public defender who gets tired of seeing people of color and poor folks forced to take deals and plead guilty just to keep the court system moving and cover for brutal cops. Written and produced by local civil rights attorneys John Shulman and Jeanne-Marie Almonor, this cinema-quality film accurately depicts what we see everyday down at the Hennepin County Government Center and what happens in courthouses around the country. Except this lawyer starts his own "no compromise" firm and forces the court system to take every case to trial.

Soon, average folks get excited about this lawyer's work and a people's movement develops. While the lawyers are clogging up the courts, the people start clogging up the streets. The most dramatic part of the movie comes when dirty cops try COINTELPRO-style tactics to bring down the movement. When justice prevails with the surprise ending, you walk away from this movie feeling uplifted, hopeful and ready to renew your commitment to the struggle.

You'll want to attend one of the showings of this wonderful film: May 12th through May 20th (nightly showings at 7:10 and 9:15 $6, weekend matinees at 1:00 and 3:00 $5) Riverview Theater, 38th St & 42nd Ave S in Minneapolis. For tickets and the complete screening schedule call 612-824-7184 or go to http://www.jujitsufilms.com/justice/form.html

While we'll be present every night of this run, MONDAY, MAY 17th is CUAPB night at the movies. Please help us fill up the theater that night. It's a great opportunity to meet us in person, pick up a t-shirt or button and be part of the people's movement for justice. SEE YOU THERE!

The Perkins family is due back in court on Monday, May 17th at 8:30 a.m. in Chaska. You'll recall that Edwin Perkins is a retired Chicago firefighter. He and his wife left Chicago and moved to Chaska to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Apparently, though, Chaska police don't have much appreciation for cultural diversity. Since moving to Chaska, Edwin and his family have faced a steady stream of harassment from the Chaska Police Department. His son-in-law, Hardy, has been stopped so often he practically knows every Chaska cop by name.

In a particularly appalling incident, Chaska cops pulled over Edwin's daughter outside of her sister's apartment. She had left her purse with her insurance card at her parent's house. Dad brought the purse to the scene but before he knew it, Edwin was getting beaten and arrested by the Chaska cops. They even dumped out his heart medicine. Now they're charging Edwin for what they did to him. This is an outrage!

We'll be in Chaska on Saturday to pass out flyers and continue to drum up support for this family. Join us:

Perkins Support Rally/Flyering
Saturday, May 15
11:00 a.m.
The Park (across from Embers)
Downtown Chaska
Meet at the CUAPB office at 10:00 a.m. (2104 Stevens Ave) to carpool to Chaska

Court Support for Edwin Perkins
Monday, May 17
8:30 a.m.
Carver County Courthouse
604 East 4th Street, Chaska
Meet at the CUAPB office at 7:45 a.m. (2104 Stevens Ave) to carpool to Chaska

Last week, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly announced that he would present Cmdr. John Harrington as his choice for next police chief. This was welcome news, as Harrington was the community's first choice and because it appeared, initially, that Mayor Kelly would push for another candidate, Tim Leslie, a protege of disgraced Public Safety Commissioner Rick Stanek. It looked for a little while like we were going to have to dust off our McManus petition and put it to work in St. Paul but the will of the people prevailed.

We are concerned about Harrington's seeming obscession with CODEFOR-style tracking, which he says he wants to reinstitute in St. Paul. We also don't hold any illusions about everything being hunky-dorey under Harrington, any more than they are currently under Finney (and we get plenty of calls to the hotline out of St. Paul). Nonetheless, St. Paul cops have a somewhat better reputation for professionalism than do their brutish colleagues in Minneapolis. Hopefully Harrington will improve policing in certain neighborhoods where cops maintain a siege mentality toward the residents. Time will tell.

Across this country, police brutality and misconduct are widespread, aided and abetted by the fact that police officers virtually NEVER face punishment. The injustice is extended further as there is ample evidence of innocent people being sent to prisons, where they are mistreated, sometimes tortured or even killed. Is it any surprise, then, about reports of torture coming out of Iraq? Some of the prison guards in Iraq cut their teeth here at US prisons, and some are returning to those jobs after they complete their tours of duty. One such individual, Charles A. Graner, Jr., an army reservist pictured in some of the photos of US military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners, is currently employed as a prison guard at SCI-Greene, where Mumia Abu-Jamal and thousands of other prisoners are held.

This is yet another example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. Does anyone think the soldiers who are facing discipline would be facing it if pictures of the abuse hadn't been smuggled out of Abu Ghraib? To quote Amnesty International, "Our extensive research in Iraq suggests that this is not an isolated incident. It is not enough for the USA to react only once images have hit the television screens."

One final note: Many articles (including the one below) cite a "lack of training" as a reason behind the torture. It is hard to imagine what kind of training it takes for people to know that torture and mistreatment of others in your care is just plain wrong.
Mistreatment of Prisoners Is Called Routine in U.S.
May 8, 2004

Physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what has been uncovered in Iraq, takes place in American prisons with little public knowledge or concern, according to corrections officials, inmates and human rights advocates.

In Pennsylvania and some other states, inmates are routinely stripped in front of other inmates before being moved to a new prison or a new unit within their prison. In Arizona, male inmates at the Maricopa County jail in Phoenix are made to wear women's pink underwear as a form of humiliation.

At Virginia's Wallens Ridge maximum security prison, new inmates have reported being forced to wear black hoods, in theory to keep them from spitting on guards, and said they were often beaten and cursed at by guards and made to crawl.

The corrections experts say that some of the worst abuses have occurred in Texas, whose prisons were under a federal consent decree during much of the time President Bush was governor because of crowding and violence by guards against inmates. Judge William Wayne Justice of Federal District Court imposed the decree after finding that guards were allowing inmate gang leaders to buy and sell other inmates as slaves for sex.

The experts also point out that the man who directed the reopening of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year and trained the guards there resigned under pressure as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after an inmate died while shackled to a restraining chair for 16 hours. The inmate, who suffered from schizophrenia, was kept naked the whole time.

The Utah official, Lane McCotter, later became an executive of a private prison company, one of whose jails was under investigation by the Justice Department when he was sent to Iraq as part of a team of prison officials, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs picked by Attorney General John Ashcroft to rebuild the country's criminal justice system.

Mr. McCotter, 63, is director of business development for Management & Training Corporation, a Utah-based firm that says it is the third-largest private prison company, operating 13 prisons. In 2003, the company's operation of the Santa Fe jail was criticized by the Justice Department and the New Mexico Department of Corrections for unsafe conditions and lack of medical care for inmates. No further action was taken.

In response to a request for an interview on Friday, Mr. McCotter said in a written statement that he had left Iraq last September, just after a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open Abu Ghraib.

"I was not involved in any aspect of the facility's operation after that time," he said.

Nationwide, during the last quarter century, over 40 state prison systems were under some form of court order, for brutality, crowding, poor food or lack of medical care, said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group in Washington that calls for alternatives to incarceration.

In a 1999 opinion, Judge Justice wrote of the situation in Texas, "Many inmates credibly testified to the existence of violence, rape and extortion in the prison system and about their own suffering from such abysmal conditions."

In a case that began in 2000, a prisoner at the Allred Unit in Wichita Falls, Tex., said he was repeatedly raped by other inmates, even after he appealed to guards for help, and was allowed by prison staff to be treated like a slave, being bought and sold by various prison gangs in different parts of the prison. The inmate, Roderick Johnson, has filed suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, said Kara Gotsch, public policy coordinator for the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mr. Johnson.

Asked what Mr. Bush knew about abuse in Texas prisons while he was governor, Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said the problems in American prisons were not comparable to the abuses exposed at Abu Ghraib.

The corrections experts are careful to say they do not know to what extent the brutality and humiliation at Abu Ghraib were intended to break the prisoners for interrogation or were just random acts.

But Chase Riveland, a former secretary of corrections in Washington State and Colorado and now a prison consultant based near Seattle, said, "In some jurisdictions in the United States there is a prison culture that tolerates violence, and it's been there a long time."

This culture has been made worse by the quadrupling of the number of prison and jail inmates to 2.1 million over the last 25 years, which has often resulted in crowding, he said. The problems have been compounded by the need to hire large numbers of inexperienced and often undertrained guards, Mr. Riveland said.

Some states have a hard time recruiting enough guards, Mr. Riveland said, particularly Arizona, where the pay is very low. "Retention in these states is a big problem and so unqualified people get promoted to be lieutenants or captains in a few months," he said.

Something like this process may have happened in Iraq, where the Americans tried to start a new prison system with undertrained military police officers from Army reserve units, Mr. Riveland suggested.

When Mr. Ashcroft announced the appointment of the team to restore Iraq's criminal justice system last year, including Mr. McCotter, he said, "Now all Iraqis can taste liberty in their native land, and we will help make that freedom permanent by assisting them to establish an equitable criminal justice system based on the rule of law and standards of basic human rights."

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Monica Goodling, did not return phone calls on Friday asking why Mr. Ashcroft had chosen Mr. McCotter even though his firm's operation of the Santa Fe jail had been criticized by the Justice Department.

Mr. McCotter has a long background in prisons. He had been a military police officer in Vietnam and had risen to be a colonel in the Army. His last post was as warden of the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth.

After retiring from the Army, Mr. Cotter was head of the corrections departments in New Mexico and Texas before taking the job in Utah.

In Utah, in addition to the death of the mentally ill inmate, Mr. McCotter also came under criticism for hiring a prison psychiatrist whose medical license was on probation and who was accused of Medicaid fraud and writing prescriptions for drug addicts.

In an interview with an online magazine, Corrections.com, last January, Mr. McCotter recalled that of all the prisons in Iraq, Abu Ghraib "is the only place we agreed as a team was truly closest to an American prison. They had cell housing and segregation."

But 80 to 90 percent of the prison had been destroyed, so Mr. McCotter set about rebuilding it, everything from walls and toilets to handcuffs and soap. He employed 100 Iraqis who had worked in the prison under Saddam Hussein, and paid for everything with wads of cash, up to $3 million, that he carried with him.

Another problem, Mr. McCotter quickly discovered, was that the Iraqi staff, despite some American training, quickly reverted to their old ways, "shaking down families, shaking down inmates, letting prisoners buy their way out of prison."

So the American team fired the guards and went with former Iraqi military personnel. "They didn't have any bad habits and did things exactly the way we trained them."

Mr. McCotter said he worked closely with American military police officers at the prison, but he did not give any names.
Simulated Prison in '71 Showed a Fine Line Between `Normal' and `Monster'
Published: May 6, 2004

In 1971 researchers at Stanford University created a simulated prison in the basement of the campus psychology building. They randomly assigned 24 students to be either prison guards or prisoners for two weeks. Within days the "guards" had become swaggering and sadistic, to the point of placing bags over the prisoners' heads, forcing them to strip naked and encouraging them to perform sexual acts.

The landmark Stanford experiment and studies like it give insight into how ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, do horrible things including the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. What is the distance between "normal" and "monster"? Can anyone become a torturer? Such questions, explored over the decades by philosophers and social scientists, come up anew whenever shocking cases of abuse burst upon the national consciousness, whether in the interrogation room, the police station or the high school locker room.

Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "banality of evil" to describe the very averageness of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. Social psychologists pursued the question more systematically, conducting experiments that demonstrated the power of situations to determine human behavior. Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo, a leader of the Stanford prison study, said that while the rest of the world was shocked by the images from Iraq, "I was not surprised that it happened." "I have exact, parallel pictures of prisoners with bags over their heads," from the 1971 study, he said. At one point, he said, the guards in the fake prison ordered their prisoners to strip and used a rudimentary sex joke to humiliate them. Professor Zimbardo ended the experiment the next day, more than a week earlier than planned.

Prisons, where the balance of power is so unequal, tend to be brutal and abusive places unless great effort is made to control the guards' base impulses, he said. At Stanford and in Iraq, he added: "It's not that we put bad apples in a good barrel. We put good apples in a bad barrel. The barrel corrupts anything that it touches."

To the extent that the Abu Ghraib guards acted, as some have said, at the request of intelligence officers, other studies, performed 40 years ago by Dr. Stanley Milgram, then a psychology professor at Yale, can also offer some explanation, researchers said. In a series of experiments, he told test subjects that they were taking part in a study about teaching through punishment. The subjects were instructed by a researcher in a white lab coat to deliver electric shocks to another participant, the "student." Every time the student gave an incorrect answer to a question, the subject was ordered to deliver a shock. The shocks started small but became progressively stronger at the researcher's insistence, with labels on the machine indicating jolts of increasing intensity up to a whopping 450 volts.

The shock machine was a cleverly designed fake, though, and the victims were actors who moaned and wailed. But to the test subjects the experience was all too real.

Most showed anguish as they carried out the instructions. A stunning 65 percent of those taking part obeyed the commands to administer the electric shocks all the way up to the last, potentially lethal switch, marked "XXX."

Dr. Charles B. Strozier, director of the Center on Terrorism and Public Safety at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the prison guards in Iraq might feel that the emotions of war and the threat of terrorism gave them permission to dehumanize the prisoners. "There has been a serious, siesmic change in attitude after 9/11 in the country in its attitude about torture," Dr. Strozier said, a shift that is evident in polling and in public debate. In the minds of many Americans, he said, "it's O.K. to torture now, to get information that will save us from terrorism."

Craig W. Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was one of the lead researchers in the Stanford experiment, says prison abuses can be prevented by regular training and discipline, along with outside monitoring.

Without outsiders watching, Professor Haney said, "what's regarded as appropriate treatment can shift over time," so "they don't realize how badly they're behaving."

"If anything," he said, "the smiling faces in those pictures suggest a total loss of perspective, a drift in the standard of humane treatment."

Experiments like those at Stanford and Yale are no longer done, in part because researchers have decided that they involved so much deception and such high levels of stress--four of the Stanford prisoners suffered emotional breakdowns--that the experiments are unethical.

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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