United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
|To Beloved Friends and Fellow Laborers:
April 26, 2002
As brothers and sisters in Christ we are commanded to love one another and to continue loving one another. That includes remembering people in prisons and hospitals who are suffering. We are to remember them as if we were suffering with them. Prisoners need to be visited, as they are often solitary and forsaken by the rest of the world. And, as our Lord instructed, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40).
We have an urgent situation in our state. California Department of Corrections is planning to change, restrict and add to the already harsh regulations governing prison visits. In some cases it will even halt the ability of clergy, friends, and family to reach these people. Inmates in the cruel Security Housing Units will be restricted to short visits from blood relatives only. Certain drug convictions will forbid visits for a year. This is an intolerable situation! Indeed, it goes contrary to all that has been asked of us in the Bible and that we have been commanded to do.
We believe the true intent is that Gray Davis needs to make a budget cut. He has selected the poorest, least organized, weakest voting group of mostly grandmothers, wives, and little children in a move that will ultimately endanger public safety. In order to help as quickly as possible, we need for you to contact the people in your congregation to let them know what is happening. Additionally, we have asked everyone to write to their newspapers (letters-to-the-editor) explaining the importance of such visits to the prisoner mental and spiritual well-being.
This is not a political issue but rather a situation whereby the clergy will be forbidden to carry out their responsibility to minister to those in need. Reluctantly, we may also need to file a lawsuit against the state to correct matters and should we reach that point, we will urge you to join us in our efforts. Our organization is very poor since many of our members are families of prisoners, but we have heart and will try to stand up to this oppression.
We will need help with funds and volunteers from all over the State. We were able to find a lawyer who would work on contingency for two prisoners who were abused. Eddie Dillard was raped at Corcoran after the guards put him in the cell of a predatory rapist (Booty Bandit) on purpose. Stephanie Hardie was a young mother sentenced to ten years in prison for overdrawing her own checking account. She died needlessly at Chowchilla Prison due to medical neglect at a young age and left two young children behind.
These hearings will be coming up soon and their outcome affects the safety of every California inmate.
We need people to know and write about these two cases as well. It would be good to fill the courtrooms during the hearings in Fresno which are coming up. Visiting was simply deleted in 1996 by the Legislature. The UNION did not exist at that time and the advocates missed it. The Legislators failed to uphold their oaths to defend the California Constitution. Visiting is now considered a "privilege" and not a "right." People will surely die over this travesty which violates the rights of the families. Unreasonable search and seizure, pursuit of happiness, and more are but a few of the rights in jeopardy. As long as the law is in place, the threat will be over us.
But it would take 6500 people cooperating to change the law. You can see by the hardship that is happening in the campaign to end the three strikes law that families of prisoners do not know how to do this work. They are emotionally and financially devastated and do not know how to organize a voting group of the proportion needed. So we need to cry out to fellow Christians for help since millions of people will be adversely impacted. I give thanks to God always for all of you and what you are doing in His name.
As I close this message, I would like to echo the words of the Apostle Paul, "Grace to you and peace from God." What better way to remember Christ, who was a felon, at Easter. Please contact me with your pledge to help those who most need it - the innocent victims of crime who are families of prisoners. We have a daily online newsletter which reports on criminal justice and human rights which you may subscribe to in order to stay current.
In truth and love,
For more information on this subject please go to these sites. Index is on first page
Text of Visiting Regulations
Letter written by UNION Director B. Cayenne Bird to CDC containing more details of visiting threat
Los Angeles Times Commentary - Don't Cut Off Prisoners From Their Families
Letters to CDC About Visiting
1996 Senate Bill 2601 (deleted visits in 1996)
Inmates' families rip rules proposal
Harsh new rules threaten public safety