Prisons Created by Ugly Voting Machine -- Abuse Supported by Legislators

Dr. B. Cayenne Bird is an ordained minister and a 37-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. She volunteers her time as founder and director of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect UNION. The UNION is active in prison reform and criminal justice issues. She is a mother and grandmother and focuses on human rights and restorative justice. She is also the host of television series "Cayenne Common Sense" and publishes a daily online newsletter to subscribers.

August 19, 2007

All it takes to bring out the Republican ugly machine is a single email sent to law enforcement labor unions, crime victims groups, district attorneys, and/or most of the radio stations, which are owned and operated by right-wing nuts. One call to action via email can set in full motion all those who profit from California 's biggest industry, that of prison human bondage. Within a couple of days this ugly machine can raise a million or more dollars to do fear mongering advertising campaigns, file multiple lawsuits, and flood the newspapers with letters to editors.

This ability to organize and mobilize this ugly machine is so powerful that it can pass laws based upon untruths that destroy hundreds of thousands of families and rob billions in education and human services dollars through what has resulted in truly evil initiatives. Specifically, the Republican ugly machine has foisted upon California citizens conveyor-belt laws such as Three Strikes, Proposition 21 allowing juveniles to be punished as adult criminals, and their latest disaster, Proposition 83 commonly known as Jessica's Law. These conveyor belt laws were specifically created to keep a steady flow of fresh humans coming to fill the prisons.

There appears to be no end to the prison empire-building, which is now California 's largest industry. The voters who should be up-in-arms over prisoners do not bother to come to the polls themselves, let alone bring other people and register the poor to vote. It never occurs to most people that what is taking place is modern day slavery. All of it done with the taxpayer's dollars -- and permission. Even those approximately three million people who are destroyed by the prison industry are almost never seen at important hearings in Sacramento ; so they are easy for the ugly machine to beat. Even though three million potential voters far outnumber the size of the ugly machine which has destroyed their lives, they do not understand how the game in Sacramento is being played.

There are about 500 groups and individuals in California who claim to be "prison reformers." But until we have one large, funded group, it will be impossible to do initiative campaigns to undo Three Strikes, Prop. 21 and Prop. 83. That's because doing an initiative campaign requires at least 6500 trained workers fully committed to write to editors, show up to protests, register the poor to vote and collect signatures registered with the Secretary of State. There is a limit of 150 days to gather enough signatures for an initiative campaign to get it on the ballot; so most professional organizers will tell you that without at least 6500 workers and the money raised in advance, you can't make the deadline. Certainly no professional organizer would begin such a project without funds and volunteers in place in advance of the campaign. Some have tried to do this thinking support would come after the initiative campaign was launched, but those who should get behind such efforts rarely do, so they're doomed to fail from day one.

Many groups outside of prison reform are successful with initiative campaigns. The State is run by groups such as nurses, teachers, and labor unions. About 134 groups are large enough and funded enough by their members to have a voice; they elect and recall politicians, file lawsuits and do initiative campaigns. The people with the most voice are those writing the biggest checks, both during political campaigns and afterward. Politicians are put into office by the people who can buy their votes, an important fact that the poor overlook when they are asking themselves why law enforcement's politicians cannot be reasoned with to do the right thing. The poor are excellent at complaining but this is not enough to achieve prison reform. There must be certain actions taken at critical times.

For nine years, our UNION (United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect) has consistently held scores of protests at the Capitol and at the prisons. I have personally taught more than 800 people how to become activists for change. Our families have filed 28 lawsuits with more on the way. Most are for wrongful deaths, some for First Amendment violations and torture in California's prisons. At this time there are more than 350 State employees served with lawsuits by UNION family members for failing to protect prisoners as is required by the California and US Constitution. In addition, a movie for the big screen is being made about our UNION work over the past decade and some of the landmark lawsuits that we brought forward with limited resources.

You can see some of our work here: 

And read about our campaigns here: 

The media is banned from having specific interviews with prisoners and has been since 1996. Without the UNION families communicating on a daily basis with 54 of California 's top journalists and publishers who are plugged into our daily newsletter, the details of riots, disease outbreaks and deaths would likely never reach the news media, let alone the public. Our most important role is public education and exposing the lies being told to the voters by politicians about who is in prison and why they are there. 

The Republican ugly machine and the CDC(r) have done everything possible to try and stop the UNION from organizing large enough to be able to do initiative campaigns and file lawsuits. Secret divide-and-conquer agents have been purposefully placed amongst the families to keep the gangs fighting in the prisons and the families fractured up into small groups. Those who profit from the human bondage industry and their secret agents, sometimes posing as family members themselves for special privileges for their loved ones, have gone to great lengths to stop our crying out through the media to the other voters for help, to warn the mothers and fathers of California (my native state) that their sons and daughters could be next to be caught up in a system where there is no justice -- system that is corrupt from arrest through parole.

The ugly machine has been successful in overwhelming the devastated families of prisoners only because it uses lies and fear mongering and because it can accumulate fast cash and quickly mobilize large crowds of people who benefit from the prison industry to pressure legislators. Most families of prisoners are unseen crime victims and do not spend their time registering the poor to vote to prevent further attacks to their loved ones. Even those who understand the power of the majority in a democracy are so grief-stricken that they cling to one another in shock and depression instead of mobilizing a voting group that could easily outnumber those who oppress them. 

Most people think of the families of prisoners as being uneducated, but in our UNION , we have four journalists who have loved ones incarcerated who will not participate with the media ban and report regularly to the others. UNION prisoner families are not illiterate, and many are licensed doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers, and blue collar workers who fully understand that initiative campaigns cannot be done without organizing. We also have in the UNION many people who have no one in prison. Churches are represented well from practically every religion, foster care advocates, medical workers inside the prisons, attorneys especially public defenders, law professors, book authors, psychologists, social workers, other prison reformers to name a few, are fully plugged into the UNION. although you rarely see these professionals showing up to protest, they are out speaking in the churches and communities about our issues. We, the families of the UNION , have cooperated with the National Prison Commission and all State Government agencies in giving detailed reports of our cases. Our lawsuits filed by us are on PACER for anyone with the stomach to read what is being done in the taxpayers’ names. Even after some of their loved ones were literally murdered by the State through medical neglect, our devastated UNION families have kept on fighting and often are the only voice for prisoners on a number of issues. 

The UNION 's role growing role against the present mobilization of the ugly machine is crucially important to all that is taking place right now. The ugly machine has quickly and fully mobilized against the three-judge panel ordered by Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton who, as I, have watched many people die preventable deaths. The deaths continue because the State cannot provide medical care. Yet these Fascist monsters in charge are breaking the law and continuing to cage people who are mostly non-violent, often mentally ill people in violation of the Constitution. Action by the three-judge panel, such as a Prison Cap, is an absolute necessity because it is against the law to hold people captive and deny them medical care, especially those who did not have a death sentence in the first place. The criminals are wearing the badges and sitting in elected office, for condoing murder by medical neglect is a far worse crime than 70% of the prisoners committed. Why aren't they being indicted and locked in cages for breaking the laws of our State and Federal Constitution? 

With actual reductions in prison population, the bureaucracy can't steal billions in taxpayer dollars to sustain itself. The entire bureaucracy, including all budgets that operate the legislature, is run off prisons. That's why 31 Republican politicians are telling another pack of lies and filed a motion to stop the three-judge panel from taking action. The bureaucracy’s rapidly expanding, but failed, prison empire is at risk of being cut back. They can't have that.

UNION family members have been writing to editors this week, and our web mistress has posted a few of those letters here: 

 Advice - Index

 U.N.I.O.N. Home