Philadelphia, PA – April 5th,2012 Decarserate PA held a series of marches and rallies beginning at 2:55pm in front of Gov. Corbett's Philadelphia office at 200 South Broad Street. Where they anounced there 3 Point Platform calling on the Governor and the State Legislature to stop building new prisons, reduce the number of incarcerated and reinvest the money saved in communities and the failing school systems.
They called on Governor Corbett to stop listening to big corporations and multinational banks, to stop building new prisons and fund education and social services. “Govenor Corbett has cut education by 500 million dollars, in his recent state budget,” said Thomas Dichter.
Paola Pedreza – Rivera of Fight for Philly spoke at the rally as did leaders from other community organizations seeking to end the race to increase the size of the prison industrial complex in Pennsylvania, initiated by Jeffery Beards at the behest of Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group.
At 3:30pm they took to the streets marching north toward city hall.
On their way around city hall to the Criminal Justice center at 1301 Filbert Street, they met up with another rally that was being held for the release of Mumia. Where Pam Africa was speaking about the activist/journalist recent release from death row and calling for his commutation from a life sentence.
They continued the days events with a mock game of Criminal Justice Monopoly, where particpants where put in prison based on the role of the dye. Several different Prisoners' and ex-offenders' Rights groups spoke about conditions and child incarceration calling on the repeal of Act 33, which allows the courts to automatically charge juveniles as adults for any crime.
They also called on an end to the states mandatory sentencing policies.
“Mandatory Sentencing don't allow for any mitigating circumstances,” said Atiba Kwesi, “Prosecutors have the power to impose mandatory sentences on people to pressure them in to taking deals they other wise would have taken.” Kwesi is the Executive Director for And Justice for all, which helps former offenders get their records expunged.
Several youths from the youth empowerment community spoke out about youth incarceration, and life sentences imposed on children. “Prisons are a cycle, said Joshua Glenn, these laws are holding our communities down.
“According to the group Human Rights watch and the DOC's own website the US gives more children Life With Out Parole than any other country in the world,” Said Glenn.
“They should change the name of this place to the auction bloc because they are selling us into slavery, said Wayne Jacobs co founder of X – offenders empowerment referring to the Criminal Justice center, “masters once had us to throw the coals on the fire, now we're the coals, were are now the gross national product in the United States.
They Ended the day with a march to Love Park at 4:45 were the metaphorically broke ground on the kind of world they envisioned for the future. Calling for a housing first policy, were those without a home can be placed in an apartment regardless of their mental state or addiction situation.
The reason being that it is easier for the mentally ill or addicts to get the treatment they need if they are in a stable living environment, where they are comfortable.
Philadelphia alone has approximately 40,000 abandoned buildings in the city all with multiple units, more than enough to house every homeless person in the city and effectively end homelessness now in Philadelphia. This would also put tens of thousands of people back to work in construction related fields and tens thousands more indirectly in supportive and service related work.
“We've got to refuse to accept the con-game they have perpetuated for far too long,” said Ramona Africa, “these officials hallucinate that they have power, but the power is in us, there is no savior because we have to save ourselves.”
Ramona Africa is the only adult surviving member of MOVE, whose West Philadelphia neighborhood was bombed killing entire families. To date none of the officials responsible have ever scene a prison cell.
“Revolution starts inside, it starts with self, with understanding that your your own savior,” said Africa
Fifty different organization have endorsed the platform including organizations that work on a range of issues such as quality public schools, Workers Rights, Civil Libertarians, immigration reform, service provider, prisoners, and formerly incarcerated persons.
Decarseate PA is seeking an immediate and lasting moratorium on all new prisons and prison expansions.“This is our mass movement against mass incarceration,” said the Organization on their Facebook page.
The group was formed in 2011 in response to the proposed 685 million dollar expansion of the Pennsylvania prison system. The much of the money for the prison system came out of the more than 500 million dollar cuts to education and services that came from the Governor's budget proposal that was passed by the state House and Senate earlier this year.
The race to expand and build more prisons in Pennsylvania has hit our state hard, cutting much needed funding to programs such as Food Stamps, Medicaid and Education for our youth, that would help the most vulnerable in our communities. “ We all suffer whether here in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh or anywhere else in the country,” said the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, Bill, “ the public is less safe warehousing all of these people, it's a wonder any of them come out and don't commit crimes.”
SCI Graterford near Collegeville in set to have two new State of the Art Maximum Security Prisons built on the grounds of the old one, with another Scheduled to be built at SCI Rockview each at around 200 million apiece. Former Secretary of the Dept. of Corrections Jeffrey Beards initially proposed the expansion before he left the office.
However; it's Gov. Corbett's corporate pandering that has pushed this expansion forward, it is the GEO group that stands to make the billions of dollars that would come out of the expansion and eventual privatization of the Pennsylvania Corrections System.
Wells Fargo is the most powerful investor in GEO controling 5.54 percent through Wells Fargo & Company and 3.87 percent through Wells Fargo Small Cap Value Fund. The Bank Claims that the investment in GEO was made by Wells Fargo Mutual Funds on behalf of their clients, not by Wells Fargo and Company.
GEO Group is the second largest private prison company in the world contracted by state and federal government agencies.
Wells Fargo also has 50,000 share of another private prison company called Corrections Corp. of America (CCA). The functions of CCA and GEO include the building, financing and operating of prisons. Mass incarceration provides a gigantic income for one special interest group, the private prison industry. The annual income of the two corporation are 1.17 billion and 1.69 billion respectively.
GEO already owns and operates one prison in Pennsylvania in Upper Mount Bethel Township (Northhampton, PA) and has proposed to build a 2,500 bed immigration detention center there as well.
For profit prisons are related to greater levels of violence towards prisoners and inhumane treatment in detention centers, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. In Pennsylvania Between 2005 and 2009 at least eight people died at the GEO group-operated Privately run George W. Hill Corrections Facility in Delaware County, PA the states only privately run jail.
Several of those deaths resulted in law suits by family members who say the facility did not provide adequate medical care or proper supervision for offenders. This prompted the company to pull out of it's contract in December of 2008, citing “under-performance and frequent litigation” as the reasons.
Former GEO group employees failed to report prison conditions of bug infestation, the smell of urine and feces, water leaks and racially segregated inmates .
“Prisons have turned into a business for the rich,” said Esmeralda Valencia, owner of Esmeralda Restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. “Wells Fargo should not be investing our hard earned dollars to make profits off of the most vulnerable members of our society. Instead, they should be working to resolve this economic crisis and support immigrant neighborhoods.”
The United States now has more people in prison than any other country on earth. At over 2 million, the U.S. has a half million more people behind bars than China, which has the second highest number of prisoners.
Pennsylvania has the highest number per capita Prison population in the Untied States and holds more children in prison for life without the possibility for parole than all other countries combined according to Human Rights Watch. This includes countries that are considered the worst human rights violators by the U.S. Ninety-eight percent of those convictions came through a plea deal, often without the defendant knowing the full impact of a guilty plea, in clear defiance of Supreme Court Rulings, and most often at the threat of more time if s/he tried to take the charges to trial.
Leading to more innocently incarcerated, where sometimes the law in which they are charged with doesn't even apply to them or the situation.
Will the Corporate shills in Harrisburg stop at nothing to turn a profit for their masters, even as they make slaves out of our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, husbands and wive?
“It seems that banks want to profit on all of societies ills whether taking money from schools or the prison industrial complex,” said Nathan Kleinman a democratic Congressional candidate who's running as a write in on the ballot.De