Increased Access to the Law Library: 1 of many demands from the 29,000+ CA inmates on hunger strike

While solitary confinement is the focus of California’s hunger strike by inmates, access to the law library is among other demands:

law library demands

The list of demands can be seen on the LA Times website here. Read about the hunger strike in the LA Times’ article 29,000 California Prison Inmates Refuse Meals in 2nd Day of Protest.

Youth imprisoned at Green Hill prison are joining the hunger strike with their own demands. You can view their full list of demands here. Below are a few library specific demands:

3. EDUCATION: Provide relevant and specialized educational programs to all residents even after they have graduated from High School. These could include cosmetology, music/multimedia production, library access, law training, culinary arts, and more. There are plenty of rooms that are currently not being used for anything but storage. They should be used.

4. LEGAL ACCESS: Access to updated legal material, updated each year. This should include: A well-stocked law library in the school available to all, updated regularly. Books and resources available at anytime. Access to internet sites with relevant legal material available at all times. Access to resources detailing available legal counsel. Copies of JRA/DOC employee policy handbooks in every single wing for residents to read. These must be updated each year.

10. FREEDOM OF SPEECH: The 1st amendment must be respected in JRA/DOC facilities. We have a right to speak our mind and express ourselves with whatever language we choose as long it does not threaten others. We must also be free to organize without punishment.

If you are interested in following the hunger strike, here are two specific blogs to the strike:

http://prisonstrike.wordpress.com/

http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/

National Conference on Higher Education in Prison – Collaboration Beyond Campus: Building Connections Between the Prison and Univesity

Nalini Nadkarni with Sustainability in Prisons Project at Evergreen State College

Nalini created a science lecture series and lab to produce sustainable operations, education, scientific research, and conservation. This includes organic gardens, bee keeping, water catching, composting, recycling, raising butterflies, prairie plant restoration, etc.

This program allows students to develop science skills, collaboration skills, and critical thinking.

She also took views of nature to supermax prisons by creating large installations.

Below is her TED Talk.

George Lombardi with Missouri Department of Corrections

George is the director of MDOC. Prison, he said, is like a small city and has the same operational needs. He reminded us that when bringing interns into the prison that every major has a role in the facility.

He also suggested that staff are offered the same opportunities, for he sees staff struggling with their own education or their children’s education.

George has observed that having colleges and educational programs in MDOC change the environment in a positive way.

He is an advocate for an dog training program to save dogs that face euthanization.  This program connects the city to the prison which makes the community see prisoners as something other than what is on tv. It also shows that the people in this program can give something back to the community. Many of the staff and community members later adopt the trained dogs. Participants in this program keep a journal of their experience that is then transferred to the adoptive parents to be able to know their dog better.

A unique aspect of George’s program policies is that all prisoners have access to programming. He believes that limiting programming based on the length of the sentence does not treat the person.

Jody Lewen with Prison University Project

Jody joins correctional officer organizations and goes to their conventions to incorporate their worldview into their program’s training to better describe officers and how to work well within the prison environment.

She stated that officers are often vilified and demonized by outside volunteers. We need to listen and hear their concerns; provide eye contact, be aware of your body language, say hello, and reach out to staff as individuals and their professional organizations. Have conversations about education in prison with them.

Sean Pica with Hudson Link for Higher Education, Inc. 

I wasn’t able to take notes during Sean’s presentation, but check out their program! You can also watch some videos about their work on their vimeo channel.