Monday, December 23, 2013

  • Time for Compassion? Aging Political Prisoners Suffer From Illness, Decades in Solitary Confinement

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    As people around the world mark the holiday season, often recognized as a time of compassion, we host a roundtable discussion about the growing number of aging political prisoners in the United States convicted in the 1960s and 1970s who are seeking compassionate release, clemency or a pardon. In some cases, they are simply asking to be released into general population after decades of solitary confinement. Many have poorly treated diseases such as diabetes, while at least one has terminal cancer. We are joined by Soffiyah Elijah, an attorney who has represented many political prisoners and successfully won the release Marilyn Buck in 2010 so she could live her final weeks in freedom before she died from cancer. Elijah also has a separate career as the executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, which monitors conditions in state prisons. We also speak with Jihad Abdulmumit, national chairperson for the Jericho Movement; Juan Méndez, United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, who has found the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons can amount to cruel and unusual punishment; and Matt Meyer, longtime leader of the War Resisters League who previously served as coordinator of the international Nobel campaign for Puerto Rican political prisoners. He co-wrote the introduction to "Oscar López Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance" and is the editor of "Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners."

  • "If the Risk Is Low, Let Them Go": Elderly Prison Population Skyrockets Despite Low Risk to Society

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    Even amidst a modest reduction in the U.S. prison population, the number of aging men and women expected to die behind bars has skyrocketed in a system ill prepared to handle them and still oriented toward mass incarceration. We speak about the problems facing aging prisoners with Mujahid Farid, who was released from a New York state prison in 2011 after serving 33 years. He is now lead organizer with RAPP, which stands for "Release Aging People in Prison." Their slogan is "If the risk is low, let them go." His campaign work is part of Soros Justice Fellowship and is housed at the Correctional Association of New York. We are also joined by Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, which monitors conditions in state prisons. "The parole board routinely denies people based on the nature of the offense, the one thing that no one can change, just like we can’t change our height or our eye color," Elijah notes. "We need to look at that and say, if someone presents a low risk to recidivate, then we should be releasing them from prison. We’re wasting precious taxpayer dollars incarcerating people, and it’s much more expensive to incarcerate people who are older." Watch Part 2 of this interview.

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