Faces of a Just Cause

Faces of a Just Cause

There are many reasons to serve the cause of Peace. Take your pick. Do you watch the news and see the never-ending wars? Are you moved by the faces of those suffering from hunger and malnutrition? Or maybe you see your own children and grandchildren and want the world to be a better place for them.

I have my reason for serving Peace, and I’ve already discussed my primary motive in a previous essay, but I must confess that I’ve never been more driven by another cause. I need nothing more to motivate me, and yet the world offers up a bounty of reasons to stand.

When is the violence to much violence? Have we become desensitized by what we see on film and television? The suffering we see on the evening news is visceral. The images of innocence lost are the epitome of reality television. So why do we marginalize the suffering of other people by changing the channel when we see their pain reported on the news?

I suppose we may feel a sense of helplessness, or even a disconnect because it’s easy to press a button on the remote and change the channel. Still others (and I hope they’re in the minority) simply don’t care. It would be different if the pain and suffering were at our feet. Then there would be no escaping it. God forbid it happen to our friends or even our family.

I think it’s a mistake to change the channel without acknowledging the suffering of others; even if they are half a world away. I’m tired of the images of children dying in the streets of Syria, or in the villages of The Sudan. These are the faces of a just cause. If I can do something, anything, to bring about change, then I will try to do so. I simply cannot remain quiet.

If you have had enough of the senseless violence and suffering, I ask you to get involved in any way possible to serve the cause of Peace. We can make a difference.

Jack Bass—Founder of The Peace Initiative

John Bass
73685
PO Box 14 MCN 2C6
Concord, NH. 03302

Maine State Prison “Pilot Programs” Equal Loss of Inmate Rights

Dear Sophie;
My name is [name & number omitted], Maine State Prisoner. You were an advocate for us, until the Prison tried to sever ties, because the prison did not want the public to be addressed about what goes on behind the closed doors of the Maine State Prison. As I write the prison is putting the finishing touches on what they call “Pilot Programs” forcing prisoner to sign away privilages [sic] and rights. Some of the forceful “impliments” [sic] are just down right cruel. I am hoping that you are still interested to help prisoners. If so please write to [name, relationship, and address omitted]. [omitted] will forward your letter directly to me. There are (2) conditions
A) You must sign your letter Sincerely Yours or do not sign at all
B) My lawyer advised, that any inmate that writes to you add “I forfeit all rights to this letter, to the person who is in possession, to do with as they see fit”

After the first couple of letters I believe it would be easier to get document to you via the internet, but either way, using (B) takes away their reprocussion [sic] powers against the inmate.

I appreciate your time and patience to read this letter,
Thank-you
[name omitted]

Systemic Silencing: Maine State Prison Inmates in Danger for Publishing on Voices

14 September 2011

 

Dear Blog Readers,

 

On September 2, 2011 Commissioner Joseph Ponte issued a memo stating that Maine State Prison (MSP) will no longer allow inmates to send mail or pictures to people that post them to “Facebook and other social networking sites”.  The commissioner went on to say:

 

          “Any prisoner who is already engaged in this activity is to notify the person(s) who did any posting to remove them immediately.  Any prisoner who is discovered to have engaged in this activity after this date or whose prior posting(s) remain on Facebook or other social networking site [sic] two (2) weeks from this date will be subject to disciplinary action”.  [emphasis mine]

 

Ponte’s desire to silence inmates is so intense , he is threatening them with “disciplinary action”.  The Commissioner’s behavior is exactly the reason why Voices from the Cracks is necessary to the inmates and the community at large.  If the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) has nothing to hide, why are they in such a hurry to silence inmates?  If Ponte believe the MDOC is wholly innocent of: murder, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, excessive use of solitary confinement, hundreds of instances of gross misconduct, and systemic abuses of power– than why is he threatening “discipline” for any and all who write to people who post online?  Moreover, many of the pieces that are submitted to Voices consist of: poetry, short stories, memoir, and political musings, which enrich the community while giving inmates a positive create outlet and a chance to make meaningful contributions to society.  All of which promote successful reentry and reduced recidivism.  Isn’t that suppose to be the goal?

 

Furthermore, Commissioner Joseph Ponte does not give a definition, outside of his Facebook reference, as to what he feels “other social networking” is.  However, Warden Patricia Barnhart made it clear in her personal letter to me that the she and Ponte believe Voices from the Cracks qualifies as “other social networking”.  After accusing my colleague of being Sophie Inchains, Barnhart says, “Sophie Inchains is not a verifiable name and we are asking you to use your proper first and last birth name or legal name on all correspondence with prisoners”.  Using a pseudonym in a field that is wrought with various kinds of danger and retaliation from prison officials is a common practice.  Regardless, Sophie Inchains is a “verifiable” person.  She has a post office box, three email accounts, a Facebook, a Twitter, and a Blog.  For months I, Sophie Inchains, have been communicating with inmates at MSP and it was not until recently that I became UN-“verifiable”.  In fact, I have even spoken to the commissioners office and the MSP mailroom.  Continuing with her rally against me, Barnhart went on to say:

 

     “Prisoners will not be permitted to send/receive correspondence to/from Sophie Inchains.  Prisoners are not permitted to provide photos and information to persons outside the facility to be uploaded to Facebook and other social networking sites.  I have attached a copy of the memorandum issued by MDOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte regarding this issue for your review”.

 

Clearly, Barnhart and Ponte are collaborating to silence and punish inmates.  Barnhart’s letter says inmates “will not be permitted to send/receive correspondence”, however, Ponte’s memo says prisoner need to “notify the person” that is posting to “other social networking” sites within “two weeks from this [September 2] date”.  How are inmates going to “notify” anyone if their mail is confiscated?  Moreover, Ponte’s memo is dated for September 2 but Barnhart’s letter was not postmarked until September 12.  I believe Ponte and Barnhart strategically timed the staggering of the memo and letter in order to illegally hold all incoming/outgoing mail to/from Sophie Inchains for at least ten days.  Although, if you take into consideration the length of time since my last MSP letter, I am guessing that MSP has been illegally holding mail for up to twenty days.

 

Commissioner Ponte and Warden Barnhart I am asking that you research the definition of a Blog [weB-LOG] and reconsider the position you are taking by calling it “other social networking”.  There are thousands of prisoner sites, which are run by: advocates, family members, lawyers, human rights activists, and even inmates themselves in facilities where the officials are not terrified that their abuse will leak to the media.  It’s funny how when prison officials have nothing to hide, inmates are treated like the humans they are.

 

Furthermore, incarcerated men at MSP do not send ANYTHING to be published on Facebook or “other social networking” sites.  The internet is a vast and mysterious thing, which allows people to post LINKS, on Facebook, or other pages.  A link on Facebook does not denote inmates sending materials for posting to Facebook, it simply means that someone liked what they read and shared it with their own friends via a link on Facebook.  I would also like to point out that no original work from an MSP inmate has ever been published to Facebook. Links are a part of everyday internet life, holding an inmate accountable for a process they have no control over is wholly criminal.  If an inmate is published in “The New England Journal of Medicine Online”, and someone posts a link to that on their Facebook page, are you going to punish the inmate?

 

In closing, Commissioner Ponte and Warden Barnhart’s uses of systemic silencing are so blatant they would be comical, if not for the over 800 men who are at the mercy of vindictive guards, the MDOC, and the Prison Industrial Complex as a whole.  Since MSP has proven repeatedly that inmates will be beaten death, psychologically abused, or keep them in solitary until they hang themselves temporary action must be taken to assure prisoners safety.  Therefore, in an attempt protect all the Voices I care so deeply about, all blogs posting from MSP prison inmates are suspended until further notice.

 

But rest assured readers…there will be a further notice.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sophie Inchains

Verified Prison Advocate