Write to Pinkney: Marquette Branch Prison, Rev. Edward Pinkney N-E-93 #294671, 1960 US Hwy 41 South, Marquette, MI 49855

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

BREAKING: Rev. Pinkney in Solitary Confinement

As of Saturday, Rev. Edward Pinkney has been "segregated" (i.e. placed in solitary confinement and isolated from other prisoners and all visitors). The reason given was so trivial, it's obviously an excuse for retribution against Rev. Pinkney for exercising his First Amendment rights. We do not yet know how long the solitary confinement will last. He had already been in 24/7 "lockdown" for bogus charges concerning telephone use and the lockdown was supposed to end Nov. 25th. Clearly, the prison is seeking to isolate him from the public and from his many supporters by any pretense. As Rev. Pinkney wrote us previously, Marquette Branch Prison has had 4 killings and 17 assaults in the past four months, yet they find it necessary to send Rev. Pinkney, who poses no physical threat to anyone, to solitary confinement.

Read on below for David Sole's account of the developments in Marquette over the weekend.

Please continue to call MDOC and the Governor's office, and continue to send cards, letters, and books to Rev. Pinkney. Distribute the holiday campaign leaflet widely. And join BANCO in Berrien County tomorrow, Tuesday, 11/24, 11am to protest this outrageous abuse and miscarriage of justice!

Local supporters protesting Rev. Edward Pinkney's solitary confinement
at Marquette Branch Prison, Nov. 22, 2015.

Short report on Nov. 20-22 visit to Marquette, by David Sole

I flew into Sawyer airport at 3:10 pm on Friday. A supporter of Rev. Pinkney picked me up and we drove to the county courthouse where Gov. Snyder maintains an office. At 4:30 pm we held a press conference outside the building. ABC TV 10 and NBC TV 6 attended. We had three Marquette activists plus myself. We opened a “Free Rev. Pinkney” banner and gave interviews. ABC ran the story at the 10 pm news and has it posted on their website. All Marquette media received a press release earlier in the week and a phone call the day before.

I went to prison that evening and had a 3 hour visit with Rev. Pinkney. He was in good spirits. Except for visits and 15 minutes for meals he was restricted to his cell – part of punishment that also includes loss of phone access. His blood pressure is up (he didn’t suffer from this before his transfer to Marquette) and they ordered his pressure checked once a week (clearly inadequate). The food in Marquette is worse, if possible, than at Lakeland prison.

Rev. Pinkney received the many birthday cards and has been getting letters and some books. The prison guard handed me a Workers World newspaper and a book that they had refused to allow in to him. He greatly appreciates all correspondence, even when he can’t answer.

Rev. Pinkney is challenging the bogus “tickets” written against him for misusing the telephone. He was supposed to get out of the lockdown on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

During the visit, Rev. Pinkney gave me blank paper and a pen to take notes. I was given paper and pencil at Lakeland by the guard and allowed to take and carry out notes. The guard at Marquette was right in view while I took two pages of notes and said nothing.

On the way out a guard demanded I empty my pockets. Of course, they were empty and checked when I went in, so I handed over the notes I had just taken. These consisted mainly of copying the “ticket” charges against Rev. Pinkney, ideas of places for people to contact, and the need for more protests. The guard confiscated these, saying that one could not take anything out from the visiting area.

On Saturday I went with one supporter to NMU campus and left leaflets about Rev. Pinkney around the library. We went to the public library where an art fair was happening and stood outside handing leaflets to about 50 people.

At 5 pm we drove to the prison for another visit. Before I could get out of the car, Officer Johnson came out to the parking lot and said that “Pinkney is in segregation and can see no visitors.” I asked why and he said “for smuggling information out to his wife.” I stated that I wrote the notes and I attempted to carry them out, not Rev. Pinkney. He refused to discuss this and started shouting at me to get off prison property. 

We left and called the TV stations to announce that we would be protesting Sunday morning at the prison gate. We didn’t expect the media to attend on short notice, Sunday morning, as they have very small staffs. Myself and two supporters gathered at the gate to Marquette prison at 9:30 am Sunday morning. We opened the Free Pinkney banner, took some photos, and held the banner for the prison cameras and the traffic on Rte. 41 to see (photo above). No media attended.

We later attended a luncheon that followed services at the St. Paul Episcopal church where two Pinkney supporters attend and had arranged for me to speak. About 25 congregants listened to a presentation and got leaflets. We urged them to send a holiday card to Rev. Pinkney, call the governor to express concern, and make a holiday donation (see holiday campaign leaflet).

The Dr. Esiquio Uballe and his wife Susan Uballe who invited us to the church will be working to see if their priest or the bishop can visit Rev. Pinkney despite the segregation blockade. Esiquio and Susan will also bring up the issue of Rev. Pinkney to a peace and justice council in which they participate to work on generating more local support.

Educational System in Prison Is a Joke: Letter from a Prisoner in Marquette Branch Prison

Written by Lee Lambert, #398191, Marquette Branch Prison.

During my 16 years of incarceration in the Michigan Department of Corrections, I've noticed an alarming trend.

Young African American men are being locked up and funneled into the Prison Industrial Complex. The State of Michigan incarcerates these young men with no concrete plan on how to rehabilitate them, educate them, or steer them in a positive direction. These young men enter the prison population with no idea that incarceration is the new form of slavery.

It is not uncommon to see large groups of black men, crowded around the day room television, watching the latest "Love and Hip-hop" or "Basketball Wives" or "Black Ink," shows that portray black men and women in a very negative light. The conversations are laced with profanity, disrespect and rap lyrics. Very rarely do I find a young black man involved in elevating his mind.

The prison educational system is a joke! My prison job is "tutor" for Employment Readiness and G.E.D. I see, firsthand, how the prison system doesn't care whether you learn how to create a resume or if you obtain your G.E.D. They only care that the public knows that it's offered to inmates. I've seen men in G.E.D. classes for 2-3 years, unable to pass the tests because the teachers don't care. The adage, "The money isn't in the cure, it's in the treatment" applies here. "Why teach them to think for themselves. Let's keep them ignorant and locked up."

It is our duty to lift each other up to higher ground. We must not just plant information, but impart wisdom to these young men. The effort of planting information must result in making a man think and do for himself.

I have approximately 96 days left on my prison journey. I have dedicated myself to speaking out about mass incarceration. We need to lift the incarcerated black man to a higher ground.

Will you help?

Lee Lambert #498191, Marquette Branch Prison

Pinkney Writes from Marquette Branch Prison

Before his confinement to "segregation" (solitary), Rev. Pinkney sent us the writings below.

Federal, state, and local governments spend over $200 billion annually in tax dollars to ensure that one out of every 75 Americans is behind bars. Prison Profiteers (Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, eds., 2007) traces the flow of capital from public to private hands, and reveals how monies designated for public good with the help of wardens end up in the pockets of enterprises dedicated to keeping prison cells filled with your relatives and keeping the pubic in total fear. This is the weapon used by law enforcement to control the public.

Michigan Department of Correction's statement about Marquette Branch Prison is the biggest lie that has been told. The lie states: You have been placed at Marquette Branch Prison, 500 miles from your home, into a reduced security facility because department staff feel that you are a responsible individual who no longer needs confinement behind a wall or fence. But today we have three cast-iron faces. Serving time in a reduced security setting is much different from being in a regular prison because specific threats of death, forcible sexual attacks, and substantial bodily injuries occur more often. Many complaints are reported, but there is no relief. There is less freedom, no jobs, and the school is a joke. It's only about the federal dollars that MDOC receives.

Marquette Branch Prison is a place where prisoners are mistreated, poorly fed, beaten, and some even killed. This is an issue of moral standards and human rights. We must hold the MDOC accountable for their actions and inactions of wrongdoing. We demand that Warden Napel of Marquette Branch Prison be terminated immediately!

Pimping the Taxpayers

Although there is an expanding body of writing and analysis regarding the harms caused by mass incarceration in America, there is little discussion about the increasing number of entitites that profit from and subsequently engender the growth of prisons. Beginning with the owners of private prisons and extending through a whole range of esoteric industries from the maker of tazer stun guns, to riot security training companies, to prison  healthcare providers, to the politicians, lawyers, and bankers who structure deals along with the warden to steal money from the taxpayers.

While there are many industries that make money from prisons, they are eager to make use of the enormous labor pool of prisoners for whom the usual restrictions of labor protections do not apply. The public well-being is not one of the priorities of the profiteer.

The prison phone company contracts, awarded by MDOC on the basis of the largest kickback and with rates unequalled in any other setting and featuring price-gouging of prisoners' loved ones, enriches telecommunication firms and MDOC alike. The cost of a 15-minute phone call at 23 cents per minute is $3.45. The telecommunication company charges MDOC 2-3 cents per minute. The profit for MDOC is $3 per call.

The correctional guards are poorly educated and inadequately trained, with weapons like tazers where the companies profit from supplying these weapons to prison and jails.

On the surface, prison jobs appear to serve a number of positive aims. They provide pocket change for people who have no other money-making prospects, keep prisoners busy in an idle environment, and build skills prisoners might use after release. But prison labor is generally exempt from basic labor protections like worker's compensation, labor and industry safeguards, benefits of any kind, or the ability to unionize. This is a situation that has captured the interest of private businesses eager to circumvent such irritants as expensive regulations. The real beneficiaries of prison labor are the private companies who reap all the profit to the detriment of both captive and free world labor, which suffers the consequences of what is essentially unfair competition.

Let's face the facts: the Michigan Department of Corrections is pimping the taxpayers for every dollar they can get. When will the taxpayers say NO MORE?!

Cop Excuses

10 outrageous excuses cops have used to kill unarmed people over the past year

by Justin Gardner

Informed readers are well aware that U.S. police have the dubious reputation of killing lots of civilians compared to other countries. The War on Drugs provided much of the basis for this abomination. In four days, U.S. police killed as many people as Chinese police did in 2014, and more than five European countries' police did in 2014. In the first 24 days of 2015, U.S. police killed more people than England and Wales did in the last 24 years.

The worst part about this is how many of these victims were unarmed. As of June 1, 2015, 102 people killed by police were unarmed. We can add more to this number, including the killing of Zachary Hammond who was shot by a policeman through a car window over a bag of marijuana. Here are five of the most outrageous excuses police used for killing unarmed people during the last year.

1) He was walking with a purpose. Officer Vanessa Miller killed Ryan Bollinger (28) after witnessing him dancing in the street during a traffic stop. After a low-speed chase, Bollinger exited the vehicle and was "walking with a purpose" toward Miller who then shot him from inside the car through the rolled up window.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rally Tuesday, Berrien County Courthouse! Free Rev. Pinkney Now!

Please join the Free Rev. Pinkney Now Rally! 

Where: Berrien County Courthouse, 811 Port Street
When: Tuesday, November 24, 2015. 11 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

We will gather on the sidewalk at the entrance of the parking lot. Any questions, please call Emma Kinnard at two-6-nine-0-two-7-four-8-three-6.

Thank you,
Emma Kinnard, Community activist from Benton Harbor