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Wednesday, October 12, 2016 from 8am-5pm
+++ Call to action +++ Queer and trans prisoners in Michigan are refusing to submit to dehumanizing sexual harassment and mistreatment by guards. Inspired by their courage and in solidarity with their struggle, we rally again on October 12 outside MDOC headquarters in Lansing. Our common humanity crosses all walls and cages. Until all of us are free, we demand dignity and justice for queer and trans prisoners. (More background at the bottom of this description.) In case you can't come to the rally ("Can't Cage Our Humanity!", please take a minute to make one or two phone calls in solidarity! After calling, please comment on this Facebook page to let us know what happened. Sample script: "Hi. I'm calling to demand that you put a stop to sexual harassment, mistreatment, and retaliation against queer and trans prisoners. You need to take sexual harassment seriously because it's dehumanizing, brutal, and a violation of federal law. You should be listening to queer and trans prisoners' needs, not allowing guards to retaliate against them when they file grievances against sexual harassment. In particular, you need to stop the homophobic behavior of the following guards at Cotton Correctional Facility: Castilla, Morey, Funches, Hursh, Johnson, Taylor, and Van Sumeran." Here is a detailed "how-to" video for calling prisons, if you feel nervous about phoning: MDOC Director Heidi Washington: 517-241-7238 (if there's no answer, leave a message on her assistant's phone, Sandra Simon) Warden Shawn Brewer at G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility: 517-780-5000 THANK YOU! PLEASE SHARE! Background: In April, queer and trans prisoners at the G. Robert Cotton facility in Jackson filed grievances against a guard named Castilla for sexual harassment. Retaliation began almost immediately, with Castilla and his friends issuing bogus disciplinary tickets against the grieving prisoners. Three of seven prisoners were transferred to other units or facilities. The grievances were all eventually rejected for "insufficient evidence" (despite multiple witnesses), and Castilla and other homophobic guards continue their illegal behavior. We hear reports of the exact same thing happening at other Michigan prisons (multiple witnesses dismissed as "insufficient evidence"). Sexual harassment of prisoners is a violation of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, and just plain wrong. Apart from more people becoming aware of the issue, nothing has materially improved since we last rallied (May 2016) in solidarity with the prisoners. The Legislative Corrections Ombudsman's Office launched an investigation and spoke with trans prisoners at Cotton, but nothing has changed yet for the better. Prisoners have filed more grievances against Castilla and other homophobic guards (Hursh, Morey, Funches, Johnson, Taylor, and Van Sumeran). Meanwhile, these guards have ganged up to retaliate against the prisoners for standing up for their rights. Queer and trans prisoners are getting more bogus tickets; for example, one prisoner was ticketed for sexual misconduct for tucking in his shirt! They are given excessive sanctions, such as thirty-five days of lost privileges for an offense that would normally carry only five days of punishment. Prisoners have been denied the right to review the supposed evidence against them, and grievance officers have refused to review camera footage to prove prisoners' innocence. Queer and trans prisoners want the public to know about the corruption in prison, and want our help to amplify their voices. Please spread the word! Here are some of their issues and demands: - Zero tolerance for harassment or brutality by prison staff. - NO RETALIATION for filing grievances. - Guards who sexually harass prisoners should be removed from their units when they're under investigation, per MDOC's own policy. - These homophobic guards already have dozens, or in some cases over a hundred, grievances against them. These guards should be removed from all contact with prisoners. - Staff should be prohibited from forming cliques for the purposes of retaliating against prisoners who file grievances. - Staff should be required to follow MDOC's own policies and federal policies that protect the rights of prisoners. - Guards under investigation should be suspended or relocated until the investigation is over. This is already MDOC policy, but it has not happened in these cases at Cotton. - Guards should be disciplined for talking about queer and trans prisoners in dehumanizing, denigrating ways to other prisoners, endangering their safety. This is already against MDOC policy. - MDOC must provide better training for staff on professional, nondiscriminatory treatment of queer and trans people. - Any CO under investigation is to be suspended or relocated during the investigation. - Queer and trans prisoners should have the voluntary option of a designated unit or facility and yard where they are safe from sexual harassment and assault. - Appropriate medical care. - Trans prisoners should be able to keep hormones in their quarters. In recent months, hormones have been put on "restricted" status, forcing all trans prisoners to request them every day. Hormones are prisoners' personal business. - End corruption at MDOC, such as misappropriation of the Prisoner Benefit Fund.