Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Organizations: Please Get Your Statements of Support Up for September 9

Suggested Tweet:

Organizations / individuals - get your statements up!
Send them to Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org  #DecarcerateNJ
http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/organizations-please-get-your.html

This link is to the letter that invites organizations and individuals to co-sponsor, endorse and participate in the September 9th Prisoner Solidarity events in NJ. 

http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/pop-decarcerate-garden-state-letter.html

If you are a member of an organization – please decide in whatever means you have to expedite approval – through your meeting process or executive decision making capacities to support this event – we would hope to have 10 organizations by June 6th if at all possible signed on.

We accept approval to co-sponsor or endorse via an authoritative message from your organization.

The preference is for your organization to provide a statement of support that we can publish.   The statement can be of any length – from one sentence, to a single paragraph, several paragraphs or however you want to do it.  For those who would like to have a little help starting their statement we offer the following outline.  You might decide that the first step is to chuck the outline and write it any way you want to.  Either way it is all good.  Please send statements to Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org – they will be posted on our blog site.  We look forward to working with you on this project to Decarcerate the Garden State!

For organizations writing statement of support for the September 9 Actions in Solidarity with the Incarcerated and Enslaved – here is an outline that might or might not be useful:
1.       Name your organization and announce support
2.       Briefly what is mission of your organization
3.       What is September 9 all about
4.       How is the September 9 effort consistent with the aims / goals of your organization.
5.       Is there anything from the letter calling for action that particularly is agreeable with the goals of your organization.  After you quote from or refer to what the letter is saying, provide link:
http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/pop-decarcerate-garden-state-letter.html
6.       Expand a little on the unique perspective of your organization on ending mass incarceration and enslavement.  Link to any statement or page of your group where this issue is further addressed (if any).
7.       Why should September 9 be a priority for your organization, members and supporters
8.       What specific ways is your organization going to get involved in the effort
9.       How can people get more involved in the September 9th effort (Decarcerate the Garden State links, e-mail Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org phone 908-881-5275
10.   How can people get involved with your organization and specifically with the Decarceration efforts of your organization.
11.   Concluding statement(s) reiterating the importance of this event.

ADDENDUM - SAMPLE LETTER TO INVITE GROUPS TO JOIN:

You are encouragd to take the initiative to invite organizations and individuals to formerly support this effort.

The following is a sample of a letter you can use:

Headline: Invitation to <Group Name> to Support September 9

Text:

Dear <officer of group>,

Please consider this a formal invitation to <group name> to co-sponsor the September 9th Solidarity with the Incarcerated and Enslaved.  See:


http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/pop-decarcerate-garden-state-letter.html 


We appreciate if you can make every effort to expedite and finalize the approval and submit a letter confirming co-sponsorship.

We have a sample outline of a support statement that might or might not be helpful:

http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/organizations-please-get-your.html

 Do you think you can have this completed by this weekend or sooner?

If you have any questions please call us at 908-881-5275.

Solidarity,
<your name>

Monday, May 30, 2016

Decarceration Exchange w/ Sen. Lesniak - Says He is "Studying" Cannabis Legalization Issue - Update - Lesniak Says He Will Announce Pot Policy Shortly

The following is a response to a letter we received from Senator Lesniak probably in response to this article which challenges NJ’s gubernatorial hopefuls to stake out a position supporting swift legalization and an end to cannabis prohibition in NJ.  In the interest of transparency, his letter and my response is published below.  Lesniak cc-d NJ Sen. Nick Scutari in his writing to me - Scutari is the lead supporter of legalization in the NJ legislature.

http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-next-governor-and-njs-pot-law-siege.html

I urge all readers of this who support legalization to call upon Lesniak to quickly complete whatever "study" he is commencing on this matter and urge him to adopt a clear position supporting full legalization of cannabis and decarceration including vacating of all convictrions, sentences and fines and immediate release from prison those sentenced to prison and from jails all who are locked up in lieu of bail for cannabis arrests or in lieu of fines for cannabis related convictions.  Please include Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org in the addressing of any e-mails.  Sen. Lesniak can be reached at the following e-mail address: <RLesniak@weinerlesniak.com>

Tweet this article to him and include us - suggested text:

Sen. Lesniak: Support cannabis legalization/decarceration http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/decarceration-exchange-w-sen-lesniak.html #DecarcerateNJ @SenatorLesniak @DecarcGardState  @bwitanek

Updates at bottom - this story is developing further:

Dear Senator Lesniak,

Thank you for your reply which will be publicized.  You refer to a question – I did not see one in the text.

You state that: “ .. . . . I'm still studying the issue of legalizing marijuana in New Jersey . . . “

I presume that means you have no public position currently?
You have been a legislator for almost 40 years in NJ.  During that time probably somewhere between a half million and a million have been arrested for alleged cannabis offenses in NJ.

Some have a perception that NJ’s cannabis prohibition will be rendered to the dust bin of history upon the next governatorial election – especially if a democrat is elected (albeit there is actually one republican fringe candidate staking out a strong legalization position).  Your lacking of a position on the issue after decades in the legislature suggests that the perception is invalid.  I would suggest that a clear position calling for swift ending of NJ’s cannabis prohibition and full legalization would be a positive and likely vote mobilizing position for you to take.

I am sure you are aware that NJ has been cited in national news reporting as being one of 16 states where cannabis arrests have actually increased.  There was a spate of reporting at the end of 2015 that NJ is arresting close to 25000 per year for cannabis prohibition related offenses.  The ACLU in a report has stated with statistical support that a Black in NJ is almost 3 times as likely as a white to be arrested for cannabis and NJ expends $127 million per year on cannabis prohibition enforcement.  While that figure is from 2011, as arrests continue to rise the figure has probably increased.  Do you support that continued allocation of vital NJ resources?  What are you doing to shift policing priorities in NJ from cannabis prohibition enforcement?

So as you are studying the issue of legalization – what about the epidemic of arrests?  Have you been outspoken on that matter?  Have you called upon local administrations to shift police priorities completely away from cannabis law enforcement?  You are a powerful office holder and well respected within the Democratic Party – it would seem that strong statements and coaching from you could go along way – especially in townships and cities that are under Democratic Party control – to shift policing strategies toward other more serious concerns.  What is your view about the arrests and how long will elected officials study the issue while 10s of 1000s of lives continue to get disrupted each year?
I would urge you to speak out and support the call for a moratorium on cannabis enforcement, and a dismissal of the pending cases and pending fines, the release of those in jail for inability to post bail or pay cannabis related fines – as well as those imprisoned for cannabis offenses.  Such statements would not have the force of law but they could help the state move away from the draconian direction has been going in this regard.

As far as recent reforms it has been widely reported that NJ has indeed dramatically reduced prison rolls which is a good thing.  NJ is among the better states in the nation regarding the percentage of the population in prison.  However – NJ is also among the worse in the nation regarding the racial breakdown of the prison population so those improvements while benefiting everybody, have not provided the relief needed of the Black and Brown residency that is in dire need of such relief.  Much greater action by the NJ legislature is needed.

We were contacted by Senator Rice about the parole reform you are touting – they sound like positive measures - that was probably about a year ago.  What is the current status?  Is it stuck somewhere ?  Is it likely to pass?  Are there road blocks?  Would a statement from our organization supporting the measure help?  Is there someone in particular that should be pressured to move it?  Why is the measure still pending from a year ago?

Thanks again for your response.  Decarcerate the Garden State urges you to immediately or quickly stake out a clear position for legalization of cannabis consumption and that any law include measures for Decarceration and expungement for those that have been victimized by NJ’s cannabis prohibition.
If you remember what the question you wanted to ask – we would be happy to respond.
We look forward to more discussion on these matters.

Sincerely,
Bob Witanek
Co-founder
Decarcerate the Garden State
-----Original Message-----
>From: Raymond Lesniak <RLesniak@weinerlesniak.com>
>Sent: May 30, 2016 3:14 PM
>To: "bwitanek@igc.org" <bwitanek@igc.org>
>Cc: Nick Scutari <nicholasscutari@yahoo.com>
>Subject: Decarcerate the Garden State
> 
>While I'm still studying the issue of legalizing marijuana in New Jersey, I have a question regarding your organization Decarcerate the Garden State. I have not heard from it on my many criminal justice initiatives.
> 
>I presume you know that my legislation signed by Governor Corzine in 2010 eliminated most mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses which has reduced the prison population by 20% - by 50% for drug offenses. In 2012 Governor Christie signed my  legislation expanding drug court eligibility and its usage.
> 

>I also have a multitude of other criminal justice reforms that will further reduce New Jersey's prison population. The most significant one will be restructuring the Parole Board, granting time off for participating in re-entry programs while in prison and automatic parole on an inmate's parole eligibility date upon completion of his re-entry program.  This initiative will further reduce New Jersey's prison population by another 20% and enable two prisons to close within 3-5 years.

UPDATES:

First response from Sen. Lesniak to my letter:

-----Original Message-----
>From: Raymond Lesniak <RLesniak@weinerlesniak.com>
>Sent: May 30, 2016 10:24 PM
>To: Bob Witanek <bwitanek@igc.org>
>Cc: Nick Scutari <nicholasscutari@yahoo.com>
>Subject: Re: Decarcerate the Garden State
>
>Btw, I also have a certificate of rehabilitation bill that will enhance the expungement process. The reason why I believe further study is necessary is that there are reports from Colorado that raise serious concerns. I will have a position statement announced shortly. My parole reform legislation is nearly ready to be announced.  I'll keep you posted. 

Dr. Margaret Flowers to Keynote at Conference on NJ Health Care Crisis June 11 Includes Press Release

This information is being shared be Decarcerate the Garden State as a public service announcement on behalf of a broad based coalition of organizations that are working to bring a humane health care system to NJ in response to a deadly health care crisis here.  This information is from a flier that was distributed at a recent POP meeting by POP member David Hungerford.

David has stated that there will be an organizing call:
Wed. nite June 1, 7 pm.
Call-in: 712-432-1438

Access code: 1019540#

Would be awesome for there to be a far reaching investigation into health care within NJ's prison and jail facilties - a part of the health crisis that is sometimes overlooked.


Scroll Down for Press Release





Healthcare Crisis in New Jersey 

 Hospital Closings — more coming  
Monopolistic OMNIA insurance scheme  
Giant mergers (RWJ-Barnabas) 
Lead in water, environmental hazards
Epidemic of gun violence 


June 11, 2016, 9:30AM
 Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center 
350 MLK Blvd., Newark, 

NJ Conference Working to Make Garden State Care a Reality 

Keynote speaker: Dr. Margaret Flowers 
Nationally known advocate of Universal Health Care We need a publicly funded, publicly administered system to provide all medically necessary care for every resident of New Jersey. 

Sponsors: Coalition for Social Justice; NAACP, Irvington Branch; People's Organization for Progress; NAACP, Newark Branch; Popcorn Kidz; NJ Industrial Union Council; NJ Universal Healthcare Coalition; National Organization for Women-NJ; Essex-Passaic Green Party; International League of People’s Struggle-US; International Action Center; New Jersey Peace Action; Medicare for All-NJ; NJ Peace Action 

Contact: c4sj.nj@gmail.com; 973-951-6685

Draft Resolution on a Comprehensive and Universal Public Healthcare System (abridged)

WHEREAS the uncontrolled rise of healthcare costs in the United States continues, with a 5.8% increase projected in 2016; and 
WHEREAS the United States spends at least twice per person what most industrialized countries do, with higher infant mortality and lower life expectancy outcomes;
WHEREAS our healthcare system, dominated by private insurance corporations, limits choice of medical professionals and often denies necessary care in the interest of profitability;
WHEREAS pricing is chaotic, varying wildly from one facility to the next, and hugely overpriced compared to costs of provision;
WHEREAS the United States could save over $500 billion in health care costs by eliminating private insurance providers, enough to guarantee coverage for every American; and NJ could save at least $15 billion in health care costs funded and managed - for local and state government workers, with a publicly health care system;
WHEREAS despite the Affordable Care Act of 2010, 30 million Americans remain uninsured, including close to 1 million in NJ; 39 million American adults are underinsured, with deductibles and out of pocket costs above acceptable levels; and millions continue to face the threat of personal bankruptcy, and
WHEREAS New Jersey finds itself threatened with yet more hospital closings and yet more intensified monopoly control over healthcare; and –
WHEREAS Representative John Conyers has sponsored federal legislation - HR 676 - 
that will provide such a system at the federal level; and
WHEREAS given the current political environment in Washington, many states have proposed similar legislation that would operate at the state level, taking advantage of provisions in Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act, and the pending bill HR 3241 that would make it easier for states to implement publicly funded and managed health care systems; 
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that this assembly pledges to work for and to see the creation of a simple, economical, humane, universal and comprehensive public system that will provide all medically necessary care to every resident of New Jersey; and 
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this assembly endorses HR 676 and the efforts of the NJ Universal Healthcare Coalition to get similar state legislation drafted and introduced in NJ; and
BE IT RESOLVED that this assembly supports all efforts aimed at educating  the public and building a movement to advance such legislation at both the federal and state levels.

Healthcare Crisis in New Jersey
Paul Robeson Campus Center 350 MLK Blvd., Newark
June 11, 2016, 9:30 AM
Working to Make Garden State Care a Reality


For Immediate Release                                                                                   31 May 2016
Conference Will Present Health Reform Solutions on June 11
A broad coalition of community-based organizations will address the issue of healthcare reform at a conference on June 11. The location is the Essex Room of the Paul Robeson Campus Center, 350 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Newark. The event will begin at 9:30 AM. It is open to the public and free of charge.

"The health insurance system does not work and can't be fixed," said Robert Palmer, an organizer  for the conference. "There are long delays because it is so hard to coordinate medical teams. Prescriptions are too expensive. People can't pay for them. Deductibles are sky-high, and there are still too many people without insurance."

"The health insurance system works badly. The experience of Medicare and of many countries proves comprehensive public health gives better outcomes and saves a lot of money."

The event will be moderated by Annette Alston of the Newark Teachers' Association.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Margaret Flowers of Baltimore, MD, a nationally-know advocate of universal healthcare. She has said, "I view the struggle for health care as part of a broader social, racial, economic and environmental justice movement."

Parent activist Sandra Hayward of the Popcorn Kidz will address the intensification of monopoly in healthcare. David Hungerford of the Coalition for Social Justice will speak on the topic of the damage  that monopoly in healthcare does to the economy as a whole.  Dr. Winthrop Dillaway of the NJ Universal Health Coalition will speak on his organization's campaign to create a single-payer public health system in the state.

There will be ample time for audience participation. "Everybody has horror stories," said an organizer. "We expect to learn a lot."

Resolutions calling for the creation of a universal healthcare system in New Jersey, and others linking the cause of healthcare reform to the cause of peace, and to the struggle to end community gun violence, will be presented to the assembly.

There will be workshops in the afternoon. One will develop ongoing work to achieve universal healthcare. A second will focus on the common economic roots of the medical-industrial complex, the military-industrial complex, and the prison-industrial complex. Another will deal with disparities of healthcare in black and brown communities, including environmental health.

The plenary session will include proposals for ongoing work such as marches, rallies, and speaking programs. A continuations committee will be formed.

Further information: c4sj.nj@gmail.com; 973-951-6685






Friday, May 27, 2016

Phone Conf 5/31 6:30 PM EST 712-770-4010 Access 100577 Solidarity w/ Incarcerated & Enslaved Sept 9 Activities

Next Meeting of Decarcerate the Garden State for Organizing  Solidarity w/ Incarcerated & Enslaved Sept 9 Activities

Phone Conference, Tuesday, May 31 6:30 PM EST 712-770-4010 Access 100577

Event on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/events/465916723604206



Please share and tweet this widely!

Suggested Tweet:

Solidarity w/ Incarc/Enslaved 9/9 Activities Next Phone Conf 5/31 6:30 PM 712-770-1040 Access 100577
https://t.co/kegfth61Fv
‪#‎DecarcerateNJ‬


The letter is out calling for September 9 Solidarity actions in NJ in coordination with a multi-state work stoppage by incarcerated / enslaved men and women. 

We now need to have a plan to use the letter to reach out to all of the organizations and justice loving people in the state.

This meeting will discuss this plan as well as some proposals for lead-in actions in support of this project including a "noise protest" outside of a NJ facility aimed at communicating to people on the inside. There is also a proposal for a way that students can participate on their campuses on September 9.
We also need to start assembling promotional materials - to brand the event with graphics, video, music, art. pictures. etc.
Also we can discuss preliminary press outreach or media outreach to movement circles on the internet (NJ and beyond).
If we get a large number of out of state participants we can talk about how to get more states engage in this effort.  In any event we should encourage internet news outlets to start writing about the September 9 efforts.

This meeting will also begin to brainstorm about what kinds of actions can occur on September 9.


In the meantime - we all need to start circulating the letter at the following link - not just random shares - but targeted approaches to organizations and individuals including follow up discussions about exactly how to get meaningful sponsorship and involvement in the effort.

http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/pop-decarcerate-garden-state-letter.html

Any written input will be included as part of the records of the meeting so if you can not make it, please provide written input to Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org .

While we will review and approve the agenda at start of meeting if you have agenda suggestions also send to same e-mail address.

And remember this is an ongoing process so input through e-mail, phone, the Facebook group, however delivered can be incorporated into the process of developing these activities - everyone's fight!   Everyone at the table!

And don't forget, Justice Monday is EVERY MONDAY!

http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/justice-mondays-newark-repost-share.html




Tuesday, May 24, 2016

POP / Decarcerate the Garden State Letter Calling for NJ Sept 9 Solidarity Action in Support of Striking Enslaved Incarcerated Men and Women



To All NJ Area Organizations and Individuals in the Struggle for Justice,
Peoples Organization for Progress and Decarcerate the Garden State are joining together to call upon freedom and justice loving organizations and individuals throughout New Jersey and throughout the U.S.A. to develop events and activities in solidarity and support of a multi-state coordinated strike at prisons aimed at ending enslavement inside U.S. prison and detention systems.  Prisoners across multiple states have issued a call for a strike on September 9, 2016, which is the 45th anniversary of the Attica State Prison uprising.

According to an article from
the news site The Intercept, "On April 1, a group of prisoners from Ohio, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi called for a nationally coordinated prisoner work stoppage against prison slavery to take place on September 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves,
 that announcement reads. They cannot run these facilities without us.’”

We would like to demonstrate solidarity with the coordinated action in NJ by having a solidarity action or actions on the outside in support of demands for decarcerating legislation in NJ (we call for 50% reduction in NJ’s incarcerated population), freedom for political prisoners and improved conditions for the incarcerated inside NJ facilities. We are not suggesting any specific actions inside NJ’s facilities but should there be participation on the inside in NJ we will offer solidarity to the demands of NJ’s incarcerated men and women.

We would like to invite all of the justice seeking groups in NJ to:
1. Formerly co-sponsor or endorse in principal the idea of NJ solidarity action or actions on or around September 9.
2. Begin the process of deciding what kinds of activity (or activities) will be organized and where – the sentiment of some of the inside organizations like Free Alabama Movement is for there to be actions directly outside the facilities. The challenge of that is the remote locations of many of the facilities making transportation an issue. It is ultimately up to us in NJ exactly what kind of activities at what locations best suits our goals to effectively advance our demands for decarceration and for better conditions inside NJ facilities. There has been a suggestion that there be 3 regional events across the state though the locations. The number of events, timing etc. will all be determined by the locations where people are prepared to act.

According to Kinetic, of the Free Alabama Movement, “IF ANYONE IS ASKING ‘WHAT CAN I DO?’ Start doing like Decarcerate the Garden State / POP - Start Organizing Events in your City to SHOW SOLIDARITY not just say I STAND IN SOLIDARITY. Educational Rallies , Marches, Protest, Walk-Outs, Boycott Complicit Corporations. It's Time to let our ACTIONS show our dissatisfaction. FREE ALABAMA FREE MISSISSIPPI FREE OHIO FREE VIRGINIA FREE GEORGIA FREE CALIFORNIA. ..FREE YOUR STATE. .. BECAUSE IT'S A FREEDOM STRUGGLE!"

For decarceration, reform, abolitionist and justice loving groups outside of NJ, we are interested in hearing about any similar efforts going on in your states to organize solidarity with the planned coordinated strike by incarcerated men and women.  We are also eager to assist you any way that we can in getting similar solidarity efforts going in your state if there has not been any such effort yet.

We look forward to your response to this proposal.  We cannot wait to work with you to successfully launch a wave of solidarity with NJ’s incarcerated. If you would like a representative of Decarcerate the Garden State or POP (or others that join this effort) to attend a meeting of your organization to present the proposal just let us know. If you have any questions, ideas, concerns, etc. – do not hesitate to call 908-881-5275. You can also write to us at Decarc@DecarcerateNJ,org. We can set up conference calls with your organization to plan the events.

Stay tuned for information about meetings and phone conferences to move this effort forward.

While September 9 might seem far away, as organizers know the time flies quickly when motivating activities so it is best we get started now.  We look forward to working with you and your organization toward the success of this effort.

In Solidarity,

Larry Adams
Vice Chairperson of People Organization for Progress


Bob Witanek
Co-founder of Decarcerate the Garden State

Co-sponsoring organizations:

Decarcerate the Garden State
Peoples Organization for Progress

Endorsing organizations:


Endorsing Individuals:

Reverend Charles Boyer, Pastor Bethel AME Church, Woodbury, NJ
Cindy Sheehan, See: 
http://bit.ly/1XCelT9 


Next call in meeting:

Tuesday 5/31 6:30 pm meeting - call in

Conference Call 712-770-1040 Access 100577


Resources:

Minutes from meetings:

May 16 
http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/sept-9-solidarity-w-incarcerated.html 
May 31 http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/06/september-9-organizing-531-meeting.html

Tool box:

Working to determine the issues in NJ facilities:  
http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/demanding-improved-conditions-for-njs.html

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Decriminalize HIV laws in NJ and everywhere!


#DecriminalizeHIV Free Michael Johnson

By John McDevitt

Normally, I don't repost articles, but in this case our friends at The Center for HIV Law and Policy provided so much timely information on the recent amicus brief for Michael Johnson's case (in photo above serving 30.5 years in a Missouri prison after being accused of infecting another man without any scientific evidence, using only racism, homophobia and HIV hysteria) that I couldn't delay in spreading that information. Especially as New Jersey stands as one of the 32 states that criminalizes HIV and people living with HIV.

As we Decarcerate the Garden State--we must also Decriminalize HIV!

Here's my article that posted yesterday on Liberationnews.


On April 19, 22 organizations representing social justice, LGBTQ, HIV, medical and social service organizations and one individual filed an amicus brief, a document that is prepared by representatives, interested parties and experts. The brief addresses the topic of HIV and social justice and opposes Missouri’s unjust HIV criminalization laws. They are doing so in the interest of invalidating
Michael Johnson’s 2015 conviction and 30.5 year sentence for allegedly intentionally transmitting the virus to a sex partner.
Michael Johnson, a young African American gay man living with HIV, is soft spoken and sincere in his attitude about his own infection. He is not exactly sure who could have infected him, but unlike the state of Missouri, Johnson says “I wouldn’t wish harm on anyone” and refuses to make any accusations.
The vilification and criminalization of disease is only possible in the most polarized society—one which contains the most significant scientific advances coupled with the most backwards and racist ideologies.
The coming together of this coalition of groups (see list below) is a significant step in overturning HIV criminalization laws that exist in 32 states–blaming those who are infected with the virus for its continued spread rather than the system that perpetuates racism, stigma, health disparities and hysteria, where access to health and disease prevention is a privilege, not a right.
“As you can see from The Positive Justice Project’s Consensus Statement on the Criminalization of HIV in the United States, released in July 2012, a number of these organizations have been involved in the movement to modernize HIV criminal laws,” Mayo Schreiber, Deputy Director of The Center for HIV Law and Policy, told Liberation News.
“This group of amici, however, underscores the ever increasing participation of a broad cross-section of local and national organizations, with varying perspectives and interests, who agree that HIV exposure and transmission laws are fundamentally unjust, do not work in reducing the spread of HIV, are counter-productive to public health efforts, increase stigma and are discriminatory against African-Americans and other members of our society,” said Schreiber.
Schreiber went on to challenge the state’s definition of intent when applied to an infectious disease–a disease with an extremely low transmission rate when precautions and treatment are available: “Missouri’s HIV exposure or transmission statute, however, does not take any account of what the person intended by their action. In essence, it is a ‘strict liability’ statute. The statute only requires that a person is HIV positive and knew it, the person had sex with another, and the person did not disclose their HIV positive status before the sex. There is no requirement that the person had the specific intent to infect another person, to cause them any harm, or even acted in a reckless manner (even though the statute misleadingly uses that term).
Racism, homophobia central to unjust laws
“The racist aspects of the media coverage of the case were glaringly apparent. Many of the photographs of Mr. Johnson, a college student and star athlete, focused on his upper torso, often without a shirt, objectifying him as hypersexual Black man, which has significant historical racist connotations,” commented Schreiber when asked to make comparisons to historical examples where racism and sexuality were apparent like the murder of Emmett Till and case of the Scottsboro 9.
“Missouri’s law, like many similar statutes, was passed at a time of ‘near hysteria in certain quarters.’ This statue was originally passed in 1988.  If you recall, two years earlier, even in the esteemed New York Times, William Buckley, in an op-ed piece, stated ‘[e]veryone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.’ At the same time there were calls for people living with HIV to be quarantined,” explained Schreiber.
This divisive narrative where there are those who are guilty and those who are innocent in relation to disease fueled the flames of racism and homophobia right up until the closing arguments in Michael Johnson’s case. Prosecutor Phillip Groenweghe said unlike other cases of murder, HIV could wind up killing someone who never met Johnson “and who might not even be gay.”
“One of the men he [Johnson] had sex with didn’t want to come forward because he didn’t want to tell his wife. We’re all in this together. That’s why this is a crime. That’s why our legislature decided to make it a crime,” described Schreiber of the hysteria and fear that dominated the Missouri courtroom during Johnson’s trial.
The Positive Justice Project is one coalition that people can support in efforts to decriminalize HIV, but Schreiber encourages individual acts of organizing: “Follow The Center for HIV Law and Policy on Twitter @CtrHIVLawPolicy and Instagram @hiv_law_policy. Post, RT and Snap using #decriminalizehiv! Contact news sources—TV stations, newspapers, and magazines—to educate them on HIV criminalization and how inaccurate, sensationalized reporting promotes HIV stigma. Host a community educational event. Speak out when you learn someone is being prosecuted under a HIV criminal law.”
Michael Johnson may need funds either to get himself established outside of prison or in support of further litigation. Currently, he needs support for basic necessities, including food, toiletries and telephone access. People can help him by establishing an account at www.accesscorrections.com and making a donation to him.
Coalition members:
· AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania
· American Academy of HIV Medicine
· American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation
· Athlete Ally
· Black AIDS Institute
· Center for Constitutional Rights
· Center for HIV Law and Policy
· Counter Narrative Project
· Dr. Jeffrey Birnbaum
· Empower Missouri
· GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
· GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
· Grace
· Human Rights Campaign

· Missouri AIDS Task Force
· National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors
· National Black Justice Coalition
· National Center for Lesbian Rights
· National LGBTQ Task Force
· One Struggle KC
· Treatment Action Group
· William Way LGBT Community Center

· Women With A Vision

Justice Mondays - Newark - August 29 - 4:30pm - ?? - Protest No Justice Dpt Decision

From Peoples Organization for Progress:

Please attend. Every Monday (until further notice), but especially this coming Monday, August 29 4:30pm - ?? - POP IS CALLING FOR 100 PARTICIPANTS TO PROTEST THE NO JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DECISION NOT TO PROSECUTE THE POLICE THAT KILLED JERAME REID!

2016, 4:30pm, U.S. Attorney's Office, Rodino Federal Building, 970 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey the People's Organization For Progress (POP) will have a "Justice Monday" Rally to demand federal probes into the police shootings of Abdul Kamal, Kashad Ashford, Jerame Reid, and Radazz Hearns. This is the seventeenth of the Justice Mondays protests. The purpose of th
ese demonstrations is to demand that the officers that killed Kamal, Ashford, and Reid, and those who shot Hearns be held accountable for their deaths. And to demand that the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, start official investigations into their deaths and bring civil rights charges against those officers that killed them. We also demand that the State Attorney General immediately begin an investigation into the murder of Earl Faison in Orange, NJ. These demonstrations will take place every Monday and they will be on-going. Please wear your POP sweatshirt if you have one. Please attend in any event. For more information call POP at 973 801-0001.


Our organization Decarcerate the Garden State needs to get more involved in supporting this activity.  People's Organization for Progress has voted to join together with us in working on the September 9 Incarcerated and Enslaved Solidarity Activities in NJ and we need to recognize the close connection between the issue of police killings on NJ streets to the issue of mass incarceration.


On May 16 Decarcerate the Garden State had scheduled a meeting to discuss a proposal for organizing NJ solidarity activities in support of an incarcerated men and women action September 9 2016 - a work stoppage seeking to end enslavement of the incarcerated.

http://decarceratenj.blogspot.com/2016/05/sept-9-solidarity-w-incarcerated.html 

Since I was in town for that and because I have been wanting to show my support for Justice Mondays, I arrived in Newark a couple of hours early and joined the Justice Monday
's rally.

Like the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina that continue to keep vigil for the thousands of disappeared by a CIA backed military regime there decades ago - it is becoming a thing in the United States where mothers and other family members and supporters continue to gather regularly to demand justice for their loved ones who have been murdered by the police - in the streets.

From a Facebook posting by Ingrid Ingrid S. Hill
"The People's Organization for Progress (POP) held its 16th "Justice Mondays" Rally to demand federal probes into the police shootings of Abdul Kamal, Kashad Ashford, Jerame Reid, and Radazz Hearns on May 16, 2016, at the U.S. Attorney's Office, Rodino Federal Building, 970 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey. The purpose of these demonstrations is to demand that the officers that killed Kamal, Ashford, and Reid, and those who shot Hearns be held accountable for their deaths, and to demand that the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, start official investigations into their deaths and bring civil rights charges against those officers that killed them. These demonstrations will take place every Monday and they will be on-going. "

I distributed about 50 papers at this event and was able to announce our meeting. Larry Hamm who spoke for part of the event discussed extensively mass incarceration including the 13th Amendment that only partially eliminated legal enslavement in the US - leaving the enslavement of the incarcerated intact.



Two of the protesters at this event were able to join our meeting.

Let's strive to have a team or at least one of us at this event to offer our paper The NJ Decarcerator to other participants as well as to passers by and those at the bus stop there - it is an excellent chance to get the paper circulating in the Newark community.  Right now there are 200 copies of the paper at 298 South Orange Avenue and if you want to get a handful to share at the next Justice Monday event, please call Cassandra Dock at (973) 223-2114.  We will try to keep that office stocked with papers.


You can also contact Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org to request a bundle of 50 to be sent to you.

The following are some details on the 4 victims of police violence that this activity is demanding justice around.  This article will continue to be updated as more information is developed around the cases or as more news develops.

If you have more links that should be provided here, please send to Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org and they will be edited in.


Abdul Kamal
http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2015/02/family_activists_pledge_continued_fight_after_jury.html 

Kashad Ashford
https://www.liberationnews.org/my-brother-did-not-deserve-to-be-executed-justice-for-kashad-ashford





Jerame Reid

http://6abc.com/news/family-of-jerame-reid-asking-for-federal-investigation/952353/

Vid of Jerame Reid being killed as he held his hands in the air to surrender to police
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVueAfv9Qrc 

Radazz Hearns


http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/8/13/1411732/-Unarmed-non-violent-14-year-old-Radazz-Hearns-shot-7-times-by-New-Jersey-police-but-survives

http://www.trentonian.com/article/TT/20151115/NEWS/151119835








POP Fundraiser:

Decarcerate the Garden State is urging support for POP fundraiser as POP could incur some costs for its partnership with us on organizing around September 9 Incarcerated Solidarity. Hopefully some members of Decarcerate the Garden State will help out by attending this fun and exciting event at Marlo's Lounge June 12 3- 7 pm with food, music and dancing, tickets $20. Phone:  973-801-0001 for details.