Letter to Tom Ammiano (CA Assembly)

(Editor’s Note.  Tom Ammiano represents the 17th Assembly District and San Francisco)

Dear Mr. Ammiano: It is my sincere hope this letter will be received in the same spirit of appreciation and cooperation in which it is written. First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge the courage and independent thinking and actions you demonstrated in the unannounced visit to inspect the conditions of confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison/Security Housing Unit, and speak with Strike Leaders.Mr. Ammiano as indicated by the return address on this envelope, I am a state prisoner and I have been incarcerated for a little more than 43 years.

Romaine 'Chip' Fitzgerald 2012

Romaine ‘Chip’ Fitzgerald 2012

Entering the prison system in 1970, at that time the mission focus of the prison system was rehabilitation; to keep prisoners out of the cells as much as possible and engaged in prison work assignments, academic and vocational training programs, and organized sports. All of the prisons in operation at that time required prisoners in participate in weekly group counseling and individual therapy sessions. These programs were designed to build character, explore the motivations of their actions, instill discipline and good work habits.The success of these programs  were reflected in the less than 50% recidivism rate that was somewhere in the area of 40 to 45% or less. The prison system was relatively successful at that time which supported by the historical record.In 1976 the California Prison Movement compelled the abolition of the Indeterminate Sentencing Legislation (ISL) by the California Prison Movement compelled the abolition of the Indeterminate Sentencing Legislation (DSL) with passage and signing into law by Governor Brown, Senate Bill 42. The progressive legislators and the prison reformists who supported them, viewed the implementation of SB 42 as progressive prison reform and a positive move toward equal application of the law when determining the parole of prisoners regardless of race, gender or religion.

However from the perspective of the distance of time it can be said there were draconian-minded, right wing legislators who were operating with a hidden agenda to nullify or reverse the progressive/liberal aspects of SB 42. With the implementation of SB 42, it was accompanied by the conservative shift of mission focus from rehabilitation to punishment. Continue Reading →

 

My View on Prison Life and New Possibilities

Reflecting on my 43 plus years of incarceration, I can state with absolute conviction that one of the worst aspects of prison life for the imprisoned is the ongoing antagonism and violence—frequently created out of malice or out of sheer ignorance by prison guards—among the convicts.

These are my thoughts on the cessation of hostilities among the various competing and rival prison gangs and associations that are divided along racial and geographical lines: I applaud this unprecedented, historic development, while acknowledging the courage and integrity of the men being held in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU), who stepped forward to move the convicted masses in a progressive direction. The leaders are men with credibility, who command respect among their peers and contemporaries by way of reputation, and demonstrating a propensity for acts of violence. Prison administrators do not want to see the cessation of hostilities among prisoners initiated by the Prison Hunger Strike leaders of 2011. Draconian prison administrators who made their mark in corrections by being “tough on crime” and insensitive to the care and treatment of convicts, do not want to see stability and progressive developments in the prison milieu, and the Pelican Bay convicts given the credit. Which of course, would clearly contradict the prison administrators defining convicts as “domestic terrorists” and beyond rehabilitation and social redemption.

The prison administrators and their advocates within the state bureaucracy want the tax paying and voting population to view convicted felons—who are someone’s son, father, daughter, wife, grandfather!—in the worst possible light. They want to create fear in the minds of the public in an effort to persuade the people to give state authorities carte blanche in the inhumane treatment of convicts, and allow the prison administrators to operate without oversight and accountability. Continue Reading →

 

Rejecting the Laws of Empire

The laws that govern, protect and promote the economic and political interests of the U.S. Empire are not of the people, or by the people. The historical record says that this country was founded by and for wealthy white men to the exclusion of women and people of color. Women and people of color totaling the majority of the population of the colonial territories had nothing to do with the framing or content of the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, with regard to the state — the U.S. Empire — there are no laws the people are bound to respect. The people are politically correct to reject the laws not of their making.

The historical evidence suggests that the laws authored by the Founding Fathers and their wealthy white male contemporaries were for the purpose of facilitating and protecting the capitalist mode of production and distribution of wealth, and to maintain the political supremacy of the white male hierarchy. And although this social and political experiment called the U.S. began in the period of 1776, the distance of time and space between the past and present, does not diminish the purpose nor intent of the laws that were designed for the domination of capital and white men. (Certainly, there was a prevailing sense of entitlement to social and political supremacy and privilege among the ruling class of the Founding Fathers by virtue of their literacy, and their control of the science and technologies of the era. The sentiments of women and people of color were simply not factored into the decision making process.)

Rational beings don’t subscribe to the proposition that the political and military might of the corporate ruling circle here in the Twenty First Century, here in the modern era, makes them right, or entitles them to define universal reality. A liberated people exercises choices, decisions, and actions independent of the influences of a culture of sociopathic greed and Western supremacy. Rational beings are uncompromising in their rejection of the Laws of Empire!

With compassion and solidarity!

By Romaine Fitzgerald

 

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