07/22/20 Teressa Raiford

On this installment of Century of Lies: Sen. on abuses committed by federal police in the city of Portland; organizer and activist Teressa Raiford on #BlackLivesMatter; and we hear portions of a webinar organized by the Fortune Society on “Brutality Behind Bars: Accountability for Corrections Officers, Too," featuring Jai Diamond, New York City Criminal Justice Agency; Assemblyman David Weprin, Chair of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Corrections; Karen Murtagh, Executive Director of Prison Legal Services; Donna Hylton, Executive Director of A Little Piece of Light; and Phillip Miller, Associate Director of Policy at Correctional Association of New York.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Monday, July 20, 2020
Guest: 
Jeff Merkley
Teressa Raiford
Download: Audio icon COL072220.mp3
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CENTURY OF lIES, 07/22/20

DEAN BECKER: (00:00)
Failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, prosecutors, and millions more are now calling for decriminalization legalization, prohibition to investigate.

DOUG McVAY: (00:19)
Hello and welcome to century of lies. I'm your host. Doug McVeigh, the fortune society recently held a webinar entitled brutality behind bars, accountability for corrections officers too. We're going to hear portions of that event on today's show, but first loyal listeners will recall that I live in Portland, Oregon. I hel nuff said first here's us Senator Jeff Merkley Democrat from Oregon. Answering a question from a constituent during an online town hall meeting that was held Thursday, July 16.

SPEAKER 3 (00:48)
So, um, just, just a couple, uh, questions here. My first question is I want to know what you can and are planning on doing about the federal officers that have been deployed to, um, the Portland black lives matter movement. Um, I've seen a lot of really disturbing images and, um, stuff that doesn't seem entirely legal to me. So I'm wondering, um, what actions you can take on that. And second question, I saw that you planned to do a constitutional amendment to ban prison labor, and I'm a big fan of this and want to know how that's going and how I as a constituent can help.

JEFF MERKLEY: (01:28)
Great. Let me start with the first part, which is a federal officer and, uh, Senator Wyden. And I have expressed a lot of, uh, outrage and concern over the deployment and we, well, I'll just speak for myself. Very concerned that it's inflaming the situation, making it much harder to deescalate. Uh, the, um, the confrontations that are occurring on a, on a nightly basis in Portland. Uh, I was on the phone earlier with, uh, acting deputy director of the U S marshals. His name is Derek Driscoll. I wanted to know what, how many people were deployed, what their command structure was, who makes the decision for how they act, what are their rules of engagement? He said he couldn't share anything about their rules of engagement, other than they have a manual that every officer knows about. I said, yes, but you have operational protocols that change according to the situation you're in, who's making those decisions.

JEFF MERKLEY: (02:22)
Who's in charge. He would not say who was in charge. Uh, I do not know if the pictures of the people in camouflage with no markings, except some of them say police were actually U S marshals. We're trying, we're trying to, to find out. Uh, I asked specifically if they were authorized to use the, uh, rubber bullets, uh, impact projectiles and what the rules were on that all I got was, uh, well, they have a manual and they have training and, and yes, but there was no answers. And, um, the situation, uh, where, uh, Donavon Labella was holding up a sign and was shot in the head, uh, anyone who hasn't seen that video, it is horrific. And it's just an example of what should never happen in America when people are peacefully protesting on the street, making their points, uh, known, uh, and be attacked in this, in this, in this fashion.

JEFF MERKLEY: (03:23)
Uh, and that, uh, the U S marshals will not give us answers about how they're, how they're operating who's in charge, what their protocols are, is completely unacceptable. And in regard to this showing up, and I dunno if this was the Marshall's, but whoever's showing up and has no identification on who they are, uh, that happens in authoritarian countries, uh, that should never happen in a democratic Republic of what you are accountable to the people. Uh, so, uh, I hope we can pass some kind of launch ban the, uh, no name, uh, authoritarian, uh, presence. Uh, so, uh, uh, I, I think that, that we need to send these, these federal deployments that are causing, um, more escalation and difficulty back. Uh, Trump sent them in a very political way to begin with, which did not help at all, uh, poured fuel on the fire.

JEFF MERKLEY: (04:21)
And I think we need to do all we can to, uh, uh, send them home, send them back wherever they came from. That's I guess that's the bottom line. And you asked me about the 13th amendment, the 13th amendment. There's a documentary called the 13th. I encourage everybody to watch. It's powerful. It's a chapter of that American history that is not generally taught at our schools. At least it wasn't taught. I was in grade school or high school, and that is after the civil war. So the 13th amendment ended slavery, but it has an exception closet. And it says, except for someone committed for a crime, that word slavery still legal. If you're committed crime at one time, Alabama was arresting so many black men and then running out their services to plantations. It was almost as if the civil war never, never happened. And they were funding some 75, 80% of their government office process of this legal slavery post civil war, post 13th amendment. Uh, so that involuntary servitude exception. Yeah. Plus the rest, it motivated some counts to go out and do it sweet black men off the street in order to turn them back into slaves. So it's a very dark, horrific history I'm calling for. I'm introducing a concept [inaudible] amendment that would change the 13th amendment and remove that clause and anything anyone can do to publicize that and encourage that, uh, would, would be a great, it's a, it's a horrific sentence that needs to be deleted from our,

DOUG McVAY: (05:58)
That was us Senator Jeff Merkley, addressing constituent concerns during a town hall meeting held Thursday, July 16th. Now here's Portland activist and organizer. Teressa Rayford speaking at a rally that took place in Portland on Friday, July 17th. Audio comes to us courtesy of Portland jobs with John

TERESSA RAYFORD: (06:16)
[inaudible]. Thank you. Thank you for caring about our community. Thank you for showing up. But I wanted to just say that we started this movement when president Obama was still in the white house, we know that we were stolen people on stolen land through genocide, and that that same patriarchy system was coming for us and anyone else in this community, that was a part of the 99. When our movement started, it was to combine our communities so that we can build solidarity against the machine that only eats our children. We've been criminalized. We've been lied to by our politicians, that we stood up and stay in contact with to make sure that they were elected because we trusted them. They have let us down to the detriment of public safety at this point. The fact that they're speaking out now does not take away the fact that they have not spoken out before. [inaudible] only undermine, because we know that they're trying to get elected. The fact that we know who they are, we should show them where we're going in November, [inaudible] irreparable. We should all be aware of with them permission in the science report that we put on dosing means and how that should accommodate any kind of opportunity. You need to stand up and get justice. Look at the report, read the report, the report. And at the same time, if you've been haunted, anytime during this pandemic, please contact us. So we go fight for you. [inaudible]

DOUG McVAY: (09:51)
That was Teressa Rayford, an activist and organizer in Portland, Oregon. She was speaking at a black lives matter rally on Friday, July 17th. This is century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh.

Speaker 4: (10:04)
At the time when the operation of the machine becomes, the audience makes you so sick at heart, but you can't take part. You can't even pass only take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears that upon the wheel, upon the leaders, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it to the people on it, but unless your brain, the machine will be prevented from our day at all.

DOUG McVAY: (10:44)
As I mentioned at the top of the show, the fortune society in New York held a webinar recently entitled brutality behind bars, accountability for corrections officers, too. We're going to hear a portion of that webinar. Now, the speakers are giant diamond, New York criminal justice agency, assemblyman David Weprin chair of the New York state assemblies committee on corrections, Karen Murtaugh, executive director of prison, legal services, Donna Hilton, executive director of a little piece of light and Philip Miller associate director of policy at correctional association of New York. The next voice you hear will be that of the moderator for this webinar, Andre ward, assistant vice president of the fortune societies, David Rotenberg center for public policy. And I want to make sure now just want to get everyone's like call to action. Some things people can start doing, right? So some ways to look at different reforms, you know, you've had some legislative wins that have been obviously successful in many different ways, uh, to Karen's point. However, there's still some areas that need work, right. That we have to begin to change. Um, you know, starting with, what are some of the, some of the reforms

Speaker 5: (11:54)
That you think some other forms that can happen possibly incorrections in docs to prevent abuses in that way? I know we have, obviously we have cameras now in prisons, right? Um, we had some body cameras specifically in some of the prisons, but that's not enough fathers because those cases are still emerging. Um, just from your thinking, uh, assuming my weapon, what are some of the other things that we can do to really address this issue of abuse and have real accountability and transparency? Thank you so much.

Speaker 6: (12:26)
Yeah. I mean, there's, there's probably a lot more we can do. Um, but as it is now, we haven't, you know, haven't done enough even with, with the body cameras is, uh, Karen pointed out, you know, for correctional officers, you know, having the, uh, body cameras, uh, very important, uh, as well as, you know, having, uh, cameras in all the facilities. Um, we're actually, um, one of the bills that came out of committee last week, uh, that is going to the floor, uh, hopefully this week and that I'm hoping to pass is based on something Phillip Miller mentioned earlier with the correctional association, uh, how important it is to allow the correctional association, uh, to have access to the facilities, uh, and to, uh, outside of, uh, the personnel of ducks, whenever I have a visit to any state facility, a local facility, um, I always meet with the ILC, the inmate liaison committee.

Speaker 6: (13:22)
And I always insist that it be out of the presence of doc docs, employees, because as was pointed out, um, you know, if, if, uh, incarcerated individuals feel, you know, that, uh, docs is listening or the correctional and the listening or the superintendent, or, you know, officials at docs are listening, they're going to be very hesitant to be honest, and to talk openly. And that's probably the most important part of my visit is to have those meetings with incarcerated individuals, with the inmate liaison committee, with some of their issues that we bring to the attention of the superintendent and have had changes as well. So, uh, this particular bill that we came out of committee last week, uh, would allow the correctional associations to have the same, right. Uh, as they examined, uh, facilities and they have been doing for, you know, as somebody points out, they're been around for 175 years, uh, you know, they, but they don't have the right, uh, to, um, to have, you know, visits unrestricted without, uh, having docs employees they're in their presence.

Speaker 6: (14:31)
So that's one of the bills that we have, uh, that I hope to pass this week, uh, which would allow, uh, the correctional association, uh, to meet with incarcerated individuals out of the, uh, hearing of docs officials, uh, to actually, uh, make changes, uh, and, and listen to suggestions. So, uh, you know, it's legislation like that. Uh, one of the other bills I'm going to be doing this week, it becomes even more important, uh, in light of, um, the pandemic and attack that visitation was virtually ended, cut off completely, uh, you know, during COVID-19. And I'm hoping it'll be easing up, uh, shortly, uh, is to, um, require seven to seven day visitation. Uh, it all facilities, uh, minimum, medium and maximum. And that came out of my first budget, uh, as chair of the correction committee a few years ago in that it was in 2017, uh, when the governor was trying to save about $2 million, uh, in a $2 billion, uh, correction budget, uh, by, uh, cutting visitation in maximum security facility from seven days to three days a week.

Speaker 6: (15:41)
Uh, and then during that battle, and we had all the advocates, we had press conferences, we had thousands of demonstrations, and we had kind of our own, a little movement, uh, among, uh, you know, incarcerated individuals, families. And we were very successful in that where the governor actually withdrew that cut in the middle because of the, uh, the protests because of the public support. Um, you know, that seemed like a, a small thing, but then I realized, you know, there's no seven day visitation and minimum immediate security, uh, that they, uh, they can limit visitation. Uh, and generally it's limited to weekends. So I said, it doesn't make any sense why you should be able to have seven day visitation in maximum security facilities, but not medium and minimum. So I'm hoping that that bill will finally pass this week, uh, and, and be signed by the governor.

Speaker 5: (16:36)
Sure. Thank you. Assuming a weapon and, you know, there's been conversation, people have been lifting up the idea of having, um, what will be considered, uh, an independent review board, right? For the, for some of the abuses, some of the things that are happening because to use, um, oftentimes the state measures to engage and hold people accountable is just not enough. So Karen, I talked to us a little bit about like thoughts on that, right? Like if an independent review board, coupled with some other recommendations around reform to address, uh, accountability and transparency and brutality, um, that are occurring in the jails and prisons.

Speaker 6: (17:16)
Thank you for that question. It's incredibly important. I do believe there is a correctional bill out there that's floating around, but I don't think it's gone anywhere yet, but that's pretty much what it would be. A couple of years ago, the legislature held hearings on oversight. And I testified along with a number of other people about the need to have some independent agency organization that has full and complete access and

Speaker 3: (17:50)
Oversight of docs. Um, the correctional association is wonderful, but they are limited statutorily in terms of what they can do and what information they get. I mean, that could be broadened, um, to give them the authority. Um, but we, I think we need such an agency, um, or organization, and it should be outside of the politics of it all because what's happened in the past with things that are done like that is that a different person becomes governor or the legislature flips. Then those organizations get defunded. And even though they have the authority to perform oversight, um, they don't have the resources to do so. So I think when, when you look at doing something like that, you have to be very careful about how it gets set up and structured. So it is a standalone independent organization that that will be impacted ever so slightly by politics.

Speaker 3: (18:56)
So I think that's, that's number one, number two, I think that there's a number of bills that are, that are out there. There's the less is more bill for parole. There's the, uh, elderly parole bill there's, um, the halt bill, which would severely limit solitary confinement. Um, there's the fair and timely parole bill there's, um, the minimum wage act there's, uh, which would raise the salaries for incarcerated or the wages for incarcerated individuals for all the work they do. And let me just say here that we've received so many letters from incarcerated individuals wanted us to get the word out, that they were so proud to be helping during COVID-19. Um, there was a lot of criticism that they're, you know, we're not paying what we should be paying that hand sanitizer in the beginning, wasn't even available in the prisons and all that was true and accurate.

Speaker 3: (20:02)
And, and, uh, and, and criticism that should have been out there. But at the same time, there were a number of individuals working so hard to make masks and make hand sanitizer. And they wrote to me, and they said, you know, I just wish people knew that we care about New York state and people that live here, and we we're doing everything we can to help. So people should know that. Um, but I think that if you look at all of these bills that are out there from all the parole bills to the minimum wage, to halt the underlying issue, that that makes those bills necessary is the continued racial disparity and racism that we have in the state and in this country. And the New York times wrote about it in 2016. And, uh, they had a number of series of articles about the racial disparity in our prisons.

Speaker 3: (21:03)
And it's not just in the prison, then it's within the prison. It's who goes to solitary, who doesn't get paroled, who doesn't get those, you know, certain programs or educational opportunities in prison that will help them successfully reintegrate into society. So, um, along those lines, I, I received a letter a couple of weeks ago from a guy in one of our state prisons. And he said, you know, I don't understand it. We've done so much on, on, uh, rape and sexual abuse in prisons. We have the prison rape elimination act. We have a lot of focus on that. Why aren't we doing more about racism? And, you know, it got me thinking, and I wrote a letter to the commissioner. I sent a copy actually to assembly men weapons. So we've seen it, but, um, about focusing on that, and it has to come from the top down, but I mean, it could be called the prison racism elimination, and there could be an entire effort of the state to focus on racial disparities outside and inside prison. And all the things that happen in prison that are, are from racism. So, uh, you know, and so we can pass all the bills we want to pass, and maybe we can improve parole. Maybe we can redo solitary confinement. Maybe we can increase wages, but until we address the underlying problem of racism, I don't think we're gonna make our prisons that much better, or our community so much better,

Speaker 5: (22:43)
Right? Because some may attain Karen that the criminal justice system is simply a byproduct of the racism that exists society, right. And society. And that's really important. And we know that in addressing a brutality within prisons, right, it's also a matter of like addressing leadership and a matter of political will too. And this is no way to suggest to point to you. Simply we weapon. We know you're on the ground, like doing some great work, but obviously there's, there's others, um, who you need to be in partnership with what to support you in advance and the things that will address some of the abuses in prisons and jails and, you know, diamond. I want to circle back to you. We're going to open up the chat for a couple of questions to be answered, but you know, diamond as a Latina trans person, who's obviously had these experiences. What are some of the things that you like to share with our panel, as it relates to how trans folk are treated in prison bills, what Clarion call could you put out there for people to support, changing the conditions that people who identify as trans are experiencing jails and prisons,

DAVID WEPRIN: (23:46)
Right? So I just want to clarify, I am white and black. I'm not Spanish. I know it can be a little confusing. I get it. But a great question. I do strongly feel that the employees of corrections that are there to protect the individuals in which they said needs to reflect the communities, that they, they are there to protect. I do not feel safe when I am whitewashed. I do not feel state when I am sent through a system in which I know these people who don't look like me or against me, however, everyone looks like that person. I don't feel safe when there's nobody who I can turn to and, and feel like we can relate. I think that unless these things change, right, like can set unless there is systematic racial, um, change and less, um, people understand the importance that unless racism no longer exists, these problems will still exist.

DAVID WEPRIN: (24:46)
These problems will continue. Right. Um, because as women now, as men who are incarcerated now, as trans people like myself who are incarcerated, we all have varying difficulties. Um, not to say that much. I go to different from Donna struggles of that. Donna, talk about the different from Phillips travels, right? They're the same. They're just different in, in how they affect that person and the communities of those people. I, again, I'm a strong believer that doc's needs to employ outward change within its employees and who they hire and how they can show themselves to the, the population in which they said, um, trans people, every day, incarcerated are being harassed. They are being disparaged. They are marginalized and misunderstood. They're being attacked. When I walk fast, pass an opposite, he tells another inmate to burn down my, but I have to live. I no longer feel safe, right?

DAVID WEPRIN: (25:46)
When I'm a victim in 2016 of sexual assault and the inmate say we are going to live for the police because we don't want you living. I am a victim. I no longer felt safe. When for that same incident, I spend 90 days in the box without a ticket. And after five days, my attacker gets to walk out of the box. I no longer feel safe in the entirety of that. I don't care which president I'm in. I don't care. Who's in front of me. And I'm sorry if I'm upset at everyone who I come into contact, I'm sorry. If you think that I'm an angry person, I'm sorry. If you felt like I'm not getting transitioned on Sabbath, but I'm not. And I can never, unless I learn and have the strength, which unfortunately so many people, trans people, women, men of being, um, backgrounds and ethnicities.

DAVID WEPRIN: (26:35)
Right. Um, don't have, I'm lucky that I do. And I'm lucky that fellow people who have gone through the system have that, that drive within them. Right. Um, these are the people that haven't been broken by the system, right? And this is that. So again, I have to yet, right. Unless the dialogue changes, unless the narrative speaks on employees who meet the communities in which they are, they attack, there can be no change. And thank you for that. Um, a diamond. We appreciate that too. And I know someone asked the question about what is the definition of racism, I, to give a very loose definition, right? And so, um, at least from my vantage point, you know, the definition of racism has all to do with power and privilege and the ability to use that power and privilege to negatively impact the lives of other human beings. Right? So that's a loose definition and others have definitions as well.

DOUG McVAY: (27:28)
That was a portion of a webinar entitled brutality behind bars, accountability for corrections officers too. That was organized recently by the fortune society. You just heard giant diamond, New York, criminal justice agency, assemblyman David Weprin chair of the committee on corrections, the New York state assembly, Karen Murtaugh, executive director of prison, legal services, Donna Hilton, executive director of a little piece of light and Phillip Miller associate director of policy at correctional association of New York. The moderator of the panel was Andre ward, assistant vice president of the fortunate societies, David Rotenberg center for public policy. And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to century of lies. We're a production of the drug truth network for the Pacific, a foundation radio network on the web of drug truth.net. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh editor of drug war facts.org. The executive producer of the drug truth network is Dean Becker. Be sure to check out Dean's new video project Becker's buds. You can find links at [inaudible] dot net drug trees. Network programs are available by podcast, the URL to subscribe. We're also on the network homepage, drug truth.net for now for the drug truth network. This is Doug McVay saying so long, so long for the drug truth network. This is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition. The century of lies, drug truth network programs, our conduct, the James J. Baker third Institute for public policy.