#stopH4184 #maleg: Undermines the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to grant youth offenders a chance at parole after 15 years in prison.

Dear Supporters of Justice

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary is reporting a bill (H.1426, redrafted) out to the House for a floor vote this Wednesday — Tomorrow June 18
The bill sets the earliest period of parole eligibility at 20 years for those convicted of felony murder, and 25 years in other cases.  
The bill also gives the Parole Board the unprecedented ability to impose a 10 year wait before an individual who is denied parole has the chance to go before the parole board again.  
We believe these provisions profoundly undermine the letter and spirit of the SJC’s decision, failing to recognize the unique capacity of youth to change and rehabilitate themselves, and allowing for excessively long time periods between parole hearings.
Please contact your state representative [follow link to determine your rep] TODAY to urge them to reject these extreme sentencing provisions for youth.  Let them know that you support these critical ingredients to fair sentencing for youth:

1.    No youth should have to wait longer than 15 years before having a first opportunity to go before the Parole Board.

2.     Incarcerated individuals should have the opportunity for a parole hearing every 5 years, not 10. 

A legislator pays attention when s/he receives five or more calls.

Susan Tordella

Legislative director
“We just learned today that the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary is reporting a bill
(called now H.4184, redrafted from other bills) out to the House for a floor vote this Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the redrafted bill contains several provisions which significantly undermine the Supreme Judicial Court’s recent decision
 granting individuals sentenced under Massachusetts unconstitutional former sentencing scheme a meaningful chance at parole after they had
 served at least 15 years in prison.
The bill sets the earliest period of parole eligibility at 20 years for those convicted of felony murder, and 25 years in other cases.
The bill also gives the Parole Board the unprecedented ability to impose a 10 year wait before an individual who is denied parole has the
 chance to go before the parole board again.  We believe these provisions profoundly undermine the letter and spirit of the SJC’s decision,
failing to recognize the unique capacity of youth to change and rehabilitate themselves, and allowing for excessively long time periods
 between parole hearings.
Please CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS <https://malegislature.gov/People/FindMyLegislator> TODAY to urge them to reject these extreme 
sentencing provisions for youth.  Let them know that you support these critical ingredients to fair sentencing for youth:
1.  No youth should have to wait longer than 15 years before having a first opportunity to go before the Parole Board.
2.  No youth should be made to wait longer than 5 years between parole hearings.
If you have a moment, please let us know how your calls go by emailing lindamalik@cfjj.org<mailto:lindamalik@cfjj.org>.
Thank you for supporting fair sentencing for youth!
Linda Malik
Fair Sentencing Campaign Coordinator

Prison Labor’s New Frontier

Prison labor’s new frontier: Artisanal foods

It ain’t just license plates anymore. Inmates are making a surprising array of products for small businesses. You can even find some in your local Whole Foods.

Some years back, a small Colorado goat-cheese maker called Haystack Mountain faced its version of a classic growth challenge: National demand was growing for its chèvres and other cheeses, and the company was struggling to find enough local goat farmers to produce milk. The solution came from a surprising source: Colorado Corrections Industries (CCI). Today six inmates milk 1,000 goats twice a day on a prison-run farm. After non-inmate employees cultivate the cheese at a company facility, it’s sold in Whole Foods WFM -1.34% outlets, among other stores.

Prison labor has gone artisanal. Sure, plenty of inmates still churn out government office furniture and the like, and incarcerated workers have occasionally been used by large companies since the late 1970s. Nationwide 63,032 inmates produce more than $2 billion worth of products a year, most of them sold to government entities.

But in recent years a new wave has begun, driven primarily by small businesses that need workers for boutique-size production. These days inmates can be found making everything from redwood canoes to specialty motorcycles, fishing poles, and saddles. They produce apple juice, raise tilapia, milk cows and goats, grow flowers, and manage vineyards.

“States like Colorado and California are at the forefront of a growing trend,” says Genevieve LeBaron, who has studied the issue as a politics professor at the University of Sheffield in England. CCI, a self-funded state agency, is leading the charge with a burgeoning $65 million business that employs 2,000 convicts at 17 facilities. The idea: Offer small businesses a flexible workforce and give prisoners the chance to stockpile earnings and skills needed for life outside prison bars.

Says John Scaggs, Haystack’s marketing and sales director, referring to CCI: “They have land. They have human capital, the equipment. If you can think it up, they can do it, and do it fast.”

That diverse and nimble operation has attracted visits by officials from 22 prisons as well as steady interest from companies that want to tap CCI’s workforce. “I get one to two calls a week from companies,” says CCI director Steve Smith, adding that he declines those that simply want cheap labor.

The practice has long been controversial. Prisoners earn meager wages and have no recourse if they’re mistreated, LeBaron argues. Plus, they can take jobs from law-abiding citizens. “It’s hugely concerning in the face of economic instability and unemployment,” she says.

Counters Smith: “These are coveted jobs.” Base pay starts at 60¢ a day, but most prisoners earn $300 to $400 a month with incentives, he says. To be hired, inmates must get a GED and maintain good behavior for six months.

Running a business with a workforce of felons presents challenges. Two hundred people oversee the inmates and conduct meticulous counts of tools and chemicals. Plus, security lockdowns can halt production. That can be a hassle, says Kathy Abernathy, whose Arrowhead Fisheries breeds, packs, and ships tilapia through CCI. (The fish is often sold at Whole Foods.)

But she views the program as “a way to help an inmate improve his life.” As Smith puts it, “Whether you like it or not, they are still American citizens, and they’ll be your neighbor when they get out.”

This story is from the June 16, 2014 issue of  Fortune. (http://fortune.com/2014/06/02/prison-labor-artisanal/)

Acclaimed Syrian writer doubles as a taxi driver

Acclaimed Syrian writer doubles as a taxi driver, Al Jazeera


Lydia Davis, Osama Alomar, Sjon, PEN America Literary Festival

Lydia Davis, Osama Alomar, Sjon, PEN America Literary Festival

I read in a book the following piece of wisdom: “He who remains silent in the face of injustice is a mute Satan.” I went out into the street and saw Satan everywhere.
-from Fullblood Arabian, Osama Alomar

Osama Alomar is a kind of superhero.

Purchase Fullblood Arabian
Osama Alomar pursues his literary ambitions in exile

Vanessa L

Remembering JFK on his Birthday

Remembering JFK on his birthday
Today · · Taken in Northampton, Massachusetts
Project Unspeakable Committee members remember JFK and his legacy on his birthday! Celebrate the life of a man dedicated to change and speak what is unspeakable – upload a photo of yourself with a sign stating what JFK means to you.
#ProjectUnspeakable #HappyBdayJFK


Donald Perry and the Massachusetts Parole System

Donald Perry

Panel discussion last night; Over 50 people came out to listen to Donald Perry’s story, Northampton

Donald Perry was released from MCI Shirley on March 20, 2014.

Donald Perry, Elaine Arsenault, Vira Cage, Attny. Luke Ryan and Robin DiAngelo talk about Donald Perry’s incarceration, release, the prison industrial complex and the racism & white supremacy that fuel this system. Video coming soon.
Organized by OutNow and Arise for Social Justice.

former soup kitchen organizer raps system
stay connected – Updates about Donald Perry
The System – An Al Jazeera original series

Vanessa L.

Hundreds rally on Boston Common for ‘Jobs not Jails’

Jobs Not Jails from peace walker on Vimeo.

Hundreds of people turned out in the rain last Saturday to take part in the “Jobs Not Jails” rally on Boston Common.
The rally was part of a growing movement in Massachusetts to address the inequality involved in the prison system and the problem of mass incarceration. Organized by Jobs Not Jails and EPOCA (Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement) the rally was seeking to address the overcrowding of Massachusetts Prisons, the recidivism rate of prisoners, and the proposed 10,000 new prison units set to be built in Massachusetts over the next ten years.

These new prison units will cost Massachusetts tax payers $2.5 billion dollars a year for the next seven years.

The rate of recidivism is 60%, meaning that most people who leave prison end up going back. A lack of jobs, discrimination, and a lack of resources upon leaving the prison leave most people with little opportunities for success.

When we look at the school to prison pipeline and the overwhelming number of poor, black, and brown men in prison we see that there is a problem.

Jobs Not Jails and EPOCA are part of the national movement to address why we have so many people in jail in the first place, and how to stop folks from ending up there.
What Massachusetts needs is Jobs Not Jails!

To learn more//join the movement visit jobsnotjails.org and exprisoners.org and the Arise Criminal Justice Committee (arise)

See more
Former Inmates Sue Chicopee Jail Officials Over Illegal Strip Searches (masslive)
Ayyub Abdul Alim Accuses Springfield Cops of Planting Illegal Evidence (masslive)


Ayyub Abdul Alim Found Guilty, Moved to Walpole Prison

Ayyub Abdul-Alim is a Hero!!. The sacrifice he made for the safety and security of the Muslims against the indecent spy and entrapment tactics law enforcement were trying to recruit for will not be in vain. Siham Nafai betrayed her fellow Muslim brothers and sisters for money and citizenship & she enjoys her freedom in this country to continue her indecent work for pay. Ayyub Abdul-Alim sits in a jail cell (freedom taken away) because he refused to betray his integrity and safety of innocent Muslim families for the promise of money and freedom. How many of you would have made that sacrifice?? If Americans believe that importing Muslim Rats and locking up good honest Muslims with integrity will make America safer…You are in for a rude awakening. Its these rats who bring plagues and disease to a nation. “Muslims” are not the threat in this country. Its people in general Muslims & Non- who will do “Anything” for personal gain. Its these people who are the threat to every American and fellow Muslim alike.
Ayyub Abdul-Alim is a victim of “Muslim Fear” & prejudices. I have no doubt it was that prejudice that landed that guilty verdict. How convenient for the prosecution to have a trail on the anniversary of the Boston bombing. Emotions and fears running high, clouding judgment…..So so sad!! We are American too!! Our religion is Islam and we not only fear “terror” attacks against us as fellow Americans, but we also have to fear personal attacks against us for choosing to be Muslim. If only Muslims & Non-Muslims alike knew and understood that Ayyub’s struggle for freedom and justice was and is more than a personal struggle he would have more support. Justice for Ayyub is symbolic against injustice everywhere!
America was literally built on the backs of our ancestors who were slaves in this country. We struggled for freedom and equality then and continue to struggle today with the added struggle to practice our religion of choice amongst so many who fear it.
I am honored to be a descendent of Slaves in this country and I am honored to be a descendent of those amongst them who chose Islam as their religion of choice and way of life, and I am even more honored to be the sister of Ayyub Abdul-Alim who is my personal hero!
I have supported him from day one and ask for your support.
Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikhs, Atheists…Justice and Freedom has no borders. Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder “We shall overcome”!!

The Deal of a Lifetime


[Vanessa Lynch | @drvonskillet]

In his citizen’s complaint against the Springfield Police Department, Ayyub Abdul-Alim charges that shortly after his arrest in 2011 he was interrogated by Special Agent James Hisgin of the FBI and offered, “the deal of a lifetime”. The deal was this – come work for us as an informant / provocateur within the Muslim community (a career which would include initiating conversations in mosques, community centers and universities, inciting violence, and then entrapping those who cooperated) or spend the next 20 years in jail.

Ayyub found a third option – the truth.

He refused the deal on the grounds that he was innocent and would not sacrifice his convictions and his values in the face of government bullying. The response was as expected, and Ayyub was sent to Ludlow Jail for charges of carrying a gun without a firearms ID card, carrying ammunition without an FID card, and carrying a loaded gun.

On December 9, 2011 Ayyub Abdul-Alim was stopped by Springfield Police officers Sowers, Berrios and later joined by Officer Sheehan. Sheehan, under orders from the FBI Counterterrorism Task Force of Springfield, was told to bring Ayyub in for a meeting with Special Agent James Hisgin, an agent who had been contacting Ayyub for the last several months pressuring him to work as an informant.
Ayyub’s wife at the time, Siham Nafi Stewart, was working as a paid informant with the Police and the local FBI in this entrapment scheme, and was a key player in his arrest.

The justice system operates on the legal basis that you are, “innocent until proven guilty” and while Ayyub has not been found guilty on these charges, he has spent the last 2 and a half years of his life waiting in Ludlow jail for a chance to see trial, and for a chance at justice.

After over two years of outreach, organizing, citizen’s complaints, appeals, and motions for evidence relating to his arrest, on April 10th, 2014 Ayyub Abdul-Alim’s trial finally began.


A Chance For Justice

Abdul-Alim talking with his attorney Thomas Robinson. [Don Treeger | dtreeger@repub.com, MassLive]

Abdul-Alim talking with his attorney Thomas Robinson. [Don Treeger | dtreeger@repub.com, MassLive]

April 10th and 11th saw the testimonies from Ayyub’s ex-wife and the three arresting officers, an audio recording from the night of the arrest, a statement from Springfield PD gun expert, and a statement from Ayyub for his Defense.

The only way in which the officers testifying was consistent was in their inconsistencies; Officers & gun experts made contradicting statements about the location of the arrest, the reason behind the arrest, the location of Ayyub when the gun was found, and in fact, what kind of gun was actually found.

In defense Officers made statements like,
“Well, I’m not really a gun expert” (Berrios)
“Well – I do my pat-frisks different now” (Sowers) on why the gun wasn’t found on the first two searches
a wonderful example of types of guns, “you know Clint Eastwood? Well do you know John Wayne?” (gun expert)
and the unforgettable“Yeah, it’s like –shrug- whatever” (Sheehan), were a few memorable highlights.


Throughout the trial the Prosecution has done their best to ensure that mention of FBI involvement is kept to the bare minimum, going as far as to exclude witnesses.

In his own defense on Friday afternoon Ayyub testified that several people were aware of the FBI harassment. When he first received a call offering him the chance to become an informant, he immediately went to his State Representative Ben Swan to file a complaint. Friday afternoon Representative Swan was inside the courthouse waiting to testify as a witness but on the grounds that it could be hearsay for the Representative to testify because there was no way to verify his statement, the prosecution objected to his presence in the courtroom. The judge ruled in favor of the objection, and the Jury never got the chance to hear his testimony.

It’s an interesting note because this testimony would have confirmed Ayyub’s Friday testimony (and previous testimonies) that the FBI contacted him several months before his arrest and he filed complaints about their harassment. This information would be crucial to a jury deciding whether or not this arrest was entrapment. One has to wonder what reason the court has for not allowing influential leaders to speak for the defense. One also has to wonder just who is seeing justice if testimonies are not allowed from elected State Officials.


Day 3

Organized by 'Justice for Ayyub', activists gather before the trial demanding Ayyub's release, @drvonskillet

Organized by ‘Justice for Ayyub’, activists gather before the trial demanding Ayyub’s release. [Vanessa Lynch | @drvonskillet]

First to take the stand was Mr. Abdul-Alim for a chance to be cross examined by the prosecution. He made strong statements about the night of his arrest, and maintained that the gun was planted on him by corrupt officers from the Springfield Police Department working in conjunction with the Springfield branch office of the FBI Counterterrorism Task Force.

Following Ayyub, Investigator Lewis Gordon took the stand to testify about the video cameras located at the Getty Gas Station on State Street where Ayyub’s arrest took place. These video cameras caught the entire arrest on tape, but were never collected as evidence, and destroyed as a result. This evidence is also crucial to the case, and conveniently no longer exists.

Next was Nancy Flahive, a Springfield Attorney who formerly represented Ayyub. The question raised to her was, “Did the FBI ever contact you about your client?”
The Prosecution was quick to object (which was sustained) but Attorney Flahive was quicker, “yes.”

The answer was stricken but an obvious pattern emerged to support Abdul-Alim’s statements – that the FBI had contacted him on multiple occasions, and several people knew about it.

The morning questioning took some time and involved much sidebar time with the judge and many statements cut short. Because testifying about contact with the FBI was only based off of testimonies and experience which could not be proven, much of it was called hearsay and not allowed into evidence. Sweeney did not want to allow, “he said, she said” into the court room.This gave the Defense a harder job, as the whole defense theory is based off the notion that in order to force Ayyub to become an informant, the FBI contacted he and his community on multiple occasions.

The next witness to take the stand was Dr. Ishmail Ali, the Imam of the Masjid Al-Tawheed in Springfield – Ayyub’s former mosque.

In his statement on Friday, Ayyub testified that Special Agent Hisgin had visited the mosque and approached both he and Dr. Ali. Defense Attorney Thomas Robinson raised a question asking Dr. Ali if the FBI had ever visited the mosque and there was an objection. After several more minutes at sidebar, Defense Attorney Thomas Robinson came back and phrased the question the only way he was able, “Were you present when the FBI approached Ayyub and asked him to become an informant?”

Seargent Manley of the Springfield Police Department took the stand next.
He works in Internal Investigation and was charged with investigating Ayyub’s 2013 Citizen’s Complaint against the Springfield PD for “Religious discrimination, sexual assault, assault and battery, invasion of privacy, falsification of evidence, perjury and dereliction of duty
Defense Attorney Robinson tried on several attempts to raise questions about why the video from the Getty Station was never recovered, and if Internal Affairs had ever seen any of the six cameras located at the Getty Gas station. The line of questioning was redirected several times, but in the end Sergeant Manley testified that he had, “not seen any cameras.”

[in-ves-ti-geyt]to examine, study, or inquire into systematically; search or examine into the particulars of; examine in detail. (dictionary.com)



Recess and Deliberations


Following a recess court made their closing arguments and the Jury left to begin deliberations.
After 2 hours and 10 minutes, they returned with a resolution of a hung jury.
The group was divided down the middle – 6 for acquittal, 6 for charges.

Judge Sweeney ruled that two hours of deliberation is not equal to two and a half days of trial, and ruled that the deliberations will continue tomorrow morning. Jurors will reach a decision by tomorrow afternoon.

The trial of Ayyub Abdul-Alim has brought forward the irresponsible, awkward and sometimes downright treasonous workings of the local police, government, military forces.

Hopefully it has also begun to show these forces that more and more people are beginning to stand up for themselves in the face of this oppression, and that despite the risk of losing everything, we are becoming less afraid, more empowered, and more vocal.

It is a sincere hope that tomorrow the Jury will reach a verdict of Not Guilty in Ayyub’s case, and he will be one less man who fell prey to the whims of a failed system.

Ayyub Abdul-Alim throughout his struggle for justice has inspired many people with his strength and resolution. We should also maintain strength in these times where refusing to become a spy can land you behind bars and or a relationship with someone whose job it is to entrap you.

If we don’t stand for justice, who will?
Please consider joining us tomorrow as we enter the last day of Ayyub’s trial. We are not standing vigil and sitting in court all day for Ayyub. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do. Because Ayyub is one person who got tangled in the web of injustice, but because as human beings we are all connected, and what happens to one of us affects us all. Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” We are here to demand Justice for Ayyub. Ayyub Abdul-Alim is innocent and should not have spent the last two years in jail for having the courage to speak the truth.
For those interested in sitting in solidarity in the court, be inside by 8:45.
50 State Street, Springfield, Floor 3, Courtroom 2, Wear blue.
For those who are watching the trial, offering prayers, sharing information, thank you.

Tomorrow we stand with Ayyub.
The struggle continues.

Vanessa Lynch

Justice for Ayyub | Facebook