ACJ’s Medical Neglect Leads to Life-Threatening Emergency for Denzelle Kendrick

Denzelle Kendrick

January 26, 2023, Pittsburgh: The Abolitionist Law Center is demanding that the Allegheny County Jail provide immediate medical care for Denzelle Kendrick, a medically vulnerable individual currently incarcerated at the facility. 

Mr. Kendrick has suffered his entire life from sickle cell disease, which often results in severe episodes of pain that can develop into seizures, stroke, and death if untreated. Dr. Ines Kanandra reportedly discontinued Mr. Kendrick’s prescribed pain medications in August 2022, leading to numerous such pain episodes for Mr. Kendrick. In total, he reports approximately 30 such episodes and 6 seizures since he was transferred to ACJ in July 2022. In all of these instances, correctional staff and/or medical staff have, at best, an extremely delayed response. Often, there is no medical response at all.

“The jail is withholding medication for his life threatening illness that he was born with, Sickle Cell,” said Cadiadra Kendrick, mother of Denzelle Kendrick. “I had to watch a YouTube where three medical emergencies were called and no medical aid was rendered while my child was unresponsive. This is totally neglectful.” 

The videos Cadiadra Kendrick describes were uploaded by another incarcerated individual, James Byrd, and depict an incident on or around December 4, 2022 wherein Mr. Kendrick requested to be seen immediately by medical staff due to feeling on the verge of an impending sickle cell pain episode. He was ignored by medical staff until his situation had become so severe that he had to be taken out in a stretcher, despite laying on the floor of his cell unresponsive for over an hour. 

“It is concerning that, but for the leaked videos, we would never have learned of Mr. Kendrick’s situation,” said ALC Staff Attorney Dolly Prabhu. “It’s clear that ACJ appears more focused on punishing anyone who makes them look bad rather than providing anything resembling adequate medical care. There are, undeniably, countless others with similar experiences who the public will never hear about.”

Due to the grossly inadequate medical response in these incidences, and the jail’s failure to provide Mr. Kendrick with his prescribed medications, we sent the attached letter to Warden Harper’s counsel, an assistant county solicitor, on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, demanding appropriate care moving forward and an investigation into Dr. Kanandra’s conduct.

See below for the full letter with additional details.

###

Contacts: Tanisha Long, ALC Community Organizer, tanisha@alcenter.org; Dolly Prabhu, ALC Staff Attorney, dprabhu@alcenter.org

1.24.23-Medical-Advocacy-Letter-re-Denzelle-Kendrick

We’re Hiring a Communications Director!

Join us!

Help us achieve our abolitionist messaging and communications goals! Bring your creative, experienced, energetic self to our dynamic and growing organization as our next Communications Director.


Communications Director (Philadelphia, posted 10.30.22)

Summary: 

The Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) seeks an experienced, effective, and creative Communications Director with 8-10 years of communications experience in the progressive political field and 2-4 years of supervisory experience. 

Location: 

Philadelphia, PA, with occasional travel to Harrisburg & Pittsburgh, PA.

About ALC: 

The Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public interest law firm and community organizing project to end mass incarceration and protect the rights and wellbeing of people who encounter the racist, classist criminal punishment system in all its forms including policing, courts, jails, and prisons. Straight Ahead is ALC’s 501(c)(4) lobbying, legislative, and electoral arm. ALC uses litigation and community organizing to target the many harms caused by the criminal punishment system in Pennsylvania and Straight Ahead builds grassroots power, injects abolitionist candidates and agendas into the electoral and legislative systems, and holds elected officials and other leaders accountable. We have a commitment to abolitionist politics that seeks to replace punitive justice with healing justice, promotes decarceration and the elimination of the use of jails and prisons to deal with social problems, and centers the political agency and organizing activity of those individuals and communities most impacted by the criminal legal system. 

About the position: 

We are seeking a Communications Director who will help the Abolitionist Law Center and Straight Ahead achieve our messaging and communications goals. This position will be vital in managing communications to support and amplify ALC and Straight Ahead’s strategic goals and programmatic work, as well as the larger abolition and decarceral movement and messaging,  and will do so in collaboration with the Executive Director and designated staff. As an organization heavily focused on litigation and court cases, this position will bridge the gap between legalese language used by the lawyers at ALC and the audiences of ALC’s public communications. The Communications Director will report to the Executive Director, will be part of the senior leadership team of the organization, and will manage staff. 

Job responsibilities: 

The Communications Director will: 

  • Identify emerging issues, strategies, and narratives related to ALC and Straight Ahead’s work and seize communications opportunities associated with them; 
  • Ensure that all communications use an intersectional lens and employ principles of ethical storytelling by prioritizing agency and practicing informed consent for those whose stories are being told, and respectfully centering historically marginalized communities most impacted by the criminal punishment system;
  • Develop and manage a strategic communications plan to meet integrated organizational goals for ALC and Straight Ahead; 
  • Develop an organizational identity and style kit and guidelines for consistent tone, language, visuals, and messaging across all communications, including working with the Development Director to ensure fundraising materials are consistent with other materials; 
  • Translate complex legal and political material and concepts into easy to understand content for social and traditional media for journalists, policymakers, and the general public; 
  • Build relationships with and develop targeted communications for people directly impacted by the criminal punishment system including currently and formerly incarcerated people and their support networks, activists, movement colleagues, journalists, scholars, and policy and thought leaders;
  • Generate and manage local, regional, and national media coverage, including writing media advisories and press releases and pitching stories and op-eds to reporters and editors; 
  • Develop talking points and prepare staff and community members for public events and media interviews; 
  • Manage departmental budget; 
  • Establish goals for earned media coverage and website, Google Ads, email list development and bulk email program, and social media metrics, and track and analyze those metrics to achieve those goals; 
  • Manage one or more staff members and outside contractors and relevant vendors.

Qualifications: 

  • 8-10 years of communications experience in the progressive political field, at least 4 of which involved work with a base-building organization;
  • 2-4 years of supervisory experience; 
  • Ability to think strategically and participate effectively as part of a campaign team;
  • Excellent writing, proofreading, desktop publishing, verbal, visual/graphic, and communications skills;
  • Experience managing various social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (Youtube and TikTok preferred but not required);
  • Experience pitching and placing stories and op-eds with news outlets;
  • Ability to work on multiple projects, coordinating work with others to produce projects on time;
  • Ability to work within timelines under pressure and minimal supervision;
  • A commitment to racial and disability justice and an understanding of and commitment to abolitionism;
  • Working knowledge of website content management;
  • An understanding of and relationships with journalists in the Pennsylvania media market preferred but not required;
  • Experience working in the abolition and decarceration movement (paid or unpaid) preferred but not required;
  • Experience with communications for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organizations, or both, preferred but not required.

Salary and benefits: 

Salary: $90,000/year 

Benefits: ALC offers a competitive benefits package covering 100% of health, dental, and vision insurance premiums for staff and their covered dependents, 280 hours of paid time off per year, parental leave, and FSA and 401k accounts. 

To apply: See the full job description here. To apply, submit a resume to  jobs@newworkingmajority.com with the subject line: ALC
Communications Director

Abolitionist Law Center is an equal opportunity employer. People of color, women, LGBTQI-GNC people, and formerly incarcerated people and individuals who have other lived experience with the criminal punishment system are strongly encouraged to apply.


A Luta Continua – Reflections from Robert Saleem Holbrook, ALC Executive Director

Saleem and his mother
Kerry Shakaboona Marshall (left), Patricia Vickers (center), Saleem (right)

As I reflect upon my two-year anniversary as the Executive Director of the Abolitionist Law Center, I am compelled to think about what has changed and the work we have left to do – as an abolitionist organization and as a decarceral movement.

Today, we bear – in real time – collective witness to the state-sponsored retrenchment of basic human rights amid a literal coup on democracy. At the same time, in Philadelphia and cities across the country, we watch as the response to gun violence parrots the racist dog whistling of the 1990s that has promoted a return to law and order – obscuring the profound impact COVID-19 and its attendant economic crises have had on our communities. In some ways, particularly in public discourse, the world feels not unlike 1990 when I was sent to prison on a life sentence without parole as a sixteen-year-old child offender. Yet, in other critical ways, I am emboldened with a sense of possibility, if not for any other reason but because ALC exists and exists in a movement that takes its lead from those of us who survived through “life is life,” through years in solitary confinement, and through numerous iterations of state-sponsored violence that attempted to break our quest for liberation.

In 1990, my mother was one of the many mothers whose children were stolen as a part of the rise of the carceral state. My mom was my first advocate. She spent hours upon hours calling the Pennsylvania Prison Society, the ACLU, and other organizations trying to find anyone who would help her fight against my life sentence. Inevitably, we had to help ourselves.

Saleem with HRC Co-Founder, Andre Shabaka Gay (center) and Ricky Olds (right)

There were seven of us who founded the Human Rights Coalition in 2001 from behind the walls of a prison, an organization of incarcerated peoples and their families. At the time, none of us thought we would ever see freedom. By 2013, when I was first introduced to ALC, we had built solidarity in prisons and communities throughout the state and ALC would represent many of us. Now, only two of our cohort remain inside. Our fight will continue until we all see the other side of prison bars. And then our work will continue anew. One critical difference, however, is now, mothers need not look any further than ALC. We exist so that no mother is alone in this struggle to release our sons and daughters from a system designed to oppress Black, brown, and poor people. I understand why so many of us in this moment want to spend our time imagining a future- because the present is filled with brutality. And yet, for ALC, the work must remain focused on the fight ahead. Ours is a protracted struggle for liberation as we dismantle the carceral state and state-sponsored repression that keeps our people tethered to shackles – be it prison or poverty. In the words of our ancestors, “A luta continua” –  the struggle continues.

Robert Saleem Holbrook, Executive Director • August 5, 2022

Friends and family of ALC client John ‘Yahya’ Moore launch official supporter campaign

A promotional post for the campaign to free ALC client John ‘Yahya’ Moore.

Friends and family members of Abolitionist Law Center client John ‘Yahya’ Moore launched their official supporter campaign on social media for the 49 year-old Philadelphian on his birthday last week. Moore, who also goes by Yahya, was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death by incarceration (life without parole) 26 years ago.

Throughout his unjust imprisonment, and in spite of the torturous conditions that our community members face behind bars, Moore has “discovered the depth of the human spirit and the unexpected strength within it”, he writes in a Medium post.

Throughout August, the campaign will be sharing how Moore was framed by the Philadelphia Police and failed by the courts, and will also feature testimonials from those on the inside and outside who’ve been inspired by our client.

Yahya currently studies law and has worked as a legal reference aid, attended and facilitated peer-to-peer group workshops ranging from Alternatives to Violence, Just Listening (listening justly), Let’s Circle Up (restorative justice), and others. He is also attending courses thru Villanova University while in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree.

Join the movement to bring our client home by following @FreeJohnMoore on Twitter and Instagram.

We’re hiring an Assistant to the Executive Director!

This listing has been cross-posted on Idealist in our our job openings page.

POSITION OPENING: ASSISTANT TO THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (PHILADELPHIA)

Posted: July 11, 2022

About ALC:     The Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) is a nonprofit law firm fighting to defend prisoners and abolitionists, and a community organizing project aiming to build a world without police and prisons. Our work is currently based in Pennsylvania, where we have sued the Department of Corrections, local jails, police departments, and the Commonwealth to defend prisoners and activists from abuse and to keep as many people as possible out of prisons and jails. Our organizing work is statewide and focused on abolishing the use of solitary confinement and ending life without parole sentences (aka death by incarceration), among other things.

Position Overview:     The Abolitionist Law Center is hiring a full-time Assistant to the Executive Director, based in our Philadelphia office. The Assistant to the Executive Director will help the ED manage the administrative duties of his position, while coordinating communications, schedules, and work with management, staff, and the Board of Directors.

Responsibilities:

I. Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director  (ED)

  • Develop and maintain the ED’s calendar and schedule 
  • Coordinate all meetings led by the ED (live and on-line)
  • Coordinate event planning with ED and other branches of the organization
  • Coordinate office management for the Philadelphia office
  • Operate standard office equipment.  
  • Collect and organize business records for the ED
  • Read and screen incoming correspondence and reports; make preliminary assessment of the importance of materials and organize and prioritize documents
  • Receive and screen incoming calls and visitors, determine priority status, and make referrals to appropriate staff or provide requested information
  • Support development of Executive Director’s reports and presentations

II. Liaison to the Board of Directors  

  • Serve as liaison between the ED and members of the Board and its committees
  • Coordinate with Operations Director and the Board Secretary preparing reports and documentation for Board and committee meetings
  • Work with all sections of the organization to ensure compliance with Board and committee requests

III. Liaison to Operations Director

  • Coordinate the ED’s input into drafting organizational and programmatic budgets 
  • Coordinate the ED’s input into development and implementation of internal policies
  • Coordinate payments for ED (travel, business meetings, office expenditures, etc)
  • Transmit receipts and other important records between the Executive Director and the Operations Director and Admin Mgr.

IV. Liaison to Comms/Media Directors

  • Edit the ED’s writing for public dissemination by the Comms/Media Directors
  • Assist in development of the ED’s social media tweets, articles, and posts on the organization’s social media platform in coordination with the Comms/Media Directors
  • Assist ED in narrative development of police and prison abolition series through the lenses of the Black Radical Tradition, developing an abolitionist narrative that centers the contributions and insight of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated abolitionist activists

IV. Liaison to Development Director

  • Edit fundraising copy and donor correspondence written by the ED
  • Coordinate communications with funders with the Development Director
  • Support ED’s role in grant administration including reviewing grant agreements, and contributing as needed to applications and reports

V. Liaison to Legal Director

  • Coordinate meetings and correspondence with Legal Director

V.II. Liaison with Movement Building Director

  • Coordinate meetings and correspondence with the Movement Building Director

Requirements:

  • Demonstrated proficiency in managing calendars, correspondence, and record-keeping
  • Proficiency with basic office software (GSuites, Microsoft Office, etc)
  • Excellent writing and editing skills

Salary and Benefits: This position will be based in Philadelphia and is expected to require both remote (work-from-home) and in-person (office) work. The compensation range for the position is $55,000 to $65,000 per year. Health benefits include the option of a 100% employer-paid health insurance plan, or a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) benefit of up to $450/mth. All full-time staff also have 35 days (280hrs) of paid time off annually.

Reports to: Executive Director

Start date: Negotiable

Application Process:    Please send your resume, three professional references, and a detailed cover letter explaining your interest in the position as a single PDF to: aldepiro@alcenter.org

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. This position remains open until filled. Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible to receive priority consideration.

Abolitionist Law Center is an equal opportunity employer. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, women, LGBTQI-GNC people, and formerly incarcerated people are strongly encouraged to apply.

To learn more about our staff and board members, click here.

Over 60 judicial misconduct complaints filed against Judge Anthony Mariani as ALC releases report detailing Mariani’s abusive, racist behavior and roles of Pittsburgh policing, probation, and punishment systems in death of Gerald Thomas

Over 60 judicial misconduct complaints filed against Judge Anthony Mariani as ALC releases report detailing Mariani’s abusive, racist behavior and roles of Pittsburgh policing, probation, and punishment systems in death of Gerald Thomas

CONTACT: Dolly Prabhu, ALC Staff Attorney, dprabhu@alcenter.org

William Lukas, ALC Dir. of Communications, wjlukas@alcenter.org

Joshua Palmer, ALC Court Watch Volunteer Coordinator, admin@alccourtwatch.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JULY 5, 2022

PITTSBURGH – The Abolitionist Law Center has published a new report, ‘Death-Making Institutions’: How Police, Probation and the Judiciary Caused Gerald Thomas to Die in Jail.’ In addition to the report, the law firm’s court watching program announced it has filed 62 judicial misconduct complaints against Judge Anthony Mariani of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

The 48-page report authored by ALC Staff Attorney Dolly Prabhu connects the death of 26 year-old Gerald Thomas to the racialized violence of Allegheny County institutions and state actors, “Pittsburgh City Police, County Probation, County Courts, and the County Jail all contributed to the manner of Mr. Thomas’s death. At each phase, racism likely played a role in Mr. Thomas’s arrest and continued detention. And, at each phase, common sense reforms could have prevented his needless incarceration and perhaps even his death.”

Prabhu examines how instruments of policing and punishment including pretextual traffic stops and pretrial detention, and the use of probation detainers and solitary confinement, support the maintenance of local “death-making institutions,” a term coined by abolitionist Mariame Kaba.

According to the report, Black people made up 23% of the Pittsburgh population in 2019, yet accounted for 63% of all arrests carried out by the Pittsburgh Police. Roughly 38% of the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) population currently has a county probation detainer lodged against them, while only 6% of all individuals held at ACJ are actually serving a sentence for a crime committed (the rest are awaiting trial or some other proceeding). Since March 2020, at least 14 people have died at ACJ. The warden of ACJ, who is a defendant in several lawsuits filed by ALC, ranging from excessive force to medical neglect, has been called to resign by both his own staff and impacted community community members like Juana Suanders, the mother of Gerald Thomas.

Saunders spoke out against Warden Harper and Judge Mariani last month at a press conference and the monthly Jail Oversight Board meeting, days after local media reported that she had filed her own judicial misconduct complaint against Mariani.

Mariani is a focal point in the report; his probation detainer lodged against Gerald Thomas kept Thomas incarcerated at ACJ (in solitary confinement) for nearly a year prior to his death, on the basis of charges that were the product of illegal police conduct, and were eventually dropped. Prabhu says, probation detainers, “serve virtually no justifiable public safety purpose. Instead, the courts’ overuse of this tool keeps the Allegheny County Jail full, and ensures that a large proportion of those on probation will be trapped in destabilizing and traumatic cycles of incarceration and supervision.”

In addition to illustrating the unconstitutional, overuse of probation detainers by local Judge Mariani, Prabhu accentuates Mariani’s violations of the Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Conduct, “Defendants on supervision with Judge Mariani are punished for mere allegations: they are detained for months at minimum and ultimately must endure verbal abuse in open court before there is any hope for release.”

From March 2021 to March 2022, Prabhu and volunteers with ALC Court Watch observed Mariani’s court proceedings and recorded countless instances of Mariani verbally abusing defendants, attorneys, and his own staff, demonstrating a lack of understanding of relevant legal standards, and making racist comments about Black defendants’ physiques.

Dedication page: The report is dedicated to “the friends and family of Gerald Thomas, and all those who were unduly robber of their time with a loved one by Allegheny County’s violently racist criminal justice system.”

Statements made by Mariani featured in the report emphasize the judge’s racist stereotyping of Black men: “They’re all nice guys… Did you leave your halo in your cells?” Mariani said mockingly to a defense attorney who asserted his client’s good character. In one case, Maraini asked a defendant, “You look pretty meaty, how many pushups can you do without stopping?” In another hearing, the judge indicated that there was nothing stopping a “six foot tall 180 lb lean and mean man from using that weapon—his body—on other people.”

Prabhu, who was present at Gerald Thomas’s Gagnon II hearing writes, “One of the last comments Judge Mariani made during this hearing is particularly chilling in light of Mr. Thomas’s subsequent death in ACJ, evoking vivid racist imagery from this country’s past and present.” According to official court transcripts, Mariani declared to Thomas, “I don’t want to see you dead in the street on Friday or any other day of the week, but you won’t quit. I have to put you in the cage, lasso you, corral you, stuff you because you won’t quit.”

The report concludes by calling for an investigation and sanctioning of Judge Mariani by the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania, in addition to implementing organized abolitionist interventions that will save lives. This includes removing police from traffic enforcement and prohibiting the use of split sentences, along with decarcerating ACJ and abolishing probation detainers for individuals who have been deemed bailable or merely accused of technical violations.

Currently there are no local or state level rules that address probation detainers, yet over a third of the ACJ population is held on some sort of probation detainer.

The appendix of the report includes summaries of the 62 judicial misconduct complaints filed by ALC Court Watch in which Mariani is likely in violation of the PA Judicial Code of Conduct. The Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania is based in Harrisburg and received the complaints by mail on June 27th.

###

Read the report, “Death-Making Institutions’: How Police, Probation and the Judiciary Caused Gerald Thomas to Die in Jail” in the embedded PDF viewer below or download directly here


PRESS

“Law firm accuses Allegheny Common Pleas judge of misconduct in 62 complaints” by Jordana Rosenfeld for PGH City Paper (07/05/2022)

“Public Interest Law Firm Alleges in 62 Complaints Pattern of Racially Charged Bias From Pittsburgh Judge” by Aleeza Furman for The Legal Intelligencer (07/05/2022)

“Group files 60-plus misconduct complaints against Allegheny County Judge Mariani” by Paula Reed Ward for TRIBLive (07/05/2022)

“Pittsburgh advocacy group accuses Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani of racism, misconduct in over 60 complaints” by Mik Stinelli for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (07/06/2022)

“Dozens of misconduct complaints filed against Allegheny County judge” on WTAE -TV Pittsburgh Action News 4 (07/06/2022)

“CAIR Pittsburgh Supports Probe of Complaints Alleging Bias Misconduct by Judge Anthony Mariani”, press release by The Council on American-Islamic Relations – Pittsburgh Chapter (07/06/2022)

“Pittsburgh Judge Hit With Over 60 Misconduct Complaints” by Hailey Konnath for Law360 (07/06/2022)

“Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani faces misconduct charges” on KDKA CBS Pittsburgh (07/06/2022)

ALC June 2022 Newsletter


Spring Recap

Over the past four months, ALC’s passionate lawyers and organizers have waged major advances in our abolitionist litigation and movement-building across Pennsylvania. In the face of reactionary politicians and racial capitalism’s compounding crises that leave our most vulnerable community members subject to increased brutality and neglect, we remain steadfast in our mission to bring people home and create life-affirming alternatives to the punishment system. Read up on the dynamic ways we are carrying out abolition by visiting the hyperlinked content below.

MARCH

“I’m hoping that these people can be accountable to everything they’ve done to me and to everyone else.” – CLAYTON MCCRAY ; "They knew that they weren’t providing this care. Even worse, they knew the harm that this was going to cause Mr. McCray. He was in so much pain that he couldn’t retrieve meals, couldn’t get recreation, couldn’t shower.” – JACLYN KURIN

McCray v. Allegheny County – After a year of being routinely denied medical care, outside treatment, and prescribed medical devices inside Allegheny County Jail, 26-year-old Clayton McCray was forced to have a below the knee amputation. Represented by ALC Staff Attorney Jaclyn Kurin, Clayton is now suing the ACJ Medical Director, medical staff, and former Deputy Warden, Laura Williams, for ADA violations, unconstitutional medical care, and medical malpractice. Check out the filed complaint and Clayton’s GoFundMe, along with interviews of Clayton and Jaclyn here.


APRIL

Left: Members of ALC, Amistad Law Project and the Center for Constitutional Rights in Pittsburgh
Right: Marie ‘Mechie’ Scott, ALC client and lead plaintiff in Scott v. Board of Probation and Parole

Scott v. PA Board of Probation and Parole – With support from Amistad Law Project and Center for Constitutional Rights, ALC Legal Director Bret Grote traveled to Pittsburgh to present an oral argument before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of our clients challenging the lifetime ban on parole for those sentenced to death by incarceration (DBI) for “felony murder”. After the lower courts ruled against our clients last year, citing lack of jurisdiction, Grote urged the PA Supreme Court to overturn this decision and allow the case – and the voices of the over 1,100 people serving DBI sentences for felony murder in PA – to be heard. Learn more about this historic case here and read the play-by-play of the April oral argument in Pittsburgh City Paper.


Bradford Gamble (photo by Danielle Ohl for Spotlight PA)

Compassionate release for Bradford Gamble – ALC Staff Attorney Rupalee Rashatwar successfully petitioned for the freedom of Bradford Gamble, an elder living with late-stage cancer who had been incarcerated for more than 40 years. Under a 2009 statute, a terminally ill incarcerated individual in Pennsylvania can be transferred from a state prison to a home or hospital setting – but only with the caveat that they forgo life-saving treatment for their debilitating illness. Following Gamble’s homecoming, Rupalee said, “We must bring our medically vulnerable elders, like Mr. Gamble, home. His case is one that truly demonstrates how cruel and callous the prison medical system can be towards a dying man. Reforming our laws so that more of our elders can access this kind of relief must be an urgent priority for us all.” Learn more about the restrictions of compassionate release and Bradford Gamble’s return home in Spotlight PA and Workers World.


From left to right: Robert Saleem Holbrook, Autumn Redcross, and Dolly Prabhu speaking in Harrisburg

ALC in Harrisburg – Sustained opposition to the deceitful probation reform bill SB 913 and mounting legislative interest in meaningful bail reforms continued this spring. Introduced last year, SB913 has drawn fierce protest from “virtually all of the major decerceral grassroots orgs” in Pennsylvania. While Dolly Prabhu, John Thompson, and Robert Saleem Holbrook of ALC educated elected officials on the harms of the bill, ALC Movement Director, Autumn Redcross, testified before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee. Autumn informed legislators of how cash bail and pretrial detention function as forms of racialized punishment. Watch Autumn’s full testimony on YouTube, and read Dolly’s op-ed denouncing SB 913 here.


MAY

Kerry ‘Shakaboona’ Marshall and his mother Patricia Vickers embrace in Philadelphia

Shakaboona is FREE! On May 11th, after over 30 years in prison, incarcerated since 1998 when he was just 17-years-old, ALC client, friend, and comrade, Kerry ‘Shakaboona’ Marshall stepped out into the free world. Resentenced to time served, Shakaboona’s hard fought freedom signals a huge victory for inside-outside family organizing in Pennsylvania. Shakaboona and his mother, Patricia Vickers, co-founded the Human Rights Coalition in 2000 alongside other incarcerated community members, including ALC’s Executive Director, Robert Saleem Holbook. ALC Legal Director and Shakaboona’s lawyer, Bret Grote, began volunteering with HRC in 2007 and six years later Bret co-founded ALC with ALC Director of Operations, Dustin McDaniel. Read more about Shakaboona’s freedom struggle in this blog post by Amistad Law Project.


Left: Dustin McDaniel, Autumn Redcross, Jonas Caballero and Jaclyn Kurin
Right: Jamelia Morgan

2022 Prison Law & Advocacy Conference (PLAC) – At the biennial conference in Chicago, ALC Co-Founder and Director of Operations, Dustin McDaniel, presented on ALC’s innovative litigation and coalition-building strategies that stopped the construction of the most expensive proposed federal prison in US history from being built in Kentucky in 2019. ALC Board President, Jamelia Morgan, who was named 2022 Professor of the Year at University of California-Irvine School of Law, also presented on her disability justice work, while ALC Paralegal, Jonas Cabellero, presented on his pro-se litigation.


JUNE

Left: Family and supporters of Gerald Thomas at the June 2nd rally and press conference
Right: Tanisha Long, ALC’s Allegheny County Organizer, speaks at the monthly Jail Oversight Board meeting

Justice for Gerald Thomas – On June 2nd, ALC joined the family and friends of Gerald Thomas, alongside victims and survivors of Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) in Pittsburgh to call attention to both the ongoing crises of deaths and medical neglect overseen by Warden Orlando Harper, and the racist judicial misconduct deployed by local Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani. The event took place just days after Juana Sanders, the mother of Gerald Thomas, went public with her judicial misconduct filing against Mariani. Thomas was 26 years old when he died in ACJ on March 6, 2022 – 17 days after Judge Mariani chose to keep Thomas trapped inside ACJ despite all of his charges being dropped. More info on the misconduct complaint against Mariani, along with media coverage from the rally and Jail Oversight Board meeting that followed available here.


A photo of Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh
Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh

Howard v. Williams – After a 20-month investigation, ALC lawyers and co-counsel, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP), and Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, filed a motion in federal court seeking authorization to pursue class action relief for all incarcerated people at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) requiring mental health care now and in the future. The motion contains compelling evidence that AJC has been violating the rights of incarcerated people with psychiatric disabilities by failing to provide them with proper treatment and subjecting them to prolonged solitary confinement and routine excessive force. Read the press release on the motion here and visit our Howard v. Williams case page.


Flyer for the Juneteenth Bailout

Juneteenth Bailout! – ALC Court Watch’s first-ever Juneteenth Bailout was a huge success thanks to the hard work of volunteers in Pittsburgh. Court watchers observed dozens of preliminary bail hearings throughout the 48-hour event, surveilling local judges’ behavior, and coordinating with local bail funds to get neighbors out of pretrial detention. Aftercare volunteers gave out bus passes, snacks, Lyft rides and more to those released from Allegheny County Jail. Check out ALC Court Watch on Mobilize for upcoming events and trainings.


Photo of ALC organizer JT speaking into a megaphone in front of a banner that says "ABOLISH PRISONS" held by members of the Human Rights Coaltion

DONATE TO DECARCERATE

ALC uses two main tactics in our fight for freedom: public interest litigation, and grassroots community organizing.

We get people out of jail and prison. We work to protect people who are still inside. We strive to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated in the first place. And we extract financial resources from carceral institutions and redirect them to the people the system has harmed.

Since our founding in 2013, we’ve been notching groundbreaking progress on winning the release of people serving multi-decade sentences, curtailing the use of solitary confinement, ending death by incarceration (life without parole), mandating appropriate care for incarcerated people with psychiatric and other disabilities, and protecting the rights and wellbeing of people inside in a host of other ways.

And in all that we do, we center the leadership of and take direction from those who are directly impacted by the criminal punishment system, especially people who are currently or formerly incarcerated and their loved ones.

We know that those who are most impacted by state violence must lead the fight to end it. But we also know that we need the backing and support of a broad community.

Please make a tax-deductible donation to ALC today to fuel the fight for freedom.


ALC STAFF PICKS: SUMMER READING LIST

Tanisha, Amber, Nia, Al and Rupalee share out on six powerful books that inspire us to keep dreaming, dismantling and building – together – when so much feels impossible.

Felon: Poems by Reginald Dwayne Betts


“This collection of poems gives a raw and emotional insight into the far-reaching and soul crushing effects of a carceral system that disproportionately targets Black men. By using a mix of free verse poetry and narratives crafted through real redacted court transcripts, Betts gives readers a fresh but heartbreaking look into the way formerly incarcerated individuals navigate life forever changed by incarceration. Felon: Poems will have the reader cycling through moments of grief, anger, humor, inspiration, and hope as Betts lays bare the true cost of incarceration.”

Tanisha Long, Allegheny County Organizer

Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan

Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan

“I was drawn to this book as someone whose work involves elevating the stories of folks impacted by and working to transform the criminal punishment system which overwhelmingly targets Black and Brown people. Out of the Sun focuses on Black representation in visual art, literature, and film, filtered through the intimate lens of the author’s lived experience as a Black Canadian who has held fellowships in the U.S., Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain, and Belgium. The book examines historical and current events and works of art as it explores ‘what happens when we begin to consider stories at the margins, when we grant them centrality,’ and how that affects ‘our certainties about who we are, as individuals, as nations, as human beings.’”

– Amber Black, Development Director

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis

Are Prisons Obsolete? was one of the first books I read in the prison abolition canon. Professor Davis’s focus on social movements throughout history showed me that another world is possible. The book highlights that through the work of the people, we can make these present systems untenable to bring forth new horizons.”

– Nia Holston, Staff Attorney

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet

“This collection of poems is dedicated to ‘children and the women, like [herself] who struggled to reason bringing them into this world.’ Monet’s poems don’t turn away from the violence and traumas that often make it feel hard to care for each other, but her belief in the powers of ‘risk and ruthless radical love’ provides optimism and a vision of a better future. A future where we hold each other with care and nurturance.”

Al Depiro, Administrative Manager

We Do This 'Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba

We Do This ‘Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba

“This is the textbook for anyone who wants to understand what the abolitionist organizing movement is about. This book compiles a series of essays that delve into the heart of prison abolition and that center important questions like what accountability and transformative justice can look like and how the current system does nothing to deliver on those promises.  You’ll also find tips in here for evaluating police ‘reformist reforms’ that ought to be opposed, and frameworks for how we can organize against prisons, policing, and the criminal punishment system . For anyone who wants to learn more about practical ways to organize around abolition, who wants to find and explore answers to commonly asked questions or concerns about the prison abolitionist movement, I highly recommend you grab a copy of this book.”

– Rupalee Rashatwar, Staff Attorney


TEXT READS: HELP US FIGHT THE ALT RIGHT

HELP US FIGHT THE ALT-RIGHT

Pennsylvania is not only home to some of the most extreme carceral practices in the nation, it’s also a key battleground in this country’s urgent, existential struggle against the surging alt-Right.

We’re fighting with everything we’ve got to resist the rise of bold-faced racism and fascism that’s threatening to strip away our hard won rights and set us back decades in our collective movement for freedom and equality for all.

We’re wielding groundbreaking litigation to protect and liberate incarcerated people. We’re mounting pressure campaigns and mobilizing affected communities. And we’re reshaping the narratives around the criminal punishment system, and targeting every point on its conveyor belt, including policing, the courts, cash bail, probation, parole, jails, and prisons.

With wins that roll back mass incarceration in Pennsylvania, we can lead the country in doing the same. Please join us in the struggle by giving generously with a tax-deductible contribution today.

After 20-Month Investigation, Lawyers Uncover Compelling Evidence Concerning Treatment of Incarcerated People with Mental Illness at Allegheny County Jail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lawyers from the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC), Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP), and Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP have filed a motion in federal court seeking authorization to pursue class action relief for all incarcerated people at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) requiring mental health care now and in the future.

The motion contains compelling evidence obtained during an exhaustive 20-month period of discovery that Allegheny County has been violating the rights of incarcerated people with psychiatric disabilities by failing to provide them with proper treatment and subjecting them to prolonged solitary confinement and routine excessive force.

“ACJ is failing to provide any meaningful mental health care to those in its custody, and in many cases is actually punishing individuals for seeking help,” said Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project. “We have seen evidence that people incarcerated at ACJ have suffered as the staff at best turned a blind eye and at other times assaulted individuals for manifestations of their mental illness. Their conditions have worsened and ACJ’s already high suicide completion and attempt rates have continued to increase. It’s absolutely intolerable and inhumane.”

Through this Motion, Plaintiffs seek to certify a class of individuals defined as:

All individuals currently or in the future incarcerated at Allegheny County Jail and who have, or will in the future have, a serious mental health diagnosis, disorder or disability as recognized in the DSM-V, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder.

The brief in support of the motion provides extensive evidence that ACJ fails to meet state and national standards for the provision of mental healthcare in virtually every aspect- grossly insufficient mental health staffing; minimal or non-existent training; ineffective intake procedures that fail to identify patient need; insufficient treatment plans; lack of counseling or therapy; and no quality improvement program to assess their own policies and practices. Instead of mental health care, ACJ uses force at rates that are far and away the highest in the entire Commonwealth. According to County data provided by Defendants, ACJ had 585 incidents involving use of force in 2020 and 720 such incidents in 2019.  The next highest county in Pennsylvania each of those years had fewer than half that number of incidents

“This comprehensive investigation of the conditions at ACJ has reinforced what we already knew–the staff at ACJ is woefully unprepared and the system of mental health care at ACJ is appallingly and unconstitutionally inadequate,” said Jaclyn Kurin, staff attorney for the Abolitionist Law Center.

If granted, plaintiffs will be able to seek a court order providing remedies for unlawful policies and practices on behalf of all those with mental health conditions at ACJ.

Howard v. Williams is a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of people with psychiatric disabilities incarcerated in Allegheny County Jail (ACJ). The lawsuit alleges severe and systemic constitutional violations, as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, for the jail’s failure to provide adequate mental health care and its discriminatory and brutal treatment of people with psychiatric disabilities.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and names Laura Williams, Orlando Harper, Michael Barfield, and Allegheny County as defendants. The plaintiffs are represented by Bret Grote, Quinn Cozzens, Swain Uber, and Jaclyn Kurin of the Abolitionist Law Center; Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz and Richardo Brown-Whitt of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project; and Keith Whitson of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.

Learn more about Howard v. Williams by visiting ALC’s case page and read the full brief here.

We’re hiring a full-time Paralegal based in Pittsburgh!

This hiring notice is cross-posted on our employment page and our Idealist account.

About Us: The Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) is a nonprofit law firm fighting to defend prisoners and abolitionists, and a community organizing project aiming to build a world without police and prisons. Our work is currently based in Pennsylvania, where we have sued the Department of Corrections, local jails, and the Commonwealth to defend prisoners from abuse and to win release for as many people as possible. Our organizing work is statewide and focused on abolishing the use of solitary confinement and ending life without parole sentences (aka death by incarceration), among other things. As the movement to end racist state violence and abolish police and prisons  has grown, so has our work.

Position Overview: The Abolitionist Law Center is hiring a full-time paralegal for our Pittsburgh office. The paralegal will assist our legal department in managing correspondence with incarcerated people, tracking human rights violations in jails and prisons, and assisting in litigation. The paralegal will work with incarcerated clients and their communities and advocates to challenge state violence in all its forms and contribute to building powerful movements for liberation.

Responsibilities:

·  Manage, database, and respond to correspondence from incarcerated people.

· Work with ALC attorneys on litigation-related tasks, including organizing and reviewing discovery, conducting research, and assisting with client communication.

·  Visits with clients and potential clients who are incarcerated.

·  Assist in investigations into conditions of confinement in jails and prisons in Pennsylvania.

· Attending weekly staff meetings, providing feedback to leadership and staff to improve organizational effectiveness.

· Commitment to an abolitionist politics and movement-lawyering approach to our work that seeks to replace punitive justice with healing justice, promotes decarceration and the elimination of the use of jails/prisons to deal with social problems, and centers the political agency and organizing activity of those individuals and communities most impacted by the criminal legal system.

Requirements:

· Exceptional organizational skills, capable of maintaining voluminous case and correspondence files.

·   Able to track, organize, and respond to a large amount of correspondence.

·   Excellent writing ability.

·   Legal research skills are a plus.

Salary and Benefits: This position will be based in Pittsburgh and is expected to require both remote (work-from-home) and in-person (office) work. The starting salary for the paralegal position is $50,000 per year, with a health insurance benefit of up to $450/month and 35 days (280hrs) of paid time off annually.

Reports to: Legal Director

Start date: July 1, 2022 – open until filled. *Flexible start, early to mid July.

Application Process: Please send your resume, three professional references, and a detailed cover letter explaining your interest in the position as a single PDF to bretgrote@abolitionistlawcenter.org.

Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. This position remains open until filled. Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible to receive priority consideration.

Abolitionist Law Center is an equal opportunity employer. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, women, LGBTQI-GNC people, and formerly incarcerated people are strongly encouraged to apply.

To learn more about our staff and board members, click here.

Mother of Gerald Thomas and survivors of ACJ address ongoing deaths, medical neglect and call for resignation of Warden Harper, investigation into Judge Mariani citing anti-Black racist conduct

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CeUJv7bJXQr/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Contact: William Lukas, Dir. of Communications, Abolitionist Law Center wjlukas@alcenter.org

Date: Thursday, June 2, 2022

Time: 2:30 PM EST

Location: City County Building at 414 Grant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219


PITTSBURGH – This Thursday, the family of Gerald Thomas, alongside victims and survivors of Allegheny County Jail (ACJ), will gather on the steps Pittsburgh’s City County Building to call attention to both the ongoing crises of deaths and medical neglect overseen by Warden Orlando Harper, and the racist judicial misconduct deployed by local Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani.

Thursday’s event takes place just days after Juana Sanders, the mother of Gerald Thomas, went public with her judicial misconduct filing against Mariani. Thomas died in Allegheny County Jail on March 6, 2022 – 17 days after Mariani chose to keep Thomas trapped inside ACJ despite all of his charges being dropped.

Mariani’s probation detainer kept Thomas incarcerated at ACJ for almost a year prior to his death on the basis of charges that were the product of illegal police conduct. Instead of lifting Thomas’ probation detainer during a February 17th probation hearing and releasing him from ACJ, Mariani decided to keep Thomas incarcerated. He justified this decision by using anti-Black racist dog whistles and illegally obtained evidence, thereby openly defying a 2016 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that held evidence obtained via an illegal search is inadmissible in probation proceeding.

“I have to put you in the cage, lasso you, corral you, stuff you because you won’t quit.”

– JUDGE ANTHONY MARIANI

Judge Mariani’s racist retribution towards Thomas was most exemplified by his statement, “I don’t want to see you dead in the street on Friday or any other day of the week, but you won’t quit. I have to put you in the cage, lasso you, corral you, stuff you because you won’t quit.” Community members can read all of Mariani’s remarks in the official court transcript of the February Gagnon II hearing here.

The death of Gerald Thomas is one of three known deaths to occur at ACJ this year. At least fourteen people have died under Warden Harper’s watch since the beginning of the pandemic. During a March 7th press conference, the day after Thomas died, his family revealed that they were not notified by Harper or the jail surrounding Thomas’ condition, but instead, received news via an incarcerated individual that, “Thomas had collapsed, hit his head and was unresponsive.” When his family called the jail but they were refused information about whether Thomas was hospitalized or ACJ, whether he was dead or alive.

Allegheny County Jail’s next of kin policy and how the Jail Oversight Board (JOB) is notified of medical emergencies and deaths have come under fire over the past year. Speakers at Thursday’s rally, including members of the Abolitionist Law Center, 1Hood, and Alliance for Police Accountability will call for policy changes in how jail staff respond to incarcerated individuals’ requests for medical attention, and how emergency contacts and impacted  family members are notified.

Allegheny County Jail has one of the highest suicide rates of local jails in the nation and in 2019, had more uses of force than any other jail in Pennsylvania. Since 2020, sustained pressure from community groups and mounting lawsuits filed by prisoners’ rights groups like ALC have exposed how incarcerated community members under Warden Harper’s administration are not only routinely denied adequate medical and mental healthcare, but are also violently brutalized and endure solitary confinement as a form of punishment.

Attendees for Thursday’s event are asked to wear white shirts in solidarity with Gerald Thomas’ family and loved ones lost to ACJ. Following the rally and press conference, participants are encouraged to join families and advocates at the monthly JOB Meeting at 4pm (436 Grant St, Allegheny County Courthouse, 4th Fl Gold Room), where they will provide public comment to Warden Orlando Harper and JOB members.


PRESS COVERAGE

“A man died in jail. Now his mother calls for an investigation into a judge’s decision to keep him there despite charges being dropped.” by Brittany Hailer for Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (05/26/2022)

“Woman whose son died in Allegheny County Jail accuses judge of misconduct” by Mik Stinelli for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (05/29/2022)

“Mother of man who died in jail requests investigation into judge’s alleged misconduct” by Jordana Rosenfield for Pittsburgh CityPaper (05/31/2022)

“Family of man who died in Allegheny County Jail demands justice” by Chris Hoffman for KDKA/CBS Pittsburgh (06/02/2022)

“Allegheny County Jail staffing shortage could be hurting incarcerated people, community members worry” by Julia Zenkevich for 90.5 WESA (06/03/2022)