New Haven Hosts Replica of Solitary Confinement Cell

by Allie Perry, Shalom UCC, NH and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture

What is it like to be isolated and segregated in a small prison cell 23/7 for days, weeks, years, and in some cases even decades?  The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is clear.  It is not just like torture; it is torture. According to Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, holding a person in solitary confinement for a period of time longer than 15 days is torture. On any given day, however, around 80,000 people in the United States are being held in solitary confinement.

To help people understand that prolonged isolation is a form of torture, NRCAT has created a replica solitary confinement cell. The NRCAT replica confinement cell has traveled around the country and is now coming to New Haven.

For three weeks, the cell will be on display at the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm Street, for the first week, Monday, Jan. 30-Saturday, Feb. 4; at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High Street for the second week, Sunday, Feb. 5-Saturday, Feb. 11; and for the third week, Feb. 11-18, at the Yale Law School library, 127 Wall St.

Initiated by three New Haven United Church of Christ congregations (United, Redeemer, and Shalom), this project had engaged a powerful coalition of community, religious, and university organizations. In addition to the churches, organizers of this project include: the New Haven Free Public (Ives Memorial) Library, the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, the Orville Schell Human Rights Center at Yale Law School, Dwight Hall at Yale, My Brother’s Keeper, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Wilton Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the CT ACLU, Malta Justice Initiative, and Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice.

The project’s goals are to provide opportunities to experience a simulation of isolation; to educate the use of solitary confinement, including practices in Connecticut; and to equip people to advocate for limiting and stopping the use of solitary confinement, precisely because such prolonged isolation is cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment.  For the schedule of the extensive program of speakers, panels, book talks, performances, and films during the three weeks that the cell will be in New Haven, go to: www.insidetheboxnhv.org/events.

“We Won’t Go Back!” People’s World African American History Month Celebration

by Joelle Fishman, CT People’s World

“Revisiting Frederick Douglass Two Centuries Later: WE WON’T GO BACK,” is the theme of this year’s 43rd Annual People’s World African American History Month Celebration.

The event to be held on Sunday, February 26, will feature guest speaker James M. Bradford, drumming by Brian Jarawa Gray and a performance by Ice the Beef Youth including the speech that famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave in New Haven.

The event will be held at 4 p.m. at Troup School, 259 Edgewood Ave. After filling the Peoples Center to overflow for years, a larger venue was chosen last year.

Douglass’ extraordinary leadership for freedom guides us in today’s stormy political climate with his powerful call to action: “If there is no struggle, there can be no progress….Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will….The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

In 1864 Douglass (1817-1895) addressed more than 1,200 free Black men gathered at Grapevine Point (now Criscuolo Park) in New Haven to become soldiers in the 29th Regiment of the Union Army and fight in the Civil War.

Guest speaker James M. Bradford is active in the anti-prison movement and Working America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He chairs the Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Winners of the High School Arts and Writing Competition will present their essays, poems or artwork on the theme “How can we best unite against bigotry and injustice?”

Students are asked to express in artwork, poetry, essay or song: “On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, leading abolitionist, orator and writer who fought against slavery and for women’s rights, how can we unite against hate, bigotry and injustice to continue his legacy in today’s world?” Submissions must be received at 37 Howe St. by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Also on exhibit will be drawings from the Martin Luther King celebration at Peabody Museum created at the People’s World table on the theme, “How can we best unite against hate?”

Donation is $5 or what you can afford. For more information e-mail: ct-pww@pobox.com.

Why is the Department of Developmental Services So Afraid of Publicity?

by Robin Latta, Our Families Can’t Wait

When it comes to the privatization of CT group homes for residents who cannot speak for themselves, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) strikes out to attempt to keep advocates for the developmentally disabled from talking to the media.

DDS is targeting people who speak out against privatization including parents of group home residents, State workers who are dedicated to caring for them, and other advocates who are against the lower wages and consequent frequent turnover of staff associated with privatization that would disrupt the good quality of care for residents.

DDS knows the public can easily grasp this issue and the fear they have is that we all understand too easily that people who cannot speak for themselves are most vulnerable to exploitation.

Recently, at a public hearing at the State Capital in Hartford a jam-packed crowd of union workers, parents, guardians and advocates spoke out before DDS officials to let them know that they wanted a fully funded DDS with core services to support those who need it most.

Early on in the process of this year’s efforts to privatize CT group homes, one of the parents decided to file a lawsuit against DDS to protect her son from being subjected to the possibility of him being cared for by low paid, unqualified caregivers.

DDS tried to fight back by taking her to Probate Court to try to take temporary guardianship of her son and his medical records because she “was not acting in her son’s best interests.” Why? Because the intense interest of the media on this case enabled her to tell the citizens of CT what was going on. And, in a courtroom full of supporters (which included the media) the legal maneuver by DDS was withdrawn a few weeks later.

At the same time, one dedicated State worker is being harassed because she was seen at a rally that drew media attention. Now DDS is trying to dredge up any employment history that could possibly discredit her.

These desperate tactics of character assassination are meant to frighten and deter others from standing up and speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

On whose behalf does the State act to punish the caretakers? Is it on your (the community’s) behalf? If not, please stand up and say so! Contact Organizer Colleen McGill, cmcgill@seiu1199ne.org.

Inauguration Day Strikers Show Solidarity | NHIndependent

by Markeshia Ricks, Jan 20, 2017

They were Latino, black, U.S. citizens and the undocumented. They were LGBTQIA and people with disabilities. They were white allies and women, immigrants of all nationalities. They were of no religion and they were Muslim.

And at a protest that marched from City Hall and through downtown New Haven, they were all welcome.

As one activist put it Friday afternoon, a political campaign season filled with racism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, xenophobia, sexism and ableism had one positive effect: It brought people out of the silos of their individual causes and brought them all together.

More than 100 people turned out to City Hall on the same day as the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump for a general strike against the incoming administration. Participants were encouraged to stay home from work and school in protest to demonstrate that the very communities that were singled out for derision in the recent presidential election also make valuable contributions to the United States too.

Source: Inauguration Day Strikers Show Solidarity | New Haven Independent

Sex Worker Allies Network (SWAN): Fighting for the Human Rights of Sex Workers

by Maya Menlo and Patricia Kane, SWAN

On Oct. 25, 2016, the New Haven Police Department (NHPD) arrested 14 sex workers in a sting. News media outlets published mug shots of the arrestees. The Sex Worker Allies Network (SWAN) formed in response to this archaic and unjust behavior. SWAN is comprised of a diverse group of New Haven residents, and is headed up by Beatrice Codianni, longtime community activist, and Brett Davidson, Connecticut Bail Fund co-founder.

One of SWAN’s first steps was to organize a rally at City Hall to protest the arrests as well as the public shaming of sex workers in New Haven. Mayor Toni Harp expressed doubts about the wisdom of the NHPD’s approach in an interview with WNNH shortly after the rally.

Members of SWAN met with Interim Police Chief Camp-bell to voice opposition to the sting. Chief Campbell suspended future sting operations in order to allow time to evaluate alternate approaches suggested by SWAN.

SWAN is tracking the arrestees’ criminal cases and has made free legal representation available to those who are interested.

SWAN volunteers have also been walking the streets to reach out to local sex workers, distributing bags of winter apparel and personal care items. Although SWAN’s work has just begun, the response from local sex workers has been overwhelmingly positive. SWAN is committed to lifting up the voices of sex workers in our community.

Studies show that many sex workers are victims of child-hood sexual and psychological abuse. They continue to be targets of violence, including by police, who trade sex for no arrest, or pressure them to become snitches – which endangers their lives.

Many of the sex workers to whom SWAN has spoken have multiple health issues. Some are homeless. SWAN is currently applying for a grant to fund its outreach expenses, and to cover the salary of one or more caseworkers to attend to the needs of local sex workers. In addition, SWAN is also working to raise funds to provide supportive housing to sex workers and women returning from prison. Please contact Patricia Kane (203) 559-1974 to get involved in SWAN’s efforts.

Jews, Muslims Gather on New Haven Green to Protest Islamophobia, Hate Crimes

by Kate Ramunni, New Haven Register, Dec. 22, 2016

Two groups that have been the target of hate crimes joined together Wednesday [Dec. 21} night to jointly recommit to justice for both and urge others to do the same. Members of Jewish Voices for Peace and the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut gathered on the New Haven Green, where they sang songs, held signs and advocated for tolerance. More than 30 people huddled together and traveled from corner to corner around the Green as evening traffic rushed by. [….]

“It’s gotten difficult to be a Jew or a Muslim in American society,” said Patrick Korth. “They are irrationally targeting the wrong people,” he said as he stood with the others at the corner of Chapel and College streets.

Wednesday’s demonstration was organized by Jewish Voice for Peace’s Network Against Islamophobia and set on the backdrop of Hanukkah, which starts Saturday night and runs through Jan. 1. The eight-day “festival of lights” celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple. Signs the demonstrators held laid out their beliefs: “We will not be silent when encountering Muslim and racist hate speech and hate crimes. We challenge through our words and actions institutionalized racism and state-sanctioned anti-black violence. We welcome Syrian refugees and stand strong with immigrants and refugees. We stand with Jews against Islamophobia and racism, rekindling our commitment to justice. We stand against U.S. policies on the ‘war on terror’ that demonize Islam and devalue, target and kill Muslims.”

“We need to change the direction of this country to address the problems of the world,” Korth said, “and we are not getting there with our politics.”

Read the whole story here at the New Haven Register’s website: Jews, Muslims gather on New Haven Green to protest Islamophobia, hate crimes

3-week Replica Solitary Confinement Cell Project opens Jan. 30

Join us at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm St., for the opening event of the 3-week Replica Solitary Confinement Cell Project for New Haven with Mayor Toni N. Harp; Will Ginsberg, President & CEO of the GNH Community Foundation; Hope Metcalf, Yale Law School; and others.

Together with Yale Law School, Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, Sterling Library, the Joint Project Committee of New Haven UCC congregations, Wilton Friends Meeting, and My Brother’s Keeper, the NH Free Public Library is organizing this project as part of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), the nationwide interfaith campaign to expose and end the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, jails and detention centers.

More information and a full program schedule will be forthcoming including Judy Dworin Performance Project, films, community panels and more! Thank you to our generous sponsors including the GNH Community Foundation, Dwight Hall and the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at the Yale Law School!

Christian Parenti — Upbeat Possibilities Upset by Science Denier

by Stanley Heller, Administrator, PEP

Christian Parenti gave the Mark Shafer talk for Promoting Enduring Peace on Nov. 17 and talked a lot about events that upended his ideas for strategies to avoid climate catastrophe. He tried to be upbeat about humanity and environment, saying that human and other species routinely shape the natural world and that it can be a good (he gave as an example how Native Americans would burn forests to increase soil fertility and eliminate pests like ticks).

He said humanity as a whole has all we need to turn the corner on climate: first, the technical know-how to get off fossil fuels; second, the cash ($3 trillion sitting idly in bonds and other such paper owned by the super-rich); and third, a way to make fossil fuel use too expensive by using the executive branch power of regulation.

I had interviewed Parenti a week before the election for The Struggle Video News on point #3 and he made a convincing argument that the government could “euthanize” fossil fuel production without a carbon tax and without approval of Congress. It could be done by the Environmental Protection Agency fining companies producing global warming gases. He says many court decisions have backed this up.
This all was thrown off course by the presidential election. Parenti says he assumes the new president will attempt to gut the regulatory state and starve the EPA. So we have to resist. “Standing Rock is the model. People have to attack these infrastructure projects in every way, with their bodies, with sit-ins, peaceful protests, lawsuits and with deals.” He referred to Native Americans in Bellingham, WA, who at first wanted a coal export terminal on their land, but ended by working with environmentalists instead. They killed the project after finding a different one that would create jobs.

That makes the Dec. 3 climate march in Hartford quite critical (email organizers@350ct.org for more information). It’s a way to show that we’re not giving up and that we will reject the science denier’s march to climate suicide. It’s directed at Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his foolish methane projects as well as Trump and his love of unbridled development.

Action also needs to be directed at Obama. He has almost two months left in office and he can do a lot just by Executive Orders. He can go to Standing Rock, show solidarity. He could even put in federal troops at Standing Rock just as LBJ did in Alabama. He can settle the lawsuit inspired by James Hansen and filed by young people who realize the government is liable for destroying their future. He can do more. He can act now.

Community mourns loss of respected defense attorney Diane ‘Cookie’ Polan

While readying this newsletter for print, we learned of the death of New Haven defense attorney Diane “Cookie” Polan.

In addition to being a friend to many PAR readers, Cookie made herself available to area peace and justice activists who engaged in civil disobedience and who needed legal advice. Personally as well as professionally, Cookie was a defender of justice and her passing is a great loss. Just a week before her death at age 65, she was awarded the 2016 Champion of Liberty Award by the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers. An annual award in her name was established to carry on her legacy.

Our deepest sympathy to her family, spouse Linda Barrett, daughters Maya and Rosa, and her sister Kelly.

See local remembrances of Cookie in other stories by following the links below.

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Tributes poured in from the legal community Friday as word spread that acclaimed defense attorney Diane “Cookie” Polan had died Friday morning at her home in New Haven.

Polan turned 65 in March. One month later, she learned she had an inoperable brain tumor.

Her death came just one week after the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers gave her the 2016 Champion of Liberty Award and created an annual Diane “Cookie” Polan Award. She was unable to attend that event.

Read more here: New Haven loses ‘Champion of Liberty’ with death of lawyer Diane ‘Cookie’ Polan

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From the New Haven Independent

Diane Polan was New Haven’s toughest “cookie” — and New Haven became a better place as a result.Polan, a crusading criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, died Friday morning from an inoperable brain tumor at the age of 65.Her nickname was “Cookie.” She was sweet, but she didn’t crumble easily. If at all.

Source: Civil Rights Champion Diane Polan Dies | New Haven Independent

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From the CT Law Tribune

by KAREN ALI, The Connecticut Law

Tribuneongtime criminal defense lawyer Diane “Cookie” Polan of New Haven, known by her colleagues and the rest of the bar as fierce yet kind, passed away Friday morning.

Polan, who turned 65 in March, was diagnosed in April with an inoperable brain tumor.

Last week, at the very bittersweet annual meeting of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association, Polan was given a special award: The Champion of Liberty Award. It is so special that it’s not handed out every year, only when a recipient is deemed worthy enough.

Source: Recent ‘Champion of Liberty Award’ Winner Diane Polan Passes Away | Connecticut Law Tribune

People’s World Amistad Awards 2016, Dec. 4: “If There Is No Struggle, There Can Be No Progress”

by Joelle Fishman, People’s World

This year’s People’s World Amistad Awards are dedicated to carrying on the torch of Arthur L. Perry, a great friend, union leader, and warrior for justice who received the People’s World Amistad Award in 2009.

The event is Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 4 p.m. at Wexler Grant Community School, 55 Foote St., New Haven, on the theme “If there is no struggle, there can be no progress — We march united for Racial Justice, Jobs & Peace.”

Awardees Alder Jeanette Morrison, Dan Livingston and Juan Brito are outstanding leaders who have devoted their lives to the fight for economic and social justice for all.

A cultural program will highlight the event.

Alder Jeanette Morrison was elected to represent Ward 22 in New Haven as part of a labor-community coalition. She led the successful movement to rebuild the Dixwell Q House, a youth center in the heart of the African-American community next to Wexler Grant school.  As a social worker she fights to bring families together and for opportunities for children. She is a member of AFSCME.

Dan Livingston is a groundbreaking labor attorney and life-long union and progressive activist. As a member of a firm of “trouble making lawyers” (Livingston, Adler, Pulda, Meiklejohn and Kelly), he represents many public and private sector unions. He represents, works with, and serves on the boards of many coalitions, community and progressive organizations fighting for social justice in our state.

Juan Brito is a School Social Worker at Burns Latino Academy in Hartford and a member of the Hartford Feder-ation of Teachers. He is a writer for La Voz Hispana de Connecticut and a musician who has been performing with his wife Rebecca Delgado since 1977. He has published two books of poetry about his country and his experiences before, during and after the coup d’etat that affected Chile in 1973.

The awards are presented to allies by the People’s World on the occasion of the 97th anniversary of the Communist Party USA.

Tickets are $10. Adbook deadline is Nov. 18, 2016.  Information: ct-pww@pobox.com.

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