HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION
Our mission is to empower prisoners’ families to be leaders in prison organizing and to teach them how to advocate on behalf of their loved ones in prison and expose the inhumane practices of the Department of Corrections.
The Human Rights Coalition had its first meeting on June 4, 2001 at the house of the mother of one of the men who helped conceive the idea of HRC.
The meeting was small and a mix of prisoners’ family members and former prisoners. Many of those who attended, felt powerless in the face of the prison administration and its institutionalized discrimination, abuse, and torture. Yet the lives and well being of their loved ones were at stake – something they could not turn their backs to.
At the end of the meeting, however, there was a consensus that a great deal of powerful energy is lying untapped, that if properly focused could change the status quo of the prison system. The source of untapped energy was the constituency of former prisoners and prisoners’ families in this country. Thus HRC was formed, to aid and support prisoners’ families in coping with the stress and hardships created by having a loved one incarcerated, as well as to challenge the punitive retributive nature of the penal system; and, to work to transform that to a model of rehabilitation and successful reintegration to society.
The prison system is based on a foundation of exploitation, punishment and corruption. Most of the people in prison are poor, brown, urban, functionally illiterate, unemployed or under-employed before they were locked down, and are there for non-violent crimes. It reflects all the other social inequalities in our system, and it does not work in its current incarnation. HRC’s ultimate goal is to dismantle and abolish the prison system and replace it with accountability, safety, fairness, and resilience, while focusing on healing instead of punishing.
We envision transparency within the criminal justice system – as no one should be above the law. We envision new laws to stop torture and abuse of prisoners, and for the public to show outrage not only for the prisoners in Iraq and other international locations of conflict, but also for prisoners’ rights here in the United States. We envision the prison officials and administration (i.e., guards, counselors, etc.) being held accountable for their actions or in-actions. We envision a “coalition” of families and organizations who seek to eliminate prison abuse and stand up for the human rights of prisoners by educating the public, advocating with prison officials, and lobbying state legislators.
WHAT WE DO.
Empowerment & Advocacy: We provide a safe place for family members of prisoners where there is no embarrassment associated with having a loved one in prison; HRC members are facing the same stigma, restrictions, dilemmas that you are going through this very minute. We respond to the letters asking for HRC’s help by educating family members on how to build a support system and organize their family, neighbors, and church around their individual issues. We also assure our members that abuse and torture will not be tolerated. The Michael Brown and Eric Garner crimes that were openly committed and excused are routine within the Department of Corrections and affiliations.
Bull Horn & Watch Dogs: We collectively address issues of abuse or torture (Emergency Response Network) using Facebook and Email to alert HRC members of reported and confirmed prisoner abuses and/or violations of human rights. To stand up against such violations we bring public awareness, by broadcasting on social media, radio, and newspapers; calling and/or writing to the prison, informing our legislators, and finally collaborating with supporters (i.e., Abolitionist Law Center and Amistad Law Project) in moving forward with next steps.
A long-term struggle and the den of abuse and torture has been solitary confinement. We fight for a permanent change in the use and abuse of solitary confinement through legislation [could we include a link to our legislative packet of information about solitary confinement here?]. Two bills have been introduced (House Bill 497 and Senate Bill 832) that will end long term solitary confinement which is a noteworthy step in our in our fight for human rights.