Solitary Confinement in the United States

Thanks to AFSC for making these recordings available for additional audiences:

“Solitary Confinement & Mental Health”

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The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture hosted Dr. Terry Kupers at a national strategic convening on solitary confinement and human rights.

Dr. Kupers is institute professor at The Wright Institute and distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Kupers provides expert testimony in class action litigation about the psychological effects of prison conditions, including isolated confinement in super-maximum security units, the quality of correctional mental health care, and the effects of sexual abuse in correctional settings. At this event, he discusses the psychological damage of long-term isolation and explains how the practice constitutes a human rights abuse.

“Solitary Confinement & Human Rights: An Evening of American Stories”

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Listen in as activists consider the U.S.’s use of solitary confinement. Through art and story, we look at three regionally diverse cases. Keynote speakers for this event are Robert King, activist and author, and Tessa Murphy from Amnesty International. The stories reflect on the Angola 3, California Secure Housing Units, and Tamms supermax prison.

Forty years ago, three men—the “Angola 3″—were convicted of murder and condemned to solitary confinement in Louisiana’s Angola prison. Two have remained in isolation ever since. The third, Robert King, was released after 29 years and is committed to sharing his story with the world.

Hundreds of prisoners have been confined in California’s high-security segregation units for 10 or more years in conditions of severe isolation. The issue caught the public eye when, in 2011, inmates launched a hunger strike. Tessa Murphy will share Amnesty International’s recent research on conditions in CA security housing units.

Two hundred inmates in Illinois Tamms Closed Maximum Security Unit (CMAX) languish in prolonged solitary confinement. Governor Quinn blocked funding to the facility in July, 2012, but it remains open today. The story of Tamms will be told through the “Tamms Year Ten Campaign Office” exhibit at Sullivan Galleries.

AFSC Reader’s guide: Economics matters

Compiled by Tony Heriza
Published in Quaker Action, Fall 2012

Mired in the “economic crisis,” people around the world are calling for just and sustainable economic policies at the local, national, and global levels. Members of AFSC’s program staff recommend these resources to help you understand the complex issues and imagine a more humane economic order.

You may order many of the books listed here through


What’s wrong?

Economic Collapse, Economic Change: Getting to the Roots of the Crisis,” 2011
By Arthur MacEwan and John Miller

99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It,” 2012
By Chuck Collins (also see his TEDx talk)

Inside Job,” 2010
Directed by Charles Ferguson
This documentary exposes the corruption and greed behind the crash of 2008.
Find books and articles by the Nobel Prize-winning economist

Inequality and the Common Good
Data and analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies illuminate the corrosive impacts of inequality.

Visions of a different future

Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth,” 2009
By David Korten
Locally based, community-oriented economic alternatives

All Labor Has Dignity,” 2011
By Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Michael Honey
A new collection of Dr. King’s speeches on labor rights and economic justice

America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy,” 2011
By Gar Alperovitz
Democratizing our economic system from the bottom up

Breakthrough Communities: Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis,” 2009
Edited by M. Paloma Pavel
Urban strategies that benefit entire metropolitan regions, including low-income communities

Holy Cooperation!: Building Graceful Economies,” 2009
By Andrew McLeod
Theological support for cooperative economics

New Priorities Network
Works to cut military spending and increase investment in jobs and public services

The Occupy Handbook,” 2012
Edited by Janet Byrne
Essays on our economic disaster and avenues for change

The Other Game: Lessons from How Life Is Played in Mexican Villages,” 2008
By Phil Dahl-Bredine and Stephen Hicken
In some communities, sharing and inclusion are the highest values.

Click here to learn more about economics, see how you can get involved, and read select AFSC voices on the economy and related topics.

Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living

Today I had the privilege of hearing WBEZ’s Jerome McDonnell speak live in-studio with climate scientist, Brenda Ekwurzel, author of “Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living” about ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.

Just about every decision we make, from what we eat to where we live, has an impact on the environment. This book challenges you to cut your carbon emissions 20 percent this year and gives you the information you need to succeed, helping you “sweat the right stuff” — the smartest choices you can make for the climate — with answers to dozens of questions about your carbon emissions, such as:

* Do books or e-readers cause more emissions?
* Is it worth washing clothes in cold water?
* Is buying organic cotton really a better option for the climate?

You can hear Jerome discuss these questions and more:

First Day 2012

I’ve begun this New Year with a committment to five specific manifeststions of my Quaker Testimonies for 2012:

S. Simplicity.
I have taken a stand against unsolicited credit cards and offers of insurance by completing the opt-out process I discovered.  Learn more & consider joining me by reading about it here.

P. Peace.
I am enthusiastically continuing my service as clerk of ILYM Peace Resources Committee. Working on the projects and ideas manifest by this group of Friends is a strong commitment to my Peace Testimony.

I. Integrity.
I will work hard to stay in the moment and be true to my word.

C. Community.
I am committing to at least one shared meal a month, participating as fully as possible by providing a dish to share and being in sincere fellowship with f/Friends, tending to others both big & little, and helping to prepare and clean up the space.

E. Equality.
Inspired by my father’s loyal commitment, I am going to prioritize buying only fair trade/direct trade coffee for my home. I am also to financially contribute each month to 57th Street Meeting’s Coffee Fund which goes through the AFSC Coffee Project with Equal Exchange to acquire coffee for the Meeting.

What might your aspirations for 2012 include?

Taking a gentle step: cutting down on paper waste

Today I decided to take a simple step towards my vision of a more peaceful earth by formally completing an “opt-out” form to (hopefully) reduce the quantity of unsolicited mail I receive. After “Googling” for ‘remove name credit card solicitations” I found on the Federal Trade Commission website (or it says you can call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or 1-888-567-8688); the phone number and website are operated by the major consumer reporting companies.

I clicked the link. I choose “Electronic Opt-Out for Five Years: Your name will not be eligible for inclusion on lists used for Firm Offers of credit or insurance for five years” because the permanent option requires printing something out to mail in & I want to accomplish this task now. I completed the form and submitted it. The entire process took less than 3 minutes. And so after clicking “End Session” I repeated the process with my maidan name and then did it for my husband as well.

I ‘Confirm’ my request to exclude my name on lists used for firm offers of credit or insurance. I hereby affirm that all information entered is my own and true, to the best of my knowledge.

And with that my first New Years Resolution is complete: an attempt to reduce unsolicited mail both to reduce the paper waste generated and politely say NO to the offers of credit and insurance I don’t need. A means towards walking a bit more gently over the earth.

A quest for healing: Striving for a Win-Win between Muslims and Lowes

I have always admired Anya Cordell for her spirit, courage, and dedication to making our world a better place. When I received this link to her brilliant ideas as to how a new approach might be taken towards peace and understanding in the wake of Lowes Home Improvement pulling their advertising support from TLC’s “All American Muslims” – I just had to share. What do you think?

Read her post “Anya Cordell: How to Make This Situation a Win/Win for Muslims and Lowes”, read Comments shared, and learn more about this issue and how you might respond.

Sharing the Stories of Quaker Youth “Walking the Walk”

I was recently contacted by Friend Greg Woods, wanting to know if I could help him to “tell some stories about young Quakers doing awesome things” as he prepares for an upcoming workshop with the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Middle School program.

Over the past decade I have attempted to help tell the stories of my generation, Quaker youth living their faith in inspiring contemporary ways. For a number of years, Friends Journal supported this leading by publishing a series of pieces that I’ll share again here in hopes that Greg can use them and that you, dear reader, might enjoy them too.

Walking the Walk: Greg Woods
Walking the Walk: Ian Fritz
Walking the Walk: Rainbow Pfaff

In my life now as a radio producer, I’ve attempted to bring those skills to benefit the telling of these stories as well. In 2005, ILYM hosted the annual “Quake that Rocked the Midwest” and invited me to come record the youth gathered there. Friends Journal published that effort as well. Presented as audio stories, you can learn more about contemporary young Friends and their ideas of Quakerism here.

But Greg’s request made me want to see what else might be available online today showcasing young Quakers doing awesome things. What have you found? Did reading the stories of Greg, Ian or Rainbow resonate with you or remind you of Quaker youth you know?  What does “walking the walk” mean to you? And is that harder to do when you’re young?

Occupy Movement – share your thoughts?

Author: Breeze Richardson

As I follow the news of “Occupy” Movements across the country I am curious to learn what Friends are hearing & thinking about, and being led to say and do.

Protesting economic inequality is honorable, and I wonder what personal actions the individuals gathered from Oakland, to Chicago, to Naperville, to Washington DC, to New York City are being led to think about in their own lives as contributors to that very economic inequality they are fighting against.

Or is their fundamental point – “we are the 99%” – bear witness to the mere fact that such a question is irrelevant: there is a super class of Americans, who are 1% of the population, who have a responsibility to contribute in a way that redistribution can take place.

And then my thoughts turn to the bigger question… is standing on the corner enough? What is the outcome of these people bearing witness to their beliefs? Are they asking individuals to change? Corporations? Asking the government to take a different attitude? Enforce their beliefs? And will the winter weather stand in their way or alert the nation to the conviction with which they are standing there?

Are there academics, intellectuals in the creative class, politicians, or others in positions of power, are those in the 1% working to figure out how they can help envision the way forward? Will their ideas have a brief moment in time where the nation will be looking? A better way could be proposed?

Last week Naomi Wolf was in Chicago to give a talk entitled: “Citizen Empowerment 101”  where she shared her personal experience getting arrested in New York while trying to intervene on behalf of protesters (who she believed “the details of the permit gave the protestors the right to be on the sidewalk as long as they did not obstruct foot traffic”) and was “subsequently arrested for resisting a lawful order after police told her to ‘leave,’ and she did not.”  She told her story during the talk, which has been edited for you to hear.

What has been your experience? What are your thoughts? What role should we be taking as Friends, as individuals?

Finding my way: reading historical texts for present day meaning

Author: Breeze Richardson

I have always been drawn to Pendle Hill pamphlets. I still remember the first time I visited Pendle Hill and came upon a long hallway mounted with display racks and pamphlets as far as the eye could see (or so it seemed).  Title after title intrigued me, and many of the selections I picked up that day remain on my bookshelf.

So after years of pondering how to bring Pendle Hill pamphlets more regularly back into my life, I took a moment to visit their website today hoping to discover a few titles I might order as summer reading.  To my delight, I actually found something even better: PDF downloads available for immediate consumption!  How wonderful.

And so I think I will begin a new task as part of my commitment to writing here on this blog, selecting pamphlets of interest and linking to them here, hoping Friends will indulge me in reading along and offering their thoughts.

“The Nature of Quakerism” was written by Howard Brinton in 1949. After clicking the PDF button it took about 15 minutes to read (with interruption – let’s be honest, with two children ages 2 & 4 it’s pretty hard to approach much of anything without interruption).  The reason this title compelled me to log here and share was how eloquently it communicated nearly everything I would include in my summary of the faith tradition I have experienced for nearly my entire life.  With so many interpretations and leadings, seekers and differing spiritual foundations, there are many ways Friends present Quakerism today. And lately, I have found myself in the position to better explain why I define Quakerism in the way I do.

My first smile emerged with Brinton’s explanation Friends’ primary doctrine: “the Presence of God is felt at the apex of the human soul and that man can therefore know and heed God directly, without any intermediary in the form of church, priest, sacrament, or sacred book.”

He then went on to state a flexibility of language that resonated with me: “Many figures of speech are used to designate this Divine Presence which, as immanent in man, is personal and, as transcendent, is super-personal. It is “Light,” “Power,” “Word,” “Seed of the Kingdom,” “Christ Within.” … Man’s endeavor should be to merge his will with the Divine Will, as far as he is able to comprehend it, and by obedience to become an instrument through which God’s power works upon the world.”

As Brinton elaborates on Quakerism’s primary, secondary and tertiary doctrines, I read a text that could have just as easily been written today, and it is the contemporary resonance with a document authored over sixty years ago that really compelled me to share it.

Lastly, I found Brinton’s discourse on meeting for worship and meeting for business quite aspirational (something I really need in my present moment) and his thoughts on harmony (peace making) and simplicity (absence of superfluity) clear and compelling.  Perhaps what most spoke to my current condition was the notion that peace making is in part an effort not “to constrain an individual to express feelings which he does not experience.”  While I fully recognize the Christianity present in both historic and contemporary Quakerism, I appreciate and strongly identity with Brinton’s focus on the commonalities of our primary doctrine in “various forms in all the great religions of the world.” It is this universalism and his notions of “an eternal gospel not exclusively related to particular historical events” that provided me language I did not so clearly have before.

Friends, what is your reaction to Brinton’s historic text? Does it relate to your experience?