Cancel the new punitive PADOC policies, respect the rights of prisoners and their families
We are families and friends of incarcerated loved ones, professionals who work closely with people in PA prisons and concerned citizens who care about human rights. On September 5th Department of Corrections Secretary Wetzel and Governor Wolf announced new punitive protocols that will further punish, restrict and control people incarcerated in PA prisons. Governor Wolf and the Department of Corrections want to censor and restrict books, increase surveillance of prisoners mail, violate attorney-client privilege and institute cruel, restrictive visiting room policies which violate the American Disabilities Act. Join us in demanding that Governor Wolf and the PA Department of Corrections cancel these policies immediately and respect the rights of incarcerated people, their families and the people who work with them.
We demand that we be able to order our incarcerated loved ones, friends and clients books from (formerly) approved vendors and that they be able to hold them in their hands. The Pennsylvania DOC’s move to E-books and a central marketplace that they control is censorship and a monopoly and we fully reject it.
We demand that our loved ones be able to touch letters that our hands touch too. We reject that our mail should be sent to a private company in Florida, Smart Communication, at taxpayer expense where it will be copied, the originals destroyed and the copies sent on. Furthermore during this process our mail will be scanned into a searchable database to increase already pervasive mailroom surveillance on our communication. If mailroom staff needs to be increased to search for contraband the DOC should do just that. The contract with prison profiteer Smart Communications should be immediately cancelled.
We demand that legal mail not be photocopied. In another protocol confidential legal mail will be opened and photocopied and the photocopies will be passed on to the incarcerated person. This is violation of attorney-client privilege and it will expose legal mail to be read in part if not in whole. It cannot stand.
We demand that vending machines and photos be restored on visits immediately. A new protocol states that vending machines and photos will be restricted for 90 days at which point new policies around these activities will be unveiled. This is unacceptable. People travel far to visit with their incarcerated family members and they deserve some basic decency. They ought to be able to share food and memorialize their time together through taking photos. Furthermore there are many people who are diabetic or have other conditions and cannot spend an 8 hour visit without eating anything. Not only is the the restriction on vending machines cruel it is also a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We demand that official visitors should not have to wear plastic gloves on visits. A new policy requires that lawyers, paralegals, official visitors from the prison society and others be required to wear plastic gloves on visits. Our people in prison are not contaminated or diseased or otherwise toxic and they should not be treated like quarantined and subhuman specimens. It’s notable that they make only professionals wear gloves. They know very well that this policy serves no public health purpose and it is clearly meant to denigrate prisoners and their families.
We demand respect. For too long elected officials have believed they can increase their political capital and their career prospects by punishing us, our incarcerated family members and our clients. Enough is enough. We pledge that we will never stop fighting until we are heard. Sign here.
Exonerate John Brookins
On December 20th 1990, John Brookins visited his friend Sheila Ginsberg’s house, to help her clean before the arrival of her son from out of town. Around 5 PM, John left to give his friend a ride to work. When he returned, he found Sheila’s daughter, Sharon, standing over her with a pair of scissors, stomping them into her chest, screaming that she had to die. Sharon fled the scene shortly after John’s arrival. John, a black man standing over a dead white woman, panicked and left the scene.
Months later, John was arrested for the murder of Ms. Ginsberg. The case was permeated by police misconduct, an ineffective display of counsel, and a clear absence of morality. Based on witness testimony from Sharon Ginsberg (a prostitute who had consistently harassed her mother for money to fuel her meth & crack cocaine addiction) and suspected planted DNA evidence, John was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He has been in prison for 28 years for a murder he did not commit.
Despite his imprisonment, the list of John’s accomplishments is long and he has had an impact on so many lives. He is a certified Yoga and Meditation Instructor and teaches classes to his fellow inmates, even working alongside the Department of Corrections to design classes. He creates workout programs to cater to the needs of his friends on the inside and the outside. He has worked in the prison kitchen and taught in the gardens before the prison ended their horticulture program. Above all, John is compassionate, kind, and deeply spiritual. To know him is to know someone who could contribute greatly to society upon his release.
There are many people on the outside who are waiting for John’s exoneration: his family, who have stood by him all these years, his loving wife Karen, and his hundreds of supporters all over the country, who hope that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections will finally put an end to this injustice. We hope they will not have to wait much longer.
John is represented by Craig M. Cooley, a former attorney for the Innocence Project, who have also signed on as co-counsel in the case, agreeing to pay for the DNA testing involved. This year, his case was taken up by the Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative, who helped to exonerate Valentino Dixon in 2018.
Please sign the petition to show your support for John and his innocence in an effort to #bringbrookinshome
For more information about John and his case visit www.bringbrookinshome.com
Bring Dameon Brome and David Lahoz home
Why is this important?
David Lahoz and Dameon Brome were incarcerated as children and have spent 26 and 30 years in prison, respectively. Each of them has demonstrated rehabilitation, redemption, and remorse. Despite exemplary disciplinary records while incarcerated and plans to continue helping people when they were paroled, both men were recently denied parole on the same day by the same parole hearing examiners. Any review of these men’s files will reveal that this is horrible mistake. Dameon and David are rehabilitated and should have been paroled. We call on Board of Probation and Parole Chairman Leo Dunn to correct this error.
David and Dameon were juvenile lifers. Montgomery v. Louisiana was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that declared Dameon and David’s sentence unconstitutional. The ruling in that case stated that juvenile lifers needed to be treated as individuals and, if they were not permanently incorrigible, given a chance to come home. After their resentencings last year, both David and Dameon were made immediately parole eligible; but unfortunately Leslie Grey and Mark Koch denied them parole and told them they would need to wait five years before the board would hear their cases again. David and Dameon have appealed and Leo Dunn, the Chairman of the PA Board of Probation and Parole, can overrule their parole denial and allow them to come home to their families and communities.
David was once a lost soul running around in the streets of North Philly living a life that was very disruptive. He believed he was destined to die or get locked up; he was sentenced to life without parole as 17 year-old. After a rocky start to his incarceration, he has been active in a lot of programming: playing sports and learning multiple trades. His passion is being a mentor to young people through softball and basketball. David has worked for years to better himself and to help those around him. He has been misconduct free for 15 years and he had institutional support for his parole.
Dameon has spent the greater portion of his life incarcerated but refused to accept that it was what would define him. He decided that he would find a way to grow even within the confines of prison.
He acquired his GED and worked briefly tutoring others. He’s worked in various positions within the institution from the Cook for Specialized Diets to the Law Clerk in the library helping others with legal problems. He has founded, been part of, and facilitated numerous groups to change the hopeless, lost, or disenfranchised perspectives of other incarcerated people, while simultaneously trying to advance his own education and understanding of what it means to be human. He took to Mechanical Drafting and CAD and studied Print Media. Dameon has written books and stories not just to “fill a void I saw that existed” but also to try to show other incarcerated people that there was another way and more possibilities for them even behind bars.
Both Dameon and David have loving and supportive families and both plan to continue helping people and bettering the world if released.
Their parole denials each listed multiple errors. For example, Dameon’s denial states that he lacked a home plan but he submitted an 11-page home plan. He planned to be paroled to a halfway house in Philadelphia, something the Department of Corrections has encouraged for juvenile lifers but he was questioned about this decision and believes this plan was held against him. They went on to say that Dameon was denied due to misconducts and poor institutional adjustment. Dameon hasn’t had a misconduct in over 9 years and hasn’t had a misconduct relating to fighting in over 23 years. David’s denial stated that he needed to get a GED but he received a GED in the Department of Corrections. His denial went on to say that he had a misconduct at his minimum which was one year ago. He hasn’t had a misconduct in 15 years.
A modern professional parole board shouldn’t be making these mistakes. We call on you, Chairman Dunn, to correct them and do the right thing. We believe that Dameon and David should be with their families and communities on the outside. They are rehabilitated. We call on you to grant parole for Dameon Brome and David Lahoz and grant them relief after decades of incarceration. Sign here.