Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEARS from Eddie Griffin

As sun sets on another year, I wish to extend my blessings to all my friends and heroes.

To my friends at the People’s Law Office in Chicago, I send my utter heartfelt thanks for coming to the rescue of a group of prisoners, known at the Marion Brothers. And, to my lifetime friend Bonnie Kerness at the American Friends Service Committee, and the bulk of those who made up the prisoner rights movement, during the period of my incarceration (1972-1984).

I was pleasantly surprised to find the People’s Law Office archives on line. I fondly remember Dennis Cunningham trying to explain why Eddie Griffin hugged the warden as he came off the witness stand in Alton, Illinois, in 1984. I remember Mike Deutsch being so confounded that he has hardly spoken to me since. Nevertheless, they were my heroes, and their website preserves a proud testimony of the Marion Brothers.

Here are a few excerpts, I would hope to use in my memoirs.

We started the [People’s Law Office] because we wanted to work in the movement for the movement & with the movement as lawyers. Ted Stein brought the idea to Dennis Cunningham when they were working together in the Chicago Legal Defense Committee, formed to help deal with the protests at the ‘68 Democratic Convention, and the cases that came out of it. A week later when the smoke cleared, they were sitting in a room downtown with 300 misdemeanor cases, wondering what to do.

I used to keep Dennis in stitches whenever he came to visit me at the prison. I was always full of legal schemes. “And, you’re going to do WHAT?” Inevitable came his laughter. Together, we would chock the prison administration’s legal team, with legal babble they had never seen. We were great students of the law. And, there was always a bounty on our heads inside the prison system.

THANK YOU, People Law Office, for preserving these memories:

Dennis met Bobby Rush and Fred Hampton, who asked for help with the many legal problems the new Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party was already having

There ensued a baptism of fire. Dennis had his first jury trial in late February 1969, on one day’s notice, with Fred as his client in a case about a demonstration in Maywood City Council chambers the year before. By April, a high level of conflict had developed between the Panthers, the Young Lords and the Police, and a series of major confrontations had begun. Fred went to trial again (with other counsel) and was convicted of robbery for allegedly relieving a Maywood ice cream truck driver of his inventory and passing it out to neighborhood kids. After a vicious attack upon him in the press by State’s Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan, the trial judge reneged on a promise to put Fred on probation and instead sentenced him to two to five years in the penitentiary. Truly frightened at the possibility that it would be denied, we spent over a month preparing a petition for appeal bond, with law students Flint Taylor, Seva Dubuar and Ray McClain joining the effort to free Fred and defend the Panthers.

[Editor insert]
Meanwhile in Texas, Arlington State activist Ernie McMillian is charged with instigating a food riot. The food throwing incident was translated into robbery. Ernie, was facing 20 to life in the Texas prison system. He was our SNCC leader, and a close associate of Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, whose slogan “Burn, Baby, Burn” became a national rallying cry and turned into a hit record. There were our pre-Panther days.

Hampton founded the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party in November 1968. He immediately established a community service program. This included the provision of free breakfasts for schoolchildren and a medical clinic that did not charge patients for treatment. Hampton also taught political education classes and instigated a community control of police project. [end]

It was a time of tremendous political activity and drama in the city, involving the BPP, the Young Lords, Young Patriots, two factions (at least) of SDS, an increasingly robust anti-war movement, and militant community organizations such as Concerned Citizens of Lincoln Park and the Latin American Defense Organization (LADO). Young Lords member Manuel Ramos was killed by a policeman in a non-political street incident in May (1969), leading to a tense, very political march by some 2000 activists from People’s Park (Armitage and Halsted) to the Chicago Avenue Police Station.

The militant “Weatherman” group emerged from the SDS convention in June, and soon asked us to serve as legal support for the National Action they announced they would stage in October. Major police raids and shooting incidents against the Panthers occurred on April 16, June 4, July 16, and July 31. By summer’s end we were all making multiple appearances in the branch courts almost every day, and beginning not to feel that green anymore.

In late August, Supreme Court Justice Walter Shaeffer released Chairman Fred on appeal bond, and he returned from Menard to the People’s Church to a tumultuous and inspiring welcome. The frenetic pace of work only intensified in the fall. Mark Kadish moved from Detroit to organize a National Lawyers Guild chapter in Chicago and to work in our office.

The Conspiracy trial began in September with a boisterous demonstration at which numerous Weathermen were arrested for felony mob action and for freeing a comrade from a police wagon. The RYM (Revolutionary Youth Movement) II faction of SDS had their National Action and the Weathermen had their “Days of Rage” in October 1969, all leading to many new cases for the office and other lawyers.

There was also another shoot-out at Panther headquarters, and six Panthers were arrested. Most of the six were subsequently set free after Skip and Dennis beat their cases at the preliminary hearing. Bobby Seale was bound and gagged and the Panthers and other supporters held daily protests at the Federal Building. On November 13, in a shoot-out on the South Side, Panther Spurgeon “Jake” Winters and two Chicago police officers were killed.

Our Weathermen clients not only required legal defense, but also challenged us as legal people, questioned our sexism, personal relationships, and struggled with us to reject our privileged status as white lawyers and to further change our lives. You were either “part of the solution or part of the problem.”

On November 12, 1970, there was a predawn shootout between the Panthers and police at a Panther house in downstate Carbondale, Illinois. At the request of Bobby Rush, we went down to investigate and to get the Panthers out on bond. Jeff and Flint were joined by Michael Deutsch, who had recently decided to stop clerking for Judge Otto Kerner in the Seventh Circuit and to join the office. We were successful in obtaining bond from the Appellate Court and gathered physical evidence at the apartment in a similar manner to the Hampton case.

On December 4,1969, at 4:30 in the morning, Edward Hanrahan and his squad of special police made their murderous pre-dawn raid on the Black Panther Party apartment located on 2337 W. Monroe Street. A hail of police gunfire from rifles, a submachine gun, shotguns and handguns left Fred Hampton and Mark Clark dead, and four other Panthers wounded. In a carefully staged press conference only hours later, Hanrahan falsely claimed that there was a fierce shootout and that Fred and other Panthers had fired numerous shots at police.

In their arrogance, the police neglected to seal the apartment from the public immediately after the raid. Panther leader Bobby Rush contacted Skip and Dennis, and they mobilized the Office to go to 2337 W. Monroe to take pictures and to gather evidence which the police left behind. The entire apartment had been torn apart, and it was quickly apparent from the bullet holes that all the bullets went into the rooms where the Panthers were sleeping. The bloody mattress and pool of blood on the floor showed that Fred was shot at point blank range in his bed, and his body dragged out into the hall.

With the help of several friends, including Mike Gray, who was making a documentary on the Panthers, which later became the “Murder of Fred Hampton,” we filmed, photographed and documented the location of each piece of evidence, then removed it to a secret location.

Jeff and Marc were at the police station hearing the firsthand accounts of the survivors: that the police came in shooting, that Fred and Mark and the survivors never had a chance to defend themselves, and that the police had said “[Bobby] Rush is next.” Rush was warned and went underground for several days, thereby avoiding being home when the police raided his apartment on December 5th.


On September 9, 1971, Attica prisoners took over the prison, seizing guards as hostages. After the prisoners made 28 demands and entered into negotiations, the uprising was ended on September 13 with a state police assault and massacre ordered by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Jeff and Mzizi, a legal worker who had recently joined the Office, went to New York and were among the first legal people allowed to see the prisoners. They met many of the Attica brothers, including “Big Black” who had been tortured by the prison guards after the massacre, and Mara Siegel, a Buffalo law student who had responded to the call for legal support. Over the next months, several different lawyers, law students, and legal workers made trips to Attica, where we learned first hand of the atrocities, developed relationships with many of the brothers, and worked on several of the injunctive cases which sought relief from the hideous maltreatment of prisoners in the aftermath of the massacre.

Our work in Carbondale had also brought us in contact with prisoners at the Marion Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. In 1972, there was a work stoppage at Marion, which led to the segregation of over one hundred protesting prisoners. We filed a suit, Adams v. Carlson, which challenged this segregation. We were inspired by the strength of the prisoners, particularly Rafael Cancel Miranda, a Puerto Rican Nationalist Prisoner who at that time had been imprisoned for early 20 years for the attack on Congress in 1954. We finally won Adams on appeal, and the men were released from segregation in early 1974. During this period, two new law students, Ralph Hurvitz and Lee Tockman, joined the office and quickly became immersed in the Marion work.

[Editor Note: Rafael Cancel Miranda was my mentor]

In early June of 1977, as the 18 month Hampton trial finally ground to a close, Police Sergeant Thomas Walton led a contingent of charging police into Humboldt Park on Puerto Rican Day and shot in the back and killed two unarmed men, Julio Osorio and Rafael Cruz. This led to a two day uprising by outraged members of the West town community. While Jeff and Flint were giving their closing arguments in Hampton, Peter and Dennis, with Michael’s help, were filing a multimillion-dollar suit against Walton and the City, which became known as the Humboldt Park case. The jury deadlocked in Hampton, Judge Perry entered a directed verdict for the defendants, and assessed $100,000 in costs against the Hampton plaintiffs.

We also became deeply involved at the U.S. prison in Marion, Illinois fighting the efforts by the federal Bureau of Prisons to create special long-term isolation units. In two major class-action law suits, Adams v. Carlson and Bono v. Saxbe, we challenged the indefinite confinement of prisoners in isolation and the use of behavior modification techniques, including the use of solid steel front cells called “box cars.” In Adams, we were able to get the Court of Appeals to order the release of more than 150 prisoners confined in isolation for over 18 months, on the grounds that such indefinite isolation violated the 8th Amendment. In Bono, however after years challenging the placement of prisoners in indefinite isolation without due process or objective criteria, we were unable to force the closure of such units. Today, control units proliferate, sanctioned by the courts and accepted as a necessity by many corrections “experts.”

We soon learned that those who work on behalf of resisting prisoners may well be targets of repression themselves. During the Adams litigation we were falsely accused of smuggling gun powder into the prison and prohibited from have any contact visits with our clients. Several years later, we and the Marion Prisoners Rights Project (MPRP) were accused of fomenting a prison-wide work stoppage and smuggling out prisoners’ demands to the media. MPRP lawyers were banned from the prison and only after months of litigation were we able to get the Seventh Circuit to order that the lawyers be allowed back into the prison. Abel v Miller.

It was during this period at Marion that we met Puerto Rican political prisoner, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Republic of New Africa President Imari Obadele and Republic of New Africa citizen Akinshiiju Ola, Crusade for Justice leader, Alberto Mares, Black Liberation Army prisoners, Herman Bell, Sundiata Acoli, Gabe Torres, Native American prisoner Leonard Peltier and many others.

Our work at Marion continued for almost 20 years, litigating, advising and speaking out against the injustices there. During this period we worked first with the National Committee to Support the Marion Brothers and later with the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML), a group that is till active today, organizing and educating about prison control units and the racist nature of the criminal justice system.

[Eddie Griffin Commentary]
I am among the “many others” mentioned by the People’s Law Office, a contemporary of the political prisoners named above. Akinshiiju Ola was our team leader. I studied at the feet of Rafael Cancel Miranda, and discussed daily politics with Herman Bell, Imari Obadele, and translated the Lakota Sioux dialect of Leonard Peltier into a political platform.

The Marion Prisoners Rights Project (MPRP) was incorporated by Professor Jim Roberts and Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Law. Eddie Griffin and Jim Roberts were members of the Board of Directors.

When the prison administration refused entry of the MPRP into the prison to see me, I was confined in a refrigerated strip cell, only allowed running water for 15-minutes in the morning and 15-minutes.

I was on the brink of freezing to death when the warden pulled me from my doom cell where I was held incommunicado. I was transferred to another prison on the promise that I would never be seen or heard from again. I knew what that meant.

When I hugged the warden in Alton, Illinois, thanking him for releasing me, I had the last word.

The warden whispered to me, on his way to the witness stand, “There is nothing else in me.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Fathom of Wealth – Part 1

In the beginning, Bernard L. Madoff created wealth out of the sky. Like magic, he commanded the securities market, “Let there be wealth.” And, out of nowhere, came wealth by the billions. But the wealth was not real. So, out of nowhere, the earth opened its mouth and consumed the fathom called wealth. And there, a pyre of dreams burn on the altar.

On Friday morning, December 11, 2008, federal agents descended onto Bernard Madoff’s Manhattan penthouse and arrested him for operating a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

About 7:30 a.m. this morning, police were called to the Madison Avenue office of Access International. It is reported that 65-year old hedge fund manager Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet had killed himself, being distraught, family members say, over losing the $1.4 billion Luxembourg-based LUXALPHA SICAV-American Selection fund in Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.

This is only the beginning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fifty-Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme

The assets of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities are now frozen. The Wall Street tycoon, himself, once touted as “the best of the best”, was arrested by federal agents and charged with orchestrating a $50-billion Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Madoff was arrested at his Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan last Thursday by F.B.I. agents, after his two sons — both of whom work for the company — reported that he had confessed to them that his money-management business was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme” and “a big lie.”


What is a Ponzi scheme? In the Gangster Underworld, it was called “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

Wiki: A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that involves paying abnormally high returns to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from the profit from any real business. It is named after Charles Ponzi. The term "Ponzi scheme" is used primarily in the United States, while other English-speaking countries do not distinguish in colloquial speech between this scheme and other forms of pyramid scheme.

The scheme usually offers abnormally high short-term returns in order to entice new investors. The perpetuation of the high returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises (and pays) requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going.

The system is destined to collapse because there are little or no underlying earnings from the money received by the promoter.


When he was arrested last week, Mr. Madoff estimated that investors lost as much as $50 billion in the fraud, according to court filings. Mr. Madoff has said the scam was a Ponzi scheme, a type of fraud in which early investors are paid off with money from later victims, until no more money can be raised and the scheme collapses.



There is one fact that rings true in all Ponzi schemes, and that is its inevitable collapse. It appears that Master Madoff keep juggling the books, robbing Peter and paying Paul, until there was no more money to pay Paul. Or, maybe it was the crush of a falling stock market and mass exodus of investors that brought Madoff face to face with his own illiquidity. It appears that greed in the excess has been the undoing of many wealthy investors who put all of their trust in the Wall Street guru

[Report from,2933,468824,00.html]

From individual investors to small businesses to doctor's cooperatives — and even to the town itself — Fairfield, Conn., gave its money to Bernard Madoff. And now it's left with a pile of old statements telling investors how much money they never really had… Madoff, the former chairman of Nasdaq, was arrested by federal officials last week on charges he orchestrated an elaborate Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors of up to $50 billion and leaving a trail of financial devastation in his wake.

Eddie Griffin Commentary

It was reported that in order to get into Madoff investments ventures, the investor had to open an account, with a minimum amount of a million dollars. Imagine! Fifty-billion dollars vanishes on paper, first; hence, maybe the reason behind why Madoff keep different sets of books. (Was he playing a shell game with the financial records?)

When the name of the game is complexity, then those with the most convincing financial gibberish and jargon can easily con the naive investor, by flirting with their greed instinct, right on the tip of their taste bud. Madoff caught fish from a barrel with old fashion devil bait.

The biggest Wall Street bailout is now beginning to look like the largest heist in American history, even bigger than Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Who can trust Wall Street now?

Monday, December 15, 2008

About the $700 Billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Funds?

The First Report of the Congressional Oversight Panel for Economic Stabilization December 10, 2008

Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) will release two public reports:

On Jan. 10, it will release a report that examines the administration of the TARP program, including the impact thereof on the economy to date.

On Jan. 20, COP will release a report providing recommendations for reforms to the financial regulatory structure. This report will provide a roadmap for a regulatory system that would revitalize Wall Street, protect consumers, and ensure future stability in our financial markets. Through these reports, the Oversight Panel will reveal the results of its investigations to the American people.


In response to the financial crisis, Congress passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, authorizing the Treasury Department to commit up to $250 billion in taxpayer dollars, to be followed by another $100 billion and another $350 billion if warranted. The statute also created a Congressional Oversight Panel (COP).

The Act’s purposes are to “restore liquidity and stability to the financial system of the United States . . . in a manner that (A) protects home values, college funds, retirement accounts, and life savings; (B) preserves homeownership and promotes jobs and economic growth; (C) promotes overall returns to the taxpayers of the United States; and (D) provides public accountability.” From the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to the present date, Treasury has used its authority under the Act to provide 87 banks with $165 billion in exchange for preferred stock and warrants. Treasury further used its authority to provide AIG with $40 billion in exchange for preferred stock and warrants, and to provide Citigroup with a further $20 billion in preferred stock and warrants... (excerpted)


To restore stability to the financial system, the government must stop tinkering with the market. As any expert will tell you, there are no experts when it comes to the volatile mood swings in market behavior. Ultimately, market behavior is human behavior, insofar as behind every investment decision is a “decider”, fickle human beings.

What is going on, behind the scene, is a bunch of financial gurus trying to figure out something someone can understand: Human Behavior in making investment decision… Call it Paulson’s “Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Moe Dilemma” in Voodoo Trickle Down Economics.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Put Kids First Campaign

Endorsed by Eddie G. Griffin, International Child Rights advocate

On Feb. 4, 2009, adults and youth from throughout the state will be asking elected officials to

Put Kids First in their decision making for Texas.

Please send:
Student Letters to Leaders
by January 30, 2009

Include your school or program address and an optional wallet-sized photograph to:

Put Kids First
c/o Texans Care For Children
814 San Jacinto, Suite 201
Austin, Texas 78701

Students should include in their letters an introduction of who they are (name, grade, etc.), their reason for writing, and what change they think is needed for kids in Texas. You can also have students attach walletsized pictures of themselves to their letter.

Explain that the elected officials will keep the pictures to remember all the youth and children they work for.

The leaders will likely send replies to the address on the letter (e.g., your program’s address). Also, with this address, we will make sure the letters get to one or more of the correct legislators for your district.

Send envelope of letters postmarked by January 30, 2009 to:
Put Kids First, c/o Texans Care For Children, 814 San Jacinto, Suite 201, Austin, Texas 78701

Thursday, December 4, 2008

HELLO from Death Row

Testimony of the Outlaw Eddie Griffin

TO Mike Ward & Jerry Madden:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hello. Let me speak to the Warden. This is Eddie Griffin calling from Death Row.

WHAT?! That doesn’t even sound right, a man using a cell phone calling from death row. But it happens in Texas, obviously more than prison officials realized.

On Wednesday morning, state prison officials unveiled a massive $65.8 million plan to curb an epidemic of smuggled cell phones and other contraband in Texas’ lockups, reports Mike Ward, Austin American-Statesmen.

Hello Mike, Please say again. They are going to spend $65.8 million dollars to patch up a crack in the Texas prison system that’s big enough to drive a Mac Truck trough. Come on!

Hello Jerry, This is Eddie Griffin, the man who first told you to turn over the rock in the Texas Youth Commission’s detention facilities. Didn’t I warn also of the problems of corruption in the adult prison system?

As a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, with a Ph. D in Survival, I can tell you, first hand, that the taxpayers’ money would be better spent on an ounce of prevention, rather than the $65.8 million pound of cure.

By now you realize the public outrage over TDCJ’s funding request:

Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the funding will be sought immediately, through special approval of state leaders, instead of waiting for legislative approval next year.

Livingston would avoid the scrutiny of day.

Tell me: Are any of these the “privatized prisons”, where we have found corruption before.

A writer writes:

This is an internal, employee, management, etc problem, for many, many years, everybody including inmates, knew of these problems, most of the criminals all ready know how to beat the systems before they get there. demote every employee that is in any supervisory position, if they clean up this mess, give them the position back, if not then promote the ones who will be there the rest of there life, waiting for these dead heads to retire. [signed Been There]

As a former prison consultant with some knowledge on this issue, it is doubtful that this expensive plan will accomplish its intended purpose.

The introduction of contraband in prisons is primarily due to the cooperation of the guards, and no amount of hardware is going to remedy it.

I would suggest that considerably more research be done before proposing a costly knee jerk response to the Texas legislature that is doomed to fail in its primary objective: limiting the introduction of contraband into the Texas prison system. [signed Anon]

I work inside the prison. We need help! We need random drug testing, cut sick days in half, termination on the spot (not after 9 disciplinaries), quit recruiting employees at high schools, payphones will help and a few extra dollars in my check, then raise the hiring standards. Not $65million dollar metal detector, I am a tax payer too! That is the goofiest idea our leaders have ever come up with. I think we need to look at replacing our leaders, how many escapes? employee homicide? serious assaults? have we had in the last couple of years. Now we get tough because someone got a call? Austin Drama! [signed By BD]

Testimony of the Outlaw Eddie Griffin

Living in prison is not easy for prison guard or prisoner, but they must contend and suffer with each other’s presence for at least eight hours a day. The prison guard goes back home to wife and children, and the prisoner goes back to naught, but an empty cold bunk bed.

Okay, Johnny Reb, don’t make my day. I’m a lifer, got nothing lose, but my soul, and I’m already in hell. So, don’t make my day, Charlie.

That was my way of getting prison guards off my back.

Hey Charlie, come here a second. I don’t know if you know the rules around here. We, the inmates, outnumber the guards 15-to-1, so don’t get us started. You can come to work, and work a sweet cakewalk 8-hour shift, or your can put in overtime, putting out fires.

Charlie, we got a contest here. Who can take out whom the fastest! Everybody say I am the fastest. You been told!

That was my warning. We were all gladiators, in a fight to the death. Call me more blessed than a cancer survivor.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

If the Trumpet gives an Uncertain Sound:

Who Shall Prepare Himself for Battle?
A Lesson By Eddie Griffin

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

At 2 minutes 2 seconds into the YouTube video speech on World AIDS Day, President-elect Barack Obama reaches into his memory of scripture from the Bible and pulls out this jewel from Paul, the apostle, to the Corinthians:

If the trumpet does not sound a clear call who will get ready for battle?

The President-to-be accurately quoted 1 Corinthians 14:8 NIV, an excellent scriptures for a rallying call. The KJV version speaks of the trumpet making an "uncertain sound"

Two messages in two days from 1 Corinthians 14- This should inspire a lesson. The message, coming from the Sunday morning's sermon, highlighted the “uncertain sound” in churches and in the world. Barack Obama’s message emphasized was the “certain sound”, the sound that one can be assured of, as in the Word of God, and a sense of certainty and reassurances in Obama's words, promises, and actions.

Liken to a trumpeter, Obama implies that he will send out a “clear call” to the public.

The “uncertain sound” in the KJV signifies a wrong message being sent out. Like the playing of Taps instead of Reveille, an uncertain sound confuses the troops. The opposite is the “certain sound”, and there is nothing more certain to me than the Word of God?

Heaven and earth will pass away. But his Word will last forever.

Of this, I am certain: Nietzsche is dead.

ONCE “the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman”. It was the watchman’s job to Blow the Trumpet at the first sign of danger. If the watchman does his job, “blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head.” If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but God will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.

This is the scenario given in Ezekiel 33:1-20.

The elected watchman who refuses to blow the trumpet is only confounded by the watchman who blows the trumpet and makes an uncertain sound. Shall God hold the blood of lost souls upon the heads of the watchmen who led them away with strange “uncertain” sounds?

This quarter I will devote my Wednesday Night Bible Class to the study of The Trumpet: God’s Word.

Monday, December 1, 2008

AIDS and the At-Risk Male Prison Population

By Eddie Griffin

Monday, December 01, 2008

The United Nations has designated today as World AIDS Day to spread international awareness to the global deadly pandemic of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

AIDS is now a pandemic of epic proportion. In 2007, an estimated 33.2 million people lived with the disease worldwide, and it killed an estimated 2.1 million people, including 330,000 children.

People with AIDS often have systemic symptoms of infection like fevers, night sweats, swollen glands, chills, weakness, and weight loss. These symptoms and infections result from damages caused to the immune system cause by caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Some estimate that 25% of sub-Sahara Africa is infected with the disease. Indeed, this is where much of the world focus has been trained. By closer to home, nearly 25% of the US prison population is infected.

Based upon findings by Dr. David Wessner, Department of Biology at Davidson College, Ali Cundari reports:

U.S. prison populations are at a record high today, with barely enough room to house incarcerated individuals. Due to the close proximity and high-risk behaviors of inmates, as well as a lack of intervention from authorities, the transmission of HIV in prisons is a major problem today. A combination of both pre-existing and new infections plague prison populations, making them one of UNAIDS’ four major at-risk groups for HIV/AIDS.

In 2005, 1.8% of all state inmates and 1.0% of all federal prison inmates in the U.S. were believed to be HIV positive, leading to a total of 22,480 infected individuals behind bars. These percentages are disproportionate to the rest of the general population, making HIV/AIDS about four times as common among inmates than the population at large. Around 25% of all HIV infected people have spent time in a correctional facility.

In a research report sponsored by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC), the National Institute of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and submitted to Congress in 2002, the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice presented this data:

On June 30, 1997, more than 6,300 state/federal prison inmates and more than 2800 jail inmates had AIDS… Also, there were more than 2,600 state/federal prison releasees and more than 36 000 jail releasees with AIDS in 1997. Thus, almost 16% of the estimated total of 247,000 persons living with AIDS in the United States in 1997 passed through a correctional facility that year.

After applying our point prevalence range of 1.45% to 2.03%, there were between 17,000 and 25,000 state/federal prison inmates and between 8,000 and 11,000 city/county jail inmates with HIV infection (non-AIDS)… Given the same prevalence range, between 112,000 and 157,000 people with HIV infection (non-AIDS) were released from US prisons and jails in 1997. This estimate suggests that between 22% and 31% of the approximately 503,000 people living with HIV infection (non-AIDS) in the United States in 1997 passed through a correctional facility that year.

Doctors and researchers are not ignorant of the magnitude of the AIDS epidemic in the US prison system. Rather, it is the inmate population that is ignorance.

Dubbed the “first conference of its kind”, The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) brought together some 128 inmates from 16 state prison units to the Darrington Prison Unit in 2002 to distribute information about AIDS and other infectious diseases, with hopes that peer education would cause to the information to spread among the 143,000 inmate population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ignorance about AIDS is widespread among the prison population, the inmates said.

Although the state of Texas now provides HIV testing for incoming and outgoing prisoners, such tests are voluntary and there is still widespread ignorance among inmates about the disease. A Texas State Epidemiologic Profile, 2005 reports that the incidence of HIV is about 7 times higher in the Texas criminal justice system than it is in the general population, and that the state releases a little more than 100 HIV-positive prisoners each month.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that there were 847 AIDS cases and 2,450 HIV in Texas of June 30, 1999. By 2002, TDCJ had released 575 inmates who had tested positive for HIV/AIDS. And, with the high rate of recidivism, TDCJ now finds itself importing almost as many HIV-positive convicts as it releases.

Eddie Griffin Commentary

There are many ways HIV/AIDS can be transmitted among prisoners, such as with sharing dirty needles for injecting illicit drugs, or sharing razors and toothbrushes, or tattooing and body piercing with crude homemade germ-catching devices. But the most common mode of transmission is through consensual and non-consensual sex between inmates. Because of fear and shame associated with same sex practices behind bars, gang rapes, and a foreboding convict code of Omerta, most prisoners will avoid voluntary HIV testing. This gives penal authorities reason to believe the HIV/AIDS pandemic is more widespread in prison that reported.

Prior to the mid-1970s, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome was largely unheard of in the prison environment. Officially, the disease was not discovered until the early 1980s, though there was an earlier newspaper account about the disease in a New York newspaper. The diseased crept into the system and contaminated a large part of the prison population before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and United Nations recognized that the incarcerated were more at risk than the general population, and that the disease would be carried back out into the free world, only to contaminate others.

We find the same level of ignorance among sexually active teenagers. There is a common disbelief that casual sex (or rape) can lead to such a terrible fatal disease. The magnitude of the pandemic is incomprehensible, and the suffering from it inconceivable.

The general approach to a prevention campaign has been through mass public awareness campaign and advocating safe sex practices.

I teach abstinence as the most effective means of prevention, because there is no safe sex, insofar as there is no sin-free sex except by marriage. And, in that case, there are some preventative steps to take before walking down the aisle.

As for how to teach inmates the same lesson of abstention, HIV/AIDS education should focus on what happens to the human body as it degenerates. Some inmates may be suffering the symptoms and yet passing it on without knowledge.

If there is a cruel death in nature, it would be to die with AIDS. The onset of the disease comes with fever and chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, swollen glands, tumors, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and dementia. The progression of the disease follows bad-to-worse before death.

With competent information about the disease, an at-risk prison population is face with a choice in their behavior and the consequences. This is the same way we should present information about the disease to at-risk teens, and the public in general. The format is simple: (1) This is the disease AIDS; (2) This is what it does; (3) This is how it is contracted; (4) These are the preventions; and (5) These are the options short of a cure.