The Murder of Mina Arevalo

On the morning after Thanksgiving, November 29, 1996, Sonoma County, California was rocked again by domestic violence homicide. Mina Arevalo, 40 years old and the mother of two young teenagers, was shot nine times by her husband Nick, who then committed suicide. Mina’s 13 year-old daughter discovered her parent’s bodies.

The homicide shocked a community still reeling from the murder of Teresa Macias, a Sonoma woman tracked down and shot to death by her estranged husband, Avelino, just seven months before. Avelino then shot and wounded Teresa’s mother, Sara, before turning the gun on himself. Law enforcement apathy and misconduct was so striking in the Macias case, it sparked a $15 million lawsuit against Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde.

Like the murder of Teresa Macias, Mina Arevalo’s death is an indictment of law enforcement’s response to domestic violence. And as with Macias, official records and interviews with friends and family show police had been called many times before.

Just six weeks before the murder, on October 12th, Rhonert Park police records show a domestic violence call to the Arevalo house. Their report says Mina was uninjured and didn’t want her husband arrested.

But when Mina later confided to a friend about the dark bruises on her arms, chest and neck, she said police, took a cursory peek in bad light and walked out. When she told them she at least wanted Nick to leave for the night, she said the officer told her, ëIt’s his house’.

It was probably this same incident Mina later described, saying police had laughed in her face. She said she asked for a Spanish-speaking officer and they told her, ëWe’re not her just to please you’, a friend states. Mina told her friend that Nick left the house that night, but returned as soon as police left. Enraged, he told her she was a fool for calling the police, and began to beat her again. Mina called the police again. They told her that if she didn’t quit calling they’d arrest her. They never came. Terrified, Mina slept in her van that night.

Tellingly, the original police report sent up to the district attorney on this incident shows a corroborating witness He said he saw the entire incident, the report states. That alone should have been enough to alert the police supervisor and district attorney there was enough evidence to press charges. The report should have been sent back to police for further investigation, instead the DA simply dumped the case for lack of corroboration. It wasn’t until December 4th, five days after the murder, that Officer Polik (in a move with no purpose but to cover his ass) wrote a supplemental report detailing the eyewitness’s statement. Yet again, law enforcement apathy literally kills.

But this was not the first police knew of Nick Arevalo’s violence. Neighbors repeatedly called to complain of his late-night shooting sprees. And police dispatch records show six calls to the Arevalo house in little more than a year, including one coded domestic dispute in August, 1995. The other 911 calls look harmless on their face — vehicle abatement and animal complaint, for example — but read on.

Friends and family confirm at least four times Mina called police to report the beatings. One call corresponds by date to one of the barking dog calls recorded by police dispatchers. On November 4th — less than a month before the murder and just two weeks after the last domestic violence call — Mina fled to a friend’s house after being beaten. She said she’d called police, but they never came.

So here we are, one year after Teresa Macias’ murder — one internal sheriff’s department investigation later, one State Attorney General investigation later, one Blue Ribbon Committee report later, who knows how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in domestic violence grants later, and what do we get? Another dead woman.

Another dead woman, and another report of police laughing in her face as they crack jokes with her batterer; threatening to arrest her and not him; failing to write an Emergency Protective Order; using her children as translators; leaving her in worse danger than when they arrived.

There’s no doubt that over the past six years, we’ve been able to wrestle some real change out of local law enforcement: more emphasis on prosecuting crimes against women, better police policies and special units, and enough training to bring most police agencies into this century. But at every turn we see that those changes extend about an inch deep, and then we run dead-on into the hard rock of unchanged police attitudes.

The backlash against every gain women make is still shocking. For example, we finally get a policy that makes the cops have to start arresting batterers, and immediately the number of women arrested on domestic violence charges skyrockets. (In Sonoma County, 1 out of 5 people arrested last year for domestic violence was a woman. This is despite national statistics showing that fully 95% of batterers are men.)

Clearly all the new policies, all the training programs, all the victim counselors in the world won’t change anything as long as the same people are in charge, and the makeup of our police forces continues to be overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male.

A key step in the right direction would be to hire women officers. After the 1991 police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, the Christopher Commission studied the LAPD and police violence. One of their findings was this; of the 120 officers with the most excessive-use-of-force reports, not one was a woman — despite the fact that 13% of LAPD sworn officers were women. At the same time, the study showed women officers weren’t reluctant to use force when necessary.

In fact the research shows that female police officers respond more effectively to crimes against women, have better communication skills, are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations, and use force less often than male cops.

Aren’t these exactly the qualities that were needed on March 24th in Rohnert Park?

Unfortunately, the odds are slim that a woman cop will respond to any given police call in Sonoma County. While women make up about 10% of police forces nationally, Sonoma County law enforcement is barely 5% women. Clearly those negotiation/defusing-violent-situation skills are just not what’s being valued.

In fact, the local sheriff’s department is actually going backwards. There are fewer female sworn deputies today than there were two years ago, while four women deputies currently have sex discrimination charges against the department — almost one out of two. Obviously they’ve got some real problems when it comes to women’s right to equal justice, in or out of the workplace.

With the current wave of killings by police, widespread public attention is finally being focused on police conduct. Demonstrations are frequent, a new group called COPA (Coalition Organizing for Police Accountability) has formed, and initial meetings have been called to form a citizen’s police review commission. This is a moment when many voices demanding real changes in law enforcement.

Women have to play key roles in this process to make sure we end up with a police review commission that investigates not just incidents of police brutality and violence, but also incidents of police neglect.

For more info about ‘Women defending women’ against police abuse in Sonoma county, contact the Purple Berets: (707) 528-9043,

Norma Jean Croy is Free!

After 19 years in prison, Native American lesbian political prisoner Norma Jean Croy is free! She made her first public appearance on International Women’s Day for an evening in solidarity with women political prisoners. Croy now resides in Oakland where she works as an auto mechanic.

USDA Set to Destroy Organic

In late summer or fall, the USDA will issue its long-delayed federal regulations on organic food. Despite precise recommendations from the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) to maintain strict organic standards — policies basically in harmony with those advocated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and the European Parliament — USDA officials have delayed as long as possible in announcing federal regulations on organics.

The main reason for the delay was agribusiness’ desire to be included in the potential profits (sales of organics have increased 20% a year since 1990). Hand in glove with the agribusiness industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA have promoted genetically engineered foods and high-chemical-input agriculture. Now the USDA finds itself in a quandary.

To define the word organic is to admit that a host of agribusiness practices such as pesticide use, intensive confinement of livestock, hormone injection, and genetic engineering are somehow less healthy. Yet, the USDA, FDA, and EPA have strenuously argued for years that these practices are perfectly safe. According to several inside sources in Washington who have seen the proposed rules, the USDA not only intends to disregard the NOSB’s explicit ban on genetically engineered food and intensive confinement of farm animals, but will actually make it illegal for regional or non-governmental organic certification bodies to uphold organic standards stricter than U.S. government standards.

If the USDA gets away with this in the United States, their eventual strategy will be to use the legal hammer of the GATT World Trade Organization to force European and other nations to lower their organic standards as well. This could cause serious repercussions internationally, where there is increasing opposition to genetically engineered food. It would have a huge impact and be viewed with utter dismay by the rest of the world, says Ken Cummins, of the International Accreditation Services, part of the International Federation of Organic Movements.

Inmates DON'T Get the Books Thrown at Them

Imagine going into your local library and trying to check out a book–only to have the librarian tell you that he’s taking away your library privileges. What for? you indignantly ask…and rightly so. I don’t like the way you’ve been looking at me, and besides, you smell kind of funny. Does this scenario sound absurd? It is, and yet this is what will happen in California’s prisons if the California Prison Authority decides to go ahead and implement drastic changes to the rules governing prisoners access to prison law libraries.

These new laws come at a time when California’s prison population is growing at an unprecedented rate, largely because of the drug laws and the Draconian Three strikes, you’re out law. The proposed restrictions on access to these libraries are also unprecedented. The Supreme Court had protected the rights of prisoners to law books in a series of decisions, starting with Gilmore v. Lynch in 1970. In this decision, the Court guaranteed prisoners reasonable access to the courts, and noted that the prisoners’ current access to the courts (and thus the law books) was so bad as to be unconstitutional.

Another landmark decision came in Lewis v. Casey, decided in 1977. The Court, which by this time had changed composition with a majority of Justices in favor of expanded civil rights, ruled that inmates have a constitutional right to meaningful access to the courts, and they must be provided with law libraries or legal assistance while incarcerated. The direct effect of these two decisions was the exposure of injustices within the prison system by informed inmates. Not only were abuses in prisons brought to light, but the court system itself was exposed as abusive and negligent of the rights of the poor prisoners.

This situation, however, is soon to change. The Prison Litigation Reform Act, introduced, fittingly enough, by former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), and sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), was designed to make it harder and more costly for inmates to file lawsuits while in prison, as well as to limit the federal court’s power to oversee conditions in local jails.

The loosely worded PLRA gives a green light to local authorities to not only violate prisoners’ civil rights, but to violate their right to access to the courts.

The first county to use the PLRA is Santa Clara County in California. The county is using this blank check to invalidate existing civil rights agreements in their prisons. The first state to make use of the PLRA is California, and it is not a coincidence that this state has the most electoral votes as well.

On 30 June 1997 the California Department of Corrections posted changes to the Prison Director’s rules. Under the guise that these new measures will save the State of California one million dollars, as well as ending the staggering number of frivolous lawsuits filed by those incarcerated, the Dept. of Corrections has instituted drastic new changes. One of the biggest problems inherent in these changes is that inmates are now restricted solely to initial pleadings. Initial pleadings are only the first step to a lawsuit, a notice of a lawsuits beginning. In other words, a prisoner can begin a lawsuit, but can do nothing to carry it out. A prisoner, for example, cannot fight for child custody under these new rules.

In reality, these changes in the rules are not to stop frivolous lawsuits or to save the taxpayers any significant amount of money. Rather, the intent of these changes is to restrict the prisoners access to the laws so much so that they will remain in prison, docile and impotent to do anything about their situation. Needless to say, this is great for the prison industry as well as for companies that contract with California’s prisons to exploit the cheap, captive labor.

The way these new rules will work in fact is simple. If a prisoner even raises his or her voice in the library (or if the librarian has a personal grudge against the inmate), the librarian can fill out a little slip of paper that bans the prisoner from the law library for three months. The wording: …upon documentation of abuse or misuse of law library resources, faculty, or staff working. An inmate could conceivably be banned from the library for writing in the books with a pencil.

If the inmate wished to contest this slip of paper, no longer would he or she be granted a hearing in front of three correctional officers. Instead, one administrator will decide the fate of the inmate’s privileges. There is no possibility of contesting this administrator’s decision.

These amendments to the Prison Director’s rules make it much more convenient for prison institutions to control the information inside the prisons and give a rosy picture to the public. Another effect of these amendments is an irony straight out of Kafka (or dictatorial governments): the prisoner is sentenced by a court of law, yet is denied access to that same law. The situation is akin to changing the rules of the game midway to finishing. That would be cheating in any reasonable game, yet that is exactly what will and is happening as we speak.

Write to the Department of Corrections to demand that these changes not be imposed:

Department of Corrections
Regulation and Policy Management Branch
PO Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001.

Private Prisons Industry Explodes

The private prison industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. This year it has set its sights on California. In just ten years, the industry has grown thirty-fold, from owning 3,122 prison beds in 1987 to owning 85,201 at the end of 1996. It has tripled in size just since 1993. Private prisons will take in $1 billion this year. With California’s prisons bursting at the seams with non-violent offenders, victimless criminals, and geriatric cases, the major corporations in the private prison biz seem set to make millions.

In late July, Corrections Corporation of American (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States, announced plans to build a $100 million, 2,000 bed prison in the Mojave Desert town of California City. CCA has no contract with the state to fill the prison, but is building the prison on speculation: Build it and they will come according to CCA supporter and state senator Richard Polanco of Los Angeles. David Myers, president of CCA, boasts that CCA has built prisons in other states on speculation and later persuaded governments to lock people in them.

While private prison corporations sell themselves as a cheap alternative to public imprisonment, their real function is to reap profits while frustrating public participation in the continuing incarceration boom. There is plenty of evidence showing that private prisons are actually more expensive than public prisons and that any alleged savings that do exist come from the fact that private prisons are contracted to hold low risk, easy to handle prisoners.

Private prisons aren’t cheaper

The 1,450 inmates already in 5 California private prisons are all minimum security, including many women and many low risk inmates in drug rehab. Rod Blonien, Sacramento lobbyist for Wackenhut Corrections Corp., the second largest private prison company in the US, predicts the state will use private prisons to store parole violators, women and geriatric inmates, and inmates with AIDS. A bill sponsored by Rep. Polanco which passed the California Senate and is pending in the House would require state officials to develop a plan by 1999 to place half of the state’s 10,000 women inmates into privately run facilities.

In Texas, which hosts one quarter of all private prisons beds and is the leader in prison privatization, private prisons get the best of the best of the state’s prison population, according to Allan Polunsky, who is chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice which oversees prisons in Texas. I truthfully feel that it has not been an economic bonanza as suggested by the companies doing business with our state notes Polunsky.

A 1996 General Accounting Office study found that existing studies were too flawed to allow it to determine whether or not privatization saved money. But the GAO noted that a 1995 Tennessee study, the most sound of the reports it examined, showed that a private prison run by CCA was slightly more expensive per inmate per day than comparable public prisons. ($33.78 per inmate per day for CCA vs. $33.18 for the state prison.)

In New Mexico, CCA is charging the state $95 per inmate per day for holding women inmates, which is about double what the state pays for overflow space in county jails. New Mexico pays about $60 per inmate per day in its own women’s facilities. The state maintains that CCA has overcharged about $2 million over the last 8 years it has run the Grant women’s prison there.

Private Prison Speculation

The main reason the private prison industry is booming is that private corporations build prison capacity on speculation using private money. State governments, who can’t keep up with rising prison numbers caused by the War on Drugs and mandatory sentence laws are desperate for more space. And private prison construction doesn’t require a prison bond measure to win an election. California voters have defeated prison construction bonds in the last three elections. Nor do legislators have to vote to build more prisons. The California legislature refused to budget any money for prison construction this year, despite the fact that the Department of Corrections predicts it will run out of prison space by the year 2000 and a prison takes at least 3 years to build. California now spends $3.8 billion on its prison system.

After 20 years of massive growth in prison populations, voters are turning down more prison construction in state after state. Despite the fact that much of he public continues to be motivated by tough on crime hysteria, they don’t want their taxes to go up or services to go down. Private prison speculation allows continued spiraling imprisonment rates without a public debate about what crimes society really thinks should be punished by imprisonment.

For example, San Bernardino is considering contracting with a private prison corporation to replace its aging juvenile hall. San Bernardino has already allocated all of its available debt funding for the next 30 years for hospital construction and can’t afford the $100 million required to replace the 1950s era juvenile facility. Private corporations have approached San Bernardino and offered to finance construction themselves. On August 19, the Board of Supervisors voted to seek state legislature lifting the ban on privately run juvenile detention facilities.

Prison Boom

The rise of private prisons is a natural outgrowth of the United States’ insane prison policies over the last 20 years. The number of federal, state and local prisoners in the U.S. has tripled since 1980 and now stands at more than 1.7 million people. In California in 1980, there were 23,511 inmates in State prisons. By 1997, it was over 152,000, a more than 6 fold increase. Government prison construction has boomed, but has been unable to keep up with demand for prison space, even given the tens of billions of dollars spent.

An estimated 25 percent of the prison population, 425,000 nationally or about 38,000 people in California, are in for drug offenses. Many other inmates who make up today’s record prison populations are in for offenses related to the War on Drugs, which has caused a rise in violence, gangs and property crimes. The War on Drugs has attacked the supply of drugs, dramatically increasing the price and making the drug war the government’s largest crop subsidy program. With drugs in high demand, turf wars claim lives and drug users can’t pay for their drugs with legal means. Until the War on Drugs is replaced with harm reduction policies or otherwise modified, the demand for an ever increasing number of prison beds will continue, and private prisons will continue to flourish.

Other causes of the imprisonment boom, and the rise of private prisons, are mandatory sentencing laws, the abolition of parole on the Federal level and in most state systems, including California, and Three Strikes laws. All of these policies, intended to get tough on crime, have lengthened sentences and taken away judicial and correctional discretion in how long inmates stay in prison. This has led to an aging of the prison population. Inmates who might have received lighter sentences because of their age or who might have been paroled when they grew elderly or infirm are now held in prisons.

The Private Prison Lobby

There is no clear evidence so far that private prison companies have had a hand in lobbying for stricter sentencing policies or harsher drug laws which expand prison populations and therefore economically benefit private prison corporations. But it is only a matter of time. It is clear that private prison firms have spent a lot of money on lobbyists in every state in which they have been successful. In Tennessee, which is considering hiring a private prison company to own the entire state prison system, CCA helped write the legislation for the hand-over.

Texas, the king of prison privatization, has seen the lar
gest scandals associated with private prison corporation corruption, influence peddling and payoffs. In January, 1996, Andy Collins, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice left the Department and immediately went into business working with its former suppliers. After a business associate of Collins was arrested for attempting to sell freedom to a Texas prison inmate for $750,000, information about numerous contracts the TDCJ had made with companies owned by Collins came to light.

In Louisiana, the East Carroll Parish Sheriff resigned on August 28 and pleaded guilty to federal charges, admitting that he had accepted $340,000 in bribes from a private prison firm there.

The biggest danger private prison corporations pose to democratic control is their ability to use the vast resources generated from private imprisonment in the political process. All the private prison corporations have a direct financial interest in enlarging the police state, passing new and harsher laws, and locking up an ever greater proportion of the population.

Interestingly enough, one of the few vocal critics of private prison corporations have been prison guards unions. This is ironic because in the past, the prison guards’ unions have supported policies that increase imprisonment and therefore benefit their membership. But one of the ways private prison corporations cut costs is by hiring non-union, minimally-paid labor–undercutting the unions’ strength. California unionized prison guards, members of the 25,000 strong California Correctional Peace Officers Association, earn starting salaries of $32,000 a year plus benefits. Union president Don Novey insists he isn’t worried about union membership declining, while he complains that public safety should not be for profit.

Ultimately, prison guards’ unions and private prison corporations may combine their efforts when they realize they have a common interest in increasing imprisonment. Both have considerable political influence and lots of money to spread around. In Tennessee, for example, CCA came to an agreement with the state AFL-CIO to allow collective bargaining for future private prison guard employees if the state privatizes its prisons. CCA therefore muted a significant critic of its plans.

Civil Rights Violations

National attention focused on the human rights standards maintained by private prison corporations after a videotape surfaced in August showing inmates being beaten, kicked and bitten by dogs at a privately run county jail in Brazoria County, Texas. In addition to the beatings depicted in Brazoria County, there have been beatings or other human rights violations of inmates at private prisons in Youngstown, Ohio, Holdenvill, Oklahoma and Eagle Mountain, California.

Evidence is mounting that private prison corporations hire supervisory staff and guards who were known rights violators at public prisons. The president of CCA, David Myers, was accused of encouraging guards to assault inmates when he worked as a state prison warden in Texas prior to joining CCA. Guards under his command raided a rioting cellblock and then beat, subdued, and handcuffed inmates with riot batons.

Two other Texas prison officials who were punished for brutality against inmates now work as wardens of CCA private prisons in Texas. Sanders E. Estes, a warden at CCA’s Venus correctional facility, punched and kicked an inmate in an office while he was a captain at the state’s Ellis Unit. Joe Driskell, a warden at CCA’s Liberty County correctional facility, beat an inmate who had forged his name on a commissary slip when he was an assistant warden at Texas’ Eastham Unit.

And two guards accused of abuses at the Brazoria County Detention Center, Wilton Wallace and Daryl French, were fired and pleaded guilty to federal crimes relating to prisoner abuse in public Texas prisons in the 1980s.

With private prisons freer from public scrutiny than public prisons, which are hardly open to the press, the potential for inmate abuse and human rights violations are immense. And the profit motive encourages less training for guards and lowers standards in hiring and background checks.

Private Prisons = Big Profits

Private prison corporations have been phenomenally successful because of the boom in private prison construction. Almost 20 private corporations own or manage 120 private prisons in 26 states and Puerto Rico.

CCA, the industry leader, has 50 prisons in 18 states. It took in $292 million dollars in 1996 and will take in much more this year. Its stock price has more than doubled since March and now stands at about $40 per share, up from $4 per share in 1994. The stock is trading at a premium of more than 50 times last year’s earnings, a ratio usually only obtained by the hottest high tech companies.

Wackenhut Corrections Corp. manages 37 prisons in North America, Europe and Australia with a total of more than 27,000 beds. It had revenue of $137.8 million in 1996. It went public at $4.50 in 1984 and now trades at $30 per share after reaching a high of $45 in 1996. Investors in CCA and Wackenhut are getting rich on the imprisonment of others.

The strong market positions of CCA, Wackenhut and other private prison companies are allowing them to plan for rapid future development. Experts expect that private prison corporations will add prison beds at a 35 percent annual rate of growth, 7 times the rate of publicly run prisons. By 2001, there could be almost 300,000 private prison beds in the U.S. alone.

In July, CCA started a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) to provide CCA with investment capital to build more prisons. The REIT, CCA Prison Realty Trust, sold stock on Wall Street to get money to buy an initial 9 facilities from CCA. CCA will operate the facilities and pay rent to the REIT. The sale price for the 9 facilities, $308.1 million, is money CCA can now use for speculation on more prisons, like the $100 million facility planned for California. Whenever CCA finishes building another prison, the REIT will buy it, giving the cash back to CCA for more expansion.

Wall street likes the REIT concept: the stock, sold in a private issue at $21 per share, opened on the New York Stock Exchange at $30 on July 15. Everyone who bought at the initial private issue price made an instant $9 per share profit.

Wackenhut is also considering starting a REIT. Investment devices such as REITs will allow the rapid growth private prison corporations are betting on. With such strong economic incentives to continue the spiraling private prison boom, and with most politicians still unable to discuss, much less enact, criminal justice reforms such as harm reduction to replace the war on drugs, the future looks bleak and private prisons look like they’re here to stay.

How weird can it get?

The private prison craze may be getting a NAFTA twist. Officials in the California Board of Prison Terms have announced a plan to build a privately run prison in Mexico to hold undocumented Mexican immigrants arrested in California. The proposed prison would be a maquiladora using slave prisoner labor. James Nielsen, chairman of the Board of Prison terms and the main supporter of the idea, would like to see the prison contain a factory modeled after California’s Prison Industries Authority. It would be built as an industrial enterprise that derived income. Nielson envisions that the products would only be sold in Mexico and abroad.

It lets individuals go to their homeland to serve out their sentences at a great costs savings, and justice prevails according to Don Novey, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. The proposal envisions a prison capable of holding 2,000 to 4,000 inmates. The Board of Prison Terms has spent $17,000 on a study of the idea and Arizona officials are already negotiating with Mexico to get their own private prison in Mexico. Nielson propose
s a joint private prison in Mexico built for California, New Mexico. Arizona and the Federal government.

As of 1996, 19,000 Mexican nationals were imprisoned in California at a cost of $466 million per year. The number is expected to double by 2010 according to the Department of Corrections. The private prison factory idea gets rid of immigrants and yet still reaps the benefits of their labor, all while increasing the power of California’s criminal justice system.

There is another way

The rise of the private prison industry threatens to further erode public participation and grease the wheels of the imprisonment machine, making it easier to imprison a higher and higher portion of the population. Private prisons are worse for inmates, worse for employees, and don’t even save government money. And while you’ve read this article, an additional private prison bed has come on line.

Most of the private prison space is being built for people who shouldn’t even be in prison: AIDS patients, the elderly, non-violent, victimless criminals, drug offenders, parole violators.

The best way to fight private prisons is to fight the policies that are increasingly creating an enslaved, prison subclass. The War on Drugs and other over simplistic get tough on crime measures like Three Strikes need to be fought and overcome. There are viable alternatives to imprisonment for many non-violent, victimless offenders who are now sentenced to prison. Public pressure is the only way to turn the prison boom around and prevent the further expansion of private prison corporations.

For more information, contact the following organizations which favor criminal justice reform.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)
1612 K Street NW #1400
Washington, DC 20006

The National Prison Project
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #410
Washington, DC 20009

National Drug Policy Foundation
4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Ste. B-500
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 537-5005.

Radioactive Art!


What markers might be sufficiently ominous or impressive to prevent people from drilling into a nuclear waste dump or otherwise releasing its radioactive burden 10,000 years from now?

Specialists estimate that English will have retained as few as 12 percent of its current basic words, and still less of its complex vocabulary. These specialists recommend a menacing earthworks design, with the land above the repository to be surrounded by immense, lightning-shaped mounds of earth.

Visitors walking through the earthworks would lose sight of the horizon and experience a loss of connection to any sense of place. In an open central area, there would be a large walk-on world map showing the location of all radioactive waste repositories.

The basic warning: Do not dig or drill here before 12000 A.D. in seven languages would be flanked by human faces, one denoting horror and the other denoting sickness and nausea.

The experts agreed that exposed site markers must be large enough to withstand centuries of wind and water erosion. They must also resist the tendency of human beings to vandalize or remove pieces of structures. They recommended using materials of little value and in shapes that make them poorly suited for reuse. What do you recommend?

Submit your artwork, or proposals and ensure your art has a half-life of 10,000 years. Still art, video, music, text, installations, whatever you think is appropriate. Enough entries will cause us to have an art show!

Radioactive Art
3124 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705

Shopping Cart People Organize

On the night of August 29 at approximately 3 a.m. in a deserted shopping market parking lot over fifty odd (yes, well, quite odd by most standards though who’s to say) homeless and home owner shopping cart drivers met to discuss mutual problems and to ORGANIZE! Notes of the meeting follow . . . .

1) The group decided to have no laws, no rules, each issue would be handled as it came along.

2) Mike Mechanic offered to help anyone with wiggley wheels.

3) The group talked anxiously about the coming end of the world and decided that they were tuned into the urgency of such an event because people with many possessions are too busy hanging onto the pleasures and decadence of this world to notice that the birds are singing new songs. The group decided that when the Big BOOM or Big Bang or big whatever comes the earth planet will be strewn with such chaos leaving those who collect recyclables in high demand. It will then be their responsibility to gather metal, including aluminum and others, plastic, paper, glass, etc. from elsewhere all over the frigging place because bits and pieces will be all that’s left of proud lands. The items will be categorized and built into their proper sections and will rise like mountains; tremendous piles like sacrificial alters rising up to the sky; leftovers from thousands of civilizations. Colossal masses of STUFF to be judged by the Gods and Goddesses. After the piles are made the shopping cart people will dust off their hands, bow their heads solemnly and then raise their heads to the sky and laugh and laugh and laugh uproariously.

4) While waiting for this finale of the earth the shopping cart group will hold a fundraiser selling empty shopping carts devoid of anything but a few microcosmic organisms to people in the islands of the South Pacific who have never seen shopping carts. The money made will sponsor a parade during which all present will decorate their shopping carts like circus floats in a parade and roll doobies as big as your arm. Contestants will box with their carts and the winner will be declared when the loser’s cart is turned upside down.

5) The group will meet whenever and carry on like there’s no tomorrow.

–signed Nate the note guy with help from Louie and Martin the Muskrat

Sister Subverter

It was like going to another world entirely, says Tatiana of Oakland’s Girl Army about Sister Subverter. The week-long gathering occurred in Northwestern Arkansas on the wooded Amazon Acres, one of several womyn owned homesteads located in that area. Sister Subverter was conceived of by Anarchist and Activist womyn who wanted a gathering that reflected their politics. This was the second Subverter.

Starting on Monday, August 18th, the gathering began with more than 200 in attendance. Daily workshops on a huge variety of topics including racism, direct action, and supporting single moms, as well as daily self-defense trainings, were well attended. Evenings exploded with fire-play, music, drumming, and spin-the-bottle. The week long corn cob building workshop yielded a permanent composting toilet.

Says another ‘subvertee’, Sister Subverter was a space for playing, exploring, exchanging experiences and skills and it is the beginning for me in a lot of ways; an inspiration for networking and living in a supportive way instead of competition.

A west coast regional spin off of S.S. called Bad-Ass and Free is now being planned for February 1998. For more information write to:

Bad-Ass and Free
c/o Black Cat Cafe
4110 Roosevelt
Seattle, WA 98105

Free the Ts'Peten Defenders

On July 30, after the longest trial in Canadian history, Canadian Government Judge Josephson sentenced 12 indigenous sovereignty activists to prison for defending their sacred land. Although the jury acquitted the activists of the most serious attempted murder charges, they were convicted of lesser charges. The judge handed down stiff sentences including an 8 year prison term for a 66 year old Shaswap elder known as Wolverine, who led the defense of the site. Three others were convicted but spared imprisonment.

The sentences are the culmination of a systematic military/political attack on the British Columbian native activists. In 1989, Shuswap faith keeper Percy Rosette asked a cattle rancher, Lyle James, if he could hold a sundance festival on a small part of a vast cattle ranch near 100 Mile House, BC. James agreed and the sundance was held every year thereafter at a native burial ground and holy place called Ts’Peten (or Gustafsen Lake).

Although a large American cattle company claims it owns Ts’Peten, the ranch is on unceded, unsurrendered Shuswap traditional territory. Under international law, the absence of a treaty or sale of the land voids the cattle company’s land claim against the Shuswap.

As people gathered for the sundance on June 3, 1995, James and 20 cowboys arrived and served a homemade eviction paper, demanding that the natives leave the area. Rosette and the others refused to leave and called for support. Several who answered the call brought rifles. The sundance was concluded but some activists stayed on the land to press their demands for ownership. Police, meanwhile, surrounded the site and a 31 day standoff began. 18 adult defenders were trapped by 400 police and army troops armed with Armored Personnel Carriers, machine guns and high tech surveillance equipment.

On September 11, a native truck was blown up by a land mine and rammed by an APC. Miraculously, the two occupants were able to survive the blast, run through the forest, swim across the lake, and eventually surrender while dodging 20,000 bullets. Police repeatedly attacked the defenders and the Canadian press portrayed the defenders as terrorists. Through the whole crisis, the defenders fired 106 bullets while the police shot 77,000, according to police records revealed during the trial. On September 17, 1995, the defenders surrendered.

The trial lasted from July 1996 to May 1997. The judge refused to permit the defenders to introduce evidence showing that the government and the Courts have no jurisdiction over Ts’Peten because it is unceded native land. The trial also revealed numerous instances of police misconduct, many caught on police video tape. The evidence released during the trial indicated that police and government officials participated in a conspiracy to kill the occupants of the Ts’Peten Sundance Camp while smearing them in the press.

Activists are now calling for public pressure to Free the Ts’Peten Defenders. 140 Department of Indian Affairs Band Council Chiefs have signed a petition demanding an inquiry into the attempted murder against the Indian People at Ts’Peten.

Meanwhile, government officials, stung by the information released during the trial, are arguing over whether they will conduct a federal or a BC based investigation of the siege. But activists don’t believe that either government body can conduct a fair investigation, since they would in essence have to investigate themselves. Activists are calling for an independent, impartial, international third party to investigate the siege and the trial.

Letters demanding a real investigation can be sent to:

Prime Minister Jean Chretien

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0A6


For more information, contact:

Settlers in Support of Indigenous Sovereignty

PO Box 8673

Victoria, BC, V8X 3S2



1. What American cattle company claims it owns the land.

2. First name of the judge

Where Women Have No Doctor

by A. August Burns, Ronnie Lovich, Jane Maxwell and Katharine Shapiro

Hesperian Foundation

Where Women Have No Doctor, is a health guide for women that has as its audience both lay health care workers and women who need information on their own health care when they can’t easily access modern medicine.

It is written in a lower literacy, easy-to-follow format with multiple illustrations inclusive of many races, body sizes and disabilities. The book often begins chapters with a story or case study, then follows with discussion on the case study and practical approaches to women’s health in this given topic. One such story is Mira’s Story, a 2-page piece about a woman who dies from cervical cancer. The chapter challenges readers to question what caused Mira’s death. Did Mira die because she didn’t know she should get a regular pap smear to detect cervical cancer before it was too late? Or did Mira die because when she first began to feel pain, her husband forbid her to seek medical care, in other words because Mira lacked power because she was a woman? Did Mira die because when she finally did seek medical care, the health worker wasn’t knowledgeable about women’s health problems and sent Mira away with an ineffective cream? Or did Mira die because her husband had genital warts but didn’t know to get treated or how to prevent passing the virus they cause to his sexual partners? Where Women Have No Doctor explores each of these causes in a nonjudgmental manner, respecting women’s cultures and beliefs while at times showing how some of these cultural norms can be psychologically or physically damaging to women.

Other stories in Where Women Have No Doctor talk about women who have made positive changes in their communities. In Zimbabwe, for example, the Musasa Project was created to help women who are victims of violence. Another story, written in the first person, talks about the narrator’s friend who died during child birth and how women in her community worked together to make child birth in their village safer for all. Two other stories talk about a woman and a couple who couldn’t conceive children and how they dealt with this.

Where Women Have No Doctor gives information to women on topics such as: how to decide whether an abortion (legal or not) will be safe, pregnancy and childbirth, sexual assault, infertility, mental health from a community point of view, female circumcision, how to make sure your water supply is not contaminated, and a section on women with disabilities. It has much to offer women in places where there are doctors as well. For example, it has suggestions on how to talk with your partner about safer sex, information on various birth control options, a chapter on sexual harassment, easy to understand material on STDs, and what to expect during a pelvic exam.

This book also has a great deal of pertinent information for health workers. It includes everything from how to give an injection, to various medications and their recommended doses, to how to tell if a fetus is positioned correctly for birth. It also gives clear indications or signs for when a health worker should transport a patient to more highly skilled medical care.

It seems the only notable exception to this books inclusiveness is its omission of talking about lesbianism and homosexuals in general. The topic is touched upon briefly when discussing gender roles in society and how, often, lesbians fall outside of these acceptable roles in many cultures. Discussions on lesbian health and lifestyle are, however, noticeably missing.

But aside from this omission, Where Women Have No Doctor is a wonderful book which can be both read cover to cover or simply kept as a reference tool. Information contained in this book is useful for lay health workers, women in other parts of the world, or women right here in the Bay Area looking for information on their own health or the global health of women and how it can be improved.

Where Women Have No Doctor is published by the Hesperian Foundation, 1919 Addison St., Suite 304, Berkeley, CA 94704, (510) 845-4507. ISBN 0-942364-25-2. 583 pages. $20.00.