WE CONNECT THE DOTS FOR YOU
Last week, the PRISON LAW OFFICE got the CALIFORNIA YOUTH AUTHORITY to sign a consent decree to change the way the CYA handles its wards. In the recent past, there have been reports of abuse, inadequate supervision, beatings and two suicides that could have been prevented. For more insight on the CYA, its troubles and its successes I can refer you to an excellent blog -- yukonst.blogspot.com. It's run by an ex-offender who turned his life around decades ago and went on to become a college professor. Good stuff and worth your time.
The CYA consent decree articles have run in all the usual media -- LA Times, LA Daily News, Fresno Bee, and Sacramento Bee. You can read them on their sites.
The suit was filed by the Prison Law Office on behalf of MARGARET FARRELL, the aunt of a CYA ward who was locked down in solitary for months and fed "blender meals," a vile concoction that's as tasty as it sounds. A whole meal is put in a blender and fed to the ward. This is intolerable.
What the usual media didn't mention is that this Margaret Farrell is the same woman who was indicted by the US Attorney in Los Angeles in 1999 in a RICO case along with some 40 other individuals. Those individuals included legendary Eme carnal BEN "TOPO" PETERS, Peters' wife SALLY and other associates and brothers.
Farrell was charged with passing messages from locked up homies and shot callers to Southern Soldiers on the street. The indictment claimed that at least one of the messages passed by Farrell resulted in a homicide. The charges against her were ultimately dropped. It's unclear whether a deal was struck or what.
For crime history fans, there are interesting connections here. For one, the Prison Law Office has its roots in the Sixties. It began as the PRISON LAW PROJECT and was created as a prisoner advocate organization by another legend in the annals of crime and justice -- FAY STENDER. Stender was a lawyer who took on the case of GEORGE JACKSON, the BLACK PANTHER field Marshal, and that of the SOLEDAD BROTHERS. You regular readers already know that JACKSON started the BLACK GUERILLA FAMILY in the '70s, a prison gang that exists to this day and has spawned other black prison gangs and splinter groups.
According to the literature, JACKSON had asked Stender to smuggle him a gun into SAN QUENTIN. His plan was to escape, make his way to Angola, build a revolutionary army, invade the U.S. with it and bring down the "system." He was nothing if not ambitious. Not to mention delusional.
Stender, though dedicated to THE CAUSE, was no idiot. She refused to get him a gun. And she began to distance herself from the prison and revolutionary movement. Eventually, she was paid a visit one night by persons unknown, but apparently known to her, and shot five times. She survived but was paralyzed from the waist down. Fearing for her life from the Panthers, she moved to Europe. Broken and disillusioned she eventually committed suicide.
Other connections. EDWARD BUNKER tells a story about Fay Stender at then time he was housed at San Quentin. One of Bunker's crimies, a white guy, was also represented by Stender. He told Bunker that Stender wanted to know why the white inmates weren't assaulting and killing prison guards like the blacks. There had been dozens of serious assaults and a half dozen prison guard killings at the time and Stender wanted that increased and she wanted the white inmates to step up and take some action like JACKSON and the PANTHERS were doing. Bunker, as did most white and Hispanic inmates in Quentin, considered her a Marxist loony who didn't care how many guards, or inmates, were killed as long as the "movement" continued to stir up agitation.
A significant branch of these connections leads to STEVE BINGHAM, a lawyer who ran in Fay Stender's circles. He was accused of smuggling the gun to GEORGE JACKSON, the ultimate step of committment to the cause that Stender refused to do, triggering the bloodbath that resulted in the death of San Quentin guards and a couple of inmates, not to mention Jackson's death from two rounds fired by a gun guard. Bingham obtained phony travel documents through his friends in the San Francisco undergound and lived in Europe for 13 years as a fugitive. He came back to face the music and was found not guilty of the gun smuggling charge.
Yet another connection leads to ANGELA DAVIS, the one-time revolutionary. A year before George Jackson's failed escape attempt with the gun Bingham smuggled in, JONATHAN JACKSON, George's younger brother, tried to bust out some of George's homies. The place was the Marin county Courthouse. These were the days before metal detectors and pat downs in all city buildings.
Three of George's crimies were on trial in Judge Harold Haley's court. Jonathan Jackson came into the courtroom carrying a satchel full of guns, one of which was a .30 cal M1 carbine. He flashes the carbine, disarms the bailiffs and hands out the guns to defendants RUCHELL McGEE, JAMES McCLAIN and WILLIAM CHRISTMAS, all associates of George Jackson. They took the Judge, the prosecutor and three female jurors hostage and walked out of the courthouse. There was a shootout in the parking lot and only the female jurors, the prosecutor and Ruchell McGee survived. Judge Haley had his head taken almost completely off by the shotgun that Jackson had taped and wired around his neck. The prosecutor was paralyzed by a round in his spine. The carbine and ammunition Jonathan Jackson used in the breakout attempt was purchased by Angela Davis at a San Franciso sporting goods store. She became a fugitive for a while but they name things in Universities after her now.
There are further connections that extend like a root system from the PRISON LAW PROJECT and George Jackson to the Eme, and include such disparate names as Bruce Dern, Tom Hayden, Candace Bergen, Robert Scheer, Mundo Mendoza and a wild cast of characters and events that would make a pretty good epic novel. Or film.
What's the point of all this? Just that it pays to know your history if you're going to read the paper or watch a news show with any kind of critical mind. Or read a blog for that matter. Nothing exists in a vacuum. It's been said that what we see in the news is a snapshot in time. I prefer to think of it as a couple of frames from a reel of film. And the reel is big and goes back a long, long way. I'm just trying to run you some frames from an earlier screening. Enjoy the show and watch for coming attractions.