Tag Archives: jailed

Transgender teen detained without charges, held in isolation at adult prison

A transgender teenage girl detained without being charged at Connecticut’s adult women’s prison is being held in isolation more than a month after being sent there by a state judge, her lawyer said this week.

Advocates for the 16-year-old girl, known only as Jane Doe in court proceedings because she is a minor, say they’re worried the continued isolation will cause her more psychological harm. The teen has said in court documents that she was raped and beaten while in the custody of the Department of Children and Families by relatives and a DCF worker — allegations that DCF is looking into.

“It’s widely recognized that solitary confinement is … particularly dangerous to the psychological health of children,” said David McGuire, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. “Jane Doe is not an adult. She is not a criminal. She does not belong in prison, let alone in solitary confinement.”

The teen’s lawyer, Aaron Romano, said that she is still detained in isolation and called her imprisonment “a human rights abuse.”

A state Juvenile Court judge on April 8 ordered the girl transferred from DCF custody to the state Department of Correction at the request of DCF officials, who said she was too violent for them to handle. DCF invoked a seldom-used law allowing for such a move.

It was only the second time a judge has granted such a request and the first time a transgender juvenile has been transferred from DCF to the Correction Department, according to state officials and the girl’s lawyer.

Late last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pressed for the girl to be moved out of the adult prison. A spokesman for Malloy said that the governor and DCF Commissioner Joette Katz agree that the teen must be moved as quickly as possible and that Katz was working on a plan.

The girl, meanwhile, has filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to ban the state from detaining her in an adult prison and to order DCF to create programming for treating and rehabilitating transgender youth that she could attend. A status conference was scheduled for today.

The girl has been at the York Correctional Institution women’s prison in East Lyme since the judge’s ruling. Judge Burton Kaplan ordered that she be held in isolation for no more than 72 hours while prison officials evaluated where to place her, but then left it up to Correction Department officials on where and how she should be detained — making it possible to continue her isolation.

A Department of Correction spokesman, Andrius Banevicius, declined to comment earlier in the week on whether the girl is in solitary confinement. He cited state laws banning the release of information about juveniles. He said the agency is making every effort to appropriately treat and supervise her.

The girl’s supporters also have criticized state officials for originally seeking to have the girl detained at a boy’s detention center.

Pregnant women shackled, jailed for alleged substance use

A pregnant woman tumbles down a flight of stairs and is arrested for attempted feticide. A pregnant woman about to be released from prison is re-incarcerated when the judge learns she is pregnant and HIV-positive. A pregnant woman informs health care workers that she previously used drugs but kicked her habit and is clean. She’s handcuffed, shackled, taken to court and ordered into detention at a drug treatment facility.

All of these incidents happened.

The last one occurred in Wisconsin last summer, leading to the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit in Milwaukee and helping to inspire two state legislators to offer a trio of bills aimed at protecting the rights of pregnant women.

In mid-March, Democratic state Reps. Chris Taylor and Terese Berceau of Madison introduced the Pregnancy Protection Package, which was not passed in the 2014 session but will be reintroduced next session.

In the headlines when Taylor and Berceau offered the bills was a battle in Texas, where hospital officials had refused to remove 33-year-old Marlise Muñoz from life support because of her pregnancy, even though the woman had been declared brain dead and had previously indicated to her family that she did not want to be kept alive artificially.

One bill, authored by Berceau, would ensure pregnant women’s advanced medical directives are respected.

“Pregnant women are not second-class citizens and deserve the same rights as everyone one else,” Berceau stated. “Major medical decisions, as outlined in advanced directives, are very personal decisions that should be left up to individuals and their families, not politicians.”

A second measure, introduced as Assembly Joint Resolution 111, would affirm “that pregnant women be afforded all the rights of non-pregnant people.”

And the third bill, written by Taylor, would ensure pregnant women who are alleged to have used drugs have the right to counsel before being detained.

This last measure is a response to the forced detention last summer of Alicia Beltran of Jackson. Beltran, seeking prenatal care, told a health-care provider that she had previously used drugs but was clean. Several days later, Beltran was handcuffed in her home, shackled and taken to a holding cell. She was then brought before a judge, where she found her fetus had a court-ordered attorney but she had no counsel.

At the hearing, without testimony from any medical expert, Beltran was ordered to spend 78 days in a drug rehab facility, where, she maintains, she went without adequate health care or prenatal care.

The federal civil rights complaint is pending in the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.

Beltran is represented by attorney Linda Vanden Heuvel, who has said locking up the woman was not in the interest of a future child and “most certainly tramples the rights of Ms. Beltran, a woman who was not in fact using any controlled substances at the time of her arrest.”

The complaint challenges a 1997 Wisconsin law that “takes away from a pregnant woman virtually every right associated with constitutional personhood — from the most basic right to physical liberty to the right to refuse bad medical advice,” stated Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and a co-counsel in the case. “This kind of dangerous, authoritarian state action is exactly what happens when laws give police officers and other state actors the authority to treat fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses as if they are already completely separate from pregnant women.

The complaint lists a series of violations, including the rights to:

• Physical liberty

• Due-process notice

• Privacy in medical decision-making

• Carry a pregnancy to term

• Abortion

• Privacy in medical and personal information

 • Freedom from illegal searches and cruel and unusual punishment

• Equal treatment under the law.

Four states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota — have laws that explicitly permit detaining pregnant women alleged to have used alcohol or drugs, according to NAPW.

On April 29, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam made Tennessee the first state to enact a criminal law explicitly permitting the prosecution of women for their pregnancy outcomes.

“This law is bad medicine for Tennessee families,” said Cherisse Scott, CEO of SisterReach. “It was promoted by prosecutors against the recommendations of medical professionals, (it) permits arrest and incarceration of women who cannot guarantee that their newborn is in perfect health and (it) creates a separate and unequal law for women, allowing their arrest if they are pregnant and struggling with addiction.”

Thousands had called on the governor to veto the legislation, which is in conflict with the more progressive safe harbor law that was enacted to lessen the threat of punishment and encourage pregnant women to seek treatment if needed.

The Tennessee measure is a new breed of law, but since 1973 and the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, advocates for pregnant women have documented the use of other measures to arrest, detain and force medical procedures in hundreds of cases involving pregnant women.

On April 18, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Sara Hicks, who gave birth to a healthy baby who tested positive for cocaine in 2008. The court, in an 8-1 decision, affirmed its prior ruling that “child” in Alabama law includes fertilized eggs and that women can be arrested for using a controlled substance while pregnant.

The legislation used to prosecute Hicks, the chemical endangerment law, was passed in 2006 and intended to deter people from bringing children to places where controlled substances are distributed or produced — like meth labs. 

Since 2006, more than 100 women have been arrested.

Research shows that policies that deter women from seeking prenatal care are contrary to the welfare of the mother and fetus and that incarceration or the threat of detention are ineffective in reducing drug or alcohol abuse.

There is a long list of medical and mental health organizations that oppose punishing and prosecuting pregnant women for alleged risky behavior. The list includes:

• The American Medical Association

• American Academy of Pediatrics

• American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

• American Public Health Association

• American Nurses Association

• American Society of Addiction Medicine

• March of Dimes

• American Psychiatric Association

• American Psychological Association

• National Perinatal Association

• Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs

• Center for the Future of Children.

Many of the organizations have opposed laws such as those in Wisconsin and Tennessee for more than two decades, arguing such measures not only infringe on women’s rights but also scare women away from medical care, treat addiction as a moral failing and lead women who want to give birth to instead undergo abortion procedures.

“Criminalizing pregnancy outcomes scares women away from prenatal care and drug treatment,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff attorney with National Advocates for Women. “Women who cannot afford private treatment for their addiction and who fear arrest and separation from children they already have feel as though abortion is the only way to keep their current families together.”

Jennifer Roth was among those who campaigned against the Tennessee Pregnancy Criminalization Law. She is the president of All Our Lives, which she described as a “pro-woman, pro-life organization.”

In a letter urging Haslam to veto the measure, Roth wrote, “We fear that the effect of this law will be to discourage vulnerable women from seeking care that would benefit themselves and their babies, and even to provide an incentive for abortion. That doesn’t foster life.”

Gay ‘prisoner of conscience’ dies in Cameroon

A gay man in Cameroon who was jailed for sending a text message to another man saying “I’m very much in love with you,” and who was later declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, has died, according to a lawyer who worked on his case.

Roger Jean-Claude Mbede, 34, died Friday roughly one month after his family removed him from the hospital where he had been seeking treatment for a hernia, lawyer Alice Nkom said.

“His family said he was a curse for them and that we should let him die,” she said.

Mbede was arrested in March 2011 in connection with the text message and convicted the following month under a Cameroonian law that imposes up to five years in prison for homosexual acts. He received a three-year sentence.

Cameroon brings more cases against suspected gays than any other African country, according to Human Rights Watch. The rights group said in a March 2013 report that at least 28 people had been charged under the law in the past three years.

Mbede developed the hernia while in prison. In July 2012, he was granted provisional release on medical grounds, according to Human Rights Watch, and went into hiding. An appeals court upheld his conviction in December 2012.

“I accuse the state,” said Nkom, the most prominent of a small group of lawyers in Cameroon willing to defend suspects charged with violating Cameroon’s anti-gay law. “If there had not been criminalization of homosexuality, he would not have gone to prison and his life would not be over. His life was finished as soon as he went to prison.”

Cameroonian officials have been unapologetic about their enforcement of the anti-gay law, and have rejected recommendations from the U.N. Human Rights Council to protect sexual minorities from violence. Appearing before the council in September 2013, Anatole Nkou, Cameroon’s ambassador to Geneva, testified that a prominent gay rights activist found tortured and killed last year died because of his “personal life,” prompting outcry from international rights groups.

Lambert Lamba, a Cameroonian activist who works on behalf of sexual minorities, said Mbede had been out of the hospital for about one month prior to his death and had received no medical care during that time.

“His family said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him,” Lamba said. “I went to see him in his village. He could not stand up, he couldn’t speak.”

Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, called on Cameroonian police to investigate Mbede’s death in light of reports that he may have been barred from receiving medical treatment.

“Roger was a courageous man who became an accidental activist after he was arrested simply for expressing his love for another man,” Ghoshal said.

Alexandre Marcel, president of the French committee for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, condemned the family’s actions in a statement, saying they were a reminder that sexual minorities must fight prejudice at both the family and state levels in anti-gay countries around the world.

Also on Friday, six men in neighboring Gabon were released after being accused of taking part in a same-sex marriage ceremony last month. Officials who held them for one night decided not to bring charges against them after determining that no marriage had occurred, said prosecutor Sidonie Flore Ouwe.

Gabon is one of 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have not criminalized homosexual acts, according to Amnesty International. However, Ouwe said that a gay marriage ceremony would constitute obscenity and an affront to public order punishable by law.

Imprisoned Pussy Riot member hospitalized

A jailed member of the Pussy Riot feminist punk band has been hospitalized and had complained of headaches and of suffering from overwork at a prison colony known for its tough conditions, a fellow band member said.

An official confirmed that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year sentence for an irreverent protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral, is in a hospital at her prison colony in Mordovia in western Russia. But Federal Prison Service spokeswoman Kristina Belousova declined to specify her illness or comment on her condition, saying only it was “nothing serious.”

She didn’t say when exactly Tolokonnikova was admitted, but said it happened recently.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, a band member who also was sentenced to two years in August but later released on appeal, added that during their trial Tolokonnikova said she was suffering from headaches and the judge ignored it. Samutsevich said that Tolokonnikova feels exhausted after working long hours with little sleep.

“They don’t allow her to have any rest; she works nearly round the clock,” Samutsevich told independent Rain TV on Friday. “She said she feels tired, extremely tired.”

Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova’s husband, said the hospitalization was connected with an appointment Tolokonnikova had been scheduled to have before she was sent to the colony, rather than a specific illness. “Obviously, the conditions aren’t that great, but her lawyer’s dealing with it,” he told The Associated Press.

In an interview published last week in the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Tolokonnikova stoically described harsh prison conditions, saying she doesn’t expect any leniency from authorities. 

Tolokonnikova, who works at a sewing machine like most female prisoners in Russia’s prison colonies, told the paper that she has had her fingers punctured by the needle but has picked up speed and experience and can now meet her quota of making lining for 320 jackets a day. Like other prisoners, she bathes once a week and uses cold water to wash the rest of the week. 

“I am not paying much attention to living conditions,” she said in an interview filmed in December. “I’m ascetic, and living conditions matter little for me.”

Tolokonnikova said she meditates to prevent her spirit from being dulled by the monotonous labor and added that the main thing she misses at her prison colony is the ability to read freely.

Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and the third band member, Maria Alekhina, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August after they raucously prayed to the Virgin Mary for the deliverance from Putin at Christ the Savior Cathedral. Samutsevich was freed in October, but the two others were sent to prison colonies. The verdict has drawn global outrage, highlighting Russia’s intolerance of dissent.

Producer of play about being gay jailed in Uganda

The British producer of a play about being gay in Uganda is in jail pending his trial on charges that he had the work performed without official authorization.

David Cecil appeared in court Thursday charged with “disobeying lawful orders” from the Uganda Media Council, which says he staged “The River and the Mountain” in Uganda’s capital last month despite orders to the contrary.

Cecil’s lawyer, Francis Onyango, said his client was not released on bail because his passport, wanted by the magistrate, had been confiscated by the police.

Cecil told The Associated Press that the play, whose main character is a gay businessman who gets killed by his own employees, was performed eight times at little-known theaters in Kampala last month. The play, a first for Uganda, was praised by gay rights activists who said it was “revolutionary” in the way it provoked an examination of common thinking about gays. But the play failed to make it to Uganda’s national theater, where producers rejected the script.

Gays are highly stigmatized in Uganda, where in 2010 a lawmaker with the ruling party introduced a bill proposing the death penalty for what he called “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill, which is now in committee, has been condemned by some world leaders. The bill’s author says he still believes it will be passed one day.

Cecil, who faces two years in jail if convicted, said he was singled out for legal action because he had become the play’s “public face,” the man who printed posters and sent out invitations. The play was written by a British student of poetry named Beau Hopkins, who has not been targeted by the police.

The play took a tragicomic view of the condition of gays in Uganda, and its playwright and producers said that was the best way to look at things. The play’s main character is a young businessman who loses friends and then gets murdered after revealing he’s gay, the victim of machete-wielding colleagues stunned that “a good man” can be gay. The gay character’s mother stages an epic but losing battle to “cure” him of his homosexuality, taking him to everyone from a Christian pastor to a private dancer.

Cecil said at the play’s premiere in Kampala that he did not believe the drama was “a magic pill” against raging homophobia in the East African country.

Global activists gear up for Pussy Riot rallies

The global campaign to free Pussy Riot is gaining speed. Supporters of the punk provocateur band mobilize this week in at least two dozen cities worldwide to hold simultaneous demonstrations an hour before a Russian court rules on whether its members will be sent to prison.

The rallies set for Aug. 17 will ride a wave of support for the three women who have been in jail for more than five months because of an anti-Putin prank in Moscow’s main cathedral. Calls for them to be freed have come from a long list of celebrities such as Madonna and Bjork. Protests have been held in a number of Western capitals, including Berlin, where last week about 400 people joined Canadian electro-pop performance artist Peaches to support the band.

In one of the most extravagant displays, Reykjavik Mayor Jon Gnarr rode through the streets of the Icelandic capital in a Gay Pride parade dressed like a band member – wearing a bright pink dress and matching balaclava – while lip-synching to one of Pussy Riot’s songs.

Amnesty International has called the women prisoners of conscience and begun collecting signatures by text message for a petition to be sent to the Russian government, while the U.S. State Department has repeatedly expressed its concern.

Although the band members and their lawyers are convinced that the verdict depends entirely on the will of President Vladimir Putin, and prosecutors have asked for a three-year sentence, activists hope their pressure will ease punishment or even free the women.

Putin has said the women should not be judged too harshly, but he risks appearing weak if they walk free.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were little known before their brief impromptu performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral in February. Dancing and high-kicking, they shouted the words of a “punk prayer” asking the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Putin, who was set to win a third term in a March presidential election. 

They were arrested on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years. Since then, they have been vilified by the state media – while winning over hearts abroad.

Madonna donned a balaclava during a concert in Moscow last week and had “Pussy Riot” written on her bare back. Yoko Ono sent a personal message to Samutsevich, saying that “the power of your every word is now growing in us.”

A group of leading British musicians, including Pete Townshend of the Who and members of the Pet Shop Boys, published  a letter in the Times of London ahead of Putin’s visit during the Olympics to urge him to give the Pussy Riot members a fair hearing.

On Friday, activists in more than a dozen cities, from Moscow to Toronto, are expected to take to the streets at 2 p.m. Moscow time (1000 GMT), an hour before the judge is to issue the verdict. The protests are being coordinated by the defense lawyers.

Venues vary from the square outside the ornate Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona to the yard outside the Russian Embassy in London.

In Paris, the protest will be held on Stravinsky Square and led by 29-year-old Alexey Prokopyev from Russie-LibertΘs, a Paris-based organization formed in December to bring together Russians studying or working in France.

“Most people go to these rallies in Paris because we cannot be in Russia at the moment for various reasons – because of jobs, classes,” said Prokopyev, who was born in the Soviet Union and has spent most of the past 17 years in France. “We all wish we were in Moscow now, but since we can’t we do it in Paris.”

Russie-LibertΘs also is helping to organize rallies in Marseille, Nice, Lyons and Montpellier.

Wearing balaclavas, activists protested earlier this month on the iconic Alexander III bridge, named after the Russian czar who was France’s ally in the 1890s.

Prokopyev said that he and his peers “want Russia to be a normal country” and be able to elect a president “who doesn’t make the country where we were born a laughingstock.”

In New York, Friday’s protest will take place outside the Russian Consulate and later on Times Square. 

“It’s absurd that this case is being treated as criminal, while in any other civilized country that would be merely an administrative offense,” said Xenia Grubstein, a 31-year-old journalist helping to organize the New York protest.

She said the hope was that the louder people speak out against the Pussy Riot case, the greater the chance that the verdict will be fair.

A protest is also planned in Washington, where last month punk rockers and arts activists rallied outside the Russian Embassy.

The U.S. State Department has expressed concern about what it called the “politically motivated prosecution of the Russian opposition and pressure on those who express dissenting views.”

In France, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti last week issued a statement expressing concern that artistic freedom was on trial.

A German cross-party group of lawmakers sent a letter to the Russian ambassador calling the five months the band members have spent in custody and the possible prison terms “draconian and disproportionate” punishment.

“In a secular and pluralistic state, peaceful artistic activities – even if they may be seen as a provocation – should not lead to accusations of a serious crime and long prison sentences,” the lawmakers said in the letter, which more than 100 members of parliament signed.

The international press has been full of critical reports from the trial. One of Germany’s most influential magazines, Der Spiegel, featured the band on its cover: a picture of Tolokonnikova behind bars and the headline “Putin’s Russia.”

Zimbabwe lawmaker jailed over presidential insult

The party of Zimbabwe’s prime minister says one of its lawmakers will be jailed over the holidays on charges that she insulted the president at a political rally.

AP reported that the Movement for Democratic Change said Lynette Kerenyi is scheduled to reappear in court Dec. 28 after state prosecutors defied a court ruling freeing her on $200 bail.

She had criticized President Robert Mugabe over his stand against homosexuality.

It is an offense in Zimbabwe to “undermine the authority” of the president.

The prosecutors invoked a harsh law canceling bail until they appeal the ruling. Her party has called for all minority rights to be enshrined in the nation’s new constitution.

Source: AP