Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Prime Directive: Survival


On January 13, 2009, 64-year-old and ailing Indigenous activist Leonard Peltier was transferred to USP-Canaan, a maximum security facility in Waymart, Pennsylvania. Not long after his arrival, Peltier was attacked by two young inmates and sustained a number of injuries. Proven to be the victim of the attack via videographic evidence, Peltier is nevertheless being held in solitary confinement and is unable to contact family but once a month. Peltier's attorneys were denied access to their client for four days. A protest in support of Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement, occurred in San Francisco on January 23. Other protests are being planned in Colorado and elsewhere on or around February 6, the 33rd anniversary of Peltier's arrest in connection with the shooting deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Peltier's Nation, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, passed a resolution late last year requesting Peltier's transfer into their custody to serve the remainder of his sentence. Family members are supportive of such a transfer. Alternatively, family members want Peltier transferred closer to home, either to FCI Sandstone (MN) or FCI Oxford (WI). Peltier's security rating has been greatly reduced by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in recognition of his model behavior for the past 30 years.

The fact is that Peltier is an innocent man. He should be given his freedom. All that aside, his current security rating means he shouldn't even be in a maximum security prison anymore. In light of this incident, we know that the BOP cannot ensure Leonard's safety in a maximum-security environment.

Any oppressed peoples will tell you that the path to freedom is long. Therefore, our most pressing concern now must be for the safety of Leonard Peltier. Contact the BOP in support of Leonard's transfer to a safer environment.

Harley G. Lappin, Director
Bureau of Prisons
U.S. Department of Justice
320 First Street., NW
Room 654
Washington, DC 20534
Phone: (202) 307-3250
Fax: (202) 514-6878
E-mail: hlappin@bop.gov

A sample letter (that you can adapt and use for a telephone script, as well) follows.

RE: Leonard Peltier #89637-132

Dear Sir:

I was outraged to learn that, on January 13, Leonard Peltier was transferred to USP-Canaan in Waymart, Pennsylvania, where he was immediately attacked and injured by young gang members. Your inability to protect Mr. Peltier in this or any other maximum security facility is clearly evident.

I understand that last August Mr. Peltier properly submitted a formal application for transfer to an institution close to his home in North Dakota—either the low-security prison at Sandstone, Minnesota, or the medium-security facility in Oxford, Wisconsin. Such an assignment, I know, would comply with Program Statement 5100.08 which states that the BOP is to make every effort to keep prisoners within a 500-mile radius of their homes so that prisoners can maintain ties to their families and home communities. In reviewing Mr. Peltier's places of confinement during the past 33 years, however, I was shocked to discover that he has never received such consideration. Apparently, your rules don't apply to Mr. Peltier and never have.

In addition, in late 2008, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians also sent a resolution to you offering a third option, i.e., that their tribesman Peltier be transferred to that Nation’s custody to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Leonard has been a model prisoner for the past 30 years. In recognition of this, the BOP has greatly reduced his security rating. Peltier shouldn’t be imprisoned in a maximum security facility anymore. His reduced security rating, Peltier’s application, and his Tribal Council’s request should have been but clearly weren't taken into account in the BOP’s recent decision to transfer Peltier to yet another maximum security prison—and one where his safety and wellbeing were put in such serious jeopardy.

The only remedy to the current situation is for you to immediately transfer Mr. Peltier to one of the above, more appropriate facilities. I strongly urge you to do so.

Sincerely,



(Your Name)
(Your Street Address)
(Your City, State and Zip Code)


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