Thursday, April 2, 2009

Transfer. Part 2: Humanitarian Concerns

We have heard President Obama’s words to the country... about working together, listening to and having concern for one another, learning to compromise... So let’s give that a try.

As an alternative to transfer to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, it would be acceptable to Leonard Peltier and his family if he were to be transferred to FCI Sandstone (MN) or FCI Oxford (WI)—both Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities albeit each with a lower security level.

The status of these facilities shouldn’t be an issue. Mr. Peltier has been a model prisoner for the past 30 years and his security rating has been greatly reduced by the BOP. Peltier shouldn’t be imprisoned in a maximum security facility anymore, that is, and either of these two facilities would be appropriate places of confinement according to the BOP’s guidelines.

Whichever option the U.S. government chooses, supporters want that decision made forthwith and there is absolutely no valid reason for delay.

Remember that due to a change of mission at the prison at Lewisburg, PA, earlier this year Leonard was transferred from the penitentiary at Lewisburg to USP-Canaan. There, on January 13, he was brutally attacked. Only an international uproar caused the BOP to transfer Mr. Peltier back to the relative safety afforded by the prison at Lewisburg.

The move back to Lewisburg, however, is only a temporary measure. We know that Mr. Peltier will soon be moved to yet another prison.

We also know that the BOP has a duty to provide for Mr. Peltier’s safekeeping, care, and protection.

According to attorney Michael Kuzma, “...the BOP has not fully fulfilled its responsibility under the law. By transferring Mr. Peltier to Oxford.. or Sandstone... the BOP can take a positive step toward ensuring its legal obligation to Mr. Peltier.”

Legal and political issues aside, we have serious humanitarian concerns as regards Leonard’s situation.

Each time Peltier is moved, his family members have to pick up and resume their lives elsewhere so as to remain in close proximity to their relative, or else travel a greater distance to visit with Leonard. In the best of economic times, this creates an extreme hardship for folks with very limited means.

Mr. Peltier, who is nearly 65 years old and in poor health, doesn’t now and never has had many opportunities for contact visits with most of his family members. In addition, Leonard has little or no access to tribal leaders, beloved elders, spiritual advisors, and his overall extended family at the Turtle Mountain reservation.

This issue isn’t about what Peltier wants. It’s about what Peltier needs. We know he will always yearn for freedom – any person would – but this transfer is necessary for Leonard’s wellbeing.

Friends of Peltier

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