FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 31, 2016
‘Fight Toxic Prisons’ Convergence Challenges Department of Justice to Eradicate Environmental Health Hazards in U.S. Prisons
Political Prisoners and Environmentalists Vow to Stop Prison Plan on Appalachian Coal Mine
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former political prisoners will converge with environmental and prisoners’ rights activists in Washington D.C. under the banner of the #PrisonEcology movement. Direct actions, demonstrations, forums, and lobbying June 10th – 13th will focus on prison pollution affecting the 2.3 million individuals currently incarcerated in the U.S., as well as prison workers and residential communities surrounding detention facilities. The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) brought together the coalition participating in this multi-pronged weekend of protest.
“We knew we were held on a Superfund site at FCI Victorville, our only water contaminated with heavy metals and the very air we breathed laden with toxic dust,” said Eric McDavid, an environmental activist who served 9 years before the FBI released previously suppressed files that outlined his entrapment. California’s Victorville Prison is only one of many facilities around the country where serious environmental hazards put the health of inmates at risk of injury, disease, and death. Click here for a map of Examples of Environmental Justice Issues for U.S. Prisoner and Detainee Populations.
On Monday, June 13th, demonstrations at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) main office, 320 First St., NW, will protest these toxic prison conditions, specifically, a $444 million federal prison proposed for a former mountaintop removal coal mining site in the Appalachian Mountains of Letcher County, Kentucky. The plan, currently undergoing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process required under federal law, is facing strong opposition over concerns of contaminated water, radon exposure, and destruction of endangered species habitat.
“The prison proposed in Letcher County would continue the BOP’s shameful legacy of trampling human rights by incarcerating people in toxic conditions,” said Panagioti Tsolkas, organizer from the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons. “While many prisoners lose their right to vote and the 13th Amendment still allows them to be subjected to forced labor, incarceration does not exclude them from basic environmental health protections required by law.”
On Friday, June 10th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to meet with Tsolkas, and groups including the Sierra Club, the Human Rights Defense Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, Alliance for Appalachia, and other Prison Ecology activists who will urge federal recognition of environmental justice absent within prisons, jails, and other detention centers. Disproportionately represented in these facilities are African American, Latino, Indigenous, and low-income people.
A Saturday evening panel will feature Eric McDavid along with Peg Millett, an eco-prisoner from the 1989 Arizona 5 case; Peter Clark of the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee; and Ramona Africa, the sole survivor of the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia. All will be available for media inquiries prior to and throughout the weekend.
Starting at 7:30pm on June 11th at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (4340 Connecticut Ave NW), the panel will anchor two days of workshops and forums for experts and activists to meet and strategize.
The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) is a collaboration with the Abolitionist Law Center dedicated to challenging the prison system through grassroots organizing, advocacy and direct action. For more information about the #PrisonEcology movement, including a schedule of workshops for the convergence weekend, visit its website at FightToxicPrisons.org
For questions or interview requests, please contact:
Jazmín Rumbaut firstname.lastname@example.org
Panagioti Tsolkas email@example.com