Monday, June 18, 2012

Posters of the Week

500 Years of Racism Enough!
Red Sun Press
Offset, 1991
Boston, Massachusetts

End the Media Ban in California Prisons
Kim McGill
Digital Print, 2012
Los Angeles, California

CSPG’s Poster of the Week uses two posters, more than two decades apart, to focus attention on the abuse of power by those in the criminal justice system.  The first poster, produced in 1991, shows a still from a video tape documenting four police officers  continuously beating  and kicking Rodney King while he lay on the ground, unarmed, on March 3, 1991.  King's skull was fractured in eleven places and he suffered brain and kidney damage.  Rodney King died this week, on June 17, 2012 at age 47.  The outrage generated by the video tape of his beating brought widespread attention to police abuse in Los Angeles.  Six days of rioting resulted when the four police officers were acquitted of all charges on April 29, 1992.

Unprovoked police abuse was not uncommon in black, brown and low income communities, but until the Rodney King video tape was shown, the majority of people outside these economically marginalized neighborhoods were unaware of its severity or frequency.  This videotaped changed the way people looked at the L.A.P.D. and led to the beginning of police reforms.  The omnipresence of video cameras continues to document police abuse across the country and around the world, from Oakland to Tahrir Square, and has become a critical tool in documenting abuses and promoting transparency.

The second poster also promotes transparency and helps document abuses.  It supports lifting the media access ban in California prisons. Since 1996, media have been prohibited from choosing their interview subjects inside prisons .  The ban was expanded In July 2011.  Following four weeks of hunger strikes by more than 400 California prisoners protesting cruel and unusual conditions, California prison officials barred journalists from meeting with the striking Pelican Bay prisoners, where the strike started.  The prisoners demanded a number of changes in the prison system already standard practice in other parts of the country, including an end to group punishment, denial of food as punishment, and ending long-term solitary confinement.  The media ban continues, but the first step to lift the media access ban has been taken.

On June 12, 2012, the California Senate Committee on Public Safety passed AB1270, a bill to lift the media access ban in California prisons.  AB1270 will now go to a vote in Senate Appropriations. It is important to note, however, that nine versions of this bill have been vetoed by three different governors.

“Despite the thousands of prisoners who participated in a statewide hunger strike last year over conditions in the prisons, it was near impossible to get unbiased information about what was happening due to these restrictions,” said Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, sponsor of AB1270, which would restore the media’s access to pre-arranged, in-person interviews with specific prisoners.

Testifying on behalf of the bill, a spokesperson for the California Newspaper Publishers Association said: “With the scrutiny and limited resources now being directed to prison facilities, this bill could not be any more timely … Most newspapers have forgone these beats … because there are so many limitations. It’s very difficult for reporters to get in and do their jobs.” A steady stream of supporters from dozens of organizations throughout the state added “me too’s” to the bill.
Media access to our state prison system ensures the transparency needed to:  1. Enable state legislators to fulfill their moral, ethical, and professional obligation to monitor prison conditions; 2. Protect the right of taxpayers to monitor public institutions; 3. Decrease anxiety for families who worry daily that the violence, health epidemics or overcrowding inside prisons will exact permanent or lethal damage on their loved ones inside; 4. Increase safety for both Corrections staff and those incarcerated - (CCPOA supports the bill); and 5. Educate the entire community on Corrections issues. As many throughout history have reminded us, society is judged by how we treat those in prison. Transparency is essential to ensure democracy and justice. 

1 comment:

  1. My goodness it reminds me of the racism from the past. Very bad experience for a lot of people but it is good that it's all over presently.

    -Harry M.
    An OrganoGold Affiliate