Please help FFUP help prisoners.
As most you know, FFUP stands for "Forum for Understanding Prisons". Our basic mission is to give prisoners a voice and our major work has been advocating for prisoners and their families and trying to spread the word that prisoners are our brothers and sisters and need to be treated with compassion and wisdom.
I have been doing this work for 17 plus years and it is both heartbreaking and incredibly rewarding, The glue to my work and how I keep going is my corresponding to prisoners. Our system is corrupt to the core and because I get letters on all of it, FFUP has a unique comprehensive view. We are getting help these days and real change is possible. Please help - FFUP does this work on a shoestring-no salaries, no expense accounts- your donations will be well used and much appreciated.
We are low on funds at a time when our work is most needed. Good things are happening. The myriad little prison awareness organizations are beginning to come together and discuss a workable division of labor. Here is a taste of what we are doing. More at www.prisonforum.org., including our latest newsletter.
1)Help with support for prisoners stuck in solitary confinement and those stranded without friends or families. A wonderful addition is a young woman, Bernadette. She has taken charge of seeing that those most in need get the nurturing they need, so they get through their prison ordeal with psyches intact. It always amazes me how little it takes on the part of us on the outside to be that light for prisoners in distress. “Someone cares... someone cares”. It makes all the difference. She actively finds people willing to write to prisoners and writes to some prisoners herself.
We also have a friend in Holland, Jessica, who is sending FFUP via email what she calls “day brighteners”- a few pages of cheerful, nurturing cartoons, articles, etc. that we send to the prisoners in need on a regular basis. She also corresponds to many.
2)Mentoring program: FFUP is working with EXPO (Ex-Prisoners Organizing) in order to start a mentoring program between those who have found their way through the daunting obstacle course of prison release and the young TIS inmates who are literally dumped back into their old neighborhoods with very few resources and no training or treatment while in prison.
3)Stamps to prisoners program is stretched to limit, funds needed- I cannot stress enough how important it is for rehabilitation that the prisoner is able to reach out and probably the most helpful thing FFUP does is this stamp program. About 5 years ago we started a regular monthly stamps program for indigent prisoners- they had to send their account statement proving indigence and they would receive 5 embossed envelopes and a pad of paper a month. The DOC (Department of Corrections) approves only a few vendors and they are expensive so 5 embossed envelopes costs $3.15, a writing pad of 50 pages is $2.00. Since we started, the DOC has cut off their program of giving indigent inmates in Seg (solitary) one stamp a week and also this year has been whole hog taking money from inmates, misinterpreting an act passed by the legislature (see our web for more: www.prisonforum.org). At any rate the requests for those 5 stamps a month have skyrocketed. We send the 5 stamped envelopes only and not the paper, and we are stretching out the time between sending stamps to compensate.
There is little we can say to help you, the public understand the need here. There is a long period of “shock and awe” for anyone who starts this work, for our prison system is toxic and corrupt to the core. These stamps give hope to many.
4)Litigation is the way prisoners keep sane and positive. Besides, lawsuits by prisoners being virtually the only moving object in the prison world, learning the law is the one tool prisoner have to stay sane. Books are almost impossible to get but the prison cannot legally stop legal work. AND unknown to many out here, many wins in prison reform were started by prisoners and the suits were written by prisoners. Because only a lawyer can represent a class action, the lawyer ends up representing the class using the case the prisoner wrote. Postage and materials need for printing are always short here, and especially needed is postage for internet downloads of guides.
5)FFUP CLASS ACTIONS. With prisoner litigator help, FFUP has been putting together a class action on mentally ill and solitary confinement in all its forms. We have been stymied by the fact that FFUP mail is read by the DOC and retaliation is real against the people we work with. Good news is that we now have a litigator on the outside who knows the prison scene and will work with FFUP. This is a big breakthrough and we can leap ahead. I am not a lawyer, my function generally is in gathering cases and as a resource person.
We are also supporting many individual cases, and the two most important ones may change a lot. One man suing the DOC after 27 years in solitary: He is after big changes and the case is in settlement. The other one we are supporting (Both cases we support with funds and contacts and downloads) is on the poor health care in prison and although this is about one prisoner, we hope to expand it to a class action. Even as an individual case, it will have far-reaching effects. For example, this will make sure that only nurses can pass out meds. As it is now, untrained guards wreak havoc with the prisoners’ meds.
This is a glance at what we do- please support this effort and thanks much for reading this.
FFUP Founder, 608-536-3993; [email redacted]
- Julie Natale