Grantee profile: Human Rights Coalition

The drive to organize for change does not stop at prison walls. That’s why six residents in solitary confinement at the State Correctional Institute in Dallas, PA—100 miles from Philadelphia — organized a protest in April.

They’d helped Human Rights Coalition (HRC) compile hundreds of public documents, affidavits, and first -hand reports of abuse by prison guards into an “Institutionalized Cruelty” report.

HRC, a 2010 Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative grantee, organizes prisoners’ families, formerly incarcerated people, and their allies who seek to expose injustice and abuse. According to their report, guards were routinely sexually harassing prisoners, encouraging them to commit suicide, and inciting sexual harassment and rape between prisoners.

Neither the Luzerne County district attorney nor the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has conducted its own investigation. But according to those incarcerated in Dallas, prison guards have retaliated against anyone suspected of cooperating with HRC investigators by depriving them of food and clean drinking water, physically assaulting them, and withholding medical attention.

In a May 2010 letter, Anthony Kelly, from solitary confinement at Dallas, wrote: “I haven’t had a sip of water and only two baloney sandwiches [in seven days].”

“We protested by covering up our doors and demanding to talk with the public defenders’ office or media,” says Carrington Kelly, also in solitary. “But instead of trying to talk with us, they immediately resorted to violence.”

The protestors now face federal riot charges. Carrington’s preliminary hearing was held in September, and members of Philadelphia’s HRC chapter were on hand to monitor the situation.

“We helped change the nature of the press coverage by providing members of the media— who were inclined to take the side of guards—with all of the facts,” says Andy Switzer, HRC member. “And we very potentially changed the legal situation for one of the men.”

The Dallas Six have demonstrated that incarcerated people can still organize for change. And HRC’s efforts exemplify the cutting- edge work you can rely on Bread & Roses to fund. Supporting people organizing for real change — with your help—is what Bread & Roses is all about.