Judge William Wayne Justice dies at 89
He was once called 'the real governor of Texas’

Oct. 14, 2009

AUSTIN — U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice — beloved by some, loathed by others — changed Texas civil and inmate rights in ways few political figures have over the past half-century. Justice, who spent 30 years on the bench and once was dubbed “the real governor of Texas” for his rulings, died Tuesday at age 89.

Black children across Texas attend public schools because Justice enforced federal desegregation laws in 1970.

Hispanic children gained the same rights as blacks because of Justice's rulings. His orders prompted bilingual education in Texas.

Texas must educate all children regardless of their immigration status because of a Justice decision.

Juveniles convicted of crimes were moved from incarceration in work camps to modern rehabilitation facilities at his command.

The most sweeping change of all was the Ruiz prison reform case that ended brutal conditions for inmates and prompted a massive building boom that gave Texas one of the largest and most modern incarceration systems in the nation.

Scorned in hometown

Civil rights activists praised Justice during his lifetime, but in his hometown of Tyler he often was scorned.

“I'm basically a very shy, retiring person, but fate has put me in a situation where I've been in the midst of controversy,” Justice told biographer Frank Kemerer for a 1991 book. “Controversy is now kind of a way of life with me. But I have never particularly liked it.”

Justice died Tuesday in Austin. The funeral will be 10 a.m. Monday at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison, of Houston, said Justice was not a born crusader bent on changing society. As a federal prosecutor, he noted, Justice had been tough on criminals.

‘Saint with a briefcase'

But Ellison said Justice was a believer in the Constitution as an evolving document meant to keep pace with the times and that equality for all meant just that.

“It all seems commonplace now,” Ellison said. “He was just steps ahead of all of us.”

Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Law Poverty Center in Alabama, praised Justice as a man dedicated to civil rights.

“He's literally been a front-line soldier in the battles that have shaped American justice for the last half-century,” said Dees, the Alabama civil rights lawyer famous for suing the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. “He was a saint with a briefcase and a gavel.”

Jim Harrington, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, described Justice as a “stalwart advocate for the less fortunate” and said he defended human rights.

“He, indeed, was a giant of civil rights and did more than most anyone else has ever done to extend the protection and promise of the Bill of Rights to all Texans,” Harrington said.

Former Gov. Mark White often fought against Justice's rulings as the state's attorney general and later as governor, particularly in the prison lawsuit.

White said the judgment of history favors Justice.

“He was right more times than he was wrong, and the state of Texas is better off because of William Wayne Justice,” White said.

Justice grew up in the tiny East Texas town of Athens. His father was a successful criminal defense lawyer who represented blacks, as well as whites.

A bout of childhood whooping cough left him with a slight stoop. To recover from that and other illnesses, he rode his bike around town, observing the rigid segregation of the times.

Appointed by LBJ

He attended the University of Texas and served in India during World War II.

After the war, he practiced law with his father, delved into Democratic politics and served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas for seven years before being appointed to the bench in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson.

He barely had settled in Tyler when the controversies began. He shocked the conservative community with one of his first rulings, finding the local junior college ban against men having long hair unconstitutional. In the early 1970s, he ordered the desegregation of nine all-black school districts and required the Texas Education Agency to stop approving discriminatory interdistrict student transfers.

“Because of some of his civil rights rulings in East Texas, he was ostracized,” White said.

In 1998, Justice took senior status and moved with his wife, Sue, to Austin, where the couple found a more hospitable environment.

30-year oversight

Justice's most famous case began with a 15-page, handwritten civil rights complaint filed by inmate David Ruiz in 1972. Justice would take oversight of the state prison system and would not relinquish it until 2002.

The state spent billions of dollars building new prisons and making improvements. From 1972 to 2002, the number of Texas prison beds increased from 18,000 to 150,000. Daily spending per prisoner went from $8 to $40.

Ruiz is viewed by many as the most successful prison reform case in the nation. But the cost of complying with Justice's orders angered many taxpayers and prompted Texas Monthly in a 1978 profile to proclaim him the “real governor of Texas.“

Steve Bickerstaff, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas Law School, defended the state in the bilingual and prison cases during the 1970s. He said that although Justice's rulings often were overturned on appeal, they served to make the public aware of issues and caused the Legislature to react.

“Judge Justice was the most effective member of the federal judiciary in taking those issues and applying pressure on the state to cure a problem which otherwise could not be addressed by the courts,” Bickerstaff said.


On Feb. 13 2008,
Raul Salinas,
activist and poet,
passed away.

His Weapon Was His Pen, Raul Salinas

For four decades, Compañero Raul had fought for human rights and the national liberation of all oppressed people and nations. In particular, Compa took on a struggle that has not been particularly popular, especially when it is raised within the context of the liberation of a nation; we are talking about connecting the struggle for the rights of prisoners to the liberation of La Raza.

Born in San Antonio and raised in the barrio of “Eastside” (a barrio more than hundred years old) in Austin, Tejas. Compa Raul, as is the case for many young Raza, became a victim of the contradictions and manipulation of a capitalist society; he got in drugs and trouble, and ended up in prison.

He did time behind the walls of Huntsville (a city located in Texas, surrounded by 7 prisons, and known as “Prison City”), Soledad State Prison (California), and Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary (Texas). For Compa Raul, prison life became a 15-year journey of confinement and reflection, and coming to terms as to who he was –as an Indian, as a Mexican.

It was in prison where Compa Raul came into contact with political activists and freedom fighters, like Cancel Miranda (a leader in the Puerto Rican Independence Movement). It was in prison, where he learned about the power of the pen, becoming a prolific writer and poet. Compa Raul focused his writings on his prison experiences and poetized about life, love, and freedom.

Upon his release from prison in 1973, Compa Raul dedicated his life to working full time for the “struggle”. He joined AIM (American Indian Movement) and helped co-found the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (Peltier was convicted for death of two FBI agents on June 26, 1975).

Life’s experiences opened the eyes of Compa Raul to the contradictions and hypocrisy of white/racist “America”; a society which punishes Native Americans and Raza for exercising their right to self-defense, yet glorifies and converts into heroes the assassins and mass murders (Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Kit Carson, etc.) responsible for the genocide and suffering of millions of people in “America” and throughout the world.

Not content with simply “poetizing”, or living a “petty bourgeois lifestyle”, as so many artists do, Compa Raul actually lived among the poor and the workers; putting into practice his ideas and beliefs. He organized various conferences, demonstrations, pickets, press conferences, visited prisoners, and donating his work and time to raise money for liberation causes. Compa Raul elaborated upon his thoughts and experiences in an autobiographical work titled “My Weapon Is My Pen.”

Up to the time of his death, we witnessed Compa Raul continuing to put into practiced the unity of revolutionary politics and poetry, through activities (meetings, readings, platicas, etc.) that took place in a small book store and arts center that he, along with a collective of young people, managed. The bookstore, “Resistencia Books”, was located in south Austin, a working class community of Africans, Mexicanos, and whites.

To the Chicano Mexicano Prison Project (CMPP), the most important aspect of Compa Raul’s life was his opposition to racism and imperialism. Almost every word he spoke or wrote, expressed the thoughts of the oppressed masses’ desire for liberation. He exposed European (white) imperialism as the main oppressor and enemy of the people. He saw it as a system that needed to be completed destroyed, This was in contrast to the “reformism” of most white left/liberals and wanna-be-chicano “artsy types”, that we see today.

On June 24, 2000, the CMPP hosted its “4th Annual Conference On Raza Prisoners and Colonialism”. Organized under the theme, “Libertad Para Toda Nuestra Raza”, Compa Raul was the keynote speaker. Before more 100 people in attendance, he delivery a hard-hitting presentation titled “Down With The Pintas! Free Our Gente!“

We remember our unity with Compa Raul, as not one based on poetry, but in the struggle to destroy oppression –poetry being just one of many tools to be utilized in the process of liberation. It was this unity that led the CMPP, along with the Raza Rights Committee, to dedicate this year’s Conference On Raza Prisoners and Colonialism, to the memory of Compa Salinas.

Compañero Raul Salinas, Presente!
Hasta La Victoria, Siempre!
Chicano Mexicano Prison Project
June 25, 2008

Editor’s note: This year’s Conference On Raza Prisoners and Colonialism will be held on June 28, 2008, in Oxnard, Califaztlán. For more information, such as location, agenda, speakers, please see web: http://uniondelbarrio.org

Posted by Union del Barrio on 06.25.08


Rosary – Thursday, Nov. 17, 7:00 PM, Mission Funeral Home, 1615 East Cesar Chavez

Funeral – Friday, Nov. 18, 10:00 AM, Cristo Rey Catholic Church, 2210 East 2nd Street

Internment – Immediately following the funeral at Assumption Cemetery

David Ruiz touched so many of us—prisoners, activists, friends and comrades. He reached people he never was able to meet in person. David will live on forever in the hearts of the men and women locked up in Texas, the writ writers, the organizers, the oppressed. David’s legacy to all of us is that we can all fight our oppressors, no matter where we are and what resources we have.

When his now-famous law suit began trial in Houston in 1979, there were about 100 of us protesting in front of the Federal courthouse on Rusk in support of the prisoners. In that group were men David had grown up with in Austin and wound up in prison with: Julius Corpus, Salvador Gonzales, and Juan Guzman, as well as men he had grown up with in prison like Robert “Rabbit” Villareal.

Ruiz V. Estelle was historic! After the longest trial in US juris prudence history, Federal Judge William Wayne Justice declared that the Texas prison system was unconstitutional. David and the other courageous writ writers like O. D. Johnson from Dallas, had forced Texas into the 20th century.

Tune in to "Fight Back!" on Sunday night at 7:30 at 90.1 FM to learn some Texas history that you never learned in school! Hear from family and friends and comrades of David Ruiz, a hero to the prisoners and a royal pain in the neck to the racist, tortuous prison system. If you are not in Houston, listen online at www.kpft.org.

When the people re-write our history books, David Ruiz will then be included and given his rightful place in working class history as a leader, organizer, writ writer and fighter for the oppressed.

David Ruiz, Presente

Washington Post; David Ruiz, 63, Convict Who Won Reform With Handwritten Lawsuit New York Times, United States (AP) - David Ruiz, the convict whose handwritten lawsuit more than three decades ago led to court-ordered improvements in Texas prisons, died on Saturday at ... Inmate who fought for prison reform dies Houston Chronicle Plaintiff in long-running prison lawsuit dies Austin American-Statesman

Memorial to David Ruiz

Here is the memorial I read for David Ruiz on the Prison Show, Nov. 18, 2005, minus the poem. I have sent the poem to the Texas Observer and am hoping they will publish it as a memorial to David; therefore I don't want to post it on the internet yet. Eventually I will.


A self-educated Mexican-American, proud of his Indio heritage, David Resendez Ruiz is known in every court, jail, and prison in Texas. His name, both hated and adored, has become a way of marking time for old-timers in Texas who describe prison conditions as either "Before Ruiz" or "After Ruiz." The case that bore his name began in 1972 and became one of the most extraordinary prisoner rights cases in American history. He represented and was supported by hundreds of other prisoners who testified with him, along with thousands who participated in a work-stoppage that rattled the bars across Texas. Because David Ruiz had the huevos and persistence to stand against the State of Texas while in shackles, the building tender system of prisoner abuse ended in 1980. Because of that case, David Ruiz spent the past thirty years of his life in Ad Seg and paid with his life. The first news reports of his death said Ruiz died "of natural causes."

Let his own words set the record straight. Ruiz wrote, in a letter of July 8, 2004 to John D. Stobo, President of the University of Texas Medical Branch, "I am sixty-two years old, and denial of medical treatment constitutes a conspiracy to murder me slowly." David Ruiz claimed he was dying of medical neglect. He reported harassment and retaliatory brutality by everyone from a petty mailroom dictator named Pegoda, to Nurses Fisher, Fuson, and Freeman, to the doctors, the wardens, and Major Thomas and Captain Jones at Goree. He knew the value of paper, and he created a paper trail that leaves no question about the circumstances of his death.

According to documents he left behind, David Ruiz had cancer, first observed by UTMB medical staff in 2002. That cancer was allowed to grow, unchecked and untreated, for three years, and Ruiz was not even informed of the fact that he had cancer until 2005. He also had Hepatitis C, which he contracted on Coffield Unit as a result of dangerous and unsanitary conditions. After months of filing grievances, writing letters, and demanding attention, he was treated minimally and irregularly for Hepatitis C for six months; after six months, his treatment was discontinued. He also had gall stones (untreated), cataracts on both eyes (untreated), hiatal hernia of the esophagus (untreated), and injuries to both knees, both ankles, and his back (all untreated).

In February, 2004, David Ruiz was told by a doctor sent by the parole board that he had, at most, five years to live. Ruiz wrote at that time, "I only hope I’ll be able to accomplish certain things I desire on behalf of all prisoners who have experienced oppression, sadness, loneliness, and pain while being confined. I have seen the face of death here in prison and have suffered and endured brutal pain. I feel death is the end of my existence in the world and the beginning of a journey to the unknown." A year and nine months later, on November 13, 2005, David Ruiz died in custody at John Sealy hospital.

Three missions kept him going during the last year of his life:

1) his campaign for adequate health care for Texas prisoners;
2) his campaign for programs to provide treatment, education, and encouragement for young people just getting into trouble with the law; and
3) his desire to alert the public to the abuse, torture, and illegal detention of immigrants in Texas prisons. His death leaves a hole in the universe.

He always signed his letters, "Beside you in the struggle for humane treatment for all." His death leaves a challenge to all of us who are still breathing to take up those three causes and to work as bravely and as tirelessly as he did. Just last month Ruiz wrote, "Bitter and brutal treatment turned me hateful, and I lost all respect for authority. Such treatment commenced in Reform School. In the 60s and 70s TDCJ-ID was a brutal, mad, and savage prison, and the officials were dimwits and used dimwitted, weak, brutal inmate guards to enforce their rules. I am of the opinion that many teenagers are bitter, just as I was, and the way to turn them around is to show them compassion, understanding, and love, not violence. But it takes patience, too. It took me a long time to look at things differently."

As a boy, Ruiz turned to a gang for identity and support. As a man, he challenged former gang members to take the nerve, the dedication, and the love they wasted on gang violence and direct it into the struggle for humane treatment for all.

He was a poet, a writer, and a painter, and he wanted to write a book about his life. He kept putting that book aside to write grievances about his own abuse and writs on behalf of other prisoners, and finally just a few months ago, he realized that he couldn’t bear to relive the blood-soaked, bitter story of his childhood and his early years as a violent youth. He wrote several rough drafts of his story, made several attempts, and at one point he wrote a dedication, which serves as a dedication of his life’s work as a prison reformer:

"I, David Resendez Ruiz, dedicate this effort to all those prisoners confined in penal institutions throughout the world, all who have endured savage and uncivilized treatment because they have opposed the penal system, and who still stand tall. I thank all writ-writers in the U.S., but mainly the writ-writers of the State of Texas who stood beside me throughout the litigation of Ruiz vs. Estelle and have endured, struggling forward, always forward, and who have unbreakable spirits. I thank Porky, Lionsio, Yayo, Lamas, Pope, Montana, Tejan, Kando, O.D., and others. I thank my beloved wife, Rose Marie, my loving daughter, Eva Marie, my precious sons, David Rene and Lawrence Everett, and all the Ruiz family. I thank my attorneys, Frances T.F. Cruz, William Bennett Turner, Donna Brorby, Gail Littlefield, Dave Venderhoof, Charles Ory, Bob Looney, Larry Dowling, Duncan Wilson; and also Charlie Norha and his family. And I thank all my friends and supporters, too numerous to mention."

David wrote a powerful poem called "Steel on Steel" which we have sent to the Texas Observer, hoping they will publish it as a memorial to David. Once they make their decision, the poem will also appear on this web site.

Today he is free.

How did David Ruiz endure what he endured? He and his family chose the following song to be sung at both the Rosary and the Funeral.

I'm only human. I'm just a man.
Help me to believe in what I could be and all that I am.
Show me the stairway that I have to climb,
Lord for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time.
One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that's all I'm asking from you.
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do.
Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine.
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.

Do you remember when you walked among men?
Well Jesus you know if you're looking below it's worse now than then.
Pushing and shoving, crowding my mind,
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.
One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that's all I'm asking from you.
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do.
Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine.
Yes just for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.

David Ruiz


Dear Friends,

The paper in Austin reported today that David Ruiz died yesterday of kidney failure at the prison hospital in Galveston. No word yet on a funeral.

He was 63 and spent all but four years of his adult life behind bars.

David was the main plaintiff in Ruiz v. Estelle, the longest and most comprehensive lawsuit ever successfully filed on a prison system.

Pauline and I knew David for over 30 years. He was such a mixture.

Years ago when we were in Texas, I once said that "David was a victim of the prison system he brought down!" He had a drinking (and drug) problem and when he was only out a few months, he received another long sentence for armed robbery.

In prison, he did not receive any treatment and certainly there was no 're-entry" help on release.

That was over 20 years ago and I received a letter from him just two weeks ago asking again if we could help him make parole. We had played a major role in his release in the early eighties when the court orders from the litigation became operative and his name in Texas was in the newspapers on a daily basis. I did not reply to his recent letter because I was thinking how to help him. Even now, I don't know what I could say.

And yet, he gave his life to the cause! He once told us that he was offered parole in the mid-seventies by the prison authorities if he would drop his lawsuit. He turned them down flat!!

And because of him and other courageous prisoners and attorneys and officials like Federal Judge William Wayne Justice, Texas prisons have changed dramatically.

For example, when we first started in 1972, there was one doctor for the entire prison system. Ruiz v. Estelle mandated ten years later that there must be 50. Although Texas still has a long way to go, it has come a long way!

Yesterday, I heard that Al Slaton died too. Al like David was also one of the "writ writers" as they called the "jailhouse lawyers" in Texas. Both Al and David are now with Frances! The mother of Texas prison reform movement back then was Frances Jalet Cruz, an attorney who came to Texas in the late sixties as a VISTA volunteer after raising her children. Eventually, she had 28 prisoner clients. David and Al were two of these.

The prison system reacted physically to her as her clients began suing the prison system. She was slapped by the notorious warden "Bear-tracks" and she once told us that her car ended up in a ditch after visiting the Ellis Unit during those days. Frances thought the prison system might have set her car brakes up and Frances was not someone to say something like that unless it was true.

In 1972, the prison system had her indicted and placed on trial as a "revolutionary". The trial ended three weeks after it began when one of the three prisoner witnesses who had been released did not show up to testify.

The second absconded after he made parole and the third cried on the witness stand and said he had been forced to testify by the prison system.

The director of the prison system also placed her 28 clients together in segregation and away from any other prisoners until they would terminate their relationship with Frances. But this backfired and the Ruiz litigation came out of this "control unit" situation.

When David was arrested for armed robbery in the eighties, Frances flew down from the Northeast where she had moved to visit David in jail in Austin. She stayed with us and told us that she thought David was innocent after visiting him. A jury thought otherwise and he was convicted.

When we first came to Texas, the wardens would dismiss our complaints from people in prison by saying "Just remember, they didn't get here by singing too loud in church." And certainly David is a good example of someone who went to prison for major crimes.

But, God writes straight with crooked lines. Before Ruiz, prisoners would be placed in isolation for years. The only time a doctor could be called was when the prisoner lost 25% of his or her weight. In the summer,prisoners suntanned from picking cotton in the fields would be released from solitary "white as a sheet". Their skin had been "burnt off" from sleeping on the hot floors!

Solitary was only one issue in this huge lawsuit and eventual court order.

Ruiz basically ended torture in Texas!

-Charlie and Pauline

Please sign David Ruiz's Guess Book:

How To Sign His Guest Book:

1. Click on the link that says: Plaintiff in long-running prison lawsuit dies
2. Below his picture, where it says "More of this Story" it says "guess book", it is in light gray
3. Click on that and the guess book will come up
4. Then at the top right is a place where it says, "Sign Guess Book" click on that
5. Then it will take you to where you can write a message to his family
6. You don't have to know this man to say thank you to his family and that you care just because of what he did for the Texas Prison system.

If you think it is bad today, back in the seventies is when the Prisoners were allowed to guard the Inmates and the entire system was out of control for sure.

I would appreciate all Jail Bird Sings and TX Pen Pals Wanted Members write a special message to let others know how much we as families and friends appreciate this man [David Ruiz] efforts to stand and fight for Texas Prisoners rights to be treated as human beings.


Click the following link to access the GuestBook:

Guest Book is closed... Plaintiff in long-running prison lawsuit dies


Judge Justice first took control of Texas prisons in 1979 following a year-long trial brought about by civil-rights complaint filed in 1972 by prisoner David Ruiz. 349 witnesses testified at the 1978-79 trial telling of unspeakable atrocities committed by "building tenders" (prisoners who had been appointed as guards) and aided by guards and prison officials. Murder and torture were common punishments for such rule infractions as not picking enough cotton to satisfy the field major. Prisoners who wrote complaints to the federal court describing these barbaric terms of confinement were targeted for retaliation by wardens, with building tenders carrying out the beatings and rapes, and on occasion murders of jailhouse lawyers and others with no fear of punishment of any kind.
In 1980, Judge Justice ruled that confinement in the Texas prison system constituted cruel and unusual punishment, citing overcrowding, understaffing, brutality by guards and building tenders, substandard medical care, and uncontrolled physical abuse among prisoners?

The saga began in 1972, when an inmate named David Ruiz scrawled a 30-page complaint about civil rights violations at his facility and passed them to a judge through his attorney. After a marathon trial, Judge William Wayne Justice declared in 1980 that Texas's entire corrections system was unconstitutional. Over the next two decades, Justice would become the de facto chief administrator of Texas prisons, forcing the state to spend billions constructing new prisons and to end the practice of deputizing inmates to guard other inmates--a practice under which these "guards" routinely raped, beat, and tortured their fellow prisoners.

Despite the evidence of chronic abuses in Texas and elsewhere, these judicial decrees proved highly unpopular, particularly when rulings about overcrowding led to the release of "less violent" criminals--many of whom quickly began committing new crimes. As crime rates soared during the '70s and '80s, fueling public frustration with liberal policies that seemed aimed more at protecting criminals than their would-be victims, state officials began lobbying for relief from the close scrutiny of prisons. They finally got it in 1996 after the Republican Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act, curbing both the ability of judges to issue decrees over prison systems and the ability of inmates to bring lawsuits in the first place.

Ruiz the reformer
Some of those lawsuits have sparked sweeping reforms. The most notable in Texas: Ruiz v. W.J. Estelle. In 1972, Texas inmate David Ruiz claimed that prison conditions were so brutal they amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. A federal judge agreed. The state eventually spent billions of dollars to make prisons safer and less crowded.

"What has been accomplished over the last 20 years is astonishing," said Allen Breed, a national criminal justice consultant who testified against the state in the Ruiz case. "It never would have happened in Texas, never, if there hadn't been the Ruiz litigation."

Yet such cases are rare. More than 90 percent of lawsuits are dismissed or settled before they get to trial, according to the National Center for State Courts. Most of them challenge prison sentences, jail conditions, even state or federal laws.

Texas inmate suits
Since 1995, Texas' prison population has steadily climbed, but the number of lawsuits filed per 1,000 prisoners has decreased by 14 percent as Texas and the federal government passed laws targeting lawsuits.

Number of lawsuits filed in federal courts by Texas prisoners per 1,000 inmates 1995-2000*

1995 -- 43
1996 -- 54
1997 -- 49
1998 -- 41
1999 -- 37
2000 -- 37

*Does not include federal prisoners.
Source: Texas Department of Crminal Justice
Austin American-Statesman



Leonard Peltier -- a great-grandfather, artist, writer, & indigenous rights activist -- is a citizen of the Anishinabe and Dakota/Lakota Nations who has been unjustly imprisoned since 1976.
Leonard Peltier, Artist
Leonard Peltier's self-taught style is an outgrowth of drawing and carving lessons he received as a child from tribal elders.

Leonard began working with pastels in 1983, proving he had talent to put what he saw on paper. His spirit began to know a freedom he had never before experienced.

Although limited by the prison environment, Mr. Peltier has emerged as a master of Indigenous Art.

Leonard, the Writer
Doing time creates a demented darkness of my own imagination; doing time does this thing to you. But of course, you don't do time. You do without it. Or rather, time does you. Time is a cannibal that devours the flesh of your years day by day, bite by bite.
-- Leonard Peltier

Prison Writings:
My Life Is My Sun Dance
This book was written from behind the cold prison bars of Leavenworth Penitentiary by Leonard Peltier, who has been called America's Nelson Mandela. Peltier is serving two life sentences for crimes the U.S. government has admitted they can't prove were even committed by Peltier. He is considered by Amnesty International & many other humanitarian organizations to be a political prisoner.

Leonard, the Nobel Peace Prize Candidate
Leonard Peltier Nominated for 2004 Nobel Peace Prize

Leonard's Human Rights Achievements.

Advocate of peaceful resolution of all issues that deal with Native Americans; always taking a non-violent approach and argued for respect for rights of others.

Has helped several prisoners rehabilitate themselves by advocating drug and alcohol free life styles while encouraging pride and knowledge in their cultures and traditions.
Has been key in getting people from different tribes, with a history of animosity, to come together in peace.

Has worked with Dr. Steward Selkin of New York (ear, nose, and throat specialist) on efforts to restructure health delivery systems on reservations.

A pilot program on Rosebud was undertaken in order to document needs and requirements for delivery and care. This is known as the Leonard Peltier Health Care Reform Package, and the ultimate intent is to fundamentally alter health care delivery on reservations throughout the US. Substance abuse programs are an important part of this program.

Has worked with professor Jeffery Timmons on a job creation/job training program to stimulate reservation based economics and investments in Native American business enterprises.

Also worked with Professor Timmons on a youth entrepreneur program for reservation kids to teach them to learn how to establish and run their own businesses.

In 1992 he established a scholarship at New York University for Native American students seeking law degrees.

Instrumental in the establishment and funding of a Washington (state) Native American newspaper by and for Native young people.

Has been the sponsoring father of two children in Childreach, one in El Salvador, and the other in Guatemala.

Has worked to have prisoners' artwork displayed around the country and the world in art galleries in hopes of starting art programs for prisoners and increasing their self-confidence.

Has sponsored several clothing and toy drives for reservations.

Distributes to Head Start and halfway houses, as well as women's centers.

Every year he has sponsored a Christmas gift drive for the children of Pine Ridge, SD.

Organized and emergency food drive for the people of Pohlo, Mexico in response to the Acteal Massacre.

Serves on the board of the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

Donates his artwork to several human rights and social welfare organizations in order to help them raise funds. This most recently includes the ACLU, Trail of Hope (a Native American conference dealing with drug and alcohol addiction), World Peace and Prayer Day, the First Nation Student Association, and the Buffalo Trust Fund.

By donating his paintings to the Leonard Peltier Charitable Foundation, he was able to supply computers and educational supplies such as books and encyclopedias to libraries and families on Pine Ridge. By donating his paintings to the LPCF, he was also able to raise substantial supplies for the people of Pine Ridge after last year's devastating tornado hit and caused a multitude of damage on the reservation.

He has been widely recognized for his efforts and has won several human rights awards, including the North Star Frederick Douglas Award, Humanist of the Year Award, and the International Human Rights Prize.

Political Prisoner on the Ballot in California Lawrence, Kansas, February 11, 2004 Kevin Shelley, Secretary of the State of California has announced that Leonard Peltier will be on the primary election ballot as a candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party's Presidential nomination.



CARL UPCHURCH, 1950 - 2003
Carl Douglass Upchurch passed away on May 2, 2003, at his home in Bexley, Ohio. Carl, married father of three girls aged two, three, and 11, nationally acclaimed author and educator, was born in Philadelphia in 1950. A troubled childhood led to 10 years of incarceration, an experience that defined his faith, his family, and ultimately his life's work. Since 1982, Carl tended to the needs of thousands through his work with prisoners, his public speaking, his writing and his leadership. His ideas on prison reform inspired him to found the Progressive Prisoners' Movement in the mid-1980s. For his work, Carl was awarded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's National Peace Award and the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award in 1988. His vision for inner-city peace led to the development of the Council for Urban Peace and Justice in 1992, and to the first national Gang Summit in Kansas City, Mo. in 1993, that same year, Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition awarded him its National Humanitarian Award. Carl was a contributing columnist on race and social-justice issues for Columbus Alive, and went on to write his autobiography, Convicted in the Womb, which was published by Bantam Books in 1996. Showtime Cable Television made Carl's life story into a movie, Convicted , in 2002, which earned an NAACP Image Award nomination. Carl held a B.S. and a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, and did graduate work at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind. and at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Bexley, Ohio. His commitment to education, civic and urban issues, and political justice earned him a national reputation. He worked for several years with Community Connection in Columbus, Ohio, and regularly spoke at prisons, schools and universities around the country. Services for Carl were held in Granville, Ohio, on May 8, 2003.

Upchurch was born and raised in the ghettos of Philadelphia. He was given no direction in his life, and at age nine quit school and started hanging out with the local gangs of south Philadelphia. He spent 13 years in federal penitentiaries for armed robbery. Upon his release in 1986, Upchurch established the Progressive Prisoner's Movement, a program to provide legal and emotional assistance to prisoners. In 1992, he founded the National Council for Urban Peace and Justice and organized the first ever gang summit which brought together more than 150 gang leaders from 26 cities. In April, 1995, Upchurch was appointed to the President's Council on Sustainable Development. In 1993, he received the National Humanitarian Award from Operations PUSH and the National Peace Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.


The Shakespeare Conference


Executed 12/13/2005

The Beginning
In the spring of 1971, when Tookie was 16, he was in a very different situation. He was a high school student from South Central Los Angeles. He had a fearsome reputation as a fighter and as a "general" of South Central's west side. And, around that time, Tookie, along with Raymond Lee Washington, created what would one day be a super-gang, the Crips.

Back in the day when Tookie and Raymond founded the Crips, many of the young people of South Central Los Angeles were involved with small gangs. Those gang members roamed South Central taking property from anyone who feared them, including women and children. To protect the community, Tookie and Raymond organized the Crips.


By 1979, the Crips had grown from a small Los Angeles gang to an organization with membership spread across the State of California. By this time, Crips had also become just like the gang members they had once sought to protect themselves from -- Crips had become gangbangers who terrorized their own neighborhoods. Soon the Crips lost both their leaders: in 1979, Raymond was murdered by a rival gang member, and, that same year, Tookie was arrested. He was charged with murdering four people. In 1981, Tookie was convicted of those crimes and placed on death row.

Life in Prison
In 1987, Tookie began what became a 6 1/2-year stay in solitary confinement. After two years there, Tookie began to look at himself. He focused on the choices he had made in his life and then committed himself to make a drastic change. The long, difficult process he undertook to rebuild his character put him in touch with his true spirit, his own humanity. Only then could Tookie finally begin to care about the many children, mothers, fathers and other family members of this country hurt by the Crips legacy and by its explosive growth. The gang is now in 42 states and on at least one other continent: South Africa. Youngsters in Soweto and other South African cities have formed the Crips copycat gangs.

Tookie Today
Tookie greatly regrets the violent history of the Crips -- particularly how so many young black men have hurt each other -- and he wants to do what he can to stop it. The Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence book series for elementary-school-age children is the first fruit of his longing to prevent young people of every color from becoming gangbangers, from ending up in prison, crippled by bullets, or killed.

Tookie is determined to make amends for having been a co-founder of the Crips. He intends to try in every way he can to guide those youngsters who have imitated him away from the road that led him to death row where he faces State execution. "Don't join a gang," he tells children in his books, writing from his San Quentin cell. "You won't find what you're looking for. All you will find is trouble, pain and sadness. I know. I did."


California Legal Assistance Project For TOOKIE

Danny Glover invites you to a screening of "Redemption:
The Stan Tookie Williams Story"
Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street in San Francisco
(next to the 16th Street and Mission BART Station)
When: December 04, 2005 at 5pm
Why: Help STOP THE December 13th EXECUTION
of Nobel Peace Prize Nominee
Stan Tookie Williams

Stan Williams co-founded the L.A. Crips in 1971.
In 1981, he was convicted of murder by a jury from which all Blacks had been removed.

Standing before a racist system, without adequate funds or competent counsel, he had no real chance of demonstrating his innocence during his trial.

While in prison, Stan began writing books de-glamorizing gangs and prison life for children and young adults.

Because of this work, he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times.

Gang Founder Is Executed in Calif.

By Evelyn Nieves
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 13, 2005; 5:15 AM

SAN QUENTIN, Calif., Dec. 13 -- Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a gang leader-turned-peace advocate whose cause drew worldwide attention, was executed in San Quentin's death chamber Tuesday morning after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied his last-ditch plea for clemency and the Supreme Court refused to block the execution.

Having exhausted his appeals, Williams, 51, who co-founded the notorious Crips gang, was killed via injection at 12:35 p.m. Pacific time (3:35 EST) for four murders committed during two separate robberies in Southern California in 1979. Media witnesses to the execution said that Williams appeared to be animated throughout the procedure, looking up several times at his supporters and once staring down the media witnesses watching him behind glass walls. They said he shook his head as if saying "for shame" and complained to those administering the injection when they took 12 minutes to find a vein in his left arm. He was quoted as saying to the medical technician, "You still can't find it?" He shook his head, as if to say, "no, no, no," said one of the witnesses, and grimaced before he lost consciousness.

One of his supporters watching the execution raised a fist in the air. Another, on the way out, said "the state of California has executed an innocent man."

A relative of one of his victims observing the execution cried, according to a witness.

Throughout the night, growing numbers of Williams supporters, and a much smaller group of pro-death penalty advocates, had gathered in front of the prison to chant, wave signs, sing and light candles.

The burly Williams, who had maintained his innocence since his arrest, gained prominence speaking out against gang violence in a series of children's books and through writings appealing directly to gangs. His supporters have said that the evidence against him was weak, that his lawyers botched his trial, and that during his years on death row his conversion to an anti-gang advocate made him a strong candidate for mercy.

Williams was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times, and appeals from winners of the prize, religious leaders and Hollywood celebrities neared a fever pitch in the past several weeks, leading to one of the most fervent debates on the death penalty in the United States in years.

"The first thing you learn from the Bible is about forgiveness," actor Jamie Foxx told CNN in criticizing Schwarzenegger's decision. Foxx portrayed Williams in "Redemption," a made-for-television movie.

But Schwarzenegger, in a five-page statement, said: "Williams' case has been thoroughly reviewed in the 24 years since his convictions and death sentence. In all, Williams' case has been the subject of at least eight substantive judicial opinions." The governor added that he saw "no reason to disturb the judicial decisions that uphold the jury's decisions that he is guilty of these four murders and should pay with his life."

No prisoner has been granted clemency in California since Gov. Ronald Reagan commuted the death sentence of a mentally retarded man in 1967. Williams will be the 12th person executed in the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 1977. He will also be the third death row inmate for whom Schwarzenegger has refused to grant a reprieve.

Williams's attorneys have issued a furious series of petitions in recent weeks. On Sunday, they had asked the California Supreme Court to call off the execution. Just before the governor announced his decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit denied Williams's request for a reprieve. The court said that there was no "clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence." Late Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court also refused to block the execution.

Those who asked Schwarzenegger to spare Williams's life include Archbishop Desmond Tutu; NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon; Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking"; and rap singer Snoop Dogg, who said Williams had inspired him to leave the Crips and reform his life. Civil rights activist Jesse L. Jackson led a march across the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday night in support of Williams.

State law enforcement officials, including the Correctional Peace Officers Association, one of the most powerful unions in the state, have been united in their condemnation of Williams and fervently appealed to Schwarzenegger to let the execution proceed.

Williams was arrested in connection with four homicides committed on Feb. 28 and March 11, 1979, in Southern California. On Feb. 28, Albert L. Owens, 26, a clerk at a 7-Eleven store in Pico Rivera, was shot in the head while lying facedown on the floor during a robbery. On the second date, Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, and her husband, Yen-I Yang, 76, were executed in similar fashion with their daughter, Yee-Chen Lin, 43, during a holdup at their motel in south Los Angeles.

Among the evidence against Williams was a shotgun shell discovered at the crime scene that was linked to a gun he had bought five years earlier. That weapon was found under the bed of two associates accused of killing their business partner. The murder charges against them were dropped after they testified that Williams had confessed to them.

In his statement, Schwarzenegger said: "The evidence demonstrating Williams is guilty of these murders is strong and compelling. Based on the cumulative weight of the evidence, there is no reason to second guess the jury's decision of guilt or raise significant doubts or serious reservations about Williams's conviction and death sentence."

Critics branded Schwarzenegger's decision as a safe political move that did not consider the possibility that California could impose a moratorium on state executions in the next few months.

"Schwarzenegger could have called for a moratorium today," said Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who is co-sponsoring a bill that would impose a moratorium on executions until January 2009 to review the fairness of how the state imposes the death penalty. The bill was introduced in August and is scheduled to be heard in committee next month.

"It would be refreshing to see the state articulate the values of grace, mercy and redemption," Leno said. "Unfortunately, the governor has missed an opportunity to do just that."

Polls consistently show that a majority of Californians support the death penalty, and Schwarzenegger, who faces reelection next year, has been trying to recover from a disastrous special election in which the four measures he was pushing were defeated. He also has been under fire for the past several weeks from conservatives and others in the Republican Party for appointing a Democrat as his chief of staff.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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