We Matter

Sins Invalid was forged to embrace the beauty and power of our bodies – as black, brown, queer, genderqueer, disabled people and allies.  Sins Invalid is committed to social and economic justice for all people with disabilities – in lockdowns, in shelters, on the streets, visibly disabled, invisibly disabled, sensory minority, environmentally injured, psychiatric survivors – moving beyond individual legal rights to collective human rights.While we live at multiple intersections of resistance to oppression, we are acutely aware that this past week has expressed and exposed the on-going systematic violence against black and brown people.As an organization, Sins Invalid is in solidarity with those impacted by the prison-industrial complex, including those incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centers, those who have been brutalized and killed by the police, and the many communities who fear for their safety due to racist and ableist targeting by the criminal system.To quote the brilliant scholar, Michelle Alexander: “If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today. That has been established beyond all reasonable doubt. If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty - far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste. Trayvon, you will not be forgotten. We will honor you - and the millions your memory represents - by building a movement that makes America what it must become.”We are in solidarity with the people imprisoned at California’s 33 “correctional” facilities who have started a hunger strike to protest the inhumanity of their conditions while incarcerated.  We affirm the strikers demands of (1) eliminating group punishments and administrative abuse (2) abolishing the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria (3) compliance with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons recommendations and end long-term solitary confinement (4) providing adequate and nutritious food (5) creating and expanding constructive programming.We sit and stand shoulder to shoulder with the global human rights community demanding an end to the United States government’s detainment of individuals for indefinite periods without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan in violation of international human rights law.As Disability Justice organizers we know that “there is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives” (Audre Lorde).  There are nearly 7 million people either in prison, jail, on probation or on parole in the US.  Countless people with disabilities live incarcerated in the prison industrial complex and in other institutional settings, whether they identify as having disabilities or are functionally impaired without claiming the political identity.  We are committed to justice for our incarcerated disabled sisters and brothers who face ableist and racist assaults on their integrity all day, every day.Here is but one story – we encourage you to send Damon a postcard or letter to affirm that his life matters:“My name is Damon Johnson. I have been incarcerated since 1986 for another person’s crime of robbery/murder at the age of 23….During my stint, I was disabled due to a spinal injury I received in 2007, from a bunk breaking, falling and hitting me in the head finally crushing my C4 vertebrae.  I also suffer from a disease called ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis and have fought thyroid cancer twice…Being in CDC has been a hell right here on earth, due to being disabled and the lack of proper medical care. The prison time I can do heavy-hearted, but to be in prison doing this time in pain, is worse than torture. Yes, I have thought about suicide, but wasn’t capable of following through and the fact that CDC moved me over 8 hours away from home and family doesn’t help my emotional and mental health.One thing about CDC is they say they give the best medical care, but you can look around at the 30,000 prisoners or more in CDC that are disabled and sick and know that is not true. They are ill because of preventable aliments or the lack of treatment…I was sent to this prison because they said it way an ADA prison, and that is the furthest thing from the truth. It is simply just a warehouse for prisoners.I use a wheelchair 24 hours 7 days a week due to my spinal injury; my wheelchair is broken due to the terrain here not being suitable for wheelchairs. The wheels are worn down, the bearings are gone, the legs have broken off and this is not an isolated case, there are at least 40 ADA inmates here in wheelchairs and they are all in disrepair. CDC/ RJ Donovan are trying to cut cost by reducing medical treatment.  We have on yard “A” alone, 1000 men and only two nurse practioners…I have been here since September 2012 and have only seen the doctor twice, where I am supposed to see the doctor every 90 days…I suffer everyday a pain level of 6/7 on good days, from having my medication reduced to just one.This situation is not conducive to my rehabilitation, but I am positive in spirit and I pray this will get better especially for those prisoners with no family or support to stand with them. I am fortunate to have family and friends who are concerned about my wellbeing, because there was a time when a judge said there was a prisoner dying every week; I am sure it is much higher than that; but to die alone without support is cruel and unusual punishment and it’s still going on right now…I remember when Martin Luther King Jr, quoted this, “You can judge how civilized a nation is by the way it treats its prisoners and elderly,” and California’s doing a poor job.  My sentence is one thing but my health is another.”Damon Shuja JohnsonLTP, E-20385RJ Donovan 480 Alta RdSan Diego, CA, 92179