By Cándida Cotto
January 13, 2010
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of the United States government continues to obstruct the parole of Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres, while Torres is supposedly set for a hearing with the U.S. Parole Commission’s (USPC) hearing examiner next Tuesday, January 19.
Several related, coinciding facts appear to be the responsibility of the BOP, including that on December 9, 2009, prison authorities at FCI Pekin, Illinois, classified the Puerto Rican in a “high security” group, allegedly for his “association with domestic terrorism.” As a result, Carlos Alberto was denied access to email, which all the other prisoners are being granted. When Torres asked why he was classified into this group after 29 years of prison and exemplary conduct, and that this could affect the recommendation for parole, he was offered no explanation, verbally or in writing.
Attorney Jan Susler, legal advisor to the Puerto Rican political prisoner, revealed that Carlos Alberto learned of his next parole hearing only recently, after a prison official told him that on November 24, the USPC had told the prison they wanted to convene another hearing to address the disciplinary issue.
The chain of tactics of provocative incidents by the BOP dates back to December of 2008, when prison authorities moved a group of ten prisoners to Torres’ unit. On more than one occasion, Torres asked that two of the cellmates be moved, but his request was denied. On January 14, 2009, two days before Torres was scheduled for a parole hearing, prison officials searched his unit and claimed to have found a shank in one of the bathrooms. This resulted in postponing the parole hearing.
Although one of the prisoners in the unit, Maurice Wilkins, took responsibility for possession of the shank and said that no one else was responsible, on January 22, prison officials found Torres and the rest of the prisoners guilty of knowing about the shanks, a finding resulting in a punishment of 60 days in segregation, no visits, no phone calls, no access to the commissary, among other restrictions. On January 31, Wilkins again assumed responsibility, this time in a sworn statement. Due to this, and the support of a campaign of letters sent to the BOP denouncing the process and demanding a new hearing, in April the regional director admitted that there had been errors in the process, and sent the incident report back to the prison to be revised. In May, prison officials responded that the incident report had been dismissed.
Finally, the parole hearing was held on May 26, 2009, via video conference with the USPC hearing examiner, who recommended that Carlos Alberto be paroled in April of 2010. Carlos Alberto will have served exactly 30 years of prison on the targeted date. The final decision, whether to adopt the hearing examiner’s recommendation, was to take place within 21 days. But once again, between June and July, prison officials made false accusations against Carlos Alberto, and subjected him to a new hearing. On July 28, the USPC informed him they would postpone their decision for 90 days, pending the resolution of the disciplinary charges.
Not satisfied with this result, in September (2009) a prison “intelligence officer and translator” told Carlos Alberto that they had received “orders from above” that they were to monitor his movements, and that in the future his correspondence in Spanish was to be translated outside the prison, which could delay his mail for a month.
If he had gone to the hearing without incident, and the USPC had adopted the recommendation of the hearing officer, Carlos Alberto would have had the right to be released in October of 2009, to what is known as a “halfway house,” and in April of 2010 to be released on parole.
As a result of the situation, a campaign is being waged in Puerto Rico as well as in the United States, sending letters to BOP director Harley G. Lappin, to stop harassing Carlos Alberto, to expunge the finding of guilt from his file, and to inform the parole commission he has done so.
“In terms of law, in terms of justice, if these hearings are not pro forma, Carlos Alberto should be paroled in April, in conformity with the recommendation of the hearing examiner who presided over the previous hearing. Under no moral or political justification, under no sense of justice, should he remain in prison,” responded attorney Eduardo Villanueva, concerning the hearing set for January 19.
The spokesperson for the Human Rights Committee, which wages the campaign for the release of all Puerto Rican political prisoners, observed that Carlos Alberto is one of the longest held political prisoners in the West, and the longest held Puerto Rican in prison for political reasons.
Carlos Alberto Torres and Oscar Rivera were accused of the conceptual offense of seditious conspiracy, and Villanueva called irrational the United States government’s insistence on keeping the Puerto Rican independentistas in prison.
Avelino still being denied medical attention
Family and friends of political prisoner Avelino González Claudio are hoping that the authorities of Suffield Correctional Center and the State University of Connecticut comply in the next two weeks with a court order that González Claudio receive medical attention from a specialist.
The health of this independentista fighter began to be affected a few months after being moved to the prison in the state of Connecticut, following his arrest on the Island in February of 2008, after almost 15 years in clandestinity. Juan González Pedrosa, one of Avelino’s sons, said that he visited his father in early December, and that the symptoms of trembling and lack of coordination in his hands and legs have progressed at an alarming rate. It was clear that before being in prison, his father was in good health. In March of 2008, the first symptoms began, along with a condition of high blood pressure. From that moment, his family, friends and attorneys have made effort administratively, and with a letter writing campaign, to get him the specialized medical attention he needs.
As a result of these efforts, González reported, they learned that doctors from the two prisons where his father has been recommended that he be seen by a specialist, but the Medical Plan Advisory Board refused service on three occasions. He stated that in Connecticut, the prison population’s health services are privatized, with a contract with the State University.
Because there is no federal prison in Connecticut, González Claudio is held in the maximum security institution at Suffield, CT. Visits and telephone calls are limited to immediate family. Juan González described his father as very thin, and that the trembling in his hands has for the moment not allowed him to respond to the many letters he receives. He also warned that the prison does not allow people to send him money directly. Anyone interested in making a contribution can do so with the Avelino González Committee, Apartado 10363, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 00922.