A Just Cause

No Human Dignity at Florence FPC

Florence Federal Prison Camp Deprives Visiting Families of Basic Human Interaction, Says Advocacy Group A Just Cause. Human Dignity in Prisons is Top Priority by Governments in Other Developed Nations, Not So in U.S.


Denver, CO -- (ReleaseWire) -- 08/24/2016 --A Just Cause continues to fight for families and friends to be treated with respect and decency as they visit their loved ones in federal prisons. AJC has contacted numerous members of Congress and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Thomas Kane to intervene in continuing harassment and disrespect by prison staff to inmates and their families in the visiting room at the minimum security federal prison camp in Florence, Colorado. "Florence prison officials told me that the inmates greeting loved ones from the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church group is considered 'special treatment' and will not be tolerated because it is a threat to security and presents an opportunity to pass contraband," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director of A Just Cause. "The church group has been visiting for four years without incident under two Wardens, but when Warden Stancil took over in March 2015 the church group were viewed as potential criminals and have been treated poorly by staff ever since," adds Banks.

Torri Lopez, a member of the church group, speaks about his experience arriving at the entry to the compound to visit David Zirpolo (IRP6). "I was greatly offended when Correctional Officer Price asked why I and my daughter were coming to visit and didn't I have anything better to do with my time," says Lopez. "What I do with my time is none of his business," muses Lopez. "The attitude by Florence prison officials are representative of a widely-accepted U.S. philosophy that promotes retribution versus rehabilitation and characterizes its incarcerated as people that should be despised by society," adds Banks.

Unlike the United States, other developed nations, such as Germany and the Netherlands are based on rehabilitation, human dignity and privacy, and they both have significantly lower recidivism rates than the U.S. On April 3, 2016, Bill Whitaker of the show Crime and Punishment toured German prisons and interviewed Joerg Jesse, the Director of Prisons in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a state in northern Germany. Whitaker told Jesse that Americans think crime and punishment. "The incarceration, the imprisonment itself is the punishment. The loss of freedom. That's it," says Jesse. Norway agrees. In March 2016, the BBC reported, according to the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service, that prison should be a restriction of liberty, but nothing more. The wrongly-convicted IT execs known as the IRP6 speak about their experience at Florence.

"I was wrongly-convicted and didn't realize how profoundly priceless freedom is," says David Banks (IRP6). "Our justice officials and the vast majority of American citizens would have to walk in our shoes to understand. There is no greater loss for the living than being stripped of your freedom and when you are innocent the loss is exponentially greater," says David Banks. "I was told by one prison guard that their goal is to make prison more difficult so the inmate doesn't want to return. I suppose that's why some Wardens and staff, not all, have a pile-on attitude and attempt to deprive us and our visitors of the basic human dignity of greeting family and friends," says David Banks. "I describe many of the Florence correctional officers as adversarial to me and my visitors," says David Zirpolo (IRP6). "I feel we are being punished by the prison for simply expressing our love for one another," adds Zirpolo. "It's as if the staff resents or is jealous of our family and friends faithfully visiting us for 4 years because they think we are despicable, vial human beings," says Clinton Stewart (IRP6). "Warden Stancil and other prison management are quick to remind us that this is a federal prison as if that gives them a license to deprive us and our visitors of human dignity and decency," says Ken Barnes (IRP6). "When we filed a grievance because of the unfair treatment, Warden Stancil suspended our visiting privileges and tried to ship us hundreds of miles away from our families," laments Barnes. "The treatment has been difficult on my 10-year-old son and my teenage daughter who was treated poorly because she brought female items for her monthly cycle," says Demetrius Harper (IRP6). "My son has been forced to leave because he had on sweatpants," adds Harper.

After visiting Germany's Prison, John Wetzel, Pennsylvania's Secretary of Corrections said: "I think more than anytime in the history of our country, we have the right and left agree that we've -- frankly screwed up the corrections system for 30 years and it's time to do something different. It really starts with understanding that, you know, a human being's value isn't diminished by being incarcerated."

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