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Justice Rally
Justice Rally, Benton Harbor
The People's Tribune interviewed Rev. Edward Pinkney, a community activist and leader in the fight against Whirlpool's take over of the town of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Pinkney is incarcerated for alleged probation violations after a judge ruled that his use of Biblical quotes was threatening.  After Pinkney's nomination by the Green Party for U.S. Representative, he was moved to a prison far from the media, friends and attorneys.

People's Tribune: Could you give us the latest particulars on your case?

Rev. Pinkney: Judge Butzbaugh denied the appeal bond. We anticipated this because he had previously claimed that the Bible scripture was a threat on his life. In fact, we wanted him to speed up the process so we can get to the appeal court where we have a 95% chance of them approving an appeal bond for me. Now they are holding up the transcript. It should have been received in 20-25 days. It is now 90 days. But I am happy. I have an opportunity to expose this system that has been corrupt for years. That's why I don't feel bad about being in here.

PT. Could you speak about the conditions at this prison?

Pinkney: The other jail was cleaner. This is probably the pits.  For example, the men's room has no soap and people don't have soap of their own. It is very unsanitary here. There's no tissue in washrooms most of the time. Normally you get a couple of rolls just in case you run out or you need to blow your nose or whatever. They send your clothes out but they don't put in any bleach to kill the germs. This is supposed to be a level 1 prison, but it is really a level 2. You can tell by the fence and also they got cameras everywhere. So everything you do is watched closely. Let's say they think you have been in the cafeteria long enough, but you haven't completed your meal. They can tell you to leave. If you are slow or don't do it, you are disciplined. They try to keep you in total check. When you get back in the world, you can't adjust. People need to know exactly how the system works. It is basically all about the money. It's not about rehabilitation.  It's not about reform. They get about $35,000 per prisoner and they probably spend $4,500 a year on the prisoner and the security forces. So that's what that adds up to.

Pinkney: What I'm working on now is to insure that people get out of here. They have a program called an AOP (Assaultive Offender Program.) If you don't complete that program, and they require you to, you will get what's called a flop - which could be another 12 or 24 months. That's serious. It's just another way to keep people here. A flop prolongs your stay. We need to get the word out to the governor about this through the media. The public thinks people are in prison to protect them. But it doesn't make sense to put people in prison and then turn them out without any way to survive. After you finish your minimum sentence, it's time to go home. But here, if you don't complete some of the stupid programs they have, that's a reason to keep you.

PT: Could you speak about why they moved you to the far northern part of Michigan?

Pinkney: They moved me so the media couldn't get to me.  They have been redirecting the media to call Lansing. People then get a recording. They are trying to throw you off. After you call here, call directly to the governor's office and let her know. Granholm had already given approval to have these interviews.  Also, I had a couple of interviews and the prison was on the other line, which is illegal.  I'm trying to get all this information together. It appears that everything is falling right into place.  I'm not mad about being here. I am one of the few people who can honestly say I might be a little happy to be here. I have an opportunity to do a lot of things.  I got these judges who I can get, I got Berrien County and I got the department of corrections - I got them all.

PT: Please speak about your Green Party
nomination for U.S. Representative.
Pinkney: It was an honor to be nominated to be a U.S. representative. The position will allow things to be exposed in Berrien County. Representative Upton and Whirlpool have so much power. If we bring somebody else in they will work to protect the people, not St. Joseph, the township and Whirlpool. And we can stop the outsourcing of jobs by Whirlpool. If I happen to be elected, I can bring more jobs in for everybody - not just for some of the people. Whirlpool is outsourcing jobs to Mexico and all over the place. We could build factories in Berrien Country. I had an opportunity to bring jobs in but they stopped me. Another thing I am going to do is deal with the prison system. I am going to prove where the money is being spent.

This is a tremendous opportunity for me and also for the people. We have a chance to do something we never did before. Most people are scared. But there's no fear in my heart. First, is the fight for justice. There's nothing more important than justice itself, but when you talk about justice, people get scared. You have to stand up. That's what Upton has failed to do. All he cares about is justice for Whirlpool and for the people in St. Joseph. I care about all the people. It's my duty. I can't stop doing this. If I stop doing this I defeat my whole purpose of being on earth.  I am mentally and morally prepared. Just to be nominated is such a tremendous thing. I'm walking on a cloud right now. The people had enough love and respect for me to say that they want to run me for a U.S. representative. If I were out, I would be campaigning like a mad man. We may not be successful this year. But when I get out of here we will be successful the following year.


Michigan has an incarceration rate of 489 prisoners per 100,000 people. These prisoners are now being taxed. Governor Jennifer Granholm has placed a surcharge on prisoner store purchases, which is unconstitutional. The governor is taxing the prisoners an additional 10% on all store food items. It is illegal to tax your food purchases. The prisoners already pay more for these items than you do. Both the Federal and State Constitution prohibit taxation without representation. A prisoner is not represented because they cannot vote while in prison. The surcharge goes into effect on October 1, 2008.

Contact the media: Flood Ojibway and Lansing with phone calls and letters. Ojibway: 906-787-2214. Dept. of Corrections:  517-335-1426.  Gov. Granholm:  517-335-7858. Ask family, friends and voters to put together a referendum to repeal P.A.  245. It will take at least 200,000 signatures. We want everybody to get involved. WE NEED YOUR HELP.  STOP THE SURCHARGE

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551,
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