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Anthropology: Human Rights: Prison Rights
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Content for this site
was created by:

Bridget Fernandes, MA Student
Cross Cultural Studies Program

URL for this website:
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Untitled Document

Human Rights in Houston:
Prison

According to The Death Penalty Information Center, in the United States 35 states enforce the death penalty. Since 1976, over 120 inmates have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. There have been at least four executions in Texas in which the inmate’s guilt was in question. In 2008, Texas executed 18 inmates which was the highest number of executions in the United States. Virginia was the second highest with 4 executions. The United Nations condemns the death penalty as a human rights abuse, and on November 1st, 2007 put forth a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
In addition to fighting to abolish the death penalty, the following human rights organizations fight for an inmate’s political rights, expose wrongful convictions, advocate for the respectful treatment of inmates, open a space for the prisoner’s voice to be heard, provide  legal counsel, and present legislation in order to better prison conditions and abolish the death penalty.

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Lamp of Hope
Houston Peace and Justice Center
United Nations Association
ACORN, Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now
Gulf Region Advocacy Center
Communities of St. Egidio
The Innocence Project
Harmony House
Path to Independence
The Rothko Chapel
90.1 KPFT


Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
“Seeking Justice in Texas…Educating for Life”

Contact Information
The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) does not have a permanent local address but meet at Freed-Montrose Library, 4100 Montrose Blvd. Houston, Texas.
Phone: 832-693-5710 and 281-933-4925
Contact Person: Nancy Bailey and David Atwood
E-mail: houston@tcadp.org
Website: www.tcadp.org

A short description: Political Rights
The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty fights to end the death penalty by educating the public through conferences and events, writing letters to government officials, working to change current death penalty legislation, and providing legal, spiritual, and moral support for those on death row and their families.

Volunteer Opportunities
TCADP needs people to write letters to government officials, contact law makers, attend monthly meetings and execution vigils (a schedule at this website: http://tcadp.org/index.php?page=vigils), sign petitions, host and organize awareness events, mail letters, and office work. 
Complete an application at: http://tcadp.org/index.php?page=volunteer
They also hold vigils for those being executed and the public is free to participate. You can see a schedule at: http://tcadp.org/index.php?page=vigils

Student Experience
      “Since human rights are for every person, then the right to life is being violated every time the criminal justice system executes a prisoner. The death penalty is not addressing the root cause or the structural violence of why inmates are in prison or on death row, it only perpetuates more violence. Society should question the interconnections between economic hardships, social inequality, and crime. David Atwood, the founder of TCADP, believing that all deserve human rights, perceiving a gap in death penalty advocacy, questioning structural violence, and truly seeking to practice Jesus’ commandment to love all, created TCADP in order to provide a space for awareness and education.  Atwood observed, judged, and acted which has produced change.”
                                                                  ---Bridget Fernandes---
                                                Human Rights Class, Fall 2008


Lamp of Hope
“All Life is Precious”

Contact Information
There is no permanent location.
P.O Box 305
League City, Texas, 77574-0305
Primary Contact: Karen Sebung
Phone: 281-808-6929
E-Mail: ksebung@houston.rr.com
A short description: Political Rights
            The Lamp of Hope was founded by Texas Death Row prisoners and educates the public about the death penalty, supports victim’s families by promoting healing and reconciliation and supports prisoner’s families. It provides a space for inmates to express themselves through writing and connect with pen pals.
Volunteer Opportunities
            The Lamp of Hope needs volunteers to become pen pals with inmates. You can see inmate contact information at: http://lampofhope.org/penpals.html. They also need volunteers to distribute materials concerning death penalty and educate others about how the death penalty is a human rights violation.


Houston Peace and Justice Center
Enhance the work of institutions and organizations in Houston that promote non-violence, human rights, and economic, social and environmental justice.”

Contact Information
Email: hpjcemail@yahoo.com
Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 66234, Houston,  TX 77266-6234
Phone: 713-522-9850
Website: http://www.hpjc.org

A short description: Supports Local Human Right’s organizations
The Houston Peace and Justice Center provides a space for local human rights organizations to meet, encourages networking between organizations, facilitates the pooling of resources in order to achieve specific goals, and sponsors local educational programs. Current projects include improving the criminal justice system, justice for janitors, stopping the war in Iraq, truth in recruiting for the armed services, and genocide in Darfur.
Volunteer Opportunities
The Houston Peace and Justice Center encourages volunteers to check with local human rights organizations. The local organizations that are affiliated with the Peace and Justice Center are on the following webpage: http://www.hpjc.org/membergroups.asp
If you would like to specifically volunteer with the Houston Peace and Justice Center call 713-522-9850 or email hpjcemail@yahoo.com to see what opportunities are available


United Nations Association/USA
“Global Concerns, Local Action”
Contact Information
9002 Chimney Rock #193
Houston, Texas 77096
713-667-7044
Website: http://www.unahouston.org
Contact Person: Lloyd Jacobson       
E-mail: nonprofitleader@mac.com

A Short Description: Political and Economic Rights
            The United Nations Houston is dedicated to building understanding of and support for the ideals and vital work of the United Nations among the American people. Its educational and humanitarian campaigns which include teaching students about international affairs through Model UN programs, clearing minefields in formerly war-torn nations, and providing school-based support for children living in HIV/AIDS-affected communities in Africa, allows people to make a global impact at the local level. In addition, its policy and advocacy programs stress the importance of nations working together and the need for United States leadership in the United Nations.

Volunteer Opportunities
            The United Nations needs people from the community to sing in the UNA International Choir. It is open to the public. Take a look at this site: http://www.unahouston.org/unachoir Volunteers are also needed to attend local events, meetings, raise awareness about the United Nations’ work, and donate money to specific projects.


ACORN
“Stand up and fight for justice”

Contact Information
3333 Fannin Street, Suite, 107
Houston, Texas, 77004
E-Mail: txacornho@acorn.org
Telephone: 713-868-7015, 1-877-800-7015
Website: http://www.acorn.org
To find local webpage go to offices and find Texas

A Short Description: Political and Economic Rights
            ACORN is a grassroots community organization that fights for affordable housing, better schools, fair housing, fair tax fees, against foreclosures, efficient disaster relief, affordable healthcare, immigration reform, a fair living wage, paid sick days, against predatory lending, and more voter engagement. They believe that change comes from the mobilization of the community.

Volunteer Opportunities
            ACORN needs community organizers in order to raise awareness about the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen. They also need volunteers to protest, march, sign petitions, become a member of ACORN and participate in local events, and to canvas neighborhoods passing out publications with important information.


Gulf Region Advocacy Center
Supporting and providing quality representation to indigent persons facing the death penalty in Texas and Louisiana”

Contact Information
809 Henderson Street
Houston, Texas, 77077
E-mail: staff@gracelaw.org
Contact Person: Liz Vartkessian
Telephone: 713-869-4722
Website: www.gracelaw.org

A Short Description: Political Rights
The Gulf Region Advocacy Center, or GRACE, is organized for the purpose of supporting and providing quality representation to indigent persons charged with capital crimes in the state courts of Texas and Louisiana.  The Director and several of the Board members are veteran capital trial lawyers who participated in building the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center (LCAC) in New Orleans, Louisiana. The LCAC has developed an extremely successful method for investigating and presenting capital cases for indigent defendants.

Volunteer Opportunities
            GRACE relies heavily on volunteers and needs volunteers to make copies, file documents, assist with bookkeeping, maintain website, answer phones, clean, and do yard work when necessary. They like volunteers who can schedule a regular time and dedicate themselves to that time. For more information on volunteering contact Jeremy at 713-869-4722 or e-mail him at jeremy@gracelaw.org. Other volunteer needs are at http://www.gracelaw.org/donate.html


Communities of St. Egidio
            “50,000 members dedicated to evangelism and charity”

Communities of St. Egidio
Web Site: http://www.santegidio.org/en This website is international.
Primary Contact(s): Ellen Burns
Phone: 713-283-7076
Email: ellen-b@sbcglobal.net

A short description: Economic Rights
            The community is composed of lay people and was approved and encouraged by John Paul II. Unlike most religious communities, it is composed entirely of lay people, who give of their possessions for the poor and for peace. The Community grew and now the membership is over 50,000 members. Among their accomplishments: they effected peace in Mozambique and now work in that country and others in Africa to counter the AIDS epidemic. In Roma they have a lunch counter for the poor right outside the Vatican Museum and they do many other works for poor families, the sick and maimed, and provide legal services for those who cannot afford them. In Texas they have made friends with many on Death Row in Livingston and provide them with legal aid, letters, and visitation.

Volunteer Opportunities
            There is no local volunteer website or mailing address. In Texas, they provide assistance to mainly death row inmates through letter writing and visitation. Contact Ellen Burns at:
ellen-b@sbcglobal.net for more information.


The Innocence Project
“Assisting Prisoners who could be Proven Innocent through DNA Testing”
Contact Information
Texas Innocence Network
100 Law Center
Houston, TX 77204-6060
Website: http://www.innocenceproject.org
Website Texas: http://www.innocenceprojectoftexas.org/

A Short Description: Political Rights
The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal clinic affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and created by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld in 1992. The project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. As a clinic, law students handle case work while supervised by a team of attorneys and clinic staff.Most of our clients are poor, forgotten, and have used up all legal avenues for relief. The hope they all have is that biological evidence from their cases still exists and can be subjected to DNA testing. All Innocence Project clients go through an extensive screening process to determine whether or not DNA testing of evidence could prove their claims of innocence. Thousands currently await our evaluation of their cases.
Volunteer Opportunities
There are limited volunteer opportunities but to inquire write an e-mail to: info@ipoftexas.org. You can also check: http://ipoftexas.org/contribute/volunteer/


Harmony House
Provide permanent and transitional housing for the homeless”
Contact Information
602 Girard Street
Houston, Texas, 77007
http://www.harmonyhouse.org
Residential Program: 713-223-8104; resident@harmonyhouse.org
Respite Program: 713-237-1765; respite@harmonyhouse.org
Tuberculosis Program: 713-237-1765; respite@harmonyhouse.org
Prison Outreach: 713-223-8104; prisonoutreach@harmonyhouse.org
Short Description: Economic Rights
            Harmony House is a 70-bed Residence and has evolved into Houston’s premier damp/dry residential facility, providing transitional supportive housing to homeless working men with disabilities--- men who are gainfully employed and integrated into the Houston community--- men who have a history of alcohol or substance abuse. Target population at the Respite Center is the homeless Houston/Harris County man released from the hospital with an acute physical injury or serious medical illness, including tuberculosis.  HHRC partners with the Harris County Hospital District and Houston Department of Health and Human Services Tuberculosis (TB) Control Division, providing 3- t o 12-months of housing, treatment and supportive services to homeless men recovering from injury or illness. Supported by a full-time nurse practitioner, HHRC patients enjoy an on-site medical clinic and pharmacy, hospital accommodations, catered meals, transportation to medical appointments, and a staff of professionals trained to oversee physician prescribed medication and treatment. The Respite Center and Tuberculosis Recovery Center provide a clean, dignified, and nurturing environment for patient healing, coordinating in-house resources with those available from community agencies.
Volunteer Opportunities
Contact directly for volunteer opportunities


Path to Independence
“Where a desire for freedom begins”
Contact Information
10101 Forum Park Drive, Suite 2022
Houston, Texas, 77036
713-688-7400
Michael Brown: info@pticommunities.com

A Short Description: Economic Rights
Path to Independence recognizes the challenges in today’s society in the areas of providing a safe, structured, environment for men, who are released from prison, suffer from substance abuse, and the homeless population, as a result of unemployment or mental instabilities. These areas can not be dealt with adequately by agencies that are experiencing budget cuts or are at capacity. It is very difficult keeping up with the demand. Path’s plan is to become a vital resource in all areas stated above. Our goal is to provide housing for all areas of homelessness, employment for our clients, job training for many areas of employment, and counseling for the substance abuser, all under one location. Our purpose is to help those who have barriers and challenges build a foundation that will better equip them to stand on their own.
Volunteer Opportunities
Contact directly for volunteer opportunities.


The Rothko Chapel
“A sacred space open to all, established to advance human rights, interfaith understanding, and justice.”
Contact Information
1409 Sul Ross
Houston, Texas, 77006
713-524-7461
http://www.rothkochapel.org
A Short Description: Economic and Political Rights
The Rothko Chapel, founded by John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A modern meditative environment inspired by the mural canvasses of American abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, the Chapel welcomes thousands of visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.
The Chapel has two vocations: contemplation and action. It is a place alive with religious ceremonies of all faiths, and where the experience and understanding of all traditions are encouraged and made available. Action takes the form of supporting human rights, and thus the Chapel has become a rallying place for all people concerned with peace, freedom, and social justice throughout the world.
Volunteer Opportunities
Contact directly for volunteer opportunities


90.1 KPFT
“Radio for Peace”
Contact Information
419 Lovett
Houston, Texas, 77006
713-526-5738
http://www.kpft.org 

A Short Description: Economic and Political Rights
90.1 airs programs about the non-violent movement, human rights movements, interfaith dialogue, environmental issues, prison rights, healthcare issues, immigrant rights, and politics.

Volunteer Opportunities
KPFT is always in need of volunteers willing to spend some time around the station. Let us know what your skills are, and we will definitely  find something to do for you. We can always use help in the Music and News Department, General Data Entry, and Maintenance. Take a look at the following website for more information:  http://www.kpft.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=38&Itemid=91

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