Sunday, September 24, 2017

Support and Collective Healing for US Political Prisoner Herman Bell

Update!:  Herman Bell is now in general population! He was told that the charges will be dropped! Visit Free Herman Bell for more information on how to best support him.

From Herman (written earlier) with many thanks for all of our efforts:

September 27, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters,

Thank you for the outpouring of cards, letters, healing-love and energy that you sent me in response to the unprovoked brutal assault on me by NYS prison guards at Comstock, NY – a vicious slap aside the head from behind and shoved to the ground. I protected myself as best as I could. I sustained multiple kicks, punches to the face and eyes, repeated head slams into concrete, and 2 cracked ribs. They tried to bury me with raining blows, not knowing that I am a seed. But the burning pepper spray sprayed into my eyes and mouth is what did me in – and yet, here I am.

Now I know why visitors bring flowers and candy to the hospital. I was immediately sent, however, not to a hospital but to the Box for “assault on staff,” so the cards and letters and love you sent me were my flowers and candy. You did great!

I was astonished, not by the outpouring of your support, but by the enormity of it.

People are coming together and are standing up. They are finding that they are not entitled to the rights and freedoms they think they have as americans. Instead of the consideration americans – many of them voters – deserve, they are ignored by authoritarian and elected officials.

They lack healthcare, suffer from unrestrained police violence, mass incarceration, lack a living wage, experience poverty and homelessness, and suffer from a toxic environment. People are standing up against these injustices, insisting that their demands be respected and addressed.

The social injustice, jackboot repression, racist attacks, discrimination, wealth disparities, unemployment, lack of affordable housing (the list doesn’t just end there), creates waves of fierce discontent which ls gaining steady momentum, becoming a full-blown cleansing tsunami, the force of which is irresistible.

And that force is you, the People, coming together and taking a stand. My flowers and candy is your outpouring of support for me, our political prisoners, the mass incarcerated and the voiceless.

To write each of you (I’ve literally received hundreds of letters) a personal “thank you” at this time would be impossible. So, I send this “thank you!” instead.

Thank you! I thank you deeply one and all for the empathy, outrage, love and support you’ve expressed in the face of the assault on me. May our resolve to produce social change remain unshakeable.

Herman Bell
​Shawangunk Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, New York 12589
(most updated addresses for U.S. Political Prisoners, with birthdays, posted here)

Some of you may know Herman Bell, who is a US Political Prisoner, former Black Panther, movement elder, Victory Gardens Project co-founder, Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar co-creator, father, grandfather, husband, and mentor to many both on the inside and the outside.  How is Herman connected with herbs and herbal justice?  In the 15 years since I was a volunteer at the Victory Gardens Project, near my hometown in Maine, Herman and I have corresponded.  He is a friend and mentor to me.  The Radherb Collective, which I was a part of for many years, took inspiration from the Victory Gardens Project.  Over the years, though our letters and face-to-face visits, Herman has helped shape who I am as an herbalist, how I make remedies, and my understanding of the the way herbs and social justice are completely entwined.  

Herman is 69 years old, has been incarcerated for 43 years and has been denied parole 7 times.  On Sept 5th Herman was assaulted by a group of officers at Great Meadow Correctional Facility.  He was singled out, brought to an area away from all the other inmates to where there is no video surveillance, and guards began beating him.  The account is personally really difficult for me to read, and the thought that he could have died in the attack is beyond upsetting.  He did survive the attack.  He was then taken to the infirmary where he waited for hours and did not receive adequate medical care for the beating he had just endured.  He had the medical staff note that there were no abrasions on his hands or any other indication that he assaulted a guard.  He was transferred to another facility hours away where he has been held in solitary, continues to be denied medical care for the head trauma and other injuries inflicted on him by the guards, and he is also facing the serious charge of assaulting an officer.  He continues to experience headaches, his vision is affected from being maced at close range, and two ribs were broken in the attack.

Anyone who knows Herman knows he did not assault an officer.  Herman is an elder who has not had an infraction for over 20 years (when he participated in a strike over inmate conditions), he was only days away from finally having a family visit (which he'd been denied without justification for over two and half years), and he has been preparing for his next parole hearing in early 2018.

Immediate action is needed

1.  We need to flood the Commissioner with messages of support demanding that Herman receive medical attention, be removed from solitary, have the charges against him dropped, have access to family visits, and that the officers who attacked him be fired.  You can simply cut and past the sample letter here, or add your own personal message.  Here is a pdf of the letter that you can print out, sign/address/date, and send.  If you are able, please print out extra copies for friends and family to also sign and send in.  Also, if you are able, please send this same letter to: Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224.

2.  Please take a few minutes to send an email to the Commissioner and Governor.  (Sample email below)

3.  People are also encouraged to write to Herman to show support.  (Address below)

4.  Please spread the word!!!  If you have other organizations that you are connected with, please share this message with them and encourage friends and family to send letters as well.  This information can be found online here.

Here is a sample email that you can simply cut and paste:


Anthony Annucci
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
(518) 457-8134

Cc: Governor Andrew Cuomo
(212) 257-6405

Dear Commissioner Annucci (Governor Cuomo):

I am writing in concern and outrage over the unprovoked beating by Great Meadow C.F. correctional officers of Herman Bell, #79C0262.
On September 5th, with no provocation, five or six correctional officers assaulted this widely respected elder. These guards punched and kicked Mr. Bell all over his body while he was on the ground. He was kneed in the chest and stomach, breaking two of his ribs. One guard then grabbed his head and slammed it into the ground three times, at which point Mr. Bell thought his life would be ending. He was excessively maced at close range all over his face and eyes, causing temporarily blindness and inability to breathe.

Mr. Bell is accused of assaulting one of the officers. This charge is absurd. The assault on Herman Bell is part of an epidemic of violence by NYS prison guards against the incarcerated population--an epidemic documented by the New York Times and other journalists, as well as by criminal justice agencies.

The idea that this 69-year-old man would have hit an officer is ludicrous, as he was about to have a family visit (the first in two and a half years) and was beginning preparations for an appearance at the Board of Parole this coming February. Mr. Bell was looking forward to the family visit with great anticipation, and he is optimistic about his chances at the Board, given recent changes in parole regulations and the appointment of new commissioners. There is absolutely no doubt that he did not commit any infraction on September 5th; he also has not had a ticket in the past 20 years. Mr. Bell has been imprisoned in the NY State system for over 38 years and has never been accused of assaulting staff.

This brutal assault by Great Meadow guards constitutes not only staff abuse but also elder abuse. Mr. Bell will be 70 years of age in four months. He was badly injured in the beating. Mr. Bell requires both a CT scan of his head and an ophthalmology examination.
I write to demand that you take these actions:

That Herman Bell be immediately given adequate medical screening and attention at an outside hospital;

That CO J. Saunders and the other officers responsible for the beating be fired;

That the ridiculous charges brought against Herman Bell be dropped immediately and that he be returned at least to general population (he 
had been on the Honor Block at Great Meadow and despite his request was never given a reason for being moved to general population);

That Mr. Bell’s family visits be reinstated;

That Mr. Bell be moved to a facility where his family visiting can take place and be rescheduled at the earliest possible date.


More info about the assault and a longer sample letter (which points out that the attack is a form of elder abuse) to print out and send to the Commissioner available here.


Herman's new address:::

Herman Bell
​Shawangunk Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, New York 12589

(most updated addresses for U.S. Political Prisoners, with birthdays, posted here)


For anyone reading this during the weekend of Sept 23-24, feel free to join us in the Collective Healing for Herman Bell from wherever you are.  People are gathering together from across Turtle Island/the US, Lebanon, Ireland, and possibly beyond to send Herman healing energy to heal and strengthen his body and spirit. Emails and letters to the Commissioner and Governor are vital.  Sending Herman our love in this collective way is another that we can manifest our support and solidarity.

For those in Central Vermont, there will be a Letter Writing Event to Support Herman Bell on Sunday Oct 29, 2017 from 2-4pm at the Christ Episcopal Church, 64 State St, Montpelier, VT.  More info to come.

at the park sitting with the oak trees to draw strength to send to herman. 
with protective and healing herbs. yarrow, calendula, & plantain. and healing waters.

For more information and updates:

Denied Family Visits: Bell’s daughter-in-law, kihana miraya ross, reflects on how vital visits are for both Bell and their family

The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York State’s Prisons: A New York Times investigation draws on nearly 60,000 disciplinary cases from state prisons and interviews with inmates to explore the system’s inequities and the ripple effect they can have. 

Video of Herman and his family here

Jericho Movement working for the freedom of all political prisoners

The Freedom Archives 12,000 hours of audio and video recordings and thousands of documents about social justice movements locally, nationally, and internationally from the 1960s to the present. The Archives features speeches of movement leaders and community activists, protests and demonstrations, cultural currents of rebellion and resistance.

Video of Herman and his family here

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