Progress in Case of Man Imprisoned for Crime He Did Not Commit

In Brattleboro on January 12 a judge set the schedule for a case involving a man who was kept in prison for 18 years for a crime he probably did not commit. In 2012, a judge ordered John Grega released from prison in Springfield, Vermont, near Brattleboro, after 18 years in prison for a murder that he probably did not commit. The murder happened in 1994 in Dover, Vermont, which is also near Brattleboro. Grega died in a car crash on January 23, 2015. His family is seeking to hold government officials accountable for the 18 years Grega spent in prison.

450 at March, Rally Against Racism

In Northampton and Amherst some 450 people attended a march and a rally protesting Smith College's decision to admit just 5 percent African American students (13 percent of Americans are black) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst's decision to admit 4 percent African American undergraduate students (8 percent of Massachusetts residents are African American). The protesters called on Smith and UMass to hire more black professors. The protests were in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

A Victory in the Fight Against Mass Incarceration

Activists in the Valley who are working to end mass incarceration might be inspired by a story from Oakland, California. In December 2014, in Oakland, anti-prison activists held a rally outside a meeting of the county legislature. They were asking the Alameda county board of supervisors to invest $17 million a year in programs to keep people out of prison by creating jobs for people just getting out of prison. (People who have been in prison are far more likely return to prison when they are released than people who have never been incarcerated, largely because of difficulty finding work.)

Workers Unite in the Valley

Workers at Keene State College are organizing a union. In related news, on June 30 in Boston, health care workers from around Massachusetts held a rally at the statehouse to celebrate a major victory.

Holyoke Workers Unite

Workers at a high school in Holyoke are organizing a union. “We have more than a dozen members out of about 35 workers,” Sofia Lemons told the Valley Post on May 14. She is a math teacher at the school. “More workers are signing up every day.” The union includes teachers and cafeteria and office workers at the school.

Shaitia Spruell works as a teaching assistant at the school. “We need a union to protect us,” she told the Valley Post on May 14. “I am proud to be part of the union.”

Springfield Man in Prison Since 1985 for Crime He Did Not Commit?

Chris Fabricant is a lawyer and former professor of law in New York City. He works for the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that has freed 329 people in the USA from prison by proving they did not commit the crime they were imprisoned for. Each of those people spent an average of 14 years in prison. Seventeen of the people who were freed had been sentenced to death but were freed before the government could execute them.

Workers' Victories

Hundreds of workers in the Valley will be getting raises and a new union contract. On February 19, leaders of two unions that represent around 1,700 land-line telephone and internet workers in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine said they had reached an agreement for a new contract with Fairpoint Corporation. The workers have been on strike since October.

Photos: Holyoke March Against Police Killings, Racism

On December 12 in Holyoke, there was a march to protest recent killings of unarmed black men by white police officers around the nation. At the head of the march, people carried a sign that read, "Black lives matter."

Photos of the march are below. To enlarge a photo, click on it, then scroll down and click "see full size image."

photos by Joe Oliverio

Eviction Protest Is November 18 in Springfield

Activists are asking the public to attend a rally outside the home of a low income man in Springfield who is being threatened with eviction. The bank that wants to evict Jeff Solivan is Fannie Mae Corporation, whose CEO was paid $6 million in 2010, the most recent year for which data was available.

The rally is set for November 18 at 9 a.m. at 32 Edgemont Street in Springfield. The group that is organizing the rally has a web site at www.SpringfieldNoOneLeaves.org.

Prisoner Uprising

A private corporation that runs a prison in Arizona where the state of Vermont sends some of its prisoners tried to keep secret an uprising by the Vermonters. The prisoners broke TVs and microwave ovens to protest harsh conditions in the prison. It is more difficult for the prisoners' family and friends to visit them in Arizona then if they were kept in a prison in Vermont. Experts say this means it will be harder for them to find jobs and a place to live when they get out. Ultimately, they are more likely to end up in jail again.