Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XX Number 6, June 2012


  Thursday, June 28, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 505 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena. (This is 
just south of the corner with San Pasqual. 
Signs will be posted.) We will be planning our 
activities for the coming months. Please join 
us! Refreshments provided.

  Tuesday, July 10, 7:30 PM.  Letter writing 
meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner of Hill 
and California in Pasadena. This informal 
gathering is a great way for newcomers to get 
acquainted with Amnesty!   

  Sunday, July 15, 6:30 PM.  Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion group. This 
month we read "Running the Books" by Avi 


Hi All

This month's newsletter finds our editor 
enjoying the warm but not too hot summer 
weather during our brief summer break (we go 
back August 13!!) while working as many extra 
days as she can to make up for 4 furlough days 
that will hit our July paycheck! (and 10 + next 
year...) Ouch!

It's About Time... Aung San Suu Kyi finally gets 
to pick up her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo... 21 
years later!  Group 22 and many others have 
written letters on her behalf, urging the Burmese 
government to release her from house arrest - 
she was finally freed in November 2010.

Be sure to read Lucas' account of the various 
activities Group 22 members have participated 
in recently.  My husband and I did not attend 
the Tiananmen Square Massacre Commemora-
tion dinner held in Chinatown over Memorial 
Day weekend.  Those of you who did, I'm sure 
you enjoyed it.  Kudos to Ann Lau, the force 
behind the protests for Chinese activists.

This month's book selection looks like fun - a 
Nice Jewish Boy (orthodox, no less!) working in 
a prison library?!  Wonder how Martha came up 
with this one!

Con Carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group

Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting:
Sunday, July 15, 6:30 PM
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado, Pasadena

The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian
By Avi Steinberg

About the Author:
Avi Steinberg was born in Jerusalem and raised 
in Cleveland and Boston. His work has 
appeared in the New York Times Magazine, 
Boston Globe, New York Review of Books, 
Salon, the Paris Review and the Daily Beast and 
others. Running the Books is his first book. It has 
been optioned for TV by Reveille Productions, 
producers of The Office.

by Dwight Garner 
Published October 19, 2010 
The New York Times

Steinberg's memoir, "Running the Books," about 
his job as a prison librarian at "the Bay" - the 
Suffolk County House of Correction in South 
Bay near Boston - gets off to an obnoxious start. 

Mr. Steinberg is a self-described "asthmatic 
Jewish kid," a young Harvard graduate and a 
stalled novelist. He applied for the prison library 
job when he saw it posted on Craigslist. He 
needed the health insurance. Probably he 
needed a book idea too. 
The early bits of "Running the Books" are as 
hopped-up as a spaniel with a new rubber ball. 
The tone is, more or less, "Augusten Burroughs 
Goes to the Clink." Here's a not atypical 
passage: "It was official. I was now on the side 
of angels. The Po-Po. The Fuzz. The Heat. The 
Big Blue Machine." 

But a funny thing happens to "Running the 
Books" as it inches forward. Mr. Steinberg's 
sentences start to pop out at you, at first because 
they're funny and then because they're acidly 
funny. The book slows down. It blossoms. Mr. 
Steinberg proves to be a keen observer, and a 
morally serious one. His memoir is wriggling 
and alive - as involving, and as layered, as a 
good coming-of-age novel. 

The humor bubbles up organically. When a 
homophobic prisoner learns about a book called 
"Queer Theory: An Introduction," he bellows in 
agony: "They got theories now?" Mr. Steinberg 
gets this advice from a prison staff member on 
how to comport himself: "Don't smile. This isn't 
the Gap." He listens bemusedly to one inmate's 
intricate disquisition on why pimping, he 
relates, is "the great male art form, the art form 
to which all others aspired." 

Explaining his relatively pampered Orthodox 
Jewish background, Mr. Steinberg reports: "My 
yeshiva high school's basketball team was 
named not the Tigers or the Hawks, but the 
MCATS. As in, the Medical College Admission 

He nails the way that Boston is both a very big 
city and a very small town. "In Boston, justice is 
a mom-and-pop shop," he writes. "Bob throws 
you into the joint, Patti takes it from there." (For 
non-Bostonians, he elaborates: "Patti, director of 
the prison's education department, was my 
supervisor. She is married to Boston's No. 2 cop, 
a perennial candidate for the police 
commissioner's job.") 

Once he's installed in his new post, after nearly 
failing a mandatory drug test, Mr. Steinberg 
comes to realize what a humming and humane 
place his library is. Prison officials tend to 
distrust libraries, because they're hard to patrol. 
They're good places, too, to pass notes (in 
books) or to plan crimes. 

Worse, hardcover books can be fashioned into 
body armor. A few rolled-up magazines, with 
the application of duct tape, can be made into a 
billy club. "A floppy disk?" he writes, 
paraphrasing a security expert. "Easily outfitted 
into a switchblade." 
But prison libraries, as Mr. Steinberg points out, 
are also places where lives can be rebooted. 
Malcolm X educated himself, and underwent a 
major transformation, in a Massachusetts prison 
library. Alas, so did James (Whitey) Bulger, the 
notorious Boston Irish crime boss, who learned 
plenty from devouring books about brutal 
military tactics and then used that information 
on the street. 

The most important section in a prison library's 
stacks may be its law books. But inmate tastes 
ran to James Patterson and James Frey, to pulpy 
hip-hop novels and to books about dream 
interpretation. The most requested book of all, 
Mr. Steinberg says, may have been Robert 
Greene's "48 Laws of Power" (1998), a macho 
and plainspoken synthesis of the ideas in books 
like Machiavelli's "Prince" and Sun Tzu's "Art 
of War." 

In the writing classes Mr. Steinberg also teaches 
in prison, he introduces inmates to other 
authors: Toni Morrison, Philip Larkin, Amiri 
Baraka. There's a weirdly moving moment in 
which Mr. Steinberg asks a group of female 
inmates to read a Flannery O'Connor story. 
"Can we see a picture of her first?" one asks. 
When he shows her O'Connor's photo, she says 
she'll read her because "she looks kind of busted 
up, y'know? She ain't too pretty. I trust her." 
A fair amount of drama seeps into "Running the 
Books." The author has battles, some of them 
frightening, with the prison guards, who mostly 
scorn him as a Harvard twerp. He befriends two 
inmates - a pimp who's writing a memoir and 
a woman who abandoned her son as a child - 
and these relationships become complicated and 

Mr. Steinberg listens. When a prostitute delivers 
a lecture about marriage and its discontents, he 
wisely observes: "This woman worked in the 
trenches of marital warfare. She had something 
to say on the subject." 

He writes particularly well about the many, and 
mostly furtive, attempts at male-female 
communication in the prison. Letters left in 
books for other prisoners have a name, it turns 
out - they're called kites. He reads and admires 
many: "Some were masterpieces of the genre, 
contenders for the Great American Kite." 
Gripped by an archival impulse, he begins to 
save certain ones. 

He watches, with awe, a form of communication 
called skywriting, in which male prisoners make 
sweeping hand motions, spelling letters in the 
air. These messages are aimed at female 
prisoners, who look down from windows above. 
One of the running gags in this memoir is that 
few, if any, of the prisoners can pronounce Mr. 
Steinberg's first name: "I got called everything: 
Ari, Javi, Ali, Artie, Avery, Arnie, Alley, Arlo, 
Albie, Harley, Halley, Arfi, Advil, Alvie, Audi 
(as in the car), Arby (as in the fast food chain), 
A. V., Harvey, Harvin, and my personal 
favorite, which I heard but once: Ally. That 
name got right to the point." 

In the end most people simply called Mr. 
Steinberg this: Bookie. Now they can also start 
calling him a writer. 

by Lucas Kamp

On May 23rd, the Caltech Y Social Activism 
Speaker Series presented a talk by Dr. Susie 
Baldwin, a speaker who had been proposed by 
our group.  The subject was "Human 
Trafficking, Healthcare and Underserved 
Populations in LA County", on which Dr. 
Baldwin is a recognized expert.  The talk was 
both enlightening and moving, as the speaker 
explained the issues clearly and in depth, and 
also allowed considerable time for Q&A, which 
was very lively.  Regretfully, the final note was 
somber, because the lack of funds in the current 
political situation means that conditions will 
only get worse in these areas.

On June 4th there was a candlelight vigil at the 
Chinese consulate on Shatto Place, LA, to 
commemorate the victims of the 1989 
Tiananmen massacre.  As always, there was an 
AI presence, since one of the organizers has 
always been Ann Lau of the Visual Artists Guild 
and AI Group 175.  Group 22 has been attending 
this event for many years, and this year we were 
represented by myself and new group member 
Tracy Gore.  We carried an AI banner, Tracy 
spoke to the crowd on AI's involvement in this 
issue, and we both gave interviews to the 
Chinese press.  There were a large number of 
speakers (mostly in Chinese), including 
survivors of the massacre and their children, 
alternating with songs.  It was a moving event.

Tracy also represented our group at another 
vigil on June 11th, for Li Wangyang, a Chinese 
labor rights activist, who was found hanged in 
his hospital room in what the Chinese 
authorities labeled a suicide, but was probably 
murder.  Tracy reports that this was extremely 
moving and quite different from the June 4th 

Gao Zhisheng
by Joyce Wolf

Group 22 continues to work for imprisoned 
Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng 
(pronounced Gow Jir-sheng). 

Following his brother's brief prison visit in 
March, which marked the first confirmation for 
nearly two years that Gao Zhisheng was actually 
alive and well, there have been no reports of 
further contacts. His wife, Geng He, writes in an 
open letter to her husband that she has tried 
repeatedly to contact Shaya prison by phone, 
but with no success. She mentions that other 
dissident prisoners in China have been 
permitted monthly visits by their families and 
brief phone calls, and says that she will keep 
trying. You can read her letter at 

In her letter to Gao, Geng He writes with hope 
and longing, "When I go shopping with our 
daughter, I can't help wandering to men's wear 
section for a look, thinking to myself, 'This piece 
will look good on you.' I wonder if I should get 
it for you, and then I'll think, 'I'll just wait. I'll 
buy it for you when you come out.'" She 
concludes, "I'm writing this letter to tell you that 
I will never give up on your freedom. I trust you 
will never give up either. I will never stop 
writing to you to encourage you as well as 

In a recent interview on NTDTV, Gao 
Zhisheng's daughter Geng Ge spoke about her 
life in the U.S.. She recalled the difficulties 
endured before the family fled China in 2009. 
She said her father would be pleased to know 
that she will start college this fall.

On the general topic of human rights in China, 
you could check out Amnesty International's 
new Annual Report, which was released in May. 
For an overview of the last decade in China, try 
the farewell article by Guardian journalist 
Jonathan Watts, He 
writes, "Compared with nine years ago, people 
in China have more freedom to shop, to travel 
and to express their views on the internet. The 
Communist party tolerates a degree of criticism, 
but step over the invisible line of what is 
acceptable and the consequences are brutal. In 
my first years in China, I interviewed several 
outspoken opponents - Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng, 
Hu Jia and Teng Biao. I was impressed back then 
that they were at liberty to speak out. It 
seemed like the act of a confident government. 
But all of them have subsequently been locked 
up and, in at least two cases, tortured." 

Let's make sure that Shaya Prison knows that 
Gao Zhisheng is not forgotten. Send him a card 
of support and offer congratulations on his 
daughter's starting college. Postage is $1.05. 
Here is his address: 

Gao Zhisheng
Shaya Prison 
P.O. Box 15, Sub-box 16 
Shaya County, Aksu Prefecture 
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, 842208 
People's Republic of China

By Stevi Carroll

SAFE California Campaign
November's coming and so is the ballot 
initiative to take the death penalty away from 
California.  In July the SAFE California 
Campaign initiative will have its ballot number.  
Let the education of Californians begin.  We 
have a new Amnesty organizer, William Syms, 
here in southern California to work on this 
campaign. Welcome, William.
At a meeting on June 9, Miguel Cruz discussed 
the need to register voters as we spread the 
SAFE CA word.  We went over how to fill out 
the registration form and talked about the 
importance of its getting in the mail.  I will do a 
mini in-service on registering voters at our next 
meeting and would be happy to explain the 
process to anyone interested who is not at the 
As local sites for registering become available, 
we'll be notified so that anyone who is able can 
volunteer.  We discussed college students as 
possible registrants, especially since we are a 
CalTech group.  If students live the majority of 
their year in California, they are able to register. 
Perhaps during the group fair, we could offer 
voter registration.
Having a speaker with SASS is also a possibility; 
although, our contact person with SASS has not 
responded to my emails.
Finally, oh yes, money.  The SAFE campaign 
would like people to have house parties.  Laura 
has volunteered her home with stipulations.  
We've been thinking about having an open 
house/pot luck to which we could invite not 
only our Amnesty members but also other 
friends who may want to learn more about the 
initiative.  We will have information about the 
campaign, including how to donate and will 
take up a collection for us to give as a group.  
This endeavor is   predicated on the decision of 
the group.

Influence of Social Media:  Wu Ying's 
Death Sentence in China
While the Chinese courts act when public 
pressure supports the imposition of the death 
penalty,   in Wu Ying's case more than 3.7 
million registered tweets showed how public 
sentiment can influence the Chinese legal 
system to reverse a death sentence.
Wu Ying's crime was "for having illegally raised 
$120 million in loans from private investors 
whom she failed to repay when her business 
collapsed." The difficulty private business-
people have raising money sparked the public 
outcry. Chinese banks are more apt to loan 
money to state owned businesses, thus putting 
private ones in the position of relying on illegal 
private sources of capital.
Since 2006 the Chinese Supreme Court has 
reviewed all death sentences by lower courts, 
but it has never revealed how many of these 
sentences have been overturned.  While China 
will not state the number of executions carried 
out each year, Amnesty International puts the 
number in the thousands, more than all other 
countries combined.
To read more on this story, go to

Mercy for Henry Jackson, Jr.
Prior to Henry Jackson, Jr's execution, his sisters 
asked Governor Phil Bryant, Mississippi, to 
spare their brother.  This is especially poignant 
because Mr. Jackson's crimes included stabbing 
one of the sisters, killing four of their children, 
and paralyzing one sister.  Regina Jackson, the 
sister Mr. Jackson stabbed, said she "just can't 
take any more killing." 
In their plea to the Governor, another sister and 
her husband said, "We are not asking you to 
take pity on Curtis (what Mr. Jackson was 
called), we're asking you to show US mercy."
Mr. Jackson was executed June 5, 2012.

Online Action
Stop the Execution of Samuel Lopez in 
Sammy Lopez is scheduled to be executed in 
Arizona on June 27 for a murder committed in 
1986. The details of his background of extreme 
poverty and severe childhood abuse and its 
effects on him were never presented to the 
sentencing judge. Urge Arizona Governor Jan 
Brewer to grant clemency in this case.

Reprieve Given
6	Abdul Hamin Awkal  
	(foreign national - Lebanon)	Ohio

Stays of Executions
6	Bobby Lee Hines			Texas

20	Abdul Hamin Awkal  
	(foreign national - Lebanon)	Ohio

5	Henry Jackson, Jr.		Mississippi
	3- Drug Lethal Injection

12	Jan Michael Brawner		Mississippi
	3-Drug Lethal Injection 

12	Richard Albert Leavitt		Idaho	
	1-Drug Lethal Injection

20	Gary Carl Simmons		Mississippi
	3-Drug Lethal Injection

UAs            12
POC             6
US              6
Total          24
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125

Amnesty International's mission is to undertake research and 
action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the 
rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience 
and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the 
context of its work to promote all human rights.