The facts about
the children of Jonestown

1. 287 children died in the Jonestown massacre.

2. According to the Guyanese court which had jurisdiction in the matter, all but three of the deaths in Jonestown were ruled to be the result of murder, not suicide. Source: The New York Times, 12/12/78

3. In spite of this fact, the US news media persists in erroneously calling these deaths a "mass suicide."

4. Many of the children who died in Jonestown were wards of the State of California who had been turned over to Jim Jones and other Temple members by California judges.

5. It was illegal for these children to be removed from California yet, according to the House Foreign Affairs Committee which investigated the matter, no California official ever requested a check into the welfare or whereabouts of these children.

6. While in San Francisco, Jim Jones was engaged in a wide ranging criminal enterprise which included welfare fraud, election fraud, child abuse, and extortion.

7. Willie Brown, who brokered Jones' electoral services to other California politicians, publicly credited the victory of George Moscone and Joseph Freitas to Jones' efforts. The use of children as campaign workers was an integral and highly visible part of these campaigns. Source: "Six Years with God" by Jeannie Mills. (The Temple's former Publicity Director. Murdered in 1980.)

8. As a reward for services rendered, and at the insistence of Willie Brown, Mayor George Moscone made Jim Jones chairman of San Francisco's Housing Commission, a position which gave him great power over the lives of many of the city's most vulnerable residents.

9. District Attorney Joseph Freitas appointed Jim Jones' personal attorney, Tim Stoen, to be in charge of his office's probe into allegation of election fraud in the election that put him and George Moscone into office. The State Attorney General later initiated an investigation into Stoen and Freitas.

10. According to Reverend Hannibal Williams, when he presented evidence of a death threat against him from the People's Temple, the case was turned over to Tim Stoen who attempted to kill the investigation. Source: SF Chronicle, 1/21/79

11. Many other people claimed that their reports of criminal activity on the part of the People's Temple were ignored by the San Francisco police department, the district attorney's office, the mayor's office, and the governor's office. In fact, Jones was never charged with a single crime the entire time he operated in San Francisco.

12. No San Francisco newspaper issued a single negative report about the Peoples Temple until New West Magazine, owned by the publishers of New York Magazine, published a story documenting Jones' abuse of children and extortion schemes. At least one paper, the Examiner, received grants from the Temple, purportedly to subsidize their investigative reporting.

13. Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, and Joseph Freitas all later denied any involvement with Jones. All were proven to be liars on this point.

Unanswered questions:

  • Why did city and state officials protect Jim Jones while he was operating a blatantly criminal enterprise in San Francisco?

  • Why did not one city or state official look into the removal from the state of over 200 children from California's care in clear violation of child welfare laws.

  • Why were California judges so readily willing to grant custody of children under state care to the People's Temple and to even find in favor of the Temple in custody cases involving the children's own biological parents?

  • Has anything really changed in the way the United States in general, and California in particular, looks after the well being of children who, through no fault of their own, are without reliable guardians?

  • Can any of the individuals still active in public life who were involved in this despicable episode point to a single they've done in the last twenty years to protect the rights and safety of children who find themselves without families to protect them?

    "Everyone knows the lessons about cults and dying. What's the need to talk about it? Jim Jones was a cultist, not recognized by me or anyone else."

    Willie Brown, Jr. as quoted in the San Francisco Examiner, November 8, 1998