CA: governor signs SB261 for an earlier parole date for youth between 18-22 years who were sentenced to life

From a press reease by the Youth Justice Coalition:

This afternoon – (Saturday, October 3, 2015) – Governor Brown signed SB261.

Thank you to everyone who helped to push SB261 forward: To the families of people who received extreme sentenes as youth people 18-22, to people who are currently and formerly incarcerated, to the bill’s co-sponsors (Anti-Recidivism Coalition, Human Rights Watch and the Youth Justice Coalition), to Senator Loni Hancock and her staff, and to everyone and every organization who made calls to and/or met with legislators and the Governor, sent letters to the State Capitol, and attended legislative hearings.

Across California, over the past 4 decades, tens of thousands of youth have received sentences so long that they will die in prison. SB261 offers youth ages of 18 – 22, who face many of the same developmental and economic challenges as their slightly younger peers, an opportunity for an earlier parole hearing. Together, we are moving California toward a future where all people deserve the opportunity to return home.

Senate Bill 261 understands that currently as many as 16,000 people in California prisons were still teens and young adults at the time of their arrest. More than half have life sentences. SB 261 would give these young people access to both programming and hope – two things denied youth with extreme sentences in California – providing young people the motivation and opportunity needed to focus on healing, treatment, education and job training.

Furthermore, this bill would contribute greatly to decreases in violence and recidivism within the state’s prison system. When people have a meaningful opportunity for release, hope increases, disciplinary problems are alleviated, access to programming allows for greater vocational, educational and life skills development, and violent altercations both with staff and other people incarcerated within facilities dramatically drop.

In addition, SB 261 recognizes that California spends millions of dollars to incarcerate each person sentenced to Life and other extreme sentences. California is number one nationwide in prison spending, #47 in K-12 spending and last in spending for higher education. It costs a minimum of $50,000 per year to incarcerate each person in a California Prison – and tens of thousands more for anyone in solitary confinement, where many youth facing extreme sentences are held. SB 261 would save California’s limited funds. It is a bill that is smart on crime and fiscally wise for our state.
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Youth Justice Coalition
@ Chuco’s Justice Center
On the border between South Central L.A. and Inglewood
One light west of Florence and Crenshaw
1137 E. Redondo Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302
323-235-4243 * Fax: 323-846-9472

Action needed: “Suicide Watch” amounts to Sleep Deprivation Torture at Pelican Bay State Prison

This was sent to us per email:

Immediate Action is needed.  Below is what was just sent to the PHSS Emergency Response Network.

PLEASE write an email, send a letter, and or make a phone call- or all three- about this sleep deprivation torture. It is very serious and has been going on since the night of August 2nd!

The sample letter can be changed, added to, etc.  Feel free to call (510) 426-5322 or with any questions, info, or ideas.

~ Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Dear Emergency Response Network members,

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU report the ill effects of  “welfare” or “suicide” checks occurring every thirty minutes, forty-eight times a day.  The checks are being aggressively conducted and prevent people from sleeping for over thirty minutes at a time.  Loud stomping, the slamming of doors, the striking of electronic wands against buttons installed by cell doors, and the shining of lights into prisoners’ faces are routine.  Noise reverberates throughout the concrete-and-steel pod and is basically non-stop.

As a result of the Coleman lawsuit, the CDCR was ordered by the court to conduct checks (which have been occurring at all SHUs for the better part of two years; not just Pelican Bay). However, it was left to the Department how to conduct them.

Attorneys involved in Coleman are aware of distress resulting from the checks, and have taken the problem up with the CDCR. In the meantime, we’re asking you to immediately contact Pelican Bay’s warden, Clark E. Ducart, to demand that the noise stops. Below is a sample letter/script, along with Warden Ducat’s contact information.

NOTE: If you e-mail Warden Ducart, please bcc
This will enable us to inform the Coleman attorneys how many e-mails were sent.  Or, if you call, please send a one-line e-mail to stating, “I called Ducart.”

Contact information
Warden Clark E. Ducart
Pelican Bay State Prison 
P.O. Box 7000
Crescent City, CA 95531-7000

(707) 756–1000 ext. 9040
(Send email to both addresses)

Sample letter/script:

Warden Ducart:

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU report the ill effects of  “welfare” or “suicide” checks occurring every thirty minutes, forty-eight times a day.  The checks are being conducted in an aggressive way and prevent people from sleeping for over thirty minutes at a time.  Loud stomping, the slamming of doors, the striking of electronic wands against buttons installed by cell doors, and the shining of lights into prisoners’ faces are routine.  Noise reverberates throughout pod and is basically non-stop.

The checks are court-ordeded, but the noise and disruption is not. Please make sure that the noise and disruption stops now.

Sleep deprivation and relentless exposure to loud noise are known methods of torture that can cause mental impairment. As John R. Martinez wrote in a letter to the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: “Deprivation of sleep is a common form of torture and has no place in a civilized society. Sleep is a basic human need and a fundamental constitutional right and I shouldn’t have to be starving myself so I and my fellow prisoners can get some sleep.”



Prisoners report on San Quentin health crisis: Legionella outbreak prompts water shutdown

From the SF Bay View:

September 9, 2015

by Kevin D. Sawyer 

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, government officials and first responders continue to lack the ability to plan for emergency situations.

San Quentin State Prison, California’s oldest prison, is still on a virtual lockdown – or “modified program” – as normal programs for all inmates have ceased since Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, after “one confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease” was discovered, Warden Ron Davis’ Aug. 27 bulletin said.

“They (San Quentin and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) knew this was coming,” said Charles Reece (D-06522). “The first of the month they said they were going to shut down the water to clean the pipes.”

In the afternoon of Aug. 27, prison officials placed yellow “Caution” tape and signs on drinking fountains on the prison’s Lower Yard. “Don’t Drink the Water,” the signs said.

Later that afternoon the prison administration ordered a mandatory institutional recall of all inmates directing them to return to their cells inside of their re­spective housing units.

Inmates said prison officials and medical staff had prior knowledge of the spread of Legionella symptoms, suspecting there is a health emergency brewing.

“If this has been going on since Monday (Aug. 24) how come all of a sudden Thursday it’s coming out?” queried Elliott Beverly (K-42353).

On Friday, Aug. 28, the prison would not allow inmates to shower due to the Legionella outbreak.

Because of the drought emergency declared by Gov. Brown earlier this year, inmates at San Quentin have already been limited to three showers a week.

“I think it’s a Machiavellian trick on the CDCR’s part to curb water use,” said Steven Haden (P-32966). “I can’t do my normal body functions to live. I’m a human being. I can’t shut down like a machine.”

“They shut the water off at 8:00 p.m. last night (Aug. 27) and said they were going to bring us bottled water,” said Reace.

“Effective immediately, all water at the facility is non-potable pending testing of our water sources,” the warden’s bulletin said.

On Thursday evening in West Block, officers announced over the public address system that they would do hourly cell unlocks for inmates who need to use the bathroom.

“The process they’re using now is totally barbaric,” said Terry Slaughter (C-89387). “The prison (officials) failed to have a proper back-up system for this prison.”

According to the California Code of Regulations (Title 15, Division 3, § 3301, Emergency Operations Plan), “Each warden must have in effect at all times an Emergency Operations Plan, approved by the Emergency Planning and Management Unit, to assist in the preparations for response to and recovery from ‘All Hazards’ incidents.”

Qadree Birch (J-53333) works in the prison kitchen. He said he was not allowed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, “Nor did they supply us any water, but they want us to go to work.” He said he was in his cell for 16 hours with the water turned off and the flushing mechanism disabled on the toilet, “without warning.”

“For inside the institution, all water will be shut off to the housing units,” the warden’s bulletin said. “For staff and inmates, bottled water and secondary water resources will be deployed throughout the institution for consumption.”

Inmates in West Block have been receiving secondary water that is trucked in and stored inside of a temporary water tank on the Lower Yard. Twenty-four hours after the warden’s bulletin was issued, no inmate had received bottled water. As of Monday, Aug. 31, West Block inmates still have not received bottled water.

Read the rest here.

CA Prisoners Win Historic Gains with Settlement Against Solitary Confinement

Posted on September 1, 2015 by prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity

Agreement reached in Ashker v. Brown ends indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in CA, among other gains for prisoners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2015
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland – Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.”

The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “We celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.”

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.

CDCR allegedly creates new types of solitary confinement cells, applying double jeopardy

From a letter sent on Aug. 14, 2015:

I’m writing to you about a new disciplinary building that’s been implemented here and at other prisons. It is known as a C-Status building.
It’s both similar and yet different from the Hole, or SHU.

This new program was implemented this year and cdcr are putting inmates in here based on how many 115s we get. The criteria is having two “Serious” 115s* (this could be for phone possession, dirty drug test, fighting, ANY Division offense really), or one Serious and two Administrative 115s, within a 6 month period.

The problem with this is if staff doesn’t like you, they can and will find something to write us up on, and it’s like we are being punished twice.

We have to deal with the disposition/punishment from the 115 (loss of yard, loss of phone, canteen, appliances, visits, etc), and then if we have two write ups, they convene a Commitee hearing (the captain, CC1, and CC2), label us as ‘program failures’ and we get put in the C-Status building for on average 5 months.

Once in the C Status building, our TVs, hot pots, fans, watches, radios, shavers, anything electronic is taken from us, as well as musical instruments, and we’re told to either send it home or donate it, but they will not store it for us. For recreation, we are only given one hour in the concrete yard at the same time every day.

The Title15 says they are only supposed to take away entertainment appliances, but they are going beyond that. They do not allow us to go to the law library (only paging), or go to any religious services.

Many of us have appealed via 602, but they have been screening out every one. We are essentially being punished twice, the first punishment being from the 115, and then by committee putting us in here, sometimes months after the original 115 disposition.

There are approximately 44 cells that have been appropriated in 8-Block (all of the cells in B and C section) to be used to house inmates placed on ‘C-Status’ by the disciplinary lieutenants and/or ‘C/C’ placement (Privilege Group & Work Group), by prison officials at a Committee hearing (which consists of the facility Captain, CC1 Counselor, and CC2 Counselor).

Since the implementation of this new punishment, prison officials have been on a grind to fill up these cells. And they have done just that; almost all 44 cells (double occupancy) have been filled up. And these are only with the inmates on this yard, C-yard.

There is a huge disparity in the treatment and ‘program’ we receive compared to those inmates that get sent to Ad-Seg and SHU’s. They have more privileges than us and they are often placed there for way more serious offenses, such as possession of weapons, distributing/possessing drugs, battery and assault on staff or inmates, etc. And these Ad-Seg inmates are allowed to have their TV’s, and new arrivals to Ad-Seg are even given radios to use temporarily. Even more important, they are [in theory] allowed access to the law library twice a week.

But for many of us we’re put on C/C for petty offenses, and once here we are not allowed to go to the law library or any religious service programs.
Being denied access to the law library and its resources is a huge obstacle to those with active appeals and court cases. It’s denying us with one of our fundamental rights to have access to law materials and the courts.

CSP-Sac officials have ignored the Title-15, and often make and impose changes arbitrarily. For example, since when is a hotpot, fan, or wrist watch considered an ‘entertainment appliance’, which they have and thus will not allow us to have them. However, according to the Title-15, the only property we’re not allowed to have while on C/C or C-Status, are ‘entertainment appliances’ (TVs, radios, and musical instruments).

We are being subjected to worse treatment and denied programs, and for many of us these are for petty offenses. All of us have already been found guilty and punished once already for the 115, but now if we have two 115 write-up’s within 6 months of each other, we get punished twice by being put in this shit-hole of a disciplinary building, often for up to 5-6 months. This is double jeopardy at its finest.

*=Rules Violation Reports, see 3310-3326 of CDCR Title 15 rules book


Hugo Pinell was assassinated at New Folsom Prison, Statement by the San Quentin Six

Statement by the San Quentin 6, August 17th 2015

Published in the SF Bay View.

Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell photo

Hugo Lyon Antonio Pinell, “Yogi Bear”
This is the most recent picture of Yogi taken in the visiting room shortly after he was released to general population at Folsom State Prison. If there is one word that could describe Yogi Bear, it would be LOVE (Kiilu Nyasha)

Hugo Pinell was assassinated at new Folsom State Prison, August 12, 2015. This is another example of the racism people of color inside those prisons are confronted with on a daily basis.  Like Comrade George, Hugo has been in the cross hairs of the system for years. His assassination exemplifies how racists working in conjunction with prison authorities commit murderous acts like this. We saw it on the yard at Soledad in 1970 and we see it again on the yard at Folsom in 2015.

Hugo’s life was a living hell. We witness the brutality inflicted on him by prison guards as they made every effort to break him.  He endured more than fifty years of sensory deprivation; for decades,  he was denied being able to touch his family or another human being,  as well as attempts on his life. This is cruel and unusual punishment! Hugo is not the monster that is being portrayed in social media / news media. The CDC is the real monster.

During the SQ Six trial we really got to know Hugo. He was as we all were under a lot of stress. His stress was heavier than mine because he had the additional load of being beaten on regular occasions. We saw the strength of his spirit, and through it all he managed to smile.

We mourn the loss of our comrade brother, Yogi. We have been hit with a crushing blow that will take some time to recover from. We must expose those who under the cover of law orchestrated and allowed this murderous act to take place. The prisoners who did it acted as agents of the state. It comes at a time when prisoners  are collectively trying to end decades of internal strife. Those who took his life  have done a disservice to our movement, their actions served the cause of the same oppressor we fought against!

No longer do you have to endure the hatred of people who didn’t even know you and never dared to love you. You have represented George & Che well, and we  salute you!


David General Giap Johnson

Luis Bato Talamantez

Willie Sundiata

See also:
Sundiata Tate speaks of his Comrade Hugo Pinell in this August 16th 2015 interview with JR

Solitary Confinement: A “Social Death” – NYT on “Shocking” Data from CCR Case

Originally posted on Prisoner Human Rights Movement:

A video the New York Times published, accompanying the article Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life (August 3rd, 2015, by Erica Goode) shows Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd talking on camera about solitary confinement, being locked down without any hope, with no ending in sight:

This comes from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and it is about the Case Ashker v. Brown, in which the New York Times used research, including the 10 expert reports and a video with 4 of the class action representatives (Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd).

Today’s New York Times science section features a front-page piece about the research that CCR commissioned and compiled for our ground-breaking challenge to long-term solitary confinement. “Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life” introduces to the public the 10 expert reports we submitted to the court…

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