Nevada Department of Corrections Director Greg Cox quits

This is from the Las Vegas Review Journal, Sept 14th, 2015:
By Wesley Juhl and Sandra Chereb

Embattled Nevada Department of Corrections Director Greg Cox resigned abruptly Monday under unknown circumstances.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement he accepted Cox’s resignation and appointed E.K. McDaniel to serve as interim director of the department, which has come under scrutiny for use-of-force issues leading to inmate injuries and one prisoner fatality.

“I would like to thank Greg for his service to our state and I appreciate his hard work serving the people of Nevada,” Sandoval said.

No reason was given for the Cox’s resignation, but John Witherow, head of the NV Cure prison reform organization, has a laundry list of problems with the way the department treats inmates.

“I don’t know why he resigned, but I suspect it was his inability to control his subordinates,” he said.

NV Cure had met with Cox to discuss retaliation against prisoners who file formal grievances against the department. Witherow said Cox told him he would not tolerate that kind of treatment.

“The retaliation did not, in fact, stop. It increased,” Witherow said.

Cox’s resignation follows months of high-profile conflicts at Nevada prisons, beginning with a fatal inmate shooting in November at High Desert State Prison, just outside of Las Vegas, that wasn’t revealed until four months later when the Review-Journal discovered the Clark County coroner’s office had ruled it a homicide.

Inmate Carlos Manuel Perez, 28, died Nov. 12, 2014. [link added by NV Cure] A second inmate, Andrew Arevalo, was injured.

More recently, seven inmates were injured in August at Warm Springs Correctional Center in Carson City when a fight broke out during dinner and guards opened fire with rubber pellets. One inmate who was not identified was flown to a Reno hospital, though details of his injuries remain undisclosed.

In July, three inmates suffered minor injuries when guards fired rounds to break up a fight at Lovelock Correctional Center. One inmate at Ely State Prison was taken to a hospital in Las Vegas in April after he was shot by a guard during a fight. Eight other inmates were injured.

Cox’s resignation came the night before he was expected to present the findings from a study on the department’s use of force at Tuesday’s Board of State Prison Commissioners in Carson City. The prison board, comprised of the governor, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, requested the study at the last meeting after Perez’s death led to controversy.

On Monday, an unnamed spokesman for the department told the Review-Journal “there is no final report as of yet” in the study conducted by the Association of State Correctional Administrators.

Read the rest here.

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 http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

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.

Black Prisoners’ Lives Matter: The Dallas 6 Blow the Whistle on the Inside

Monday, 24 August 2015 00:00By Shandre Delaney, Truthout | Op-Ed

There is a common thread that connects human rights struggles today. Take a look around the world and what do you see? You see militarized police officers committing violence against the poor and oppressed, being given a pat on the back by the court system. Under tyranny, it is all too common that whenever an officer of the law commits unwarranted acts of violence against civilians, it seems the justice system covers up the officer’s criminal acts and even justifies those acts. In the streets of America, people who protest government corruption and police brutality are met with violence by pepper spray, baton beatings or false charges of riot and disorderly conduct. Behind the walls of prison cells, we are subject to the same network of tyranny, that whenever prisoners come together to protest official abuse, we are also met with the same violence and false charges by court officials. If you have the audacity to speak out against brutality, tyrants will do anything to silence you.  – Carrington Keys (Dallas 6)

On April 29, 2010, six prisoners in solitary confinement at SCI Dallas in Dallas, Pennsylvania, decided that enough was enough. Collectively, they are known as theDallas 6. One of them is my son.

The Dallas 6 are jailhouse lawyers who fight injustice within prison walls and share information with the outside. They came to be seen as political prisoners through their actions as jailhouse lawyers, activists and whistleblowers. This caused them to be held in solitary indefinitely, where they were starved, beaten and outright tortured. Between the six, they served from 10 to 20 years in solitary, and one of them is still in solitary.

After being subjected to starvation, brutal beatings, food tampering, witnessing beatings, the guard-assisted suicide of one prisoner and the torture of another, they covered their solitary cell windows and politely requested outside intervention. They wanted access to public officials and media. They wanted the public to know that human rights were being violated on a critical level. They wanted the public to know that their lives were in danger for being whistleblowers. I started advocating on behalf of my son but became more involved as I found that his abuse was not isolated. So many other prisoners in solitary were being abused.

These men submitted affidavits detailing abuses in the report “Institutionalized Cruelty” by the Human Rights Coalition and were featured in “Resistance and Retaliation.” When guards discovered the report, they carried out a weeklong rampage of brutality and promised the Dallas 6 they were next. Immediately after the incident, the men were separated and transferred. My son, Carrington Keys, filed a lawsuit in Luzerne County court against then-District Attorney Jackie Musto Carrol for ignoring the abuses happening at SCI Dallas. He had written her about them, and she neither responded nor investigated. The state police also were aware of complaints; they neither responded nor investigated.

Months later, in an effort to cover up officers’ crimes and in retaliation, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Jackie Musto Carrol and the state police worked together to file riot charges against the Dallas 6. These charges were clearly bogus because it is impossible for men in solitary confinement to riot, given the legal definition of riot:

A person is guilty of riot, a felony of the third degree, if he participates with two or more others in a course of disorderly conduct:

(1) with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of a felony or misdemeanor;

(2) with intent to prevent or coerce official action; or

(3) when the actor or any other participant to the knowledge of the actor uses or plans to use a firearm or other deadly weapon.

The Dallas 6 are being charged with riot under subcategory 2 of the definition above. The charges were filed following a news article detailing the lawsuit against the district attorney.

It confuses many how peaceful men, in individual cells – unable to substantially interact with each other – can be charged with riot. There was no disorderly conduct, there was no violence and there was no assembling. Disorderly actions and violence were carried out by guards assembled in riot gear, who entered the cells of the six unarmed men one by one. They were brutally attacked with shock shields, batons, teargas and pepper spray. The case was pushed through the courts on the basis that covering up your cell windows coerces official action. Therefore, even though the guards were the perpetrators of violence, the state charges that the Dallas 6 brought about this official action of brutality themselves.

Read the rest 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!

SQ SIX

David General Giap Johnson

Luis Bato Talamantez

Willie Sundiata

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

Update: Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Suspended; Solidarity and Action Needed for Struggle to Come

An update from the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Samidoun, on the hunger strike that was supposed to take place from today:

Header from SamidounPalestinian prisoners in Israeli jails announced today, 11 August, that hundreds of prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who had planned to launch a hunger strike today, are suspending their planned strike after a concession from Israeli prison administration cancelling the order banning family visits for imprisoned Palestinian leader and PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. The Palestinian prisoners are still calling for action – click here to find out what you can do.

The PFLP prisoners issued a statement noting that the struggle of the prisoners is far from over, and that they along with all other Palestinian factions inside the prison are engaged in united planning for the next steps of struggle:

Following the announcement of the planned hunger strike to begin today, the Israeli Prison Service was forced to rescind the order prohibiting imprisoned PFLP General Secretary, Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat from family visits. The first visit with his family will take place this month and the next in September, and there is a final agreement with the comrades in the PFLP’s prison branch to cancel this order on a permanent basis.

The PFLP branch in the prisons of the occupation emphasizes that the struggle inside the prisons is continuing and escalating, and that it is working in coordination with all Palestinian factions in the prisons, uniting all Palestinian prisoners, for the next stages of struggle to secure all of our demands and improve the circumstances of life for the prisoners. Therefore, the prison branch of the PFLP has suspended its decision to go on hunger strike as one faction, and will join together with the entire Palestinian prisoners’ national movement in the protest steps to come.

The struggle of Palestinian prisoners remains critical and international action is necessary. This concession was only attained because of the willingness of Palestinian prisoners to put their bodies on the line to confront injustice, and because of the eyes of the Palestinian people and the world on the struggle of the prisoners. Today, the united prisoners’ movement is escalating its struggle and calling for action, solidarity organizing and escalation of boycott to achieve its goals.

In particular, the situation of Palestinian lawyer and hunger striker, Muhammad Allan, 31, held in administrative detention without charge or trial since November 2014 is particularly critical and demands international action and solidarity. Allan has been on hunger strike for 56 days and is shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital. He is being threatened with force-feeding – cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment amounting to torture – and becoming the first victim of the new force-feeding law passed by the Knesset last month, condemned by UN officials, the Israeli Medical Association, the World Health Organization and human rights advocates. His medical situation is dire, and international action can help to not only save his life but gain his freedom and that of his fellow over 5750 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network notes that Palestinian prisoners’ organizations are working together to determine the next phase of struggle. The Israeli prison administration and occupation forces exert great efforts to divide Palestinian prisoners and their demands from one another by targeting particular Palestinian political factions – first one, then another. In light of this situation, Palestinian prisoners know that united action is always the most effective means of struggle. We also must stay on high alert, as we – and the prisoners’ movement – are well aware that Israeli occupation forces routinely violate the agreements obtained through Palestinian prisoners’ struggle. Sudden changes in the situation and the dynamics inside the prisons due to Israeli attacks and violations of prisoners’ rights should be expected – and we must be prepared to mobilize and respond accordingly.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement is acutely aware of its conditions within the prisons of the occupation; every day, they live in confrontation with an occupier which routinely violates their rights, and yet they continue to organize and struggle. Our task must be not only to amplify their voice but to build a loud, broad and strong movement to achieve the just demands of the prisoners; their liberation; and the cause for which they struggle – the liberation of Palestine.

Take Action today for Palestinian prisoners!

Read here how you can help.