Hunger striker responds to Corrections Secretary Beard’s op-ed demonizing hunger strikers

by Alfred Sandoval
Reblogged from: SF Bay View

Today I read an op-ed from the L.A. Times by the new secretary of the California Department of Corruption. He gave a one sided view of prison violence by talking about the 11 murders of guards in the three years between 1970 and 1973.

Prison guard tower

Two decades ago, for entertainment, California prison guards would force prisoners to fight on the prison yard as they watched. If the men didn’t kill each other, guards would often shoot them from the tower. These gladiator fights have been reported again recently.

He failed to mention the 39 inmates murdered between January 1987 and December 1995 in the guard staged gladiator “game” fights and the literally hundreds of seriously wounded and crippled survivors of those fights who were all shot by trigger happy correctional officers as entertainment.

Even today, right now, here in the Administrative Segregation building or the Pelican Bay Security Housing Units (the SHU), an inmate can be beaten with impunity because there is a code of silence among the guards. The guards close ranks – even the good ones. None of them can or will testify against another guard. This is part of the atmosphere in which we live out our lives.

If Secretary Beard is concerned about violence in the prisons, he should look at the “Agreement to End Hostilities” we issued in October 2012 to close out the second of our three hunger strikes. We asked that this agreement/call be posted and circulated in the California prison system. He could still post it. With all his degrees in psychology, you would think he could figure out that would be a good idea.

This letter was intended for the Los Angeles Times, but they chose not to publish it. Send our brother some love and light: Alfred Sandoval, D-61000, Pelican Bay State Prison SHU D4-214, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

They circle like vultures

In: SF Bay View
October 27, 2012

by Alfred Sandoval

The Department of Corruption’s draft of the Step Down Program [for release from SHU without “debriefing,” i.e., snitching or inventing information about other prisoners to be used as evidence for their validation and SHU confinement] – well, it’s crap! I really believe that it was intended to get a negative reaction – because in the new version, it would actually take five years, whereas their last proposal was four years!

The new draft allows for any CO (correctional officer) or staff member to have any prisoner placed in SHU for anything they deem necessary, citing safety and security and public safety, even without any disciplinary action. Many of us have seen first hand the abusive nature of sadistic, racist and misogynistic CO staff who fabricate information to “break” prisoners.

Of all the alleged changes to the policy, not one allows for real scrutiny of the information used to indefinitely house prisoners in the dungeons of California’s prison system – the SHUs. But then look at how much money – taxpayers’ money – is made off of one prisoner’s SHU housing.

The so called shareholders are reaping in money hand over fist while prisoners in the SHU are routinely mistreated and denied medical care. I really was not surprised when Gov. Brown vetoed the media access bill. Imagine having an Abu Ghraib exposed on his watch!

Many of us have seen first hand the abusive nature of sadistic, racist and misogynistic CO staff who fabricate information to “break” prisoners.

Right now I have a civil suit pending in the Northern District Court – Sandoval v. D. Barneburg et al, No. C12-3007 LHK (PR) – citing excessive use of force by PBSP IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation) unit. The DVD that documented all the injuries inflicted on me disappeared from an evidence locker. But I knew it would; these COs have a well formed code of silence that guarantees impunity to all COs and staff who abuse prisoners.

Some actually belong to the PBSP “honor guard.” Since the hunger strikes, the COs and IGIs have continued to attempt to incite conflict between prisoners, but we all know it’s a divide and conquer tactic. Many of us have 20-30 years in the SHUs and many have actually grown up together through the system, so we know what’s what and know when we’re being played by the COs and staff.
The warden has made it clear that he will not sign any order for the items agreed to during the mediations because he is retiring in January with a full pension.

Since the hunger strikes, the COs and IGIs have continued to attempt to incite conflict between prisoners, but we all know it’s a divide and conquer tactic.

Recently many prisoners have been reclassified as “high risk medical,” but it’s a sham to give prisoners false hope of actually getting medical care that is not overseen by the IGI unit. The chief medical officer will state the prisoner can be treated here, thereby nullifying the “high risk” portion, but PBSP will get the extra state funds to house us here until we die.

Many of the prisoners who are dying refuse to go to the clinic. Most wait until the very last minute because the clinic rooms are nasty, without reading material or TV or anything but a single bed. So once you’re taken to the clinic, you just sit on the bed and wait to die. It’s a guarantee that the IGI will stop by to ask if you’re ready to debrief before you die. They circle like vultures.

Send our brother some love and light: Alfred Sandoval, D-61000, PBSP SHU D4-214, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532. This letter was written to and transcribed by Kendra Castaneda. It was written on Oct. 21.

[photo: Imagine your life encased in a 7-by-11-foot cage with no window, the light on 24/7 and no privacy, under the watchful eyes of people paid to break your spirit – and your body – all because they fear you have influence with other prisoners. – Photo: North Coast Journal]

How the hunger strike started for me

The hunger strike in California is over for now, yet we still have to tell the public, and teach them, remind them of the plight the prisoners inside the “SHU’s” face on a daily basis. CDCR better become smart on crime than tough on crime, their “policies” have failed in so many ways…

Source: SF Bay View:

October 16, 2011
by Alfred Sandoval

I’ve been in the SHU since July of 1987 so I’ve lived through a lot of physical as well as psychological abuses. I was originally placed in SHU at San Quentin’s Adjustment Center. The first thing I noticed as I was being escorted past the sergeant’s office was a caricature of a boar hog dressed in a correctional officer’s uniform holding a noose with a hammer hanging from it posted on the wall. So, being Mexican, I knew what time it was. Slowly, the blatant racism was pushed into the politically correct broom closet but it’s never been thrown out.

In 2003, I was returned from court to Pelican Bay and told in no uncertain terms that I would die here.

When PBSP created the control unit – known as the short corridor – in early 2006, the goal of the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) was made perfectly clear: Debrief or die! They implemented orders to the short corridor correctional officer (C/O) staff to apply pressure to targeted prisoners, and the gang unit (Institutional Gang Investigations, or IGI) became the overseers of the control unit and began to target prisoners’ families and friends and attempt to create discord by mixing up mail, withholding and delaying personal mail and restricting visits for as little as saying hello to another prisoner. Their goal is to isolate these targeted prisoners.

I had never believed in hunger strikes, thinking that they’re counter-productive. However, when the gang unit began to work in concert with the chief medical officer – the IGI actually decides the level of medical treatment prisoners in the short corridor receive – I decided to participate in this and the next hunger strike, but here’s why:

A few years ago, a close friend – his name was Jimmy – developed cancer. The medical staff, MTAs and RNs, explained that if he’d debrief, become an informant, he would receive better medical care. Now Jimmy and I had known each other since we were teenagers running the streets of East Los Angeles getting high and living the lifestyle that ended up with both of us in prison for life.

As Jimmy’s cancer grew worse, he began chemotherapy. Jimmy mentioned to me how the IGI would “show up” at the clinic and comment that he could have contact visits with his wife before he died if he’d debrief. He refused but that’s how he found out the cancer was terminal! Jimmy loved his wife more than anything and he wouldn’t tell her everything about the head games and bullshit like waking up from surgery still under anesthesia being questioned by IGI, but I had warned him of that because it happened to me and at least three other prisoners.

After one of the surgeries, Jimmy was returned to his cell after a brief stay at the Pelican Bay prison infirmary. Those cells are completely bare except for a bed and all you can do is lay there and wait. On the second night back in his cell, he awoke to a bad pain. He said it was a little after 2 a.m. and the staples had opened along his abdomen and he was bleeding. He was holding his intestines in, calling for the C/O. The C/O came and saw the blood and said he’d call the RN on duty.

The C/O came back approximately 30 minutes later with a roll of toilet paper. Jimmy was sitting on the blood-covered cement floor holding a towel soaked in blood against his stomach. The cop tossed Jimmy the toilet paper and said the medical staff would not come until the next shift and there was nothing he could do. Jimmy held his stomach closed in pain until almost 6 a.m. when the medical finally came and they rushed him to the hospital. He asked that I keep it to myself because that was his style.

I was pissed! He had requested two hardship transfers to Corcoran because of its medical facility and he’d be able to see his wife and family more before he died. Both were denied and he was told to debrief and then he’d be transferred but he steadfastly refused. The cancer spread and the gang unit increased the head games, telling the medical staff to confiscate his shaded prescription glasses. But luckily, a Dr. Williams stepped in and told the medical staff to leave Jimmy alone as he was at end stage cancer. Jimmy chose to stop the chemotherapy and die. We’d talk through a steel door and discuss everything and nothing and plan out his funeral. He died in December of 2010 and I am proud and honored to have been his friend.

Shortly after Jimmy’s death, I was told that approximately eight of the older prisoners had been approved for transfer to the SHU medical facility at New Folsom, but the gang unit had those transfers stopped citing that those prisoners, all in their 60s and 70s, had not successfully completed the debriefing, thereby issuing a death sentence to all of these prisoners and denying adequate medical care.

I am 53 years old with incurable illnesses, Hep-C and Crohn’s disease, so I am participating in the hunger strike to expose how prisoners are being mistreated and medical treatment withheld as a coercion tactic.

The abuses, physical and psychological, the intimidations and harassments have a very well documented history here at Pelican Bay State Prison. They should speak for themselves.

Early 1990: Rumors of abuses at PBSP SHU come to light. The prison opens doors to media tour.
1995: Rumors of abuses citing C/Os extracting prisoners from their cells, stripping them naked and leaving them hogtied in the cold cells and on the cement yard overnight. Prison opens doors to media tours.
1998: C/Os accused of setting up inmates, opening cell doors in SHU.
2001: Prisoners began hunger strike to change debriefing process as it was not legal! Promises were made, Castillo case settled and reworded to be used against prisoners. Prison opens doors to media tours.
2006: California Inspector General’s Office issues memo for media release citing their investigation exposed that the PBSP internal affairs would avoid finding staff misconduct on excessive use of force and that some changes had been made but more are needed.

During this hunger strike, prisoners have been threatened with “progressive discipline,” which means the prisoners’ property will be taken out of the cells and they will only be allowed a pair of shower shoes and a pair of underwear until the administration deems the prisoner as “programming.”

The warden had a staff meeting before the last hunger strike telling staff that he would ignore the hunger strikers, which he did, violating the CDCR regulations and allowing prisoners to become ill. Grievances were returned unprocessed, so it never happened.

That is Pelican Bay State Prison. So now you know why I participate in the hunger strike.

Photo subscript:
The Pelican Bay warden opened the doors of the prison to a media tour on Aug. 17, following the first phase of the hunger strike, as wardens have in the past whenever the prison fell under public attention. A few mainstream reporters were escorted to a few parts of the prison, though not where the prisoners who organized the strike are housed, and they were prohibited from speaking with prisoners. They were told that this prisoner had decided to “debrief.” – Photo: Julie Small, KPCC

Send our brother some love and light: Alfred Sandoval, D-61000, Pelican Bay State Prison, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.