My bogus validation and torture at Calipatria ASU

From: SF Bay View, Sept 25, 2012
by Gualberto Lopez

In June 2002, when I was 21 years of age, I arrived at Pelican Bay State Prison. That is the institution where I was housed at after I left LA County Jail. I was at Pelican Bay for eight to nine years, most of the time in the SHU. At each Institution Committee hearing I had, the SHU ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) would always tell me, “We know you are associated with a prison gang.” They tried to make me accept it and force me to accept I was a part of a prison gang many times when I never was. I never bit into PBSP/CDCR’s game that they tried to play with me.

A Mexican Aztec drawing is used as a “source item” by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to label a “Southern Hispanic” as a prison gang associate and put him in segregation (SHU/ASU) for decades calling him “worst of the worst.” Gualberto Lopez is Mexican, and CDCR is persecuting him based on his ethnicity and culture.
Once I finally got out of the SHU at PBSP in 2008, I was allowed to go to general population for about a year and a half given clear status; then I was given a transfer to Corcoran for five to six months. After I did those few months at Corcoran without any 115 write-ups, I was transferred to Calipatria State Prison. In 2010, I arrived at Calipatria, and I was on general population for about six months until I was picked up by Institutional Gang Investigator E. Duarte based on artwork that PBSP tried to use on me when I was there in 2006 to try and validate me.
The IGI’s put me in Administration Segregation (Ad-Seg/A5) at Calipatria for this bogus validation saying that I was involved in prison gang activity when I never involved myself in any such conduct. The reason for me transferring down to a prison further south was to be close to home and to have a better time with all the rest of my family. I wasn’t going to jeopardize that by receiving a 115 write-up now that I was able to be closer to them. But when I was transferred to Calipatria and while in general population, I realized it was harder to receive visits from my family because they had to go through the approval process all over again at Calipatria after being previously approved from Pelican Bay.
When I was served with the bogus validation paperwork, about six to eight IGIs were telling me that they were after me since I was previously from Pelican Bay State Prison. The Calipatria IGIs falsely told me that a confidential informant told them that I was in a prison gang. I was programing just fine and there was no evidence of a confidential informant and the evidence the IGIs tried to falsely slam me with was not strong enough to validate me and was false.
In Gualberto Lopez’ committee hearing report after he was taken into segregation at Calipatria State Prison, the committee members found that Gualberto Lopez cannot be on the general population yard and is a “Threat to the Safety and Security of the Institution.” But this ruling is not due to any confidential information from an informant, and Gualberto Lopez doesn’t have any enemies. It is due to IGI E. Duarte stating he believes Gualberto Lopez is in a prison gang. The committee members include a doctor and associate warden, and the chairperson who signed this committee report for Gualberto Lopez to be kept in segregation is current Warden G.J. Janda.
During this process of this bogus validation, I lost three family members; my family called the prison a few times so I could get the news of the passing of my loved ones. Calipatria never gave me that message while I was in Ad-Seg. The IGIs kept it from me and I had to find out later.
The IGIs at Calipatria, they took away all of my legal documents for my case I was working on and they trashed them. During my first two weeks in ASU, I was given a chrono 1030. It was put in my file by officers without me knowing. I had to ask for an “Olson Review” in the month of June 2011 to find out what they placed in my file.
Then in April 2011, IGI E. Duarte at the ASU unit planted two weapons in my cell on purpose while I was out to yard. I was given a 115 CDCR write up for those weapons placed in my cell by IGI Duarte. My mail is always being tampered with and trashed by officers. All the IGIs, they mess with us by harassment mentally and physically by putting us in cuff tie ups, giving us small portions of food and ripped up clothes, trashing our outgoing mail, planting specific artwork in our cells while we are at the showers or yard that is used later to validate us. The IGIs go into our cell and put toothpaste in our sink with our pictures in the toothpaste and shampoo in our food mixed together.
During the second hunger strike last year in September-October 2011, I was rushed to the hospital and in the emergency room the medical RN staff tried to take blood out of me for the second time in a week. While they were trying to take blood out of me, the nurse didn’t see that she broke the needle in my arm within the view of a lot of fellow prisoners.
At this moment I’m being denied proper “medical attention” for the pain in my feet. I have them all cracked from the bottom. It has been going on for many years. Last month in May, many of us inmates here at Calipatria ASU were finally allowed to be seen at an outside hospital for the first time in years. I was prescribed medication, but CDCR is denying all my medication I was prescribed for my feet by this outside doctor. Also I think my TB is acting up, but Calipatria is not hearing my pleas.
This is how this inhumane, torturous treatment in segregation makes me feel, so depressed, angry, sad, enraged. I’ve lost focus and changed from how I used to be. I don’t see people for how they are now or how I used to see them. My thinking is very different than before. I can’t be around too many people now. I have lack of sleep, and I have trouble concentrating.
All of my communication with my family has been cut off now because either my mail doesn’t get to me or I’m too afraid to worry my family of what’s really going on with me. I’ve been going through this for the last two years here at Calipatria State Prison ASU and I am up for transfer to Pelican Bay State Prison again to be placed in the SHU for years due to this bogus validation.
How long do I have to be tortured for? Will I be rehabilitated? Where are the programs available to rehabilitate me instead of torture me? I don’t know.
Only the governor and the state Assembly have the power to change it. But until then, all I know is that I am being mistreated in this crooked, broken system called California Department of Corrections and “Rehabilitation.”
Can somebody hear me out there?
Send our brother some love and light: Gualberto Lopez, T-81282, ASU-160, P.O. Box 5008, Calipatria, CA 92233.
The Office of Correctional Safety Special Service Unit’s special agents John Zinna and Jim Moreno approved the evidence submitted by IGI E. Duarte on Gualberto Lopez. The evidence used to label Gualberto Lopez as a prison gang associate – the “worst of the worst” – was an Aztec cultural drawing, two tattoos and a family member’s address in a telephone book. Gualberto Lopez was validated in May 2011. Since then, he has appealed this false validation with CDCR through the court and has been denied all appeals. That means Gualberto Lopez is labeled a “Threat to Safety and Security of the Institution” and is currently on a waitlist to be sent to the SHU at Pelican Bay for the next decade or more due to these four “source items.”

The address in a telephone book of a member of Gualberto Lopez’ family who has no gang ties was used against him by IGI E. Duarte as a “source item” to validate him as a prison gang associate. When the Institutional Gang Investigators search an inmate’s cell, they take the inmate out of the cell and it is easy to plant evidence or write numbers in a telephone book, which is exactly what happened with Gualberto Lopez.


Lawsuit challenges solitary confinement at California prison

From: SF Bay View:

June 2, 2012

Prolonged solitary confinement at Pelican Bay is cruel and unusual punishment, torture, lawyers say

Oakland – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal lawsuit Thursday on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform inhumane conditions in California prisons’ Security Housing Units (SHUs), a movement dramatized by a 2011 hunger strike by thousands of SHU prisoners; the named plaintiffs include hunger strikers, among them several of the principal negotiators for the hunger strike.

California Corrections Department spokesperson Jeffrey Callison justifies his assertion that “we do not have solitary confinement in California prisons” by saying that prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU are allowed out of their cells briefly for exercise. But they are as isolated in the exercise “yard” – a small concrete enclosure often referred to as a dog run – as in their cells. – Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP

The class action suit, which is being jointly filed by CCR and several advocate and legal organizations in California, alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eight Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates the prisoners’ right to due process.

“The prolonged conditions of brutal confinement and isolation such as those at Pelican Bay have rightly been condemned as torture by the international community,” said CCR President Jules Lobel. “These conditions strip prisoners of their basic humanity and cross the line between human treatment and barbarity.” Advocates hope that the suit will strike a blow against the increasingly routine use of solitary confinement in American prisons.
SHU prisoners spend 22½ to 24 hours every day in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell. They are denied telephone calls, contact visits, and vocational, recreational or educational programming. Food is often rotten and barely edible, and medical care is frequently withheld.
More than 500 Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have been isolated under these conditions for over 10 years, more than 200 of them for over 15 years and 78 have been isolated in the SHU for more than 20 years. Today’s suit claims that prolonged confinement under these conditions has caused “harmful and predictable psychological deterioration” among SHU prisoners. Solitary confinement for as little as 15 days is now widely recognized to cause lasting psychological damage to human beings and is analyzed under international law as torture.
Additionally, the suit alleges that SHU prisoners are denied any meaningful review of their SHU placement, rendering their isolation “effectively permanent.” SHU assignment is an administrative act, condemning prisoners to a prison within a prison; it is not part of a person’s court-ordered sentence for his or her crime.
California, alone among all 50 states and most other jurisdictions in the world, imposes extremely prolonged solitary confinement based merely on a prisoner’s alleged association with a prison gang. Gang affiliation is assessed without considering whether a prisoner has ever undertaken an act on behalf of a gang or whether he is – or ever was – actually involved in gang activity.

California, alone among all 50 states and most other jurisdictions in the world, imposes extremely prolonged solitary confinement based merely on a prisoner’s alleged association with a prison gang.

Moreover, SHU assignments disproportionately affect Latinos. The percentage of Latino prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU was 85 percent in 2011, far higher than their representation in the general prison population, which was 41 percent. The only way out of SHU isolation alive and sane is to “debrief,” to inform on other prisoners, placing those who do so and their families in significant danger of retaliation and providing those who are unable to debrief effectively no way out of SHU isolation.
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone are co-counsel on the case.
The case is Ruiz v. Brown, and it seeks to amend an earlier pro se lawsuit filed by Pelican Bay SHU prisoners Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell. The case is before Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Click here to read the complaint.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.

Pelican Bay prisoners sue to end ‘torture’ of long-term solitary confinement

by John Rudolf

Excerpt

Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the agency was still reviewing the lawsuit and could not comment on how it would respond legally.
Callison rejected the claim that conditions at Pelican Bay amounted to torture, however.
“There is no torture in California prisons,” he said. “That is not how we conduct business.”
Callison also disputed the lawsuit’s characterization of conditions in the security housing unit as solitary confinement, noting that the prisoners there are allowed each day to briefly leave their cells. “We do not have solitary confinement in California prisons,” he said.
Yet the conditions in the security housing unit clearly meet the United Nation’s definition of solitary confinement, according to an October 2011 report by the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez. In the report, Mendez defined solitary confinement as “any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others (except guards) for at least 22 hours a day.”

The conditions in the security housing unit clearly meet the United Nation’s definition of solitary confinement.

In an October speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Mendez called for a ban on the use of isolation as punishment and for a prohibition on long-term solitary confinement, citing scientific studies linking such conditions to lasting psychological damage.
“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, supermax, the hole, secure housing unit … whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by states as a punishment or extortion technique,” Mendez said. “Indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement, in excess of 15 days, should also be subject to prohibition.”
“Considering the severe mental pain or suffering solitary confinement may cause, it can amount to torture,” he said.
Lobel, the Center for Constitutional Rights president, said he hoped the center’s lawsuit would proceed quickly through the courts. The Supreme Court has held that prisoners have the right to challenge their detention in extreme isolation units. But it has not ruled on whether long-term solitary confinement violates the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
“We are hoping that this case will be pushed expeditiously and we’ll get some ruling within a year,” he said.
This is an excerpt from the story that first appeared under this headline on the Huffington Post. John Rudolf can be reached at john.rudolf@huffingtonpost.com.

Hunger strike organizer: Ad-Seg/ASU units are bad news – charges filed against peaceful hunger strikers by CDCR

Hunger strike organizer: Ad-Seg/ASU units are bad news
December 13, 2011
by Todd Ashker
In: SF Bay View

Written Dec. 4, 2011 – On Nov. 30, myself and several other men here – whom CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has labeled as “leaders” of the peaceful protests – received serious rule violations, charging us with causing a riot or mass disturbance. They referred the charges for felony prosecution to the local D.A’s office. We’re all hoping the D.A. will file so we can expose these human rights violations even more.

Feeling as if he’s being buried alive, an unknown prisoner depicts the torturous effects of control units – called SHUs (security housing units), ASUs, Ad/Segs etc. – on the people confined in them. Fighting to end their use – or at least mitigate their abuses – is the purpose of the hunger strikes. – Drawing by unknown prisoner

With respect to Ad/Seg units having a voice, we’d included all SHUs and Ad/Seg units from the beginning in our formal complaint and in letters from me and others, and in the July protest, all the SHUs and many Ad/Seg units were referenced by the media.

It’s a good thing to have some exposure of related violations – torture going on in the Ad/Segs. We all need to be united and work together on making the wrongs in this system right!
It’s a good thing to have exposure of torture going on in the Ad/Segs. We all need to be united and work together on making the wrongs in this system right!

The Ad-Seg/ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit) units are bad news! I was never housed in them until being put in the one here on Sept. 29. This was CDCR’s retaliatory action against 15 of us here.

We were all isolated on a tier, in strip cells with nothing but a set of clothes and fish kit – spoon, cup, bar of soap etc. – with ice cold air blasting outta the vents! The warden personally told us, “As soon as you eat, you can go back to your SHU (Security Housing Units) cells.”

My “mattress” was not even a mattress. It only had lumps of padding in places and was only 50 inches long – on ice cold concrete. This was all intentional, by design. They know that when a person is subject to cold, the body requires more energy. When you’re not eating, the ice will cause your body to feed on muscle and internal organs and the brain etc. much faster. Permanent damage can happen a lot faster.

And the way it (the unit) is built, it’s next to impossible to get staff’s attention if one of us fell out in the cell. We’d have been through – DOA! We were there until Oct. 13, and I went from 200 pounds to 176 pounds. We were going to remain there to the death.

CDCR top administration begged us to come off of the hunger strike, promising real change soon, and made a presentation to our attorneys that satisfied them regarding CDCR’s sincerity. So we agreed to come off – we told our mediation team via phone conference on the 13th that our decision to end our hunger strike was ours alone, and it shouldn’t affect any other prisoners’ decision on their own hunger strike!

After my experience in the ASU, I can see the only major difference between ASU and here in PBSP SHU is the lack of a TV or radio in the cell. CDCR was supposed to retrofit the ASU cells for appliance capability since 2009 – I have the memo!

They’re able to buy the same canteen and get a yearly package after a year. Their yard cages actually are better than our cement ice box yards, because you can see and talk to other guys and have a better view of the outside.

Still, all of these lockup units are foul places to be – even temporarily. And the acts and omissions by staff in such units are illegal – in principle and especially in practice – long term!

It’s very important to include the ASUs in the SHU actions because it’s clear that when CDCR does revise (SHU) policy and men start getting out to general population, there’ll be a lot of abuses by some staff fabricating reasons to “investigate” such prisoners to getting off general population and they’ll be subject to a lot of ASU time – at least at first.

Once a pattern of such abuse of power is established, it can be exposed to the court. Therefore, if for no other reason, it’s critical to include ASUs in the process of challenging SHU issues!

Send our brother some love and light – he is one of the original organizers of the historic hunger strikes that involved over 12,000 California prisoners at their peak in late September, early October: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP D1-119, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.
They continue to torture us like animals

by the men in Calipatria State Prison Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU)

Written Nov. 22, 2011 – They continue to torture us like animals. These high ranking officials continue to promise us some change to our living conditions. We continue to stare at four concrete walls with not much to do.

A gang of prison investigators searches for reasons to label California prisoners members of prison gangs so they can confine them to control units, called SHUs, ASUs and Ad/Segs. – Drawing: R. Garcia

One goes to committee and asks as to our transfers to Pelican Bay SHU, and Assistant Warden S. Anderson, IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) Trujillo and Warden Leland McEwen simply state that they aren’t changing anything, so “parole, debrief or DIE.” That’s what everyone is getting back in response to these ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) hearings; that in itself is torture.

We would also like to express an individual just hung himself due to this psychologically torturous environment. It’s ugly back here. Now where’s the rehabilitation in that aspect?

The conditions definitely has not changed and the validations has yet to yield. IGI Duarte is one of the main individuals abusing his power, continuing to place men in indeterminate isolation.

Conditions in Calipatria ASU have not changed, and all we continue to hear is lies, lies, lies and more lies! With this we close with our appreciation and respect.