An immediate independent investigation into the violence and excessive force used by guards in this incident.
Suspension of guards involved pending investigation.
Comprehensive medical treatment for injuries sustained during the incident.
No retaliation for speaking out against this abuse.
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.
Statement by the San Quentin 6, August 17th 2015
Published in the SF Bay View.
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
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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Interesting follow-up coverage from what appears to be the Oklahoman’s on-line edition, newsok.com. In addition to exploring the attempts of local police to investigate the riot, it goes into the distribution of California prisoners in for-profit facilities across the country.
The cause of the Oct. 11 riot at a private prison in Sayre has yet to be released due to ongoing investigation by local authorities.
SAYRE — Nearly a month after a riot that injured inmates at a private prison in western Oklahoma, prison officials say they do not have a cause that they can release.
They will say that 16 of the inmates who were hospitalized after the riot have since been released, but they won’t say what types of injuries they suffered in the Oct. 11 melee.
“While we are not aware of any criminal charges that have been filed, we do know that the Sayre Police Department‘s investigation is ongoing,” Machak said.
“To that end, we do not want to release details that might undermine those ongoing efforts.”
Sayre Police Chief Ronnie Harrold said he has yet to receive anything from the prison regarding the riot. He said he thinks something is close to happening, but that the prison corporation has “been giving us the runaround.”
“It’s coming close to the point where we would expect for them to turn it over to us,” Harrold said. “At some point, if they want charges filed, they’ll have to turn it over to us.”
Prison spokeswoman Michelle Deherrera said the riot erupted just before noon, and the help of local law enforcement agencies was required to subdue the prisoners.
In addition to the 16 inmates who required hospitalization, another 30 were treated at a medical facility at the prison, she said.
Deherrera said no prison staff members or assisting law enforcement officers were injured.
The more than 2,000 prisoners held at the private prison are from California. Machak said inmates from Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Vermont have been housed at the prison over the past 12 years.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website, the state has more than 9,588 inmates serving time in out-of-state prisons.
California began transferring prisoners to out-of-state facilities in 2007 to alleviate overcrowding and restore rehabilitation programs in its state-run lockups, according to the California department’s website.
The move to transfer the inmates was prompted by an executive order issued in October 2006 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and was expected to be a temporary measure to allow prison reform in California.
The latest word from Red Rock (in a news release via K-Gun in Tucson) is that 43 prisoners have been identified as being involved in the riot today and are in administrative segregation under investigation (isolated in detention units). According to them, seven prisoners were treated for injuries at a hospital, only one of whom was admitted (his injuries are reportedly non-life-threatening).
It still appears as if only California’s prisoners were involved.
(photo credit: TriValley Central)
Prison Talk has a thread going (that’s the link to the most current page, as of this evening) where family and friends of prisoners there are sharing info about which yard was involved, what’s happening with visitation, etc. I can’t figure out much more from that yet, but they usually know what’s going on before the media does – and will keep talking about it long after the media loses interest.
The families will be more current than I am, as well, so follow them if you’re really concerned about what’s going on and how other prisoners there are being affected. While rumors may sometimes fly in forums like Prison Talk, CCA’s news releases aren’t necessarily the whole truth. They don’t even have anything about the Red Rock Riot or the lawsuit at Saguaro up on their newsroom website, so don’t turn to CCA for “news” on their prisons.
My friend, Frank Smith from the Private Corrections Working Group (a private prison industry watchdog), dropped me a line today that he left the following remark about the Red Rock Riot on the TriValley Central website. Frank’s insight is often worth repeating:
“These prisons are chronically troubled.
Thanks to campaign support and contributions to Republicans there is virtually no oversight. Arizona officials have no clue as to whom they hold; what murderers, pedophiles, rapists, kidnappers have been imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away. The female staff is endlessly sexually harassed by management. Escapes and riots are as regular as rain in the tropics.
When charges are successfully brought against murderers from out of state, it is Arizona taxpayers who will pay to keep them for most or the rest of their lives.
This “minor” incident, as the for-profit prisons are careful to term them, overtaxed Pinal County emergency services. Who will be paying for the costs of the medivac choppers to Maricopa County? Who will be called to address a “major” incident?
In Colorado, there was a 1999 riot in a badly constructed prison built by the same outfit to which Mohave County sole-sourced the Kingman prison, thanks to promoters who are now hovering over Arizona communities like a flock of vultures. It took law enforcement from four states to put down that riot. In 2004 a CCA riot in the same prison cost the state about three quarters of a million to put down, but it only got $300,000 or so in reimbursement.
These ineptly run lockups have long since exhausted the potential labor pool in Pinal county and low-wage labor required to run them will come from Maricopa or Pima counties.
Despite the staggering incompetence of the for-profits, Coolidge officials have welcomed still another such mistake, this one to be run by MTC, the outfit that gave us riots in Pima and Mohave county this year, and the escapes of three murderers who killed a vacationing Oklahoma couple. MTC has had escapes, riots and murders in other states as well, including California, Texas, New Mexico and their home state of Utah. MTC was thrown out of Canada, where cooler legislative heads prevail and politics are not dominated by special interests.”
A few days ago, the Sacramento Bee published its reports about prisoner abuse inside some of California’s prisons. In Nevada, NDOC’s secrecy, its unwillingness to respond to allegations of misconduct towards prisoners, the permanent status of locked down units, the serious lack of medical care and means to stay healthy, the violence done to prisoners, even while shackled, keeping someone naked for prolongued periods of time as a form of punishment, the lack of any meaningful programs, the threat to take away someone’s tv (often the last means of ‘contact with the world’ in an isolation cell), rules not kept by personell, the unspoken threat to break someone’s spirit and will to live, and many more inhumane living conditions are all too familiar to our readers too.
Our hope is that in Nevada investigative reporters will stand to the challenge and research and report too about the abuses done here in Nevada’s prisons, at tax payers'(yours, mine) cost, in name of “security”, and “budget cuts”, thereby crushing human dignity and the chance to correct, reform, and redeem a fellow human being, sister or brother, father or mother.
Here is SolitaryWatch’s story on the outcome of the Bee’s reporting:
May 12, 2010
The American prison system is rife with euphemistic acronyms for the places where inmates are held in solitary confinement: Our prisons contain SHUs, SMUs, ASUs, CCRs, and most recently CMUs.* Now, a powerful two-part expose by Charles Pillar in the Sacramento Bee shows what goes on inside the BMUs–the “Behavior Modification Units”–in several California prisons.
These units are supposed to combine SHU-style isolation and deprivation with a special program that includes classes in “life skills” like anger management, substance abuse treatment, and other measures to prepare troublesome prisoners to return to the general population, or to the outside. But the classes have been eliminated for cost reasons–if they ever existed at all–and what’s left is solitary confinement.
Some of the inmates’ ”behavior problems” undoubtedly resulted from untreated mental illness. Whatever their cause, these problems were unlikely to be improved by round-the-clock lockdown. And at some of the BMUs, inmates reportedly lived in particularly brutal conditions, in an environment where, according to the Sacramento Bee, “guards seemed to view behavior modification as a license to make inmates as miserable as possible to compel obedience.”
A Bee investigation into the behavior units, including signed affidavits, conversations and correspondence with 18 inmates, has uncovered evidence of racism and cruelty at the High Desert facility [in Susanville, CA]. Inmates described hours-long strip-searches in a snow-covered exercise yard. They said correctional officers tried to provoke attacks between inmates, spread human excrement on cell doors and roughed up those who peacefully resisted mistreatment.
Many of their claims were backed by legal and administrative filings, and signed affidavits, which together depicted an environment of brutality, corruption and fear.
Behavior units at other prisons were marked by extreme isolation and deprivation – long periods in a cell without education, social contact, TV or radio, according to inmate complaints and recent visits by The Bee. An inmate of the Salinas Valley State Prison behavior unit won a lawsuit last year to get regular access to the prison yard after five months without exercise, sunlight or fresh air.
The list of abuses reported by the prisoners goes on: “Some cells leaked in rainstorms, soaking mattresses, they said, and blankets and toiletries were routinely withheld. Birds trapped in the unit defecated in prisoners’ food trays, and prayer books and rugs were confiscated without recourse.” When they complained, inmates said, ”mistreatment escalated to threats and outright assault.”
Prisoners also alleged that racism played a role in their abuse, reporting that guards used racial slurs and referred to the BMU as the “black monkey unit.” One inmate who was marched down the corridor naked and in chains after a “cell extraction” said that he felt “like I just stepped off an auction block.”
Pillar’s articles document not just the abuses themselves, but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s extensive efforts to ignore, discredit, or bury these abuses.
State prison officials have known about many of these claims since at least July 2008, when Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation social scientists sent to High Desert to assess the program reported allegations of abuse – including denial of medical care, racial slurs, gratuitous violence and destruction of protest appeals.
The Bee‘s investigation also revealed a broad effort by corrections officials to hide the concerns of prisoners and of the department’s own experts.
Inmates believe that the letters of complaint they wrote to the state inspector general and FBI were never sent out by the prison–and if they pressed the issue, they said, they were subject to retaliation. Several state researchers also say that corrections official told them to to keep quiet about the abuse allegations, and to downplay and bury them in official reports.
State prison officials said Monday that they had dramatically broadened their investigation of alleged racism and cruelty by guards at the High Desert State Prison in Susanville. The move came in response, officials said, to a Bee investigation published Sunday and Monday about claims of abuse of prisoners in a special behavior modification program.
Investigative reporting has proved instrumental to exposing conditions in solitary confinement in several other cases, as well–notably Lance Tapley’s reporting on the Maine State Prison SHU, and Beth Hundsdorfer and George Pawlaczyk’s series on Tamms Supermax in Illinois. The reporting has spurred official investigations, or even policy changes or legislative actions.
It looks like the American Friends Service Committee–which has long opposed the torture of solitary confinement–may be hoping the same thing will happen in California. On Monday, the Sacramento Bee reports, the AFSC “challenged California legislators to look into the abuse allegations–and pushed for the behavior units to be sharply restricted.” (You can read AFSC’s press release here.) And on Tuesday two state senators sent a letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger stating their intent to “fully examine these allegations,” and requesting an immediate briefing by the corrections department.
* Security Housing Unit (or Special Housing Unit), Special Management Unit, Administrative Segregation Unit, Closed Cell Restricted, Communications Management Unit.