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.

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

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

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:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000003831139&playerType=embed


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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