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.

Corcoran Strike for Medical Care Leads to Hospitalization of Diabetic

From an email, Oct 9th, 2014

After a week of hunger striking by three men inside Corcoran SHU and organizers calling and writing to the prison, we are happy to report that Kambui Robinson has been moved to the Acute Care Hospital in Corcoran for his diabetic complications, and the hunger strike is now ended.

Thanks to everyone who called, wrote, or circulated the message—but our fight is not over!

Advocacy is still needed for the following issues:

Kambui Robinson’s health is in a dire state and he needs to be permanently moved into a medical care facility such as the one in Vacaville. Diabetic complications have left his eyesight so bad that he has not been able to read for several weeks, and he is has been experiencing stroke-like symptoms for
the past several weeks.

Michael Durrough is still without an extension cord for his CPAP machine, which is necessary for his sleep apnea. Without this cord, which is allowable property but currently withheld on warden’s discretion, Michael risks the possibility of stopping breathing while sleeping every night.

Heshima Denham needs immediate attention to severe pain he is experiencing on his right side. He is in constant pain and it has become extremely disruptive to daily activity. He needs an MRI as well as kidney and liver tests in order to diagnosis this pain.

We need adequate medical care for everyone in CSP-Corcoran!  At this time, please continue to contact the below officials alerting them to the immediate needs of Kambui Robinson (C-82830), Michael Dorrough (D-83611) and Heshima Denham (J-38283).  Calls to the Receiver’s office are especially welcome.  (The receiver’s office will call you back and will tell you that they can’t give out peoples’ personal medical info, but all you need to do is reply that you’re not asking for such info and are just asking that the individuals you have called about receive appropriate and timely care).

Contact information for CDCR officials:

Dave Davey
Corcoran Warden
559-992-8800 (extension not known)
dave.davey@cdcr.ca.gov

Medical Receiver
California Correctional Healthcare Services
916-691-3000
CPHCSCCUWeb@cdcr.ca.gov

Cherita Wofford
Office of the Ombudsman
916-324-6123
cherita.wofford@cdcr.ca.gov

Sara Malone
Office of the Ombudsman
916-327-8467
Sara.Malone@cdcr.ca.gov

Diana Toche
Undersecretary for Health Care Services and Undersecretary for Administration
and Offender Services, CDCR
diana.toche@cdcr.ca.gov

Corcoran SHU prisoners start hunger strike for decent healthcare; support needed now

Sept. 28th, 2014
From: SFBayview

On Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, three men locked inside unit 4B-1L of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) of California State Prison-Corcoran started a hunger strike:
Heshima Denham (J-38283), followed on Sept. 27 by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough (D-83611), and Kambui Robinson (C-82830) will join them the following day for a few days or as long as he can considering his poor health.

Why?
The medical care at Corcoran SHU is so bad that life-threatening situations have occurred on too many occasions to the people in the SHU and possibly also elsewhere at CSP-Corcoran that they have had to resort to a hunger strike, the ultimate nonviolent protest, in order to make this point known to the warden, the medical receiver appointed by the court to oversee California’s notoriously bad prison healthcare, and the administration of the California Department of Corrections (CDCr).

Several factors made the three decide to protest the lack of healthcare now: Kambui has diabetes that is very badly regulated with a HBA1C of 9.3 – far too high for diabetics, especially with those already suffering loss of eyesight and neuropathy – and Zaharibu has dangerous, untreated, extremely high cholesterol, making him very vulnerable to stroke, and he has untreated gall stones and a CPAP machine [for sleep apnea, can cause strokes] without an extension cord to work effectively.

Custody staff interfering with medical staff is causing dangerous situations.

What can you do to help?

Ideally we want Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough and Kambui Robinson moved to Vacaville or New Folsom medical facilities. Kambui’s situation is most critical:

He needs more control over his insulin-dependent diabetes – better regulation, prevention of more complications, and a special diet for diabetics, with sufficient carbohydrates, low fat, whole grains, access to glucose and daily exercise outside his cell. He also needs a diagnostic scan to determine nerve damage in his brain.

For Michael Dorrough (D-83611): normal access to the CPAP machine, treatment for high cholesterol levels and treatment for gallstones.

[Note: Both Michael Dorrough and Kambui Robinson also need to be moved away from the Central Valley due to Valley Fever!]

Finally, for Heshima Denham (J-38283), we need an MRI-scan to make a diagnosis of the pain in his right side and treatment for whatever is causing it. Heshima was recently also diagnosed with PTSD.
Please keep in mind these are medical issues that should be treated with discretion.

Although I concentrate on these three people who are on a hunger strike, they have expressed that they are striking for all people with a disease or injury needing better care, chronic or not, at CSP-Corcoran.

Although I concentrate on these three people who are on a hunger strike, they have expressed that they are striking for all people with a disease or injury needing better care, chronic or not, at CSP-Corcoran.

Call or write to the Corcoran warden, or leave a message with his secretary. Below is a proposed script:

Call or email Warden Dave Davey, at 559 992-8800 or dave.davey@cdcr.ca.gov, or write to him at P.O. Box 8800, Corcoran, CA 93212-8309.

[Please cc emails to: Dr Clarence Cryer, clarence.cryer@cdcr.ca.gov , Chief Executive Officer in charge of health care at CSP-Corcoran.]

Call or send a copy of your letter or email to Diana Toche, Undersecretary for Health Care Services and Undersecretary for Administration and Offender Services, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Correctional Health Care Services, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001, 916-691-0209, Diana.toche@cdcr.ca.gov.

Also send a copy to the Medical Receiver, California Correctional Health Care Services, Controlled Correspondence Unit, P.O. Box 588500, Elk Grove, CA 95758, CPHCSCCUWeb@cdcr.ca.gov.

Finally, contact the Ombudsman, at Cherita.Wofford@cdcr.ca.gov.

Suggested script for your phone call, email or letter:

I am contacting you concerning the lack of specialized healthcare for people inside the CSP-Corcoran SHU, especially those with chronic diseases. I would like to make you aware of the fact that there is a hunger strike going on inside to demand that people with diabetes or sleep apnea and in need of special diets and other mental and physical healthcare get treated as they would when not incarcerated. Insulin-dependent diabetics with complications and patients with CPAP machines, mental illness such as PTSD and other mental challenges should not be in the SHU but in a medical facility.

The healthcare system in several California prisons is failing badly and we demand prompt action now:

Either move the diabetic patients and the CPAP-machine patients, as well as all other chronic disease patients, to a medical facility or improve the healthcare system, including the rules for, for instance, MRI scans in CSP-Corcoran.

MRI scans are only allowed when there is a physically visible wound. This is wrong!
Also, prevent custody staff from interfering with medical issues, please!

I respectfully insist you act this week to start making specific and general improvements to the healthcare in CSP-Corcoran SHU, before lives are lost.

Thank you.

Humiliation and loss: Mass cell searches at Corcoran SHU

May 31, 2014
by Ajamu Watu (Terrance E. White)
In: SF Bay View

Revolutionary greetings!

As of this writing, I’m finally getting situated from another mass cell search being done here at the Corcoran SHU by Gestapo police. This is supposed to be a once a year ordeal, so they searched the whole yard. Well, if so, then why do we get searched so often at different, unexpected times and why do they use K9 dogs and the metal detectors on us and our mattresses?

This cell search had to be my most humiliating one yet, because we were escorted from our housing units in our boxers, T-shirts – or no T-shirt if you chose – and our shower shoes all the way to R&R visiting room to walk through the metal detectors after we were strip-searched at our cell doors before we came out. There was also female staff assisting with this so-called protocol, and I was told COs (correctional officers, or guards) even came from other yards to help out.

We had our mattresses scanned through the electronic metal detector but were not given any new bed linen when this ordeal was over. Of course our cells – our living quarters – were trashed so bad that it took a lot of us two days to get back somewhat comfortable.

The long walk in the hot sun around the whole yard and being locked in our stand-up yard cages all day with some cages not having running water and us not being able to bring our lunches with us caused medical problems for those who are up in age – 40-plus. I’ve just gotten over a two-day migraine from the ordeal.

I was informed – and found out it to be true – once I returned to my cell that the fascist oppressors were taking all extra clothing, any alleged appliances such as a TV that may be missing any parts to it, with no regard to you still being able to use it or if you have another one on the way. If you’re using two cable cord antennas or loose wires, they’re taking that too.

In some cases, you need more than one antenna to pick up the digital channel because it’s hard to do so in some cells due to the reception or your digital antenna’s cord is not long enough to reach your back wall where the reception is better. In my case, my ground antenna was snatched from the wall by these Gestapo fascist pigs with no regard as to why, when it was very unnecessary since my cable outlet was not missing the metal plate that covers it.

We haven’t been given our cell search slips yet, but I’ve already started my 602 appeal form that I will still be processing to note the unprofessional way my cell was handled in this search. When I had the section CO look at my cable outlet, he informed me it was broken off. I informed him my TV signal wasn’t working but my radio was.

He then told me to 602 it but made no attempt to retrieve another cable cord to hold me until the opportune time when I can purchase another one which is what it’s gonna boil down to because they’re not gonna replace it. When this happens – the cell searches lasted all week but I think they’re still not finished with a few more buildings – we get no program, no yard, showers, laundry or access to the law library, which they’ve cancelled unless you have a court date approaching, and in some cases you may still not be able to go.

The excuses are always the same: short on staff who really don’t feel like doing anything and since the S&Es do the medical escorts, it gives the building COs time to sit down on their lazy behinds and collect a paycheck. I’m sure you all will get more mail from inmates here at Corcoran with these stories of how this cell search affected these buildings. I’m positive some were handled worse than others depending on who was doing the search.

This to us is just another day living in the concrete tomb known as the Corcoran SHU graveyard. The struggle continues …

One love, one movement!

Ajamu Wadu, a servant of the oppressed people

Send our brother some love and light: Terrance E. White, AG-8738, Cor SHU 4B-1R-26L, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212.

CSP-Corcoran SHU: applications not usable for lack of sockets, property allowed by property matrix, but not allowed by staff, and other ills

One of those every-day annoyances of being confined 24/7 in a cell with two people:

CSP-Corcoran should solve the issue of not being allowed an extension chord. Since there was a new property matrix installed since January, which reflects the new administrative policy of prisoners being allowed two appliances each, for instance a typewriter (yes, this is the 21st century!), the prison still does not allow an extra extension chord (with an extra socket) per appliance, whereas there are only 2 sockets per cell, for those sharing a 1 man cell with 2. Also, prisoners were threatened with write-ups if they all decided to demand a single cell per person.

Prison employees told the prisoners that power will be cut when more extension chords are being used, but the extension chords come with an extra safety device to prevent this.

Another issue with the property room at CSP-Corcoran is that they interpret the new rules in their own way, even lying to their bosses. An example from daily life:

“An associate warden here contacted the property room about my underwear. Initially, the property room claimed that long-sleeved tee-shirts are not allowed. The property room then told the associate warden that I could not have it, because it is a “V-neck teeshirt,” and that they are “not allowed.” These were lies: Not only is this not a v-neck teeshirt, but “v-neck teeshirts are allowed. This was a property officer blatantly lying to one of his bosses – and the associate warden knew that it was a lie.”

Property Matrix January 24, 2014 Inmate Property, CDCR, p. 11

Property Matrix January 24, 2014 Inmate Property, CDCR, p. 10

It has become clear to many people locked up inside CSP-Corcoran that the new property matrix (which we could no longer find online, but we scanned these 2 pages from what was sent to us in March by prisoners) is not being made public to the corporations issuing the catalogues where-from families can order packages for their loved ones, and that employees are not well informed at all on what is and what is not allowed. And – really – how many more petty rules does the cdcr have in store for us to waste precious time and energy on? Is that another trick to keep us from the struggle for human rights?

We are wondering if the administration of CSP-Corcoran realizes that this whole keeping back of property, cell-searching and other harassments made to prisoners in the SHU (racism by some staff  is a becoming a returning complaint, amongst others) certainly is no incentive for those locked down in the segregation units to cooperate with the CDCR-designed Step Down Programs.

Statement of Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Collective Hunger Strike on July 1st and announcement to participate, by Corcoran SHU prisoners

Greetings,

I am writing from behind the walls of Corcoran State Prison and am in an isolation super max section (i.e. short corridor) behind political beliefs not compatible to the state, and therefore isolated not only from general population, but also other prisoners. I am writing to inform your organization that we prisoners here at C.S.P. Corcoran are going to take part in the Pelican Bay State Prison’s Hunger Strike.

I have enclosed a copy of our letter of solidarity and would kindly ask if you could make copies or submit it in one of your publications so as to inform the general public of our fight to change the inhuman conditions we are subjected to for our political beliefs or falsely identified as politically active in an organization. It would be greatly appreciated. Enclosed is a copy of our solidarity letter.

Haribu L.M. Soriano-Mugabi
C.S.P. Corcoran
P.O. Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212

Statement of Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Collective Hunger Strike on July 1st.
From: the N.C.T.T. Corcoran SHU

Greetings to all who support freedom, justice, and equality. We here of the N.C.T.T. SHU stand in solidarity with, and in full support of the July 1st hunger strike and the 5 major action points and sub-points as laid out by the Pelican Bay Collective in the Policy Statements (See, “Archives”, P.B.S.P.-SHU-D corridor hunger strike).

What many are unaware of is that facility 4B here in Corcoran SHU is designated to house validated prisoners in indefinite SHU confinement and have an identical ultra-super max isolation unit short corridor modeled after corridor D in Pelican Bay, complete with blacked out windows a mirror tinted glass on the towers so no one but the gun tower can see in [into our cells], and none of us can see out; flaps welded to the base of the doors and sandbags on the tiers to prevent “fishing” [a means of passing notes, etc. between cells using lengths of string]; IGI [Institutional Gang Investigators] transports us all to A.C.H. [?] medical appointments and we have no contact with any prisoners or staff outside of this section here in 4B/1C C Section the “short corridor” of the Corcoran SHU. All of the deprivations (save access to sunlight); outlines in the 5-point hunger strike statement are mirrored, and in some instances intensified here in the Corcoran SHU 4B/1C C Section isolation gang unit.

Medical care here, in a facility allegedly designed to house chronic care and prisoners with psychological problems, is so woefully inadequate that it borders on intentional disdain for the health of prisoners, especially where diabetics and cancer are an issue. Access to the law library is denied for the most mundane reasons, or, most often, no reason at all. Yet these things and more are outlined in the P.B.S.P.-SHU five core demands.

What is of note here, and something that should concern all U.S. citizens, is the increasing use of behavioral control (torture units) and human experimental techniques against prisoners not only in California but across the nation. Indefinite confinement, sensory deprivation, withholding food, constant illumination, use of unsubstantiated lies from informants are the psychological billy clubs being used in these torture units. The purpose of this “treatment” is to stop prisoners from standing in opposition to inhumane prison conditions and prevent them from exercising their basic human rights.

Many lawsuits have been filed in opposition to the conditions in these conditions … [unreadable] yet the courts have repeatedly re-interpreted and misinterpreted their own constitutional law … [unreadable] to support the state’s continued use of these torture units. When approved means of protest and redress of rights are prove meaningless and are fully exhausted, then the pursuit of those ends through other means is necessary.

It is important for all to know the Pelican Bay Collective is not alone in this struggle and the broader the participation and support for this hunger strike, the other such efforts, the greater the potential that our sacrifice now will mean a more humane world for us in the future. We urge all who reads these words to support us in this effort with your participation or your voices call your local news agencies, notify your friends on social networks, contact your legislators, tell your fellow faithful at church, mosques, temple or synagogues. Decades before Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs were described by Congressman Ralph Metcalfe as “the control unit treatment program is long-term punishment under the guise of what is, in fact, pseudo-scientific experimentation.”

Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles, and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support.

In Solidarity,
N.C.T.T. Corcoran – SHU
4B/1C – C Section
Super-max isolation Unit