Games the gang investigators play

This is a piece from Aug 16, 2012, published in the SF Bay View, but it is as relevant as ever: nothing has changed within the CDCr and in how the Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) work! The public and those who represent them should take serious note that IGI is often said to be acting without any court-intervention, giving punishment to imprisoned people on often false reports, falsified reports, made-up reports. If a possible crime occurs, should the accused not be given a trial? And what are the reasons for the possibly substantiated rumors that IGI might falsify reports? Could it be to keep the SHU’s filled with so-called “validated” prisoners, allegedly gang-members, or in the new vocabulary of CDCr: “Security Threat Groups” (STG)?

For a SHU-prisoner, the prisons receive more money from you, the tax payers, than for a prisoner in General Population. Think about it, and start asking your representatives questions!

This is just a quick note to say thank you for the March issue and another April and May issue of the S.F. Bay View you sent. I read the March issue and can see why these fascist captors of mine kept it from me. They already look at us New Afrikkkans as suspected “gang” members and anything political or educational we read they label it gang material. It’s absurd!

They’ve been keeping my mail for at least an extra week after I receive it from my family, and any books or other forms of reading material they hold for a month or so before they issue it to me. I know it’s a game the IGIs (Institutional Gang Investigators) use to keep us New Afrikkkans, Southern and Northern Mexicans, oppressed Whites and Native Amerikkkans buried alive in these concrete tombs under their three-point gang validation, which, since our statewide hunger strike, they continue to do.

I’ve seen four gang validation packages issued out within the last two weeks by these IGI oppressors, who in all actuality are their own gang. I remember reading about IGI Duarte in Calipatria State Prison being under investigation himself for putting together false validation packages on comrades; well, he isn’t the only one to do so. I’m more than certain if the CDC got more IGIs under investigation for false acts to get brothers validated, these tables would really turn and society would see who the real gang members are.

Thank you for continuing to be the driving force in bringing awareness to the free world about our constant struggles to fight our oppressors. I’ve given out the other two Bay Views you sent to some comrades to read and hopefully get subscriptions as well.

In true solidarity struggle,

Comrade T

Letter from Pelican Bay Prisoner Representatives to Members of the California State Assembly & Senate

LETTER FROM PELICAN BAY PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES
TO MEMBERS OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY & SENATE

Original signed letter.

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191
Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry – CDCR # C35671
Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

May 1, 2014

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the
Senate (SB 892 and AB 1652) dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies
of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

We are California inmates who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time, based on validation as alleged associates and members of prison gangs, rather than based on violent behavior. We undertook hunger strikes in 2011 and in 2013 in opposition of the CDCR’s solitary confinement and gang validation practices as well as the inhumane conditions of CDCR’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). Together with thousands of inmates, we expressed
the following five core demands:

1) Individual accountability, rather than group punishment, indefinite SHU status, and restricted privileges;

2) Abolish debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;

3) Comply with U.S. Commission 2006 Recommendations regarding an end to long-
term solitary confinement;

4) Provide adequate food; and,

5) Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.

Having carefully reviewed and considered Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano on February 11, 2014 as amended on April 3, 2014, and Senate Bill 892, introduced by Senate member Loni Hancock on January 13, 2014, as amended on March 18 and April 2, we wish to offer the following comments:

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

AB 1652 addresses the very narrow but critical issue of eliminating CDCR’s policy of placing prisoners in solitary confinement for gang validation, rather than for commission of a serious offense. We support AB 1652. At the same time, we recommend that the bill be amended to include the following three additional provisions:

a. During assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source!before being

[Letter to CA State Assembly and Senate
May 1, 2014 – page 2]

relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

b. An attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost to the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

c. AB 1652 should implement provisions for increased oversight, studies, data collection, and reporting back to the Legislature on the SHU classification process, the mental and physical wellbeing of inmates in SHUs, and the reasons why SHU inmates are denied re-entry into the general population. Senate member Hancock’s SB 892 contains these provisions, which we recommend be included in AB 1652. Collecting and considering this data can lay the foundation for a future more comprehensive legislative evaluation of solitary confinement practices in California.

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

Although SB 892 appears to seek to achieve comprehensive CDCR reform on the issue of solitary confinement, there are several provisions of the bill that will adopt inhumane and widely condemned practices into state law. We will only support SB 892 if it is amended to include
three critically important items:

a. The bill should incorporate the language of AB 1652 (or similar language) which eliminates the use of gang validation and minor rule violations as a justification for placing inmates in SHUs. As it stands currently, SB 892 does not eliminate SHU assignment for mere gang association and it does not eliminate indeterminate SHU terms.

This is a critical issue and one of our core demands. The nationwide trend is clearly not to place prisoners in segregated housing units for alleged gang association without accompanying serious rule violations. Numerous states have moved in this direction for public safety reasons, for humane reasons, and to cut costs. California should not move in the opposite direction.

b. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that during assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source!before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

[Letter to CA State Assembly and Senate
May 1, 2014 page 3]

c. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that an attorney-advocate
should be made available (at no cost too the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

We do not believe that the range of provisions in SB 892 related to review by the Office of the Inspector General of cases in which SHU placement is based on the testimony of a confidential informant, the appointment of ombudsmen, the requirement for a daily face-to-face encounter with CDCR employees, the appointment of an “advocate” for an inmate being processed for SHU placement, or the Step Down Program in the bill will make any measurable difference in CDCR solitary confinement practices. The Inspector General is unlikely based upon review of a file to reverse decisions based on confidential informants. Ombudsmen will be of little value as long as inmates can be placed in SHUs for alleged gang association when they have engaged in no wrong-doing. “Face-to-face” encounters already happen almost every day when our food is served or a psych tech walks past our cells. Allowing an “advocate” to assist in the SHU assignment process will mean assignment of a guard who could care less about the result. And the proposed step-down program focuses on forcing prisoners to disavow alleged gang association or activities rather than on a behavior-based model considering whether the prisoner has violated rules while in the SHU. Despite these misguided and costly provisions in SB 892, we would support the bill if it is amended to include the provisions identified above.

However, the narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652, particularly if amended as suggested above, would far better serve the public safety, prison security, and the humane treatment of prisoners. It’s a first but critically important step in the direction of a rational and humane policy. Further legislation could be considered in the next legislative session after CDCR data is collected by the legislature. Thank you for considering our comments and suggestions.

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

This letter was written after these 4 representatives of prisoners at Pelican Bay had met with the Center for Human Rights, which emailed it to us. “As you may know, we’ve been working with the four Pelican Bay hunger strike reps to get their united position on the two bills pending in the CA Senate and Assembly on solitary confinement.”

(Also posted on SF Bay View)

Californian prisoners prepare for hunger strike

Reblogged from the Irish Times:

Californian prisoners prepare for hunger strike
Inmates say California’s crowded, dangerous jails violate their rights. What effect might protests have?

Peadar King, June 20, 2013

Of the 10.1 million people held in penal institutions across the world, 2.29 million are held in the US. Of those, 80 per cent are poor, more than 60 per cent are members of racial minorities and more than 50 per cent have mental-health problems.

Across the US almost seven million people are in prison, on probation, on parole or in county jails. The numbers represent a 379 per cent increase from 1980, when the number was not quite two million.

Children are not immune from imprisonment. There are 250,000 children in adult jails and prisons across the US, some as young as eight and nine, of whom 3,000 have been sentenced to life without parole. Of these, 74 per cent are African-American or Latino.

In prison they are 10 times more likely to be sexually and physically abused than are adult prisoners. Many of these adults and young people did not have proper legal representation at the time of their trials despite the 1963 US supreme court ruling in the Gideon v Wainwright case that entitles all defendants to legal counsel irrespective of income.

Even in the US California stands out. Recent decades have seen rapid growth in the state’s prison population – greater than the combined numbers of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – although the state’s overall population is just a fifth of those countries’.

The current controversy relates not to the number of prisoners in California but to the conditions in which they are held. Despite a flurry of prison construction in the 1980s that increased the number of penal institutions from 12 to 33, in 2006 its prison population of 172,000 was 200 per cent above design capacity.
And although the supreme court has ordered the state to bring its prisoner population into line with capacity, the state has failed to do so.

The supreme court is not alone is its dissatisfaction with how prisoners are being treated; the prisoners don’t like it either. There were two hunger strikes in 2011: the first involved 6,600 prisoners; the second 11,898 prisoners. Now prisoners are set for a repeat strike, with July 8th as the target date.

Although the prisoners have five demands, life in “secure housing units” and the extensive use of solitary confinement are at the heart of the dispute. About 10,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement in California at any one time. Some have been in solitary for up to 40 years, and the average time is seven and a half years.

Pelican Bay State Prison, a supermax, or super-maximum-security jail, holds 1,111 prisoners in isolation. There, in an area designed to minimise human contact and reduce visual stimulation, the windowless units in which the prisoners spend 23 hours a day measure 11ft by 7ft. They are fed through a hatch. For an hour a day they can exercise alone in what is referred to as a “dog run” – an open-air cell measuring 16ft by 25ft.

In 2012 Amnesty International accused California of abusing prisoners’ rights. In August 2011 Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and 15 days is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur.

Read the rest here 

CDCR’s Security Threat Group Pilot Program: a document intentionally designed to fail

From: NCTT-Cor-SHU:

Jan 17th 2013

California’s CDCR’s Security Threat Group Pilot Program (which includes its proposed step down program [S.D.P.] ) is a document intentionally designed to fail. It not only grossly deviates from the behavior-based intent the department swore to the public, legislators, and prisoners subjected to these torture units for the past 10, 20, 30, or 40 years – but actually codifies an expectation of all prisoners to become state informants in the service of maintaining these torture units in violation of already established law.


As you can see on the “Reporting S.T.G. involvement” segment of the “Step Down Program” in the official CDCR press release ( see illustration below, marked with our *, page 4), CDCR has codified an expectation that one becomes a “confidential informant,” qualitatively no different than debriefing. They state in clear language that prisoners “have the responsibility to report S.T.G.  or criminal activity when known or observed by you.”
This is informing, snitching, ratting and will result in someone else being subjected to years of torture. They go on to state:

“This process is not intended to compromise your safety, but to enhance your safety through the identification and removal of those involved in S.T.G. or criminal activities.”

This is an intentional lie. By CDCR’s own admission, one of the primary reasons they have maintained these torture units and created ‘sensitive needs yards’ is that such informing will incur violent retaliation against suspected informants. Their inclusion of this provision has a more insidious purpose related to their Schenerian behavior modification program, but for purposes of this discussion we’ll stick to the 8th Amendment violation inherent in this action by the state.

In Griffinv. Gomez, the U.S. Northern District Court held,

“The crushing conditions of the SHU present an overwhelming incentive for an inmate to risk debriefing… (and) [CDCR’s] refusal to reconsider the classification of former gang members who are unwilling to risk retaliation (for informing) renders their segregation effectively permanent (Docket no. 120, at 8). It is this mutual reinforcement that extended (prisoners) stay in the SHU for over 20 years… Further confinement is tantamount to indefinite administrative segregation for silence – an intolerable practice in modern society.”


The court accordingly found this compulsory requirement to inform violates the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, yet here we see CDCR not only expanding it outside the confines of the debriefing process, but codifying it as an expectation for inclusion in the S.D.P., something no principled man or woman currently consigned to these torture units will submit to under any circumstance, and CDCR is fully aware of this fact. They are fully aware that it ciolates established law. They are fully aware that it violates the U.N. Treaty against Torture and other cruel and degrading treatment… They just don’t care. They are counting on the disinterest and political apathy of youthe people – to turn a blind eye to their maintenance if these torture units in your name, with your tax dollars. The only question facing us as a society is: will you? Only you can answer that question.

Our solidarity always – N.C.T.T.-Cor-SHU
NCTTCorSHU.org

“Reporting STG involvement”

Creating broken men? A discussion on the U.S. domestic torture program

December 4, 2012: SF Bay View

by Zaharibu Dorrough, J. Heshima Denham, Kambui Robinson and Jabari Scott, NCTT Corcoran SHU

  “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or  mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as  obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession,  punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is  suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing a third  person.” – United Convention Against Torture, Art. 1, Sec. 2

We extend our heartfelt greetings to you, brothers and sisters.

Many discussions are taking place on the nature of the indefinite  solitary confinement program in the U.S. prisons and whether or not it  constitutes torture. The debate on what to do about the program itself  is being held at every level of social organization, from the U.S.  Senate to the United Nations, from the California Legislature to the  short corridors of Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs.

[Photo in original: Corcoran State Prison – Photo: Ben Margot, AP]

Academics from multiple disciplines, from psychologists to  sociologists, have all weighed in with the objective, scientific  analysis that indefinite SHU confinement is not only torture, but even  limited SHU confinement results in irreparable psychological damage.  Yet, as with the Bush era “torture papers,” the socio-economic and  political interests of the capitalist tend to supersede and supplant  objective evidence, moral reason and human decency.

Such debate, which only continues in the presence of arguments  contrary to the obvious reality of the U.S. domestic torture program in  SHUs across the U.S., is not only ludicrous, it’s reality, and it is  this lethal component to the debate which forces us to share a  perspective which should end the debate definitively, leaving behind  only the inescapable truth: Amerika maintains the largest domestic  torture program on earth. The state of California runs the largest  torture program in Amerika, and it continues to exist in your name, with  your tax dollars, because you allow it to.
A recent incident here in Corcoran SHU’s short corridor compels us to  give voice to the outrage we should all feel at the continued  maintenance of the indeterminate SHU debriefing process of the U.S.  domestic torture program: Another suicide, Armando Morales (Baby Paya), a  validated Mexican prisoner from Los Angeles who had been confined to  SHU for almost a decade, hanged himself after the IGI moved him from the  4B-1L-C-Section short corridor, to 4A-1R.
The reason(s) that Armando was moved are the typical ones associated  with the coercive tactics employed to break men’s minds: After his  girlfriend had been compromised by IGI and other state and federal law  enforcement, those same agencies mounted an effort to put pressure on  Armando, who was actually a baby in terms of what he did and did not  know, as it relates to the enormous pressure that law enforcement will  apply to coerce information from persons they’ve targeted.
In response to that pressure, he took his own life. Naturally, IGI  and the state will seek to escape any culpability, and their response to  this is that each person is responsible for his own conduct. We should  all recognize the illegitimacy of such a position – that this is nothing  more than an excuse to try and separate themselves from a situation  that they are responsible for by their reckless and barbaric disregard  for our humanity.

Amerika  maintains the largest domestic torture program on earth. The state of  California runs the largest torture program in Amerika. 


We know this primarily because the vast majority of us have been in  these tortuous madhouses for decades. One day is too long and not a  single illegal act or rules violation has been committed by us to  justify this, which is, by international law, unjustifiable.

But we also  know this because our research into the origins of the torture program  reveals that this type of systematic psychological degradation to coerce  information and create broken men is its purpose. The domestic U.S.  torture program carried out in SHU (aka SMU, control unit etc.) style  prisons finds its origins at a meeting of social scientists and prison  wardens held in Washington, D.C., in 1962, recruiting the findings of  Dr. Edgar Schein, which he delivered to them in his man-against-man  brainwashing. In addressing the group Dr. Schein stated:

“I would like you to think  of brainwashing not in terms of politics, ethics or morals, but in  terms of the deliberate changing of human behavior and attitudes by a  group of men who have relatively complete control over the environment  in which the captive populace lives.” 

The techniques he espoused would  also require, to be effective, a new type of environment conducive to  altering the very foundations of one’s perception of reality. For this  the state took Dr. Levinson’s sensory deprivation prison unit design and  a form of Skinnerian operant conditioning called “learned  helplessness.”
This last technique is a key factor of both validation based  indeterminate SHU confinement and the debriefing process. “Learned  helplessness” is a systematic process of conditioning to crystalize in  the imprisoned victim’s mind that he has no control over the regulation  of his existence, that he is completely dependent on the state and its  guards for the necessities of “life,” that he is helpless and must  submit to the state’s power and control.

Our  research into the origins of the torture program reveals that this type  of systematic psychological degradation to coerce information and create  broken men is its purpose.


This is, of course, contrary to core human consciousness and a linear  thought divergence into two options, “resistance or escape.” The  program is designed to apply maximum punitive coercion against  “resistance” from the outset – from physical removal from the general  (prison) population to sensory deprivation, using informants,  collaborators and agent provocateurs to erode trust amongst those of  like circumstances, punishing uncooperative attitudes, prohibiting  collective thought or expression while simultaneously employing group  punishment, arbitrary punishment and property restrictions etc.
At the same time, those who are capable of prolonged or indefinite  resistance through ideological consistency, political development or  force of will – like victims of crucifixion left to rot on crosses during the Roman Empire – they serve as powerful deterrents to those of  lesser psychological resilience or those in general population to not  resist and instead explore the second option: escape.
The state of California has made its escape option clear since taking  the Schein-Skinnerian-Levinson system to its heights in erecting the torture units at Pelican Bay SHU. There are only three escape options available to you: parole, debrief or die. Due to the successful  corporate influences of the prison industrial complex on the  legislative, political and, to a degree, cultural processes in the  nation over the past quarter century, most validated SHU prisoners are  serving mandatory minimum, enhanced or BPT (Board of Prison Terms) based  sentences and their very confinement to SHU is prohibitive to their  parole.

A cell in the Corcoran SHU

The Board of Prison Terms has repeatedly stated to validated  prisoners seeking parole:

 “If you want a parole date, you probably want  to think about debriefing.” 

This reinforces the psychological pressure  on those already weakened by the enforced conviction that they have been  abandoned by and isolated from society – and only through submission  and subserviency can they be socially accepted as human beings.
This form of “escape” – debriefing – is consistent with points 7, 8  and 9 of Dr. Schein’s behavior modification techniques: (7) exploitation  of opportunities and informers; (8) convincing prisoners they can trust  no one; (9) treating those who are willing to collaborate in far more  lenient ways than those who are not.
Again, our personal experience with  the state and its use of such opportunistic broken men against those of  us who are committed to resistance has been demonstrated here at  Corcoran-SHU on a number of occasions in which agents posing as  revolutionary progressives have tried to undermine the efforts of the  NCTT (New Afrikan Collective Think Tank), and when those efforts failed,  they locked up and debriefed.
It was only through our collective education and insight and  experience with these periodic Cointelpro-style attacks on progressives  which allowed us to identify and resist the attack and mitigate its  political disorder. But this does not negate the damage done by the  broken males to the unity and progress of resistance in the SHU  population.
Though political immaturity by some elements played a role in the  mistrust and disunity that resulted from it, in the broader population,  it is the nature of the domestic torture program itself to create such  broken males that we must understand is prohibited by the international  community – and the U.S. knows this in analyzing the effects of such  broken males on the psychology of certain elements in SHU. Other such  examples of torture being put to such use against those who resist in  Pelican Bay, here and across the U.S. is legion.

The state  of California has made its escape option clear since taking the  Schein-Skinnerian-Levinson system to its heights in erecting the torture  units at Pelican Bay SHU. There are only three escape options available  to you: parole, debrief or die. The Board of Prison Terms has  repeatedly stated to validated prisoners seeking parole: “If you want a  parole date, you probably want to think about debriefing.”

In the etiology of the U.S. domestic torture program, Marion Control  Unit was the first. When former Marion Warden Ralph Aron was asked why  the torture unit was built, he replied, “The purpose of the Marion (and  all) controls unit(s) is to control revolutionary attitudes in the  prison system and society at large.” These broken males thus serve to  not only damage or destroy progressives in prison but the attitudes and  ideas of progressives in society at large.

It was always meant to be this way. To be sure, Dr. Broder, the  psychotherapist who implemented Dr. Schein’s brainwashing program at  Marion envisions those paroled broken men as “therapeutic technicians”  who will take these techniques and warped views back into the community.  Some 30 years later we have a snitch culture that derides objective  facts in favor of a corporate media-created fantasy, and it owes some of  its existence to the disastrous effects of isolation, which leads to  the inevitable final “escape”: Death! Suicide rates in these sensory  deprivation torture units are magnitudes higher than those in general  population.
Speaking these words simply does not convey the reality of what we  all know intimately: the transient appeal of the void as an alternative  to endless isolation. We all know of the disastrous effects of isolation  because we have seen what it does, along with the pressures that the  state brings to bear on us all daily in its efforts to break us, efforts  that include compelling the taking of one’s own life.

“The  purpose of the Marion (and all) controls unit(s) is to control  revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and society at large.”

If this domestic torture program did not exist, Armando and so many  others would still be alive today. But his is only the “escape” view of  death. There is also a “resistance”-based view of death – that all of us  who will never be counted amongst the broken men not only understand,  but have demonstrated twice before, and may well be compelled to do  again: peaceful protest in the form of hunger strikes, mass single cell,  work stoppage etc.
Christian Gomez died [a year ago], not “escaping” these torture units  but “resisting” these torture units, and it is this dialectical view of  this final option – that death is an active and practiced form of both  escape from and resistance to indefinite SHU confinement – is the final  and definitive proof that it is, undebatably, torture.
During an assembly hearing on solitary confinement on August 24,  2011, a former Corcoran-SHU prisoner testified, “For someone to be  willing to lie down and die just for someone to hear the situation … in  the SHU program, they must be serious.” His assessment was correct. We  are serious. The question is, are we as a society serious about  upholding basic tenets of humanity. People are dying who could be saved  while you are reading these words.

A former  Corcoran-SHU prisoner testified, “For someone to be willing to lie down  and die just for someone to hear the situation … in the SHU program,  they must be serious.” His assessment was correct. We are serious. The  question is, are we as a society serious about upholding basic tenets of  humanity.

And now you know. This is a system that must be abolished. It is a  system that has robbed us all of some part of our humanity and has  caused us to lose our way as a nation. So many of us have stood idly by  as the U.S. has strode the world stage criticizing other nations for  systematic human rights abuses and demanding that others meet their  obligations to the world community, while they maintain the single  largest domestic torture program and the single largest prison  population on earth. If the U.S. is going to continue to insist that  other nations meet their international obligations under U.N. treaty  resolutions, they must do the same and adhere to the U.N. Convention  against Torture.
They have proven that they will not do so without compulsion. We must  ensure that they do so, as a nation of the people, for the people and  by the people. If we are doing anything less, we are complicit in the  state’s hypocrisy.
The Pelican Bay D Short Corridor has given us the proper onus for  unity in their historic “agreement to end hostilities” issued for Oct.  10, 2012. We call upon all of you brothers and sisters across the nation  in prison yards and hood blocks, in SHUs and barrios: Take up this call  also. Turn your attention not toward one another, but to those who have  condemned us all to languish at the lowest rungs of this locked  anti-poor society: the ruling 1 percent.

Many of us  have stood idly by as the U.S. has strode the world stage criticizing  other nations for systematic human rights abuses and demanding that  others meet their obligations to the world community, while they  maintain the single largest domestic torture program and the single  largest prison population on earth. If the U.S. is going to continue to  insist that other nations meet their international obligations under  U.N. treaty resolutions, they must do the same and adhere to the U.N.  Convention against Torture.

Join the movement – embrace, support, join or form your own local  Occupy or anti-prison industrial complex formation. Build coalitions.  And in doing so, change this world. Come, let us make peace.
Our love and solidarity,
Corcoran SHU NCTT:


  • Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, 4B-1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212 [53?]
  • J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
  • Kambui Robinson, C-82830, 4B-1L-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
  • Jabari Scott, H-30536, 4B-1L-63, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212

  • NCTT stands for NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nation)  Collective Think Tank. All are held in solitary confinement, an  internationally recognized form of torture, in the SHU (Security Housing  Unit) at Corcoran State Prison. See also their website at: NCTTCorSHU.org
    Published in: SF Bay View, Dec. 4th 2012

    Update from Calipatria ASU

    Update from Calipatria ASU (also published in the SF Bay View, scrll down to view it there):

    “We got our cable and it’s a big difference. Lots of people here in segregation haven’t had this type of stimulation in years. It allows us to see what’s going on in the world and to actually see beyond these walls. We have 7 channels (not including the institutional channels). We get Telefutura, Telemundo (both spanish), FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, CW. Then there’s 3 Christian channels and there’s the institutional channels where they show us “PG-13” movies and play music. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but it’s a lot more than what we had.

    The warden said that by next year each prison will establish their own committee to review our cases and determine whether we get kicked out to the mainline. People have been getting validated still but it has slowed down since IGI E. Duarte got re-assigned to the ASU unit. The unity here is strong and us of the like mind and heart are in solidarity with the struggle. We haven’t forgot about the Short Corridor and our support from here is in full. Better days are ahead for us all but most importantly for those who’ve endured these torture chambers for decades and on.”

    Respectfully,

    Robbie Riva,
    CDC# T-49359
    ASU – 130
    P.O. Box 5008
    Calipatria, CA 92233

    New Hunger strikes against new CDCR policies for gang validations – Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers: TV’s have been taken away

    We received an edition via email from Ms Kendra, thank you for keeping us updated!
    Oct 20th 2012

    It came from Pelican Bay Adseg unit, legit source from last two statewide hunger strikes wrote me a personal letter detailing why they were hunger striking and it was for the 5 core demands. This man is validated as a [withheld for privacy reasons by Ca PW] under CDCR and is in Adseg at Pelican Bay waiting for a SHU cell to open up.

    He said they were aware of the end of hostilities agreement from the short corridor as well once he received my article, he told me that when they started to refuse their statefood the officers came in took away canteen food,and when some men didn’t want to hand over their TV’s the officers forcefully cell extracted the inmate to remove the TVs.

    This inmate is asking whether or not that was legal to do so. He also asked me if it is only Pelican Bay hunger striking and if any other prisons were hunger striking too. It was written on 10/10/2012 and postmarked 10/16/2012.

    He told me that we should have known before it happened that they were going to hunger strike about Pelican Bay State Prison’s hunger strike (he wrote me as if I already knew it was going to happen) so it seems like the men thought everyone out here was aware of a hunger strike going to happen there when no one knew about it.

    Also, I received a letter from an inmate at PB Short Corridor D-2 a few days ago telling me their mail is extremely restricted lately because of “The hunger strike” and because of all the things that have been underway there they have been working on including the end of hostilities. So i am not sure who else at Pelican Bay went on a hunger strike and it hasn’t been confirmed from an inmate there in that unit that it stopped.

    CDCR says the men resumed eating at Pelican Bay State Prison but we all know CDCR’s tricks, they said that when Christian Gomez from Corcoran ASU died from starving himself, they said that about other prisons during last statewide hunger strikes that men resumed eating when to find out they were still starving. I am going to still think these men are still hunger striking in the Adseg unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, I refuse to take CDCR’s word because they have been known to lie.

    Until i get confirmation from these men that they resumed eating then i’ll believe they’ve resumed eating. I take the prisoners word over CDCR’s. These men need support!! and if anyone has heard from the Adseg Unit at Pelican Bay that they resumed eating please let us know. Thank you. The officers should give them back their TV’s too! –

    Kendra Castañeda, kendracastaneda55@gmail.com


    We received thanks to Kendra Castañeda a message from a prisoner held in Pelican Bay SHU, that there is indeed a hunger strike underway, and that the prison guards took away the personal tv’s of those participating in the peaceful protest against the torturous conditions inside the Ad. seg. or solitary confinement unit. Letter was postmarked October 16th to Kendra Castañeda, inmate name being withheld due to more retaliation from the guards.

    We do not know why the personal belongings were taken by the correctional officers. The reasoning seems to be purely retaliational, there is no other reason. One cannot eat a TV.

    Please also read the article on SolitaryWatch about the new hunger strikes here.

    Also the roundup by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.

    Please read the 5 core demands of last year’s hunger strike.

    The hunger strike at Tehachapi appears to have been against the new “STG manual” for CDCR “gang validation”, version 7.0 (see our link in the sidebar and here) and maybe this is also the case in PBSP, as news is coming out about this latest version to spin the same policies in a different manner.

    Please read this open letter to the CCR, published Oct 16th 2012, with the reaction of the PB Short Corridor Collective to these new policies, requesting Gov. Jerry Brown intervenes:

    On Anniversary of Hunger Strike Pelican Bay Prisoners in Solitary Confinement See No Change, Request Intervention of CA Governor

    As well as being published in the SF Bay View (and taken over here).

    Speaking of these new policies, please read the very well-documented story of Shane Bauer, which was published yesterday on Mother Jones Magazine website, which also discusses this latest version of the “gang (STG) validation policy” (see page 4):

    Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.
    We throw thousands of men in the hole for the books they read, the company they keep, the beliefs they hold. Here’s why.

    —By Shane Bauer
    Mother Jones, November/December 2012 Issue 79

    IT’S BEEN SEVEN MONTHS since I’ve been inside a prison cell. Now I’m back, sort of. The experience is eerily like my dreams, where I am a prisoner in another man’s cell. Like the cell I go back to in my sleep, this one is built for solitary confinement. I’m taking intermittent, heaving breaths, like I can’t get enough air. This still happens to me from time to time, especially in tight spaces. At a little over 11 by 7 feet, this cell is smaller than any I’ve ever inhabited. You can’t pace in it.

    Like in my dreams, I case the space for the means of staying sane. Is there a TV to watch, a book to read, a round object to toss? The pathetic artifacts of this inmate’s life remind me of objects that were once everything to me: a stack of books, a handmade chessboard, a few scattered pieces of artwork taped to the concrete, a family photo, large manila envelopes full of letters. I know that these things are his world.

    “So when you’re in Iran and in solitary confinement,” asks my guide, Lieutenant Chris Acosta, “was it different?” His tone makes clear that he believes an Iranian prison to be a bad place.

    He’s right about that. After being apprehended on the Iran-Iraq border, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and I were held in Evin Prison’s isolation ward for political prisoners. Sarah remained there for 13 months, Josh and I for 26 months. We were held incommunicado. We never knew when, or if, we would get out. We didn’t go to trial for two years. When we did we had no way to speak to a lawyer and no means of contesting the charges against us, which included espionage. The alleged evidence the court held was “confidential.”

    What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement. What would he say if I told him I needed human contact so badly that I woke every morning hoping to be interrogated? Would he believe that I once yearned to be sat down in a padded, soundproof room, blindfolded, and questioned, just so I could talk to somebody?

    I want to answer his question—of course my experience was different from those of the men at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison—but I’m not sure how to do it. How do you compare, when the difference between one person’s stability and another’s insanity is found in tiny details? Do I point out that I had a mattress, and they have thin pieces of foam; that the concrete open-air cell I exercised in was twice the size of the “dog run” at Pelican Bay, which is about 16 by 25 feet; that I got 15 minutes of phone calls in 26 months, and they get none; that I couldn’t write letters, but they can; that we could only talk to nearby prisoners in secret, but they can shout to each other without being punished; that unlike where I was imprisoned, whoever lives here has to shit at the front of his cell, in view of the guards?

    “There was a window,” I say. I don’t quite know how to tell him what I mean by that answer. “Just having that light come in, seeing the light move across the cell, seeing what time of day it was—” Without those windows, I wouldn’t have had the sound of ravens, the rare breezes, or the drops of rain that I let wash over my face some nights. My world would have been utterly restricted to my concrete box, to watching the miniature ocean waves I made by sloshing water back and forth in a bottle; to marveling at ants; to calculating the mean, median, and mode of the tick marks on the wall; to talking to myself without realizing it. For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows. When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back. Its slow creeping against the wall reminded me that the world did in fact turn and that time was something other than the stagnant pool my life was draining into.
    When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back.

    Here, there are no windows.

    Read more here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/10/solitary-confinement-shane-bauer

    California: Open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown: Stop the torture now

    From: SF Bay View, October 17, 2012

    Dear Gov. Brown:

    We oppose the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) policies and practices relating to our subjection to decades of “status”-based indefinite isolation (SHU confinement); this includes our opposition to CDCR’s proposed policy changes, entitled “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification, and Management Strategy.” We would appreciate your supportive intervention on this issue.

    We are the four principal prisoner representatives confined in the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor, and we present you with this request on behalf of ourselves and all similarly situated prisoners who are subject to torturous, indefinite SHU [Security Housing Unit] and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] confinement.

    The “censored pelican,” drawn by Pete Collins, at Bath Prison in Ontario, Canada, became an icon of the 2011 hunger strikes led by the same “main reps” in the Pelican Bay SHU who wrote this letter to Gov. Brown.

    Our commonality as a collective group – able to effectively represent our own interests, as well as those of the thousands of prisoners similarly situated – lies in our continued indefinite SHU confinement for more than 25 years, which is based on “status,” rather than illegal behavior. Notably, our decades of SHU isolation are based on CDCR gang classification, i.e. status, without ever being found guilty of committing a gang-related criminal act!

    Our gang validations and related decades of SHU isolation are based on what CDCR claims to be “intelligence-based evidence of criminal gang activity,” consisting of: (a) innocent associational or political type activity; and/or (b) confidential prisoner informants’ unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in criminal activity.

    Beginning in February 2010, we became united in our efforts to collectively expose and peacefully bring an end to the CDCR policies and practices referenced above, based on our position that they constitute a form of torture and a violation of basic human rights principles. This is when we created our “Formal Complaint” document, copies of which were sent to numerous lawmakers, organizations, groups and individuals, including former Gov. Schwarzenegger and CDCR Secretary Cate. (To review our Formal Complaint, go to prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity. wordpress.com/formal-complaint).

    As of early 2011, the Formal Complaint had resulted in no relief, and our conditions in SHU had become more oppressive; therefore, we decided our sole avenue for gaining mainstream exposure and outside support for our cause to end our torture was for us to put our lives on the line via a peaceful protest hunger strike action. In May/June 2011, we served your office and Secretary Cate with another copy of our Formal Complaint and our Final Notice of the July 1 hunger strike with the Five Core Demands. (Available at http://www.prisons.org/documents/FinalNoticewith5CoreDemands.doc).

    True to our word, we began our hunger strike July 1, 2011, which lasted until July 20, 2011, and included supportive participation by more than 6,600 prisoners across the state. Our hunger strike action was temporarily suspended on July 20 in response to our face-to-face meetings with top CDCR officials, who admitted early on in the negotiation process that our five core demands “were all reasonable,” and CDCR “should have made changes 20 years ago,” and who promised to make timely, substantively meaningful changes, responsive to all five demands.

    In our face-to-face meetings with top CDCR officials, they admitted early on in the negotiation process that our five core demands “were all reasonable” and CDCR “should have made changes 20 years ago,” and they promised to make timely, substantively meaningful changes, responsive to all five demands.

    All parties understood that CDCR needed to change policies so that SHU confinement would be reserved for prisoners who are charged with and found guilty of committing a serious rule violation, meriting a determinate SHU term, i.e. a system based on individual behavior.

    As of early September 2011, we believed CDCR was not acting in good faith … resulting in our return to hunger strike on Sept. 26, 2011. The response was to subject 15 of us to additional torture: Todd Ashker, C-58191; Arturo Castellanos, C-17275; Charles Coleman, C-60680; Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), D-05996; Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671; J. Brian Elrod, H-25268; George Franco, D-46556; Antonio Guillen, P-81948; Paul Jones, B-26077; Louis Powell, B-59864; Paul Redd, B-72683; Alfred Sandoval, D-61000; Danny Troxell, B-76578; James Baridi Williamson, D-34288; and Ronnie Yandell, V-27927.

    We were placed in more isolative Ad-Seg strip cells, without adequate clothing or bedding, and with ice-cold air blasting out of the air vents; then Warden Lewis informed us, “As soon as you eat, you can go back home to your SHU cells.”

    The response (to our second hunger strike) was to subject 15 of us to additional torture. We were placed in more isolative Ad-Seg strip cells, without adequate clothing or bedding, and with ice-cold air blasting out of the air vents; then Warden Lewis informed us, “As soon as you eat, you can go back home to your SHU cells.”

    This second hunger strike action was joined by more than 12,000 prisoners at its peak. It was again temporarily suspended on Oct. 13, 2011, after CDCR made a presentation of their good faith efforts toward the policy changes agreed to in July which was satisfactory to our outside Mediation Team.

    [photo: Legendary artist and revolutionary Emory Douglas, whose art enlivened the Black Panther newspaper and is now exhibited around the world, lent his powerful voice to a rally in front of CDCR headquarters in Sacramento during last year’s first hunger strike, on July 18, 2011.]

    In the year since Oct. 13, 2011, the CDCR has failed to honor their end of our prior agreements to change SHU policies and practices including but not limited to those listed below:

    1) We remain in SHU, subject to the torturous conditions therein, including but not limited to all of the conditions described in our Formal Complaint and other written statements. (See prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com).

    2) The CDCR’s March 2012 proposed policy changes actually do not change anything for those prisoners whom CDCR has classified as validated gang members, who will continue to be subject to indefinite SHU isolation based on “intelligence information” alleged to indicate the prisoner’s participation in “criminal gang activity” – but in fact often innocent associational/political type activity).

    The “intelligence” includes confidential informants’ unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in criminal activity – notably, carrying zero formal charges! This is the same policy and practice used and abused by CDCR to keep us in SHU for more than 25 years. (See, e.g., “intelligence” references in March 1, 2012, proposal at pp. 7-8, 25; “intelligence” categories references at pp. 19-24. Compare to CCR, Title 15, sec. 3378(c)(6), 3378(c)(8) and 3378(e).)

    3) The CDCR’s March 2012 proposed policy changes include a four-year minimum step-down program, which prisoners may participate in to earn their way out of SHU. This is also unacceptable! Four years is too long, and the incentives for each step are not adequate. Any step-down program should have a maximum limit of 18 months and require meaningful incentives from the start, such as increased opportunity for out-of-cell contact with other prisoners, additional programs and privileges, including regular phone calls and contact visits.

    Notable are the following additional facts supporting our position that CDCR has violated our July/October 2011 agreement and acted in bad faith, thereby requiring us to request your supportive intervention.

    A. In March 2012, we presented CDCR with our written rejection of their proposed policy changes, and we included our counterproposal. (Available at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/pelican-bay-human-rights-movement-short-corridor-collecitves-counter-proposal-to-cdcr/).

    B. Our outside Mediation Team and the Prison Law Office also presented CDCR with related written oppositions to the proposal. (The Mediation Team’s critique is available at http://www.prisons.org/documents/MTreviewofSTGplan5.5.pdf). The CDCR failed to respond to these opposition points.

    This rare photo – rare because reporters are almost always barred from all California prisons, especially the SHUs – shows the cell that was home to Todd Ashker, a signatory to this letter, for over 20 years. Recently he was abruptly moved to a distant part of the SHU. 

    The reported reason is nonsensical for a move that is no doubt intended to stop the movement for peaceful change by separating the leaders.

    C. This past June 19, 2012, U.S. Sen. Durbin held a congressional hearing about the overuse of isolation cells in the nation’s penal system. The next day, Illinois Gov. Quinn announced that he would close down Tamms Correctional Facility, the notorious SuperMax that opened in 1995 and held prisoners in long-term isolation – some of them since the prison’s inception. His decision was based on the enormous operational costs and evidence suggesting such isolative confinement profoundly and irreparably damages the prisoners exposed to such harsh treatment. Other states have also made significant reductions in their use of SHU-type units, reserving such cells for prisoners found guilty of serious rule violations, where they serve minimal time periods; these states include Mississippi, Maine and Colorado. (See http://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights/closing-tamms-supermax-chance-reevaluate-solitary-confinement.) Reducing their use of isolation is saving these states millions of dollars.

    Yet California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains committed to keeping thousands of prisoners in costly SHU and Ad-Seg isolation cells for decades, solely based on status rather than a chargeable, charged offense and a finding of guilt for serious misconduct. And we believe that the March 2012 “Security Threat Group …” proposal will ultimately result in many more prisoners being subject to years of torture in isolation cells.

    Reducing their use of isolation is saving the states of Mississippi, Maine and Colorado millions of dollars. Yet California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains committed to keeping thousands of prisoners in costly SHU and Ad-Seg isolation cells for decades, solely based on status rather than a chargeable, charged offense and a finding of guilt for serious misconduct.

    Gov. Brown, back in May/June of 2011 we respectfully made you personally aware of the serious problems. Your failure to take appropriate corrective action has enabled our decades of torturous pain and suffering to continue. Remember, we are talking about the illegal torture of thousands of male and female prisoners – and their family members. The perception is that you are condoning this mass prisoner torture program going on in CDCR’s system and the related ongoing million-dollar fraud being carried out by your appointees, Secretary Cate et al. – by your failure to stop it.

    The policies and practices at issue violate basic human rights principles and are clear violations of the Constitution and international law, which bans torture for any reason.

    All this comes, as you know, at an enormous cost to all California taxpayers: At least $73,000 per year for each SHU and Ad-Seg prisoner, compared to approximately $52,000 for a general population prisoner – while every other citizen in the state has had social services slashed!

    The perception is that you are condoning this mass prisoner torture program going on in CDCR’s system and the related ongoing million-dollar fraud being carried out by your appointees, Secretary Cate et al. – by your failure to stop it.

    Meanwhile, we continue to work for constructive change. Since the PBSP SHU became operational in December 1989, the entire state prison system has had an explosion of riots, to the point where level fours are locked down most of the time, without meaningful rehabilitation programs, opportunities etc.

    To change this, we have just launched an initiative to reduce the violence in the CDCR system by calling on all prisoners to end hostilities between various groups. (See http://www.prisons.org/documents/agreement-to-end-hostilities.pdf). We hope for your cooperation in this effort; we will communicate with you further about it soon.

    [photo: This banner provided the theme for a hunger strike solidarity vigil at the Alameda County Courthouse on Aug. 11. 2011. – Photo: United for Drug Policy Reform]

    Gov. Brown, the barbaric, inhumane treatment of prisoners in this state has gone on for far too long now. We are asking you to take corrective action today by ordering Secretary Cate to immediately halt such practices consistent with our points presented above, and thereby end the unnecessary pain and suffering such practices cause to prisoners, their loved ones outside, and the rest of the majority of the 40 million Californians who have a conscience.

    Sincerely,

    Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), Antonio Guillen

    Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Prisoner Representatives

    P.S. We (prisoners) reject version 7.0 (June 29, 2012) of the “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification, and Management Strategy,” as prisoners rejected version 5.5 (March 1, 2012).

    Send our brothers some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP SHU D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532, and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. Mail to Arturo Castellanos and Antonio Guillen is severely restricted.

    Open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown: Stop the torture now

    From: SF Bay View, October 17, 2012

    Dear Gov. Brown:

    We oppose the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) policies and practices relating to our subjection to decades of “status”-based indefinite isolation (SHU confinement); this includes our opposition to CDCR’s proposed policy changes, entitled “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification, and Management Strategy.” We would appreciate your supportive intervention on this issue.

    We are the four principal prisoner representatives confined in the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor, and we present you with this request on behalf of ourselves and all similarly situated prisoners who are subject to torturous, indefinite SHU [Security Housing Unit] and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] confinement.

    The “censored pelican,” drawn by Pete Collins, at Bath Prison in Ontario, Canada, became an icon of the 2011 hunger strikes led by the same “main reps” in the Pelican Bay SHU who wrote this letter to Gov. Brown.

    Our commonality as a collective group – able to effectively represent our own interests, as well as those of the thousands of prisoners similarly situated – lies in our continued indefinite SHU confinement for more than 25 years, which is based on “status,” rather than illegal behavior. Notably, our decades of SHU isolation are based on CDCR gang classification, i.e. status, without ever being found guilty of committing a gang-related criminal act!

    Our gang validations and related decades of SHU isolation are based on what CDCR claims to be “intelligence-based evidence of criminal gang activity,” consisting of: (a) innocent associational or political type activity; and/or (b) confidential prisoner informants’ unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in criminal activity.

    Beginning in February 2010, we became united in our efforts to collectively expose and peacefully bring an end to the CDCR policies and practices referenced above, based on our position that they constitute a form of torture and a violation of basic human rights principles. This is when we created our “Formal Complaint” document, copies of which were sent to numerous lawmakers, organizations, groups and individuals, including former Gov. Schwarzenegger and CDCR Secretary Cate. (To review our Formal Complaint, go to prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity. wordpress.com/formal-complaint).

    As of early 2011, the Formal Complaint had resulted in no relief, and our conditions in SHU had become more oppressive; therefore, we decided our sole avenue for gaining mainstream exposure and outside support for our cause to end our torture was for us to put our lives on the line via a peaceful protest hunger strike action. In May/June 2011, we served your office and Secretary Cate with another copy of our Formal Complaint and our Final Notice of the July 1 hunger strike with the Five Core Demands. (Available at http://www.prisons.org/documents/FinalNoticewith5CoreDemands.doc).

    True to our word, we began our hunger strike July 1, 2011, which lasted until July 20, 2011, and included supportive participation by more than 6,600 prisoners across the state. Our hunger strike action was temporarily suspended on July 20 in response to our face-to-face meetings with top CDCR officials, who admitted early on in the negotiation process that our five core demands “were all reasonable,” and CDCR “should have made changes 20 years ago,” and who promised to make timely, substantively meaningful changes, responsive to all five demands.

    In our face-to-face meetings with top CDCR officials, they admitted early on in the negotiation process that our five core demands “were all reasonable” and CDCR “should have made changes 20 years ago,” and they promised to make timely, substantively meaningful changes, responsive to all five demands.

    All parties understood that CDCR needed to change policies so that SHU confinement would be reserved for prisoners who are charged with and found guilty of committing a serious rule violation, meriting a determinate SHU term, i.e. a system based on individual behavior.

    As of early September 2011, we believed CDCR was not acting in good faith … resulting in our return to hunger strike on Sept. 26, 2011. The response was to subject 15 of us to additional torture: Todd Ashker, C-58191; Arturo Castellanos, C-17275; Charles Coleman, C-60680; Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), D-05996; Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671; J. Brian Elrod, H-25268; George Franco, D-46556; Antonio Guillen, P-81948; Paul Jones, B-26077; Louis Powell, B-59864; Paul Redd, B-72683; Alfred Sandoval, D-61000; Danny Troxell, B-76578; James Baridi Williamson, D-34288; and Ronnie Yandell, V-27927.

    We were placed in more isolative Ad-Seg strip cells, without adequate clothing or bedding, and with ice-cold air blasting out of the air vents; then Warden Lewis informed us, “As soon as you eat, you can go back home to your SHU cells.”

    The response (to our second hunger strike) was to subject 15 of us to additional torture. We were placed in more isolative Ad-Seg strip cells, without adequate clothing or bedding, and with ice-cold air blasting out of the air vents; then Warden Lewis informed us, “As soon as you eat, you can go back home to your SHU cells.”

    This second hunger strike action was joined by more than 12,000 prisoners at its peak. It was again temporarily suspended on Oct. 13, 2011, after CDCR made a presentation of their good faith efforts toward the policy changes agreed to in July which was satisfactory to our outside Mediation Team.

    [photo: Legendary artist and revolutionary Emory Douglas, whose art enlivened the Black Panther newspaper and is now exhibited around the world, lent his powerful voice to a rally in front of CDCR headquarters in Sacramento during last year’s first hunger strike, on July 18, 2011.]

    In the year since Oct. 13, 2011, the CDCR has failed to honor their end of our prior agreements to change SHU policies and practices including but not limited to those listed below:

    1) We remain in SHU, subject to the torturous conditions therein, including but not limited to all of the conditions described in our Formal Complaint and other written statements. (See prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com).

    2) The CDCR’s March 2012 proposed policy changes actually do not change anything for those prisoners whom CDCR has classified as validated gang members, who will continue to be subject to indefinite SHU isolation based on “intelligence information” alleged to indicate the prisoner’s participation in “criminal gang activity” – but in fact often innocent associational/political type activity).

    The “intelligence” includes confidential informants’ unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in criminal activity – notably, carrying zero formal charges! This is the same policy and practice used and abused by CDCR to keep us in SHU for more than 25 years. (See, e.g., “intelligence” references in March 1, 2012, proposal at pp. 7-8, 25; “intelligence” categories references at pp. 19-24. Compare to CCR, Title 15, sec. 3378(c)(6), 3378(c)(8) and 3378(e).)

    3) The CDCR’s March 2012 proposed policy changes include a four-year minimum step-down program, which prisoners may participate in to earn their way out of SHU. This is also unacceptable! Four years is too long, and the incentives for each step are not adequate. Any step-down program should have a maximum limit of 18 months and require meaningful incentives from the start, such as increased opportunity for out-of-cell contact with other prisoners, additional programs and privileges, including regular phone calls and contact visits.

    Notable are the following additional facts supporting our position that CDCR has violated our July/October 2011 agreement and acted in bad faith, thereby requiring us to request your supportive intervention.

    A. In March 2012, we presented CDCR with our written rejection of their proposed policy changes, and we included our counterproposal. (Available at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/pelican-bay-human-rights-movement-short-corridor-collecitves-counter-proposal-to-cdcr/).

    B. Our outside Mediation Team and the Prison Law Office also presented CDCR with related written oppositions to the proposal. (The Mediation Team’s critique is available at http://www.prisons.org/documents/MTreviewofSTGplan5.5.pdf). The CDCR failed to respond to these opposition points.

    This rare photo – rare because reporters are almost always barred from all California prisons, especially the SHUs – shows the cell that was home to Todd Ashker, a signatory to this letter, for over 20 years. Recently he was abruptly moved to a distant part of the SHU. 

    The reported reason is nonsensical for a move that is no doubt intended to stop the movement for peaceful change by separating the leaders.

    C. This past June 19, 2012, U.S. Sen. Durbin held a congressional hearing about the overuse of isolation cells in the nation’s penal system. The next day, Illinois Gov. Quinn announced that he would close down Tamms Correctional Facility, the notorious SuperMax that opened in 1995 and held prisoners in long-term isolation – some of them since the prison’s inception. His decision was based on the enormous operational costs and evidence suggesting such isolative confinement profoundly and irreparably damages the prisoners exposed to such harsh treatment. Other states have also made significant reductions in their use of SHU-type units, reserving such cells for prisoners found guilty of serious rule violations, where they serve minimal time periods; these states include Mississippi, Maine and Colorado. (See http://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights/closing-tamms-supermax-chance-reevaluate-solitary-confinement.) Reducing their use of isolation is saving these states millions of dollars.

    Yet California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains committed to keeping thousands of prisoners in costly SHU and Ad-Seg isolation cells for decades, solely based on status rather than a chargeable, charged offense and a finding of guilt for serious misconduct. And we believe that the March 2012 “Security Threat Group …” proposal will ultimately result in many more prisoners being subject to years of torture in isolation cells.

    Reducing their use of isolation is saving the states of Mississippi, Maine and Colorado millions of dollars. Yet California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains committed to keeping thousands of prisoners in costly SHU and Ad-Seg isolation cells for decades, solely based on status rather than a chargeable, charged offense and a finding of guilt for serious misconduct.

    Gov. Brown, back in May/June of 2011 we respectfully made you personally aware of the serious problems. Your failure to take appropriate corrective action has enabled our decades of torturous pain and suffering to continue. Remember, we are talking about the illegal torture of thousands of male and female prisoners – and their family members. The perception is that you are condoning this mass prisoner torture program going on in CDCR’s system and the related ongoing million-dollar fraud being carried out by your appointees, Secretary Cate et al. – by your failure to stop it.

    The policies and practices at issue violate basic human rights principles and are clear violations of the Constitution and international law, which bans torture for any reason.

    All this comes, as you know, at an enormous cost to all California taxpayers: At least $73,000 per year for each SHU and Ad-Seg prisoner, compared to approximately $52,000 for a general population prisoner – while every other citizen in the state has had social services slashed!

    The perception is that you are condoning this mass prisoner torture program going on in CDCR’s system and the related ongoing million-dollar fraud being carried out by your appointees, Secretary Cate et al. – by your failure to stop it.

    Meanwhile, we continue to work for constructive change. Since the PBSP SHU became operational in December 1989, the entire state prison system has had an explosion of riots, to the point where level fours are locked down most of the time, without meaningful rehabilitation programs, opportunities etc.

    To change this, we have just launched an initiative to reduce the violence in the CDCR system by calling on all prisoners to end hostilities between various groups. (See http://www.prisons.org/documents/agreement-to-end-hostilities.pdf). We hope for your cooperation in this effort; we will communicate with you further about it soon.

    [photo: This banner provided the theme for a hunger strike solidarity vigil at the Alameda County Courthouse on Aug. 11. 2011. – Photo: United for Drug Policy Reform]

    Gov. Brown, the barbaric, inhumane treatment of prisoners in this state has gone on for far too long now. We are asking you to take corrective action today by ordering Secretary Cate to immediately halt such practices consistent with our points presented above, and thereby end the unnecessary pain and suffering such practices cause to prisoners, their loved ones outside, and the rest of the majority of the 40 million Californians who have a conscience.

    Sincerely,

    Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), Antonio Guillen

    Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Prisoner Representatives

    P.S. We (prisoners) reject version 7.0 (June 29, 2012) of the “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification, and Management Strategy,” as prisoners rejected version 5.5 (March 1, 2012).

    Send our brothers some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP SHU D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532, and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. Mail to Arturo Castellanos and Antonio Guillen is severely restricted.

    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.