California rises to prisoners’ challenge to end racial hostilities

From: SF Bay View
Oct. 14th 2012

by Mary Ratcliff

Unity is a matter of life and death in all ‘hoods – in the prisons and on the streets. The Youth Justice Council rallied outside the LA County Men’s Jail at 10 a.m. on 10/10, the day set by the Pelican Bay Prison Short Corridor Collective for the beginning of the end of racial hostilities. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez

In the U.S., we not only encage 25 percent of the world’s prisonersmore than any nation in the history of the world and more Black people than were enslaved in 1850 – but we isolate at least 80,000 of them in solitary confinement. I contend that the purpose is to drive them mad; and after years of reading their letters, I believe they are targeted for this intense form of torture not because they are the worst of the worst but because they are the best and brightest.

In September, the Short Corridor Collective, prisoners confined to the SHU in Pelican Bay State Prison, one of the first and harshest examples of mass solitary confinement, sent out a historic call for racial hostilities to end in California prisons beginning Oct. 10.

Of the prisoners in the SHU, who are all “considered the most dangerous and influential (prisoners) in the state,” these men in the Short Corridor are “the leaders, what one authority called all the ‘alpha dogs,’” writes Nancy Mullane of KALW, who managed to get approval for a visit to the SHU – and even an interview with a SHU prisoner. In California, reporters’ access to prisoners is largely barred by law.

In announcing their 10/10 rally, LA’s Youth Justice Council quote political exile Assata Shakur: “If unity happens inside the walls of prison, imagine the impacts it will have on our neighborhoods and youth!” – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez

In a letter to prisoner advocates, these so-called “shot callers,” who prison officials say require isolation to prevent them from ordering prison murders, have shown their true colors. Writing “on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor,” they declare that “now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.”

“Therefore,” they write, “beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease.” With this call, prisoners who endure some of the world’s worst punishment have disarmed their jailers – disabling the most effective weapon in the Corrections Department arsenal: divide and conquer.

“In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit,” they write. So, with solidarity, the same men who led last year’s hunger strikes, which involved 12,000 prisoners at their peak, intend to achieve the modest relief they were promised then – promises still unfulfilled.

Prisoners respond to the call

When the Bay View published the call to end hostilities, prisoner advocate Kendra Castaneda printed 100 copies of the story and mailed them to 100 prisoners around the state, so that word would begin to spread before Bay View prisoner subscribers received their October papers. She was determined to make a way around the severe restrictions on prisoners’ ability to communicate.

A large, enthusiastic crowd, including prisoners’ families and supporters as well as youth, turned out for the 10/10 rally in LA. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez
California prisoners, who are prohibited from writing to each other, rely on phone calls, visits and letters from outside the walls and on the Bay View and a few other publications for the news that matters most to them. Most of the men in the Short Corridor Collective, however, are allowed no phone calls, and many are denied visits as well.

And rumors reached us that the Corrections Department might ban the October Bay View statewide for containing the call that would effectively disarm them. We don’t yet know whether subscribers have received their papers. What we have heard is that many prisoners’ letters to the Bay View are being confiscated.
Of the 100 copies of the call to end hostilities that Kendra mailed, all appear to have been delivered except the 11 addressed to the very same men who wrote it. On Oct. 12, she received 11 “mail stops,” notices from the Pelican Bay gang unit claiming her letters violate California Code of Regulations Title 15 with “plans that violate the law” and facilitate prisoner-to-prisoner communication, even though she had deleted all the signers’ names and prison numbers.

Responses from prisoners who did receive her letters are beginning to reach Kendra, and here’s what they write:

This is one of 11 “mail stops” Kendra Casteneda received Oct. 12, barring her letters containing copies of the Bay View story announcing and including the “Agreement to end hostilities” from reaching the very prisoners who wrote the agreement. This mail stop names Ron Dewberry, better known as Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa. (Click to enlarge.)
From Gustavo Chavez: “The idea of this agreement going around is a positive start to a new beginning for all inmates. If we could maintain this valuable peace treaty within the prison system, why not work on spreading the word outside the prison walls so that we may put an end to the gang violence and work on becoming a bigger force?

“Of course this movement will immediately be looked at as home grown terrorism. We can’t allow such propaganda to interfere with our progress to educate our youth. The whole system operates on scare tactics, tactics that we shouldn’t fear.

“The challenges that lie ahead must be supremacy over the entire system. We can’t allow our decisions to be uncertain, because uncertainty won’t take us far. We also must implement principal to our purpose so that we may understand the cause. When people lose focus, things get ugly, and we all know who benefits from that!

“Last but not least, we/I know that rumors have been going around about certain stuff, and supposedly everything is coming from the Short Corridor. It sounds like the guards are attempting to disrupt the agreement by spreading these rumors around. We all must be careful not to fall into the guards’ web.
“I’m always prepared for the worst, especially when knowing I’m being psychologically tortured day after day.” – In struggle, Gustavo Chavez, E-45117, PBSP SHU D-8-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532, written Sept. 26, 2012

In a separate personal letter, Gustavo writes on Oct. 7: “Kendra, a lot of scandalous things are occurring up here. They have over 16 inmates from the main line on potty watch. I’m constantly being threatened by the coward pigs. Their tactics are aimed to disrupt what we are setting out to accomplish. You make sure to continue riding strong against the enemy regardless of the amount of times they try to bring you down.”
From Terrance E. White: “They’ve moved a lot of people over to Wasco State Prison Ad-Seg Unit, and they’re still validating people but have let non-serious incidents go back to the yard. That’s what I’ve witnessed.

“And they didn’t try to deter our Black August celebration this year. Here at North Kern State Prison, we had Southern Hispanics, Northern Hispanics and a few whites participate in our exercising routines on the yard (dog kennel) with us New Afrikkkans.

“We are all also aware of the peace treaty that’s to start Oct. 10, 2012, throughout the prison system and are all in agreement with it. It is about time to take back all that has been lost and continue to press forward in this struggle for liberation. They’ve had all us oppressed in these conditions for far too long.” – Comrade T, Terrance E. White, AG8738, KVSP D6-241, P.O. Box 5005, Delano, CA 93216, written Oct. 5, 2012

From Heshima Denham: “We received the comments (from several different sources) on the 10/10 cessation of hostilities and are in FULL adherence/compliance with all three points. However, there does seem to be some confusion on aspects of point 3 as it relates to the 10/10/2012 date, and we were wondering could we get some clarity from the main reps at PB?” – Heshima Denham, J-38283, Cor-SHU 4BIL-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212, written Oct. 3, 2012

Prisoners’ inability to communicate leads to confusion

The confusion Heshima mentions appears to be reflected in an Oct. 13 story in the Los Angeles Times. Prisoners apparently heard that a call had been put out by those who had called last year’s hunger strikes and assumed it was for another hunger strike. The Times reports:

“Corrections officials said they do not know why about 500 inmates started refusing food Wednesday, the same day a prison ‘end to hostilities’ was called by inmate activists who had orchestrated last year’s mass hunger strikes.

“The fasting began at opposite ends of the state. Several hundred inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border refused meals from Wednesday through Friday, but began eating again Friday night, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. About 300 prisoners at California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi, north of Los Angeles, also began refusing meals Wednesday. About 200 of them continued to refuse food Saturday, Thornton said.”

This youngster dressed in stereotypical prison garb behind bars dramatizes the encaging of human beings practiced on a mass scale in  California and throughout the U.S. Prisoners in solitary confinement endure years and even decades of isolation in windowless “concrete coffins” the size of a parking space, deprived of sensory stimulation, human contact or a glimpse of the natural world – a bird, a tree or a blade of grass. Imagine the strength of character that takes! – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez
The Times’ story closes on an ominous note:

“Prison officials regard the reference to race [in the call to end hostilities] as a synonym for the race-based gangs active in California prisons, including the Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood and 415 KUMI.
“Molly Porzig with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity said Pelican Bay prison officials responded to the ceasefire by asking the 16 Short Corridor inmates whose names appear on the statement to acknowledge gang activity. She attributed the claim to a family member visiting one of those inmates last week.”

This suggests that CDCR is trying to turn the call to end hostilities on its head and consider it evidence of gang activity.

To nip in the bud these efforts to confuse and criminalize prisoners and stop their peaceful organizing, it is imperative that the truth be communicated to prisoners all over California. We urge readers to print out this story and mail it to prisoners you know. If you’re not currently corresponding with a prisoner, look for California prisoners from among the hundreds of pen pals listed in the Bay View.

The call to end hostilities is heard and heeded on the streets

Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) called for a “parallel cease fire in the streets” to correspond to the end of hostilities inside the prisons called by the Short Corridor Collective. Led by the youth, a large, diverse crowd rallied at 10 a.m. on 10/10 outside the LA County Men’s Jail.

In announcing their rally, YJC wrote: “Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have announced a push to end all hostilities between racial groups within California’s prisons and jails. The handwritten announcement was sent to prison advocacy organizations. It is signed by prisoners identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. Pelican Bay’s SHU was the point of origin for last year’s hunger strikes which rocked California’s prison system, at one point including the participation or nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11 prisons throughout the state.”

As the crowd gathered for the 10/10 rally, a big banner greeted them: “To the cops we all look the same! Unite LA! Why fight each other?  Fight for justice!” – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez
“We have the duty to fight for our brothers and sisters who remain inside the walls of injustice and confined to a system that does NOT work for our community,” they declared.

Photos taken at the rally that illustrate this story exude solidarity and hope.

Sponsoring organizations included Youth Justice Coalition, Fair Chance Project, LA Community Action Network, FACTS (Families to Amend California Three Strikes), California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement, Homies Unidos, California Faith Action, Coalition to Stop Sheriff Violence and Gender Justice LA. For more information or to add your organization as a supporter, email the Youth Justice Coalition at freelanow@yahoo.com or call them at (323) 235-4243.

The youth quote political exile Assata Shakur: “If unity happens inside the walls of prison, imagine the impacts it will have on our neighborhoods and youth!”

Another rally was held in Riverside. The announcement on Facebook reads: “We are calling on all communities in Riverside County to stand in solidarity with all of our loved ones locked inside California’s prisons and county jails. This press conference and rally calls on the CDCR and local county sheriff’s departments to honor the call to end all hostilities between racial groups.”
In the Bay Area, a panel discussion on the call to end hostilities among other topics under the heading, “Alternatives to the Prison System,” is set for Saturday, Oct. 20, 2:30 p.m., at the Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. The topics are:

  • prisoners’ call for an end to hostilities, inside and in the communities
  • a critique of power’s criminality as revealed in the existence of prisons
  • real alternatives to the criminality of punishment

Panelists will include:

  • Steve Martinot, author of “The Need to Abolish the Prison System: an Ethical Indictment”
  • Joileen Richards, Campaign to End Mass Incarceration
  • Urszula Wislanka, Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Support Committee, and News and Letters
  • Melvin Dickson, The Commemorator: Commemoration Committee for the Black Panther Party
  • Dorsey Nunn, All of Us or None

Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff can be reached at editor@sfbayview.com or (415) 671-0789.

Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is calling for a “parallel cease fire in the streets”

Posted on: Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity on October 4, 2012:

Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is calling for a “parallel cease fire in the streets” to correspond to the End to Hostilities that has been called for by the Short Corridor Collective – a group of Pelican Bay hunger strike representatives who are living in that prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU, or isolation unit).

The YJC will kick off its call for an end to hostilities on the streets with an event on Wednesday, October 10th at 10am outside the LA County Men’s Jail (450 Bauchet Street, Los Angeles, 90012).

Here’s more information from the YJC’s Facebook event:

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have announced a push to end all hostilities between racial groups within California’s prisons and jails. The handwritten announcement was sent to prison Advocacy organizations. It is signed by prisoners, identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. Pelican Bay’s SHU was the point of origin for last year’s hunger strikes which rocked California’s prison system, at one point including the participation or nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11 prisons throughout the state.

The statement calls for the cessation of all hostilities between groups to commence October 10, 2012, in all California prisons and county jails. The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective has strongly requested that its statement be read and referred as a whole. 


On October 10th, the Youth Justice Coalition will be holding a rally to stand in solidarity with the Prisoners of CA.

We have the duty to fight for our brothers and sisters who remain inside the walls of injustice and confined to a system that does NOT work for our community!!

Please join the YJC and Community Advocacy groups and stand in solidarity with the CA prisoners and their efforts to end racial tension within the prison walls. Please contact us ASAP if you would like to Sponsor or Speak at the Rally/Press Conference.

Sponsoring Organizations:

1. Youth Justice Coalition (sponsor)
2. Fair Chance Project (sponsor)
3. LA Community Action Network (sponsor)
4. FACTS Families To Amend CA Three Strikes” (sponsor)
5. “CA Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement” CFASC (sponsor)
6. Homies Unidos (sponsor)
7. California Faith Action (sponsor)
8. Occupy The Hood LA (pending)
9. Immigrant Youth Coalition (pending)
10. Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace (ICUJP)-(pending)
11. Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC) (pending)
12. Coalition To Stop Sheriff Violence (sponsor)
13. Bus Riders Union (pending)
14. October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality (pending)
15. Gender Justice LA (sponsor)
“If unity happens inside the walls of prison, imagine the impacts it will have on our neighborhoods and youth!” -Assata
For more information or to add your organization as a supporter, email the Youth Justice Coalition at freelanow@yahoo.com or call them at (323) 235 – 4243.

There is another Event, a Rally in Riverside, CA, in solidarity with this Event, it is announced on Facebook here.

LA youth join call for end to hostilities

Posted on: Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity on October 4, 2012:

Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is calling for a “parallel cease fire in the streets” to correspond to the End to Hostilities that has been called for by the Short Corridor Collective – a group of Pelican Bay hunger strike representatives who are living in that prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU, or isolation unit).

The YJC will kick off its call for an end to hostilities on the streets with an event on Wednesday, October 10th at 10am outside the LA County Men’s Jail (450 Bauchet Street, Los Angeles, 90012).

Here’s more information from the YJC’s Facebook event:

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have announced a push to end all hostilities between racial groups within California’s prisons and jails. The handwritten announcement was sent to prison Advocacy organizations. It is signed by prisoners, identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. Pelican Bay’s SHU was the point of origin for last year’s hunger strikes which rocked California’s prison system, at one point including the participation or nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11 prisons throughout the state.

The statement calls for the cessation of all hostilities between groups to commence October 10, 2012, in all California prisons and county jails. The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective has strongly requested that its statement be read and referred as a whole. 


On October 10th, the Youth Justice Coalition will be holding a rally to stand in solidarity with the Prisoners of CA.

We have the duty to fight for our brothers and sisters who remain inside the walls of injustice and confined to a system that does NOT work for our community!!

Please join the YJC and Community Advocacy groups and stand in solidarity with the CA prisoners and their efforts to end racial tension within the prison walls. Please contact us ASAP if you would like to Sponsor or Speak at the Rally/Press Conference.

Sponsoring Organizations:

1. Youth Justice Coalition (sponsor)
2. Fair Chance Project (sponsor)
3. LA Community Action Network (sponsor)
4. FACTS Families To Amend CA Three Strikes” (sponsor)
5. “CA Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement” CFASC (sponsor)
6. Homies Unidos (sponsor)
7. California Faith Action (sponsor)
8. Occupy The Hood LA (pending)
9. Immigrant Youth Coalition (pending)
10. Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace (ICUJP)-(pending)
11. Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC) (pending)
12. Coalition To Stop Sheriff Violence (sponsor)
13. Bus Riders Union (pending)
14. October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality (pending)
15. Gender Justice LA (sponsor)
“If unity happens inside the walls of prison, imagine the impacts it will have on our neighborhoods and youth!” -Assata
For more information or to add your organization as a supporter, email the Youth Justice Coalition at freelanow@yahoo.com or call them at (323) 235 – 4243.

There is another Event, a Rally in Riverside, CA, in solidarity with this Event, it is announced on Facebook here.

Information about “Security Threat Groups”, AR 446 and how this is used to keep prisons locked down

Received per email in May of 2010.

Greetings once again to all families, friends and those concerned,

I come before you to bestow some pertinent information in hopes of providing you with some insight as to why your loved ones are being segregated, locked down and/or in some cases living in fear. This presentation will cover what are known as Security Threat Groups and Disruptive Groups; and how these labels are being misused and abused by Ely State Prison officials.

HISTORY: In October 1999 the NDOC developed it’s first Security Threat Group (STG) Identification and Management Regulation, Information Bulletin #99-05(I.B. #9905). Thereafter I.B. #9905 was superceded by Administrative Regulation (AR 446) which became effective on November 10, 1999. AR 446 has been modified six times since then (May 8, 2002, January 20, 2003, May 5, 2004, June 7, 2004, and August 14, 2009). You can view AR 446 and OP 446 on the NDOC web site here.

What is AR 446?: The NDOC asserts that AR 446 is an Identification Regulation used to manage Security Threat Groups within the NDOC. In all actuality and from a legal standpoint the classification guidelines of the AR 446 are vague and over-broad. The NDOC, more specifically Ely State Prison, selectively applies the usage of this AR with underground regulations so as to keep ESP locked down and to retain specific groups/individuals from advancement. The most troubling part of it all is that this Gestapo tactic is being utilized to make inmates become prison informants. This has caused inmates to fabricate information about other inmates in order to advance in the level system in hopes of a transfer. This weapon (AR 446) allows prison officials to manipulate inmates so to keep the inmates at each other’s throats.

One cannot deny that “gangs” do exist, but the AR does not state that inmates are to be locked down or segregated. When you first arrive to the NDOC and ESP you have to live with someone…and you would prefer to live with an inmate with whom you have something in common, be it race/state/city/community/religion/ideological beliefs etc. Who you choose is who you will be classified with. Inmates are asked by prison officials: Where are you from? Who do you run with? Your answers are being used as a self-proclamation as a gang member.

What To Know: You are being labeled without due process. AR446 bases its gang identification process under Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 193.168, which is the state’s gang enhancement statute. In order to be convicted and sentenced under this statute, you must be found guilty of committing a “felony for the sole purpose of benefitting the gang.” That is the law. They cannot validate you as a STG/DG unless you exhibit behavior and/or are committing acts inside the prison that support the gang you are accused of being a part of.

Inmates must understand how serious the STG label is. Within the past 5 years the STG label has significantly influenced the outcome of inmate parole hearings. Two points are added to your parole score with this label.

Your Rights: Because two points are being added to your parole score and you more than likely (at ESP) are being denied a job/or transfer, you will receive additional points. You do not have a right to a job or to be paroled. You do have the right to a fair parole hearing and as long as you are in compliance with ESP’s rules and regulations you are to be advanced, thus eligible for a job. Most inmates don’t learn of their STG status until parole. To be validated without receiving documentation or being given the opportunity to contest these allegations is a violation of your due process rights. To not receive a six month full classification review in accordance to OP 501 and to not be given a legitimate reason for your denial is a violation.

Your prison stay is being extended and it imposes an atypical and significant hardship on you in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. You can challenge the parole denial as well as the STG label.

How the NDOC and ESP are Violating Your Due Process Rights: Prison officials are labeling you as an STG without your knowledge. You are to receive NDOC form 1598 once you are suspected of being an STG. Then you are to receive an STG hearing. You cannot be an STG until after you have had a hearing. Prison officials are not providing inmates with the information being used against them. Common pieces of evidence being used include: nicknames, AKA yard names (I still am not aware how a nickname promotes felonies or disturbs a prison’s safety/security); tattoos (which are selectively applied); association; and inmates that say so. Prison officials will tell you the only way to have the STG label removed is to debrief.

Challenge the STG: Learn AR 446 and all of the NDOC’s AR’s and Op’s. Those on the outside must encourage your loved ones to learn their prisoner’s rights. Association does not mean you are committing felonies. The court already punished you for your crimes; therefore, as long as you are abiding by the OP’s and AR’s you should not be segregated or locked down.

Prison Officials are Forcing Inmates to Debrief: You have a right to a fair hearing and to challenge your STG, parole and disciplinary hearings. Guys are lying to receive privileges and this must stop. Do not succumb to the coercion of prison officials for they will bleed you dry. There is no AR or OP stating you are to be retained at ESP indefinitely nor that you can’t advance. Inmates must come together and enforce their rights.

Readers: Please encourage your loved ones to not become stagnant or complacent in their cells and to use all resources they have access to. They must open their own eyes and see that ESP officials are using the STG label as a tool to keep ESP operating as a de facto supermax. This tool has increased tension amongst inmates, caused more deaths, contributed to and increased mental illnesses, and has effectively destroyed family relationships. How does this serve the public’s safety? Do you think confinement in segregation will develop one’s communication skills with others? Guys will be released with no family support, thus feeling alone as if still in prison. More mentally ill inmates will be released to society dependent on medication and therapy…

The NDOC is NOT honoring its commitment to serve the public’s safety and this should cause you to worry about this state’s future. Inmates must not accept no as an answer! Use the law library, request what you are entitled to, utilize the grievance procedure and appeal process. Support our prisoners!

Remember: You are only defeated when you give up.

Respectfully,
Liberator

If you have comments about this article, you can send an email to: contactliberator@yahoo.com