Statement Suspending the Third Hunger Strike

Posted on September 5, 2013

Greetings of Solidarity and Respect!

The PBSP-SHU, Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on September 5, 2013.

To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice.  With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.

Our goal remains: force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside.  We also call for ending the related practices of using prisoners to promote the agenda of the police state by seeking to greatly expand the numbers of the working class poor warehoused in prisons, and particularly those of us held in solitary, based on psychological/social manipulation, and divisive tactics keeping prisoners fighting amongst each other. Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards, more tax dollars for “security”, and spend mere pennies for rehabilitation — all of which demonstrates a failed penal system, high recidivism, and ultimately compromising public safety.  The State of California’s $9.1 billion annual CDCR budget is the epitome of a failed and fraudulent state agency that diabolically and systemically deprives thousands of their human rights and dignity. Allowing this agency to act with impunity has to stop! And it will.

With that said, and in response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock, and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the upmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike.  We are especially grateful to Senator Hancock and Assembly Member Ammiano for their courageous decision to challenge Governor Brown and the CDCR for their policies of prolonged solitary confinement and inhumane conditions. We are certain that they will continue their fight for our cause, including holding legislative hearings and the drafting legislation responsive to our demands on prison conditions and sentencing laws. We are also proceeding with our class action civil suit against the CDCR.

The fact is that Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Beard have responded to our third peaceful action with typical denials and falsehoods, claiming solitary confinement does not exist and justifying the continuation of their indefinite torture regime by vilifying the peaceful protest representatives. They also obtained the support of the medical receiver (Kelso) and Prison Law Office attorney (Spector—who is supposed to represent prisoners interests, and instead has become an agent for the state) to perpetuate their lie to the public and to the federal court — that prisoners participating in the hunger strike have been coerced — in order to obtain the August 19, 2013 force feeding order.

We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice.
We urge people to remember that we began our present resistance with our unprecedented collective and peaceful actions (in tandem with the legislative process) back in early 2010, when we created and distributed a “Formal Complaint” for the purpose of educating the public and bringing widespread attention to our torturous conditions.

After much dialogue and consideration, this led us to our first and second hunger strike actions in 2011, during which a combined number of 6,500 and 12,000 prisoners participated. We succeeded in gaining worldwide attention and support resulting in some minor changes by the CDCR concerning SHU programming and privileges. They also claimed to make major changes to policies regarding gang validation and indefinite SHU confinement by creating the STG/SDP Pilot Program. They released a few hundred prisoners from SHU/AD SEG to general population in the prison.  But in truth, this is all part of a sham to claim the pilot program works and was a weak attempt to have our class action dismissed. It didn’t work.
In response we respectfully made clear that CDCR’s STG-SDP was not responsive to our demand for the end to long term isolation and solitary confinement and thus unacceptable.  (See: AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES)

Our supporting points fell on deaf ears, leading to our January 2013 notice of intent to resume our hunger strike on July 8, 2013 if our demands were not met.  We also included Forty Supplemental Demands.
In early July, CDCR produced several memos notifying prisoners of an increase in privileges and property items, which are notably responsive to a few of our demands, while the majority of our demands were unresolved, leading to our third hunger strike, in which 30,000 prisoners participated and resulted in greater worldwide exposure, support and condemnation of the CDCR!

From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals.  However, there’s still much to be done.  Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.

Respectfully,

For the Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement

Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106

And the Representatives Body:

Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124

Link to original

Article on SF Bay View on the suspension of the 2013 hunger strike
Article on Alternet about the suspension of the 2013 hunger strike

CDCR has negotiated and has met Calipatria ASU’s Hunger Strikers’ Humane Demands

The ASU is the SHU of Calipatria State Prison (or: CAL). Kendra Castaneda, a loved one of a hunger striker in Calipatria, helped support the hunger strikers by calling the warden and offering on behalf of the prisoners to negotiate some much needed changes, as part of the larger package of the 5 core demands that the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective have formulated. Here is what the men and Kendra have accomplished:

By Kendra Castaneda
Background story:
On Thursday August 8, 2013, CDCR Secretary Beard ordered a special transfer for my loved one and 5 other men in ASU to go to Tehachapi SHU during day 32 of the hunger strike.  A van pulled up to the ASU building, the 6 men had 1 hour to pack their belongings, a van and 3 police escort cars drove for 7 hours straight to Tehachapi SHU in an attempt by CDCR to break the hunger strike and remove the main reps.
On Friday, August 9, 2013, I called the Administrative Assistant to the Warden Frank Chavez at Calipatria State Prison informing him I knew what CDCR had done.  The lieutenant spoke with me and said to me “well, your loved one is not here anymore therefore you won’t be having anything to do with Calipatria anymore.”  I spoke with him and he listened, I explained that I have volunteered myself to speak on behalf of the Calipatria hunger strikers in ASU and he was going to listen to every word I had to say about negotiating and the hunger strike, and I informed him he was going to contact Secretary Beard and CDCR Terry Thornton as well. 
I told the Administrative Assistant (former IGI) that if CDCR did not start negotiating with Calipatria ASU men within the next few days for their humane demands to be met, then they will have to negotiate with me, and I told them ‘no exceptions’.  I informed him that he was to relay my message to the Warden at Calipatria and to CDCR Sacramento a.s.a.p.  
To my knowledge, on 8/13/2013 the Warden at Calipatria State Prison started to negotiate with the hunger strikers in ASU, and on Thursday 8/15/2013 the Warden went into the ASU and spoke directly with the men while calling Sacramento during the negotiations. 

Confirmed: On 8/15/2013 Calipatria ASU hunger strikers successfully negotiated their humane demands and CDCR Sacramento and Warden Frank Chavez have agreed in writing with majority of ALL of what the men in ASU has asked for.
Result:
The new warden at Calipatria, Warden Frank Chavez had to get approval from CDCR Sacramento and they agreed to Calipatria ASU’s demands:
Expansion of tv-channels: Discovery Channel, This-TV, ESPN, TNT, PBS, History Channel were all approved.

The following items have been added to the ASU Canteen List and approved
Limit 2 packs of tortillas, 3 sausages, 2 pickles, variety of cookies, oatmeal, candy, honeybuns, granola bars, m&m’s etc…, cheese squeeze, chop stick, etc.

Phone calls:
In two months CDCR will install paid phone calls and allow people confined in the ASU 1 phone call a month, it’s been approved.

Colored pencils for Calipatria ASU have been approved.

CDCR said they would look into ‘pull up bars’ for installation for Calipatria ASU.
The only thing that was not ‘approved’ was the 5 core demands Calipatria ASU had added to their demands. Calipatria ASU men informed CDCR if they do not meet the 5 core demands then they will resume their hunger strike. 

This is where you have read it earlier: SF Bay View

To: CDCR Terry Thornton and CDCR Secretary Beard,
You have successfully negotiated with the Calipatria State Prison Hunger Strikers and have met majority of their humane demands; the hunger strikers have resumed eating but only under certain conditions:
CDCR, you have by this Wednesday, August 21, 2013 to start negotiations with the Pelican Bay State Prison main reps Legal Mediation Team/Attorneys for the 5 corehumane demands.  Then CDCR, you have no later than Friday, August 23, 2013 to have successfully negotiated with Pelican Bay State Prison main rep’s Mediation Team/Attorney’s and have it set legally in writing signed by CDCR that majority of all the 5 core demands have been met.
If by this Friday, August 23, 2013, CDCR has not successfully negotiated with Pelican Bay State Prison main rep’s Mediation Team/Attorneys and if nothing has been put into writing that the 5 core demands have been met: Calipatria State Prison in full are going to voluntarily resume their hunger strike on Monday, August 26, 2013.

Hunger striker responds to Corrections Secretary Beard’s op-ed demonizing hunger strikers

by Alfred Sandoval
Reblogged from: SF Bay View

Today I read an op-ed from the L.A. Times by the new secretary of the California Department of Corruption. He gave a one sided view of prison violence by talking about the 11 murders of guards in the three years between 1970 and 1973.

Prison guard tower

Two decades ago, for entertainment, California prison guards would force prisoners to fight on the prison yard as they watched. If the men didn’t kill each other, guards would often shoot them from the tower. These gladiator fights have been reported again recently.

He failed to mention the 39 inmates murdered between January 1987 and December 1995 in the guard staged gladiator “game” fights and the literally hundreds of seriously wounded and crippled survivors of those fights who were all shot by trigger happy correctional officers as entertainment.

Even today, right now, here in the Administrative Segregation building or the Pelican Bay Security Housing Units (the SHU), an inmate can be beaten with impunity because there is a code of silence among the guards. The guards close ranks – even the good ones. None of them can or will testify against another guard. This is part of the atmosphere in which we live out our lives.

If Secretary Beard is concerned about violence in the prisons, he should look at the “Agreement to End Hostilities” we issued in October 2012 to close out the second of our three hunger strikes. We asked that this agreement/call be posted and circulated in the California prison system. He could still post it. With all his degrees in psychology, you would think he could figure out that would be a good idea.

This letter was intended for the Los Angeles Times, but they chose not to publish it. Send our brother some love and light: Alfred Sandoval, D-61000, Pelican Bay State Prison SHU D4-214, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

Updates from Pelican Bay State Prison SHU and Corcoran SHU hunger strikers

California Prison Focus News Digest – July 25, 2013
From Pelican Bay SHU prisoner in Ad Seg and HS rep 7/21/13
Arturo Castellanos
I hope this short note finds you and all our supporters in high spirits.  Myself and the rest of the Reps are doing ok in ASU although they do have cold air blasting through the vents.  We covered them but as time goes by on this HS the lack of warm air circulating in these cells will cause adverse effects.
Also you must remember that some or most of the Reps are over 50 and are considered high risk for medical complications because of their chronic illnesses like high blood pressure.  And what adds to the risk is that Doc. Sayers *again* discontinued all medications, even the baby 81 mg aspirins… Even though he is no longer head medical official, it is obvious he still contains some power here among medical staff who distain him.
However, our spirits are high and our determination is solid and we will see this through until CDCR officials settle our Demands in our favor.  And our strength and positive attitude is even greater with all the news on how our outside supporters, including those in other countries, are putting pressure on Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard to bring a settlement offer that we can accept for real changes to long term confinement, which destroys one’s mind and health and relations.  So all our love and respect goes out to all our supporters.
And, even though the numbers go down—last count was 1200—we are not discouraged, we have broken the record and put another wake-up call where general population also see the STG-SDP as a threat to them once it gets placed in the CCR Title 15.
————————————————————-
[from prisoner at PBSP SHU, 7/20/13]

He was moved from Corcoran SHU to PBSP and does not know why.  Not put in PB SHU, but rather in ASU—with hunger strikers.  If someone takes a tray, he’s moved out of ASU.
_____________________________________
[from prisoner in CCI SHU, 7/17/13]
Staff in 4B of CCI SHU are still using sandbags about 5’ long and 6” wide to seal people in their cells. Also, cells are ransacked every time a prisoner leaves, e.g. for showers, medical, or visits.
Some prisoners are doing rolling HS: a week on, a few days off, back on.
Prisoners have received no incoming mail in the last week, and visitors have said they have received nothing from inside. (He thinks legal mail is unaffected but is not certain.)
Some guards are “threatening to pepper-spray any cells  caught passing food through open tray slots.”
_____________________________________
[from prisoner in PBSP SHU, short corridor]
An officer threatened today that whoever doesn’t eat will be moved to AdSeg or to C12—where debriefers and informants are housed. 
The ombudsman Jean Weiss visited, but he got no information of value from his 20-minute talk with her. 
He said that “the Mediation Team reported” on ch. 9 “that [prison staff] were reading all our legal mail.”
_____________________________________
[from prisoner in PBSP SHU, 7/18/13]
A C/O said as of 7/18 there were 200 inmates on HS in the SHU.  The letter writer gave these numbers:  In D1: 13 or 14.   In D5: 25.   In D6: 7.  In D9: 20.
“Sergeant came around this evening telling staff plans were underway to move inmates still participating to C-12 (Debriefing Block – three or four pods are supposedly regular SHU inmates).  Inmates believe this is a tactic to get inmates to stop their fast.  No one wants to be associated with a block of debriefers.  It may also be an attempt to incite violence as many inmates would resist such a move.  Please ensure that this is addressed.  I figure it is a bluff.  There are many inmates hanging on.  Don’t  know about general population or Ad Seg.  I know CDCR is having daily conferences between Sacramento and 4 prsions with SHUs.”
—————– 
Here are some updates from hunger strike prisoners in California SHU’s:

[from Corcoran SHU prisoner 7/21/13]

“Here’s an update on the hunger strike here in Corcoran.  Since our last letter the following has occurred:

*The RN has been making daily rounds and checking all inmates’ vitals.  Also weigh-ins started on the 15th.

*Showers started for all on July 17th

*Still not yard or law library.  Solely paging service is being run for PLU inmates

*Medical runs to 4B clinic is operative, however, one inmate at a time into clinic, so no communication among inmates.  So this does slow the use of the clinic down.

*This week they (CDCR) have been shipping inmates to new Folsom SHU from 4B yard here.  Reason unknown!  We assume to break up the spirit of the protest.  C.O.’s have actually come to our cells and asked us if we want to go voluntarily, if not they will pick and you must go.  Many of us have declined to move.

*Also we are being issued write-ups (115s) for the hunger strike.”
[from prisoner in Corcoran SHU via lawyer visit 7/25/13]

A phone call from a lawyer who met with his client on Thursday morning (July 25) reports that his client had counted at least 10 times when they heard calls for “man down” which required men to be taken out for hospitalization.  Showers were denied at Corcoran for ten days straight, but were recently reinstated, though without hot water.  Most of the water pressure comes from the hot water, however, so it’s only a small amount of cold water that is available.  At other times not during a hunger strike, hot water is available.

The air venting system is problematic.  It is blowing air, but not cold air.  The current temperature in the prison is hotter now than it was during the extreme heat wave in June.  It is also hotter than it normally is.  Prisoners are still being denied law library, and only started to get yard against last Saturday after being denied.

Prisoners on hunger strike had all food out of their cells confiscated [as per the regulations].  As of July 24, no one in 3R is being weighed.

Prisoners are being informed that they have a 115 [Serious Rules Violation] without going through the stipulated process of asking for a investigative officers and being able to respond to the charge.  Apparently the officer is simply stopping at the door, informing the prisoner that they are receiving a 115 and finding them guilty immediately.
—- 
[from Corcoran SHU prisoner 7/21/13]

“Since the resistance of the hunger strike has begun, various tactics to break, disarm, dismantle the spirit of the struggle has been a consistent theme conjured up by the officials as a combative movement against a peaceful protest.
“Allow me to fill you in.  To disrupt the peaceful protest the officials have resorted with false propaganda saying so-and-so in such-and-such building are eating so you all should as well.  They (officials) have become confrontational and verbally combative to all those participating as if those participating in the peaceful protest have offended them (officials) personally behind it all.  The officials continue to utilize the (non-program) of not receiving yard, lack of a shower program and even passing out of canteen to those who are not participating in the peaceful protest allowing (five to seven) days to pass before even passing it out.
“If you complain they always project the bad program out to the hunger strikers rather than them just taking the responsibility for not doing their job.
“Those who began the hunger strike but couldn’t fulfill the longevity due to medical reasons were still written up for a 115 (serious) rules violation, stripped of yard and canteen privileges without the due process of the 115 even being process.  The officials stress that per captain’s orders even if you participated in the peaceful resistance for one day you will be issued a 115, not allowed showers, no yard, no canteen until the peaceful resistance is over…”
— 
[from Corcoran SHU prisoner 7/16/13]

A prisoner reports that they are not being evaluated except that they weighed them once after the 8th day.  He reports they have not received showers
—- 
[from Corcoran SHU 7/19/13]

At first hunger strikers were told they could request to see the doctor, but then they were told that was changed and that they would only be seeing prisoners every seven days.  They were told “We might do Monday, 7/22.”

He also reported receiving a 115 through their slot and being told that they would not be assigned an investigative officer or have a chance to respond.  He notes the 115 have language on them that he suspects will be used for further validation as it says that “..ordered by STG1 [Security Threat Group 1] members housed in PBSP and Corcoran,” “Gang related activity,” etc.  The administration also wants to confiscate televisions as retaliation for the hunger strike and single cell protests.  The staff are constantly repeating the rumor that the “Director” and “Sacramento” are not going to “negotiate.”  “Every time we go to medical the Commanding officers are putting this in our ears.”
——– 
[from Corcoran SHU prisoner 7/15/13]

“Hello, very tired and very weak on the 7th day.  Today a bus full of inmates were taken from their cells and sent to Sacramento (Folsom).  I can only assume the bus was full of inmates Corcoran believes instigated and are probably switching them with inmates in Sacramento.  What CDCR does not understand is that this is not a gang issue.  This is a human rights issue and we are a collective of all races who will not rest, will not stop, until we have put an end to long term isolation and false validation procedures.”
They transferred the prisoners without their property, which usually is shipped to the new institution within 14 or 15 days, but often some property gets broken or goes missing in the process.  The first time he was offered to be weighed was July 15.

Update – July 16.  They took another bus of inmates today and offered to weigh us again.
“We appreciate all the help and concern.  I’m very tired and extremely dizzy.  I’m not sure how long my body can go, but I will not eat.  I know some have stopped.  We will go until they find us unresponsive.  Just so future inmates don’t have to suffer a never ending isolated torture…. (that is against the law to being with.”

To date:  staff/C.O.’s have:

1)      thrown away personal property

2)      denied showers, yard

3)      shipped inmates to other prisoner without their personal property

4)      taken pain medications:  so that inmates with chronic pain have no reprieve.  This is equivalent to beating inmates—deliberately putting inmates in pain.

5)      Shut down property: I have been waiting for a book for almost three months.

6)      Write ups threatening the hunger strike as gang activity.
##

California has breached human rights of prisoners on hunger strike

Posted: 22 July 2013

‘Prisoners … should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest’ – Angela Wright


The Californian prison authorities have breached international human rights obligations by taking punitive measures against prisoners on hunger strike, Amnesty International said today.

More than 1,000 inmates in prisons across California remain on hunger strike over conditions for thousands held in solitary confinement in the state’s prisons, with the protest entering its third week.

This is down from approximately 30,000 prisoners in more than 24 prisons who began their hunger strike on 8 July to protest against the state’s policy of long-term solitary confinement in so-called “Security Housing Units”.

On 11 July, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation threatened to take disciplinary action against all those participating in the hunger strike – a move which may extend their time in the secure units.

Hunger strike leaders have also been subjected to increased isolation, where they face harsher conditions and increased restrictions on communication with their lawyers.

A core group of hunger strikers in the north Californian Pelican Bay Security Housing Units claim the prison authorities have blasted cold air into their cells, as well as confiscated fluids, hygiene products and legal materials.

Last year Amnesty published a highly critical 58-page report on the units, describing the “shocking” conditions endured by more than 3,000 prisoners, including 78 people who had spent more than two decades in isolation units (see http://amn.st/12HjOav).

Amnesty International’s USA researcher Angela Wright said:

“Prolonged isolation under conditions which can only be described as cruel and inhumane treatment is prohibited under international law.

“It is unsurprising that prisoners in the SHU are protesting the conditions of their detention.
“Prisoners seeking an end to inhumane conditions should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest. 

“Rather than punishing prisoners further with the threat of disciplinary action, the Department of Corrections should commit to meaningful reforms that will address the inhumanity of the state’s prison system.”

While California’s Department of Corrections has introduced changes to how individuals are assigned to the units, and how they can work their way out, Amnesty believes that these reforms do not go far enough.

Numerous studies have shown that being held under such harsh environmental conditions is detrimental to a prisoner’s psychological and physical health.

Prisoners held under these conditions are denied rehabilitative or educational programming, and have little or no social contact – including with family members. Most are eventually released back into mainstream society where the long-term effects of their confinement make reintegration harder.

Amnesty is urging California’s Department of Corrections to introduce long-overdue reforms to the secure units system to ensure that California’s treatment of prisoners does not violate its obligation under international human rights law to treat all prisoners humanely.
 

California prison hunger strike is call for justice

Alleged gang members in the California prison system are forced into ‘living graves’. It’s inhumane and without review

Taken over from: The Guardian, July 17, 2013

Sadhbh Walshe

California houses alleged gang inmates in 7 by 11ft cells. Photograph: Creative Commons

Shortly after two statewide hunger strikes rocked the California prison system in 2011, I began corresponding with several of the men who had participated in the protests. They were mostly alleged prison gang members who have been sentenced to indefinite terms in California’s Secure Housing Units, known as SHUs. They spend 22.5 hours of every day in 7 by 11ft windowless cells. If they’re lucky, the remaining 1.5 hours are spent alone in a barren exercise yard with 15 foot high concrete walls and a covered ceiling that prevents them from catching a proper glimpse of the sky.

They are allowed no phone calls, no contact visits with loved ones and their only physical interactions with fellow humans is when they are handcuffed or strip searched by guards. The worst part of this intolerable existence, they say, is that because of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)’s gang policy, once a prisoner is sent to the SHU, it’s next to impossible for him to get out again. One of my correspondents, Patrick, explained his motivation for going on hunger strike:

I have been in the SHU for 14 years, I’ve been in the short corridor here since its opening. I am validated (as a gang member) and have an indefinite SHU term. I have a life sentence. If the gang policy doesn’t change, I will die in this unit. I am 41 years old.

The first two hunger strikes both eventually ended after approximately three weeks when the CDCR agreed to make some changes to the policies that keep men like Patrick in the SHU for decades. Two years later, however, it seems that little meaningful reform has taken place and so, on 8 July, nearly 30,000 prisoners across the state began a third hunger strike, which may end up being the largest and longest in California’s history.

Despite the gravity of the situation and the prisoners’ evident desperation, so far the CDCR has shown little willingness to cede any ground.

At the heart of the protest is the CDCR’s policy of taking validated gang members and associates out of the mainline prison population and handing them a one way ticket to the SHU. This policy was borne out of an effort to curb gang control of prison yards and to keep other inmates safe from violence.

There is no external review of the validation process, however, and many prisoners, and their legal representatives, claim to have been falsely validated on flimsy evidence such as possessing the wrong kind of book or the wrong kind of tattoo or simply greeting a known gang member. The CDCR’s own former under-secretary, Scott Kernan, (who retired after the first two hunger strikes), admitted in an interview that the department was guilty of “over-validating” inmates, and that their SHU policies had “gone too far”. Yet, once a validated prisoner ends up in the SHU, his only way out is to become a state informant debrief), or in prison parlance, to snitch on other inmates.

This is something of a non-option for SHU prisoners who have no valuable information to offer the authorities in exchange for their release. It’s also a non-option for most gang members who do happen to have valuable information, because becoming an informant will almost certainly put their lives and the lives of innocent family members in serious danger. So SHU prisoners who may have long since dropped any gang affiliations and simply want to serve out their time are faced with an impossible choice: debrief and risk death, don’t debrief and remain buried alive.

I raised this Catch-22 with Pelican Bay’s Warden Greg Lewis when I visited the prison’s notorious SHU last year. Lewis acknowledged the dangers associated with debriefing but said, “the men who choose to debrief tend to recognize that they put their families at risk by joining the gang in the first place”. A fair point, I suppose, but hardly a constructive one. Lewis also emphasized that debriefing was a vital component of the prison’s overall gang management strategy and would remain so, regardless of that risk.

After the first round of hunger strikes, the CDCR did make some concessions to prisoners, however, promising to use new criteria for placing inmates in the SHU and to institute a step down program that would allow inmates an opportunity to get out of isolation that didn’t necessarily involve debriefing. Since these changes were implemented, vorrections officials say they have reviewed nearly 400 cases and around half of those have been returned to the general population. That is welcome news for those lucky few but has had no impact on the vast majority of long term SHU inmates.

According to Alexis Agathocleous of the Center for Constitutional Reform, which has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay “not a single one of our clients has experienced any change in their situation whatsoever”. Even more disturbing is the fact noted by Shane Bauer in the Los Angeles Times recently, that in the past year, despite the reforms (or possibly because of them) the overall SHU population has actually increased by 15% to a total of 4,257 statewide.

Read the rest here.

Taken Hostage: And My Captors Expect Me To Do What?

This was emailed by Ed Mead via an emaillist: Here are the demands of Oregon prisoners who will be going striking starting on July 8th. The handwritten document was keyboarded at Kersplebedeb

by David Carr #11818281

We are being held in solitary confinement and the State compels us to reveal personal questions or be held in isolation indefinitely. They call this bi-weekly interrogation “programming” where we’re forced to reveal our most personal information to our captors “the State”, knowing that this information can and will be used against us. They give us “packets” containing personal questions such as “Describe a specific incident where you completely lost control of yourself and lashed out in anger.” I’ll give an example where this question was used…

Entrapment

Daniel Lunsford #11360357 a Native American who is housed next door to me in Oregon’s IMU as I write this. Daniel is fighting an outside case where he was assaulted (punched in the face) by a staff member (CO Harrison) on camera and was forced to defend himself. His “packets” are specifically designed around questions about lashing out in as anger previously mentioned. Many are “multiple choice” answers that give no option for self-defense and leave him exposed for self-incrimination. Yet he is coerced to either answer these questions risking the real possibility of incriminating himself and picking up more time in prison or spend the rest of his lengthy sentence in solitary confinement. This tactic the State is using to interrogate, is clearly coercion which is a felony crime.

ORS 163.275 Coercion: To unlawfully and knowingly compel and induce an individual to abstain from engaging in conduct to which they have a legal right to engage in. [In this case the 5th Amendment right to remain silent. Under the threat of the indefinite placement in solitary confinement which has clearly been defined as torture by the United Nations in 2011 and is widely known to cause lasting and irreversible psychological injury.]

Just because we are incarcerated does not authorize ODOC to dissolve or obstruct our 5th Amendment right to remain silent yet the State does this under the radar, by implementing an internal rule #055 (IMU) and calling these invasive questions “programming” thereby receiving public funding to commit the crime of coercion which is a felony. Recently I asked the Assistant Superintendent of Snake River Corrections Judy Gilmore if it is “true that if I act in best behavior and never receive a single misconduct yet simply choose not to answer these invasive personal questions will I be kept in solitary confinement forever and for that reason alone.” Her response in writing was “Yes it is true.” She then went on to write “If you refer to rule #O55 (IMU) you will see that an inmate must complete assigned programming to be considered for release to general population.”

Oregon Joins the Fight

DOCs across the country violate our amendments by skirting the law to accomplish their goals and have had next to no consequences or repercussions. We have ALLOWED them to do this by just accepting the actions they take against us. Well everyone I have spoken with about this is ready to create positive change  and we all agree the three core demands are worthy of our sacrifice to create lasting meaningful changes. We have committed to the struggle and are participating in the July 8th HS in surprising numbers. We have stopped turning in our packets together, in accord, as more and more people join us because they realize that they are not alone. DOC will begin to realize they must reassess their current strategy and consider our 3-Core because they ABSOLUTELY depend on us to complete these packets in order to maintain population control in IMU. The July 8th HS will get us outside support. Because our demands are reasonable and this packet strike is the most effective solution to create lasting changes for our brothers and sisters across the state who will be assigned IMU in the future.

In solidarity
We struggle for change

OREGON’S 3 CORE DEMANDS (NOT NEGOTIABLE)

1) A date for release from IMU regardless of participation/completion of packets, not to excede 90 days beyond the calculated release date if one does complete their packets. Currently we are being held indefinitely per Rule #055 (IMU) which states that an inmate must complete assigned “programming” to be “considered” for release to GP.

2) Reduce the inadvertent placement of individuals in LONG TERM IMU by implementing a rule that calls for a decision by IPC for the placement of an individual in long term IMU (solitary) within 90 days of initial placement in IMU. This will significantly reduce the number of long term assignments because currently they lead us to believe we are working towards our relase to mainline by completing their self help packets “program” only to find out they were waiting for a bed to become open to place us. Chase the carrot, get the stick…

3) One (1) phone call within 2 weeks of attaining Level 3 and 1 phone call every 3 months if there are no DR’s and inmate remains at Level 3. This phone call must be allowed from a list of 3 numbers approved and must occur no longer than 2 weeks before or after said 90 days.

SPECIAL PROVISIONS (NEGOTIABLE)

1) Once an inmate reaches Level 3 he/she should be allowed to purchase shoes from commissary 
2) and photo tickets (for reprints only)
3) headphones

CDCR to prisoners: Submit to force-feeding to get demands met

From: SF Bay View, June 29th, 2013

by Paul Redd/Mume, Ruben Williams/Jitu Joka Kambon, Richard Wembe Johnson, Charles Coleman/Ghais

As a representative of the Pelican Bay SHU hunger strikes in 2011 and a signatory on the “Agreement to End Hostilities,” I have not written any articles for publication except a few pieces related to the hunger strikes posted on the internet. The reason being I felt our Brotha and the other three main representatives were articulating our peaceful nonviolent united fight to expose and end our torture, inhumane conditions and decades of indefinite long-term solitary confinement. I did not want to occupy more space saying the same things.

The main four representatives have also expressed our collective love and respect to all the unbroken prisoners who have volunteered to join this long-awaited united front with the peaceful nonviolent hunger strikes, including our humble respect for those prisoners who weren’t able to partake because of serious life-threatening health issues and still refused to accept some food trays in showing their solidarity to end this abuse.

They have also extended a heartfelt “thank you” beyond the walls to all our supporters in California and around the United States.

Although my personal condolence along with our brothas and other hunger strike comrades within my unit to the families has never been printed on the fallen hunger strike comrades’ deaths, our expression of condolence has never been in silence. But we speak with a united voice. Those deaths could have been prevented. But this is a reminder of these diabolical beasts we are dealing with who do not see us as human beings, but as caged-up animals.

These deaths of our fallen comrades has made us more enraged, more determined to let the outside communities and people all over the world to really see the faces behind the racism, racist policies and blatant abuse of power hidden behind CDCR titles.

Enough is enough. We are tired of CDCR officials, CCPOA, IGI, ISU and SSU continuing all this manipulation, deception with word games, lying to politicians to secure funding, lying to the media and the public in order to cover up the truth. The outcome of the two hunger strikes only exposed a little of their lies but enough to shock the world.

It’s an insult that it took two hunger strikes for CDCR officials to give us these small token trinkets that we should’ve had years ago. These things were only given because CDCR could not answer the questions from the outside communities about what provoked this massive hunger strike in California and around the United States.

The people on the outside were shocked and in disbelief when reading our core demands to find human beings were living in Pelican Bay supermax under the deplorable conditions exposed.

Suddenly, with the spotlight on CDCR officials, they claim our demands were reasonable, yet they are not meeting all our demands. During these ordeals CDCR officials have lied to the media, publicly stating hunger strikes are not the correct approach for presenting our grievances.

Enough is enough. We are tired of CDCR officials, CCPOA, IGI, ISU and SSU continuing all this manipulation, deception with word games, lying to politicians to secure funding, lying to the media and the public in order to cover up the truth. The outcome of the two hunger strikes only exposed a little of their lies but enough to shock the world.


What they did not tell the media and public, nor politicians, is that we prisoners filed many inmate 602 appeal grievances for years seeking these things and an end to the torture and inhumane conditions, only to have Pelican Bay officials and CDCR officials deny our grievances as meritless.

CDCR officials, in response to the attention and embarrassment they experienced because of the hunger strikes, quickly rushed to politicians for funding to implement another repressive structure called STG (security threat group, i.e., gang) and a step down pilot program to give the illusion they are trying to make changes and improve conditions.

Recently on April 18, 2013, in our class action lawsuit, federal District Judge Claudia Wilken, in a written order denying CDCR officials’ motion to dismiss our lawsuit, stated

1) CDCR cannot establish that the STG/SDP pilot program will irrevocably eradicate the effects of plaintiffs’ alleged violations; and

2) CDCR’s request to stay plaintiffs’ class action until the STG program has been fully implemented would prejudice plaintiffs by delaying the case unduly.

We’ve been called the “worst of the worst” throughout our confinement here and hunger strikes, but Judge Wilken noted that the CDCR SDP pilot program already found a lot of people were in the SHU who should not have been. That’s why CDCR officials et al. started with validated associates (rather than gang “members”) first, in hopes their motion to dismiss would be granted or their request for a stay to clean up their dirt.

Had they started reviewing and processing the validated members first, the public and the media would have seen hundreds of validated members who have spent decades in the SHU immediately released, justifying the peaceful nonviolent hunger strikes that brought us some major relief and total shame and disgrace to CDCR officials.

Judge Wilken further said we prisoners gave CDCR officials explicit notice of our injuries by way of administrative grievances, written complaints and, of course, the hunger strikes.

We’ve been called the “worst of the worst” throughout our confinement here and hunger strikes, but Judge Wilken noted that the CDCR SDP pilot program already found a lot of people were in the SHU who should not have been.


I am not going to waste my time exposing each of the lies told, but here’s a few that were most insulting during the two hunger strikes: 1) hunger strike representatives/leaders and gang leaders were forcing prisoners not to eat; 2) hunger strike representatives/leaders and gang leaders were ordering racial assaults on prisoners refusing not to eat; 3) hunger striking prisoners were stashing food and eating during the hunger strike; 4) some hunger strike prisoners were refusing to be weighed because they were eating; 5) another funny lie, hunger strike representatives/leaders and gang leaders were forcing prisoners not to participate in the SDP pilot program and/or sign the SDP contract.

These prisoners are grown men who are free to make their own choices whether to eat or not to eat, whether to participate in the SDP or sign the contract. Not one of those prisoners could ever be viewed in a negative light. It’s an insult upon us when CDCR officials make these false accusations to attempt to save face in the court of public opinion.

We feel it’s time to turn up the heat, so we are taking a scripture from the W.O.N. to rally that level of support.

Another truth that is secretly whispered to many of us prisoners: some CDCR officials, guards and other employees expressing to us prisoners they think we should be released from the SHU and/or our demands are reasonable and agree with them, yet they aren’t bold enough to openly state these words, and as prisoners we understand and know why.

However, the scripture says we are not going to be silent. The united front in these two peaceful, nonviolent protests has proven to be warranted and justified.

I have talked with some prisoners who have expressed they do not want to do another hunger strike, including myself. But it’s obvious CDCR officials wish to force a hunger strike.

What I have also heard, as well as other prisoners, is certain correctional supervisors and employees speaking confidentially, stating if we prisoners really want CDCR headquarters to meet our demands, force-feeding tubes would do it.

I guess correctional employees are really pissed off and upset with their own job cuts, pay cuts and whatever else, thinking force-feeding tubes would benefit them. I guess many of them do believe our demands are reasonable and we should be released from the SHU.

“Nothing can be solved if it can’t be faced.” – James Baldwin

Send our brothers some love and light: 
Paul Redd, B-72683, PBSP, D2-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532; 
Ruben Williams, B-72882, PBSP, D2-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532; 
Richard Johnson, K-53293, PBSP, D2-218, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532; 
Charles Coleman, C-60680, PBSP, D2-120, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532. 

This statement was transcribed by Adrian McKinney.
 

Force feeding British suffragette poster
The force feeding of imprisoned militant British suffragettes on hunger strike in 1909 outraged the public. Nine years later, the right to vote was granted to women over 30 and in 1928 to all women. But the victory was hard won. Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst wrote: “Holloway (Prison) became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence took place almost every hour of the day, as the doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office. I shall never while I live forget the suffering I experienced during the days when those cries were ringing in my ears.”

Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective: How many will die when hunger strike resumes?

Reblogged from: SF Bay View

June 21st, 2013

Introduction by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

After a mediation meeting June 19 ordered by a federal judge between prisoners being held in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), prisoners issued the following statement.

Wednesday’s mediation stems from a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The class action suit alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates the prisoners’ right to due process. During Wednesday’s mediation, the prisoners and their lawyers exchanged settlement proposals with the CDCR via a federal magistrate. Prisoners, their lawyers and the court are now awaiting reply from the CDCR.

Yesterday also marked the confirmation of new CDCR chief Jeffrey Beard. During his tenure as head of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Beard oversaw a dramatic increase in Pennsylvania’s prison population and the opening of two new state prisons. Advocates supporting the demands of potential hunger strikers claim Beard and Gov. Jerry Brown hold the power to make changes and to rectify the history of human rights abuses in California’s prisons. Meanwhile, prisoners from at least four additional prisons in California have vowed to go on strike on July 8.

by the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement

Written June 20, 2013 – The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement do hereby present public notice that our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture via long term solitary confinement will resume on July 8, 2013, consisting of a hunger strike and work stoppage of indefinite duration until CDCR signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long term solitary confinement, as well as additional major reforms.

Prisoners in the Collins Bay Federal Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario, managed to hang this banner declaring their solidarity with California hunger strikers led by prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison on July 4, 2011, shortly after the first 2011 hunger strike began on July 1.
Our decision does not come lightly. For the past two years we’ve patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms responsive to our demands. For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR’s failure to honor their word – and we have explained in detail the ways in which they’ve acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.
On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8 to stop torture in the SHUs (Security Housing Units) and Ad-Segs (Administrative Segregation) of CDCR.

Thus we are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what’s right.

We are certain that we will prevail … the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?

The world is watching!

Onward in Struggle and Solidarity.

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellanos

Ronald Dewberry, aka Sitawa

Antonio Guillen

Send our brothers some love and light:
Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP SHU, D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532;
Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP SHU, D1-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532;
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Ronald Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU, D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532;
and Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP SHU, D2-106, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

This statement first appeared on Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.

Letter to Warden John Katavich, Wasco State Prison, by prisoners, declaring support for, and solidarity with the hunger strike representatives

This was sent by email from Ed Mead, editor and publisher of The Rock, on June 15th, 2013:

Ed, Greetings from those of us in Wasco State Prison! I wanted to send you a copy of the letter delivered to the warden here at Wasco State Prison this week, declaring our support and our intent to stand in solidarity with the hunger strike representatives and all of those who stand alongside them. There are approximately 5,000 prisoner housed here at Wasco and the vast majority will stand in solidarity with hunger strike reps until the five core demands are met, along with the 9 additional demands exclusive to Wasco State Prison.

[Name withheld by Ed]

Letter to Warden John Katavich, Wasco State Prison

The purpose of this letter is to inform you of our intent to support and stand in solidarity with the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Representatives [names of reps omitted here] by engaging in a peaceful protest beginning July 8, 2013. We here at Wasco State Prison (WSP) will stand in solidarity with those protesting at Pelican Bay State Prison throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation by engaging in a peaceful protest which will consist of a hunger strike and work stoppage. We will refuse to eat or engage in inmate labor until the hunger strike representatives five core demands are met, as well as our demands concerning prison reform here at WSP. We are prepared to starve ourselves to death if need be in order to bring about change here at WSP, as well as the penal institution which create the body of CDCR, with special emphasis being paid to those inmates housed in Security Housing Units (SHUs), who are subjected to many years of forced isolation, sensory deprivation, and inhumane and tortuous conditions. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere, threatens justice everywhere.”

We feel enough is enough! The abuse and psychological torture must stop, the injustice of indeterminate SHU term and extreme isolation must be brought to an end here and now! We not only ask that the PBSP hunger strike reps five core demands be met, but also the abolishment of the farcical Security Threat Group (STG) and Step Down Program (SDP), as well as addressing the following issues here at WSP[nine demands omitted by Ed due to laziness, but the last one has to do with freedom of speech].

We respectfully request that CDCR meet the PBSP SHJU representatives’ five core demands, as well as the nine demands that are exclusive to WSP, in a timely manner. We stand together as ONE here (South, North, East, West, Black, White, etc.) in a cohesive group in order to bring about the long overdue changes here in CDCR. Once initiated, the unprecedented, non-violent peaceful protest will continue indefinitely—until all five core demands are fully met.
[Signed by 14 prisoners]