This letter was received, typed and emailed to CaliforniaPrisonWatch.org amongst its recipients, and is being posted here and possibly elsewhere:
By Juan Carlos Molina
I would like to take this moment to possibly enlighten you to a situation we as Hispanic Mexican Nationals would like to share with all of you. Our hope is to create discussion and ultimately change this sad reality. Due to being such a small population in California prisons, the majority do not understand or even realize (much less consider). Hopefully with this essay I’m able to express correctly, sufficiently, and effectively these little known conditions and bring attention to this issue. We suffer and struggle daily in a foreign land, where many of us do not even write, understand, or speak English.
This struggle not only involves Mexican Nationals in California, but also all undocumented immigrants in prison around this nation. Some of us are here doing life terms with no family or friends support (mentally, emotionally, economically, physically, etc.), the most basic of human conditions to be social. Think about this for a minute. For family members to visit us from Mexico requires an incredible amount of patience and hard work, and huge obstacles at the US-MEXICO border.
For example, on my situation I haven’t seen my father, brothers, and some of my sisters since 1996. Why??-because my family couldn’t process the visas for them and couldn’t afford to pay the expenses to travel. In the past, I used to see my mother once a year. My family had to work and save money for my elderly mother to be able to come visit me just one time every year. Unfortunately, since 2007, my family couldn’t afford it anymore. So I haven’t seen the rest of my family since 1996, which is 14 years total and counting.
This is just my example. Many more undocumented immigrants/Hispanics in prison suffer the same fate. Under life terms and some of us validated in the Security Housing Units (SHU), we may very well never see or hug our immediate family and friends. Imagine the suffering and heartache we endure??? Living life sentences inside ‘the grey box’ (SHU), under this daily struggle, under this psychological and physical torture 23 hours a day we wait to hear and receive news from our family back home.
Many of us came to the U.S. from very rural towns with little or no education and severely economically challenged areas in Mexico. As we can agree, many who come to the U.S. do so for the ‘American Dream’: Land of opportunity and a better way of life. A sacrifice for ourselves and our families back home.
Due to having to put education on hold early in our youth to work and contribute to our family’s welfare, ultimately basic reading and writing much time is lost and thousands of us risk our lives and cross the border (breaking U.S. laws) and some of those thousands end up in prisons, detention centers, and jails across the nation. Fewer still get life terms that cuts off communication with family and limits it to phone calls (when rare monetary ability allows a phone call home) and letters (for those who can read and write).
This is some of what we endure and struggle with, maintaining communication: hope of seeing, speaking to, hearing the familiar voices, or hugging a family member one more time. Whatever the reason or situation, we as prisoners got caught up in the huge justice system of this mighty and powerful nation. Illiteracy, sadly, caused some to sing plea agreements for life terms unknowingly and unintelligibly and so, here we are, for life we exist… in prisons far away from family and friends back home in our country of origin. Not knowing how their lives are going (basic social interaction in an advanced, immediate access, social technical world) for years on end sometimes, is an exhausting struggle we endure.
Not knowing English accentuates this lonely existence. We suffer alone, unable to afford even toothpaste or deodorant, indigent with no outside support.
Accordingly, I’ll now share the heavier and further sad facts affecting us undocumented immigrants (Mexican national prisoner class) in California prisons. Prison officials incorrectly clam us as gang-related, even though we (historically) no not involve ourselves with any gangs.
Because we socialize with other Hispanics who speak our own language, we are now getting validated and segregated as participants or associating with prison gangs incorrectly by CDCR. As we all know, this is an extremely difficult and complicated situation as there is an already limited ability to challenge the validation and segregation or understand the already poorly worded rules and regulations.
Because we are only a few of the thousands validated and segregated we are still subject to these torture chambers, anti-social conditions, indeterminately housed in the SHU. As gang associates (incorrectly by CDCR), our already poor communication abilities with family and friends in our country is made worse by constant IGI interference and delays in mail distribution. These are the facts and the issues. We Hispanic Mexican nationals doing life terms seek your support and assistance along with and in solidarity with the prisoner’s peaceful Hunger Strike and the Core Demands.
We are as one within this struggle and in unity we ask all to include our one demand in solidarity with us….Which is a call for CDCR to simply comply with and for us to be identified under the international Treaty of Vienna Convention. The treaty was adopted by the United Nations conference held at Vienna on the twenty-fourth day of April in one thousand nine hundred and sixty three (April 24, 1963). Agreements that both the U.S. and Mexico signed. We also want to be included in the U.S./Mexico prisoner exchange program (currently as lifers, we are ineligible). We are a prisoner class that is in need of the humane and just treaty.
We Mexican nationals, seek this demand in solidarity with California prisoners: For lifers to be included in the prisoner exchange treaty and for CDCR to comply with the Vienna Convention international law. And our rights to be free from torture of indefinite solitary confinement (in the SHU).
Lastly, the California Prison Reduction and Cost Saving bill past recently and federal courts are mandating CDCR comply with it. We want included as a key issue, Mexican nationals and all undocumented immigrants be returned to their own country to do their time. Yet again, lifers are surely excluded , and not only that, but also CDCR will exclude us in segregated housing under erroneous gang labels.
See this article of the US Human Rights Network for the following citation:
Article 1 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture prohibits policies and practices that “constitute cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment”. The history of international attention to this issue is compelling.
In 1995, the U.N Human Rights Committee stated that conditions in certain U.S. maximum security prisons were incompatible with international standards.
In 1996, the HRW special reporter on violence against women took testimony in California on the ill treatment of women in U.S. prisons.
In 2000, the United Nations Committee against Torture roundly condemned the U.S. for its treatment of prisoners, citing super-max prisons and the use of torture devices, as well as the practice of jailing youth with adults. The use of stun belts and the restraint chair was also cited as violating the U.N. convention against torture.
In May 2006, the same committee concluded that the U.S. should “review the regimen imposed on detainees in super-maximum prisons. In particular, the practice of prolonged isolation”.
Juan Carlos Molina #K30854
C.S.P. COR-SHU 4B-2L-47
P.O. Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212