We dare to stand united with all racial groups to say enough is enough, while CDCR and FBI collaborate to break our hunger strike

Reblogged from: SF Bay View
August 16th 2013
by Arturo Castellanos

Aug. 14, 2013 – My name is Arturo Castellanos, and I am one of the four principal volunteer representatives here at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) in the Security Housing Units (SHU). I have been here on indefinite SHU since I arrived in 1990.

[picture: Arturo Castellanos 050509 by CDCR, cropped]

I am presently being housed in the PBSP’s Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU), along with the remainder of the brave men who came together and volunteered to peacefully protest the Department of Corruption and No-Rehabilitation (CDCR) policies of locking individuals up forever, with little or no evidence of gang activities, in indefinite SHU.

To this day of Aug. 14, 2013, we remain on a no solid food, no dairy products hunger strike. And yes, as predicted, CDCR has placed us in ASU in retaliation for challenging their policy of indeterminate SHU and the 20-30 years of deprivation that they have imposed on all men and women prisoners across California for all these years.

CDCR did not place us in these “unfinished” ASU cells out of the kindness of their hearts. No, they placed us here to punish us for daring to stand up united with all racial groups to say enough is enough! No longer are we going to allow CDCR to lock us up in these torturous prison cells and throw away the key without us challenging them.

This is not the first time PBSP and CDCR officials from Sacramento have ordered us into these ASU cells with freezing air blowing out of the vents 24/7, no fire sprinklers, no power or cable hook ups for our personally owned appliances. This was done to us in our 2011 peaceful hunger strike also.

They claim that they are still renovating these new ASU cells they built and opened in 2007. They have still not finished “renovating” these ASU cells that are far worse than the SHU cells. Ever since the legislature has refused to fund the building of more prisons across the state, CDCR has been building these unfinished torture chambers at all men’s and women’s prisons. And they are intentionally left unfinished to look and feel depressing. But, like in 2011, CDCR has again made a big mistake by placing us here.

CDCR’s big mistake in placing us here is that we are now taking up the fight on behalf of ASU prisoners across the state demanding that the CDCR immediately “finish” renovating these ASU cells – painting them, making them appliance ready, installing fire sprinklers and heat and lowering the ice cold air.

We have begun by asking our attorneys in our present lawsuit against the CDCR’s indeterminate SHU placement to contact the attorneys in the Coleman class action suit to file a motion with the court to order CDCR to immediately finish the so-called “renovations.” The Coleman case had already addressed the issue that the overwhelming majority of prisoners, men and women, across the state who have committed suicide were at the time housed in these types of unfinished ASU cells.

Being in these cells for just 30 days, I can fully understand why they committed suicide. They are truly oppressive and constitute very depressing conditions. Suicide? Hell yes! Especially for those men and women who receive SHU terms of indefinite SHU and have to wait in these depressing cells for six months to two years until a cell opens up in SHU for them. Our attorneys are requesting that the Coleman attorneys, who are also our attorneys, file a motion in the court to order CDCR to immediately close and stop housing men and women prisoners in these “unfinished” ASU cells until they fully renovate them.

This is our 38th day on our no solid food, no dairy product hunger strike that we started on July 8, 2013. Of the 66 SHU prisoners who were moved here from both C and D facilities [SHU units], 25 have been transferred to the Sacramento Medical Center at New Folsom Prison. Some of those are in the hospital. They were volunteers who, even though they had serious chronic illnesses, still went on hunger strike and are now on high medical risk status.

They still remain on hunger strike, even though some of them are already being force fed through an IV. The rest of us remain here until we also become high medical risks and are transferred or until the CDCR comes half way in the negotiations with our attorneys and comes to a fair settlement agreement.

At the start of the hunger strike, resuming the hunger strike from 2011, we declared to medical and the CDCR officials that we were only on a no solid food, no dairy products hunger strike. And yet, as in 2011, the CDCR and medical staff have conspired to “dictate” what kind of hunger strike we were to go on. So they ordered that all of our liquids and juices and vitamins be confiscated from every hunger striking prisoner and placed us on an “all water” hunger strike for 18 days.

Our attorneys served a letter on CDCR Medical Receiver Kelso signed by highly respected medical professionals saying that he and the medical staff he oversees are in violation of their own medical oath by going along with the CDCR’s decision to place us on an all water hunger strike after we declared a no solid food, no dairy product hunger strike only.

After that, Mr. Kelso scrambled to have the medical staff in CDCR issue us vitamins and Gatorade to replace the electrolytes we had already lost on an all water hunger strike. By that point, it was too late to give us fruit juice because the high sugar content could fry our brains. So instead we now receive low sodium, low calorie Gatorade until our systems can tolerate higher sugar content juices. Meanwhile, the Gatorade is giving some prisoners diarrhea.

We truly appreciate all the outside support to stop the torture and to end indeterminate SHU status. We also really appreciate all the personal letters of support from people from all walks of life and from around the world! The CDCR and the federal government have been conspiring together to put propaganda pieces out to the media in an ill-conceived plot to attempt to greatly diminish the international support to end indefinite solitary confinement in this country.

Lockdown: Pelican Bay State Prison

Arturo reports that the FBI collaborates with the Institutional Gang Investigation (IGI) Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, shown here. – Photo: National Geographic

The world is unaware that FBI agents have been permanently stationed here in PBSP to assist IGI and ISU agents. They have been here for several years now. They are now playing the old propaganda agenda by conspiring together to destroy our outside support by now personally attacking the 20 named volunteer prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor, especially the four groups – White, Black and Latino from the Northern and Southern parts of California – united in this common cause to radically change CDCR for prisoners, prisoners families and the overall true safety of our outside communities with our “Call to End all Hostilities” paper, our Five Core Demands and 40 supplemental demands.

The CDCR is hand feeding information to the media. They are hand feeding the press old information about us on and about old incidents, some going back 20-30 years, to re-criminalize us and take away from the legitimacy of our demands.

In my case, I was named in a 2006-2007 federal indictment as an “unindicted co-conspirator” with my old childhood street gang, alleging, among other things, that I was running the gang from the highest security prison in California. I get no personal phone calls and no contact visits. The visits I do get are all videotaped and audio recorded and all behind thick glass. All our mail is screened first by IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation Unit) before it’s even mailed out or delivered.

Behind that 2006 indictment, this prison in August of 2008 severely restricted all my incoming and outgoing correspondence. I could only correspond with immediate family members or other people screened and approved by IGI. And when I did correspond, all my mail first went to IGI Sgt. Frisk, who personally screened all of my mail.

I was going to these “special committees” every 180 days. My last one was in April of 2013, where I again requested that all my correspondence restrictions be lifted because I had not received any Rules Violation Reports for correspondence violations involving any gang activities since the restrictions were put in place in 2008. IGI Sgt. Frisk argued against removing the restrictions, and the committee denied my request to lift them.

Then on May 13, 2013, out of the blue, I received a formal memo from the same IGI Sgt. Frisk informing me that they, IGI, would recommend to the committee that all my correspondence restrictions be lifted. I, as a convict for 32 years, of course smelled a set-up, especially since Sgt. Frisk was so adamant in the April committee not to lift them.

So on May 23, 2013, I was taken back to “special committee” and they officially lifted the mail restrictions and stated I can now correspond with anyone. I asked them why the change of heart all of a sudden? They refused to tell me. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family, that they were lifted until I found out how I was being set up.

Just one week after my restrictions were officially lifted, I began to receive letters from total strangers who claimed they were from my childhood area and they were clearly asking me for permission to conduct illegal activities. One of these letters I showed to my attorneys at visit.

I knew that all my mail was still heavily screened by IGI, so I know these letters were intentionally delivered to me in order to get me to respond to them. I never did respond because I felt they were either debriefers from my old area being used to write me or they were IGI staff posing as individuals from my old area. I didn’t fall for it and that’s why IGI could not issue any Rules Violation Reports against me or again restrict my correspondence.

Little did I know that the FBI now conspired with the CDCR to go to a grand jury to file another federal indictment in my community using the very same old evidence from 2007 and again named me as the leader and as an “unindicted co-conspirator.” The media reported it, to discredit me as one of the four principal reps involved in this hunger strike and to attack our united front and diminish our public support with old evidence on this “conspiracy” from 2004-2007.

They also falsely reported that I used the phone to send messages – we are not allowed phone calls; that I was passing “kites” through visiting – we are not allowed contact visits; and that I sent coded messages through the mail, when up until May of this year all my mail was heavily restricted and screened by IGI. This FBI investigation took place over the past three years – my restrictions lasted four years. So you see this indictment was pre-planned by the feds to be released during this hunger strike to discredit this peaceful hunger strike.

I explain this to demonstrate how the CDCR and FBI are working together to try and break this movement apart. We reps expect further attacks like these using old – sometimes very old – indictments to attempt to justify keeping us in solitary confinement forever.

But they still fail to realize that the only reason I joined this all-volunteer movement was to change things for all those youngsters still on the streets right now who might end up in prisons. I know the CDCR is never going to allow me out in general prison population. That’s a given.

I joined to change the course the CDCR has been taking for the past 20-30 years, where there are now 33 prisons across California. The CDCR wasn’t going to change, so we prisoners of all races have united to force these changes for future generations of prisoners. The release of our “Call to End all Hostilities” paper is just a part of this same change.

I remain always in solidarity,

Arturo Castellanos

Arturo is one of four main hunger strike volunteer prisoner representatives. Send our brother some love and light: Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP SHU D1-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

Emergency Press Conference – Challenging Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation and Lies – Stop Solitary Confinement Torture in CA Prisons – Support 5 Demands of Hunger Strikers

Event: Emergency Press Conference – Challenging Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation and Lies – Stop Solitary Confinement Torture in CA Prisons – Support 5 Demands of Hunger Strikers

Date: Wednesday, August 7, 10 AM

Location: LA Times Building

Address: 202 W. 1st. Los Angeles

Contact: 213-840-5348  (Keith James)

This was sent in as one of the comments to the shameless op-ed that Jeffrey Beard, secretary of the CDCR, wrote for the LA Times on the 30th day of the California prisoner hunger strike:

Jeffrey Beard, in an op-ed piece in the LA Times, August 6th, 2013:

“There are SHUs at four prisons in California. At three of them — in Tehachapi, Corcoran and Folsom — there are outdoor-facing windows in the cells that allow for direct sunlight. At Pelican Bay, all SHU cells have skylights. In all of the facilities, inmates in the SHU have radios and color TVs with access to channels such as ESPN. They have weekly access to a law library and daily exercise time. Many have cellmates; they can earn degrees; they can send and receive letters; and their family and friends can visit them every weekend. SHU inmates receive the same meals and portions as general population inmates. This is not “solitary confinement,” in that prisoners can have visitors and, in many cases, interaction with other inmates.”

A response:

Dear Dr Beard,

I just want to note in response to your op-ed piece in the LA Times that of course there is no direct sunlight through a window. A person will not receive vital vitamin D through a window. Have you seen the concrete box that is called the “yard” in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU? How would you feel if your loved one or yourself had that as your outdoor experience for a year? For 5 years? 10plus years? For 25 years?

The radio’s and very small tv’s were bought by the families and friends of the inmates. Everyone knows that, even though it is their property, it is an incentive that you can apparently take away as a dictator. In the area where Pelican Bay SHU is, there are not many radio/TV stations at all.

Law Library has been denied some men in Corcoran-SHU for weeks. It is also treated as an incentive, but you of all people must know that the law should be accessible for all people, especially those you hold imprisoned.

There is no daily exercise. Sometimes the prisoners in Corcoran SHU cannot go out to their “dog cages”(that is their yard, Dr Beard!) because of “maintenance” (when finished, the yard is still closed for a few days after) or because staff does not give yard. If you were a prisoner and you knew your meager rights were taken from you, what would you do, Dr Beard?

Visits are always behind glass. How would you feel, what would your emotional state of mind be, if you could never touch / be in physical vicinity of your loved ones? You think that touching a fellow inmate replaces this? Bumping into your fellow inmate because you share a tiny cell the size of your parking lot, will be enough to claim they can have some kind of inter-human contact? When guards put shackles on you, do you think that counts as human contact? You as a psychologist should know better.

Did you know, Dr Beard, that visits to the people held in the SHU are only one hour per week? If you live far away and cannot come every week, it is 2 hours for once.

Did you know, Dr Beard, that often your visiting booths are fully booked and that the visitor have to wait another week to see their loved one? Or go back to their country and come back another year? Because the visitor was denied to book a visit, because your employees had to clear them on arrival so that they had no time to make the appointments 2 weeks in advance? Do you call that visits?

About degrees: how do prisoners pay for college money, Dr Beard? How can they study without a computer? That you suddenly, just before the hunger strike started, changed the rules and are now willing to let SHU prisoners have typewriters (hopelessly backward, but anyway), is not helping a lot when prisoners want to study. What about building educational classrooms and having SHU prisoners go to school there? That would be really meaningful. Now you are just hoping to convince people who do not know about what it is like inside, that it is not that bad.

You also say: “they can send and receive letters”, why is it that Corcoran SHU keeps letters behind for weeks before sending them out? Why is it that prisoners in the SHU receive letters that were written weeks ago? Why don’t you have Jpay.com installed so that people can send a mail to our loved ones in prison, and that these are printed and handed to them? Just like in so many other states? In Ohio they even have the opportunity to send their handwritten or typed letter back via Jpay. I am not saying this will solve the issue of being in a concrete box for years, if not decades, but you say that it is all not that bad, and I resist that. Because it is extremely bad. Also in comparison to other places in your country.

How do you think prisoners can write letters if they have no jobs to earn money to pay for stamps? They can get indignant envelopes maybe, but they will gather debts and these are only one per week maybe. Do you think that is enough to keep in contact in a meaningful way with family and friends?

You want prisoners to be forgotten. You want them all to be shown as evil, no good for anything, right? You want some to get extra punishment that no court has given them, because that shows how tough it is inside California’s prisons. But what about rehabilitating? The people inside the SHU’s are also under the CDCR, and they also need to be rehabilitated. Do you really think that informing on others is morally right? You are not a pastor, or a reverend, but you do claim “correcting” and “rehabilitating” in the title of your organization.

Do you really think that criminal gangs will stop existing when you lock up conscious prisoners who are intelligent and who want the best for the community? Like all the conscious New Afrikan prisoners, calling them members of the “Black Guerilla Family”? Criminalizing political ideas? Is that your way of correcting?

Do you think they will bow down to your employees and your policy? And I do not even mention the people inside who have an innocence claim…

So what about SHU time for people who did a violent act, who could be held separately for a while until they too are calm and more redeemed?

So you believe that the hunger strike was organized by criminal gangsters? You should be relieved they show restraint and organize this peaceful protest at which 30,000 participated on day 1, instead of calling for violence. That is something we have not heard from your lips, Dr Beard.

And also, your employees give “115” tickets out to those participating, saying this is seen as a “gang activity”! Dr Beard, do all the people outside joining on fasts for a day, are they also part of this “gang”? Those who wrote about the hunger strike, those who participated in support rallies, wrote cards of encouragement, tweeted and facebooked about it?

Think about it, Dr Beard, if this were a “Hollywood movie”, who would be the heroes? Surely not the people who retaliate against peaceful protesters? Employees who do not follow up the instructions on what to do medically when a hunger strike starts? How can your organization, a professional, state-paid organization, even accept retaliation? Who is the only real gang, Dr Beard? Who is fighting a war and setting up people against each other? Dividing and conquering as a strategy is a losing game, Dr Beard. This Human Rights Defense Action of the Collective Hunger Strike is a show of unity between all different people of all different races.

Dr Beard: SHU is a punishment that (if given at all) should only be given for a short period of time to people who have used violence (not including mentally ill people who should not be held  in a prison setting).  Not for people who have for years on end not been able to go back to general population because they refuse to snitch. Listen to the demands of the prisoners! Your policies are killing people!


Finally: Dr Beard, people who are being kept in your SHU’s are never allowed to make one phonecall.
After the 2011 hunger strikes, they were allowed to have one photo a year made. They were allowed one food package a year. Are you really going to make them, their families and friends, and the rest of society, suffer so that you can say that you are tough on crime and that you will not be told by the dying prisoners in your prison torture camps and by many people outside in their support, what you should have changed long ago?

Shame on you, Beard! If you do not negotiate now, may you be forced to resign!