Corcoran SHU staff told to ignore legal mandate to protect lives of hunger strikers

From: SF Bay View and NCTTCorSHU:

April 22nd 2013

On Monday, April 8, they ran no yard on the 4B Facility in the Corcoran SHU (Security Housing Unit). We of course investigated as to why we were, yet again, denied yard access without explanation and discovered staff had all gone to some sort of “training.”

By chance, or design, one of the NCTT-Cor-SHU coordinators was under escort by two officers who, by happenstance or design, began discussing the nature of this training that would take another two days of additional training to complete:

In preparation for the July 8 peaceful protest action (hunger strike, work stoppage etc.), Corcoran SHU administrators are directing staff to dispense with California law and state procedures and policy regarding mass hunger strikes and instead institute a policy designed to raise the potential for maximum casualties (deaths) amongst prisoner participants, while negating the existence of input data or any health care services monitoring information.

CDCR staff at Corcoran have been directed that there will be no weigh-ins, blood pressure checks or other medical monitoring of hunger strike participants for the duration of the July 8 peaceful protest. Instead, a single officer will be given a video camera to “monitor” participants every few days or so.

The facility will be locked down, a state of emergency enacted and all yard, visits and medical ducats will be suspended. No one will leave the cells. No medical intervention of any kind, including health care services, daily nursing observations and weekly primary care provider evaluations as mandated by California Correctional Health Care Services Policy Manual Inmate Medical Services Policies and Procedures (IMSP&P) Volume 4, Chapter 22.2, will be allowed. [That chapter, “Mass Organized Hunger Strike,” can be read at http://www.cphcs.ca.gov/docs/imspp/IMSPP-v04-ch22.2.pdf.]

In preparation for the July 8 peaceful protest action (hunger strike, work stoppage etc.), Corcoran SHU administrators are directing staff to dispense with California law and state procedures and policy regarding mass hunger strikes and instead institute a policy designed to raise the potential for maximum casualties (deaths) amongst prisoner participants, while negating the existence of input data or any health care services monitoring information.

Once a participant loses consciousness, if he is discovered by staff before he expires (dies), he will then receive medical intervention in the form of force feeding (physician’s order for life sustaining treatment). Once this occurs the participant will be considered no longer on “hunger strike.”

[Editor’s note: According to the IMSP&P hunger strike regulations cited above, health care staff “shall not force feed” a prisoner unless he refuses to say whether he wants to be force fed or is unable to give informed consent. In addition, forced feeding “shall not take place except in a licensed health care facility by licensed clinical staff.” The regulations contradict all the “training” the officers described.]

Our cause is a righteous cause, our peaceful protest to realize the Five Core Demands just and fair. We cannot allow the state to undermine the purpose and impact of these sacrifices.

Many of you may see the obvious contradiction in prison staff being trained by Warden Gipson to intentionally violate the law and health care policy, with the complicity of prison doctors, nurses and technicians, to intentionally jeopardize the lives of peaceful protestors.

But what’s not obvious, and in our opinion most insidious, by willfully preventing input data to even be collected, eliminating visits and confining any proof of the hunger strike to correctional officer videography, CDCR can control the narrative completely.

With plausible deniability pre-structured, this approach allows CDCR to under-report actual hunger strike participant numbers, claim those on hunger strike are actually eating by recording on video non-participants who are eating, releasing the videos to the press characterizing them as hunger strikers who are not actually striking, and do all of this while denying protestors access to mandated health care evaluation and clinical monitoring, ensuring serious injury or death befalls at least some protestors.

When it does, just like with Christian Gomez, they can claim the victim was only hunger striking a day or so and instead died of a “pre-existing medical condition unrelated to the hunger strike.”

That this premeditated violation of their own policy is both illegal and immoral is a given, and in fact of secondary concern. That they are doing so to maintain this domestic torture program, with all its inhumane and arbitrary components intact, at the expense of your tax dollars, our minds, bodies and very souls is what should outrage us all.

Our cause is a righteous cause, our peaceful protest to realize the Five Core Demands just and fair. We cannot allow the state to undermine the purpose and impact of these sacrifices.

We are prepared to die to end great injustice. Should we not be allowed the dignity of these sacrifices being accorded the state’s policy and our opposition acting within the guidelines of their own law?

Criminals are defined not by what they are called, but by what they do. Who are the criminals in this case? The answer is as obvious as the question. All that’s left to be decided is if you will stand idly by as this crime is committed.

A luta continua.

NCTT-Cor-SHU (NCTT stands for the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nation (NARN) Collective Think Tank) is a people’s think tank comprised of New Afrikan (Black) prisoners held in solitary confinement in California’s Corcoran State Prison Security Housing Unit. The mission of the NCTT is to create, develop, review and implement programs, initiatives and concepts with and for individuals, groups and community activists across the U.S. to realize 10 Core Objectives as articulated by the think tank. Learn more and contact the NCTT at ncttcorshu@gmail.com, @NCTTCorSHU, on Facebook and on their website, at ncttcorshu.org.

Join the press conference to release the U.N. petition Tuesday, March 20

Prisoners tell the world about the horrors of California prison isolation
March 2, 2012
From: SF Bay View
Join the press conference to release the U.N. petition Tuesday, March 20, 10 AM, at the Ronald Reagan State Building, 300 South Spring St., Los Angeles

by Kendra Castaneda
Prisoners’ families from around the state rallied in Sacramento on Aug. 23, 2011, at the historic hunger strike hearing chaired by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

After the first Pelican Bay State Prison SHU statewide hunger strike in July 2011, Peter Schey, president and executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, reached out to men being held in isolation in solitary confinement units across the state known in California as Security Housing Units and Administrative Segregation Units (SHU/Adseg/ASU).

The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law believes that the treatment of California prisoners placed in Administrative Segregation Units and Security Housing Units should be brought before the United Nations. Placing thousands of prisoners in segregation for long periods of time is one of the most serious mass human rights violations taking place in the United States today.

The men being held in the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor agreed, and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law has prepared a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Human Rights Council, United Nations General Assembly, with 22 main plaintiffs of different races at different California prisons, ranging from one year in segregation up to 39 years in complete isolation based solely on a process of prison gang “validation” by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Of these 22 main plaintiffs, Todd Ashker, Mutope Duguma s/n James Crawford and Alfred Sandoval at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU are just a few who will be exposing for the first time their personal experiences in “temporary” and “long term” segregation, including its effects on their physical and mental health. An additional 400 “validated” segregated prisoners of all races in SHUs, Adsegs and ASUs across California are also named in the petition.

The prisons represented in this unprecedented demonstration of unity across racial lines include Pelican Bay State Prison SHU and ASU, Corcoran State Prison SHU and ASU, California Correctional Institution SHU, Calipatria State Prison ASU, Salinas Valley State Prison Adseg, Folsom State Prison ASU, Sierra Conservation Center Adseg, High Desert State Prison Adseg, Kern Valley State Prison Adseg, Ironwood State Prison Adseg, California Institution for Men-Chino Adseg and a few more.

Several treaties obligate the U.S. to conform to international standards against torture and inhumane treatment, such as the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1976 and the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Solitary confinement is considered by many experts to be a form of psychological torture.
Pelican Bay SHU guards search a cell. – Photo: Laura Sullivan, NPR
If the Committee on Arbitrary Detention determines that the treatment of California prisoners may be in violation of international law, they can request an on-site visit and prepare reports calling for changes. Such actions could help to publicize the segregation and isolation of prisoners and may help lead to some improvement in their treatment. Through this petition, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law will try to get the United Nations to take steps that would benefit all inmates in segregation, not just the individuals named in the petition.

According to Pelican Bay State Prison SHU hunger strike organizers Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa N. Jamaa (s/n R.N. Dewberry) and A. Guillen, there is another hunger strike looming in the summer of 2012 unless CDCR meets the demands of the prisoners from the last two statewide hunger strikes in full. Although CDCR is currently considering prison gang validation reform, it is still just “talk,” and CDCR has been extremely slow at moving to make any real change happen. Men have not been released from the SHU to general population and except for a few very minor concessions, the organizers’ five core demands have not been met.

Stated briefly, these are the five core demands:

1) End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse

2) Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria

3) Comply with the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement

4) Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food

5) Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.

The demands stated in full can be found here: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/the-prisoners-demands-2/.

The men at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU are calling on prisoners’ families, supporters and organizations to fully support the United Nations petition and for everyone to come together as one to put pressure on CDCR to make changes now.

Join our press conference

The press conference to formally release the United Nations petition in Southern California will be held on Tuesday, March 20, 10-11 a.m., at the Ronald Reagan State Building, 300 South Spring St., Los Angeles. A large crowd will show the press and the public how critical the issue of torturous prison isolation is to countless Californians. We ask supporters to please arrive at least 15 minutes early.

Plans for a Bay Area press conference have not yet been finalized.
This banner expresses the consensus of prisoners’ supporters at Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s hearing Aug. 23, 2011.

Speakers in Los Angeles will include Peter Schey, president and executive director for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and families with loved ones in a SHU, Adseg or ASU. The United Nations petition will be made public, including statements from the 22 main U.N. plaintiffs.

Families, friends, supporters, organizations and religious leaders who support prisoners’ human rights are strongly urged to attend.

Organizations that support the United Nations petition include California Prison Focus, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes, Fair Chance Project, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement, Justice for Families, The Real Cost of Prisons Project, American Friends Service Committee, Community Futures Collective, Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, California Prison Moratorium Project, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Disability Rights Legal Center and Occupy the Hood – LA Action Assembly.

CDCR is already feeling the pressure. The two main representatives named in the United Nations petition from Calipatria State Prison were “specially” transferred to Corcoran State Prison SHU recently. CDCR did this in hopes that when the U.N. petition becomes public, they could defend themselves against reports that these men were being held in in administrative segregation for two and three years past the “temporary” time limit.

To help prepare for the United Nations Petition Press Conferences or for more information, please contact Kendra Castaneda at kendracastaneda55@gmail.com or Bryan Lopez at blopez@centerforhumanrights.org or (213) 388-8693, ext. 301.

Feeling death at our heels: An update from the frontlines of the struggle

“This photo was taken a few days after the first hunger strike ended. I was about 178 pounds; I’d lost 42 pounds,” Heshima Denham wrote on the back. He added these wise words: “Progress requires sacrifice; give up your life for the people.”

From: SF Bay View
Jan 25, 2012
from the NCTT Corcoran SHU

“Death is impossible for us to fathom; it is so immense, so frightening that we will do almost anything to keep from thinking about it. Society is organized to make death invisible, to keep it several steps removed. That distance may seem necessary for our comfort, but it comes with a terrible price: the illusion of limitless time, and a consequent lack of seriousness about daily life. As a warrior in life, you must turn this dynamic around: Make the thought of death something not to escape but to embrace. Your days are numbered. Will you pass them halfhearted or will you live with a sense of urgency? Cruel theaters staged by a czar are unnecessary; death will come to you without them. Imagine it pressing in on you, leaving you no escape, for there is no escape. Feeling death at your heels will make all your actions more certain, more forceful. This could be your last throw of the dice: Make it count.” – Robert Greene, bestselling author of “The 48 Laws of Power”

“This photo was taken a few days after the first hunger strike ended. I was about 178 pounds; I’d lost 42 pounds,” Heshima Denham wrote on the back. He added these wise words: “Progress requires sacrifice; give up your life for the people.”
Written Jan. 8, postmarked Jan. 18, 2012 – Greetings, brothers and sisters: A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love and solidarity is extended to each of you from each of us.

Since the last hunger strike ended, we have weathered wave after wave of retaliation from the state’s prison administrators that continues unabated to this day. But before I catalog these manifestations of weakness on the part of state prison administrators, we feel it’s necessary to recount why this struggle began and the nature of our resolve to see the five core demands realized.

We have been consigned to ever more aggressive sensory deprivation torture units for 10, 20, 30 and in some cases 40 years, based on an administrative determination that we are members or associates of a “gang” – a term that encompasses leftist ideologies, political and politicized prisoners, jailhouse lawyers and most anyone who in the opinion of Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) is not passively accepting his role as a commodity in the prison industrial complex.

These administrative determinations are not due to some overt act of misconduct or pattern of rules violations. No, these “validations” are based most often on the reports, words or accounts of debriefers, rats, informants and other broken men who will say and do ‘most anything their IGI and ISU (Investigative Services Unit) handlers instruct them to, to avoid confinement in the SHU (Security Housing Unit) or carry some other favor from their masters.

After decades of fruitless legal challenges, after years of suffering the deprivations of conditions so inherently evil, inhumane and psychologically torturous that most of you simply cannot comprehend the reality behind these words, most of us came to realize an immutable truth: that the state’s mantra of “the only way out of the SHU is to parole, debrief or die” was something that they not only meant, but was in fact a key feature in developing a subservient and passive pool of prisoner commodities upon which the orderly fleecing of taxpayer dollars could be based.

Thirty years of successful propaganda, of dehumanizing underclass communities and the imprisoned, of lobbying that’s led to the dominance of the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) in judicial and political elections and appointments – all to mislead an ill-informed public into submitting greater control of their lives and society to an industrial interest that runs counter to the public safety concerns they were vested to protect. Many of us watched this state of affairs progress unchallenged as our protestations fell on deaf ears, year after year, decade after decade, until advanced age and the decimation of our communities forced us onto “death ground,” where you may survive if you can resist, but you will most surely perish if you do not.

We took up a strategy which would pull back the curtain on the state’s practice of domestic torture which has been so well hidden from the people for so long, a strategy in which some of us may yet die: THE HUNGER STRIKE. We would rather starve ourselves, to risk inevitable death, than to be indefinitely subjected to the deprivations of the torture unit.

What must be understood is that existence here is, in many ways, a fate worse than death; and when advancing age brings that mortality into stark focus, the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, “Death is nothing, but to live defeated is to die every day,” resonate. This simple observation defines our resolve in realizing our five core demands.

To say this is a protracted struggle is an understatement; this is a struggle in which we will win or we will die in the effort. Our actions thus far, and the awareness of this international community of their inherent righteousness, has made this adamantine resolve clear, so why then would CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) officials resort to petty retaliatory actions? The answer lies in the very nature of the tyranny and authoritarian power they represent.

Aggression is deceptive; it inherently hides weakness. Aggressors possess poor emotional control and little patience for challenges to their interests. The first waves of retaliation from these types of aggressors may seem strong to some; this is why so many non-SHU general population prisoners dropped out of the second hunger strike as those waves struck them. But, of course, we were unmoved; and the longer such attacks go on, the clearer their underlying weaknesses and insecurity become. It is an act of irrational desperation, but one they pursue out of sheer rote.

Since the second hunger strike ended, we have experienced perpetual retaliation – some overt, some carefully disguised – all designed to erode the minds and wills of those committed to resist. We were denied any medical treatment for our starvation and when we filed emergency 602s to receive renutrition treatment and hunger strike-related injuries, they were not responded to until some 40 days later.

For example, during the first hunger strike, I (Heshima) passed out due to malnutrition and dehydration; the account was detailed in a previous statement. But simply put, their own guilt and fear caused them to assemble some 26 officers before opening my cell and piling on top of my unconscious form in order to shackle my arms and legs in chains and put me in an ambulance.

Mind you, according to witnesses, they casually, even jokingly, left me lying on my cell floor for 35 minutes before jumping on my body. Since then I’ve had a sharp, constant pain in my right side at the base of my ribcage. Though I’ve filed two medical appeals, as of this writing I have still not been treated or even diagnosed for this.

Zaharibu’s cholesterol, blood oxygen levels and blood pressure are so far outside of normal range he is at chronic risk for stroke, heart attack and diabetes – the nurses routinely “forgetting” to bring or administer his insulin when indicated.

Shortly after the second hunger strike ended, we were told, “One of the two pumps that delivers hot water to the institution is broken and we should have the part to fix it in two days.” That was over 50 days ago and we’ve had hot water for a total of three of those 50-plus days. In that intervening time, “due to the lack of hot water” we’ve been fed on paper trays, which ensures all meals arrive cold and grossly under-portioned. Because all we have to wash or shower with in these freezing cells is cold or lukewarm water, 80 percent of us housed in this 4BIL-C-Section short corridor have contracted a cold, upper respiratory tract infection or flu.

Despite numerous appeals and motions to the court, they have not run law library for any of us since August, making it impossible to access legal research, copying service or verified legal mailing, thus jeopardizing the viability of numerous legal pleadings in the courts.

We have often expounded upon the fundamental unreliability of reforms as nothing more than temporary pacification measures that can be repealed at the whim of administrators, and this analysis was again proven only weeks after the second hunger strike ended. Former Undersecretary of Corrections Scott Kernan made a big to-do about the concessions being made to improve the material conditions in SHU, including giving us action at a single special purchase order to purchase newly approved cold weather items by Dec. 31 – or those items would have to be included in annual packages.

Things like watch caps, thermals, tennis shoes etc. were all “approved” for SHU. Memos trumpeting this and Operational Procedure (OP) update chronos were issued to us all, only to be followed by a memo stating the warden of CSP-Corcoran-SHU was effectively repealing the single special purchase order for cold weather items without explanation. This was soon followed by another memo stating tennis shoes orders to SHU would not be allowed until after “Sacramento” made changes to the property matrix, something that was done by Scott Kernan back in October via emergency memo.

Rolling power outages have suddenly become routine here. The mailroom suddenly devised new regulations directing any phony orders to be directed to one post office box, while letters go to another, making it more difficult and confusing for those who care to see to the welfare of their loved ones here. Not to be left out, CDCR trust account officials have raised processing fees on electronic trust deposits called “J-Pays,” some 500 percent, from $1 to $5, increasing the financial burden on underclass families while maximizing their own profiteering.

All of those things are designed to fuse with the daily mental struggles of the reality of indefinite sensory deprivation confinement to have the cumulative effect of eroding the psychology of resistance, and if this were a situation where there was some psychological threshold to breach, they may well have found some here who capitulate. But that simply is not the reality.

This is not a situation where multi-spectrum retaliation – or coercive force of any kind – will somehow diminish the resolve of those of us committed to ending the perpetual torture inherent in these indeterminate SHU units. In fact, quite the opposite is true; such actions only serve to crystallize in our minds the simple fact that we cannot lose. The alternative is simply more unpleasant than the relatively quick sacrifice of death by starvation. They can ratchet up the intensity on these petulant retaliation moves a hundredfold and it will have no other effect than increasing our resolve a thousandfold.

We must win this struggle not simply because it is morally correct, upholds international standards of humanity, opposes governmental collusion in corporate exploitation of underclass people, and serves the interests – social, political and economic – of society as a whole, but also because it’s necessarily our survival. We are men in earnest; consequences have little meaning in the face of such conditions.

Some of you reading these words are no doubt grappling with the reality behind them, attempting to find some point of relatability, some common experience from which to draw a correlation. Unless you’ve experienced this firsthand, such an attempt is an effort in futility. But for the sake of this discussion, I challenge you to run an experiment: Go to your bathroom and close the door. Imagine that you will never leave that room. Your tub and shower, that’s your bed. Yes, your toilet is only a step or two away from where you lay your head. Your food will be brought to you here twice a day.

Stay there as long as you can. How long do you last? Twenty minutes? An hour? Six hours? Imagine you sit in that bathroom for a year, 10 years, 24 years, 40 years. You will never leave that bathroom unless you are released from prison, agree to be an agent for the same people who stuck you in that bathroom, or you die of old age and infirmity. How long would you last? How strong is your will?

Would you submit to snitchery, kowtow to your torturers and become a tool to condemn others to that same fate? Or would you fight, resist to the bitter end, give your life to expose such evil, greedy, draconian hypocrites for what they really are? Hold the mirror of social reality up to the face of every man and woman in U.S. society and force them to confront the human misery being carried to sicker and more depraved depths every day in their names? What would you do?

Some would characterize our effort as insane, as crazy. In “Hagakure: The door of the Samurai,” Yamamoto Tsunetomo quotes Lord Naoshige as saying the way of the warrior (samurai) is in desperateness. Ten or more cannot kill such a man. Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate.

None of us want to die, but all of us are prepared to do so to realize these five core demands. History dictates no less.

So we wait. We have been told the revisions and changes to the status quo in these torture units will be done this month or by February, but the relentless retaliatory blows we are absorbing as the sobering reminder of what we are dealing with: An entrenched labor aristocracy and political patronage of corporate speculators, who’ve grown rich and powerful off extorting billions from hapless taxpayers and criminalizing underclass people and communities, will resist any effort to curtail their wealth, privilege and socio-political status quo.

These vile and greedy people are extracting more of your tax dollars for their exclusive use than many nations’ gross national product by using us as scapegoats to frighten the people – when in fact many of us are servants of the people, political progressives who would willingly lay down our lives to advance the cause of freedom, social justice and economic equality in the nation.

In the case of the NCTT and those of like mind, ironically that’s why we were validated and consigned to these torture units in the first place. A common practice of corrupt political interests is to criminalize dissent and criticism. Who will care? We are prisoners; who will know these truths? They have already succeeded in lobbying to have media access to prisoners banned unless they consent to who will be interviewed. Again, who will care, who will know?

If you’re reading these words, you now know the only question that remains is: Do you care? Do you care that the very people who you’ve entrusted with ensuring public safety are in fact intentionally working against that interest to maintain a bloated prison industrial complex on your tax dollars and our souls? Do you care that the U.S., which is so vocally condemning other nations, is ignoring its U.N. treaty obligations and maintaining its own expansive domestic torture program in U.S. Supermax SHU prisons across this nation? Do you care that these evils, this blatant hypocrisy is being carried out in your name? Do you care? And if you don’t, exactly what type of society is this we’ve allowed to emerge?

If you are reading these words, you can no longer claim ignorance; to stand idly by now would be complicity. A wise man once said, “All that is necessary for evil men to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” We are under no illusions. The ultimate arbiter of our fate – and this society’s fate – is the people. YOU. YOU must rise up against this injustice and inhumanity. YOU must let the state know that substantive change at every level of society is something the people demand.

We have supported, and will continue to support, progressive people’s movements, from the Dream Act to the Occupy Movement, because we recognize the inherent unity of purpose in this single political motive force, the reality that we do not represent disparate social interests but a single determined democratic imperative to put an end to the stranglehold that this greedy elite and its tools currently have on every area of people’s activity in the U.S., to put an end to these exploitive relationships that diminish and impoverish the many for the aggrandizement of the few.

To treat us this way is wrong, evil and unsustainable socially. Stand with us. Lend your voices, your labor, and your ideas to this historical work. We can win, but only with you all by our sides. In the final analysis, this is a struggle to determine the nature of humanity itself. We are on the right side of history; we encourage you all to stand on this same side with us. Our love, loyalty and solidarity to all those who cherish freedom, justice and human rights and fear only failure. Until we win or don’t lose.

For more information on the California prison hunger strikes or the NCTT, contact:

• Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU, 4BIL-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212

• J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU, 4BIL-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212

• Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP-COR-SHU, 4BIL-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.

Read these brothers’ previous stories:
“California prison hunger strikers propose ‘10 core demands’ for the national Occupy Wall Street Movement,”

“A brief hunger strike update from the front lines of the struggle: Corcoran-SHU 4B 1L C-section Isolation Unit” (second story in that post),

“From the front lines of the struggle,” and

“We dare to win: The reality and impact of SHU torture units.”

This story was typed by Adrian McKinney.

We dare to win: The reality and impact of SHU torture units

A discussion in the wake of the Aug. 23 legislative hearing

From: SF Bay View, November 11, 2011

by J. Heshima Denham, Zaharibu Dorrough and Kambui Robinson of the NCTT Corcoran Security Housing Unit (SHU)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. … We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” – “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Written Oct. 12, 2011 – These sage words by Dr. King are both appropriate to the discussion we’d like to have on indeterminate SHU confinement and cautionary as to who we are and what we allow as a society in these troubled times. This second point is very relevant to this discussion and we hope you’ll stick with us, as the subject matter is both broad and disturbing; it requires us to share some inconvenient truths.
[1]
At the rally in support of Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s historic hearing on the hunger strike against SHU torture Aug. 23, Amber, the sister of a SHU prisoner told the crowd: “My brother has been in Pelican Bay SHU for the last 10 years. I’m here today to be the voice, not only for him, but for all of the prisoners who are suffering in the SHU and for all of the prisons in California. There are a lot of questions that I want answered. I want to know what our elected officials are going to do to change what’s being done? Why is it 30 days later (since the end of the first round of the hunger strike) and still nothing has been done when the CDC agreed to part of the prisoners’ demands? I want to know why my brother is tortured on a daily basis year after year. Why is he not fed correctly and why is he so pale and skinny? Why does my mom have to cry every time she goes to see him? Seeing everybody that has come out today just lights my fire, because I know that I am not alone and I can let him know that he is not alone.” – Photo and quote: Revolution Newspaper

Security Housing Units (SHUs) like those in Pelican Bay, Tehachapi and this one here in Corcoran are torture units. They are used to indefinitely house human beings in solitary confinement based on an administrative determination that they are “gang members” with impetus towards breaking their minds in hopes of eliciting information and coercing them into becoming informants or active agents in the state.

These units are the tombs of not only alleged “gang members” but political and politicized prisoners, imprisoned human rights activists and jailhouse lawyers alike, most anyone who, in the sole determination of institutional gang investigators and administrators, is not content to submit passively to his role as a commodity in the prison industrial complex.
These units are the tombs of not only alleged “gang members” but political and politicized prisoners, imprisoned human rights activists and jailhouse lawyers.

The U.S. and many of its media outlets, such as The New York Times and San Diego Union Tribune, prior to the U.S. War on Terror, routinely criticized China, Turkey, Syria and other nations for holding prisoners in indefinite solitary confinement under conditions of constant illumination, sensory deprivation etc. for expressing contrary political views. They universally condemned the practices as torture, citing the United Nations Human Rights Commission Treaty. Their hypocrisy was of course revealed after the policies of U.S. torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and numerous CIA blacksite prisons was exposed.

Yet what has been America’s dirty little secret is that years before Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, they were boiling men alive at Pelican Bay SHU, they were holding murderous “blood sport” style bouts here at Corcoran SHU and they had been holding people with left-wing political ideologies as “gang members” for decades in sensory deprivation torture units at Pelican Bay, Corcoran and Tehachapi SHUs. Yes, indefinite solitary confinement and constant illumination is being used right now in California SHU units, in conjunction with a program of systematic isolation and experimental behavior modification to torture prisoners every day, without end.

The California and U.S. Supreme Courts, in blatant indifference to international and constitutional law, have repeatedly refused to intervene in most cases on behalf of prisoners in Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs who’ve lived in solitary confinement under constant illumination and daily psychological stressors for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years straight. This is gross hypocrisy wherein your nation is torturing its citizens in your names.

The “United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment” defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
[2]
Banners at the rally by hunger strikers’ families and supporters held on the capitol steps prior to the Aug. 23 hearing spoke truth to power.
This virtually defines the validation, indeterminate SHU confinement and debriefing processes, which are all interconnected. We are routinely told, quite frankly, at ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) hearings, “You’ll only get out of SHU if you parole, debrief or die”; at parole board hearings the line is no different: The panel of law enforcement officials states, “If you want a parole date, you may want to think about debriefing.”

When, after serving 24 years, most of that in these indeterminate SHU torture units, for a crime where he was simply a 16-year-old bystander and had not had a single rules violation in over a decade, had family and community support and several job offers, Sondai Ellis was told that very thing as he was denied parole again. I was, and continue to be, so furious that it is only through the discipline and adherence to principled conduct instilled in me by brothers like Sondai that I’ve been capable of keeping that fury in check at such bald-faced injustice.

To debrief one must become an informant, an agent of the state, and decades of torture and withholding of freedom are strong state sanctions to compel some of us to make something up or simply parrot what we are told to say to get out of SHU or support a law enforcement agenda. In at least two recent online articles, we see debriefers doing just this: actually advocating the merits of the very torture units that reduced them to broken men and made them thralls of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and its various units and affiliates. They – the Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI), Investigations Services Unit (ISU), prison guards etc. – are the ones who have an economic and political interest in maintaining the symbolism of these torture units as the final abode of “predatory gang leaders and organized criminals.”

The U.N. Human Rights Commission has stated prolonged solitary confinement for purposes of extracting information is prohibited as torture. SHUs are by definition torture units and specialty, experimental, ultra-supermax isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU’s D-Short Corridor and Corcoran SHU’s 4B1L-C-Section short corridor are specifically engineered to warp reality for purposes of breaking men’s minds.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission has stated prolonged solitary confinement for purposes of extracting information is prohibited as torture. SHUs are by definition torture units.

Torture, no matter the supposed justification, is never an acceptable practice for a humane society. The U.N. Convention Against Torture states, “No exceptionable circumstances whatsoever, whether a state or threat of war or political emergency, may be invoked as a reason for torture.” As it stands, your correctional department, courts, some of your elected officials, and all law enforcement agencies do feel torture is justified as long as it’s applied to those they deem “gang members.”
Your correctional department, courts, some of your elected officials, and all law enforcement agencies do feel torture is justified as long as it’s applied to those they deem “gang members.”

But there is a much more insidious socio-economic and political motivation for the maintenance and expansion of SHU torture units and indeterminate SHU confinement based on “gang” validation. It is sustained by manipulating your perception of truth and humanity and by controlling your perception of these things. The prison industrialists dictate your actions, reactions and inaction to their impact on your lives and communities.

As you may know, we embarked on a historic 24-day hunger strike in July and at this writing are 17 days into a second hunger strike that began on Sept. 26 in solidarity with the Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor collective and the five core demands recognizing our human rights. We were joined by some 6,600 other prisoners across the state, 12,000 in this second effort and countless others across the nation, and we garnered the support of principled people all over the world.

On Aug. 23, a hearing was held in response to those issues. I want to take this time to use some of the distortions, misrepresentations of fact and outright lies by CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, a key prison industrialist, to illustrate just what we’re talking about here. There is an articulable basis why state-sanctioned torture units are maintained in California and throughout the U.S. And before we get into Mr. Kernan’s comments, it is necessary for you to have a clear understanding of what they are so you can understand why he would contradict himself and openly lie to a legislative oversight committee.

The purpose of SHU torture units – and “gang” validations resulting in indeterminate SHU confinement – is to ensure your financial and political support for the expansion and maintenance of the prison industrial complex as a viable business model by maximizing your fear and capitalizing on your ignorance. The foundational cornerstone of their success is convincing you that “gang members are depraved, inhuman monsters hell bent on the rape, murder and predation of innocent people,” and only they, the “gang experts,” know who these monsters are and how best to “protect” you from them.

The purpose of SHU torture units – and “gang” validations resulting in indeterminate SHU confinement – is to ensure your financial and political support for the expansion and maintenance of the prison industrial complex as a viable business model by maximizing your fear and capitalizing on your ignorance.

These so-called malevolent, irrationally violent and predatory organized “gangs” are the source of all of society’s ills and the very origins of crime in our communities. By creating these torture units and proclaiming they are the abodes of “the worst of the worst,” they have a symbolic manifestation of the validity of their claims.
[3]

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, chair of Public Safety Committee, speaks at the rally before convening his hearing on prison torture in the SHUs.
No one can refute their accounts or characterizations because transparency is non-existent. Prisoners have no voice. The CCPOA successfully lobbied to ban media interviews with prisoners so the public is left to a unilateral, state-sponsored view of prison conditions and their discontents. This allows them the ability to perpetuate the myth of the inhuman “gang member” unchallenged and, with tacit media support, to dehumanize an ever-growing segment of the underclass.

Have you not noticed how your local news reports on arrestees or incidents in these communities? If someone is arrested for DUI, a drive-by or petty theft, he or she is paraded on the news and the first identification made is “he’s a validated gang member.” When incidents occur in or around our children’s schools, the school is put on “lockdown,” a term derived from the California prison system to denote a prison yard being locked down after a riot or other incident.

These terms, “gang” and “gang member,” automatically conjure images of innocent drive-by shooting victims and prison rapes inspired by “Oz” and cinematic visions, divorcing these men and women from the human condition, dehumanizing them. These people, more often than not, were saddled with these characterizations because of the communities they come from and may well have never committed a violent or predatory act in their lives.

But you don’t know that. All you know is what you’ve been told by the TV anchor, police or CDCR spokesman. They know that because they’ve used millions of your tax dollars to engineer it that way.

The truth of the matter is there are no malevolent, irrationally violent predatory gangs roving the streets of your cities or the prison yards of CDCR, only desperate men and women forced to the bottom rung of society through institutional disparities in economic and race-based distribution of educational, employment and empowerment opportunities at virtually every point of human activity in the U.S.

Do gangs exist? Of course, but that’s not the relevant question. Where are they prevalent and why do they exist? This is what is of note. “Gangs” and, more centrally, gang violence are prevalent primarily in underclass – poor – communities.

The national unemployment rate – not counting the underemployed or those who’ve stopped looking – stands at 9.1 percent, yet in the New Afrikan (Black) community, it’s 17 percent and in the Latino community it’s 14.5 percent. Those without a high school diploma stand at 16 percent unemployed while those with a Bachelor’s Degree a mere 1 percent.

New Afrikans and Latinos make up 90 percent of the prison population but a scant 26 percent of the national population. The origin of crime is not gangs. Gangs are a social symptom of that origin. The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in our society.

The origin of crime is not gangs. Gangs are a social symptom of that origin. The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in our society.

This is not by chance or happenstance. It is by design. Wage-based employment and entrepreneurship are the only ways to “legally” create wealth in this society. When social conditions are such that a community contains a large population of surplus labor – either they are unemployed due to their lack of education or marketable skills, or the market simply cannot sustain that population of workers – the only alternative to survive is the underground economy, be that illicit services such as narcotics, the sex trade and gambling or predatory crimes such as extortion, robbery and identity theft.

There is a corresponding sense of socio-political impotence which accompanies the innate insecurity of poverty. Young men and women who have no power, no hope, no impact on their world form community-based organizations to fill that socio-political void in their existence. Those the state calls “gangs” and has decided to wage “war” on them, only furthering the isolation.

Young men and women who have no power, no hope, no impact on their world form community-based organizations to fill that socio-political void in their existence.

One of the reasons so few people vote in underclass communities is these disparities are institutional and systemic to U.S. capitalist economics. No matter who’s in office, their plight doesn’t change. Because these communities are a marginal constituency, public officials extend a corresponding indifference to their plight. [4]

Families and supporters of prisoners from across California held a rally prior to the Aug. 23 hearing called by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano on the torturous solitary confinement in California SHUs.

Instead of “protecting and serving” those communities, law enforcement, judicial, legislative and correctional officers all too commonly have a containment, suppression and adversarial relationship with those communities and those who come from them. Yet the bell-curve theories and notions that young men and women want to stand on a street corner selling crack or want to risk their lives and freedom by engaging in unprovoked gang violence are simply untrue.

You pick any prisoner in these SHU units validated as a “gang member” and offer him a job making $20 an hour, and I can guarantee you he won’t break the law. But the environment in these communities and most assuredly the environment in CDCR prisons are not structured to produce such success or opportunity, which brings me to my next point:

The California corrections system is an environment designed and maintained by its administrators. Thus, any failures must be attributed to those who have precluded an environment for success. CDCR effectively retards rehabilitation especially among SHU prisoners – those who by the state’s own admission most need rehabilitation – by withdrawing the vital tech-based vocational training and higher educational opportunity needed to compete in today’s high tech world. It was primarily through the successful efforts of the CCPOA that funding through Pell grants for higher education was taken from prisoners.
You pick any prisoner in these SHU units validated as a “gang member” and offer him a job making $20 an hour, and I can guarantee you he won’t break the law.

Of course, what followed this repeal of the inmate bill of rights was an unprecedented boom in prison building and a population expansion by 800 percent in the last 20 years. Racial antagonisms are encouraged so as to preclude broad class cooperation amongst prisoners like the unprecedented unity shown statewide in the recent hunger strike.

Underdevelopment while in prison, coupled with an emphasis on seeking most any impetus for “violation” by parole officers once out of prison, is designed to preclude successful re-integration into society, maximize recidivism rates, and undermine the underclass communities from which those ex-offenders hail – all to maintain the steady social dysfunction and economic desperation in these family units so a consistent flow of bodies is exiting these communities to enter our jails and prisons, court systems and probation departments, ensuring a recession-proof industry of profit and expansion for the prison market and those who depend on your tax dollars to sustain their privilege.

The very structure of CDCR regulations is designed to promote dependency, destroy ingenuity and self-determination and deter unity. They actually have rules which bar prisoners from running a business, which always boggled my mind in an economically depressed recessionary capitalist cycle. If there are prisoners with the insight, talent and entrepreneurial acumen to make a meaningful contribution to this state’s economy and job market, men and women who the courts have determined owe some debt to society, why would you codify a basis for them not doing so?
The very structure of CDCR regulations is designed to promote dependency, destroy ingenuity and self-determination and deter unity.

Outside of the same “potential for impropriety” rhetoric they use to justify accepting unsubstantiated confidential information and mere suspicion as a basis for SHU confinement, there exists no justification for such a regulation. The only basis that follows reason is to prevent independence and promote dependency on the state, thus promoting institutionalization.

If you combine this with the psycho-social decimation of men’s minds resulting from prolonged and, in some cases, endless isolation in conditions such as these, is it any wonder psychologists universally agree this type of torture effectively destroys one’s ability to function in society? Which is the point.

As we’ve stated before, the modern criminal justice system – and correctional departments in particular – are the biggest conflicts of interest in U.S. history. Those entrusted with reducing the number of criminal offenders and protecting public safety have their potential profit margin directly attached to maximizing the number of offenders under their control at any given time.

Those entrusted with reducing the number of criminal offenders and protecting public safety have their potential profit margin directly attached to maximizing the number of offenders under their control at any given time.

This is why the CCPOA fought so hard to stop out-of-state transfers of prisoners to reduce overcrowding. The more prisoners under their control, the larger their budgets, the greater their salaries and benefits, and the more overtime hours they can bill to your tax dollars.

But most vitally, the more prisoners held and for ever greater durations, the more ensured they are of their long-term job security no matter the fragility of the economy in this current crisis. To be sure, an economic downturn to the rest of us is an economic upturn for those in the prison industry. It means an inequitable increase in human commodities: prisoners.
An economic downturn to the rest of us is an economic upturn for those in the prison industry. It means an inequitable increase in human commodities: prisoners.

According to CDCR, they spend an average $78,000 to house us in these torture unit cells each year. Perhaps a little more due to the added isolation features in 4B1L-C-Section and D-Corridor. We assure you it does not cost $78K to feed us the two small trays and sack lunch we receive each day or to keep this light burning 24 hours or power our small 13-inch TVs.

Besides being escorted in chains to the K-9 style dog cages for yard two to three times a week and five minutes in the shower three times a week, we never leave these cells. So I assure you that money is not being spent on prisoners being housed in the SHU. No, it’s spent on guards – on their salaries, benefits, equipment, training, guns and bullets – NOT US. The guard working the SHU makes the most money and with all the overtime they have action at, they can in essence write their own checks on your buck and at the expense of our minds, our bodies and, sometimes it feels, our very souls. [5]

The CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association), the prison guards’ union, considers the California State Capitol in Sacramento its turf. It is the state’s most powerful lobby. No governor has dared challenge its power for decades, but the hunger strikers dared.
During the Aug. 23 legislative hearing, the CDCR panel representative, Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan, made such baseless, overly simplistic and outright false statements concerning prison life and conditions related to SHU and so-called “gangs” that they MUST be debunked with the truth. He stated “gangs” were responsible for “ordering ‘rapes’” in prison and are the primary threat for such heinous acts. This is not only an outright lie, but in fact quite the opposite is true.

For the vast majority of those housed in these SHUs, and virtually ALL those in these indeterminate SHU torture units, the forced sexual subjugation of anyone, not to mention another human in these conditions, is not simply frowned upon by SHU prisoners but forcefully opposed. Mr. Kernan’s assertion that men housed here would even condone such sickness is a testament to the fear and dehumanization-based rhetoric which has become the basis for prison industrialist propaganda over the past 20 years and is an insult to the humanity of all of us housed here.

We in the NCTT Cor-SHU collectively have over 100 years of experience existing in the most violent and reactionary prisons in California and can say with definitive confidence that the vast majority of the “8,000 assaults and stabbings the department has each year” has little to do with gangs, as Mr. Kernan states, and everything to do with overcrowded facilities and limited space.

Be it a dispute on the basketball or handball court, an unpaid gambling or dope debt, a cross word said in frustration at overcrowded conditions taken as disrespect, etc., these things have little to do with “gangs.” And in those instances where a gang member may be involved in a personal dispute – and according to CDCR everyone in CDCR runs with some gang – they report or record it as “gang related” when the “gang” in fact has nothing to do with the initial incident.

He went on to state “millions of tax dollars were ‘wasted’ each year, and ‘gangs’ would be identified as the primary problem.” Mr. Kernan has no factual basis for this statement. I can’t even conceive of the rubric by which he would venture this opinion when targeting educational and economic development programs in underclass communities and amongst criminal offenders has proven an effective means by which to reduce both predatory and market-based crime rates and reduce recidivism amongst prisoners, yet funding for such initiatives, due primarily to lobbying efforts by the CCPOA and their political cabal, has been repeatedly diverted to prison budgets under the auspices of public safety, an oxymoronic application of the term if ever there was one.

Mr. Kernan went on to state it’s “only 3,000 validated SHU prisoners in a population of 165,000 – that’s a very small number.” The Marquis de Sade is said to have tortured some 2,000 prisoners out of the 100,000 that passed through Elba – before honing his skills on women – when he was a gaoler (jailer) there. No one in the French aristocracy minded De Sade’s dalliances with prisoners much either. It’s this type of thinking that led to the use of CIA blacksites in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt and, yes, Libya under Qaddafi to imprison “under special conditions” terror “suspects” and torture them for years, continuing still, in the U.S. “war on terror.”
[6]

SHU survivor Jitu Sadiki speaks at the rally prior to the Ammiano hearing Aug. 23. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Three thousand torture victims in a population of 165,000 is 3,000 too many. Mr. Kernan went on to state, “We don’t allow media to talk to individual inmates for fear of their sensationalizing their crimes, like Charles Manson or Scott Peterson” – a patently absurd notion he knows full well was untrue. First of all, it was the media that “sensationalized” Manson and Peterson’s cases, not Manson and Peterson themselves.

But, more importantly, no one here wants to “sensationalize” their criminal convictions or past lifestyles. In fact there is a significant segment of the indeterminate SHU population, such as the NCTT, the Freedom, Justice and Human Rights Initiative, George Jackson University etc., who have dedicated their lives to not simply atoning for the damage to our communities as a result of our ignorance and lack of consciousness in the past, but putting forward meaningful programs and initiatives to improve life in those communities, such as those mentioned above.

The only prisoners in SHU that Mr. Kernan allowed the media access to, and the only prisoners such media outlets as the Sacramento Bee seem to be interested in quoting are debriefers, informants and agents of the state. Mr. Kernan did not allow media access to the D-Short Corridor collective, like Sitawa Dewberry, Todd Ashker or Mutope Crawford, or the 4B1L-C-Section collective because he did not want politically and socially conscious prisoners articulating the true basis of SHU and reason for the hunger strikes and the inescapable deteriorating psychological effects of SHU.

This is simply another example of state controlled media in a society that purports itself to be “free and open,” yet another manifestation of CDCR’s successful gambit to monopolize the conversation. I found it ironic that Mr. Kernan attempted to dismiss and redirect the blatant human rights violations which torture units represent by stating “the violence the gangs perpetuate is the human rights violation,” when the vast majority of the “8,000 assaults and stabbings” occurring in the modern CDCR are occurring on “sensitive needs yards” (SNYs) by the very debriefers and protective custody prisoners IGI has relied on, or broken, to manufacture uncorroborated and unsubstantiated “confidential information chronos” to put, and keep other prisoners in indefinite SHU confinement.

To be sure, the most violent “gang” in CDCR is “2-5” – half of “5-0,” the “prison gang” made up of debriefers and informants who directly work for IGI, ISU, SSU (Special Services Unit) and other law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Kernan was adamant that the courts have upheld the validation process and “though harsh, the SHU is not torture.” We’ve established without doubt this IS torture, so that brooks no comment.

But as to the comments on the courts, that’s not entirely true either. California courts, most judges having been elected with the backing of CCPOA lobbying dollars, rarely uphold the Constitution where prisoners, and especially SHU prisoners, are seeking human rights protection. But there are exceptions. For example, in the Koch v. Lewis case that the Supreme Court took up to address the equally harsh SMU II torture unit in Florence, Arizona, the court found that Koch’s solitary confinement violated his right to due process under the 14th Amendment, which is applicable to states because there was no evidence that Koch had committed any overt act to warrant such torture. The claim that he was an Aryan Brotherhood member was insufficient.

Substantive due process requires that evidence used must bear a logical relation to the specific deprivations. As Judge Moran stated, “The labeling of plaintiff Koch as a ‘gang member’ does not itself create legal concerns. Rather it is the placement in SMU II as a result of the alleged association that is constitutionally significant.” After hearing evidence of SMU conditions – identical to California SHU conditions – and the psychological harm Koch and all prisoners faced, the court not only found a significant liberty deprivation but also that the very practice of sending inmates to supermax torture units based on status alone, with no charges or evidence of misconduct, violated due process.

The court concluded that there must be some evidence of misconduct, some overt gang-related act, to justify placing Koch in SMU II for an indefinite – and very likely permanent – term. Yet, as Mr. Kernan stated, virtually lifelong supermax detention for alleged “gang members” in U.S. domestic prisons continues to be judged constitutional here in California despite the ruling in the Griffith case. CDCR still has not released him from SHU despite multiple rulings to do so.

It’s not that they, or he, does not know these torture units violate basic tenets of humaneness; they simply have an overriding interest in their maintenance: money and control. Your money, their control. This assertion by Mr. Kernan that these torture units are not torture units is so outrageous and insulting, it recalls Bush era admonitions that waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, and CIA blacksites in foreign countries weren’t torturous either. It is an absurdity, and a dangerous one.
This assertion by Mr. Kernan that these torture units are not torture units is so outrageous and insulting, it recalls Bush era admonitions that waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, and CIA blacksites in foreign countries weren’t torturous either.

Mr. Kernan’s dogged assertion that “gangs” and more certainly those of us housed in these SHU torture units are the source of perpetual violence in CDCR ignores the inescapable reality of gross overcrowding, intentional underdevelopment and dependency and the structural conditions they’ve created in California prisons, which is the actual origin of prison violence. And until these structural fallacies are addressed, violence in California prisons will continue no matter how many prisoners are consigned to these torture units, and he KNOWS this. [7]

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano leaves the rally to convene his hearing on solitary confinement and related issues raised initially by prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU, whose hunger strike was joined by 12,000 other prisoners simultaneously. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Mr. Kernan stated the process being considered by “all state law enforcement, CCPOA, police, labor unions, national experts and the legislature itself” would allow prisoners to “earn a way out of the system by behavior and require the department to document when we feel it is not the case.” There are four things wrong with this approach:

1) the determining body developing the policy, outside of the legislature, consists exclusively of proponents of the prison industrial complex. Thus, whatever policy is developed will reflect the same draconian, profit-driven inhumanity that’s subjected us to these torture units thus far for decades without end;

2) most of us have not had any rules violations reports in decades. What do we need to “earn” through our “behavior” that’s not already been earned through a years-long proven record of disciplinary free conduct? Or must we subject ourselves to the behavior modification experiments developed in the Marion federal torture unit?

3) indeterminate SHU confinement cannot be allowed to continue to be based on what this department does or does not “feel is the case.” The primary issue here is the arbitrary nature of gang validation and subsequent indeterminate SHU confinement;

4) what Mr. Kernan is suggesting here is no different than the sham six-year inactive review that’s already in place.

Mr. Kernan stated the CDCR gang validation policy is “intended to protect inmates we are charged with and staff,” yet anyone who’s on this side of the door knows that’s a flat out lie. The CDCR gang policy is intended to maintain their control of prison budgets, silence prisoner critics, preclude prisoner unity and continue to scapegoat indeterminate SHU prisoners who’ve not had a single instance of documented misconduct in decades as a basis for extorting billions of taxpayer dollars through over-exaggerating the threat posed by prisoners housed indefinitely in SHU on the basis of gang validations.

The CDCR gang policy is intended to maintain their control of prison budgets, silence prisoner critics, preclude prisoner unity and continue to scapegoat indeterminate SHU prisoners who’ve not had a single instance of documented misconduct in decades.

As I’ve stated previously, if prisoners, staff and public safety were truly CDCR’s motive force, they would have developed a prison environment and programs geared toward true rehabilitation and successful reintegration and performance in society upon release. Such an environment runs contrary to their economic and political interests and unfortunately against a significant number of the peoples’ desire for vengeance against perceived offenders.

Now then, a particularly distressing lie Mr. Kernan relayed to the public safety panel was that “all evidence used to validate is corroborated.” Simply put, this is a flat out lie. There is no corroboration via independent sources of information of confidential informants’ statements or confidential informant chronos known as “1030s.” Why he would utter a lie that is so easily debunked is truly beyond me. [8]

A SHU survivor addresses the Aug. 23 rally outside the capitol in Sacramento.

To give you an example of what Mr.Kernan and the IGI deem corroboration, they have little boxes on the 1030 chrono listed a)-f) which state why they consider such a source reliable. In a 2008 1030 used to deny a validated indeterminate SHU prisoner “inactive status,” a debriefer – who was briefly housed with the brother – told IGI the individual spoke of the merits of socialism, the history of political resistance to racism and socio-economic inequality in Amerika, and of the validity of the political and socio-economic views of Frantz Fanon, Ho Chi Minh and George Lester Jackson. The IGI told the debriefer that the prisoner was providing “BGF education,” to which the debriefer quickly agreed and parroted what his IGI handler told him to.

Because the same prisoner wrote an article in California Prison Focus critical of CDCR and expressing some of these same political ideas (CPF Fall 2003), they considered this “more than one source independently provid(ing) the same information,” and “part of the information provided by the source has already proven to be true.” This expression of his political views and social criticism of the department’s practice of arbitrarily targeting and punishing left-wing political ideologies in prison in violation of the First Amendment and their own California Code of Regulations, Title 15, was sufficient to earn him another six years in SHU – though he in truth had no chance of release via inactive review.

Not only is political speech and expression protected by “the supreme laws of the land” – or is supposed to be – but it boggles the mind how an article in a publication CDCR not only allows into institutions, but the state delivers to our cell doors, can possibly be corroboration of a coerced informant’s scripted lies. This is what passes for corroboration in Mr. Kernan’s CDCR. The fact of the matter is there is no corroboration of evidence and no way to verify it if there was. IGI is the only one who gets to see the evidence used to consign men to these torture units forever.

Mr. Kernan went on to state, “These offenders are in the SHU with mountains of documentation of illegal criminal activities both out on the streets in public and in prison.” And it is just these types of irresponsible, intentionally dishonest statements which have cowed courts and legislators alike into turning a blind eye to wholesale psychological torture for decades in the California prison system. [9]

A panel of professionals firmly opposed to the torture of solitary confinement – Laura Magnani, Dorsey Nunn, Terry Kupers, Craig Haney and Charles Carbone – prepares to testify at Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s hearing Aug. 23. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

The truth of the matter is most validated indeterminate SHU prisoners haven’t had a single documented instance of misconduct or rules violation report for ANY criminal act in decades. I assure you if such a “mountain of illegal activities” was documented, you’d have an equally high mountain of rules violation reports, district attorney referrals and indictments. This is a lie specifically designed to put forward a non-existent justification for that which, according to “the rule of law,” is unjustifiable: indefinite psychological torture to coerce men into becoming informants, agent provocateurs and advocates for the same heinous practices which broke their minds and subsumed their wills.

To be sure, Mr. Kernan contradicted himself in his next breath by stating, in response to the statistical data showing gang violence has only increased as sensitive needs yards – inhabited exclusively by the debriefers, informants and other protective custody designees Mr. Kernan is singing the praises of – have expanded, that “the state’s gang problem has even increased, but separating those offenders we have in SHU has led to a decrease.”

Upon hearing this absurdity, even the assemblyman had to call him on the contradiction. As the hearing wore on and the objective evidence in front of the legislative oversight committee continued to contradict the lies and distortions Mr. Kernan was offering as authority, he stated, “Let’s not lose focus on the real public safety threat perpetuated by gangs in our system.”

And it is this narrow and intentionally ill-informed perspective on public safety which has produced an 800 percent increase in the California prison population, a dysfunctional correctional and nonexistent rehabilitation system, and led to the state’s use and expansion of domestic human experimentation, torture units on the victims of a socio-economic arrangement that has forced us from the bottom rung of society into the bowels of Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs. [10]

The lights in these SHU cells are never turned off, causing sensory deprivation that is another form of torture.

Mr. Kernan and the rest of the prison industrialists can lay the blame for society’s ills at the feet of “gangs” all they like, and the vicious cycle will only continue ebbing toward the inexorable decline of Western Civilization. Until such time as we all accept the fact that “gangs” are the inevitable outgrowth of capitalist contradictions, of educational and labor underdevelopment in underclass communities and your political and economic leaders’ unwillingness or inability to address the gross disparities between the haves and have nots as the true origin of society’s ills, “gang” violence and systematic criminality will continue to be part of the U.S. social fabric.

Luckily, as consciousness raising efforts like the global Occupy Wall Street Movement continue to sweep across the planet, these “leaders” will be forced to acknowledge the obvious. With a multi-billion dollar budget, Mr. Kernan and his department can make some significant contributions to a new approach. But as the continued intransigence of the department shows, true public safety is a remote concern of those you’ve invested with that responsibility.

The actual public safety threat lies in the underlying socio-economic relationship between poor communities and the prison industry, our society’s indifference to that conflict, and the apparent dogged pursuit of a law enforcement and correctional policy which has been both a dismal inhumane failure and economically unsustainable. The definition of “insanity” is pursuing the same course of action repeatedly and expecting a different result.

I’d like to address one final point Mr. Kernan raised that I believe is pertinent. He stated, “An offender that wants to rehab himself, he can’t because of an inmate telling him to go stab someone or he will be killed.” This is both a misrepresentation of truth and a dangerous exaggeration. There are numerous non-affiliates in the general population of CDCR and Mr. Kernan is well aware of it. Everyone in prison knows lumpen organizations or “gangs” in prison don’t force membership onto non-affiliates, because history has proven such prisoners always become informants, agents or are easily compelled to lie on those they formerly ran with.

But that’s not the core issue here. What is, is Mr. Kernan’s willingness to dispense such tripe as “facts” in hopes of somehow convincing the people that the perpetual torture of over 3,000 human beings is somehow legitimate. This type of thinking and speech MUST be confronted and debunked. Indefinite solitary confinement of humans in California, across the U.S. and throughout the world must be opposed, resisted and abolished.
Indefinite solitary confinement of humans in California, across the U.S. and throughout the world must be opposed, resisted and abolished.

In the wake of the atrocities of World War II, a document was drafted which stated “The protagonists of this practice of human experimentation justify their views on the basis that such experiments yield results for the good of society that are unprocurable by other methods or means of study. All agree, however, that certain basic principles must be observed in order to satisfy moral, ethical and legal concepts.” That was an excerpt from the Nuremberg Code. [11]

The most passionate and powerful testimony at the Aug. 23 hearing came from SHU survivors and prisoners’ family members, especially Earl Fears and Glenda Rojas shown here. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Have we as a society descended so far into the miasma of fear, hatred and dehumanization that we would condone the state-sponsored torture of thousands of humans from our communities, in our name?

I began this discussion with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to illustrate the slippery slope we are on as a society. Maintenance of these torture units is an injustice; a continuation of the current law enforcement and correctional policy in relation to fundamental socio-economic disparities is inhumane. Injustice anywhere, even here in Corcoran SHU’s 4B1L-C-Section, is a threat to justice everywhere. Today it is us; tomorrow if may be someone you love or, God forbid, you yourself.
Have we as a society descended so far into the miasma of fear, hatred and dehumanization that we would condone the state-sponsored torture of thousands of humans from our communities, in our name?

It was Fyodor Dostoevsky who said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How civilized is this society? And to answer that question with another: How civilized are you, the people who make it up?

If this second hunger strike effort has taught us anything, it is that the power to transform an intransigent industrial interest such as CDCR must come from the will of the people, from exercising your limitless power. Prison authorities were fully content to let us die this time and even modified their medical responses to maximize the chance of permanent injury or death to hunger strikers, which makes the broader aspects of this struggle so significant.
The power to transform an intransigent industrial interest such as CDCR must come from the will of the people, from exercising your limitless power.

This is not over. It is a protracted struggle that does not end, yet simply begins, with the abolition of SHU torture units. It is the intent of the NCTT to ensure not another human is done this way, not another soul lost to such greedy and heartless people. [12]

Participating in the first round of the hunger strike, 6,600 prisoners and in the second round 12,000 prisoners joined their comrades in SHU to demand an end to “gang validation” and the torture of solitary confinement.
It is our intent to fight for true rehabilitation and positive empowerment, not merely for current or ex-prisoners, but for the underclass communities we all too often hail from. If we can provide community-based initiatives and programs which address the inherent social inequalities in the class arrangement, this will eliminate the motive for property crimes – which make up 98 percent of all crime in the U.S. – and give us all safer and more prosperous communities, allowing us all to partake of the inalienable rights provided for in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The nature of California state and U.S. corrections must change. But to do that we must change society. Who dares to take up such a challenge? Who dares breathe life into the promise of the Declaration of Independence? Who dares champion the poor, the most disenfranchised and underdeveloped communities, the ghettoes, barrios and trailer parks of Amerika? Who dares champion the most vulnerable and urbanized in our society – the felon, the SHU prisoner, the poor?
Who dares champion the most vulnerable and urbanized in our society – the felon, the SHU prisoner, the poor?

Who dares do the right thing when the Scott Kernans of the world swear it’s wrong? Who dares to struggle? Who dares to win? We do, and we hope you do too.

Join us! This power to shape history and the future of the society is in your hands. We have faith you will uphold the highest standards of humanity. Our love and solidarity to all those who love freedom, justice and equality and fear only failure.

For more information on the NCTT or its work products and initiatives, contact Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-Cor-SHU 4B1L #53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-Cor-SHU 4B1L #46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP-Cor-SHU 4B1L #49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.

Related Posts

Letters from Hugo Pinell and other hunger strikers – Rally to support the hunger strikers

How the hunger strike started for me

George Jackson: Forty years ago they shot him down

Repression breeds resistance!

CDCR: Bay View is contraband for mentioning George Jackson and Black August

Article printed from San Francisco Bay View: http://sfbayview.com

URL to article: http://sfbayview.com/2011/we-dare-to-win-the-reality-and-impact-of-shu-torture-units/

URLs in this post:

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[9] Image: http://sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Ammianos-Assembly-hunger-strike-hearing-panel-Laura-Magnani-Dorsey-Nunn-Terry-Kupers-Craig-Haney-Charles-Carbone-082311-by-Wanda1.jpg

[10] Image: http://sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Pelican-Bay-SHU-cell-by-Adam-Tanner-Reuters.jpg

[11] Image: http://sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/SHU-survivor-Earl-Fears-SHU-family-Glenda-Rojas-testify-at-Ammiano-SHU-hearing-082311-by-Wanda.jpg

[12] Image: http://sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Rally-sign-Stop-the-torture-for-Ammiano-SHU-hearing-082311.jpg

Pelican Bay prison hunger strikers declare victory – support from many places including Youngstown, Ohio

Source: Sharon Danann, in: Workers World
Published Jul 27, 2011 4:22 PM

Leaders of the hunger strike in the Security Housing Unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison accepted an offer July 20 from the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and have ended their weeks-long action. Members of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition confirmed reports of the hunger strike’s end after speaking with some of the prisoners involved. (prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com, July 22) The CDCR reported that as of 1 p.m. on July 20 all those who had been fasting at Pelican Bay had resumed eating. (www.sfgate.com, July 22)

Having been without food for 21 days, the leaders opted to “live to fight for justice another day,” according to mediator Dorsey Nunn. (times-standard.com, July 22) The CDCR offer included expanded educational programs, wall calendars and all-weather caps. The CDCR also committed to a review of SHU and gang-related policies.

A key accomplishment of the hunger strike has been to bring attention to the issue of torture in U.S. prisons. Currently inmates at Pelican Bay cannot be transferred out of their confinement in the SHU unless they turn in someone else for gang-related activities. Prisoners opposed to doing so on principle or in fear of retribution, or who have no such information, including those in the SHU for political beliefs, have been locked in SHUs indefinitely. Black Panther members incarcerated in the 1970s are among the inmates who have spent decades in isolation.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has stated that long-term solitary confinement is in violation of prohibitions against torture, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Supporters of the courageous prisoners continued to hit the streets with rallies July 22 and 23 in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Chino, Calif.; and in Los Angeles, Chicago and Montreal. Plans are going forward for a march on CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, Calif.; a rally at the California State building in San Francisco; and a meeting with family members and loved ones of prisoners in Oakland.

High-spirited activists marched up the quarter-mile driveway of Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 23, drumming on paint buckets and pots, until they were turned back by guards near the gate to the Supermax. In Baltimore on July 21, the blazing heat did not stop protesters outside the city jail from drawing support from passersby, who responded positively to the “Jobs not jails” theme.

Struggle against torture continues

The hunger strike has continued at three California state prisons. More than 400 inmates are refusing food at Corcoran and more than 100 at Tehachapi. The PHSS blog quoted a friend of a Calipatria prison hunger striker as saying, “I’m 100 percent sure that at least 300 prisoners are still supporting each other and going strong, refusing food and demanding the CDCR change conditions of solitary confinement and policies around gang validation.” (July 20)

According to a spokesperson for the court-appointed receiver overseeing prison health care, an inmate at Tehachapi had lost 29 pounds. (Los Angeles Times, July 19) The CDCR claimed to be medically monitoring 49 prisoners who had lost more than 10 pounds, but prisoner advocates disputed both the numbers and the quality of medical attention, most of which was “drive-by checks.” (PHSS conference call, July 18)

The PHSS was aware of “dozens” of hunger strikers who had lost over 20 pounds and who were experiencing fainting or irregular heartbeats. Nunn stated that the prison hospital at Pelican Bay was filled with inmates receiving fluids by IV. Some had “started to refuse water,” but many others were having trouble keeping ingested water down. Nunn added, “It is truly a matter of luck and/or untiring spirit that nobody has died so far.” (colorlines.com, July 20)

PHSS is encouraging solidarity actions to continue to make sure the CDCR makes good on its promises and to prevent retaliation against hunger strikers. Hunger strikers not in SHUs have been thrown in solitary as punishment for acts of solidarity. (PHSS blog, July 22)

This historic hunger strike of 6,600 inmates, uniting without regard to race, religion, ethnicity or group affiliation, has inspired prisoners and supporters to new acts of courage and defiance. Support the California hunger strikers and build the prisoners’ movement everywhere!

It’s Not Over! Support Still Needed!

We need to keep up the pressure and support, because the CDCR is just trying to get the hungerstrike and the news about the deplorable, torturous conditions out of the media.
We need to make sure the CDCR is doing what it said it shall do.

July 22nd 2011
From: Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

Mediators from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s Mediation team spoke with the Short Corridor Collective, four representatives of the hunger strike leaders at Pelican Bay and confirmed the leaders have accepted an offer from the CDCR.

When this news was announced at a vigil in Oakland last night, one family member responded: “I’m not going to believe it until my son tells me so.” She will be seeing him at Pelican Bay this weekend.

According to family members and friends of prisoners, as well as the CDCR, hunger strikers continue to refuse food across CA– in at least CCI Tehachapi, Corcoran and Calipatria. It is unclear how long they will continue, if they are aware of the agreement or even believe given the misinformation CDCR has been circulating. As families and friends gear up for another round of weekend visits, we will have more information as to whether hunger strikers will continue protesting CDCR’s policies and conditions in the coming days.

The leaders confirmed CDCR’s announcement that immediate changes in SHU policy are the opportunity for some educational programs, provision of all-weather caps (beanies) and wall calendars. More substantially, the leaders explained the CDCR has agreed to investigate changes to other policies including the gang validation and debriefing processes, and it is now up to supporters outside prison to make sure the CDCR upholds their promise.
Many supporters, as well as the Pelican Bay hunger strike leaders, see this as a victory. The leaders explained to the mediation team they are overwhelmed by the support and solidarity of family members, community members, organizations, and people across the world joining their fight for human rights, and cannot adequately express their appreciation. They also explained this is in no way over. Using a sports reference, the Short Corridor Collective insisted: “this is just the first quarter,” and what a start it has been.

Read the rest here.

Also see this article in the SF Bay View:

Hunger strikes and national protests continue
July 22nd 2011
Protesting torture in America continues in and out of prisons

BACK TO SAC ON MONDAY! The hunger strike continues in Tehachapi, Corcoran and Calipatria state prisons, so we’ll keep the pressure on CDCR and Gov. Jerry Brown!

On Monday, July 25, noon-4 p.m., prisoners’ families and supporters will meet in Sacramento, at Fremont Park, 15th & Q, at 11:30 a.m.; march to CDCR headquarters, 1515 S St., rally noon-2 p.m.; march to State Building to deliver organizational letter to Gov. Jerry Brown’s office 2-4 p.m. RIDE-SHARE West Oakland BART 9:30 a.m. Meanwhile, keep calling CDCR and Gov. Brown demanding more humane treatment of prisoners across California.

by Deborah Dupre, Human Rights Examiner

The historical prisoner hunger strike led by 11 now “shrunken” but alive Pelican Bay Prison inmates advocating human rights, peace and justice continues according to officials, prisoners’ families and prisoner attorney Marilyn McMahon of California Prison Focus, despite announcements Thursday that it ended. Prison officials acknowledge that prisoners for the fourth week are refusing food numbers in the hundreds. Advocates say the number could be in the thousands after California Department of Corrections (CDC) negotiated a token agreement pertaining only to Pelican Bay.

For hours after announcements that the strike ended, communications flying between frustrated reporters recently banned from California prisons, attorneys and family members of prisoners concluded a twofold analysis. The strike ended at Pelican Bay Prison, but until the five core demands are met there, strike leaders’ message to the public is to continue national protests. Secondly, since Thursday’s “token agreement” only pertained to Pelican Bay, the spiraled strike at up to 15 other prisons continues.

A message to the public from the 11 strike leaders was issued by attorney Marilyn McMahon at 7 p.m. PST, Thursday, during a World Can’t Wait teleconference with 15 prisoner advocates and reporters across the nation. Hunger strike leaders had just requested that McMahon relay the public message that the sole reason they got this far is due to “outside actions.” They said they need the “outside movement to continue to make sure the agreement is kept,” especially related to “isolation units.”

According to McMahon, only a “few token gestures have been made by officials” and “people are still being tortured in America.”

California Prison Focus issued a statement late Thursday confirming hunger strike leaders at Pelican Bay entered into an agreement with CDCR officials “to end their hunger strike in exchange for a major policy review of SHU housing conditions, gang validation process and debriefing process.”

Among “over 7,000 prisoners” hunger striking since July 1, 17 Pelican Bay prisoners are in the “worst” shape, having lost 20 to 35 pounds, McMahon said. Strike leaders told her Thursday that they all look “shrunken.”

“They are amazingly mentally clear,” she said. “Many people in the SHU are political prisoners. The only chance they have to ever touch their babies is to debrief.”

Debriefing involves snitching on another inmate, denouncing him as a gang member. This automatically results in exoneration of the snitcher and condemnation of the target. The target is then transferred, with no other evidence, to a Security Housing Unit (SHU) for 23 hours per day of indefinite solitary confinement, putting an end to contact with children and other family members that predictably results in mental injury. Some have been in the SHU for 30 years, according to McMahon.

Among prison protesters’ five core demands is ending the debriefing policy, as reported by LA Times.

Official count of prisoners still refusing food

Hours after announcing the historical hunger strike ended at Pelican Bay, CDC officials acknowledged that over 500 inmates continued to refuse meals at three other state prisons: “More than 400 at the California State Prison in Corcoran … more than 100 at California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi [and] about 29 at Calipatria State Prison,” according to prison spokeswoman Terry Thornton.

LA Times reported that the Pelican Bay inmates “agreed to resume eating in exchange for ‘cold-weather caps, wall calendars and some educational opportunities,’” according to a statement by CDC Secretary Matthew Cate on Thursday morning.

Thornton, who called the strikers a “moving target,” stated that many hunger strikers accepted meals at varying points during the three-week protest, but, as family members have gone on record stating, some prison officials were telling prisoners days ago that the strike ended.

Thornton also stated that about 110 inmates “continuously refused state issued food from July 1 through yesterday,” July 20, the day before the Pelican Bay prison strike officially ended.

Seventeen inmates with “early symptoms of starvation” were moved from Pelican Bay to Corcoran Prison to ensure “sufficient and appropriate medical resources” for treatment if they continued striking, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the federal receiver overseeing prison healthcare.

Torture in California prisons can end, Gov. Jerry Brown

CDC used cruel actions to end the strike, according to Carol Strickman, a staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and staff to the mediation team representing the hunger strikers.

For the rest, with links, please go to: SF Bay View.

————-
More news via Email:

Bay Area rides to Sacramento, California action…

lisa@criticalresistance.org Fri, July 22, 2011 5:55:42 PM Subject: MONDAY: The strike continues! Mobilize to CDCR!

As many of you have heard, the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay have ended their hunger strike and have declared it a success! Their courageous act of refusing to eat for 4 weeks has successfully put the issues of torturous isolation units and California’s abominable debriefing program in the international & national media, it has boosted a growing movement for the rights of prisoners, and is unifying prisoners of different racial groups for a struggle against their real and shared enemies: the unfair policies and practices of CDCR.

Many of you also know that the hunger strike continues in Tehachapi, Corcoran, and Calipatria State Prisons.

We must continue to put pressure on CDCR and Governor Jerry Brown!

On Monday, 7/25 from noon-4pm in Sacramento, family members, community based organizations, and community members from around the state are mobilizing to support the ongoing California Prisoner Hunger Strike!

Meet in Sacramento at Fremont Park (on 15th St., b/w Q & P Streets) @ 11:30am.

March to CDCR headquarters (1515 S. Street) and rally from noon-2pm.

March to State Building to deliver organizational letter to Governor Jerry Brown’s office from 2-4pm.

*Please note that this will be a PEACEFUL, non-arrestable action.

Please take the time to forward this email to all of your contacts, and continue to call CDCR and Governor Brown demanding more humane treatment of prisoners across California.

For more information, please check the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Blog or call (510) 444-0484.

BAY AREA Ride-share: Meet at West Oakland BART at 9:30am, rides will be leaving at 10am. If you have a car & want to offer rides, or if you need a ride, please contact Lisa Roellig:lisaroellig@gmail.com 415-238-1801 (cell).

Thank you for your continued support!

In Struggle,

Lisa Marie Alatorre for Critical Resistance
————
On July 23rd a great relly was organized in Ohio at the Ohio State Penitentiary in support of the California Hunger Strikers’ Demands. In that prison in Youngstown, those prisoners known as the “Lucasville 5” went on hungerstrike in January of this year to successfully challenge the conditions there. They are in full support of the California hunger strikers and are eeager to hear about the situation.

Finally:

Some gains so far:

– While the CDCR vigorously dehumanizes prisoners, and refused to negotiate, saying (“we don’t negotiate with prisoners”), they were effectively forced into offering an agreement to make changes;

– this historic strike has demanded everyone who is against torture in any way to recognize prisoners as human beings, to act on their beliefs that no one should ever be tortured;

– this historic hunger strike has widened and intensified international scrutiny into prison conditions and policies in California, and around the United States, as well as solidarity in intervening in CDCR “business as usual.” According to Terry Thorton, spokesperson for CDCR, this strike was “a major disruption to CDCR’s normal operations” (i.e. of control, isolation and torture);

– this historic strike has (re)inspired prisoners to work together in struggling for their humanity to be recognized;

– this historic strike has proven to family members, former prisoners, advocates, lawyers, faith-based and religious groups, medical professionals, and community members and organizations that we can and need to continue to work together better in the struggle to change the conditions we live in, and to transform the devastation and disappearance prisons cause in our communities

– this historic strike has re-invigorated rigorous and collective prisoner-led resistance in the US.

Day 18 of the California hungerstrike in support of the demands of those in the SHU units

TODAY: Take Action! Call NOW EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT IN CALIFORNIA.

Governor Jerry Brown: 916-445-2841 “Hi my name is _________ . I’m
calling about the statewide prisoner hunger strike that began at
Pelican Bay .I support the end of the use of long-term solitary
confinement. I am alarmed by the rapidly deteriorating medical
conditions of the hunger strikers & the inaction of the prison
system… Thank you.”

Prison Secretary Matthew Cate: 916-323-6001

“Hi my name is _____. I’m calling about the statewide prisoner hunger
strike that began at Pelican Bay. I support the prisoners that
long-term solitary confinement should end. I am alarmed by the rapidly
deteriorating medical conditions of the hunger strikers & the inaction
of the prision system. Thank You.”