Published in: SF Bay View, June 21st 2015
by Mutope Duguma, Pelican Bay short corridor
Let’s not forget that CDCr can lock you up for being an alleged leader, as an influential individual – on just this alone.
2015 marks four years since we collectively got together and launched our peaceful protests to end long term solitary confinement. We have not been able to get any policy, outside of STG (Security Threat Group) 1 and 2 and SDP (Step Down Program), which we have to keep in mind is again CDCr continuing to violate our civil and human rights by holding men and women in these solitary confinement torture chambers – SCTC – indefinitely.
Prisoners been held for over four decades for no other reason than a prison label called prison gang validation, based on confidential information provided to prison officials by snitches, rats, informers, turncoats etc. And in looking into a lot of these cases, we would learn that it was the prison officials who manufactured this information in order to subject prisoners to a life of hell.
We have been able to examine, evaluate and investigate the STG and SDP policies and we unanimously reject them, because, simply put, they are more of the same. They empower the previous policies that we were initially peacefully protesting.
We all will continue to be vulnerable to the validation policies, even though they are for non-behavior issues, and this means confidential information will continue to place us in these SCTC and hold you here. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are; these policies take the good with the bad.
The individual accountability Core Demand No. 1 (End group punishment and administrative abuse) was crucial for establishing a fair and just policy. CDCr’s power stems from the threats that they place over prisoners by labeling us with groups and holding us responsible for the actions of that group.
Core Demand No. 1 (End group punishment and administrative abuse)
That practice is flawed; other than a gang title by which the group or individuals are labeled as members or associates, simply based on the group’s alleged gang title, nothing else allows for CDCr to blatantly target racial groups and individuals. Prison officials want these targeted individuals off of General Population in order to subject them to SCTC. But individual accountability, satisfying Core Demand No. 1, would have put an end to this policy, where predominantly white prison gang officials target mostly New Afrikans and Mexicans – racism.
These validations are a matter of life and death, because to subject and isolate prisoners for indefinite periods of time in SCTC takes a serious toll on our health and mental stability, regardless if we appear to be a reflection of strength. We see how young human beings can naturally develop into strong men and women under natural circumstances. We also see how, if able to grow older, they develop eventually into fragile individuals, so as you age, it’s a matter of life and death.
Even if you’re being provided the proper nutrition and socialization – we know this is not the case for prisoners, especially those of us held in SCTC, where the isolation deprives us of natural sunlight etc. – SCTC has an adverse effect on one’s life and it is these grounds that should end SCTC use. The CDCr has the responsibility to protect each and every prisoner, regardless how the authorities may feel about us.
CDCr officials have allowed the six-year review procedures to stand, despite STG 1 and 2 and the SDP policy, so far, for two years and counting. We remain on a dual policy. When your six-year active/inactive review date comes, you will go before an IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) and OCS (Office of Correctional Safety), who will determine if you are active or inactive. If you are active, you are to be retained in SCTC pending your case-by-case review with DRB (Departmental Review Board). If you are inactive, then you are referred to DRB and seen relatively quickly.
Now the process is that IGI collects the alleged information and prepares it for the OCS, and the OCS determines if this information is sufficient for an active or inactive re-validation. Then the DRB, which makes the final decision, decides if you will be detained or not, regardless of what OCS recommends.
Active or inactive
After six years of waiting to go before the DRB, a prisoner should be referred and seen, regardless if it’s an active or inactive recommendation or if it’s a validation as active, and should see the DRB immediately. To tell someone who has been deemed active that he or she has to wait for their DRB case-by-case review, which the same CDCr official refers you to, is a grave injustice.
I believe it’s a 14th Amendment violation under the equal protection clause, because prisoners being reviewed for active/inactive re-validation should also be seen by OCS and then the DRB, which makes the final decision based on the OCS recommendation. This would not allow CDCr gang officials to discriminate against prisoners they want to retain in SCTC, because under the new policy, whether you like it or not, as soon as you are in a SDP Step 1-4, you are on a three-year course toward getting the hell out of the SCTC.
Whether you are released or not is irrelevant, but you cannot even begin to challenge the new contradictions (problems) with the system if you are not afforded the right to be processed into the new Step Down Program policy. Plus, we cannot deny that these steps do afford prisoners privileges: most importantly a phone call with family. Many of us have not talked to a family member in over 10 years, which is especially painful when family members – or the prisoner – are very ill.
My six-year active/inactive review was on Dec. 10, 2014. This is my second one. If I am to be deemed active, I don’t get referred to the DRB, but instead would be held on that active recommendation, or re-validation, pending case-by-case review by the DRB, which can take months or even years. But regardless of the position the DRB takes, when IGI reviews you, you still will be placed in a step.
We, in our Core Demand No. 2, demanded in part, an end to the active/inactive review, because it retains prisoners indefinitely in SCTC without any real due process or procedural due process. The debriefing policy is still in effect and its sole purpose is to have prisoners snitch on one another for a release from the SCTC that they are held on indefinitely. We understood that the State power can create situations for or in our lives that render us vulnerable to the authority/ power that they have been entrusted with by the People, and, it is the abuse of this power/ authority that has allowed CDCr to structure up a system of torture for thousands of Human Beings held in these SCTC, unjustly.
We, in part of our Core Demand No. 2 (Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria), have demanded an end to this debriefing policy that tortures men and women for information on other men and women by using state sanctioned powers to carry out their attacks.
Core Demand No. 2 (Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria)
We continue to be held indefinitely in long term solitary confinement. The new policies do not negate this fact. Humans who have been in solitary confinement for 20 or 30 years are now being placed in Step 1 under the new STG and Steps 1 and 2 under SDP (the steps furthest away from relative freedom in General Population).
This speaks to the inhumanity of the CDCr officials who are heartless to the fact that these prisoners have endured enough suffering. The placing of anyone into Step 1 on the basis of frivolous confidential information is unjust and cruel and unusual. So, if you been in SCTC for 30 years and you are placed in Step 1, that’s three more years added to that 30 years, an extension of long term SCTC.
I personally have witnessed individuals who we all know will easily transition into General Population, but they are placed in Steps 1 through 4 due to political material which is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which the CDCr supersedes, and confidential information. The SDP is another scheme to hold countless individuals in long term SCTC.
Long term solitary confinement
We, in our Core Demand No. 3, demanded an end to long term solitary confinement. We see that CDCr has basically just condemned us to three more years in SCTC, which amounts to torture and long term solitary confinement.
Core Demand No. 3 (End long term solitary confinement)
National and international opinion clearly deems long term solitary confinement torture, but these laws are not respected by CDCr, which reduces these laws to opinions. We continue to see prisoners die due to medical neglect and inadequate medical treatment.
Health care and food
We all hear the horror stories – and have our own that have routinely been allowed to occur – where countless men and women have died in agonizing pain due to not being diagnosed or not treated for medical conditions that eventually manifest into deadly diseases that the prisoners suffer the rest of their stay in SCTC. In part, we have demanded in our Core Demand No. 4 that inadequate medical treatment cease.
Core Demand No. 4 (Cease inadequate medical treatment)
We continue to be fed non-nutritional foods and issued regularly disproportionate servings, so that prisoners held in long term solitary confinement go hungry and become unhealthy, since it is a concrete fact that nutritional foods maintain one’s good health. CDCr continues to defy this documented fact under the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010,” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The case can be made that the food being fed to prisoners routinely is not only non-nutritional but unhealthy for consumption, especially pancakes and waffles with sugar-free syrup and peanut butter with sugar-free jelly. Turkey, beef and chicken is all by-product meats, meaning there is a small percentage of the original meat present.
So we are eating mostly soy and pink slime, which is why you don’t get meat texture, but instead a flimsy piece of meat. It is questionable whether the soy is safe, let alone healthy for consumption. And let’s keep in mind this is the worst form of processed meat you can eat.
The milk is 60 percent water; it truly has no nutritional value. The two ridiculously small servings of vegetables we get a day is insufficient to maintain our health.
And those on Halal diet here at Pelican Bay State Prison are deprived of much of their food simply because they have opted to be on a diet that’s consistent with their religion or principles with respect to how their meat is prepared. They are retaliated against and denied side dishes with these meals frequently; their dinners can be under 400 calories.
I can go on and on about the inadequate food prisoners are forced to eat – or starve; much of it provides no nutritional benefits. In part, our Core Demand No. 4 demanded an adequate, balanced, nutritional diet be provided and an end to the small servings.
Core Demand No. 4 (Provide an adequate, balanced, nutritional diet and end the small servings)
Education vs. warehousing
We are still held inside these solitary confinement torture chambers (SCTC), where no meaningful educational programs and privileges have been implemented that could encourage our mental stability and physical development. When we talk about educational programs, we are talking about CDCr changing their routine practice of just warehousing prisoners in these SCTC, but instead giving them access to modern world technologies that can be provided at a prisoner’s expense or state expense.
We definitely need to bring in limited computers that can provide national and international geographies and cultures we can study. The outdated educational programs that CDCr provides at PBSP serve no educational purpose whatsoever.
The world is getting smaller and smaller and prisoners are like dinosaurs in our thinking, especially those of us who have been in 25 years or longer – and it’s worse for those of us held in these SCTC. We need to be exposed to the many new social and cultural developments that have occurred over those years.
A lot of us, out of being uniformed, have no clue as to how far the world has advanced, and continued isolation is a tragedy – and this refers to all prisoners in respect to outdated educational programs that provide us no education – especially when CDCr tells the public it is “rehabilitating prisoners.”
True rehabilitation would mean transforming all prisons into colleges and universities. Tapping into the thousands of mentalities behind these prison walls may discover prisoners, who, once given the opportunity, can become the world’s best scientists, doctors, lawyers, philosophers, judges, cooks, teachers, computer geeks, biologists, dentists, architects and artists.
True rehabilitation would mean transforming all prisons into colleges and universities.
We need real courage and a commitment to real education for prisoners. Allowing our mental energy to die or waste away in these man-made tombs does nothing for anyone. I’d prefer to be studying for a doctorate than to be just sitting here wasting away like this. And once we earn our degrees, we should be afforded the opportunity to serve humanity nationally and internationally.
But, if CDCr only intends to warehouse prisoners until we are dead, then we prisoners have to demand an end to the senseless killing of prisoners by proxy. Humans are a resource, and the state can invest in them positively or negatively. The current investment in prisoners is negative, relegating the human being to nothing.
Privilege is simply allowing prisoners access to activities that enrich our lives. This can only be a benefit to everyone. Family visits and contact visits are privileges, even an hour visit out of 24 hours a day on two days, Saturday and Sunday, and in some prisons, just one day for an hour.
PBSP afforded an hour and a half and, after our peaceful protests, now three hours. But traveling to PBSP is like going to another state, so even three hours is insufficient considering the distance. We should be allowed five or six hours.
Privileges should always contribute to one’s social development. The more exposed we are to positive programs, the more we apply what we have learned in practice. That’s the natural process for us and all humanity.
We have, for the last 50 years in California, been conditioned around violence, and violence has been a regular practice throughout our stay. Thanks to our Agreement to End Hostilities, a lot of this violence has been deterred to some extent.
But what will keep this violence at bay? Because it definitely won’t sustain itself if prisoners’ energy is not being challenged in the educational programs and privileges that would hold their attention and produce the development that will enrich their lives.
Our Core Demand No. 5 (Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates) demanded that in order to deal with the idle time and the physical and mental development and social development of each and every prisoner, there must be real rehabilitation.
Core Demand No. 5 (Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates)
None of our core demands have been met! We are at a stage in our protracted struggle where we have to ask ourselves a tough question: Where do we go from here?
None of our core demands have been met!
CDCr has afforded some of us access to the General Population who should have never been held in these SCTC in the first place and have been held for far too many years. Our class action lawsuit was filed to end indefinite, longterm solitary confinement for all of us.
However, CDCr can render our class action lawsuit moot by placing everyone in the SDP, especially those of us who’ve been here in PBSP SHU 10 years or more, which is the only requirement of the lawsuit. (CDCr’s effort to defeat the suit by placing plaintiffs in the Step Down Program and moving them to other SHUs has been derailed by the court since this was written. – ed.)
So, considering the slow pace of progress in the Legislature and the possibility the lawsuit may not succeed, the responsibility to make change will come back to us prisoners. So we have to start strategizing around what we have to do in respect to our peaceful protests in order to end the continued abuse of authority.
CDCr has turned up its attacks, making it worse for each and every prisoner and his or her family. New regulations on personal property and on “obscenity” – actually censorship, a direct attack on free speech – have been implemented, and the proposed regulations to use canine searches of visitors – a direct attack on our families – are not yet approved but are in effect “on a temporary basis.”
These new regulations are about nothing other than prison officials abusing their position of power in order to retaliate against all of us who participated in the three hunger strikes and against all prisoners, activists and our families who supported us. The fact that CDCr can use the power that has been entrusted to them by the people to attack the people for their peaceful protests speaks volumes to how CDCr officials have no respect for the offices they hold.
We prisoners need to prepare for a massive peaceful protest and work stoppage if prison officials don’t change
1) The culture to which prisoners and their families are subjected: so much mental and physical torment;
2) End long term solitary confinement, as they promised; and
3) Implement our five core demands. If not, we have to think about our immediate future and long term future behind these walls.
Too many humans are suffering who don’t need to be suffering.
We also have to begin to educate prisoners on how to file writs and civil complaints in the state and federal courts in the interests of prisoners, ending the routine abuses that have been systemic throughout the state. The work stoppage, if necessary, should last anywhere from a month to years.
Our support committees need to release a report on the health consequences that many prisoners suffered during our last hunger strike, such as when we were temporarily taken to New Folsom. Many prisoners suffered immeasurable consequences in the name of our peaceful hunger strikes – the most recent having lasted from July 8, 2013, to Sept. 5, 2013 – that I personally recorded. We lost six lives, and we continue to lose lives.
One Love, One Struggle!
Send our brother some love and light: Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, D-05996, D2-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.