CA Prisoners Win Historic Gains with Settlement Against Solitary Confinement

Posted on September 1, 2015 by prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity

Agreement reached in Ashker v. Brown ends indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in CA, among other gains for prisoners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2015
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland – Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.”

The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “We celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.”

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.

July 31st, people around the world will fast and take other peaceful, non-violent action in solidarity with the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers

On Wednesday July 31st, people around the world will fast and take other peaceful, non-violent action in solidarity with the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers. Join family members of hunger strikers along with James Cromwell, Angela Davis, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Elliott Gould, Chris Hedges, Michael Moore, Alice Walker, and Cornel West. We fast knowing the criminalization that killed Trayvon Martin, and the criminalization that justifies the torture of prisoners in solitary confinement are one and the same.

We fast in solidarity with the demands of the hunger strikers. And we fast to get justice for Trayvon and for people of every gender, race, and religion who have been killed by state and vigilante violence. Support efforts everywhere for Justice for Trayvon Martin.

“We have taken up this hunger strike and work stoppage… not only to improve our own conditions but also an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world.”

– Hunger Strikers in the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU

Join us to help win the 5 demands of the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers

On July 30th the families and loved ones of prisoners on hunger strike are visiting Sacramento to demand that Governor Brown pressure the CDCR to enter into negotiations with the hunger strikers. Call California Governor Jerry Brown and let him know you’re fasting in solidarity with the strikers, ask him to meet the strikers demands: (916) 445-2841, (510) 289-0336, (510) 628-0202.


Endorse, support, and/or join the “Hunger for Justice”.

For More Information Contact: hunger4justice2013@gmail.com

We are all prisoners of injustice.

In solidarity/En solidaridad,

Cities and countries participating thus far: England, Germany, the US (Jackson Mississippi, Los Angeles, Oakland CA, Santa Cruz, Philadelphia PA).
“Hunger for Justice” convened by members of: Alexandria House; Alliance for Global Justice; Anti-Racist Action-LA; Brandywine Peace Community; California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement; California Coalition for Women Prisoners; California Prisoner Solidarity Coalition; Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB); Critical Resistance; DCFS/DHS-Give Us Back Our Children; Ecosocialist Horizons, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network; FACTS Education Fund; Fair Chance Project; Flying Over Walls; Freedom Archives; Global Women’s Strike; Hank Jones – San Francisco 8; Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; LA Laborfest; Lives Worth Saving Gang Intervention; Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles; National Hood Alliance; Palestinian Youth Movement; Payday men’s network; Peter Laarman – Progressive Christians Uniting and Justice not Jails; Project South; Queer Strike; Rev. Louis Logan; Ruckus Society, Scientific Soul Sessions; Theresa Shoatz – Maroon Philly Committee; Transgender, Gender-Variant, Intersex Justice; US PROStitutes Collective; White Noise Collective; Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike; Youth Justice Coalition; Ordinary People’s Society, Alabama; Prodigal Child Project, Alabama; Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement, National; Sin Barras. 

International Support for California Prisoners resuming Hunger Strike from July 8th

Prisoners in California’s SHU’s: we hear you loud and clear!

On July 8th, many California prisoners in the Secure Housing Units (SHU’s) will go on an indefinite hunger strike again. In 2011 they did so by their thousands, this time they are resuming the hunger strike. 

Why? 
Because the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) has not listened to the many complaints of the prisoners, summarised in Five Simple Core Demands:

1. Eliminate group punishments.  Instead, practice individual accountability.

2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.

3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement. 

4. Provide adequate food and hygiene. 

5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. 

The July 2013 California SHU prisoners hunger strike is done in unity regardless of race, religion, “gang.” All prisoners participating are in unity, following the Agreement to End Hostilities as drawn up in August 2012.

—- 
Our comrades at Prison Watch Europe are going to organize local writing afternoons where people can send cards to the head of prisons reminding him of these 5 simple demands. Also we will be sending cards to prisoners supporting their efforts and letting them know we hear them loud and clear.


More information about the crisis in the California prison system and the torture which is called Solitary Confinement can be found amongst others here:

SF Bay View National Black Newspaper

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Stop Mass Incarceration Network
NCTT-Cor-SHU 
The Rock
Bay Area Intifada Hunger Strike Support
California Prison Focus
SolitaryWatch.com
Lockupreform.com
California Prison Watch

We will be making more information available soon.



July 8th: Peaceful Protests of refusing food in CA SHU’s and elsewhere will resume if demands are not met!

Please spread this flyer, thank you! Also follow NCTTCOrSHU.org, Californiaprisonwatch.org (one of our network blogs), Stopmassincarceration.org, SFBayview.com, Prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com, and other sites with updates.

Also actions of solidarity are planned in other states (Louisiana for one, Ohio may follow). CDCR should at least hear and talk with the prisoners and their representatives!

Latest on CDCR’s proposed new ” STG” program is that NONE of the prisoners in the units in at least Corcoran-SHU 4B 1L have signed a “contract” that CDCR has installed to push prisoners to comply with their new solitary confinement punishment rules.

Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is calling for a “parallel cease fire in the streets”

Posted on: Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity on October 4, 2012:

Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is calling for a “parallel cease fire in the streets” to correspond to the End to Hostilities that has been called for by the Short Corridor Collective – a group of Pelican Bay hunger strike representatives who are living in that prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU, or isolation unit).

The YJC will kick off its call for an end to hostilities on the streets with an event on Wednesday, October 10th at 10am outside the LA County Men’s Jail (450 Bauchet Street, Los Angeles, 90012).

Here’s more information from the YJC’s Facebook event:

Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) have announced a push to end all hostilities between racial groups within California’s prisons and jails. The handwritten announcement was sent to prison Advocacy organizations. It is signed by prisoners, identifying themselves as the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective. Pelican Bay’s SHU was the point of origin for last year’s hunger strikes which rocked California’s prison system, at one point including the participation or nearly 12,000 prisoners in over 11 prisons throughout the state.

The statement calls for the cessation of all hostilities between groups to commence October 10, 2012, in all California prisons and county jails. The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective has strongly requested that its statement be read and referred as a whole. 


On October 10th, the Youth Justice Coalition will be holding a rally to stand in solidarity with the Prisoners of CA.

We have the duty to fight for our brothers and sisters who remain inside the walls of injustice and confined to a system that does NOT work for our community!!

Please join the YJC and Community Advocacy groups and stand in solidarity with the CA prisoners and their efforts to end racial tension within the prison walls. Please contact us ASAP if you would like to Sponsor or Speak at the Rally/Press Conference.

Sponsoring Organizations:

1. Youth Justice Coalition (sponsor)
2. Fair Chance Project (sponsor)
3. LA Community Action Network (sponsor)
4. FACTS Families To Amend CA Three Strikes” (sponsor)
5. “CA Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement” CFASC (sponsor)
6. Homies Unidos (sponsor)
7. California Faith Action (sponsor)
8. Occupy The Hood LA (pending)
9. Immigrant Youth Coalition (pending)
10. Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace (ICUJP)-(pending)
11. Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC) (pending)
12. Coalition To Stop Sheriff Violence (sponsor)
13. Bus Riders Union (pending)
14. October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality (pending)
15. Gender Justice LA (sponsor)
“If unity happens inside the walls of prison, imagine the impacts it will have on our neighborhoods and youth!” -Assata
For more information or to add your organization as a supporter, email the Youth Justice Coalition at freelanow@yahoo.com or call them at (323) 235 – 4243.

There is another Event, a Rally in Riverside, CA, in solidarity with this Event, it is announced on Facebook here.

Statement of Solidarity With the California (Pelican Bay, Corcoran and other prisons) Prison (SHU) Hunger Strike

Dear Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity,

Thank you for all your good work in getting the word out! We from the Prison Watch Network want to show our Solidarity with those on hunger strike and their supporters and loved ones. We hope and pray that your action will be heard and that you are able to change the ways you are being treated, making a difference for all of us.
We blog and collect signatures for the petition.

Sincerely, in Solidarity,

Prisonwatchnetwork.org:

Californiaprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Arizonaprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Nevadaprisonwatch.org

Ohioprisonwatch.blogpot.com

Pennsylvaniaprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Georgiaprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Louisianaprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Alabamaprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Mississippiprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Hawaiiprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Wisconsinprisonervoice.blogspot.com

Maineprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Utah, Illinois, Virginia, Colorado, Washington State, Texas, Imprisoned Women Prison Watch, Immigrant Detention Watch, Juvenile Prison Watch and more State Prison Watch blogs.

The Call

By Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford)
From: Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity

This is a call for all prisoners in Security Housing Units (SHUs), Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), and General Populations (GP), as well as the free oppressed and non-oppressed people to support the indefinite July 1st 2011 peaceful Hunger Strike in protest of the violation of our civil/human rights, here at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU), short corridor D1 through D4 and its overflow D5 through D10.

It should be clear to everyone that none of the hunger strike participants want to die, but due to our circumstances, whereas that state of California has sentenced all of us on Indeterminate SHU program to a “civil death” merely on the word of a prison informer (snitch).

The purpose of the Hunger Strike is to combat both the Ad-Seg/SHU psychological and physical torture, as well as the justifications used of support treatment of the type that lends to prisoners being subjected to a civil death. Those subjected to indeterminate SHU programs are neglected and deprived of the basic human necessities while withering away in a very isolated and hostile environment.

Prison officials have utilized the assassination of prisoners’ character to each other as well as the general public in order to justify their inhumane treatment of prisoners. The “code of silence” used by guards allows them the freedom to use everything at their disposal in order to break those prisoners who prison officials and correctional officers (C/O) believe cannot be broken.

It is this mentality that set in motion the establishing of the short corridor, D1 through D4 and its D5 though D10 overflow. This mentality has created the current atmosphere in which C/Os and prison officials agreed upon plan to break indeterminate SHU prisoners. This protracted attack on SHU prisoners cuts across every aspect of the prison’s function: Food, mail, visiting, medical, yard, hot/cold temperatures, privileges (canteen, packages, property, etc.), isolation, cell searches, family/friends, and socio-culture, economic, and political deprivation. This is nothing short of the psychological/physical torture of SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners. It takes place day in and day out, without a break or rest.

The prison’s gang intelligence unit was extremely angered at the fact that prisoners who had been held in SHU under inhuman conditions for anywhere from ten (10) to forty (40) years had not been broken. So the gang intelligence unit created the “short corridor” and intensified the pressure of their attacks on the prisoners housed there. The object was to use blanket pressure to encourage these particular isolated prisoners to debrief (i.e. snitch on order to be released from SHU).

The C/Os and administrative officials are all in agreement and all do their part in depriving short corridor prisoners and its overflow of their basic civil/human rights. None of the deliberate attacks are a figment of anyone’s imagination. These continuous attacks are carried out against prisoners to a science by all of them. They are deliberate and conscious acts against essentially defenseless prisoners.

It is these ongoing attacks that have led to the short corridor and overflow SHU prisoners to organize ourselves themselves around an indefinite Hunger Strike in an effort to combat the dehumanizing treatment we prisoners of all races are subjected to on a daily basis.

Therefore, on July 1, 2011, we ask that all prisoners throughout the State of California who have been suffering injustices in General Population, Administrative Segregation and solitary confinement, etc. to join in our peaceful strike to put a stop to the blatant violations of prisoners’ civil/human rights. As you know, prison gang investigators have used threats of validation and other means to get prisoners to engage in a protracted war against each other in order to serve their narrow interests. If you cannot participate in the Hunger Strike then support it in principle by not eating for the first 24 hours of the strike.

I say that those of you who carry yourselves as principled human beings, no matter you’re housing status, must fight to right this and other egregious wrongs. Although it is “us” today (united New Afrikans, Whites, Northern and Southern Mexicans, and others) it will be you all tomorrow. It is in your interests to peacefully support us in this protest today, and to beware of agitators, provocateurs, and obstructionists, because they are the ones who put ninety percent of us back here because they could not remain principled even within themselves.

Source: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/voices-from-inside/the-call/