From the SF Bayview:
Posted on September 5, 2013
Greetings of Solidarity and Respect!
The PBSP-SHU, Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on September 5, 2013.
To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice. With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.
Our goal remains: force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside. We also call for ending the related practices of using prisoners to promote the agenda of the police state by seeking to greatly expand the numbers of the working class poor warehoused in prisons, and particularly those of us held in solitary, based on psychological/social manipulation, and divisive tactics keeping prisoners fighting amongst each other. Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards, more tax dollars for “security”, and spend mere pennies for rehabilitation — all of which demonstrates a failed penal system, high recidivism, and ultimately compromising public safety. The State of California’s $9.1 billion annual CDCR budget is the epitome of a failed and fraudulent state agency that diabolically and systemically deprives thousands of their human rights and dignity. Allowing this agency to act with impunity has to stop! And it will.
With that said, and in response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock, and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the upmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike. We are especially grateful to Senator Hancock and Assembly Member Ammiano for their courageous decision to challenge Governor Brown and the CDCR for their policies of prolonged solitary confinement and inhumane conditions. We are certain that they will continue their fight for our cause, including holding legislative hearings and the drafting legislation responsive to our demands on prison conditions and sentencing laws. We are also proceeding with our class action civil suit against the CDCR.
The fact is that Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Beard have responded to our third peaceful action with typical denials and falsehoods, claiming solitary confinement does not exist and justifying the continuation of their indefinite torture regime by vilifying the peaceful protest representatives. They also obtained the support of the medical receiver (Kelso) and Prison Law Office attorney (Spector—who is supposed to represent prisoners interests, and instead has become an agent for the state) to perpetuate their lie to the public and to the federal court — that prisoners participating in the hunger strike have been coerced — in order to obtain the August 19, 2013 force feeding order.
We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice.
We urge people to remember that we began our present resistance with our unprecedented collective and peaceful actions (in tandem with the legislative process) back in early 2010, when we created and distributed a “Formal Complaint” for the purpose of educating the public and bringing widespread attention to our torturous conditions.
After much dialogue and consideration, this led us to our first and second hunger strike actions in 2011, during which a combined number of 6,500 and 12,000 prisoners participated. We succeeded in gaining worldwide attention and support resulting in some minor changes by the CDCR concerning SHU programming and privileges. They also claimed to make major changes to policies regarding gang validation and indefinite SHU confinement by creating the STG/SDP Pilot Program. They released a few hundred prisoners from SHU/AD SEG to general population in the prison. But in truth, this is all part of a sham to claim the pilot program works and was a weak attempt to have our class action dismissed. It didn’t work.
In response we respectfully made clear that CDCR’s STG-SDP was not responsive to our demand for the end to long term isolation and solitary confinement and thus unacceptable. (See: AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES)
Our supporting points fell on deaf ears, leading to our January 2013 notice of intent to resume our hunger strike on July 8, 2013 if our demands were not met. We also included Forty Supplemental Demands.
In early July, CDCR produced several memos notifying prisoners of an increase in privileges and property items, which are notably responsive to a few of our demands, while the majority of our demands were unresolved, leading to our third hunger strike, in which 30,000 prisoners participated and resulted in greater worldwide exposure, support and condemnation of the CDCR!
From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals. However, there’s still much to be done. Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.
For the Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement
Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106
And the Representatives Body:
Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124
Greetings. We begin this update on where things stand with our struggle to force an end to long-term solitary confinement and additional major reforms to the prison system with a shout-out of solidarity, love, and respect to all of our supporters and people of conscience worldwide.
As many are aware today marks the 51st day of our peaceful hunger strike. We continue to protest decades of solitary confinement; torture for the purposes of coercion. This is the third hunger strike in two years and yet nothing of real substance has changed for the majority of us.
We are now at a critical stage, where each minute that passes is extremely taxing mentally and physically. Many of us participating since day one are suffering what may be irreversible damage, and are facing a very real possibility of death. It is a fact that a major cause of death during long fasts is heart attack. This may come at any moment for us… When it does, we’re done for.
That said, you may all rest assured that our commitment to this worthy cause remains undaunted. The world is now a witness, as Gov. Brown and his appointee [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary] Beard demonstrate callous and deliberate indifference to the extreme forms of inexcusable suffering our loved ones and ourselves are subjected to in our fight for humane treatment of the prisoner class of human beings…
Gov. Brown’s response to our peaceful action has not been silence, as so many presume—rather, it has been loud and clear via the propaganda and rhetoric being spewed by his mouth piece Dr. Beard [AKA Dr. Mengele]. The fascist police state prisoncrats have attempted to misdirect the attention and the growing condemnation of their human rights abuses. They have tried to disrupt public support by dredging up 20-40 year old histories that are for the most part portrayed in a false light. They have desperately tried to justify and further their diabolical agenda, and indeed expand the numbers of prisoners (and loved ones outside) being tortured—to the point of death, insanity, and false confessions. They have the audacity to claim our push for reform is a “gang power play,” and that many prisoners have been “coerced into participation.” This is another tactic aimed at misleading the public so as to maintain the status quo with impunity. They have tried to ignore the fact that our collective peaceful efforts, and our call to “end group hostilities,” are contrary to their propaganda. CDCR’s decades of human rights violations is the catalyst for thousands coming together and taking up this protest…
Another clear demonstration of where Brown, Beard, et al stand is their response to this peaceful action. They have directed their subordinates to subject participants, and non-participants alike, to systematic retaliation including, but not limited to: additional isolation and sensory deprivation via placement in the Administrative Segregation stand-alone building; withholding mail and visits; blasting cold air into SHU and Ad-Seg cells; confiscating property; fabricating rule violations and alleging gang activity; cell-extractions; threats and intimidation; and mass relocation. They have rescinded so-called privileges granted in 2011-2013. And they have cut the number of allowable books from 10 (which has been a right for 23 years), down to 5. The above are only a few examples.
We are calling on all people of conscience to make their opposition heard. We urge the people to demand that the powers that be end this abuse now. Today. Before it it is too late for some of us. On Friday August 16, CDCR transferred 51 people on hunger strike from this Ad-Seg Unit down south to a medical facility in preparation for force feeding. This is where we’ll all be soon. Some of us are considering a challenge to such feeding. What’s going on in this nation that it has come to such a point? The people have the power to change things now. Know this: Our spirit and resolve remain strong and we know we can count on you all! Together we are making it happen, not only for ourselves, but, more importantly, for the generations to come.
With the Utmost Solidarity, Love, and Respect—Onward in Struggle,
Pelican Bay State Prison Short Corridor Collective
Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP-SHU
Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU
Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU
July 9, 2013
Greetings to our supporters and all people of conscience.
We are grateful for your support of our peaceful protest against the state-sanctioned torture that happens not only here at Pelican Bay but in prisons everywhere. We have taken up this hunger strike and work stoppage, which has included 30,000 prisoners in California so far, not only to improve our own conditions but also an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world.
We encourage everyone to take action to support the strike wherever they live. Sign the petition demanding California Governor stop the torture; plan rolling solidarity fasts if you are able; use every means to spread the word; and participate in non-violent direct action to put pressure on decision-makers.
If it was not for your support, we would have died in 2011. Thank you everyone. We are confident we will prevail.
– Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP-SHU, D4-121
– Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU, D1-121
– Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU,D1-117
– Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU, D2-106
The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives
From: Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Dec. 17th 2012
The Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison has asked us to publish a letter denouncing the reforms proposed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The collective remains in steadfast opposition to the proposal, which they rejected in March of this year. This statement responds to the CDCR’s July proposal revision, saying: “We remain 100% opposed to CDCR’s revised proposal for the same reasons stated publicly [last March].” More pointedly, it also says: “We cannot accept the garbage proposal from CDCR!”
This latest rejection does not come softly, as it also threatens “return to non-violent, peaceful protest actions in the form of indefinite hunger strike and no work” if the CDCR doesn’t shift directions and revamp the reforms to appeal to the internationally recognized human rights framework.
Short Corridor Collective letter:
Greetings from the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective to all who stand with us in solidarity and support our struggle to force an end to this nation’s draconian practice of subjecting tens-of-thousands of prisoners to the torture of long term isolation cells… via an ongoing nonviolent peaceful effort, inside and out.
This is an update on the current status of our struggle here in California, wherein upwards of 14,000(+) prisoners are presently held in isolation cells, several hundred have been held indefinitely in isolation (SHU) cells for the past 10 to 30 years, solely based on “status”, rather than illegal behavior – specifically, on decades of SHU isolation is based on a CDCR gang classification label, i.e. “status of a label”, without ever being found guilty of committing a gang-related criminal act! Notably, our CDCR-OCS/IGI gang validations, and related decades of SHU torture, are based on what CDCR claims to be “intelligence-based evidence of criminal gang activity” consisting of: (a) innocent associational/political type activity; and/or (b) confidential prison informants “unsubstantiated allegations” of involvement in criminal activity!
We remain in the SHU and were not impressed after receiving and carefully reviewing CDCR’s June 29, 2012 revised proposal re: Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification and Management Strategy, which they plan to begin as a pilot program in October.
We remain 100% opposed to CDCR’s revised proposal for the same reasons stated publicly – in response to this March version, the proposal fails to meet our five core demands, and violates our October 2011 argument with CDCR undersecretary Kernan , wherein, among other things, we agreed to suspend our hunger strike activism in order to give CDCR additional time to change SHU policies and practices into a reasonable individual accountability/behavior-based system (e.g. SHU would be reserved for prisoners charged for, and found guilty of, committing a serious offense… a felony!).
Instead of this agreed-upon policy change, we patiently sit here for another year only to have CDCR come at me with more of the same garbage we rejected in March… Thereby making clear to us that obtaining real changes will require us to resume our non-violent, peaceful protest actions; in the form of a hunger strike and no work, protests to the death if necessary! Our decision to do so has not come lightly, and is supported by the following facts and circumstances.
Beginning in February 2010, we became united in our efforts to collectively expose and bring a peaceful end to the CDCR policies and practices reference above, based on our position that they constitute a form of torture, and a violation of basic human rights principles. This is when we created a “formal complaint” document, copies of which were sent to numerous lawmakers, organizations, groups and individuals, including former Governor Schwarzenegger and CDCR Secretary Cate. [To review our formal complaint, go to http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/formal-complaint/].
As of early 2011, the formal complain had resulted in no relief, and our conditions in SHU had become more oppressive! Therefore, we decided that our sole avenue for gaining the mainstream exposure and outside support for our case – to end our torture – was for us to put our lives on the line via peaceful protest hunger strike action. In May/June 2011, we served governor Brown, and Secretary Cate with another copy of a formal complaint and our final notice of the July 1st hunger strike (with the five core demands, available now at www.prisons.org; click on Prisoners’ 5 Core Demands in the left column).
True to our words, we began our hunger strike July 1, 2011, which lasted until July 20, 2011 (and included supportive participation by more than 6,600 prisoners across the state). Our hunger strike action was temporarily suspended on July 20th, in response to our face-to-face negotiation with CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, et al, who admitted early on in the process that our five core demands “were all reasonable”, and CDCR “should have made changes twenty-years ago”… and who promised to make timely, substantively meaningful changes, responsive to all five demands.
All parties understood that CDCR needed to change policies so that SHU confinement would be reserved for prisoners who are charged with, and found guilty of, committing a serious rule violation, meriting a determinate SHU term! (i.e. a system based on individual behavior).
As of early September 2011, we believed CDCR was not acting in good faith resulting in our return to hunger strike on September 26, 2011. The response was for CDCR to take retaliating actions, including the subjection of fifteen of us to additional torture (Todd Asher, C58191; Arturo Castellanos, C17275; Charles Coleman, C60680; Mutope Duguma/James Crawford, D05996; Sitawa Nantamu Jamaa/Dewberry, C35671; J. Brian Elrod, H25268; George Franco, D46556; Antonio Guillen, P81948; Paul Jones, B26077; Louis Powel, B59864; Paul Redd, B72683; Alfred Sandoval, D61000; Danny Troxell, B76578; James Baridi Williamson, D34288; and Ronnie Yandell, V27927). We were placed into more isolative Ad-Seg strip cells, without adequate clothing or bedding, and with ice-cold air blasting out of the air vents! Then Warden Lewis informed us, “as soon as you eat, you can go back home to your SHU cell.”
This second hunger strike action was joined by more than 12,000 prisoners at its peak! It was again temporarily suspended on October 13, 2011, after CDCR made a presentation of their good faith efforts toward making the policy changes agreed to in July… which was satisfactory to our outside mediation team.
Between October 13, 2011 and now, the CDCR has failed to honor their end of our prior agreements to substantively change SHU policies and practices, no such policies and practices are in line with our five core demands; and they have made it clear that they have no intension of doing so… by moving forward with their June 29, 2012 revised proposal, in spite of our March 2012 written opposition to their related March proposal – and presentation of our counter-proposal (available here).
Our outside mediation team and the Prison Law Office also presented CDCR with related written opposition to the proposal (mediation team statement available here; PLO opposition available here). In typical fashion, the CDCR totally disregarded the above referenced oppositions and counterproposal!
At this point, we remain opposed to CDCR’s proposal based on their refusal to bring the policies and practices at issue into line with our five core demands, as demonstrated by the below, briefly summarized, examples:
Core demand #1 – “Eliminate group punishments…” CDCR’s revised proposal fails to honor this demand and makes it clear that prisoners validated as STG-I Members will automatically be subject to indefinite SHU confinement… until they successfully complete the four year minimum step-down program, or debrief (see CDCR’s June proposal at p#22). This is status-based group punishment!
Core Demand #2 – “Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria…”. The main points of this demand are:
(a) the debriefing policy is illegal! Especially in the context of subjecting SHU prisoners to indefinite, progressively more torturous conditions for the purpose of coercing them to become state informants (which in turn, places them and their families in serious danger!); and, it produces fabricated allegations from prisoners desperate to get out of SHU!!
(b) prisoners being denied inactive status, and release to General Population, based on CDCR, OCS-IGI’s version of “intelligence”-based documentation of involvement in gang activity (i.e. innocent associational/political type activity; and/or, confidential prisoner debriefer-informants “unsubstantiated allegations” of involvement in illegal activity), without any formal changes being filed!We’ve repeatedly made it clear that SHU confinement must be reserved solely for prisoners who are charged for and found guilty of serious rule violation – meriting a reasonable determinate SHU-term! This is non-negotiable!!
CDCR’s revised proposal fails to honor this demand by maintaining their illegal debriefing policy; and, making it clear that SHU-STG prisoners will remain indefinitely confined in SHU “… based upon intelligence and/or confirmed behaviors” (see proposal, pp# 7, 8, 9);
“…while in the program, if the STG-I Member (or Associate), exhibits STG behaviors, staff shall report the behavior using appropriate documentation. Once documented by the IGI the subject will be referred to the STG-Committee and ICC for a program, privilege or housing review. The behavior may lead to a loss of privileges, retention in the currest step, or regression to a previous step.” (Id. Proposal at P# 34)…
“Documentation may be in the form of disciplinary reports, compelling changes, confidential memorandum and/or other sources documenting behaviors and intelligence”. (Id. Proposal, p# 21).
Sound familiar? It should, because it’s the same policy and practice used and abused by CDCR, OCS-IGI for the past 13 years to deny us inactive status!! (See CCR Title 15, at pp# 2020-222 re: basis for denying inactive status!).
This constitutes a blatant violation of our October 2011 agreement and is 100% unacceptable!!
Core demand #3 – Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006), calling for an end to long term solitary confinement…”CDCR’s revised proposal makes a mockery of this core demand! The authors of the proposal insult everyone’s intelligence by changing titles and words, while actually changing nothing re: policies and practices at issue that have been used and abused repeatedly… resulting in our subjection to decades of torture in these SHU/Ad-Seg solitary cells!!
Importantly, if the proposal is allowed to stand, it will result in many more prisoners being subject to the torture of long term isolation by way of the STG designation(s), and related criteria for indefinite placement in SHU!! All prisoners across the state need to make a collective stand and peacefully protest this proposal, because it will adversely impact all prisoners and our loved ones outside!!
We have made it clear that we shouldn’t have to jump through more hoops to be released from SHU! We’ve already been tormented and tortured in SHU for decades!! The Step-Down Program should be for prisoners serving determinate SHU terms to be able to shorten their SHU term; it should be no more than eighteen months from start to finish; needs to begin with meaningful incentives that include the ability to earn time off their sentence, opportunity for out-of-cell contact with other prisoners, regular phone calls and contact visits, and programs that prepare the prisoner for return to, first general population and ultimately civilian life!! We oppose CDCR’s proposed version of a Step Down Program… Four years is too long, and the incentives are a joke!!
The above points illustrate CDCR’s failure to act in good faith in response to our five core demands, and related agreements with CDCR Undersecretary Kernan, et al, during our July-October negotiations! Last year we made it clear to CDCR, and the world, that we were drawing the line and would no longer silently accept the torture upon ourselves and our loved ones outside!
We let it be known that our plan was to use non-violent, peaceful protest activity in the form of an indefinite hunger strike – to the death if necessary – in order to achieve our goal of forcing an end to CDCR’s illegal policies and practices at issue, via our own sacrifice, and related mainstream expense and solid outside support!
We’ve had some success regarding worldwide exposure, and we have solid outside support standing with us in solidarity… And – we have patiently pursued all available avenues to try and get CDCR to honor our reasonable demands; and presently, our final avenue is an open letter to governor Brown, asking him to order Secretary Cate to get right! If this is not successful, we will have no other option than to return to non-violent, peaceful protest actions in the form of indefinite hunger strike and no work!!
We cannot accept the garbage proposal from CDCR! We cannot allow the four prisoner deaths in support of our cause to be forgetting and many of us are fully committed to making the same sacrifice if need be to force meaningful changes to this corrupt system… and we will be serving CDCR with our notice of intent to resume our peaceful/non-violent protest actions in the near future, and if CDCR continues to refuse to act right on our five core demands, as spelled out above!!!
We want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to all of our outside supporters, including but not limited to the people with the following organizations: LSPC, CPE, Rock, SF Bayview, CFASC, JRA Advocate, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Amnesty International. The latter two organizations have selflessly supported our cause via the March filing of our UN petition (CHRCL), and the May filing of our class action suit (CCR et al); these efforts are greatly appreciated, and are very beneficial to our cause (e.g. helping provide continued worldwide exposure, etc, etc, etc)!! However, the UN hasn’t acted on our petition, and the Federal Court process moves very slowly…
The bottom line is: We are ultimately the ones responsible for continuing to force reforms via our collective efforts in here!!! It’s time to move forward and make it happen!!!
In memory of: Johnny Owen Vick, Hozel Alonzo Blanchard, Christian Gomez, and Alex Machado, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our cause (PBHRM)… make no mistake, none of us wants to die, but, we are prepared to, if that’s what it takes to force a real reform!!!
Onward in struggle, with solidarity and respect
PBSP Short Corridor Main Representatives
Sitawa Mantambu Jamaa (Dewberry)
It can be broken down.”
The Human Rights Pen Pal program is an anti-racist, grassroots organizer training program in solidarity with the human rights of prisoners in California’s solitary confinement cells. The program will promote principled relationships between prisoners in solitary confinement and supporters outside the walls; and combine practice, political education, beginning community organizing skills, and evaluation.
The Human Rights Pen Pal program is specifically intended to support the ongoing work of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition which works to end solitary confinement and address the human rights of prisoners confined in SHU’s (Security Housing Units) and Ad Segs (Administrative Segregation), California prisons’ names for solitary confinement.
The Human Rights Pen Pal program complements and supports other forms of pen pal programs, all of which are crucial for transcending the walls between activists outside and inside the prisons, and for winning some justice for all prisoners in California.
The program is centered around the relationship between the pen pals inside and outside the walls. It assumes that the developing relationships will lead to a growing commitment of those ‘outside the walls’ to work in solidarity with the prisoners and their human rights campaign.
The ‘outside the walls’ group would be small, limited to 6 to 8 pen pals. Each pen pal would write to a minimum of one person in solitary confinement. Priority for prisoner involvement would go to people in Pelican Bay and Corcoran Prisons who are already in contact with PHSS.
Our monthly meeting would include political discussions about California prisons, solitary confinement, prisoners’ resistance, questions that arise from prisoners’ correspondence, and strategies of solidarity used by local and national anti-prison organizations.
We would exchange ideas for responding to prisoners’ letters, write our letter to our pen pal in solitary, invite each other to local anti-prison activities, suggest ways that each of us can share our experiences as pen pals with our own friends and networks, and evaluate our work together.
(1) Meeting once a month for 6 months, for about 3 hours, at a San Francisco apartment;
(2) Corresponding with his/her/their ‘inside the walls’ pen pal twice a month: once during the monthly group meeting, and once in between group meetings;
(3) Actively participating in the interactive political education component by reading suggested short essays, preparing questions for discussion at the group meetings, keeping abreast of PHSS and other anti-prison events and activities, and learning how to do constructive evaluation of the Pen Pal program;
(4) Sharing your experiences as a pen pal participant with your own friends and networks;
(5) Consider continuing your correspondence with your prisoner pen pal for at least a year; and discussing whether the structured pen pal program should continue and, if so, what it should include.
The program would run for 6 months, from January through June, 2013. The pen pals and the PHSS coordinator would meet as a group once a month in a San Francisco apartment. Each meeting would last about 3 hours. Pen pals and the PHSS coordinator will collaboratively determine the best day for the monthly meeting. Each pen pal will then be expected to attend and participate actively in each meeting.
For more information, and to schedule a phone conversation, please email Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave your email address, phone number, and what evenings (Tuesdays through Sundays) from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm that you might be available for the monthly pen pal meeting beginning in January, 2013.
Deadline for holding this conversation to see if the pen pal program is a good fit will be December 20. First Pen Pal meeting will take place the week after Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in January, 2013.
We received an edition via email from Ms Kendra, thank you for keeping us updated!
Oct 20th 2012
It came from Pelican Bay Adseg unit, legit source from last two statewide hunger strikes wrote me a personal letter detailing why they were hunger striking and it was for the 5 core demands. This man is validated as a [withheld for privacy reasons by Ca PW] under CDCR and is in Adseg at Pelican Bay waiting for a SHU cell to open up.
He said they were aware of the end of hostilities agreement from the short corridor as well once he received my article, he told me that when they started to refuse their statefood the officers came in took away canteen food,and when some men didn’t want to hand over their TV’s the officers forcefully cell extracted the inmate to remove the TVs.
This inmate is asking whether or not that was legal to do so. He also asked me if it is only Pelican Bay hunger striking and if any other prisons were hunger striking too. It was written on 10/10/2012 and postmarked 10/16/2012.
He told me that we should have known before it happened that they were going to hunger strike about Pelican Bay State Prison’s hunger strike (he wrote me as if I already knew it was going to happen) so it seems like the men thought everyone out here was aware of a hunger strike going to happen there when no one knew about it.
Also, I received a letter from an inmate at PB Short Corridor D-2 a few days ago telling me their mail is extremely restricted lately because of “The hunger strike” and because of all the things that have been underway there they have been working on including the end of hostilities. So i am not sure who else at Pelican Bay went on a hunger strike and it hasn’t been confirmed from an inmate there in that unit that it stopped.
CDCR says the men resumed eating at Pelican Bay State Prison but we all know CDCR’s tricks, they said that when Christian Gomez from Corcoran ASU died from starving himself, they said that about other prisons during last statewide hunger strikes that men resumed eating when to find out they were still starving. I am going to still think these men are still hunger striking in the Adseg unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, I refuse to take CDCR’s word because they have been known to lie.
Until i get confirmation from these men that they resumed eating then i’ll believe they’ve resumed eating. I take the prisoners word over CDCR’s. These men need support!! and if anyone has heard from the Adseg Unit at Pelican Bay that they resumed eating please let us know. Thank you. The officers should give them back their TV’s too! –
Kendra Castañeda, email@example.com
We received thanks to Kendra Castañeda a message from a prisoner held in Pelican Bay SHU, that there is indeed a hunger strike underway, and that the prison guards took away the personal tv’s of those participating in the peaceful protest against the torturous conditions inside the Ad. seg. or solitary confinement unit. Letter was postmarked October 16th to Kendra Castañeda, inmate name being withheld due to more retaliation from the guards.
We do not know why the personal belongings were taken by the correctional officers. The reasoning seems to be purely retaliational, there is no other reason. One cannot eat a TV.
Please also read the article on SolitaryWatch about the new hunger strikes here.
Please read the 5 core demands of last year’s hunger strike.
The hunger strike at Tehachapi appears to have been against the new “STG manual” for CDCR “gang validation”, version 7.0 (see our link in the sidebar and here) and maybe this is also the case in PBSP, as news is coming out about this latest version to spin the same policies in a different manner.
Please read this open letter to the CCR, published Oct 16th 2012, with the reaction of the PB Short Corridor Collective to these new policies, requesting Gov. Jerry Brown intervenes:
Speaking of these new policies, please read the very well-documented story of Shane Bauer, which was published yesterday on Mother Jones Magazine website, which also discusses this latest version of the “gang (STG) validation policy” (see page 4):
Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.
We throw thousands of men in the hole for the books they read, the company they keep, the beliefs they hold. Here’s why.
—By Shane Bauer
Mother Jones, November/December 2012 Issue 79
IT’S BEEN SEVEN MONTHS since I’ve been inside a prison cell. Now I’m back, sort of. The experience is eerily like my dreams, where I am a prisoner in another man’s cell. Like the cell I go back to in my sleep, this one is built for solitary confinement. I’m taking intermittent, heaving breaths, like I can’t get enough air. This still happens to me from time to time, especially in tight spaces. At a little over 11 by 7 feet, this cell is smaller than any I’ve ever inhabited. You can’t pace in it.
Like in my dreams, I case the space for the means of staying sane. Is there a TV to watch, a book to read, a round object to toss? The pathetic artifacts of this inmate’s life remind me of objects that were once everything to me: a stack of books, a handmade chessboard, a few scattered pieces of artwork taped to the concrete, a family photo, large manila envelopes full of letters. I know that these things are his world.
“So when you’re in Iran and in solitary confinement,” asks my guide, Lieutenant Chris Acosta, “was it different?” His tone makes clear that he believes an Iranian prison to be a bad place.
He’s right about that. After being apprehended on the Iran-Iraq border, Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and I were held in Evin Prison’s isolation ward for political prisoners. Sarah remained there for 13 months, Josh and I for 26 months. We were held incommunicado. We never knew when, or if, we would get out. We didn’t go to trial for two years. When we did we had no way to speak to a lawyer and no means of contesting the charges against us, which included espionage. The alleged evidence the court held was “confidential.”
What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary confinement. What would he say if I told him I needed human contact so badly that I woke every morning hoping to be interrogated? Would he believe that I once yearned to be sat down in a padded, soundproof room, blindfolded, and questioned, just so I could talk to somebody?
I want to answer his question—of course my experience was different from those of the men at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison—but I’m not sure how to do it. How do you compare, when the difference between one person’s stability and another’s insanity is found in tiny details? Do I point out that I had a mattress, and they have thin pieces of foam; that the concrete open-air cell I exercised in was twice the size of the “dog run” at Pelican Bay, which is about 16 by 25 feet; that I got 15 minutes of phone calls in 26 months, and they get none; that I couldn’t write letters, but they can; that we could only talk to nearby prisoners in secret, but they can shout to each other without being punished; that unlike where I was imprisoned, whoever lives here has to shit at the front of his cell, in view of the guards?
“There was a window,” I say. I don’t quite know how to tell him what I mean by that answer. “Just having that light come in, seeing the light move across the cell, seeing what time of day it was—” Without those windows, I wouldn’t have had the sound of ravens, the rare breezes, or the drops of rain that I let wash over my face some nights. My world would have been utterly restricted to my concrete box, to watching the miniature ocean waves I made by sloshing water back and forth in a bottle; to marveling at ants; to calculating the mean, median, and mode of the tick marks on the wall; to talking to myself without realizing it. For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows. When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back. Its slow creeping against the wall reminded me that the world did in fact turn and that time was something other than the stagnant pool my life was draining into.
When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back.
Here, there are no windows.
From: SF Bay View
Oct. 14th 2012
by Mary Ratcliff
In the U.S., we not only encage 25 percent of the world’s prisoners – more than any nation in the history of the world and more Black people than were enslaved in 1850 – but we isolate at least 80,000 of them in solitary confinement. I contend that the purpose is to drive them mad; and after years of reading their letters, I believe they are targeted for this intense form of torture not because they are the worst of the worst but because they are the best and brightest.
In September, the Short Corridor Collective, prisoners confined to the SHU in Pelican Bay State Prison, one of the first and harshest examples of mass solitary confinement, sent out a historic call for racial hostilities to end in California prisons beginning Oct. 10.
Of the prisoners in the SHU, who are all “considered the most dangerous and influential (prisoners) in the state,” these men in the Short Corridor are “the leaders, what one authority called all the ‘alpha dogs,’” writes Nancy Mullane of KALW, who managed to get approval for a visit to the SHU – and even an interview with a SHU prisoner. In California, reporters’ access to prisoners is largely barred by law.
|In announcing their 10/10 rally, LA’s Youth Justice Council quote political exile Assata Shakur: “If unity happens inside the walls of prison, imagine the impacts it will have on our neighborhoods and youth!” – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez|
In a letter to prisoner advocates, these so-called “shot callers,” who prison officials say require isolation to prevent them from ordering prison murders, have shown their true colors. Writing “on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor,” they declare that “now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.”
“Therefore,” they write, “beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease.” With this call, prisoners who endure some of the world’s worst punishment have disarmed their jailers – disabling the most effective weapon in the Corrections Department arsenal: divide and conquer.
“In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit,” they write. So, with solidarity, the same men who led last year’s hunger strikes, which involved 12,000 prisoners at their peak, intend to achieve the modest relief they were promised then – promises still unfulfilled.
Prisoners respond to the call
When the Bay View published the call to end hostilities, prisoner advocate Kendra Castaneda printed 100 copies of the story and mailed them to 100 prisoners around the state, so that word would begin to spread before Bay View prisoner subscribers received their October papers. She was determined to make a way around the severe restrictions on prisoners’ ability to communicate.
|A large, enthusiastic crowd, including prisoners’ families and supporters as well as youth, turned out for the 10/10 rally in LA. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez|
And rumors reached us that the Corrections Department might ban the October Bay View statewide for containing the call that would effectively disarm them. We don’t yet know whether subscribers have received their papers. What we have heard is that many prisoners’ letters to the Bay View are being confiscated.
Of the 100 copies of the call to end hostilities that Kendra mailed, all appear to have been delivered except the 11 addressed to the very same men who wrote it. On Oct. 12, she received 11 “mail stops,” notices from the Pelican Bay gang unit claiming her letters violate California Code of Regulations Title 15 with “plans that violate the law” and facilitate prisoner-to-prisoner communication, even though she had deleted all the signers’ names and prison numbers.
Responses from prisoners who did receive her letters are beginning to reach Kendra, and here’s what they write:
“Of course this movement will immediately be looked at as home grown terrorism. We can’t allow such propaganda to interfere with our progress to educate our youth. The whole system operates on scare tactics, tactics that we shouldn’t fear.
“The challenges that lie ahead must be supremacy over the entire system. We can’t allow our decisions to be uncertain, because uncertainty won’t take us far. We also must implement principal to our purpose so that we may understand the cause. When people lose focus, things get ugly, and we all know who benefits from that!
“Last but not least, we/I know that rumors have been going around about certain stuff, and supposedly everything is coming from the Short Corridor. It sounds like the guards are attempting to disrupt the agreement by spreading these rumors around. We all must be careful not to fall into the guards’ web.
“I’m always prepared for the worst, especially when knowing I’m being psychologically tortured day after day.” – In struggle, Gustavo Chavez, E-45117, PBSP SHU D-8-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532, written Sept. 26, 2012
In a separate personal letter, Gustavo writes on Oct. 7: “Kendra, a lot of scandalous things are occurring up here. They have over 16 inmates from the main line on potty watch. I’m constantly being threatened by the coward pigs. Their tactics are aimed to disrupt what we are setting out to accomplish. You make sure to continue riding strong against the enemy regardless of the amount of times they try to bring you down.”
From Terrance E. White: “They’ve moved a lot of people over to Wasco State Prison Ad-Seg Unit, and they’re still validating people but have let non-serious incidents go back to the yard. That’s what I’ve witnessed.
“And they didn’t try to deter our Black August celebration this year. Here at North Kern State Prison, we had Southern Hispanics, Northern Hispanics and a few whites participate in our exercising routines on the yard (dog kennel) with us New Afrikkkans.
“We are all also aware of the peace treaty that’s to start Oct. 10, 2012, throughout the prison system and are all in agreement with it. It is about time to take back all that has been lost and continue to press forward in this struggle for liberation. They’ve had all us oppressed in these conditions for far too long.” – Comrade T, Terrance E. White, AG8738, KVSP D6-241, P.O. Box 5005, Delano, CA 93216, written Oct. 5, 2012
From Heshima Denham: “We received the comments (from several different sources) on the 10/10 cessation of hostilities and are in FULL adherence/compliance with all three points. However, there does seem to be some confusion on aspects of point 3 as it relates to the 10/10/2012 date, and we were wondering could we get some clarity from the main reps at PB?” – Heshima Denham, J-38283, Cor-SHU 4BIL-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212, written Oct. 3, 2012
Prisoners’ inability to communicate leads to confusion
The confusion Heshima mentions appears to be reflected in an Oct. 13 story in the Los Angeles Times. Prisoners apparently heard that a call had been put out by those who had called last year’s hunger strikes and assumed it was for another hunger strike. The Times reports:
“Corrections officials said they do not know why about 500 inmates started refusing food Wednesday, the same day a prison ‘end to hostilities’ was called by inmate activists who had orchestrated last year’s mass hunger strikes.
“The fasting began at opposite ends of the state. Several hundred inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison near the Oregon border refused meals from Wednesday through Friday, but began eating again Friday night, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. About 300 prisoners at California Correctional Institute in Tehachapi, north of Los Angeles, also began refusing meals Wednesday. About 200 of them continued to refuse food Saturday, Thornton said.”
“Prison officials regard the reference to race [in the call to end hostilities] as a synonym for the race-based gangs active in California prisons, including the Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood and 415 KUMI.
“Molly Porzig with Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity said Pelican Bay prison officials responded to the ceasefire by asking the 16 Short Corridor inmates whose names appear on the statement to acknowledge gang activity. She attributed the claim to a family member visiting one of those inmates last week.”
This suggests that CDCR is trying to turn the call to end hostilities on its head and consider it evidence of gang activity.
To nip in the bud these efforts to confuse and criminalize prisoners and stop their peaceful organizing, it is imperative that the truth be communicated to prisoners all over California. We urge readers to print out this story and mail it to prisoners you know. If you’re not currently corresponding with a prisoner, look for California prisoners from among the hundreds of pen pals listed in the Bay View.
The call to end hostilities is heard and heeded on the streets
Los Angeles’ Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) called for a “parallel cease fire in the streets” to correspond to the end of hostilities inside the prisons called by the Short Corridor Collective. Led by the youth, a large, diverse crowd rallied at 10 a.m. on 10/10 outside the LA County Men’s Jail.
In announcing their rally, YJC wrote: “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.”
As the crowd gathered for the 10/10 rally, a big banner greeted them: “To the cops we all look the same! Unite LA! Why fight each other? Fight for justice!” – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez
Photos taken at the rally that illustrate this story exude solidarity and hope.
Sponsoring organizations included Youth Justice Coalition, Fair Chance Project, LA Community Action Network, FACTS (Families to Amend California Three Strikes), California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement, Homies Unidos, California Faith Action, Coalition to Stop Sheriff Violence and Gender Justice LA. For more information or to add your organization as a supporter, email the Youth Justice Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (323) 235-4243.
The youth quote political exile Assata Shakur: “If unity happens inside the walls of prison, imagine the impacts it will have on our neighborhoods and youth!”
Another rally was held in Riverside. The announcement on Facebook reads: “We are calling on all communities in Riverside County to stand in solidarity with all of our loved ones locked inside California’s prisons and county jails. This press conference and rally calls on the CDCR and local county sheriff’s departments to honor the call to end all hostilities between racial groups.”
In the Bay Area, a panel discussion on the call to end hostilities among other topics under the heading, “Alternatives to the Prison System,” is set for Saturday, Oct. 20, 2:30 p.m., at the Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. The topics are:
- prisoners’ call for an end to hostilities, inside and in the communities
- a critique of power’s criminality as revealed in the existence of prisons
- real alternatives to the criminality of punishment
Panelists will include:
- Steve Martinot, author of “The Need to Abolish the Prison System: an Ethical Indictment”
- Joileen Richards, Campaign to End Mass Incarceration
- Urszula Wislanka, Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Support Committee, and News and Letters
- Melvin Dickson, The Commemorator: Commemoration Committee for the Black Panther Party
- Dorsey Nunn, All of Us or None
Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff can be reached at email@example.com or (415) 671-0789.
Short Corridor Collective Announces Agreement to End Hostilities
Posted on September 11, 2012 http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/short-corridor-collective-calls-for-statewide-end-to-hostilities/
See also: SF Bay View
Representatives of the CA Hunger Strike issued a statement calling for an end to all violence and hostility between different groups of prisoners throughout the state of CA from maximum security prisons to county jails. The statement asks prisoners to unite beginning October 10th, 2012.
In their statement sent to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, the representatives explain:
We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!! Because the reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force, that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole… and we simply cannot allow CDCR/CCPOA – Prison Guard’s Union, IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU, to continue to get away with their constant form of progressive oppression and warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners, including the 14,000 (+) plus prisoners held in solitary confinement torture chambers [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg Units] for decades!!!
Read the entire announcement from the Short Corridor Collective here.
CA PW posted it verbatim here under with screenshots of the PDF document.
Agreement to End Hostilities
August 12, 2012
To whom it may concern and all California Prisoners:
Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:
1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.
2. Therefore, beginning on October 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups… in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population, and County Jails, will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end… and if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!!
3. We also want to warn those in the General Population that IGI will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer “inmates” amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats, and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups’ mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes [i.e., forcing CDCR to open up all GP main lines, and return to a rehabilitative-type system of meaningful programs/privileges, including lifer conjugal visits, etc. via peaceful protest activity/noncooperation e.g., hunger strike, no labor, etc. etc.]. People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics, and refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU’s old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!!!
In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention, and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners], and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!! Because the reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force, that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole… and we simply cannot allow CDCR/CCPOA – Prison Guard’s Union, IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU, to continue to get away with their constant form of progressive oppression and warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners, including the 14,000 (+) plus prisoners held in solitary confinement torture chambers [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg Units], for decades!!!
We send our love and respects to all those of like mind and heart… onward in struggle and solidarity…
Presented by the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective:
Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106
And the Representatives Body:
Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124
[NOTE: All names and the statement must be verbatim when used & posted on any website or media, or non-media, publications]