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.

CCI Step Down Program is Bogus: we shall stop participating Monday, May 11, 2015

From a letter by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa:

May 7, 2015 [received June 18th]

… I have taken the position to shut down this fake SDP crap. So, all of Step 4, who have the most to lose, meaning, some of them are a couple of weeks away from completing their Step 4, and for some they are one, two, three, four months away from being on a mainline and for some of them it’s been 13, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 39 years since they last been in general population, and for Step 3 it ranges from 4 to 31 years.

We all agree that these latest types of 115s/RVR’s is just another way to keep us held in SHU or a means of bringing us back, once we make it out to the GP mainline and we’d rather take our stance now!!  So, you can start spreading this good news to Corcoran, New Folsom and Pelican Bay by radio, news articles and when family members travel to PBSP and the other two SHUs.

We shall stop participating Monday, May 11, 2015, indefinitely. We won’t be attending any CC hearings, directly dealing with Steps 3 and 4, nor shall we go to those group meetings, or do any more of those journals. Now, there are two groups for each Step 3 and 4, and that’s a total of 40 prisoners who would have been attending those group meetings weekly. This SDP cannot function without prisoners participating.

I need for you to share that Steps 3 and 4 prisoners will not continue to participate in the SDP that is corrupt and discriminatory against all SDP prisoners, and has been trying to provoke all of us to rebel, get angry and act out.

Our problems come from the Warden, Kim Holland; Chief Deputy Warden, J. Gutierrez; Chief Deputy Warden W. Sullivan; Capt. P. Metzers; IGI Lt. J. Tyree; R. Diaz; Deputy Director of Division of Adult Institutions, Sacramento office, M. Tann; former SDP Facilitator, B. Snider; CC-II at CCI, Ybarra; and all of these Tehachapi officials and the one Sacramento official who have knowledge that we as SHU/SDP prisoners have been denied our fundamental SHU rights; and as of two weeks ago we are being denied the use of a razor, or should I say, we have a choice to take a five (5) minute shower or take a (5) minute shave, but not both.

Now, 90% of all SDP privileges have been denied us from Jan. 2014 to May 2015. This is a failed program and all of the Heads of CDCr know what is going on here at Tehachapi, CCI.

Playing with Lives Using Old Rules

The NoseMilk posted this graphic recently about Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who has been incarcerated in the SHU since many many years (decades). Sitawa had made this statement in October in the SF Bay View (see below). For the full story, please visit The Nose Milk.


CDCr issues SHU sentences illegally

October 31, 2014

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, SF Bay View

I left Pelican Bay State Prison on July 11, 2014, and arrived that evening at DVI in Tracy. I laid over for a week, arriving at CCI-Tehachapi July 17.

The Ad Seg unit at DVI has to be one of the worst in CDCr. It’s filthy and fundamentally used as a warehouse for prisoners. The Step Down Program (SDP) committee is a complete sham at DVI and has been conducting unauthorized SDP committee hearings on prisoners from March 2013 to the present – 17 months of illegally validating men to indeterminate SHU sentences.

“The Prison Beast” – Art: Unknown prisoner (Dear reader, is this your work?)

George Giurbino and Suzan Hubbard, who lead the DRB (Departmental Review Board) case by case reviews, along with their supervisor, Michael Stainer, director of the Division of Adult Institutions (DAI), informed me and the other three main representatives of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement that they went to several CDCr prisons and saw that the wardens, chief deputy wardens, captains, ISU, IGI and other staff members were conducting illegal ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) hearings with alleged gang members or associates. At the same time, ranking CDCr officials across the state have been using the old standard of review, in effect prior to October 2012.

Now, Hubbard and Giurbino realized that it is very difficult for their subordinates to utilize the new STG-SDP without the new training. All the CDCr officials – Hubbard, Stainer, Giurbino and Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, knew that all prison officials needed to be re-trained according to the STG-SDP rules and policies.

These state officials realize that these alleged STG-SDP committees were not properly carrying out their duties. Therefore, they instructed and ordered all institutional staff to cease the STG-SDP committees, unless the prison officials have been re-trained by a certified training official.

To the present date, CDCr has knowingly been placing prisoners in SHU based upon gang validation rules that NO LONGER apply to thousands of prisoners held, sitting with gang validations and indeterminate SHU terms in Ad Seg and SHUs, in stand-alone cages across the state. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 prisoners are affected by the mismanagement, cover-up and sham practices of CDCr’s SDP committees!

The Step Down Program (SDP) committee is a complete sham at DVI and has been conducting unauthorized SDP committee hearings on prisoners from March 2013 to the present – 17 months of illegally validating men to indeterminate SHU sentences.

To my fellow prisoners within CDCr who have stood before an alleged STG-SDP committee since October 2012, there is the chance that your U.S. constitutional rights under the First, the Eighth and the 14th Amendments have been violated by those prison officials comprising the ICC, who served you with a gang SHU term or served you with an indeterminate SHU term.

Yes, you men at DVI, prison officials have been giving you gang SHU terms illegally! These types of gang SHU terms are happening all across CDCr prisons, and officials from CDCr head office in Sacramento are completely aware of the criminal acts committed by their subordinates.

Fellow prisoner, file your state writs at your local Superior Court, and once you meet the standards, showing that your rights have been violated, the Superior Court shall provide you with a lawyer at no cost to you. Seek your own justice because CDCr’s ranking officials’ jobs are to punish you, to violate your state and federal constitutional rights!

Yes, you men at DVI, prison officials have been giving you gang SHU terms illegally!

“Stand up for your rights!” CDCr shall not censor my thoughts, and I have love for my Brutha Bob Marley for that quote from him.

It is truly hard, next to impossible, to change the racist and culturally discriminatory practices of the 38 years of their bias toward inmates, which has been directed at prisoners of color and poor whites by CDCr on various levels.

Power to the prisoners who don’t fear justice!

In struggle! Revolutionary love and respect!

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, CCI SHU 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

An End to Solitary is Long Overdue

California’s Savage System of Confinement

Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be held indefinitely in solitary. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.

Despite these repeated condemnations by the U.N., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is harshening rather than easing its policies, currently with three new sets of regulations. The administration’s iron-fisted strategy is emerging: project the appearance of a reforming system while extending its reach, and restrict the ability of prisoners and their loved ones to organize for their rights.

First, the CDCR has instituted a “Step Down Program” ostensibly to create a pathway out of indefinite solitary. However, the program actually widens the net of who can be considered a threat and therefore eligible for placement in solitary. Recently adopted regulations replace the old language of “gang” with “Security Threat Group” (STG) and the previous list of a dozen identified gangs is now replaced with a dizzying list of over 1500 STGs. Under these new regulations, even family members and others outside the prisons can be designated as part of an STG. Given the fact that indefinite solitary is used disproportionately against people of color – in Pelican Bay, 85% of those in isolation are Latino – the language used to justify placement in solitary eerily mirrors the rhetoric of the federal government and its permanent state of war against its declared enemies, all of whom are people of color.

The CDCR promulgated a second set of rule changes last summer with sweeping new “obscenity” regulations governing mail going both in and out of prisons. The original proposal was to explicitly ban any “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society,” yet after coming under heavy criticism, CDCR decided to mask its Orwellian motives by hiding behind the above mentioned language of STGs. This ominous language violates First Amendment rights, and reveals a broader agenda: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

A third element of CDCR’s strategy of containment is the implementation of highly intimidating visiting procedures designed to keep family members away from their loved ones. Draconian new visiting regulations authorize the use of dogs and electronic drug detectors to indiscriminately search visitors for contraband, even though both methods are notoriously unreliable. These procedures effectively criminalize family members and deter them from visiting, especially in a period of a growing family-led movement against solitary.

The three new policies are also intended to extend CDCR’s reach beyond the prison walls. As an organizer and family member of a prisoner, I’m censored when sending letters to my brother, Sitawa N. Jamaa, subjected to gratuitous and intimidating searches during visits, and susceptible to being labeled an STG associate. These are all ways that CDCR is trying to keep me from knowing how my brother and others are doing, and to repress my organizing.

Taken individually, these regulations may seem to address unrelated issues. But given they are all coming down simultaneously – just a year after the last of a series of historic hunger strikes by people in California prisons has given rise to the highest level of self-organization and empowerment among imprisoned people since the 1970s – these regulations are nothing less than a systematic attempt to silence and retaliate against prisoners’ growing resistance. Over 30,000 prisoners participated in 2013’s strike, some for 60 days, risking their health and lives for an end to indefinite solitary. Prisoners’ family members and loved ones also took up leadership roles in political organizing in unprecedented ways. The movement to abolish solitary continues to gain momentum around the country.

The hunger strikes were a significant part of an ongoing national sea change regarding the use of solitary, as states are waking up to its dangers. Illinois, Maine and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary units without any loss of institutional safety. New York and Arizona were recently forced to reduce their use of isolation, with Colorado and New Jersey following suit.

Yet California steadfastly remains an outlier seemingly impervious to change, led by an administration that relies on tired rhetoric about “the worst of the worst” to justify torture. People locked up in California have a decades-long history of fighting for the rights and dignity of prisoners, affirming their humanity in the face of inhumane conditions and demanding change. The U.N. report calls on this government to “ban prison regimes of solitary confinement such as those in super-maximum security detention facilities.” It’s time for California to listen.

Marie Levin is the sister of Sitawa N. Jamaa, a prisoner in solitary confinement at Tehachapi. She is a member of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

Mohamed Shehk is the Media and Communications Director of Critical Resistance, and also contributed to this piece.

Shine a light on Tehachapi, where CDCr has violated prisoners’ constitutional rights for far too long!

A powerful and insightful letter from one of the leaders of the 2011 and 2013 California hunger strikes for Human Rights:
From: SF Bay View, October 31, 2014

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa


This is a summarized version of a letter I sent to Mike Stainer, director of Adult Institutions, July 28, 2014, in order to address the long standing U.S. constitutional violations at CCI-Tehachapi and bring this prison under the current SHU standards forthwith:

Salamu (Greetings), Mr. Stainer and Mr. Diaz:

CCI Tehachapi Prison lies in the Tehachapi Mountains 35 miles east of Bakersfield between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. – Photo: CDCr
CCI Tehachapi Prison lies in the Tehachapi Mountains 35 miles east of Bakersfield between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. – Photo: CDCr

As I briefly reach out to you and your staff member, Mr. Diaz, I trust you are in good health and state of mind. I see that you are continuing to press the CDCR’s STG-SDP, and from where I’m sitting, your office is facing some serious structural dysfunctions throughout your prisons, regarding your alleged Steps 3 and 4.

These programs have supposedly been operational since Oct. 12, 2012, and Mr. George Giurbino and Ms. Suzan Hubbard have been campaigning and speaking highly of their Steps 3 and 4 program. It does not exist!

This is one of the most refined schemes I have ever witnessed, and Gov. Jerry Brown is actually scapegoating prisoners with the need for the Step 3 and 4 program. The talking points used by Giurbino and Hubbard to the public and to Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano were untrue.

Stay tuned. Enough said for the moment. I just wanted to share my thoughts, being that myself and other prisoners are seeing this type of hell first hand and UP CLOSE!

My purpose is to establish monthly meetings between CCI-Tehachapi officials and the four prisoner negotiators – myself, Danny Troxell (B-76578), John Solis (C-52754) and Javier Martinez (T-62995) – who shall speak on behalf of the Tehachapi SHU prisoner class. Now, over a month or so ago while still at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP), I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Diaz about establishing a similar working body to address some long standing problems here at CCI.
He agreed that some things needed to be worked out. Since my arrival, I see that the problems are of a constitutional nature and we do feel many can be resolved right here locally.

My purpose is to establish monthly meetings between CCI-Tehachapi officials and the four prisoner negotiators – myself, Danny Troxell (B-76578), John Solis (C-52754) and Javier Martinez (T-62995) – who shall speak on behalf of the Tehachapi SHU prisoner class.


I truly understand the cultural changes you are facing, Mr. Stainer, with wardens all the way through to correctional officers, but these cultural changes have been at the expense of prisoners across the prison system. These acts of persuasion and perturbation by prison staff have to cease immediately here at Tehachapi! The cultural level with prisoners has changed and continues to change.

There has to be a serious dialogue with yourself, Stainer and Diaz, along with Tehachapi prison officials, in order to truly standardize all SHUs, and currently Tehachapi is an un-standardized prison. All SHUs, and currently Tehachapi, are un-standardized. They should follow PBSP as the new and current model of areas that need to be altered in accordance with the new standard model that we should be after.

We, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM), need supporters to shine a light on this prison, for they have violated prisoners’ constitutional rights for far too long! We must be afforded our 10 hours of exercising a week. We must be afforded three hours of visiting. Those are two of our immediate requests and demands. Prisoners have been denied these rights for years!
In struggle!

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, CCI SHU 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

How torture is inflicted on prisoners in solitary confinement

February 24, 2014
Published in: SF Bay View

by Mutope Duguma and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

This is a glimpse into torture by prison staff, using any means available, of which solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison in California is only a reflection of the inhumane treatment and clear U.S. constitutional violations of our First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights that prisoners in solitary everywhere are subjected to.

Torture by deprivation

The objective of the deprivation method is not complicated. It is to attack the sensory organs and perception with methods to impair them. The weapon of deprivation cannot be effective without having in place a conditioning process to produce degeneration over a long period of time. The psychological, social and cultural trauma is observable in such a sterile and punitive environment.

Deprivation is cannibalistic for the spirit that is willing to stay the course. The flesh becomes weakened as men feed on themselves and others, eating away at human excellence. The feasting of deprivation will become more than flesh, blood or nature can endure. Indeterminate SHU confinement has left individuals with having to choose between discontinuity and becoming inflicted with a cannibalistic nature.

There are two aspects of deprivation, the psychological and the physical, where the mind acts upon the body. This two-edged torture can be effective either way. But in order for deprivation to eat away at the targeted prisoner’s consciousness, a conversion reaction must occur that breaks down the psychological defense mechanism.

Declaration on Protection from Torture

The “Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as Resolution 3452 (XXX) on Dec. 9, 1975. The declaration contains 12 articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

Types of torture

Medical: Honorable Judge Thelton Henderson ordered a receivership to oversee CDCr’s PBSP SHU due to intentional medical neglect which led to prisoners dying, as frequently as one a week, in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation system. Many of these deaths were, and continue to be, in solitary confinement. This is torture.

Solitary confinement: Prisoners are held in isolation for 10 to 40 years despite having only non-disciplinary infractions during that time. This is torture.

Mail: Prisoner mail is being used to create physical and psychological torment. Mail can be arbitrarily withheld for weeks on a regular basis, and has been known to be withheld for years, even when there are court orders to release the mail to a prisoner being unjustly deprived. This is torture.

Food: Food is intentionally prepared poorly, contaminated and disproportionate. Nutritional food is deliberately denied. This is torture.

No human contact: Prisoners have no real, meaningful social interaction with other human beings, especially family and close friends. Our five senses – touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste – become dulled from deprivation. This is torture.

Visiting: Constantly, under the CDCr gestapo style agency of correctional safety, the Investigative Service Unit (ISU) and Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) and other such units deliberately intimidate visitors and prisoners. This is torture.

Cell searches: These are used to intimidate, harass and trash prisoners’ cells, leaving them in disarray while taking political writings, pictures, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, magazines etc., causing psychological torment. This is torture.

No sanitation: Prisoners are deliberately kept in unsanitary units. For example, showers are allowed four times a week, but the showers are cleaned only twice a week. There is an abundance of mold, mice, bugs, gnats, fungus etc. This is torture.

Climate: Prisoners are kept in freezing cold or burning hot cells, depending on the time of year, a complaint that has been made for over 21 years. This is torture.

Contraband watch, or potty watch: It is humiliating, dehumanizing and outright cruel and unusual punishment when prisoners are held in shackles and placed in the middle of a hall while being placed on a portable “potty,” while cops (female too) and prisoners with escorts are walking by. There are reports of prisoners being placed in cages, without a toilet or running water. Men are placed in a diaper with a prison jumpsuit over it, while the victim’s hands are bound into a fist-wrap. PVC pipe forced onto arms and black boxes over the hands have also been used. The prisoner is required to defecate three separate times during a three-day period. The torment and suffering are truly visible on the prisoner’s face. This is done to cause severe humiliation, along with mental, physical and psychological torment. This is torture.

Family: Each validated prisoner’s family is deliberately harassed, intimidated and intentionally hoaxed into false prosecution for a thoughtless crime by gestapo-type units (OCS, ISU, SSU and IGI) with the intent of discouraging any support or communication with the prisoner. This is torture.

Grievances: The 602 appeal process, at each of its three levels is deliberately set up to not afford a prisoner relief, regardless of whether prison officials are dead wrong in their accusations. This clearly establishes that there is no accountability for what officials do to prisoners. This is torture.

In addition, the structural features of the various solitary confinement units throughout the U.S. prison industrial complex (PIC) make it possible to target specific prisoners by utilizing sensory deprivation to undermine the social, cultural and ethical values that the targeted prisoners hold. Prisoners are rare who can escape the ravages of the torture that results from long term isolation and the negative assaults by guards in any of California’s supermax control units and similar units all over the U.S.

This is torture.

The science behind the use of deprivations has been perfected by the handlers to operate with devastating force. We know there is no separation between physical torture and mental torture. Torture is a double-edged sword that can slice effectively either way to exact punishment or revenge. It has the purpose of taking away a targeted prisoner’s human dimension and essence.

This is torture.

July 9 Message from Short Corridor Hungerstrike Reps

Reblogged from: Kersplebedeb:
See also: SF Bay View for a broader summery!

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.

In Solidarity,

– 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

Hungry for reform | SF Bay Guardian

Hungry for reform | SF Bay Guardian

California prisoners prepare for another hunger strike to protest persistently deplorable conditions

Sitawa Jamaa is among the thousands of California inmates who, two years ago this summer, took part in the largest prison hunger strike in US history to protest harsh conditions and their invisibility to those outside prison walls.

Now, Jamaa and other prisoners are about to launch another hunger strike to highlight the system’s unfulfilled promises and the persistence of inhumane conditions.

Read the rest here

Motion denied, Governor: Medical neglect is still killing prisoners

From: SF Bay View, March 22, 2013

by Mutope Duguma, Sitawa N. Jamaa, Abdul O. Shakur and Sondai K. Dumisani

Gov. Brown has declared that the prison crisis that allowed prisoners to die is over and that prisoners are receiving good care. His words, not ours.

It is obvious that the governor has not produced any data that supports his claim. Furthermore, the governor is deliberately misinforming the public, because he and the officials of CDCr – the secretary and undersecretary – are arbitrarily choosing not to provide the public with adequate information that pertains to the incompetence that continues to endanger prisoners by murdering them through direct medical neglect and incompetence.

Prisoners in cages await group therapy, Mule Creek State Prison, photo from U.S. District Court briefings

In this photo taken as part of federal litigation over California prison conditions, prisoners await a group therapy session at Mule Creek State Prison. How could being confined in tiny cages dissuade prisoners from committing suicide? – Photo filed in U.S. District Court briefings

We prisoners have read the Los Angeles Times article by Paige St. John, “California suppressed consultant’s report on inmate suicides,” dated Feb. 28, 2013, and we can only hope that justice will continue to prevail, by not only maintaining the oversight of CDCr’s “health care service,” as well as extend it to the very root of the problems that cause the very many deaths and suicides that are happening throughout CDCr.
Solitary confinement in California and throughout the United States is real. The lingering of human beings – i.e., prisoners – in these torture chambers (SHUs and Ad Segs) indefinitely has basically created the result that led to human beings dying unnecessarily inside these solitary confinement torture units.

Alex Machado, Christian Gomez, Armando Morales, John Owen Vick and Hozel Alonzo Blanchard are all men who should be alive, by all means, and the fact that the CDCr has reported 32 deaths by suicide in the year of 2012 alone should be more than enough reason for the oversight to be continued – and expanded as well. The CDCr’s own experts afforded them the procedures to follow in order to prevent such deaths. However, not only did the CDCr attempt to suppress this report and now the evidence in it, but the CDCr had the audacity to request that the United States District Court destroy that report.

The governor and the officials of CDCr are arbitrarily choosing not to provide the public with adequate information that pertains to the incompetence that continues to endanger prisoners by murdering them through direct medical neglect and incompetence.

Thankfully, for the lives of California prisoners, the judge refused to cooperate with such a conspiracy. Suppression of evidence like this is not an isolated act, because we prisoners know that the licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses and doctors do not responsibly oversee the CDCr health care services. Their actions are influenced by the local officials and officers who have total control over the prison.

Alex Machado, Christian Gomez, Armando Morales, John Owen Vick and Hozel Alonzo Blanchard are all men who should be alive, by all means, and the fact that the CDCr has reported 32 deaths by suicide in the year of 2012 alone should be more than enough reason for the oversight to be continued – and expanded as well.

Prison staff relationships are intermingled through personal relations – marriage, family, friendship – and are reflected by the transitions from health care services to corrections or vice versa. A good example as to how much the officials and officers control health care services can be seen in the two 2011 prisoner hunger strikes.

On July 2, 2011, prisoners held in solitary confinement in SHU and Ad Seg for years, subjected to torture and cruel and unusual punishment in violation of our U.S. constitutional rights, decided to go on a peaceful hunger strike, in which over 6,000 of us participated.

The only reason we received adequate health care services (medical treatment) during our July 1, 2011, hunger strike that lasted to July 20 is because the federal receivership oversaw the medical treatment; prisoners were weighed, vitals checked, vitamins provided daily. This prevented thousands of prisoners from suffering when many emergencies could have resulted in thousands of prisoners dying, due to CDCr Secretary Matthew Cate and Undersecretary Scott Kernan violating a verbal agreement to implement our reasonable Five Core Demands, an agreement that resulted in us ending our first hunger strike.

The only reason we received adequate health care services (medical treatment) during our July 1, 2011, hunger strike that lasted to July 20 is because the federal receivership oversaw the medical treatment.

Therefore, we decided to go back on our second hunger strike on Sept. 26, 2011, in which 12,000 prisoners participated throughout CDCr, clearly demonstrating that there is a widespread problem of deliberate medical neglect and torture inside CDCr solitary confinement units.

During our Sept. 26, 2011, hunger strike, which lasted to Oct. 13, 2011, the federal receivership allowed CDCr to oversee the health care services. The result of this action not only placed prisoners’ health at risk, but CDCr immediately implemented a policy protocol for overseeing the hunger strike that was catastrophic for prisoners: Thousands suffered and several died when CDCr was allowed to have control over the hunger strike, in which hunger strikers were denied medical treatment throughout the hunger strike.

The prison guards have no medical training yet were allowed to say to medical personnel that a prisoner was faking – “He’s not sick” – and oddly enough, the medical staff tended to allow this to be the authority on which they proceeded. Thousands of prisoners suffered behind this ill advised information. We received no daily checkups, no vitals checks, no vitamins, no weigh-ins conducted under CDCr medical supervision. Many times medical problems were treated too late and by this time the damage was done.

The conflict of interest lies in the relationships between the prison guards, who are responsible for providing security only, and those who are responsible for providing health care services, food and religious services etc. Unfortunately, the prison guards have structured the prison environment around the deprivation of the prisoners, simply to demonstrate its dominance over prisoners, which creates severe violation of prisoners’ constitutionally protected rights.

During our Sept. 26, 2011, hunger strike, which lasted to Oct. 13, 2011, thousands suffered and several died when CDCr was allowed to have control over the hunger strike, in which hunger strikers were denied medical treatment throughout the hunger strike. 

The Bill of Rights’ 10 original amendments and Reconstruction amendments 11 through 27 of the Constitution – particularly important in respect to prisoners, the First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments – are deliberately violated routinely. The many settlements of prisoner lawsuits in years past speak volumes to this fact.

Gov. Brown’s current changes have not rendered any justice or humane treatment of prisoners thus far, and the death count and the many prisoners held inside solitary confinement, who suffer from numerous ailments and torture, only seem to exacerbate this problem. Therefore, we prisoners can only hope, in the interest of our livelihood and humanity, that the courts expand their oversight and open up an independent investigation as to why prisoners are held unjustly in solitary confinement.
Send our brothers some love and light:

  • Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), D-05596, D1-117 up, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Sitawa N. Jamaa (Ronnie Dewberry), C-35671, D1-117 low, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Abdul O. Shakur (James Harvey), C-48884, D1-119 low, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Sondai K. Dumisani (Randall Ellis), C-68764, D1-223 low, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

The Pelikkkan Bay factor: An indictable offense

Published in: SF Bay View, Jan. 17th 2013
by Abdul Olugbala Shakur, Mutope Duguma, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Abasi Banda

Pacovilla graphic CCPOA chapter pres. Greg Kissick warning re Corcoran budget cuts 101112
Prior to 1987, the CDCR had a policy of segregating alleged members of rival prison groups while assigned to the Security Housing Unit (SHU) exercise yard. This policy was designed to minimize prison violence, and based on available statistics, this was an effective policy.

On Pacovilla.com, a blog for CDCR correctional officers, this  illustration for the Oct. 11, 2012, story headlined “Dark tidings: Communities warned of security cuts at Corcoran Prison” appears to hark back to Corcoran’s bloody first 12 years after it opened in 1988, when 30 prisoners were shot by guards. The excuse for the shootings were “gladiator fights,” as they came to be known after the public eventually learned, via 60 Minutes and much other mainstream coverage, that guards were coercing fights between prisoners of different races for the guards’ entertainment and gambling. Pacovilla’s caption reads, “Greg Kissick, CSP-Corcoran’s CCPOA Chapter President, notified the people of Middle Earth of looming danger in the realm.”

But 1987 marked a change in this policy, when New Folsom State Prison partially integrated their SHU exercise yards. This partial integration resulted in a visible increase in prison violence, but what most people in society were not aware of is the internal dynamics which were conducive towards the facilitation of that abrupt increase in violence. That internal dynamics were the new Folsom State Prison administration and staff micro-managing and orchestrating the conditions, designed to perpetuate both racial and rival group violence.

For example, let’s say a conflict breaks out between a New Afrikan and white prisoner. Instead of trying to contain the conflict, the pigs would move these same two individuals to another unit within the SHU, and now the conflict has spread to another unit. Now more people are involved, escalating the violence and racial conflict. The pigs would then move these same individuals to another unit, further escalating the violence. And being that prisoners are so caught up in the struggle for survival, we tend to become oblivious to the administrative manipulation of the conditions.

I became aware of staff manipulation when they attempted to insert me into the conflict, being that they knew that I had zero tolerance for New Afrikan prisoners being attacked. So they took me out of Bed Rock (i.e., Behavioral Control Unit), moved me in the cell with Brotha Fela, then they moved me in the cell with Brotha Abasi Banda. Then they moved everybody who was in the initial conflict into the section I was in. It became very intense. I, along with Brotha Abasi, became mediators for the conflicting parties.

What most people in society were not aware of is the internal dynamics which were conducive towards the facilitation of that abrupt increase in violence. That internal dynamics were the new Folsom State Prison administration and staff micro-managing and orchestrating the conditions, designed to perpetuate both racial and rival group violence.

Though we initiated a cease fire in that particular unit, the pigs were doing everything in their power to undermine our efforts. Their anticipation of me mobilizing an attack proved to be an inaccurate assessment of my character. At this point, the pigs moved more prisoners into our section who had been involved in the initial conflict. Truthfully, the yard was on the verge of exploding. Prisoners were allegedly being intercepted for allegedly trying to bring knives to the exercise yard. The pigs’ manipulation reached its desperation point one day when administration pulled me out to the front office and point-blank told me they would have the gunman leave his post and allow me and the Brothas to attack the whites.

The pigs were mad at the whites for allegedly stabbing a guard, and they wanted me to go after this one individual because he was scheduled for release. I stood up and cursed them all and told them to take me back to my cell. When I got back to the unit, I told everybody what had occurred. They didn’t like that.
About two days later, the gang unit raided our cells – my cell and the cells of the Brothas who associated with myself and Brotha Abasi. They also took us to the prison hospital for x-rays to determine if we had weapons in our rectum cavity. All the other Brothas were kept in holding cells indoors while our cells were being searched. I was kept in an outdoor holding cell approximately four hours. They took us back to our cells between 11:30 and midnight.

Them pigs had tore up our cells. Everything was on the floor, personal pictures as well as letters from family.
A little after midnight the gang unit came to our cell and told me I was being moved back to Bed Rock for a conspiracy. Everybody knew that this was a blatant lie. There were Brothas that night allegedly in possession of knives and hacksaw blades, but I was the only one sent to Bed Rock, and they found nothing in me and Brotha Abasi’s cell. But this was punishment because I had refused to spread this racial conflict and be their little pawn.

The pigs’ manipulation reached its desperation point one day when administration pulled me out to the front office and point-blank told me they would have the gunman leave his post and allow me and the Brothas to attack the whites.

People, the above story is very relevant. It exemplifies the orchestrated conditions manufactured by the CDCR, designed to ignite and perpetuate conflict between prisoners.

Being that the CDCR did not get the desired effect from this partial integration, toward the end of 1988, they fully integrated the SHU exercise yard. Those of us who had the capacity to resolve this conflict, the pigs placed us in Bed Rock under false allegations, and as a result, all hell broke out, the prelude to Corcoran State Prison. The conflict was being transported to the SHU yard at Corcoran SP, which resulted in the rapid increase in prison violence. Corcoran SP, at the peak of this CDCR-sanctioned conflict, was averaging two to four assaults a day.

At that time, most prisoners did not understand what was happening, but those of us who have been very active in the movement knew that something wasn’t right. We asked ourselves: Why would the CDC change their policy at this juncture, especially when the policy was proven to be effective? The answer appeared to be a simple one: to intentionally increase prison violence between alleged members of rival prison groups.
We soon discovered that it wasn’t that simple. We realized that the CDC was using us as a means to develop the statistics – propaganda – to justify the building of Pelican Bay State Prison and its over $200 million price tag.

The CDCR justification for Pelican Bay is rooted in two primary criteria: 1) to isolate the so-called worst of the worst, who have proved too violent to be held at other prisons, and 2) to presumably minimize prison violence.

The CDCR reported an increase in prison violence to the media on a number of occasions between 1987 and 1990. What the CDCR intentionally neglected to tell the public is that it was their policy, both in practice and intent, that was responsible for the rapid increase in prison violence!

Also, there were two other factors that must be considered. In 1987, the CDCR implemented a “shoot to kill” policy, and in 1988, they changed weapons and ammunition. The new bullet was designed to blow up in our bodies – a guaranteed kill!

Based on the evidence, the policies implemented at both New Folsom and Corcoran state prisons were not only a prelude to Pelican Bay State Prison but were specifically designed to justify and add credence to the CDCR campaign to build Pelican Bay State Prison. If there is any doubt in your mind about these allegations, ask yourself: Why would the CDCR integrate the SHU exercise yard at a time when they knew violence between the different rival groups was guaranteed to break out?

What the CDCR intentionally neglected to tell the public is that it was their policy, both in practice and intent, that was responsible for the rapid increase in prison violence!

The CDCR was not being pressured by state politicians or by a court order or by the public to integrate known rival gangs and group members. So what was the CDCR’s motivation? Also, consider this: The CDCR knew without a doubt that by integrating the SHU exercise yards, all hell was going to break out, so why would the CDCR adopt a “shoot to kill” policy at the same time the forced integration policy was being implemented? And then introduce a new weapon that was designed to facilitate the “shoot to kill” policy?

In a five year period, the CDCR murdered 27 prisoners. At least seven were murdered on the integrated SHU exercise yard at Corcoran State Prison and approximately five men on the SHU exercise yard at New Folsom. Compare this to the rest of the country’s state and federal prison system during the same five year period, where a total of only seven prisoners were murdered by prison guards in all other states combined!

Are the crimes of murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon – e.g., an assault rifle – justified simply because the victims of these crimes are alleged criminals or gang members? You, as taxpayers have also been the victim of a state-sponsored crime. The CDCR politically hijacked and extorted over $200 million from your hard-earned tax dollars to build the high-tech torture chamber. This prison was not even necessary. Keep in mind that it was the CDCR that escalated the violence.

Pelican Bay State Prison is rooted in deception, exploitation, extortion, violence and murder. It is a symbol of crimes against humanity!

Two-hundred and fifty million dollars could have been used to enhance the quality of learning in the so-called inner cities, provided funding for crime prevention and criminal rehabilitation programs, drug rehab, day care, prenatal care, job training and job placement, and INCREASE teachers wages. We can go on and on. These things alone could have a very positive and productive impact on crime and society at large!

As an attempt to end hostilities and abolish the Security Housing Units, as we know them, the malignancy – the Pelikkkan Bay Factor – has re-emerged with the intent to impede our progress towards justice and humanity. So it is imperative that we resist any temptation to capitulate our moral integrity and fortitude within our endeavors to obtain our Five Core Demands and end all racial and group hostilities.

Pelican Bay State Prison is rooted in deception, exploitation, extortion, violence and murder.

The factors that served as a prelude to Pelikkkan Bay State Prison are the same factors being employed by the CDCR to justify its continued existence. Though I provided only a brief illustration of the CDCR manipulation and micromanaging of both racial and group hostilities, I believe it is enough to assist us in navigating through the tricks and traps of the CDCR.

We must remain vigilant in pursuit of our righteous cause and ignore the rumors of war being cultivated and propagated by the pigs. Their desperation is a clear sign of how close we are to victory!

Send our brothers some love and light:

  • Abdul Olugbala Shakur, s/n J. Harvey, C-48884, D-1-119, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Mutope Duguma, s/n J. Crawford, D-05996, D-1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R. Dewberry, C-35671, D-1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Abasi Banda, s/n C. Jackson, C-33559, D-2-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532