CDCR’s Security Threat Group Pilot Program: a document intentionally designed to fail

From: NCTT-Cor-SHU:

Jan 17th 2013

California’s CDCR’s Security Threat Group Pilot Program (which includes its proposed step down program [S.D.P.] ) is a document intentionally designed to fail. It not only grossly deviates from the behavior-based intent the department swore to the public, legislators, and prisoners subjected to these torture units for the past 10, 20, 30, or 40 years – but actually codifies an expectation of all prisoners to become state informants in the service of maintaining these torture units in violation of already established law.


As you can see on the “Reporting S.T.G. involvement” segment of the “Step Down Program” in the official CDCR press release ( see illustration below, marked with our *, page 4), CDCR has codified an expectation that one becomes a “confidential informant,” qualitatively no different than debriefing. They state in clear language that prisoners “have the responsibility to report S.T.G.  or criminal activity when known or observed by you.”
This is informing, snitching, ratting and will result in someone else being subjected to years of torture. They go on to state:

“This process is not intended to compromise your safety, but to enhance your safety through the identification and removal of those involved in S.T.G. or criminal activities.”

This is an intentional lie. By CDCR’s own admission, one of the primary reasons they have maintained these torture units and created ‘sensitive needs yards’ is that such informing will incur violent retaliation against suspected informants. Their inclusion of this provision has a more insidious purpose related to their Schenerian behavior modification program, but for purposes of this discussion we’ll stick to the 8th Amendment violation inherent in this action by the state.

In Griffinv. Gomez, the U.S. Northern District Court held,

“The crushing conditions of the SHU present an overwhelming incentive for an inmate to risk debriefing… (and) [CDCR’s] refusal to reconsider the classification of former gang members who are unwilling to risk retaliation (for informing) renders their segregation effectively permanent (Docket no. 120, at 8). It is this mutual reinforcement that extended (prisoners) stay in the SHU for over 20 years… Further confinement is tantamount to indefinite administrative segregation for silence – an intolerable practice in modern society.”


The court accordingly found this compulsory requirement to inform violates the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, yet here we see CDCR not only expanding it outside the confines of the debriefing process, but codifying it as an expectation for inclusion in the S.D.P., something no principled man or woman currently consigned to these torture units will submit to under any circumstance, and CDCR is fully aware of this fact. They are fully aware that it ciolates established law. They are fully aware that it violates the U.N. Treaty against Torture and other cruel and degrading treatment… They just don’t care. They are counting on the disinterest and political apathy of youthe people – to turn a blind eye to their maintenance if these torture units in your name, with your tax dollars. The only question facing us as a society is: will you? Only you can answer that question.

Our solidarity always – N.C.T.T.-Cor-SHU
NCTTCorSHU.org

“Reporting STG involvement”

They circle like vultures

In: SF Bay View
October 27, 2012

by Alfred Sandoval

The Department of Corruption’s draft of the Step Down Program [for release from SHU without “debriefing,” i.e., snitching or inventing information about other prisoners to be used as evidence for their validation and SHU confinement] – well, it’s crap! I really believe that it was intended to get a negative reaction – because in the new version, it would actually take five years, whereas their last proposal was four years!

The new draft allows for any CO (correctional officer) or staff member to have any prisoner placed in SHU for anything they deem necessary, citing safety and security and public safety, even without any disciplinary action. Many of us have seen first hand the abusive nature of sadistic, racist and misogynistic CO staff who fabricate information to “break” prisoners.

Of all the alleged changes to the policy, not one allows for real scrutiny of the information used to indefinitely house prisoners in the dungeons of California’s prison system – the SHUs. But then look at how much money – taxpayers’ money – is made off of one prisoner’s SHU housing.

The so called shareholders are reaping in money hand over fist while prisoners in the SHU are routinely mistreated and denied medical care. I really was not surprised when Gov. Brown vetoed the media access bill. Imagine having an Abu Ghraib exposed on his watch!

Many of us have seen first hand the abusive nature of sadistic, racist and misogynistic CO staff who fabricate information to “break” prisoners.

Right now I have a civil suit pending in the Northern District Court – Sandoval v. D. Barneburg et al, No. C12-3007 LHK (PR) – citing excessive use of force by PBSP IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation) unit. The DVD that documented all the injuries inflicted on me disappeared from an evidence locker. But I knew it would; these COs have a well formed code of silence that guarantees impunity to all COs and staff who abuse prisoners.

Some actually belong to the PBSP “honor guard.” Since the hunger strikes, the COs and IGIs have continued to attempt to incite conflict between prisoners, but we all know it’s a divide and conquer tactic. Many of us have 20-30 years in the SHUs and many have actually grown up together through the system, so we know what’s what and know when we’re being played by the COs and staff.
The warden has made it clear that he will not sign any order for the items agreed to during the mediations because he is retiring in January with a full pension.

Since the hunger strikes, the COs and IGIs have continued to attempt to incite conflict between prisoners, but we all know it’s a divide and conquer tactic.

Recently many prisoners have been reclassified as “high risk medical,” but it’s a sham to give prisoners false hope of actually getting medical care that is not overseen by the IGI unit. The chief medical officer will state the prisoner can be treated here, thereby nullifying the “high risk” portion, but PBSP will get the extra state funds to house us here until we die.

Many of the prisoners who are dying refuse to go to the clinic. Most wait until the very last minute because the clinic rooms are nasty, without reading material or TV or anything but a single bed. So once you’re taken to the clinic, you just sit on the bed and wait to die. It’s a guarantee that the IGI will stop by to ask if you’re ready to debrief before you die. They circle like vultures.

Send our brother some love and light: Alfred Sandoval, D-61000, PBSP SHU D4-214, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532. This letter was written to and transcribed by Kendra Castaneda. It was written on Oct. 21.

[photo: Imagine your life encased in a 7-by-11-foot cage with no window, the light on 24/7 and no privacy, under the watchful eyes of people paid to break your spirit – and your body – all because they fear you have influence with other prisoners. – Photo: North Coast Journal]

New Hunger strikes against new CDCR policies for gang validations – Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers: TV’s have been taken away

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, kendracastaneda55@gmail.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.

Also the roundup by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.

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:

On Anniversary of Hunger Strike Pelican Bay Prisoners in Solitary Confinement See No Change, Request Intervention of CA Governor

As well as being published in the SF Bay View (and taken over here).

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.

Read more here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/10/solitary-confinement-shane-bauer

Open letter by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough (Corcoran-SHU): The road is long and hard and rough, but anything worth loving, is worth fighting for

Also published in the SF Bay View

“Dear Kendra,

Hello sis. It is my/our hope that you continue to be of sound health upon receiving this and that you will continue to maintain that magnificent fire that you possess. It is the difference between being committed to changing the inhumanities that confront us all and those who are just paying lip service to it. (you could never be confused with the latter group)

I did receive a copy of the legal decision that you mentioned. The Crawford case, in which it is stated that the CDCR cannot confiscate mail and claim that it contains some kind of “coded” message, without proving it. It’s an important case not only because it strips the CDCR of an (illegal) tool that it considered important in burying people in these dungeons.

Equally important is that a judge (finally) had the courage to actually uphold the law. For the sake of upholding the law and there was no trade off. No, I’ll do this in exchange for that (which is pretty routine when it comes to the rights of prisoners and criminal defendant’s). It really is foul and obviously so.

You cannot bury thousands of human beings under conditions that amount to torture (and you cannot leave it up to the torturer to establish the criteria for what constitutes torture. They never see anything wrong with what they do without violating the law and the humanity of people.

Correcting madness only requires courage. We are a Nation governed by bullies. The judge in the Crawford decision, like Crawford himself, had courage.

You, the Mary Ratcliff’s, your Husband, the Pelican Bay Representatives, the thousands who resist and supporters who have stood up, and continue to stand up and really stand up again the State, have courage.

We also received a copy of the latest proposal (version 7.0) of the STG program and it appears as if this will be the policy. I did not think it could get any worse. You can actually be given an additional SHU term for what is being called an “STG Handshake.” This is the 21st Century and a Nation defines itself as the greatest democracy on Earth and we actually penalize citizens, put them/us in isolation for shaking someone’s hand.

This is the best proof of how irrational the thinking is – people literally create their own reality. Give it a name, and then do with it as they please. There is no such thing as an “STG Handshake.” There is also a provision that makes it possible for a person to given a SHU term for “group exercise.” People are actually paid huge salaries to come up with this sh-t!

The sanity of these people should be called into question. The Pelican Bay Representatives and SHU population are absolutely correct, this must be resisted. To not do so, particularly in the face of such disrespect, would be deplorable. It would be weak! And nothing is as pathetic as weakness.

Our hope is that we might be able to come up with something to contribute something to the efforts being made by Mary, you, and others who have been so supportive and so inspiring, in the struggle.

However it is that we can contribute to any of your endeavors, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

The road is long and hard and rough, but anything worth loving, is worth fighting for.

Take good care, Strugglin’ with you. – Michael Dorrough

Michael Dorrough, CDC# D-83611, COR-SHU, 4B-IL-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212

Written on 10/10/2012 and postmarked on 10/12/2012 to Kendra Castaneda, She’s a prisoner human rights advocate whose husband, Robbie Riva CDC# T-49359 is being tortured in segregation at Calipatria State Prison ASU. This open letter was also transcribed by Kendra Castaneda.

Read about Michael’s case for innocence here.

Additional note about the updated version of the “STG” (Security Treat Group) policy to place people in solitary confinement (the SHU) in California and how people inside can go down security levels.
It is the 7th version of the text, and it does not look promising, since the prisoners are still dependent on the subjective will of the officers, with no oversight. This is from Robbie Riva, Kendra Castaneda’s husband, in Calipatria:

“Today I got legal mail containing the updated version of the “STG” policy. It’s straight bullsh-t! If anything the criteria is making it harder for us and easier for CDCR to confine us to their dungeons. They have way too much leverage and basically their discretion is undefined.

At anytime during the “STP” if they come across circumstantial evidence of you being in violation of their new “behavior matrix” they can start you over at Stage 1.” – Robbie Riva, CDC# T-49359, Calipatria State Prison ASU, written on 9/24/2012

Open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown: Stop the torture now

From: SF Bay View, October 17, 2012

Dear Gov. Brown:

We oppose the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) policies and practices relating to our subjection to decades of “status”-based indefinite isolation (SHU confinement); this includes our opposition to CDCR’s proposed policy changes, entitled “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification, and Management Strategy.” We would appreciate your supportive intervention on this issue.

We are the four principal prisoner representatives confined in the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor, and we present you with this request on behalf of ourselves and all similarly situated prisoners who are subject to torturous, indefinite SHU [Security Housing Unit] and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] confinement.

The “censored pelican,” drawn by Pete Collins, at Bath Prison in Ontario, Canada, became an icon of the 2011 hunger strikes led by the same “main reps” in the Pelican Bay SHU who wrote this letter to Gov. Brown.

Our commonality as a collective group – able to effectively represent our own interests, as well as those of the thousands of prisoners similarly situated – lies in our continued indefinite SHU confinement for more than 25 years, which is based on “status,” rather than illegal behavior. Notably, our decades of SHU isolation are based on CDCR gang classification, i.e. status, without ever being found guilty of committing a gang-related criminal act!

Our gang validations and related decades of SHU isolation are based on what CDCR claims to be “intelligence-based evidence of criminal gang activity,” consisting of: (a) innocent associational or political type activity; and/or (b) confidential prisoner informants’ unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in criminal activity.

Beginning in February 2010, we became united in our efforts to collectively expose and peacefully bring an end to the CDCR policies and practices referenced 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 our “Formal Complaint” document, copies of which were sent to numerous lawmakers, organizations, groups and individuals, including former Gov. Schwarzenegger and CDCR Secretary Cate. (To review our Formal Complaint, go to prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity. wordpress.com/formal-complaint).

As of early 2011, the Formal Complaint had resulted in no relief, and our conditions in SHU had become more oppressive; therefore, we decided our sole avenue for gaining mainstream exposure and outside support for our cause to end our torture was for us to put our lives on the line via a peaceful protest hunger strike action. In May/June 2011, we served your office and Secretary Cate with another copy of our Formal Complaint and our Final Notice of the July 1 hunger strike with the Five Core Demands. (Available at http://www.prisons.org/documents/FinalNoticewith5CoreDemands.doc).

True to our word, 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 20 in response to our face-to-face meetings with top CDCR officials, who admitted early on in the negotiation process that our five core demands “were all reasonable,” and CDCR “should have made changes 20 years ago,” and who promised to make timely, substantively meaningful changes, responsive to all five demands.

In our face-to-face meetings with top CDCR officials, they admitted early on in the negotiation process that our five core demands “were all reasonable” and CDCR “should have made changes 20 years ago,” and they 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 Sept. 26, 2011. The response was to subject 15 of us to additional torture: Todd Ashker, C-58191; Arturo Castellanos, C-17275; Charles Coleman, C-60680; Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), D-05996; Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671; J. Brian Elrod, H-25268; George Franco, D-46556; Antonio Guillen, P-81948; Paul Jones, B-26077; Louis Powell, B-59864; Paul Redd, B-72683; Alfred Sandoval, D-61000; Danny Troxell, B-76578; James Baridi Williamson, D-34288; and Ronnie Yandell, V-27927.

We were placed in 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 cells.”

The response (to our second hunger strike) was to subject 15 of us to additional torture. We were placed in 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 cells.”

This second hunger strike action was joined by more than 12,000 prisoners at its peak. It was again temporarily suspended on Oct. 13, 2011, after CDCR made a presentation of their good faith efforts toward the policy changes agreed to in July which was satisfactory to our outside Mediation Team.

[photo: Legendary artist and revolutionary Emory Douglas, whose art enlivened the Black Panther newspaper and is now exhibited around the world, lent his powerful voice to a rally in front of CDCR headquarters in Sacramento during last year’s first hunger strike, on July 18, 2011.]

In the year since Oct. 13, 2011, the CDCR has failed to honor their end of our prior agreements to change SHU policies and practices including but not limited to those listed below:

1) We remain in SHU, subject to the torturous conditions therein, including but not limited to all of the conditions described in our Formal Complaint and other written statements. (See prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com).

2) The CDCR’s March 2012 proposed policy changes actually do not change anything for those prisoners whom CDCR has classified as validated gang members, who will continue to be subject to indefinite SHU isolation based on “intelligence information” alleged to indicate the prisoner’s participation in “criminal gang activity” – but in fact often innocent associational/political type activity).

The “intelligence” includes confidential informants’ unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in criminal activity – notably, carrying zero formal charges! This is the same policy and practice used and abused by CDCR to keep us in SHU for more than 25 years. (See, e.g., “intelligence” references in March 1, 2012, proposal at pp. 7-8, 25; “intelligence” categories references at pp. 19-24. Compare to CCR, Title 15, sec. 3378(c)(6), 3378(c)(8) and 3378(e).)

3) The CDCR’s March 2012 proposed policy changes include a four-year minimum step-down program, which prisoners may participate in to earn their way out of SHU. This is also unacceptable! Four years is too long, and the incentives for each step are not adequate. Any step-down program should have a maximum limit of 18 months and require meaningful incentives from the start, such as increased opportunity for out-of-cell contact with other prisoners, additional programs and privileges, including regular phone calls and contact visits.

Notable are the following additional facts supporting our position that CDCR has violated our July/October 2011 agreement and acted in bad faith, thereby requiring us to request your supportive intervention.

A. In March 2012, we presented CDCR with our written rejection of their proposed policy changes, and we included our counterproposal. (Available at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/pelican-bay-human-rights-movement-short-corridor-collecitves-counter-proposal-to-cdcr/).

B. Our outside Mediation Team and the Prison Law Office also presented CDCR with related written oppositions to the proposal. (The Mediation Team’s critique is available at http://www.prisons.org/documents/MTreviewofSTGplan5.5.pdf). The CDCR failed to respond to these opposition points.

This rare photo – rare because reporters are almost always barred from all California prisons, especially the SHUs – shows the cell that was home to Todd Ashker, a signatory to this letter, for over 20 years. Recently he was abruptly moved to a distant part of the SHU. 

The reported reason is nonsensical for a move that is no doubt intended to stop the movement for peaceful change by separating the leaders.

C. This past June 19, 2012, U.S. Sen. Durbin held a congressional hearing about the overuse of isolation cells in the nation’s penal system. The next day, Illinois Gov. Quinn announced that he would close down Tamms Correctional Facility, the notorious SuperMax that opened in 1995 and held prisoners in long-term isolation – some of them since the prison’s inception. His decision was based on the enormous operational costs and evidence suggesting such isolative confinement profoundly and irreparably damages the prisoners exposed to such harsh treatment. Other states have also made significant reductions in their use of SHU-type units, reserving such cells for prisoners found guilty of serious rule violations, where they serve minimal time periods; these states include Mississippi, Maine and Colorado. (See http://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights/closing-tamms-supermax-chance-reevaluate-solitary-confinement.) Reducing their use of isolation is saving these states millions of dollars.

Yet California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains committed to keeping thousands of prisoners in costly SHU and Ad-Seg isolation cells for decades, solely based on status rather than a chargeable, charged offense and a finding of guilt for serious misconduct. And we believe that the March 2012 “Security Threat Group …” proposal will ultimately result in many more prisoners being subject to years of torture in isolation cells.

Reducing their use of isolation is saving the states of Mississippi, Maine and Colorado millions of dollars. Yet California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains committed to keeping thousands of prisoners in costly SHU and Ad-Seg isolation cells for decades, solely based on status rather than a chargeable, charged offense and a finding of guilt for serious misconduct.

Gov. Brown, back in May/June of 2011 we respectfully made you personally aware of the serious problems. Your failure to take appropriate corrective action has enabled our decades of torturous pain and suffering to continue. Remember, we are talking about the illegal torture of thousands of male and female prisoners – and their family members. The perception is that you are condoning this mass prisoner torture program going on in CDCR’s system and the related ongoing million-dollar fraud being carried out by your appointees, Secretary Cate et al. – by your failure to stop it.

The policies and practices at issue violate basic human rights principles and are clear violations of the Constitution and international law, which bans torture for any reason.

All this comes, as you know, at an enormous cost to all California taxpayers: At least $73,000 per year for each SHU and Ad-Seg prisoner, compared to approximately $52,000 for a general population prisoner – while every other citizen in the state has had social services slashed!

The perception is that you are condoning this mass prisoner torture program going on in CDCR’s system and the related ongoing million-dollar fraud being carried out by your appointees, Secretary Cate et al. – by your failure to stop it.

Meanwhile, we continue to work for constructive change. Since the PBSP SHU became operational in December 1989, the entire state prison system has had an explosion of riots, to the point where level fours are locked down most of the time, without meaningful rehabilitation programs, opportunities etc.

To change this, we have just launched an initiative to reduce the violence in the CDCR system by calling on all prisoners to end hostilities between various groups. (See http://www.prisons.org/documents/agreement-to-end-hostilities.pdf). We hope for your cooperation in this effort; we will communicate with you further about it soon.

[photo: This banner provided the theme for a hunger strike solidarity vigil at the Alameda County Courthouse on Aug. 11. 2011. – Photo: United for Drug Policy Reform]

Gov. Brown, the barbaric, inhumane treatment of prisoners in this state has gone on for far too long now. We are asking you to take corrective action today by ordering Secretary Cate to immediately halt such practices consistent with our points presented above, and thereby end the unnecessary pain and suffering such practices cause to prisoners, their loved ones outside, and the rest of the majority of the 40 million Californians who have a conscience.

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), Antonio Guillen

Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Prisoner Representatives

P.S. We (prisoners) reject version 7.0 (June 29, 2012) of the “Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification, and Management Strategy,” as prisoners rejected version 5.5 (March 1, 2012).

Send our brothers some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP SHU D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532, and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. Mail to Arturo Castellanos and Antonio Guillen is severely restricted.

Letter from Pelican Bay’s Arturo Castellanos in response to CDCR’s Security Threat Paper

In response to CDCR’s Security Threat Paper:

5-28-2012

I’m one (1) of the four (4) principal SHU-Reps here at PBSP who attends the monthly meeting with SHU-Associate Warden P.T. Smith. Note: my “personal mail” is still restricted to only those on my approved personal mail-list but I can write periodicals in general.

            During our last meeting of May 23, 2011, Warden Lewis and CDCR Deputy Director Stainer dropped in. The reps asked Mr. Stainer several questions about the revisions to the STG. He was vague in his answers and then said although they are on his I-pod, he hasn’t seen them yet. And they should be out in two weeks. Bottom line, it was the same old CDCR evasive tactics and the guy just basically wasted our time. Oh, he did say that the STG will replace the 6 year Inactive Status Program – Big Whoop! Yeah, it will but it will have the same end result. Only this time, we’ll all be bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball between step-1 and step-2, all while we’re in the same cell until we die. Thus, I personally don’t see any real change coming in their revisions to the STG that we already rejected in March. I hope I’m wrong but with CDCR’s track record, I doubt that I am.

            My question to you all your readers is, when these so-called revisions come out, and they also remain like the ones we rejected. What is going to be our “peaceful” response to Sacramento-CDCR, other than flat out rejecting it? Write your peaceful suggestions to this periodical ASAP. Myself, I’m not going to sit on my hands in this cell and allow CDCR to in act those same proposals – as is – into the Title 15 Regulations without first standing up and be counted among those who will send a strong peaceful response to change them.

            Finally, I’ll like to take this opportunity to express our thanks and appreciation to Kendra Castaneda, who is presently putting together a “new email group” that will include all prisoners’ families from all over California. Families that feel unappreciated and are not being heard by professional groups, where they have been left out of the process in helping their loved ones in prison. Myself, I support her 100% in her endeavors and all those involved and will be involved in that new group. And I hope when it’s up and running that all prisoners also will encourage their families to be part of it and also fully support it. This way “ALL” family members from all walks of life, education and economic levels will have their very own grass roots movement in support of their imprisoned loved ones. In fact, all interested parties can just email her at her “present” email add at kendracastaneda55 @ gmail.com, and ask her how you can help and support the “new email group movement”.

            A lot of love and respect to all those in the same frame of mind and spirit.

In solidarity, I remain.

Arturo Castellanos (PBSP Main Rep)