Pelican Bay Ordered to Cease Race-Based Punishment

From the blog of UC Hastings College of Law Students, California Correctional Crisis:

Jan. 23rd 2013

The California Court of Appeal has just issued a decision in re Jose Morales. The decision prohibits Pelican Bay Prison’s practice of race-based segregation and denial of privileges. From the decision:

Pelican Bay racially segregates prisoners and, during extended periods of perceived threatened violence, denies family visits, work assignments, yard exercise, religious services and other privileges to prisoners of one race while granting those same privileges to prisoners of other races. This habeas proceeding was brought by a Hispanic prisoner alleging that the prison’s policy of disparate treatment based on race and ethnicity denies him equal protection of the laws.

This particular proceeding was tied to a 2008 incident between Hispanic inmates, which led to a segregation of all Hispanic inmates’ access to programs, which apparently remained in effect for almost three years. The result of the effective lockdown on Hispanic inmates was that only inmates classified racially as “other”, meaning, mostly Asian inmates, had to work double shifts in prison. Other inmates were denied visitation, exercise, religious services, and other privileges. In short, no one won.

The decision relies on a Supreme Court case, Johnson v. California, which held that government officials are not permitted “to use race as a proxy for gang membership and violence without demonstrating a compelling government interest and proving that their means are narrowly tailored” to advance that interest.

The decision in Morales extends that logic to race-based punishment, giving prison authorities narrow leeway to separate inmates based on ethnicity only if prison security requires it, so long as it is done “[o]n a short-term emergency basis” and not “preferentially”.

One of the notable things about the decision is the judges’ sensitivity to the chicken-and-egg nature of race-based classification. While some administrative policies are a result of gang-related racial hostilities, the classification in itself threatens not only “to stigmatize individuals by reason of their membership in a racial group” but also, importantly, “to incite racial hostility.”

Another notable thing is the court’s attentiveness to nuance. While many inmates are affiliated with a gang based on their race, not all inmates are affiliated with a gang, and to assume otherwise is to discriminate.

One hopes that the combination of this decision, and the agreement to end racial hostilities in Pelican Bay, will transform carceral practices so that racial strife, whether stemming from gang animosities or institutional unfairness, will diminish if not end.

See also: the California Court of Appeal decision

It’s time to replace prison oppression with prisoner solidarity

From: SF Bay View

January 19, 2013
by Ajene Nkrumah, Abdul O. Shakur, Sondai Kamdibe, Abasi Banda and Mutope Duguma
It’s time that we prisoners take advantage of this End All Hostilities Agreement between our racial groups and our internal hostilities, because many of us already know that many of our conflicts have been engineered by the CDCr* officials and officers.
There are many pressing issues that must be addressed by our prison class, and one hopes by taking advantage of the time in which we find ourselves in solidarity that we can serve the interests of the prisoners, as opposed to the empowerment of an oppressive prison system – i.e., CDCr and the prison industrial complex (PIC) – our oppressor. CDCr officials and officers have been ruthlessly diabolical and outright cunning in their attacks against us prisoners.

Photo (cop.) Anthony Turner, 46, serving 25 years to life under Three Strikes, who yearns to go home to the child whose note shows how much he misses and admires his father, the king, is contemplative in this photo taken June 6, 2011, just before the hunger strikes began. Since then, the plan to obtain relief if not release that hinges on prisoners ending all hostilities among themselves is spreading and inspiring hope throughout California prisons. – Photo: Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

We have seen thousands of racial riots, thousands of lockdowns, too much internal strife, and the eroding of our programs and privileges. Many of us who come out of the neighborhoods – the ghettos, barrios, rural and urban areas – have for the most part made our way utilizing the tools at our disposal and, unfortunately for us, that wasn’t a sustainable arsenal, because those tools were predicated on three motivating factors: 

1) Ignorance (i.e., no education), 2) Drugs and alcohol, and 3) Violence, generation after generation being raised in these sub-cultures, dominated by these three factors.

We need not speak to the calamities, devastation and terror that is prevalent throughout our lives. We all know very well that we are the “pawns” in this game of horror – i.e., genocide. Drugs, alcohol, guns and inadequate educational institutions are not manufactured by us, but they are definitely weapons of mass destruction, designed for us specifically.
Prisons are only an extension of the manifestation of an orchestrated, diabolical plot to control human beings in highly confined areas, ultimately toward their extinction.
Many prisoners are removed off general population because of their ability to resist the attacks being waged against us by deliberately contrived CDCr policies. For years, CDCr has used these methods in order to build their empire – i.e., the prison industrial complex – that serves the interests of CDCr and CCPOA, the guards’ union.
Violence is a valuable tool that serves to establish a justification for coalescing us prisoners under conditions that are self-destructive. We who are held in solitary confinement, under sensory deprivation, in administrative segregation (Ad-Seg) and security housing units (SHU) have come to experience some of the protracted physical and psychological attacks while in these isolated “torture chambers” throughout California and the United States.
Our physical and psychological torture is a concentrated torture, because we happen to be held in isolated units and are made to suffer until we break down and snitch – i.e., de-brief – in order to get from under such horrible conditions. Many prisoners have broken, only to find themselves stuck in their same reality with a few small amenities. It is safe to say that any institution practicing such treatment on prisoners in solitary has created the current realities in which prisoners throughout CDCr are trapped in a “vortex of violence.”
We prisoners in the Short Corridor have studied these contradictions and we can look back all the way from 1944 to 2012 and point out the wicked hand of CDCr that has pushed us prisoners to be involved in racial violence, gang violence and internal violence. Remember, we are prisoners under the control of CDCr officials and officers, and we are going to reflect or exemplify exactly what it is they desire us to be. When we deviate from this order is when we become subjected to their many forms of attacks. And general population prisoners are not exempt from this reality.

Violence is a valuable tool that serves to establish a justification for coalescing us prisoners under conditions that are self-destructive.

Therefore, we say that the only way that we can stop the bleeding is by prisoners ending it first. We are far from naïve because we understand that this is prison and some problems will occur, but we know also that prisons are environments for men – and for women in women’s prisons – and problems should be handled as such.
If your problem involves 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 to 100 innocent prisoners, then you and whoever you got into it with need to end that problem through other means, if violence was ever an option.
But if we plan to change the oppressive prison conditions, then we have to reconstruct the whole way we co-exist behind these prison walls because it has allowed CDCr to exploit us toward their interests. Therefore, by embracing the Agreement to End Hostilities, we can change our prison oppression into a more productive prison environment that serves the interests of us prisoners, as well as put an end to the policies that are inhumane.

The only way that we can stop the bleeding is by prisoners ending it first.

Through litigation and peaceful demonstrations we can:
  1. End all solitary confinement in sensory deprivation isolation housing.
  2. End the Three Strikes policy.
  3. End the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
  4. End indefinite sentences, such as LWOP (life without the possibility of parole) and lifers with a cut-off age of 60, so that they can program back into the free world.
  5. End the whites-only composition of the BPH (Board of Parole Hearings).
  6. Reinstate the Inmates’ Bill of Rights, which was implemented around the 1960s and 1970s, and for which prisoners fought and died. Later, in the 1990s, for prisoners’ brave and creative actions, Gov. Pete Wilson and his cronies eroded it.
  7. Win adequate nutritional food. The CDCr practice of using prisoners to experiment with effects of genetically modified foods should not be allowed.
  8. Win adequate medical treatment.
  9. Win adequate education, including in trades and vocational programs.
  10. Win adequate recreational programs to keep prisoners physically fit.
  11. Win adequate family, friends and spouses program, starting with family visits for all prisoners, without creating circumstances where pedophilia can occur.
  12. Win adequate pay for prison labor.
  13. Win adequate access to technology, including computers. We live in a very technical society.
  14. Win adequate prison libraries, in which all prisoners have access to a plethora of books.
  15. Win adequate law libraries for all prisoners.
  16. Win release dates for all prisoners who have been held on one year to life, 5 to life, 7 to life, 15 to life and 25 to life, who have been in prison over 25 years. We know they have been rehabilitated.
  17. Win adequate religious services for all religions.
  18. Win holiday meals. Funds have been allocated for CDCr to provide prisoners with holiday meals, but in places like PBSP SHU, we are not provided with them. We request that the CDCr provide us with designated holiday meals. We equally request that Muslim prisoners within the SHU be able to purchase religious ceremonial food, such as meat, breads, dates and nuts, as well as tea.
  19. Support minority businesses. The CDCr has not adequately provided minority businesses access to the prison population. There exist a number of minority owned businesses that provide a variety of food items, from meat to health food, that we should be allowed to purchase. Many of these small businesses find themselves struggling in these tough economic times. Providing them access – without exploitation – to the CDCr prison population would serve as an effective strategy towards economic recovery.
  20. Win access to being kidney donors to anyone the prisoners consent to give a kidney to. Thousands of people die annually due to not being able to get a kidney, and we prisoners have heard numerous sad stories; we wish we could have contributed a kidney to save someone’s life. All expenses would be paid by the patient, unless they are poor, in which case the expenses would come out of our Inmate Welfare Fund (IWF), which has an annual budget of $50 million.
  21. Win the right to publish our writing and artwork. Prisoner publication is a legal right. Approximately 15 years ago, the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations) and ISU (Investigative Services Unit) at PBSP arbitrarily reinterpreted the policy on prisoners getting their manuscripts published into books. Under this re-interpretation, to publish prisoner writings is now considered an unlawful business practice. We are requesting that we be allowed to have our manuscripts published into books, as long as the manuscripts are not about the alleged crime that brought us to prison. This would also allow prisoners the opportunity to pay their restitution. We also request to profit off our talents – our artwork, writings etc.
We prisoners need to coalesce our energy around these 21 policy changes. It is clear that we have allowed politicians, prison guards and the judicial system to treat us inhumanly, like wild animals, because we did nothing to change these conditions in which we have been placed. And the prison oppressors do not stop. They get more oppressive with each and every passing day. It is their nature to exploit the poor and vulnerable human beings in our society.
We are not poor nor are we vulnerable when we exercise our minds toward our interests. As we said, ourInmate Welfare Fund alone produces $50 million a year. Imagine what our actual spending is. Yes, we as a 21st century prison class are far from poor and vulnerable.
It’s just time that we politicize ourselves.
Send our brothers some love and light:
  • Ajene Nkrumah (Joe Valentine), C-47779, PBSP SHU D4-212L, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Abdul Olugbala Shakur (James Harvey), C-48884, PBSP SHU D1-119L, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Sondai Kamdibe (Randall Ellis), C-68764, PBSP SHU D1-223L, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Abasi Banda (Clyde Jackson), C-33559, PBSP SHU D2-107L, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), D-05596, D1-117U, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
*The acronym CDCr, for California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, is sometimes written with a lower case “r” to indicate that the rehabilitation part of its mission has been abandoned in recent years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sponsoring Organizations:

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

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