On Wednesday July 31st, people around the world will fast and take other peaceful, non-violent action in solidarity with the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers. Join family members of hunger strikers along with James Cromwell, Angela Davis, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Elliott Gould, Chris Hedges, Michael Moore, Alice Walker, and Cornel West. We fast knowing the criminalization that killed Trayvon Martin, and the criminalization that justifies the torture of prisoners in solitary confinement are one and the same.
We fast in solidarity with the demands of the hunger strikers. And we fast to get justice for Trayvon and for people of every gender, race, and religion who have been killed by state and vigilante violence. Support efforts everywhere for Justice for Trayvon Martin.
– Hunger Strikers in the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU
Join us to help win the 5 demands of the California Prisoner Hunger Strikers
On July 30th the families and loved ones of prisoners on hunger strike are visiting Sacramento to demand that Governor Brown pressure the CDCR to enter into negotiations with the hunger strikers. Call California Governor Jerry Brown and let him know you’re fasting in solidarity with the strikers, ask him to meet the strikers demands: (916) 445-2841, (510) 289-0336, (510) 628-0202.
Endorse, support, and/or join the “Hunger for Justice”.
For More Information Contact: email@example.com
We are all prisoners of injustice.
Cities and countries participating thus far: England, Germany, the US (Jackson Mississippi, Los Angeles, Oakland CA, Santa Cruz, Philadelphia PA).
“Hunger for Justice” convened by members of: Alexandria House; Alliance for Global Justice; Anti-Racist Action-LA; Brandywine Peace Community; California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement; California Coalition for Women Prisoners; California Prisoner Solidarity Coalition; Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB); Critical Resistance; DCFS/DHS-Give Us Back Our Children; Ecosocialist Horizons, Every Mother is a Working Mother Network; FACTS Education Fund; Fair Chance Project; Flying Over Walls; Freedom Archives; Global Women’s Strike; Hank Jones – San Francisco 8; Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; LA Laborfest; Lives Worth Saving Gang Intervention; Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles; National Hood Alliance; Palestinian Youth Movement; Payday men’s network; Peter Laarman – Progressive Christians Uniting and Justice not Jails; Project South; Queer Strike; Rev. Louis Logan; Ruckus Society, Scientific Soul Sessions; Theresa Shoatz – Maroon Philly Committee; Transgender, Gender-Variant, Intersex Justice; US PROStitutes Collective; White Noise Collective; Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike; Youth Justice Coalition; Ordinary People’s Society, Alabama; Prodigal Child Project, Alabama; Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement, National; Sin Barras.
The Prison Watch Network endorses the following call for Solidarity:
From: SF Bay View
December 28, 2012
Part 1: Open letter to CDCR and PBSP officials
To: CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) Undersecretary of Operations Terri McDonald, PBSP (Pelican Bay State Prison) Warden Greg Lewis, PBSP Associate Warden P.T. Smith
From: Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellaños, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa/Dewberry, Antonio Guillen
Subject: PBSP SHU Prisoners’ 2011 Five Core Demands
On behalf of myself and those similarly situated, I request your attention and responsive action with respect to the issues stated below relevant to our 2011 Five Core Demands.
Briefly summarized, it’s been nearly 14 months now since we suspended our non-violent, peaceful protest hunger strike actions of July and September-October 2011, wherein we presented CDCR with our Five Core Demands for reforms to be made regarding SHU and Ad Seg policies and practices – all of which your predecessor, Scott Kernan, admitted were reasonable. He made this admission during our negotiations as well as when he met with our Mediation Team and the public. Mr. Kernan promised that our demands would be meaningfully addressed, in substantive ways, in a timely fashion.
To date, the bulk of our Five Core Demands have not been met in meaningful, substantive ways, as per our understandings and agreements during July, August and October 2011 negotiations, some of which you were personally present at via phone conference.
This lack of good faith effort to meet our 2011 demands is a big problem and needs to be rectified in the not so distant future. In a nutshell, our first three core demands –
No. 1: individual accountability;
No. 2: policies on debriefing and denial of inactive status and related denial of release from SHU based on innocuous association and alleged intelligence without formal charges;
No. 3: an end to long term indefinite SHU and Ad Seg and related reforms recommended in 2006 by the Commission on Safety and Abuse In America’s Prisons – have not been met.
The CDCR’s Oct. 11, 2012, STG Pilot Program Instructional Memo fails to meet our first three core demands for reasons best exemplified in the included document titled, “Responsive Opposition to CDCR’s Oct. 11, 2012, STG Pilot Program.”
With respect to our core demands No. 4, Food and Nutrition, and No. 5, Programming Privileges, the following are examples of problems that continue to be unresolved. It’s important to remember one of the main principles relevant to these demands is that many of us have been in SHU for administrative reasons for 10 to 40 years. All parties acknowledged during our negotiation process that many of the restrictions were redundant and unnecessary in the content of the promised change in policy and practice to a system of individual accountability and focus on humane treatment and conditions in SHU and Ad Seg units.
To date, the bulk of our Five Core Demands have not been met in meaningful, substantive ways, as per our understandings and agreements during July, August and October 2011 negotiations.
We would like to point out that although PBSP SHU Associate Warden P.T. Smith has attempted to work together with us in keeping with the above principles, based on his nearly 30 years of experience in CDCR and with SHU prisoners, his efforts are largely futile based on CDCR headquarters and/or SHU warden’s non-recognition of the above referenced principles and continual focus on maintaining SHU and Ad Seg policies and practices that are redundant in a system based on individual accountability.
Below are examples, and in the future we will provide a more detailed list:
Re Core Demand No. 4: Food and Nutrition Issues. This issue remains a major problem at Pelican Bay State Prison, with small portions of either poorly prepared and/or inedible, rotten food items.
Re Core Demand No. 5: Programming and Privilege Issues. We presented CDCR with a list of EXAMPLES of reform measures regarding SHU and Ad Seg program and privilege issues, as follows, with notations about continued lack of meaningful progress:
A) Expand visiting, regarding amount of time and adding one day per week. This hasn’t happened yet, in spite of Scott Kernan’s July-August presentation that extra time would be permitted when visiting slots were open. PBSP IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations) insists on having three separate visit slots for SHU in order to keep Short Corridor prisoners separated from Long Corridor and C Facility prisoners. This makes extra time impossible here.
There’s no need for three visit slots when visiting is closely monitored by ICI, and a system of individual accountability means prisoners involved in prohibited actions at visiting can be sanctioned individually.
Between 1989 and 2006, PBSP SHU had two visit slots and often allowed extra time when slots were open, especially for visitors coming a long distance.
You can direct PBSP to go back to the two slots and permit extra time when slots are open, or direct the D Facility visiting room to be re-activated and used on weekends and holidays.
B) Allow a weekly phone call – hasn’t happened yet!
C) Allow two annual packages a year – hasn’t happened! We had asked in the Five Core Demands for allowance for one 30-pound package of food and beverage items and one package of non-food items, such as sweats, thermals, cosmetics, earbuds etc. For those held in SHU and Ad Seg for more than one year, who are free of any serious disciplinary notices for 12 months, these prisoners should be allowed TWO 30-pound packages of food and beverage items and one package of non-food items per year.
D) Expand canteen and package items allowed. Some new items have been allowed; however, there are more that can be added.
One of the items that we need as soon as possible, that CDCR has not given the OK for, is lotion. We were able to get lotion for years, but this year it was taken from our canteen and packages, on the excuse that it was “not on property matrix.” We need it here and medical refuses to give it out.
Another need is sweat shorts, so that we have the dignity of not being paraded about in boxer shorts while escorted to medical line or yard.
We are also seeking to be able to buy two cases of Top Ramen and woodless colored pencils, which could be added to canteen.
E) More TV channels – denied by Warden Lewis. CDCR and PBSP keep falsely claiming that we have 27 cable channels. We actually have three cable channels and five network channels, which is less than all other SHU units across the state. We’re asking for two or three more channels.
F) Allow hobby craft items: art paper, colored pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk etc. We have gotten paper, pens and chalk so far, but many can’t work with the chalk. We’ve found that Walkenhorst’s sells “woodless colored pencils.” See Walkenhorst’s 2012 Fall Catalogue, page 136, item E.
We have asked Pelican Bay staff to notify Walkenhorst’s that SHU prisoners are allowed to purchase these sets of 12 and 24 woodless colored pencils for our packages. Associate Warden P.T. Smith tells us that only Sacramento CDCR headquarters can notify Walkenhorst’s about allowing us to have items.
Thus, we are asking you to notify Walkenhorst’s that we are allowed to have the woodless colored pencils in our packages.
G) Install pull-up and dip bars on SHU yards – has not happened yet!
H) Additional issues: Warden denied our request to participate in “charity bake sales” stating “Get out of the SHU!” Unfair, and no kind of security risk. And the PIA mattresses being issued now equal NO mattress at all!
Again, the above are examples of problematic issues regarding our Five Core Demands. A more detailed list dealing with issues in demands Nos. 4 and 5 will be forthcoming.
Your time, attention and assistance with the above is much appreciated.
Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellaños, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa/Dewberry, Antonio Guillen
Nov. 28, 2012
Part 2: Responsive Opposition to CDCR’s Oct. 11, 2012, STG Pilot Program
Submitted Dec. 3, 2012, by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellaños, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa/Dewberry, and Antonio Guillen
To whom it may concern:
The CDCR’s Oct. 11, 2012, Security Threat Group Pilot Program Instructional Memo IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! It fails to meet our 2011 Five Core Demands and is herby rejected for reasons briefly summarized in the examples below of the problems we have with the STG Pilot Program and what the CDCR needs to do to meet our demands and thereby keep their word.
See also our related oppositions to CDCR’s March and June 2012 STG proposals. [See Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement presents counter-proposal opposing CDCR ‘Security Threat Group Strategy’ regarding the March proposal and Open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown: Stop the torture now regarding the June proposal.]
We have repeatedly made clear that the heart of our first three core demands is the requirement for substantive changes to SHU and Ad Seg policies and practices, which must include:
- An individualized accountability, behavior-based system when it comes to grounds for placement or retention in CDCR’s SHU or Ad Seg solitary confinement cells. This means such cells are reserved for those prisoners who are charged with and found guilty of committing a serious, felonious type of rule violation that merits a “determinate” SHU term. Individual accountability also applies to privilege restrictions when such are abused by an individual. This equates to a demand for an end to “indeterminate” SHU confinement.
- Related demands for an end to progressively punitive SHU and Ad Seg policies and practices for the purpose of coercing prisoners into agreeing to become state informants: This demand includes our call for an end to the “debriefing” policy.
- A demand for humane treatment and conditions in the SHU and Ad Seg units, with a focus upon meaningful program opportunities and ability to gain privileges, based on criteria that are realistic and reasonable – the purpose being to assist the prisoners with being able to return to the general prison population in the shortest amount of time possible; e.g., the voluntary participation in SHU programs equates to meaningful, additional privileges and the ability to earn good time off one’s sentence in order to shorten the determinate SHU term.
The CDCR’s Oct. 11, 2012, Pilot Program is not responsive to our above summarized demands, as exemplified below:
For more than 25 years the CDCR has used an alleged “gang management” policy and practice consisting of placing validated prison gang members and associates in SHU and Ad Seg solitary confinement cells – indefinitely – wherein prisoners are subjected to progressively more punitive conditions, for the purpose of coercing them into “debriefing” – becoming a state informant to gain release from solitary by providing gang unit staff (IGI, or Institutional Gang Investigations) with verifiable information that harms other gang affiliates.
Between 1986 and 1999, the only way to get out of solitary was to parole, die, go insane or debrief. In 1999, in response to a court ruling, the CDCR came up with another alleged avenue for SHU release, wherein a prisoner able to go six years with zero documented gang activity can achieve “inactive” gang status and thereby might be released to general population. The “inactive” avenue for SHU release has proven to be a sham!
Notably, most of the prisoners in SHU for the past one to 40 years based on a “current active” validation have never been found guilty of committing an illegal, gang-related act. We’re talking about decades of indefinite, punitive solitary confinement, based on alleged current active gang involvement, consisting of innocent association or political type activity and/or the unsubstantiated allegations of involvement in illegal gang activity by debriefer, confidential informants, deemed “reliable” by IGI – but no charges were filed!
IGI’s validations are rubber-stamped by the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) and/or Special Services Unit (SSU), UCC (Unit Classification Committee) and all levels of the 602 appeals process, as per admissions by former PBSP Warden McGrath during his testimony in the 2009 Lira trial.
The Oct. 11, 2012, STG Pilot Program claims to “change” the present SHU policy and practice in the following ways: To “provide individual accountability of offenders” (Pilot Program Memo, page 1, Purpose) based on “a new behavior-based system, which will serve to enhance the existing intelligence-based validation system. The implementation of this process will include an STG behavior-based disciplinary matrix, which will provide for additional procedural due process safeguards and a system of individual accountability” (page 2, Key Revisions).
However, the truth is that the Pilot Program fails to change the present policies and practices at issue in any substantive meaningful ways, and it will actually result in a significant expansion of the numbers of prisoners kept indefinitely in SHU and Ad Seg solitary confinement torture cells. The numbers will expand to tens of thousands, because the CDCR STG Pilot Program targets not only prison gang affiliates, but OCS will now target any and all groups of three or more prisoners who are deemed to pose a “potential” threat (Pilot Program Memo, pages 1 and 9). This failure to change the present system is also demonstrated by:
A) The prisoners validated as STG-1 members (i.e., prison gang members) will continue to be subject to automatic, indefinite SHU confinement, solely based on the validation. There is no requirement that a formal charge of gang related misconduct be filed, nor any related requirement for a formal hearing to take place to determine guilt or innocence as per the preponderance of credible evidence standard, as required by CDCR’s formal rule violation hearing process. One’s only avenue for release from the SHU is to parole, die, go insane, debrief or successfully complete the four-year minimum Step Down Program (Pilot Program Memo, Sections 200.2; 500; 600.3; 700; 1200).
Additionally, any and all prisoners validated as STG affiliates will continue to be placed and/or retained in SHU and Ad Seg solitary confinement cells indefinitely, based on alleged intelligence indicating “confirmed STG behavior or activity,” defined as “STG behavior which is discovered and confirmed to have occurred.
Confirmation can be obtained through two processes:
1) a guilty finding in a STG rule violation report; and/ or
2) any document that clearly describes STG behavior/activities incorporated within the validation or continued STG behavior package, submitted to the OCS for Special Agent assessment and recommendation; and which is affirmed by an STG Unit Classification Committee” (Pilot Program, attachment A, STG definitions at “Confirmed STG Behavior.” See also definitions for Step Down Program, Steps 1 and 2, regarding use of intelligence and these steps housing prisoners based on influence.)
The above is also supported in the Pilot Program Memo at Section 600.3: Validated Affiliate with Confirmed STG Behavior Outside the Disciplinary Process:
“(a) A STG affiliate determined to have confirmed STG behavior or intelligence, … which occurred outside … formal disciplinary process shall be documented in a CDCR form 128-B, General Chrono (confidential chrono, if appropriate). The activity or behavior must have occurred within the last four years. Investigators shall establish reliability per CCR Section 3321 when confidential information is used and shall be recorded within the chrono. This confirmed STG behavior or activity shall consist of the following:
“Behavior, activity or intelligence items as indentified in Section 600.1: Validation Source Criteria totaling at least 10 additional points and identified subsequent to the validation process. This process shall only be utilized if the circumstances cannot be otherwise addressed through the disciplinary process.”
Everyone familiar with CDCR OCS, SSU and IGI’s SHU and Ad Seg policies and practices over the course of the past 10 to 40 years will recognize the above referenced Pilot Program. “Changes” to the present policy and practices equate to NO substantive changes at all.
The facts are CDCR staff have always been required to issue Rules Violation Reports to prisoners who are alleged to have violated a rule, when such is supported by credible evidence, per CCR, Title 15, Section 3312, et seq. In spite of this long standing regulation, most of the prisoners have not been charged with nor found guilty of an illegal gang related act! We’ve been subjected to decades of SHU isolation based on the criteria referenced above regarding “confirmed STG behavior outside the disciplinary process.”
With the above in mind, the only “change” to the current policy is a four-year review in the absence of being found guilty of an STG related Rules Violation Report, wherein documented and confirmed STG behavior or activity, totaling at least 10 additional points (over the course of four years) will be cause for continued indefinite SHU confinement, as compared to the present six-year review for consideration of inactive gang status, so long as there is no documented gang activity (over the course of six years).
The above process will be applied to those prisoners presently serving an indeterminate SHU term based on their validated status and they “shall be afforded a Departmental Review Board (DRB) hearing, to determine their appropriate placement and/or retention within the SHU/Step Down Program or potential release to general population … (T)he DRB will conduct an assessment of the preceding four years to determine the existence of on-going STG behavior” (Pilot Program Memo, page 3).
Based on all of the above referenced Pilot Program points, we can expect the DRB criteria used for their “assessment” of the preceding four years “to determine the existence of on-going STG behavior” will be the same criteria used for a six-year active/inactive review, with a focus on finding any alleged “documented items of current behavior or activity” occurring within the past four years totaling 10 or more points (i.e., a “continued STG behavior package” type of assessment) whereupon they will determine what step one is eligible for in the Step Down Program.
The DRB will utilize the sections of the Pilot Program referenced above because most of the validated affiliates – in SHU and Ad Seg for decades – have no STG related rule violation guilty findings. So they’ll have to utilize Pilot Program Section 600.3 (referenced above) because the CDCR and OCS have no intention of releasing certain STG affiliates to general prison population – e.g., those in PBSP Short Corridor who are there based on “influence,” which in turn is based on confidential informants’ or debriefers’ claims and/or IGI’s subjective opinion, which is impossible to disprove! See Pilot Program Memo, page 41, re SDP, Steps 1 and 2, reference to “influence.”
All of the above referenced Pilot Program points are NOT ACCEPTABLE!
What it basically boils down to is a CDCR OCS sentence enhancement of four years to life for alleged STG behavior or activity, without a requirement for any related formal charge(s) or guilt of committing any illegal, gang-related act! Remember, this sentence enhancement can be applied to STG affiliates for minor non-criminal associational activity (e.g., Pilot Program Memo, Section 600.2 (a), (b), (c) and 600.1, Disciplinary Matrix, bottom four boxes, re tattoos, roll call, group exercise, greeting cards and art work, acting in a leadership role, displaying behavior to organize and control other inmates etc.). Being deemed “guilty” of such innocuous and/or vague activity is cause for a minimum of four years of indefinite solitary confinement and inability to earn good time credits off one’s sentence, in addition to all the other punitive conditions such confinement entails.
This amounts to a minimum of four years of subjection to conditions that are psychologically and physically torturous to prisoners and their loved ones on the outside for the purpose of coercing them into becoming state informants via debriefing – without being formally charged and/or for insignificant violation(s) of minor, associational-type activity!
The truth is that the Pilot Program fails to change the present policies and practices at issue in any substantive meaningful ways, and it will actually result in a significant expansion of the numbers of prisoners kept indefinitely in SHU and Ad Seg solitary confinement torture cells.
The above points exemplify the CDCR OCS’ intent to maintain the present status quo of confining thousands of prisoners in long term solitary cells, subject to progressively punitive conditions, for coercive purposes. What is worse is they insist on doing this in spite of the fact that such practices violate U.S. constitutional and international laws and treaties, as well as state law regarding enhancements and sanctions for gang-related activity. (The applicable California Penal Code is 186.22, as interpreted by the California Supreme Court. See for instance People v. Castenada, 23 Cal. 4th 743 (2000), the leading case. See also People v. Moreno, 68 C.A. 4th 1198 (1998), and People v. Gardeley, 14 Cal. 4th 605 (1996), and People v. Gomez, 235 Cal. Rptr. 2d 957, 971.)
Again, this is not acceptable, nor is it a sensible, responsible use of the taxpayers’ money to utilize costly SHU and Ad Seg cells for an indefinite time period of at least four years for such minor infractions of CDCR OCS’ made up rules. These sorts of small infractions can be addressed in the general prison population via progressive levels of restrictions on various programs and/or privileges. SHU and Ad Seg cells are approximately $20,000 costlier than general population cells per year!
B) The Pilot Program memo also claims the change in policy will provide “additional layers of procedural due process” regarding validation(s) and continued STG behavior and related SHU placement, retention and Step Down Program issues (Pilot Program Memo, page 1, Purpose, and Sections 100 and 400-800).
For the past 25-plus years, many SHU and Ad Seg prisoners have received CDCR’s version of “procedural due process” wherein IGI’s decisions and recommendations are automatically upheld by all levels of review by OCS, committees and prisoner grievance process 602 appeals. The Pilot Program changes nothing, because each level of review will still be conducted by CDCR employees who are trained and directed by OCS, SSU or IGI.
Therefore, this part of the Pilot Program is NOT ACCEPTABLE! Real due process requires substantive as well as procedural aspects and at least one level of meaningful review by a neutral third party, a qualified monitor who conducts a thorough, substantive, procedural review.
C) The Pilot Program memo claims the four year (minimum) Step Down Program (SDP) will provide STG affiliates with a way to earn release from indefinite solitary confinement without having to debrief (Pilot Program Memo Sections 700 et seq.).
CDCR’s SDP is NOT ACCEPTABLE! Four years is too long and the proposed programs and privileges for each step are not realistic, reasonable or meaningful.
CDCR presents the SDP as “an incentive based multi-step process for the management of STG affiliates. This program will assign, transition, and monitor inmates who by their behavior have demonstrated the need for CDCR’s utilization of special strategies for their management.
“The SDP shall normally be completed in five steps and provides a process for inmates engaged in STG behavior or activities to demonstrate their ability to refrain from this type of behavior, preparing them for return to non-segregated housing and eventual release to the community” (Pilot Program Memo Section 700).
Unfortunately, the CDCR Pilot Program for an SDP is structured in a way that is demonstrative of their true intent of maintaining and greatly expanding upon the current policy and practice of keeping thousands of prisoners in punitive solitary confinement cells indefinitely, until they die, go insane or debrief.
The first three and a half years of CDCR’s SDP entails a type of solitary confinement wherein the prisoners spend virtually 24 hours a day alone in a cell on the small-cell yard. The CDCR states this will be “a period of observation” during which the prisoner will be expected to keep his bed made and complete in-cell, self-directed journals and earn incentive-based privileges (Pilot Program Memo, Sections 700 through 700.5, pages 40-50).
This makes no sense! How can you “closely observe” someone for the purpose of assessing their behavior or activity, when they are in a type of solitary confinement 24/7? How does a minimum of three and a half years of doing self-directed journals for basically trivial and insignificant privileges prepare them for return to non-segregated housing and eventual release to the community?
A Step Down Program should be a maximum of 18 months in duration for the purpose of enabling prisoners to shorten their determinate SHU terms. In today’s SHU and Ad Seg units and Level 4 general population prisons, the prisoners are closely monitored 24/7. Any SDP needs to be based on realistic, reasonable adult programming criteria and meaningful incentives for each step.
For example, Step 1 can be a maximum of 90 days of basic in-cell type of programming. Step 2 can be a maximum of six months of more meaningful, interactive type of programming, such as small group activities in cages, small group yard etc., where observations of prisoners’ behavior and activities actually mean something towards assessing one’s potential for successful transition to general population. Step 3 can be for a maximum of nine months of small group programming, larger group yard, dining together. Step 4 can be for monitored status in a general population type of setting.
The incentives for each step need to be realistic and meaningful – for example, the ability to earn good time credits, regular phone calls, contact visits, additional packages, canteen, property etc., beginning at Step 2. Once in the SDP, sanctions for STG behavior or activities must be solely based on a formal charge and guilty finding for a serious rule violation linked to a STG.
Additionally, the CDCR’s mission priority is founded upon the principle of promoting and protecting public safety and the related operation of a reasonably safe and secure prison system. CDCR presently has the opportunity to back up these catch phrases with action by creating a sensible program for the purpose of transitioning the present long term SHU prisoners to a general population prison environment in a reasonably safe and secure manner. Their presence in general population will enhance the safety and security of the prison system as a whole, which will enable CDCR to provide prisoners with meaningful rehabilitation type programs and thereby help prisoners be better prepared for achieving success upon their parole to the community (see Aug. 12, 2012, Agreement to End Hostilities).
The CDCR can do this right now, at little to no cost, via the creation of the MCU [MAX-B] type program that we detailed in our March 2012 Counter-Proposal.
It’s a simple matter, for Pilot Program start-up purposes, to review all PBSP SHU prisoners’ files. Those on indefinite SHU status for validation, who have not been found guilty of a formally charged, gang-related offense – a serious RVR (Rules Violation Report) – in the last two years, who are three to five years or less from their parole date or parole eligibility hearing are immediately released to the MCU (Management Control Unit) on PBSP B Facility, where they can still be closely observed while actually interacting with each other and staff in a less restrictive yet still controlled environment. This is a model for success!
It has been more than 13 months since we agreed to suspend our non-violent, peaceful protest hunger strike actions in response to CDCR’s top administrators’ admissions that all of our Five Core Demands were reasonable and would be responded to via substantively meaningful changes to the policies and practices at issue.
This has NOT HAPPENED, as summarized in the above examples. (See also our related opposition and rejection statements responding to CDCR’s March and June 2012 STG proposals.)
To date, the CDCR’s top officials have acted in bad faith, including ignoring our prior opposition points and counter-proposal.
Therefore, at this point, we request a face-to-face meeting with the top CDCR officials, authorized and able to make decisions on the spot, for the purpose of changing the Oct. 11, 2012, STG Pilot Program Memo in ways responsive to our Five Core Demands, in line with the examples set forth in this document.
This meeting can be in person or via video conference in PBSP SHU.
Let this serve as notice that failure to change the Pilot Program in ways that are responsive to our Five Core Demands, as exemplified in this document, will be deemed to be just cause for our collective resumption of our non-violent, peaceful protest action(s).
Thank you for your time and attention.
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 D1-117L, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. Mail to Arturo Castellaños and Antonio Guillen remains severely restricted. These four men are the “main reps” for the California prison movement best known for the 2011 hunger strikes that involved 12,000 prisoners at their peak.
From Unprison Blog
Posted on June 30, 2011 by Bruce Reilly
What exactly is a hunger strike? It is when someone, or a group of people, will choose death over their current living conditions. But not an unknown pointless death; instead, they will commit a long, grueling, public death designed to create change- if not for themselves, then for those who live on in the horrid conditions, or those who are transported into that torture chamber sometime in the future.
In picturesque Crescent City, California, a coastal town 6 hours north of San Francisco, roughly 1 in 5 “residents” are prisoners. Several cell blocks of these isolated men are beginning their hunger strike on Friday, July 1st. After decades of living in one of the most deplorable human conditions of America, they have organized themselves to say “Enough!” Pelican Bay State Penitentiary is in many ways the protypical American prison, illustrating the historical gap of “Haves” vs. “Have Nots,” and is quixotically surrounded by the peaceful beauty of Klamath National Forest, Jerediah Smith Redwoods, Tolawa Dunes, Lake Earl, and Pelican Bay.
Read the rest here.
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Communications Director, Critical Resistance
Office: 510 444 0484
Cell: 510 517 6612
What: Press Conference
When: Thursday, June 30, 2011, 11:00am
Where: Elihu M. Harris State of California Office Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, CA
Oakland—Prisoners at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA will initiate an indefinite hunger strike on July 1st, 2011 to protest condition in the prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). Lawyers and advocates who have been in contact with the prisoners will hold a press conference Thusday June 30th at the Oakland Federal Building, at 11am to rally support for the strike and put pressure on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to respond to the prisoners’ demands.
Prisoners have delivered their demands to Pelican Bay warden Greg Lewis, the CDCR, and to Governor Jerry Brown. Their demands include an end to long-term solitary confinement, collective punishment, and forced interrogation on gang affiliation. The prisoners have also stated that they are willing to give up their lives unless their demands are met.
“The prisoners inside the SHU at Pelican Bay know the risk that they are taking going on hunger strike,” says Manuel LaFontaine, of All of Us or None, an organization that supports former prisoners and part of a Bay Area-based Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition supporting Pelican Bay’s prisoners. La Fontaine continues, “The CDCR must recognize that the SHU produces conditions of grave violence, such that people lose their lives in there all the time.” U.S. and international human rights organizations have condemned Security Housing Units as having cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions.
SHU prisoners are kept in windowless, 6 by 10 foot cells, 23½ hours a day, for years at a time. The CDCR operates four Security Housing Units in its system at Corcoran,California Correctional Institution, Valley State Prison for Women as well as Pelican Bay.
Recent work and hunger strikes in Georgia and Ohio prisons were successful in both winning some concessions and alerting the public to the conditions inside US prisons. “People who are in prison are already being punished. They are still human beings and should not have to lose their civil and human rights” says Karen Shain, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.
Pelican Bay’s hunger strike begins amidst the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling condemning California’s prison overcrowding and order the reduction of its population by at least 33,000 people. At the center of the overcrowding ruling were dozens of prisoner deaths a year due to the lack of basic medical and other healthcare. Thursday’s Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity press conference will touch off several events happening in cities across North America in the coming weeks.
Legal workers, advocates, and experts on the California prison system will be available for comment and interviews.
By Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford)
From: Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity
This is a call for all prisoners in Security Housing Units (SHUs), Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), and General Populations (GP), as well as the free oppressed and non-oppressed people to support the indefinite July 1st 2011 peaceful Hunger Strike in protest of the violation of our civil/human rights, here at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU), short corridor D1 through D4 and its overflow D5 through D10.
It should be clear to everyone that none of the hunger strike participants want to die, but due to our circumstances, whereas that state of California has sentenced all of us on Indeterminate SHU program to a “civil death” merely on the word of a prison informer (snitch).
The purpose of the Hunger Strike is to combat both the Ad-Seg/SHU psychological and physical torture, as well as the justifications used of support treatment of the type that lends to prisoners being subjected to a civil death. Those subjected to indeterminate SHU programs are neglected and deprived of the basic human necessities while withering away in a very isolated and hostile environment.
Prison officials have utilized the assassination of prisoners’ character to each other as well as the general public in order to justify their inhumane treatment of prisoners. The “code of silence” used by guards allows them the freedom to use everything at their disposal in order to break those prisoners who prison officials and correctional officers (C/O) believe cannot be broken.
It is this mentality that set in motion the establishing of the short corridor, D1 through D4 and its D5 though D10 overflow. This mentality has created the current atmosphere in which C/Os and prison officials agreed upon plan to break indeterminate SHU prisoners. This protracted attack on SHU prisoners cuts across every aspect of the prison’s function: Food, mail, visiting, medical, yard, hot/cold temperatures, privileges (canteen, packages, property, etc.), isolation, cell searches, family/friends, and socio-culture, economic, and political deprivation. This is nothing short of the psychological/physical torture of SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners. It takes place day in and day out, without a break or rest.
The prison’s gang intelligence unit was extremely angered at the fact that prisoners who had been held in SHU under inhuman conditions for anywhere from ten (10) to forty (40) years had not been broken. So the gang intelligence unit created the “short corridor” and intensified the pressure of their attacks on the prisoners housed there. The object was to use blanket pressure to encourage these particular isolated prisoners to debrief (i.e. snitch on order to be released from SHU).
The C/Os and administrative officials are all in agreement and all do their part in depriving short corridor prisoners and its overflow of their basic civil/human rights. None of the deliberate attacks are a figment of anyone’s imagination. These continuous attacks are carried out against prisoners to a science by all of them. They are deliberate and conscious acts against essentially defenseless prisoners.
It is these ongoing attacks that have led to the short corridor and overflow SHU prisoners to organize ourselves themselves around an indefinite Hunger Strike in an effort to combat the dehumanizing treatment we prisoners of all races are subjected to on a daily basis.
Therefore, on July 1, 2011, we ask that all prisoners throughout the State of California who have been suffering injustices in General Population, Administrative Segregation and solitary confinement, etc. to join in our peaceful strike to put a stop to the blatant violations of prisoners’ civil/human rights. As you know, prison gang investigators have used threats of validation and other means to get prisoners to engage in a protracted war against each other in order to serve their narrow interests. If you cannot participate in the Hunger Strike then support it in principle by not eating for the first 24 hours of the strike.
I say that those of you who carry yourselves as principled human beings, no matter you’re housing status, must fight to right this and other egregious wrongs. Although it is “us” today (united New Afrikans, Whites, Northern and Southern Mexicans, and others) it will be you all tomorrow. It is in your interests to peacefully support us in this protest today, and to beware of agitators, provocateurs, and obstructionists, because they are the ones who put ninety percent of us back here because they could not remain principled even within themselves.
This article was found on Global Research
June 21, 2011
By Li Onesto
Crescent City is far north in California, about 20 miles from the Oregon border. In 1989, 275 acres of dense forest near there were chopped down to build the $277.5 million Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). Today, more than 3,000 people are locked up in this prison, infamous for its inhumane conditions and extreme abuse.
More than 1,000 prisoners at PBSP are locked up in an X-shaped cluster of white buildings set apart by electrified fences and barren ground. This is the Security Housing Unit (SHU), a supermax control facility where prisoners are subjected to sensory deprivation, isolation and brutality.
Many prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU, and their lawyers, have bravely fought to expose the torture that is going on. They have written letters and articles, and filed lawsuits. Against heavy repression and censorship they have struggled to connect with people on the outside who are fighting for the rights of prisoners.
Dehumanizing Sensory Deprivation and Isolation
Solitary confinement is a hidden world within the larger hidden world of the prison system, and prisoners in solitary are an invisible and dehumanized minority within the larger population of prison inmates in general—who also remain remarkably invisible and dehumanized…
— Solitary Watch, an information clearinghouse on solitary confinement
If you are in the SHU at Pelican Bay Prison you face two extremes: minimum human contact and maximum sensory deprivation.
Think about everything that makes you human, that keeps you physically and mentally alive, that connects you with the world and other people, that gives you a reason to live, to love, to learn and think. All this is what the SHU tries to extinguish.
If you get put in the SHU you’re locked up in a small, windowless concrete cell for 23 hours a day, without any face-to-face contact with another human being, not even a guard. You may or may not be allowed reading material. You get only one hour outside the cell, by yourself, in a small indoor space. You never see sunlight or a blade of grass. Whenever you leave your cell you’re handcuffed and shackled, hands-to-waist, ankle-to-ankle.
Many mentally ill prisoners are put in the SHU at Pelican Bay. And the SHU literally drives many prisoners crazy. What does this mean? There is evidence that long-term isolation can alter brain chemistry and produce psychopathologies, including panic attacks, depression, inability to concentrate, memory loss, aggression, self-mutilation, and various forms of psychosis. These things occur as a result of other forms of confinement. But they happen at a considerably higher rate to prisoners subjected to long-term isolation. And there are prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU who have been suffering this form of torture for 20, 30 or even 40 years.1
These crimes against prisoners also carry over to their families. Prison officials purposely prevent prisoners in the SHU from having physical contact with their loved ones. A prisoner in the PBSP SHU isn’t even allowed to take a photo of himself to send to his family. No phone calls are permitted.
If you live in San Francisco and have a son, a husband, or a father at Pelican Bay, you have to drive 370 miles to see them. If you live in Los Angeles the drive is 750 miles. And when you get there, you’re only allowed to visit for one and a half hours through thick glass, no touching.
Brutality Aimed at Breaking Bones and Spirit
The prison population in the U.S. has skyrocketed—from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.3 million today. In California 33 new prisons were built between 1984 and 2005 (12 prisons had been constructed in the state in the previous 132 years). Human rights groups in the U.S. and internationally have documented the inhumane conditions of this mass incarceration. And recently the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that conditions in California prisons constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” 2
Indeed if you look at the brutal conditions in U.S. prisons, which have been clearly documented, it becomes clear that the prison system in this country is not about helping prisoners or even treating them like human beings. And for decades now, there hasn’t even been the pretense of prisons being about “rehabilitation.”
Mass incarceration in this country is about locking up a whole section of society—especially poor Black and Latino men—to whom this system offers no future. Prisons in the U.S. are aimed at punishment—degrading, dehumanizing, and breaking people. And the SHU at Pelican Bay is a model in doing exactly that.
For example, guards carry out brutal “cell extractions”—which they say are done if a prisoner won’t leave his cell. But prisoners in the SHU have said that cell extractions are carried out for such minor infractions as refusing to return a meal tray, banging on the cell door, or insulting a guard. This description of a cell extraction is corroborated not only by many prisoner accounts, but also by explicit Department of Corrections procedures:
“This is how the five-man cell extraction team proceeds: the first member of the team is to enter the cell carrying a large shield, which is used to push the prisoner back into a corner of the cell; the second member follows closely, wielding a special cell extraction baton, which is used to strike the inmate on the upper part of his body so that he will raise his arms in self-protection; thus unsteadied, the inmate is pulled off balance by another member of the team whose job is to place leg irons around his ankles; once downed, a fourth member of the team places him in handcuffs; the fifth member stands ready to fire a taser gun or rifle that shoots wooden or rubber bullets at the resistant inmate.”3
After such a beating, a prisoner may be kept hog-tied in his cell for hours.
A former guard at Pelican Bay testified about how he was targeted by other guards because he didn’t go along with all the vicious brutality he was supposed to carry out. He said: “They called D-Yard SHU, ‘fluffy SHU,’ because we didn’t hog-tie inmates to toilets or kick them in the face after cell extractions… There was one officer in there who used to take photos of every shooting and decorate his office with them.” 4
Doesn’t this sound a lot like the soldiers in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan who carried out massacres and then proudly collected body parts like souvenirs and posed for photos they could use to brag about their exploits?
The “Catch-22” of the SHU
How does a prisoner end up in the SHU? For exhibiting any violence. For anything prison officials deem “insubordination.” For contraband—which includes not only drugs but cell phones—or even having too many postage stamps. 5
Prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU have submitted a Formal Complaint—
“On Human Rights Violations and Request for Action to end over 20 years of state sanctioned torture to extract information from (or cause mental illness to) California’s Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) Prisoners”—to the State of California lawmakers and the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. One of the issues addressed in this complaint is the way many prisoners end up in the SHU at Pelican Bay because false and/or highly questionable “evidence” is used to accuse them of being active/inactive members of a prison gang. Prison officials say supermax facilities like the SHU are for the “worst of the worst.” But as the Formal Complaint says, “a review of these so-called demonized ‘worst of the worst’ PBSP-SHU inmates, who are party to this complaint, will reveal they are actually free of being guilty of serious rule violations for many years and zero illegal gang-related acts in prison.” And the complaint also alleges that many of those sent to the SHU are “those who utilize the legal system to challenge illegal [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] policies and practices, and encourage others to do the same.”
The Formal Complaint states:
“If they want out of the SHU, they have to provide staff with information and be willing to testify on other prisoners, free citizens, including family members that only harms others and this has to be known by everyone. This is a Catch 22 situation—become a notorious informant (and thereby place yourself, possibly your family, at serious risk for retaliation) or die or become mentally ill in the SHU.”
This is called “debriefing,” which, the complaint goes on to explain, “requires a SHU inmate to provide CDCR staff with ‘sufficient verifiable information that will adversely impact the gang, other gang members and associates to the extent that they will never accept them back.’”
The complaint goes on to say:
“This makes the inmate (and possibly his family members) a target for reprisal, potentially for life … many of these inmates are serving “term-to-life” sentences, and they have been eligible for parole for the last 5 to 25+ years, but they are told that if they want a chance to parole they have to debrief—period! The CDCR-PBSP-SHU policies and practices summarized violate both the U.S. Constitution and International law banning the use of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment as a means of obtaining information via coercion, and/or to punish for acts or suspected acts of misconduct…”
Crimes Against Humanity
Earlier this year, Laura Magnani, author of the American Friends Service Committee 2008 report, “Buried Alive: Long-Term Isolation in California’s Youth and Adult Prisons,” was on KPFK radio’s Michael Slate Show and talked about conditions in SHUs (see interview excerpt above, “It is so dehumanizing, it’s almost unimaginable”). At the end of the interview Slate spoke to the importance of prisoners “transforming themselves and really becoming something different from what they may have been when they went in, even if they weren’t political prisoners there.” He brought up how the isolation works to rob them of the ability to do this, of dreaming, of taking part in revolutionary activity. Magnani responded:
“It’s not even just dreams, it’s actually punishing you for having an intellectual life, for actually thinking outside the box, or for thinking at all. So the idea of barring people’s access to certain kinds of thought, which is what censorship is, is extremely frightening. And we know from research that one of the best things that can happen to somebody doing a long prison sentence is for them to develop an intellectual life and start reading and start studying and start thinking for themselves. That’s a way where you can really create a new life for yourself, or you can make your life meaningful even if you never get out. But if you do get out, you make yourself a more productive member of society, because you have a life. You’re a thoughtful, educated person. What could be better? And instead they’re trying to really prevent that from happening.”
Crimes against the very humanity of people are being carried out every single day at Pelican Bay Prison—and in other prisons all over the USA. This is an intolerable outrage. And a mass and determined movement outside the walls is urgently needed to expose and demand an end to these high-tech torture chambers.
1 “Confronting Torture in U.S. Prisons: A Q&A With Solitary Watch” by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, June 17, 2011 [back]
2 “Cruel and Unusual Punishment in California Prisons,” Revolution #235, June 12, 2011 [back]
3 “‘Infamous Punishment’: The Psychological Consequences of Isolation” by Craig Haney, National Prison Project Journal, Spring 1994 [back]
4 “Rural Prison as Colonial Master” by Christian Parenti, available at: pelicanbayprisonproject.org/history.htm [back]
5 Ridgeway and Casella [back]