Legislative alert: CDCR’s Step-Down Pilot Program is in fact systematic, mandatory brainwashing

In: SF Bay View, Dec. 15th 2013 (reblogged on NCTT-Cor-SHU)
by Heshima Denham

There is a matter of some urgency that should be passed along as broadly as possible, because it is just that serious. We issued a statement, “Creating broken men, Part 2,” where we voiced our outrage at the inclusion of the mandatory brainwashing components of Section 700.2 of the CDCR’s Step Down Program (SDP.) Since that time several things have developed:

1. The doctors took Zaharibu Dorrough to the review board and attempted to bribe him with the promise of transfer to Tehachapi and touch visits in Step 3 IF he agreed to participate in Step 2 for six months – most centrally the “self-directed journal” outlined in Section 700.2 – their hope being if Zah does it, then countless other younger, more vulnerable prisoners can be herded into this brainwashing program. He of course refused, and we’re putting the finishing touches on a new statement on all of this, so I’ll leave that point.

2. We had an opportunity to review one of the journals (“The Con Game”) and it’s even worse than we thought – well, more accurately, it’s exactly what we knew it would be: a blatant character invalidation and brainwashing tool.

3. Most disturbing of all, they’ve announced a director’s rules change to provisions of CCR Section 3040, which introduces mandatory brainwashing for EVERY PRISONER IN CDCR – called “cognitive behavioral therapy” – and attaching it to this same regulation that governs mandatory work and education assignments while confined to CDCR.

All of this is in violation of Article 1 of the Nuremburg Code and the most fundamental basics of human rights. I don’t know if this is simply an issue most don’t genuinely understand or if CDCR has so thoroughly hidden and downplayed what they are attempting – but this is the single greatest evil this struggle faces. It is even more urgent than the issue of indefinite solitary sensory deprivation confinement.

What we have determined is CDCR’s SDP Pilot Program has zero to do with “a behavior-based path for ‘validated’ prisoners to exit the SHU” and is in fact a systematic and mandatory brainwashing program using the prospect of eventual SHU release as the coercive component to force men and women to submit to these techniques.

According to the SDP/STG [Security Threat Group] policy, if you refuse to submit to the “cognitive restructuring” components of the SDP, such as “self-directed journals,” you will be “stuck” in whatever step they decide to stick you in … forever – or, like the debriefing process, until you finally capitulate and ask them to brainwash you. In other words, you can be “STG behavior”-free for, presumably, the rest of your life and you’ll still be stuck in say, Step 2, in the SHU.

They have changed nothing, but are creating a new and more efficient means to produce the same broken minds and subservient slaves as the debriefing process – only on a much grander scale. It is in fact worse than the debriefing process – and not simply in the SHU. They seek to extend this to every prison and prisoner in CDCR’s custody.

CDCR is in the process of changing their regulations to incorporate mandatory brainwashing – what they’re calling in this proposed rules change “cognitive behavioral therapy,” which they define as “evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatment which addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviors, and cognitive processes in all three areas to reach proscribed goals” – to ensure everyone who enters CDCR will leave it a warped, submissive and subservient slave.

What we have determined is CDCR’s SDP Pilot Program has zero to do with “a behavior-based path for ‘validated’ prisoners to exit the SHU” and is in fact a systematic and mandatory brainwashing program using the prospect of eventual SHU release as the coercive component to force men and women to submit to these techniques.


To ensure their capacity to force this conditioning on prisoners, they’ve actually attached this sick, twisted assault on the underclass to provisions of CCR Title 15, Section 3040, Participation, which makes work, education and “other programs” mandatory for all CDCR prisoners. It in turn derives its authority from the slavery provisions of the 13th Amendment. I can only describe this as evil. Every activist, family member and citizen should be mobilizing against this manifestation of fascism in their midst.

Here they seek to instill beliefs and values which are synonymous with those of right-wing, authoritarian conservatism – while simultaneously seeking to absolve the nature and structure of capitalist society and contrapositive authoritarian conditioning inherent in the U.S. fascist mass psychology for any of society’s ills, including institutional racism, sexism, intentional underdevelopment, social containment and criminalization.

Instead they seek to lay all blame at the feet of the individual and their choices – a view rejected and debunked by sociological and criminological academia for decades. The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society – not simply individual choices. It is the lack of viable choices which coerces people into the underground economy – and inevitably into prisons where they’ve erected a multi-billion dollar industry built on jailing millions of poor people and people of color.

CDCR is in the process of changing their regulations to incorporate mandatory brainwashing – what they’re calling in this proposed rules change “cognitive behavioral therapy,” to ensure everyone who enters CDCR will leave it a warped, submissive and subservient slave.


These journals stress “taking personal responsibility,” but CDCR takes none for the hundreds of female prisoners they forcibly sterilized in California prisons, the tens of thousands subjected to years of psychological torture in U.S. SHU units, the tens of billions of dollars pillaged from underclass and minority communities by lending institutions during the subprime loan fiascos, the centuries of institutional racism, sexism, xenophobia and state-sponsored hate that adversely affects the “choices” available to the people subjected to these structural components of U.S. capitalism.

Financial corporations embezzled billions of dollars from hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens – via credit default swaps and other exotic financial instruments – in 2008, and not one of these Wall Street executives or government regulators has spent a day in jail.

There’s a guy in 3 Block who got caught with 20 rocks of cocaine and another guy in B Section who stole two pizzas, and they both got 25 to life under the three strikes law – and CDCR and “The Change Company” [the name of the vendor providing them with the journals] have the audacity and unmitigated gall to speak of “responsible” vs. “irresponsible” thinking.

The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society – not simply individual choices. It is the lack of viable choices which coerces people into the underground economy – and inevitably into prisons where they’ve erected a multi-billion dollar industry built on jailing millions of poor people and people of color.


Prisons are tools of repression to enforce property rights and maintain the current social order. Social conditions in these capitalist nations are such that “perpetual growth” has met the boundaries of planetary ecological/environmental capacity. They can’t keep on reaping super profits from the appropriation of surplus labor value without meeting ever increasing resistance from those suffering the ever decreasing share of wealth and resources available.

Their solution is to increase the psychological and behavioral malleability and passivity of the most potentially revolutionary segments of U.S. society: the underclass, the working poor, the unemployed … the prisoner. CDCR is and has always been a model for the nation in prison “best practices.” As goes California – so goes the nation.

The introduction and imposition of mandatory brainwashing – cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive restructuring, self-directed journals, behavior modification etc. – across CDCR facilities will produce a steady stream of broken men and women; who will in turn take these techniques, warped values, authoritarian beliefs and twisted ideals out to their communities where, just like those female slaves who were subjected to “slave seasoning” would raise their sons to be “good boys” – physically strong, so they could work hard, but psychologically and emotionally weak, so they would not rebel against the institution of slavery and thereby be murdered brutally by the slavemaster.

Prisons are tools of repression to enforce property rights and maintain the current social order.


These broken men and women will warp the minds of others, who will in turn warp others, until we will have a docile, submissive, subservient U.S. underclass population, content to continue enduring even more exploitation, more severe repression, and even greater usurpations – all because we, the progressives, the revolutionaries, the social justice activists, the common man and woman failed to act.

I feel at times as though many simply don’t understand what’s transpiring, its interconnections and its ultimate social impact. There are no disparate social forces – all is interconnected, and it is within these interconnections that the vast, horrifying, awe-inspiring scope of what these evil people are trying to do becomes sickeningly clear.

I don’t believe the legislators in Sacramento know this is the case. Coercive behavior modification and/or cognitive restructuring techniques are prohibited under Article 1 of theNuremburg Code. The forced sterilization of female prisoners is a war crime.

Female slaves who were subjected to “slave seasoning” would raise their sons to be “good boys” – physically strong, so they could work hard, but psychologically and emotionally weak, so they would not rebel against the institution of slavery and thereby be murdered brutally by the slavemaster.


The fact that we must invoke the Nuremburg Code and war crimes statutes to oppose what a prison system in the U.S. is doing is the best proof of 1) how racist, sick and inhumane the U.S. actually is and 2) how completely oblivious the U.S. population is of this fact – and the U.S. mass media is complicit in this. It is my assessment that U.S. journalists have so thoroughly crafted this image of what they want the world to believe American society is, they willfully conceal, under-report and ignore and fail to investigate its vilest contradictions in order to preserve this illusion. Any journalist who claims ignorance must acknowledge it is a willful ignorance.

We simply can’t stand idly by and allow something like his to sweep up untold generations in this sick process. History will judge us all harshly should we do so. Every activist, every able-bodied person, period, should be mobilizing to oppose these violations of the Nuremburg Code.

Now as it relates to Section 700.2 of the SDP, noise has to be made about it, like nothing before, but as it relates to the new director’s rules changes to Title 15, Section 3040 and related sections, there will be a public hearing on this on Jan. 7, 2014, at 10-11 a.m. in the Kern Room at 1515 S St., North Building, Sacramento.

Written comments may be sent by mail to CDCR, Regulation and Policy Management Branch (RPMB), P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283, by fax to (916) 324-6075 or by email to RPMB@cdcr.ca.gov, by 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2014.

There will be a public hearing on this on Jan. 7, 2014, at 10-11 a.m. in the Kern Room at 1515 S St., North Building, Sacramento.


The Kern Room should be packed with protestors on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. to bring media attention to the reality of this evil. A letter writing and email campaign should be organized to flood them with complaints about this continually leading up to Jan. 7.

I’m contacting everyone I can on this, and I do encourage you to do the same. This is even more important than the abolition of SHU.

The Kern Room should be packed with protestors on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. to bring media attention to the reality of this evil.


It is these people’s intention to subject tens of thousands of prisoners, 95 percent of them hailing from underclass communities, to systematic cognitive restructuring where they begin with “character invalidation” and end with the complete subordination of their minds and behaviors to the dictates of authoritarian conservatism, manufacturing a docile, subservient population of men and women WHO WILL TAKE THESE SAME TECHNIQUES OUT TO THEIR COMMUNITES, warping the minds of generations to come.

In so doing, they not only make the expropriation of tax dollars, at the expense of prisoners, a more orderly process, but also make the exploitation of labor in society at large a less burdensome ordeal for corporations by stamping out the very thought of resistance or progressive, pro-people organizing.

Viewing all of this through the prism of its Hitlerian magnitude, the insidiousness of this undertaking is inspiringly horrific. We shouldn’t be having this discussion – these people have gone mad!

It is these people’s intention to subject tens of thousands of prisoners, 95 percent of them hailing from underclass communities, to systematic cognitive restructuring where they begin with “character invalidation” and end with the complete subordination of their minds and behaviors to the dictates of authoritarian conservatism, manufacturing a docile, subservient population of men and women.


The contact person on the brainwashing provisions of the new Section 3040 (et al) is Timothy Lockwood, (916) 445-2269 or RPMB@cdcr.gov. Regarding the subject matter, contact Michele Gonzalez at (916) 323-6662.

A note on those “self-directed journals,” at least all those CDCR is using: They have printed at the bottom of each page and the answer sheets: “It is illegal to photocopy this in any shape or form.” That alone should show anyone interested there’s something very wrong here.

Emergency Press Conference – Challenging Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation and Lies – Stop Solitary Confinement Torture in CA Prisons – Support 5 Demands of Hunger Strikers

Event: Emergency Press Conference – Challenging Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation and Lies – Stop Solitary Confinement Torture in CA Prisons – Support 5 Demands of Hunger Strikers

Date: Wednesday, August 7, 10 AM

Location: LA Times Building

Address: 202 W. 1st. Los Angeles

Contact: 213-840-5348  (Keith James)

This was sent in as one of the comments to the shameless op-ed that Jeffrey Beard, secretary of the CDCR, wrote for the LA Times on the 30th day of the California prisoner hunger strike:

Jeffrey Beard, in an op-ed piece in the LA Times, August 6th, 2013:

“There are SHUs at four prisons in California. At three of them — in Tehachapi, Corcoran and Folsom — there are outdoor-facing windows in the cells that allow for direct sunlight. At Pelican Bay, all SHU cells have skylights. In all of the facilities, inmates in the SHU have radios and color TVs with access to channels such as ESPN. They have weekly access to a law library and daily exercise time. Many have cellmates; they can earn degrees; they can send and receive letters; and their family and friends can visit them every weekend. SHU inmates receive the same meals and portions as general population inmates. This is not “solitary confinement,” in that prisoners can have visitors and, in many cases, interaction with other inmates.”

A response:

Dear Dr Beard,

I just want to note in response to your op-ed piece in the LA Times that of course there is no direct sunlight through a window. A person will not receive vital vitamin D through a window. Have you seen the concrete box that is called the “yard” in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU? How would you feel if your loved one or yourself had that as your outdoor experience for a year? For 5 years? 10plus years? For 25 years?

The radio’s and very small tv’s were bought by the families and friends of the inmates. Everyone knows that, even though it is their property, it is an incentive that you can apparently take away as a dictator. In the area where Pelican Bay SHU is, there are not many radio/TV stations at all.

Law Library has been denied some men in Corcoran-SHU for weeks. It is also treated as an incentive, but you of all people must know that the law should be accessible for all people, especially those you hold imprisoned.

There is no daily exercise. Sometimes the prisoners in Corcoran SHU cannot go out to their “dog cages”(that is their yard, Dr Beard!) because of “maintenance” (when finished, the yard is still closed for a few days after) or because staff does not give yard. If you were a prisoner and you knew your meager rights were taken from you, what would you do, Dr Beard?

Visits are always behind glass. How would you feel, what would your emotional state of mind be, if you could never touch / be in physical vicinity of your loved ones? You think that touching a fellow inmate replaces this? Bumping into your fellow inmate because you share a tiny cell the size of your parking lot, will be enough to claim they can have some kind of inter-human contact? When guards put shackles on you, do you think that counts as human contact? You as a psychologist should know better.

Did you know, Dr Beard, that visits to the people held in the SHU are only one hour per week? If you live far away and cannot come every week, it is 2 hours for once.

Did you know, Dr Beard, that often your visiting booths are fully booked and that the visitor have to wait another week to see their loved one? Or go back to their country and come back another year? Because the visitor was denied to book a visit, because your employees had to clear them on arrival so that they had no time to make the appointments 2 weeks in advance? Do you call that visits?

About degrees: how do prisoners pay for college money, Dr Beard? How can they study without a computer? That you suddenly, just before the hunger strike started, changed the rules and are now willing to let SHU prisoners have typewriters (hopelessly backward, but anyway), is not helping a lot when prisoners want to study. What about building educational classrooms and having SHU prisoners go to school there? That would be really meaningful. Now you are just hoping to convince people who do not know about what it is like inside, that it is not that bad.

You also say: “they can send and receive letters”, why is it that Corcoran SHU keeps letters behind for weeks before sending them out? Why is it that prisoners in the SHU receive letters that were written weeks ago? Why don’t you have Jpay.com installed so that people can send a mail to our loved ones in prison, and that these are printed and handed to them? Just like in so many other states? In Ohio they even have the opportunity to send their handwritten or typed letter back via Jpay. I am not saying this will solve the issue of being in a concrete box for years, if not decades, but you say that it is all not that bad, and I resist that. Because it is extremely bad. Also in comparison to other places in your country.

How do you think prisoners can write letters if they have no jobs to earn money to pay for stamps? They can get indignant envelopes maybe, but they will gather debts and these are only one per week maybe. Do you think that is enough to keep in contact in a meaningful way with family and friends?

You want prisoners to be forgotten. You want them all to be shown as evil, no good for anything, right? You want some to get extra punishment that no court has given them, because that shows how tough it is inside California’s prisons. But what about rehabilitating? The people inside the SHU’s are also under the CDCR, and they also need to be rehabilitated. Do you really think that informing on others is morally right? You are not a pastor, or a reverend, but you do claim “correcting” and “rehabilitating” in the title of your organization.

Do you really think that criminal gangs will stop existing when you lock up conscious prisoners who are intelligent and who want the best for the community? Like all the conscious New Afrikan prisoners, calling them members of the “Black Guerilla Family”? Criminalizing political ideas? Is that your way of correcting?

Do you think they will bow down to your employees and your policy? And I do not even mention the people inside who have an innocence claim…

So what about SHU time for people who did a violent act, who could be held separately for a while until they too are calm and more redeemed?

So you believe that the hunger strike was organized by criminal gangsters? You should be relieved they show restraint and organize this peaceful protest at which 30,000 participated on day 1, instead of calling for violence. That is something we have not heard from your lips, Dr Beard.

And also, your employees give “115” tickets out to those participating, saying this is seen as a “gang activity”! Dr Beard, do all the people outside joining on fasts for a day, are they also part of this “gang”? Those who wrote about the hunger strike, those who participated in support rallies, wrote cards of encouragement, tweeted and facebooked about it?

Think about it, Dr Beard, if this were a “Hollywood movie”, who would be the heroes? Surely not the people who retaliate against peaceful protesters? Employees who do not follow up the instructions on what to do medically when a hunger strike starts? How can your organization, a professional, state-paid organization, even accept retaliation? Who is the only real gang, Dr Beard? Who is fighting a war and setting up people against each other? Dividing and conquering as a strategy is a losing game, Dr Beard. This Human Rights Defense Action of the Collective Hunger Strike is a show of unity between all different people of all different races.

Dr Beard: SHU is a punishment that (if given at all) should only be given for a short period of time to people who have used violence (not including mentally ill people who should not be held  in a prison setting).  Not for people who have for years on end not been able to go back to general population because they refuse to snitch. Listen to the demands of the prisoners! Your policies are killing people!


Finally: Dr Beard, people who are being kept in your SHU’s are never allowed to make one phonecall.
After the 2011 hunger strikes, they were allowed to have one photo a year made. They were allowed one food package a year. Are you really going to make them, their families and friends, and the rest of society, suffer so that you can say that you are tough on crime and that you will not be told by the dying prisoners in your prison torture camps and by many people outside in their support, what you should have changed long ago?

Shame on you, Beard! If you do not negotiate now, may you be forced to resign!

Retaliation Continues Against Hunger Strike, Coalition Refutes CDCR’s Gang Myths

Reblogged from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity:

July 22nd 2013
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland, July 22, 2013 – As the California prison hunger strike enters its 3rd week, reports of retaliation against strikers have increased.  Last week it was reported that prison officials had moved at least 14 strikers from the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay to Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), confiscated confidential legal documents, and forced cold air into their cells.  Later in the week, legal advocate Marilyn McMahon and one of her paralegals were summarily banned from visiting any California prison. 

Reports that strikers have been moved to Ad-Seg or to entirely different facilities have also been coming from Corcoran State Prison. 

The denial of medical care to strikers, especially those with preexisting health conditions, remains a widespread concern for families and advocates.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to claim that the hunger strike is a massive gang conspiracy.  At the same time, the CDCR claims its SHU and debriefing programs have been thoroughly reformed and are effective at creating safety throughout its prison system.  Please find below a point-by-point clarification of recent claims made by CDCR spokesperson Terry Thorton on Al Jazeera’s The Stream, July 18, 2013.

Thorton: “Those who are placed [in the SHU] indeterminately, administratively, because they have been validated as a gang member or a gang associate.”

FACT: There is no way for a prisoner to challenge this administrative process, or an indeterminant sentence; one of the main demands of the hunger strikers is for a modification of the criteria for gang validation.  In fact, the recently revised criteria for gang validation has actually expanded, making it easier for the CDCR to validate wider groups of prisoners.

Thorton: “Typically SHU inmates at Pelican Bay, and the other SHUs as well, they do get out to the yard every day.  They go to visiting, they have access to the law library, they have cable television, they have access to reading materials and educational programs too.”

The “Yard” at Pelican Bay SHU (photo: NPR)

FACT: The yard is still part of sensory deprivation – prisoners have no access to any outside recreation. The mandated hours are few and routinely not met. Reading materials are heavily restricted and possession of certain kinds of materials can be cause for gang validation. There are NO educational programs in SHU. Visiting is conducted through glass, no physical contact is permitted with visitors, and the visiting times are very short (1-1.5 hours).

Thorton: “And the department of correction and rehabilitation has created a system now where inmates can get out of the SHU without dropping out of their prison gang.  They have created a step down program now where inmates can earn their way out of the SHU. There are rehabilitative elements in this step down program, something the department never had before in all the decades it has been dealing with the issue of prison gangs.  The department’s efforts have been primarily focused on enforcement, and now we have rehabilitative elements, interdiction elements in the way we manage gangs and we implemented these reforms last October.”

FACT:  There is no guarantee of release from the SHU – even upon completion of the step- down program. The step-down program can still take more than 5 years and can still result in an indefinite SHU term.  

From Pelican Bay SHU prisoner Antonio Guillen, “The step down program is a deliberate attempt by CDCR to deceive the public into believing that real change is under way. In truth, however, there is absolutely no change to the validation process (which is the origin of the indeterminate SHU sentence) and the policies and regulations that make up this abhorrent practice remain intact.”

Thorton:“If an inmate is validated as a gang associate, and there is no confirmed disciplinary behavior with a nexus to gang activity, that inmate is not going to be automatically put in the SHU anymore.  We’ve done case by case reviews; hundreds of people have gotten out of the SHU.”

FACT: If the new policy is genuine, those who have been isolated without disciplinary charges should be placed back in general population immediately. Releasing 208 out of 12,000 people from isolation into general population hardly indicates a good-faith effort to introduce a new program.

Thorton: “Absolutely there needs to be discussion and engagement, there also needs to be some acknowledgment about the progress, the reforms that the department has instituted as well.  We have let hundreds of people out of the SHU, we are hoping to a quick resolution of this mass hunger strike because unfortunately the staff resources to manage this hunger strike safely have all been diverted away and we have had to temporarily halt our case by case reviews of validated inmates, which I find really unfortunate.”

FACT: a quick resolution of the strike would be good faith and binding discussions and engagement with the prisoner representatives in all the prisons.   
Honest negotiations would lead to an immediate implementation of reforms. As the CDCR is mired in numerous lawsuits regarding human rights violations–medical negligence, overcrowding, inadequate mental health services–outside oversight and intervention is crucial. California Governor Brown’s silence on the strike is unfortunate given his unique position to be able to compel change in one of the world’s most notorious prison systems.