July 8th: Peaceful Protests of refusing food in CA SHU’s and elsewhere will resume if demands are not met!

Please spread this flyer, thank you! Also follow NCTTCOrSHU.org, Californiaprisonwatch.org (this site), Stopmassincarceration.org, SFBayview.com, Prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com, and other sites with updates.
Also actions of solidarity are planned in other states (Louisiana for one, Ohio may follow). CDCR should at least hear and talk with the prisoners and their representatives!

Latest on CDCR’s proposed new ” STG” program is that NONE of the prisoners in the units in at least Corcoran-SHU 4B 1L have signed a “contract” that CDCR has installed to push prisoners to comply with their new solitary confinement punishment rules.

Sacramento hearing exposes CDCR’s hidden agenda

From: SF Bay View, March 5th 2013

by Denise Mewbourne
Almost two years later, the ripple effect of the 2011 hunger strike organized by the Short Corridor Collective in Pelican Bay prison continues to reverberate throughout California. In protest of solitary confinement torture in California’s Security Housing Units (SHUs), 12,000 people in prisons throughout the state participated in the hunger strike.

Assembly hearing on SHUs Daletha Hayden speaks at rally 022513 by Denise Mewbourne, web
At the rally outside the Capitol in Sacramento before the Assembly Public Safety Committee’s hearing on solitary confinement Feb. 25, Daletha Hayden, one of many prisoners’ loved ones who came, spoke passionately about her son in the Tehachapi SHU. He has not been able to see or touch his 15-year-old son since he was 3. “This is painful, and it tears families apart,” she said. “We have to fight so our loved ones can be treated as well as animals! My son needs medical treatment, and SHU officials refuse for him to have it.” – Photo: Denise Mewbourne

California currently holds 12,000 people in some form of isolation and around 4,000 in long-term solitary confinement. Around 100 people have spent 20 years or more in these hellholes, including many who are activists against prison abuses, political thinkers and jailhouse lawyers. People imprisoned in the SHU have described it as “soul-crushing,” “hellish,” a “constant challenge to keep yourself from being broken” and “a concrete tomb.”

As a result of the strike, the first legislative hearing in Sacramento occurred in August 2011, and at the grassroots level family members of those inside formed California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC) to continue the work they had done during the strike. The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) began strategizing how best to provide support well in advance of the hunger strike and continues its mission of amplifying the voices of people in the SHUs.

The strikers’ five core demands around abolishing group punishment, eliminating debriefing, ending long term solitary confinement, adequate and nutritious food, and constructive programming are still far from being met, although the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) claims to be implementing new policies on how people are sentenced to the SHU as well as how they can exit.

The hearing in Sacramento on Feb. 25, 2013, provided an opportunity for legislators in the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee to hear representatives of CDCR present their new policies and weigh the truth of their claims. The occasion also featured a report back from the Office of the Inspector General about onsite inspections conducted at Pelican Bay, as well as a panel of advocates.

Chaired by Tom Ammiano, the committee had a chance to question the panelists, and at the end there was a scant 20 minutes for public input. Attendance of grassroots activists, including family members and formerly incarcerated people, was organized by California United for a Responsible Budget (CURB). The CURB coalition focuses on reducing the number of people in prison as well as the number of prisons throughout California.

The rally

Beginning with a rally held on the capitol steps, it was an emotional day for many, especially for family members of those suffering in the SHUs and prison survivors. The voices of those in the SHU were powerfully present, both in stories told by family members as well as statements they had sent for the occasion.

Assembly hearing on SHUs rally crowd 022513 by Urszula Wislanka
Prisoners’ families and advocates turned out for a rally followed by the Assembly hearing Feb. 25. The next opportunity to persuade state lawmakers to “stop the torture” is bound to draw far more of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners’ rights supporters from around California. – Photo: Urszula Wislanka

The opening of the letter Gilbert Pacheco read from his brother Daniel in Corcoran Prison summed up the solidarity of the day: “Allow me to expend my utmost respects along with my utmost gratitude and appreciation to all of you who are out here supporting this struggle and allowing mine along with thousands of other voices to be heard! Gracias/Thank you.”

Family members from all over California spoke about loved ones who were being unjustly held for 10, 15, even 25 years or more in solitary confinement, how they were entrapped into solitary and the conditions they face. Marilyn Austin-Smith of All of Us or None, an organization working for human rights of formerly incarcerated people, read a statement from Hugo Pinell, surviving and resisting solitary confinement for 42 years.

Daletha Hayden from Victorville, Calif., spoke about her son who has been in SHU in Tehachapi for four years. He has missed 12 years of his 15-year-old son’s life, having not been able to see or touch him since he was 3. She said, “This is painful, and it tears families apart. We have to fight so our loved ones can be treated as well as animals! My son needs medical treatment, and SHU officials refuse for him to have it.”
Karen Mejia’s fiancé has been in SHU for six years. She stated that to her knowledge, the CDCR never got input from anyone imprisoned in the SHUs regarding their new policies. She went on to say that “if they followed their own policies, the SHU would be half empty, and they don’t want that because of their salaries and budget.”

Recently, they subjected her fiancé to particularly humiliating treatment. After she visited him, they punished him for being “sexually disorderly” with her. She said, “They painted his cell yellow and forced him to wear a yellow suit, which they do for sex offenders. In general population, he could have been killed for that.”

Assembly hearing on SHUs rally Sundiata Tate, Marilyn Austin-Smith reading letter from Hugo Pinell, Bato Talamantez 022513 by Azadeh Zohrabi
Marilyn Austin-Smith of All of Us or None, flanked by Sundiata Tate and Bato Talamantez of the San Quentin 6, read from a letter by Hugo Pinell, recognized internationally as a political prisoner and the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison – now for over 42 years in solitary confinement, most of it in the dreaded Pelican Bay SHU. His name was raised repeatedly in public testimony at the hearing. – Photo: Azadeh Zohrabi

Looking at the hypocrisy in the U.S. around torture and human rights, Dolores Canales from CFASC angrily noted that in a recent case, “All it took was a federal order to stop chimpanzees from being held in solitary confinement. It has been determined it’s detrimental to their mental and physical health, because they are social animals and have a need to see, hear and touch each other. Aren’t humans also social beings?!”

Luis “Bato” Talamantez, one of the San Quentin 6, said, “Sending your love to the people inside and helping them to stay connected and spiritually alive is the most important thing you can do with your life right now.”

The rally ended on a positive note with Luis “Bato” Talamantez, one of the San Quentin 6, saying, “Sending your love to the people inside and helping them to stay connected and spiritually alive is the most important thing you can do with your life right now.”

The crowd then filed into the hearing room, which filled up quickly, so around 40 people viewed it in an overflow area. For the next three hours, a few of the legislators, the human rights-focused panelists and the public in attendance did their best to sort through the obfuscations, omissions, misrepresentations and outright lies told by the CDCR and colleagues.

The lies from CDCR

One mistaken idea the hearing quickly cleared up was that any real oversight might come from the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board (CROB) in the Office of the Inspector General.

Speaking from CROB was Renee Hansen, who became executive director of the board in 2011, after 20 years of working for CDCR. Perhaps that explains the board’s less than thorough attempt at a real investigation of conditions in the SHUs and the glowing report she gave. When asked by Ammiano if they had conducted any surprise visits, she replied they had not.

Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on SHUs 022513 by Sheila Pinkel, web
Every seat was filled for the California Assembly Public Safety Committee’s historic hearing on SHUs Feb. 25, and dozens more watched on TV in an overflow area. Besides the legislators in the hearing room, many more watched in their offices and said they were aghast at what they heard. – Photo: Sheila Pinkel

One of the myths the CDCR uses to justify SHUs is that they house the “worst of the worst,” and this hearing was no exception. Michael Stainer, CDCR deputy director of facility operations, testified: “The offenders in the SHU are 3 percent of the entire population. They have an inability to be integrated because of violence, and are affiliates of dangerous prison gangs. It’s necessary to isolate them to protect the other 97 percent.”

But Canales said: “My son is in there, and he has certificates in paralegal studies and civil litigation. At Corcoran he was Men’s Advisory Council representative, when one person from each ethnic group gets voted in by their peers, and others go to them for help with prison issues.” And it’s not just her son who doesn’t fit the “ultra-violent” profile. “A lot of the guys in there have all kinds of education and are helping others with legal work. Many of them have been using their time to educate themselves.”

Hansen testified they found no evidence of retaliation for the hunger strike. Yet Charles Carbone, a prisoner rights lawyer who testified on the panel, said, “Make no mistake about it: Participating in a hunger strike can get you in the SHU.”

Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell asked, “How can participation in an act of peaceful civil disobedience like a hunger strike be construed as gang activity?” Ominously, Kelly Harrington, associate director of high security transitional programming (STP) for CDCR, said, “Hunger strikes can be viewed as violating institutional security.”

Marilyn McMahon with California Prison Focus reports letters from people in SHUs about food quality going down and portion sizes shrinking, especially after the administration heard of the potential resumption this summer of the hunger strike. “I suspect,” she said, “they may be trying to get them very hungry before the strike, so they will have less desire to do it.”

Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on SHUs panel, legislators 022513 by Sheila Pinkel, web
Assembly Public Safety Committee members Nancy Skinner, Holly Mitchell and Reggie Jones-Sawyer listen to Charles Carbone, Laura Magnani and Irene Huerta (Marie Levin, also on the panel, is out of view) on the prisoners’ advocates panel. Assemblywoman Mitchell’s understanding of the prisoners’ situation and tough questions for CDCR were a highlight of the hearing. – Photo: Sheila Pinkel

In another bold mockery, CDCR claimed their new policies include substantial changes in the process of “gang validations,” the categorizing of people as “gang members or associates,” resulting in SHU placement for indeterminate sentences. In the past, the validation process has been based on points given for tattoos, possession of books or articles the CDCR deems gang-related, having your name on a roster, and/or the confidential evidence of a “debriefer,” another desperate soul who has identified you as a gang member to get out of the SHU himself. Three points is enough to send you to the SHU. According to many reports from SHUs around the state, it often happens that people get sent to there for things that are purely associational and in complete lack of any actual criminal behavior.

In point of fact, items given points toward validated gang status are often related to cultural identity and/or political beliefs. Some examples are books by George Jackson or Malcolm X, Black Panther Party books or articles, materials about Black August commemorations, the Mexican flag, the eagle of the United Farm Workers, articles on Black liberation, political cartoons critical of the prisons, Kwanzaa cards and Puerto Rican flags, just to name a few.

The CDCR gave a list of their own officials when asked who was doing the gang classifications, and Ammiano noted they were all internal to CDCR, with no independent verification. Family members at the rally spoke of many unfair instances of gang validation points given to their family members. Irene Huerta’s husband was validated for a “gang memo” that was never found!

Carbone confirmed in his testimony that there was no real change in the source items given points, that still only one of your point items even needs to be recent and the other two can be 20 years old, and that “the new program actually expands rather than restricts who can be validated, by the addition of two categories. Initially we just had gang ‘members’ and ‘associates,’ but now we also have ‘suspects’ and ‘to be monitored.’” He went on to say “only the CDCR could call expansion reform.”

Charles Carbone, a prisoner rights lawyer who testified on the panel, said, “Make no mistake about it: Participating in a hunger strike can get you in the SHU.”

As Pacheco says from Corcoran Prison: “This validation process is not about evidence gathering that contains facts. It’s hearsay, corruption and punishment to the point of execution. It’s close to impossible to beat these false accusations on appeal. They know how to block every avenue. In other words, there is no pretense that rights are respected. Shackled and chained we remain.”

The centerpiece of the CDCRs deceptive “reform” is the “Step Down Program,” in theory a phased program for people to get out of the SHU. The program would take four years to complete, although they said it could potentially be done in three. It involves journaling, self-reflection and, in years three and four, small group therapies.

In a statement issued for the event by the NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nation) Collective Think Tank or NCTT at Corcoran SHU, the writers roundly condemned the program, saying that CDCR “has, in true Orwellian fashion, introduced a mandatory behavior modification and brainwashing process in the proposed step down program.”

Abdul Shakur, who is at Pelican Bay and has been in solitary confinement for 30 years, calls it the “equivalent to scripting the demise of our humanity” in his article “Sensory Deprivation: An Unnatural Death.”

Assembly hearing on SHUs Marie Levin, Irene Huerta 022513 by Becky Padi-Garcia, web
The passionate testimony of Marie Levin and Irene Huerta will help bring an end to the torturous entombment of their loved ones in the Pelican Bay SHU. – Photo: Becky Padi-Garcia

At the hearing, Laura Magnani from the Friends Service Committee strongly agreed. Magnani pointed out that only in the third and fourth year does very limited social interaction start to happen, that having contact with one’s family continuing to be seen as a privilege instead of a right is fundamentally wrong and that the curricula itself is “blame and shame” based, an approach proven to be damaging. To add insult to injury, she said that what you write in the notebooks can be used against you.

Marie Levin with the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition spoke about her brother Sitawa N. Jamaa at Pelican Bay, a New Afrikan Short Corridor Collective representative and a political thinker. He told her his concerns about the step down program: “The workbooks are demeaning and inappropriate. No one with a gang label will be reviewed for two years of the program, and no phone calls for two more years is far too long.” He’s concerned about CDCR evaluative power over journals, fearing they won’t allow progression if they don’t like the answers, or that they will accuse people of insincerity.

Sundiata Tate, one of the San Quentin 6 and a member of All of Us or None, said: “In terms of CDC, it seems like they’re trying to put a cover on what they’re actually doing. If you take someone who’s been in the SHU for years or even decades and say they have to go into a step down program that will take four years, that’s really just adding cruelty to cruelty. It’s actually more torture.”

In an attempt to deflect blame from the destructiveness of their own policies, Kelly Harrington, associate director for high security transitional programming, admitted that some people did not want to participate in the step down program. When asked why, he said, “We have intelligence that people are being instructed not to participate in the program by leaders.”

Canales noted that CDCR is trying to cast blame on the leaders, when in reality the program itself forces people to sign a contract agreeing to become an informant.

Assembly hearing on SHUs overflow 'room' in hallway 022513 by Dolores Canales
About 40 people who couldn’t be seated in the hearing room watched in the hallway, the closest thing the capitol could come to an “overflow” room. The activists agreed that prisoners’ families should have first priority for the hearing room. – Photo: Dolores Canales

The contract is arguably the most insidious part of the step down program. In order to complete the program, people would be forced to sign it in Step 5. It includes the stipulation that the signer become an informant on gang – or, in the new language, “security threat group” (STG) – activities, making it in effect no different at all from debriefing and putting the informant in danger of retaliation.

In the CDCR’s defense, there’s one lie they didn’t tell – that they care about people in the SHUs being able to have a supportive relationship with their family members. It’s very clear they don’t. One of the more frightening elements in this expansion disguised as reform for families with loved ones in the SHU is that the new STG classification is no longer for just inside the prisons.

Family members are wondering if they will at some point be “validated” as gang members on the streets. If that happened, they could be barred from visiting or writing to their loved ones in the SHU, even more completely isolating people in solitary confinement and cutting them off from an important source of support in case of hunger strike.

Of watching the CDCR representatives speak at the hearing, Manuel La Fontaine of All of Us or None said it was “so infuriating and very hard to watch. Honestly, it was re-traumatizing for me. Although comparisons can be dangerous, I began to imagine the feelings of a survivor of the holocaust watching the Nazi regime justify their actions.”

Jerry Elster, also of All of Us or None, said: “They pretty much showed who the worst of the worst really are. The guys inside are calling for peace and an end to hostilities between races, and the guys (at CDCR) have complete disregard for human suffering.”

Jerry Elster, also of All of Us or None, said: “They pretty much showed who the worst of the worst really are. The guys inside are calling for peace and an end to hostilities between races, and the guys (at CDCR) have complete disregard for human suffering.”

The most powerful moment of the public comment portion of the hearing came when Cynthia Machado spoke of her late brother Alex. Formerly a bright and articulate man who helped others with legal work, he was driven to suicide after years of paranoia, degrading conditions and mental deterioration. She said: “We received letters from him indicating he was afraid. He reported seeing demons. Although they knew he was allergic to peanuts, they gave him peanut butter to eat.

“He wrote the family a suicide letter in February 2011 and attempted it in June. On Oct. 24, after screaming for 24 hours, he was found hanging in his cell.” Looking at the legislators, she demanded to know, “Where is the rehabilitation in that? Where is it?”

The missing framework of torture

Sundiata Tate said after the hearing that “some of the assembly members asked good questions and the CDC tried to say they were changing. But they aren’t even addressing the question of torture! That really stood out for me. They aren’t recognizing it as such. The only way they will is if their hands are forced, by the courts or the legislature or the people. I really think the CDC should be forced to release all those people and pay them damages.”

Assembly hearing on SHUs 'Stop the Torture' poster 022513 by Bami Iroko
“Stop the torture” was the topic around the Capitol during the hearing on Feb. 25 and Lobby Day on Feb. 26. – Photo: Bami Iroko

People imprisoned in the SHUs and those who advocate for them have a deep understanding that solitary confinement is a horrific form of torture with long-lasting and highly detrimental emotional and physical effects and as such needs to be abolished. Their family members also have a bone-deep knowledge of this, feeling keenly as they do the pain that comes when loved ones are suffering unjustly.

In addition, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, the U.N. Human Rights Committee and Amnesty International, among others, all recognize solitary confinement as a form of torture whose use should be extremely limited if used at all. The U.N. Special Rapporteur has state 15 days should be the maximum.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, the U.N. Human Rights Committee and Amnesty International, among others, all recognize solitary confinement as a form of torture whose use should be extremely limited if used at all.

So the question many are left with after the hearing in Sacramento is what will it take for the California legislature to catch up with this knowledge? And, more than that, what will it take for them to act to create some genuine accountability for the CDCR officials who are perpetuating the torture? And to act eventually to abolish the practice?

Lobby Day

The following day around 40 people remained to lobby the legislators in teams, speaking to them about solitary confinement as well as upcoming legislation relevant to organizations within CURB. All of Us or None in particular was supporting AB 218, another version of the Ban the Box bill that would take the “Have you ever committed a felony” checkbox off initial job applications, and AB 149, mandating when people are released from incarceration they be informed of their voting rights and given a voter registration card. Senate bills supported included SB 61, limiting the use of solitary confinement for juveniles, and SB 283, restoring CalWORKS and CalFresh to those released after serving time for drug-related felonies.

Lobby Day after Assembly SHU hearing 022613 by Emily Harris, web
Activists from all over California who attended the Feb. 25 hearing on solitary confinement joined with women from the Center for Young Women’s Development who came for lobbying day. Back row: Dolores Canales, Margaret Laffan, Milton Rudge, Marilyn Austin-Smith, Denise Mewbourne, Sundiata Tate, Andrés Abarra, Jerry Elster, Acacia Ainsworth, Elizabeth Evans, Daletha Hayden. Middle row: Sheila Pinkel, Penny Schoner, Margaret Ramos, Kenya Taylor, Paula Robles, Nicole Powell, Keithia Martin, Brittany Jones. Front: Emily Harris, Elvira Zayas, Marlene Sanchez, Diana Zuniga

One of the highlights of the day was the attendance of a group of young women from the Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco, an organization working “to empower young women who have been involved with the juvenile justice system and/or underground street economy to create positive change in their lives and communities.” They got their first experience that day of talking to legislators.

At the end of the day many of the teams reported lots of talk around the capital about the hearing the previous day and that many of the legislative aides they had spoken to said they honestly had not known what kind of abuses were happening with solitary confinement in California.

Where do we go from here?

Ammiano has promised there will be more hearings, and Mitchell added she would like to see the next one delve more deeply into conditions inside the SHU. Attorney Carol Strickman from Legal Services for Prisoners with Children informed those at the rally that the class action lawsuit on behalf of those in solitary confinement for longer than 10 years at Pelican Bay – over 500 people – will have a hearing on March 14, 2 p.m., at the Federal Building in Oakland, 1301 Clay St. A rally will begin at 12, and the hearing is at 1:30.

“We need to let the world know that California is torturing their prisoners.”

CDCR will be arguing for a dismissal, and trial dates will be set. She encouraged people to attend if possible, to let them know the interest level of the public

Lobby Day after Assembly SHU hearing 022613 by Sheila Pinkel, web
The day after the hearing was Lobby Day. Dolores Canales of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement reports: “CFASC had a very productive day lobbying with CURB and bringing up the hearing and the issue of solitary confinement. It was surprising to hear how many legislators were in their offices watching the hearing. Sen. Ron Calderon said they have ‘never seen a hearing like the one yesterday’ and ‘it was the talk of the offices; everyone was talking about it.’ ‘A lot of light was shed.’” – Photo: Sheila Pinkel

Many are calling for an independent review of the gang validation process, used as a rationale to place people in solitary confinement as well as to hold them there indefinitely. La Fontaine said: “This review needs to be placed in more objective hands. Dr. James Austin, for example, is a renowned corrections expert with a more impartial analysis – he would be a better consultant on this.”

To underscore the impossibility of an independent review internal to the CDCR, he said: “The prisons and the military have a lot of shared best practices. There are lots of CDCR goon squads, including the Institutional Gang Investigation guys, who are truly scary people. They’ve been hired into the system because they have military experience working against international so-called terrorists.”

Regarding further organizing, Marilyn Austin-Smith of All of Us or None said: “I do wish more people were there. It would be great to fill the whole lawn and take over the capitol for one day, so we can make them understand how many people care about this. We need to do community outreach to those most affected and encourage people to come out and support their loved ones. And we need to let the world know that California is torturing their prisoners.”

“What was most inspiring to me was the unity, the way everyone, all ethnicities, came together,” said Canales. “If the men in there have agreed to end hostilities, how can we not do our best to come together out here? As long as we can stay together, we can have victory. It’s especially important for Black and Brown communities to work together more closely around this and realize we do play a part in our own oppression.”

And if the prisoners’ five core demands remain unmet, people still suffering and continuing their resistance inside the SHUs will begin another hunger strike this coming July.

As the NCTT Corcoran SHU writers say in their statement for the event: “Will you allow them to erect this new bureaucracy and extort an ever greater portion of your tax dollars to enrich themselves and expand their influence in your daily lives? If freedom, justice, equality and human rights are truly values you hold dear, let it be reflected in the actions of your legislators. Each of your voices, when raised together, can tumble walls of stone. Remember Jericho. Thank you for your time, and our prayers and solidarity are with you all.”

“What was most inspiring to me was the unity, the way everyone, all ethnicities, came together,” said Canales. “If the men in there have agreed to end hostilities, how can we not do our best to come together out here? As long as we can stay together, we can have victory. It’s especially important for Black and Brown communities to work together more closely around this and realize we do play a part in our own oppression.”

Denise Mewbourne is a proud member of All of Us or None and Occupy 4 Prisoners (O4P) and is currently launching a Human Rights Pen Pal group for O4P, based on the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee’s model. She feels blessed to be part of a passionately dedicated Bay Area community working for racial justice and an end to mass incarceration with all its myriad evils. Denise can be reached at deniselynn777@gmail.com.

Prisoners’ families and advocates to speak out at legislative hearing Feb. 25 on solitary confinement and plan to renew hunger strike

From: SF Bay View

Feb 22nd 2013
Rally starts 11:30 Capitol West Side, Assembly Hearing on Security Housing Units in Room 126 at 1:30
by Isaac Ontiveros, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
[Prisoners’ families and advocates rallied, lobbied and testified frequently during the 2011 hunger strikes. This march was held Oct. 15, as the second hunger strike was concluding after CDCR promised it would meet the prisoners’ demands. That year-and-a-half-old promise has not been kept. – Photo: Bill Hackwell]
Family members, advocates, lawyers, activists and others from across California will travel to Sacramento on Monday to speak out against the state prison system’s continued use of solitary confinement. Hundreds are expected to gather for a rally outside the Capitol Building and will then attend a California State Assembly Public Safety Committee oversight hearing, convened to review the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) “revised regulations” of its notorious Security Housing Units (SHU). The Capitol is located at 1315 10th St. at L Street, Sacramento.
“I went to Pelican Bay earlier this month. Officials presented their case for how the prisoners are being treated, but some questions about conditions remain,” said Public Safety Committee Chair Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco.
The hearing follows up on a 2011 hearing triggered by a prisoner hunger strike to protest conditions. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation promised to study the situation and implemented policy changes in 2012.
Hundreds are expected to gather for a rally outside the Capitol Building and will then attend a California State Assembly Public Safety Committee oversight hearing, convened to review the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) “revised regulations” of its notorious Security Housing Units (SHU).
“As chair of Public Safety, I want to know whether conditions are humane, but I also want to know whether the stringent policies of CDCR are effective,” Ammiano said. “What are the goals and what are the effects? The taxpayers should have this information.”
The hearing will include three panels with the following panelists:
Renee Hanson, California Deputy Inspector General
Michael Stainer, Deputy Director, Division of Adult Institutions, CDCR
Kelly Harrington, Associate Director, High Security/Transitional Programming, CDCR
Michael Ruff, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Correctional Safety, CDCR
Charles Carbone, J.D., Prisoner Rights Attorney
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee
Two family members of current SHU prisoners
This rally preceded the last hearing called by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, held Aug. 23, 2011. Prior to this upcoming hearing Ammiano visited Pelican Bay State Prison to see for himself what prisoners are subjected to. – Photo: Revolution
The hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the State Capitol. It can be seen online and on cable on the California Channel.While the CDCR has claimed to have made reforms to its SHU system – how a prisoner ends up in the solitary units, for how long and how they can go about getting released into the general population – prisoners’ rights advocates point out that the CDCR has potentially broadened the use of solitary confinement and that conditions in the SHUs continue to constitute grave human rights violations.
The California prison system currently holds over 10,000 prisoners in solitary confinement units, with dozens having spent more than 20 years each in isolation. Conditions in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU sparked massive waves of hunger strikes in 2011 that saw the participation of 12,000 prisoners in at least a third of California’s 33 prisons.
This rally, held outside CDCR headquarters in Sacramento on July 18, 2011, when 6,600 prisoners had joined the hunger strike begun July 1, amplified striking prisoners’ Five Core Demands. Days later, CDCR prompted suspension of the strike by promising the prisoners their demands would be met. By then, many striking prisoners had lost more than 40 pounds. – Photo: Grant Slater, KPCC
“Prisoners themselves, their loved ones, legal advocates and social justice organizations have done so much in the past couple of years to help people understand that California’s current use of prolonged and indefinite isolation is a form of torture,” says Azadeh Zohrabi of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a lead organization in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

“While prisoners and their supporters have forced the CDCR to address the crisis it has created, at the end of the day, their new regulations still allow for prisoners to be confined in extreme isolation for decades. We are converging on the Capitol to continue to push for fundamental changes to this horrendous system.”

Prisoners themselves have vowed to renew a hunger strike along with a work stoppage this summer if their demands from 2011 continue to go unmet by the CDCR. In a statement issued last week, prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHU said, “It is clear to us that the CDCR has no intention of implementing the substantive policy changes that were agreed to 15 or 16 months ago.”

The statement continues:

“We presently have no available alternative avenues to obtain the long overdue changes, in a timely manner, other than giving the CDCR until July 8, 2013 – as a deadline – to meet our stated demands. Failure to come to a legally enforceable agreement will be deemed as just cause for us to resume our indefinite, nonviolent, peaceful protest action(s) until the changes are made.”

Prisoners themselves have vowed to renew a hunger strike along with a work stoppage this summer if their demands from 2011 continue to go unmet by the CDCR.
Meanwhile, a landmark class action lawsuit against the state of California will continue in federal court on March 14. Filed in May 2012 by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Prison Focus and other organizations on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay, the suit alleges that prolonged solitary confinement violates Eighth Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates prisoners’ right to due process.
Family members and supporters of prisoners held in solitary confinement will be traveling to Sacramento from Los Angeles, the Bay Area and the Central Valley. Monday’s 11:30 a.m. rally will feature signs, banners and lively speakers – former prisoners, their families, prisoners’ rights advocates and others. Expert testimony will also be given during the 1:30 p.m. Public Safety Committee hearing.
In Oakland, carpools will leave the MacArthur BART Station at 8:30 and 9 a.m. In San Francisco, visit Megabus.com right away for bus tickets leaving the Caltrain Station at Fourth Street and King at 8:30 a.m., returning at 5:50 p.m., for less than $5 each way. For more information, visit https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/.
Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization working to abolish the prison industrial complex, is a spokesperson for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. He can be reached at (510) 444-0484 or isaac@criticalresistance.org. Bay View staff contributed to this story.

Reflections on our accomplishments so far – no more suffering in silence

From: SF Bay View
Dec. 23rd 2012

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

We as an oppressed prison class being illegally held in solitary confinement must reflect on our struggle and how we are to continue forward in that struggle. The first thing that I would insist is that we all reflect on our accomplishments.

Prior to our two hunger strikes, we were all suffering in silence, while understanding that each and every one of us was and is being subjected to a daily dose of both physical and psychological torture. Unfortunately, many have succumbed to the CDCR’s blunt force of torture over the past 30 years. Those of us who continue to remain under such torture today have chosen to resist peacefully against our treatment.

Though we have yet to obtain our Five Core Demands, no one can deny how much we have achieved since our initial July 1, 2011, hunger strike. For the most part our movement for human rights has made much progress, but patience is required, for we are engaged in a protracted struggle that demands our resilience.

Our keepers are going to employ stall tactics with the hope that we lose faith in our pursuit for justice. We cannot afford to give up now. Success is not far away. Don’t lose sight of what we as a class have already accomplished:

1. July 1 to July 20, 2011: hunger strike with over 6,000 participants.

2. July 1 hunger strike made national and international news.

3. American people rejected torture outright in its institutions and in every sector of our society. Celebrities, religious groups, educational institutions and countless activist organizations spread the word and went to work for us.

4. The Public Safety Committee in the California Assembly held a hearing on Aug. 23, 2011, on solitary confinement and torture, lasting a whole day, as a direct result of our July 1, 2011, nonviolent, peaceful hunger strike against CDCR’s deliberate indifference toward our human suffering.

5. The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and lead attorney Peter Schey filed a petition before the United Nations on March 12, 2011, on behalf of California’s segregated SHU prisoners.

6. State Sen. Darrell Steinberg ordered the Office of the Inspector General to hold an investigation of the former CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan for not keeping the promises he made to implement our Five Core Demands.

7. Sept. 26, 2011, to Oct. 14, 2011, more than 12,000 prisoners participated in our nonviolent, peaceful second hunger strike for human rights equality.

8. October 2011, CDCR created a Warden’s Advisory Group (WAG) to meet and work with the SHU and Ad-Seg prisoners about local prison concerns.

9. February 2012, meetings with the associate warden of Ad-Seg and SHU began and have continued monthly ever since then, in an attempt to improve on local issues. This is supposed to be happening throughout all SHU and Ad-Seg units in the California penal system.

10. There are also intangibles that most prisoners are not aware of as a direct result of our sacrifices via both hunger strikes. For examples, we now have a media team and a legal team. Newsletters have formed: PHSS News, CFASC News, ROCK. You prisoners have made this possible through your individual and collective sacrifices.

11. We prisoners illegally held in CDCR’s Ad-Seg and SHU units have a class action lawsuit before the Northern District of California Federal Court to address our Five Core Demands, specifically numbers one, two, three and four, to free us from long time isolation – i.e., indeterminate SHU – based on alleged gang affiliations or affiliates.

12. Our professional and experienced legal team is comprised of
– 1) Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children;
– 2) Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus;
– 3) Anne Butterfield Weills, Siegel & Lee law firm;
– 4) Charles Carbone and Evan Greenberg, Law Office of Charles Carbone;
– 5) Jules Lobel, Alexis Agathocleous and Rachel Meeropol at the Center for Constitutional Rights. And we just got six more attorneys to assist our legal team from one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. So it just might be a fair legal fight for a change.

13. Although Gov. Brown vetoed the AB1270 media bill that would have allowed the media to interview prisoners of their choice, this validates our claim that Gov. Brown is complicit in the torture of prisoners whom CDCR labels as alleged gang members or associates throughout the state of California. The state knows that transparency would expose these criminal acts against prisoners. Still, the media bill actually made it to the governor’s desk.

14. The model SHU, built by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition members, has been to demonstrations in Northern California and we are truly grateful to our loyal supporters.

15. California Families Against Solitary Confinement, CFASC, opened their chapter in Southern California to gather family members and ex-prisoners to support their rallies and projects like transporting families and loved ones by vans and buses to distant prisons, beginning with Pelican Bay. CFASC’s work with legislators in Southern California and in Sacramento has been highly valuable to new lobbyists from other parts of the state.

16. June 18, 2012, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Illinois Democrat Dick Durban, held the first ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement in the United States federal and state prisons.

These are not small accomplishments. We must all be aware of what is before us and continue our struggle by being wise and patient – i.e., disciplined. We have four representatives for each racial group, who are very smart and between them they have over a 110 years of prison experience. We have another 12 alternate representatives to help achieve our objectives.

We said this is a protracted struggle. Therefore, our collective power is essential to changing our oppressive conditions throughout the whole CDCR. Be mindful that our success will depend on our collective resolve and determination to put an end to this system of human torture.

Amnesty International has recently published a report that 34 prisoners died each year from 2006 to 2010 within the CDCR. Fourteen of these deaths occurred in these torture chambers call SHU units. Whereas men commit suicide, this alone should raise the alarm that something is drastically wrong with this system.

We have the intellect to clearly understand the value of our unified efforts to address the ills of SHU and Ad-Seg, that CDCR must stop its sensory deprivation and intentional indeterminate housing based upon illegal, false allegations by the corrupt IGI personnel. All California prisoners, women and men, are in this protracted struggle, seeking U.S. constitutional rights, as well as California’s guaranteed constitutional rights.

All prisoners and citizens of California must protest against Gov. Edmund G. Brown and interim Secretary of Corrections Martin Hoshino with emails and letters to their offices forthwith! (Contact Gov. Brown at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php and interim Secretary Hoshino at (916) 323-6001 or Martin.Hoshino@cdcr.ca.gov. Jeffrey Beard, the newly appointed secretary of CDCR, is awaiting Senate confirmation.)

Release all SHU and Ad-Seg prisoners who have been illegally held on non-violent, non-behavior charges over the past five, 10, on up to 20 years!

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU, D1-117L (Short Corridor), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

Prisoners reject CDCR proposal; threaten new hunger strike

From: Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Dec. 17th 2012

The Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison has asked us to publish a letter denouncing the reforms proposed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The collective remains in steadfast opposition to the proposal, which they rejected in March of this year. This statement responds to the CDCR’s July proposal revision, saying: “We remain 100% opposed to CDCR’s revised proposal for the same reasons stated publicly [last March].” More pointedly, it also says: “We cannot accept the garbage proposal from CDCR!”

This latest rejection does not come softly, as it also threatens “return to non-violent, peaceful protest actions in the form of indefinite hunger strike and no work” if the CDCR doesn’t shift directions and revamp the reforms to appeal to the internationally recognized human rights framework.

Short Corridor Collective letter:

Greetings from the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective to all who stand with us in solidarity and support our struggle to force an end to this nation’s draconian practice of subjecting tens-of-thousands of prisoners to the torture of long term isolation cells… via an ongoing nonviolent peaceful effort, inside and out.

This is an update on the current status of our struggle here in California, wherein upwards of 14,000(+) prisoners are presently held in isolation cells, several hundred have been held indefinitely in isolation (SHU) cells for the past 10 to 30 years, solely based on “status”, rather than illegal behavior – specifically, on decades of SHU isolation is based on a CDCR gang classification label, i.e. “status of a label”, without ever being found guilty of committing a gang-related criminal act! Notably, our CDCR-OCS/IGI gang validations, and related decades of SHU torture, are based on what CDCR claims to be “intelligence-based evidence of criminal gang activity” consisting of: (a) innocent associational/political type activity; and/or (b) confidential prison informants “unsubstantiated allegations” of involvement in criminal activity!

We remain in the SHU and were not impressed after receiving and carefully reviewing CDCR’s June 29, 2012 revised proposal re: Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification and Management Strategy, which they plan to begin as a pilot program in October.

We remain 100% opposed to CDCR’s revised proposal for the same reasons stated publicly – in response to this March version, the proposal fails to meet our five core demands, and violates our October 2011 argument with CDCR undersecretary Kernan , wherein, among other things, we agreed to suspend our hunger strike activism in order to give CDCR additional time to change SHU policies and practices into a reasonable individual accountability/behavior-based system (e.g. SHU would be reserved for prisoners charged for, and found guilty of, committing a serious offense… a felony!).

Instead of this agreed-upon policy change, we patiently sit here for another year only to have CDCR come at me with more of the same garbage we rejected in March… Thereby making clear to us that obtaining real changes will require us to resume our non-violent, peaceful protest actions; in the form of a hunger strike and no work, protests to the death if necessary! Our decision to do so has not come lightly, and is supported by the following facts and circumstances.

Beginning in February 2010, we became united in our efforts to collectively expose and bring a peaceful end to the CDCR policies and practices reference above, based on our position that they constitute a form of torture, and a violation of basic human rights principles. This is when we created a “formal complaint” document, copies of which were sent to numerous lawmakers, organizations, groups and individuals, including former Governor Schwarzenegger and CDCR Secretary Cate. [To review our formal complaint, go to http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/formal-complaint/].

As of early 2011, the formal complain had resulted in no relief, and our conditions in SHU had become more oppressive! Therefore, we decided that our sole avenue for gaining the mainstream exposure and outside support for our case – to end our torture – was for us to put our lives on the line via peaceful protest hunger strike action. In May/June 2011, we served governor Brown, and Secretary Cate with another copy of a formal complaint and our final notice of the July 1st hunger strike (with the five core demands, available now at www.prisons.org; click on Prisoners’ 5 Core Demands in the left column).

True to our words, we began our hunger strike July 1, 2011, which lasted until July 20, 2011 (and included supportive participation by more than 6,600 prisoners across the state). Our hunger strike action was temporarily suspended on July 20th, in response to our face-to-face negotiation with CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, et al, who admitted early on in the process that our five core demands “were all reasonable”, and CDCR “should have made changes twenty-years ago”… and who promised to make timely, substantively meaningful changes, responsive to all five demands.

All parties understood that CDCR needed to change policies so that SHU confinement would be reserved for prisoners who are charged with, and found guilty of, committing a serious rule violation, meriting a determinate SHU term! (i.e. a system based on individual behavior).

As of early September 2011, we believed CDCR was not acting in good faith resulting in our return to hunger strike on September 26, 2011. The response was for CDCR to take retaliating actions, including the subjection of fifteen of us to additional torture (Todd Asher, C58191; Arturo Castellanos, C17275; Charles Coleman, C60680; Mutope Duguma/James Crawford, D05996; Sitawa Nantamu Jamaa/Dewberry, C35671; J. Brian Elrod, H25268; George Franco, D46556; Antonio Guillen, P81948; Paul Jones, B26077; Louis Powel, B59864; Paul Redd, B72683; Alfred Sandoval, D61000; Danny Troxell, B76578; James Baridi Williamson, D34288; and Ronnie Yandell, V27927). We were placed into more isolative Ad-Seg strip cells, without adequate clothing or bedding, and with ice-cold air blasting out of the air vents! Then Warden Lewis informed us, “as soon as you eat, you can go back home to your SHU cell.”

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

Between October 13, 2011 and now, the CDCR has failed to honor their end of our prior agreements to substantively change SHU policies and practices, no such policies and practices are in line with our five core demands; and they have made it clear that they have no intension of doing so… by moving forward with their June 29, 2012 revised proposal, in spite of our March 2012 written opposition to their related March proposal – and presentation of our counter-proposal (available here).

Our outside mediation team and the Prison Law Office also presented CDCR with related written opposition to the proposal (mediation team statement available here; PLO opposition available here). In typical fashion, the CDCR totally disregarded the above referenced oppositions and counterproposal!

At this point, we remain opposed to CDCR’s proposal based on their refusal to bring the policies and practices at issue into line with our five core demands, as demonstrated by the below, briefly summarized, examples:

Core demand #1 – “Eliminate group punishments…” CDCR’s revised proposal fails to honor this demand and makes it clear that prisoners validated as STG-I Members will automatically be subject to indefinite SHU confinement… until they successfully complete the four year minimum step-down program, or debrief (see CDCR’s June proposal at p#22). This is status-based group punishment!

Core Demand #2 – “Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria…”. The main points of this demand are:

(a) the debriefing policy is illegal! Especially in the context of subjecting SHU prisoners to indefinite, progressively more torturous conditions for the purpose of coercing them to become state informants (which in turn, places them and their families in serious danger!); and, it produces fabricated allegations from prisoners desperate to get out of SHU!!

(b) prisoners being denied inactive status, and release to General Population, based on CDCR, OCS-IGI’s version of “intelligence”-based documentation of involvement in gang activity (i.e. innocent associational/political type activity; and/or, confidential prisoner debriefer-informants “unsubstantiated allegations” of involvement in illegal activity), without any formal changes being filed!We’ve repeatedly made it clear that SHU confinement must be reserved solely for prisoners who are charged for and found guilty of serious rule violation – meriting a reasonable determinate SHU-term! This is non-negotiable!!

CDCR’s revised proposal fails to honor this demand by maintaining their illegal debriefing policy; and, making it clear that SHU-STG prisoners will remain indefinitely confined in SHU “… based upon intelligence and/or confirmed behaviors” (see proposal, pp# 7, 8, 9);

“…while in the program, if the STG-I Member (or Associate), exhibits STG behaviors, staff shall report the behavior using appropriate documentation. Once documented by the IGI the subject will be referred to the STG-Committee and ICC for a program, privilege or housing review. The behavior may lead to a loss of privileges, retention in the currest step, or regression to a previous step.” (Id. Proposal at P# 34)…

“Documentation may be in the form of disciplinary reports, compelling changes, confidential memorandum and/or other sources documenting behaviors and intelligence”. (Id. Proposal, p# 21).

Sound familiar? It should, because it’s the same policy and practice used and abused by CDCR, OCS-IGI for the past 13 years to deny us inactive status!! (See CCR Title 15, at pp# 2020-222 re: basis for denying inactive status!).

This constitutes a blatant violation of our October 2011 agreement and is 100% unacceptable!!

Core demand #3 – Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006), calling for an end to long term solitary confinement…”CDCR’s revised proposal makes a mockery of this core demand! The authors of the proposal insult everyone’s intelligence by changing titles and words, while actually changing nothing re: policies and practices at issue that have been used and abused repeatedly… resulting in our subjection to decades of torture in these SHU/Ad-Seg solitary cells!!

Importantly, if the proposal is allowed to stand, it will result in many more prisoners being subject to the torture of long term isolation by way of the STG designation(s), and related criteria for indefinite placement in SHU!! All prisoners across the state need to make a collective stand and peacefully protest this proposal, because it will adversely impact all prisoners and our loved ones outside!!

We have made it clear that we shouldn’t have to jump through more hoops to be released from SHU! We’ve already been tormented and tortured in SHU for decades!! The Step-Down Program should be for prisoners serving determinate SHU terms to be able to shorten their SHU term; it should be no more than eighteen months from start to finish; needs to begin with meaningful incentives that include the ability to earn time off their sentence, opportunity for out-of-cell contact with other prisoners, regular phone calls and contact visits, and programs that prepare the prisoner for return to, first general population and ultimately civilian life!! We oppose CDCR’s proposed version of a Step Down Program… Four years is too long, and the incentives are a joke!!

The above points illustrate CDCR’s failure to act in good faith in response to our five core demands, and related agreements with CDCR Undersecretary Kernan, et al, during our July-October negotiations! Last year we made it clear to CDCR, and the world, that we were drawing the line and would no longer silently accept the torture upon ourselves and our loved ones outside!

We let it be known that our plan was to use non-violent, peaceful protest activity in the form of an indefinite hunger strike – to the death if necessary – in order to achieve our goal of forcing an end to CDCR’s illegal policies and practices at issue, via our own sacrifice, and related mainstream expense and solid outside support!

We’ve had some success regarding worldwide exposure, and we have solid outside support standing with us in solidarity… And – we have patiently pursued all available avenues to try and get CDCR to honor our reasonable demands; and presently, our final avenue is an open letter to governor Brown, asking him to order Secretary Cate to get right! If this is not successful, we will have no other option than to return to non-violent, peaceful protest actions in the form of indefinite hunger strike and no work!!

We cannot accept the garbage proposal from CDCR! We cannot allow the four prisoner deaths in support of our cause to be forgetting and many of us are fully committed to making the same sacrifice if need be to force meaningful changes to this corrupt system… and we will be serving CDCR with our notice of intent to resume our peaceful/non-violent protest actions in the near future, and if CDCR continues to refuse to act right on our five core demands, as spelled out above!!!

We want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to all of our outside supporters, including but not limited to the people with the following organizations: LSPC, CPE, Rock, SF Bayview, CFASC, JRA Advocate, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Amnesty International. The latter two organizations have selflessly supported our cause via the March filing of our UN petition (CHRCL), and the May filing of our class action suit (CCR et al); these efforts are greatly appreciated, and are very beneficial to our cause (e.g. helping provide continued worldwide exposure, etc, etc, etc)!! However, the UN hasn’t acted on our petition, and the Federal Court process moves very slowly…

The bottom line is: We are ultimately the ones responsible for continuing to force reforms via our collective efforts in here!!! It’s time to move forward and make it happen!!!

In memory of: Johnny Owen Vick, Hozel Alonzo Blanchard, Christian Gomez, and Alex Machado, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our cause (PBHRM)… make no mistake, none of us wants to die, but, we are prepared to, if that’s what it takes to force a real reform!!!

Onward in struggle, with solidarity and respect

PBSP Short Corridor Main Representatives

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

Hunger strike organizer: Ad-Seg/ASU units are bad news – charges filed against peaceful hunger strikers by CDCR

Hunger strike organizer: Ad-Seg/ASU units are bad news
December 13, 2011
by Todd Ashker
In: SF Bay View

Written Dec. 4, 2011 – On Nov. 30, myself and several other men here – whom CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has labeled as “leaders” of the peaceful protests – received serious rule violations, charging us with causing a riot or mass disturbance. They referred the charges for felony prosecution to the local D.A’s office. We’re all hoping the D.A. will file so we can expose these human rights violations even more.

Feeling as if he’s being buried alive, an unknown prisoner depicts the torturous effects of control units – called SHUs (security housing units), ASUs, Ad/Segs etc. – on the people confined in them. Fighting to end their use – or at least mitigate their abuses – is the purpose of the hunger strikes. – Drawing by unknown prisoner

With respect to Ad/Seg units having a voice, we’d included all SHUs and Ad/Seg units from the beginning in our formal complaint and in letters from me and others, and in the July protest, all the SHUs and many Ad/Seg units were referenced by the media.

It’s a good thing to have some exposure of related violations – torture going on in the Ad/Segs. We all need to be united and work together on making the wrongs in this system right!
It’s a good thing to have exposure of torture going on in the Ad/Segs. We all need to be united and work together on making the wrongs in this system right!

The Ad-Seg/ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit) units are bad news! I was never housed in them until being put in the one here on Sept. 29. This was CDCR’s retaliatory action against 15 of us here.

We were all isolated on a tier, in strip cells with nothing but a set of clothes and fish kit – spoon, cup, bar of soap etc. – with ice cold air blasting outta the vents! The warden personally told us, “As soon as you eat, you can go back to your SHU (Security Housing Units) cells.”

My “mattress” was not even a mattress. It only had lumps of padding in places and was only 50 inches long – on ice cold concrete. This was all intentional, by design. They know that when a person is subject to cold, the body requires more energy. When you’re not eating, the ice will cause your body to feed on muscle and internal organs and the brain etc. much faster. Permanent damage can happen a lot faster.

And the way it (the unit) is built, it’s next to impossible to get staff’s attention if one of us fell out in the cell. We’d have been through – DOA! We were there until Oct. 13, and I went from 200 pounds to 176 pounds. We were going to remain there to the death.

CDCR top administration begged us to come off of the hunger strike, promising real change soon, and made a presentation to our attorneys that satisfied them regarding CDCR’s sincerity. So we agreed to come off – we told our mediation team via phone conference on the 13th that our decision to end our hunger strike was ours alone, and it shouldn’t affect any other prisoners’ decision on their own hunger strike!

After my experience in the ASU, I can see the only major difference between ASU and here in PBSP SHU is the lack of a TV or radio in the cell. CDCR was supposed to retrofit the ASU cells for appliance capability since 2009 – I have the memo!

They’re able to buy the same canteen and get a yearly package after a year. Their yard cages actually are better than our cement ice box yards, because you can see and talk to other guys and have a better view of the outside.

Still, all of these lockup units are foul places to be – even temporarily. And the acts and omissions by staff in such units are illegal – in principle and especially in practice – long term!

It’s very important to include the ASUs in the SHU actions because it’s clear that when CDCR does revise (SHU) policy and men start getting out to general population, there’ll be a lot of abuses by some staff fabricating reasons to “investigate” such prisoners to getting off general population and they’ll be subject to a lot of ASU time – at least at first.

Once a pattern of such abuse of power is established, it can be exposed to the court. Therefore, if for no other reason, it’s critical to include ASUs in the process of challenging SHU issues!

Send our brother some love and light – he is one of the original organizers of the historic hunger strikes that involved over 12,000 California prisoners at their peak in late September, early October: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP D1-119, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.
They continue to torture us like animals

by the men in Calipatria State Prison Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU)

Written Nov. 22, 2011 – They continue to torture us like animals. These high ranking officials continue to promise us some change to our living conditions. We continue to stare at four concrete walls with not much to do.

A gang of prison investigators searches for reasons to label California prisoners members of prison gangs so they can confine them to control units, called SHUs, ASUs and Ad/Segs. – Drawing: R. Garcia

One goes to committee and asks as to our transfers to Pelican Bay SHU, and Assistant Warden S. Anderson, IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) Trujillo and Warden Leland McEwen simply state that they aren’t changing anything, so “parole, debrief or DIE.” That’s what everyone is getting back in response to these ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) hearings; that in itself is torture.

We would also like to express an individual just hung himself due to this psychologically torturous environment. It’s ugly back here. Now where’s the rehabilitation in that aspect?

The conditions definitely has not changed and the validations has yet to yield. IGI Duarte is one of the main individuals abusing his power, continuing to place men in indeterminate isolation.

Conditions in Calipatria ASU have not changed, and all we continue to hear is lies, lies, lies and more lies! With this we close with our appreciation and respect.

Pelican Bay prison hunger strikers declare victory – support from many places including Youngstown, Ohio

Source: Sharon Danann, in: Workers World
Published Jul 27, 2011 4:22 PM

Leaders of the hunger strike in the Security Housing Unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison accepted an offer July 20 from the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and have ended their weeks-long action. Members of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition confirmed reports of the hunger strike’s end after speaking with some of the prisoners involved. (prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com, July 22) The CDCR reported that as of 1 p.m. on July 20 all those who had been fasting at Pelican Bay had resumed eating. (www.sfgate.com, July 22)

Having been without food for 21 days, the leaders opted to “live to fight for justice another day,” according to mediator Dorsey Nunn. (times-standard.com, July 22) The CDCR offer included expanded educational programs, wall calendars and all-weather caps. The CDCR also committed to a review of SHU and gang-related policies.

A key accomplishment of the hunger strike has been to bring attention to the issue of torture in U.S. prisons. Currently inmates at Pelican Bay cannot be transferred out of their confinement in the SHU unless they turn in someone else for gang-related activities. Prisoners opposed to doing so on principle or in fear of retribution, or who have no such information, including those in the SHU for political beliefs, have been locked in SHUs indefinitely. Black Panther members incarcerated in the 1970s are among the inmates who have spent decades in isolation.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has stated that long-term solitary confinement is in violation of prohibitions against torture, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Supporters of the courageous prisoners continued to hit the streets with rallies July 22 and 23 in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Chino, Calif.; and in Los Angeles, Chicago and Montreal. Plans are going forward for a march on CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, Calif.; a rally at the California State building in San Francisco; and a meeting with family members and loved ones of prisoners in Oakland.

High-spirited activists marched up the quarter-mile driveway of Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 23, drumming on paint buckets and pots, until they were turned back by guards near the gate to the Supermax. In Baltimore on July 21, the blazing heat did not stop protesters outside the city jail from drawing support from passersby, who responded positively to the “Jobs not jails” theme.

Struggle against torture continues

The hunger strike has continued at three California state prisons. More than 400 inmates are refusing food at Corcoran and more than 100 at Tehachapi. The PHSS blog quoted a friend of a Calipatria prison hunger striker as saying, “I’m 100 percent sure that at least 300 prisoners are still supporting each other and going strong, refusing food and demanding the CDCR change conditions of solitary confinement and policies around gang validation.” (July 20)

According to a spokesperson for the court-appointed receiver overseeing prison health care, an inmate at Tehachapi had lost 29 pounds. (Los Angeles Times, July 19) The CDCR claimed to be medically monitoring 49 prisoners who had lost more than 10 pounds, but prisoner advocates disputed both the numbers and the quality of medical attention, most of which was “drive-by checks.” (PHSS conference call, July 18)

The PHSS was aware of “dozens” of hunger strikers who had lost over 20 pounds and who were experiencing fainting or irregular heartbeats. Nunn stated that the prison hospital at Pelican Bay was filled with inmates receiving fluids by IV. Some had “started to refuse water,” but many others were having trouble keeping ingested water down. Nunn added, “It is truly a matter of luck and/or untiring spirit that nobody has died so far.” (colorlines.com, July 20)

PHSS is encouraging solidarity actions to continue to make sure the CDCR makes good on its promises and to prevent retaliation against hunger strikers. Hunger strikers not in SHUs have been thrown in solitary as punishment for acts of solidarity. (PHSS blog, July 22)

This historic hunger strike of 6,600 inmates, uniting without regard to race, religion, ethnicity or group affiliation, has inspired prisoners and supporters to new acts of courage and defiance. Support the California hunger strikers and build the prisoners’ movement everywhere!