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!

Letters of Support from Ohio: Bomani Shakur of the Lucasville 5, and Sharon Danann to the Pelican Bay Prisoners on Hungerstrike

Letter of Support from Bomani Shakur of the Lucasville 5
2011
Via Kersplebedeb:

Ask anyone who has ever been on a hunger strike, and they will tell you that the process of intentionally starving oneself is a very painful ordeal. Typically speaking, it is a protracted form of suicide; taken too far, the body will shut down and die. And yet, there are places on this planet where the idea of death is preferable to continuing down a path that offers no hope or relief from suffering. I live in such a place; I know.

In January of this year (2011), and after almost thirteen years of solitary confinement at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), I and several others went on hunger strike. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, after countless appeals to reason had failed, and after coming to the end of all that we could do (law suits, greivances, petitions, etc.) we made the decision to risk our very lives in order to bring about the necessary changes that would allow us to live as human beings. In the end, we stood firm, garnered world-wide support, and prevailed. Now prisoners in California, confined in the notorious Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, have decided to undertake a similar course of action. To them, I say: Bravo!

In a country that incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world (over 2.6 million men and women behind bars), human rights violations are inevitable, and it falls to those of us who must suffer through the experience to stand up and speak truth to power; for, as Frederick Douglass suggested: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

In the days to come, the men at Pelican Bay will need each and every one of us to support them, to stand with them as they seek to bring their situation to a tolerable level. What they are demanding is basic:

Individual accountability
Abolish debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria
Comply with US Commission 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement
Provide adequate food
Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates

Let’s come together to assist these men in their time of need and show them that their status as “criminals” does not automatically disqualify them from being human beings. In my time of need, I found this to be the truth and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity. Give these men the opportunity to feel that outpouting of compassion.

And to the men at Pelican Bay (Todd, Danny, et al), I simply want to say: Stay the course; pay attention to what you are doing; and when things get rough (and they will) , know that you are not alone. By and through the activation of what he called “Satygraha,” – or truth force – Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy in the world. In every evil that threatens us, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free. Hold on to that.

The system as it currently exists must change, and this, what you all are doing right now, may very well be the catalyst to bring about that change. Remember that.

And remember this: the first three days are the hardest; after that, it’s mind over matter. When the body is brought under control, the mind is set free to receive revelations. Be on the lookout for that; and when they come, when the truth of your situation is revealed, stay in that space. Drink as much water as you can, stay hydrated (read: coffee is a diuretic). And when the time comes, be sure to get everything in writing!

Calling all arms * Calling all arms

Bomani Shakur
Ohio State Penitentiary (2011)
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http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/supporting-prisoners-resistance-from-lucasville-to-pelican-bay/

Statement of support from Sharon Danann for the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network:

As supporters of the Lucasville uprising prisoners who engaged in a victorious hunger strike in January 2001 in Ohio’s supermax prison, Ohio State Penitentiary, we extend our support to the Pelican Bay State Prison hunger strikers. The violations of human rights of prisoners must end. The punishment of prisoners for their beliefs and for activities to improve their conditions must end. The illegal, unconstitutional and inhumane use of long-term solitary confinement must end.

The treatment of prisoners in the U.S. is an international scandal. We will do all we can to get the word out about the courageous Pelican Bay hunger strikers. We will be turning up the heat on all levels of government. We are proud to be a part of the prisoners’ movement that is rising up in many parts of the country and world. Onward to victory!!

Click here for an article on the Lucasville struggle by Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network

Dying for Human Rights: Prisoners Begin Hunger Strike Tomorrow

From Unprison Blog
Posted on June 30, 2011 by Bruce Reilly

What exactly is a hunger strike? It is when someone, or a group of people, will choose death over their current living conditions. But not an unknown pointless death; instead, they will commit a long, grueling, public death designed to create change- if not for themselves, then for those who live on in the horrid conditions, or those who are transported into that torture chamber sometime in the future.

In picturesque Crescent City, California, a coastal town 6 hours north of San Francisco, roughly 1 in 5 “residents” are prisoners. Several cell blocks of these isolated men are beginning their hunger strike on Friday, July 1st. After decades of living in one of the most deplorable human conditions of America, they have organized themselves to say “Enough!” Pelican Bay State Penitentiary is in many ways the protypical American prison, illustrating the historical gap of “Haves” vs. “Have Nots,” and is quixotically surrounded by the peaceful beauty of Klamath National Forest, Jerediah Smith Redwoods, Tolawa Dunes, Lake Earl, and Pelican Bay.

Read the rest here.

Press Conference: Pelican Bay Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike to Protest Grave Conditions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—June 29, 2011
Pelican Bay Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike to Protest Grave Conditions
Lawyers, Advocates, Organizations Hold Press Conference, Voice Prisoner Demands

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Communications Director, Critical Resistance
Office: 510 444 0484
Cell: 510 517 6612

What: Press Conference
When: Thursday, June 30, 2011, 11:00am

Where: Elihu M. Harris State of California Office Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, CA

Oakland—Prisoners at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA will initiate an indefinite hunger strike on July 1st, 2011 to protest condition in the prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). Lawyers and advocates who have been in contact with the prisoners will hold a press conference Thusday June 30th at the Oakland Federal Building, at 11am to rally support for the strike and put pressure on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to respond to the prisoners’ demands.

Prisoners have delivered their demands to Pelican Bay warden Greg Lewis, the CDCR, and to Governor Jerry Brown. Their demands include an end to long-term solitary confinement, collective punishment, and forced interrogation on gang affiliation. The prisoners have also stated that they are willing to give up their lives unless their demands are met.

“The prisoners inside the SHU at Pelican Bay know the risk that they are taking going on hunger strike,” says Manuel LaFontaine, of All of Us or None, an organization that supports former prisoners and part of a Bay Area-based Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition supporting Pelican Bay’s prisoners. La Fontaine continues, “The CDCR must recognize that the SHU produces conditions of grave violence, such that people lose their lives in there all the time.” U.S. and international human rights organizations have condemned Security Housing Units as having cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions.

SHU prisoners are kept in windowless, 6 by 10 foot cells, 23½ hours a day, for years at a time. The CDCR operates four Security Housing Units in its system at Corcoran,California Correctional Institution, Valley State Prison for Women as well as Pelican Bay.

Recent work and hunger strikes in Georgia and Ohio prisons were successful in both winning some concessions and alerting the public to the conditions inside US prisons. “People who are in prison are already being punished. They are still human beings and should not have to lose their civil and human rights” says Karen Shain, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

Pelican Bay’s hunger strike begins amidst the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling condemning California’s prison overcrowding and order the reduction of its population by at least 33,000 people. At the center of the overcrowding ruling were dozens of prisoner deaths a year due to the lack of basic medical and other healthcare. Thursday’s Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity press conference will touch off several events happening in cities across North America in the coming weeks.

Legal workers, advocates, and experts on the California prison system will be available for comment and interviews.
###

The Call

By Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford)
From: Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity

This is a call for all prisoners in Security Housing Units (SHUs), Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), and General Populations (GP), as well as the free oppressed and non-oppressed people to support the indefinite July 1st 2011 peaceful Hunger Strike in protest of the violation of our civil/human rights, here at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU), short corridor D1 through D4 and its overflow D5 through D10.

It should be clear to everyone that none of the hunger strike participants want to die, but due to our circumstances, whereas that state of California has sentenced all of us on Indeterminate SHU program to a “civil death” merely on the word of a prison informer (snitch).

The purpose of the Hunger Strike is to combat both the Ad-Seg/SHU psychological and physical torture, as well as the justifications used of support treatment of the type that lends to prisoners being subjected to a civil death. Those subjected to indeterminate SHU programs are neglected and deprived of the basic human necessities while withering away in a very isolated and hostile environment.

Prison officials have utilized the assassination of prisoners’ character to each other as well as the general public in order to justify their inhumane treatment of prisoners. The “code of silence” used by guards allows them the freedom to use everything at their disposal in order to break those prisoners who prison officials and correctional officers (C/O) believe cannot be broken.

It is this mentality that set in motion the establishing of the short corridor, D1 through D4 and its D5 though D10 overflow. This mentality has created the current atmosphere in which C/Os and prison officials agreed upon plan to break indeterminate SHU prisoners. This protracted attack on SHU prisoners cuts across every aspect of the prison’s function: Food, mail, visiting, medical, yard, hot/cold temperatures, privileges (canteen, packages, property, etc.), isolation, cell searches, family/friends, and socio-culture, economic, and political deprivation. This is nothing short of the psychological/physical torture of SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners. It takes place day in and day out, without a break or rest.

The prison’s gang intelligence unit was extremely angered at the fact that prisoners who had been held in SHU under inhuman conditions for anywhere from ten (10) to forty (40) years had not been broken. So the gang intelligence unit created the “short corridor” and intensified the pressure of their attacks on the prisoners housed there. The object was to use blanket pressure to encourage these particular isolated prisoners to debrief (i.e. snitch on order to be released from SHU).

The C/Os and administrative officials are all in agreement and all do their part in depriving short corridor prisoners and its overflow of their basic civil/human rights. None of the deliberate attacks are a figment of anyone’s imagination. These continuous attacks are carried out against prisoners to a science by all of them. They are deliberate and conscious acts against essentially defenseless prisoners.

It is these ongoing attacks that have led to the short corridor and overflow SHU prisoners to organize ourselves themselves around an indefinite Hunger Strike in an effort to combat the dehumanizing treatment we prisoners of all races are subjected to on a daily basis.

Therefore, on July 1, 2011, we ask that all prisoners throughout the State of California who have been suffering injustices in General Population, Administrative Segregation and solitary confinement, etc. to join in our peaceful strike to put a stop to the blatant violations of prisoners’ civil/human rights. As you know, prison gang investigators have used threats of validation and other means to get prisoners to engage in a protracted war against each other in order to serve their narrow interests. If you cannot participate in the Hunger Strike then support it in principle by not eating for the first 24 hours of the strike.

I say that those of you who carry yourselves as principled human beings, no matter you’re housing status, must fight to right this and other egregious wrongs. Although it is “us” today (united New Afrikans, Whites, Northern and Southern Mexicans, and others) it will be you all tomorrow. It is in your interests to peacefully support us in this protest today, and to beware of agitators, provocateurs, and obstructionists, because they are the ones who put ninety percent of us back here because they could not remain principled even within themselves.

Source: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/voices-from-inside/the-call/

Formal Complaint by SHU Short Corridor Inmates, Pelican Bay State Prison

The latest California Prison Focus has a Formal Complaint by SHU Short Corridor inmates at Pelican Bay, on its front page. Read it here, and inside the issue there is more info on the upcoming hunger strike for Human Rights.

See the handwritten formal complaint here.

Statement of Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Collective Hunger Strike on July 1st and announcement to participate, by Corcoran SHU prisoners

Greetings,

I am writing from behind the walls of Corcoran State Prison and am in an isolation super max section (i.e. short corridor) behind political beliefs not compatible to the state, and therefore isolated not only from general population, but also other prisoners. I am writing to inform your organization that we prisoners here at C.S.P. Corcoran are going to take part in the Pelican Bay State Prison’s Hunger Strike.

I have enclosed a copy of our letter of solidarity and would kindly ask if you could make copies or submit it in one of your publications so as to inform the general public of our fight to change the inhuman conditions we are subjected to for our political beliefs or falsely identified as politically active in an organization. It would be greatly appreciated. Enclosed is a copy of our solidarity letter.

Haribu L.M. Soriano-Mugabi
C.S.P. Corcoran
P.O. Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212

Statement of Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Collective Hunger Strike on July 1st.
From: the N.C.T.T. Corcoran SHU

Greetings to all who support freedom, justice, and equality. We here of the N.C.T.T. SHU stand in solidarity with, and in full support of the July 1st hunger strike and the 5 major action points and sub-points as laid out by the Pelican Bay Collective in the Policy Statements (See, “Archives”, P.B.S.P.-SHU-D corridor hunger strike).

What many are unaware of is that facility 4B here in Corcoran SHU is designated to house validated prisoners in indefinite SHU confinement and have an identical ultra-super max isolation unit short corridor modeled after corridor D in Pelican Bay, complete with blacked out windows a mirror tinted glass on the towers so no one but the gun tower can see in [into our cells], and none of us can see out; flaps welded to the base of the doors and sandbags on the tiers to prevent “fishing” [a means of passing notes, etc. between cells using lengths of string]; IGI [Institutional Gang Investigators] transports us all to A.C.H. [?] medical appointments and we have no contact with any prisoners or staff outside of this section here in 4B/1C C Section the “short corridor” of the Corcoran SHU. All of the deprivations (save access to sunlight); outlines in the 5-point hunger strike statement are mirrored, and in some instances intensified here in the Corcoran SHU 4B/1C C Section isolation gang unit.

Medical care here, in a facility allegedly designed to house chronic care and prisoners with psychological problems, is so woefully inadequate that it borders on intentional disdain for the health of prisoners, especially where diabetics and cancer are an issue. Access to the law library is denied for the most mundane reasons, or, most often, no reason at all. Yet these things and more are outlined in the P.B.S.P.-SHU five core demands.

What is of note here, and something that should concern all U.S. citizens, is the increasing use of behavioral control (torture units) and human experimental techniques against prisoners not only in California but across the nation. Indefinite confinement, sensory deprivation, withholding food, constant illumination, use of unsubstantiated lies from informants are the psychological billy clubs being used in these torture units. The purpose of this “treatment” is to stop prisoners from standing in opposition to inhumane prison conditions and prevent them from exercising their basic human rights.

Many lawsuits have been filed in opposition to the conditions in these conditions … [unreadable] yet the courts have repeatedly re-interpreted and misinterpreted their own constitutional law … [unreadable] to support the state’s continued use of these torture units. When approved means of protest and redress of rights are prove meaningless and are fully exhausted, then the pursuit of those ends through other means is necessary.

It is important for all to know the Pelican Bay Collective is not alone in this struggle and the broader the participation and support for this hunger strike, the other such efforts, the greater the potential that our sacrifice now will mean a more humane world for us in the future. We urge all who reads these words to support us in this effort with your participation or your voices call your local news agencies, notify your friends on social networks, contact your legislators, tell your fellow faithful at church, mosques, temple or synagogues. Decades before Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs were described by Congressman Ralph Metcalfe as “the control unit treatment program is long-term punishment under the guise of what is, in fact, pseudo-scientific experimentation.”

Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles, and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support.

In Solidarity,
N.C.T.T. Corcoran – SHU
4B/1C – C Section
Super-max isolation Unit