CA Prisoners Win Historic Gains with Settlement Against Solitary Confinement

Posted on September 1, 2015 by prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity

Agreement reached in Ashker v. Brown ends indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in CA, among other gains for prisoners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2015
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland – Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.”

The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “We celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.”

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.

International Support for California Prisoners resuming Hunger Strike from July 8th

Prisoners in California’s SHU’s: we hear you loud and clear!

On July 8th, many California prisoners in the Secure Housing Units (SHU’s) will go on an indefinite hunger strike again. In 2011 they did so by their thousands, this time they are resuming the hunger strike. 

Why? 
Because the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) has not listened to the many complaints of the prisoners, summarised in Five Simple Core Demands:

1. Eliminate group punishments.  Instead, practice individual accountability.

2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.

3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement. 

4. Provide adequate food and hygiene. 

5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. 

The July 2013 California SHU prisoners hunger strike is done in unity regardless of race, religion, “gang.” All prisoners participating are in unity, following the Agreement to End Hostilities as drawn up in August 2012.

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Our comrades at Prison Watch Europe are going to organize local writing afternoons where people can send cards to the head of prisons reminding him of these 5 simple demands. Also we will be sending cards to prisoners supporting their efforts and letting them know we hear them loud and clear.


More information about the crisis in the California prison system and the torture which is called Solitary Confinement can be found amongst others here:

SF Bay View National Black Newspaper

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Stop Mass Incarceration Network
NCTT-Cor-SHU 
The Rock
Bay Area Intifada Hunger Strike Support
California Prison Focus
SolitaryWatch.com
Lockupreform.com
California Prison Watch

We will be making more information available soon.



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 (one of our network blogs), 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.

Join Us in Stopping Torture in US Prisons!

The Prison Watch Network endorses the following call for Solidarity:

Tens of thousands of people imprisoned in the US are being subjected to torturous, inhumane conditions.  Many are:


·       Held in long term solitary confinement; locked in tiny, windowless, sometimes sound proof, cells; cut off from fresh air and sunlight for 22-24 hours every day and given small portions of food that lacks basic nutritional requirements. 
·       Denied human contact and violently taken from their cells for petty violations.
·       Put in solitary arbitrarily, often because of accusations of being members of prison gangs based on dubious evidence, and have no way to challenge the decisions of prison authorities to place them in solitary.
Many are forced to endure these conditions for months, years and even decades!  Mental anguish and trauma often results from being confined under these conditions.  Locking people down like this amounts to trying to strip them of their humanity.
These conditions fit the international definition of torture!  This is unjust, illegitimate and profoundly immoral.  WE MUST JOIN IN AN EFFORT TO STOP IT, NOW!
People imprisoned at Pelican Bay State Prison in California have called For a Nation-wide Hunger Strike to begin on July 8, 2013. They have also issued a call for unity among people from different racial groups, inside and outside the prisons.  People who are locked down in segregation units of this society’s prisons, condemned as the “worst of the worst,” are standing up against injustice, asserting their humanity in the process.  We must have the humanity to hear their call, and answer it with powerful support!
A Nation-wide and World-wide Struggle Needs to Be launched NOW to bring an End to this widespread Torture Before those in the Prisons Are Forced to Take the Desperate step of going on hunger strikes and putting their lives on the line!
                                                                                               
To the Government
We Demand an Immediate End to the Torture and Inhumanity of Prison House America – Immediately Disband All Torture Chambers.  Meet the demands of those you have locked down in your prisons!
To People in this Country and Around the World
We Cannot Accept, and We Should Not Tolerate This Torture.  Join The Struggle to End Torture in Prisons Now!
To Those Standing Up in Resistance Inside The Prisons: 
WE SUPPORT YOUR CALL FOR UNITY IN THIS FIGHT, AND WE WILL HAVE YOUR BACKS!
June 21, 22 and 23 Will Be Days of Solidarity With the Struggle to End Prison Torture!  There will be protests, cultural events, Evenings of Conscience, sermons in religious services, saturation of social media – all aimed at laying bare the ugly reality of wide spread torture in US prisons and challenging everyone to join in fighting to STOP it.
Send Your endorsements (name . and if you wish, organization and/or title,  to:
For more information and to join in this struggle contact the Stop Mass Incarceration Network at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sponsoring Organizations:

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

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