From the SF Bayview:
Posted on September 5, 2013
Greetings of Solidarity and Respect!
The PBSP-SHU, Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on September 5, 2013.
To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice. With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.
Our goal remains: force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside. We also call for ending the related practices of using prisoners to promote the agenda of the police state by seeking to greatly expand the numbers of the working class poor warehoused in prisons, and particularly those of us held in solitary, based on psychological/social manipulation, and divisive tactics keeping prisoners fighting amongst each other. Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards, more tax dollars for “security”, and spend mere pennies for rehabilitation — all of which demonstrates a failed penal system, high recidivism, and ultimately compromising public safety. The State of California’s $9.1 billion annual CDCR budget is the epitome of a failed and fraudulent state agency that diabolically and systemically deprives thousands of their human rights and dignity. Allowing this agency to act with impunity has to stop! And it will.
With that said, and in response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock, and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the upmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike. We are especially grateful to Senator Hancock and Assembly Member Ammiano for their courageous decision to challenge Governor Brown and the CDCR for their policies of prolonged solitary confinement and inhumane conditions. We are certain that they will continue their fight for our cause, including holding legislative hearings and the drafting legislation responsive to our demands on prison conditions and sentencing laws. We are also proceeding with our class action civil suit against the CDCR.
The fact is that Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary Beard have responded to our third peaceful action with typical denials and falsehoods, claiming solitary confinement does not exist and justifying the continuation of their indefinite torture regime by vilifying the peaceful protest representatives. They also obtained the support of the medical receiver (Kelso) and Prison Law Office attorney (Spector—who is supposed to represent prisoners interests, and instead has become an agent for the state) to perpetuate their lie to the public and to the federal court — that prisoners participating in the hunger strike have been coerced — in order to obtain the August 19, 2013 force feeding order.
We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice.
We urge people to remember that we began our present resistance with our unprecedented collective and peaceful actions (in tandem with the legislative process) back in early 2010, when we created and distributed a “Formal Complaint” for the purpose of educating the public and bringing widespread attention to our torturous conditions.
After much dialogue and consideration, this led us to our first and second hunger strike actions in 2011, during which a combined number of 6,500 and 12,000 prisoners participated. We succeeded in gaining worldwide attention and support resulting in some minor changes by the CDCR concerning SHU programming and privileges. They also claimed to make major changes to policies regarding gang validation and indefinite SHU confinement by creating the STG/SDP Pilot Program. They released a few hundred prisoners from SHU/AD SEG to general population in the prison. But in truth, this is all part of a sham to claim the pilot program works and was a weak attempt to have our class action dismissed. It didn’t work.
In response we respectfully made clear that CDCR’s STG-SDP was not responsive to our demand for the end to long term isolation and solitary confinement and thus unacceptable. (See: AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES)
Our supporting points fell on deaf ears, leading to our January 2013 notice of intent to resume our hunger strike on July 8, 2013 if our demands were not met. We also included Forty Supplemental Demands.
In early July, CDCR produced several memos notifying prisoners of an increase in privileges and property items, which are notably responsive to a few of our demands, while the majority of our demands were unresolved, leading to our third hunger strike, in which 30,000 prisoners participated and resulted in greater worldwide exposure, support and condemnation of the CDCR!
From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals. However, there’s still much to be done. Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.
For the Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement
Todd Ashker, C58191, D1-119
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106
And the Representatives Body:
Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288. D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D1-104
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124
Greetings. We begin this update on where things stand with our struggle to force an end to long-term solitary confinement and additional major reforms to the prison system with a shout-out of solidarity, love, and respect to all of our supporters and people of conscience worldwide.
As many are aware today marks the 51st day of our peaceful hunger strike. We continue to protest decades of solitary confinement; torture for the purposes of coercion. This is the third hunger strike in two years and yet nothing of real substance has changed for the majority of us.
We are now at a critical stage, where each minute that passes is extremely taxing mentally and physically. Many of us participating since day one are suffering what may be irreversible damage, and are facing a very real possibility of death. It is a fact that a major cause of death during long fasts is heart attack. This may come at any moment for us… When it does, we’re done for.
That said, you may all rest assured that our commitment to this worthy cause remains undaunted. The world is now a witness, as Gov. Brown and his appointee [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary] Beard demonstrate callous and deliberate indifference to the extreme forms of inexcusable suffering our loved ones and ourselves are subjected to in our fight for humane treatment of the prisoner class of human beings…
Gov. Brown’s response to our peaceful action has not been silence, as so many presume—rather, it has been loud and clear via the propaganda and rhetoric being spewed by his mouth piece Dr. Beard [AKA Dr. Mengele]. The fascist police state prisoncrats have attempted to misdirect the attention and the growing condemnation of their human rights abuses. They have tried to disrupt public support by dredging up 20-40 year old histories that are for the most part portrayed in a false light. They have desperately tried to justify and further their diabolical agenda, and indeed expand the numbers of prisoners (and loved ones outside) being tortured—to the point of death, insanity, and false confessions. They have the audacity to claim our push for reform is a “gang power play,” and that many prisoners have been “coerced into participation.” This is another tactic aimed at misleading the public so as to maintain the status quo with impunity. They have tried to ignore the fact that our collective peaceful efforts, and our call to “end group hostilities,” are contrary to their propaganda. CDCR’s decades of human rights violations is the catalyst for thousands coming together and taking up this protest…
Another clear demonstration of where Brown, Beard, et al stand is their response to this peaceful action. They have directed their subordinates to subject participants, and non-participants alike, to systematic retaliation including, but not limited to: additional isolation and sensory deprivation via placement in the Administrative Segregation stand-alone building; withholding mail and visits; blasting cold air into SHU and Ad-Seg cells; confiscating property; fabricating rule violations and alleging gang activity; cell-extractions; threats and intimidation; and mass relocation. They have rescinded so-called privileges granted in 2011-2013. And they have cut the number of allowable books from 10 (which has been a right for 23 years), down to 5. The above are only a few examples.
We are calling on all people of conscience to make their opposition heard. We urge the people to demand that the powers that be end this abuse now. Today. Before it it is too late for some of us. On Friday August 16, CDCR transferred 51 people on hunger strike from this Ad-Seg Unit down south to a medical facility in preparation for force feeding. This is where we’ll all be soon. Some of us are considering a challenge to such feeding. What’s going on in this nation that it has come to such a point? The people have the power to change things now. Know this: Our spirit and resolve remain strong and we know we can count on you all! Together we are making it happen, not only for ourselves, but, more importantly, for the generations to come.
With the Utmost Solidarity, Love, and Respect—Onward in Struggle,
Pelican Bay State Prison Short Corridor Collective
Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP-SHU
Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU
Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU
July 9, 2013
Greetings to our supporters and all people of conscience.
We are grateful for your support of our peaceful protest against the state-sanctioned torture that happens not only here at Pelican Bay but in prisons everywhere. We have taken up this hunger strike and work stoppage, which has included 30,000 prisoners in California so far, not only to improve our own conditions but also an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world.
We encourage everyone to take action to support the strike wherever they live. Sign the petition demanding California Governor stop the torture; plan rolling solidarity fasts if you are able; use every means to spread the word; and participate in non-violent direct action to put pressure on decision-makers.
If it was not for your support, we would have died in 2011. Thank you everyone. We are confident we will prevail.
– Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP-SHU, D4-121
– Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU, D1-121
– Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU,D1-117
– Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU, D2-106
The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives
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
Sitawa Mantambu Jamaa (Dewberry)
It can be broken down.”
The Human Rights Pen Pal program is an anti-racist, grassroots organizer training program in solidarity with the human rights of prisoners in California’s solitary confinement cells. The program will promote principled relationships between prisoners in solitary confinement and supporters outside the walls; and combine practice, political education, beginning community organizing skills, and evaluation.
The Human Rights Pen Pal program is specifically intended to support the ongoing work of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition which works to end solitary confinement and address the human rights of prisoners confined in SHU’s (Security Housing Units) and Ad Segs (Administrative Segregation), California prisons’ names for solitary confinement.
The Human Rights Pen Pal program complements and supports other forms of pen pal programs, all of which are crucial for transcending the walls between activists outside and inside the prisons, and for winning some justice for all prisoners in California.
The program is centered around the relationship between the pen pals inside and outside the walls. It assumes that the developing relationships will lead to a growing commitment of those ‘outside the walls’ to work in solidarity with the prisoners and their human rights campaign.
The ‘outside the walls’ group would be small, limited to 6 to 8 pen pals. Each pen pal would write to a minimum of one person in solitary confinement. Priority for prisoner involvement would go to people in Pelican Bay and Corcoran Prisons who are already in contact with PHSS.
Our monthly meeting would include political discussions about California prisons, solitary confinement, prisoners’ resistance, questions that arise from prisoners’ correspondence, and strategies of solidarity used by local and national anti-prison organizations.
We would exchange ideas for responding to prisoners’ letters, write our letter to our pen pal in solitary, invite each other to local anti-prison activities, suggest ways that each of us can share our experiences as pen pals with our own friends and networks, and evaluate our work together.
(1) Meeting once a month for 6 months, for about 3 hours, at a San Francisco apartment;
(2) Corresponding with his/her/their ‘inside the walls’ pen pal twice a month: once during the monthly group meeting, and once in between group meetings;
(3) Actively participating in the interactive political education component by reading suggested short essays, preparing questions for discussion at the group meetings, keeping abreast of PHSS and other anti-prison events and activities, and learning how to do constructive evaluation of the Pen Pal program;
(4) Sharing your experiences as a pen pal participant with your own friends and networks;
(5) Consider continuing your correspondence with your prisoner pen pal for at least a year; and discussing whether the structured pen pal program should continue and, if so, what it should include.
The program would run for 6 months, from January through June, 2013. The pen pals and the PHSS coordinator would meet as a group once a month in a San Francisco apartment. Each meeting would last about 3 hours. Pen pals and the PHSS coordinator will collaboratively determine the best day for the monthly meeting. Each pen pal will then be expected to attend and participate actively in each meeting.
For more information, and to schedule a phone conversation, please email Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave your email address, phone number, and what evenings (Tuesdays through Sundays) from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm that you might be available for the monthly pen pal meeting beginning in January, 2013.
Deadline for holding this conversation to see if the pen pal program is a good fit will be December 20. First Pen Pal meeting will take place the week after Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in January, 2013.