Support the Texas Prison Work-Strikers: Stop retaliation against Texas prisoner population

This comes from the IWW Incarerated Workers Organizing Committee:

Demands of Texas prisoners / incarcerated workers

As of Monday, April 18th, prisoners in Texas have been on rolling labor strikes for two weeks. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is retaliating by locking the prisons down and depriving prisoners of even the standard abysmal human necessities they are forced to provide. Retaliation against people who refuse to work for free is one of the tools prison administrators use to assure that prisoners can continue to be exploited in today’s modern day slave system.

If you have a minute, please call the following administrators and read the scripts below:

*Brad Livingston, Executive Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-2101 or (512) 463-9988
*Bryan Collier, Deputy Executive Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-6251 or (512) 463-9988
*Jay Eason, Deputy Director, TDCJ, (936) 437-6318 or (512) 463-9988
*TDJC Ombudsman Office (936) 437-4927 ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov
*TDJC Office of the Inspector General (936) 437-5030 oig@tdcj.texas.gov
*TDCJ Executive Director (512) 463-9988 exec.director@tdcj.state.tx.us

EASY Script:
“Hi I’m calling in support of striking prisoners in Texas and their demands for good time, an end to $100 medical copay, an independent grievance procedure and an end to human rights abuses. Stop enslaving our brothers and sisters and assure that your staff is not retaliating against striking workers by giving them write ups, eyes on Texas!”

CHALLENGING Script:
“Hi I heard about the prisoners labor strike and I’m calling to find out what sort of progress you are making toward meeting the prisoners demands.” Here is the list of demands for you to discuss.

~~~~~

If you have a little more time and want to have an even more significant impact we need help determining which prisoners are being retaliated against on any given day. Which prisons are on lockdown seems to change every couple of days.

There are nearly 100 prisons on this list of prisons and administrator phone numbers. Please add comments to the list so that we are better able to track what is happening and hopefully get at least a couple of calls in to every facility.

Script: “Hello, I’m calling to see if this facility is on lockdown right now.”

If they say no, say “I have heard that some prisons in Texas are on lockdown because of a labor strike associated with a list of demands from the prisoners”. Then start reading them this list of demands and letter from a prisoner.

If they say yes, they are on lockdown, ask them about the conditions the prisoners are facing and also ask them what directives they are relying on to guide their actions in this matter. Here are some of the reported conditions:

– Workers are threatened with major infractions for withholding their labor. These infractions could result in good time being taken away. Although good time seems to rarely be applied to anyone’s sentence, the threat of losing it is highly coersive.

– The locked down prisoners are not receiving the hot meals. This means hundreds or thousands of prisoners have had nothing to eat but bologna or peanut butter sandwiches since April 4th.

– Mailroom staff is delaying or interfering with the delivery of inmate mail.

– There are reports of lights being left on during the night or left off during the day, other examples of petty harassment from trifling guards and threats that the lockdown treatment will extend for weeks or even months.

– Interfering with the prisoner’s access to basic necessities like food, sleep and connection with their families and the outside world is inhumane.

– Please stop punishing the prisoners for asserting their basic humanity, if you want them to come off the workstoppage, you should meet their demands.

The prisoners need sustained pressure on these institutions, so please call on Monday and then make plans to follow up at least once more later in the week, if not every day. Thank you!!!

~~~~~

Also, Looking ahead to May 1st, we are asking people to carry the prisoners voices with them to whatever May Day events they may be planning or attending. Alabama prisoners have called for a month-long workstoppage starting on May 1st. If you’re already getting rowdy May Day, please also consider throwing a jail demo or a protest at the public face of a prison-labor exploiting corporation.

 

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From solitary confinement at Pelican Bay, Jesse Perez sues his guards for retaliation, wins $25,000

This is good news, published in the SF Bay View on Nov. 30th, 2015

Written by Claude Marks, Freedom Archives

On Friday, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $25,000 in damages to Jesse Perez, who sued guards for trashing his cell in retaliation for his lawsuit against the prison and for his stand against solitary confinement.

Jesse Perez’s legal team – Randall Lee, lead attorney, Jesse Perez, Katie Moran and Matthew Benedetto – enjoys the victory in federal court in San Francisco Nov. 24, 2015. – Photo: Katie Moran

Jesse Perez, 35, is from Colton in San Bernardino County and has been imprisoned since age 15. He was sent to the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay in December 2003 and was held there for 10 years. He took part in all three hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013, protesting prolonged isolation and demanding human rights for prisoners.

Perez’s lawyer, Randall Lee, said the verdict sends “a resounding message that the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment are sacrosanct for all of us – even a prisoner in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.”

The case is based on Jesse Perez challenging the legitimacy of a CDCr gang validation pro se in 2005. He was assigned counsel after he defeated a state dismissal motion and won a settlement in 2012. Perez received a monetary award as well as the right to have his gang affiliation reevaluated.

Similarly, CDCr settled the Ashker case prior to trial, as the state of California wants to avoid having to be held publically accountable and to be subjected to scrutiny and interrogation in court.

In his current civil suit, Perez argued that guards retaliated against him for exercising his right to file a lawsuit and in response to his successful litigating for his human rights and to overturn his baseless gang validation.

Rather than re-reviewing Jesse’s gang validation as was mandated by his court settlement, and just days after the settlement, four officers forced him to strip, removed all of his legal paperwork and trashed his cell. In the process, one officer stated, “You might have been able to win some money from us, but we will make sure that you stay [in solitary] where you belong.”

Jesse did not get all of his property back – especially some of his legal work. He was later charged with a serious rules violation for “willfully obstructing the officers” during that search, for which he was ultimately found not guilty.

Jesse Perez states, “As prisoner activists seeking to make positive contributions to the interests and human dignity of prisoners, we understand that the trappings of power enjoyed by guards represent the biggest obstacle to significant and lasting progress.” By filing the lawsuit, Perez wrote that he sought the “opportunity to shine a public light at trial and rein in what prisoner activists often endure in exercising their constitutional rights: the retaliatory abuse of the department’s disciplinary process by prison guards.”

In his testimony, Jesse stated that he filed this case to defend what minimal human rights he retains as a prisoner. He also said that the officers he sued represent a backlash that prisoners commonly experience when they speak out to access their constitutional rights, since the CDCr will not investigate and reform itself.

Predictably, attorneys for the CDCr tried to discredit Perez’ testimony as well as that of other prisoners who testified in support of his argument. The jury found Jesse Perez and his witnesses credible.

In Jesse’s concluding testimony he made it clear: “Our system of law requires prisoners like me and many others to surrender our freedom, but our laws do not require us, and we refuse to, surrender our human dignity or the minimal constitutional rights that we retain even after crossing the prison gates.

“So for me, we’re here because prison officials decided to punish me for exercising my constitutional right to file a lawsuit against their colleagues. They threatened (my cellmate) Rudy and me. They unnecessarily confiscated important legal documents that I had. They trashed my cell. And then they wrote a false disciplinary report in order to keep me in solitary confinement.

“This is not just about a messy cell or some sort of inconvenience in having to defend against a trumped up RVR. This cell was my whole world for the multiple years that I was in there. It’s the only space where I was able to experience the little bit of life that exists in solitary.

“They didn’t just take my stuff. They took the only possessions that I had. It’s all I had. So to me it was a huge deal.

“I think the officers’ actions also represent the sort of backlash that prisoners often have to hazard when speaking out or exercising their constitutional rights. So to me, we’re also here so that we can both inform and empower the public to deal with this continued corrupt course of conduct. Because in our reality, the CDCR seems incapable or unwilling to do so. So that’s why we’re here.”

Perez’s case is not the only recent instance of guards’ retaliation against prisoners for their basic expression of civil rights and political activism. Since August, inmates in the Pelican Bay SHU say they have been awakened every half-hour by prison guards in a practice that amounts to sleep deprivation.

The policy is known as security and welfare checks, during which prison guards “check on inmates” in segregated housing, including solitary confinement cells, every 30 minutes – 48 times every day – to make sure they are “not injuring themselves or trying to kill themselves.”

Not coincidentally, these checks started just days after prisoners claimed victory in the landmark settlement of Ashker v. Brown, which significantly reduced California’s ability to keep people in solitary confinement – and overturned a system of gang validation used to justify decades of isolation for hundreds of prisoners, often because of their organizing resistance to conditions and their general political beliefs.

Claude Marks, director of Freedom Archives, 522 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110


Jesse Perez prevails in his federal lawsuit claiming retaliation by Pelican Bay officers

by Kim Rohrbach

On Nov. 24, 2015, an eight-person jury unanimously found in favor of plaintiff Jesse Perez in his retaliation case brought against several officers at Pelican Bay State Prison under the Civil Rights Act, Title 42 USC Section 1983.

The jurors agreed that four officers, all of whom were employed as assistant internal gang investigators at the time of the incidents prompting Mr. Perez’s lawsuit, each unlawfully engaged in retaliatory conduct in response to an earlier and eventually successful lawsuit brought by Mr. Perez about a decade ago.

The latter lawsuit contested Mr. Perez’s unlawful confinement at Pelican Bay’s SHU (Security Housing Unit). Settlement negotiations were underway at the time that the retaliatory conduct raised in Perez’s second lawsuit occurred, but the case had not yet settled.

The officers found guilty on Nov. 24 in regard to Mr. Perez’s first cause of action for First Amendment retaliation are Anthony Gates, Daniel Gongora, Eric Healy and Guillermo Pimentel. A fifth officer, Sean Burris, was found not guilty. A sixth officer, J. Prelip, was dropped from the case prior to trial.

Mr. Perez’s summary of his retaliation lawsuit can be read in the Bay View. The docket number for this case is 3:13-cv-05359-VC (N.D. Cal.).

At trial, Perez likened his decade-plus-long efforts at negotiating his way through the legal system to putting together a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle in the dark. He testified that his education, prior to his incarceration as a teenager, ended with the seventh grade.

Yet, despite this handicap, he filed both his retaliation case as well as in his preceding case without the benefit of legal representation. Moreover, he was able to go a great distance in terms of prosecuting each case on his own before he did finally obtain pro bono representation.

After the state challenged Mr. Perez’s first lawsuit protesting his confinement in solitary, Mr. Perez brought an appeal and cross-appeal, and on his own motion was appointed counsel by the 9th Circuit. Katie Moran and Randall Lee from Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr, LLP, were assigned to the appellate case. Attorneys Moran, Lee and others from their firm later joined in as Perez’s counsel on his second lawsuit alleging retaliation, and filed a first amended complaint in July 2014.

Mr. Perez had filed his initial handwritten complaint in the retaliation case in November 2013, after exhausting his options for relief through the administrative grievance process available through the CDCR. The CDCR’s administrative grievance process involves no external review by any staff independent of the CDCR, or by any judge, as many readers of this publication may be aware.

The trial on Mr. Perez’s retaliation case, which began Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, wrapped up for the most part on Friday, Nov. 20, at which time jurors began their deliberations. The jurors delivered their verdict late in the day on Tuesday, Nov. 24, returning to court the following morning to hear testimony concerning damages and to decide upon the amount of damages. Mr. Perez was awarded $25,000, which significantly included punitive damages.

Mr. Perez donated the proceeds of his settlement from his earlier case to his mother to help her pay off the mortgage for her home and to an organization located in South Central Los Angeles that works to support youths seeking to attend college.

The jurors in Mr. Perez’s latest matter returned a hung verdict as to a second cause of action for conspiracy levied against defendants Burris, Gates, Gongora, Healy and Pimentel. The jurors, during deliberations, indicated in writing to Judge Vincent Chhabria that they were “hopelessly deadlocked” on this claim in regard to two of the five defendants.

Although the jurors found defendants Burris, Gongola and Pimentel not guilty of conspiracy, they could arrive at no decision as to defendants Gates and Healy. Judge Chhabria declared a mistrial as to the claim of conspiracy against Gates and Healy.

During defendants’ closing arguments on Nov. 20, Jennifer Nygaard, co-counsel for the state Attorney General’s Office, emphasized the fact that Eric Healy, Anthony Gates and Dan Gongola – who, again, were all found guilty with respect to Mr. Perez’s First Amendment retaliation claim – had each been promoted following the incidents leading up to Perez’s retaliation case. As was one of the state’s witnesses in the matter, David Barneburg, or so it had earlier come out during testimony.

Barneburg led Pelican Bay’s Internal Gang Investigation Unit as a lieutenant, starting in 2009. After the events precipitating Mr. Perez’s retaliation lawsuit, Barneburg was made an associate warden at Pelican Bay.

Critical for readers to understand, relative to Mr. Perez’s legal ordeals, is that the CDCR currently defines a “gang” or “security threat group,” in relevant part, as follows:

“[A]ny … organization, association or group of three or more persons which has a common name or identifying sign or symbol whose members and/or associates … engage or have engaged, on behalf of that organization, association or group, in two or more acts which include, planning, organizing, threatening, financing, soliciting or committing unlawful acts, or act of misconduct.” See California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Section 3000 (2015), which contains no definition of the word “misconduct.”

One reason that this is critical is that, until quite recently, those incarcerated within the CDCR’s prisons could be lawfully held in indefinite solitary confinement for alleged “gang” and/or “security threat group” members or associates by CDCR officials, without having committed any violent or criminal act to warrant such designation. Mr. Perez, until his release into the general population at Pelican Bay in 2013, was one of innumerable people in California’s prisons who endured this torture, under regulations that have been successfully challenged under thefederal class-action Ashker v. Brown.

In addition, if Anthony Gates, Sean Healy, plus any third defendant-officer named in Mr. Perez’s most recent lawsuit had been found guilty of the second cause of action for conspiracy, then the question would beg to be asked: How would those defendant-officers not themselves qualify as “gang” members, if one were to apply the relevant language codified in the California Code of Regulations, Title 15, cited above?

The type of abuse raised by Mr. Perez in his retaliation case – e.g., the trashing of his cell and the confiscation of his legal and other papers and the meritless Rules Violation Report issued against him – is unfortunately, in this writer’s experience, by no means unusual. What is unusual is that Mr. Perez has brought the abuse that he suffered to the light of day in court, against formidable obstacles, and has prevailed on his main cause of action for First Amendment retaliation.

Kim Rohrbach volunteers with California Prison Focus (CPF) and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) and is an advocate for tenants and a paralegal. She and many allies from CPF and PHSS were present in the courtroom during Jesse Perez’s recent trial, taking shifts to maintain a nearly continuous presence there.

 

Action Alert for Duane Peters of the Dallas 6

This comes from Support the SCI Dallas 6 (Pennsylvania):

PRISONER:
Duane Peters FP7306
SCI Mahanoy 301
Morea Rd,
Frackville, PA 17932

INFO:
Dallas 6 member Duane Peters has been under constant retaliation because of the Dallas 6 case. Some of the staff are the same staff that were at Dallas, some are family members, some friends. They are protecting the interests of the guards involved in this case.

As always, they came in the cell under the guise of a “contraband” search, flooded the cell and dropped legal documents and some artwork featuring the Dallas 6 into the water on the floor. This time, they have fashioned nooses and placed them in his cell. He continues to be told that he won’t make it to the Dallas 6 trial. He has been restricted from making phone calls and most importantly they are not letting him make ANY legal calls, which is court ordered. They continue to destroy and tamper with evidence. This is a reality for anyone with cases against the DOC or evidence that reveals their barbaric, tortuous treatment of inmates.

PLEASE CALL/FAX/EMAIL:

DOC Secretary John Wetzel
Phone: 717-728-4109
Fax: 717-728-4178
EMAIL: ra-contactdoc@pa.gov

DEMAND:
· Stop all harassment and retaliation to Duane Peters (his registration nr is: FP7306)
· Remind him that this issue has been brought to his attention at several town hall meetings and in writing and phone calls for the past two to three years
· Remind him that these reports are being shared with the Department of Justice and will continue to be shared with them
· If further harassment and retaliation continues, we will be asking for charges on everyone involved, from the guards up to the superintendent of SCI Mahanoy. The charges will be destroying evidence, ethnic intimidation and harassment.

*I would appreciate if you please email notes of your call to freedom4six@gmail.com.

WRITE A LETTER TO JUDGE GELB
Write a letter to Judge Gelb asking her to strictly enforce all of her court orders in the Dallas 6 case. Ask Judge Gelb to place an order against ethnic intimidation and retaliation and ensure that it is strictly enforced. If anyone wants a pre-made letter template, please email freedom4six@gmail.com for a copy.

Judge Lesa Gelb
Luzerne County Courthouose
200 N. River Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

SEND A LETTER

FAX/MAIL A LETTER TO LUZERNE “KIDS FOR CASH” COUNTY DA,
DEMAND SHE DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST the DALLAS 6

Here is the letter you can send to the district attorney asking to drop the charges against the Dallas 6
Please feel free to forward and share with anyone who may be interested in participating.

Fax# (570) 825-1622
Stefanie J. Salavantis, District Attorney
Luzerne County Courthouse
200 N River St
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

Dear District Attorney,

I am writing regarding the Dallas 6 case. This case has been in the courts going on five years. Carrington Keys, Duane Peters, Anthony Locke and Derrick Stanley have been waiting all these years for a chance to tell the truth in court. Anthony Kelly who pleaded out earlier has also been waiting for resolution of the case. False charges of rioting were brought against these men simply because they covered their cell windows to bring to your attention and the attention of other authorities gross violations of civil and human rights, abuse and torture that they experienced, witnessed and documented at SCI Dallas.

We know from the recent exposure of abuse by guards at Rikers Island and Attica prisons in New York State that there are many jurisdictions that are facing charges of gross abuse of prisoners. There are many in Pennsylvania and across the nation who know about the Dallas 6 men who are outraged that your office did not investigate the human rights violations that the men were non-violently protesting, but instead investigated and also charged the men with rioting for being whistleblowers!

Local and national organizations have endorsed and support these prisoners. All are watching. All are calling on your office to drop the charges against the Dallas 6, which are frivolous, false and vindictive, an abuse of power and a waste of taxpayers’ money. We call instead for an immediate investigation by your office, as well as by federal and state authorities, of the abuse of prisoners by guards at SCI Dallas and all Luzerne County prisons, and the prosecution of guilty parties, including of those in positions of responsibility who have been told about it, for allowing this injustice to continue.

Besides the obvious injustice of retaliation against the Dallas 6 for trying to draw attention to abuse of prisoners at SCI Dallas, other reasons your office should drop the charges include:
· Covering your window is a violation of DOC policy and should have been handled internally in the prisons, not through the courts.
· Covering your window is not a riot. It is impossible to hold a riot in solitary confinement.
· The only people injured during the incident were the peaceful prisoners who were physically attacked by guards.
· The men have endured well-documented human rights abuses at SCI Dallas and now further abuse and retaliation at SCI Mahanoy and SCI Retreat, which has been reported to the appropriate authorities.
· Trial has been consistently delayed for years, taking almost five years to prosecute a third class felony.
· The county and DOC have wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars in housing, transportation, police and court costs bringing them back and forth across the state for a group vendetta by public servants.
· The District Attorney office has taken responsibility for redaction of videotapes without the consent, approval or knowledge of the judge.
· The District Attorney’s office has not turned over full discovery within these five years which is in contempt of court orders.

We have finally seen the justice system in New York begin to address the crisis of prisoner abuse by holding those responsible to account through criminal charges and dismissals of perpetrators. Luzerne County has experienced corruption and interpersonal relationships among officials — when will justice arrive and prevail at Luzerne County? You are responsible for the actions of those who are part of your office since they take your direction and carry out your decisions. Failure to drop the charges will expose to the public the lack of will of your office to investigate serious human rights violations, make your office complicit in the punishment of and retaliation against men who bravely tried to bring to your attention injustices and illegal practices at SCI Dallas, and raise questions about whether your personal relationship with people connected with SCI Dallas constitutes a serious conflict of interest.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
Your Name/Title
Phone/Email

OR
FAX A LETTER
Fax: (570) 825-1622
OR BOTH
TO:
Stefanie J. Salavantis, Esquire
Luzerne County District Attorney
200 North River St.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

POINTS
• The charges are false and retaliatory
• The only people injured during the incident were the prisoners who were peaceful
• The only violence was carried out by the guards, who should be on trial for abuse
• Covering your window is a violation of DOC policy and should have been handled internally not through the courts
• Covering your window is not a riot! It is impossible to hold a riot in solitary confinement. Everyone seems to know this except for your court.
• The District Attorney office has not turned over full discovery within these 5 years with no sanctions or contempt being cited against them.
• The District Attorney office has taken responsibility for redaction of videotapes without the consent, approval or knowledge of the judge. This is illegal.
• The county and DOC have wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars in housing, transportation and court costs bringing them back and forth across the state for a personal vendetta
• Trial has been consistently delayed for years, taking almost 5 years to prosecute a 3rd class felony
• The men have endured well documented human rights abuses at SCI Dallas and now further abuse and retaliation at SCI Mahanoy and SCI Retreat, which has been reported to the proper authorities.

Thank you!

More information about the case of the six men who made a peaceful protest inside their solitary confinement cells inside SCI Dallas, PA, and who were severely and unjustly punished by PA DOC can be found by going to the support site.

Protest Disciplinary Actions Against Prison Hunger Strikers

This was sent by email to those who signed up to pledge taking action, but everyone can participate!
Greetings to all Pledge signers,
As you know, on July 8, 2013 more than 30,000 California prisoners initiated a historic hunger strike calling on the Governor and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet their 5 Core Demands. Sixty days and one death later, the strikers suspended the strike.
Thank you so much for continuing your support of the hunger strikers.
CDCR RETALIATES AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTEST WITH ACCUSATIONS OF SERIOUS RULE VIOLATIONS (115 WRITE-UP)
The hunger strike was a non-violent and peaceful protest of resistance against the violence and torture perpetrated against prisoners by prison staff. Prisoners all over the world use hunger strikes to affirm their humanity. Hunger striking is a time-honored form of peaceful protest, going back hundreds – perhaps thousands – of years. It allows nonviolent dissent for people who lack viable methods to obtain redress of grievances.
Every person who participated in this summer’s peaceful protest of refusing meals has received a 115 write-up, accusing him of committing a serious rule violation for his participation in the hunger strike. This is a continuation of CDCR’s attacks on the nonviolent protest.
A 115 WRITE-UP CAN EXTEND SOLITARY CONFINEMENT PERIOD AND RESULT IN DENIAL OF PAROLE
A 115 is serious. It can result in extending a prisoner’s period of solitary confinement by years, in the imposition of penalties like television restrictions, or in becoming the basis for denying parole.
If the 115 is gang-related, the results are even worse: it can be used to validate a prisoner as a gang member or associate. Validation can cause the prisoner to be moved to the Security Housing Unit (the “SHU,” aka solitary confinement), or to be kept longer in the SHU. Officials at California State Prison Corcoran, and possibly at other prisons, encouraged prisoners to stipulate that they had participated in the hunger strike, in exchange for a lesser 115 penalty. But that stipulation included a phrase acknowledging that the hunger strike was organized or directed by prison gangs, leading to grave repercussions for participants throughout the system.
Keeping people in solitary confinement for more years, because they peacefully protested solitary confinement, is outrageous! This is a symptom of the unjust retaliation that CDCR is perpetuating against hunger strikers.
TELL CDCR THAT THE PRACTICE OF ISSUING 115 WRITE-UPS FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE HUNGER STRIKE IS OUTRAGEOUS
Please contact M. D. Stainer, Director of the Division of Adult Institutions at CDCR. Your voice needs to be heard by the people making decisions! Tell him to end this policy of punishing people for refusing their meals in nonviolent protest, and to reverse the 115s that were given out. Let him know that you are distressed to hear that about his policy of issuing 115 write-ups, further oppressing the peaceful hunger strikers.
M.D. Stainer, Director
Division of Adult Institutions
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
P. O. Box 942883
Sacramento CA. 94283
(916) 445-7688
PHSS will let you know when we find out the effects of our collective activity. Please share this Alert with your networks!
In solidarity,
Dana Gross, for Emergency Response Network – Pledge of Resistance
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

California has breached human rights of prisoners on hunger strike

Posted: 22 July 2013

‘Prisoners … should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest’ – Angela Wright


The Californian prison authorities have breached international human rights obligations by taking punitive measures against prisoners on hunger strike, Amnesty International said today.

More than 1,000 inmates in prisons across California remain on hunger strike over conditions for thousands held in solitary confinement in the state’s prisons, with the protest entering its third week.

This is down from approximately 30,000 prisoners in more than 24 prisons who began their hunger strike on 8 July to protest against the state’s policy of long-term solitary confinement in so-called “Security Housing Units”.

On 11 July, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation threatened to take disciplinary action against all those participating in the hunger strike – a move which may extend their time in the secure units.

Hunger strike leaders have also been subjected to increased isolation, where they face harsher conditions and increased restrictions on communication with their lawyers.

A core group of hunger strikers in the north Californian Pelican Bay Security Housing Units claim the prison authorities have blasted cold air into their cells, as well as confiscated fluids, hygiene products and legal materials.

Last year Amnesty published a highly critical 58-page report on the units, describing the “shocking” conditions endured by more than 3,000 prisoners, including 78 people who had spent more than two decades in isolation units (see http://amn.st/12HjOav).

Amnesty International’s USA researcher Angela Wright said:

“Prolonged isolation under conditions which can only be described as cruel and inhumane treatment is prohibited under international law.

“It is unsurprising that prisoners in the SHU are protesting the conditions of their detention.
“Prisoners seeking an end to inhumane conditions should not be subjected to punitive measures for exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest. 

“Rather than punishing prisoners further with the threat of disciplinary action, the Department of Corrections should commit to meaningful reforms that will address the inhumanity of the state’s prison system.”

While California’s Department of Corrections has introduced changes to how individuals are assigned to the units, and how they can work their way out, Amnesty believes that these reforms do not go far enough.

Numerous studies have shown that being held under such harsh environmental conditions is detrimental to a prisoner’s psychological and physical health.

Prisoners held under these conditions are denied rehabilitative or educational programming, and have little or no social contact – including with family members. Most are eventually released back into mainstream society where the long-term effects of their confinement make reintegration harder.

Amnesty is urging California’s Department of Corrections to introduce long-overdue reforms to the secure units system to ensure that California’s treatment of prisoners does not violate its obligation under international human rights law to treat all prisoners humanely.
 

At no other time have more inmates been isolated or locked down in Nevada prisons in over a hundred years than during this time when McDaniel has taken over

Letter sent to us to send for:

Mr. Senator Tick Segerblom
3540 West Sahara Avenue, Suite 352
Las Vegas, Nevada 891025816

Presenter of Senate Bill 107

I am writing you in response to responses made to the press by E.K. McDaniel (deputy director of NDOC), as well as comments of “facts” you made to the same article(by Matt Woolbright and the Associated Press).

Firstly the comments by Mr McDaniel could not be more misdirected or blatant lying to the public in regards of housing in Solitary Confinement. At no other time have more inmates been isolated or locked down in Nevada prisons in over a hundred years (per ratio of incarcerated percentages even) than during this time when McDaniel has taken over.

It is through this mis-information and mis-direction that Ely State Prison is completely locked down except ½ (half) of a workers unit. It is not because of violence that this prison is permanently on isolated lockdown, because even with only less than 24 men able to leave their cells (as where the rest are on 24 hour lockdown) ESP continues to be the only prison with a death rate of at least one man per year caused by the inability to leave their cells.

This is only a small fraction of the argument that can be made in regards to the comments made in this article. Another being – segregated inmates do not have everything general population does. See AR733. Inmates are allowed a TV – or radio – however this becomes a game of power and abuse to the offenders. 

McDaniel’s ½ truths don’t tell you that for any rule infraction the TV or radio is taken away for 60 days more and so on goes the game. Any infraction is another 60 days. Inmates can go years without any appliance. The same game is applied to food, books, showers. For example: inmates lose an average of 20 LBS while in “Disciplinary Segregation.” The portions are half and if an inmate has any altercation (verbally, because there’s norecreation yard for days, weeks on end), then his food is withheld for a week! Ely State Prison is so isolated without overview, that abuses of Constitution and Human Rights are rampant in this prison.

However – you claim inmates are not paced in Isolation for months and years. Sir, bluntly spoken you have no clue what you’re talking about. Don’t go to Lovelock and presume you know how I tis for all NDOC prisoners. That kind of comment, made from blind ignorance, is just… well is a farce of grotesquerie.

I myself have spent 10 out of 14 years in Isolation. There are men who have spent the last 15-20 years in Isolation. The only reason being the Administration claims that there are others they will hurt, or want to hurt them. With this excuse ready able to be given by your ignorance of how people in prisons are truly being abused and are being punished – that is the only excuse they used.

I have been in ESP for almost 15 years. 12+ years have been spent in lockdown. .This form of confinement is still Solitary Confinement. Having one other man that you must live with 24/7 with no jobs, schools, group therapy, or contact without restraints is still isolated confinement, Sir. Try living in your bathroom for the next 12 years with no one but another stranger as company. It makes for a violent, paranoid, uncertain situation, Sir. Men are dying or beaten into a hospital bed, simply because they can’t leave when/if an argument breaks out.

You may argue it’s because we are the worst of the worst. This too is a misdirected and misinformed argument, Sir.  Even still, if we are all the worst of the worst, then locking us up in a cell with 24/7 living isn’t much more than putting two rabid dogs together now, isn’t it? Statistics tell the truth here, Sir. No other prison is locked down like this one. Yet only Ely State Prison continues to report deaths. Each year. This is Isolation, Sir. Over 800 inmates on 23-24/7 lockdown. No classrooms, no group interaction – no way to correct or give help to make an inmate learn to do & be better.

Further – there are men in ESP lockdown that did nothing more than give a dirty urine or had a fist fight or were informed on with noevidence, that they were bad guys. They will go home very soon and yet they are forced to be confined and isolated with murderers, rapists and violent criminals so labeled by this abusive system.

The issue Sir is that the Isolation Confinement – whether it is Solitary or Double cell Confinement is the cause of more problems. The system would work if it was being worked. There are those who get flushed through at a normal rate – giving the appearance of a productive system. But there are those such as myself who have had no group interaction (like any social society) in more than 11 years.

I have lost most of my facial recognition skills – my ability to voice complete and comprehensive discussions. My sleep patterns are extreme and my ability to tolerate spacial acceptance is very low. These are only some of the effects long term confinement causes.

Yes, I will be straight forth – I am a convicted murderer. However, my cellmate is a petty burglar sent here for fighting. This is the issue. There are no programs to teach me to be a better person. How can we learn to live better lives? When I do good I’m still locked down – I am still chained any time I leave my cell. I have not touched grass in 12 years. I amin prison, I was convicted. But am I supposed to learn and be better? If so – what good does this solitary confinement do?

What exactly do you know of Isolation Confinement?

If Solitary Confinement is defined as 16 hours per day in a cell, then what is the limit on double cell confinement? Is 23 hours 7 days a week for 12 years good enough to meet your criteria to constitute a problem?

When you really understand what it’s like to be confined, then I hope you folks do what is right and begin to make changes and put your $ where your mouths are to help us learn to be humans not animals in cages.

Sincerely,

An inmate confined at Ely State Prison (name known to NV PW, email was sent to Mr Segerblom earlier today, but for now we want to keep name of author private for fear of retaliation)

Judge Rules That Retaliation Lawsuit Against Department of Corrections Can Proceed

A press release by the ACLU
March 1, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

A federal judge yesterday refused to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit brought on behalf of an ACI inmate who was retaliated against by guards after he publicly criticized Department of Corrections’ mail policies and sought legal assistance from the ACLU. The pattern of harassment against inmate Jason Cook, which included strip searches, loss of his prison job, destruction of his personal property, and disciplinary time in segregation, began after Cook was quoted in a Providence Journal story criticizing a DOC policy limiting the written materials available to inmates. The policy was later rescinded.

The ACLU lawsuit argues that corrections officials’ actions “in retaliating against Cook for publicly criticizing policy changes” at the DOC violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech “and displayed both deliberate indifference and a reckless disregard of Cook’s constitutional rights.” The suit further claims that the various disciplinary actions taken against him violated Cook’s due process rights.

In court, the Department of Corrections made the troubling argument that Cook had no First Amendment right to speak to the Providence Journal about the policy and therefore his suit should be thrown out. Last September, a magistrate judge rejected DOC’s argument, but the agency appealed that ruling. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge William Smith agreed that the ACLU’s retaliation claims could proceed, and further ruled that Cook’s due process claims should also not be dismissed.

The mail policy at issue that Cook initially protested, and that was ultimately withdrawn after the ACLU intervened, barred family members from ordering books or magazine subscriptions for inmates. Instead, inmates could only obtain publications directly from a publisher with their own funds. The lawsuit is being handled by ACLU volunteer attorneys from the law firm of DeLuca and Weizenbaum.

ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown said today: “The DOC’s position that inmates could be disciplined simply for bringing prison conditions and policies to the public’s attention was extremely troubling. We are pleased that the court has rejected it, and that Mr. Cook can proceed with his claims.” A summary of the actions taken against Cook after he spoke out:

ALLEGATIONS OF RETALIATION AGAINST JASON COOK BY DOC OFFICIALS

  • In October 2007, a Providence Journal story quoted Cook criticizing a new DOC policy limiting the written materials available to inmates. A week later, he was fired from his kitchen job under the pretext that he was caught on a video camera stealing state property. He was later found not guilty of the charge.
  • In February 2008, the RI ACLU intervened on Cook’s behalf in the dispute over the new inmate mail policy by writing DOC officials in support of his position. Shortly thereafter, correctional officers conducted a destructive search of Cook’s cell that damaged some of his personal property.
  • After complaining to the DOC’s Office of Inspections about that search, Cook was advised that other inmates in his module with similar complaints should contact the Office. Cook posted a notice to that effect on an inmate bulletin board. A few days later, as a result of that posting, he was disciplined for “engaging in or encouraging a group demonstration and/or activities,” strip searched and taken to segregation. Two weeks later, he was finally given a hearing on the charge, but not allowed to present and/or question any witnesses. In the meantime, the mail policy about which he and the ACLU had complained was rescinded by the DOC.
  • Cook was found guilty of the charge and sanctioned with 30 days in segregation and the loss of good time. At the end of the hearing on the charge, the hearing officer turned off the tape recorder of the proceeding and told Cook that “this is what happens when you get the ACLU involved in our business.”
  • In May 2008, Cook was once again strip searched and thrown into segregation on the grounds that a letter he had written to the Parole Board was “threatening.” He was held in segregation for almost three weeks without a hearing before being released.
  • In September 2008, Cook sent a letter to Corrections Director A.T. Wall protesting the lack of a response to grievances he had submitted. Two days later, Cook was again subjected to a strip search and a cell search where his property was destroyed. Officers also looked through Cook’s legal materials and asked him if he had communicated further with any Providence Journal reporters.