Emergency Press Conference – Challenging Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation and Lies – Stop Solitary Confinement Torture in CA Prisons – Support 5 Demands of Hunger Strikers

Event: Emergency Press Conference – Challenging Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation and Lies – Stop Solitary Confinement Torture in CA Prisons – Support 5 Demands of Hunger Strikers

Date: Wednesday, August 7, 10 AM

Location: LA Times Building

Address: 202 W. 1st. Los Angeles

Contact: 213-840-5348  (Keith James)

This was sent in as one of the comments to the shameless op-ed that Jeffrey Beard, secretary of the CDCR, wrote for the LA Times on the 30th day of the California prisoner hunger strike:

Jeffrey Beard, in an op-ed piece in the LA Times, August 6th, 2013:

“There are SHUs at four prisons in California. At three of them — in Tehachapi, Corcoran and Folsom — there are outdoor-facing windows in the cells that allow for direct sunlight. At Pelican Bay, all SHU cells have skylights. In all of the facilities, inmates in the SHU have radios and color TVs with access to channels such as ESPN. They have weekly access to a law library and daily exercise time. Many have cellmates; they can earn degrees; they can send and receive letters; and their family and friends can visit them every weekend. SHU inmates receive the same meals and portions as general population inmates. This is not “solitary confinement,” in that prisoners can have visitors and, in many cases, interaction with other inmates.”

A response:

Dear Dr Beard,

I just want to note in response to your op-ed piece in the LA Times that of course there is no direct sunlight through a window. A person will not receive vital vitamin D through a window. Have you seen the concrete box that is called the “yard” in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU? How would you feel if your loved one or yourself had that as your outdoor experience for a year? For 5 years? 10plus years? For 25 years?

The radio’s and very small tv’s were bought by the families and friends of the inmates. Everyone knows that, even though it is their property, it is an incentive that you can apparently take away as a dictator. In the area where Pelican Bay SHU is, there are not many radio/TV stations at all.

Law Library has been denied some men in Corcoran-SHU for weeks. It is also treated as an incentive, but you of all people must know that the law should be accessible for all people, especially those you hold imprisoned.

There is no daily exercise. Sometimes the prisoners in Corcoran SHU cannot go out to their “dog cages”(that is their yard, Dr Beard!) because of “maintenance” (when finished, the yard is still closed for a few days after) or because staff does not give yard. If you were a prisoner and you knew your meager rights were taken from you, what would you do, Dr Beard?

Visits are always behind glass. How would you feel, what would your emotional state of mind be, if you could never touch / be in physical vicinity of your loved ones? You think that touching a fellow inmate replaces this? Bumping into your fellow inmate because you share a tiny cell the size of your parking lot, will be enough to claim they can have some kind of inter-human contact? When guards put shackles on you, do you think that counts as human contact? You as a psychologist should know better.

Did you know, Dr Beard, that visits to the people held in the SHU are only one hour per week? If you live far away and cannot come every week, it is 2 hours for once.

Did you know, Dr Beard, that often your visiting booths are fully booked and that the visitor have to wait another week to see their loved one? Or go back to their country and come back another year? Because the visitor was denied to book a visit, because your employees had to clear them on arrival so that they had no time to make the appointments 2 weeks in advance? Do you call that visits?

About degrees: how do prisoners pay for college money, Dr Beard? How can they study without a computer? That you suddenly, just before the hunger strike started, changed the rules and are now willing to let SHU prisoners have typewriters (hopelessly backward, but anyway), is not helping a lot when prisoners want to study. What about building educational classrooms and having SHU prisoners go to school there? That would be really meaningful. Now you are just hoping to convince people who do not know about what it is like inside, that it is not that bad.

You also say: “they can send and receive letters”, why is it that Corcoran SHU keeps letters behind for weeks before sending them out? Why is it that prisoners in the SHU receive letters that were written weeks ago? Why don’t you have Jpay.com installed so that people can send a mail to our loved ones in prison, and that these are printed and handed to them? Just like in so many other states? In Ohio they even have the opportunity to send their handwritten or typed letter back via Jpay. I am not saying this will solve the issue of being in a concrete box for years, if not decades, but you say that it is all not that bad, and I resist that. Because it is extremely bad. Also in comparison to other places in your country.

How do you think prisoners can write letters if they have no jobs to earn money to pay for stamps? They can get indignant envelopes maybe, but they will gather debts and these are only one per week maybe. Do you think that is enough to keep in contact in a meaningful way with family and friends?

You want prisoners to be forgotten. You want them all to be shown as evil, no good for anything, right? You want some to get extra punishment that no court has given them, because that shows how tough it is inside California’s prisons. But what about rehabilitating? The people inside the SHU’s are also under the CDCR, and they also need to be rehabilitated. Do you really think that informing on others is morally right? You are not a pastor, or a reverend, but you do claim “correcting” and “rehabilitating” in the title of your organization.

Do you really think that criminal gangs will stop existing when you lock up conscious prisoners who are intelligent and who want the best for the community? Like all the conscious New Afrikan prisoners, calling them members of the “Black Guerilla Family”? Criminalizing political ideas? Is that your way of correcting?

Do you think they will bow down to your employees and your policy? And I do not even mention the people inside who have an innocence claim…

So what about SHU time for people who did a violent act, who could be held separately for a while until they too are calm and more redeemed?

So you believe that the hunger strike was organized by criminal gangsters? You should be relieved they show restraint and organize this peaceful protest at which 30,000 participated on day 1, instead of calling for violence. That is something we have not heard from your lips, Dr Beard.

And also, your employees give “115” tickets out to those participating, saying this is seen as a “gang activity”! Dr Beard, do all the people outside joining on fasts for a day, are they also part of this “gang”? Those who wrote about the hunger strike, those who participated in support rallies, wrote cards of encouragement, tweeted and facebooked about it?

Think about it, Dr Beard, if this were a “Hollywood movie”, who would be the heroes? Surely not the people who retaliate against peaceful protesters? Employees who do not follow up the instructions on what to do medically when a hunger strike starts? How can your organization, a professional, state-paid organization, even accept retaliation? Who is the only real gang, Dr Beard? Who is fighting a war and setting up people against each other? Dividing and conquering as a strategy is a losing game, Dr Beard. This Human Rights Defense Action of the Collective Hunger Strike is a show of unity between all different people of all different races.

Dr Beard: SHU is a punishment that (if given at all) should only be given for a short period of time to people who have used violence (not including mentally ill people who should not be held  in a prison setting).  Not for people who have for years on end not been able to go back to general population because they refuse to snitch. Listen to the demands of the prisoners! Your policies are killing people!


Finally: Dr Beard, people who are being kept in your SHU’s are never allowed to make one phonecall.
After the 2011 hunger strikes, they were allowed to have one photo a year made. They were allowed one food package a year. Are you really going to make them, their families and friends, and the rest of society, suffer so that you can say that you are tough on crime and that you will not be told by the dying prisoners in your prison torture camps and by many people outside in their support, what you should have changed long ago?

Shame on you, Beard! If you do not negotiate now, may you be forced to resign!

August 1st: Assemblymember Ammiano makes statement on ongoing prisoner hunger strike

For immediate release: August 1, 2013
For additional information: Carlos Alcalá, Communications Director, (916) 319-2017
Assemblymember Ammiano makes statement on ongoing prisoner hunger strike
SACRAMENTO — Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, disturbed by the Department of Corrections’ lack of progress in addressing issues raised by hunger striking prisoners in California facilities, today issued the following statement on the strike, currently in its fourth week. Assemblymember Ammiano is chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, visited Pelican Bay State Prison in January, and has held hearings on prison conditions.
“I remain concerned about the hundreds of prisoners still participating in a hunger strike to protest conditions. These are not minor prisoner complaints; they are violations of international standards that have drawn worldwide attention. To keep anyone in severe isolation for indefinite amounts of time does not meet norms of human rights that civilized countries accept. The seriousness of the demands is underscored by the fact that hunger strikers have been at it for more than three weeks now.
“Although the death of a prisoner who had participated in the hunger strike has been ruled a suicide, I can’t be comforted by the knowledge that conditions in taxpayer funded institutions have led to unusual rates of suicide instead of reasonable rates of rehabilitation.
“I support those who are asking the administration to take more active steps to change the culture in CDCR. I am hopeful that the CDCR leadership will talk to mediators for the hunger strikers and that those talks can lead to progress that would allow this hunger strike to end.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–AUGUST 1, 2013
Amid a Week of Rallies in Support of Prison Hunger Strikers, CA Assemblyman Tom Ammiano Urges Action, Resolution to Strike
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
Oakland–California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano issued a statement today urging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet with prisoner hunger strike mediators and work toward meeting the prisoners’ demands.  Prisoners throughout California have been on hunger strike for 25 days, demanding an end to indefinite solitary confinement, comprehensive changes in draconian “anti-gang” policies, an end to collective punishment, and the provision of nutritious food and constructive programs and educational services.
These are not minor prisoner complaints, they are violations of international standards that have drawn worldwide attention. To keep anyone in severe isolation for indefinite amounts of time does not meet norms of human rights that civilized countries accept,” Said Ammiano.  “I support those who are asking the administration to take more active steps to change the culture in CDCR. I am hopeful that the CDCR leadership will talk to mediators for the hunger strikers and that those talks can lead to progress that would allow this hunger strike to end.”
“We applaud Assemblyperson Ammiano for taking such a strong stance in support of basic human rights for California prisoners,” said Donna Willmott, a spokesperson for the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.  “We hope other California decision makers join with him and not only make strong statements but also taking decisive action to bring about a resolution of this crisis.”
The CDCR has taken a hard line against the strikers and their families, making unsubstantiated claims that the strike and its outside support is part of massive gang conspiracy.  They have also publicized salacious details of some prisoners’ criminal histories, ignoring the roles these prisoners are playing in making just human rights demands and calling for an end to hostilities among prisoners. The CDCR continues to make assertions that the department’s use of extreme isolation is justified to control “the worst of the worst.”   Despite the prisoners being derided by the CDCR, support for the them is spreading. 
Tuesday, nearly 100 family and loved ones of strikers visited the California State Capitol and presented 70,000 signatures urging negotiation with the strikers to Governor Jerry Brown’s office.  Though Brown himself did not meet with family members personally, one of his aides did, marking the first public involvement from his office.  On Wednesday, hundreds rallied in support of hunger strikers at demonstrations held in Los Angeles, Oakland, London, New York, Santa Cruz, Jackson, and Philadelphia.  Demonstrations were also held in Germany and Guyana.  Demonstrators demanded that the CDCR and Governor negotiate with strikers immediately and end any and all retaliations against their protest.  Los Angeles’ rally was attend by at least 200 and included speeches by actors Danny Glover and Mike Ferrell.  Wednesday’s rallies also drew connections between the hunger strike and the recent Trayvon Martin protests.  “In coming together, we work toward bringing an end to injustices everywhere, from solitary confinement to racial profiling to mass incarceration,” said Dolores Canales, of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, whose son is on hunger strike in Pelican Bay.   
The death of hunger striker Billy Sell in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Corcoran prison continues to be an urgent concern.  A moment of silence was held in Sell’s honor at the Oakland rally on Wednesday.  Ammiano addressed Sell’s death directly, saying, “The death of a prisoner who had participated in the hunger strike has been ruled a suicide, I can’t be comforted by the knowledge that conditions in taxpayer funded institutions have led to unusual rates of suicide instead of reasonable rates of rehabilitation.”  Amnesty International also condemned Sell’s death and is joining strike supporters in demanding an independent investigation.  “Conditions for prisoners in solitary confinement in California are an affront to human rights and must end,” said Amnesty.
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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.
 

From Corcoran-SHU: Zaharibu Dorrough: we are being isolated in Corcoran-SHU! No medical checkups! Stripped of property!

From a letter by Zaharibu Dorrough to a friend:

From a letter by Zaharibu Dorrough to a friend:
7/14/13
Forgive me for not being able to write sooner. It has been very, very tiresome. [Thinking of you
all has been quite the motivator]

On Thursday, 7-11-13, the warden here ordered the supposed leaders of the protest be isolated from good people. That meant that the reps from each cultural group from the section that we were in: 4B-1L, C section have been moved. Myself, H., two Southern Hispanics, and two Northern Hispanics.

We are now housed in: 4A-3R. [And three of the guys have been housed in 4A-3L] These blocks are designated as SNY/PC buildings . All of the guys in this building [as well as 4A-3L] are informants. They have debriefed.

A day after we were moved here, mattresses were placed in front of our cell. This we designed to re-enforce, psychologically, the feeling of being isolated. And, I guess, to prevent us from receiving food or beverages from anyone. It’s so silly that is borders on being offensive. We have absolutely nothing at all in common with any of the people housed in the building. There is no reason at all to communicate with or accept anything from them. As is said, it’s a building full of stool pigeons. This is the CDCR’s version of sending us to a black site. The conduct of these guys would be comical were it not so disrespectful. You cannot help but hear the idiot shit that is directed at us. And it’s not just daily, it’s all day.

It’s an Absolute Madhouse.

Moving us down here was an extremely tense situation. The warden did authorize that force be used to move us. And it came very close to that happening. It was incredibly irresponsible of the warden. And a clear case of trying to provoke us into a military posture.

We were naturally stripped of our property. And, just as predictable, some of our personal property items came up missing. Thermals, photos [they took the only two copies of the photo I had of me],dictionary, stationary. I’ll have to replace some of it when I am eligible for my package. The Prison Focus, Bayview, gone! At this point it’s the kind of thing that causes you to think and say-when it’s too hot for everyone else, it’s just right for us!-

We have not been to yard in almost 2 weeks. We have not been allowed to shower in a week.

We received no medical attention. NO WEIGH-INS, NO vital signs checks-nothing. A nurse came to the cell this morning, stood approximately 3-4 feet from the cell, stated “drink plenty of water”, wrote something down and walked away. I called her several times in an effort to explain to her that we are both experiencing [assuming this is Zaharibu and Heshima] light headedness, extreme fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, cold chills, dizziness. The nurse just ignored me and kept walking. It was very obvious that she was reading from a script that she, perhaps all of them have been given. And it is either to not say anything at all to us-or only the bare minimum….

Ordinarily, efforts such as those being made by the state now [Everyone was issued a 128, a Chrono alleging that our participation in a statewide hunger strike with gang members and associates in support of “perceived overly harsh SHU issues”, is gang related activity. And our continued participation will result in progressive disciplinary action] occur in response to efforts, just as enthusiastic, by those of us who have been under the yoke of tyranny for far too long, resisting.

I know that it has been said before, but it is worth saying a thousand times …you all are amazing, brave and inspiring people. Whatever victories that result from this struggle will, in no small measure, be because of your contributions, support, and commitment.

                                                Please take care
                                                 Always with you

                                                             Love, hugs   Zaharibu

CDCR to prisoners: Submit to force-feeding to get demands met

From: SF Bay View, June 29th, 2013

by Paul Redd/Mume, Ruben Williams/Jitu Joka Kambon, Richard Wembe Johnson, Charles Coleman/Ghais

As a representative of the Pelican Bay SHU hunger strikes in 2011 and a signatory on the “Agreement to End Hostilities,” I have not written any articles for publication except a few pieces related to the hunger strikes posted on the internet. The reason being I felt our Brotha and the other three main representatives were articulating our peaceful nonviolent united fight to expose and end our torture, inhumane conditions and decades of indefinite long-term solitary confinement. I did not want to occupy more space saying the same things.

The main four representatives have also expressed our collective love and respect to all the unbroken prisoners who have volunteered to join this long-awaited united front with the peaceful nonviolent hunger strikes, including our humble respect for those prisoners who weren’t able to partake because of serious life-threatening health issues and still refused to accept some food trays in showing their solidarity to end this abuse.

They have also extended a heartfelt “thank you” beyond the walls to all our supporters in California and around the United States.

Although my personal condolence along with our brothas and other hunger strike comrades within my unit to the families has never been printed on the fallen hunger strike comrades’ deaths, our expression of condolence has never been in silence. But we speak with a united voice. Those deaths could have been prevented. But this is a reminder of these diabolical beasts we are dealing with who do not see us as human beings, but as caged-up animals.

These deaths of our fallen comrades has made us more enraged, more determined to let the outside communities and people all over the world to really see the faces behind the racism, racist policies and blatant abuse of power hidden behind CDCR titles.

Enough is enough. We are tired of CDCR officials, CCPOA, IGI, ISU and SSU continuing all this manipulation, deception with word games, lying to politicians to secure funding, lying to the media and the public in order to cover up the truth. The outcome of the two hunger strikes only exposed a little of their lies but enough to shock the world.

It’s an insult that it took two hunger strikes for CDCR officials to give us these small token trinkets that we should’ve had years ago. These things were only given because CDCR could not answer the questions from the outside communities about what provoked this massive hunger strike in California and around the United States.

The people on the outside were shocked and in disbelief when reading our core demands to find human beings were living in Pelican Bay supermax under the deplorable conditions exposed.

Suddenly, with the spotlight on CDCR officials, they claim our demands were reasonable, yet they are not meeting all our demands. During these ordeals CDCR officials have lied to the media, publicly stating hunger strikes are not the correct approach for presenting our grievances.

Enough is enough. We are tired of CDCR officials, CCPOA, IGI, ISU and SSU continuing all this manipulation, deception with word games, lying to politicians to secure funding, lying to the media and the public in order to cover up the truth. The outcome of the two hunger strikes only exposed a little of their lies but enough to shock the world.


What they did not tell the media and public, nor politicians, is that we prisoners filed many inmate 602 appeal grievances for years seeking these things and an end to the torture and inhumane conditions, only to have Pelican Bay officials and CDCR officials deny our grievances as meritless.

CDCR officials, in response to the attention and embarrassment they experienced because of the hunger strikes, quickly rushed to politicians for funding to implement another repressive structure called STG (security threat group, i.e., gang) and a step down pilot program to give the illusion they are trying to make changes and improve conditions.

Recently on April 18, 2013, in our class action lawsuit, federal District Judge Claudia Wilken, in a written order denying CDCR officials’ motion to dismiss our lawsuit, stated

1) CDCR cannot establish that the STG/SDP pilot program will irrevocably eradicate the effects of plaintiffs’ alleged violations; and

2) CDCR’s request to stay plaintiffs’ class action until the STG program has been fully implemented would prejudice plaintiffs by delaying the case unduly.

We’ve been called the “worst of the worst” throughout our confinement here and hunger strikes, but Judge Wilken noted that the CDCR SDP pilot program already found a lot of people were in the SHU who should not have been. That’s why CDCR officials et al. started with validated associates (rather than gang “members”) first, in hopes their motion to dismiss would be granted or their request for a stay to clean up their dirt.

Had they started reviewing and processing the validated members first, the public and the media would have seen hundreds of validated members who have spent decades in the SHU immediately released, justifying the peaceful nonviolent hunger strikes that brought us some major relief and total shame and disgrace to CDCR officials.

Judge Wilken further said we prisoners gave CDCR officials explicit notice of our injuries by way of administrative grievances, written complaints and, of course, the hunger strikes.

We’ve been called the “worst of the worst” throughout our confinement here and hunger strikes, but Judge Wilken noted that the CDCR SDP pilot program already found a lot of people were in the SHU who should not have been.


I am not going to waste my time exposing each of the lies told, but here’s a few that were most insulting during the two hunger strikes: 1) hunger strike representatives/leaders and gang leaders were forcing prisoners not to eat; 2) hunger strike representatives/leaders and gang leaders were ordering racial assaults on prisoners refusing not to eat; 3) hunger striking prisoners were stashing food and eating during the hunger strike; 4) some hunger strike prisoners were refusing to be weighed because they were eating; 5) another funny lie, hunger strike representatives/leaders and gang leaders were forcing prisoners not to participate in the SDP pilot program and/or sign the SDP contract.

These prisoners are grown men who are free to make their own choices whether to eat or not to eat, whether to participate in the SDP or sign the contract. Not one of those prisoners could ever be viewed in a negative light. It’s an insult upon us when CDCR officials make these false accusations to attempt to save face in the court of public opinion.

We feel it’s time to turn up the heat, so we are taking a scripture from the W.O.N. to rally that level of support.

Another truth that is secretly whispered to many of us prisoners: some CDCR officials, guards and other employees expressing to us prisoners they think we should be released from the SHU and/or our demands are reasonable and agree with them, yet they aren’t bold enough to openly state these words, and as prisoners we understand and know why.

However, the scripture says we are not going to be silent. The united front in these two peaceful, nonviolent protests has proven to be warranted and justified.

I have talked with some prisoners who have expressed they do not want to do another hunger strike, including myself. But it’s obvious CDCR officials wish to force a hunger strike.

What I have also heard, as well as other prisoners, is certain correctional supervisors and employees speaking confidentially, stating if we prisoners really want CDCR headquarters to meet our demands, force-feeding tubes would do it.

I guess correctional employees are really pissed off and upset with their own job cuts, pay cuts and whatever else, thinking force-feeding tubes would benefit them. I guess many of them do believe our demands are reasonable and we should be released from the SHU.

“Nothing can be solved if it can’t be faced.” – James Baldwin

Send our brothers some love and light: 
Paul Redd, B-72683, PBSP, D2-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532; 
Ruben Williams, B-72882, PBSP, D2-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532; 
Richard Johnson, K-53293, PBSP, D2-218, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532; 
Charles Coleman, C-60680, PBSP, D2-120, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532. 

This statement was transcribed by Adrian McKinney.
 

Force feeding British suffragette poster
The force feeding of imprisoned militant British suffragettes on hunger strike in 1909 outraged the public. Nine years later, the right to vote was granted to women over 30 and in 1928 to all women. But the victory was hard won. Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst wrote: “Holloway (Prison) became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence took place almost every hour of the day, as the doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office. I shall never while I live forget the suffering I experienced during the days when those cries were ringing in my ears.”

Paul Redd: Prisoners, Unite! Community, Stand With Us!

From: SF Bay View
June 19, 2013

Interview by Sharon Martinas

Legendary jailhouse lawyer Paul Redd speaks out at this critical time from the Pelican Bay SHU.

Q: What is your name?

M: My name is Paul Redd. However, many friends and comrades call me P.R., Mume or Abbas.

Photo: Paul “Mume” Redd is a legendary jailhouse lawyer respected both inside and outside the walls. That proud brotherhood, whose work is essential in protecting the freedoms all of us cherish, is described and supported in this book by Mumia Abu Jamal, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the USA.”

Q: May I call you Mume?

M: Of course you may.

Q: Mume, you’re one of the 16 representatives of the 2011 Pelican Bay State Prison SHU hunger strikes in July and September?

M: Yes, I am.

Q: You also signed the Aug. 12, 2012, “Agreement to End Hostilities Between Racial Groups?”

M: Yes, I did.

Q: Let me travel back in time with some questions.

M: By all means.

Q: Where did you grow up?

M: I was born and raised in Oakland, California.

Q: Why are you in prison? And how long have you been in prison, including the SHU?

M: I was convicted in 1976 of first degree murder for the death of a local drug dealer in San Francisco. I am serving a seven years to life sentence with possibility of parole. I’ve been in prison now over 36 years. And 33 of these years have been spent in various SHUs. I have spent 25 years, minus a couple of months, in Pelican Bay supermax SHU.

Q: Mume, you said you were sentenced to “seven years to life with the possibility of parole.” What does that mean?

M: It means that I was eligible to be paroled (released) from prison any time after Dec. 21, 1982, which was seven years. Yet, the Parole Board continues to find me “unsuitable for a parole date” because of my commitment offense and my SHU status. Historically, the Parole Board has never found a prisoner in the SHU serving a life sentence with possibility of parole suitable for a parole release date, in spite of the fact that many of us have met the criteria to be paroled.

Q: How about others in the SHU who are not serving a life sentence with a parole release date?

M: Here is a clear illustration of an arbitrary unwritten policy.
For example: Prisoner A is a non-lifer in the SHU serving an indeterminate SHU term for “validation as a gang member” only. When his parole date arrives, he is paroled from the SHU back into the community.

Prisoner B is a lifer, eligible for a parole date in the SHU serving an indeterminate SHU term for “validation as a gang member” only. He is not given a parole release date. The only difference between the two prisoners: One has a parole release date; the other one does not.

Q: How have you grown as such an intelligent, highly skilled human being that prison officials, the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) decided that your voice needs to be silenced behind the pit of hell concrete walls of PBSP supermax for so many decades? Why have you been separated from your community and from other incarcerated people with similar aspirations and visionary plans?

M: You asked a two-part question. My growth is owed to many direct and indirect experiences in my life, prior to prison and while in prison. When I came into the prison system in 1976 to DVI (Deuel Vocational Institution) in Tracy, California, I felt the need to be a part of something to bring about positive changes to benefit the Black prisoner population. I started by using what little outside influence I had with friends to bring live entertainment shows inside the prison.

At the same time, I met other positive brothers educating others about our history and culture, including teaching reading and writing. They shared books with me that really opened my eyes, exposing the blatant institutional racism from the administration, top to bottom.

I also called upon other prisoners to join me in donating a few dollars each to raise funds to purchase a large amount of canteen to send into the SHU/MCU to be shared among all Black prisoners housed there. It was important to those brothers living under those inhumane conditions to know that there were brothers out there in general population that were going to look out for them.

I saw other prisoners contesting these conditions and it was a natural thing for me to join that fight. That was the way I was raised, although my life took a different path. Prison brought me back to those natural things I saw as a kid growing up in West Oakland in the ‘60s.

I began filing prison grievances, reading law books – and finding myself wrongfully being placed in the SHU, based entirely on manufactured accusations by certain prison officials, just to remove me from the general population to stop the positive things I was doing.

While in the SHU, I joined major class action lawsuits, continued to file grievances, and assisted other prisoners with filing documents. Some prisoners would call me a “legal beagle,” a “jailhouse lawyer,” “the people’s lawyer.” I was far from developing my legal skills back then.

They fear us prisoners who have the ability to use our positive conscious minds to unite prisoners in a peaceful, non-violent movement to eradicate repressive conditions and arbitrary, discriminatory policies and regulations.

Anyway, many prison officials over the years and even today, have called me a “troublemaker,” a “thorn in their side,” “an agitator.” I welcome with a smile what CDCR officials call me. But two things they can never call me are (1) a liar, or (2) someone who embellishes the facts.

When prisoners speak out and stand up to challenge acts of injustice that prove to be an embarrassment to CDCR officials, the officials retaliate by placing you in a SHU on bogus accusations or charges in an attempt to discredit us. This is the case today behind the pit of hell concrete walls. But thanks to the united hunger strikes, our voices are being heard, and our undisputed truths revealed, causing greater embarrassment to the CDCR.

CDCR officials, from Sacramento down to the prison grounds, have always known that prisoners hold the solutions to solving prison conditions entirely. They fear us prisoners who have the ability to use our positive conscious minds to unite prisoners in a peaceful, non-violent movement to eradicate repressive conditions and arbitrary, discriminatory policies and regulations.

Q: What are your hopes now, in this time and in the near future?

M: My hopes are many, but my immediate hopes are as follows:

(1) Establish a campaign calling on all Afrikan prisoners in the California prisons’ general populations, SHUs and ASUs to unite together as one voice to help reduce and end the senseless Black on Black killings and violence in our neighborhoods, using our unity to help rebuild our families, foundations and neighborhoods.
We as a proud Afrikan race with a history can solve our own problems without any involvement from law enforcement.

I want to start with bringing all the Afrikan prisoners from the Bay Area to join this unity movement through a creative Bay Area workshop. The success of this workshop will be to set up all over the major urban cities from up North to Southern California, committed to rebuilding our families and neighborhoods.

(2) Unite all the California prisoners in the general population as addressed through our call ‘Agreement to End All Hostilities Between Races,’ reaching mutual common ground in order to focus on the bigger picture to better our conditions for pushing for greater changes: from CDCR regulations to Parole Board composition and decisions. And, more importantly, rebuild our communities through our united efforts.

(3) Unite serious committed jailhouse lawyers behind the walls as a power “think tank” in addressing issues affecting the class of prisoners and working with outside legal aid clinics, law firms and attorneys. This is a vision I have had for a long time. My attempt to create such a think tank was disrupted by prison officials who implemented new policies to prevent me and other jailhouse lawyers in Pelican Bay SHU from communicating with other JHLs within the SHU and outside of the SHU.

We as a proud Afrikan race with a history can solve our own problems without any involvement from law enforcement.

I was recently reading the book you sent me called “Jailhouse Lawyers” by Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal, and he said something very similar, reminding me just how important it is for us to build this JHL movement and connect ourselves to the outside. Let me close by paraphrasing Bro Mumia’s words: Jailhouse lawyers must look beyond the state’s imprisoning bars, bricks and cement to build relationships with others in the so-called “free” world to further and support social movements that spread liberating and progressive space within society.

These words are relevant today and equally applicable to our call for broader unity. We behind the concrete walls start this new progressive movement. But we need the outside support of our communities to stand with us. Thank you all! I can be contacted at the address below:

Building Social Change, In Solidarity,

Mume

Send our brother some lover and light: Paul Redd Jr., B -72683, Pelican Bay State Prison D2-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Note from Sharon Martinas: Mume and I have been pen pals since the summer of 2012. Mume is one of the representatives housed in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU, in the Short Corridor. I am a member of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition (PHSS) and a coordinator of PHSS’s Human Rights Pen Pal program. We agreed that Mume would also write the interview questions, since he knows what he wants to share about his life, his beliefs and his visions for a better world.


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Paul’s Testimony for the Legislative Hearing on Solitary Confinement, California Feb. 2013

From: Paulredd.org

February 8, 2013 To: Assembly Member Tom Ammiano
From:  Prisoner Paul Redd B-72683

Dear Committee Members,

Thank you for this brief opportunity to speak via letter. I understand we only have a couple of minutes in having our letters read which is impossible on PBSP SHU Inhumane Torture Conditions. So I’ll just go to the Main Issues.

1.      My name is Paul Redd, I am a New Afrikan prisoner serving a seven years to Life Sentence W. Possibility of Parole on a 1976 senseless murder conviction of a local drug dealer.

2. I’ve been held here at PBSP – SHU since September 5 1990 to present except for a brief 60 days period when I won my SHU release on December 29, 2000. Only to be fraudulently placed back into a SHU on March 12, 2001 without Due Process.

3. I have been held in California Prisons for the last 36 Years. I have spent 33 of those years in a SHU.

4. Again, it’s impossible for me to give a brief description of what my experiences of Solitary Confinement have been like here in two minutes.

Let me tell like this: The Architectural SHU Design at PBSP was intentionally designed to inflict physical and psychological torture on our bodies and minds. I have seen some prisoners lose their minds in a short period of time, while others it took more years.

I have had some prisoners from all races, whom debriefed, tell me they made up information on some prisoners or / and went along with what Gang Investigators wanted them to say on specific individuals. They told me they couldn’t take living in this SHU anymore. I have seen some prisoners harm themselves to Get Out of this SHU or get on psyche medications just to get moved out of this SHU. I have seen prisoners health deteriorate, – Died etc.

What effect this Long Term Solitary Confinement has done on me:
Escalating health problems such as:

– Taking several pills to treat high blood pressure,

– Enlarged Thyroid Gland and partial removal of the right Thyroid Gland.

– Two (2)times right knee surgery.

– Short term memory loss more frequently.

– Distorted hearing.

– Lack of sleep due to the loud noises of cell doors / pod doors opening / closing.

– Loud noise from toilet flushing.

– Bad vision, double right eye vision.

– Last Year I was diagnosed with right eye double vision and given special lenses called Prisms, which I blame these perforated cell doors (small holes) for messing up our eye sight.

5. This  Security Threat Group (STG) and  Step Down Program (SDP) do not serve any legitimate purpose. It’s Racist inside and outside and Ridiculous on its Face. It completely suppresses what little First Amendment Rights we are supposed to have. It does not afford any meaningful due process safeguards before any impartial Fair Review / Hearing Panel.

It allows for more arbitrary and discriminatory decisions cloaked under the erroneous pretext confidential informant information or / and current gang activity.

Most importantly it allows for more new abuse of power by those administering this racist profiling policy that changes nothing nor improves nothing.

This STG / SDP is manipulative and designed to mislead the Legislative Members to approve more wasted unnecessary fundings.

This STG / SDP should be rejected and not funded. The SDP is not voluntary. But – to be forced on us Prisoners

WHY? Because CDCR Officials / IGI / OSC know:

NO PRISONERS WOULD VOLUNTARILY PARTICIPATE IN THIS SDP.

We prisoners have real valid reasons backed with undisputed evidence to justify ourconcerns why it must be shut down.

– Let us have some Legislative Hearings under Oath that will review / examine our evidence given to us for Indeterminate Placement, “CDC 1030” Disclosure Forms, that are vague and NOT satisfying Due Process Requirements, IGI Validations Packages. Six Years Inactive Reviews.

– Hear live Testimony from both Prisoners and CDR Prison Officials, Captains, LT’s, Sgt’s and IGI Staff Behind these already existing Programs causing years of long-term Solitary Confinement.

– Ask the hard questions that have been covered up for decades. Most of you think the Hunger Strikes of 2011 exposed shocking inhumane conditions, discriminatory practices and abuse to follow Court Rulings. CDC Policies.

It was shocking to learn many of us prisoners have spent 30 to 40 plus years in the SHU with no acts of violence against prisoners nor CDCR staff. I hit a prisoner one time with my fist in 1984 on a SHU Yard. I received a CDC-115, I pled guilty and accepted responsibility for my actions. That’s the only assault I have on a prisoner and none on any staff. That was almost 30 years ago!

It’s funny CDCR Officials / Gang Officials tell the Media and Legislature, we use other prisoners to commit our violence. Yet they failed to produce any evidence to connect you to the incidents. 

They also fail to tell the Media and Legislature that the prison’s own investigations into certain incidents has cleared our names of any involvement. So, instead of releasing us from the SHU, they use group punishment with validation membership to warehouse you for decades in the SHU.

6. Since this New CDCR Regulations, staff have, in the last 3 to 6 months, issued more  ridiculous “CDC-128” chronos, “CDC-115”  and stating the information should be considered during the prisoner’s Six Years Inactive SHU Review.

A final note: CDCR budget has been cut in some areas. Now they are attempting to implement this STG / SDP to seek funding for it and going to turn it into more funding, because the reality is it will be a failure.

Our proposed MCUProposal is based on already existing programs within CDCR and reduces spending and not ask for more funding etc. Yet CDCR Officials rejected our proposal.

Thank You For Your Time.

Paul Redd Jr B – 72683

Pelican Bay State Prison – SHU
D2-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532

Letter to Warden John Katavich, Wasco State Prison, by prisoners, declaring support for, and solidarity with the hunger strike representatives

This was sent by email from Ed Mead, editor and publisher of The Rock, on June 15th, 2013:

Ed, Greetings from those of us in Wasco State Prison! I wanted to send you a copy of the letter delivered to the warden here at Wasco State Prison this week, declaring our support and our intent to stand in solidarity with the hunger strike representatives and all of those who stand alongside them. There are approximately 5,000 prisoner housed here at Wasco and the vast majority will stand in solidarity with hunger strike reps until the five core demands are met, along with the 9 additional demands exclusive to Wasco State Prison.

[Name withheld by Ed]

Letter to Warden John Katavich, Wasco State Prison

The purpose of this letter is to inform you of our intent to support and stand in solidarity with the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike Representatives [names of reps omitted here] by engaging in a peaceful protest beginning July 8, 2013. We here at Wasco State Prison (WSP) will stand in solidarity with those protesting at Pelican Bay State Prison throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation by engaging in a peaceful protest which will consist of a hunger strike and work stoppage. We will refuse to eat or engage in inmate labor until the hunger strike representatives five core demands are met, as well as our demands concerning prison reform here at WSP. We are prepared to starve ourselves to death if need be in order to bring about change here at WSP, as well as the penal institution which create the body of CDCR, with special emphasis being paid to those inmates housed in Security Housing Units (SHUs), who are subjected to many years of forced isolation, sensory deprivation, and inhumane and tortuous conditions. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere, threatens justice everywhere.”

We feel enough is enough! The abuse and psychological torture must stop, the injustice of indeterminate SHU term and extreme isolation must be brought to an end here and now! We not only ask that the PBSP hunger strike reps five core demands be met, but also the abolishment of the farcical Security Threat Group (STG) and Step Down Program (SDP), as well as addressing the following issues here at WSP[nine demands omitted by Ed due to laziness, but the last one has to do with freedom of speech].

We respectfully request that CDCR meet the PBSP SHJU representatives’ five core demands, as well as the nine demands that are exclusive to WSP, in a timely manner. We stand together as ONE here (South, North, East, West, Black, White, etc.) in a cohesive group in order to bring about the long overdue changes here in CDCR. Once initiated, the unprecedented, non-violent peaceful protest will continue indefinitely—until all five core demands are fully met.
[Signed by 14 prisoners]