August 7, 2013 Press Conference Challenging CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation

Challenging CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation and Lies Targeting the CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Solitary Confinement Torture

Report on August 7, 2013 Press Conference in front of LA Times Building; Statements from Notable People and from Families with Loved Ones in Isolation

At 10am today, on Day 31 of the CA prisoner hunger strike, a determined group of ministers, family members with loved ones in the CA SHU’s, revolutionaries, and activists challenged the vicious lies of the State of CA and CDCR head Jeffrey Beard (see below for brief synopsis).

The press conference included Rev. Frank Wulf, pastor of United University Church, Rev. Gary Williams of Hamilton UMC, families whose sons are in the SHU on hunger strike at Pelican Bay including Bertha Nava, Lupe Reynoso and Marie Martin, Keith James of Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Revolution Books in LA and several other speakers. Media included Press TV and radio phone interviews were conducted with WBAI in New York and KPFK Pacifica. Media spinning off the press conference includes a “California Report” scheduled for Friday on KQED in Northern CA and “up close and personal” television news story with family members on Telemundo Nacional.

What is included below are statements that were sent to the press conference from Assembly member Tom Ammino, law professor Marjorie Cohn, and from filmmaker/ activist Eugene Jarecki; and, statements from a number of family members outraged at the lies of CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard. Participants at press conference felt it critically important to go on record calling out and exposing Jeffrey Beard’s LA Times Op Ed for the lies that they are and thus felt this event right on time.

From Rev. Frank Wulf, Pastor, United University Church
At Press Conference at LA Times August 7, 2013

Thank you all for being here, and certainly those of you who have loved ones in the prisons, we keep our thoughts and prayers with them and with you and we know that your hearts are broken at this time, and more hearts need to be broken around this state. The good news is that Jeffrey Beard wouldn’t be out telling his lies if the truth

wasn’t getting out. The officials who are involved in these kinds of activities are starting to feel desperate because people are beginning to realize what really is happening in California’s prisons. Especially in places like Pelican Bay and Corcoran, where solitary confinement is still practiced and where the SHUs [Security Housing Units] continue to be a major part of this policy – of

trying to keep people under control, which is simply what it is.

Jesus, the person that we serve
in the Christian Church, told us to
treat everybody with humanity
and everybody with respect. It shouldn’t matter whether a
person has been accused of
doing something horrible or has
been accused of doing something wrong,… you have to treat
everyone with respect. This
society is not going to get better
by simply vilifying people; it’s not
going to get better by torturing
people; all it’s going to do is make
our society worse and worse and worse.

Rev. Frank Wulf, Pastor, United University Church

It’s all part of a policy of mass incarceration which Michelle Alexander [author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness] has told us about. It’s a continuation of that policy… of maintaining control of the minority populations of this country; and we’ve got to say no to it. We have to say no to it now. And we have to say no to it in the context of this hunger strike. This just simply cannot go on. The policy of mass incarceration is torture; it is an effort to destroy a whole community… We have to say that we stand in support of the prison strikers; we have to stand against this torture policy of the State of California, and in deed the whole United States. Thank you.

From Bertha Nava, Son in Pelican Bay State Priaon SHU
At Press Conference at LA Times August 7, 2013

My name is Bertha Nava; my son is in Pelican Bay. He hasn’t been there [in the SHU] very long; about 6 months ago he got a 2 year sentence in the SHU for a small piece of [razor] blade, which he used when he sewed. And now he’s been written up for a “115,” and given another 6 months in the SHU, just for doing the hunger strike. For standing up for what he believes in; to try to find a better way of life in there; he was given an additional 6 months.

It’s an additional 6 months of not being able to touch him; we won’t be able to hug him; all we can do is talk to him through the glass; and no phone. This is his daughter Jennifer; she misses her dad. She wants to hug her dad; to kiss him. She says “I want my daddy to kiss me….I want to hug him.” But we won’t be able to do that for 21⁄2 years.

From Rev. Gary Williams, Hamilton UMC
Press Conference at LA Times, August 7, 2013

I’m here to lend my support against this awful, awful torture of our black and brown brothers, and sisters, in the prison system. We’re focused on California, but again, as Pastor Wolf said, this is a nationwide epidemic. Our folks are being denied their human rights. Every person in the world deserves to have – we all are made in the image of the God that I serve; that’s my belief. I believe that this country, that claims to be a country of liberty; that claims to be a country against torture in the world; we torture our own people. The head of the Department of Rehabilitation, denies the fact that there is torture. There’s no

rehabilitation in prison. There’s nothing going on in prison except for violence and frustration, because of they way they’re being treated. It denies children their parents; it denies our community opportunity for growth; as in putting families back together. So I just stand here with you today. My prayers are with your families

Rev. Gary Williams, Hamilton UMC

From Keith James, Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Revolution Books, LA

BEARD’S LIES vs. THE FACTS ABOUT THE PRISONER HUNGER STRIKE:

California Prison Head Beard’s “A Gang Power Play” Oped Is a CDCR Power Play to Dehumanize Hunger Strikers and Justify Torture

Today, CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard published a vicious, lie-filled oped piece in the Los Angeles Times titled, “Hunger strike in California prisons is a gang power play” (latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-beard-prison-hunger- strike-20130806,0,636927.story)

Beard’s “opinion” piece consists of one lie after another – so many that whole books could and should be written refuting them. Beard’s key lies:

* There is no such thing as solitary confinement in California

Yes there is and ending long-term, often indefinite solitary confinement is the key demand of prisoners. Over 10,000 prisoners are now in one form or another of solitary confinement, some for decades. The UN states solitary confinement over 15 days amounts to torture. The overwhelming majority at Pelican Bay do not have cellmates and having a cellmates doesn’t change the brutality of solitary confinement. There are no skylights in SHU cells in Pelican Bay. Amnesty International says California’s prison system of conditions of solitary confinement are an “affront to human rights.” They fit the international definition of cruel and unusual punishment amounting to torture.

* SHU’s are intended to protect the public from violent gangs

No, the building of Supermax prisons and the explosion in incarceration rates and the use of solitary confinement, beginning in the 1970s – from 300,000 to over 2.3 million today – was a response by the ruling powers in this society to the upheaval of the 1960s and capitalist globalization which led to the economic gutting of inner cities and traditional working class jobs. It was not, as Michelle Alexander has demonstrated, a response to rising crime rates. It was a form of social control and suppression, directed at the oppressed, including especially the racial targeting of Blacks and Latinos. Gang validation and SHUs are part of that system of mass incarceration.

* The CDCR is trying to improve conditions

No. The CDCR did not live up to its promises to prisoners. On July 5, Amnesty International wrote that “rather than improving,” conditions in California prisons “have actually significantly deteriorated.” Some minor reforms have been made, and a few hundred have been transferred from solitary confinement to the general population. But the CDCR did not renounce or fundamentally change its reliance on solitary confinement and SHU’s, and thousands remain there with their conditions largely unchanged and with no hope of justice. This is why prisoners – after attempting to negotiate with the CDCR for nearly 2 years, decided to go back on hunger strike as their June 20, 2013 statement explained.

* Important reforms have been implemented concerning gang validation policy

The CDCR claimed that its new policy meant that only gang “members” not “associates” would be sent to the SHU and it has reviewed some cases and released several hundred prisoners to the general population. But most prisoners in isolation remain there with little hope in a change in their status. In addition, the criteria – including artwork, friendships, political views – used to “validate” prisoners as gang members or associates remains largely in place. In fact, in some ways the new criteria are worse in that they expand the range of prisoners which could be targeted as “security threats.”

* SHU prisoners have due process

There is no independent, legal, due process for prisoners to challenge their conditions of solitary confinement or their “gang status.”

* the prisoner hunger strike isn’t about ending solitary confinement – it’s a “gang power play” to “to advance their own agenda of violence.”

This is a vicious lie. The prisoners articulated five core demands in their two hunger strikes in 2011 and they remain their five core demands – but Beard makes no mention of them. They are: 1) eliminate group punishments; 2) abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; 3) comply with the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; 4) provide adequate and nutritious food; and 5) expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite Security Housing Unit [SHU] inmates.

It is the CDCR which has retaliated against the hunger strikers by moving them to further isolation, blowing cold air into cells at Pelican Bay, and in some cases denying hunger strikers liquids, other food items, even medicines. These are forms of violence. Beard does not mention the August 2012 “Agreement to End Hostilities” signed by prisoner representatives. It reads in part:

“now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups. Therefore, beginning on October 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups… in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population, and County Jails, will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end… and if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!!… [we] can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners, and thereby, the public as a whole.”

The prisoners hunger strike is a just struggle for basic rights and humanity. It should be supported.

From Marjorie Cohn, Professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law
For Press Conference at LA Times August 7, 2013

CDCR Secretary Beard claims that life in California’s Security Housing Units or SHUs “is not solitary confinement.”

But it’s precisely that. Nearly 4,000 prisoners are held in SHUs in California. Many “have have been held for years in solitary confinement, which can amount to torture,” according to Marjorie Cohn, editor of The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.

“Inmates in the SHU are confined to their cells for 22 1⁄2 hours a day, mostly for administrative convenience. They are released for only one hour to walk in a small area with high walls. The cells in the SHU are eight feet by 10 feet with no windows. Fluorescent lights are often kept on 24 hours per day.”

“Solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations, catatonia and even suicide, particularly in mentally ill prisoners,” Cohn said. It is considered torture, as journalist Lance Tapley explains in his chapter on American Supermax prisons in Cohn’s book.

From Tom Ammiano Assembly member, CA State Assembly
For Press Conference at LA Times August 7, 2013

“I have read Secretary Beard’s claims in the LA Times and I have visited the SHU. On the one hand, the CDCR told me its isolation policies have put a stranglehold on gang leaders’ control. On the other hand, now they say gang leaders are calling the shots in the hunger strike despite their isolation. Which is it? They told us everyone in the SHU was a validated gang member, but when they reviewed cases, they cleared scores of prisoners of gang affiliation. We find it difficult to take CDCR’s claims about the hunger strike at face value. It would be easier to know if prison media access policies were better, as would have been the case under my bill vetoed by the Governor last year. Even so, one thing is clear: The isolation policies are of dubious benefit and they are an international embarrassment. I realize these prisoners have been convicted of terrible things, but I don’t have to believe everything they say to know that we must change our correctional practices. Taxpayers should not be funding indefinite isolation that is condemned in other countries as a human rights abuse.”

Assembly member Tom Ammiano will appear with Stop Mass Incarceration Network and other organizations on Wednesday, August 14, on the steps of the State Capital, with a SHU replica, to give CA state citizens a dramatic simulation of what it is like to live in a SHU cell in the CA prison system.

From Eugene Jarecki Film Maker and Activist For Press Conference at LA Times August 7, 2013

“It is a sad time in America. Wherever we look, we see apathy where vigilance is needed, acquiescence where an alert and engaged citizenry is the last best hope for this nation to remain even remotely true to the principles articulated in her Constitution and Declaration of Independence. We see villains and charlatans enthroned, and worst of all we see heroes villified. We see the government and a willing media malign and denigrate heroic and courages whistleblowers, who shine the vital light of truth into the darkness of our corrupted national soul. And now, we see the least powerful among us — the least of our brothers as the Bible teaches — we those warehoused and denigrated in our nation’s gulag system of industrialized mass incarceration standing up for themselves and, indeed, for the rest of us. They more than anyone

else in this weary land — despite the injustice and bleak cynicism of their incarceration, seem to have somehow retained — more than you and me — a conviction to see the better angels in our nature win out over the lesser. It is they who, by starving themselves, intend to show us the emaciation of our national character. And it is they who send a message that not even a corrupt government and compliant media can silence — that voluntary starvation is a fate better than that provided them by the grotesque calculus that has led this nation, in one of its darkest hours, to put profit — political and economic — ahead of people, of the American people themselves. As Eugene Debs taught us, while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. Today, we must poignantly modify that refrain, ‘while there is a soul in prison who would sooner take his life than cave to the harrowing oppression of a predatory system, I am a participating in that system with my silence and with my next meal eaten as a free man. It is time for the State of California to recognize the deep validity and extraordinary courage of those who are putting this issue where it belongs, at the top of our national discourse. It is indeed a day for California to find a place on the side of the angels and not look back from a future time when it missed a chance to move to the right side of history. I send today my deepest respect and love to those striking in this extraordinary demonstration. And I send my wishes to the people of California to find the compassion in their hearts to recognize the heroism of their fellow incarcerated citizens.”

Eugene Jarecki is an American author and a dramatic and documentary filmmaker whose highly acclaimed work includes The House I Live In, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

The following are statements of outrage received by Stop Mass Incarceration Network by families with loved ones incarcerated in the CA prison system

From Karen King Modjeski For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

As the wife of a man who has spent over 10 years in solitary confinement, I am appalled and disgusted by Dr. Beard’s inflammatory statements. His lies are meant to fuel the fire of hate that already burns inside many Californians who are uneducated about the torturous conditions inside CDC’s Security Housing Units. Dr. Beard made a blanket statement that “brutal murderers should not be glorified.” This implies that all inmates in the SHU’s in California are murderers.This is far from the truth. My husband has never

taken a life. He is being held in solitary for Aztec art that was found in his cell. Apparently in California, it’s a crime to be proud of your heritage.

Dr. Beard, do not speak on behalf of our loved one or us. You should not be concerned about the toll the hunger strike is taking on us. You should be concerned about the years, even decades of confinement in isolation has taken on these men. Many of these men have rehabilitated themselves and should be given the opportunity to return to the General Population immediately. Dr. Beard, the SHU’s in California are not country clubs; they are torture chambers. I challenge you to spend a week in a cell in the SHU at Pelican Bay. Then give us your comments without bias.

From Yvonne Navarretre-Becerra For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

Jeffery Beard, your outright blatant lies have angered me so deeply. You claim that this is a gang tactic? If this was indeed true, wouldn’t there then be thousands more still striking? They are participating in this hunger strike for their human rights. Because CDCR has be getting away with this illegal practice for way too long. Why would they be willing to die for any other reason? Remember you are receiving or making up the information you have received from inmates that have lied in order to be released from SHU. Why now should they be believed? Not only have you been misinformed from these inmates but also from the administrator’s as well. My son was validated as a gang associate for having three pieces of paper, an address, a birthday card, and a writing on Aztec Culture. Which is Far from a rules violation.

(18 October 2011 – A United Nations expert on torture today called on all countries to ban the solitary confinement of prisoners except in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, with an absolute prohibition in the case of juveniles and people with mental disabilities. Mr. Méndez called solitary confinement a “harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system.”)

Jeffery Beard I used to have the utmost respect for the men and women of the police force.. Within the last 18 years my respect has diminished, for what I have had to endure and watch in silence. While my son at the age of seventeen was beaten by an adult officer while being held in L.A. County Jail to these last Seven years watching my son behind a glass partition be held there for bogus reasons. I know you are making these claims because the world is now watching you and don’t want to be viewed in a bad light. It’s time to come to the table and negotiate and in good faith. There is always a way to reach common grounds.

Don’t let one more person die then need be please come to the table before that happens.

From Betty Bianca For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

When my husband was still practically a boy, he was originally arrested under false pretenses, charged with a crime not proven, used as pawn in the game of prosecutorial misconduct and given a life sentence when no one was harmed in the crime he was convicted.

He decided since he was a man if integrity, in spite of it all, he couldn’t be the best worker in a free world, he would be the best convict in YOUR world…

As a result, he has spent many years in the SHU…. He does not deny having come into prison has made him to be somewhat vicious, but he did not go in that way.

Now I am not sure how SHU is not torture, and by the grace of an ever benevolent God, I was able to meet him and teach him the ways of the heart, and he is no longer the man the institution molded him into, but has a tiny glimmer of hope of being a man in the free world someday. He still cannot hug his mama or me, and is forbidden to do so much as earn any amount of money, and we cannot afford correspondence school for him, which is the only way he can get any sort of education, because there is no program of that nature in the SHU. By the confines of the SHU he cannot do more to be a contributing member of society, and he is labeled as a killer because he is forced to live with them. His being in the SHU is the result of the institution’s debriefing practice…. he was named and shamed without regard to facts or actions. According to you your own title 15 rule book, even killing a guard is punishable by only 5 years SHU, but a lying snitch or the wrong literature can put you there long past your sentence. Which, according to someone running the CACorrections facebook page, is a crime… how many indeterminate SHU prisoners are held beyond their release date because the institution is breaking the law? I know it is a lot more than one!

There are no serial killers in the SHU, there are no rapists or child molesters in the SHU indeterminately. According to you your own title 15 rule book, even killing a guard is punishable by 5 years SHU. The only people in indeterminate SHU are people caught up in the drug wars and victims to the lies of system.

Why does mainstream society believe it is all serial killers and rapists in the SHU? WHO TOLD THEM THAT?

I agree with whomever said that Beard and Thornton need to spend a week in SHU and not pretend SHU, but real SHU without regard to who they are or the positions they hold… they need to enjoy it first hand and THEN come out and say it isn’t torture….

From Angelique Topete For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

I would like to comment about Secretary Breard’s outragous excuse for the cdc justifying torturing our loved ones. Men that have families that can see the torture in their faces in their mental state and their abilities. No one has to tell us what CDC is doing we can see. And anyone else who chooses to justify what they are doing to these people(and they are people) need to sit with someone in the SHU and they will see it too. My husband spent 8years in the tortuous Pelican Bay SHU and when he was released he the terror of that place continued to not only take a toll on his life but in mine and our kids as well. He now sits on death row in the adjustment center where he will probably stay. Which is another version of solitary confinement. When he was in the SHU he never received writeups to keep him there and was validated. As a gang member like all other inmates in the SHU by the PRISON. But had there been programs available to have him transition he probably stood a better chance in society. My close friend has been in the SHU 25 years. And he has possibly of parole but how can he stand a chance of paroling if in the SHU. They make it impossible to stand a chance in society and in prison. If the SHU was productive why are we fighting the CDC, the wardens? We would be fighting higher officials due to it being the law. But it isnt so we arent. The SHU is a huge part of our broken system . My husband was in the SHU and it did nothing positive for him or my family. He is a product of the SHU. Now I ask you this ,would u rather someone who is caged up all day long come out into our society? Or someone who has programs available to help them be functioning in society?

From Mary Walker For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

As the media is saturated with propaganda of human rights violations around the world, we as a society, delude ourselves with the fantasy, of being defenders of human rights! We close our eyes to the hideous conditions, within the prison industry! Access to the internet, has allowed the world to see, who we really are! Endless solitary confinement, when monitored, by those who profit, from the prison industry, is criminal! We have become the enablers, if we continue to allow this, to go on!

From Pelican BAY State Prison ~ SHU Hunger Strike Supporters For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

Since the review process began, CDCR has reviewed 382 individuals previously identified as members or associates of STGs and immediately released 215 of them to the general population. In other words, CDCR got it wrong more than half of the time in sending people to what one SHU prisoners describes as “nothing more than a torture chamber.” These reviews have been halted since the beginning of the hunger strike.

From Paola Trevisan For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

My eyes were literally bugging out of my head at the impudent lies contained in Jeffrey Beard’s statement. I wish I could calmly refute them all, but my disbelief that someone could spout so much falsehood is not letting me express myself with enough calm. My son is locked in a tomb. Everything he has, and it’s very little, it’s because I bought it for him at the inflated prizes dictated by the prison industrial complex, which seems to be the most thriving business in California today.

From Helen Vera For Press Conference at LA Times
August 7, 2013 / Day 31 of CA Prisoner Hunger Strike to Stop Torture

Mr. Beard has said that the “gang leaders” are running the hunger strike. By this does he mean to imply that CDCR has lost control of the prisons and they don’t know how to control anything any more? My son is in the SHU at Pelican Bay. There he cannot get any sunlight or breathe fresh air. Mr. Beard has also stated that inmates can get and receive mail. Puhleeze….they get and receive it when custody decides they get it. He has also said the inmates have access to TV and radio. It’s only true if their families or friends can afford it. Earn a degree? Inmates in SHUs do not have access to computers to take online courses. CDCR–the “R” is suppose to be for Rehabilitation but that is a joke, a BIG one! Inmates have no classes or vocational training of any kind! And as far as interaction with guards–how does one interact with someone who puts shackles on

him? And CO’s are not exactly known for being the most social of people, but that’s a whole different story! I could go on and on but I don’t have all night……suffice it to say that CDCR via Mr. Beard is lying with each and every memo it puts out regarding the hunger strike.

2 thoughts on “August 7, 2013 Press Conference Challenging CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s Disinformation

  1. Thanks for posting this! I agree 100% and am furious that the media is swallowing this “Gang Hunger Strike” approach. I spent time in the SHU labeled as a southern Mexican just because I was in a riot where northern Mexicans rushed our side of the dayroom. There isn’t any due process into or out of the SHU. It is CDC kangaroo court and laziness.

  2. Pingback: California District CPUSA – Northern Region » Clergy call for end to torture in California prisons (with video)

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