California Legislative Hearings Take on Solitary Confinement, Address Hunger Strike Demands, 100 Rally in Support

A rare joint session of the California Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees held this afternoon to address demands made by prisoners during this summer’s massive hunger strike has just ended. California’s use of indefinite solitary confinement, and the devastating physical, mental, and public health impacts of the notorious practice was at the center of today’s three hour hearing. The hearing was preceded by a lively rally of 100 people, made up mostly by prisoners’ loved ones,  who demanded an end to solitary confinement.  The crowd then filled the hearing room where panels of experts gave sometimes emotional testimony on the internationally condemned practice.   Impassioned public comment continues at the time of this release. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continued to  defend its practices during the hearing.
Billed as an informational hearing, Senator Loni Hancock was clear that the these “frank, public discussions will lead to legislation.”  Calling conditions in solitary “beyond the pale,” Assemblymember Tom Ammiano said bluntly that he didn’t want “lip service” from the CDCR. Giving often meandering answers to direct questions, the CDCR admitted directly that action was taken against prisoners who participated in the peaceful hunger strike protest.
“We have to work with, and urge our representatives in the legislature to ensure that changes are made in the interest of imprisoned people, their loved ones, their communities—in the interests of humanity,” prisoners being held in solitary at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison said today in a statement issued to their supporters and state legislators.  They continued: “We cannot ignore the urgency of this moment. Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of making these changes, but they are necessary and inevitable.”
After hearing testimony from expert panelists including the ACLU, legal scholars, prisoners’ loved ones, and former prisoners, legislators were particularly interested in the astounding number of people being held in solitary in California, the length of time people are being held there, as well as clear pathways other states have taken to reduce or eliminate their use of solitary confinement.
“We are glad to take the opportunity to educate the Public Safety Committee on the human rights violations happening in California’s solitary confinement cells.  We are thankful that the committee understands the gravity of this issue and the legitimacy of the hunger strikers’ demands,” said Dolores Canales of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement after testifying before the Committee on the conditions faced by her son in solitary confinement. “But, we have had many informational hearings on this issue over the course of the past 10 years.  It cannot be clearer: now is the time for the legislature to take swift and resolute action to end California’s shameful use of solitary confinement. “

9 thoughts on “California Legislative Hearings Take on Solitary Confinement, Address Hunger Strike Demands, 100 Rally in Support

  1. CDCR ITS Totally wrong by ponishing the Prisoners for trying to speak up the truth about the cruel conditiions They are experiencing on Solitary Confinement no human being deserves to live in cold & small cages for years & decades!!! regardless of the mistake or wrongly acusation which brougthed them to the beast called SHU& Ad/Seg
    Violating Their Constitutional and Human Rights.!!!

    • How much longer is California legislative going to allow CDCR to abuse there authority which turns into lies,neglect of human rights,Physical and mental abuse which has been going on for (DECADES!!!!)CDCDR turns these men into heartless people when they are released to due to the torch er that CDCR conflict on them for decades and then releases them into society so they can end up right back were they started in prison Due to the savior abuse and the lack of human contact of loved ones like there mother, Grandmothers,fathers daughters and sons!! i thought the federal bureau of investigations lead federal agency of investigating color of law abuses???Why is CDCR getting away with abusing there civil rights??Why is CDCR getting away with these laws??Isn’t preventing abuse of this authority,is equally necessary to the heath of our nation’s democracy that why it is a federal crime for anyone acting under “COLOR OF LAW ?????”

  2. OCTOBER 9, 2013

    Joint Hearing Assembly Public Safety and Senate Public Safety
    Segregation Policies In California Prisons

    Public Safety Committee Members;

    I previously attended and briefly spoke at the hearing held August 2011 in support of the men indefinitely confined to Pelican Bay’s SHU and men housed in other prison’s SHU and AD SEG for indefinite terms. I can’t personally attend today’s hearing, but I’m hopeful that my voice and concerns on behalf the men who are fighting to change the horrendous and wretched conditions they have been forced to endure for multiple decades will be taken into consideration.

    Much of what I have to say will most likely be shared by the many supporters who are in attendance at the hearing today, but my perspective will be somewhat different because of my past experiences of being slapped with the same deliberate and calculated dehumanizing and false characterization by CDCR that those men confined have been subjected to.

    In an effort to not be redundant I’m attaching the August 2011 statement I submitted to the Public Safety Committee with issues I addressed then and are still very relevant today. The recent 60 day hunger sacrifice which caused many of the brothers participating to nearly develop irreparable physical harm illustrates the dire need for this body assembled today to take some decisive actions beyond fact finding to fight for policy changes that will alleviate the collective body of abused prisoners from resuming their peaceful, but personal life damaging actions to effect change.

    CDCR’s propaganda of these men being the worse of the worse, prison gang leaders and a threat to general population is just that, propaganda to influence public opinion and drive draconian legislative policies. What they say and what they actually do are two vastly different dynamics.

    As previously stated, I had been labeled by CDCR (formerly CDC) as a prison gang member, a threat to general population and sentenced to an indefinite SHU term which was only alleviated by my release from SHU because of Governor Brown’s actions signing SB42 during his first administration, changing most criminal offenses from indeterminate to determinate sentences. Yet, he refuses to even acknowledge the brutal practice of barbaric and inhumane indefinite confinement of isolation and sensory deprivation which has had serious detrimental consequences.

    Let me say this loud and clear, I am not now nor have I ever been a member of a prison gang, a street gang or any negative or violence prone formation. What I have been and can attest to the fact that many of the brothers that I’ve done time with have also been, is a student of history, specifically Afrikan history. It has been the diligent adherence to disciplined study of history, current and past social and political events that raised our consciousness beyond that of a criminal mentality, restored our humanity and encouraged our desire to walk a path to make a constructive difference both inside and outside of prison.

    It has always been that dynamic of self awareness and pride which has been the impetus for reactionary and retaliatory actions by guards, prison administrators and development of draconian prison policies to stifle that camaraderie and unity. Now that the unity has transcended all superficial racial differences among all prisoners CDCR is even more intent in disrupting, discrediting and destroying the spirits and physical existence of those men, which makes judicial and legislative intervention imperative.

    One of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Representatives, Sitawa Nantambu (Dewberry), wrote me nearly twenty years ago and included a picture of himself (attached) with an inscription on the back which clearly establishes the collective interest toward self improvement, not the prison crazed monstrosity that CDCR would have you believe to justify continued indefinite SHU confinement.

    Another Pelican Bay SHU prisoner, Dadisi Yero (Benton), whom I have been close friends with for over thirty-six years (photo attached) and nearly suffered irreparable internal damages during the most recent hunger sacrifice, briefly made it out of SHU after almost twenty years and had been successfully programming in general population for just about two years before being abruptly returned to SHU for inexplicable reasons.

    Dadisi, Sitawa and many others have been my source of inspiration and motivation to make a substantive difference in our communities and to challenge abusive practices and policies that harm the community. It is also their aspirations to be part of that productive change both in prison and the community after their successful release, which will never happen if they continue to be buried in those dungeons if this legislative body fails to act.

    The fact that this multi-racial collective of men have mounted an unprecedented and historical challenge to end all hostilities among prisoners should prove to the Public Safety Committee members the seriousness of their quest to not only implement the reasonable five core demands, but also save lives of prisoners across California, which would save the state a tremendous amount of capital and have a positive rippling effect in communities throughout the state.

    I profoundly applaud all the men throughout California prisons who have been principled and steadfast in their unyielding commitment to make a positive difference, and pray that this collective legislative body demonstrate the same level of commitment to effectuate and facilitate change.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Jitu Sadiki
    August 23, 2011

    California State Assembly
    Public Safety Committee

    Jitu Sadiki
    (Former SHU Prisoner B-76819)

    In preparing this statement in support of the men housed in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) and prisoners similarly situated in other prisons throughout California, it is my hope and desire that this body assembled is truly and genuinely interested in understanding ALL aspects of the problems related to the negative ramifications of long term and indefinite periods of confinement to isolation, intimidation and physical/psychological abuse by prison administrators and guards.

    There are two specific issues I would like to address which intersect in some ways with the five core demands (End group punishment and administrative abuse; Abolish debriefing policy and modify gang status criteria; Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse; Provide adequate and nutritious food; Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges), but that I believe speaks to a very germane issue of the prison administrators demonizing the men housed in the SHU by the blanketed classification of them as the worst of the worst, prison gang members and extremely violent, which is intended to justify to the general public the bases for the harsh treatment of these men for everyone’s safety.

    The other pertinent issue is not only the practice of indefinite SHU isolation, but the omnipotent unchecked powers the prison administrators wield over men serving life sentences who DO NOT fall into the LWOP (Life With Out Parole) category, but who are serving “de facto” LWOP sentences at the whim of prison administrators or guards capricious and arbitrary decisions and their philosophy of “snitch, parole or die.”

    There is no existing structure or process in place that allows a man in SHU to meet the criteria for obtaining a parole date even if he has remained disciplinary free for years and in many cases for multiple decades.

    I believe that I’m uniquely situated to speak to those two specific issues because I fall into the category of those prisoners that prison administrators and guards falsely and maliciously labeled as the worst of the worst, violent and a prison gang member while housed in the SHU from 1978 until my release from prison in 1982, along side many of the men who are currently being housed in Pelican Bay’s SHU.

    The persecution, harassment and abuse didn’t stop after my release from prison, but was instead continued through the prison’s Special Security Unit (SSU) with unjustified arrest for spending time at my sister’s home, which they defined as a clandestine resident, sending me back to the SHU for a parole violation, and an arrest for a wooden chair leg found in my parents room during a gestapo and paramilitary style parole search and classified as a weapon. The harassment included putting an automatic handgun to my head, grabbing me by the back of the shirt and using my body as a shield as they advanced through each room of my parent’s home conducting a search. This type of activity continued until I successfully completed the parole period.

    Many of the men housed in SHU and specifically the ones that I personally know who have been in there for more than thirty years, have been continuously confined because of their political beliefs which challenges the institutions of racism and oppression which overtly and overly relies on mass incarceration of people of color as a means of social control.

    If this body assembled is truly interested in investigating the tortuous conditions under which these men have had to endure and co-exist for decades, then it will be essential and critical to examine the real facts and not the smoke screen of violence crazed gang members being propagated by the prison authorities. Let’s call it what it is, many of the SHU prisoners are political dissidents who are being subjected to tortuous conditions (extreme isolation, sensory deprivation, medical maltreatment, and nutritional deficiency, etc) because of their views and resistance to a program of physical and psychological abuse.

    A significant number of men housed in SHU should have been home decades ago to enjoy a life with family, develop relationships, create a family, witness the birth of their first newborn and nurture the growth of their child, spend time with their parents during their golden years and be a productive part of their communities.

    With a slight twist of fate (SB42) I was allowed to experience many of the aforementioned benefits of eventually making it out of those hell holes. These are the things that many of us discussed doing upon our release from prison.

    Being labeled as the worst of the worst and not having a voice to speak for themselves, they will never experience those benefits of life. They will continue to be demonized, never know what it feels like to father and nurture a child or in cases like Louis Powell, one of the hunger strike leaders and a very compassionate father of a child born with a disability, and being denied the opportunity to be a significant part of his development.

    I will end where I started, I profoundly hope and pray that this body has the courage to challenge the powerful prison apparatus to uncover and deal with the ugly realities associated with indefinite confinement to SHU.

    Sincerely,

    Jitu Sadiki
    Executive Director
    Black Awareness Community
    Development Organization

    Jitu Sadiki & Dadisi Yero

    Words on back of picture.

    To: Jitu Sadiki

    We hold the power of our freedom within the key of Afrikan people’s mind!!!

    You have exemplified what it takes to educate our Sistas & Brothas toward the future…

    I praise your work, past & present!!!

    Back to back, Afrikan to Afrikan. Fade to Pro Afrikanism!!!

    Liberation Shall Speak

    Sitawa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s