July 8th Events in L.A. and San Bernandino to Commemorate Largest Hunger Strike in History

CFASC- JULY 8- 2014- EVENT FLYER-3FAMILY MEMBERS, LOVED ONES, SUPPORTERS:
Join at  300 S Spring St, Los Angeles
11:00am – 1:00pm

ALL OUT FOR LARGEST HUNGER STRIKE IN HISTORY….ONE YEAR AGO on July 8th, 2013 …. 30,000 IMPRISONED PEOPLE BEGAN A CALIFORNIA PRISONER HUNGER STRIKE TO RAISE AWARENESS TO THE TORTUROUS CONDITIONS OF ISOLATION AND THE ABUSE THAT GOES ON IN OUR PRISON SYSTEM …

Join California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Family Unity Network on July 8th, 2014 to commemorate the largest & longest hunger strike in history ….

CANDLELIGHT VIGIL later in San Bernandino at 6:00pm.

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Excellent Article: CDCr’s Attempt to Silence Prisoners, Ban Critical “Oppositional” Publications

Censored and ‘Obscene’ in Solitary

by Sarah Shourd
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/21/censored-and-obscene-in-solitary.html

After a huge hunger strike to protest the state prison system’s inhuman conditions, California is threatening to ban any written material deemed “oppositional to authority and society.”

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FUNDS NEEDED for Documentary on California Prisoner Hunger Strikes

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dying-for-sunlight-documentary-film-on-the-california-prisoner-hunger-strikes
DocumentaryFlyer-SIDE 1 - C-1On June 12, 2014, Lucas Guilkey, organizer and award-winning documentary film maker, launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the film “Dying for Sunlight: The Story of the California Prisoner Hunger Strikes.”  Please support the making of this documentary about the prisoner-led human rights movement against indefinite solitary confinement

 

Lucas has been creating powerful short videos about the CA Prisoner Hunger Strike Human Rights Movement over the past year, and now plans to tell the story in a more full and comprehensive manner, focusing on those who know it best: family members of the hunger strikers and those who’ve spent time in the SHU.

 

Any and all help spreading the word about this fundraising campaign will be deeply appreciated.

 igg.me/at/hungerstrikefilm

NEW! Prison Censorship Video– Free Prisoner Voices!

 

Fight Prison Censorship, Free Prisoner Voices!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_TOf5q9r_8

Communication is a Human Right

NY Times Article on Pelican Bay Class Action Lawsuit, June 3, 2014

Judge’s Decision to Hear Inmates’ Case Threatens Practice of Solitary Confinement

…. Legal experts say that the ruling, which allows inmates at Pelican Bay who have been held in solitary confinement for more than a decade to sue as a class, paves the way for a court case that could shape national policy on the use of long-term solitary confinement. …

The use of solitary confinement at Pelican Bay, the lawsuit contends, is so extreme that it “renders California an outlier in this country and in the civilized world.”

Read the entire NYT article by Erica Goode  HERE

May 1, 2014 Letter from Pelican Bay Prisoner Reps To Legislators

LETTER FROM PELICAN BAY PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES TO MEMBERS OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY & SENATE

 

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191

Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry – CDCR # C35671

Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

 

May 1, 2014

 

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

 

              We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the Senate (SB 892 and AB 1652) dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

 

              We are California inmates who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time, based on validation as alleged associates and members of prison gangs, rather than based on violent behavior. We undertook hunger strikes in 2011 and in 2013 in opposition of the CDCR’s solitary confinement and gang validation practices as well as the inhumane conditions of CDCR’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). Together with thousands of inmates, we expressed the following five core demands:

 

1) Individual accountability, rather than group punishment, indefinite SHU status, and restricted privileges;

2) Abolish debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;

3) Comply with U.S. Commission 2006 Recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;

4) Provide adequate food; and,

5) Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.

 

             Having carefully reviewed and considered Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano on February 11, 2014 as amended on April 3, 2014, and Senate Bill 892, introduced by Senate member Loni Hancock on January 13, 2014, as amended on March 18 and April 2, we wish to offer the following comments:

 

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

 

          AB 1652 addresses the very narrow but critical issue of eliminating CDCR’s policy of placing prisoners in solitary confinement for gang validation, rather than for commission of a serious offense. We support AB 1652. At the same time, we recommend that the bill be amended to include the following three additional provisions:

 

a. During assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

 

b. An attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost to the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

 

c. AB 1652 should implement provisions for increased oversight, studies, data collection, and reporting back to the Legislature on the SHU classification process, the mental and physical wellbeing of inmates in SHUs, and the reasons why SHU inmates are denied reentry into the general population. Senate member Hancock’s SB 892 contains these provisions, which we recommend be included in AB 1652. Collecting and considering this data can lay the foundation for a future more comprehensive legislative evaluation of solitary confinement practices in California.

 

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

 

             Although SB 892 appears to seek to achieve comprehensive CDCR reform on the issue of solitary confinement, there are several provisions of the bill that will adopt inhumane and widely condemned practices into state law. We will only support SB 892 if it is amended to include three critically important items:

 

a. The bill should incorporate the language of AB 1652 (or similar language) which eliminates the use of gang validation and minor rule violations as a justification for placing inmates in SHUs. As it stands currently, SB 892 does not eliminate SHU assignment for mere gang association and it does not eliminate indeterminate SHU terms. This is a critical issue and one of our core demands. The nationwide trend is clearly not to place prisoners in segregated housing units for alleged gang association without accompanying serious rule violations. Numerous states have moved in this direction for public safety reasons, for humane reasons, and to cut costs. California should not move in the opposite direction.

 

b. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that during assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

 

c. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that an attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost too the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

 

               We do not believe that the range of provisions in SB 892 related to review by the Office of the Inspector General of cases in which SHU placement is based on the testimony of a confidential informant, the appointment of ombudsmen, the requirement for a daily face-to-face encounter with CDCR employees, the appointment of an “advocate” for an inmate being processed for SHU placement, or the Step Down Program in the bill will make any measurable difference in CDCR solitary confinement practices. The Inspector General is unlikely based upon review of a file to reverse decisions based on confidential informants. Ombudsmen will be of little value as long as inmates can be placed in SHUs for alleged gang association when they have engaged in no wrong-doing. “Face-to-face” encounters already happen almost every day when our food is served or a psych tech walks past our cells. Allowing an “advocate” to assist in the SHU assignment process will mean assignment of a guard who could care less about the result. And the proposed step-down program focuses on forcing prisoners to disavow alleged gang association or activities rather than on a behavior-based model considering whether the prisoner has violated rules while in the SHU. Despite these misguided and costly provisions in SB 892, we would support the bill if it is amended to include the provisions identified above.

 

               However, the narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652, particularly if amended as suggested above, would far better serve the public safety, prison security, and the humane treatment of prisoners. It’s a first but critically important step in the direction of a rational and humane policy. Further legislation could be considered in the next legislative session after CDCR data is collected by the legislature. Thank you for considering our comments and suggestions.

 

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

Still Hungry for Human Rights

As we wrap up 2013, we reflect on the amazing work that has taken place this year in the movement to end torture and abuse in California prisons. Since 2011, our coalition has been at the forefront of the solidarity movement to support the courageous hunger strikers. These prisoners endured a series of hunger strikes in protest of the intolerable practice of long term solitary confinement in California.

Looking Back: Highlights from 2013

Over 30,000 prisoners refused food this year in the largest prisoner protest in history. Their protest resulted in unprecedented media coverage, a visit to California by Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, a promise by legislators to take action on the issues addressed in the 5 Demands, and the strengthening of their own resolve and solidarity. But the struggle is far from over.

This year, our coalition launched the Stop the Torture Campaign, a Human Rights Pen Pal Program and an Emergency Response Network. We mobilized thousands of people nationwide to support the 5 demands when the prisoners began their third hunger strike. We participated in outreach and public education by participating in events like the screening of Herman’s House at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary and the UC Student Association Lobbying Conference. We held an art show in San Francisco featuring work from dozens of artists in the SHU.

 The hunger strike was suspended by strikers in September after 60 long days when legislators vowed to hold hearings and address long term solitary confinement. The first legislative hearing was on October 9th. Our coalition affiliates organized rides, speakers and hundreds of people to rally at the state capitol and pack the hearing room.

Marie Levin emceeing the rally before the the Joint Legislative Hearing on the SHU. October 9, 2013. Sacramento, California

Marie Levin emceeing the rally before the the Joint Legislative Hearing on the SHU. October 9, 2013. Sacramento, California

Looking Forward: Your Support Matters!

The next hearing is scheduled for February 11th in Sacramento. We need your support to seize this opportunity to make an impression on the legislators and the world, show the urgency of the situation, and make an impact for our people in the SHU.

In addition, our coalition will continue to engage in our day to day work including prison visits, public education, pen pal program, monthly newsletters and advocacy letters.

Our goal is to raise $5,000 to support this work

$200.00 covers the cost for legal visits with 15-20 people

$100.00 covers the cost of printing our monthly newsletter for prisoners

$75.00 covers the cost of mailing our monthly newsletter to prisoners

Any amount you can give is a tremendous help. Thanks for your generosity.

Click HERE to donate online. Please indicate that the donation is for PHSS under “Special Instructions”

Tax deductible contributions can be mailed to:

Checks to: California Prison Focus for PHSS

1904 Franklin St. Suite 507, Oakland, Ca. 94612

Day 44 – Statement from Mediation Team

Hunger Strikers, Gavin Newsom’s Citizenville and the Frontline

Years ago a defense attorney, who was contemplating acceptance of her first death row client, talked to me about how hard it would be to keep this person from ending up in San Quentin’s Death Chamber. But she was anxious to take on the task. I asked her why? She simply and eloquently explained that in every society there must be people who are willing to stand in the way of those who abuse the power they have over individuals under their control. If there is no one there to point out that abuse, to push back against those powerful forces, the abuse will spread and deepen and will become unstoppable.

On Day 44 of the prisoner hunger strike, we are watching a real-life display of that lawyer’s philosophy—prisoners are starving themselves to disrupt the abuse of power displayed by the CDCR’s inhumane policies and practices involving indeterminate solitary confinement.

They have put themselves on the frontline of protest to demand to be treated like human beings.

Meanwhile, not long ago some of the family members of the hunger strikers attempted to meet with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom about these important matters. At the time, Newsom was temporarily serving as Acting Governor while Jerry Brown was traveling out of the country. The meeting never happened: Acting Governor Newsom said he would not have any more to say about the prisoner hunger strike than the Governor had to say about it, which, thus far, has been nothing helpful.  Well, pretty much nothing at all.

Ironically, the Lieutenant Governor recently released a book he authored called Citizenville. His promotional email states that “Citizenville shows how we can make government as useful and engaging as your iPhone.” He adds: “I talked to technology pioneers, entrepreneurs, and social media stars for Citizenville to come up with clear steps we can take to reshape our government and engage ordinary citizens.”

Perhaps the “usefulness” of government as depicted in Newsom’s marketing material for his book would be better measured by him and Governor Brown agreeing to talk to the hunger-striking prisoners themselves. The two elected officials could learn of some meaningful fixes to CDCR policies and practices that would do more than merely “engage ordinary citizens,” such talks could actually save lives—those of the protestors as well as those prisoners who are being made morose or insane or both by indeterminate solitary confinement for decades.

 On behalf of the Mediation Team,
Barbara Becnel 510-325-6336 

Hunger Strike Mediation Team
Dr. Ronald Ahnen, California Prison Focus and St. Mary’s College of California
Barbara Becnel, Occupy4Prisoners.org
Dolores Canales, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Irene Huerta, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee
Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus
Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children
Azadeh Zohrabi, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children

California Prisoner Hunger Strike Begins

Who:  Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
What:  California Prisoners Begin 3rd Peaceful Hunger Strike and Work Actions
When: Monday, July 8, 2013, 11am
Where: Elihu Harris CA State Office Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland, CA

Oakland—Family members, advocates, and lawyers will announce their support for the peaceful hunger strike and job actions beginning today throughout the California prisons starting on Monday July 8.   Prisoners have been clear since January that they are willing to starve themselves unless the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agrees to negotiate honestly about their demands.

On June 20, prisoners being held in solitary confinement at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit describe their actions:

The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement do hereby present public notice that our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long term solitary confinement will resume today, consisting of a hunger strike/work stoppage of indefinite duration until CDCR signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long-term solitary confinement (as well as additional major reforms).

Our decision does not come lightly. For the past (2) years we’ve patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms, responsive to our demands. For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR’s failure to honor their word—and we have explained in detail the ways in which they’ve acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.

On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the Judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8th to stop torture in the SHUs and Ad-Segs of CDCR.

Thus we are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what’s right.

We are certain that we will prevail…. the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?

The world is watching!”

While the CDCR has claimed to have made reforms to its SHU system—how a prisoner ends up in the solitary units, for how long, and how they can go about getting released into the general population—prisoners’ rights advocates and family members point out that the CDCR has potentially broadened the use of solitary confinement, and that conditions in the SHUs continue to constitute grave human rights violations.  The California prison system currently holds over 10,000 prisoners in solitary confinement units, with dozens having spent more than 20 years each in isolation. Conditions in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU sparked massive waves of hunger strikes in 2011 that saw the participation of 12,000 prisoners in at least a third of California’s 33 prisons.