Fact Sheet For CDCR Proposed Censorship Regulation Changes, 2014 (Revised)

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Fact Sheet: Pending Changes to CDCR’s Censorship Regulations
See here for the text of the changes as revised (on October 20) and here for the original regs

 The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) is poised to implement proposed new rules governing materials it considers contraband. CDCr publicizes at its website that the purpose of these censorship rules is to forbid “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society [emphasis added].” (See Initial Statement of Reasons, p. 4. Under the new rules, the CDCr could permanently ban any publications it considers “contraband,” including publications containing political content and correspondence typically protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

What are activists inside CDCr SHU torture units saying?

  • “These new proposed regulations are designed to serve one purpose and that is to censor any writings, mailings and publications that educate the public to what is actually occurring in these prisons.”
  • “This is an attempt to silence prisoners and publishers whose voices have been prominent in waging struggle against prisoners’ perpetual suffering. CDCR wants to stifle prisoners’ truths and disconnect them from society at large.”
  • “They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.”
  • “They seek to not only halt all criticism, but also the education and political development of underclass segments of their population – particularly those who are imprisoned…They seek to control all we read, see, learn or think.”
  • “Allowing CDCr to censor the content of our mail would violate not only the First Amendment but also CCR Title 15, Section 3135(b): ‘Disagreement with the sender’s or receiver’s morals, values, attitudes, veracity or choice of words will not be cause for correctional staff to disallow mail. Correctional staff shall not challenge or confront the sender or receiver with such value judgments.’”

What will the new rules do?

Expand the definition of contraband: Subsection 3006(c)(19) expands the definition of contraband to include “written materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG [Security Threat Group] members or associates, as described in subsections 3378.2(b)(5)-(6) ” As subsections 3378.2(b)(5) and (6) specify, this means:

  • “Any material or documents evidencing STG activity such as the membership or enemy lists, roll call lists, constitutions, organizational structures, codes, training material, etc., of specific STGs or addresses, names, identities of validated STG affiliates” [sic];
  • “Individual or group photographs with STG connotations such as those which include insignia, certified symbols, or other validated STG affiliates.”

Possession of contraband is a disciplinary violation resulting in specific punishments. Also, it can contribute to a person being validated as a member or associate of an STG (formerly termed “prison gang”), leading to a person’s indefinite placement in solitary confinement.

Promote confiscation, censorship, and/or permanent banning of political mail:  Under the current rules governing materials considered contraband (which are still in effect until the new rules are approved) every month’s issue of the San Francisco Bay View from January to June—except February’s—was disallowed at Pelican Bay State Prison, and withheld until well after the hunger strike began on July 8. Those issues were packed with letters from prisoners explaining and discussing the reasons for the upcoming strike.  Under the new rules (subsection 3134.1(d)), however, an institution could permanently ban a publication in its decision to temporarily withhold it is affirmed by the Division of Adult Operations.

Further criminalize culture, historical understanding and self-knowledge, and political dialogue: CDCr views political and historical writings, as well as materials relating to cultural identity, as an indication of association with an STG.  As stated above, the new rules define “written materials or photographs that indicate and association with a validated STG member or associate” as contraband.

Further criminalize correspondence overall: Subsection 3135(c)(14) adds “written materials or photographs going into or out of the prison that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates” to a list of “Disturbing or Offensive Correspondence” which may be prohibited. So, if a person’s mom sends her incarcerated son a photo of his brother, and if his brother is a validated STG member or associate, the photo is considered contraband!

Further impacts for prisonersUnder current state law, media may not conduct face to face interviews with prisoners without a prison’s approval. During approved tours, reporters are only permitted to speak with individuals hand-picked by officials. Incarcerated persons are not allowed to send confidential mail to journalists about prison abuses. Under the new regulations, their outgoing mail can be banned altogether.

If political publications are banned, prisoners will be cut off from nonviolent organizing efforts to improve their situation. In California, where correspondence between prisoners is only allowed with institutional approval, or is punished, publications enable those suffering in silence and isolation to know s/he is not alone.

How could this affect those with loved ones inside, activists, advocates and attorneys?Under the recently approved STG regulations that went into effect October 17, “STG suspect” is defined (under section 3000) as any person who, based on documented evidence, is involved periodically or regularly with the members or associates of a STG” [emphasis added]. Thus, the sheer number of items that can be considered contraband is limitless, as mail sent by any person who is considered an “STG suspect” —incarcerated or not—is apparently indicative of “an association with” a person validated as an STG affiliate. Mail mail and visiting privileges could be revoked for outside supporters and loved ones, in addition to any other consequences that may result.  This would have the collateral effect of cutting off prisoners from direly needed contact and support and increasing their isolation.

Other resources:

 Public hearing date is November 10, 2014.

Please submit comments no later than 5 PM PST on 10/10 via our action page or to:

Timothy M. Lockwood, Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch,

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,

P.O. Box 942883,
Sacramento, CA, 94283-0001;

by fax to (916) 324-6075; or by e-mail at rpmb@cdcr.ca.gov (We additionally recommend to cc staff@oal.ca.gov)

PDF version of this Fact Sheet is available here

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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