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January 27, 2015 by Sal Rodriguez
It has been over three years since the first statewide hunger strike in protest of the California prison systems’ use of solitary confinement. The hunger strike, the first of many to follow, was launched by individuals housed in the state’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). The hunger strikes prompted state Legislative hearings, international scrutiny, and some reforms.
The SHU, first established in 1989 at Pelican Bay State Prison, was designed to house the “worst-of-the-worst” in close, secure, isolated confinement. Keeping individuals in small, windowless cells for 22 1/2 to 24 hours a day eventually proved to be a convenient solution to deal with individuals exhibiting behavioral or mental health problems and real or suspected gang affiliation as well.
The SHU, once limited to Pelican Bay, has been expanded to a total of four male facilities and one female facility. Despite this expansion, California doesn’t have enough room in the SHUs for all the individuals prison officials would like to place in them, necessitating their placement in Administrative Segregation Units (ASUs), which are dispersed throughout each prison.
By 2011, there were thousands of individuals in the SHU, including over 1,100 in the Pelican Bay SHU alone. Of them, approximately half had been in the SHU for over a decade and 78 had been in the SHU for at least 20 years.
In June 2011, individuals in the Pelican Bay SHU coordinated a hunger strike in protest of long-term isolation. The hunger strike lasted three weeks, notably bringing together people of all racial groups. There would be an additional hunger strike that year, followed by a third, 60-day-long hunger strike in July 2013.
Partly in response to the hunger strikes, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposed and implemented an array of reforms purportedly aimed at tightening the standards for SHU placement and potentially reducing the number of individuals held in highly restrictive custody.
Beginning in October 2012, the CDCR has changed the criteria used to place individuals in the SHU, created a “Step Down Program” for individuals to transition out of the SHU, and began a process of case-by-case reviews of all individuals held in the SHU and ASU to determined the appropriateness of their placement.
The reviews are ongoing, but the data collected so far is quite revealing.
According to data obtained from CDCR, 725 SHU case reviews have been conducted, with about 69% those cases leading to release to the final step in the Step Down Program and/or a General Population setting. A further 63% of ASU case reviews have led to a return to the general population.
In other words, in most cases, it appears that under slightly stricter standards, CDCR could not justify keeping individuals in highly restrictive, isolating conditions.
With these reviews being conducted for over two years now, and the overall decline of the prison population, one would expect that the number of people in restrictive housing would be on the decline.
Officially, CDCR does not believe it holds individuals in solitary confinement. Thus, a true count of the total number of individuals in such conditions is difficult to determine. The purpose of this research is to use CDCR data to provide a means of determining how many individuals might be in solitary confinement.
The CDCR releases pertinent data through COMPSTAT (COMPuter STATistics or COMParative STATistics). CDCR keeps track of the following data: the number of individuals in single-celled housing, the number of individuals in the SHU and ASU, and the number of individuals in the SHU and ASU in single-celled housing. This data is the closest one can get to determining the number of individuals in solitary confinement.
In Ashker v. Brown, we will prove that ten years in solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay SHU is cruel and unusual punishment (violating the 8th Amendment).
In an end-run around our lawsuit, CDCR has been transferring hundreds of prisoners out of that SHU. This is good news for some, but many prisoners are simply being transferred to other SHUs, most notably to Tehachapi. Four of our ten named plaintiffs have been moved there. Because the judge previously defined our 8th Amendment class as prisoners presently at Pelican Bay SHU for ten years or more, these plaintiffs and others are no longer considered part of the class.
In response, we recently filed a motion to expand the reach of the solitary confinement lawsuit to include prisoners who have spent 10 years or more at Pelican Bay SHU but have recently been transferred to other California SHUs.
As we wrote:
“the cruel and unusual treatment they experienced, and its debilitating effects, have not abated, but instead continue under a different name in a different prison.”
CDCR should not be able to thwart our 8th Amendment claim by transferring these long-suffering prisoners to a different SHU. These prisoners should be released from SHU, not moved to a different SHU. Granting our motion will give the court jurisdiction over these prisoners so that, when we succeed at trial, they will be included in the relief that the court orders.
Please attend the hearing on Plaintiffs’ (Prisoners’) Motion to Amend the Complaint. Your presence in the courtroom shows the judge that we care and are paying attention to decisions made about the torture in the SHU.
DATE: Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015
TIME: 2:00 p.m.
ADDRESS: U.S. District Court in Oakland, 1301 Clay Street (federal courthouse)
COURTROOM: Dept. #2, 4th Floor, Hon. Claudia Wilken, presiding
Information explaining the motion came from Carol Strickman,Staff Attorney, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children and Co-Counsel for Plaintiffs in Ashker v. Brown
The Santa Cruz community-based organization Sin Barras (Without Prison Bars) is a prison abolitionist group that fights for prisoners’ rights with the goal of ending the Prison Industrial Complex.
Please join our most urgent fight.
At least 6 people have died in the county jail while in the hands of the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Department and California Forensics Medical Group (CFMG) since August 2012. In April 2013, we organized a march and speakout, highlighting sheriff violence faced by people inside the County Jail that inspired the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury to investigate the jail’s deadly conditions. The grand jury report named the April 2013 demonstration as a primary catalyst for the investigation.
In September 2014, the Grand Jury released its Final Report, which included recommendations to improve physical and mental health services in the jail. Nearly all of the research was met with utter denial from the Sheriff‘s Department and CFMG, continuing a trend of disrespect for the community and confirming that they operate with little to no accountability.
Sin Barras is organizing a demonstration on January 24th to demand immediate medical and safety measures be met to reduce harm faced by those presently incarcerated. Continue reading
We expect to hear soon from Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, the fourth of the main reps in the Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. His remarks will be posted online as soon as they arrive and will be printed next month. He has been transferred to Tehachapi: C-35671, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.
by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos and George Franco
Greetings of solidarity and respect to all oppressed people and those committed to fighting for the fundamental right of all people to humane treatment – to dignity, respect and equality.
We are the prisoner class representatives of what’s become known as the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities. This is an update on where things stand with our struggle to achieve major reforms beneficial to prisoners, outside loved ones and society in general.
Our Agreement to End Hostilities would enhance prison safety more than any long-term isolation policies and yet it still has not been circulated and posted throughout the prison system. We urge that everyone read this document again and that you pass it around, study it, live it. (It is reprinted below.) The California Department of Corrections has yet to post this historic document. It needs to.
In 2010 -2011, many long-term SHU prisoners housed in the PBSP SHU Short Corridor initiated our “collective human rights movement” based on our recognition that, regardless of color, we have all been condemned for decades, entombed in what are psycho-social extermination cells, based on prisoncrats’ fascist mentality. That mentality is centered upon the growing oppressive agenda of the suppressive control of the working class poor and related prison industrial complex’s expansion of supermax solitary confinement units.
The pretext for that expansion is baseless claims that solitary confinement is necessary for the subhuman “worst of the worst” deemed deserving of a long slow death in hellish conditions. Supermax units were originally designed and perfected for the purpose of destroying political prisoners and now extend to a policy of mass incarceration.
Beginning July 1, 2011, we have utilized our collective movement to resist and expose our decades of subjection to this systematic state torture, via a campaign of peaceful activism efforts inside and outside these dungeon walls. We have achieved some success; we are not finished.
Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities.
We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us. We remind all concerned that our third peaceful protest action was “suspended” after 60 days, on Sept. 6, 2013, in response to Assemblyman Ammiano and Sen. Hancock’s courageous public acknowledgement of the legitimacy of our cause and related promises to hold joint hearings for the purpose of creating responsive legislation.
Hearings were held in October 2013 and February 2014 which were very positive for our cause in so far as continuing the public’s exposure to CDCR’s unjustifiable torture program. Assemblyman Ammiano’s bill was responsive to our issues and it was thus no surprise that the CDCR and CCPOA (the guards’ union) and others opposed it – and it was DOA on the Assembly floor. Sen. Hancock worked to get a bill passed with some changes, but, according to a statement she released, even that failed when the Governor’s Office and CDCR gutted months of work by Sen. Hancock, her staff and the staff of the Senate Public Safety Committee.
California Department of Corrections has calculated that their alleged “new” policy known as Security Threat Group-Step Down Program (STG-SDP) will give the appearance of addressing the horrific inhuman treatment we experience daily. They argue the Step Down Program is a major positive reform of the “old” policy and thereby responsive to our core demands.
They hope to undermine the statewide, national and international growing support for our cause – the end of long-term indefinite solitary confinement, the torture we experience year in and year out.
We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us.
The STG-SDP is a smokescreen intended to enable prisoncrats to greatly expand upon the numbers held in solitary confinement – indefinitely. Their STG-SDP policy and program is a handbook to be used with limitless discretion to put whoever they want in isolation even without dangerous or violent behavior.
Their Security Threat Group policy and language are based on a prison punishment international homeland security worldview. By militarizing everything, just as they did in Ferguson, Missouri, poor working class communities, especially those of color, become communities that feed the police-prison industrial complex as a source of fuel.
The daily existence of poor people is criminalized from youth on. We become a source of revenue – a source of jobs – as our lives are sucked, tracked into the hell of endless incarceration, our living death. The STG-SDP is part of the worldview and language of death, not life. It is not positive reform. Security Threat Group takes social policy in the wrong direction.
CDCR is explicit in that thousands of us are in indefinite solitary because of who we are seen to be by them, not because we have done anything wrong. They still decide this by our art, our photographs, birthdays and confidential informants who get out of solitary by accusing the rest of us. Continue reading
On Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, three men locked inside unit 4B-1L of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) of California State Prison-Corcoran started a hunger strike: Heshima Denham (J-38283), followed on Sept. 27 by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough (D-83611), and Kambui Robinson (C-82830) will join them the following day for a few days or as long as he can considering his poor health.
Why? The medical care at Corcoran SHU is so bad that life-threatening situations have occurred on too many occasions to the people in the SHU and possibly also elsewhere at CSP-Corcoran that they have had to resort to a hunger strike, the ultimate nonviolent protest, in order to make this point known to the warden, the medical receiver appointed by the court to oversee California’s notoriously bad prison healthcare, and the administration of the California Department of Corrections (CDCr).
Several factors made the three decide to protest the lack of healthcare now: Kambui has diabetes that is very badly regulated with a HBA1C of 9.3 – far too high for diabetics, especially with those already suffering loss of eyesight and neuropathy – and Zaharibu has dangerous, untreated, extremely high cholesterol, making him very vulnerable to stroke, and he has untreated gall stones and a CPAP machine without an extension cord to work effectively.
Custody staff interfering with medical staff is causing dangerous situations.
Ideally we want Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough and Kambui Robinson moved to Vacaville or New Folsom medical facilities. Kambui’s situation is most critical:
He needs more control over his insulin-dependent diabetes – better regulation, prevention of more complications, and a special diet for diabetics, with sufficient carbohydrates, low fat, whole grains, access to glucose and daily exercise outside his cell. He also needs a diagnostic scan to determine nerve damage in his brain.
For Michael Dorrough (D-83611): normal access to the CPAP machine, treatment for high cholesterol levels and treatment for gallstones.
Finally, for Heshima Denham (J-38283), we need an MRI-scan to make a diagnosis of the pain in his right side and treatment for whatever is causing it. Heshima was recently also diagnosed with PTSD.
Please keep in mind these are medical issues that should be treated with discretion.
I am contacting you concerning the lack of specialized healthcare for people inside the CSP-Corcoran SHU, especially those with chronic diseases. I would like to make you aware of the fact that there is a hunger strike going on inside to demand that people with diabetes or sleep apnea and in need of special diets and other mental and physical healthcare get treated as they would when not incarcerated. Insulin-dependent diabetics with complications and patients with CPAP machines, mental illness such as PTSD and other mental challenges should not be in the SHU but in a medical facility.
The healthcare system in several California prisons is failing badly and we demand prompt action now:
Either move the diabetic patients and the CPAP-machine patients, as well as all other chronic disease patients, to a medical facility or improve the healthcare system, including the rules for, for instance, MRI scans in CSP-Corcoran.
MRI scans are only allowed when there is a physically visible wound. This is wrong!
Also, prevent custody staff from interfering with medical issues, please!
I respectfully insist you act this week to start making specific and general improvements to the healthcare in CSP-Corcoran SHU, before lives are lost.
Annabelle Parker can be reached at email@example.com.
Claiming the need for emergency passage of new visiting policies, the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) is proposing the use of canines and ION scanners that would subject visitors to prisons to humiliating and traumatizing strip searches if they tested positive but wanted to be able to have a contact visit with their loved one. Canines are trained to “alert” to the presence of drugs (even prescription ones) tobacco and cell phones. If the canine alerts or the scanner tests positive, “the visitor shall be required to submit to an unclothed body search as a condition of visiting.” Both canines and ION scanners are notorious for troubling rates of false positives, giving rise to litigation challenging the legality of their use. In 2008 Federal Bureau of Prisons was forced to abandon its use of ION scanners because of the number of false positives and the hundreds of complaints by family members who were wrongfully denied visits.
Refusal to submit to this humiliating treatment will result in denial of the contact visit for that day. If non-contact visiting areas are available (unlikely on the day of) the person may have a non-contact visit instead. Anyone refusing to submit to the searches even if they have no contraband, will have visiting privileges suspended for a year after 3 refusals. Any visitor found with drugs or cell phone is subject to possible arrest and criminal prosecution, and will have visiting privileges suspended for one year the first time, and permanently the second time.
However, prison employees, contractors and volunteers, although also subjected to the dogs and scanners, will only have to endure a pat down search of there is a positive sign. Incarcerated people under the new regulations will also be subject to these canine searches.
Anticipating widespread reaction from family and friends of prison visitors, the CDCR has only given five calendar days for public comment about this policy, in contrast to the typical 30 days. Defining these as emergency regulations and allowing only five days for public response is disrespectful in the extreme.
“As a family member, it is a serious violation of my human rights to be forced to be humiliated in order to see my brother and give him family support” said Marie Levin of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. These proposed regulations stigmatize and criminalize family members and friends of people in prison and subjects them to humiliating, overly intrusive treatment. The thought of being exposed to sniffing dogs, scanners and possible strip searches will be a deterrent to some visitors and may further weaken prisoners’ ties to the community. PHSS demands that it be deleted from proposed regulations entirely.
See the 16 page PDF of the proposed new regulations as written by CDCR.
Press release from PHSS
The CA Dept of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) just proposed regulations mandating use of dogs, scanners, and traumatizing strip searches for people coming into a prison for a contact visit with a loved one.
They have given the outrageous period of only five days for public comment on this deeply unjust policy.
Several months ago, due to your your principled action in writing to the Dept of Corrections regarding the proposed censorship regulations, they shelved those regulations!
As a family member, it is a serious violation of my human rights to be forced to be humiliated in order to see my brother and give him family support.
There’s been more family involvement in the prison system over the last three years than ever before, and we’re challenging what they’re doing. People are watching and they don’t like that – it’s not as easy to get away with abuses of power.
Please weigh in and speak out about these regulations TODAY, Sept. 23rd.
The comment period closes at 5pm tonight.
It is absolutely crucial to act immediately, and show them we can mobilize some serious opposition.
Share this with everyone you know who might also want to send a letter.
Thank you for everything you do. Marie Levin
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
A member of Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Todd Ashker writes from Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor:
“….I am requesting your attention and responsive dialogue-addressing these issues during the meeting with our outside mediation team- and with Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, James Williamson, and myself in the near future…
The following is from me.
We are presently at the one year point- post “suspension,” of our third peaceful protest hunger strike action against longterm-indefinite-solitary confinement [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg confinement]… and related conditions therein and damage therefrom- to prisoners, our outside loved ones, and society in general….
.…The bottom line is, longterm-indefinite-SHU is not effective and harms all concerned. It’s ending nationwide and this will be the case in Calif. too- better to be sooner than later….”
Sept. 1, 2014
Secretary Beard, UnderSec. Hoshino
Director Stainer, Assoc. Dir. Diaz,
PBSP Warden Ducart
From: Todd Ashker, C58191-
One of four PBSP-SHU Prisoner Reps
(via outside mediation team)
Subject: Five Core Demands, 40 Supplemental Demands,
and CDCR’s STG-SDP
This memorandum is directed to the above CDCR Administrators for the express purpose of respectfully reminding you about unresolved, and/or continued problematic, issues relevant to our 2011-2014 Five Core and 40 Supplemental demands… and CDCR’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program [STG-SDP]… Continue reading
WHEN: Saturday, September 6, 2014
12:00pm – 5:00pm
WHERE: Mosswood Park, 3612 Webster St. (W. MacArthur between Webster and Broadway), Oakland CA *carpooling available from SoCal, NorCal, and Santa Cruz
Join us in commemorating the suspension of the largest hunger strike in U.S. history – begun on July 8, 2013 by over 30,000 people. At great cost to their health, dozens of incarcerated people in CA fasted nonviolently for 60 days, ending on September 5, 2013.
⇒Picnic, open mic, and ways to get involved
⇒Food at 1:00pm
⇒FREE Event…Donation Requested
Southern CA…(714) 290-9077
The 2013 hunger strike, the third since 2011, aimed to win five demands and end CA’s arbitrary and inhumane policy of isolating individuals in solitary confinement indefinitely – based on mere association without regard to actual conduct.
Join us as we honor these courageous people and push forward to bring an end to the torture of long-term solitary confinement.
Share the Event on Facebook! Anniversary of Suspension of Historic 2013 Hunger Strike
Sponsored by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
We hope to post updates every week or few weeks about the struggle to END long term solitary confinement. If you have any feedback for how we can improve these updates, or information you’d like to see, please let us know.
IN THIS UPDATE:
Recent News Articles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Pz3syET3DY “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” 7/20/14 – This 20 minute segment covers solitary confinement and mass incarceration in general in the United States. Great video to share with your friends & family who aren’t paying attention to the prison crisis.
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS)
Jan. 25, 2015
by Todd Ashker
On the subject of SHU and Ad-Seg constituting torture, for those of us who may not be familiar with the specifics and in light of CDCr’s steady stream of propaganda – saying, “We don’t operate any solitary confinement units or cells in the California penal system, nor do we torture anyone” – here’s a summary of relevant facts supporting our position that these SHU and Ad-Seg units and the operations thereof are designed (modeled) after techniques designed to break political prisoners as a control mechanism. They are intended to break prisoners via coercive persuasion into becoming state informants.
Why is it that CDCr is able to get away with portraying PBSP SHU (Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit) prisoners as the “worst of the worst” sub-human monsters ever encountered in modern times as justification for their policies and practices of treating said prisoners as sub-human via decades of what is clearly a form of solitary confinement with sensory deprivation – and yet, as soon as these men agree to become state stooges via debriefing, they are no longer a threat and are released to the sensitive needs yard (protective custody) general population prison of their choice?
One of the main reasons they are able to continue to get away with their BS is the failure of the people to hold the lawmakers responsible.
I’ve been in the SHU for 28.4 years, to date, 24.7 years of which has been here in PBSP-SHU. [Editor’s note: This was written Dec. 30, 2014.] I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged with a gang related rule violation. (During our hunger strike I was issued two rule violations classified as serious. They were for: a) having a photo of my longtime friend; and b) a letter that someone had sent me, a stranger who represented herself as a supporter of our cause and wanted to be a pen pal. Staff gave me the letter, and then came around later and confiscated it and wrote me up.)
The above is intended to put the following into some perspective: Based on my personal experience in PBSP SHU during the past 24.7 years, I’ve experienced many techniques designed to break me. One is isolation from my social group. This is a tactic used here by prisoncrats to physically remove those prisoners deemed “problematic” to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or weaken close emotional ties, along with segregation of all natural leaders.
What prisoncrats like to do is claim that this place can’t be considered a solitary confinement unit because you have eight cells to each pod and thus the prisoners in each pod are able to talk to each other. But here is how it actually operates. If you are deemed a “problematic” prisoner by any of the staff – for example, if you are a prisoner who is constantly challenging the prisoncrats’ policies and practices – their way of subjecting you to an informal form of punishment or to try to break you is to put you in a pod where there are no other people of your social group.
Artwork accompanies writing at this SF Bay View link
|We called for your help in June, and we’re calling for it again. Last month, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitations (CDCR) issued revisions to its proposed “obscene materials,” i.e. censorship regulations published earlier this year.This was in response to hundreds of public comments submitted to CDCR by CURB members and members of the public. CDCR promised to go back to the drawing board, saying the public had misunderstood its intent.This shows our collective people power! Yet, the revisions recently made by the Department are superficial and fail to address the serious concerns so many of us raised in our public comments.
If the proposed regulations are approved, CDCR will be able to permanently ban any publications it considers contraband, including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.
The proposed regulations are designed to:
Please weigh in and speak out against these regulations. The public comment period is open until 5pm on November 10. Resources to help craft a letter are provided at the action page.
Spread the word on Facebook and ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, school class, place of worship, and organizations to write also. Then take action on Monday by joining fellow CURB organizations Flying Over Walls and The Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) and PHSS make mass phone calls to CDC voicing our criticisms!
Thank you for everything you do and for your initial round of public comments in June.
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?
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:
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 prisoners: Under 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (We additionally recommend to cc email@example.com)
PDF version of this Fact Sheet is available here
The proposed censorship regulations that we collectively and vehemently opposed a few months ago have been revised (as of October 20). The deadline for public comments is November 10—short notice.
Please submit your comments regarding the revisions asap! (A sample letter is included below.) The revisions can be viewed here.
The CDCr specifies: Please submit comments 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 firstname.lastname@example.org before the close of the public comment period. Comments must be received or postmarked no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 10, 2014. (We additionally recommend that those responding by e-mail cc email@example.com)
The revisions made since these proposed regulations first came out on March 25, 2014, appear to be non-substantive. Our comments supposedly will only be “heard” to the extent that they address the revisions, rather than the originally proposed text.
To the extent that the revisions incorporate language from the newly approved STG regulations that went into effect on October 17, 2014, they need to be robustly resisted. The revisions specify, at 3006(c) and 3006(c)(19), that “[w]ritten materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates, as described in subsections 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” are deemed contraband. Well, 3378.2(b)(5)-(6), as adopted and enacted on October 17, 2014 (along with all of the new STG regulations), describes—in vague terms open to subjective interpretation by prison staff— materials that may innocently be present in a person’s cell, such as:
“[a]ny 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. …”
“[i]ndividual or group photographs with STG connotations such as those which include insignia, certified symbols, or other validated STG affiliates. …”
In other words, under the revised regulations, any of the following may be considered contraband: an address for, or photo of, a loved one whom happens to be deemed an STG affiliate; a photo or item that includes cultural iconography deemed “certified” by the CDCr (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of MLK); a copy of the San Francisco Bayview, as discussed below.
Moreover, the CDCr’s October 20 revisions of 3134(d)-(e) do NOT reflect the community’s concerns regarding the originally proposed text—as recently expressed via hundreds of public comments—regarding the inclusion of publications (e.g., newspapers and the publications of rights organizations) in the list of items that may be considered “STG materials.” Nor do the revisions reflect the community’s concerns over the prospective permanent banning of publications. The text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is more or less unchanged, except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”
Some publications, like the Bayview, may and often do contain the self-disclosed names of, and/or addresses for, persons who are validated. Thus, they are subject to censorship under 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).
Dear Mr. Lockwood et al.,
I recently reviewed the Revisions to Text as Originally Proposed (Obscene Materials) issued October 20. To my dismay, the Department has failed to meaningfully take into consideration concerns previously expressed by hundreds of community members regarding the originally proposed text. This, despite the Department’s promise that it would go back to the drawing board, and its claim that the public had misunderstood its intent.
If the public misunderstood the Department’s intent, the minimally revised language around so-called obscene materials does not clarify what the Department’s intent is. E.g., the text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is not changed except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”
Moreover, “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” comprises a category of materials that’s highly subjective to individual interpretation and whim on the part of staff. It apparently includes a host of innocent items that may be found in a person’s cell, including but not limited to:
—An address for, or photo of, a loved one or friend who happens to be deemed an STG affiliate
—An item that includes cultural iconography (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of Martin Luther King)
—A copy of the San Francisco Bayview newspaper
The Department needs to go back to the drawing board again to ensure that (1) no person in custody will be penalized for possessing materials that in and of themselves have nothing to do with prohibited conduct or any rules violation; (2) no publication will be banned—permanently or temporarily— merely because a person in custody has chosen to publish his name and/or location in an editorial or news article, for example, or is seeking a penpal.
Corcoran Strike for Medical Care Leads to Hospitalization of Diabetic
After a week of hunger striking by three men inside Corcoran SHU and organizers calling and writing to the prison, we are happy to report that Kambui Robinson has been moved to the Acute Care Hospital in Corcoran for his diabetic complications, and the hunger strike is now ended.
Thanks to everyone who called, wrote, or circulated the message – but our fight is not over!
Advocacy is still needed for the following issues:
Kambui Robinson’s health is in a dire state and he needs to be permanently moved into a medical care facility such as the one in Vacaville. Diabetic complications had led to eyesight so bad that he has not been able to read for several weeks, and he is has been experiencing stroke-like symptoms for the past several weeks.Michael Durrough is still without an extension cord for his CPAP machine, which is necessary for his sleep apnea. Without this cord, which is allowable property but currently withheld on warden’s discretion, Michael risks the possibility of stopping breathing while sleeping every night.Heshpma Denham needs immediate attention to severe pain he is experiencing on his right side. He is in constant pain and it has become extremely disruptive to daily activity. He needs an MRI as well as kidney and liver tests in order to diagnosis this pain.But moreover, we need adequate medical care for everyone in CSP-Corcoran!Contact information for CDCR officials:
Dave DaveyCorcoran WardenPhone:559-992-8800 extCherita WoffordOffice of the OmbudsmanPhone:918-324-6123
Join California Prison Focus and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition to investigate prison conditions in California’s supermax facilities
Saturday, October 25, 2014
11:30 am – 3:30 pm
1904 Franklin Street, 3rd floor conference room
Oakland, CA 94612
Snacks will be provided
If you are a member of the Human Rights Pen Pal program, you are welcome to be- come a legal investigator!
This training is mandatory for all individuals who want to conduct legal visits in 2015, even if you have previously visited prisons with CPF.
New investigators must fill out a volunteer application and be willing to contribute to the mission and goals of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition and California Prison Focus. Conducting visits is subject to the approval of the Prison Visits Program Director and the board of CPF.
For more information and to RSVP, contact: Taeva Shefler firstname.lastname@example.org
California Prison Focus
1904 Franklin Street, #507
Oakland, CA 94612-2926