Compliance or Critical Thinking?

By Terry A. Kupers, M.D., M.S.P.

(Many thanks to Willow Katz and Dolores Canales for support and editing)

Prisoners consigned to solitary confinement or Security Housing Unit (SHU) are derided as “the worst of the worst.”  But when I enter SHUs around the country in preparation for expert testimony in class action litigation, I find very ordinary people, with some exceptions.  There are very bright people, and there are not so bright people, just as in the community.  There are mean and ornery people and there are peaceful and very caring people, just as in the community (and in prison the peaceful and caring are much more numerous).  

The exceptions include the fact that: 1. A disproportionate number of prisoners in solitary suffer from serious mental illness (S.M.I.) — either they were diagnosed before entering solitary or they developed emotional problems on account of the harsh conditions — and that’s why, when I started touring supermax solitary confinement units in the 80s and 90s, I found that 50% of SHU-dwellers suffered from S.M.I.; 2.  A disproportionate number are people of color — the racism that permeates the criminal “justice” system does not stop at the prison walls; and 3.  A large proportion of individuals in solitary confinement are very bright and very political — I think officers are intimidated by willful and very intelligent prisoners, and selectively send them to solitary.  Of course, the subgroups can overlap, so there are no sharp boundaries.  In any case, the population in SHUs are very far from “the worst of the worst.”

When I set out to interview and examine the plaintiffs in the Ashker v. Governor of California lawsuit about unconstitutional conditions and a lack of due process at the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, I met men in the second and third categories, people of color and very bright and very political.  There were not very many prisoners who suffer from S.M.I. because prior litigation, Coleman v. Governor of California, resulted in a federal court order that SHU residents receive mental health evaluations and those suffering from S.M.I. be transferred to special units, the Psychiatric Services Units (PSUs), where they might receive mental health treatment.  Of course, conditions in the PSUs closely approximate SHU conditions except that prisoners are moved from their cells to “cages” (the staff call them “treatment or programming modules”) for mental health sessions.  

A majority of the inhabitants of the Pelican Bay SHU were alleged to be “gang-affiliates” or members, based on “confidential information,” typically meaning other prisoners had informed they were gang-related.  Those other prisoners were granted privileges or released from SHU in exchange for their “snitching,” and of course the prisoners in SHU had never been told what evidence there was against them, nor were they given an opportunity to defend themselves against the charge of gang-affiliation.  So, in an average case, a Latinx man from an East L.A. barrio was seen giving the high five to a suspected gang member, or wrote a letter to a cousin in prison who was suspected of gang-affiliation, and from then on he was classified gang-affiliated and sent to SHU.  

Alleged gang-affiliation was sufficient cause for the CDCR to consign prisoners to SHU for the remainder of their lives, unless they were willing to snitch on other prisoners (the “debriefing” process), reach the end of their prison sentence (parole), or die.  Prisoners described their choices as “snitch, parole or die.”  The Ashker settlement supposedly ended the practice of sending prisoners to SHU for alleged gang-affiliation alone.  

The 24 prisoners I interviewed were all very bright, many were very well read, and all of them were very aware of and articulate about social injustices and inequities.  On average, they had gotten into trouble with the law as teenagers, maybe were doing drugs, and in some cases they were involved with street gangs.  Almost all of them dropped out of school before graduating high school.  They entered the criminal legal system in their late teens or early twenties, settled down and looked back with regret on their criminal ways (or, a significant number were actually innocent of the charges against them, having been falsely convicted on the basis of tampered or bribed witness identification, the same unfortunate process that would get them consigned to SHU and then denied parole). 

I found myself face-to-face with men I found simpatico, and very interesting to talk to.  I rarely find people in the wider community who have so thoroughly studied philosophy and history and are conversant with the theories not only of Freud, Marx, and Darwin, but also Malcolm X, Franz Fanon and Che Guevera.  But in the Pelican Bay SHU these were studies and theories that might pop into the conversation at any moment.  The men had started studying on their own as soon as they entered prison, earned their G.E.D.s, took college courses when permitted, and in many cases studied the law and became jailhouse lawyers, helping other prisoners with their appeals and legal cases.  In fact, the Ashker v. Governor of California lawsuit began as a pro se case (meaning prisoners act as their own attorneys) brought by plaintiffs Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell.  Imagine how difficult it is to study law and file claims from a windowless cell with no library privileges except being able to request a few specific books or cases and hope officers will deliver them to the cell.

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CALL FOR URGENT LAST MINUTE ACTION for Ashker v Governor case!

Wed, May 13, 2020, 9am PST*: Please tune in at  San Francisco Courtroom 3 9:00am Wednesday 5/13

THANK YOU AND CALL FOR URGENT LAST MINUTE ACTION! from California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC)

***Please circulate this as broadly as possible

First, thank you for attending our Ashker v. Governor hearing today. It uplifted our spirit to see such wide support.

WE ALSO WRITE TO ASK FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN THIS URGENT LAST MINUTE ACTION! To our surprise, the 9th Circuit Judges have ordered parties to return to court tomorrow, giving our attorneys less than 24 hours to prepare to argue for the extension motion.

PLEASE TUNE AGAIN TOMORROW TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!

CLICK ON: https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/view_video.php?pk_vid=0000017350

or

San Francisco Courtroom 3 9:00am Wednesday 5/13

Why is the extension motion important?
We are arguing for an EXTENSION MOTION so the court will continue to monitor that CDCr (CA Dept of Corrections) is in compliance with the Ashker settlement. Given CDCr has continued to violate the terms of the settlement and the constitutional rights of the prisoners represented in the class action lawsuit, it is necessary to have the settlement monitoring period extended. CDC wants the monitoring to end so they cannot be held accountable.

*The Ashker case is 4th for the court on its 9am calendar Wednesday. Please keep checking. It will probably be closer to 10 or 10:30am when our case is heard.

5/12 Watch Court Hearing in Ashker v Gov! Stop Solitary Confinement

No more doublespeak by CDCr. We are in court to reject solitary by another name! #StopSolitary

PLEASE TUNE IN TUESDAY, MAY 12, 2020 @9AM PST AND LET CDCr KNOW WE ARE WATCHING!
Link to the livestream available here:

https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/live_oral_arguments.php

Men in Solitary Confinement in CA Take Their Case Before 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. CDCR Continues to Violate Settlement Agreement: Men Held Alone in Cells 23 Hours a Day

**See more below about the livestream court arguments, the online after-discussion, and a social media toolkit**

STOP SOLITARY CONFINEMENT: Tune in to watch oral arguments in Ashker v. Governor of California 

Join the Center for Constitutional Rights on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 as arguments are heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal on whether the state of California violated the settlement in our case, Ashker v. Governor, a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent a decade or more in solitary confinement.

Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights will urge the court to uphold a ruling that California prisons have violated a landmark settlement agreement intended to end indefinite solitary confinement. The district court held that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) violated the 2015 settlement by maintaining prisoners in levels of isolation equal to or even more severe than the isolation they experienced in the Security Housing Units (SHU).

Tune in at 9:00am PST on May 12 to watch first hand and JOIN OUR TWEETSTORM, as we reject #solitarybyanothername.

Feel free to use visuals and sample messaging from our our social media toolkit,

Arguments will likely start between 9:00 and 9:30 am PST, depending on the length and order of arguments. You will find the link to the livestream on the court’s website.

STAY TUNED AFTER THE HEARING FOR A COMMUNITY-CENTERED ONLINE BRIEFING!

Following oral argument in Ashker, join us at 11:30am PST for a community-centered online briefing with attorneys Jules Lobel and Samuel Miller. The legal team will share their thoughts about how the hearing went, you will get the opportunity to ask questions, and we will highlight action items to move forward.

For more information and to receive the Zoom link and passwork, please RSVP on Eventbrite

For questions, contact Dolores Canales, CFASC: (714) 290-9077, dol1canales@gmail.com

Online briefing hosted by California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

Solidarity Message from the Four Prisoner Reps and California Prison Update, February 2020

Download and/or print all documents in this post as a pdf HERE

Four-main-reps-Todd-Ashker-Arturo-Castellanos-George-Franco-Sitawa-Nantambu-Jamaa

These men, known as the “four prisoner Reps,” Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, conceived, planned and led the historic 2011-2013 California mass hunger strikes that drew 30,000 participants at their peak, according to CDCr’s own records.

Introduction from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

What follows below is an update from the leadership of the 2011 and 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes against indefinite solitary confinement and other mistreatment across the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr), the world’s largest prison system. These “Reps” had been in solitary for decades and sought to draw attention to and challenge the systematic torture by CDCr through a series of non-violent hunger strikes, two in 2011, and a third in 2013.

In May of 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights and several prominent prisoner rights attorneys and organizations in California formed a team and partnered with a representative group of 10 Pelican Bay SHU prisoner plaintiffs, including some of the hunger strike reps, to file a class action lawsuit. That lawsuit, Ashker v. Governor of CA, charged that California’s practice of isolating prisoners in solitary confinement for many years, and indefinitely, violated U.S. Constitution protections against “cruel and unusual punishment” and denied Constitutional guarantees to “due process.” Also in 2012, the four Reps and 12 other SHU Prisoner Representatives issued an historic document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, calling for an end to all violence and hostility between different groups of prisoners throughout California.

A third hunger strike began July 8, 2013, involved over 30,000 people incarcerated in California prisons, lasted 60 days, and made solitary confinement a significant issue across the United States. All major U.S. newspapers’ editorial pages had at least one condemnation of the practice in the weeks that followed. The third strike ended when the CA State Senate and State Assembly Committees overseeing prisons held unprecedented public hearings to investigate California’s solitary confinement. On Sept 1, 2015, a landmark settlement was achieved in Ashker v. Governor of CA ending indeterminate solitary confinement in California prisons and allowing the legal team to monitor the California prison system to ensure settlement compliance. This month, February 2020, the four Reps have issued a solidarity statement and California prison update.

SOLIDARITY MESSAGE FROM THE FOUR PRISONER REPS
AND CALIFORNIA PRISON UPDATE
(names listed in alphabetical order)
by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

A shout out of solidarity and respect to all class members and prisoners across the state. As the four reps, we felt a public report on the current state of California prisons from prisoners was overdue.

As leadership of the 2011 and 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes that captured the attention of the nation and the world on the role of solitary confinement in United States prison systems, particularly California, we four prisoner reps became recognized as speaking both for the Ashker class, former Pelican Bay SHU prisoners, but also more broadly in many respects for the entire California prisoner class.

California’s prison system, the largest in the world at that time, was also the greatest abuser of long term solitary confinement. We were housed in the Short Corridor of the notorious Pelican Bay Super Max SHU (Security Housing Unit) and, as all Short Corridor prisoners understood, the only way out of that isolating torturous hell was to “parole, snitch or die.”

We decided standing up together, asserting our humanity even at the cost of our own lives, was better than rotting and dying alone in our concrete tombs. Nonviolent united action was the only path that made sense; our only avenue to act was a hunger strike. It took widespread unity, preparation and work among us prisoners, but also work on the outside by our families, friends and a growing list of supporters across the state and the country.

Without prisoners speaking about our conditions of confinement, the public narrative about imprisonment and mass incarceration is missing a critical voice – our voice, the incarcerated. We are the first-hand experts on the daily experience of being caged in prison generally and the trauma of extreme isolation.

All other experts collect data, do studies, view our experience without living it. Many, not all, are our oppressors. Their expertise is not about what incarceration is like, but why we and so many millions of people in the U.S. should be imprisoned. No voice has more expertise about the experience and impact of incarceration than the voice of prisoners.

Here we make five points:

First. Prison in the United States is based on punishment, not rehabilitation. The United States has the largest prison population in the world and the highest percentage of a state’s population housed in cages. We are held in punishing ways that cause fear, emptiness, rage, depression and violence. Many of us are more damaged when we leave prison than when we entered.

According to the National Reentry Resource Center, a high percentage of state and federal prisoners will be released back into society. National statistics indicate that there is a high rate of released prisoners returning to prison. All of those who leave are older, some smarter, but all of us are less able to be productive in the society at large or good for our communities or our families. It is very hard for former prisoners to get jobs.

Prison presents an opportunity for society to rehabilitate or help people. Many of us could use support services. That opportunity is lost and buried by a vindictive ideology of punishment.

Rather than us being hypervigilant, concentrating on violence, dangers, our fears and rage, prison could be a place to engage our minds in useful jobs and job training, with classrooms for general learning, training in self-awareness and understanding, anti-addiction approaches. Instead, we are mostly just warehoused, sometimes in dangerous yards with angry, frightened, vicious guards.

California’s Governor Newsom has the opportunity to help institute a massive prison reform movement.

Second. California likes to think of itself as a progressive national leader, yet in sentencing California is among the harshest in the nation. In California, a life term is given for second degree murder. Second degree murder is a non-premeditated killing. Only 17 states are that punishing. Two thirds of the states and the U.S. federal system give a flat 15 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that evolving standards of society’s decency should create a national  consensus on sentencing standards. Our prison journeys begin in those courts. We four reps of the California prison class call for reform in sentencing. Massive money could be spent for education, training and jobs here and in our communities rather than on caging human beings to harm rather than help us or society.

Third. The trauma we experience in these overcrowded institutions with a culture of aggressive oppression, as if we are violent animals, is harmful and breeds violence. We prisoners should not join in our own oppression. It is not in the interest of the prison class to buy into promised rewards for lying on other prisoners.

The use of lying confidential informants is widespread and legendary in California prisons and jails. We see even among ourselves, who have great active lawyers ready to pay attention to our situations, just how regularly vicious retaliation, evil lying  and disregard of our medical needs occurs. Broadly among the California prisoner class, there is mistreatment, horrid isolation, medical disregard, terrible food, cells that are too cold, too hot or too damp.

The history of positive social change demonstrates that when those who are oppressed stand together – as a group, a class – against that oppression, change can happen. Our own experience with eliminating endless solitary confinement in California proves that.

We need to stand with each other, behaving respectfully, demanding respect and not turning on our fellow prisoners for promises of crumbs. We four reps stand for major prison reform that helps us, not harms us, that betters society, not makes it worse.

Fourth. We four reps are for the principles we outlined in the Agreement to End Hostilities, the cessation of all hostilities between groups. We called on prisoners throughout the state to set aside their differences and use diplomatic means to settle their disputes.

If personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues. We encourage all prisoners to study the Agreement to End Hostilities and to try to live by those principles to seek your support to strive together for a safer prison environment.

We are not there yet. Dangerous cross-group hostility remains. What we experience in California prisons is not just developed in prison but is also widespread and supported in free society. Racial antagonisms, ghettoized housing, separation, institutionalized racism and promotion of beliefs of each other as less than human, as stupid, as criminal barbarians can cause us to fear and hate each other.It does not serve us or society well. There are no easy ways to challenge these deep American divisions; forcing us together in joint yards, visiting rooms or classrooms will lead to violence and deepen the danger.

We four reps especially call out and stand against 50/50 yards. We oppose forced mixing of hostile groups where mortal enemies are forced together; 50/50 yards are dangerous and will make things much worse by causing fresh horrific encounters. No matter the policy’s intention, the state is responsible for our safety and wellbeing while we’re living under its jurisdiction.

We are entitled to respect and safety. We seek what we are entitled to. The 50/50 yards as a CDCr policy provokes violence. At this time, we endorse separate yards, separate programming and separate visiting.

We also call on California leadership, Governor Newsom and the State Assembly and Senate to implement policies that encourage and grow support for the Agreement to End Hostilities that do not include 50/50 yards or forced interaction, but rather engage our minds and energy with productive jobs, education, training – major prison reform to a genuine rehabilitative system.

Fifth. The guard culture, especially in the yards, is vicious and provocative. Here where we live, the guards do not care about our safety. The guards get extra pay when there is violence; it is in their financial interest to promote it. Not surprisingly, guards regularly provoke disputes. Many enjoy the resulting violence.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the powerful guards’ union, is led by men who for the most part consider prisoners less than human. The CCPOA by their network and behavior supports the use of set ups, targeting, lying and isolation for random punishment. This intentionally causes widespread fear.

The CCPOA is one of the most politically influential organizations in California and holds many righteous political leaders hostage. The CCPOA members benefit with large overtime pay bonuses from violence and lockdowns.

Only if prison reform becomes a widespread demand of California voters can the influence of CCPOA be challenged. We need our families, friends and communities to build and extend our allies and develop strong support to vote for politicians who recognize our worth and are for widespread serious prison reform and an end to brutal warehousing that endangers society every day.

CDCR and California itself are legally responsible and accountable for prison conditions. Neglect does not free them of state institution responsibility for those in their “care.” The guards’ union should not be permitted to purchase power for abuse.

California citizens need to vote for prison rehabilitation as a priority: money for teachers, instructors, prisoner jobs instead of lockdown overtime and more guards.

Finally, we close with an update on our legal challenge. Our class action constitutional challenge to long-term solitary confinement was filed in May of 2012. We won a landmark settlement on Sept. 1, 2015, that resulted in thousands of people being released from SHUs across the state.

The settlement also gave us and our legal team the right and responsibility to monitor whether CDCr is following the requirements of the settlement for two years. That monitoring period was set to end in 2017, but in January 2019, U.S. Magistrate Judge Illman granted our motion to extend monitoring of the settlement agreement based on ongoing systemic constitutional violations in CDCR’s use of confidential information and in its reliance on past gang validations to deny parole.

Magistrate Judge Illman’s order extended our monitoring for 12 months. CDCr appealed and asked the court to suspend monitoring pending the appeal outcome. U.S. District Court Judge Wilken intervened and allowed us to continue monitoring pending any appeal outcomes.

Our legal team has two pending appeals that CDCr has filed seeking to overturn the lower court orders in our favor. One appeal covers the extension of the monitoring as discussed above; the other covers enforcement of the settlement agreement regarding conditions of confinement in Level IV prisons and the RCGP (Restricted Custody General Population) unit.

As our legal team continues to monitor implementation of our settlement agreement, they are looking closely at how CDCR uses confidential information to place and keep validated and nonvalidated prisoners in Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation) and RCGP for long periods of time and sentence people to SHU for bogus RVRs (Rules Violation Reports). They are also trying to keep track of how validations continue to impact us, especially when we go before the parole board.

If you have any information about any of these issues, although they cannot respond to every letter, please write our team at: Anne Cappella, Attorney at Law, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, 201 Redwood Shores Pkwy, Fourth Floor, Redwood City, CA 94065.

In closing, we remind all of us prisoners and supporters that we are human beings who have a difficult shared experience. We have a right to our dignity, even inside these punishing walls. We present an opportunity to make society better rather than meaner.

We ask all prisoners to stand together, read and act within the principles of the Agreement to End Hostilities, whether you are in Ad Seg or RCGP or General Population, see yourselves as part of an international Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

We four prisoner reps send regards and recognition to each of you as fellow human beings who are entitled to fairness, dignity and respect. We send our respect to all our brothers and sisters incarcerated anywhere with hopes for genuine rehabilitative programming, jobs, education and training in this coming year.

We send our greetings to all the friends, family and communities from which we come, to all our allies in the general society, and we send our hopes for an understanding of the opportunity California has to again be a leader in reform to make the world a better place with so many of us who need help gathered together in state institutions.

We send extra love, support and attention to our Brother Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who is experiencing challenging health issues. Our Brother Sitawa sends his extra love to all those prisoners, prisoners’ families and general supporters of the International Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

February 2020

The authors requested this message be followed with the Agreement to End Hostilities.

AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES
August 12, 2012

To whom it may concern and all California Prisoners:

Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:

1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.

Continue reading

FEB 19 POLITICAL MUSICAL – Promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement & Honor the Agreement to End Hostilities

Liberate the Caged Voices Coalition presents:
A PREMIER POLITICAL MUSICAL by K.A.G.E. UNIVERSAL:

Gangsta Revolution, Transform, Until, When the Panthers Died

A correlated musical series to highlight the Mass Peaceful Protest Hunger Strikes 2011-2013 & Humanity’s Agreement to End Hostilities!

Wed, February 19, 2020
6:30pm – 8:30pm
Freedom & Movement Center, 4408 Market St, Oakland, CA 94608

FREE event, but all donations are deeply appreciated!

Download, print, or publish the above flier: jpg or pdf

This is the first of 12 performances featuring the work of Minister King, that aims to educate the participants and bring to light the issues concerning this particular Class of Tortured Prisoners having suffered decades of Solitary Confinement. We will learn about their extraordinary effort to end CDCr’s tactic of indefinite solitary confinement through peaceful protest hunger strikes, and the authoring of what could be considered the most important document of the past 30 years, the Agreement to End Hostilities.

Liberate the Caged Voices works in partnership with: K.A.G.E. Universal, California Prison Focus, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, Bay Area News & Letters, and the San Francisco Bay View newspaper in this campaign to Free All Hunger Strike Representatives and Promote the Prisoners Human Rights Movement.

For questions, contact Nube Brown: nube@prisons.org
www.prisons.org

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/514252225887846/

Liberate the Caged Voices: FREE SITAWA!

Sitawa-Nantambu-Jamaa-0919

This photo was taken of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa during a visit with him by his sister Marie Levin and Nube Brown. Thankfully, they were able to visit shortly before Sitawa’s recent stroke, and the visit included extensive planning for the Free Sitawa! Campaign.

This article was first published Jan 6, 2020 in the SF Bay View newspaper.

Promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington and Nube Brown of the Liberate the Caged Voices Coalition

Peace and blessings, sisters and brothers!

There is a saying among the Muslim brothers: “Want for your brother what you want for yourself.” In the case of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa,​ principled thinker, leader, brother, son and community member, we want freedom for him.

Last year in July 2019, Malik was granted parole by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In July 2020 we want to see the Parole Board in the state of California grant our Brother Sitawa his freedom when he goes before the board after five previous denials and 39 years of captivity, 32 of those years spent in solitary confinement.

It is not just a plea based solely on Elder Sitawa’s physical health. He is of a particular class of politicized prisoners subjected to decades of the torture of solitary confinement seen only in California, with rare exceptions in other states such as the decades of solitary endured by the Angola 3 in Louisiana.

And yet, Sitawa remains a stellar example of what positive transformations a human being can undergo in the most inhumane environments. Sitawa inspires us!

Many people fail to recognize that Sitawa, along with three other strong and principled leaders of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective, inspired 30,000 courageous prisoners, who, in their struggle for freedom from the torture of solitary confinement – or the threat of it – chose to shun violence and rather embrace a peaceful strategy in order to bring about much needed change in CDCr (California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation) by implementing the powerful tenets of the Agreement to End Hostilities, an agreement that holds today, despite non-cooperation by CDCr.

Rather than being systematically punished for his leadership and commitment to the community on both sides of the wall, Sitawa should be rewarded with freedom and the opportunity to thrive and empower the community from which he was taken and show the world he is undaunted in his quest for change and peace.

We cannot and will not remain silent while CDCr uses a “death by incarceration” tactic on Sitawa and numerous other elders and leaders trapped in state prisons all across the United States.

Our respected Elder Mujahid Farid of Release Aging People in Prison taught me the slogan: “If the risk is low, let them go!”

Sisters and brothers, we suggest strongly that this should be our battle cry in 2020 for all incarcerated elders. Sitawa is a human being who deserves and has earned not just a national show of support, but an international freedom campaign, and we plan on helping to lead the way! Will you help us?

We leave you all with a quote from Victor Frankl that we would like all of you to meditate on – with the hope that it resonates in your heart, mind and soul. Perhaps it will motivate you to join this Freedom Campaign today:

“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed … for what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform personal tragedy into a triumph.” – Victor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Washington Square Press, New York 1969

I, Malik, have faced the reality that being an outspoken New Afrikan man in Amerika means I must accept being despised and hated. How I respond to the hate is totally up to me! Today I choose a path of peace and love.

Activist Nube Brown says that love is the most powerful force in the universe. Let’s see if we can collectively tap into the power of love and encourage the state of California to FREE SITAWA in July 2020.

Meanwhile, as we organize the campaign and Brother Sitawa recovers from a stroke, please send him some love and funds, to Freedom Outreach, c/o Marie Levin for Sitawa, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland CA 94601.

Click HERE to donate online  for Sitawa, and for his family to be able to visit him.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! All Power to the People!


Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the Bay View, studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release in 2021. He is also co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. Visit his website at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, USP Pollock, P.O. Box 2099, Pollock LA 71467.

Nube Brown is a New Abolitionist and activist working with California Prison Focus and facilitator of Liberate the Caged Voices. She is actively co-leading the Free Sitawa! Campaign to promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement and hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11am to noon, PST. Nube is a proud member of the human race and seeks to dismantle the prison industrial slave complex and replace it with a transformative, healing justice paradigm. Connect with her at nube@prisons.org.

1/15 Rally at CDCR Headquarters: CHALLENGE FORCED YARD MERGERS

 

NDPF_Action_2

NDPF_Action_1

On Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday:
CHALLENGE FORCED YARDS MERGING IN CALIFORNIA STATE PRISONS

Wednesday, January 15th
ACTION AT THE STATE CAPITAL, SACRAMENTO

MEET ON L STREET STEPS AT 9AM
9am-12Noon – Visits with State Legislators
1pm – Rally at CDCR Headquarters

34 UNITED: The coalition uniting people in all 34 state prisons, led by formerly incarcerated, people still incarcerated, and our families to challenge the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation’s (CDCR’s) forced merging of General Population (GP) and Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY). Those who refuse to merge because they fear violence are threatened with 115 disciplinary write-ups, loss of program access, and solitary confinement – all of which impact Parole eligibility and release.

To register or for more information, email 34 UNITED: action@yourthforjustice.org

Lost in time: Lift up our brother Sitawa and strike down indefinite incarceration

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Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in July 2018

This article was first published Nov 19, 2019 in the SF Bay View newspaper.

by Mutope Duguma

It’s always hard to stomach news that is disheartening. To hear that a brother and comrade has suffered a stroke after spending countless years in solitary confinement, as well as being held on an indefinite sentence for an alleged crime he did not commit, is even more disheartening.

I need not stress the sorrow that is felt amongst the whole prison population for our brother Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who, along with countless fearless prisoners, pioneered our Prison Human Rights Movement (PHRM) to the world’s stage. We continue to see men and women incarcerated far too long – beyond anyone’s imagination – and continue to be held indefinitely.

Our beloved brother Sitawa is amongst this class of men and women. The inhumane treatment of prisoners must end.

200 + Rally to support prisoner hunger strike

A large rally that garnered support from outside and raised spirits inside was at Corcoran Prison in the Central Valley on July 13, 2013, during the last hunger strike, where the prisoners were suffering the summertime heat combined with gnawing hunger. On a “solidarity fence,” notes composed of quotes from some of the leading strikers were pinned to a fence to inspire the demonstrators. This is a quote from Sitawa.

Our brother Sitawa and many others have suffered enough and should not continue to do so based on being given a life sentence that equals a civil death. Prior to 1968, under original Penal Code Section 2600, California prisoners suffered complete civil death, which means prisoners were stripped of all civil rights.

The prison system is actually covertly executing all of its lifers. The United States is the only country in the whole world that incarcerates people indefinitely – forcing them to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Men and women have been incarcerated for 35 years or more.

Many of these people are lost in time. They came to prison as youth in their teens and early 20s in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Yes, many of them were immature, many had no real direction, but they all became adults in the Amerikan prison system.

At present these prisoners, Baby Boomers, most of whom have survived decades of incarceration, are now between the ages of 60 and 80. Many of these senior citizens are wheelchair-bound or use assistive devices such as walking canes.

Like most seniors, many are on special medications, require special medical therapy for seniors, and suffer from aging illnesses of various sorts. I hear some say that a few manage to get around good at 70 years young.

Many say, yes, they should be in prison, and that may be true in some cases. Given the things they did in society, the way they carried themselves in the youth of their lives was utterly wrong and disrespectful, but that was decades ago when they were young! Decades!

They are now older, mature, grown, senior adults, who have fulfilled all requirements from various parole boards around the U.S. Multiple prisoners have complied with all laws, rules and regulations of the prison and carried themselves as role model human beings and in many cases have done so for decades.

Sitawa and Marie

Sitawa is able to embrace his sister after decades of seeing her only though thick glass. 2016 photo of their first hug in 31 years. His sister, Marie Levin, rose during the terrifying hunger strikes to lead the fight by outside family and supporters to end solitary confinement and other atrocious prison practices.

Still, many of them are forced to remain in prison when the maximum amount of time on their sentence has long since expired. This is terrible and extremely cruel to force rehabilitated human beings to remain in bondage and especially when statistics clearly show that 90 percent of them are not returning to prison once released.

Sadly, 89 percent of prisoners across the US are Black and Mexican. From 1619 through the 1800s, the chattel slavery plantation concept lurks in the shadows like the Wizard of Oz.

This “behind the scenes” type strategy involves money laundering exclusively into white rural areas under the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC). (That’s where prisons were built during the height of mass incarceration, in small rural communities that had lost their economic base, where people were so desperate for jobs, they were willing to work in a prison. These were white communities with deep prejudice toward Blacks. – SF Bay View ed.)

Many of us may very well die in these man-made tombs. It should be stipulated that these deaths are in clear violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The suffering is indefinite where there exists no end to the punishment. Many have died, and many will continue to die where there is no remedy to resolve the cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners.

We must resist to end this cruel and unusual treatment of human beings and encourage our brother Sitawa, who is fighting for his life. We will fight for his freedom and the freedom of the thousands of men and women lost in time.

One Love, One Struggle,

Mutope Duguma

Mutope had the joy of hugging his brother Anthony in this photo taken March 19, 2016.

Send our brother some love and light: James Crawford (Mutope Duguma), D-05996, LAC B5-141, P.O. Box 4490, Lancaster CA 93539.

 


Sitawa is recovering from a major stroke. Send him some love and light through this address: Freedom Outreach, Attn: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland CA 94601

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11/9 Vigil for Vickie Lee Hammonds – No More Preventable Deaths at CIW Prison!

Please come out to support the families & friends who have lost loved ones to the abuse & neglect at the California Institute for Women (CIW) prison in Chino, CA.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/523482625142414/

Vickie Lee Hammonds

Join us at a vigil for Vickie Lee Hammonds who died at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in June 2019.  March with Vickie’s family alongside others who have lost loved ones to state-sponsored death at CIW.

Demand that the State of California, the Corrections Department (CDCR) & CIW be held responsible for the ongoing abuse, neglect, and preventable deaths in custody.

Saturday, November 9, 2019
2:00pm – 4:30pm
Gather at 2pm
American Heroes Park, 6608 Hellman Ave
Eastvale CA 92880

Support the survival & release of people currently incarcerated at CIW.
Speak out against isolation, abuse, and state-sanctioned death!

Bring our loved ones home, ALIVE!

#SayHerName #VickieLeeHammonds #ShayleneGraves #ErikaRocha #AliciaThompson #ShadaeSchmidt #StephanieFeliz #MargaritaMurugia #LauraAnnRamos #GuiFeiZhang #NoMoreDeaths #CareNotCages #InvestigateCIW #EndSolitary #Criminalized2Death #BlackLivesMatter

Vigil and rally organized by the family of Vickie Lee Hammonds & the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

RSVP for details, or to endorse: California Coalition for Women Prisoners, ccwpla@gmail.com

Vickie Lee Hammonds Vigil_Nov 9

Vickie Lee Hammonds Spanish

 

NOTHING NEW: CDCr Fuels and Socially Engineers Violence between Prisoners

Nothing New

By Mutope Duguma
[See this June 2018 article posted here at Prisoner Human Rights Movement and here in an archive of Mutope Duguma’s writings]

An End To Hostilities” is an agreement/document that was brought forth to build Peace amongst the Prison Class, which means that strong communication between the groups will to be used to end any problems that may surface within prisons.

We prisoners had to come to terms with the realization that our inactions have allowed prison officials to suppress us under their Social Tyranny, where we have been held hostage in what we call ‘protracted violence.’ From 1979 to 2009, prison violence would devastate prisoners throughout CDCr [California Dept. of Corrections and rehabilitation], and sadly would do the same to our communities, where we would also be conditioned to this violence inside of California prisons. Based on gathered intelligence, there has never been an impartial or thorough investigation into how prison officials allowed such violence to occur as well as spread into our communities.

Prisons, no matter what their classification levels, I, II, III or IV, are very dangerous environments. They house mostly young people; those who suffer from drugs and alcoholism. Lest we cannot forget those undeveloped minds, which have yet to become rational thinking men and women. Therefore, it is relatively easy to socially engineer prisoners under social tyranny by manipulating conflicts that lead to their destruction.

Prison officials have total control over all prisoners held in CDCr, and this affords them the power to impose their will upon prisoners as they try to see fit.

So, prisons and citizens of this country should not be surprised to see that CDCr is managing prisoners with violence in order to secure their best interest: Higher Pay and Job Security. Peaceful prisons go against CDCr agenda and, therefore, violence has to be its trademark.

This explains why CDCr would want to disturb the current peace achieved by more experienced prisoners who have built solidarity around our “Agreement to End All Hostilities” (AEH). CDCr needs to ‘come clean’ and take responsibility for their role in fueling so much of the violence between prisoners.

The million-dollar question for all tax payers is: Why disturb such a Peace???

Case in Point:

1.) It was CDCr who manipulated the racial violence between prisoners by pitting them against one another, favoring one group over the other with respect to Jobs, etc. I’ve been in Calipatria three (3) years, and there have been countless incidents where staff attempted to instigate or agitate violence amongst prisoners, but due to our AEH we have been able to counter these attacks through Sound Communication, rooted in respect for what is right!!!

2.) It was CDCr who created the debriefing program, pitting prisoners against prisoners, that led to thousands of prisoners becoming informants (i.e., snitches) and this was done by torturing each of these prisoners held in solitary confinement units, forcing many of them into being informants.

3.) It was CDCr who created the indeterminate SHU program that held men and women indefinitely inside of solitary confinement units, through a gang validation process that allowed them to remove all the “unfavorable” prisoners off general population and into the SHUs, where prisoners were held in solitary confinement for decades, the longest more than 44 years.

4.) It was CDCr who created the Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY), which is where one third (1/3) of the prison population is today… SNY prisoners are, or were, “keep aways” from general population prisoners for various reasons, such as having been informants, child molesters or rapists, or being elderly, and requesting to be placed in protective custody.

5.) It was CDCr who set up the Gladiator Fights inside Corcoran State Prison Security Housing Unit – CSP-SHU in the 1980s, that led to seven (7) prisoners being murdered in cold blood and thousands of prisoners being wounded and beat on in these conflicts instigated and agitated by CDCr officials.

6.) It was CDCr who did away with all the positive incentive programs that led to the hopelessness that we see throughout CDCr today.

7.) It was CDCr who did away with nutritious foods and went to non-nutritious foods, starting in 1997, that is today having an adverse effect on prisoners’ health and behavior.

These failures on CDCr’s part led to deadly consequences for prisoners. The senseless violence we experienced in the past is now being introduced again by CDCr, who continue to find ways to socially engineer prisoners under Social Tyranny.

The claim that they (CDCr) will be able to determine if prisoners want to go home or not by how they get along on a combined yard is total BS. SNYs and GP prisoners should’ve never been separated in the first place.

Those of us who were manipulated into this violence have first-hand experience on how it works, and we are doing what we can to educate those prisoners who don’t see the un-seen hand of CDCr. Because, unlike our past, we are today very mature-thinking men and women who have taken responsibility for our roles inside the manmade madness, by coming together and establishing an End To All Hostilities.

The Agreement to End All Hostilities was created by the Four (4) Principle Groups behind these walls. They agreed on their word alone to end prison violence amongst the races, which has saved countless lives to this day.

What is CDCr’s objective to off-set the many positive programs and policies that afford prisoners the opportunity to go home? CDCr’s objective, as always, is that Peace goes against their bottom line: Profiting off Prisoners.

So, as long as CDCr officials want to use violence in order to secure their income, there will be violence in prisons. (See the recent article by Nashelly Chavez in the May 27, 2018, Sacramento Bee titled “Nashelly Chavez, May 27, 2018, titled: California Prisons Phase out ‘Sensitive Needs Yards’ Critics See A Rough Transition”).

We are an expendable source, therefore, our lives have no value to our keepers. It is us who put value in our lives and this is where our power comes from, Reclaiming our Humanity. The violence is Nothing New.

One Love – One Struggle

Mutope Duguma

___________________________________

Mutope Duguma was incarcerated at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, in its notorious Security Housing Unit. He is now at CSP Los Angeles County in Lancaster. He is a member of the Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign and PLEJ [Power, Love, Education, Jusice] for Liberation and is a prolific author, with articles published in the SF Bay View and many other places, including his website, http://www.mutopeduguma.org.

Write to Mutope at:

Mutope Duguma
s/n James Crawford D05996
CSP – Los Angeles County
PO Box 4490, B-5-C-141
Lancaster, CA 93539