CA Prisoners Win Historic Gains with Settlement Against Solitary Confinement

Agreement reached in Ashker v. Brown ends indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in CA, among other gains for prisoners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2015
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland – Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.” The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “We celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.”

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.

Major Development in CA Lawsuit Against Solitary Confinement

Updated in August 31, 2015 Media Advisory:  This press conference will be livestreamed at  http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

This press conference will supplement and follow an earlier teleconference organized by the lead counsel in Ashker v. Brown, the Center for Constitutional Rights

Media Advisory – Friday, August 28, 2015

Rally and Press Conference:
Major Development in CA Lawsuit against
Solitary Confinement

Press Contact:  Mohamed Shehk – 408.910.2618 – mohamed@criticalresistance.org
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

What:     Rally and Press Conference

In anticipation of a major development in one of the most significant cases brought by prisoners in the struggle against solitary confinement, Ashker v. Brown, activists, prisoners’ family members and loved ones, and prisoner advocates will be holding a press conference and rally.

Who:      Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS)

PHSS is a statewide coalition that includes California Families Against Solitary Confinement, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Critical Resistance, California Prison Focus, American Friends Service Committee, and many other organizations and individuals who work against imprisonment and solitary confinement.

Statements will be read on behalf of prisoners by family members of people in solitary confinement.

When:    Tuesday, Sept 1, 2015
Noon

Where:   Elihu M Harris State Building
1515 Clay St
Oakland, CA 94612

###

Mohamed Shehk
Media and Communications Director

Critical Resistance
1904 Franklin St, Suite 504
Oakland, CA 94612
510.444.0484

Weekend in Oakland: TRAINING Aug 29, BARBEQUE Aug 30

Flier_Aug29,30

RSVP through phone 510-426-5322, email phssreachingout@gmail.com or
here: http://tinyurl.com/rsvp-phss-august2015.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) invites all family members, loved ones and formerly incarcerated individuals to a workshop on Sat, Aug 29th, and a BBQ to grow California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) on Sun, Aug 30th.  Please post/share this weekend of events, allies also welcome!
Here’s the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/106275163055639/

**SATURDAY AUGUST 29th**
PHSS Strategy Training on Ending Solitary, sponsored by American Friends Service Committee. The training will expand on Michelle Alexander’s call to action in “The New Jim Crow” to dismantle the largest penal system in the world.
10am-4pm
First Unitarian Church in Oakland, Wendte Room
685 14th St, Oakland, CA

**SUNDAY AUGUST 30th**
BBQ at Mosswood Park to grow California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC).  We hope this BBQ gathering will help family members and loved ones of people in prison and formerly incarcerated individuals continue to build a strong family base of CFASC members.
12-5pm
Mosswood Park is at 3650 Webster St., Oakland CA 94609
We’ll be at the BBQ area on Webster
Free event, food included!

Gathering under the oak trees. Eat, meet, relax, enjoy.

Continue reading

Sunday, Aug. 23rd– Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

Action Locations and Details — from San Diego to Arcata, CA to New York City  HERE

Solitary Is Torture

Honoring Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell

Long live Hugo Pinell, who showed us the power of the human spirit, that love can survive and overpower hell on earth.

________________________________________________

Beloved political prisoner Hugo ‘Yogi Bear’ Pinell, feared and hated by guards, assassinated in Black August after 46 years in solitary
August 14, 2015   by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff

Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll.

From December 1970 to 2014, when he finally had a contact visit with his mother, Yogi was allowed to come out from behind the thick glass in the visiting room and touch a loved one only once: When he married Shirley, they were given 15 minutes together. She later died.

By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo Pinell, affectionately known as Yogi Bear, was assassinated Aug. 12. The news sparked a victory celebration by  prison guards on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.

“This is revenge,” declared his close friend, fellow Black Panther veteran Kiilu Nyasha, on Hard Knock Radio Aug. 13. “They hated him as much as George Jackson. They beat him constantly, kept him totally isolated for 46 years – no window, no sunlight – but they could never break him, and that’s why they hated him.

“The only way he survived was that this man was full of love.” ….
Please read more of this excellent SF Bay View article
which includes “The Black Panther Party and Hugo Pinell”  from The Black Panther newspaper of Nov. 29, 1971

 

Hugo Pinell Presente!
August 14, 2015   by Isaac Ontiveros

….Hugo became a part of the Prison Liberation Movement, which saw the prison as a front of struggle connected to the global upsurge of oppressed people against colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy.  This was a period of intense education, organizing, and resistance among imprisoned people—some locked up as political prisoners, some transformed while inside, nearly all targeted by prison administrations for their political stances and activism.  In 1971, Hugo, along with 5 other prisoners at San Quentin State Prison in California, were charged with raising a rebellion at the facility’s Adjustment Center, during which prisoner movement leader George Jackson was assassinated.  Several weeks later, actions commemorating the assassination of Jackson by prisoners at Attica went on to spark the massive rebellion at that prison.  The story and political trial of the San Quentin Six helped people across the planet to understand the conditions inside prison, the resistance of prisoners, and the connection across the walls that the Prison Liberation Movement was trying to make.

Hugo Pinell in 2001

Hugo Pinell would go on to spend over 40 years in the solitary confinement units used to punish prisoners and break up their social, political, and religious organizations—indeed, Pinell was the longest held prisoner in solitary confinement in California, before recently being released into the general population.  Despite the torturous conditions of solitary, Hugo remained steadfast politically, and tried to stay connected to people and struggle, inside and outside the prison.  Hugo participated in the recent California Prison Hunger Strikes and was vocal supporter of prisoners’ 2011 Agreement To End Racial Hostilities.   In his late 60s while on hunger strike, Hugo talked about his activism with journalist Kilu Nyasha:

I wasn’t prepared for a hunger strike, so I don’t know how well or how long I can hold on, but I had to participate…I don’t even think in terms of doing or saying something wrong, for that would strike against everything I live for: freedom, becoming a new man and the New World. So, Sis, this hunger strike provides me with an opportunity for change while also allowing me to be in concert with, and in support of, all those willing to risk their precious and valuable health.  ….
Please read more of this tribute from Critical Resistance
Hugo Pinell- Rest in Power

August 13, 2015  by Claude Marks

We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system. ….

….As the California Prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Secure Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2012.

At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years yet his spirit was unbroken.
Please read the full writing, Hugo Pinell- Rest In Power

See Who are the San Quentin 6? flyer (from 1970’s) provided by Freedom Archives

Here is a link to the Freedom Archives San Quentin 6 collection 

brief poem by Luis ‘Bato’ Talamantez

Hasta Siempre Hugo
Solidarity forever
And we are saddened
Solidarity left
You when (it) should have
Counted for something and
What your long imprisoned
Life stood for
Now all your struggles
To be free have failed
And only death an
Inglorious and violent
Death has
Claimed you
At the hands of the
Cruel prison system
La Luta Continua

-Bato and the San Quentin 3

A short poem written by Hugo Pinell from a publication issued in 1995.

No
Matter
How long it takes,
Real Changes will come,
And the greatest personal reward
Lies in our involvement and contributions,
Even if it may appear that nothing significant
Or of impact really happened
During our times,
But it did,
Because
Every sincere effort
Is as special as every human life

-Hugo Pinell (1995)

Important Upcoming AUGUST 2015 Events

SAVE THESE DATES

⇒August 23rd, Sunday:
Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

Use this Facebook Event page to find what is happening in different locales throughout CA and across the nation on August 23rd.   Add your own action information to that Event Page or  HERE so we can post it.  Together we will End Solitary!! Here are materials you can use for your action.

⇒August 29th, Saturday and August 30th, Sunday:
Two gatherings to grow California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC)

Inviting all family members, loved ones and formerly incarcerated individuals to be a part of CFASC.  Please post/share this weekend of events in Oakland, allies also welcome!

Aug 29th, Saturday
Strategy/Organizing Training for people working to end solitary confinement and for people wanting to get involved.
10am-4pm
First Unitarian Church in Oakland, Wendte Room
685 14th St, Oakland, CA
Free event, food included!
Hosted by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS)

Aug 30th, Sunday
Barbeque at Mosswood Park, Oakland CA
12-5pm
Mosswood Park is at 3650 Webster St.
We’ll be at the BBQ area on Webster
Free event, food included! Food at 1pm

This BBQ gathering is especially for family members and loved ones of people in prison and formerly incarcerated individuals.  Help continue to build a strong family base of CFASC members.

Bring what you have to share, especially your passion for stopping the torture of long-term solitary confinement (and lawn chair, side dish, lawn game if you have them). Active participation/volunteers will be needed to make this event a success!
We’ll also take some time for reflection on the training from the day before.  Hosted by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

Contact phssreachingout@gmail.com or (510) 426-5322 for more info about the events, or to get in contact in the future.

RSVP to phssreachingout@gmail.com, 510-426-5322, or HERE

Solitary Confinement: A “Social Death” ––– New York Times on “Shocking” Data from Lawsuit [VIDEO included]

New York Times video:
Effects of Solitary Confinement

by Colin Archdeacon and Center for Constitutional Rights
Aug. 3, 2015
People imprisoned in Pelican Bay State Prison describe their experiences in long-term solitary confinement http://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000003831139/effects-of-solitary-confinement.html

Today’s New York Times science section features a front-page piece about the research that CCR commissioned and compiled for our ground-breaking challenge to long-term solitary confinement. … 10 expert reports we submitted to the court in Ashker v. Brown, the class-action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in solitary in California’s Pelican Bay prison. …
According to the expert reports, prisoners subjected to prolonged solitary experience a form of “social death” that is not cured upon release, but rather lingers as a “post-SHU syndrome” characterized by social withdrawal, isolation, and anxiety. …
The international and domestic experts agree that such prolonged isolation is not only unnecessary for prison security, but actually counter-productive, as well as a violation of international law. …
By bringing public scrutiny to the severe physical and psychological harm our clients and so many others are suffering as a result of their isolation, we hope to continue turning the tide against this form of torture until it is eradicated from the U.S. once and for all.  Read entire Center for Constitutional Rights article here: https://ccrjustice.org/home/blog/2015/08/04/solitary-confinement-social-death-nyt-shocking-data-ccr-case

New York Times article:
Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life

Nationwide Actions to Honor Two Year Anniversary of Largest Prisoner Hunger Strike in History

Media Advisory – Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Activists plan nationwide actions
to honor two year anniversary
of largest prisoner hunger strike in history

Press Contact:
Mohamed Shehk  408.910.2618 mohamed@criticalresistance.org
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) Coalition

What:     Prison activists plan nationwide mobilizations against solitary confinement

Community organizations, families and loved ones of people in solitary, and prisoner human rights advocates across California and the country will be mobilizing a day of Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement on July 23, as part of an ongoing series of monthly actions to oppose solitary confinement. July 2015 marks the two year anniversary of the largest prisoner hunger strike in history, when over 30,000 prisoners in California began refusing meals on July 8, 2013 for two months in a protest initiated by people in Pelican Bay State Prison’s solitary confinement units.

Who:   Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, as well as over 75 groups nationwide

These actions were initiated by PHSS organizations including California Families Against Solitary Confinement, California Prison Focus, Critical Resistance, Sin Barras, American Friends Service Committee, People’s Action for Rights and Community, and others, but have now grown to include over 75 groups nationwide. For a full list, visit http://tinyurl.com/STATESCsupport

When:    Thursday, July 23, 2015

Times will vary for each action – see http://tinyurl.com/ActionsAgainstSolitary for information

Where:   Over 13 cities in California and across the country, including Oakland, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, as well as in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and more. See http://tinyurl.com/ActionsAgainstSolitary for information on all planned actions.

Why:    Despite international condemnation of solitary confinement as torture, California continues to use the practice and deny basic human rights

These mobilizations are a response to a proposal from prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison involved in the 2011 and 2013 Hunger Strikes, who put forward the idea of designating a day each month as Prisoner’s Rights Day. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) refuses to respect basic human rights by continuing to keep people isolated in cells, often for many years, despite international condemnation calling on California to end its practice of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement has been defined as torture by the U.N., yet the U.S. puts more people in solitary and for longer periods than any other country, and California continues to be an outlier in the U.S. Activists are demanding an end to solitary confinement, and that the five human rights demands of prisoners who participated in the hunger strikes be met: http://tinyurl.com/FiveDemands

###

July 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement- Locations & Details

Thursday, July 23 ACTIONS by location (alphabetical order)

Arcata/Bayside, CA – Boston, MA – Chicago, IL – Culver City / Los Angeles, CA – Naples, FL – New York, NY – Oakland, CA – Philadelphia, PA – Pittsburgh, PA – San Diego, CA – San Jose, CA– Santa Cruz, CA – Santa Monica, CA – Thunderclap (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr)

If you don’t see your locale listed here, click HERE to read the entire post.  If you still don’t see your locale, we haven’t received the details yet or YOU just might need to organize a simple action where you are!!

Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) has a PHSS Facebook Event page.  SCATESC’s growing list of Co-sponsors and Endorsers is below.

 

July 23 Locations & Details (so far)

ARCATA / BAYSIDE, CA:
BreakingDownTheBox_July23 FlyerOn Thursday evening, July 23rd, come to the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to watch the excellent new film ‘Breaking Down the Box’ (40 min). We’ll have refreshments and discussion afterwards with KHS
U radio host Sista Soul and other special guests! The film event is hosted by the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee and PARC, Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community (Eureka).

Earlier in the day (location & time will be posted soon), join us in Arcata. We’ll hand out literature for people to get educated and involved now to STOP THE TORTURE that is solitary confinement.  We will also be promoting the Agreement to End Hostilities.

HERE‘s the Arcata flier!
Arcata Action Details
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm PST
Location: The Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 24 Fellowship Way, Bayside, CA  95524
For more info, call  707-267-4249
Contact Name: Verbena
Contact Email: phssreachingout@gmail.com
Facebook event
: https://www.facebook.com/events/1607915476127367/

 

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS:
The Coalition for Effective Public Safety – CEPS is engaging in public actions the 23rd of each month to bring attention to the 80,000+ people held in solitary confinement across the U.S. on any given day and to end solitary confinement. This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement in California following the Pelican Bay hunger strike initiated in 2013 by people incarcerated there in response to the deplorable conditions they were being held in. Monthly actions began in California in March 2015, and we started here in Massachusetts in June 2015.

Massachusetts is one of only three states where prisoners who commit disciplinary infractions can be placed in solitary confinement for up to ten years, even though the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a ban on any solitary confinement that lasts longer than fifteen days.

This month we are hosting a documentary screening outside about solitary confinement. More details will be posted here soon.
Massachusetts Action Details

Time and Location: will be posted here soon
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coalition-for-Effective-Public-Safety-CEPS/353915588130873
Contact person: Rachel Corey
For info or to help plan future actions: director@cjpc.org

 

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS:
The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) estimates that 2,500 – 3,000 people are held in solitary confinement in Illinois on any given day. The Federal Bureau of Prisons plans to open Thomson Supermax Prison in Thomson, IL by the end of the year, bringing 1,500 new solitary cells to the state.

The United Nations considers solitary confinement beyond 15 days torture and has called for its absolute prohibition. Many people in Illinois and throughout the US have spent decades in solitary. We say NO MORE.

All those opposed to solitary confinement are invited to rally on July 23rd outside the Thompson Center, home of IDOC before marching to the Federal Building. We demand an end to the torturous practice in Illinois, by both the state and federal government. We demand that the Illinois legislature hold a hearing to investigate solitary confinement, or what they call “Segregation” or “Administrative Detention”. We demand Thomson close its doors, as Tamms did 2.5 years ago.

This action is in solidarity with anti-solitary activists in California who have been organizing actions, events, teach-ins, and more on the 23rd of every month as part of a statewide campaign to end solitary confinement. They’ve chosen the 23rd of the month because people held in solitary spend at least 23 hours/day in isolation.
___________________________________
Learn more!  Read about Uptown People’s Law Center’s lawsuit against IDOC for their overuse of solitary confinement. Here’s
more info on Thomson Supermax. 
Chicago Action Details
Time: 5:00pm – 6:30pm CDT
Location: RALLY @
Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St, Chicago, Illinois 60601, MARCH to Federal Building
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/511219215692757/

 

CULVER CITY / LOS ANGELES, CA:
July23_ LA
Two years have passed since people confined in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison initiated (on July 8) a 60-day hunger strike to protest the conditions associated with the prison’s “security housing unit,” or SHU.  Four years have passed since the initial hunger strike began on July 1.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to claim that “there is no ‘solitary confinement’ in California’s prisons and the SHU is not ‘solitary confinement,'” but people inside the Pelican Bay State Prison’s security housing unit say they remain locked in for at least 23 hours per day.

At this event, we will present If the SHU Fits-Voices from Solitary Confinement, and follow with a session to:
* Share Stories
* Discuss Strategies to make meaningful change and
* Take Action!

“If the SHU Fits” is produced by Dramastage Qumran, LA Laborfest, & Public Works Improvisational Theatre, and supported by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

The event is a part of the Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement, a call by prisoners in solitary to their supporters outside to STOP THE TORTURE with events on the 23rd of each month, signifying the number of hours prisoners are kept in solitary.
HERE‘s the Culver City/LA flier!
Culver City Action Details
Time: 7:30pm – 9:30pm PST
Location: Peace Center, West 3916 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA90230
Contact person: Andy Griggs

For info, call 310-704-3217 or email lalaborfest@gmail.com
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1453616404940842/

 

NAPLES, FLORIDA:
Demonstration in front of the Collier County Jail on the 23rd to End Solitary Confinement.  Details will be posted here soon!

 

NEW YORK, NY:
Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement invites you to a RALLY at UNION SQUARE on July 23rd.  (Meet by steps on  south side, by E. 14th and Broadway)

Every day in New York prisons and jails, there are more than 5,000 people in solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation. There, they spend 23 hours a day locked in a cell about the size of an elevator. In isolated confinement, people are left with nothing to do, no programs, no one to talk to, and no human touch. In these torturous conditions, people experience intense suffering and, often, severe psychological and physical damage. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture determined that keeping a person in solitary more than 15 days is torture; New York regularly holds people in solitary for months and years, and sometimes decades.

Join us on the 23rd of every month in the fight to end solitary confinement. We are joining allies around the country who are holding monthly actions based on the recommendation of people incarcerated in Pelican Bay prison who led the momentous hunger strikes in California.

People in solitary need you.
Together we can HALT solitary confinement and end torture in New York State.
New York City Action Details
Time: 6:00pm EST
Location: Union Square- meet by steps on south side, by E. 14th and Broadway
Contact email: caicny@gmail.com
Website: http://nycaic.org/

 

OAKLAND, CA:
Thursday evening, July 23rd, the San Francisco MIME TROUPE will perform at Oakland’s Lake Merritt in back of the bandstand.

Please come volunteer to help set up the model SHU (mock solitary confinement cell) beginning at 3:30 PM.

We will distribute information and people can get a feel for the small space that 10’s of thousands of people are confined to 23+ hours a day, often for years.

Please call Penny (cell:  415-412-1969) to let us know if you can be with us for this important date. As the trial in the Pelican Bay class action lawsuit approaches in December, the public needs to know current news and see the model SHU again.

END LONG TERM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT !!
Oakland Action Details
Time: 3:30pm– Set up mock SHU
           5:00pm– Distribute literature and show mock SHU
Location: Lake Merritt, in back of Edoff Memorial Band Stand, Oakland, CA 94610
Contact email: phssreachingout@gmail.com

Contact person: Penny
For more info, call 415-412-1969

Continue reading

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four Years and Still Fighting

Originally published in Counterpunch

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013—both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

The organization of hunger strikes in 2011 surprised many, especially the CDCr – the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the lower case ‘r’ by most prison writers derides the Orwellian use of the word rehabilitation), the media, and much of the public.

Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle. Among prisoners, the strikes of 2011-2013 were compared to the Attica Rebellion of 1971. Shortly before that rebellion, prisoners at Attica refused to speak or eat in the facility’s chow hall, paying tribute to Black Panther Party member and California prison movement leader George Jackson, who had been assassinated at San Quentin prison August 21st. Jackson was a skilled and effective leader who connected the human rights demands of prisoners to revolutionary ideas both globally and in the streets. He argued with powerful clarity that racist and exploitive power relations could and should be changed through political and military struggle, and that Black liberation was achievable as part of an international struggle to destroy imperialism. Within the prisons, he built unity across racial lines – thinking that a unified prison movement could succeed in winning basic human rights both within the cages and in oppressed communities. While the state obviously found Jackson’s ideas and example extremely dangerous, many prisoners and community members found them a clarion call for action.

On September 9th 1971, Attica erupted. Led by prisoners affiliated with the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and the Five Percenters, the rebellion seized control of several large areas of the prison and issued a manifesto demanding, among other things, better health conditions, an end to political persecution of prisoners, and a right to organize or join labor unions (these demands were very similar to the Folsom Prison manifesto written in California in 1970). After four days of negotiations, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered that the prison be retaken – in the ensuing brutal military assault 39 people were killed by state police and prison guards.

While Attica is one of the most remembered uprisings, between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, there were over three hundred prison rebellions across the US, including those at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 1973, the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1972-3, the August Rebellion in 1974 at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York State, a 1975 demonstration at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women, and the Penitentiary of New Mexico in 1980.

In response to these militant uprisings, prisons developed unprecedented strategies of repression, isolation and for a time resistance took less dramatic forms. Yet prisoners were still inspired to resist. In one example, in 1995 women in CA state prisons initiated a class action law suit against genocidal health care conditions and successfully organized family members and allies across the state to support them.

Prisoners in California in 2011-2013 organized against the very policies, strategies, and technology that had been put into place to neutralize the rebellions of previous decades (both inside and outside prison)—including solitary confinement, gang validation (which includes the criminalization of George Jackson’s writings), and the gutting of educational programming. In turn, prisoners used similar historic strategies – collective direct action, multiracial unity, and building strong support and solidarity networks on the outside. Continue reading