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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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

LIBERATE THE CAGED VOICES community event — May 22

LIBERATE THE CAGED VOICES
A series by California Prison Focus (CPF)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019
7:00pm-9:00pm

The Octopus Literary Salon
2101 Webster St #170
Oakland, CA 94612

Build solidarity! Engage with imprisoned community members through their stories, letters and poetry.

An interactive event to shift the narrative, and find out what’s really going on in California’s prisons.

Speakers, music and audience participation.

$5-$20 donation appreciated. No one turned away for lack of funds.

For questions, contact@prisons.org
www.prisons.org


California Prison Focus (CPF) is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to exposing the abuse, violation, and neglect of basic human rights concerning our community members behind bars. CPF publishes a quarterly newsletter, providing a platform for otherwise silenced voices of those on the inside and continues to fight for ending solitary confinement torture. Founded in 1991, the all-volunteer group operates entirely on individual donations and small grants.

CPF is a founding member of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

 

Support Hunger Strikers in Corcoran State Prison – SOLIDARITY PROTESTS 2/16 & 2/17

Prisoners are hunger striking against indefinite lockdown and group punishment.

Corcoran HS support Feb 2019

 Corcoran State Prison Protest outside
→ in solidarity with people inside who are peacefully protesting against torture ←

Sat & Sun/Feb 16 and 17
11:00am – 2:30pm (both days)

in front of Corcoran State Prison entrance
Corcoran, CA 93212

Families are mobilizing for this weekend’s protests.
Please participate if you can!!

Contact number:  562.537.7068.

On Jan. 9, 2019, an estimated 250 prisoners went on hunger strike within Corcoran State Prison’s 3C facility in response to an indefinite lockdown. They have asked that this info be made public and that their DEMANDS BE HEARD.

corcoran_demands

Corcoran State Prison (3C Yrd)
SIX CORE DEMANDS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

  1. Lift Lock-Down.
  2. Allow Visits.
  3. Allow Us To Attend Educational, Vocational & Rehabilitation Programs That We’re Enrolled In.
  4. Allow Us To Receive Commissary & Packages.
  5. That We Be Given Our Weekly 10 Hrs Of Mandated Outdoor Exercise Yard.
  6. That We Are Treated Fairly.

***WE’VE BEEN ON THIS PEACEFUL HUNGER STRIKE SINCE JANUARY 9TH, 2019 AND HAVE YET TO SEE CHANGE… WE WILL CONTINUE THIS HUNGER STRIKE UNTIL OUR VOICES ARE HEARD.

UPDATE: On January 9, 2019, an estimated 250 prisoners initiated a hunger strike within California State Prison – Corcoran’s 3C facility in response to an indefinite lockdown. On Jan 28, after three weeks of refusing food trays, the warden met with representatives, granted full canteen privileges and promised to work out a separate yard schedule. The strikers suspended their hunger strike and were ready to continue negotiations in good faith.

Over the last two weeks there has been NO PROGRESS on receiving full canteen or separate yard time. The warden has reneged on all pledges so the strikers of 3C refused breakfast trays on Monday, Feb 11 and held a day long noise demo banging on doors and windows. The initial demands remain and strikers insist that they be dealt with in good faith.

BACKGROUND: All units within Corcoran’s 3C facility have been on “modified program” for four months now. This essentially means a “lockdown” in all meaningful aspects – no visitation, no canteen, no packages, no educational, rehab or vocational programming, and little yard time.

The pretext for this indefinite lockdown by CDCr of hundreds of prisoners for months on end is an altercation on Sept. 28 which saw three prisoners from their unit attacked and put into the infirmary. Group punishments and indefinite isolation are standard practices by CDCr and must stop.

These practices only escalate trauma and conflict and ultimately only promote violence and destabilization within facilities. The effects are not an accident or “regrettable by-products.” This is how CDCr interprets its mission: control by brutalization and division.

The above info is from the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.
See more articles and interviews about the strike below.

PLEASE MAKE PHONE CALLS!

The hunger strike representatives have requested phone calls be made to officials in Sacramento to amplify the demands.

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Sacramento RALLY & COURT SOLIDARITY to End Sleep Deprivation in CA Solitary Confinement — FRIDAY, MAY 18

Jorge Rico is incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison and has brought a civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the loud “security/welfare checks” that he (and others) in Pelican Bay’s solitary units endure every 30-60 minutes 24/7. These so-called “checks”- done by guards – wake and disturb prisoners day and night causing serious sleep deprivation and, as his lawsuit claims, constitute cruel and unusual punishment.as his lawsuit claims, constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (The guards do no checking on top of that). Sleep deprivation is internationally recognized as torture.

Please RALLY at 9am on May 18 in support of Jorge Rico’s case against the “security/welfare checks” and in public outrage against the jarring noise and sleep deprivation they cause. At 10am, after the rally, help form a STRONG COURTROOM PRESENCE at the hearing in his case.  Show solidarity with Jorge Rico while his attorneys argue that his case should not be dismissed at CDCR’s request.

The CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will argue for the court to dismiss Jorge’s civil rights case. Jorge’s lawyers will argue that the case against CDCR administrators, guards, and wardens, must move forward. HERE is a link to Jorge Rico’s Opposition to CDCR’s motion to dismiss.

The PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation asks you to help make a powerful showing of solidarity with Jorge and all people in CA solitary confinement who are suffering from the checks, and who cannot be in the courtroom or outside rallying and speaking about their experience.


Friday, May 18, 2018
Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse, 501 I St., Sacramento, CA 95814

Sacramento Federal Court/Eastern District
Case name and number: Rico v. Beard  2:17-cv-01402-KJM-DB

9:00am RALLY outside the Courthouse
10:00am COURTROOM SOLIDARITY with Jorge Rico,
prisoner who brought this case (Crtrm #27, 8th Floor)

After the hearing, Jorge’s attorney, Kate Falkenstein, will be available briefly outside the courthouse to speak with community supporters and media.

Note: You must show ID and pass through a metal detector to get inside the Courthouse.


'Solitary Confinement Security Welfare Checks' art by Jaime Amesquita

Artwork by Jaime Amesquita, in High Desert State Prison. “I’m hoping that maybe through the publishing of my art I can bring attention to the long term effects brought by security/welfare checks, like sleep deprivation or PTSD.”

One way CDCR is attempting to get rid of the civil rights cases against the checks is by claiming that the guards and administrators causing the sleep deprivation and harm are only ‘following orders’ and not violating any clearly established right. We recall these words from a person in Pelican Bay solitary, who, like Jorge, has been subjected to the checks’ loud, reverberating banging noise every 30 minutes 24/7 in a small, enclosed concrete and metal cell:

“For decades, military and police forces have used extreme isolation, sleep deprivation and constant banging/noise to cause mental/physical torment and try to break a person’s mind or human will to resist questioning. These are so-called clean torture methods. So CDCR/Pelican Bay State Prison cannot possibly claim, ‘We did not know the cause or effect of this new program’s use of extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, and constant noise/banging.’”

Jorge’s Opposition to CDCR’s Motion to Dismiss quotes the court in another current federal case challenging the checks, Matthews v. Holland:

“It has been clearly established in the Ninth Circuit, since the 1990s, that inmates are entitled to conditions of confinement which do not result in chronic, long term sleep deprivation.” 

These “security/welfare checks” have been occurring for almost three years in Pelican Bay State Prison.

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3/28/18 Liberate The Caged Voices event

LIBERATE THE CAGED VOICES
#1 in a series by California Prison Focus

Build Solidarity
Engage with our caged community members through their stories, letters, and poetry.

Speakers, music, and audience participation.

7:30pm – 9:30pm
Octopus Literary Salon, 2101 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94612

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/837542906455693/

PTSD SC: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Baridi J. Williamson

published in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper:
http://sfbayview.com/2018/02/ptsd-sc-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-solitary-confinement/

California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) had been locking classes of prisoners up in solitary confinement since the ‘60s as part of CDCr’s para-military low-intensity warfare, to break the minds and spirits of its subjects, California’s prisoner class. CDCr’s solitary confinement has two operating components: 1) punishing you and 2) physically and mentally destroying you.

In the 1970s, CDCr’s report to then Gov. Ronald Reagan on revolutionary organizations and gangs resulted in Reagan ordering the CDCr director to lock up all radicals, militants, revolutionaries and jailhouse lawyers who were considered “trouble-makers.”[i] And a 1986 report by the CDCr task force stated that during the ‘60s and ‘70s, California’s prisoners became “politicized” through the influence of outside “radical, social movements.”

And conscious prisoners began to “demand” their human, constitutional and civil rights,[ii] as exemplified by those politicized prisoners of war (PPOW) like W.L. Nolen.[iii] In the late ‘60s, Nolen and other PPOWs filed a civil rights class action case challenging the inhumane, degrading conditions and institutional racism that was prevalent at Soledad Prison’s solitary confinement O-wing,[iv] as well as throughout CDCr’s prison system to date.

The 1986 CDCr task force report recommended that CDCr build “supermax” prisons for this politicized class of prisoners, which was echoed by the California prison guards’ union (known today as CCPOA) in continuing their low-intensity warfare upon California prisoners up into and through the ‘80s.

Shortly thereafter, California government through its apparatus CDCr, built its solitary confinement torture sites, such as Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation (Ad-Segs) at Tehachapi in December 1986, New Folsom in December 1987, Corcoran in December 1988 and at Pelican Bay State Prison in December of 1989. All were designed with the malicious intent to destroy human lives through their diabolical low-intensity warfare scheme of mass validation – group punishment – indeterminate SHU classification and enhanced “debriefing” interrogation, known as “snitch, parole or die!”

Each of California’s governors and CDCr cabinet secretaries from 1977 to 2015 knowingly enhanced their system to become more repressive upon the prisoners held in solitary confinement in the SHUs. We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

California’s CDCr – with the winks and nods of lawmakers and judges – has held countless prisoners in solitary confinement, whether it is called Ad-Seg, Management Control Unit, Adjustment Center, SHU or Administrative SHU, longer than any prison system within the United States, ranging up to 45 years of torture and acts of racial discrimination from Soledad Prison’s O-wing to PBSP’s new form of solitary confinement torture.

The case of Madrid v. Gomez was the first acknowledgement on the part of California authorities and judiciary recognizing the harm that CDCr had been causing – mental torture – to those held in solitary confinement across the state’s prison system.[v]

We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

The Madrid case touched on the harsh conditions and treatment toward the solitary confinement prisoners at PBSP. It is a clear fact that during the years 1989 to 1994, PBSP had one of the most notorious Violence Control Units (VCUs) in the U.S. CDCr-PBSP officials utilized the VCU for to violate prisoners’ human, constitutional and civil rights by beating us and destroying the minds and spirits of so many of us for years.

An example of how some prisoners would find themselves forced into PBSP’s VCU is when the CDCr bus would arrive at PBSP and park outside the entrance doorway to solitary confinement – Facilities C and D. A squad of goons dressed in paramilitary gear with black gloves, shields and riot helmets would be there waiting. They called themselves the “Welcoming Committee.”

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating, and scalding prisoners. See Madrid v. Gomez.

The Welcoming Committee would select one or more prisoners and pull them off the bus – usually choosing those the transportation guards accused of “talking loud.” They would take each one to the side and jump on him, then drag him off through the brightly lighted doorway.

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating, and scalding prisoners.

When the rest of the prisoners were escorted off the bus into the corridor to be warehoused in the general SHU cells, they would see those beaten prisoners dragged off the bus “hog-tied”[vi] and lying on their stomachs or crouched in a fetal position, sometimes in a pool of blood.[vii] Later, they were dragged off to the VCU, where they were targeted with intense mind-breaking operations.

When these prisoners were eventually taken out of VCU and housed in the general SHU cells, they mostly displayed insanity – smearing feces all over their bodies, screaming, yelling, banging cups, throwing urine.[viii] And it was only when prisoners began to go public about the VCU at PBSP that CDCr ceased those practices.[ix]

The effects of solitary confinement at PBSP compelled CDCr to establish Psychiatric Service Units (PSUs) in response to the Madrid ruling for remedying the conditions that were destroying the minds of all prisoners who were held captive from the time of the Madrid ruling in 1995 through 2014, but they were poor and ineffective. Those released to the PSU from SHU fared no better than others held in solitary confinement at PBSP.

Prisoners in SHU continued to suffer mental, emotional and physical harm with no remedy made available by CDCr until we were released out to General Population units by the Departmental Review Board (DRB) between 2012 and 2014 and the Ashker v. Brown class action settlement in 2015.

These released prisoners were coming from a torture chamber, where by necessity they created coping skills like self-medicating. Typically, when coming out of solitary confinement, women and men prisoners show signs of depressive disorder and symptoms characteristic of self-mutilation, mood deterioration and depression, traumatic stress disorder, hopelessness, panic disorder, anger, obsessive-compulsive disorder, irritability, anhedonia, fatigue, feelings of guilt, loss of appetite, nervousness, insomnia, worry, increased heart rate and respiration, sweating, hyperarousal, serious problems with socialization, paranoia, loss of appetite, as well as cognitive issues, nightmares, muscle tension, intrusive thoughts, fear of losing control, and difficulty concentrating.[x]

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To Prisoner Class Supporters from Todd Ashker (w/proposed Open Letter to Gov. Brown)

To Whom It May Concern,
To Prisoner Class Supporters
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
California Families Against Solitary Confinement
and Public, etc.

From Todd Ashker
C58191 KVSP – ASU- 2/194
Box 5106
Delano, CA 93216

December 5, 2017

This is a follow-up to our October 2017, Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement, “Statement of Prisoner Representatives on Second Anniversary of Ashker v. Brown Settlement.”

In our collective October 2017 “Statement,” we stressed the importance that “…prisoners and our families will have to re-energize the human rights movement, to fight against the continuing violations of our rights.” … reminding all involved, “We must stand together, not only for ourselves, but for future generations of prisoners, so that they don’t have to go through the years of torture that we had to.”

With this in mind, I am sharing a copy of my proposed “Open Letter to Governor Brown, Legislators, and CDCR Secretary Kernan, RE: Attention to Ongoing Human Rights Violations and Related Lack of Reparative Action Necessary To Begin Making Amends for 3+ Decades of Systematically Intentional, State-Sanctioned Torture” …with the hope of helping to re-energize our movement, by gaining wide-spread support for the position/s presented in the “Open Letter.”

As many are aware, our current collective movement began in the bowels of Pelican Bay State Prison – SHU – Short Corridor, wherein prisoners of all races and various geographical areas, became openly conscious of what we had in common- rather than what was different (divisive); we recognized we’d all been subjected to the same adversary’s boots on our necks, all members of a prisoner class subjected to decades of solitary confinement torture.

We became aware of the fact that those of us serving “term-to-life” sentences, were all akin to the living dead, our existence being that of a mind numbing, spirit destroying, endless nightmare. I believe coming together in the “short corridor” wherein we witnessed the toll of our slow decay- together with the prisoncrats progressively punitive, oppressive provocations- was one cause of our awakening, leading to us coming together as the “PBSP – SHU, Short Corridor Collective.”

Our struggle was focused on ending long-term solitary confinement [and improvements to conditions therein]. We stood up together and collectively.  We educated our loved ones and general public about what had been in society’s shadow for far too long. We publicly “drew the line” and said, “No More!”

As a committed collective of fellow human beings (a large majority hailing from working class, poor communities) we lead our struggle — from behind the walls – putting our lives in the balance… at that point, our lives being all we had… We demanded an end to our torture, based on our inherent right – as human beings – to humane treatment, inclusive of dignity and respect for ourselves, our loved ones, and the unfortunate generations to follow.

Notably, our collective membership had been the subject of the states’ decades-long ‘war against the working-class poor, tough-on-crime’ (focused and applied mainly upon the poor), politicized, vilified, and branded as “The Worst of The Worst” in order to justify our subjection to endless torture (lasting more than 30 years)!

In this climate, we came together and utilized non-violent, peaceful protest action, mass hunger strikes and work stoppages, which, together with the support of our awakened loved ones, and countless other people of conscience outside the walls (while all along, suffering with us), exposed our plight to the world community.

In 2012, we introduced our collective “Agreement to End Race-Based Hostilities,” making clear our united intent to no longer be the source of our mutual adversary’s manipulation tactics – centered on keeping us divided and violent towards one another, (thereby used to justify our adversaries agenda – supermax, indefinite warehousing); and thereby demonstrating our humanity in the face of the provocations of our oppressive torturers. We pointed out the fact that, in the absence of race-based violence, our mutual adversary/s would be forced to end their policy of warehousing us in the small cells indefinitely, and open the prisons up for meaningful programming and privileges- beneficial to the prisoner class.

I mention the above points as important reminders of the fact that the main basis for the success we’ve achieved to date has been Our Collective Unity Inside and Outside the prison walls, making strategic use of combined litigation, and peaceful activism- action tools, which, together with our related collective belief in and commitment to Our Cause, is a great example of “The Power Of The People.”

It’s also true that with the progress comes responsibility; we must be vigilant with respect to maintaining, and crucially building on our achievements. The responsibility is ours for doing so. “The novelist Aldous Huxley once said: ‘Liberties are not given; they are taken.’ We are not given our liberties by the Bill of Rights, certainly not by the government which either violates or ignores those rights.  We take our rights, as thinking, acting citizens.” [quoting from Howard Zinn’s The Zinn Reader – Writings On Disobedience & Democracy (1997) at p. 418]

Our adversaries are constantly resisting any change beneficial to the prisoner class! History demonstrates the importance of our need to stand together collectively, and refuse to allow those in power (at the will of the People) to halt our progressive movements’ demands for human rights and real justice, because, historically, every class action, civil-suit ‘victory’ for the prisoner class in California has been manipulated by prisoncrats to the ultimate detriment of those that such ‘victory’ was intended to benefit. It’s a non-stop battle!

What I greatly appreciate, and respect, about our Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement, is what I hope is our part in society’s evolutionary leap in collective human consciousness. Standout examples of this for me, go back to the Arab Spring (2010, I believe), followed by the August 2010 massive Georgia Prison, system-wide work strike, and the January 2011 Hunger Strike at Ohio State Prison.

Reflecting on the above, as well as our historic, collective group mass hunger strike protests across the California system, of 2011-2013, brings to mind an often quoted phrase (as a sort of benchmark of what’s wrong with society) that of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, reflecting on his own incarceration, famously said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” Our collective coming together in the context of having been demonized – tortured over 3 decades – composed of working class poor, facing extreme adversity for a powerful, well-funded adversary… toppled (to an extent- losing their supermax jewel, PBSP SHU) by our peaceful protests, and related Global Condemnation (and litigation), epitomizes a great side of our society! I hope it’s an example of a growing social revolutionary process.

Related to the above, and to our common struggle in general, I want to share a few excerpts from The Zinn Reader, a bit of food-for-thought.

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Support Operation PUSH Prisoner Strike throughout Florida prison system, initiated on MLK Day

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition stands in solidarity with the Florida Prison Strikers.

Stay informed and updated with links below. Please help amplify the striking prisoners’ voices.

These are the strikers’ demands (in their words):
1. Payment for our labor, rather than the current slave arrangement
2. Ending outrageous canteen prices
3. Reintroducing parole incentives to lifers and those with Buck Rogers dates

Along with these primary demands, we are also expressing our support for the following goals:

• Stop the overcrowding and acts of brutality committed by officers throughout FDOC which have resulted in the highest death rates in prison history.
• Expose the environmental conditions we face, like extreme temperatures, mold, contaminated water, and being placed next to toxic sites such as landfills, military bases and phosphate mines (including a proposed mine which would surround the Reception and Medical Center prison in Lake Butler).
• Honor the moratorium on state executions, as a court-ordered the state to do, without the legal loophole now being used to kill prisoners on death row.
• Restore voting rights as a basic human right to all, not a privilege, regardless of criminal convictions.

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Supporters of Operation PUSH march in solidarity with prisoners on Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, Gainesville, FL, Jan 15, 2018. (Photo from Fighting Toxic Prisons)

Florida Prisoners Are Laying It Down
with a work stoppage, an economic protest

Prisoners’ Statement: FL Prisoners Call for Operation PUSH to Improve the Lives of Incarcerated People and the Communities We Come From (with intro from Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons) https://fighttoxicprisons.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/fl-prisoners-announce-operation-push-starting-jan-15-to-cripple-prison-system/

Great Audio Interview: Oakland IWOC speaking on Operation PUSH on KPFA with Cat Brooks Jan 23, 2018 https://soundcloud.com/oakland-iwoc/oakland-iwoc-speaking-on-operation-push-on-kpfa-upfront-with-cat-brooks

Jan 19, 2018 Update on Operation PUSH (originally posted on SPARC) https://fighttoxicprisons.wordpress.com/2018/01/20/updates-on-operation-push-in-the-florida-department-of-corrections/

Are Florida prisons suppressing an inmate strike or just lying about it?
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/01/24/are-florida-prisons-suppressing-an-inmate-strike-or-just-lying-about-it/?utm_term=.8b74c32b7067

Florida Officials Deny Operation PUSH Is Ongoing, Even As They Retaliate Against Prisoners https://shadowproof.com/2018/01/25/operation-push-update/

Please stay updated through these sites:

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Recent Call to Action! Demand Florida DOC Stop Torturing Rashid Johnson

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson (#158039) wrote an article about the Florida prison strike, “Florida Prisoners Are Laying it Down” which was published online on January 9, 2018. The following day warden Barry Reddish retaliated against Rashid’s use of his First Amendment rights, ordering that he be given a disciplinary infraction for “inciting a riot”. Further, on January 19th Rashid was thrown in a cold cell, with a broken toilet, no heating, and with a window that will not fully close, allowing cold wind to blow into the cell. The cell has the same temperature as the outside, where temperatures have been repeatedly at or below freezing.  Kevin “Rashid” Johnson was not allowed communication with his attorney or anyone on the outside for 6 days.

UPDATE: People made many calls to the warden in the prison where Rashid is being held.

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STATEMENT OF PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES ON SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF Ashker v. Brown SETTLEMENT

Oct 14, 2017 marks the 2 year anniversary of the approval of the Ashker settlement. We celebrate our victory in the Ashker case, in which virtually all of the over 1600 prisoners then languishing in indeterminate SHU were released to General Population. This victory was achieved through 3 hunger strikes and the non-violent legal and political action of thousands of California prisoners, their families, supporters, and their attorneys.

However, unfortunately our general monitoring is due to run out after two years unless the Court grants an extension. We believe that CDCR is still engaged in constitutional violations that deny prisoners due process and seeks to put us back in the hole, for many, indeterminately under the guise of Administrative SHU.  Our attorneys will seek an extension of the agreement due to CDCR’s systemic violations of the Constitution.  We don’t know what the Court will do, but we do know that prisoners and their families have to re-energize our human rights movement to fight against the continuing violations of our rights. Examples are:

·       CDCR’s continued misuse of Confidential Information to place prisoners back in the SHU, particularly with bogus conspiracy charges;

·       The lack of out of cell time, programming and vocational programs in Level 4 prisons. The last letter of CDCR stands for rehabilitation, and there is almost no rehab programs and opportunities in the level 4 prisons. They function like modified SHUs;

·       The denial of parole to lifers and Prop 57 prisoners who have clean records simply because of old, unconstitutional gang validations and CDCR’s illegally housing us in SHU for years;

·       The turning of the Restrictive Custody General Population Unit which was supposed to be a GP unit where prisoners who had real safety concerns could transition to regular GP, into a purgatory where the only way out is to either debrief or die;

·        CDCR promulgation of new regulations which gives the ICC discretion to put people back in the SHU, allows for many prisoners to be placed in the future in indeterminate Administrative SHU, or to be placed in the RCGP on phony safety concerns.

We must stand together, not only for ourselves, but for future generations of prisoners, so that they don’t have to go through the years of torture that we had to. We need all prisoners – young and old -to make our collective outcry public to ensure that the victory that we have won is not reversed by CDCR behind closed doors. Ultimately, we are the ones who are responsible for leading the struggle for justice and fair treatment of prisoners. That is why we entered into the historic Agreement to End Hostilities, and why it is so important that the prisoner class continue to stand by and support that agreement. We cannot allow our victories to be nullified by CDCR’s abuse of power, and may have to commit ourselves to non-violent peaceful struggle if CDCR continues on its present path.

We need everyone- prisoners, their families and the public – to send comments on CDCR’s proposed regulations to staff@aol.ca.gov, send emails and letters urging Gov Brown to sign Assembly Bill 1308*, make sure that prisoner complaints about unfair treatment are publicized, and to work together to rebuild our prisoners human rights movement.

We cannot let CDCR increase its use of prolonged solitary confinement either by misusing confidential information to place prisoners in SHU on phony conspiracy charges, or through increasing the use of Administrative SHU. As the Supreme Court stated over one hundred years ago in the 1879 case of Wilkerson v. Utah,  it is “safe to affirm that punishment of torture… and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty are forbidden by that [the Eighth] Amendment.” The admired historian Howard Zinn noted the application of that decision to the modern SHU:  “All we need then, is general recognition that to imprison a person inside a cage, to deprive that person of human companionship, of mother and father and wife and children and friends, to treat that person as a subordinate creature, to subject that person to daily humiliation and reminder of his or her own powerlessness in the face of authority… is indeed torture and thus falls within the decision of the Supreme Court a hundred years ago.”

    Sitawa (S/N Ronnie Dewberry), Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker, George Franco

* AB 1308 became law on Oct 11, 2017