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 

Indefinite Solitary Confinement Ends in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center / Death Row

Links to the articles and radio interview in this post:

______________________

Indefinite Solitary Confinement Ends at San Quentin

on Death Penalty Focus Blog / March 10, 2017

Death row inmates will no longer be kept in indefinite solitary confinement in San Quentin State Prison, it was announced Monday [March 6]. The agreement was part of a settlement of a 2015 lawsuit filed on behalf of six inmates who were held indefinitely in what is called an “adjustment center” because they were suspected of being gang members. When the lawsuit was filed, there were some 100 inmates being held in the adjustment center. Since then, the number has fluctuated from around 10 to 22 inmates.

“Basically, these guys were housed there for 23 hours a day,” says Oakland attorney Dan Siegel, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the six inmates. “They got one hour three times a week in the yard. They had no human contact. The cells were like closed boxes, no windows. And they’ve been there for years and years. It takes a toll — emotionally, psychologically, and physically.”

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Mon, Feb 24 – Support Kambui in Court

Update: Kambui’s hearing was postponed to Feb. 24th

KAMBUI NEEDS OUR SUPPORT AND PRESENCE IN COURT. THE SYSTEM WANTS TO EXECUTE HIM.

kambui-robinson

Kambui Robinson was in solitary torture chambers in California for many years.
Kambui participated in all three peaceful hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, and wrote accounts of the struggle at Corcoran. He was released from Corcoran SHU in 2015. Now he is at New Folsom.  Kambui is part of the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism (N.A.R.N.) Collective Think Tank.  Read some of their writings here: https://narncollective.wordpress.com/articles-by-nctt-cor-shu-members/

You can also find articles under “Kambui” in the SF Bay View
He needs our support at this time
Kambui was incarcerated in SHU for decades. Now the same system that incarcerated him in those horrifying conditions wants to kill him.

Please support Kambui by coming to court when he appears for the third day in this trial. 

December 19th  Feb 24th   Monday, 9:00 AM

Kings County Courthouse

1640 Kings County Drive, Hanford CA 93230

3rd Floor, Dept.6

DIRECTIONS 
Hanford is west of Visalia [on Hwy 99]

CLICK HERE for more detailed directions and travel info.

RIDESHARE
If you would like to carpool to the Kings County Courthouse to support Kambui, please call Penny at 415.412.1969

WRITE KAMBUI AT:
Kambui Tyrone Robinson, C83830
P.O.Box 290066
Represa, CA 95671

Report back from Prisoner Representatives’ first monitoring meeting with CDCR

published by the Center for Constitutional Rights
May 23, 2016

Last September, in Ashker v. Governor of California, California prisoners reached an historic settlement agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) that is bringing an end to indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. The Settlement Agreement includes hard-won (and unprecedented) periodic meetings between the CDCR and the prisoners who initiated the lawsuit and led the protests against long term solitary confinement. Below is a report back from the first of these meetings, from lead plaintiff in the case and prisoner representative, Todd Ashker.

I was very pleased to participate in this historic meeting with CDCR officials, which we negotiated in our Settlement Agreement.  I think it is the first time that representatives of prisoners have had this kind of discussion with leaders of any correction department; it is certainly the only time it has happened here in California, the world’s largest prison system.  We were especially pleased that high-ranking prison officials were at the meeting.

At the beginning of this first meeting, it became clear that there was a misunderstanding about its function.  CDCR thought the meeting was for us to listen to them.  Why would we put a term into our Settlement that would have us listen to them?  We listen to them every second of our lives.   We see the purpose of these calls as an opportunity for us to be heard and to have a discussion with people in authority.

Despite this initial confusion, we were able to lead the meeting. CDCR got unfiltered information from prisoners who know what is going on in their prison cells and yards.  We are a leadership group the CDCR knows.  They know we have integrity.  The information we shared at the meeting came not only from the experiences of us four main reps, but also from the other veterans of the SHU, members of our class who have written and met with our attorneys.

We raised in strong terms that some of us who have made it to General Population yards are essentially in modified SHUs (Security Housing Units), in some respects worse than Pelican Bay SHU, although in some respects better.   Conditions, policies and practices that we are experiencing in some of the General Population yards are not what we expected when we settled our case.  After spending decades in solitary we cannot accept many of these conditions.  Too many prisoners are simply warehoused, and there are not enough jobs or programs to give us skills, engage our minds and prepare us to return to our communities.  Guards need training in ‘professional’ behavior.   Bullying and humiliation should never be tolerated.

CDCR may have been surprised at the tenor, strength and substance of our approach.   We expect at the next meeting, we will all understand the agenda and purpose well ahead of time.   We also think a longer meeting will allow for a full discussion and useful interaction.  We hope CDCR officials come to welcome these historic meetings as useful because they will be if prisoners’ perspectives are heard, used and received by them.

CA state court : Prisoner Can’t Be Punished for Hunger Strike

  • Below is the April 23, 2016 article from SF Gate/San Francisco Chronicle (minus photos and video in the article)
  • Court’s full decision at the bottom of the post.

State court rules prisoners can’t be punished for hunger strike

http://m.sfgate.com/news/article/State-court-rules-prisoners-can-t-be-punished-7305577.php

A state appeals court says a California prisoner who took part in a mass hunger strike protesting long-term solitary confinement should not have been punished for disorderly behavior because he did not disrupt prison operations or endanger anyone.

Although the 2013 hunger strike, which involved as many as 30,000 inmates across the state, may have affected the workload of prison staff members, there was no evidence of “a breakdown of order” or any threat of violence, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in the case of a former inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison.

The ruling, issued last month, was published Friday as a precedent for future cases. In addition to overturning a 90-day sentencing increase for the inmate, the decision could help numerous hunger strikers whose prison conduct is scrutinized by parole boards, said an attorney in the case, Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

For inmates serving life sentences with the possibility of parole, “the parole board is citing the hunger strike as a reason to keep them in prison, because of their ongoing criminal mentality,” Strickman said.

“We hope to use this opinion to try to educate the parole board,” she added. “You might say it makes you more suitable (for release), engaging in nonviolent protest. People could see it as good citizenship.”

The inmate, Jorge Gomez, was sent to Pelican Bay, in Del Norte County, in 2000 and was transferred three years later to the prison’s Security Housing Unit, where he was kept in solitary confinement for more than a decade. In July 2013, he refused to eat for four days and, after the third day, was cited for a “serious” violation of prison rules for taking part in a hunger strike.

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Historic settlement to end CA indefinite solitary confinement finalized in court

For Immediate Release – Wednesday, January 27, 2016

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

OAKLAND – On Tuesday, Federal Judge Claudia Wilken approved the final agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California calling it humane, innovative and fair. Prisoners celebrated the settlement agreement, whose terms were agreed on last September, claiming it as a victory that bolstered their struggle for human rights.

Anne Weills, one of the attorneys representing the prisoners, pointed out that “what was missing from the courtroom were all the prisoners who risked their lives in the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013.” She went on to say, “Yes, our litigation team did the best we could to bring our clients out of indefinite solitary confinement and into the light of day – but there is no doubt that we could not have gotten where we have with this settlement without the leadership of the brilliant, courageous, fearless and enlightened men in the Short Corridor at Pelican Bay who in 2011 set this all in motion.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights released data showing the agreement has already led to the transfer of hundreds of prisoners from segregated housing units back to the state’s general prison population.

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Mon, Dec 28 Rally in San Francisco: STOP SLEEP DEPRIVATION TORTURE at PELICAN BAY!

RALLY MON. DEC. 28, 2015, 10AM in SAN FRANCISCO,
AND MAKE PHONE CALLS.
Share the Facebook event and invite your friends!

Join the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition on Monday, December 28th outside the San Francisco Federal Courthouse (450 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102) for a rally against the so-called “welfare checks, that since August 2nd, have been waking up men in Pelican Bay SHU (solitary confinement) every 20-30 minutes, 24/7.

As of December 28th, these men will have been tortured with sleep deprivation for 148 days!

Lawyers and CDCr officials will be meeting inside SF Federal Court at 11:00am. We want to show them that these checks are TORTURE and that they need to STOP NOW!

We know that interrupted sleep can cause serious mental and physical health problems. John R. Martinez, who has been in Pelican Bay SHU for over a decade, …wrote: “…there is a reasonable probability that life-threatening injuries and/or even death is inevitable, as medical symptoms are only worsening but not being treated.”  CDCr claims the checks are to prevent suicide, but knowing these detrimental effects of sleep deprivation, we’re worried the checks could actually lead to someone committing suicide or developing permanent disabling, and potentially terminal illnesses and conditions.

OTHER ACTIONS you can take (without leaving your home!):

1. Call to advocate for the 30 minute checks to stop, stating that sleep deprivation is torture. Some offices may require your name, city, and zip code.

•CDCR Secretary’s Office: 916-323-6001
•CDCR Director of Adult Divisions, Kelly Harrington (he): 916-445-7688
•Senator Loni Hancock, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee: 916-651-4009
•Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee: 916-319-2020

2. Forward this information to your networks to make it known widely that this torture may continue unless we, along with allied lawyers, put pressure to stop it!

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From Solitary Confinement at Pelican Bay, Jesse Perez Sues Guards for Retaliation, Wins $25,000

On Nov. 25, 2015, a federal jury awarded $25,000 in damages to Jesse Perez, who had sued guards for trashing his cell in retaliation for his lawsuit against the prison and for his stand against solitary confinement.

By filing the lawsuit, Perez wrote that he sought the “opportunity to shine a public light at trial and rein in what prisoner activists often endure in exercising their constitutional rights: the retaliatory abuse of the department’s disciplinary process by prison guards.”

Jesse Perez, 35, is from Colton in San Bernardino County and has been imprisoned since age 15. He was sent to the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay in December 2003 and was held there for 10 years. He took part in all three hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013, protesting prolonged isolation.

Perez’s lawyer, Randall Lee, said the verdict sends “a resounding message that the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment are sacrosanct for all of us — even a prisoner in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.”

IMG_4479

Jesse Perez, 2nd from the left, with his legal team in his successful civil rights case about guards’ retaliation – Randall Lee, lead attorney, Jesse, Katie Moran, Matthew Benedetto

The case is based on Jesse Perez challenging the legitimacy of a CDCr gang validation pro se in 2005. He was assigned counsel after a state dismissal motion was defeated. After his attorneys’ filed a Reply Brief, the CDCr reached out to him to settle the case, which he ultimately did in 2013. Perez received a monetary award as well as the right to have his gang affiliation reevaluated.

This is similar to the CDCr settling the Ashker case as the state of CA wants to avoid having to be held publicly accountable and to be subjected to scrutiny and interrogation in court.

In the current civil suit, his attorneys argued that guards retaliated against Perez for exercising his right to file a lawsuit and in response to successfully litigating human rights challenges – in this case the gang validation.

Perez argued that guards retaliated against him for exercising his right to file a lawsuit and in response to his successful litigating for his human rights and to overturn
his baseless gang validation.

During settlement negotiations in his initial lawsuit, which CDCr could anticipate would be successful for Perez and require a re-review of his ‘gang validation’, four officers forced Perez to strip, removed all of his legal paperwork, and trashed his cell.  In the process, one officer stated, “you might have been able to win some money from us, but we will make sure that you stay [in solitary] where you belong.” Perez did not get all of his property back.  He was later charged with a serious rules violation for “willfully obstructing the officers” during that search, for which he was ultimately found Not Guilty.

Jesse Perez states “As prisoner activists seeking to make positive contributions to the interest and human dignity of prisoners, we understand that the trappings of power enjoyed by guards represent the biggest obstacle to significant and lasting progress.”

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California Solitary Confinement Prisoner Faces Retaliation, Takes Guards to Court

For Immediate Release – Friday, November 20, 2015

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

SAN FRANCISCO – Pelican Bay State Prison guards are being tried for civil rights violations and retaliation against Jesse Perez, a prisoner who was held in the prison’s notorious solitary confinement units for 10 years. The civil lawsuit  hearings began Monday in San Francisco federal district court.

In opening statements, Perez’s legal team accused the prison guards of retaliating against him – stripping him, trashing his cell, destroying his property, filing a false rule violation against him that would have extended his time in solitary, and illegally confiscating his writings critical of his conditions of confinement.

In 2005, Perez filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for his placement in solitary, challenging the process by which he was labeled a “gang affiliate.” His case was settled in 2012, and Perez received a monetary award as well as the right to have his gang affiliation reevaluated.

Perez’s suit claims the guards attacked him and destroyed his property just days after his 2012 settlement. His attorneys are arguing that guards retaliated against Perez for exercising his right to file a lawsuit. Perez has also been politically outspoken and participated in the historic California hunger strikes that started inside of Pelican Bay’s solitary units, another reason Perez claims prison guards targeted him.

In a written account published by the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Perez states “As prisoner activists seeking to make positive contributions to the interest and human dignity of prisoners, we understand that the trappings of power enjoyed by guards represent the biggest obstacle to significant and lasting progress.” By filing the lawsuit, Perez writes that he seeks the “opportunity to shine a public light at trial and rein in what prisoner activists often endure in exercising their constitutional rights: the retaliatory abuse of the department’s disciplinary process by prison guards.”

Perez’s case is not the only instance of guards’ retaliation against prisoners for their basic expression of civil rights and political activism. Since August 2 of this year, just as a landmark victory settlement for prisoners in civil rights case Ashker v. Brown was being finalized (which significantly reduces California’s ability to keep people in solitary confinement), guards began depriving prisoners in solitary of sleep.  Guards continue this sleep deprivation, now for 109 days.

Perez’s trial, presided over by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, will resume today, with closing statements expected.

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For Immediate Release: Solitary Prisoners’ Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation

10/29/15   Solitary Prisoners’ Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation

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

SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, lawyers for prisoners in the class action case Ashker v. Brown submitted a letter condemning Pelican Bay prison guards’ “wellness checks,” which have widely been viewed as sleep deprivation. The letter was submitted to United States Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, and calls on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to put an end to the checks.

Last month, prisoners achieved a historic victory in the settlement of Ashker v. Brown where the indefinite long term solitary confinement was effectively ended in California, with Magistrate Judge Vadas currently monitoring implementation of the settlement terms.

The guards at Pelican Bay Security Housing Units have been conducting disruptive cell checks every 30 minutes around the clock for three months, causing prisoners widespread sleep disruption. The process is loud and according to prisoners, “the method and noise from the checks is torture.”

Attorneys representing Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have just completed extensive interviews with prisoners who demand that “the every 30-minute checks have to be stopped or people are going to get sick or worse.” In addition, they report that regular prison programs have been negatively impacted.

“To sleep is a fundamental human right,” said Anne Weills, a member of the prisoners’ legal team and one of the attorneys who conducted the interviews with prisoners in Pelican Bay. “To take away such a basic human right amounts to severe torture, adding to the already torturous conditions of being in solitary confinement.”

Most prisoners report low energy, exhaustion and fatigue. Most state that they have trouble concentrating. They try to read, but they nod off and/or can’t remember what they have read. Their writing is much slower (“I can’t think to write”), and describe the constant welfare checks as having a negative impact on their mental state.

While this recent attorney survey was specifically focusing on sleep deprivation and its effects, prisoners volunteered information about the negative impact of these frequent checks: yard policy and practice has reduced access to recreation, access to showers has been reduced, programs and meals are being delayed, and property for those newly transferred to Pelican Bay is still being delayed and withheld.

Sleep deprivation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners and their attorneys are demanding that these checks be halted.

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Mohamed Shehk
Media and Communications Director
Critical Resistance
1904 Franklin St, Suite 504
Oakland, CA 94612

510.444.0484