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.

Continue reading

Feb 24 California Prison Focus event: STEEL BARS AND REAL SCARS – Watani Stiner

Feb 24 CPF event _Watani and children

SPOKEN WORD & PERFORMANCE
Sunday, February 24, 2019

2 – 4 pm
Sherith Israel – 2266 California St. San Francisco, CA 94115

 

California Prison Focus presents Watani Stiner and Children of the Revolutionary: Larry Stiner Jr., Latanya Stiner, and Lige Stiner.

Witness the devastating impact of imprisonment on families as seen through the eyes of a formerly incarcerated father who successfully escaped from San Quentin before he voluntarily returned, and the son and daughter left to grow up without him.

Join us to hear the poignant reflections and stories of this family trio as they recount their journey through those long years of separation. Through spoken word and performance, they will share their stories of childhood, imprisonment, escape, exile, and political activism while offering their perspectives on how incarceration and family separation affected each one of them personally.

Support an end to mass incarceration.

Free event hosted by California Prison Focus
For questions: contact@prisons.org
http://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.

COURT FINDS SYSTEMIC CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATIONS BY CALIFORNIA DEPT OF CORRECTIONS

Extends Settlement to End Indefinite Solitary Confinement in California

January 28, 2019, Eureka – Late Friday, a federal judge found that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is systemically violating the due process rights of prisoners. The judge ruled that CDCR is violating the Constitution by repeatedly relying on unreliable and even fabricated confidential information to send California prisoners to solitary confinement. The court also found CDCR is using constitutionally flawed gang validations to deny people in prison a fair opportunity for parole.

Read Court’s Decision here (Jan 25, 2019): https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/order-granting-extension-motion.pdf

As a result of evidence submitted by the prisoners’ legal team, the judge extended by one year the terms of an historic settlement agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons, including a provision allowing monitoring by plaintiffs’ counsel.

“The purpose of the settlement was to eradicate constitutional violations related to CDCR’s use of solitary confinement. Unfortunately, California is still violating our clients’ fundamental rights to due process. This ruling is an opportunity to remedy those continuing violations,” said Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights Rachel Meeropol. “It also sends a clear message to CDCR and California’s new governor: until the constitutional violations end, the courts will be watching.”

Under a 2015 landmark agreement, nearly 1600 prisoners were released from isolated Security Housing Units (SHU) and CDCR agreed to substantially reform the process by which prisoners were placed and held in the SHU. Prisoners are no longer sent to SHU based solely on gang affiliation—often established on the basis of extremely insubstantial evidence—but only due to specific and serious rules violations.

The judge’s decision underscored the serious problems in California’s old gang validation system and the way it continues to impact prisoners:

“Plaintiffs have provided the court with ample evidentiary examples that demonstrate that the CDCR’s old process for gang validation was constitutionally infirm (for example, because CDCR’s interpretation of the word ‘activity’ also included something described as, ‘non-action piece[s] of evidence’). As a result, prisoners’ validations were sometimes based on as little as . . . having received correspondence (regardless of the content) or artwork, a birthday card, or other possessions from a validated gang member . . .  or for the artwork they possessed (such as art containing Aztec or Mayan images). . .  Plaintiffs also provide evidence from a number of class members’ parole transcripts in support of the contention that gang validation is a highly significant, if not often a dispositive factor in parole consideration, and that when prisoners dispute their validation at their parole hearings, Commissioners consider the challenge itself to constitute evidence of dishonesty and a manifestation of a lack of remorse or credibility.”

“Now that a judge has determined that California’s gang validation system is deeply flawed, the Parole Board must immediately stop relying on these old validations and give our clients a fair chance to earn release,” said Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

The judge’s decision also focused on how California distorts confidential information, describing one disciplinary case where “the potentially exculpatory part of the [confidential informant’s] account was never disclosed, and instead it appears to have been replaced by an inculpating statement that the [confidential informant] never uttered;” another case where a “prisoner was told that the evidence against him included two confidential sources . . .  however, according to the underlying confidential memorandum, there were not two sources, there was only one, and that person stated that he did not witness the event in question;” and many more, leading the judge to conclude that “time and again, the shield of confidentiality for informants and their confidential accounts is used to effectively deny class members any meaningful opportunity to participate in their disciplinary hearings.”

Lead counsel at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jules Lobel, explained, “CDCR relies extensively on confidential in-custody informants, even though the California legislature and experts around the country recognize they are often unreliable. We hope this decision will provide momentum for California and other state prison systems to take steps to ensure that this type of unreliable evidence is not used to send people in prison to solitary confinement.

Ashker v. Governor of California was originally filed by prisoners who had been isolated in the SHU for more than a decade based on alleged gang affiliation. The lawsuit followed coordinated hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 by over 30,000 prisoners statewide. On the third anniversary of the settlement agreement, former SHU prisoners published a statement marking their progress and highlighting work that remains in order to fully remedy their unconstitutional conditions.

The Ashker plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Bremer Law GroupPLLC, Ellenberg & Hull, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone.

Read the magistrate judge’s decision here.

Original post: https://ccrjustice.org/home/press-center/press-releases/court-finds-systemic-constitutional-violations-california

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.


The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.

PRISONERS ENDANGERED

Sacramento, Calif.— On Dec. 14, 2018, families of prisoners and supporters held a rally in front of the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s (CDCr) headquarters against the CDCr-induced violence that many of their loved ones are experiencing.

snydemo

Dec 14, 2018 Rally at CDCr Headquarters: FAMILIES UNITED TO STOP MERGED YARDS! Stop the Merging of Sensitive Needs Yards and General Population in CA State Prisons!

PROBLEM IS OF CDCr’s OWN MAKING

The violent gang environment in prison was created in large part by CDCr’s own policies, which set prisoners against each other along racial lines. In a procedure completely discredited by the prisoners’ own mass movement based on an “Agreement to End Hostilities,” CDCr exacerbated the gang problem by incentivizing snitching.

To get out of solitary, the infamous Institutional Gang Investigators demanded information to use against other prisoners without regard to its validity. CDCr “protected” their growing snitch population by placing them in Special Needs Yards (SNY).

The SNY population grew. Recently, CDCr started reintegrating those prisoners. Their pilot program, almost entirely voluntary, was reasonably successful. Prisoners can work out their differences given a chance.

What we were protesting was the deplorable escalation of violence when the reintegration program became no longer voluntary.

Ruthie, a member of Inmate Family Council (IFC) at Avenal Prison, recounted an IFC meeting where the plan was presented to families. Almost immediately prisoners reported incidents. The only way large-scale violence was prevented there was that the SNY prisoners refused to go. They are locked up in ad-seg for refusal, but they are not budging.

DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE

The families call it “deliberate indifference. They are intentionally putting inmates’ lives at risk.” What can we do? Ruthie asked that prisoners forward to her copies of their write-ups (called 115s). Some of those include pictures of the injuries, which are very graphic.

At another facility, Norco, the forced reintegration resulted in riots, stabbings, and fires being set. You could hear prisoners screaming for help from across the street. Family members’ persistence in demanding answers from the prison halted reintegration there for a time. But when Norco reintegrated again, a family member reported their loved one had his nose, eye-socket and ribs broken. He now has a spinal injury and is in a wheelchair.

The whole SNY setup is unsustainable. General population prisoners from Wasco were told they were being transferred upstate. Instead they were bused to North Kern prison’s SNY. There the warden met them and assured them that the SNY population did not want any problems, they were safe. But as they were going to the yard, the SNY prisoners lined up along the fence and started calling them out.

Protocol in such cases is to close down the yard. Instead the call went out over the loud- speakers that all prisoners had to report to the yard. The more than 30 prisoners were attacked by the entire SNY population. They were beaten with locks, had their heads split open, and were stabbed. They also received 115s for “participating in a riot” and were put in ad-seg.

As the Agreement to End Hostilities proves, prisoners are reaching for new human relations among themselves, asserting themselves independently of their guard-overlords. Solidarity among and with prisoners is the only way out of the mass incarceration nightmare.

Urszula Wislanka

  • NEXT RALLY is Friday, Feb 15, 2019 1:00pm:
    In front of CDCr Headquarters, 1515 S St., Sacramento, CA 95811
  • SIGN THIS PETITION and get other people to sign it! bit.ly/cdcraction

SIGN PETITION & RALLY Against CDCR’s Merging of General Population & Sensitive Needs Yards

NO NDPF*
STOP MERGED YARDS!

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO CHALLENGE CDCR’S
MERGING OF GENERAL POPULATION (GP) AND
SENSITIVE NEEDS YARDS (SNY):

  1. SIGN THE PETITION AND GET OTHER PEOPLE TO SIGN IT.
    bit.ly/cdcraction
  1. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 1PM
    SMACK DOWN ON SACTOWN
    RALLY IN FRONT OF CDCR (California Dept of Corrections & Rehabilitation)
    1515 S STREET
    SACRAMENTO, CA 95811
  1. SEND A SURVEY TO YOUR PEOPLE INSIDE CA STATE PRISON TO GET THEIR OPINIONS AND EXPERIENCES.
    E-MAIL YARI TO GET IT MAILED IN yari@youth4justice.org
  1. SIGN YOUR GROUP, SCHOOL, ORGANIZATION ON TO THE LETTER TO CDCR SECRETARY RALPH DIAZ.
    e-mail us at action@youth4justice.org to sign on

THANK YOU!!!

* NO NDPF = NO Non-Designated Programming Facilities
A Non-Designated Programming Facility is where SNY (Sensitive Needs Yards) and GP (General Population) inmates are forced to cohabitate and program on a Non-Designated Yard together.

Follow NONDPF Cainmates on Facebook

Read this NDPF information document

Parole After SHU materials

We have a section on our website Parole After SHU materials that can be accessed at https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/education/parole-after-shu-materials/. Below is a copy of that section updated as of Jan 9, 2019. We wanted to make sure you know it exists and has lots of information.

PHSS Parole Committee
P.O. Box 5586
Lancaster, CA 93539

Life Support Alliance Seminar – Outlook for Parole 2018 (pdf)
The enclosed materials were produced by Life Support Alliance for their Inmate Family Seminar in Long Beach in September 2018.

Life Support Alliance puts on a number of these seminars each year in both Southern and Northern California. (They have several scheduled for 2019, including Sacramento, Yorba Linda, Fresno/Bakersfield area, Bay area and others). The seminars present a wealth of material, much more than can be included in the attached written materials. We recommend that you urge your family or other supporters on the outside to try to attend one these seminars from time to time.

The enclosed handouts from the September 2018 seminar were current as of that time, and there’s no guarantee they will remain accurate or current, because things are changing all the time. We hope they will be useful to you.

Information about Life Support Alliance and its programs and publications is included in the handouts. These include a way to request their free monthly newsletter, Lifer-Line.

Lifer Parole Packet (pdf) updated May 2017
Compiled by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. This guide is a compilation of resources from UnCommon Law, Life Support Alliance, & the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition to help Lifers navigate the parole process, including the psychological evaluations.

Webinar: Parole After SHU from April 11, 2017
There are two videos, one is a training for parole attorneys and family advocates, and the second is a community presentation specifically for people with family members currently in or recently released from SHU to General Population. There are also links at the bottom of the page with related materials.

Transcript (Part 1) from Oct 7, 2017 Parole After SHU Seminar (pdf),/span>

Rethinking Parole for Long-term SHU Prisoners (pdf) prepared March 2017

Tips from Hearings (pdf) from Life Support Alliance newsletter October 2017

Psychological Effects of Long Term SHU (pdf)

Some Reflections on the Effects of Long Term SHU: Imprisoned Responses to Reading Excerpts from Dr. Terry Kupers’ Report (pdf) 2017

Dec 14 Rally @ CDCR Headquarters: FAMILIES UNITED TO STOP MERGED YARDS!

Stand in solidarity to halt the unsafe environment CDCR is creating for our incarcerated loved ones (and front-line correctional staff) with Non-Designated Programming Yards!
They have not been given a choice, and have no voice!

IF WE DON’T SPEAK FOR THEM, WHO WILL?

PEACEFUL PROTEST & RALLY
Friday, December 14, 2018
12:00 NOON
CDCR Headquarters, 1515 S St, Sacramento, CA 95827

NO NDPF = NO Non-Designated Programming Facilities
Ca inmates = California inmates

Follow NONDPF Cainmates on Facebook
Email nondpfs@gmail.com and/or Youth Justice Coalition at action@youth4justice.org

FamiliesUnitedToStopMergedYards_Dec14,2018

Pelican Bay Prisoners’ Statement on 3rd Anniversary of Settlement

(Reposted from the Center for Constitutional Rights)

 
October 15, 2018

Sunday marked the third anniversary of the landmark settlement agreement in Ashker v. California, the class action lawsuit that ended indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. We have accomplished a lot in that time. Over 1600 prisoners who were looking at spending the rest of their lives in isolation have been released from Security Housing Units. Living conditions have improved for many prisoners. And prisoners who were prevented from seeking parole because they were isolated in SHU have some prospect for release.

Most importantly, prisoners have continued to honor the historic 2012 Agreement to End Hostilities, working to resolve issues peacefully and prevent individual conflict from escalating into group conflict. Through this, we have dramatically reduced violence throughout California prisons and been able to harness our collective power to unite against our true opponent: a prison system that would rather punish and torture than rehabilitate.

However, much work remains. While prisoner culture has changed, CDCR culture has not. The California prison system continues to obstruct meaningful reforms, to attempt to provoke violence by a variety of tactics such as integrating SNY informants into the GP, and to entrap individual prisoners. It continues to violate our due process rights and resist systemic change.

Many prisoners released from SHU have been transferred into Level 4 prisons, which are essentially modified SHUs. While called “general population,” prisoners in these units often receive as little out-of-cell time as they did in the SHU, are denied jobs, and have little to no vocational and other programming. To honor the settlement, we need to live in true general population housing units that provide adequate social interaction, outdoor time, programming, work opportunities, and preparation for release.

Additionally, CDCR has done nothing to help us deal with the aftermath of years, and even decades, in solitary confinement. As the report by the Stanford University Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab documents, the torture of solitary confinement does not end when the cell doors open. Many of us are still suffering terribly. Some of us have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We can never get back the relationships with parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, spouses, kids, and other loved ones damaged by our years in isolation. We need rehabilitation and reparations. To begin to make us whole, CDCR must help us heal.

Finally, CDCR continues to throw people back in the hole. It is relying on confidential information regardless of whether the informant is credible or reliable. It even fabricates information and falsifies documents. Prisoners continue to be denied fair hearings, and then are thrown back into solitary. This behavior is systemic throughout CDCR, from top to bottom. To honor the settlement agreement, we need independent oversight of CDCR’s disciplinary system and individual accountability for CDCR employees who abuse their power.

In a recent ruling, Judge Claudia Wilken has recognized that the settlement requires that reforms be meaningful, including that CDCR cannot simply shuffle people to “general population” units that function like SHUs. And we are requesting an extension of the period of monitoring to ensure that CDCR complies with the spirit and purpose of the settlement.

Finally, we must continue to stick together, to honor the Agreement to End Hostilities, and to fight our true opponent: CDCR’s abuses. Our accomplishments thus far have come about because of our collective power. Collective power is how we will achieve the goals ahead of us.

Link to original post: https://ccrjustice.org/home/blog/2018/10/15/pelican-bay-prisoners-statement-3rd-anniversary-settlement

Stop the Sleep Deprivation in CA Solitary Confinement! — RALLY & COURT SOLIDARITY, SACRAMENTO, FRIDAY OCT 19

Join the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) for a rally and courtroom presence in opposition to the relentless practice of sleep deprivation torture in CA solitary confinement cells. Please show solidarity with imprisoned civil rights Plaintiff, Jorge Rico, and with people locked in solitary throughout CA suffering severe sleep deprivation due to guards’ loud and disturbing “security/welfare checks.”

Friday, Oct 19, 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 #3, 15th Floor)

After the hearing, Jorge’s attorney, Kate Falkenstien, 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.

For rideshare to Sac & other info:
call 510-426-5322 or email phssreachingout@gmail.com

FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/811504955847955/

Background
In prison isolation units throughout California, guards jar prisoners EVERY 30 MINUTES with loud and disruptive “security/welfare checks” causing ongoing sleep deprivation.

Every half hour, 24/7 guards subject prisoners to shrill beeping, banging of metal on metal with a Guard One wand, stomping through the pods, talking loudly, and at times, shining flashlights in their faces. The California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) began this Guard One “security/welfare check” system in early 2014 in women’s and men’s prisons under the guise of suicide prevention. In conducting these automated “checks,” the guards aren’t actually checking to see if people are okay; but they wake and disturb prisoners night and day, inflicting serious sleep deprivation. These checks, in addition to the harm of extreme isolation, cause severe physical and mental injury, increase suicidal ideation, and are described by people forced to endure them as TORTURE.

Sleep deprivation is internationally defined – by experts in human rights, sleep, and mental health – as a form of torture.

What’s the Oct 19 court hearing about?
CDCr is trying (again) to get Jorge Rico’s case dismissed.
Currently, there are at least seven federal civil rights lawsuits by CA prisoners against these checks that charge CDCr administration, and specific wardens and guards, with violating prisoners’ constitutional protection from cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners are suing for money damages for serious physical and psychological injury caused by being jarred every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Perhaps most important, they are suing for declarative and injunctive relief- for the court to declare that the CDCr Guard One security/ welfare checks violate people’s civil rights and must stop. One of these lawsuits, brought by Christopher Lipsey (Lipsey v. Barnes), began in June 2014, over 4 years ago, and is still in initial court proceedings. Prisoner civil rights cases often take years to conclude, and only begin after a person in prison exhausts all of the avenues asking prison administration to deal with the problem, to no avail. With the so-called security/welfare checks, people in prison who have experienced them for months or years on end and who mustered the courage, paperwork, and fortitude to bring lawsuits, have been moved by CDCr in and out of solitary (where the checks occur) since the time they began their lawsuits.

Jorge Rico filed his lawsuit on August 2, 2016. Currently, Jorge is not in solitary experiencing the checks; he’s been in prison General Population since April 2018. CDCr is trying to get rid of significant parts of Jorge’s lawsuit- his request that the court declare the checks violate the Eighth Amendment constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and his request that the court order an end to the harmful, noisy, and useless Guard One checks that cause serious sleep disruption and deprivation. CDCr argues that those parts of Jorge’s lawsuit are “moot” because Jorge is not, at this time, enduring the checks. We believe Jorge’s claims are not moot because he is likely to experience the checks again. CDCr should not be allowed to evade his constitutional challenge.

CDCr tries every which way to get the civil rights case against the checks dismissed by the court.

The Legal Problem
How will anyone ever be able to successfully challenge the checks if their lawsuit goes away when CDCr decides to temporarily move them out of solitary? It is well known, and established by the courts, that being put in Administrative Segregation (ASU solitary) at various times for various reasons should be expected by a person incarcerated in California. Indeed, Jorge has been in SHU solitary, then General Population, then Administrative Segregation solitary, then General Population – all since he began his lawsuit. If lawsuits take years, and people are in and out of solitary at CDCr’s discretion, and thus CDCr can get the lawsuits dismissed, this cruel sleep deprivation policy can continue on forever!

Jorge Rico’s lawsuit should not be dismissed because he gets some time out of solitary.

Continue reading

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement

In solidarity with the end of the National Prisoner Hunger Strike, we are republishing this article from the California Prison Focus Spring 2018 (Issue Number 55), written by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Baridi J. Williamson, two of the original signers of the Agreement to End Hostilities that facilitated the success of the 2011 & 2013 Pelican Bay Hunger Strikes. These hunger strikes ultimately resulted in the historic Ashker vs. Brown Settlement that greatly reduced the use of solitary housing units in California. 

” (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]

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.

The California prison system realized that these prisoners held initially at PBSP and subsequently at Tehachapi and throughout the system had their constitutional rights violated under the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment guarantee of due process of the law, for decades.[xi]
Jules Lobel of the Center for Constitutional Rights and lead counsel in Ashkerstated:

“The torture of solitary confinement doesn’t end when the cell doors open. California’s continued violation of the Constitution and new evidence of the persistent impact of prolonged solitary confinement requires CDCR to make essential changes in their conduct and rehabilitative programs, and, more broadly, demonstrates the urgent need to end solitary confinement across the country.”[xii]

The Ashker v. Brown class action, settled in 2015, is a historic lawsuit exposing those violations and the harms they cause. We, as California prisoners and citizens of this state, deserve to be treated for the intentional cruelty caused by state-sanctioned torture. This is especially so for the hundreds of solitary confinement prisoners who have spent more than 27 months in any form of solitary confinement, which constitutes torture, according to the Ninth Circuit.[xiii]

CDCr has continued to shun its governmental responsibilities and has not effectively remedied the pain and suffering of thousands of solitary confinement prisoners who have been released to General Population through the DRB and Ashker. All of them are suffering from various aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement (PTSDSC).

We, as California prisoners and citizens of this state, deserve to be treated for the intentional cruelty caused by state-sanctioned torture.

If you are reading this, join us in writing, emailing and calling Gov. Brown (916-445-2841 or jerry.brown@gov.ca), Secretary of CDCr Scott Kernan (916-324-7308) and Sen. Holly Mitchell (916-324-7308 or http://sd30.senate.ca.gov/e-mail-holly), who chairs the Public Safety Committee overseeing CDCr, and demand the following government actions be taken to remedy the decades of damage done to us:

That CDCr provide statewide men’s and women’s PTSDSC support groups modeled after the “Men’s’ Group” program we created at Salinas Valley State Prison Facility C, which has been approved by the administration – wardens, community resources managers (CRMs) – for our PTSDSC class and is only awaiting locating a sponsor to get started;
That CDCr allow all PTSDSC prisoners to go through this six-month relief program at their respective GP locations;
That CDCr provide effective in-service training of staff in fairly and respectfully dealing with PTSDSC class members, including in appeals, disciplinary and medical matters;
That CDCr adopt all recommendations in the 2017 report of the Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab at Stanford University, detailing the ongoing negative health consequences that Ashker class members have suffered following their release from long-term solitary confinement into GP: Provide peer-facilitated support groups for all PTSDSC class members; and Provide independent psychiatric care for all PTSDSC class members to receive PTSDSC mental and emotional health and psychological services in this form.
That Gov. Brown and the California legislature order the Board of Parole Hearings to stop denying our PTSDSC class members who are serving life sentences a fair opportunity to be released home, thereby doubly punishing and torturing us because we were unlawfully kept in solitary confinement without due process and exercised our constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest with hunger strikes to be released, refusing to debrief and become their snitches.

In struggle!

Prisoner Human Rights Movement
©Dec. 1, 2017, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Baridi J. Williamson.

Send our brothers some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry), C-35671, and Baridi J. Williamson, D-34288, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad CA 92960.”

California Prison Focus Issue 55, Spring 2018 CPF works to abolish the California prison system in its present condition. We investigate and expose human rights abuses and all forms of discrimination in California prisons, with a focus on ending long-term isolation. We are committed to honoring the voices and strategies of prisoners and join their efforts to foster solidarity and empowerment. We believe in public education and direct action to achieve these goals.