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.

May 20th-23rd: Together to End Solitary Events/Actions

Bronx, NY — Ithaca, NY  — Manhasset, NY— Oakland, CA Richmond, CA — San Diego, CA  — San Jose, CA —San Francisco, CA —  Santa Cruz, CA —  Staten Island, NY

Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement began in March 2014 on the 23rd of every month -in recognition of the 23 hours or more per day that people in solitary spend in their cells. Monthly action coordination soon began nationwide, Together to End Solitary.  Please participate in these public actions and events planned in your area, or get one going yourself- however big or small. Here is a great brochure you can print and distribute!
Together to End Solitary BrochureDownload, print two-sided, and fold

Click HERE for more literature to hand out at California actions.

Click on the action/event titles for details.  The below listing includes events on May 20, 21, 22, and 23rd.  Please email togethertoendsolitary@gmail.com or phssreachingout@gmail.com for more info and to share your action details!

Oakland, CA: CARE NOT CAGES, with film “Breaking Down the Box”

Friday, May 20th    7:00pm 9:00pm
685 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612, USA

 

Richmond, CA: SOLITARY MAN – My Visit to Pelican Bay State Prison

Saturday, May 21st    4:00pm 6:30pm
551 23rd St, Richmond, CA 94804, USA

 

Staten Island Performance: Mariposa & the Saint

Saturday, May 21st     7:00pm 9:30pm
1 Campus Rd, Staten Island, NY 10301, USA

 

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Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

(FULL BLUE PRINT pdf- all docs-284pgs)
Overview
Table of Contents
Blue Print core document
Appendix

BLUE PRINT

The declaration on protection of all persons from being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 3452 (XXX) of December 9, 1975. The Declaration contains 12 Articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as:

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining his or a third person’s information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

FREEDOM OUTREACH PRODUCTION
December 1, 2015

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT
#1
Blue Print Overview

California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (“CDCr”) has systemic and dysfunctional problems that run rampant state-wide (within both Cal.’s Women and Men prisons), which demand this California government to take immediate action and institute measures to effect genuine tangible changes throughout CDCr on all levels.

The entire state government was notified and made aware of this “Dysfunctional” CDCr prison system in 2004 when its own governmental CIRP blue ribbon commission (authorized by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) reported this finding and fact. (See http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/CAGOV_US/C040600D.pdf; also see Prison Legal News article, “CA Corrections System Officially Declared Dysfuntional.”)

However, this CDCr state of “dysfunction” was not new to the massive number of women, men and youth being kept warehoused in CDCr, because they face it daily. (See Cal. Prison Focus News, 1990s-Present, Prisoner Reports/Investigation and Findings; San Francisco Bay View News Articles; ROCK & PHSS Newsletters, etc.)

During the historic California Prisoners’ Hunger Strikes (2011-2013), tens of thousands of men and women prisoners in CDCr’s solitary confinement torture prisons, as well as a third of the general population prisoners, united in solidarity in a peaceful protest to expose this dysfunctional system officially reported in 2004 by the CIRP.

The Prisoner Human Right’s Movement (PHRM) Blue Print is essentially designed to deal with identifying and resolving primary contradictions by focusing on the various problems of CDCr’s dysfunction, including (but not limited to) the following areas… [read full OVERVIEW Here]

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS for Blue Print

OVERVIEW by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

Prisoner Human Rights Movement (“PHRM”)

PHRM Principle Negotiators, Reps, Plaintiffs, Local Councils

I. Monitoring Reports on 33 State Prisons

II. Monitoring Implementation of the Ashker v. Brown Settlement Agreement

III. Instituting the Agreement to End Hostilities

IV. Legal PHRM Political Education

V. Freedom Outreach

Conclusion

APPENDIX

All Appendices can be found at www.prisonerhumanrightsmovement.org

#1 (A) Five Core Demands; &
(B)
Agreement to End Hostilities

#2 Second Amended Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#3 Supplemental Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#4 Settlement Agreement, Ashker v. Brown

#5 PHRM’s Principle Negotiators’ Statements on 2nd Anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities

#6 (A) Example Monitoring Report w/ Exhibit; &
(B)
Example Monitoring Record

#7 (A) CA Assembly Public Safety Committee Legislative Hearing on CDCr SHU policy, 8/23/2011
(B)
CA Joint Legislative Hearing on CA Solitary Confinement, 10/9/2013

#8 – Mediation team publications

(A) Mediation Team Memorandum on Meetings with CDCr Officials, (3/26/12)
(B) Mediation Team Memorandum on Meetings with CDCr Officials, (3/15/13)
(C) Mediation Team Memorandum on meetings with CDCr Officials, (2/20/15)

#9 – PHRM LEGAL PRISON ACTIVISM EDUCATION Packets*:

(A) LEARN TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
(B)
MEMORANDUM ON UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF CDCR’s STG/SDP (Feb. 2015)

* To receive Educational Materials (Appendix #9), please write and send, for the cost of the mailing, either eleven dollars and fifty cents ($11.50) or the equivalent in postage stamps to:

Freedom Outreach/PHRM
Fruitvale Station
PO Box 7359
Oakland, CA 94601-3023

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

We are beacons of collective building, while clearly understanding that We, the beacons, must take a protracted internal and external retrospective analysis of our present-day prisons’ concrete conditions to forge our Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) onward into the next stage of development, thereby exposing California Department of Corruption and Repression (CDCr)/United States Prison System of Cultural Discrimination against our Prisoner Class. This is why our lives must be embedded in our determined human rights laws, based on our constructive development of the continuous liberation struggle via our scientific methods and laws. Therefore, through our Prisoner Class, the concrete conditions in each prison/U.S. prisons shall be constructed through our Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

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Demand Justice for Erika Rocha: Attention to Abuses and Escalating Suicide Epidemic in CA Women’s Prison

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APRIL 25 2016 Press Release from California Coalition for Women Prisoners:

Advocates demand justice for Erika Rocha, who was 35 years old and just one day away from her Youth Parole Hearing last week when she committed suicide. Erika was incarcerated at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona. The suicide rate at CIW is more than eight times the national rate for people in women’s prisons and more than five times the rate for all California prisons. In the week since Erika’s death, another suicide was reported and at least 22 more people transferred to suicide watch. The suicide watch unit is overcrowded and CIW is placing people on “overflow” in the SHU (“Security Housing Unit”).

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) has released a statement highlighting the abuses that Erika suffered at the hands of the criminal legal system, as well as a list of demands to prevent similar tragedies from occurring and a petition to the California Legislature. CCWP is also supporting Erika’s family in raising funds for funeral services.

Erika was 14 years old when she was charged as an adult. Interrogated by police and prosecutors and threatened with a double life sentence for attempted murder, Erika pled to 19 to Life. Erika was 16 years old when she was sent to state prison. Prison staff placed her in solitary to “protect her” until she was 17, but she told CCWP that guards admitted to keeping her in solitary to protect the prison because she was too young to legally be there. At the time of her death, Erika was serving her 19th year in prison following two years in juvenile hall. She suffered from deplorable treatment for mental health issues attributable to her incarceration as a youth, including at least four indefinite terms of 2-3 years  in solitary confinement.

“We are continuing to gather information, but we know that the day before her death, Erika was released from a suicide watch unit and placed in a mental health unit where CIW is still required to take precautions to prevent deaths,” said Colby Lenz, CCWP member. “Multiple institutions, including CIW and CDCR, are responsible for this tragedy. We demand a full investigation into the ongoing crisis and high suicide rate at CIW. We ask the California Legislature to order the Office of the Inspector General to take action immediately.”

CCWP Program Coordinator, Windy Click, who met Erika in prison when she was 19, said, “Erika was always seeking help, she was lost inside an adult facility not knowing what the future held. When she asked for help they didn’t bother to help her.”

“Erika’s death is a painful example of how the criminal justice system is broken and therefore breaks people. They did this to her. She obviously didn’t see any future for herself,” said another friend of Erika’s who was also incarcerated in state prison at 16.

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Please see the list of demands and request for help below 1

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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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Take Action to Demand a STOP to the Sleep Deprivation

California prisoners in solitary confinement continue to be sleep-deprived due to jarringly noisy “security/welfare checks” 40-48 times a day.

The ‘checks’ are particularly loud and distressing for people in Central CA Women’s Facility (CCWF) Administrative Segregation death row, due to guard aggressiveness, and in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PB SHU) where cramped, concrete architecture also amplifies the noise. 

Demand a STOP to Sleep Deprivation Torture
in CA Solitary Units

Please make calls (#’s below) and click here to send emails opposing the “security/welfare checks” that are causing sleep deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU and CA Women’s death row. Sleep Deprivation is Torture. Stand with prisoners and their families to demand an end to this torture. We ask that you distribute this flier at your actions. We want to have a big call-in and email day on Monday, April 25th!

EmailClick here http://tinyurl.com/ztjcos3 to tell state officials to STOP the “security/welfare checks!”

Make Calls:

  • CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary
    Scott Kernan: 916-323-6001
  • CDCR Director of Adult Divisions: 916-445-7688
  • Senator Loni Hancock, Senate Public Safety Committee Chair:
    916-651-4009
  • Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair: 916-319-2059
  • Governor Jerry Brown: 916-445-2841

Suggested script for calls: Your name, city, state. “Please stop the so-called ‘security/welfare checks’ in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison and in women’s death row. The ‘checks’ are causing sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is torture.”

Organizations: SEND A STATEMENT to phssreachingout@gmail.com, condemning the sleep deprivation torture. PHSS will forward to state officials. Sample statement here http://wp.me/P1BB1k-2r9

… they’re killing us with these Guard One/Welfare Checks. … I don’t know what to do? We really are suffering right now and I can assure you that this is worse than the hunger strikes.” – PB SHU prisoner Oct 2015

This is torture. We are being emotionally, mentally and physically battered by the security checks throughout the nights.” 20 death row prisoners in Central CA Women’s Facility

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40-48 times a day, these ‘checks’ are subjecting people in small solitary cells to:

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‘Stop the Torture’ – UN Official Receives Formal Complaint from Solitary Prisoners’ Family Members and Advocates

For Immediate Release – Thursday, March 31, 2016

Statewide groups are condemning sleep deprivation – widely recognized as a form of torture – of prisoners in Pelican Bay’s Solitary Confinement Units in a formal complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

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

 

CA – After months of public outcry, California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) have submitted a formal complaint to Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment condemning the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) jarringly noisy and disruptive “security/welfare checks” in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Units (PB-SHU). These checks, which started on August 2, 2015, have deprived the prisoners of sleep for eight months, amounting to what is widely recognized as a form of torture. The complaint was submitted last week, on Thursday, March 24.

 

One prisoner recently stated that being in PB-SHU with these checks “is like a construction site all night. It is horrible. It really is torture.”  Another wrote, “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.”

 

The complaint to Mendez includes reports from interviews with PB-SHU prisoners conducted over a six-month period by Carol Strickman, Staff Attorney at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.  Additionally, Mendez was provided with statements by sleep experts Dr. Thomas Roth and Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, by psychiatrist Dr. Terry Kupers, and by the American Public Health Association’s Jail and Prison Health Committee about the impact of sleep deprivation on mental health – all who have condemned the “security/welfare checks.”  Internationally recognized sleep expert Dr. Zeitzer explains in his October 2015 report, “The negative health consequences of inadequate sleep have been extensively documented and nowhere in the literature is there a report on as severe a disruption in sleep as is occurring in the Pelican Bay SHU.”

 

“My son doesn’t have the energy to exercise, write, or draw nearly as much since the checks started. He used to write me letters 2-3 times a week; now maybe once a week, and only a few lines,” says Grace A., a member of CFASC and whose son is in PB-SHU. “He has hardly been able to sleep since early August, but is fighting to stay strong. I tell him ‘You are not alone.’”

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March 23: HIP HOP FOR CHANGE and PHSS Event!

Please join Hip Hop for Change and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) for an evening of powerful Spoken Word and discussion from 6pm to 9pm at the Niebyl-Proctor Library in Oakland, CA.  

This event is in solidarity with the CA prisoners who challenged the torture of solitary confinement and created the historic Agreement to End Hostilities.  We hope to help cultivate strong community connections inside and outside prisons and grow community support in the prisoner class struggle.  The work to end solitary confinement and create true social justice continues.  Social justice does not include destroying lives, families and communities with incarceration, isolation, and torture. 

Right now we must stop the cruel Sleep Deprivation that began many months ago against people in solitary at Pelican Bay and CA Central Women’s Facility.

Saturday, March 23rd is a day of Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement and, nationwide, groups are conducting actions as part of Together to End Solitary. This event in Oakland is connected to a nationwide momentum to end solitary confinement.

Please share the Facebook event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/973551582700324/

EVENT DETAILS:
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
6:00pm – 9:00pm
Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library 6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California 94609
Donations gladly accepted
For more info:  510.426.5322, jp@hiphopforchange.org, phssreachingout@gmail.com
hiphopforchange.org
prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com  

PHSS is excited to collaborate with Hip Hop for Change!  For three years, Hip Hop for Change has been educating youth about social justice issues, Hip Hop culture, history, and the power of self-expression!!! They volunteer with organizations that are uplifting historically marginalized community, they start gardens and donate thousands of hours. Hip Hop for Change throws Hip Hop shows that provide platforms for artists with empowering social justice-oriented narratives!!! 

Sleep Expert Reports about 30 minute “welfare checks”

 

excerpted from Dr. Jamie Zeitzer’s Oct 2015 Report:
” …While this was instituted as a safety measure, including the prevention of suicides, it has created an even more disrupted sleep environment, one that will actually lead to an increase in suicidal ideation…

An extensive literature that covers the gamut from animal studies to highly controlled studies in humans to epidemiologic studies of many different populations from around the world all come to the same conclusion – there are serious ramifications of sleep loss on both physical and mental health. … A recent series of studies in Veterans has further pointed to the strong connection between suicidality and sleep, so much so that treatment of sleep problems in Veterans is considered part of the first line of treatment in reducing the risk of suicides. The negative health consequences of inadequate sleep has been extensively documented and nowhere in the literature is there a report on as severe a disruption in sleep as is occurring in the Pelican Bay SHU. …

There have been no direct studies of intentionally waking an individual every thirty minutes every night for days, weeks, or months, as doing so would he considered highly unethical in a research environment. …”

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PHOTOS and REPORTBACKS from Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners

On February 1, 2016, people from all over California gathered in Sacramento at the headquarters of the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) to demand an end to the dangerous and deliberate sleep deprivation being inflicted on the people in solitary in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, under the guise of “welfare checks”.

Before the Rally, more than 15 formerly incarcerated people, family members, pen pals, and other activists visited the offices of Loni Hancock (chair of the CA Senate Public Safety Senate Committee), Bill Quirk (chair of the CA Assembly Public Safety Committee), and reps from various districts to demand the immediate suspension of the sleep deprivation “welfare checks” in the Pelican Bay SHU.  Sleep Deprivation Is Torture.

Reportbacks below are from Martha Esquivel of San Diego, CA and James Decker of Eureka, CA.
Photos are from Liberated Lens Collective, Lucas Guilkey, James Decker, and Urszula Frydman. Please inquire about photo accreditation before using unlabeled photos.

from Martha Esquivel:
I’m so very thankful for having the opportunity to go to Sacramento and stand up with you all in front of CDCr and show them our unity, meet new people and listen to their stories… about how their loved ones are being tortured by CDCr, our employees. Yes, our employees. Because they get paid with our taxes, and instead of rehabilitating our loved ones who make mistakes, they are looking for methods to keep the torture going one way or another.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

Almost 5 years ago, we were standing outside CDCr demanding CDCr stop the torture of our loved ones in Indefinite Isolation.  We proved to them that was torture. We Won and now CDCr has found another way of torturing them, by not letting them sleep. It has been 6 months of sleep deprivation and they know that it is torture.

Back in 2011, we didn’t have a clue what to do, we only knew that our loved ones were being Tortured and they needed our support. Our loved ones pushed from the inside and we pushed from the outside, and we got the Victory.  Today, we are more people fighting for our loved ones in prison. Some of them are out of the SHU, but we are still here fighting for the one’s still in the SHU. We are not leaving anyone behind. Together We know We can make a change, and we just want to let CDCr know that regarding this new chapter of torture they have created: We are going to win too, because our movement is a movement of Love, and we believe in rehabilitating humans not destroying them!
Martha Esquivel is active in California Families Against Solitary Confinement and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition; She is sister to Luis Esquivel, a named Plaintiff in Ashker v Brown, now out of Pelican Bay SHU after 15 years in solitary there.

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Photo by Lucas Guilkey

from James Decker:
I was proud to be part of the contingent from far northern California to attend the Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners on February 1, 2016. We gathered just after noon, a group of family members, formerly incarcerated persons, activists, attorneys, and faith leaders. Diverse members of the community gathering with a single purpose: to stop the sleep deprivation torture.

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I was moved by the testimony of those folks fighting for the very lives of their loved ones. More then 70 people were there to listen and demand action!  Women, mostly women of color, spoke about a racist system fueled by capitalism that has devastated their families and robbed their communities.

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Thanks to the folks that helped create these powerful posters and the Artist Richard Torres.

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Carol Strickman gave us an update from the legal team.  The folks from Food Not Bombs in Oakland brought nutritious food.  Sarah Torres provided stirring music and chants went up spontaneously from the crowd demanding “LET THEM SLEEP!”

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Cynthia spoke of the callous neglect and medical malpractice that is rampant in the prison system. It resulted in the death of her brother.

We must keep the pressure up to end this abominable behavior by the Department of Corrections and the State of California.

In solidarity,
James Decker works with Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

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