Lost in time: Lift up our brother Sitawa and strike down indefinite incarceration

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Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in July 2018

This article was first published Nov 19, 2019 in the SF Bay View newspaper.

by Mutope Duguma

It’s always hard to stomach news that is disheartening. To hear that a brother and comrade has suffered a stroke after spending countless years in solitary confinement, as well as being held on an indefinite sentence for an alleged crime he did not commit, is even more disheartening.

I need not stress the sorrow that is felt amongst the whole prison population for our brother Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who, along with countless fearless prisoners, pioneered our Prison Human Rights Movement (PHRM) to the world’s stage. We continue to see men and women incarcerated far too long – beyond anyone’s imagination – and continue to be held indefinitely.

Our beloved brother Sitawa is amongst this class of men and women. The inhumane treatment of prisoners must end.

200 + Rally to support prisoner hunger strike

A large rally that garnered support from outside and raised spirits inside was at Corcoran Prison in the Central Valley on July 13, 2013, during the last hunger strike, where the prisoners were suffering the summertime heat combined with gnawing hunger. On a “solidarity fence,” notes composed of quotes from some of the leading strikers were pinned to a fence to inspire the demonstrators. This is a quote from Sitawa.

Our brother Sitawa and many others have suffered enough and should not continue to do so based on being given a life sentence that equals a civil death. Prior to 1968, under original Penal Code Section 2600, California prisoners suffered complete civil death, which means prisoners were stripped of all civil rights.

The prison system is actually covertly executing all of its lifers. The United States is the only country in the whole world that incarcerates people indefinitely – forcing them to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Men and women have been incarcerated for 35 years or more.

Many of these people are lost in time. They came to prison as youth in their teens and early 20s in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Yes, many of them were immature, many had no real direction, but they all became adults in the Amerikan prison system.

At present these prisoners, Baby Boomers, most of whom have survived decades of incarceration, are now between the ages of 60 and 80. Many of these senior citizens are wheelchair-bound or use assistive devices such as walking canes.

Like most seniors, many are on special medications, require special medical therapy for seniors, and suffer from aging illnesses of various sorts. I hear some say that a few manage to get around good at 70 years young.

Many say, yes, they should be in prison, and that may be true in some cases. Given the things they did in society, the way they carried themselves in the youth of their lives was utterly wrong and disrespectful, but that was decades ago when they were young! Decades!

They are now older, mature, grown, senior adults, who have fulfilled all requirements from various parole boards around the U.S. Multiple prisoners have complied with all laws, rules and regulations of the prison and carried themselves as role model human beings and in many cases have done so for decades.

Sitawa and Marie

Sitawa is able to embrace his sister after decades of seeing her only though thick glass. 2016 photo of their first hug in 31 years. His sister, Marie Levin, rose during the terrifying hunger strikes to lead the fight by outside family and supporters to end solitary confinement and other atrocious prison practices.

Still, many of them are forced to remain in prison when the maximum amount of time on their sentence has long since expired. This is terrible and extremely cruel to force rehabilitated human beings to remain in bondage and especially when statistics clearly show that 90 percent of them are not returning to prison once released.

Sadly, 89 percent of prisoners across the US are Black and Mexican. From 1619 through the 1800s, the chattel slavery plantation concept lurks in the shadows like the Wizard of Oz.

This “behind the scenes” type strategy involves money laundering exclusively into white rural areas under the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC). (That’s where prisons were built during the height of mass incarceration, in small rural communities that had lost their economic base, where people were so desperate for jobs, they were willing to work in a prison. These were white communities with deep prejudice toward Blacks. – SF Bay View ed.)

Many of us may very well die in these man-made tombs. It should be stipulated that these deaths are in clear violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The suffering is indefinite where there exists no end to the punishment. Many have died, and many will continue to die where there is no remedy to resolve the cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners.

We must resist to end this cruel and unusual treatment of human beings and encourage our brother Sitawa, who is fighting for his life. We will fight for his freedom and the freedom of the thousands of men and women lost in time.

One Love, One Struggle,

Mutope Duguma

Mutope had the joy of hugging his brother Anthony in this photo taken March 19, 2016.

Send our brother some love and light: James Crawford (Mutope Duguma), D-05996, LAC B5-141, P.O. Box 4490, Lancaster CA 93539.

 


Sitawa is recovering from a major stroke. Send him some love and light through this address: Freedom Outreach, Attn: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland CA 94601

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Special Review of How Salinas Valley State Prison Handles Allegations by Prisoners of Staff Misconduct

by the Office of Inspector General (OIG)

In January 2018, the secretary of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and attorneys from the Prison Law Office requested that the OIG assess the prison’s process of handling inmate allegations of staff misconduct, “staff complaints.” The department allows local prison supervisors to conduct “staff complaint inquiries,” which are a preliminary collection of evidence pertaining to an allegation. Our review included a retrospective paper review of 61 staff complaint inquiries the prison completed between December 1, 2017, and February 28, 2018, and an onsite monitoring review of 127 staff complaint inquiries the prison initiated between March 1, 2018, and May 31, 2018. This totaled 188 staff complaint inquiries, which included 268 allegations. Our review also included our assessment of nine additional complaints submitted to the department by the Prison Law Office.

FULL REPORT (137pgs): Special Review of Salinas Valley State Prison’s Processing of Inmate Allegations of Staff Misconduct
https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/2019_special_review_-_salinas_valley_state_prison_staff_complaint_process.pdf

FACT SHEET (6pgs): Special Review of Salinas Valley State Prison’s Processing of Inmate Allegations of Staff Misconduct
https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/2019_special_review_-_salinas_valley_state_prison_staff_complaint_process_-_fact_sheet.pdf

Special Review found Salinas Valley’s Reviews of Allegations of Staff Misconduct involved: Poor interviewing techniques Poor evidence collection Poor report writing Lack of training Lack of independence: Display of bias, Inappropriate reviewers, Breached confidentiality

Salinas Valley rarely found misconduct from its staff complaint inquiries, and in the few cases where it determined that staff violated policy, it did not always provide corrective action—until we asked about it. The hiring authority determined that subject staff did not violate policy in 183 of the 188 complaint inquiries we reviewed (97%).

A reviewer’s rank of service had little effect on the quality of the staff complaint inquiry; we found the work across all ranks to be lacking in quality. Sergeants performed the poorest at 70% inadequate. Lieutenants, the most common reviewers, produced inadequate inquiries 52% of the time.

Below are excerpts from the OIG’s Full Report included in the OIG’s Fact Sheet:

2019_Special_Review_DEFICIENTInterviewSkills-Fact_Sheet-page-4

2019_Special_Review_DISPLAY Bias-Fact_Sheet-page-4


Electronic copies of reports published by the Office of the Inspector General are available free in portable document format (PDF) on our website at www.oig.ca.gov .

Office of the Inspector General, 10111 Old Placerville Road, Suite 110, Sacramento, CA 95827

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

Prisoners are hunger striking against indefinite lockdown and group punishment.

Corcoran HS support Feb 2019

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

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

in front of Corcoran State Prison entrance
Corcoran, CA 93212

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

Contact number:  562.537.7068.

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

corcoran_demands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLEASE MAKE PHONE CALLS!

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

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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

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

Rally Against Continuing Solitary — The Four Prisoner Reps Will Be PRESENT in Court Conference AUG 21, 2018

RALLY at the San Francisco Federal Courthouse while the four CA Prisoner Hunger Strike and Ashker Class Representatives ‘Meet and Confer’ with CDCr to address the continuing solitary conditions that violate the Ashker lawsuit settlement agreement. The four prisoner hunger strike representatives will be present in the courtroom, an historic presence!  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

RALLY 11:30am

Phillip Burton Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
450 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102

Help create a strong show of solidarity with prisoners fighting for human rights!

What’s going on? The prisoner class-led movement and the Ashker v. Gov of CA class action lawsuit resulted in the release of over 1400 people from solitary confinement Security Housing Units (SHUs) to what the CA Department of Corrections (CDCr) calls “General Population.” However, many of those people continue to be subjected to conditions of extreme isolation. With little to no out-of-cell time and no chance for social interaction, they are still in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.

On July 3, 2018, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled:

The Settlement Agreement was intended to remove Plaintiffs from detention in the SHU, where they were isolated in a cell for 22 ½ to 24 hours a day.… many Plaintiffs [now] spend an average of less than an hour of out-of-cell time each day, which is similar to the conditions they endured in the SHU.  … This demonstrates a violation of the Settlement Agreement.” FULL RULING HERE

and “…a substantial percentage of Plaintiffs in Restricted Custody General Population (RCGP) are …not permitted to exercise in small group yards or engage in group leisure activities. This does not comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.” FULL RULING HERE

The Ashker Plaintiff class reps and legal team were ordered to meet and confer* with CDCr lawyers to explore a resolution of these two issues.

The four prisoner hunger strike representatives- Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, and George Franco- will be present in the SF courtroom.

Please join the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) outside the San Francisco Federal Courthouse to show our solidarity with prisoners who struggle against solitary confinement torture, who organize across racial/geographic lines, and who- through hunger strikes, massive solidarity, formal complaints, the Agreement to End Hostilities, and the Ashker civil rights class action lawsuit- forced CDCR to release people from solitary confinement SHUs.  The organizing prisoners brought international attention Continue reading

Reportback from HEARING in Jorge Rico’s Case Against Sleep-Depriving Checks

Report on Jorge Rico Hearing

by Charlie Hinton

A number of hardy souls ventured to Sacramento on May 18, 2018 to a federal court hearing on CDCr’s motion to dismiss Jorge Rico’s suit opposing the every half hour Guard One “security/welfare checks” that take place in isolation units throughout the state. With Guard One, guards press a metal baton into a metal receiver positioned either in or besides cell doors, making a loud disruptive noise in most cases, waking prisoners up every 30 minutes and causing sleep deprivation. The good news is that the magistrate judge, Deborah Barnes, gave every indication she will deny CDCr’s motion and will move the case to its next stage. She suggested several times to CDCr’s lawyers that at this very early stage of the case, there was no basis for a motion to dismiss, and she said at least twice “I’m really struggling with your arguments.”

Rico Rally photo,5-18-18

There are currently 6 suits against the “checks” before this judge, and Kate Falkenstien, above in the center wearing a pink blouse, represents 3 of them, including that of Jorge Rico. In a press conference after the hearing, she explained the 3 arguments of CDCr.

In a motion they filed the day before, CDCr claims that because Mr. Rico has been moved from Pelican Bay SHU to general population, the case is now moot. The judge asked “Can’t he again be moved into SHU?” Which is exactly what has happened. During the last year or so, he’s gone from SHU to RCGP (from where he filed the suit) to SHU to Ad Seg  to SHU and now to GP.

The judge said that Rico’s claim would be viable for damages, but it was “questionable” whether injunctive relief could be sought.  [The judge’s point being that, at the present time, the conduct that would be enjoined does not affect Rico, the sole plaintiff in this case, because he is no longer in SHU.]

Prisoner rights campaigner Marie Levin commented outside the courthouse, “Regardless of Mr. Rico’s present or future housing assignment, he still suffered what he suffered when he suffered it.”

Second, CDCr argues that although sleep deprivation is illegal, they don’t think it’s illegal to keep people awake in this way. They didn’t know it was wrong. Ms. Falkenstien brought up a case from Alabama, Hope v. Pelzer, in which Alabama prison guards tied Mr. Hope to a hitching post with his shirt off in the sun for seven hours, offering him water twice and never a bathroom break. He sued, under the grounds that this was a violation of the 8th amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. Alabama said they knew it was illegal to tie a person for a sustained time to a fence or a cell door, but they didn’t think it was illegal to tie a person to a hitching post. The Supreme Court ruled for Mr. Hope.

CDCr’s third argument is that the Coleman judge has already ruled that Guard One is acceptable. Ms. Falkenstien argued for Rico that Coleman was a case involving mental illness, and neither Jorge nor many other prisoners undergoing the “checks” are mentally ill, and that even if one case has been decided, each person should be able to be heard in court.

In Ms. Falkenstien’s original brief in opposition to CDCr’s motion to dismiss, she argued 1) an Eighth Amendment challenge to the Guard One checks
 was not actually litigated in Coleman, 2) Rico Is neither a Coleman Class Member nor in privity 
with Class Members, and 3) the Coleman order can also be collaterally challenged, 
because none of the Coleman class representatives are 
affected by the Guard One checks.

Commenting on CDCr’s claims, the judge remarked that it was well established that sleep deprivation can rise to the level of an 8th Amendment violation. She said she was having a hard time with CDCr’s argument, and further, that she would be shocked to find any mention of sleep deprivation in Coleman, or anything in Coleman saying that if the checks using the Guard One system cause sleep deprivation, “that’s okay.”

Judge Barnes declined to dismiss the case and on Monday, May 21, 2018 she ordered the parties to brief the mootness issue (about Mr. Rico currently being out of the SHU) before she rules on the motion to dismiss.  The briefing is going to take about a month in total, so we won’t have a final answer about whether the case will be dismissed until the end of June at the earliest. We are optimistic, however, she will dismiss CDCr’s motion and move forward with the case.

pdf of this Report (with photo) HERE