Feb 21 Legislative Hearing on Video Visitation in Jails

VIDEO of the Hearing!  Powerful testimony from family and formerly incarcerated perspectives: Zoe Willmott and Anita Wills of Essie Justice Group, Michael Cortez of Project WHAT! (alumni), and compelling public comment.

The below post was updated Feb 16, 2017

On Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 10am in Sacramento, there will be a Joint Legislative Hearing on video visitation in county jails. It will be hosted by the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Public Safety.

JOINT HEARING
PUBLIC SAFETY AND BUDGET AND FISCAL REVIEW

CA Senate Subcommittee No. 5 on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary and CA Assembly Subcommittee No. 5 on Public Safety

  • Hearing Subject: Looking Through the Screen: The Effects of Video Visitation on County Jail Inmates and their Families
  • 10:00 a.m. — John L. Burton Hearing Room (Rm 4203), CA State Capitol, Sacramento 95814
  • Chairs: Senator Nancy Skinner and Assembly Member Shirley Weber

Help protect in-person visitation! We believe that there will be an opportunity for public comment. Please consider speaking or providing a written statement if you have experience with in-person or video visitation.

We are in a period when many counties are building or seeking to build new jails.  Some counties are building jails without facilities for in-person visiting.  Instead, they are setting up video-visitation as the only visiting method.  There are many problems with video visitation. In-person visitation is crucial to the well-being of incarcerated people and their families.

Last year, the legislature passed SB 1157 (introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell), to require in-person visiting in county jails, but unfortunately Gov. Brown vetoed the bill. SB 1157 would have allowed counties to install and use video visitation as a supplemental option, but would have protected in-person jail visits from being eliminated and sacrificed to the video visitation industry.

It is important to protect in-person visits for incarcerated people and their loved ones in California jails. We are glad that the CA legislature remains concerned about this issue.

• Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity members will be carpooling to Sacramento on Feb 21st.  Contact: 510.426.5322

• Also, Bernadette Rabuy of the Prison Policy Initiative invites you to contact her if you would like to provide public comment at the hearing  brabuy@prisonpolicy.org.

Below is an extensive list of articles and reports about video visitation from the Prison Policy Institute.

Continue reading

PRISONERS UNITED of Silicon Valley Thank Each Other & Supporters for a Largely Successful Hunger Strike Against Solitary Confinement

Read full article in SF Bay View (includes video from a TV interview with hunger striker inside the jail)

January 25, 2017

by Mary Ratcliff

In late September, prisoners in the Santa Clara County jails who are part of what they then called the Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement sent a letter to Sheriff Laurie Smith with a list of demands and a notice that in October the inmates would initiate a hunger strike to continue their “peaceful protest to end this torturous practice of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment until there is tangible and meaningful change for all prisoners – most whom are un-convicted pretrial detainees,” they stated.

santa-clara-county-main-jail-yard-by-robert-galbraith-reuters-webIn prisons and jails, prisoners classed in general population are the freest, allowed to exercise on the yard together, as these men are at the Santa Clara County Jail. Solitary confinement is the least free classification and has been identified as torture by the United Nations. The issue was central to this hunger strike. “They isolate me by removing any form of social oxygen,” one prisoner told San Jose Inside. “I come out by myself, I do not interact with nobody else, no card playing, no nothing. When we go out in the yard, we come out one person at a time. We’re in our cells by ourselves. But they’re saying this isn’t solitary.” – Photo: Robert Galbraith, Reuters

The letter begins by recalling the Ashker settlement, the 2015 resolution of a lawsuit against solitary confinement in the state prison system that was initially filed by prisoners and fueled by a series of hunger strikes, the largest in history. Though it didn’t end solitary confinement, it severely limited it and released thousands of prisoners who had suffered the torture of solitary confinement for a decade or more into the relative freedom of general population.

Building on that precedent, the Santa Clara prisoners write: “Currently there are over a hundred prisoners held in solitary confinement throughout Santa Clara County jails.” Then they list their core demands:

  • End meaningless classification review and the biased appeal process;
  • End placement in solitary confinement when there exists no serious rule violation to merit such placement;
  • End the policy and practice of denying prisoners sufficient clothing;
  • End jail profiteering and exploitation of prisoners and their families through contract bidding of commissary vendors based on kickbacks and political incentives for campaign contributions;
  • End recidivism and misappropriation of prisoners’ welfare funds.

In calling the strike, which was inspired by the nationwide prison strikes that began Sept 9, 2016, they wrote to their comrades: “Said hunger strike will begin at 12 midnight on Oct. 17, 2016, and will go on for two weeks, or 14 days. It will end on Oct. 30, 2016, at 12 midnight. This strike is not mandatory, but instead it is highly encouraged to all who are concerned, willing and able.

“We especially reach out to those who are healthy and influential. We lean upon you and ask that you utilize your influence to help further push and inspire this movement through your words and actions by leading through example.

“For those who might not be able to hold up for the full 14 days, it’s OK; just do your best. But this county does not acknowledge a hunger strike until you refuse nine straight meals through the course of three days, so we ask that at a minimum you hold out for four days so that your sacrifice and efforts are acknowledged.”


Santa Clara County Main Jail is the main lockup in Silicon Valley, which is booming economically. So why would a large jail be needed where jobs are plentiful? Silicon Valley is notoriously reluctant to hire people of color regardless of their skills, so, as in nearly all the rest of the country, the wealth gap between rich and poor is huge.

Three hundred prisoners, including many held in solitary confinement, joined the strike. And after only four days, jail officials held a meeting with about a hundred prisoners that resulted in suspension of the strike, which continues.

Three hundred prisoners, including many held in solitary confinement, joined the strike.

“In an unusual turn,” the San Jose Mercury News reported, “the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, the union for the rank-and-file enforcement officers of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, publicly sided with the inmates and released a statement lambasting Sheriff Laurie Smith for not being responsive enough to the protest of conditions ranging from how solitary confinement is doled out to inadequate clothing.”

Now, under their new name, Prisoners United of Silicon Valley, the strikers have issued their own newsletter and topped it with this statement:

Continue reading

Feb 1st: RALLY Against the Torture of Prisoners

2016- PHSS- End Sleep Deprivation Rally- Feb 1

Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners Feb 1, 2016

As of February 1st, it will be 181 days that the men in Pelican Bay SHU have been tortured by sleep deprivation. For six months the men have been awakened every 30 minutes, 48 times per day, due to so-called “security/welfare checks” by guards.

“…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

Join us in Sacramento on February 1st, 2016 at 1:00 pm to rally against the torture of prisoners!

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) claims these ‘checks’ will prevent suicide. Instead, these checks are causing serious psychological and physical harm. John R. Martinez, in solitary for 15 years, stated that the checks “are counter-productive to their so called intended purpose (mental health care) and serve zero legitimate penological purpose other than to harass and mentally torment us prisoners.”

Come and stand with us to put an end to torturous ‘welfare checks’ in the SHU.

RIDESHARES will be leaving from Southern California, Santa Cruz, the SF Bay Area, the North Coast, and locations in between. PHSS will help with travel expenses.  Please contact phssreachingout@gmail.com, 510-426-5322 if you need or can provide a ride. You can also message Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity on Facebook.

We need to make the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees and Governor Brown stop this now!

We must keep the pressure on!

Media Advisory HERE.

 

For RIDESHARE info and MEETING WITH LEGISLATORS before the Rally, Continue reading

EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT: over 5 months of sleep deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU

Please make calls (and keep calling!) to demand a STOP to the 30 minute “checks” in Pelican Bay SHU:

  • CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary’s Office: 916-323-6001
  • Kelly Harrington, CDCR Director of Adult Divisions: 916-445-7688
  • Senator Loni Hancock, Senate Public Safety Comm. Chair: 916-651-4009
  • Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Assembly Public Safety Comm. Chair: 916-319-2020
  • CA Governor Jerry Brown: 916.445.2841

Suggested script for calls:
Begin with your name and the city and state where you live. Tell them all: “Stop the so-called ‘welfare’ checks in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison. Sleep deprivation is torture.”

 

Send emails to CA elected officials:
Click this link from Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) to email the message to STOP the ‘checks’http://tinyurl.com/ztjcos3

 

Join the fight against the checks!:
Find out how here!
http://wp.me/P1BB1k-28B

 

Share this YouTube Video far and wide!
“Sleep Deprivation” from Liberated Lens Collective
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjWF3OtGSkQ

Background info: Continue reading

VIDEO from “Sleep Deprivation” Emergency Protest

Please watch and share this amazing video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjWF3OtGSkQ

Liberated Lens was with us in Sacramento on, Nov 30th, the 119th day of sleep deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU.

The torture, waking people up every 30 minutes- 48 times a day- is still going on.  It is now 132 days and nights.  It must stop.  We need to amp up our opposition. 

Make calls to demand a STOP to the 30 minute “checks” in Pelican Bay SHU:
  • Governor Brown – 916-445-6001
  • CDCR Secretary Jeffrey Beard – 916-323-6001
  • Pelican Bay State Prison – 707-465-1000

Pressure Builds To Stop Sleep Deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU

Following the historic gains made against solitary confinement last month, people in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU report the use of “welfare” or “suicide” checks occurring every thirty minutes, 48 times a day. The checks are being conducted in an aggressive way and prevent people from sleeping for over thirty minutes at a time. Loud stomping, the slamming of doors, the striking of electronic wands against buttons installed by cell doors, and the shining of lights into prisoners’ faces are routine. Deprivation of sleep is widely seen as a form of torture.

 

• Alleged sleep deprivation at Pelican Bay State Prison | KIEM TV      Sept.23, 2015  [VIDEO]

http://kiem-tv.com/video/alleged-sleep-deprivation-pelican-bay-state-prison
CRESCENT CITY – Civil rights issues regarding solitary confinement in state prisons are an ongoing concern. Wednesday a new issue was protested at Pelican Bay State Prison. ….

 

• California prison advocates say suicide checks are inhumane treatment | US news | The Guardian       Sept. 25, 2015

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/25/california-prison-suicide-checks-inhumane-treatment
Since August, inmates at Pelican Bay state prison say they have been awoken every half hour by guards in a practice that amounts to sleep deprivation

 

• Statewide protests against solitary confinement | Crescent City California News | The Triplicate       Sept. 25, 2015

Front page article: Statewide Protests Over New SHU Policy
http://www.triplicate.com/News/Local-News/Statewide-protests-against-solitary-confinement
Pelican Bay State Prison was among several sites across the country to see coordinated demonstrations Wednesday protesting solitary confinement. Lawyers, activists, and family members gathered outside Crescent City’s state supermax prison to protest a recently implemented Inmate Welfare Check System ….


⇒⇒ Demand that the noisy, aggressive checks stop.
Contact Warden Clark E. Ducart, Pelican Bay State Prison,
P.O. Box 7000, Crescent City, CA 95531-7000
CDucart@cdcr.ca.gov      (707) 465–1000 ext. 9040
Please bcc your message to phssreachingout@gmail.com or email us stating, “I called Ducart.”

If you are on Facebook, “like” the page, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity and check out the event page, Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

“Our movement rests on a foundation of unity: our Agreement to End Hostilities.” [VIDEO included]

Statement of plaintiffs on settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California

Dated Aug. 31, 2015

This settlement represents a monumental victory for prisoners and an important step toward our goal of ending solitary confinement in California, and across the country.  California’s agreement to abandon indeterminate SHU confinement based on gang affiliation demonstrates the power of unity and collective action.  This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters.

Our movement rests on a foundation of unity: our Agreement to End Hostilities.  It is our hope that this groundbreaking agreement to end the violence between the various ethnic groups in California prisons will inspire not only state prisoners, but also jail detainees, county prisoners and our communities on the street, to oppose ethnic and racial violence.  From this foundation, the prisoners’ human rights movement is awakening the conscience of the nation to recognize that we are fellow human beings.  As the recent statements of President Obama and of Justice Kennedy illustrate, the nation is turning against solitary confinement. We celebrate this victory while, at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.  We are fully committed to that effort, and invite you to join us.

Todd Ashker
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa
Luis Esquivel
George Franco
Richard Johnson
Paul Redd
Gabriel Reyes
George Ruiz
Danny Troxell

“This litigation was led by the plaintiffs – those held in the SHU – from the beginning, not the lawyers, who properly understood their role as carrying out the strategy of those they represented to fight for their release and further their movement. It should be studied.”  Bret Grote, Attorney, Abolitionist Law Center

After decades in solitary they joined forces. Here’s what happened.

Solitary Confinement: A “Social Death” ––– New York Times on “Shocking” Data from Lawsuit [VIDEO included]

New York Times video:
Effects of Solitary Confinement

by Colin Archdeacon and Center for Constitutional Rights
Aug. 3, 2015
People imprisoned in Pelican Bay State Prison describe their experiences in long-term solitary confinement http://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000003831139/effects-of-solitary-confinement.html

Today’s New York Times science section features a front-page piece about the research that CCR commissioned and compiled for our ground-breaking challenge to long-term solitary confinement. … 10 expert reports we submitted to the court in Ashker v. Brown, the class-action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in solitary in California’s Pelican Bay prison. …
According to the expert reports, prisoners subjected to prolonged solitary experience a form of “social death” that is not cured upon release, but rather lingers as a “post-SHU syndrome” characterized by social withdrawal, isolation, and anxiety. …
The international and domestic experts agree that such prolonged isolation is not only unnecessary for prison security, but actually counter-productive, as well as a violation of international law. …
By bringing public scrutiny to the severe physical and psychological harm our clients and so many others are suffering as a result of their isolation, we hope to continue turning the tide against this form of torture until it is eradicated from the U.S. once and for all.  Read entire Center for Constitutional Rights article here: https://ccrjustice.org/home/blog/2015/08/04/solitary-confinement-social-death-nyt-shocking-data-ccr-case

New York Times article:
Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life

Great NEW VIDEO: “Breaking Down the Box” (40 min.)

TORTURE IS A MORAL ISSUE

As the grievous loss of Kalief Browder reveals, we must act with urgency to end the devastation of solitary confinement. To that end, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture announces the release of a new NRCAT film, Breaking Down the Box, a 40-minute documentary for communities of faith, to expose the torture of solitary confinement in the context of mass incarceration in the United States.

Breaking Down the Box from NRCAT on Vimeo.

Produced by filmmaker Matthew Gossage, the film examines the mental health, racial justice and human rights implications of the systemic use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. It is a call to action for communities of faith to engage in the growing nationwide movement for restorative alternatives to isolated confinement that prioritize rehabilitation, therapeutic interventions, and recovery.  Watch the film online and then download or order a DVD for use in your congregation or community, at no cost. More resources and DVD order form at www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox

Please spread the word:

Twitter  New documentary from @NRCATtweets exposes torture of #solitaryconfinement in context of mass incarceration www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox

fb_logo  Watch a new documentary exposing the torture of solitary confinement in the context of mass incarceration in the U.S.  Film and resources for faith communities at www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox

***
We encourage you to share this new resource in your community during June Torture Awareness Month and throughout the year. Additional promotional and discussion materials are available at www.nrcat.org/breakingdownthebox.

Thank you for your commitment to building a #TortureFreeWorld together.

In community,

Rev. Laura Markle Downton
Director of U.S. Prisons Policy and Program

FUNDS NEEDED for Documentary on California Prisoner Hunger Strikes

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dying-for-sunlight-documentary-film-on-the-california-prisoner-hunger-strikes
DocumentaryFlyer-SIDE 1 - C-1On June 12, 2014, Lucas Guilkey, organizer and award-winning documentary film maker, launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the film “Dying for Sunlight: The Story of the California Prisoner Hunger Strikes.”  Please support the making of this documentary about the prisoner-led human rights movement against indefinite solitary confinement

 

Lucas has been creating powerful short videos about the CA Prisoner Hunger Strike Human Rights Movement over the past year, and now plans to tell the story in a more full and comprehensive manner, focusing on those who know it best: family members of the hunger strikers and those who’ve spent time in the SHU.

 

Any and all help spreading the word about this fundraising campaign will be deeply appreciated.

 igg.me/at/hungerstrikefilm