For Immediate Release – Friday, November 20, 2015
SAN FRANCISCO – Pelican Bay State Prison guards are being tried for civil rights violations and retaliation against Jesse Perez, a prisoner who was held in the prison’s notorious solitary confinement units for 10 years. The civil lawsuit hearings began Monday in San Francisco federal district court.
In opening statements, Perez’s legal team accused the prison guards of retaliating against him – stripping him, trashing his cell, destroying his property, filing a false rule violation against him that would have extended his time in solitary, and illegally confiscating his writings critical of his conditions of confinement.
In 2005, Perez filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for his placement in solitary, challenging the process by which he was labeled a “gang affiliate.” His case was settled in 2012, and Perez received a monetary award as well as the right to have his gang affiliation reevaluated.
Perez’s suit claims the guards attacked him and destroyed his property just days after his 2012 settlement. His attorneys are arguing that guards retaliated against Perez for exercising his right to file a lawsuit. Perez has also been politically outspoken and participated in the historic California hunger strikes that started inside of Pelican Bay’s solitary units, another reason Perez claims prison guards targeted him.
In a written account published by the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Perez states “As prisoner activists seeking to make positive contributions to the interest and human dignity of prisoners, we understand that the trappings of power enjoyed by guards represent the biggest obstacle to significant and lasting progress.” By filing the lawsuit, Perez writes that he seeks the “opportunity to shine a public light at trial and rein in what prisoner activists often endure in exercising their constitutional rights: the retaliatory abuse of the department’s disciplinary process by prison guards.”
Perez’s case is not the only instance of guards’ retaliation against prisoners for their basic expression of civil rights and political activism. Since August 2 of this year, just as a landmark victory settlement for prisoners in civil rights case Ashker v. Brown was being finalized (which significantly reduces California’s ability to keep people in solitary confinement), guards began depriving prisoners in solitary of sleep. Guards continue this sleep deprivation, now for 109 days.
Perez’s trial, presided over by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, will resume today, with closing statements expected.
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Last month, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement.
The win effectively ended indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limited the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture.
Now, there is a dangerous practice in California prisons of guards doing so-called “security/welfare” checks every 30 minutes, 48 times a day. These checks are only being done in the isolation units, causing ongoing sleep deprivation for those prisoners.
10/29/15 Solitary Prisoners’ Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation
SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, lawyers for prisoners in the class action case Ashker v. Brown submitted a letter condemning Pelican Bay prison guards’ “wellness checks,” which have widely been viewed as sleep deprivation. The letter was submitted to United States Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, and calls on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to put an end to the checks.
Last month, prisoners achieved a historic victory in the settlement of Ashker v. Brown where the indefinite long term solitary confinement was effectively ended in California, with Magistrate Judge Vadas currently monitoring implementation of the settlement terms.
The guards at Pelican Bay Security Housing Units have been conducting disruptive cell checks every 30 minutes around the clock for three months, causing prisoners widespread sleep disruption. The process is loud and according to prisoners, “the method and noise from the checks is torture.”
Attorneys representing Pelican Bay SHU prisoners have just completed extensive interviews with prisoners who demand that “the every 30-minute checks have to be stopped or people are going to get sick or worse.” In addition, they report that regular prison programs have been negatively impacted.
“To sleep is a fundamental human right,” said Anne Weills, a member of the prisoners’ legal team and one of the attorneys who conducted the interviews with prisoners in Pelican Bay. “To take away such a basic human right amounts to severe torture, adding to the already torturous conditions of being in solitary confinement.”
Most prisoners report low energy, exhaustion and fatigue. Most state that they have trouble concentrating. They try to read, but they nod off and/or can’t remember what they have read. Their writing is much slower (“I can’t think to write”), and describe the constant welfare checks as having a negative impact on their mental state.
While this recent attorney survey was specifically focusing on sleep deprivation and its effects, prisoners volunteered information about the negative impact of these frequent checks: yard policy and practice has reduced access to recreation, access to showers has been reduced, programs and meals are being delayed, and property for those newly transferred to Pelican Bay is still being delayed and withheld.
Sleep deprivation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners and their attorneys are demanding that these checks be halted.
Communities to rally across the country,
incl. Pelican Bay & Oakland
against solitary confinement
Advocates are rallying against sleep deprivation of prisoners; national effort, “Together to End Solitary,” to launch website
What: Rallies against solitary confinement and
Following the historic gains made against solitary confinement in August, prisoners 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. Additionally, a national effort “Together to End Solitary,” will be launching its website tomorrow in coordination with the monthly actions on the 23rd, www.togethertoendsolitary.org.
Who: Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
PHSS is a statewide coalition that includes California Families Against Solitary Confinement, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Critical Resistance, California Prison Focus, American Friends Service Committee, and many other organizations and individuals who work against imprisonment and solitary confinement.
When: Fri, Oct 23 at locations throughout California and
across the country, including:
Across from Pelican Bay State Prison
5905 Lake Earl Dr, Crescent City, CA 95532
For a full list of the actions, please visit
Media and Communications Director
1904 Franklin St, Suite 504
Oakland, CA 94612
Also, on October 23rd, groups nationwide introduce the Together to End Solitary campaign!
Friday, Oct. 23 ACTIONS by Location
Albany, NY – Brooklyn, NY – Crescent City, CA (Pelican Bay) – Los Angeles, CA (Newbury Park, CA) – Oakland, CA – Princeton, NJ – San Diego, CA – San Jose, CA – Santa Barbara, CA – Santa Cruz, CA
Full post here. If you don’t see your locale, we haven’t received the details or YOU might need to set up a simple action where you are!! Here are two resources with ideas to mark the day:
- Here are fliers and handbills to distribute.
- Check out our updated Universal Handbill to give out at these actions!
Oct. 23 locations & details
below and at Together to End Solitary
by Jalil Muntaqim Sept. 18, 2015
The hunger strike victory – settlement of the class action suit against solitary confinement – is fantastic, but now, more hard work confronts them all. They will continue to be in a relentless fight to prevent COs (correctional officers) from destroying the unity and continued political determination of the vision for prison reform in California.
Obviously, there will come a time in which the prisoners will need to essentially rebrand, identify and complete what they started – the five demands – and to ensure the sustainability of organizing as well as build capacity to grow the work into a substantial statewide political campaign for prison reform. I sincerely hope they will consider this victory as a tactical victory, not a strategic one – especially when parole decisions continue to be constricted and there is an ongoing need for more programs that serve to support prisoners for their return to the community.
In fact, I hope they will begin the process of floating a proposal to broaden the overall campaign for prison and parole reform and ultimately end mass incarceration – demand abolition. If they can successfully make this transition, they will certainly create the paradigm for the country to replicate.
One of the first things that must be done as part of the transition and to move the prison-cultural-psychological determinant forward would be to educate the prison and public about how the state will seek to undermine their success. For example, publications should have issues solely devoted to incidents in which state officials (COs) attempt to undermine the Agreement to End Hostilities.
I hope they will begin the process of floating a proposal to broaden the overall campaign for prison and parole reform and ultimately end mass incarceration – demand abolition. If they can successfully make this transition, they will certainly create the paradigm for the country to replicate.
It is these testimonies and examples of fight-back that can serve to strengthen the capacity to build unity and uniformity in the fight. Secondly, this would broaden the future vision of the campaign from the inside out and then the outside in. I imagine family members and loved ones will want to concentrate on parole issues and prison medical and health concerns as the next major issues to be tackled.
Jalil has been imprisoned since 1971 when, at the age of 19, he was active in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. He spent from 1975-77 in San Quentin before being sent to New York state prisons. Send our brother some love and light: Anthony Bottom, 77A4283, Attica Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 149, Attica, NY 14011-0149.
This was published in the SF Bay View:
To make tax-deductible donations to
California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC)
for family visits, work, and support:
Donate directly on website:
OR Make checks payable to: FACTS Education Fund
Write CFASC in the memo line.
FEF c/o CFASC
1137 E. Redondo Blvd.
Inglewood, CA 90302
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]
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
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
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 email@example.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
Wed, Sept. 23 ACTIONS by Location
the Bronx, NY – Crescent City, CA (Pelican Bay) – Los Angeles, CA – Nationwide for Yom Kippur – Oakland, CA –San Diego, CA – Santa Cruz, CA
If you still don’t see your locale, we haven’t received the details or YOU just might need to set up a simple action where you are!! Here are two resources with ideas to mark the day:
- Here are fliers and handbills to distribute.
- Check out our updated Universal Handbill to give out at these actions!
Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) has a PHSS Facebook Event page. SCATESC’s growing list of Co-sponsors and Endorsers is below. Look soon for a website launch for ‘Together to End Solitary’, the nationwide collaboration
Sept. 23 Locations & Details
the BRONX, NY:
All are welcome to join this monthly demonstration against the torture of solitary confinement. New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) asks you to lend support to abolish Solitary Confinement in New York State.
Here’s the Bronx Flier & NY Solitary Fact Sheet
Bronx Action Details
Time: 6:00pm EST
Location: corner of White Plains Rd and Gunn Hill Rd, Bronx, NY 10467
For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/435402853327387/
CRESCENT CITY , CA:
Headed to demonstrate outside Pelican Bay State Prison (Crescent City, CA)
“Sleep Deprivation is Torture”
Please join us on Wednesday, Sept 23rd to protest the sleep deprivation torture that began on the night of Aug 2nd in Pelican Bay SHU, perpetrated by the guards. People in SHU cannot escape the constant noise, and they can’t sleep. It’s torture and it’s really hurting them.
We plan to set up across from Pelican Bay in protest of the 30 minute so-called welfare checks, the guards’ bogus excuse for the sleep deprivation. These “checks” happen 48 times a day, keeping people in SHU sleep deprived DAY & NIGHT.
Want to join us? We will have a banner and music and information (you can learn, if you don’t know much about solitary). People have been writing letters, sending emails, and making phone calls about the sleep deprivation, which seems to be retaliation for two successful lawsuits settled on behalf of prisoners.∗
The men inside will learn of our solidarity action which, we hope, will lift their spirits.
We will leave for Crescent City from Eureka on Wednesday morning and come back in the evening. Also, we will be demonstrating against CA prisons entombing people in solitary confinement, period.
Crescent City Action Details
Time: Carpool from Eureka about 9:00am PST
Protest 12:00pm – 5:00pm PST
Location: across from Pelican Bay, 5905 Lake Earl Dr, Crescent City, CA 95532
For more info, call 707-267-4249
Contact Name: Verbena
Contact Email: email@example.com
#CAHungerStrike #StopSolitary #Together #SleepDeprivationIsTorture #StopSolitaryCA
If the SHU Fits – Sept 23 Voices to End Solitary Confinement If the SHU Fits – Voices from Solitary Confinement is a play which uses the history, use of, and statistics about solitary confinement in the United States to paint a broad picture of the practice. But the heart of the play comes from letters, articles, statements, stories and commentaries from those imprisoned and their family members, as well as legal and community testimony.On Sept 1, 2015 an historic legal settlement was announced between CA and prisoners held in isolation for 10 years or more at Pelican Bay State Prison, calling for the end of the use of solitary confinement for people based on alleged prison gang affiliation. Despite that, the struggle is not over.Come join us to learn more about the ongoing efforts to end solitary confinement and to take action yourself!
HERE‘s the Los Angeles flier!
Los Angeles Action Details
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: St. John’s United Methodist Church 1715 Santa Ana Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90002
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/997504186975480/
For more info, call 310-704-3217
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NATIONWIDE FOR YOM KIPPUR:
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is asking people to dedicate their fast for Yom Kippur (which is on Sept. 23rd) to people in solitary and to educate themselves.
#StopSolitary #Together #StopTorture
Unfortunately, for many people in America, being alone–continuously–is a daily reality. Between 80,000 and 100,000 incarcerated persons in solitary confinement are alone for 23 hours a day. In support with those who face isolation, activists around the country have dedicated the 23rd of every month as a day of action and solidarity. This month, the 23rd is Yom Kippur. T’ruah is calling on Jews across the country to dedicate their fast to those who suffer in prolonged solitary confinement and renew their commitment to ending it.
OAKLAND, CA (two actions, day & night):
Oakland Daytime Action
The big banner and new placards will put attention on the horrendous noise at Pelican Bay SHU 24/7, caused by the ‘wellness checks’.
SLEEP DEPRIVATION = TORTURE
The architecture of the SHU at Pelican Bay amplifies the slamming of the pod doors, the guards clambering up and down the tiers as well as the beeper and wand action by guards. The interpretation of these wellness checks by Pelican Bay staffers is unacceptable. Turn out to hear the latest and sign up for our emergency response network.
Daytime Oakland Action Details
Time: 11:30am – 2:00pm
Location: in front of the CA State Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland, CA 94612 (between 14th and 15th Streets)
Contact phone: 510-435-1898
Contact email: email@example.com
Oakland Nighttime Action
Flying Over Walls will be hosting their Oakland LGBTQ+ Prisoner Letterwriting Nightagain in conjunction with Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement – and discussing the recent Ashker v. Governor of California settlement, including what it means and what we are still fighting for.
As the SF Bay Area chapter of Black & Pink, our focus is to connect the non-incarcerated LGBTQ+ folks who participate in our events to B&P members in Northern California prisons.
Nighttime Oakland Action Details
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm PST
Location: The Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1635556230055874/
SAN DIEGO, CA:
We will be out talking with people and providing information to END SOLITARY CONFINEMENT and promote the AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES. Please come join us for an hour after the work day.
San Diego Action Details
Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm PST
Location: Rosa Park (park is next to the library) City Heights, San Diego 92105
Contact Person: Martha Esquivel
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SANTA CRUZ, CA:
Join us on Wednesday September 23rd, 2015 in Santa Cruz as part of actions statewide throughout California and state-by-state nationwide. We will have sign-making, leafletting, and a rally. Also:
•Zines and other literature
•Security Housing Unit (SHU) / solitary model food tray
•Updates on the landmark victory of Ashker v. Gov. Brown and Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement in CA & nationwide
•Readers’ Theater: plaintiffs’ statement on the settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California; women in and against solitary confinement.
On September 1, 2015 a landmark settlement ended indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in California prisons. The settlement may release 2,000 prisoners from solitary confinement. Let’s keep up the pressure to make sure it is implemented, and to end solitary confinement (15 days is torture), abusive prison conditions, and mass incarceration of the poor, particularly communities of color. 90% of people in the SHU in CA are people of color.
Sept. 5, 2015 is the 2-year anniversary of the suspension of the third nonviolent CA Prisoner Hunger Strike and work stoppage by over 30,000 prisoners. It was based on 5 Core Human Rights Demands and the Agreement to End Hostilities between all racial/ethnic and geographic groups in CA prisons, jails, and communities.
Santa Cruz Action Details
Time: 11:30am Sign-Making and Set Up
12 noon Leaflet and Talk with passersby
12:30pm – 2:30pm RALLY
Location: corner of Pacific Ave. and Cooper St., next to O’Neill’s, 110 Cooper St., Santa Cruz 95060
For more info, call 831-325-3251
Contact email: email@example.com
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1685905584966193/