Indefinite Solitary Confinement Ends in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center / Death Row

Links to the articles and radio interview in this post:

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Indefinite Solitary Confinement Ends at San Quentin

on Death Penalty Focus Blog / March 10, 2017

Death row inmates will no longer be kept in indefinite solitary confinement in San Quentin State Prison, it was announced Monday [March 6]. The agreement was part of a settlement of a 2015 lawsuit filed on behalf of six inmates who were held indefinitely in what is called an “adjustment center” because they were suspected of being gang members. When the lawsuit was filed, there were some 100 inmates being held in the adjustment center. Since then, the number has fluctuated from around 10 to 22 inmates.

“Basically, these guys were housed there for 23 hours a day,” says Oakland attorney Dan Siegel, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the six inmates. “They got one hour three times a week in the yard. They had no human contact. The cells were like closed boxes, no windows. And they’ve been there for years and years. It takes a toll — emotionally, psychologically, and physically.”

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CA Prisoners Win Historic Gains with Settlement Against Solitary Confinement

Agreement reached in Ashker v. Brown ends indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in CA, among other gains for prisoners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2015
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland – Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.” The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “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.”

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.  Read statement from plaintiffs.

Honoring Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell

Long live Hugo Pinell, who showed us the power of the human spirit, that love can survive and overpower hell on earth.

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Beloved political prisoner Hugo ‘Yogi Bear’ Pinell, feared and hated by guards, assassinated in Black August after 46 years in solitary
August 14, 2015   by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff

Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll.

From December 1970 to 2014, when he finally had a contact visit with his mother, Yogi was allowed to come out from behind the thick glass in the visiting room and touch a loved one only once: When he married Shirley, they were given 15 minutes together. She later died.

By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo Pinell, affectionately known as Yogi Bear, was assassinated Aug. 12. The news sparked a victory celebration by  prison guards on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.

“This is revenge,” declared his close friend, fellow Black Panther veteran Kiilu Nyasha, on Hard Knock Radio Aug. 13. “They hated him as much as George Jackson. They beat him constantly, kept him totally isolated for 46 years – no window, no sunlight – but they could never break him, and that’s why they hated him.

“The only way he survived was that this man was full of love.” ….
Please read more of this excellent SF Bay View article
which includes “The Black Panther Party and Hugo Pinell”  from The Black Panther newspaper of Nov. 29, 1971

 

Hugo Pinell Presente!
August 14, 2015   by Isaac Ontiveros

….Hugo became a part of the Prison Liberation Movement, which saw the prison as a front of struggle connected to the global upsurge of oppressed people against colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy.  This was a period of intense education, organizing, and resistance among imprisoned people—some locked up as political prisoners, some transformed while inside, nearly all targeted by prison administrations for their political stances and activism.  In 1971, Hugo, along with 5 other prisoners at San Quentin State Prison in California, were charged with raising a rebellion at the facility’s Adjustment Center, during which prisoner movement leader George Jackson was assassinated.  Several weeks later, actions commemorating the assassination of Jackson by prisoners at Attica went on to spark the massive rebellion at that prison.  The story and political trial of the San Quentin Six helped people across the planet to understand the conditions inside prison, the resistance of prisoners, and the connection across the walls that the Prison Liberation Movement was trying to make.

Hugo Pinell in 2001

Hugo Pinell would go on to spend over 40 years in the solitary confinement units used to punish prisoners and break up their social, political, and religious organizations—indeed, Pinell was the longest held prisoner in solitary confinement in California, before recently being released into the general population.  Despite the torturous conditions of solitary, Hugo remained steadfast politically, and tried to stay connected to people and struggle, inside and outside the prison.  Hugo participated in the recent California Prison Hunger Strikes and was vocal supporter of prisoners’ 2011 Agreement To End Racial Hostilities.   In his late 60s while on hunger strike, Hugo talked about his activism with journalist Kilu Nyasha:

I wasn’t prepared for a hunger strike, so I don’t know how well or how long I can hold on, but I had to participate…I don’t even think in terms of doing or saying something wrong, for that would strike against everything I live for: freedom, becoming a new man and the New World. So, Sis, this hunger strike provides me with an opportunity for change while also allowing me to be in concert with, and in support of, all those willing to risk their precious and valuable health.  ….
Please read more of this tribute from Critical Resistance
Hugo Pinell- Rest in Power

August 13, 2015  by Claude Marks

We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system. ….

….As the California Prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Secure Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2012.

At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years yet his spirit was unbroken.
Please read the full writing, Hugo Pinell- Rest In Power

See Who are the San Quentin 6? flyer (from 1970’s) provided by Freedom Archives

Here is a link to the Freedom Archives San Quentin 6 collection 

brief poem by Luis ‘Bato’ Talamantez

Hasta Siempre Hugo
Solidarity forever
And we are saddened
Solidarity left
You when (it) should have
Counted for something and
What your long imprisoned
Life stood for
Now all your struggles
To be free have failed
And only death an
Inglorious and violent
Death has
Claimed you
At the hands of the
Cruel prison system
La Luta Continua

-Bato and the San Quentin 3

A short poem written by Hugo Pinell from a publication issued in 1995.

No
Matter
How long it takes,
Real Changes will come,
And the greatest personal reward
Lies in our involvement and contributions,
Even if it may appear that nothing significant
Or of impact really happened
During our times,
But it did,
Because
Every sincere effort
Is as special as every human life

-Hugo Pinell (1995)

Statewide Actions Against Solitary Confinement Grow as They Enter Third Month

Media Advisory – May 20, 2015

Statewide Actions against Solitary Confinement Grow as they Enter Third Month

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

When:  Saturday, May 23, 2015 – and the 23rd of each month thereafter.

Time: All day, depending on location (see below for specifics)

What:   Community organizations, families and loved ones of people in solitary, and advocates across California will be mobilizing a day of Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement each month. These mobilizations are a response to a proposal from prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison involved in the 2011 and 2013 Hunger Strikes, who put forward the idea of designating a day each month as Prisoner Rights Day.

“Our outside supporters have all of our gratitude; their tireless efforts supportive of our cause make a giant positive difference,” says Todd Ashker, a prisoner who has been in solitary at Pelican Bay State Prison for over two decades, and a lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against California for the use of solitary confinement. “They have recently begun monthly supportive actions—across the state—publicly rallying on the 23rd of each month for the purpose of keeping the subject of our endless torture in public view, and thereby exposed to the world. The 23rd of each month is symbolic of our 23+ hours per day in these tombs-of-the-living-dead—and it is hoped such rallies will spread across the nation.”

Where: Various locations across California, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Oakland, Arcata, San Francisco and others. For a complete list with information, please see prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/may-23rd-statewide-coordinated-actions-to-end-solitary-confinement-locations-details/#more-6225

Who:    The actions are being organized by groups with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS), and are endorsed by over 30 community groups and organizations from California, and around the nation and world.

Why:    The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) refuses to respect basic human rights by continuing to keep people isolated in cells, often for years upon years, despite international condemnation calling on California to end its practice of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement has been defined as torture by the U.N., yet the U.S. puts more people in solitary and for longer periods than any other country, and California continues to be an outlier in the U.S. California continues to use the practice in violation of international law and, as many believe, in violation of the U.S.’s policy against cruel and unusual punishment.

These coordinated actions seek to build organized, community-based pressure outside prison walls, and to amplify the demands of prisoners who continue to call for the end of torture.

Spokespeople will be available to speak with media at all locations. For more information, please visit prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

Mohamed Shehk
Media and Communications Director
Critical Resistance
1904 Franklin St, Suite 504
Oakland, CA 94612
510.444.0484

23rd of Each Month: Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

UniversalFlier2

STOP THE TORTURE!

Statewide Coordinated Actions every month respond to the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers’ Proposals (November, 2013). They stated:

“We want to consider the idea of designating a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day. On that date each month prisoners across the state would engage in peaceful activities to call attention to prison conditions. At the same time our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose CDCR’s [CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] actions and rally support efforts to secure our rights. We can see this action growing from month to month as more people inside and out become aware of it and join our struggle.”

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) which began in strength, Monday, March 23, 2015.

Actions will happen on the 23rd of each month.

This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement.

PHSS Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prisoner-Hunger-Strike-Solidarity/117053298383319

These coordinated actions will acknowledge the importance of organized, community-based pressure as a core strategy (along with courts and legislators) of our work outside the walls to end solitary confinement.

CO-SPONSORS & ENDORSERS:
Statewide, nationally, and internationally, we invite all organizations and prominent individuals to:

  • endorse the Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement; or
  • co-sponsor: help plan statewide, national, international, and local actions; do outreach, attend, and/or speak out.

Co-sponsors and Endorsers are listed HERE on the PHSS website and HERE at the facebook event page, Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC)…

Please let us know at phssoutreach@gmail.com if you will endorse or what you will do to co-sponsor, and describe action(s) in your locale.

If you want to be part of the Outreach Group organizing this effort, please email Verbena and Willow.
Verbena <peoplesarc@gmail.com>; Willow <kohenet@sbcglobal.net>

LOCATIONS & TIMES:
Each locale participating in the Statewide Coordinated Actions will decide their locations and the time of day/night. We suggest places and times where and when there are plenty of people so that the actions are visible, and we can reach people with leaflets/information. If people-heavy locations also happen to be strategic for other reasons (e.g., a CDCR parole office in a busy area), all the better. Details about 23rd Actions in your locale (i.e. L.A., Oakland, San Jose) will be posted as we receive the information from various locales.  HERE are the locations & details for June 23, 2015.

FLIERS & HANDOUTS:
There is a universal flier for all actions, with a space for each area to insert local logistics. HERE is June’s flier! Also, there are handouts that can be used by everyone for these actions. PHSS can send out packets of these fliers and handbills by request at phssoutreach@gmail.com (beginning April 2015). Here they are for download. Local groups can hand out additional literature, as well.

These actions will help keep hidden torture in the public eye, build the movement to end solitary confinement, and serve as one way to update people as to the conditions inside and about the needs and goings-on in this human rights struggle. Organizations outside of CA and outside of the US are already joining and supporting this effort.

The courage that prisoners continue to demonstrate—after leading two hunger strikes in 2011 and a third, the largest hunger strike in history in 2013– while upholding their Agreement To End Hostilities across racial lines should give us all the strength to organize in our own communities.

Co-sponsors

Endorsers

 

Beginning March 23rd: Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

STOP THE TORTURE!

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) to start Monday, March 23, 2015.

Actions will happen on the 23rd of each month.

This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement.

PHSS Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prisoner-Hunger-Strike-Solidarity/117053298383319

Statewide Coordinated Actions every month respond to the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers’ Proposals (November, 2013). They stated:

We want to consider the idea of designating a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day. On that date each month prisoners across the state would engage in peaceful activities to call attention to prison conditions. At the same time our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose CDCR’s [CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] actions and rally support efforts to secure our rights. We can see this action growing from month to month as more people inside and out become aware of it and join our struggle.”

These coordinated actions will acknowledge the importance of organized, community-based pressure as a core strategy (along with courts and legislators) of our work outside the walls to end solitary confinement.

Actions are planned in CA from San Diego to Arcata (including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland,Santa Cruz, Arcata…); also, nationwide and internationally.

CO-SPONSORS & ENDORSERS:
Statewide, nationally, and internationally, we invite all organizations and prominent individuals to:

  • endorse the Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement; or
  • co-sponsor: help plan statewide, national, international, and local actions; do outreach, attend, and/or speak out.

Co-sponsors and Endorsers are listed HERE on the PHSS website and HERE at the facebook event page, Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC)…

Please let us know at phssoutreach@gmail.com if you will endorse or what you will do to co-sponsor, and describe action(s) in your locale.

If you want to be part of the Outreach Group organizing this effort, please email Verbena and Willow.
Verbena
<peoplesarc@gmail.com>; Willow <kohenet@sbcglobal.net>

LOCATIONS & TIMES:
Each locale participating in the Statewide Coordinated Actions will decide their locations and the time of day/night. We suggest places and times where and when there are plenty of people so that the actions are visible, and we can reach people with leaflets/information. If people-heavy locations also happen to be strategic for other reasons (e.g., a CDCR parole office in a busy area), all the better.  HERE you can find details about March 23rd Actions in your locale (i.e. L.A., Oakland, San Jose) More will be posted as we receive the information from various locales

FLIERS & HANDOUTS:
There is
a universal flier for all actions, with a space for each area to insert local logistics. Also, there are handouts that can be used by everyone for these actions. PHSS can send out packets of these fliers and handbills by request at phssoutreach@gmail.com (beginning April 2015). Local groups can hand out additional literature, as well.

These actions will help keep hidden torture in the public eye, build the movement to end solitary confinement, and serve as one way to update people as to the conditions inside and about the needs and goings-on in this human rights struggle. Organizations outside of CA and outside of the US are already joining and supporting this effort.

The courage that prisoners continue to demonstrate—after leading two hunger strikes in 2011 and a third, the largest hunger strike in history in 2013– while upholding their Agreement To End Hostilities across racial lines should give us all the strength to organize in our own communities.

Continue reading