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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Immediate Release – Thursday, March 31, 2016

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

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

 

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

 

One prisoner recently stated that being in PB-SHU with these checks “is like a construction site all night. It is horrible. It really is torture.”  Another wrote, “For decades, military and police forces have used extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, and constant banging/noise to cause mental/physical torment and try to break a person’s mind or human will to resist questioning. These are so-called clean torture methods.”

 

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

 

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

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For Immediate Release: Solitary Prisoners’ Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation

10/29/15   Solitary Prisoners’ Lawyers Slam CDCR for Sleep Deprivation

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

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.

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

510.444.0484

June 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement- Locations & Details

June is Torture Awareness Month

Tuesday, June 23 ACTIONS by location (alphabetical order)

If you don’t see your locale listed here, click HERE to read more of this post.  If you still don’t see your locale, we haven’t received the details yet or YOU just might need to organize a simple action where you are!! One idea: do a showing of this excellent new 40 minute documentary, “Breaking Down the Box”

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.

June 23 Locations & Details (so far)

Arcata- Boston- Fresno- Oakland- Pasadena / Los Angeles – Philadelphia- Pittsburgh- San Diego- San Francisco- San Jose- Santa Cruz

ARCATA, CA:  Nighttime action!  Outdoor showing of the new, excellent documentary, “Breaking Down the Box”! We will also hand out literature for people to get educated and involved now to STOP THE TORTURE that is solitary confinement.  We will also be promoting the Agreement to End Hostilities in prisons (SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population) and in county jails.  Look for banners “End Long Term Solitary Confinement” and “Solitary Confinement = Torture.”
Arcata Action Details:
Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Location: on corner of I St between 9th and 10th, across from T’s Cafe near Ace Hardware parking lot, Arcata CA
For more info, call  707-267-4249
Contact Name: Verbena
Contact Email: peoplesarc@gmail.com

 

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS:
The Coalition for Effective Public Safety – CEPS is engaging in public actions the 23rd of each month to bring attention to the 80,000+ people held in solitary confinement across the U.S. on any given day and to end solitary confinement. This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement in California following the Pelican Bay hunger strike initiated in 2013 by people incarcerated there in response to the deplorable conditions they were being held in. Monthly actions began in California in March 2015, and we are starting here in Massachusetts in June 2015.

Meet us at South Station at NOON.  We’ll have chalk, facts about solitary confinement in Massachusetts and nationwide, and handouts. Bring your energy!

We’ll be chalking solitary confinement facts to raise awareness about solitary confinement for an hour at South Station, through Dewey Square towards Downtown Crossing & Park T stops.

Working during the day? Meet us at 5:30pm at Coolidge Corner in front of Coolidge Corner Theatre. We’ll chalk facts about solitary confinement up and down Beacon and Harvard!

Massachusetts is one of only three states where prisoners who commit disciplinary infractions can be placed in solitary confinement for up to ten years, even though the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a ban on any solitary confinement that lasts longer than fifteen days.
Massachusetts Action Details
Time: 12noon – 5:30pm EST
Location: South Station (Boston)/Coolidge Corner                 (Brookline) 700 Atlantic Ave, Boston
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coalition-for-Effective-Public-Safety-CEPS/353915588130873
Contact person: Rachel Corey
For info or to help plan future actions: director@cjpc.org

FRESNO, CA:
The California Prison Moratorium Project will do an action on the 23rd in front of the Fresno County Jail, as part of this powerful statewide coordinated effort to END SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.
Fresno Action Details
Time: 9:00am – 10:30am
Location: in front of Fresno County Jail, 1225 M St., Fresno, CA 93721
For more info, call 559-367-6020
Contact email:   pmpvalle@yahoo.com 

OAKLAND, CA:
Help hand out information during the busy lunch time downtown!  Wear or bring a sign about ending solitary confinement. (or just show up!) We will have handouts about Bay Area/NorCal California Families Against Solitary Confinfement (CFASC) so that more family members of people in prison can come together, support each other, and powerfully organize for imprisoned loved ones to be free from abuse.

“We will be with the prisoners…in the courts,
in the legislature, and out in the community.
We will use every venue available to us,
UNTIL THE TORTURE IS ENDED.”
–Marie Levin of Oakland, active with CFASC and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition, sister of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa- Prisoner Human Rights Movement, co-author of Agreement To End Hostilities,
been in SHU  31 years.

HERE‘s the Oakland Flier!
Oakland Action Details:

Time: 12Noon – 2:00pm (set up at 11:30am)
Location: across from Oscar Grant Plaza, 14th and
Broadway,  o
n the corner by Walgreens
Contact email: phssreachingout@gmail.com

PASADENA / LOS ANGELES CA:
June is recognized around the world as Torture Awareness Month. The Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) was adopted on June 26, 1987, and the day was declared the “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”
June23 LosAngeles
At this event, we will present If the SHU Fits-Voices from Solitary Confinement.
We will then:
* Share Stories
* Discuss Strategies to make meaningful change and  * Take Action!

Discussion moderated by Sharon Kyle (LA Progressive) with
Paul Spector RN, former CA Dept of Corrections nurse
Geri Silva, CA Families Against Solitary Confinement
Ernest Shepard, Fair Chance Project

“If the SHU Fits” is produced by Dramastage Qumran, LA Laborfest, & Public Works Improvisational Theatre, and supported by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

The event is a part of the Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement, a call by prisoners in solitary to their supporters outside to STOP THE TORTURE with events on the 23rd of each month, signifying the number of hours prisoners are kept in solitary.

HERE‘s the Pasadena Flier!
Pasadena Action Details
Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Location: Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church
301 N Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91103
Contact person: Andy Griggs

For info, call 310-704-3217 or email lalaborfest@gmail.com
Facebook event: http://bit.ly/EndSHUTorture

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The way forward to End Solitary Confinement Torture: Where’s the army?

Jan. 25, 2015
by Todd Ashker

On the subject of SHU and Ad-Seg constituting torture, for those of us who may not be familiar with the specifics and in light of CDCr’s steady stream of propaganda – saying, “We don’t operate any solitary confinement units or cells in the California penal system, nor do we torture anyone” – here’s a summary of relevant facts supporting our position that these SHU and Ad-Seg units and the operations thereof are designed (modeled) after techniques designed to break political prisoners as a control mechanism. They are intended to break prisoners via coercive persuasion into becoming state informants.

I’ll begin by asking you a simple question?

Why is it that CDCr is able to get away with portraying PBSP SHU (Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit) prisoners as the “worst of the worst” sub-human monsters ever encountered in modern times as justification for their policies and practices of treating said prisoners as sub-human via decades of what is clearly a form of solitary confinement with sensory deprivation – and yet, as soon as these men agree to become state stooges via debriefing, they are no longer a threat and are released to the sensitive needs yard (protective custody) general population prison of their choice?

One of the main reasons they are able to continue to get away with their BS is the failure of the people to hold the lawmakers responsible.

I’ve been in the SHU for 28.4 years, to date, 24.7 years of which has been here in PBSP-SHU. [Editor’s note: This was written Dec. 30, 2014.] I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged with a gang related rule violation. (During our hunger strike I was issued two rule violations classified as serious. They were for: a) having a photo of my longtime friend; and b) a letter that someone had sent me, a stranger who represented herself as a supporter of our cause and wanted to be a pen pal. Staff gave me the letter, and then came around later and confiscated it and wrote me up.)

The above is intended to put the following into some perspective: Based on my personal experience in PBSP SHU during the past 24.7 years, I’ve experienced many techniques designed to break me. One is isolation from my social group. This is a tactic used here by prisoncrats to physically remove those prisoners deemed “problematic” to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or weaken close emotional ties, along with segregation of all natural leaders.

I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged
with a gang related rule violation.

What prisoncrats like to do is claim that this place can’t be considered a solitary confinement unit because you have eight cells to each pod and thus the prisoners in each pod are able to talk to each other. But here is how it actually operates. If you are deemed a “problematic” prisoner by any of the staff – for example, if you are a prisoner who is constantly challenging the prisoncrats’ policies and practices – their way of subjecting you to an informal form of punishment or to try to break you is to put you in a pod where there are no other people of your social group.

Artwork accompanies writing at this SF Bay View link
http://sfbayview.com/2015/01/the-way-forward-to-end-solitary-confinement-torture-wheres-the-army/

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Important Alert: Fight the return of the new prison censorship rules

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We called for your help in June,  and we’re calling for it again.  Last month, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitations (CDCR) issued revisions to its proposed “obscene materials,” i.e. censorship regulations published earlier this year.This was in response to hundreds of public comments submitted to CDCR by CURB members and members of the public. CDCR promised to go back to the drawing board, saying the public had misunderstood its intent.This shows our collective people power! Yet, the revisions recently made by the Department are superficial and fail to address the serious concerns so many of us raised in our public comments.

If the proposed regulations are approved, CDCR will be able to permanently ban any publications it considers contraband, including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

The proposed regulations are designed to:

  1. Censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons,
  2. Stifle the intellectual, personal and political education and development of those incarcerated,
  3. Stifle efforts by prisoners to nonviolently organize, and
  4. Expand the CDCR’s ability to arbitrarily cut off its wards from direly needed contact and support coming from outside, thus further isolating them.

Please weigh in and speak out against these regulations. The public comment period is open until 5pm on November 10. Resources to help craft a letter are provided at the action page.

Spread the word on Facebook and ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, school class, place of worship, and organizations to write also. Then take action on Monday by joining fellow CURB organizations Flying Over Walls and The Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) and PHSS make mass phone calls to CDC voicing our criticisms!

Thank you for everything you do and for your initial round of public comments in June.

Fact Sheet – CDCR Censorship Regulations – Nov 2014 PDF

Fact Sheet For CDCR Proposed Censorship Regulation Changes, 2014 (Revised)

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Fact Sheet: Pending Changes to CDCR’s Censorship Regulations
See here for the text of the changes as revised (on October 20) and here for the original regs

 The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) is poised to implement proposed new rules governing materials it considers contraband. CDCr publicizes at its website that the purpose of these censorship rules is to forbid “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society [emphasis added].” (See Initial Statement of Reasons, p. 4. Under the new rules, the CDCr could permanently ban any publications it considers “contraband,” including publications containing political content and correspondence typically protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

What are activists inside CDCr SHU torture units saying?

  • “These new proposed regulations are designed to serve one purpose and that is to censor any writings, mailings and publications that educate the public to what is actually occurring in these prisons.”
  • “This is an attempt to silence prisoners and publishers whose voices have been prominent in waging struggle against prisoners’ perpetual suffering. CDCR wants to stifle prisoners’ truths and disconnect them from society at large.”
  • “They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.”
  • “They seek to not only halt all criticism, but also the education and political development of underclass segments of their population – particularly those who are imprisoned…They seek to control all we read, see, learn or think.”
  • “Allowing CDCr to censor the content of our mail would violate not only the First Amendment but also CCR Title 15, Section 3135(b): ‘Disagreement with the sender’s or receiver’s morals, values, attitudes, veracity or choice of words will not be cause for correctional staff to disallow mail. Correctional staff shall not challenge or confront the sender or receiver with such value judgments.’”

What will the new rules do?

Expand the definition of contraband: Subsection 3006(c)(19) expands the definition of contraband to include “written materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG [Security Threat Group] members or associates, as described in subsections 3378.2(b)(5)-(6) ” As subsections 3378.2(b)(5) and (6) specify, this means:

  • “Any material or documents evidencing STG activity such as the membership or enemy lists, roll call lists, constitutions, organizational structures, codes, training material, etc., of specific STGs or addresses, names, identities of validated STG affiliates” [sic];
  • “Individual or group photographs with STG connotations such as those which include insignia, certified symbols, or other validated STG affiliates.”

Possession of contraband is a disciplinary violation resulting in specific punishments. Also, it can contribute to a person being validated as a member or associate of an STG (formerly termed “prison gang”), leading to a person’s indefinite placement in solitary confinement.

Promote confiscation, censorship, and/or permanent banning of political mail:  Under the current rules governing materials considered contraband (which are still in effect until the new rules are approved) every month’s issue of the San Francisco Bay View from January to June—except February’s—was disallowed at Pelican Bay State Prison, and withheld until well after the hunger strike began on July 8. Those issues were packed with letters from prisoners explaining and discussing the reasons for the upcoming strike.  Under the new rules (subsection 3134.1(d)), however, an institution could permanently ban a publication in its decision to temporarily withhold it is affirmed by the Division of Adult Operations.

Further criminalize culture, historical understanding and self-knowledge, and political dialogue: CDCr views political and historical writings, as well as materials relating to cultural identity, as an indication of association with an STG.  As stated above, the new rules define “written materials or photographs that indicate and association with a validated STG member or associate” as contraband.

Further criminalize correspondence overall: Subsection 3135(c)(14) adds “written materials or photographs going into or out of the prison that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates” to a list of “Disturbing or Offensive Correspondence” which may be prohibited. So, if a person’s mom sends her incarcerated son a photo of his brother, and if his brother is a validated STG member or associate, the photo is considered contraband!

Further impacts for prisonersUnder current state law, media may not conduct face to face interviews with prisoners without a prison’s approval. During approved tours, reporters are only permitted to speak with individuals hand-picked by officials. Incarcerated persons are not allowed to send confidential mail to journalists about prison abuses. Under the new regulations, their outgoing mail can be banned altogether.

If political publications are banned, prisoners will be cut off from nonviolent organizing efforts to improve their situation. In California, where correspondence between prisoners is only allowed with institutional approval, or is punished, publications enable those suffering in silence and isolation to know s/he is not alone.

How could this affect those with loved ones inside, activists, advocates and attorneys?Under the recently approved STG regulations that went into effect October 17, “STG suspect” is defined (under section 3000) as any person who, based on documented evidence, is involved periodically or regularly with the members or associates of a STG” [emphasis added]. Thus, the sheer number of items that can be considered contraband is limitless, as mail sent by any person who is considered an “STG suspect” —incarcerated or not—is apparently indicative of “an association with” a person validated as an STG affiliate. Mail mail and visiting privileges could be revoked for outside supporters and loved ones, in addition to any other consequences that may result.  This would have the collateral effect of cutting off prisoners from direly needed contact and support and increasing their isolation.

Other resources:

 Public hearing date is November 10, 2014.

Please submit comments no later than 5 PM PST on 10/10 via our action page or to:

Timothy M. Lockwood, Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch,

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,

P.O. Box 942883,
Sacramento, CA, 94283-0001;

by fax to (916) 324-6075; or by e-mail at rpmb@cdcr.ca.gov (We additionally recommend to cc staff@oal.ca.gov)

PDF version of this Fact Sheet is available here

Release Hunger-striker Robert C. Fuentes before he dies in prison

Robert FuentesRobert C. Fuentes participated in all 3 hunger strikes. He risked his life to end the torture of solitary confinement. Now he is dying due to medical negligence by CDCR. Send letters to arrive by Monday for his parole hearing on Tuesday, September 16, at 10 am. It will be on K Street in Sacramento and will include time for Public Comments, up to 5 minutes per person. Write a friendly letter to the Board of Parole Hearings with your name, address, phone number, and date, on behalf of Robert C. Fuentes’ immediate parole or Compassionate Release from California Medical Facility Vacaville to his family in Corona. Use info from this page and the petition online, and write why it’s important to you. Send petitions and letters of support (from individuals and on your organization’s letterhead) to: Board of Parole Hearings, Investigations Division, Attn: Kevin Hourigan, Post Office Box 4036, Sacramento, CA 95812-4036. Send copies to Justice Now by email to Cammie Dodson <cammiedodson@ gmail.com> or snail mail hard copies: Att’n Cammie Dodson, Justice Now, 1322 Webster Street, Suite 210, Oakland, CA 94612.
 
If you haven’t already, please sign the petition to Jerry Brown, Jeffrey Beard, and Martin Hoshino “Release Robert C. Fuentes before he dies in prison” at change.org/p/jefferey-a-beard-release-robert-c-fuentes-before-he-dies-in-prison.
 
His sister, Cynthia Fuentes, wrote: “We have found out that Martin Hoshito the Undersecretary has denied the request for Robert’s Compassionate Release, but we understand that’s par for the course. We need solidarity for a victory please repost the petition. Robert is getting weaker. He’s not able to swallow very well, which means he doesn’t eat very much. He is in Stage IV Liver Cancer, your prayers and messages to him keep him going and Bless him. If you haven’t posted under “Why is it important to me?” I invite you all to speak from your heart about this terribly unjust case. Love and God Bless, Cynthia (Cindy) Fuentes.”
Robert writes remarkable poetry. His poem “Inside, Outside” about being in SHU, with a picture of PBSP, was published in Extracts from Pelican Bay, Marilla Arguelles, Editor. It won America’s Best Poetry Contest. His writings also are in Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit of Hope, Healing and Forgiveness, and a story for Cynthia in Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul: Inspirational Stories About Sisters and Their Changing Relationships.

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

Northwest Detention Center Hunger Strike Ends after 56 Days – Collective of Detainees Releases Statement

AFTER 56 DAYS, NORTHWEST DETENTION CENTER HUNGER STRIKE CONCLUDES; NEWLY FORMED COLLECTIVE OF DETAINEES RELEASES STATEMENT

Tacoma, WA, May 5, 2014 – The wave of hunger strikes that first began on March 7th at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), a federal facility owned by the GEO Group and under the authority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has concluded. In a communication dated May 1st, the newly formed “Collective of NWDC-T Detainees,” informed their supporters that they have completed this stage of their struggle. Full text of statement, with Spanish-language original, is below; pdf of original available upon request. The letter, titled, “Assessment of one phase of struggle” documents the retaliation suffered by the peaceful whistle-blowing hunger strikers during the March 27th wave of the strike. Describing “rigged hearings under false accusations with no respect for due process” and “sentences of 2 to 30 days” of solitary confinement suffered by the hunger strikers, the Collective also affirms their commitment to their initial demands, including a call for an end to deportations and for bold action by President Obama.

The hunger strike, which at its height included 1200 detainees, garnered local, national, and international media attention, and exposed the deplorable conditions in the facility, one of the largest detention centers on the West Coast. A February 24th #Not1More action outside the gates of the NWDC, where protesters blocked deportation buses and vans, inspired those held inside to take action of their own in the form of the hunger strike. Jose Moreno, among those on the GEO Group-marked van protesters stopped on the 24th, helped organize the hunger strike before being released on bond. Since his release, he has continued to lead the support efforts for those still imprisoned. Hearing of the end of the strike, Mr. Moreno stated, “Abuses that have been happening for years have now come to light. We are still in the struggle, and although the strike has ended, this isn’t over.”

Among the strike’s most important victories was an end to the silence surrounding the conditions of detention and deportation in this corner of the country. Despite being located in a little-trafficked industrial zone, the strike drew hundreds of supporters to multiple rallies outside the prison and inspired a similar action in a GEO Group immigrant detention facility in Conroe, Texas. Ernestina Hernandez, the wife of one of the men deported from Conroe for engaging in the hunger strike, began a hunger strike of her own outside the gates of the White House, bringing the peaceful protest tactic to the President’s front door.

Throughout the strike, ICE and GEO Group abuses continued to come to light. Among these are serious workplace injuries suffered by detainees laboring for $1/day; possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars of unaccounted telephone funds held back by the facility upon detainees’ deportations; and the use of solitary confinement and prison transfers in response to detainees’ peaceful protest. Also spotlighted were organizations that profit from the detention center. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, headquartered in Seattle, has become a target of hunger-strike supporters and others, due to their investment in GEO Group, and pressure continues for them to divest their holdings in the private prison company.

While ICE remains unresponsive to many of the hunger strikers’ demands, others are taking action as a result of the strike. Following a visit to the facility, where he met privately with hunger strikers and listened to their stories and demands, U.S. Representative Adam Smith drafted legislation, set to be introduced this week, which aims to create statutory standards for the treatment of immigrant detainees.

In their statement, the strikers emphasized that the 56-day hunger strike was only the beginning, stating that, “The fortifications, the walls that attempted to contain our participation have cracked and with ever growing unity we will finish knocking them down; the voice that initially struggled to filter out is now heard with greater firmness and clarity.”

STATEMENT FROM HUNGER STRIKERS:
Assessment of one phase of struggle

Today, May 1st, a 30-day hunger strike came to a conclusion. It had a prelude of 72 hours of fasting begun on March 27th, occurring in a climate of persecution, harassment and application of disciplinary punishments, invented and prefabricated by personnel from GEO (the private company that runs the Northwest Detention Center – Tacoma “NWDC – T”), with the goal of stopping us from adding our voice to the voice of those on the outside clamoring for Not1More, stop deportations, end the destruction of families, deferred action for all, yes to immigration reform; despite suffering through rigged “hearings” under false accusations, with no respect for due process, taking out of context the actions of the “accused,” impeding free exercise of ideas and the exercise of freedom of expression, as well as the right to information. In an atmosphere of voluntary and strictly peaceful action, they unleashed a chain of “disciplinary sanctions,” applying isolation and segregation to the participants who were on rolling fasts and hunger strikes, from March 24 until April 2nd, with an eye towards the great action on April 5th. These resulted in sentences of 2 to 30 days of punishment, with which they attempted and are attempting to discourage our unity in becoming a single voice regardless of whether we are on the inside or on the outside. With certainty we affirm that they did not succeed in containing and silencing the voice of those on the inside, the voice of the detained. They did not succeed in hijacking our emotions or our disposition to struggle despite drastically limiting our rights and falsely accusing us of insurrection. The campaign to marginalize us carried out by a cruel and unscrupulous bureaucracy that represents immoral and indecent interests cannot contain a just struggle that uses peaceful methods to make itself heard.

The fortifications, the walls that attempted to contain our participation have cracked and with ever growing unity we will finish knocking them down; the voice that initially struggled to filter out is now heard with greater firmness and clarity. With dignity, with self-respect, we are honored to signal that we are also present and that we add ourselves to the work yet to come until we succeed in NOT ONE MORE person added to the deportation statistics, and NOT ONE MORE FAMILY destroyed, and NOT ONE MORE IMMIGRANT with their American dream cut short and treated like a second class citizen.

Our voice is added to the single voice that is part of the echo that is heard in the White House and in Capitol Hill.

To those who join forces with this struggle today.

To those who cry out in different plazas and streets today.

To those who have opened their hearts to a just cause.

To those who add their pen, their voice, their image, their untiring support, their now inseparable company.

To the girl, the boys, and the youth who exercise solidarity and love of their peers.

TO ALL OF YOU THANK YOU FOR NOT LEAVING US ALONE.

We will not let you down and we will carry out our contribution so that we signal to history, as many millions of immigrants have done before, that we too added to the strength and greatness of this GREAT COUNTRY.

We reiterate to Mr. President Barack Obama that he be bold and honor his word.

We send a signal to Congress to rise to the challenge of what is justly and morally asked of them.

NOT ONE MORE! YES WE CAN!

– Collective of NWDC-T Detainees

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ORIGINAL SPANISH-LANGUAGE VERSION OF STATEMENT:
Balance de una etapa de lucha

Hoy 1o de mayo se concluye una huelga de hambre de 30 días, con un preludio de 72 hrs de ayuno iniciado el 27 de marzo y que en un clima de persecución, hostigamiento y aplicación de correctivos disciplinarios, inventados y prefabricados por parte del persona de GEO (compañía de la iniciativa privada que administra el Northwest Detention Center – Tacoma “NWDC –T”), en un afán de impedir que sumemos nuestra voz a la voz de los que afuera claman Ni1Mas, alto a las deportaciones, no a la destrucción de familias, acción diferida para todos, si a la reforma migratoria; a pesar de padecer “audiencias” amañadas bajo acusaciones falsas, sin respetar el debido proceso, sacando de contexto acciones de los “acusados”, impidiendo la libre asociación de ideas y el ejercicio de la libertad de expresión así como el derecho a la información, ello en un ambiente personal voluntario y estrictamente pacifico, desencadenaron una ola de “sanciones disciplinarias” aplicando aislamiento y segregación a participantes en ayunos y huelgas de hambre, escalonadas del 24 de marzo al 2 de abril, con miras al gran acto del 5 de abril, y que implicaron sentencias de 2 a 30 días de castigo, que procuraban y procuran desalentar nuestra integración para volvernos una sola voz, sin importar si estamos afuera o adentro; con certeza afirmamos que no lograron contener y acallar, la voz de los de adentro, la voz de los detenidos, no lograron confiscar nuestro sentimiento, ni disposición de lucha a pesar de limitar drásticamente nuestros derechos acusándonos falsamente de sedición, la campaña para marginarnos por parte de una burocracia cruel e inescrupulosa que representa interés inmorales, indecentes no puede contra una lucha justa y que utiliza medios pacíficos para hacerse oír.

 

Los muros, las paredes que pretendían contener nuestra participación se han agrietado y con una integración cada vez mayor terminaremos derrumbarles; la voz que inicialmente costo trabajo filtrar hoy se escucha con mayor firmeza y claridad. Con dignidad, con orgullo nos honramos en señalar que también estamos presentes que nos sumamos a las tareas por venir hasta lograr que NI UNO MAS forme parte de la estadística de deportados, que NI UNA FAMILIA MAS sea destruida, que NI UN INMIGRANTE MAS se le trunque el sueño americano y que sea tratado como ciudadano de segunda.

 

Nuestra voz se ha sumado a una sola voz y es parte del eco que se escucha en la Casa Blanca y el Capitolio.

A los que hoy se hermanan con esta lucha.

A las que hoy claman es distintas plazas y calles.

A las y los que han abierto su corazón a una causa justa.

A las y los que suman su pluma, su voz, su imagen, su apoyo incansable, su ya inseparable compañía

A las niñas, niños y jóvenes que se ejercitan en la solidaridad y amor a su semejantes.

 

A TODOS USTEDES GRACIAS POR NO DEJARNOS SOLOS.

 

No los vamos a defraudar y cumpliremos con nuestra aportación para que a la historia señale como tantos millones de inmigrantes lo han hecho que también colaboramos a la fortaleza y grandeza de este GRAN PAIS.

 

Le reiteramos al Sr. Presidente Barack Obama sea audaz y honre su palabra.

 

Le señalamos al Congreso que esté a la altura de lo que justa y moralmente se le reclama.

 

NI UNO MAS! SI SE PUEDE!

 

 

– Colectivo Detenidos NWDC-T

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Petition on behalf of Hunger Strikers and latest press releases available at: www.notonemoredeportation.com/2014/03/10/detention-hunger-strike/