CA state court : Prisoner Can’t Be Punished for Hunger Strike

  • Below is the April 23, 2016 article from SF Gate/San Francisco Chronicle (minus photos and video in the article)
  • Court’s full decision at the bottom of the post.

State court rules prisoners can’t be punished for hunger strike

http://m.sfgate.com/news/article/State-court-rules-prisoners-can-t-be-punished-7305577.php

A state appeals court says a California prisoner who took part in a mass hunger strike protesting long-term solitary confinement should not have been punished for disorderly behavior because he did not disrupt prison operations or endanger anyone.

Although the 2013 hunger strike, which involved as many as 30,000 inmates across the state, may have affected the workload of prison staff members, there was no evidence of “a breakdown of order” or any threat of violence, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in the case of a former inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison.

The ruling, issued last month, was published Friday as a precedent for future cases. In addition to overturning a 90-day sentencing increase for the inmate, the decision could help numerous hunger strikers whose prison conduct is scrutinized by parole boards, said an attorney in the case, Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

For inmates serving life sentences with the possibility of parole, “the parole board is citing the hunger strike as a reason to keep them in prison, because of their ongoing criminal mentality,” Strickman said.

“We hope to use this opinion to try to educate the parole board,” she added. “You might say it makes you more suitable (for release), engaging in nonviolent protest. People could see it as good citizenship.”

The inmate, Jorge Gomez, was sent to Pelican Bay, in Del Norte County, in 2000 and was transferred three years later to the prison’s Security Housing Unit, where he was kept in solitary confinement for more than a decade. In July 2013, he refused to eat for four days and, after the third day, was cited for a “serious” violation of prison rules for taking part in a hunger strike.

Continue reading

PHOTOS and REPORTBACKS from Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners

On February 1, 2016, people from all over California gathered in Sacramento at the headquarters of the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) to demand an end to the dangerous and deliberate sleep deprivation being inflicted on the people in solitary in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, under the guise of “welfare checks”.

Before the Rally, more than 15 formerly incarcerated people, family members, pen pals, and other activists visited the offices of Loni Hancock (chair of the CA Senate Public Safety Senate Committee), Bill Quirk (chair of the CA Assembly Public Safety Committee), and reps from various districts to demand the immediate suspension of the sleep deprivation “welfare checks” in the Pelican Bay SHU.  Sleep Deprivation Is Torture.

Reportbacks below are from Martha Esquivel of San Diego, CA and James Decker of Eureka, CA.
Photos are from Liberated Lens Collective, Lucas Guilkey, James Decker, and Urszula Frydman. Please inquire about photo accreditation before using unlabeled photos.

from Martha Esquivel:
I’m so very thankful for having the opportunity to go to Sacramento and stand up with you all in front of CDCr and show them our unity, meet new people and listen to their stories… about how their loved ones are being tortured by CDCr, our employees. Yes, our employees. Because they get paid with our taxes, and instead of rehabilitating our loved ones who make mistakes, they are looking for methods to keep the torture going one way or another.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

Almost 5 years ago, we were standing outside CDCr demanding CDCr stop the torture of our loved ones in Indefinite Isolation.  We proved to them that was torture. We Won and now CDCr has found another way of torturing them, by not letting them sleep. It has been 6 months of sleep deprivation and they know that it is torture.

Back in 2011, we didn’t have a clue what to do, we only knew that our loved ones were being Tortured and they needed our support. Our loved ones pushed from the inside and we pushed from the outside, and we got the Victory.  Today, we are more people fighting for our loved ones in prison. Some of them are out of the SHU, but we are still here fighting for the one’s still in the SHU. We are not leaving anyone behind. Together We know We can make a change, and we just want to let CDCr know that regarding this new chapter of torture they have created: We are going to win too, because our movement is a movement of Love, and we believe in rehabilitating humans not destroying them!
Martha Esquivel is active in California Families Against Solitary Confinement and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition; She is sister to Luis Esquivel, a named Plaintiff in Ashker v Brown, now out of Pelican Bay SHU after 15 years in solitary there.

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Photo by Lucas Guilkey

from James Decker:
I was proud to be part of the contingent from far northern California to attend the Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners on February 1, 2016. We gathered just after noon, a group of family members, formerly incarcerated persons, activists, attorneys, and faith leaders. Diverse members of the community gathering with a single purpose: to stop the sleep deprivation torture.

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I was moved by the testimony of those folks fighting for the very lives of their loved ones. More then 70 people were there to listen and demand action!  Women, mostly women of color, spoke about a racist system fueled by capitalism that has devastated their families and robbed their communities.

StopTortureNow_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

EndSleepDeprivation_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

Thanks to the folks that helped create these powerful posters and the Artist Richard Torres.

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Carol Strickman gave us an update from the legal team.  The folks from Food Not Bombs in Oakland brought nutritious food.  Sarah Torres provided stirring music and chants went up spontaneously from the crowd demanding “LET THEM SLEEP!”

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Cynthia spoke of the callous neglect and medical malpractice that is rampant in the prison system. It resulted in the death of her brother.

We must keep the pressure up to end this abominable behavior by the Department of Corrections and the State of California.

In solidarity,
James Decker works with Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

More Photos! 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

PHSS bannerMedia Advisory – Thursday, October 22, 2015

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

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

What:   Rallies against solitary confinement and
“welfare  checks”

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)

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.

Where +
When:   Fri, Oct 23 at locations throughout California and
across the country, including:

1:00pm
Across from Pelican Bay State Prison
5905 Lake Earl Dr, Crescent City, CA 95532

                  For a full list of the actions, please visit
https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/

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

Oct. 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement: Locations & Details

Also, on October 23rd, groups nationwide introduce the Together to End Solitary campaign!

Friday, Oct. 23 ACTIONS by Location
(alphabetical order)

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:
http://www.cjpc.org/2015/CEPS-Action-Packet-final.pdf
http://www.nrcat.org/torture-in-us-prisons/together-campaign

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.

Oct. 23 locations & details
below and at Together to End Solitary

Continue reading

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

Weekend in Oakland: TRAINING Aug 29, BARBEQUE Aug 30

Flier_Aug29,30

RSVP through phone 510-426-5322, email phssreachingout@gmail.com or
here: http://tinyurl.com/rsvp-phss-august2015.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) invites all family members, loved ones and formerly incarcerated individuals to a workshop on Sat, Aug 29th, and a BBQ to grow California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) on Sun, Aug 30th.  Please post/share this weekend of events, allies also welcome!
Here’s the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/106275163055639/

**SATURDAY AUGUST 29th**
PHSS Strategy Training on Ending Solitary, sponsored by American Friends Service Committee. The training will expand on Michelle Alexander’s call to action in “The New Jim Crow” to dismantle the largest penal system in the world.
10am-4pm
First Unitarian Church in Oakland, Wendte Room
685 14th St, Oakland, CA

**SUNDAY AUGUST 30th**
BBQ at Mosswood Park to grow California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC).  We hope this BBQ gathering will help family members and loved ones of people in prison and formerly incarcerated individuals continue to build a strong family base of CFASC members.
12-5pm
Mosswood Park is at 3650 Webster St., Oakland CA 94609
We’ll be at the BBQ area on Webster
Free event, food included!

Gathering under the oak trees. Eat, meet, relax, enjoy.

Continue reading

Sunday, Aug. 23rd– Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

Action Locations and Details — from San Diego to Arcata, CA to New York City  HERE

Solitary Is Torture

Nationwide Actions to Honor Two Year Anniversary of Largest Prisoner Hunger Strike in History

Media Advisory – Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Activists plan nationwide actions
to honor two year anniversary
of largest prisoner hunger strike in history

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

What:     Prison activists plan nationwide mobilizations against solitary confinement

Community organizations, families and loved ones of people in solitary, and prisoner human rights advocates across California and the country will be mobilizing a day of Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement on July 23, as part of an ongoing series of monthly actions to oppose solitary confinement. July 2015 marks the two year anniversary of the largest prisoner hunger strike in history, when over 30,000 prisoners in California began refusing meals on July 8, 2013 for two months in a protest initiated by people in Pelican Bay State Prison’s solitary confinement units.

Who:   Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, as well as over 75 groups nationwide

These actions were initiated by PHSS organizations including California Families Against Solitary Confinement, California Prison Focus, Critical Resistance, Sin Barras, American Friends Service Committee, People’s Action for Rights and Community, and others, but have now grown to include over 75 groups nationwide. For a full list, visit http://tinyurl.com/STATESCsupport

When:    Thursday, July 23, 2015

Times will vary for each action – see http://tinyurl.com/ActionsAgainstSolitary for information

Where:   Over 13 cities in California and across the country, including Oakland, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, as well as in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and more. See http://tinyurl.com/ActionsAgainstSolitary for information on all planned actions.

Why:    Despite international condemnation of solitary confinement as torture, California continues to use the practice and deny basic human rights

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’s Rights Day. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) refuses to respect basic human rights by continuing to keep people isolated in cells, often for many 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. Activists are demanding an end to solitary confinement, and that the five human rights demands of prisoners who participated in the hunger strikes be met: http://tinyurl.com/FiveDemands

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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