Reportback from HEARING in Jorge Rico’s Case Against Sleep-Depriving Checks

Report on Jorge Rico Hearing

by Charlie Hinton

A number of hardy souls ventured to Sacramento on May 18, 2018 to a federal court hearing on CDCr’s motion to dismiss Jorge Rico’s suit opposing the every half hour Guard One “security/welfare checks” that take place in isolation units throughout the state. With Guard One, guards press a metal baton into a metal receiver positioned either in or besides cell doors, making a loud disruptive noise in most cases, waking prisoners up every 30 minutes and causing sleep deprivation. The good news is that the magistrate judge, Deborah Barnes, gave every indication she will deny CDCr’s motion and will move the case to its next stage. She suggested several times to CDCr’s lawyers that at this very early stage of the case, there was no basis for a motion to dismiss, and she said at least twice “I’m really struggling with your arguments.”

Rico Rally photo,5-18-18

There are currently 6 suits against the “checks” before this judge, and Kate Falkenstien, above in the center wearing a pink blouse, represents 3 of them, including that of Jorge Rico. In a press conference after the hearing, she explained the 3 arguments of CDCr.

In a motion they filed the day before, CDCr claims that because Mr. Rico has been moved from Pelican Bay SHU to general population, the case is now moot. The judge asked “Can’t he again be moved into SHU?” Which is exactly what has happened. During the last year or so, he’s gone from SHU to RCGP (from where he filed the suit) to SHU to Ad Seg  to SHU and now to GP.

The judge said that Rico’s claim would be viable for damages, but it was “questionable” whether injunctive relief could be sought.  [The judge’s point being that, at the present time, the conduct that would be enjoined does not affect Rico, the sole plaintiff in this case, because he is no longer in SHU.]

Prisoner rights campaigner Marie Levin commented outside the courthouse, “Regardless of Mr. Rico’s present or future housing assignment, he still suffered what he suffered when he suffered it.”

Second, CDCr argues that although sleep deprivation is illegal, they don’t think it’s illegal to keep people awake in this way. They didn’t know it was wrong. Ms. Falkenstien brought up a case from Alabama, Hope v. Pelzer, in which Alabama prison guards tied Mr. Hope to a hitching post with his shirt off in the sun for seven hours, offering him water twice and never a bathroom break. He sued, under the grounds that this was a violation of the 8th amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. Alabama said they knew it was illegal to tie a person for a sustained time to a fence or a cell door, but they didn’t think it was illegal to tie a person to a hitching post. The Supreme Court ruled for Mr. Hope.

CDCr’s third argument is that the Coleman judge has already ruled that Guard One is acceptable. Ms. Falkenstien argued for Rico that Coleman was a case involving mental illness, and neither Jorge nor many other prisoners undergoing the “checks” are mentally ill, and that even if one case has been decided, each person should be able to be heard in court.

In Ms. Falkenstien’s original brief in opposition to CDCr’s motion to dismiss, she argued 1) an Eighth Amendment challenge to the Guard One checks
 was not actually litigated in Coleman, 2) Rico Is neither a Coleman Class Member nor in privity 
with Class Members, and 3) the Coleman order can also be collaterally challenged, 
because none of the Coleman class representatives are 
affected by the Guard One checks.

Commenting on CDCr’s claims, the judge remarked that it was well established that sleep deprivation can rise to the level of an 8th Amendment violation. She said she was having a hard time with CDCr’s argument, and further, that she would be shocked to find any mention of sleep deprivation in Coleman, or anything in Coleman saying that if the checks using the Guard One system cause sleep deprivation, “that’s okay.”

Judge Barnes declined to dismiss the case and on Monday, May 21, 2018 she ordered the parties to brief the mootness issue (about Mr. Rico currently being out of the SHU) before she rules on the motion to dismiss.  The briefing is going to take about a month in total, so we won’t have a final answer about whether the case will be dismissed until the end of June at the earliest. We are optimistic, however, she will dismiss CDCr’s motion and move forward with the case.

pdf of this Report (with photo) HERE

Sacramento RALLY & COURT SOLIDARITY to End Sleep Deprivation in CA Solitary Confinement — FRIDAY, MAY 18

Jorge Rico is incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison and has brought a civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the loud “security/welfare checks” that he (and others) in Pelican Bay’s solitary units endure every 30-60 minutes 24/7. These so-called “checks”- done by guards – wake and disturb prisoners day and night causing serious sleep deprivation and, as his lawsuit claims, constitute cruel and unusual punishment.as his lawsuit claims, constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (The guards do no checking on top of that). Sleep deprivation is internationally recognized as torture.

Please RALLY at 9am on May 18 in support of Jorge Rico’s case against the “security/welfare checks” and in public outrage against the jarring noise and sleep deprivation they cause. At 10am, after the rally, help form a STRONG COURTROOM PRESENCE at the hearing in his case.  Show solidarity with Jorge Rico while his attorneys argue that his case should not be dismissed at CDCR’s request.

The CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will argue for the court to dismiss Jorge’s civil rights case. Jorge’s lawyers will argue that the case against CDCR administrators, guards, and wardens, must move forward. HERE is a link to Jorge Rico’s Opposition to CDCR’s motion to dismiss.

The PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation asks you to help make a powerful showing of solidarity with Jorge and all people in CA solitary confinement who are suffering from the checks, and who cannot be in the courtroom or outside rallying and speaking about their experience.


Friday, May 18, 2018
Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse, 501 I St., Sacramento, CA 95814

Sacramento Federal Court/Eastern District
Case name and number: Rico v. Beard  2:17-cv-01402-KJM-DB

9:00am RALLY outside the Courthouse
10:00am COURTROOM SOLIDARITY with Jorge Rico,
prisoner who brought this case (Crtrm #27, 8th Floor)

After the hearing, Jorge’s attorney, Kate Falkenstein, will be available briefly outside the courthouse to speak with community supporters and media.

Note: You must show ID and pass through a metal detector to get inside the Courthouse.


'Solitary Confinement Security Welfare Checks' art by Jaime Amesquita

Artwork by Jaime Amesquita, in High Desert State Prison. “I’m hoping that maybe through the publishing of my art I can bring attention to the long term effects brought by security/welfare checks, like sleep deprivation or PTSD.”

One way CDCR is attempting to get rid of the civil rights cases against the checks is by claiming that the guards and administrators causing the sleep deprivation and harm are only ‘following orders’ and not violating any clearly established right. We recall these words from a person in Pelican Bay solitary, who, like Jorge, has been subjected to the checks’ loud, reverberating banging noise every 30 minutes 24/7 in a small, enclosed concrete and metal cell:

“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. So CDCR/Pelican Bay State Prison cannot possibly claim, ‘We did not know the cause or effect of this new program’s use of extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, and constant noise/banging.’”

Jorge’s Opposition to CDCR’s Motion to Dismiss quotes the court in another current federal case challenging the checks, Matthews v. Holland:

“It has been clearly established in the Ninth Circuit, since the 1990s, that inmates are entitled to conditions of confinement which do not result in chronic, long term sleep deprivation.” 

These “security/welfare checks” have been occurring for almost three years in Pelican Bay State Prison.

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EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT: Demand CA Dept. of Corrections Release Drafters of the Agreement to End Hostilities from Solitary Confinement!

Emergency Action Alert:

RELEASE DRAFTERS OF THE AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES FROM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

In October, 2017, the 2 year court monitoring period of the Ashker v. Governor settlement to limit solitary confinement in California expired. Since then, the four drafters of the Agreement to End Hostilities and lead hunger strike negotiators – Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, and Todd Ashker, have all been removed from general population and put in solitary in Administrative Segregation Units, based on fabricated information created by staff and/or collaborating “inmate informants.” In Todd Ashker’s case, he is being isolated “for his own protection,” although he does not ask for nor desire to be placed in isolation for this or any reason. Sitawa has been returned to population, but can still not have visitors.

Please contact CA Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) Secretary Scott Kernan and Governor Edmund G. Brown and demand CDCr:

Immediately release back into general population any of the four lead organizers still held in solitary

Return other Ashker class members to general population who have been placed in Ad Seg

Stop the retaliation against all Ashker class members and offer them meaningful rehabilitation opportunities

Contact Scott Kernan. He prefers mailed letters to 1515 S Street, Sacramento 95811. If you call 916-324-7308, press 0 for the Communications office. Email matthew.westbrook@cdcr.ca.gov and cc: scott.kernan@cdcr.ca.gov

Contact Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814; Phone: (916) 445-2841; Fax: (916) 558-3160; Email: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

As a result of the administrative reviews established after the second prisoner hunger strike in 2011 and the Ashker settlement of 2015, California’s SHU population has decreased from 3923 people in October 2012 to 537 in January 2018. Returning these four men and many other hunger strikers back to solitary in the form of Ad Seg represents an intentional effort to undermine the Agreement to End Hostilities and the settlement, and return to the lock ‘em up mentality of the 1980’s.

Sitawa writes: “What many of you on the outside may not know is the long sordid history of CDCr’s ISU [Institutional Services Unit]/ IGI [Institutional Gang Investigator]/Green Wall syndicate’s [organized groups of guards who act with impunity] pattern and practice, here and throughout its prison system, of retaliating, reprisals, intimidating, harassing, coercing, bad-jacketing [making false entries in prisoner files], setting prisoners up, planting evidence, fabricating and falsifying reports (i.e., state documents), excessive force upon unarmed prisoners, [and] stealing their personal property . . .”

CDCr officials are targeting the Ashker v. Governor class members to prevent them from being able to organize based on the Agreement to End Hostilities, and to obstruct their peaceful efforts to effect genuine changes – for rehabilitation, returning home, productively contributing to the improvement of their communities, and deterring recidivism.

Please help put a stop to this retaliation with impunity. Contact Kernan and Brown today:

Scott Kernan prefers mailed letters to 1515 S Street, Sacramento 95811. If you call 916-324-7308, press 0 for the Communications office. Email: matthew.westbrook@cdcr.ca.gov and cc: scott.kernan@cdcr.ca.gov

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814; Phone: (916) 445-2841; Fax: (916) 558-3160; Email: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

Read statements from the reps:

  Joint Statement from the 4 – Don’t let CDCR reverse our Hunger Strike-won legal victory

•  Sitawa – Brutha Sitawa: CDCr and Soledad Prison retaliate with false reports to return me to solitary confinement

•  Arturo – Statement by Arturo Castellanos

•  Todd – We stand together so prisoners never have to go through the years of torture we did (with Open Letter to Gov. Brown, CA legislators and CDCR Secretary Kernan)
Download and PRINT this 1-Page Emergency Action Alert.

PTSD SC: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Baridi J. Williamson

published in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper:
http://sfbayview.com/2018/02/ptsd-sc-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-solitary-confinement/

California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) had been locking classes of prisoners up in solitary confinement since the ‘60s as part of CDCr’s para-military low-intensity warfare, to break the minds and spirits of its subjects, California’s prisoner class. CDCr’s solitary confinement has two operating components: 1) punishing you and 2) physically and mentally destroying you.

In the 1970s, CDCr’s report to then Gov. Ronald Reagan on revolutionary organizations and gangs resulted in Reagan ordering the CDCr director to lock up all radicals, militants, revolutionaries and jailhouse lawyers who were considered “trouble-makers.”[i] And a 1986 report by the CDCr task force stated that during the ‘60s and ‘70s, California’s prisoners became “politicized” through the influence of outside “radical, social movements.”

And conscious prisoners began to “demand” their human, constitutional and civil rights,[ii] as exemplified by those politicized prisoners of war (PPOW) like W.L. Nolen.[iii] In the late ‘60s, Nolen and other PPOWs filed a civil rights class action case challenging the inhumane, degrading conditions and institutional racism that was prevalent at Soledad Prison’s solitary confinement O-wing,[iv] as well as throughout CDCr’s prison system to date.

The 1986 CDCr task force report recommended that CDCr build “supermax” prisons for this politicized class of prisoners, which was echoed by the California prison guards’ union (known today as CCPOA) in continuing their low-intensity warfare upon California prisoners up into and through the ‘80s.

Shortly thereafter, California government through its apparatus CDCr, built its solitary confinement torture sites, such as Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation (Ad-Segs) at Tehachapi in December 1986, New Folsom in December 1987, Corcoran in December 1988 and at Pelican Bay State Prison in December of 1989. All were designed with the malicious intent to destroy human lives through their diabolical low-intensity warfare scheme of mass validation – group punishment – indeterminate SHU classification and enhanced “debriefing” interrogation, known as “snitch, parole or die!”

Each of California’s governors and CDCr cabinet secretaries from 1977 to 2015 knowingly enhanced their system to become more repressive upon the prisoners held in solitary confinement in the SHUs. We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

California’s CDCr – with the winks and nods of lawmakers and judges – has held countless prisoners in solitary confinement, whether it is called Ad-Seg, Management Control Unit, Adjustment Center, SHU or Administrative SHU, longer than any prison system within the United States, ranging up to 45 years of torture and acts of racial discrimination from Soledad Prison’s O-wing to PBSP’s new form of solitary confinement torture.

The case of Madrid v. Gomez was the first acknowledgement on the part of California authorities and judiciary recognizing the harm that CDCr had been causing – mental torture – to those held in solitary confinement across the state’s prison system.[v]

We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

The Madrid case touched on the harsh conditions and treatment toward the solitary confinement prisoners at PBSP. It is a clear fact that during the years 1989 to 1994, PBSP had one of the most notorious Violence Control Units (VCUs) in the U.S. CDCr-PBSP officials utilized the VCU for to violate prisoners’ human, constitutional and civil rights by beating us and destroying the minds and spirits of so many of us for years.

An example of how some prisoners would find themselves forced into PBSP’s VCU is when the CDCr bus would arrive at PBSP and park outside the entrance doorway to solitary confinement – Facilities C and D. A squad of goons dressed in paramilitary gear with black gloves, shields and riot helmets would be there waiting. They called themselves the “Welcoming Committee.”

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating, and scalding prisoners. See Madrid v. Gomez.

The Welcoming Committee would select one or more prisoners and pull them off the bus – usually choosing those the transportation guards accused of “talking loud.” They would take each one to the side and jump on him, then drag him off through the brightly lighted doorway.

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating, and scalding prisoners.

When the rest of the prisoners were escorted off the bus into the corridor to be warehoused in the general SHU cells, they would see those beaten prisoners dragged off the bus “hog-tied”[vi] and lying on their stomachs or crouched in a fetal position, sometimes in a pool of blood.[vii] Later, they were dragged off to the VCU, where they were targeted with intense mind-breaking operations.

When these prisoners were eventually taken out of VCU and housed in the general SHU cells, they mostly displayed insanity – smearing feces all over their bodies, screaming, yelling, banging cups, throwing urine.[viii] And it was only when prisoners began to go public about the VCU at PBSP that CDCr ceased those practices.[ix]

The effects of solitary confinement at PBSP compelled CDCr to establish Psychiatric Service Units (PSUs) in response to the Madrid ruling for remedying the conditions that were destroying the minds of all prisoners who were held captive from the time of the Madrid ruling in 1995 through 2014, but they were poor and ineffective. Those released to the PSU from SHU fared no better than others held in solitary confinement at PBSP.

Prisoners in SHU continued to suffer mental, emotional and physical harm with no remedy made available by CDCr until we were released out to General Population units by the Departmental Review Board (DRB) between 2012 and 2014 and the Ashker v. Brown class action settlement in 2015.

These released prisoners were coming from a torture chamber, where by necessity they created coping skills like self-medicating. Typically, when coming out of solitary confinement, women and men prisoners show signs of depressive disorder and symptoms characteristic of self-mutilation, mood deterioration and depression, traumatic stress disorder, hopelessness, panic disorder, anger, obsessive-compulsive disorder, irritability, anhedonia, fatigue, feelings of guilt, loss of appetite, nervousness, insomnia, worry, increased heart rate and respiration, sweating, hyperarousal, serious problems with socialization, paranoia, loss of appetite, as well as cognitive issues, nightmares, muscle tension, intrusive thoughts, fear of losing control, and difficulty concentrating.[x]

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FEB 23 RALLY & COURT HEARING: California Prisoners moved to “General Population” from SHU are STILL being held in Solitary Confinement

Please come out to show your support on February 23rd for people to be put in a true general population setting with regular access to yard, day room, programming, jobs, fresh air, phone, and other means of social interaction and environmental stimulation.

Rally with us and be in court for oral argument in this important hearing in Ashker v. Governor of California.

Friday, February 23, 2018
Phillip Burton Federal Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94012

12:00 pm: RALLY outside the SF Courthouse
1:00 pm: PACK THE COURTROOM, Courtroom #1, 17th Floor

Show the judge we still support those incarcerated in solitary/SHU-like conditions!

We will head inside the courthouse at 12:40pm. You must pass through a metal detector and present ID to enter the courthouse.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2011774719037446/

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) will be there! Feb 23- Oral Argument in Ashker v. Governor of CA

Stop the Torture

“My total out-of-cell time for the entire month was 16.83 hours”

To supporters of human rights,

On February 23, 2018 in San Francisco, an important motion will be heard in Ashker v. Governor (aka Ashker v. Brown), the federal class action lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California. As a result of the settlement in Ashker, over 1400 people were released from solitary confinement Security Housing Units (SHU) to what the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) calls “General Population.”  Yet, many of the class members released from SHU continue to suffer conditions of extreme isolation. Hardly ever getting out-of-cell time, they have been forced to spend as much or more time locked in their cells as when they were in SHU, with little to no rehabilitative or educational programming or social interaction with other people.

On February 23,  Jules Lobel, of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Ashker legal team, will be arguing a motion challenging these SHU-like general population units as a violation of the settlement agreement.

A prisoner who is no longer in SHU after 15 years, explains his new “general population” conditions at Calipatria:

“… Out of cell time is regularly cancelled or restricted. Yard time is scheduled 4 times per week, but is often available only 1 or 2 times per week. Showers and telephone calls, which are supposed to be available every other day, are infrequent, and we must choose one or the other. … I leave my cell for 20-25 minutes for breakfast, and many days, this is my only out-of-cell time. …The conditions in ‘general population’ in Calipatria are similar to SHU… I have limited social interaction and intellectual stimulation. I rarely go outside…I have difficulty maintaining relationships with my family especially since my ability to use the telephone is so infrequent and irregular. I suffer from insomnia. I suffer from anxiety that I feel is directly linked to the irregular programming: I am anxious because I do not know what will happen next.”

Carol Strickman, of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and the Ashker legal team, states:

“On Friday, February 23, the San Francisco district court magistrate will hear argument on our motion regarding the isolated conditions that many of our class members are experiencing in the Level IV maximum security prisons that they were transferred to. Their conditions are so extreme that our correctional expert states, ‘These prisoners are not actually in what reasonably may be considered general population: rather, they are in a form of restrictive housing as these terms are commonly understood within the corrections profession.’ We are encouraging interested parties to attend the hearing.”

RALLY AT 12PM before the hearing, outside of the courthouse
HEARING AT 1PM in Courtroom 1, on the 17th floor. (Remember to bring ID)

Please pass this message on to fellow supporters of human rights who may be able to attend on the 23rd. Check the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website for upcoming details on a postcard campaign to further support the Ashker class members. https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/

If you have transportation needs or offers for the Feb 23 Rally and Court Hearing, please email phssreachingout@gmail.com or call 510-426-5322 as soon as possible.

Solitary Confinement is Torture.

REPORTBACK from Feb 8th Rally, Press Conference, and Court Solidarity To End Sleep Deprivation (w/ Photos & Video)

Court Update: Judge Challenges CDCR’s Use of Solitary Confinement and Sleep Deprivation
Two lawsuits against CDCR for depriving prisoners of sleep are transferred to Coleman v Brown judge

On Feb 8, 2018, Northern District Judge Vince Chhabria held a hearing on a motion by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to dismiss civil rights lawsuits brought by two prisoners, Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, who are suing CDCR for violation of their 8th amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, they have brought their lawsuits to put an end to the sleep deprivation of prisoners caused by “security/welfare checks.” Prison guards conduct these checks in solitary confinement units throughout the state every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Prisoners report that the checks are loud, disruptive, and abusive.

Judge Chhabria was critical of CDCR and began Thursday’s hearing by saying he thought California was getting rid of solitary confinement. He then questioned why the plaintiffs are being held in isolation. Judge Chhabria showed no indication that he would dismiss the cases or that he thought dismissal was appropriate. He also asked CDCR attorneys if it seems to them to be a “very serious problem” for people in solitary, already under extreme psychological stress and some with mental illness, to be woken up every half hour at night.

Because the “security/welfare checks” result from a stipulated order in Coleman v Governor of CA- a case in the Eastern District Courts- on Friday, February 9, Judge Chhabria, as he indicated he would do at Thursday’s hearing, transferred the cases to be heard by Judge Mueller.  Judge Mueller oversees the Coleman consent decree, which mandates adequate mental healthcare for prisoners.

This makes three civil rights cases brought by prisoners regarding harm from the “security/welfare checks” that have been transferred to the Eastern District. On Thursday, Judge Chhabria questioned the state’s contradictory positions in those cases; in some motions, the state claims the “checks” cannot be challenged by prisoners because they were decided on in Coleman, and other times the state argues that the cases should not be decided by the Coleman Judge. Attorneys from McKool Smith Hennigan, representing Lipsey and Suarez, wrote “Inmate Plaintiffs are harmed by Defendants’ inconsistency, because it allows Defendants to claim that no judge is ever the right judge to hear these cases.”

Around 40 community members and advocates with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition held a press conference and rally on Thursday, February 8 in front of the Federal Building in support of the prisoners’ cases. One person suffering from the checks said in a letter to a Coleman official: “I ask you to listen to the voices of us prisoners and call for the immediate cessation of these “welfare/security” checks that don’t check on anything, but which make our lives a living hell.”

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition asks you to help end the sleep deprivation by joining the prisoners’ call to end the checks.

If you know someone in solitary in a CA prison (Ad-Seg/ASU, SHU, PSU, or Condemned Units/death row), please print and send this survey to them.  They can write the PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation and send their survey responses to us, also.

Here is an 8 ½ minute VIDEO of highlights from the Rally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GeAV8MzHlM&feature=youtu.be. Please see the FLIER and PHOTOS below from the February 8, 2018 Rally, Press Conference, and Court Solidarity for prisoners challenging the sleep deprivation.

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CALL TO ACTION from PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation – THURS. FEB 8, 2018

Thurs. Feb 8, 2018

9:00am: RALLY & PRESS CONFERENCE outside the Courthouse

10:00am: COURTROOM SOLIDARITY (Crtrm 2, 17th Floor) with the prisoners who brought these cases

Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
450 Golden Gate Ave. San Francisco, CA 94102

3:14-cv-02767-VC – Lipsey v. Norum et al
3:15-cv-05756-VC – Suarez v. Beard et al

On Feb 8, 2018, in the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco, the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) will argue for the court to dismiss civil rights cases brought by Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, who are imprisoned in California. The men’s cases challenge the constitutionality of the loud “security/welfare checks” that are done every 30 minutes in CA solitary units, causing serious sleep deprivation and other harms for the people in those units, and, as the lawsuits claim, constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (The guards do no checking on top of that). The lawyers for Christopher and Maher will argue that the case against CDCr administrators, guards, and wardens, must move forward. (HERE is a link to Christopher and Maher’s Opposition to CDCR’s motions to dismiss)

We are mobilizing support for the prisoners’ cases. Please be in the courtroom on Feb 8, and also outside, before court, for a Rally and Press Conference.

2-sleep dep CA prisons-POSTER

artwork by R.T. 2016

We have received many letters over the past two+ years from people in 14 different CA prisons describing the loud, disruptive “checks,” every 30 minutes/24 hours a day (now every 60 minutes at night in Pelican Bay SHU), and the mental and physical health problems the “checks” are causing or exacerbating. The courthouse is one place where we can amplify the voices of prisoners, expose the torture of the “checks” to society at large, and apply pressure for the “checks” to cease.

Christopher Lipsey started his case in 2014. He has been enduring the “checks” for over 3 years.

Let’s come together at the SF Federal Courthouse on Feb 8th in strong solidarity with all those who are suffering from the “checks,” and who cannot be in the courtroom or outside rallying and speaking about their experience. Let’s make a powerful showing against torture at the SF Federal Courthouse!

Our Committee has a number of purple t-shirts which will be available to wear at the rally and in the courthouse to show our solidarity with the prisoners. Please wear purple if possible!

Read more about the so-called “security/welfare “checks” at the Sleep Deprivation tab on the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition’s website.

Recent article: The Policy of the Cruel and Absurd: Sleep Deprivation in California’s Prisons

If you have questions or want to give or get a ride to the SF Courthouse, please call or text Verbena at 707.267.4757.

Note: You must show ID and go through a metal detector to get inside the Federal Bldg./Courthouse.

See you on Thursday in San Francisco!

Policy of the Cruel and Absurd: Sleep Deprivation in California’s Prisons

By Charlie Hinton, Verbena Lea, and Willow Katz

In prison isolation units throughout California, guards wake prisoners up every 30 minutes under the guise of suicide prevention. These “security/welfare checks” cause ongoing sleep deprivation. The United Nations and many sleep and mental health experts have long defined sleep deprivation as a form of torture, and sleep deprivation often is used as a torture technique for prisoners of war. So California tortures its prisoners to prevent them from killing themselves.

Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, Ph.D., an expert in sleep and circadian rhythms, concluded in a 2015 report:

“The current practice of 30 minute … checks of inmates housed in the [Security Housing Units] is likely a cause of severe sleep disruption … The mandated purpose of these … checks (i.e. suicide prevention) is, in fact, likely to have the opposite effect and inadvertently increase suicidality in these individuals … There have been no direct studies of intentionally waking an individual every thirty minutes every night for days, weeks, or months, as doing so would be considered highly unethical in a research environment.”

Yet this is the reality for people housed in California’s Security Housing Units (SHUs), Administrative Segregation Units (Ad-Segs/ASUs), Condemned Units (death row) and Psychiatric Services Units (PSUs). In these solitary confinement cells, prisoners are kept alone 24 hours a day with no direct contact with other people — except guards. Known effects of such isolation include suicidal thoughts and behavior, yet the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) fails to provide adequate, if any, mental or physical health services. Instead, it keeps people locked up in brutally oppressive conditions, and jars them awake every 30 minutes, purportedly to see if they’ve committed suicide.

artwork by R.T. 2016

CDCR does not even acknowledge that prolonged isolation is torture and psychologically harmful. They use the “checks” as a blanket practice, whether or not prisoners are suicidal and despite the fact that sleep deprivation increases the risk of suicide. In CCWF death row, where the checks began in May 2014, there has not been a suicide since 1991 [pg 6 in link]; in Pelican Bay SHU where the checks began in August 2015, there has been one suicide in 13 years. Prisoners point out these histories as they question the purpose of the “checks.” These “checks” only exacerbate CDCR’s abuse of prisoners and historic refusal to compassionately treat prisoners dealing with serious mental health issues, including suicide.

“CO’s can save lives by talking to potentially suicidal inmates…”1 Good interpersonal communication skills by guards are consistently recommended to prevent suicides in prison, but such skills are rare in CA prisons. Admitting suicidal feelings to prison staff will, ironically, subject prisoners to the brutality of “suicide watch.” Prisoners report that guards use the “security/welfare checks” to be as loud and disturbing as possible.

Paradoxically, these so-called “security/welfare checks” come as the result of a settlement, theoretically a victory to improve the conditions of prisoners, in a federal class-action lawsuit, Coleman v. Governor of CA. The Coleman court determined that California prison officials did not provide adequate mental health care, thus violating prisoners’ Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

The judge appointed Matthew Lopes as Special Master to oversee CDCR’s implementation of Coleman reforms for 35,000 prisoners with serious mental illness, and Lopes brought in “suicide expert” Lindsay Hayes as a consultant. Just prior to becoming the “suicide expert” under the Coleman Special Master, Hayes worked as a consultant for the defendant — the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation itself. Hayes endorses the 30-minute checks.

Even as he receives letters from prisoners suffering from the checks and those who support the prisoners from the outside, he has not responded, or, to our knowledge, recommended a change.
The California State Auditor recently released a report on suicides in CA prisons commissioned by the Joint Audit Committee of the CA legislature (http://tinyurl.com/yca9tvf5.) While the report concludes that “It [CDCR] Must Increase Its Efforts to Prevent and Respond to Inmate Suicides,” it does not address prison conditions – like brutal and racist guards and administration, solitary confinement, and the horrific “suicide watch,” when prisoners considered suicidal are “allowed only a no-tear smock or gown, a safety mattress, and a no-tear blanket. All furniture is removed, [and] staff must provide continuous, direct visual observation as well as nursing checks every 15 minutes,” instead of any kind of humane and compassionate care.

A representative from the Auditor’s office had contacted our committee for input. We provided written descriptions of the “security/welfare checks”, documentation from prisoners in 13 prisons describing the checks as torture and explaining the harm to their mental and physical health, and material opposing the checks from 3 sleep experts and the American Public Health Association. Nevertheless, the audit completely ignored the input of our committee and all “advocacy groups,” and apparently the auditor did not seek any input at all from prisoners. The report has little mention of the “security/welfare checks,” except to say 2 of the 4 prisons the Auditor examined “did not conduct these checks as required.” The report refers frequently, however, to the “suicide expert,” and calls for his recommendations to be implemented, clearly indicating support for the “security/welfare checks”.

Other experts, however, have recommended the checks be halted:

“Repeated intrusions, especially to nightly sleep, lead to a variety of negative physical, cognitive and emotional consequences, adding to the already well-documented harms of solitary confinement.… There are other strategies for suicide prevention that can be pursued in prison contexts that do not result in the suffering caused by th[is] approach …” — Jail and Prison Health Committee, American Public Health Association

“This level of [interrupted] sleep has been shown to have profound effects on cognitive performance, memory, mood, immune function, pain sensitivity, metabolism, and other parameters.… Importantly these effects accumulate across time. Thus as these checks are done nightly their negative effects will become greater across time … There is much research on disturbed sleep in Intensive Care Units in hospitals. Checking on patients for their safety has resulted in many ill effects. Today there are many initiatives to overcome the negative effects of this safety monitoring.”Dr. Thomas Roth, PhD Chief, Sleep Disorders and Research Center, Henry Ford Hospital

“A recent series of studies in Veterans has further pointed to the strong connection between suicidality and sleep, so much so that treatment of sleep problems in Veterans is considered part of the first line of treatment in reducing the risk of suicides.” — Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, PhD. Stanford University and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System

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Prop 57 Comments MUST be in by Friday, Sept 1st! (instructions here)

Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, to break the cycle of incarceration by prioritizing rehabilitation and reintegration. Now, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) needs to implement the law in the way voters intended. But, CDCR is trying to unfairly limit who can be considered for parole or released under Prop 57.  CDCR’s proposed regulations disproportionately exclude people of color, prisoners with mental illness, young offenders, and low-risk offenders from the benefits of Prop 57.  Please use the below resources to demand that CDCR fixes their draft rules.

Please Send Your Comments directly to CDCR by this Friday, September 1, 2017. Here are several ways to make your voice heard. Use them all if you can!

  • Mail, Fax, or Email a letter to the Associate Director of CDCR’s Regulation and Policy Management Branch. This SAMPLE LETTER can be easily adapted and personalized and sent to:
    Timothy M. Lockwood
    Regulation and Policy Management Branch
    California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
    Mail: PO Box 942883 Sacramento, CA 94283-0001
    by Fax: (916) 324-6075
    by Email: CDCR-Prop57-Comments@cdcr.ca.gov
  • Come Out to the Prop 57 Regulations Hearing! In addition to sending written comments, you can come out to Prop 57 Regulations hearing in Sacramento. If you want to attend, please sign up here.  Info is below:
    Friday, September 1, 2017    9:00am-12:00pm
    Dept of Water Resources Building Auditorium
    1416 Ninth St.  Sacramento, CA 95814
  • Donate to Support Initiate Justice! Initiate Justice is a small, volunteer team that cannot do this work without the support of individual donations. Please donate $10, $25, or $50 right now to help pay for stamps to mail the regulations to people inside and support our mobilizations to Sacramento. Every dollar helps!

 

More on CDCR’s proposed regulations for Prop 57…

There are three main problems with the proposed regulations:

(1) The proposed regulations exclude people who are serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law for nonviolent crimes. Prop. 57 promised to apply to all nonviolent prisoners.

(2) The proposed regulations exclude young offenders eligible for parole under SB 260 and 261. At its core, Prop. 57 promised to correct over incarceration of young offenders and encourage positive rehabilitative programming—there is no justifiable reason to undermine the positive reforms of SB 260 and 261.

(3) The proposed regulations do not apply new programming credits to people who have been dedicated to rehabilitation for years, or decades. There is no reason why benefits of Prop. 57 should not apply retroactively to cover genuine rehabilitation programming in the past.

We call on the CDCR to implement the following recommendations to the Prop 57 Regular Regulations:

  1. Allow all people in prison to earn 50% good time credits.
  2. Make all good time credit earning retroactive.
  3. Include Third Strikers in the non-violent early parole.
  4. Award retroactive Education Merit Credits for each achievement.
  5. Allow every person with a Youth Offender Parole Date or Elderly Parole Date to earn time off of their earliest parole date.

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PETITION: Restore Two More Days of Visiting in CA Prisons!

Please print this petition, collect signatures, and return it to: Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee, 65 9th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Text of Petition

To:     Scott Kernan, Secretary, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
To:     Nancy Skinner, Chair, Senate Public Safety Committee

We, the undersigned, believe that giving prisoners access to visits from family and friends is an essential part of rehabilitation. Research shows that building relationships with the community is one of the surest ways to prevent recidivism, once people are released. It is a matter of public safety.  We therefore petition the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California State Legislature to restore 2 more days of visiting time each week. By doing so, people will no longer experience the frustration of not being able to schedule appointments due to limited time slots. This will accommodate those who work weekends, and more visits can take place.

We recommend that visits be resumed from 3-8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, beginning with the following institutions: Solano, Lancaster, Kern Valley, Salinas Valley, Centinela, California State Prison (CSP)-Corcoran and Substance Abuse Training Facility (SATF)-Corcoran. Other institutions close to population centers, or experiencing high demand for visiting, should be added as soon as possible.

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