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.

Visiting petition 5.2.png

Press Release: Folsom Prison Hunger Strike Enters 9th Day – Families, Advocates to Rally in Folsom and L.A. to Support Prisoners’ Demands

For Immediate Release – Friday, June 2, 2017

WHAT:  Rally & Press Conference to Support Folsom Prison Hunger Strike

WHEN:  Sunday, June 4th from 12:00pm-2:00pm | Press Conference @ 1:00pm

WHERE:
Folsom: Folsom State Prison | E Natomas & Folsom Prison Road  (Folsom, CA 95630)

Los Angeles: Twin Towers Jail | 450 Bauchet St  (Los Angeles, CA 90012)

PRESS CONTACTS:

Courtney Hanson
photos.courtneyjade@gmail.com | (916) 316-0625

 Raquel Estrada
rpartida831@gmail.com | (831) 227-7679

Folsom—On Sunday, June 4th, 2017, human rights advocates will hold a rally outside of Folsom State Prison (FSP) to amplify the voices of people incarcerated in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) at FSP, who have been on hunger strike since May 25th. Prisoners in Building 4 of ASU are striking because they are forced in live in conditions that are inhumane and constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution. Despite the fact that FSP is aware of the dangerous consequences of prolonged social isolation, they continue to deprive prisoners of basic human needs, including normal human contact, environmental and sensory stimulation, mental and physical health, physical exercise, sleep, access to courts, and meaningful activity.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is aware (Madrid-Ashker-Coleman) that the conditions of extreme isolation will likely inflict some degree of psychological trauma, including but not limited to: chronic insomnia, severe concentration and memory problems, anxiety and other ailments. The CDCR and the general public have a heightened awareness about this issue because of the prisoner hunger strikes that swept California in 2011 and 2013 and involved more than 30,000 prisoners. Those strikes led to Ashker v. Brown, a federal class action lawsuit asserting that prolonged solitary violates the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) and putting someone in solitary based on gang association violates the 14th Amendment (no due process). The case reached settlement in September 2015, ending indeterminate solitary confinement terms in Security Housing Units (SHUs), but did not prevent prisoners from being kept in prolonged solitary confinement in Administrative Segregation.

FSP continues to claim that lack of money prevents them from abiding by CDCR’s stated goals, and are content to not only ignore the suffering of men in its care, but to retaliate against them for their peaceful protest.

“On the afternoon of May 27th, someone called on my husband’s behalf relaying his message that Warden Ron Rackley and Ombudsman Sara Smith had a meeting with him where they communicated that they were upset with the hunger strike and threatened to take away his visits, move him to another prison, give him a 115 and revalidate him as a Security Threat Group (STG) gang leader for his role in organizing the hunger strike. On May 28th, I arrived to visit and the Sergeant informed me that my husband is no longer at FSP and was moved to DVI Tracy.” —Raquel Estrada

Folsom prison hunger strikers have the following demands, which are published in greater detail here.

  1. PROVIDE ADEQUATE ACCESS TO COURTS AND LEGAL ASSISTANCE

  2. PROVIDE MEANINGFUL EDUCATION, SELF-HELP COURSES AND REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS

  3. ALLOW POSSESSION OF TELEVISIONS

  4. PROVIDE EXERCISE EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING PULL-UP BARS, FOR MEANINGFUL EXERCISE IN YARD

  5. END CRUELTY, NOISE AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION OF WELFARE CHECKS

  6. KEEP ORIGINAL PROPER PACKAGING FOR COMMISSARY AND CANTEEN

  7. GIVE NON-DISCIPLINARY STATUS TO QUALIFYING PRISONERS

  8. PROVIDE ADEQUATE AND APPROPRIATE CLOTHING AND SHOES

  9. PROVIDE FOOD BOWL AND CUP

###

Endorsed by Sacramento Solidarity Network, California Families Against Solitary Confinement, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community, All of Us or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Democratic Socialists of America Sacramento, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Showing Up for Racial Justice Sacramento, Freedom Outreach, Underground Scholars

Folsom Hunger Strike began May 25, 2017 – Your support is needed

NUMBERS TO CALL IN SUPPORT ARE BELOW
DEMANDS AND GRIEVANCES
HERE
HUNGER STRIKE UPDATES HERE

On May 16th, inmates at Old Folsom State Prison made contact with the outside world to announce that they would begin a hunger strike on May 25th. This announcement comes in response to ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization, and unbearable living conditions at Old Folsom State Prison.

Hunger strikes are a last resort, a measure taken by those who truly have no other way out. They often come with high risks and heavy costs to prisoners. Incarcerated people commonly face disciplinary actions, retaliation by prison officials, abuse, and further denial of their basic human rights during hunger strikes- simply for exerting their free will and resisting their mistreatment.

The danger of these threats is compounded by the long-term health consequences and extreme physical weakness that accompany starving yourself in an environment that provides woefully inadequate medical care. In short, these prisoners will desperately need our support.

When incarcerated people take action to fight for their dignity, their rights, and their lives, those of us on the outside must answer with solidarity. Our support is crucial in getting their demands met and minimizing retaliation against them. We must let these brave individuals know that we have their backs, and that they will not be forgotten.

The hunger strike has begun. Please read the information below and make phone calls as soon as possible. All of the contact information you need is included at the bottom. The following media release comes directly from incarcerated people at Folsom State Prison (FSP) who are on strike:

Folsom ASU Media Release

On May 25, 2017 prisoners in Folsom State Prison B4 ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit) in Represa, CA have started a hunger strike to peacefully protest the conditions of their confinement in the administrative segregation unit. Prisoners have exhausted all reasonable remedies, to no avail. Further, prisoners have attempted to open lines of communication with administrative officials and met with only resistance and silence.

Folsom ASU is like stepping back in time to the era when prison officials blanketed the injustice imposed on its solitary confined prisoners and bluntly turned a blind eye to mistreatment and the stripping away of basic human dignity and elements. As CDCR made drastic changes throughout its prisons to put prisoners on roads of rehabilitation and more humane living conditions, Folsom officials reject the ideals and continue the injustice of the past.

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PHRM: Our Fifth Year to the Agreement To End Hostilities: Recognize Our Humanity!

Prisoner Human Rights Movement
Our Fifth Year to the “Agreement To End Hostilities”
Thereby Governor Brown, CDCr Secretary Kernan: Recognise Our Humanity!

Original post April 17, 2017: https://prisonerhumanrightsmovement.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/phrm-our-fifth-year-to-the-agreement-to-end-hostilities-recognize-our-humanity/

We are within our 5th Year of the August 2012 historical document “AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES.” followed by the PHRM’s third and the largest Hunger Strike within the State of California and equally larger then any Hunger Strike within the United States federal and state prison system, to which there were over 30,000 Prisoners here in California who participated (that is, from Solitary Confinement and the General Population. We (PHRM) have decreased California Prison Melees in half over the past five years with NO assistance by CDCr: SVSP, PBSP, New Folsom, Kern Valley, SATF, Lancaster, Centinela, High Desert, etc. Officials.

5 Reps of the PHRM: Sitawa, Todd, Arturo, Antonio, George

5 Reps of the PHRM: Sitawa, Todd, Arturo, Antonio, George

These historical acts of courage were led by the four Principal Negotiators Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry, C-35671), Todd Ashker, C-58191, and Antonio Guillen, P-81948, along with the Sixteen known Representatives, and along with our Unsung Heroes throughout CDCr.

We Salute Our Fallen Heroes
We shout out to the Families of those who died during the Historical Hunger Strikes (2011-2013), and to the Families who lost Loved Ones during the (AEH) struggle For Equal Justice, Christian Gomez, Alex Machado, Alonzo Hozel Blanchard, A. “Baby Paya” Morales, Billy “Guero” Sell, Johnny Owen Vick, and Hugo “Yogi” Pinell.

“We also want to warn those in the General Population that [CCPOA guards & their Supervisors] will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer ‘inmates’ amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats, and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups’ mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes (that is, forcing CDCr to open up all GP main lines, and return to a rehabilitative-type system of meaningful programs/privileges, including lifer conjugal visits, etc. via peaceful protest activity/non-cooperation, e.g., hunger strike, no labor, etc. etc.).
People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics, and need to refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos end reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU’s old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!!!”
(quoted from AEH, #3)

CDCr Secretary Kernan, Undersecretary Diaz, (DAI) Director Allison, Director Alfaro (of High Security Prisons) and Governor Brown have all been notified or the crisis here at SVSP C-Facility.

The lack of rehabilitative programs (i.e., Vocational Carpentry, etc.) here at SVSP and throughout the system remains dysfunctional.

Those within the PHRM here at SVSP C-Yard, who were released from Solitary Confinement over the last three years, have created our own Juvenile Divergent Program called “LIFE-C.Y.C.L.E.” (“Careless Youth Corrected by Lifers’ Experiences”), and this program has successfully for the past fifteen months conducted five Seminars, bringing in At-Risk Youth from the local Monterey County to guide them, while mentoring other prisoners. During the Seminars, the Youth share their thoughts and understandings of not wanting to come to prison, and what their goals are, that they will set for themselves to prevent that from happening.

The PHRM prisoners have realized that CDCr has caused harm to them over the past 2, 10, 20. 30-40 years of Solitary Confinement. We – as Class Members of the PHRM here at SVSP C-Facility realize the negligence and adverse impact of that devastating ordeal coming out here to a partial General Population (G.P.). And we realized once again CDCr failed to acknowledge the harm that they caused to us, therefore, we took it upon ourselves to establish our our supportive MEN’S GROUP in order to cope with the devastating harm that was caused by Solitary Confinement.

The purpose of this MEN’S GROUP is to serve as a diverse multi-cultural support group for both those prisoners in- and being released to the G.P. from Solitary Confinement successfully settle-in, be provided access to rehabilitative pre-Parole Board (SR 260/261) Self-Programs, etc., that CDCr/SVSP are mandated to make available for all G.P. prisoners.

The primary purpose of the MEN’S GROUP is for the Participants to mentor and aid one another. Our Group’s vision brings a sense of community, respect and responsibility that springs from the 21st century insight of collective minds who have united in solidarity and have mutually agreed to end hostilities among racial groups. This historic agreement will continue to bring about substantive changes to the CDCr system of non-rehabilitation.

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Report back from Prisoner Representatives’ first monitoring meeting with CDCR

published by the Center for Constitutional Rights
May 23, 2016

Last September, in Ashker v. Governor of California, California prisoners reached an historic settlement agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) that is bringing an end to indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. The Settlement Agreement includes hard-won (and unprecedented) periodic meetings between the CDCR and the prisoners who initiated the lawsuit and led the protests against long term solitary confinement. Below is a report back from the first of these meetings, from lead plaintiff in the case and prisoner representative, Todd Ashker.

I was very pleased to participate in this historic meeting with CDCR officials, which we negotiated in our Settlement Agreement.  I think it is the first time that representatives of prisoners have had this kind of discussion with leaders of any correction department; it is certainly the only time it has happened here in California, the world’s largest prison system.  We were especially pleased that high-ranking prison officials were at the meeting.

At the beginning of this first meeting, it became clear that there was a misunderstanding about its function.  CDCR thought the meeting was for us to listen to them.  Why would we put a term into our Settlement that would have us listen to them?  We listen to them every second of our lives.   We see the purpose of these calls as an opportunity for us to be heard and to have a discussion with people in authority.

Despite this initial confusion, we were able to lead the meeting. CDCR got unfiltered information from prisoners who know what is going on in their prison cells and yards.  We are a leadership group the CDCR knows.  They know we have integrity.  The information we shared at the meeting came not only from the experiences of us four main reps, but also from the other veterans of the SHU, members of our class who have written and met with our attorneys.

We raised in strong terms that some of us who have made it to General Population yards are essentially in modified SHUs (Security Housing Units), in some respects worse than Pelican Bay SHU, although in some respects better.   Conditions, policies and practices that we are experiencing in some of the General Population yards are not what we expected when we settled our case.  After spending decades in solitary we cannot accept many of these conditions.  Too many prisoners are simply warehoused, and there are not enough jobs or programs to give us skills, engage our minds and prepare us to return to our communities.  Guards need training in ‘professional’ behavior.   Bullying and humiliation should never be tolerated.

CDCR may have been surprised at the tenor, strength and substance of our approach.   We expect at the next meeting, we will all understand the agenda and purpose well ahead of time.   We also think a longer meeting will allow for a full discussion and useful interaction.  We hope CDCR officials come to welcome these historic meetings as useful because they will be if prisoners’ perspectives are heard, used and received by them.