Feb 21 Legislative Hearing on Video Visitation in Jails

VIDEO of the Hearing!  Powerful testimony from family and formerly incarcerated perspectives: Zoe Willmott and Anita Wills of Essie Justice Group, Michael Cortez of Project WHAT! (alumni), and compelling public comment.

The below post was updated Feb 16, 2017

On Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 10am in Sacramento, there will be a Joint Legislative Hearing on video visitation in county jails. It will be hosted by the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Public Safety.

JOINT HEARING
PUBLIC SAFETY AND BUDGET AND FISCAL REVIEW

CA Senate Subcommittee No. 5 on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary and CA Assembly Subcommittee No. 5 on Public Safety

  • Hearing Subject: Looking Through the Screen: The Effects of Video Visitation on County Jail Inmates and their Families
  • 10:00 a.m. — John L. Burton Hearing Room (Rm 4203), CA State Capitol, Sacramento 95814
  • Chairs: Senator Nancy Skinner and Assembly Member Shirley Weber

Help protect in-person visitation! We believe that there will be an opportunity for public comment. Please consider speaking or providing a written statement if you have experience with in-person or video visitation.

We are in a period when many counties are building or seeking to build new jails.  Some counties are building jails without facilities for in-person visiting.  Instead, they are setting up video-visitation as the only visiting method.  There are many problems with video visitation. In-person visitation is crucial to the well-being of incarcerated people and their families.

Last year, the legislature passed SB 1157 (introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell), to require in-person visiting in county jails, but unfortunately Gov. Brown vetoed the bill. SB 1157 would have allowed counties to install and use video visitation as a supplemental option, but would have protected in-person jail visits from being eliminated and sacrificed to the video visitation industry.

It is important to protect in-person visits for incarcerated people and their loved ones in California jails. We are glad that the CA legislature remains concerned about this issue.

• Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity members will be carpooling to Sacramento on Feb 21st.  Contact: 510.426.5322

• Also, Bernadette Rabuy of the Prison Policy Initiative invites you to contact her if you would like to provide public comment at the hearing  brabuy@prisonpolicy.org.

Below is an extensive list of articles and reports about video visitation from the Prison Policy Institute.

Continue reading

PHSS Parole Subcommittee Request for Information

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition:
Parole Subcommittee Request for Information

The PHSS Parole Subcommittee is focusing on parole issues specific to prisoners who have been released from indeterminate SHU, both before and after the Ashker settlement. We are particularly interested in seeing language from transcripts of parole hearings and psych evaluations that contain references to unsuitability for parole based on:

1. Failure to debrief

2. Participation in the hunger strike

3. Factors related to long-term indeterminate SHU, such as inadequate programming.

We are reaching out to prisoners, family members, friends and penpals, including all those who may be familiar with prisoners for whom these issues have been raised in psych evaluations in preparation for parole, or in denials for parole.

We are asking for language from documents, both psych evaluations and BPH transcripts, in order to try to determine patterns and the extent to which these issues are stated as factors indicating unsuitability for parole.

Please provide the following information: Quoted language from documents, prisoner’s name and CDC number, and length of time in SHU. It would also help to have the date of the parole hearing. This information will be used by the committee in connection with its advocacy and may be shared with advocacy groups, as well as with CDCR, Board of Parole Hearings, and other state officials.

Send by mail to: PHSS Parole Committee, PO Box 5586, Lancaster, CA 93539

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

Important Upcoming AUGUST 2015 Events

SAVE THESE DATES

⇒August 23rd, Sunday:
Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

Use this Facebook Event page to find what is happening in different locales throughout CA and across the nation on August 23rd.   Add your own action information to that Event Page or  HERE so we can post it.  Together we will End Solitary!! Here are materials you can use for your action.

⇒August 29th, Saturday and August 30th, Sunday:
Two gatherings to grow California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC)

Inviting all family members, loved ones and formerly incarcerated individuals to be a part of CFASC.  Please post/share this weekend of events in Oakland, allies also welcome!

Aug 29th, Saturday
Strategy/Organizing Training for people working to end solitary confinement and for people wanting to get involved.
10am-4pm
First Unitarian Church in Oakland, Wendte Room
685 14th St, Oakland, CA
Free event, food included!
Hosted by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS)

Aug 30th, Sunday
Barbeque at Mosswood Park, Oakland CA
12-5pm
Mosswood Park is at 3650 Webster St.
We’ll be at the BBQ area on Webster
Free event, food included! Food at 1pm

This BBQ gathering is especially for family members and loved ones of people in prison and formerly incarcerated individuals.  Help continue to build a strong family base of CFASC members.

Bring what you have to share, especially your passion for stopping the torture of long-term solitary confinement (and lawn chair, side dish, lawn game if you have them). Active participation/volunteers will be needed to make this event a success!
We’ll also take some time for reflection on the training from the day before.  Hosted by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

Contact phssreachingout@gmail.com or (510) 426-5322 for more info about the events, or to get in contact in the future.

RSVP to phssreachingout@gmail.com, 510-426-5322, or HERE

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

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

PHSS header

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

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

The proposed regulations are designed to:

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

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

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

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

Fact Sheet – CDCR Censorship Regulations – Nov 2014 PDF

CDCr Proposes Draconian Visiting Policies

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Tries To Fast Track Draconian Prison Visiting Policies, Proposing Use of Canines and Controversial ION scanners

Claiming the need for emergency passage of new visiting policies, the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) is proposing the use of canines and ION scanners that would subject visitors to prisons to humiliating and traumatizing strip searches if they tested positive but wanted to be able to have a contact visit with their loved one. Canines are trained to “alert” to the presence of drugs (even prescription ones) tobacco and cell phones. If the canine alerts or the scanner tests positive, “the visitor shall be required to submit to an unclothed body search as a condition of visiting.” Both canines and ION scanners are notorious for troubling rates of false positives, giving rise to litigation challenging the legality of their use. In 2008 Federal Bureau of Prisons was forced to abandon its use of ION scanners because of the number of false positives and the hundreds of complaints by family members who were wrongfully denied visits.

Refusal to submit to this humiliating treatment will result in denial of the contact visit for that day. If non-contact visiting areas are available (unlikely on the day of) the person may have a non-contact visit instead. Anyone refusing to submit to the searches even if they have no contraband, will have visiting privileges suspended for a year after 3 refusals. Any visitor found with drugs or cell phone is subject to possible arrest and criminal prosecution, and will have visiting privileges suspended for one year the first time, and permanently the second time.

However, prison employees, contractors and volunteers, although also subjected to the dogs and scanners, will only have to endure a pat down search of there is a positive sign. Incarcerated people under the new regulations will also be subject to these canine searches.

Anticipating widespread reaction from family and friends of prison visitors, the CDCR has only given five calendar days for public comment about this policy, in contrast to the typical 30 days. Defining these as emergency regulations and allowing only five days for public response is disrespectful in the extreme.

“As a family member, it is a serious violation of my human rights to be forced to be humiliated in order to see my brother and give him family support” said Marie Levin of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. These proposed regulations stigmatize and criminalize family members and friends of people in prison and subjects them to humiliating, overly intrusive treatment. The thought of being exposed to sniffing dogs, scanners and possible strip searches will be a deterrent to some visitors and may further weaken prisoners’ ties to the community. PHSS demands that it be deleted from proposed regulations entirely.

See the 16 page PDF of the proposed new regulations as written by CDCR.

Press release from PHSS

Hunger Strike Rep. Todd Ashker to CDCr Administration, 9/1/14

Todd Ashker writes from Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor:

“….I am requesting your attention and responsive dialogue-addressing these issues during the meeting with our outside mediation team- and with Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, James Williamson, and myself in the near future…
The following is from me.

We are presently at the one year point- post “suspension,” of our third peaceful protest hunger strike action against longterm-indefinite-solitary confinement [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg confinement]… and related conditions therein and damage therefrom- to prisoners, our outside loved ones, and society in general….

.The bottom line is, longterm-indefinite-SHU is not effective and harms all concerned. It’s ending nationwide and this will be the case in Calif. too- better to be sooner than later….”

PDF of transcribed Memo HERE.  Handwritten letter HERE

***

Memorandum

Sept. 1, 2014

To: CDCR-Administration
Secretary Beard, UnderSec. Hoshino
Director Stainer, Assoc. Dir. Diaz,
PBSP Warden Ducart

From: Todd Ashker, C58191-
One of four PBSP-SHU Prisoner Reps
(via outside mediation team)

Subject: Five Core Demands, 40 Supplemental Demands,
and CDCR’s STG-SDP

This memorandum is directed to the above CDCR Administrators for the express purpose of respectfully reminding you about unresolved, and/or continued problematic, issues relevant to our 2011-2014 Five Core and 40 Supplemental demands… and CDCR’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program [STG-SDP]… Continue reading

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

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

Emergency! Take Action To OPPOSE Solitary Confinement Legislation SB 892

Please be sure to read the Five Urgent Action Requests below

On behalf of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and others who joined an emergency conf call this evening to address the imminent vote by the California Assembly and Senate on SB 892 (Senator Hancock) dealing with the critical issue of solitary confinement, we want to inform you of the following and urge you to widely distribute this message to your email lists.

Issue: Between now and Sunday night (Aug 31), the CA Assembly and Senate will vote on SB 892, drafted by Senator Hancock, who got involved as a result of the prisoners’ hunger strike in the summer of 2013 to denounce the conditions in solitary confinement and CA’s unique “gang validation” policy. California’s Department of Corrections (CDCR) has what is probably the WORST, MOST COSTLY, AND MOST INHUMANE solitary confinement policy of any state in the country. As a result of CDCR policies, California has the largest population of prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in the U.S. and more than any other country on earth! A prisoner in CDCR’s custody commits suicide every ten days. Instead of reforming this policy–including placing prisoners who have engaged in no rule violations in long-term solitary for mere alleged gang membership (“gang validation policy”)–SB 892 for the first time in history adopts this draconian policy into state law.

The Opposition: The four prisoner reps who initiated the 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes have jointly opposed SB 892. Hit this link to download their letter to the legislature.

About 130 organizations and community leaders have written to the Senate and Assembly leaders explaining why they oppose SB 892. Hit this link to download their letter. Link also below. Among many others, organizations opposing SB 892 include CFASC (family members of prisoners), Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), Council on American-Islamic Relations – California (CAIR), Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Homeboy Industries, Homies Unidos, California Prison Watch, Asian Law Caucus, National Lawyers Guild (SF and LA Chapters), the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI), Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes and Hermandad Mexicana Humanitarian Foundation. See attached.

Five urgent action requests:

  • Please immediately forward this email to your constituents.
  • We urge organizations and community, faith-based and labor leaders to telephone the following legislators on Thursday and Friday this week to express strong opposition to SB 892: (1) Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez, Majority Whip, or his Chief of Staff John Scribner (916) 319-2051; (2) Assembly Member V. Manuel Pérez, Majority Floor Leader or his Chief of Staff Greg Campbell (916) 319-2053; and (3) Senator Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore, or his Chief of Staff Kathry Dresslar (916) 651-4006 or Legal Counsel Margie Estrada (916) 651.4170
  • Please consider joining a press conference tentatively planned for Friday (Aug. 29) at noon in Sacramento opposing passage of SB 892. We urgently need contact info for faith-based, black and Latino leaders in the Sacramento area who may be available to join the press conference and we also invite anyone else able to attend. If you’re able to attend or suggest someone to attend, please email pschey@centerforhumanrights.organd irene.huerta@ilwu13.org
  • In the next two days we urge organizations to please fax letters similar to the letter linked below or downloaded hereto (1) Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez, fax (916) 319-2151; (2) Assembly Member V. Manuel Pérez, Majority Floor Leader fax (916) 319-2156; and (3) Senator Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore, fax (916) 651-4906

Thank you

Irene Huerta
California Families Against Solitary Confinement

Peter Schey
President
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

Letter opposing SB 892 from the four prisoner reps who initiated the 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes: 8-12-14 Letter to CA Legislature re Hancock Bill

Letter opposing SB 892 from 130 organizations and community leaders: 8-26-14 Sign On Letter to CA Legislature re Hancock SB 892