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

8/3/14 Update from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

We hope to post updates every week or few weeks about the struggle to END long term solitary confinement. If you have any feedback for how we can improve these updates, or information you’d like to see, please let us know.

IN THIS UPDATE:

Weekly Meetings

Recent News Articles

Upcoming Events

 

  1. Weekly Meetings: The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition meets every Monday night in Oakland (and on the phone).
  • The sole purpose of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition is to amplify the voices of California prisoners as they strive to achieve their Five Core Demands. The Coalition consists of family members, formerly incarcerated people, lawyers, organizations, and individuals who stand in solidarity with the hunger strikers. This weekly meeting focuses primarily on planning, promoting and reporting on actions and events directly related to the struggle for the Five Demands (primarily, to end long term solitary confinement), including prisoner updates and legal and media strategies and reports.

 

  1. Recent Newsletters, News Articles & Videos
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Pz3syET3DY “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” 7/20/14 – This 20 minute segment covers solitary confinement and mass incarceration in general in the United States. Great video to share with your friends & family who aren’t paying attention to the prison crisis.

 

 

  • PRISON CENSORSHIP:
    Thanks to everyone who submitted a public comment about CDCr’s proposed censorship rules. Here is some news coverage:

 

  • August 2014 Issue of ROCK!

 

  1. Go to our CALENDAR to post or find upcoming prisoner solidarity and movement building events throughout California or any location.

 

  • “SAVE THE DATE” September 6, 2014 for an event in Oakland to commemorate the end of last summer’s prisoner hunger strike, the largest in U.S. history. We will have more information soon.

In solidarity,
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS)

July 8th Events in L.A. and San Bernandino to Commemorate Largest Hunger Strike in History

CFASC- JULY 8- 2014- EVENT FLYER-3FAMILY MEMBERS, LOVED ONES, SUPPORTERS:
Join at  300 S Spring St, Los Angeles
11:00am – 1:00pm

ALL OUT FOR LARGEST HUNGER STRIKE IN HISTORY….ONE YEAR AGO on July 8th, 2013 …. 30,000 IMPRISONED PEOPLE BEGAN A CALIFORNIA PRISONER HUNGER STRIKE TO RAISE AWARENESS TO THE TORTUROUS CONDITIONS OF ISOLATION AND THE ABUSE THAT GOES ON IN OUR PRISON SYSTEM …

Join California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Family Unity Network on July 8th, 2014 to commemorate the largest & longest hunger strike in history ….

CANDLELIGHT VIGIL later in San Bernandino at 6:00pm.

Continue reading

FUNDS NEEDED for Documentary on California Prisoner Hunger Strikes

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dying-for-sunlight-documentary-film-on-the-california-prisoner-hunger-strikes
DocumentaryFlyer-SIDE 1 - C-1On June 12, 2014, Lucas Guilkey, organizer and award-winning documentary film maker, launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the film “Dying for Sunlight: The Story of the California Prisoner Hunger Strikes.”  Please support the making of this documentary about the prisoner-led human rights movement against indefinite solitary confinement

 

Lucas has been creating powerful short videos about the CA Prisoner Hunger Strike Human Rights Movement over the past year, and now plans to tell the story in a more full and comprehensive manner, focusing on those who know it best: family members of the hunger strikers and those who’ve spent time in the SHU.

 

Any and all help spreading the word about this fundraising campaign will be deeply appreciated.

 igg.me/at/hungerstrikefilm

NEW! Prison Censorship Video– Free Prisoner Voices!

 

Fight Prison Censorship, Free Prisoner Voices!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_TOf5q9r_8

Communication is a Human Right

Groundbreaking N.Y. Legislation: Eliminate Extreme Isolation Beyond 15 Days, Create Humane Alternatives

LAWMAKERS, ADVOCATES, AND SURVIVORS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT BACK SWEEPING REFORMS TO USE OF ISOLATION IN NEW YORK’S PRISONS AND JAILS

Supporters Converge from Across the State to Lobby for the “HALT Solitary Confinement Act”

Groundbreaking Legislation Would Eliminate Extreme Isolation Beyond 15 Days, Create Safe and Humane Alternatives

Albany, May 5, 2014 — At a mid-morning press conference in the Legislative Office Building in Albany, leading legislators joined advocates, people who had experienced solitary confinement, and family members of those currently in solitary to promote the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act (A08588A / S06466A).

At the same time, more than 120 individuals from across the state, many of them directly affected by the widespread use of solitary confinement in New York, gathered for an inaugural lobby day at the State Capitol, meeting with more than 50 legislators.

After years of activism by human rights and civil liberties groups, faith communities, currently and formerly incarcerated people, and other concerned citizens, solitary confinement is currently exploding as an issue, both in the media and on public policy agendas.

Supporters are hailing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act as the most comprehensive and progressive legislative response to date to the nationwide problem of solitary confinement in prisons and jails. As written, it would virtually eliminate a practice that has been increasingly denounced as both dangerous and torturous, while protecting the safety of incarcerated individuals and corrections officers.

According to Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly, “New York State was a leader for the country in passing the 2008 SHU Exclusion Law, which keeps people with the most severe mental health needs out of solitary confinement. Now we must show the way forward again, ensuring that we provide safe, humane and effective alternatives to solitary for all people.”

“Solitary confinement makes people suffer without making our prisons safer. It is counter-productive as well as cruel,” said Senator Bill Perkins, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “Solitary harms not only those who endure it, but families, communities, and corrections staff as well.”

Additional sponsors of the bill include Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Brad Hoylman, Velmanette Montgomery, N. Nick Perry, and John L. Sampson.

On any given day, about 3,800 people are in Special Housing Units, or SHUs, with many more in other forms of isolated confinement in New York’s State prisons. They are held for 23 to 24 hours in cells smaller than the average parking space, alone or with one other person. More than 800 are in solitary confinement in New York City jails, along with hundreds more in local jails across the state.

New York isolates imprisoned people at levels well above the national average, and uses solitary to punish minor disciplinary violations. Five out of six sentences that result in placement in New York State’s SHUs are for non-violent conduct. Individuals are sent to the SHU on the word of prison staff, and may remain there for months, years, or even decades.

The HALT Solitary Confinement Act bans extreme isolation beyond 15 days–the limit advocated by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, among others. Méndez, who is the United Nations’ main torture investigator, has found that solitary confinement as it is practiced in New York violates the U.S.’s international obligations with regard to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

The Special Rapporteur contributed a statement which was read aloud at the press conference, concluding, “The HALT Solitary Confinement Act reflects both safe and effective prison policy and respect for human rights. It should become law in New York State and a model for change across the United States.”

The HALT Solitary Confinement Act goes well beyond the agreement that was recently reached between the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and the New York Civil Liberties Union to limit the use of isolation on youth, pregnant women, and people with developmental disabilities. HALT completely bars these and other vulnerable populations from being placed in solitary at all.

For those who present a serious threat to prison safety and need to be separated from the general population for longer periods of time, the legislation creates new Residential Rehabilitation Units (RRUs)–separate, secure units with substantial out-of-cell time, and programs and treatment aimed at addressing the underlying causes of behavioral problems.

“Isolation does not promote positive change in people; it only damages them,” said Megan Crowe-Rothstein of the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project. “By requiring treatment and programs for people who are separated from the prison population for serious misconduct, the legislation requires Corrections to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and degradation.”

The widespread use of long-term solitary confinement has been under fire in recent years, in the face of increasing evidence that sensory deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness can lead to severe psychological damage. Supporters of the bill also say that isolated confinement fails to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior, and often exacerbates that behavior as people deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially.

Rev. Ron Stief of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said, “The diverse faith traditions represented by NRCAT hold in common a belief in the dignity of each human person. We share a conviction that the use of isolated confinement in U.S. prisons and jails violates basic religious values of community and restorative justice. The HALT Solitary Confinement Act provides New York with a critical opportunity to lead the way nationally in increasing access to rehabilitation and ending the torture of isolated confinement.”

Solitary confinement has never been shown to reduce prison violence. In fact, several state prisons systems, including Maine, Mississippi, and Colorado, have significantly reduced the number of people they hold in solitary confinement, and have seen prison violence decrease as well. In addition, individuals released from solitary confinement have higher recidivism rates. In New York each year, nearly 2,000 people are released directly from extreme isolation to the streets.

“The damage done by solitary confinement is deep and permanent,” said solitary survivor Five Mualimm-ak of the Incarcerated Nation Campaign. Mualimm-ak spent five years in isolated confinement despite never having committed a violent act in prison. “Having humane alternatives will spare thousands of people the pain and suffering that extreme isolation causes–and the scars that they carry with them back into our communities.”

Also speaking at the press conference was hip-hop artist Mysonne, who spent time in solitary in New York, and Jessica Casanova, aunt of a young man currently in solitary.

Many of those represented at the press conference are members of the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), which was instrumental in drafting the bill. CAIC unites advocates, concerned community members, lawyers, and individuals in the human rights, health, and faith communities throughout New York State with formerly incarcerated people and family members of currently incarcerated people.

On May 5, CAIC members from all corners of New York State were gathering at the State Capitol to lobby legislators to support the HALT Solitary Confinement Act.

“CAIC recognizes that we need a fundamental transformation of how our public institutions address people’s needs and behaviors, both in our prisons and in our communities,” said Scott Paltrowitz of the Correctional Association of New York. “Rather than inhumane and ineffective punishment, deprivation, and isolation, the HALT Act would provide people with greater support, programs, and treatment to help them thrive, and in turn make our prisons and our communities safer.”

PRESS CONFERENCE DETAILS:
Date/Time/ Location: Monday, May 5, 10:00 – 11:00 am
LCA Press Room, Legislative Office Building, First Floor198 State Street, Albany

Speakers:

Assembly Member Jeffrion L. Aubry (D, 35th District, Queens),

Assembly sponsor Senator Bill Perkins (D, 30th District, Harlem), Senate sponsor

Five Mualimm-ak, survivor of solitary confinement in New York, Incarcerated Nation Campaign, Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC)

Mysonne, survivor of solitary confinement in New York, hip-hop artist

Jessica Casanova, aunt of individual currently in solitary, CAIC

Scott Paltrowitz, Correctional Association of New York, CAIC

Claire Deroche, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, CAIC

All speakers will be available for interview along with additional family members of    individuals in solitary confinement, advocates, and members of the clergy, including Rev. Dr. Paul S. Johnson, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock

PRESS KIT INCLUDES:

Press Release

Summary of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT)

Solitary Confinement Act

Full Text of HALT Act (A08588A / S06466A)

Fact Sheet on Solitary Confinement in New York State

New York Voices from Solitary Confinement

Congressional Testimony Provided by the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement

Articles and commentaries on solitary confinement in New York

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

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