Stop the Sleep Deprivation in CA Solitary Confinement! — RALLY & COURT SOLIDARITY, SACRAMENTO, FRIDAY OCT 19

Join the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) for a rally and courtroom presence in opposition to the relentless practice of sleep deprivation torture in CA solitary confinement cells. Please show solidarity with imprisoned civil rights Plaintiff, Jorge Rico, and with people locked in solitary throughout CA suffering severe sleep deprivation due to guards’ loud and disturbing “security/welfare checks.”

Friday, Oct 19, 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 #3, 15th Floor)

After the hearing, Jorge’s attorney, Kate Falkenstien, 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.

For rideshare to Sac & other info:
call 510-426-5322 or email phssreachingout@gmail.com

FB EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/811504955847955/

Background
In prison isolation units throughout California, guards jar prisoners EVERY 30 MINUTES with loud and disruptive “security/welfare checks” causing ongoing sleep deprivation.

Every half hour, 24/7 guards subject prisoners to shrill beeping, banging of metal on metal with a Guard One wand, stomping through the pods, talking loudly, and at times, shining flashlights in their faces. The California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) began this Guard One “security/welfare check” system in early 2014 in women’s and men’s prisons under the guise of suicide prevention. In conducting these automated “checks,” the guards aren’t actually checking to see if people are okay; but they wake and disturb prisoners night and day, inflicting serious sleep deprivation. These checks, in addition to the harm of extreme isolation, cause severe physical and mental injury, increase suicidal ideation, and are described by people forced to endure them as TORTURE.

Sleep deprivation is internationally defined – by experts in human rights, sleep, and mental health – as a form of torture.

What’s the Oct 19 court hearing about?
CDCr is trying (again) to get Jorge Rico’s case dismissed.
Currently, there are at least seven federal civil rights lawsuits by CA prisoners against these checks that charge CDCr administration, and specific wardens and guards, with violating prisoners’ constitutional protection from cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners are suing for money damages for serious physical and psychological injury caused by being jarred every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Perhaps most important, they are suing for declarative and injunctive relief- for the court to declare that the CDCr Guard One security/ welfare checks violate people’s civil rights and must stop. One of these lawsuits, brought by Christopher Lipsey (Lipsey v. Barnes), began in June 2014, over 4 years ago, and is still in initial court proceedings. Prisoner civil rights cases often take years to conclude, and only begin after a person in prison exhausts all of the avenues asking prison administration to deal with the problem, to no avail. With the so-called security/welfare checks, people in prison who have experienced them for months or years on end and who mustered the courage, paperwork, and fortitude to bring lawsuits, have been moved by CDCr in and out of solitary (where the checks occur) since the time they began their lawsuits.

Jorge Rico filed his lawsuit on August 2, 2016. Currently, Jorge is not in solitary experiencing the checks; he’s been in prison General Population since April 2018. CDCr is trying to get rid of significant parts of Jorge’s lawsuit- his request that the court declare the checks violate the Eighth Amendment constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and his request that the court order an end to the harmful, noisy, and useless Guard One checks that cause serious sleep disruption and deprivation. CDCr argues that those parts of Jorge’s lawsuit are “moot” because Jorge is not, at this time, enduring the checks. We believe Jorge’s claims are not moot because he is likely to experience the checks again. CDCr should not be allowed to evade his constitutional challenge.

CDCr tries every which way to get the civil rights case against the checks dismissed by the court.

The Legal Problem
How will anyone ever be able to successfully challenge the checks if their lawsuit goes away when CDCr decides to temporarily move them out of solitary? It is well known, and established by the courts, that being put in Administrative Segregation (ASU solitary) at various times for various reasons should be expected by a person incarcerated in California. Indeed, Jorge has been in SHU solitary, then General Population, then Administrative Segregation solitary, then General Population – all since he began his lawsuit. If lawsuits take years, and people are in and out of solitary at CDCr’s discretion, and thus CDCr can get the lawsuits dismissed, this cruel sleep deprivation policy can continue on forever!

Jorge Rico’s lawsuit should not be dismissed because he gets some time out of solitary.

Continue reading

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

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!

Feb. 12, 2015: Important Hearing in SHU Lawsuit

In Ashker v. Brown, we will prove that ten years in solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay SHU is cruel and unusual punishment (violating the 8th Amendment).

In an end-run around our lawsuit, CDCR has been transferring hundreds of prisoners out of that SHU.  This is good news for some, but many prisoners are simply being transferred to other SHUs, most notably to Tehachapi.  Four of our ten named plaintiffs have been moved there.  Because the judge previously defined our 8th Amendment class as prisoners presently at Pelican Bay SHU for ten years or more, these plaintiffs and others are no longer considered part of the class.

In response, we recently filed a motion to expand the reach of the solitary confinement lawsuit to include prisoners who have spent 10 years or more at Pelican Bay SHU but have recently been transferred to other California SHUs.
As we wrote:

“the cruel and unusual treatment they experienced, and its debilitating effects, have not abated, but instead continue under a different name in a different prison.”

CDCR should not be able to thwart our 8th Amendment claim by transferring these long-suffering prisoners to a different SHU.  These prisoners should be released from SHU, not moved to a different SHU.  Granting our motion will give the court jurisdiction over these prisoners so that, when we succeed at trial, they will be included in the relief that the court orders.

Please attend the hearing on Plaintiffs’ (Prisoners’) Motion to Amend the Complaint.  Your presence in the courtroom shows the judge that we care and are paying attention to decisions made about the torture in the SHU.

DATE: Thursday,  Feb. 12, 2015
TIME: 2:00 p.m.
ADDRESS: U.S. District Court in Oakland, 1301 Clay Street (federal courthouse)
COURTROOM: Dept. #2,  4th Floor, Hon. Claudia Wilken, presiding


Information explaining the motion came from Carol Strickman,Staff Attorney, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children and Co-Counsel for Plaintiffs in Ashker v. Brown