Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

(FULL BLUE PRINT pdf- all docs-284pgs)
Overview
Table of Contents
Blue Print core document
Appendix

BLUE PRINT

The declaration on protection of all persons from being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 3452 (XXX) of December 9, 1975. The Declaration contains 12 Articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as:

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining his or a third person’s information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

FREEDOM OUTREACH PRODUCTION
December 1, 2015

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT
#1
Blue Print Overview

California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (“CDCr”) has systemic and dysfunctional problems that run rampant state-wide (within both Cal.’s Women and Men prisons), which demand this California government to take immediate action and institute measures to effect genuine tangible changes throughout CDCr on all levels.

The entire state government was notified and made aware of this “Dysfunctional” CDCr prison system in 2004 when its own governmental CIRP blue ribbon commission (authorized by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) reported this finding and fact. (See http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/CAGOV_US/C040600D.pdf; also see Prison Legal News article, “CA Corrections System Officially Declared Dysfuntional.”)

However, this CDCr state of “dysfunction” was not new to the massive number of women, men and youth being kept warehoused in CDCr, because they face it daily. (See Cal. Prison Focus News, 1990s-Present, Prisoner Reports/Investigation and Findings; San Francisco Bay View News Articles; ROCK & PHSS Newsletters, etc.)

During the historic California Prisoners’ Hunger Strikes (2011-2013), tens of thousands of men and women prisoners in CDCr’s solitary confinement torture prisons, as well as a third of the general population prisoners, united in solidarity in a peaceful protest to expose this dysfunctional system officially reported in 2004 by the CIRP.

The Prisoner Human Right’s Movement (PHRM) Blue Print is essentially designed to deal with identifying and resolving primary contradictions by focusing on the various problems of CDCr’s dysfunction, including (but not limited to) the following areas… [read full OVERVIEW Here]

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS for Blue Print

OVERVIEW by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

Prisoner Human Rights Movement (“PHRM”)

PHRM Principle Negotiators, Reps, Plaintiffs, Local Councils

I. Monitoring Reports on 33 State Prisons

II. Monitoring Implementation of the Ashker v. Brown Settlement Agreement

III. Instituting the Agreement to End Hostilities

IV. Legal PHRM Political Education

V. Freedom Outreach

Conclusion

APPENDIX

All Appendices can be found at www.prisonerhumanrightsmovement.org

#1 (A) Five Core Demands; &
(B)
Agreement to End Hostilities

#2 Second Amended Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#3 Supplemental Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#4 Settlement Agreement, Ashker v. Brown

#5 PHRM’s Principle Negotiators’ Statements on 2nd Anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities

#6 (A) Example Monitoring Report w/ Exhibit; &
(B)
Example Monitoring Record

#7 (A) CA Assembly Public Safety Committee Legislative Hearing on CDCr SHU policy, 8/23/2011
(B)
CA Joint Legislative Hearing on CA Solitary Confinement, 10/9/2013

#8 – Mediation team publications

(A) Mediation Team Memorandum on Meetings with CDCr Officials, (3/26/12)
(B) Mediation Team Memorandum on Meetings with CDCr Officials, (3/15/13)
(C) Mediation Team Memorandum on meetings with CDCr Officials, (2/20/15)

#9 – PHRM LEGAL PRISON ACTIVISM EDUCATION Packets*:

(A) LEARN TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
(B)
MEMORANDUM ON UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF CDCR’s STG/SDP (Feb. 2015)

* To receive Educational Materials (Appendix #9), please write and send, for the cost of the mailing, either eleven dollars and fifty cents ($11.50) or the equivalent in postage stamps to:

Freedom Outreach/PHRM
Fruitvale Station
PO Box 7359
Oakland, CA 94601-3023

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

We are beacons of collective building, while clearly understanding that We, the beacons, must take a protracted internal and external retrospective analysis of our present-day prisons’ concrete conditions to forge our Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) onward into the next stage of development, thereby exposing California Department of Corruption and Repression (CDCr)/United States Prison System of Cultural Discrimination against our Prisoner Class. This is why our lives must be embedded in our determined human rights laws, based on our constructive development of the continuous liberation struggle via our scientific methods and laws. Therefore, through our Prisoner Class, the concrete conditions in each prison/U.S. prisons shall be constructed through our Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

Continue reading

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four Years and Still Fighting

Originally published in Counterpunch

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013—both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

The organization of hunger strikes in 2011 surprised many, especially the CDCr – the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the lower case ‘r’ by most prison writers derides the Orwellian use of the word rehabilitation), the media, and much of the public.

Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle. Among prisoners, the strikes of 2011-2013 were compared to the Attica Rebellion of 1971. Shortly before that rebellion, prisoners at Attica refused to speak or eat in the facility’s chow hall, paying tribute to Black Panther Party member and California prison movement leader George Jackson, who had been assassinated at San Quentin prison August 21st. Jackson was a skilled and effective leader who connected the human rights demands of prisoners to revolutionary ideas both globally and in the streets. He argued with powerful clarity that racist and exploitive power relations could and should be changed through political and military struggle, and that Black liberation was achievable as part of an international struggle to destroy imperialism. Within the prisons, he built unity across racial lines – thinking that a unified prison movement could succeed in winning basic human rights both within the cages and in oppressed communities. While the state obviously found Jackson’s ideas and example extremely dangerous, many prisoners and community members found them a clarion call for action.

On September 9th 1971, Attica erupted. Led by prisoners affiliated with the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and the Five Percenters, the rebellion seized control of several large areas of the prison and issued a manifesto demanding, among other things, better health conditions, an end to political persecution of prisoners, and a right to organize or join labor unions (these demands were very similar to the Folsom Prison manifesto written in California in 1970). After four days of negotiations, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered that the prison be retaken – in the ensuing brutal military assault 39 people were killed by state police and prison guards.

While Attica is one of the most remembered uprisings, between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, there were over three hundred prison rebellions across the US, including those at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in 1973, the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1972-3, the August Rebellion in 1974 at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York State, a 1975 demonstration at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women, and the Penitentiary of New Mexico in 1980.

In response to these militant uprisings, prisons developed unprecedented strategies of repression, isolation and for a time resistance took less dramatic forms. Yet prisoners were still inspired to resist. In one example, in 1995 women in CA state prisons initiated a class action law suit against genocidal health care conditions and successfully organized family members and allies across the state to support them.

Prisoners in California in 2011-2013 organized against the very policies, strategies, and technology that had been put into place to neutralize the rebellions of previous decades (both inside and outside prison)—including solitary confinement, gang validation (which includes the criminalization of George Jackson’s writings), and the gutting of educational programming. In turn, prisoners used similar historic strategies – collective direct action, multiracial unity, and building strong support and solidarity networks on the outside. Continue reading

May 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement- Locations & Details

fill in the details for your action!

Saturday, May 23 ACTIONS by location (alphabetical order)

If you don’t see your locale listed here, we haven’t received the details yet or YOU just might need to organize a simple action where you are!!

Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) has a PHSS Facebook Event page.  SCATESC’s long list of Co-sponsors and Endorsers is below.


May 23 Locations & Details (so far)

ARCATA / MANILA, CA:
We will be gathering at the Manila Community Center in solidarity with the other statewide coordinated actions that are happening on the 23rd of every month.  Solitary confinement is rampantly used in California. We are a part of a prisoner-led movement including: family and loved ones of incarcerated people, students, lawyers, youth, teachers, doctors, activists, international and national organizations.

There are people of all ages and genders that are locked in solitary confinement, some for DECADES. With Pelican Bay, a notorious torture chamber, so close… come on May 23rd and help STOP THE TORTURE. You can help us pass out literature, get more involved in the struggle, show your solidarity, or just learn.  We will have an educational demonstration while people are waiting for the Kinetic sculptures in Manila.
HERE‘s the Manila flier!
Manila Action Details
Time: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Location: outside area of Manila Community Center, 1611 Peninsula Dr. Arcata (Manila), CA
For more info: call 707-442-7465
Contact Person: Verbena

Contact Email: peoplesarc@gmail.com

LOS ANGELES, CA:
End Solitary Confinement for Youth in Detention
In juvenile facilities across California, children are held in solitary confinement for days, weeks, and months at a time. This unnecessarily harsh disciplinary practice harms young pe
May23 LA- flyer-If the SHU fits, End Youth Solitary Confinementople and exposes them to a lifetime of psychological and developmental trauma.

At this event, we will present “If the SHU Fits-Voices from Solitary Confinement”, and follow with a session to:  * Share Stories  * Discuss Strategies to make meaningful change * Take Action!

Find out about SB 124 (Leno), which takes California in the right direction by placing limitations on the use of solitary confinement in juvenile justice facilities and encouraging them to explore more positive and developmentally appropriate methods for working with youth.

“If the SHU Fits” is produced by Dramastage Qumran, LA Laborfest, & Public Works Improvisational Theatre, and supported by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).
HERE‘s the Los Angeles flier!
Los Angeles Action Details
Time: 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Location: Chuco’s Justice Center, 1137 E Redondo Blvd, Inglewood, CA
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1590359064569376/
For more info: call 310-704-3217
Contact Email: lalaborfest@gmail.com
Endorsing organizations for LA action include American Friends Service Committee-LA, Anti-Racist Action-LA, Café Intifada, Children’s Defense Fund of California, Progressive Christians Uniting (PCU), The WE Empowerment Center, Youth Justice Coalition

OAKLAND, CA–  
“We want to consider the idea of designating a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day…our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose CDCR’s actions and rally support efforts to secure our rights.” PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement, Nov. 2013

Informational Demonstration: PLEASE come talk and help share information to STOP THE TORTURE that is solitary confinement.
HERE‘s the Oakland flier!
Oakland Action Details
Time: 12:30pm – 2:30pm
Location: Mosswood Park, on Webster St. side, near grills
Contact Email: phssoutreach@gmail.com

PENNSYLVANIA:
Pennsylvania (PA) groups support the Monthly CA Statewide Coordinated Action to End Solitary Confinement.

Join us in fasting for some or all of the May 23rd
in protest of the 23 hours of solitary confinement that tens of thousands of prisoners endure every day for months and years
and add your group to those committed to taking an action each month.

PA groups so far include Abolitionist Law Center; Global Women’s Strike; Human Rights Coalition Philly/Pittsburgh; Justice for the Dallas 6 Support Campaign; Payday men’s network; Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee; Fight for Lifers West, Inc.
Pennsylvania Action Details
Time: all day
Location: Pennsylvania
For more info in PA, call 215-848-1120
Contact emails: philly@globalwomenstrike.net, payday@paydaynet.org.

POINT REYES, CA:
We will be tabling with information about solitary confinement and the prisoner-led human rights struggle to end solitary confinement – torture- and to promote the Agreement to End Hostilities.

Point Reyes Action Details
Time:
11:00am – 3:00pm
Location: Downtown Point Reyes Station
For more info: call 415 663-6760
Contact Person: Kim Pollak
Contact Email: kimpollak@gmail.com

SAN DIEGO, CA:
STOP THE TORTURE! As part of the Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement, we will have a May 23rd informational demonstration including photos of men in SHU, along with some who used to be in SHU but are now in General Population.  We will be talking and sharing information to STOP THE TORTURE of solitary confinement.
San Diego Action Details
Time: 12:00noon – 2:00 pm

Location: at Rosa Park (the park is next to library) in City Heights, San Diego
Contact Person: Martha Esquivel
Contact Email:  emartha42@yahoo.com

SAN FRANCISCO, CA:
This date, May 23, emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement in 7 x 11 foot concrete cells.  Organized, community-based pressure is a core strategy to end solitary confinement.  Please participate or visit this informational demonstration.  There will be many people lined up to visit Alcatraz.  Come help pass out information.
San Francisco Action Details

Time: 8:30am – 2:00pm
Location: Pier 33 (Bay St. and The Embarcadero, where people line up to go to Alcatraz island)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1579191362361202/
Contact Person Name: Kim Rohrbach
 For more info: call 510.863.0477

Continue reading

April 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement- Locations & Details

fill in the details for your action!

fill in the details for your action!

APRIL 23 ACTIONS by location (alphabetical order)

If you don’t see your locale listed here, we haven’t received the details yet or YOU just might need to organize a simple action where you are!!

Here are fliers and handbills to distribute.
Check out our updated Universal Handbill for these actions!
Email phssreachingout@gmail.com or click HERE to share your locale’s details and/or request printed materials be sent for your action.

Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) has a PHSS Facebook Event page.
SCATESC’s long list of Co-sponsors and Endorsers is below.

April 23 Locations & Details (so far)

ARCATA, CA:
So close to Pelican Bay State Prison- a solitary confinement torture facility- we participate in these Statewide Coordinated Actions. We will have an informational demo to educate about the human rights atrocity of solitary confinement and strengthen the prisoner-led movement to stop the torture. Actions will continue on the 23rd of each month, locations TBA, corresponding to the 23 or more hours a day people are kept in solitary confinement.
Arcata Action Details
Time: 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Location: the Quad at Humboldt State University
For more info: call 707-442-7465
Contact Person: Verbena

Contact Email: peoplesarc@gmail.com

LOS ANGELES, CA:
Actions on the 23rd of every month in response to a call from the prisoners who went on hunger strike against isolation-torture for regularly scheduled building actions and organizing against long-term indefinite solitary confinement in the SHUs.
Los Angeles Action Details
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Location: Reagan State Bldg, 3rd & Spring Sts., L.A.
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1394087940914592/
For more info: call 323-636-7388
Contact Person:
Michael Novick
Contact Email: <antiracistaction_la@yahoo.com>

OAKLAND, CA–   TWO events!! Daytime and Nighttime
Actions on this date, April 23rd, emphasize the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement.  “We want to consider the idea of designating a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day…our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose CDCR’s actions and rally support efforts to secure our rights.” PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement, Nov. 2013
Oakland Daytime Details
Informational Demonstration: PLEASE come help share information and hold a huge banner.  There will be thousands of passers-by that day at Laney College!
Time: 11:30am – 1:30pm
Location: parking lot side of Laney College, 8th Street, near the freeway
Contact Email: phssoutreach@gmail.com

Oakland Nighttime Details
Solidarity w/ The Prisoner Hunger Strikers Study Session:
Every week The Bay Area Solidarity Committee for Jalil Muntaqim hosts a Political Education Class “New Afrikan Prisoner Writings Study Sessions” from 5:30-7:30PM.  We will dedicate the April 23rd session in solidarity with the prisoner hunger strikers.  We will be reading and discussing “the five core demands” as well as the “Agreement to End Hostilities“.  We will also be dissecting different writings by Abdul Olugbala Shakur, Chairman & founder of George Jackson University. The event, hosted by The Bay Area Solidarity Committee For Jalil Muntaqim and George Jackson University, will end in an open mic and political hip hop Show.

Time: Political Education 5:30pm – 7:30pm,
Show/Open Mic 8:00 – 10:00pm

Location: “Qilombo” 2313 San Pablo Ave Oakland, CA
Group Website: https://www.facebook.com/committee.jalil
Contact Person: Shango Abiola
Contact Email: shangoabiola@gmail.com

POINT REYES, CA:
We will be tabling with information about solitary confinement and the prisoner-led human rights struggle to end solitary confinement – torture- and to promote the Agreement to End Hostilities.

Point Reyes Action Details
Time: 11:00am – 3:00pm

Location: Downtown Point Reyes Station
For more info: call 415 663-6760
Contact Person: Kim Pollak
Contact Email: kimpollak@gmail.com

Continue reading

Successful Motion in Court Strengthens CA Prisoners’ Case Against Solitary

For Immediate Release – March 10, 2015
Press Contact: Mohamed Shehk, Critical Resistance – 408.910.2618mohamed@criticalresistance.org

Oakland, CA – Pelican Bay prisoners named as plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the use of solitary confinement in California gained an important victory yesterday as U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of a motion filed by the plaintiffs’ counsel. The motion allows prisoners who have been in solitary confinement for more than 10 years, but have been transferred out of Pelican Bay State Prison since the lawsuit was first filed, to be eligible as class members in the case.

Our success with this motion should be a strong message to the prison administration that its attempts to evade court review of its unconstitutional practices,” says Carol Strickman, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and Staff Attorney at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. “Our goal in this case is to support the demand of prisoners to end the inhumane use of indefinite solitary, and no amount of legal shell games is going to stop us from achieving that goal.”

In June 2014, the court granted class action status to the case for prisoners held in Pelican Bay’s notorious Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years. Since then, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has attempted to weaken the case and repress political organizing by transferring prisoners out of Pelican Bay, thereby claiming that they are no longer eligible class members in the lawsuit. Continue reading

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

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

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)

May 1, 2014 Letter from Pelican Bay Prisoner Reps To Legislators

LETTER FROM PELICAN BAY PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES TO MEMBERS OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY & SENATE

 

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191

Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry – CDCR # C35671

Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

 

May 1, 2014

 

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

 

              We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the Senate (SB 892 and AB 1652) dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

 

              We are California inmates who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time, based on validation as alleged associates and members of prison gangs, rather than based on violent behavior. We undertook hunger strikes in 2011 and in 2013 in opposition of the CDCR’s solitary confinement and gang validation practices as well as the inhumane conditions of CDCR’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). Together with thousands of inmates, we expressed the following five core demands:

 

1) Individual accountability, rather than group punishment, indefinite SHU status, and restricted privileges;

2) Abolish debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;

3) Comply with U.S. Commission 2006 Recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;

4) Provide adequate food; and,

5) Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.

 

             Having carefully reviewed and considered Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano on February 11, 2014 as amended on April 3, 2014, and Senate Bill 892, introduced by Senate member Loni Hancock on January 13, 2014, as amended on March 18 and April 2, we wish to offer the following comments:

 

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

 

          AB 1652 addresses the very narrow but critical issue of eliminating CDCR’s policy of placing prisoners in solitary confinement for gang validation, rather than for commission of a serious offense. We support AB 1652. At the same time, we recommend that the bill be amended to include the following three additional provisions:

 

a. During assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

 

b. An attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost to the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

 

c. AB 1652 should implement provisions for increased oversight, studies, data collection, and reporting back to the Legislature on the SHU classification process, the mental and physical wellbeing of inmates in SHUs, and the reasons why SHU inmates are denied reentry into the general population. Senate member Hancock’s SB 892 contains these provisions, which we recommend be included in AB 1652. Collecting and considering this data can lay the foundation for a future more comprehensive legislative evaluation of solitary confinement practices in California.

 

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

 

             Although SB 892 appears to seek to achieve comprehensive CDCR reform on the issue of solitary confinement, there are several provisions of the bill that will adopt inhumane and widely condemned practices into state law. We will only support SB 892 if it is amended to include three critically important items:

 

a. The bill should incorporate the language of AB 1652 (or similar language) which eliminates the use of gang validation and minor rule violations as a justification for placing inmates in SHUs. As it stands currently, SB 892 does not eliminate SHU assignment for mere gang association and it does not eliminate indeterminate SHU terms. This is a critical issue and one of our core demands. The nationwide trend is clearly not to place prisoners in segregated housing units for alleged gang association without accompanying serious rule violations. Numerous states have moved in this direction for public safety reasons, for humane reasons, and to cut costs. California should not move in the opposite direction.

 

b. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that during assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

 

c. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that an attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost too the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

 

               We do not believe that the range of provisions in SB 892 related to review by the Office of the Inspector General of cases in which SHU placement is based on the testimony of a confidential informant, the appointment of ombudsmen, the requirement for a daily face-to-face encounter with CDCR employees, the appointment of an “advocate” for an inmate being processed for SHU placement, or the Step Down Program in the bill will make any measurable difference in CDCR solitary confinement practices. The Inspector General is unlikely based upon review of a file to reverse decisions based on confidential informants. Ombudsmen will be of little value as long as inmates can be placed in SHUs for alleged gang association when they have engaged in no wrong-doing. “Face-to-face” encounters already happen almost every day when our food is served or a psych tech walks past our cells. Allowing an “advocate” to assist in the SHU assignment process will mean assignment of a guard who could care less about the result. And the proposed step-down program focuses on forcing prisoners to disavow alleged gang association or activities rather than on a behavior-based model considering whether the prisoner has violated rules while in the SHU. Despite these misguided and costly provisions in SB 892, we would support the bill if it is amended to include the provisions identified above.

 

               However, the narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652, particularly if amended as suggested above, would far better serve the public safety, prison security, and the humane treatment of prisoners. It’s a first but critically important step in the direction of a rational and humane policy. Further legislation could be considered in the next legislative session after CDCR data is collected by the legislature. Thank you for considering our comments and suggestions.

 

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

Update from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, 4-28-2014

Greetings,

This post is chock full of resources and various updates, downloads of recent newsletters, new media articles and PBS specials about solitary confinement, exciting upcoming events with Lynne Stewart, and information on our weekly meetings.

Thanks to all the outcry about the recent cell raids in Corcoran SHU, we believe they have stopped, according to a letter from the person who alerted us originally.

We still encourage you to send criticisms regarding the Security Threat Group/Step Down Program regulations, even though the official deadline is over.  Send to rpmb@cdcr.ca.gov and cc to peoplesarc@gmail.com.

Upcoming events throughout California, in New York, and in Wisconsin can be found in the calendar at  https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/take-action-2/

Read the entire update HERE.