PRISONERS UNITED OF SILICON VALLEY Newsletter #1

Link to full newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/gwhq2hp

PRISONERS
UNITED

OF SILICON VALLEY

December 22, 2016 – Newsletter 1

LETTER OF APPRECIATION

Greetings and solidarity to each other and all who participated in our initial Hunger Strike to end the arbitrary use of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment in Santa Clara County Jails.

Before we set off into the body of this letter we would like to extend our respect and appreciation to all who participated and sacrificed to provoke change. Although we came from diverse backgrounds be it race, religion, color or creed we set out differences aside, inter-locked arms forming a formidable force through civil disobedience in solidarity.

Allow the sacrifices each participant has made be inspiration to others to join in our struggle, allow our peaceful protest to demonstrate the power of unity and the positive changes that can be effected when we view each other not as classification of inmates defined by the color of clothing issued to prisoners by administration but instead as human beings who share the same oppressive conditions.

For decades prisoners have been slammed down in solitary confinement, locked away from education and rehabilitation programs or barred from participating in fellowship of their faith due to administration beliefs … Meanwhile our families are being exploited with practices that amount to price gouging through exorbitant commissary and phone rates. While they survive in a region with rising rent cost plagued by a homeless epidemic in city with ordinances that throws people in jail for having no place to live… Let’s be thankful we have religious leaders and community organizations like De-Bug who rally behind us to champion our cause and see us different, who are the difference, who see us as human beings, who are not persuaded by those in positions of authority whom define us by our allegations and classification rhetoric to pump fear in the heart of the public in their effort to kill our support base when they are preoccupied beating us to death like Michael Tyree … In the spirit of thankfulness perhaps one might consider reaching out to their family and friends letting them know they are appreciated; we appreciate you and yours for your support so Thank You!

Before we bring this letter of appreciation to a close we would like to abreast the prisoner population that our hunger strike has not ended, it has been momentarily suspended. We gave administration (30) days to bring about tangible changes for the benefit of all prisoners. We will continue our efforts until all of our core demands have been met. We will not be duped by the superficial such as movie night and a snack, we must persist as a collective that stands firm on principle. We must not be deluded by a carrot on a stick offered to us by an oppressed system that is fueled by greed and political ambitions.

To prevail in our struggle for prisoners human rights we respectfully ask the prisoner population to exercise diplomacy for it is not in our own interest to engage in combat with one another when we are fighting together to improve our conditions of confinement. We ask those of you who sway influence in our housing unit to work with each other to resolve conflict peacefully by promoting prisoner solidarity. Let’s try not to provide ammunition to the administration that allows them to justify the reasoning for the use of solitary confinement. Our goal is to promote our cause by unifying like-minded people to support our next planned Hunger strike.

In closing, we thank you for your time.

Truly,

PRISONERS UNITED OF SILICON VALLEY

 

Newsletter #1 contents:
Letter Of Appreciation
Official Updates
Recommended Reading
We Are the 13th Amendment! by Jose Valle
Recommended Resources
Write to De-Bug San Jose
Prisoners United of Silicon Valley
Notes
Questionnaire

Download, Read, or Print entire newsletter:
https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/prisoners-united-1.pdf

UPDATE on Santa Clara Jail Hunger Strike

Oct 19, 2016 UPDATE:  The Hunger Strike in the Santa Clara Main Jail is on- more than 300 people are participating, many of them in solitary confinement.  The classification system in Santa Clara Jails must change, and solitary confinement must end!  Please note this correction in the Sheriff’s number.  The correct number is 408.808.4611.  Additional numbers to call: 408.299.8770 and the Public Information /Public Relations Officer- 408.808.4905.  Read the below statement regarding the Hunger Striker’s Demands and, when you call, express your support for those human and civil rights demands and for the hunger strikers. Don’t be discouraged by staff responses.  State your concerns and support and keep the pressure on. Sheriff Laurie Smith has failed to respond so far.

Previous Post- Oct 17, 2016 Hunger Strike Announcement/More Information: http://wp.me/p1BB1k-2Ot

Oct. 15 Merced, CA: Day of Action in Support of Hunger Strikers

ON SEPTEMBER 9TH, people incarcerated in the county jail in Merced, California, located in the Central Valley, in conjunction with the nationwide prison strike that began on the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising, issued a set of demands to jail staff. They demanded the firing of a brutal sheriff, Lt. Moore, access to baseline calories per day and proper legal resources, an end to forced dress out in gang colors and classifications, an end to solitary confinement, and much more.

Inmates at Merced County Jail have long had to live with brutal staff and horrible conditions. Almost monthly, guards have carried out raids which have left various inmates injured from projectile weapons. Many inmates at the county jail haven’t even been found guilty of a crime and are simply waiting for court and cannot afford to bail out. For many locked up in Merced, their only crime was being poor.

Day of Action in Support of Hunger Strikers
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016
12 Noon – 2:00pm
Merced Main Jail, downtown
700 W. 22nd St.
Merced, CA 95340
Caravan from Bay Area

The response to the historic hunger strike, which quickly spread throughout the facility, from jail staff was more repression, lockdowns, and cutting off access to phones. When asked for a comment on the hunger strike, Sheriff Vern Warnke replied to people standing up to his department’s attacks on basic humans rights, “This isn’t a country club. If they don’t like being here then quit getting arrested!”

After a series of negotiations with prison staff that went no where and was designed to end the strike ended, inmates again went back out on hunger strike in early October. Some inmates have also remained on strike since mid-September.

As people on the outside, we need to show solidarity with those on hunger strike in Merced. Towards this end, people across Northern California will converge in Merced on Saturday, October 15th at 12 Noon, at the downtown Merced Jail located at 700 W 22nd St to show support with the hunger strikers and connect with friends and family of those locked inside.

For people in the Bay Area, a carpool/caravan is being organized at the West Oakland BART station starting at 8:30 AM and will be leaving at 9 AM for Merced.

Support the #PrisonStrike. Victory to the hunger strikers in Merced!

Contact for more info: victoria@mopmerced.org

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/313453359035353/

Caravan from Oakland to Merced: https://www.facebook.com/events/316195602089381/

Oct 17 Hunger Strike: END Solitary Confinement and Inhumane Treatment in Santa Clara Co. Jails

UPDATE:  The Hunger Strike is on in the Santa Clara Main Jail- more than 300 people are participating, many of them in solitary confinement.  The classification system in Santa Clara Jails must change and solitary confinement must end!  Please note this correction in the Sheriff’s number.  The correct number is 408.808.4611.  Additional numbers to call: 408.299.8770 and the Public Information /Public Relations Officer- 408.808.4905  Read the below statement regarding the Hunger Striker’s Demands and, when you call, express your support for those human and civil rights demands and for the hunger strikers. Don’t be discouraged by staff responses.  State your concerns and support and keep the pressure on. Sheriff Laurie Smith has failed to respond so far.

Please read and spread the below statement from people in solitary confinement in Santa Clara County, California, announcing their upcoming hunger strike to begin Oct 17, 2016 and clearly explaining their human and civil rights demands behind the strike. ACT IN SOLIDARITY by sharing the prisoners’ words, putting pressure on the Santa Clara County Sheriff during the strike (phone numbers provided in the statement), writing letters to the editor, and paying attention to further statements from the Prisoner Human Rights Movement in Santa Clara County Jails.

Prisoners’ Statement/Open Letter:

All the respect across the board! Now onto the following at hand.

The following will consist of an open letter addressed to all prisoners contained within all three facilities of Santa Clara County Jail, in regards to a peaceful protest in the form of an organized hunger strike.

First off, allow us to stress the fact that by no means is this to be considered an attempt to promote or benefit any form of gang, nor is this to be considered gang activity. This letter and its request/call for action is an attempt to enlighten and remain inclusive regardless of race, creed, or color of top/shirt due to classification. The content of this letter does not simply pertain to any one group segment, nor any isolated issue, but instead it pertains to all prisoners within the three facilities of Santa Clara County Jail.

We all have a stake at hand, and we all serve to benefit from any success that may transpire as a result of our collective efforts. Therefore, it is important that we try and visualize the impact and full potential of strength and power behind our force as united prisoners for a valid purpose and common beneficial interest. With this in mind, we are now reaching out to all like-minded prisoners who are willing and interested in banding together in a united stance of solidarity under the name of Prisoners’ Human Rights Movement (P.H.R.M.) in order to bring about real meaningful forms of change.

Continue reading

DYING TO LIVE Wisconsin Hunger Strike 65th day, Prisoners Justice Day Aug 10th, Nationwide (U.S.)Work Stoppage Sept 9th

DYING TO LIVE Hunger Strike Continuesdying to live flier for july 5th.png

The Dying to Live Hunger Strike in Wisconsin has gone on for 65 days! Strikers demand an end to indefinite solitary confinement, what the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WI DOC) calls Administrative Confinement (AC). On June 17 the DOC requested and got approval to force feed the hunger striking prisoners. Cesar DeLeon and LaRon McKinley began refusing food on June 7, and the WI DOC has been force feeding them in retaliation since June 17.

A coalition of supporters led by Milwaukee IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee are mounting a big solidarity demo on Aug 13th and calling for support actions elsewhere. Read about that here.

Prisoners’ Justice Day – August 10thjustice-day

Today, August 10, hundreds of events across Canada and the world, in solidarity with the Canadian Prisoners’ Justice Day, a day of mourning, remembrance, advocacy and protest.

Prisoners’ Justice Day is a day set aside to remember all the men and women who have died unnatural deaths inside Canadian prisons. August 10th marks the anniversary of the suicide death of Edward Nalon in a segregation cell in Millhaven Penitentiary on Aug. 10, 1974. History here.

Advocates as well as prisoners themselves have also marked the day to bring much needed attention to issues such as the conditions inside prisoners, the harmful practice of segregation or solitary confinement, the unnatural deaths, lack of access to medication and mental health services, and other justice and rights issues.

The day helps bring a voice to some of the stories of injustice and human rights abuses that occur within the prison system and may otherwise not receive much attention. The day brings critical attention to the fundamental rights of prisoners.

Some of the issues that are advocated for include access to proper heath care, fair legal representation behind prison walls and standing up against the inhumane conditions of solitary cells, often referred to as Special Handling Units.

What started as a one time event behind the walls of Millhaven Prison has become an international day of solidarity. On this day, August 10th, prisoners around the world fast, refuse to work, and remain in their cells while those of us on the outside organize to show our solidarity with those struggling behind the bars, to show that they are not forgotten and to draw attention to the conditions inside prisons.

Read More here: http://www.cdnaids.ca/prisonersjusticeday-august10th

SEPT 9, 2016 Prisoner Work Stoppage

Sept9Strike

Prisoners across the US have called for a nationally coordinated work stoppage and protest starting on Sept 9 2016, the 45th anniversary of Attica. The safety of these prisoners and the effectiveness of the protest depend greatly on outside support. There is a robust and expanding outside support network that you or your organization could join to participate in this, the first prisoner protest of its kind.

People throughout the country are mobilizing for the upcoming September 9 strike (work stoppage), from NYC to Durham to Oakland. This week, at Ohio State Penitentiary, Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan, one of the key spokespeople for the Sep 9 movement, was visited by Ohio State Highway Patrol.

In Spring of 2016, prisoners from across the U.S. released this call to action for a nationally coordinated prisoner work stoppage against prison slavery to take place on September 9th, 2016. Get their full announcement as a zine PDF. En Espanol or mailroom friendly

This is a Call to Action Against Slavery in America

In one voice, rising from the cells of long term solitary confinement, echoed in the dormitories and cell blocks from Virginia to Oregon, we prisoners across the United States vow to finally end slavery in 2016.

On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.

Read Full Announcement here: http://tinyurl.com/oa7m2vt

If you’re planning something in connection with the September 9th work stoppage and protest, please share it with prisonerresistance@gmail.com

 

We Stand in Solidarity with Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Wisconsin

“Dying to Live” Humanitarian Food Refusal Campaign Against Torture
On June 10, 2016, Wisconsin prisoners held in long term solitary confinement at Waupun Correctional Institution and Columbia Correctional Institution began a “Food Refusal Campaign.” They wish to bring the horror of prolonged solitary confinement to the public’s attention and to end this torturous practice throughout Wisconsin prisons.  Solitary confinement for more than 15 days has been deemed “torture” by the United Nations, but the Wisconsin Department of Corrections holds prisoners in isolation for decades. Join us in supporting these prisoners who are making a courageous sacrifice for human rights, dignity, and an end to solitary torture.

PHSS Statement of Solidarity
California’s Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) stands in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike in Wisconsin in protest of prolonged solitary confinement. 

Social isolation, sensory deprivation and forced idleness are now recognized as seriously harmful to human beings.  Solitary confinement has been condemned, not only by prisoners, former prisoners and their families, but also by mental health professionals, academics, the religious community, the United Nations, President Obama, Supreme Court Justice Kennedy and even some prison officials.  It is unfortunate that Wisconsin prisoners have to resort to a hunger strike to be heard by prison officials and other authorities. 

Participation in a collective hunger strike requires bravery, social commitment, mental strength and a willingness to risk one’s own well-being.  Hunger strikes are not entered into lightly and must be taken seriously.  The six humanitarian demands of these hunger strikers are reasonable.

Like the Wisconsin prisoners today, in 2011 and 2013 California prisoners protested prolonged solitary confinement by participating in peaceful hunger strikes.  Those actions led to significant changes to California’s prison policies.  We urge Wisconsin officials to re-examine and change their own policies, meet with the hunger strikers and meaningfully resolve these human rights issues amicably and speedily.

  • STATEMENTS FROM PRISONERS who are leading the campaign: Uhuru and Cesar

Sept. 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement: Locations & Details

Wed, Sept. 23 ACTIONS by Location
alphabetical order)

 the Bronx, NY –  Crescent City, CA (Pelican Bay) – Los Angeles, CA –   Nationwide for Yom Kippur – Oakland, CA –San Diego, CA – Santa Cruz, CA

If you still don’t see your locale, we haven’t received the details or YOU just might need to set up a simple action where you are!!  Here are two resources with ideas to mark the day:
http://www.cjpc.org/2015/CEPS-Action-Packet-final.pdf
http://www.nrcat.org/torture-in-us-prisons/together-campaign

Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) has a PHSS Facebook Event page.  SCATESC’s growing list of Co-sponsors and Endorsers is below.  Look soon for a website launch for ‘Together to End Solitary’, the nationwide collaboration

Sept. 23 Locations & Details

the BRONX, NY:
All are welcome to join this monthly demonstration against the torture of solitary confinement.  New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) asks you to lend NY_Together Sept. 23 Flyer_Page_1support to abolish Solitary Confinement in New York State.
Here’s the Bronx Flier & NY Solitary Fact Sheet
Bronx Action Details
Time:  6:00pm EST
Location:  corner of White Plains Rd and Gunn Hill Rd, Bronx, NY 10467
For more info, email caicny@gmail.com
Website: http://nycaic.org/
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/435402853327387/
#HALTSolitaryConfinement

 

CRESCENT CITY , CA:
Headed to demonstrate outside Pelican Bay State Prison (Crescent City, CA)

Sleep Deprivation is Torture”
Please join us on Wednesday, Sept 23rd to protest the sleep deprivation torture that began on the night of Aug 2nd in Pelican Bay SHU, perpetrated by the guards. People in SHU cannot escape the constant noise, and they can’t sleep. It’s torture and it’s really hurting them.

We plan to set up across from Pelican Bay in protest of the 30 minute so-called welfare checks, the guards’ bogus excuse for the sleep deprivation. These “checks” happen 48 times a day, keeping people in SHU sleep deprived DAY & NIGHT.

Want to join us?  We will have a banner and music and information (you can learn, if you don’t know much about solitary).  People have been writing letters, sending emails, and making phone calls about the sleep deprivation, which seems to be retaliation for two successful lawsuits settled on behalf of prisoners.∗

The men inside will learn of our solidarity action which, we hope, will lift their spirits.

We will leave for Crescent City from Eureka on Wednesday morning and come back in the evening. Also, we will be demonstrating against CA prisons entombing people in solitary confinement, period.
Crescent City Action Details
Time:  Carpool from Eureka about 9:00am PST
Protest  12:00pm – 5:00pm PST

Location: across from Pelican Bay, 5905 Lake Earl Dr, Crescent City, CA 95532
For more info, call  707-267-4249
Contact Name: Verbena
Contact Email: phssreachingout@gmail.com
#CAHungerStrike #StopSolitary #Together #SleepDeprivationIsTorture #StopSolitaryCA

 

LOS ANGELES, CA:
If the SHU Fits – Sept 23 Voices to End Solitary Confinement  If the SHU Fits – Voices from Solitary Confinement is a play which uses the history, use of, and statistics about solitary confinement in the United States to paint a broad picture of the practice. But the heart of the play comes from letters, articles, statements, stories and commentaries from those imprisoned and their family members, as well as legal and SHU923v3-LAcommunity testimony.On Sept 1, 2015 an historic legal settlement was announced between CA and prisoners held in isolation for 10 years or more at Pelican Bay State Prison, calling for the end of the use of solitary confinement for people based on alleged prison gang affiliation.  Despite that, the struggle is not over.Come join us to learn more about the ongoing efforts to end solitary confinement and to take action yourself!
HERE‘s the Los Angeles flier!
Los Angeles Action Details

Time: 6:30 pm
Location: St. John’s United Methodist Church 1715 Santa Ana Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90002
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/997504186975480/
Website: iftheshufits.net
For more info, call 310-704-3217
Contact email: info@iftheshufits.net

 

NATIONWIDE FOR YOM KIPPUR:
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is asking people to dedicate their fast for Yom Kippur (which is on Sept. 23rd) to people in solitary and to educate themselves.
‪#‎StopSolitary‬ ‪#‎Together‬ ‪#‎StopTorture‬

Unfortunately, for many people in America, being alone–continuously–is a daily reality. Between 80,000 and 100,000 incarcerated persons in solitary confinement are alone for 23 hours a day. In support with those who face isolation, activists around the country have dedicated the 23rd of every month as a day of action and solidarity. This month, the 23rd is Yom Kippur. T’ruah is calling on Jews across the country to dedicate their fast to those who suffer in prolonged solitary confinement and renew their commitment to ending it.

Full Invite including Resources from T’ruah about solitary confinement
Website: www.truah.org
Contact email: office@truah.org
For more info, call: (212) 845-5201

 

OAKLAND, CA (two actions, day & night):
Oakland Daytime Action
The big banner and new placards will put attention on the horrendous noise at Pelican Bay SHU 24/7, caused by the ‘wellness checks’.
SLEEP DEPRIVATION = TORTURE
The architecture of the SHU at Pelican Bay amplifies the slamming of the pod doors, the guards clambering up and down the tiers as well as the beeper and wand action by guards. The interpretation of these wellness checks by Pelican Bay staffers is unacceptable. Turn out to hear the latest and sign up for our emergency response network.
Daytime Oakland Action Details
Time: 11:30am – 2:00pm
Location: in front of the CA State Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland, CA 94612
(between 14th and 15th Streets)
Contact phone: 510-435-1898
Contact email: phssreachingout@gmail.com

Oakland Nighttime Action
Flying Over Walls will be hosting their Oakland LGBTQ+ Prisoner Letterwriting Nightagain in conjunction with Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement – and discussing the recent Ashker v. Governor of California settlement, including what it means and what we are still fighting for.

As the SF Bay Area chapter of Black & Pink, our focus is to connect the non-incarcerated LGBTQ+ folks who participate in our events to B&P members in Northern California prisons.
Nighttime Oakland Action Details
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm PST
Location: The Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
Website: https://flyingoverwalls.wordpress.com/about/
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1635556230055874/

 

SAN DIEGO, CA:
We will be out talking with people and providing information to END SOLITARY CONFINEMENT and promote the AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES. Please come join us for an hour after the work day.
San Diego Action Details
Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm PST
Location: Rosa Park (park is next to the library) City Heights, San Diego  92105
Contact Person: Martha Esquivel
Contact Email:  emartha42@yahoo.com

 

SANTA CRUZ, CA:
Join us on Wednesday September 23rd, 2015 in Santa Cruz as part of actions statewide throughout California and state-by-state nationwide.  We will have sign-making, leafletting, and a rally. Also:
Zines and other literature
•Security Housing Unit (SHU) / solitary model food tray
Updates on the landmark victory of Ashker v. Gov. Brown and Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement in CA & nationwide
Readers’ Theater: plaintiffs’ statement on the settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California; women in and against solitary confinement.

On September 1, 2015 a landmark settlement ended indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in California prisons. The settlement may release 2,000 prisoners from solitary confinement. Let’s keep up the pressure to make sure it is implemented, and to end solitary confinement (15 days is torture), abusive prison conditions, and mass incarceration of the poor, particularly communities of color. 90% of people in the SHU in CA are people of color.

Sept. 5, 2015 is the 2-year anniversary of the suspension of the third nonviolent CA Prisoner Hunger Strike and work stoppage by over 30,000 prisoners. It was based on 5 Core Human Rights Demands and the Agreement to End Hostilities between all racial/ethnic and geographic groups in CA prisons, jails, and communities.
Santa Cruz Action Details
Time: 11:30am Sign-Making and Set Up
12 noon Leaflet and Talk with passersby
12:30pm – 2:30pm RALLY

Location: corner of Pacific Ave. and Cooper St., next to O’Neill’s, 110 Cooper St., Santa Cruz 95060
For more info, call  831-325-3251
Contact email: phssreachingout@gmail.com
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1685905584966193/

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Why The U.S. Won’t Let the U.N. Look Inside Its Prisons

After a half-decade and a mandate by the U.N. to investigate solitary confinement practices, U.N. torture rapporteur Juan Mendez had to find a backdoor into an American jail. Today, his findings are released in a report.

In 2010, Juan Mendez was appointed Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Degrading and Inhumane Treatment by the United Nations. His mandate is wide in size and scope—to expose and document torture wherever it exists on the planet today.

Since the beginning of his mandate Mendez has made criticizing the overuse of solitary confinement a priority. In 2011, he issued a report stating that 22 or 23 hours a day alone in a prison cell for more than 15 days at a time can cause permanent, lasting psychological damage and can constitute torture.

This problem, he emphasized, is particularly severe in the U.S., where prisoners are routinely held under such conditions for months, years and even decades at a time. Many have never committed a violent crime.

Fast-forward five years. The U.S. government has yet to grant Mendez access to a single isolation pod in any U.S. prison. The clock is ticking. Mendez has a mere 20 months left of his term, and he has yet been able to substantiate his reports with a firsthand investigation.

“The U.S. was voted into the Human Rights Council—a position that carries with it an obligation to cooperate,” he says. When he speaks, Mendez wears a look of weary determination befitting of his post.

“I’m disappointed to still be waiting for the State Department to respond to my request. I’ve been waiting over two years.”

“That fact that he hasn’t received a response is contemptible,” says Laura Rovner, legal expert on prison conditions from University of Denver. “It puts the U.S. in the company of countries like Syria, Pakistan, and Russia that also have been unresponsive to requests for country visits.”

“Given the length of the delay,” Rovner continues. “You have to wonder about the reason, whether it’s motivated by concerns about what the Special Rapporteur will find inside these prisons.”

Then suddenly, last December, Mendez was allowed access to California’s Pelican Bay State Prison—a facility known for keeping inmates in isolation indefinitely in its Security Housing Unit (SHU).

This visit did not come about through the official channels Mendez had long been appealing to, however. Instead, he found a way in to one of the most notorious prisons in the country through a kind of backdoor.

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In CA Prisons, Hundreds Have Been Removed from Solitary Confinement——and Thousands Remain

January 27, 2015 by Sal Rodriguez

It has been over three years since the first statewide hunger strike in protest of the California prison systems’ use of solitary confinement. The hunger strike, the first of many to follow, was launched by individuals housed in the state’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). The hunger strikes prompted state Legislative hearings, international scrutiny, and some reforms.

The SHU, first established in 1989 at Pelican Bay State Prison, was designed to house the “worst-of-the-worst” in close, secure, isolated confinement. Keeping individuals in small, windowless cells for 22 1/2 to 24 hours a day eventually proved to be a convenient solution to deal with individuals exhibiting behavioral or mental health problems and real or suspected gang affiliation as well.

The SHU, once limited to Pelican Bay, has been expanded to a total of four male facilities and one female facility. Despite this expansion, California doesn’t have enough room in the SHUs for all the individuals prison officials would like to place in them, necessitating their placement in Administrative Segregation Units (ASUs), which are dispersed throughout each prison.

By 2011, there were thousands of individuals in the SHU, including over 1,100 in the Pelican Bay SHU alone. Of them, approximately half had been in the SHU for over a decade and 78 had been in the SHU for at least 20 years.

In June 2011, individuals in the Pelican Bay SHU coordinated a hunger strike in protest of long-term isolation. The hunger strike lasted three weeks, notably bringing together people of all racial groups. There would be an additional hunger strike that year, followed by a third, 60-day-long hunger strike in July 2013.

Partly in response to the hunger strikes, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposed and implemented an array of reforms purportedly aimed at tightening the standards for SHU placement and potentially reducing the number of individuals held in highly restrictive custody.

Beginning in October 2012, the CDCR has changed the criteria used to place individuals in the SHU, created a “Step Down Program” for individuals to transition out of the SHU, and began a process of case-by-case reviews of all individuals held in the SHU and ASU to determined the appropriateness of their placement.

The reviews are ongoing, but the data collected so far is quite revealing.

According to data obtained from CDCR, 725 SHU case reviews have been conducted, with about 69%  those cases leading to release to the final step in the Step Down Program and/or a General Population setting. A further 63% of ASU case reviews have led to a return to the general population.

In other words, in most cases, it appears that under slightly stricter standards, CDCR could not justify keeping individuals in highly restrictive, isolating conditions.

With these reviews being conducted for over two years now, and the overall decline of the prison population, one would expect that the number of people in restrictive housing would be on the decline.

Officially, CDCR does not believe it holds individuals in solitary confinement. Thus, a true count of the total number of individuals in such conditions is difficult to determine. The purpose of this research is to use CDCR data to provide a means of determining how many individuals might be in solitary confinement.

The CDCR releases pertinent data through COMPSTAT (COMPuter STATistics or COMParative STATistics). CDCR  keeps track of the following data: the number of individuals in single-celled housing, the number of individuals in the SHU and ASU, and the number of individuals in the SHU and ASU in single-celled housing. This data is the closest one can get to determining the number of individuals in solitary confinement.

http://solitarywatch.com/2015/01/27/in-california-hundreds-have-been-removed-from-solitary-confinement-and-thousands-remain/

Continue reading

The way forward to End Solitary Confinement Torture: Where’s the army?

Jan. 25, 2015
by Todd Ashker

On the subject of SHU and Ad-Seg constituting torture, for those of us who may not be familiar with the specifics and in light of CDCr’s steady stream of propaganda – saying, “We don’t operate any solitary confinement units or cells in the California penal system, nor do we torture anyone” – here’s a summary of relevant facts supporting our position that these SHU and Ad-Seg units and the operations thereof are designed (modeled) after techniques designed to break political prisoners as a control mechanism. They are intended to break prisoners via coercive persuasion into becoming state informants.

I’ll begin by asking you a simple question?

Why is it that CDCr is able to get away with portraying PBSP SHU (Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit) prisoners as the “worst of the worst” sub-human monsters ever encountered in modern times as justification for their policies and practices of treating said prisoners as sub-human via decades of what is clearly a form of solitary confinement with sensory deprivation – and yet, as soon as these men agree to become state stooges via debriefing, they are no longer a threat and are released to the sensitive needs yard (protective custody) general population prison of their choice?

One of the main reasons they are able to continue to get away with their BS is the failure of the people to hold the lawmakers responsible.

I’ve been in the SHU for 28.4 years, to date, 24.7 years of which has been here in PBSP-SHU. [Editor’s note: This was written Dec. 30, 2014.] I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged with a gang related rule violation. (During our hunger strike I was issued two rule violations classified as serious. They were for: a) having a photo of my longtime friend; and b) a letter that someone had sent me, a stranger who represented herself as a supporter of our cause and wanted to be a pen pal. Staff gave me the letter, and then came around later and confiscated it and wrote me up.)

The above is intended to put the following into some perspective: Based on my personal experience in PBSP SHU during the past 24.7 years, I’ve experienced many techniques designed to break me. One is isolation from my social group. This is a tactic used here by prisoncrats to physically remove those prisoners deemed “problematic” to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or weaken close emotional ties, along with segregation of all natural leaders.

I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged
with a gang related rule violation.

What prisoncrats like to do is claim that this place can’t be considered a solitary confinement unit because you have eight cells to each pod and thus the prisoners in each pod are able to talk to each other. But here is how it actually operates. If you are deemed a “problematic” prisoner by any of the staff – for example, if you are a prisoner who is constantly challenging the prisoncrats’ policies and practices – their way of subjecting you to an informal form of punishment or to try to break you is to put you in a pod where there are no other people of your social group.

Artwork accompanies writing at this SF Bay View link
http://sfbayview.com/2015/01/the-way-forward-to-end-solitary-confinement-torture-wheres-the-army/

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