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/

PHSS Supports Strike Against Prison Slavery and Inhumane Conditions

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) supports the peaceful work stoppages and hunger strikes that began throughout the country on September 9, 2016 by incarcerated people fighting prison slavery, solitary confinement, and other abuses. Opposing dehumanization in prison is an expression of the struggle for the recognition of all of our humanity. We support peaceful prisoner-class-led movements struggling against prison dehumanization and for human rights for all.

For more info on PHSS, see prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordprss.com

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