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 asserted by CDCr, 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