CA state court : Prisoner Can’t Be Punished for Hunger Strike

  • Below is the April 23, 2016 article from SF Gate/San Francisco Chronicle (minus photos and video in the article)
  • Court’s full decision at the bottom of the post.

State court rules prisoners can’t be punished for hunger strike

http://m.sfgate.com/news/article/State-court-rules-prisoners-can-t-be-punished-7305577.php

A state appeals court says a California prisoner who took part in a mass hunger strike protesting long-term solitary confinement should not have been punished for disorderly behavior because he did not disrupt prison operations or endanger anyone.

Although the 2013 hunger strike, which involved as many as 30,000 inmates across the state, may have affected the workload of prison staff members, there was no evidence of “a breakdown of order” or any threat of violence, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in the case of a former inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison.

The ruling, issued last month, was published Friday as a precedent for future cases. In addition to overturning a 90-day sentencing increase for the inmate, the decision could help numerous hunger strikers whose prison conduct is scrutinized by parole boards, said an attorney in the case, Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

For inmates serving life sentences with the possibility of parole, “the parole board is citing the hunger strike as a reason to keep them in prison, because of their ongoing criminal mentality,” Strickman said.

“We hope to use this opinion to try to educate the parole board,” she added. “You might say it makes you more suitable (for release), engaging in nonviolent protest. People could see it as good citizenship.”

The inmate, Jorge Gomez, was sent to Pelican Bay, in Del Norte County, in 2000 and was transferred three years later to the prison’s Security Housing Unit, where he was kept in solitary confinement for more than a decade. In July 2013, he refused to eat for four days and, after the third day, was cited for a “serious” violation of prison rules for taking part in a hunger strike.

Continue reading

CA Prisoners Win Historic Gains with Settlement Against Solitary Confinement

Agreement reached in Ashker v. Brown ends indeterminate long-term solitary confinement in CA, among other gains for prisoners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 1, 2015
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Oakland – Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement, and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) for more than 10 years, where they spend 23 hours a day or more in their cells with little to no access to family visits, outdoor time, or any kind of programming.

“From the historic prisoner-led hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013, to the work of families, loved ones, and advocate, this settlement is a direct result of our grassroots organizing, both inside and outside prison walls,” said Dolores Canales of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), and mother of a prisoner in Pelican Bay. “This legal victory is huge, but is not the end of our fight – it will only make the struggle against solitary and imprisonment everywhere stronger.” The 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes gained widespread international attention that for the first time in recent years put solitary confinement under mainstream scrutiny.

Currently, many prisoners are in solitary because of their “status” – having been associated with political ideologies or gang affiliation. However, this settlement does away with the status-based system, leaving solitary as an option only in cases of serious behavioral rule violations. Furthermore, the settlement limits the amount of time a prisoner may be held in solitary, and sets a two year Step-Down Program for the release of current solitary prisoners into the prison general population.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement. A higher security general population unit will be created for a small number of cases where people have been in SHU for more than 10 years and have a recent serious rule violation.

“Despite the repeated attempts by the prison regime to break the prisoners’ strength, they have remained unified in this fight,” said Marie Levin of CFASC and sister of a prisoner representative named in the lawsuit. “The Agreement to End Hostilities and the unity of the prisoners are crucial to this victory, and will continue to play a significant role in their ongoing struggle.” The Agreement to End Hostilities is an historic document put out by prisoner representatives in Pelican Bay in 2012 calling on all prisoners to build unity and cease hostilities between racial groups.

Prisoner representatives and their legal counsel will regularly meet with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials as well as with Federal Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who is tasked with overseeing the reforms, to insure that the settlement terms are being implemented.

“Without the hunger strikes and without the Agreement to End Hostilities to bring California’s prisoners together and commit to risking their lives— by being willing to die for their cause by starving for 60 days, we would not have this settlement today,” said Anne Weills of Siegel and Yee, co-counsel in the case. “It will improve the living conditions for thousands of men and women and no longer have them languishing for decades in the hole at Pelican Bay.”

“This victory was achieved by the efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters,” said the prisoners represented in the settlement in a joint statement. “We celebrate this victory while at the same time, we recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.”

Legal co-counsel in the case includes California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Chistensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness PLLC, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone. The lead counsel is the Center for Constitutional Rights. The judge in the case is Judge Claudia Wilken in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

A rally and press conference are set for 12pm in front of the Elihu M Harris State Building in Oakland, which will be livestreamed at http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

The settlement can be read on CCR’s website, along with a summary. CCR has also put up downloadable clips of the plaintiffs’ depositions here.  Read statement from plaintiffs.

Major Development in CA Lawsuit Against Solitary Confinement

Updated in August 31, 2015 Media Advisory:  This press conference will be livestreamed at  http://livestre.am/5bsWO.

This press conference will supplement and follow an earlier teleconference organized by the lead counsel in Ashker v. Brown, the Center for Constitutional Rights

Media Advisory – Friday, August 28, 2015

Rally and Press Conference:
Major Development in CA Lawsuit against
Solitary Confinement

Press Contact:  Mohamed Shehk – 408.910.2618 – mohamed@criticalresistance.org
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

What:     Rally and Press Conference

In anticipation of a major development in one of the most significant cases brought by prisoners in the struggle against solitary confinement, Ashker v. Brown, activists, prisoners’ family members and loved ones, and prisoner advocates will be holding a press conference and rally.

Who:      Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS)

PHSS is a statewide coalition that includes California Families Against Solitary Confinement, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Critical Resistance, California Prison Focus, American Friends Service Committee, and many other organizations and individuals who work against imprisonment and solitary confinement.

Statements will be read on behalf of prisoners by family members of people in solitary confinement.

When:    Tuesday, Sept 1, 2015
Noon

Where:   Elihu M Harris State Building
1515 Clay St
Oakland, CA 94612

###

Mohamed Shehk
Media and Communications Director

Critical Resistance
1904 Franklin St, Suite 504
Oakland, CA 94612
510.444.0484

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

23rd of Each Month: Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

UniversalFlier2

STOP THE TORTURE!

Statewide Coordinated Actions every month respond to the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers’ Proposals (November, 2013). They stated:

“We want to consider the idea of designating a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day. On that date each month prisoners across the state would engage in peaceful activities to call attention to prison conditions. At the same time our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose CDCR’s [CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] actions and rally support efforts to secure our rights. We can see this action growing from month to month as more people inside and out become aware of it and join our struggle.”

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) which began in strength, Monday, March 23, 2015.

Actions will happen on the 23rd of each month.

This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement.

PHSS Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prisoner-Hunger-Strike-Solidarity/117053298383319

These coordinated actions will acknowledge the importance of organized, community-based pressure as a core strategy (along with courts and legislators) of our work outside the walls to end solitary confinement.

CO-SPONSORS & ENDORSERS:
Statewide, nationally, and internationally, we invite all organizations and prominent individuals to:

  • endorse the Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement; or
  • co-sponsor: help plan statewide, national, international, and local actions; do outreach, attend, and/or speak out.

Co-sponsors and Endorsers are listed HERE on the PHSS website and HERE at the facebook event page, Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC)…

Please let us know at phssoutreach@gmail.com if you will endorse or what you will do to co-sponsor, and describe action(s) in your locale.

If you want to be part of the Outreach Group organizing this effort, please email Verbena and Willow.
Verbena <peoplesarc@gmail.com>; Willow <kohenet@sbcglobal.net>

LOCATIONS & TIMES:
Each locale participating in the Statewide Coordinated Actions will decide their locations and the time of day/night. We suggest places and times where and when there are plenty of people so that the actions are visible, and we can reach people with leaflets/information. If people-heavy locations also happen to be strategic for other reasons (e.g., a CDCR parole office in a busy area), all the better. Details about 23rd Actions in your locale (i.e. L.A., Oakland, San Jose) will be posted as we receive the information from various locales.  HERE are the locations & details for June 23, 2015.

FLIERS & HANDOUTS:
There is a universal flier for all actions, with a space for each area to insert local logistics. HERE is June’s flier! Also, there are handouts that can be used by everyone for these actions. PHSS can send out packets of these fliers and handbills by request at phssoutreach@gmail.com (beginning April 2015). Here they are for download. Local groups can hand out additional literature, as well.

These actions will help keep hidden torture in the public eye, build the movement to end solitary confinement, and serve as one way to update people as to the conditions inside and about the needs and goings-on in this human rights struggle. Organizations outside of CA and outside of the US are already joining and supporting this effort.

The courage that prisoners continue to demonstrate—after leading two hunger strikes in 2011 and a third, the largest hunger strike in history in 2013– while upholding their Agreement To End Hostilities across racial lines should give us all the strength to organize in our own communities.

Co-sponsors

Endorsers

 

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

Feb. 12, 2015: Important Hearing in SHU Lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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