Compliance or Critical Thinking?

By Terry A. Kupers, M.D., M.S.P.

(Many thanks to Willow Katz and Dolores Canales for support and editing)

Prisoners consigned to solitary confinement or Security Housing Unit (SHU) are derided as “the worst of the worst.”  But when I enter SHUs around the country in preparation for expert testimony in class action litigation, I find very ordinary people, with some exceptions.  There are very bright people, and there are not so bright people, just as in the community.  There are mean and ornery people and there are peaceful and very caring people, just as in the community (and in prison the peaceful and caring are much more numerous).  

The exceptions include the fact that: 1. A disproportionate number of prisoners in solitary suffer from serious mental illness (S.M.I.) — either they were diagnosed before entering solitary or they developed emotional problems on account of the harsh conditions — and that’s why, when I started touring supermax solitary confinement units in the 80s and 90s, I found that 50% of SHU-dwellers suffered from S.M.I.; 2.  A disproportionate number are people of color — the racism that permeates the criminal “justice” system does not stop at the prison walls; and 3.  A large proportion of individuals in solitary confinement are very bright and very political — I think officers are intimidated by willful and very intelligent prisoners, and selectively send them to solitary.  Of course, the subgroups can overlap, so there are no sharp boundaries.  In any case, the population in SHUs are very far from “the worst of the worst.”

When I set out to interview and examine the plaintiffs in the Ashker v. Governor of California lawsuit about unconstitutional conditions and a lack of due process at the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, I met men in the second and third categories, people of color and very bright and very political.  There were not very many prisoners who suffer from S.M.I. because prior litigation, Coleman v. Governor of California, resulted in a federal court order that SHU residents receive mental health evaluations and those suffering from S.M.I. be transferred to special units, the Psychiatric Services Units (PSUs), where they might receive mental health treatment.  Of course, conditions in the PSUs closely approximate SHU conditions except that prisoners are moved from their cells to “cages” (the staff call them “treatment or programming modules”) for mental health sessions.  

A majority of the inhabitants of the Pelican Bay SHU were alleged to be “gang-affiliates” or members, based on “confidential information,” typically meaning other prisoners had informed they were gang-related.  Those other prisoners were granted privileges or released from SHU in exchange for their “snitching,” and of course the prisoners in SHU had never been told what evidence there was against them, nor were they given an opportunity to defend themselves against the charge of gang-affiliation.  So, in an average case, a Latinx man from an East L.A. barrio was seen giving the high five to a suspected gang member, or wrote a letter to a cousin in prison who was suspected of gang-affiliation, and from then on he was classified gang-affiliated and sent to SHU.  

Alleged gang-affiliation was sufficient cause for the CDCR to consign prisoners to SHU for the remainder of their lives, unless they were willing to snitch on other prisoners (the “debriefing” process), reach the end of their prison sentence (parole), or die.  Prisoners described their choices as “snitch, parole or die.”  The Ashker settlement supposedly ended the practice of sending prisoners to SHU for alleged gang-affiliation alone.  

The 24 prisoners I interviewed were all very bright, many were very well read, and all of them were very aware of and articulate about social injustices and inequities.  On average, they had gotten into trouble with the law as teenagers, maybe were doing drugs, and in some cases they were involved with street gangs.  Almost all of them dropped out of school before graduating high school.  They entered the criminal legal system in their late teens or early twenties, settled down and looked back with regret on their criminal ways (or, a significant number were actually innocent of the charges against them, having been falsely convicted on the basis of tampered or bribed witness identification, the same unfortunate process that would get them consigned to SHU and then denied parole). 

I found myself face-to-face with men I found simpatico, and very interesting to talk to.  I rarely find people in the wider community who have so thoroughly studied philosophy and history and are conversant with the theories not only of Freud, Marx, and Darwin, but also Malcolm X, Franz Fanon and Che Guevera.  But in the Pelican Bay SHU these were studies and theories that might pop into the conversation at any moment.  The men had started studying on their own as soon as they entered prison, earned their G.E.D.s, took college courses when permitted, and in many cases studied the law and became jailhouse lawyers, helping other prisoners with their appeals and legal cases.  In fact, the Ashker v. Governor of California lawsuit began as a pro se case (meaning prisoners act as their own attorneys) brought by plaintiffs Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell.  Imagine how difficult it is to study law and file claims from a windowless cell with no library privileges except being able to request a few specific books or cases and hope officers will deliver them to the cell.

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PTSD SC: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Baridi J. Williamson

published in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper:
http://sfbayview.com/2018/02/ptsd-sc-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-solitary-confinement/

California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) had been locking classes of prisoners up in solitary confinement since the ‘60s as part of CDCr’s para-military low-intensity warfare, to break the minds and spirits of its subjects, California’s prisoner class. CDCr’s solitary confinement has two operating components: 1) punishing you and 2) physically and mentally destroying you.

In the 1970s, CDCr’s report to then Gov. Ronald Reagan on revolutionary organizations and gangs resulted in Reagan ordering the CDCr director to lock up all radicals, militants, revolutionaries and jailhouse lawyers who were considered “trouble-makers.”[i] And a 1986 report by the CDCr task force stated that during the ‘60s and ‘70s, California’s prisoners became “politicized” through the influence of outside “radical, social movements.”

And conscious prisoners began to “demand” their human, constitutional and civil rights,[ii] as exemplified by those politicized prisoners of war (PPOW) like W.L. Nolen.[iii] In the late ‘60s, Nolen and other PPOWs filed a civil rights class action case challenging the inhumane, degrading conditions and institutional racism that was prevalent at Soledad Prison’s solitary confinement O-wing,[iv] as well as throughout CDCr’s prison system to date.

The 1986 CDCr task force report recommended that CDCr build “supermax” prisons for this politicized class of prisoners, which was echoed by the California prison guards’ union (known today as CCPOA) in continuing their low-intensity warfare upon California prisoners up into and through the ‘80s.

Shortly thereafter, California government through its apparatus CDCr, built its solitary confinement torture sites, such as Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation (Ad-Segs) at Tehachapi in December 1986, New Folsom in December 1987, Corcoran in December 1988 and at Pelican Bay State Prison in December of 1989. All were designed with the malicious intent to destroy human lives through their diabolical low-intensity warfare scheme of mass validation – group punishment – indeterminate SHU classification and enhanced “debriefing” interrogation, known as “snitch, parole or die!”

Each of California’s governors and CDCr cabinet secretaries from 1977 to 2015 knowingly enhanced their system to become more repressive upon the prisoners held in solitary confinement in the SHUs. We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

California’s CDCr – with the winks and nods of lawmakers and judges – has held countless prisoners in solitary confinement, whether it is called Ad-Seg, Management Control Unit, Adjustment Center, SHU or Administrative SHU, longer than any prison system within the United States, ranging up to 45 years of torture and acts of racial discrimination from Soledad Prison’s O-wing to PBSP’s new form of solitary confinement torture.

The case of Madrid v. Gomez was the first acknowledgement on the part of California authorities and judiciary recognizing the harm that CDCr had been causing – mental torture – to those held in solitary confinement across the state’s prison system.[v]

We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

The Madrid case touched on the harsh conditions and treatment toward the solitary confinement prisoners at PBSP. It is a clear fact that during the years 1989 to 1994, PBSP had one of the most notorious Violence Control Units (VCUs) in the U.S. CDCr-PBSP officials utilized the VCU for to violate prisoners’ human, constitutional and civil rights by beating us and destroying the minds and spirits of so many of us for years.

An example of how some prisoners would find themselves forced into PBSP’s VCU is when the CDCr bus would arrive at PBSP and park outside the entrance doorway to solitary confinement – Facilities C and D. A squad of goons dressed in paramilitary gear with black gloves, shields and riot helmets would be there waiting. They called themselves the “Welcoming Committee.”

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating, and scalding prisoners. See Madrid v. Gomez.

The Welcoming Committee would select one or more prisoners and pull them off the bus – usually choosing those the transportation guards accused of “talking loud.” They would take each one to the side and jump on him, then drag him off through the brightly lighted doorway.

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating, and scalding prisoners.

When the rest of the prisoners were escorted off the bus into the corridor to be warehoused in the general SHU cells, they would see those beaten prisoners dragged off the bus “hog-tied”[vi] and lying on their stomachs or crouched in a fetal position, sometimes in a pool of blood.[vii] Later, they were dragged off to the VCU, where they were targeted with intense mind-breaking operations.

When these prisoners were eventually taken out of VCU and housed in the general SHU cells, they mostly displayed insanity – smearing feces all over their bodies, screaming, yelling, banging cups, throwing urine.[viii] And it was only when prisoners began to go public about the VCU at PBSP that CDCr ceased those practices.[ix]

The effects of solitary confinement at PBSP compelled CDCr to establish Psychiatric Service Units (PSUs) in response to the Madrid ruling for remedying the conditions that were destroying the minds of all prisoners who were held captive from the time of the Madrid ruling in 1995 through 2014, but they were poor and ineffective. Those released to the PSU from SHU fared no better than others held in solitary confinement at PBSP.

Prisoners in SHU continued to suffer mental, emotional and physical harm with no remedy made available by CDCr until we were released out to General Population units by the Departmental Review Board (DRB) between 2012 and 2014 and the Ashker v. Brown class action settlement in 2015.

These released prisoners were coming from a torture chamber, where by necessity they created coping skills like self-medicating. Typically, when coming out of solitary confinement, women and men prisoners show signs of depressive disorder and symptoms characteristic of self-mutilation, mood deterioration and depression, traumatic stress disorder, hopelessness, panic disorder, anger, obsessive-compulsive disorder, irritability, anhedonia, fatigue, feelings of guilt, loss of appetite, nervousness, insomnia, worry, increased heart rate and respiration, sweating, hyperarousal, serious problems with socialization, paranoia, loss of appetite, as well as cognitive issues, nightmares, muscle tension, intrusive thoughts, fear of losing control, and difficulty concentrating.[x]

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Support Demands of PRISONERS UNITED on Hunger Strike, starting in Alameda County Jails

Please check for ongoing Updates HERE and at @svdebug and @CURYJ on Twitter and Facebook.

Families, loved ones and community members,
 

PRISONERS UNITED in Alameda and Santa Clara County Jails are being deprived of their human and constitutional rights of due process and inflicted with cruel and unusual punishment, inhumane living conditions, and the torturous practice of solitary confinement..

Today, October 15, 2017, PRISONERS UNITED in Glenn Dyer Detention Center courageously lead the way in a Hunger Strike that will span across 2 counties and 4 jails. Santa Rita Jail, Santa Clara County Main Jail and Elmwood D.O.C. will continue the strike in solidarity on October 22.

Families, loved ones and community members,
Please call the Alameda County Sheriff Administration and Alameda County Board of Supervisors until they meet the below Alameda County Jails 5 Core Demands:
 

Alameda County Sheriff Administration:  (510) 272-6878

 
Alameda County Board of Supervisors:  (510) 272-6347
  1. End Indefinite Solitary Confinement/Administrative Segregation.
  2. End Subjective Grievance Practices.
  3. End Abuse of Discretion to Lockdown Unstructured Programming (Time Out of Cell).
  4. End Insufficient and Unsanitary Clothing.
  5. End Insufficient Food and Starvation for Indigent Prisoners.

Please spread the word!

Post these fliers on social media. 

Hunger Strikers’ DEMANDS AND GRIEVANCES at Folsom Prison

Constitutional Violations And Significant Hardships We Are Forced To Endure In Folsom State Prison, Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU), Building 4

Within ASU Building 4 at Old Folsom State Prison (FSP), the majority of prisoners being housed here are CSP-Sacramento, High Desert and SATF prisoners. These same prisoners are all awaiting court proceedings and/or district attorney referrals; therefore, all 115 disciplinary reports against them cannot and have not been heard to receive findings of “guilty” to receive a disciplinary action.

This is important to note, because ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) still imposes a “Projected MERD” (Minimum Eligible Release Date) based on the initial 115 report, as if found guilty for the offense, violating due process of hearing and evidence. With the projected MERD imposed, prisoners still cannot be deemed “SHU” term or be transferred to “SHU housing” because the 115 report is pending district attorney rejection or conclusion of court proceedings.

This forces prisoners to remain housed in ASU for long term confinement of anywhere from a year to 14 months depending on the offense. This leads to prisoners sitting idle, in forced single cell. The following demands are in line with fair and dignified treatment of a human being:

1. PROVIDE ADEQUATE ACCESS TO COURTS AND LEGAL ASSISTANCE
Denial of adequate access to courts and legal assistance: The “law cage” is inadequate for prisoners who are illiterate, non-English speaking and/or undereducated. Many of the men here are facing serious charges that carry life sentences and even the most educated could not mount a proper defense or do legal research on their own. Access to properly trained legal assistance that a law library provides is in line with Lewis v. Casey et al (1996) No. 94-1511. Currently, there is no access to legal forms, copies or printing. It has been long established the “paging” system is in violation.

2. PROVIDE MEANINGFUL EDUCATION, SELF-HELP COURSES AND REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS
Denial and/or lack of meaningful education, self-help courses and rehabilitative programs: Wright v. Rushen, 642 F2d 1129 (9th Cir. 1981), held FSP shall provide its ASU prisoners with education and rehabilitative programs. ASU prisoners are not afforded GED programs, and the high school diploma program is split between the entire facility and ranch plus ASU. Therefore, we are placed in a hard spot; ASU prisoners are neither first nor second priority, leaving no educational opportunities.

The college program is nonexistent at best, to add to the problem, those previously enrolled are forced to drop classes due to no TVs for video assignments, preventing them from acquiring degrees. FSP provides absolutely no self-help courses or counseling in anger management, behavior management etc. FSP provides absolutely no substance abuse counseling or programs, such as N.A. or A.A.

3. ALLOW POSSESSION OF TELEVISIONS
Denial of TVs: FSP has flat out lied on the ability to provide the necessary electrical outlets to allow the possession of a TV. Instead of fixing this issue years ago, FSP continues to cover up the fact the funds allocated (Inmate Welfare Funds) are spent leisurely on non-inmate stuff. Per Title 15, §3190(3), ASU prisoners are allowed the choice of a TV or radio.

Prisoners are forced to choose a radio due to FSP’s unwillingness to provide outlets. With no programs, education or meaningful time out of cell, the sensory deprivation, sitting idle, causes prisoners to lose their minds, forcing prisoners to harm themselves in order to get mental health care, which provides TVs per Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. ____(1994) “[O]ne does not have to await the consummation of threatened injury to obtain preventive relief.”

FSP’s attitude of “make us,” “we’re exempt,” is in violation and promotes prisoners to harm themselves to get a TV. Examine FSP record of prisoners needing mental health care while housed in ASU.

4. PROVIDE EXERCISE EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING PULL-UP BARS, FOR MEANINGFUL EXERCISE IN YARD
Denial of exercise equipment, including pull-up bars: CDCR began installing pull-up bars in all SHUs and ASUs throughout CDC prisons. FSP is one of the last if not the last ASU to install pull-up bars.

This was done so men can receive meaningful exercise in the small dog kennel type cages used as yards. With no ability to run around and exercise our legs, prisoners are left to sit idle for hours. CDCR agreed the pull-up bars were meaningful equipment. The permanent injunction in Toussaint v. McCarthy, 597 F. Supp. 1388 9N.D. Cal 1984) covers FSP, saying ASU prisoners shall be provided meaningful exercise. FSP has the necessary vocational jobs and classes to install the bars and build the equipment at minimum to no cost.

5. END CRUELTY, NOISE AND SLEEP DEPRIVATION OF WELFARE CHECKS
Sleep deprivation from welfare checks: Correctional officers (COs) on first watch create excessive noise with keys while walking every half hour; mixed with uncourteous loud metal on metal contact, it creates unnecessary cruelty and punishment. A CO’s equipment and keys can be properly secured on their person to prevent the excessive noise, yet when asked for courtesy, the noise is made extreme as a retaliation, thus waking prisoners every half hour the entire night.

6. KEEP ORIGINAL PROPER PACKAGING FOR COMMISSARY AND CANTEEN
Commissary and canteen: All items are repackaged into TRASH BAGS! This is forcing prisoners to use toothpaste out of trash bags. Deodorant that is gel is repackaged to trash bags, which causes the deodorant to evaporate and lose its purpose to keep the funk away. Coffee jars are repackaged to trash bags which causes coffee to go stale and harden. This is an irrational practice with no real security or safety reason, as proven by the fact that all packaging in canteen and quarterly packages is allowed within the SHU.

7. GIVE NON-DISCIPLINARY STATUS TO QUALIFYING PRISONERS
Denial of NDS (Non Disciplinary Status) to qualifying prisoners: Title 15 Article 7 Segregation Housing §3335 (A)(1) outlines and stipulates criteria for NDS. FSP’s warden is denying this status based on an underground memo of criteria not approved by the APA. FSP’s warden is attempting to extort information out of prisoners in order to receive NDS after being placed in ASU for “non-disciplinary” reasons.

FSP’s warden is attempting to force prisoners to cooperate with institutional investigations, violating a prisoner’s right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

8. PROVIDE ADEQUATE AND APPROPRIATE CLOTHING AND SHOES
Denial of personal clothing and shoes: Prisoners are forced to walk around in their boxer underwear and state-issued T-shirt, which are normally extremely used and too large or too small. Prisoners are moved around the prison like this and remain all day like this.

Prisoners are provided one jumpsuit that is always over-sized, with no ability to wash or exchange it.  In the cold winter months, prisoners are denied warm clothing or beanies to prevent sickness while out on yard.

During the summer, the warmer months, prisoners are denied appropriate clothing to cover up and still maintain coolness. It is a decency factor of allowing prisoners clothing and properly fitted shoes to remain dignified and in touch with the civilized world. There is no reasonable security issue or factors to deny a person decency.

9. PROVIDE FOOD BOWL AND CUP
Denial of a food bowl or cup: FSP is forcing its ASU prisoners to eat out of recycled (“washed”) trash bags, old zip lock bags and milk cartons and to drink from a 3 ounce “rubbery” reused cup. See Estelle v. Gamble, 424 U.S. 97 (1976). This treatment is unnecessary cruelty and punishment and violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights. The amendment embodies “broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency.”

pdf of Folsom Hunger Strikers’ Demands and Grievances

Continue reading

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

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

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

CA Prisoner Reps Say: All People Have the Right to Humane Treatment with Dignity

http://sfbayview.com/2014/10/california-prisoner-representatives-all-people-have-the-right-to-humane-treatment-with-dignity/

October 2, 2014

Main reps mark the 1st anniversary of suspension of the 2013 Hunger Strike and the 2nd anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities

We expect to hear soon from Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, the fourth of the main reps in the Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. His remarks will be posted online as soon as they arrive and will be printed next month. He has been transferred to Tehachapi: C-35671, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

All People Have the Right to Humane Treatment with Dignity

by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos and George Franco

Greetings of solidarity and respect to all oppressed people and those committed to fighting for the fundamental right of all people to humane treatment – to dignity, respect and equality.

We are the prisoner class representatives of what’s become known as the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities. This is an update on where things stand with our struggle to achieve major reforms beneficial to prisoners, outside loved ones and society in general.

Our Agreement to End Hostilities would enhance prison safety more than any long-term isolation policies and yet it still has not been circulated and posted throughout the prison system. We urge that everyone read this document again and that you pass it around, study it, live it. (It is reprinted below.) The California Department of Corrections has yet to post this historic document. It needs to.

In 2010 -2011, many long-term SHU prisoners housed in the PBSP SHU Short Corridor initiated our “collective human rights movement” based on our recognition that, regardless of color, we have all been condemned for decades, entombed in what are psycho-social extermination cells, based on prisoncrats’ fascist mentality. That mentality is centered upon the growing oppressive agenda of the suppressive control of the working class poor and related prison industrial complex’s expansion of supermax solitary confinement units.

The pretext for that expansion is baseless claims that solitary confinement is necessary for the subhuman “worst of the worst” deemed deserving of a long slow death in hellish conditions. Supermax units were originally designed and perfected for the purpose of destroying political prisoners and now extend to a policy of mass incarceration.

Beginning July 1, 2011, we have utilized our collective movement to resist and expose our decades of subjection to this systematic state torture, via a campaign of peaceful activism efforts inside and outside these dungeon walls. We have achieved some success; we are not finished.

Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities.

We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us. We remind all concerned that our third peaceful protest action was “suspended” after 60 days, on Sept. 6, 2013, in response to Assemblyman Ammiano and Sen. Hancock’s courageous public acknowledgement of the legitimacy of our cause and related promises to hold joint hearings for the purpose of creating responsive legislation.

Hearings were held in October 2013 and February 2014 which were very positive for our cause in so far as continuing the public’s exposure to CDCR’s unjustifiable torture program. Assemblyman Ammiano’s bill was responsive to our issues and it was thus no surprise that the CDCR and CCPOA (the guards’ union) and others opposed it – and it was DOA on the Assembly floor. Sen. Hancock worked to get a bill passed with some changes, but, according to a statement she released, even that failed when the Governor’s Office and CDCR gutted months of work by Sen. Hancock, her staff and the staff of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

California Department of Corrections has calculated that their alleged “new” policy known as Security Threat Group-Step Down Program (STG-SDP) will give the appearance of addressing the horrific inhuman treatment we experience daily. They argue the Step Down Program is a major positive reform of the “old” policy and thereby responsive to our core demands.

They hope to undermine the statewide, national and international growing support for our cause – the end of long-term indefinite solitary confinement, the torture we experience year in and year out.

We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us.

The STG-SDP is a smokescreen intended to enable prisoncrats to greatly expand upon the numbers held in solitary confinement – indefinitely. Their STG-SDP policy and program is a handbook to be used with limitless discretion to put whoever they want in isolation even without dangerous or violent behavior.

Their Security Threat Group policy and language are based on a prison punishment international homeland security worldview. By militarizing everything, just as they did in Ferguson, Missouri, poor working class communities, especially those of color, become communities that feed the police-prison industrial complex as a source of fuel.

The daily existence of poor people is criminalized from youth on. We become a source of revenue – a source of jobs – as our lives are sucked, tracked into the hell of endless incarceration, our living death. The STG-SDP is part of the worldview and language of death, not life. It is not positive reform. Security Threat Group takes social policy in the wrong direction.

CDCR is explicit in that thousands of us are in indefinite solitary because of who we are seen to be by them, not because we have done anything wrong. They still decide this by our art, our photographs, birthdays and confidential informants who get out of solitary by accusing the rest of us. Continue reading

From Palestine to Pelican Bay, prisoners and their loved ones fight for justice and freedom

June 18, 2014

by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
[Full Article includes solidarity actions you can take]

“Our message to the world is that we are peacefully resisting our arbitrary detention, despite the threat the hunger strike imposes on our health … Our bodies are weak, but our determination to end injustice and achieve our demands has never been stronger … According to international law, the occupation’s practice of administrative detention is arbitrary and violates all international human rights regulations and laws that call for respecting human beings, their rights, freedom and lives …

“Without international and media pressure, nothing will change. The humanitarian side of the issue should be revived; it is not a matter of numbers and years. There are children, sons and daughters, parents and families that are suffering from the raids, arrest processes and administrative detention renewals and everything else that is directly connected to these conditions.” – Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike, Day 55, June 17, 2014

SIGN PETITION HERE: http://ymlp296.net/xgmmbeyhgmguu

From California to Palestine to Guantanamo, prisoners are resisting the torturous conditions to which they were never sentenced. On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners across California began a hunger strike and work stoppage protesting long-term solitary confinement and horrific prison conditions. The day after, Palestinian former political prisoner Sheikh Khader Adnan, whose 66-day hunger strike protesting being detained without charge, attracting worldwide attention, wrote in support of the California hunger strikers:

“The policy of isolation is a cheap weapon in the hands of those who hold power. The policy of isolation is used against American citizens who are victims of the political, economic and social order/system that thrives on greed, discrimination and the deprived, including the African-Americans and Palestinian resistors such as Sameeh Hamoudeh and Sami Al-Aryan …

“Hunger strikes are a courageous step and a real tool for all those who are deprived of their rights to lift the existing oppression, and I hope that these prisoners will gain their rights and their demands. Today, the hunger strikes of the Palestinian prisoners inspire those who are detained to engage in hunger strikes to guarantee that they are treated humanely and with respect and dignity.”

Now Palestinian prisoners are in acute need of our support. Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons launched an open-ended mass hunger strike on April 24, 2014. Since then, detainees have been subsisting on only water and salt. This is the latest in a series of mass and individual hunger strikes since 2011 protesting Israel’s policy of “administrative detention,” whereby Israel holds Palestinian men, women and children without charges or trial, or the opportunity to hear the evidence against them.

The Israeli military commander issues detention orders for periods of one to six months, which can be renewed indefinitely. In its indeterminate length, lack of due process or transparency, and its use as punishment for political activity, administrative detention resembles California’s Security Housing Units (SHU).

Administrative detention has been used against tens of thousands of Palestinians; detention is a constant threat in Palestinian daily life. Random incarceration and torture are used to collectively punish Palestinian people, as they seek to survive and resist Israeli military occupation and colonization. …

Read the full article at San Francisco Bay View

http://sfbayview.com/2014/from-palestine-to-pelican-bay-prisoners-and-their-loved-ones-fight-for-justice-and-freedom/ Continue reading

Palestinian Prisoners In 57th Day of Hunger Strike

Administrative detainees on hunger strike issue their will as they stand “at the edge of death”

by Shahd Abusalama, Wed 06/11/2014

Palestinians in Gaza City have launched a solidarity hunger strike in a sit-in protest outside the Red Cross. (Ahmad Abu Hussein)

Palestinians in Gaza City have launched a solidarity hunger strike in a sit-in protest outside the Red Cross.
(Ahmad Abu Hussein)

Our Palestinian detainees have been battling the Israel Prison Service (IPS) with their empty stomachs since 24 April, embarking on the longest-known mass hunger strike in the history of the Palestinian prisoners movement. Hunger is the only remaining weapon they can use against the IPS and its well-armed Israeli occupation soldiers.

They launched this hunger strike to call for an end to their detention with no charge or trial based on secret “evidence” submitted to a military court that is kept from the detainees and their lawyers — an unjust policy that Israel calls administrative detention.  …

Despite the chains and the prisons’ bars and walls, this is a will from those who are standing at the edge of death to the guards of our homeland, Palestine. …

Full ARTICLE with PRISONERS’ LETTER HERE (letter smuggled out June 8, 2014)

http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/shahd-abusalama/administrative-detainees-hunger-strike-issue-their-will-they-stand-edge-death Continue reading