LETTER WRITING LAUNCH to end harmful “security / welfare checks”

STOP SLEEP DEPRIVATION in CA Solitary Units in Pelican Bay SHU and Women’s Death Row

Please write letters to Lindsay Hayes, the suicide expert who’s endorsed this harmful practice by CA Dept. of Corrections.  Hayes can stop the “security/welfare checks.” We want Hayes to hear the voices of the women and men affected by these torturous checks, and we ask you to be the messengers.

Use these templates and prisoner quotes, and send to the listed addresses:

 Write to:
Lindsay M. Hayes

40 Lantern Lane
Mansfield, MA 02048

Copy to:
Matthew A. Lopes, Jr.
Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC
317 Iron Horse Way, Suite 301
Providence, RI 02908

If possible, send us a copy of your letter, either by U.S. mail or email:
PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation
P.O. Box 5692
Eureka, CA 95502
phssreachingout@gmail.com

The negative health consequences of inadequate sleep ha[ve] been extensively documented and nowhere in the literature is there a report on as severe a disruption in sleep as is occurring in the Pelican Bay SHU.”
– Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, internationally recognized sleep expert, Oct. 2015

Guards are jarring prisoners awake every 30 minutes, all day and night, in Central California Women’s Facility death row and in Pelican Bay SHU with noisy so-called  “security/ welfare checks,” causing severe sleep deprivation. These checks are purported to be ‘suicide prevention,’ yet are being used as a blanket practice, whether prisoners are suicidal or not, and despite the fact that denial of sleep is devastating for the human mind and body.

This is torture. We are being emotionally, mentally and physically battered by the security checks throughout the nights.” 20 death row prisoners in Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)

People need sleep for survival, mental and physical health and well-being, and to organize for their human rights.

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Report back from Prisoner Representatives’ first monitoring meeting with CDCR

published by the Center for Constitutional Rights
May 23, 2016

Last September, in Ashker v. Governor of California, California prisoners reached an historic settlement agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) that is bringing an end to indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. The Settlement Agreement includes hard-won (and unprecedented) periodic meetings between the CDCR and the prisoners who initiated the lawsuit and led the protests against long term solitary confinement. Below is a report back from the first of these meetings, from lead plaintiff in the case and prisoner representative, Todd Ashker.

I was very pleased to participate in this historic meeting with CDCR officials, which we negotiated in our Settlement Agreement.  I think it is the first time that representatives of prisoners have had this kind of discussion with leaders of any correction department; it is certainly the only time it has happened here in California, the world’s largest prison system.  We were especially pleased that high-ranking prison officials were at the meeting.

At the beginning of this first meeting, it became clear that there was a misunderstanding about its function.  CDCR thought the meeting was for us to listen to them.  Why would we put a term into our Settlement that would have us listen to them?  We listen to them every second of our lives.   We see the purpose of these calls as an opportunity for us to be heard and to have a discussion with people in authority.

Despite this initial confusion, we were able to lead the meeting. CDCR got unfiltered information from prisoners who know what is going on in their prison cells and yards.  We are a leadership group the CDCR knows.  They know we have integrity.  The information we shared at the meeting came not only from the experiences of us four main reps, but also from the other veterans of the SHU, members of our class who have written and met with our attorneys.

We raised in strong terms that some of us who have made it to General Population yards are essentially in modified SHUs (Security Housing Units), in some respects worse than Pelican Bay SHU, although in some respects better.   Conditions, policies and practices that we are experiencing in some of the General Population yards are not what we expected when we settled our case.  After spending decades in solitary we cannot accept many of these conditions.  Too many prisoners are simply warehoused, and there are not enough jobs or programs to give us skills, engage our minds and prepare us to return to our communities.  Guards need training in ‘professional’ behavior.   Bullying and humiliation should never be tolerated.

CDCR may have been surprised at the tenor, strength and substance of our approach.   We expect at the next meeting, we will all understand the agenda and purpose well ahead of time.   We also think a longer meeting will allow for a full discussion and useful interaction.  We hope CDCR officials come to welcome these historic meetings as useful because they will be if prisoners’ perspectives are heard, used and received by them.

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.

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Take Action to Demand a STOP to the Sleep Deprivation

California prisoners in solitary confinement continue to be sleep-deprived due to jarringly noisy “security/welfare checks” 40-48 times a day.

The ‘checks’ are particularly loud and distressing for people in Central CA Women’s Facility (CCWF) Administrative Segregation death row, due to guard aggressiveness, and in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PB SHU) where cramped, concrete architecture also amplifies the noise. 

Demand a STOP to Sleep Deprivation Torture
in CA Solitary Units

Please make calls (#’s below) and click here to send emails opposing the “security/welfare checks” that are causing sleep deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU and CA Women’s death row. Sleep Deprivation is Torture. Stand with prisoners and their families to demand an end to this torture. We ask that you distribute this flier at your actions. We want to have a big call-in and email day on Monday, April 25th!

EmailClick here http://tinyurl.com/ztjcos3 to tell state officials to STOP the “security/welfare checks!”

Make Calls:

  • CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary
    Scott Kernan: 916-323-6001
  • CDCR Director of Adult Divisions: 916-445-7688
  • Senator Loni Hancock, Senate Public Safety Committee Chair:
    916-651-4009
  • Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair: 916-319-2059
  • Governor Jerry Brown: 916-445-2841

Suggested script for calls: Your name, city, state. “Please stop the so-called ‘security/welfare checks’ in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison and in women’s death row. The ‘checks’ are causing sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is torture.”

Organizations: SEND A STATEMENT to phssreachingout@gmail.com, condemning the sleep deprivation torture. PHSS will forward to state officials. Sample statement here http://wp.me/P1BB1k-2r9

… they’re killing us with these Guard One/Welfare Checks. … I don’t know what to do? We really are suffering right now and I can assure you that this is worse than the hunger strikes.” – PB SHU prisoner Oct 2015

This is torture. We are being emotionally, mentally and physically battered by the security checks throughout the nights.” 20 death row prisoners in Central CA Women’s Facility

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40-48 times a day, these ‘checks’ are subjecting people in small solitary cells to:

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‘Stop the Torture’ – UN Official Receives Formal Complaint from Solitary Prisoners’ Family Members and Advocates

For Immediate Release – Thursday, March 31, 2016

Statewide groups are condemning sleep deprivation – widely recognized as a form of torture – of prisoners in Pelican Bay’s Solitary Confinement Units in a formal complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

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

 

CA – After months of public outcry, California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) have submitted a formal complaint to Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment condemning the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) jarringly noisy and disruptive “security/welfare checks” in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Units (PB-SHU). These checks, which started on August 2, 2015, have deprived the prisoners of sleep for eight months, amounting to what is widely recognized as a form of torture. The complaint was submitted last week, on Thursday, March 24.

 

One prisoner recently stated that being in PB-SHU with these checks “is like a construction site all night. It is horrible. It really is torture.”  Another wrote, “For decades, military and police forces have used extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, and constant banging/noise to cause mental/physical torment and try to break a person’s mind or human will to resist questioning. These are so-called clean torture methods.”

 

The complaint to Mendez includes reports from interviews with PB-SHU prisoners conducted over a six-month period by Carol Strickman, Staff Attorney at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.  Additionally, Mendez was provided with statements by sleep experts Dr. Thomas Roth and Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, by psychiatrist Dr. Terry Kupers, and by the American Public Health Association’s Jail and Prison Health Committee about the impact of sleep deprivation on mental health – all who have condemned the “security/welfare checks.”  Internationally recognized sleep expert Dr. Zeitzer explains in his October 2015 report, “The negative health consequences of inadequate sleep have been extensively documented and nowhere in the literature is there a report on as severe a disruption in sleep as is occurring in the Pelican Bay SHU.”

 

“My son doesn’t have the energy to exercise, write, or draw nearly as much since the checks started. He used to write me letters 2-3 times a week; now maybe once a week, and only a few lines,” says Grace A., a member of CFASC and whose son is in PB-SHU. “He has hardly been able to sleep since early August, but is fighting to stay strong. I tell him ‘You are not alone.’”

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THURSDAY, MARCH 24 Call-In Action to End Sleep Deprivation

THURSDAY, MARCH 24

Call-In Action to End Sleep Deprivation Torture of Prisoners in CA Solitary Units

CA prison guards are still doing malicious, jarringly noisy so-called “security/welfare checks” in solitary confinement units, causing ongoing sleep deprivation.

Please take urgent action on March 24th (and ongoing) until the painful and potentially lethal sleep deprivation torture of California prisoners in solitary confinement has ended. FLIERS HERE

The ‘checks’ are particularly loud and distressing for people in Central CA Women’s Facility (CCWF) Administrative Segregation death row, due to guard aggressiveness, and in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PB SHU) where the cramped, concrete architecture also amplifies the noise.

CALL to demand a STOP to the
sleep deprivation in CA solitary cells

  • CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary
    Scott Kernan: 916-323-6001
  • CDCR Director of Adult Divisions: 916-445-7688
  • Senator Loni Hancock, Senate Public Safety Committee Chair:
    916-651-4009
  • Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Assembly Public SafetyCommittee Chair: 916-319-2059
  • Governor Jerry Brown: 916-445-2841
  • Coleman Special Master Matthew Lopes: 866-353-3310 (Toll Free)

Suggested script for calls:
Your name, city, and state. “Please stop the so-called ‘security/welfare checks’ in the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison and in women’s death row. The ‘checks’ are causing sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is torture.”

Other ways to help:

  • EMAIL: Click this link to tell state officials to STOP the “security/welfare checks!” http://tinyurl.com/ztjcos3
  • SEND A STATEMENT (as an individual or from your organization) for PHSS to forward to state officials, condemning the sleep deprivation torture. Sample statement, more info here: http://wp.me/P1BB1k-2r9

Please stand with the prisoners & their families
to demand the sleep deprivation end immediately!

… they’re killing us with these Guard One/Welfare Checks. … I don’t know what to do? We really are suffering right now and I can assure you that this is worse than the hunger strikes.” – PB SHU prisoner Oct 2015

40-48 times a day, these “checks” are subjecting people in small solitary cells to the reverberating “boom” of steel unit doors opening and slamming shut, and guards stomping through pods, up and downstairs, rattling keys and chains, beeping and banging Guard One metal pipes on metal buttons and cells, and shining flashlights into people’s eyes.

The negative health consequences of inadequate sleep ha[ve] been extensively documented and nowhere in the literature is there a report on as severe a disruption in sleep as is occurring in the Pelican Bay SHU.”

– Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, internationally recognized sleep expert, 10/25/15

Sleep-deprived, the prisoners are suffering severe stress and irritation, depression, weight loss, dizziness, nausea, headaches, migraines, eye problems, intestinal problems, faintness, high blood pressure, accelerated heart rates, blacking out, stomach acidity and pain, and vomiting. They cannot concentrate, exercise, read, write, or do legal work- the things that help them survive.

This is torture. We are being emotionally, mentally and physically battered by the security checks throughout the nights.” 20 death row prisoners in Central CA Women’s Facility

picture_grayrotatedCDCR claims these ‘checks’ will prevent suicides. Instead,
they are
causing serious psychological and physical harm.
These “checks” serve no welfare or security purpose. They only harm the prisoners, mentally and physically.

The CA prisoners’ 2012 Agreement to End Hostilities between
ethnic groups made possible
the CA Prisoner Hunger Strike
of 2013
by over 30,000 CA prisoners and 100’s more
nationwide. Prisoners’ human rights organizing has built an
amazing movement and led to the historic 2015
settlement ending indefinite solitary confinement in CA. It appears CDCR is attempting to prevent future effective human rights work by prisoners in solitary by instituting a debilitating and internationally-condemned torture technique: sleep deprivation.

More info: phssreachingout@gmail.com    510.426.5322
Facebook
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

March 23: HIP HOP FOR CHANGE and PHSS Event!

Please join Hip Hop for Change and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) for an evening of powerful Spoken Word and discussion from 6pm to 9pm at the Niebyl-Proctor Library in Oakland, CA.  

This event is in solidarity with the CA prisoners who challenged the torture of solitary confinement and created the historic Agreement to End Hostilities.  We hope to help cultivate strong community connections inside and outside prisons and grow community support in the prisoner class struggle.  The work to end solitary confinement and create true social justice continues.  Social justice does not include destroying lives, families and communities with incarceration, isolation, and torture. 

Right now we must stop the cruel Sleep Deprivation that began many months ago against people in solitary at Pelican Bay and CA Central Women’s Facility.

Saturday, March 23rd is a day of Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement and, nationwide, groups are conducting actions as part of Together to End Solitary. This event in Oakland is connected to a nationwide momentum to end solitary confinement.

Please share the Facebook event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/973551582700324/

EVENT DETAILS:
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
6:00pm – 9:00pm
Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library 6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California 94609
Donations gladly accepted
For more info:  510.426.5322, jp@hiphopforchange.org, phssreachingout@gmail.com
hiphopforchange.org
prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com  

PHSS is excited to collaborate with Hip Hop for Change!  For three years, Hip Hop for Change has been educating youth about social justice issues, Hip Hop culture, history, and the power of self-expression!!! They volunteer with organizations that are uplifting historically marginalized community, they start gardens and donate thousands of hours. Hip Hop for Change throws Hip Hop shows that provide platforms for artists with empowering social justice-oriented narratives!!! 

Sleep Expert Reports about 30 minute “welfare checks”

 

excerpted from Dr. Jamie Zeitzer’s Oct 2015 Report:
” …While this was instituted as a safety measure, including the prevention of suicides, it has created an even more disrupted sleep environment, one that will actually lead to an increase in suicidal ideation…

An extensive literature that covers the gamut from animal studies to highly controlled studies in humans to epidemiologic studies of many different populations from around the world all come to the same conclusion – there are serious ramifications of sleep loss on both physical and mental health. … A recent series of studies in Veterans has further pointed to the strong connection between suicidality and sleep, so much so that treatment of sleep problems in Veterans is considered part of the first line of treatment in reducing the risk of suicides. The negative health consequences of inadequate sleep has been extensively documented and nowhere in the literature is there a report on as severe a disruption in sleep as is occurring in the Pelican Bay SHU. …

There have been no direct studies of intentionally waking an individual every thirty minutes every night for days, weeks, or months, as doing so would he considered highly unethical in a research environment. …”

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PHOTOS and REPORTBACKS from Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners

On February 1, 2016, people from all over California gathered in Sacramento at the headquarters of the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) to demand an end to the dangerous and deliberate sleep deprivation being inflicted on the people in solitary in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, under the guise of “welfare checks”.

Before the Rally, more than 15 formerly incarcerated people, family members, pen pals, and other activists visited the offices of Loni Hancock (chair of the CA Senate Public Safety Senate Committee), Bill Quirk (chair of the CA Assembly Public Safety Committee), and reps from various districts to demand the immediate suspension of the sleep deprivation “welfare checks” in the Pelican Bay SHU.  Sleep Deprivation Is Torture.

Reportbacks below are from Martha Esquivel of San Diego, CA and James Decker of Eureka, CA.
Photos are from Liberated Lens Collective, Lucas Guilkey, James Decker, and Urszula Frydman. Please inquire about photo accreditation before using unlabeled photos.

from Martha Esquivel:
I’m so very thankful for having the opportunity to go to Sacramento and stand up with you all in front of CDCr and show them our unity, meet new people and listen to their stories… about how their loved ones are being tortured by CDCr, our employees. Yes, our employees. Because they get paid with our taxes, and instead of rehabilitating our loved ones who make mistakes, they are looking for methods to keep the torture going one way or another.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

Almost 5 years ago, we were standing outside CDCr demanding CDCr stop the torture of our loved ones in Indefinite Isolation.  We proved to them that was torture. We Won and now CDCr has found another way of torturing them, by not letting them sleep. It has been 6 months of sleep deprivation and they know that it is torture.

Back in 2011, we didn’t have a clue what to do, we only knew that our loved ones were being Tortured and they needed our support. Our loved ones pushed from the inside and we pushed from the outside, and we got the Victory.  Today, we are more people fighting for our loved ones in prison. Some of them are out of the SHU, but we are still here fighting for the one’s still in the SHU. We are not leaving anyone behind. Together We know We can make a change, and we just want to let CDCr know that regarding this new chapter of torture they have created: We are going to win too, because our movement is a movement of Love, and we believe in rehabilitating humans not destroying them!
Martha Esquivel is active in California Families Against Solitary Confinement and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition; She is sister to Luis Esquivel, a named Plaintiff in Ashker v Brown, now out of Pelican Bay SHU after 15 years in solitary there.

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Photo by Lucas Guilkey

from James Decker:
I was proud to be part of the contingent from far northern California to attend the Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners on February 1, 2016. We gathered just after noon, a group of family members, formerly incarcerated persons, activists, attorneys, and faith leaders. Diverse members of the community gathering with a single purpose: to stop the sleep deprivation torture.

PowerfulSpeaking_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

I was moved by the testimony of those folks fighting for the very lives of their loved ones. More then 70 people were there to listen and demand action!  Women, mostly women of color, spoke about a racist system fueled by capitalism that has devastated their families and robbed their communities.

StopTortureNow_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

EndSleepDeprivation_2-1-16_JamesDeckerphoto

Thanks to the folks that helped create these powerful posters and the Artist Richard Torres.

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Carol Strickman gave us an update from the legal team.  The folks from Food Not Bombs in Oakland brought nutritious food.  Sarah Torres provided stirring music and chants went up spontaneously from the crowd demanding “LET THEM SLEEP!”

CynthiaFuentes-Sevilla_Feb1,2016

Cynthia spoke of the callous neglect and medical malpractice that is rampant in the prison system. It resulted in the death of her brother.

We must keep the pressure up to end this abominable behavior by the Department of Corrections and the State of California.

In solidarity,
James Decker works with Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

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Photo by Liberated Lens Collective

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Historic settlement to end CA indefinite solitary confinement finalized in court

For Immediate Release – Wednesday, January 27, 2016

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

OAKLAND – On Tuesday, Federal Judge Claudia Wilken approved the final agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California calling it humane, innovative and fair. Prisoners celebrated the settlement agreement, whose terms were agreed on last September, claiming it as a victory that bolstered their struggle for human rights.

Anne Weills, one of the attorneys representing the prisoners, pointed out that “what was missing from the courtroom were all the prisoners who risked their lives in the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013.” She went on to say, “Yes, our litigation team did the best we could to bring our clients out of indefinite solitary confinement and into the light of day – but there is no doubt that we could not have gotten where we have with this settlement without the leadership of the brilliant, courageous, fearless and enlightened men in the Short Corridor at Pelican Bay who in 2011 set this all in motion.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights released data showing the agreement has already led to the transfer of hundreds of prisoners from segregated housing units back to the state’s general prison population.

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