Feb 21 Legislative Hearing on Video Visitation in Jails

VIDEO of the Hearing!  Powerful testimony from family and formerly incarcerated perspectives: Zoe Willmott and Anita Wills of Essie Justice Group, Michael Cortez of Project WHAT! (alumni), and compelling public comment.

The below post was updated Feb 16, 2017

On Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 10am in Sacramento, there will be a Joint Legislative Hearing on video visitation in county jails. It will be hosted by the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Public Safety.

JOINT HEARING
PUBLIC SAFETY AND BUDGET AND FISCAL REVIEW

CA Senate Subcommittee No. 5 on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary and CA Assembly Subcommittee No. 5 on Public Safety

  • Hearing Subject: Looking Through the Screen: The Effects of Video Visitation on County Jail Inmates and their Families
  • 10:00 a.m. — John L. Burton Hearing Room (Rm 4203), CA State Capitol, Sacramento 95814
  • Chairs: Senator Nancy Skinner and Assembly Member Shirley Weber

Help protect in-person visitation! We believe that there will be an opportunity for public comment. Please consider speaking or providing a written statement if you have experience with in-person or video visitation.

We are in a period when many counties are building or seeking to build new jails.  Some counties are building jails without facilities for in-person visiting.  Instead, they are setting up video-visitation as the only visiting method.  There are many problems with video visitation. In-person visitation is crucial to the well-being of incarcerated people and their families.

Last year, the legislature passed SB 1157 (introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell), to require in-person visiting in county jails, but unfortunately Gov. Brown vetoed the bill. SB 1157 would have allowed counties to install and use video visitation as a supplemental option, but would have protected in-person jail visits from being eliminated and sacrificed to the video visitation industry.

It is important to protect in-person visits for incarcerated people and their loved ones in California jails. We are glad that the CA legislature remains concerned about this issue.

• Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity members will be carpooling to Sacramento on Feb 21st.  Contact: 510.426.5322

• Also, Bernadette Rabuy of the Prison Policy Initiative invites you to contact her if you would like to provide public comment at the hearing  brabuy@prisonpolicy.org.

Below is an extensive list of articles and reports about video visitation from the Prison Policy Institute.

Continue reading

Help stop censorship: Public comment needed by November 10 regarding revised proposed censorship regulations (“Obscene Materials”)

The proposed censorship regulations that we collectively and vehemently opposed a few months ago have been revised (as of October 20).  The deadline for public comments is November 10—short notice.

Please submit your comments regarding the revisions asap!  (A sample letter is included below.)  The revisions can be viewed here.

The CDCr specifies:  Please submit comments to Timothy M. Lockwood, Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA, 94283-0001; by fax to (916) 324-6075; or by e-mail at rpmb@cdcr.ca.gov before the close of the public comment period. Comments must be received or postmarked no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 10, 2014.  (We additionally recommend that those responding by e-mail cc staff@oal.ca.gov)

The revisions made since these proposed regulations first came out on March 25, 2014, appear to be non-substantive.  Our comments supposedly will only be “heard” to the extent that they address the revisions, rather than the originally proposed text.

To the extent that the revisions incorporate language from the newly approved STG regulations that went into effect on October 17, 2014, they need to be robustly resisted.  The revisions specify, at 3006(c) and 3006(c)(19), that “[w]ritten materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates, as described in subsections 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” are deemed contraband. Well, 3378.2(b)(5)-(6), as adopted and enacted on October 17, 2014 (along with all of the new STG regulations), describes—in vague terms open to subjective interpretation by prison staff— materials that may innocently be present in a person’s cell, such as:

“[a]ny material or documents evidencing STG activity such as the membership or enemy lists, roll call lists, constitutions, organizational structures, codes, training material, etc., of specific STGs or addresses, names, identities of validated STG affiliates. …”

“[i]ndividual or group photographs with STG connotations such as those which include insignia, certified symbols, or other validated STG affiliates. …”

In other words, under the revised regulations, any of the following may be considered contraband: an address for, or photo of, a loved one whom happens to be deemed an STG affiliate; a photo or item that includes cultural iconography deemed “certified” by the CDCr (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of MLK); a copy of the San Francisco Bayview, as discussed below.

Moreover, the CDCr’s October 20 revisions of 3134(d)-(e) do NOT reflect the community’s concerns regarding the originally proposed text—as recently expressed via hundreds of public comments—regarding the inclusion of publications (e.g., newspapers and the publications of rights organizations) in the list of items that may be considered “STG materials.”  Nor do the revisions reflect the community’s concerns over the prospective permanent banning of publications.  The text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is more or less unchanged, except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”

Some publications, like the Bayview, may and often do contain the self-disclosed names of, and/or addresses for, persons who are validated. Thus, they are subject to censorship under 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).

Sample letter:

[DATE]

Dear Mr. Lockwood et al.,

I recently reviewed the Revisions to Text as Originally Proposed (Obscene Materials) issued October 20.  To my dismay, the Department has failed to meaningfully take into consideration concerns previously expressed by hundreds of community members regarding the originally proposed text.  This, despite the Department’s promise that it would go back to the drawing board, and its claim that the public had misunderstood its intent.

If the public misunderstood the Department’s intent, the minimally revised language around so-called obscene materials does not clarify what the Department’s intent is.  E.g., the text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is not changed except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”

Moreover, “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” comprises a category of materials that’s highly subjective to individual interpretation and whim on the part of staff.  It apparently includes a host of innocent items that may be found in a person’s cell, including but not limited to:

—An address for, or photo of, a loved one or friend who happens to be deemed an STG affiliate

—An item that includes cultural iconography (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of Martin Luther King)

—A copy of the San Francisco Bayview newspaper

The Department needs to go back to the drawing board again to ensure that (1) no person in custody will be penalized for possessing materials that in and of themselves have nothing to do with prohibited conduct or any rules violation; (2) no publication will be banned—permanently or temporarily— merely because a person in custody has chosen to publish his name and/or location in an editorial or news article, for example, or is seeking a penpal.

Sincerely,

[NAME]

URGENT: Stop strip, scanner, and dog searches

PHSS header

The CA Dept of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) just proposed regulations mandating use of dogs, scanners, and traumatizing strip searches for people coming into a prison for a contact visit with a loved one. 

“They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.” -Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

We need your help to stop this human rights violation before 5pm today!

They have given the outrageous period of only five days for public comment on this deeply unjust policy.

Several months ago, due to your your principled action in writing to the Dept of Corrections regarding the proposed censorship regulations, they shelved those regulations!

I’m writing to ask you to do it again! 

As a family member, it is a serious violation of my human rights to be forced to be humiliated in order to see my brother and give him family support.

There’s been more family involvement in the prison system over the last three years than ever before, and we’re challenging what they’re doing. People are watching and they don’t like that – it’s not as easy to get away with abuses of power.

Please weigh in and speak out about these regulations TODAY, Sept. 23rd.
The comment period closes at 5pm tonight.

It is absolutely crucial to act immediately, and show them we can mobilize some serious opposition.

Share this with everyone you know who might also want to send a letter.

Thank you for everything you do. Marie Levin

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition
A member of Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Fight New Prison Censorship Rules- Submit Comments!

Please Help.
Under the guise of “obscenity” regulations, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr) has proposed
sweeping new political censorship rules for mail going both into and out of the prisons.

If these changes are approved, CDCr will permanently ban any documents it defines as “contraband,” including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

The proposed regulations are designed with two main purposes: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

FACT SHEET                                LEGAL ANALYSIS
Stop Censorship Regs“They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.”    -Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

1.) Please weigh in and speak out against these regulations.

THE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD IS OPEN UNTIL JUNE 17th at 5:00PM.

Below are resources to help you write a comment letter.  Find these resources & easily email your comments at Action Page.

2.) Spread the word on Facebook and ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, school class, place of worship, and organizations to write also.  Continue reading

Submit Comments About STG/SDP Regulations by April 3, 2014

Dear Human Rights Activists,

We need your help. Can you write a quick email or fax a note? The California prison system’s Security Threat Group/Step Down Program (STG/SDP) is getting close to being implemented. These regulations govern placement into and release from the SHU (Secure Housing Units), California’s long-term solitary confinement cells. The STG/SDP policies will perpetuate California’s over use of torturous isolation.

We are soliciting your help to weigh in and speak out against these regulations. Please submit a comment and ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, school class, place of worship, and organizations to write also.

For a comment to have impact it must address some aspect of the proposed regulations. To help, we’ve made a FACT SHEET and LIST OF PROBLEMS with the STG/SDP regulations. (The footnote below gives a link and a partial index to the officially proposed regulations we’re commenting on 1) Take an issue or two -or more- and express your feelings, it doesn’t have to be long or fancy, but it does have to talk about the STG/SDP regulations.

 

Anyone may submit public comments (mail, fax, or email) regarding the proposed regulations. Submit comments to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation by mail at: CDCR, Regulation and Policy Management Branch, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001; or by fax at (916) 324-6075; or by email at m_STGRegulation@cdcr.ca.gov
If you send an email please cc: PeoplesARC@gmail.com.

The public comment period is open now; it closes April 3, 2014 at 5 PM.

In many respects the STG/SDP is worse than the current practice. The STG/ SDP program is based on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons model, subject of great criticism in 2012 by the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary,  Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights & Human Rights. California uses solitary confinement far and away more than any other government entity on the planet – the most absolute numbers and the highest percentage of prisoners in solitary. On any given day California, conservatively, has 11,000 adult prisoners in some form of isolation. 2

Thank you for everything you do.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

footnotes below: Continue reading