Support Hunger Strikers in Corcoran State Prison – SOLIDARITY PROTESTS 2/16 & 2/17

Prisoners are hunger striking against indefinite lockdown and group punishment.

Corcoran HS support Feb 2019

 Corcoran State Prison Protest outside
→ in solidarity with people inside who are peacefully protesting against torture ←

Sat & Sun/Feb 16 and 17
11:00am – 2:30pm (both days)

in front of Corcoran State Prison entrance
Corcoran, CA 93212

Families are mobilizing for this weekend’s protests.
Please participate if you can!!

Contact number:  562.537.7068.

On Jan. 9, 2019, an estimated 250 prisoners went on hunger strike within Corcoran State Prison’s 3C facility in response to an indefinite lockdown. They have asked that this info be made public and that their DEMANDS BE HEARD.

corcoran_demands

Corcoran State Prison (3C Yrd)
SIX CORE DEMANDS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

  1. Lift Lock-Down.
  2. Allow Visits.
  3. Allow Us To Attend Educational, Vocational & Rehabilitation Programs That We’re Enrolled In.
  4. Allow Us To Receive Commissary & Packages.
  5. That We Be Given Our Weekly 10 Hrs Of Mandated Outdoor Exercise Yard.
  6. That We Are Treated Fairly.

***WE’VE BEEN ON THIS PEACEFUL HUNGER STRIKE SINCE JANUARY 9TH, 2019 AND HAVE YET TO SEE CHANGE… WE WILL CONTINUE THIS HUNGER STRIKE UNTIL OUR VOICES ARE HEARD.

UPDATE: On January 9, 2019, an estimated 250 prisoners initiated a hunger strike within California State Prison – Corcoran’s 3C facility in response to an indefinite lockdown. On Jan 28, after three weeks of refusing food trays, the warden met with representatives, granted full canteen privileges and promised to work out a separate yard schedule. The strikers suspended their hunger strike and were ready to continue negotiations in good faith.

Over the last two weeks there has been NO PROGRESS on receiving full canteen or separate yard time. The warden has reneged on all pledges so the strikers of 3C refused breakfast trays on Monday, Feb 11 and held a day long noise demo banging on doors and windows. The initial demands remain and strikers insist that they be dealt with in good faith.

BACKGROUND: All units within Corcoran’s 3C facility have been on “modified program” for four months now. This essentially means a “lockdown” in all meaningful aspects – no visitation, no canteen, no packages, no educational, rehab or vocational programming, and little yard time.

The pretext for this indefinite lockdown by CDCr of hundreds of prisoners for months on end is an altercation on Sept. 28 which saw three prisoners from their unit attacked and put into the infirmary. Group punishments and indefinite isolation are standard practices by CDCr and must stop.

These practices only escalate trauma and conflict and ultimately only promote violence and destabilization within facilities. The effects are not an accident or “regrettable by-products.” This is how CDCr interprets its mission: control by brutalization and division.

The above info is from the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.
See more articles and interviews about the strike below.

PLEASE MAKE PHONE CALLS!

The hunger strike representatives have requested phone calls be made to officials in Sacramento to amplify the demands.

Continue reading

PRISONERS ENDANGERED

Sacramento, Calif.— On Dec. 14, 2018, families of prisoners and supporters held a rally in front of the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s (CDCr) headquarters against the CDCr-induced violence that many of their loved ones are experiencing.

snydemo

Dec 14, 2018 Rally at CDCr Headquarters: FAMILIES UNITED TO STOP MERGED YARDS! Stop the Merging of Sensitive Needs Yards and General Population in CA State Prisons!

PROBLEM IS OF CDCr’s OWN MAKING

The violent gang environment in prison was created in large part by CDCr’s own policies, which set prisoners against each other along racial lines. In a procedure completely discredited by the prisoners’ own mass movement based on an “Agreement to End Hostilities,” CDCr exacerbated the gang problem by incentivizing snitching.

To get out of solitary, the infamous Institutional Gang Investigators demanded information to use against other prisoners without regard to its validity. CDCr “protected” their growing snitch population by placing them in Special Needs Yards (SNY).

The SNY population grew. Recently, CDCr started reintegrating those prisoners. Their pilot program, almost entirely voluntary, was reasonably successful. Prisoners can work out their differences given a chance.

What we were protesting was the deplorable escalation of violence when the reintegration program became no longer voluntary.

Ruthie, a member of Inmate Family Council (IFC) at Avenal Prison, recounted an IFC meeting where the plan was presented to families. Almost immediately prisoners reported incidents. The only way large-scale violence was prevented there was that the SNY prisoners refused to go. They are locked up in ad-seg for refusal, but they are not budging.

DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE

The families call it “deliberate indifference. They are intentionally putting inmates’ lives at risk.” What can we do? Ruthie asked that prisoners forward to her copies of their write-ups (called 115s). Some of those include pictures of the injuries, which are very graphic.

At another facility, Norco, the forced reintegration resulted in riots, stabbings, and fires being set. You could hear prisoners screaming for help from across the street. Family members’ persistence in demanding answers from the prison halted reintegration there for a time. But when Norco reintegrated again, a family member reported their loved one had his nose, eye-socket and ribs broken. He now has a spinal injury and is in a wheelchair.

The whole SNY setup is unsustainable. General population prisoners from Wasco were told they were being transferred upstate. Instead they were bused to North Kern prison’s SNY. There the warden met them and assured them that the SNY population did not want any problems, they were safe. But as they were going to the yard, the SNY prisoners lined up along the fence and started calling them out.

Protocol in such cases is to close down the yard. Instead the call went out over the loud- speakers that all prisoners had to report to the yard. The more than 30 prisoners were attacked by the entire SNY population. They were beaten with locks, had their heads split open, and were stabbed. They also received 115s for “participating in a riot” and were put in ad-seg.

As the Agreement to End Hostilities proves, prisoners are reaching for new human relations among themselves, asserting themselves independently of their guard-overlords. Solidarity among and with prisoners is the only way out of the mass incarceration nightmare.

Urszula Wislanka

  • NEXT RALLY is Friday, Feb 15, 2019 1:00pm:
    In front of CDCr Headquarters, 1515 S St., Sacramento, CA 95811
  • SIGN THIS PETITION and get other people to sign it! bit.ly/cdcraction

SIGN PETITION & RALLY Against CDCR’s Merging of General Population & Sensitive Needs Yards

NO NDPF*
STOP MERGED YARDS!

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO CHALLENGE CDCR’S
MERGING OF GENERAL POPULATION (GP) AND
SENSITIVE NEEDS YARDS (SNY):

  1. SIGN THE PETITION AND GET OTHER PEOPLE TO SIGN IT.
    bit.ly/cdcraction
  1. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 1PM
    SMACK DOWN ON SACTOWN
    RALLY IN FRONT OF CDCR (California Dept of Corrections & Rehabilitation)
    1515 S STREET
    SACRAMENTO, CA 95811
  1. SEND A SURVEY TO YOUR PEOPLE INSIDE CA STATE PRISON TO GET THEIR OPINIONS AND EXPERIENCES.
    E-MAIL YARI TO GET IT MAILED IN yari@youth4justice.org
  1. SIGN YOUR GROUP, SCHOOL, ORGANIZATION ON TO THE LETTER TO CDCR SECRETARY RALPH DIAZ.
    e-mail us at action@youth4justice.org to sign on

THANK YOU!!!

* NO NDPF = NO Non-Designated Programming Facilities
A Non-Designated Programming Facility is where SNY (Sensitive Needs Yards) and GP (General Population) inmates are forced to cohabitate and program on a Non-Designated Yard together.

Follow NONDPF Cainmates on Facebook

Read this NDPF information document

Dec 14 Rally @ CDCR Headquarters: FAMILIES UNITED TO STOP MERGED YARDS!

Stand in solidarity to halt the unsafe environment CDCR is creating for our incarcerated loved ones (and front-line correctional staff) with Non-Designated Programming Yards!
They have not been given a choice, and have no voice!

IF WE DON’T SPEAK FOR THEM, WHO WILL?

PEACEFUL PROTEST & RALLY
Friday, December 14, 2018
12:00 NOON
CDCR Headquarters, 1515 S St, Sacramento, CA 95827

NO NDPF = NO Non-Designated Programming Facilities
Ca inmates = California inmates

Follow NONDPF Cainmates on Facebook
Email nondpfs@gmail.com and/or Youth Justice Coalition at action@youth4justice.org

FamiliesUnitedToStopMergedYards_Dec14,2018

Rally Against Continuing Solitary — The Four Prisoner Reps Will Be PRESENT in Court Conference AUG 21, 2018

RALLY at the San Francisco Federal Courthouse while the four CA Prisoner Hunger Strike and Ashker Class Representatives ‘Meet and Confer’ with CDCr to address the continuing solitary conditions that violate the Ashker lawsuit settlement agreement. The four prisoner hunger strike representatives will be present in the courtroom, an historic presence!  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

RALLY 11:30am

Phillip Burton Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse
450 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94102

Help create a strong show of solidarity with prisoners fighting for human rights!

What’s going on? The prisoner class-led movement and the Ashker v. Gov of CA class action lawsuit resulted in the release of over 1400 people from solitary confinement Security Housing Units (SHUs) to what the CA Department of Corrections (CDCr) calls “General Population.” However, many of those people continue to be subjected to conditions of extreme isolation. With little to no out-of-cell time and no chance for social interaction, they are still in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.

On July 3, 2018, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled:

The Settlement Agreement was intended to remove Plaintiffs from detention in the SHU, where they were isolated in a cell for 22 ½ to 24 hours a day.… many Plaintiffs [now] spend an average of less than an hour of out-of-cell time each day, which is similar to the conditions they endured in the SHU.  … This demonstrates a violation of the Settlement Agreement.” FULL RULING HERE

and “…a substantial percentage of Plaintiffs in Restricted Custody General Population (RCGP) are …not permitted to exercise in small group yards or engage in group leisure activities. This does not comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.” FULL RULING HERE

The Ashker Plaintiff class reps and legal team were ordered to meet and confer* with CDCr lawyers to explore a resolution of these two issues.

The four prisoner hunger strike representatives- Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, and George Franco- will be present in the SF courtroom.

Please join the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) outside the San Francisco Federal Courthouse to show our solidarity with prisoners who struggle against solitary confinement torture, who organize across racial/geographic lines, and who- through hunger strikes, massive solidarity, formal complaints, the Agreement to End Hostilities, and the Ashker civil rights class action lawsuit- forced CDCR to release people from solitary confinement SHUs.  The organizing prisoners brought international attention Continue reading

DROP LWOP Rally & Lobby Day – Aug 6, 2018 in Sacramento

Drop-LWOP-postcard-front-1

9am – 3pm LOBBYING
12pm RALLY & SPEAK OUT

CA State Capitol Building, 10th and L Streets, Sacramento, CA 95814

Join Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) members and California Coalition for Women Prisoners as we visit the capitol to present Governor Brown with our request for him to commute every Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) sentence in the state of California.

The noon Rally & Speak Out will feature formerly incarcerated survivors of Life Without Parole, statements and poetry from inside prison, dance performances, and more!

Over 5000 people are serving LWOP (Life Without the Possibility of Parole) sentences in California prisons. People of color are disproportionately sentenced to LWOP and of the nearly 200 people serving LWOP in California’s womens prisons, the overwhelming majority are survivors of abuse, including intimate partner battering, childhood abuse, sexual violence, and sex trafficking.  You can learn about their stories through A Living Chance – the digital story project that helped start the DROP LWOP Campaign. Life without parole is an inhumane sentence. It denies that people have the capacity to change, grow and be rehabilitated.

postcard_4x6_front

As Governor Brown nears the end of his term, he has granted an unprecedented number of commutations for people serving LWOP sentences.  Commuting a sentence does not guarantee release from prison, but it does guarantee that each person will have the right to see the Parole Board in their lifetime, rather than being sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison under a “living death penalty.”

Over 110 organizations have signed a letter asking Governor Brown to commute the sentences of all people serving Life Without Parole in California’s prisons to parole-eligible sentences. We will be delivering the letter to Governor Brown’s office. Come to Sacramento on August 6th!

Your organization can sign the letter here: https://droplwop.wordpress.com/letter-to-governor-brown/

⇒ Learn all about (and join!) the statewide campaign to DROP LWOP and secure sentence commutations for all people serving Life Without the Possibility of Parole  https://droplwop.wordpress.com/

 

More info about Rally & Lobby Day:
• from California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP)
https://womenprisoners.org/2018/07/drop-lwop-rally-lobby-day-august-6th/
• from Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)
http://www.curbprisonspending.org/2018/07/05/correctionsbudget/

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/199371177555122/

#AbolishLWOP  #DropLWOP

Reportback from HEARING in Jorge Rico’s Case Against Sleep-Depriving Checks

Report on Jorge Rico Hearing

by Charlie Hinton

A number of hardy souls ventured to Sacramento on May 18, 2018 to a federal court hearing on CDCr’s motion to dismiss Jorge Rico’s suit opposing the every half hour Guard One “security/welfare checks” that take place in isolation units throughout the state. With Guard One, guards press a metal baton into a metal receiver positioned either in or besides cell doors, making a loud disruptive noise in most cases, waking prisoners up every 30 minutes and causing sleep deprivation. The good news is that the magistrate judge, Deborah Barnes, gave every indication she will deny CDCr’s motion and will move the case to its next stage. She suggested several times to CDCr’s lawyers that at this very early stage of the case, there was no basis for a motion to dismiss, and she said at least twice “I’m really struggling with your arguments.”

Rico Rally photo,5-18-18

There are currently 6 suits against the “checks” before this judge, and Kate Falkenstien, above in the center wearing a pink blouse, represents 3 of them, including that of Jorge Rico. In a press conference after the hearing, she explained the 3 arguments of CDCr.

In a motion they filed the day before, CDCr claims that because Mr. Rico has been moved from Pelican Bay SHU to general population, the case is now moot. The judge asked “Can’t he again be moved into SHU?” Which is exactly what has happened. During the last year or so, he’s gone from SHU to RCGP (from where he filed the suit) to SHU to Ad Seg  to SHU and now to GP.

The judge said that Rico’s claim would be viable for damages, but it was “questionable” whether injunctive relief could be sought.  [The judge’s point being that, at the present time, the conduct that would be enjoined does not affect Rico, the sole plaintiff in this case, because he is no longer in SHU.]

Prisoner rights campaigner Marie Levin commented outside the courthouse, “Regardless of Mr. Rico’s present or future housing assignment, he still suffered what he suffered when he suffered it.”

Second, CDCr argues that although sleep deprivation is illegal, they don’t think it’s illegal to keep people awake in this way. They didn’t know it was wrong. Ms. Falkenstien brought up a case from Alabama, Hope v. Pelzer, in which Alabama prison guards tied Mr. Hope to a hitching post with his shirt off in the sun for seven hours, offering him water twice and never a bathroom break. He sued, under the grounds that this was a violation of the 8th amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. Alabama said they knew it was illegal to tie a person for a sustained time to a fence or a cell door, but they didn’t think it was illegal to tie a person to a hitching post. The Supreme Court ruled for Mr. Hope.

CDCr’s third argument is that the Coleman judge has already ruled that Guard One is acceptable. Ms. Falkenstien argued for Rico that Coleman was a case involving mental illness, and neither Jorge nor many other prisoners undergoing the “checks” are mentally ill, and that even if one case has been decided, each person should be able to be heard in court.

In Ms. Falkenstien’s original brief in opposition to CDCr’s motion to dismiss, she argued 1) an Eighth Amendment challenge to the Guard One checks
 was not actually litigated in Coleman, 2) Rico Is neither a Coleman Class Member nor in privity 
with Class Members, and 3) the Coleman order can also be collaterally challenged, 
because none of the Coleman class representatives are 
affected by the Guard One checks.

Commenting on CDCr’s claims, the judge remarked that it was well established that sleep deprivation can rise to the level of an 8th Amendment violation. She said she was having a hard time with CDCr’s argument, and further, that she would be shocked to find any mention of sleep deprivation in Coleman, or anything in Coleman saying that if the checks using the Guard One system cause sleep deprivation, “that’s okay.”

Judge Barnes declined to dismiss the case and on Monday, May 21, 2018 she ordered the parties to brief the mootness issue (about Mr. Rico currently being out of the SHU) before she rules on the motion to dismiss.  The briefing is going to take about a month in total, so we won’t have a final answer about whether the case will be dismissed until the end of June at the earliest. We are optimistic, however, she will dismiss CDCr’s motion and move forward with the case.

pdf of this Report (with photo) HERE

Sacramento RALLY & COURT SOLIDARITY to End Sleep Deprivation in CA Solitary Confinement — FRIDAY, MAY 18

Jorge Rico is incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison and has brought a civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the loud “security/welfare checks” that he (and others) in Pelican Bay’s solitary units endure every 30-60 minutes 24/7. These so-called “checks”- done by guards – wake and disturb prisoners day and night causing serious sleep deprivation and, as his lawsuit claims, constitute cruel and unusual punishment.as his lawsuit claims, constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (The guards do no checking on top of that). Sleep deprivation is internationally recognized as torture.

Please RALLY at 9am on May 18 in support of Jorge Rico’s case against the “security/welfare checks” and in public outrage against the jarring noise and sleep deprivation they cause. At 10am, after the rally, help form a STRONG COURTROOM PRESENCE at the hearing in his case.  Show solidarity with Jorge Rico while his attorneys argue that his case should not be dismissed at CDCR’s request.

The CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will argue for the court to dismiss Jorge’s civil rights case. Jorge’s lawyers will argue that the case against CDCR administrators, guards, and wardens, must move forward. HERE is a link to Jorge Rico’s Opposition to CDCR’s motion to dismiss.

The PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation asks you to help make a powerful showing of solidarity with Jorge and all people in CA solitary confinement who are suffering from the checks, and who cannot be in the courtroom or outside rallying and speaking about their experience.


Friday, May 18, 2018
Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse, 501 I St., Sacramento, CA 95814

Sacramento Federal Court/Eastern District
Case name and number: Rico v. Beard  2:17-cv-01402-KJM-DB

9:00am RALLY outside the Courthouse
10:00am COURTROOM SOLIDARITY with Jorge Rico,
prisoner who brought this case (Crtrm #27, 8th Floor)

After the hearing, Jorge’s attorney, Kate Falkenstein, will be available briefly outside the courthouse to speak with community supporters and media.

Note: You must show ID and pass through a metal detector to get inside the Courthouse.


'Solitary Confinement Security Welfare Checks' art by Jaime Amesquita

Artwork by Jaime Amesquita, in High Desert State Prison. “I’m hoping that maybe through the publishing of my art I can bring attention to the long term effects brought by security/welfare checks, like sleep deprivation or PTSD.”

One way CDCR is attempting to get rid of the civil rights cases against the checks is by claiming that the guards and administrators causing the sleep deprivation and harm are only ‘following orders’ and not violating any clearly established right. We recall these words from a person in Pelican Bay solitary, who, like Jorge, has been subjected to the checks’ loud, reverberating banging noise every 30 minutes 24/7 in a small, enclosed concrete and metal cell:

“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. So CDCR/Pelican Bay State Prison cannot possibly claim, ‘We did not know the cause or effect of this new program’s use of extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, and constant noise/banging.’”

Jorge’s Opposition to CDCR’s Motion to Dismiss quotes the court in another current federal case challenging the checks, Matthews v. Holland:

“It has been clearly established in the Ninth Circuit, since the 1990s, that inmates are entitled to conditions of confinement which do not result in chronic, long term sleep deprivation.” 

These “security/welfare checks” have been occurring for almost three years in Pelican Bay State Prison.

Continue reading

FEB 23 RALLY & COURT HEARING: California Prisoners moved to “General Population” from SHU are STILL being held in Solitary Confinement

Please come out to show your support on February 23rd for people to be put in a true general population setting with regular access to yard, day room, programming, jobs, fresh air, phone, and other means of social interaction and environmental stimulation.

Rally with us and be in court for oral argument in this important hearing in Ashker v. Governor of California.

Friday, February 23, 2018
Phillip Burton Federal Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Ave, San Francisco, CA 94012

12:00 pm: RALLY outside the SF Courthouse
1:00 pm: PACK THE COURTROOM, Courtroom #1, 17th Floor

Show the judge we still support those incarcerated in solitary/SHU-like conditions!

We will head inside the courthouse at 12:40pm. You must pass through a metal detector and present ID to enter the courthouse.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2011774719037446/

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) will be there! Feb 23- Oral Argument in Ashker v. Governor of CA

Stop the Torture

“My total out-of-cell time for the entire month was 16.83 hours”

To supporters of human rights,

On February 23, 2018 in San Francisco, an important motion will be heard in Ashker v. Governor (aka Ashker v. Brown), the federal class action lawsuit challenging prolonged solitary confinement in California. As a result of the settlement in Ashker, over 1400 people were released from solitary confinement Security Housing Units (SHU) to what the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) calls “General Population.”  Yet, many of the class members released from SHU continue to suffer conditions of extreme isolation. Hardly ever getting out-of-cell time, they have been forced to spend as much or more time locked in their cells as when they were in SHU, with little to no rehabilitative or educational programming or social interaction with other people.

On February 23,  Jules Lobel, of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Ashker legal team, will be arguing a motion challenging these SHU-like general population units as a violation of the settlement agreement.

A prisoner who is no longer in SHU after 15 years, explains his new “general population” conditions at Calipatria:

“… Out of cell time is regularly cancelled or restricted. Yard time is scheduled 4 times per week, but is often available only 1 or 2 times per week. Showers and telephone calls, which are supposed to be available every other day, are infrequent, and we must choose one or the other. … I leave my cell for 20-25 minutes for breakfast, and many days, this is my only out-of-cell time. …The conditions in ‘general population’ in Calipatria are similar to SHU… I have limited social interaction and intellectual stimulation. I rarely go outside…I have difficulty maintaining relationships with my family especially since my ability to use the telephone is so infrequent and irregular. I suffer from insomnia. I suffer from anxiety that I feel is directly linked to the irregular programming: I am anxious because I do not know what will happen next.”

Carol Strickman, of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and the Ashker legal team, states:

“On Friday, February 23, the San Francisco district court magistrate will hear argument on our motion regarding the isolated conditions that many of our class members are experiencing in the Level IV maximum security prisons that they were transferred to. Their conditions are so extreme that our correctional expert states, ‘These prisoners are not actually in what reasonably may be considered general population: rather, they are in a form of restrictive housing as these terms are commonly understood within the corrections profession.’ We are encouraging interested parties to attend the hearing.”

RALLY AT 12PM before the hearing, outside of the courthouse
HEARING AT 1PM in Courtroom 1, on the 17th floor. (Remember to bring ID)

Please pass this message on to fellow supporters of human rights who may be able to attend on the 23rd. Check the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website for upcoming details on a postcard campaign to further support the Ashker class members. https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/

If you have transportation needs or offers for the Feb 23 Rally and Court Hearing, please email phssreachingout@gmail.com or call 510-426-5322 as soon as possible.

Solitary Confinement is Torture.

REPORTBACK from Feb 8th Rally, Press Conference, and Court Solidarity To End Sleep Deprivation (w/ Photos & Video)

Court Update: Judge Challenges CDCR’s Use of Solitary Confinement and Sleep Deprivation
Two lawsuits against CDCR for depriving prisoners of sleep are transferred to Coleman v Brown judge

On Feb 8, 2018, Northern District Judge Vince Chhabria held a hearing on a motion by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to dismiss civil rights lawsuits brought by two prisoners, Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, who are suing CDCR for violation of their 8th amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, they have brought their lawsuits to put an end to the sleep deprivation of prisoners caused by “security/welfare checks.” Prison guards conduct these checks in solitary confinement units throughout the state every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Prisoners report that the checks are loud, disruptive, and abusive.

Judge Chhabria was critical of CDCR and began Thursday’s hearing by saying he thought California was getting rid of solitary confinement. He then questioned why the plaintiffs are being held in isolation. Judge Chhabria showed no indication that he would dismiss the cases or that he thought dismissal was appropriate. He also asked CDCR attorneys if it seems to them to be a “very serious problem” for people in solitary, already under extreme psychological stress and some with mental illness, to be woken up every half hour at night.

Because the “security/welfare checks” result from a stipulated order in Coleman v Governor of CA- a case in the Eastern District Courts- on Friday, February 9, Judge Chhabria, as he indicated he would do at Thursday’s hearing, transferred the cases to be heard by Judge Mueller.  Judge Mueller oversees the Coleman consent decree, which mandates adequate mental healthcare for prisoners.

This makes three civil rights cases brought by prisoners regarding harm from the “security/welfare checks” that have been transferred to the Eastern District. On Thursday, Judge Chhabria questioned the state’s contradictory positions in those cases; in some motions, the state claims the “checks” cannot be challenged by prisoners because they were decided on in Coleman, and other times the state argues that the cases should not be decided by the Coleman Judge. Attorneys from McKool Smith Hennigan, representing Lipsey and Suarez, wrote “Inmate Plaintiffs are harmed by Defendants’ inconsistency, because it allows Defendants to claim that no judge is ever the right judge to hear these cases.”

Around 40 community members and advocates with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition held a press conference and rally on Thursday, February 8 in front of the Federal Building in support of the prisoners’ cases. One person suffering from the checks said in a letter to a Coleman official: “I ask you to listen to the voices of us prisoners and call for the immediate cessation of these “welfare/security” checks that don’t check on anything, but which make our lives a living hell.”

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition asks you to help end the sleep deprivation by joining the prisoners’ call to end the checks.

If you know someone in solitary in a CA prison (Ad-Seg/ASU, SHU, PSU, or Condemned Units/death row), please print and send this survey to them.  They can write the PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation and send their survey responses to us, also.

Here is an 8 ½ minute VIDEO of highlights from the Rally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GeAV8MzHlM&feature=youtu.be. Please see the FLIER and PHOTOS below from the February 8, 2018 Rally, Press Conference, and Court Solidarity for prisoners challenging the sleep deprivation.

Continue reading