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

Sunday, June 4, 2017 RALLY & PRESS CONFERENCE at Folsom To Support Hunger Strikers

FSP-Rally-Fullpage

SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2017  —  12PM – 2PM
SHOW UP FOR FOLSOM PRISONERS ON HUNGER STRIKE

RALLY & PRESS CONFERENCE
Please join us this Sunday from 12p.m. to 2p.m. to rally outside Folsom Priosn and show that we support prisoners’ efforts to strike for humane treatment.

Join us at: FOLSOM STATE PRISON, Folsom Prison Rd, Folsom CA 95630

Facebook Event: Rally & Press Conference To Support Folsom Prison Hunger Strike

Please share the Facebook event, continue to contact prison officials, and look out for details like carpools, rally schedule, etc.


On May 25th, prisoners in Folsom State Prison B4 ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit) began a hunger strike to peacefully protest the inhumane conditions of their confinement in the administrative segregation unit. Prisoners have exhausted all reasonable remedies and have attempted to open lines of communication with administrative officials, and have been met with only resistance, silence, and now retaliation.

We cannot say exactly how many people are refusing meals, but we know that there are roughly 30 people in the unit that announced the strike.

Updated Info- Feb 21 Legislative Hearing on Video Visitation

The Tuesday, February 21 hearing is being hosted by the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Public Safety. It will be in Room 4203. See below.

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

  • 10:00 a.m. — John L. Burton Hearing Room (4203), CA State Capitol, Sacramento
  • OVERSIGHT HEARING SUBJECT: Looking Through the Screen: The Effects of Video Visitation on County Jail Inmates and their Families
  • SENATOR SKINNER AND ASSEMBLY MEMBER WEBER, Chairs

 

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

Feb 1st: RALLY Against the Torture of Prisoners

2016- PHSS- End Sleep Deprivation Rally- Feb 1

Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners Feb 1, 2016

As of February 1st, it will be 181 days that the men in Pelican Bay SHU have been tortured by sleep deprivation. For six months the men have been awakened every 30 minutes, 48 times per day, due to so-called “security/welfare checks” by guards.

“…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

Join us in Sacramento on February 1st, 2016 at 1:00 pm to rally against the torture of prisoners!

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) claims these ‘checks’ will prevent suicide. Instead, these checks are causing serious psychological and physical harm. John R. Martinez, in solitary for 15 years, stated that the checks “are counter-productive to their so called intended purpose (mental health care) and serve zero legitimate penological purpose other than to harass and mentally torment us prisoners.”

Come and stand with us to put an end to torturous ‘welfare checks’ in the SHU.

RIDESHARES will be leaving from Southern California, Santa Cruz, the SF Bay Area, the North Coast, and locations in between. PHSS will help with travel expenses.  Please contact phssreachingout@gmail.com, 510-426-5322 if you need or can provide a ride. You can also message Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity on Facebook.

We need to make the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees and Governor Brown stop this now!

We must keep the pressure on!

Media Advisory HERE.

 

For RIDESHARE info and MEETING WITH LEGISLATORS before the Rally, Continue reading

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS! events Jan 22 & Feb 1

Join Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition for two events to

END SLEEP DEPRIVATION TORTURE
IN PELICAN BAY SOLITARY

Peter Collins-Solidarity withPBHunger Strike


Solitary Man

Solo Performance by Charlie Hinton,
followed by discussion

When: Friday, Jan 22 at 7pm

Where: Omni Commons

4799 Shattuck Ave
Oakland 94609

Charlie created Solitary Man based on his letters and visits with people in solitary confinement. The show is set in 2014, a year after the largest prisoner hunger strike in history.

Charlie says,“I want this show to gain an audience and become one more voice calling for the end of mass incarceration and solitary confinement…The world is such a cold and cruel place these days, I want Solitary Man to add at least one drop of humanity.”

After the performance, we will discuss how and why the men in Pelican Bay SHU have been continuously deprived of sleep since Aug 2, 2015.

Suggested Donation $5-15, snacks & beverages provided
No one turned away for lack of funds

Facebook: SOLITARY MAN, Performance by Charlie Hinton
http://tinyurl.com/h3adxdd

SacCDCrRally_2-1-16

Rally in Sacramento Against the Torture of Prisoners

When: Monday, Feb 1st at 1pm

Where: CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Headquarters

1515 S St. Sacramento, CA  95811

Since Aug 2, 2015, people in Pelican Bay SHU have been jolted awake by guards doing loud “checks” every 30 minutes. This cruel torture tactic is causing serious psychological and physical harm. Sleep deprivation is inhumane.  Join us to demand an immediate end to this torture.

No more torture in our name!

prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

Facebook:
Rally Against the Torture of Prisoners

RIDESHARE & More Info
510.426.5322
phssreachingout@gmail.com

Update from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, 4-28-2014

Greetings,

This post is chock full of resources and various updates, downloads of recent newsletters, new media articles and PBS specials about solitary confinement, exciting upcoming events with Lynne Stewart, and information on our weekly meetings.

Thanks to all the outcry about the recent cell raids in Corcoran SHU, we believe they have stopped, according to a letter from the person who alerted us originally.

We still encourage you to send criticisms regarding the Security Threat Group/Step Down Program regulations, even though the official deadline is over.  Send to rpmb@cdcr.ca.gov and cc to peoplesarc@gmail.com.

Upcoming events throughout California, in New York, and in Wisconsin can be found in the calendar at  https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/take-action-2/

Read the entire update HERE.