California Solitary Confinement Prisoner Faces Retaliation, Takes Guards to Court

For Immediate Release – Friday, November 20, 2015

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

SAN FRANCISCO – Pelican Bay State Prison guards are being tried for civil rights violations and retaliation against Jesse Perez, a prisoner who was held in the prison’s notorious solitary confinement units for 10 years. The civil lawsuit  hearings began Monday in San Francisco federal district court.

In opening statements, Perez’s legal team accused the prison guards of retaliating against him – stripping him, trashing his cell, destroying his property, filing a false rule violation against him that would have extended his time in solitary, and illegally confiscating his writings critical of his conditions of confinement.

In 2005, Perez filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for his placement in solitary, challenging the process by which he was labeled a “gang affiliate.” His case was settled in 2012, and Perez received a monetary award as well as the right to have his gang affiliation reevaluated.

Perez’s suit claims the guards attacked him and destroyed his property just days after his 2012 settlement. His attorneys are arguing that guards retaliated against Perez for exercising his right to file a lawsuit. Perez has also been politically outspoken and participated in the historic California hunger strikes that started inside of Pelican Bay’s solitary units, another reason Perez claims prison guards targeted him.

In a written account published by the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Perez states “As prisoner activists seeking to make positive contributions to the interest and human dignity of prisoners, we understand that the trappings of power enjoyed by guards represent the biggest obstacle to significant and lasting progress.” By filing the lawsuit, Perez writes that he seeks the “opportunity to shine a public light at trial and rein in what prisoner activists often endure in exercising their constitutional rights: the retaliatory abuse of the department’s disciplinary process by prison guards.”

Perez’s case is not the only instance of guards’ retaliation against prisoners for their basic expression of civil rights and political activism. Since August 2 of this year, just as a landmark victory settlement for prisoners in civil rights case Ashker v. Brown was being finalized (which significantly reduces California’s ability to keep people in solitary confinement), guards began depriving prisoners in solitary of sleep.  Guards continue this sleep deprivation, now for 109 days.

Perez’s trial, presided over by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, will resume today, with closing statements expected.

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Honoring Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell

Long live Hugo Pinell, who showed us the power of the human spirit, that love can survive and overpower hell on earth.

________________________________________________

Beloved political prisoner Hugo ‘Yogi Bear’ Pinell, feared and hated by guards, assassinated in Black August after 46 years in solitary
August 14, 2015   by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff

Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll.

From December 1970 to 2014, when he finally had a contact visit with his mother, Yogi was allowed to come out from behind the thick glass in the visiting room and touch a loved one only once: When he married Shirley, they were given 15 minutes together. She later died.

By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo Pinell, affectionately known as Yogi Bear, was assassinated Aug. 12. The news sparked a victory celebration by  prison guards on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.

“This is revenge,” declared his close friend, fellow Black Panther veteran Kiilu Nyasha, on Hard Knock Radio Aug. 13. “They hated him as much as George Jackson. They beat him constantly, kept him totally isolated for 46 years – no window, no sunlight – but they could never break him, and that’s why they hated him.

“The only way he survived was that this man was full of love.” ….
Please read more of this excellent SF Bay View article
which includes “The Black Panther Party and Hugo Pinell”  from The Black Panther newspaper of Nov. 29, 1971

 

Hugo Pinell Presente!
August 14, 2015   by Isaac Ontiveros

….Hugo became a part of the Prison Liberation Movement, which saw the prison as a front of struggle connected to the global upsurge of oppressed people against colonialism, imperialism, and white supremacy.  This was a period of intense education, organizing, and resistance among imprisoned people—some locked up as political prisoners, some transformed while inside, nearly all targeted by prison administrations for their political stances and activism.  In 1971, Hugo, along with 5 other prisoners at San Quentin State Prison in California, were charged with raising a rebellion at the facility’s Adjustment Center, during which prisoner movement leader George Jackson was assassinated.  Several weeks later, actions commemorating the assassination of Jackson by prisoners at Attica went on to spark the massive rebellion at that prison.  The story and political trial of the San Quentin Six helped people across the planet to understand the conditions inside prison, the resistance of prisoners, and the connection across the walls that the Prison Liberation Movement was trying to make.

Hugo Pinell in 2001

Hugo Pinell would go on to spend over 40 years in the solitary confinement units used to punish prisoners and break up their social, political, and religious organizations—indeed, Pinell was the longest held prisoner in solitary confinement in California, before recently being released into the general population.  Despite the torturous conditions of solitary, Hugo remained steadfast politically, and tried to stay connected to people and struggle, inside and outside the prison.  Hugo participated in the recent California Prison Hunger Strikes and was vocal supporter of prisoners’ 2011 Agreement To End Racial Hostilities.   In his late 60s while on hunger strike, Hugo talked about his activism with journalist Kilu Nyasha:

I wasn’t prepared for a hunger strike, so I don’t know how well or how long I can hold on, but I had to participate…I don’t even think in terms of doing or saying something wrong, for that would strike against everything I live for: freedom, becoming a new man and the New World. So, Sis, this hunger strike provides me with an opportunity for change while also allowing me to be in concert with, and in support of, all those willing to risk their precious and valuable health.  ….
Please read more of this tribute from Critical Resistance
Hugo Pinell- Rest in Power

August 13, 2015  by Claude Marks

We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system. ….

….As the California Prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Secure Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2012.

At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years yet his spirit was unbroken.
Please read the full writing, Hugo Pinell- Rest In Power

See Who are the San Quentin 6? flyer (from 1970’s) provided by Freedom Archives

Here is a link to the Freedom Archives San Quentin 6 collection 

brief poem by Luis ‘Bato’ Talamantez

Hasta Siempre Hugo
Solidarity forever
And we are saddened
Solidarity left
You when (it) should have
Counted for something and
What your long imprisoned
Life stood for
Now all your struggles
To be free have failed
And only death an
Inglorious and violent
Death has
Claimed you
At the hands of the
Cruel prison system
La Luta Continua

-Bato and the San Quentin 3

A short poem written by Hugo Pinell from a publication issued in 1995.

No
Matter
How long it takes,
Real Changes will come,
And the greatest personal reward
Lies in our involvement and contributions,
Even if it may appear that nothing significant
Or of impact really happened
During our times,
But it did,
Because
Every sincere effort
Is as special as every human life

-Hugo Pinell (1995)

Help Get Life-Sustaining Publications To Prisoners

Donate for a subscription to a prisoner. Specify with your donation or subscription that you want it to cover the cost of mailing the paper to someone locked inside.  Provide an address if you have a specific person in mind. $20 will cover a year subscription for any one of these papers!* Donate what you can for vital publications!

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Prison Focus (CA Prison Focus) contact@prisons.org
(510) 836-7222 http://www.prisons.org/publications.htm

ROCK! mead@rocknewsletter.com  (206) 271-5003
http://www.rocknewsletter.com/

San Francisco Bay View   *$24 please, if possible editor@sfbayview.com  (415) 671-0789
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2015 Prison Resource Directory    FREE
If you know someone in prison, send their address to Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC), so they can receive a free 2015 Directory. Consider donating: info@prisonactivist.org
https://www.prisonactivist.org/resources

Important Alert: Fight the return of the new prison censorship rules

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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

Fact Sheet For CDCR Proposed Censorship Regulation Changes, 2014 (Revised)

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Fact Sheet: Pending Changes to CDCR’s Censorship Regulations
See here for the text of the changes as revised (on October 20) and here for the original regs

 The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) is poised to implement proposed new rules governing materials it considers contraband. CDCr publicizes at its website that the purpose of these censorship rules is to forbid “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society [emphasis added].” (See Initial Statement of Reasons, p. 4. Under the new rules, the CDCr could permanently ban any publications it considers “contraband,” including publications containing political content and correspondence typically protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

What are activists inside CDCr SHU torture units saying?

  • “These new proposed regulations are designed to serve one purpose and that is to censor any writings, mailings and publications that educate the public to what is actually occurring in these prisons.”
  • “This is an attempt to silence prisoners and publishers whose voices have been prominent in waging struggle against prisoners’ perpetual suffering. CDCR wants to stifle prisoners’ truths and disconnect them from society at large.”
  • “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.”
  • “They seek to not only halt all criticism, but also the education and political development of underclass segments of their population – particularly those who are imprisoned…They seek to control all we read, see, learn or think.”
  • “Allowing CDCr to censor the content of our mail would violate not only the First Amendment but also CCR Title 15, Section 3135(b): ‘Disagreement with the sender’s or receiver’s morals, values, attitudes, veracity or choice of words will not be cause for correctional staff to disallow mail. Correctional staff shall not challenge or confront the sender or receiver with such value judgments.’”

What will the new rules do?

Expand the definition of contraband: Subsection 3006(c)(19) expands the definition of contraband to include “written materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG [Security Threat Group] members or associates, as described in subsections 3378.2(b)(5)-(6) ” As subsections 3378.2(b)(5) and (6) specify, this means:

  • “Any 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” [sic];
  • “Individual or group photographs with STG connotations such as those which include insignia, certified symbols, or other validated STG affiliates.”

Possession of contraband is a disciplinary violation resulting in specific punishments. Also, it can contribute to a person being validated as a member or associate of an STG (formerly termed “prison gang”), leading to a person’s indefinite placement in solitary confinement.

Promote confiscation, censorship, and/or permanent banning of political mail:  Under the current rules governing materials considered contraband (which are still in effect until the new rules are approved) every month’s issue of the San Francisco Bay View from January to June—except February’s—was disallowed at Pelican Bay State Prison, and withheld until well after the hunger strike began on July 8. Those issues were packed with letters from prisoners explaining and discussing the reasons for the upcoming strike.  Under the new rules (subsection 3134.1(d)), however, an institution could permanently ban a publication in its decision to temporarily withhold it is affirmed by the Division of Adult Operations.

Further criminalize culture, historical understanding and self-knowledge, and political dialogue: CDCr views political and historical writings, as well as materials relating to cultural identity, as an indication of association with an STG.  As stated above, the new rules define “written materials or photographs that indicate and association with a validated STG member or associate” as contraband.

Further criminalize correspondence overall: Subsection 3135(c)(14) adds “written materials or photographs going into or out of the prison that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates” to a list of “Disturbing or Offensive Correspondence” which may be prohibited. So, if a person’s mom sends her incarcerated son a photo of his brother, and if his brother is a validated STG member or associate, the photo is considered contraband!

Further impacts for prisonersUnder current state law, media may not conduct face to face interviews with prisoners without a prison’s approval. During approved tours, reporters are only permitted to speak with individuals hand-picked by officials. Incarcerated persons are not allowed to send confidential mail to journalists about prison abuses. Under the new regulations, their outgoing mail can be banned altogether.

If political publications are banned, prisoners will be cut off from nonviolent organizing efforts to improve their situation. In California, where correspondence between prisoners is only allowed with institutional approval, or is punished, publications enable those suffering in silence and isolation to know s/he is not alone.

How could this affect those with loved ones inside, activists, advocates and attorneys?Under the recently approved STG regulations that went into effect October 17, “STG suspect” is defined (under section 3000) as any person who, based on documented evidence, is involved periodically or regularly with the members or associates of a STG” [emphasis added]. Thus, the sheer number of items that can be considered contraband is limitless, as mail sent by any person who is considered an “STG suspect” —incarcerated or not—is apparently indicative of “an association with” a person validated as an STG affiliate. Mail mail and visiting privileges could be revoked for outside supporters and loved ones, in addition to any other consequences that may result.  This would have the collateral effect of cutting off prisoners from direly needed contact and support and increasing their isolation.

Other resources:

 Public hearing date is November 10, 2014.

Please submit comments no later than 5 PM PST on 10/10 via our action page or 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 (We additionally recommend to cc staff@oal.ca.gov)

PDF version of this Fact Sheet is available here