Serious Sleep Deprivation of CA prisoners in solitary continues- Please speak out!

Published in Prison Focus Issue 51

Sleep Deprivation Update
By The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) Committee to End Sleep Deprivation

Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, PhD, recognized worldwide as an expert in sleep and circadian rhythms, concluded in his 10/25/2015 report: “The current practice of 30 minute wellness [sic] checks of inmates housed in the SHU is likely a cause of severe sleep disruption. This type of sleep disruption is likely worse than anything that has been provocatively studied in a laboratory. The known consequences of chronic sleep loss, including disruptions to metabolism, memory, mood, and health, are likely even more severe in these individuals.

“The mandated purpose of these wellness checks (i.e., suicide prevention) is, in fact, likely to have the opposite effect and inadvertently increase suicidality in these individuals. …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 be considered highly unethical in a research environment.”

‘Security/welfare checks’ persist in SHU’s, Ad-seg’s, Psychiatric, and Condemned Units throughout CA prisons, waking people locked in solitary confinement every 30 minutes, night and day. The PHSS Committee To End Sleep Deprivation works to end these checks.

In May 2016, we published a survey to elicit information from prisoners about the checks. Soon we’ll have a more detailed survey for you to answer about the harmful effects. We want to document the effects in detail to get the checks stopped. [HERE’s the new survey]

Systematic abuse and neglect caused and/or contributed to six recent deaths at California Institution for Women (CIW). A campaign by surviving family members and CA Coalition for Women Prisoners demanding investigation into those deaths has led to the current Joint Legislative Audit of CIW and all CDCr suicide prevention policies & practices. We have sent materials and communicated with both the Audit Committee and the CA State Auditor, the body conducting the audit for the legislature, urging they recommend a STOP to the “security/welfare checks.”

Suicide expert and Special Master in Coleman v. Brown, Lindsay Hayes and Matthew Lopes, still claim the “security/welfare checks” are suicide prevention despite the sleep deprivation and excruciating mental and physical health problems they cause. Write to Hayes and Lopes (and send us a copy) about how the checks affect(ed) you and what you think true mental health and suicide prevention require, or send one letter to the PHSS Committee, and we will forward it to Hayes and Lopes.

We also ask people not in prison to write Hayes and Lopes and urge them to stop this harmful practice. Share any personal or professional understandings of the need for sleep and the effects of sleep disruption/deprivation.

Mr. Lindsay M. Hayes,
40 Lantern Lane, Mansfield, MA 02048

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

PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation, P.O. Box 5692, Eureka, CA 95502

Thank You.

Additional Notes on 4-12-17: There are at least 2 current federal lawsuits against the “security/welfare checks” due to the sleep deprivation and other harms they cause.  Also, we have been in contact with legislators about this torture and plan to revive a campaign to get the legislators to help stop the so-called “checks.” 

If you are in contact with your legislators and want to address the sleep deprivation, we invite you to contact our Committee so we can provide you with materials and accurate information. PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation, P.O. Box 5692, Eureka, CA 95502; phssreachingout@gmail.com 510.426.5322

PHSS Parole Subcommittee Request for Information

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition:
Parole Subcommittee Request for Information

The PHSS Parole Subcommittee is focusing on parole issues specific to prisoners who have been released from indeterminate SHU, both before and after the Ashker settlement. We are particularly interested in seeing language from transcripts of parole hearings and psych evaluations that contain references to unsuitability for parole based on:

1. Failure to debrief

2. Participation in the hunger strike

3. Factors related to long-term indeterminate SHU, such as inadequate programming.

We are reaching out to prisoners, family members, friends and penpals, including all those who may be familiar with prisoners for whom these issues have been raised in psych evaluations in preparation for parole, or in denials for parole.

We are asking for language from documents, both psych evaluations and BPH transcripts, in order to try to determine patterns and the extent to which these issues are stated as factors indicating unsuitability for parole.

Please provide the following information: Quoted language from documents, prisoner’s name and CDC number, and length of time in SHU. It would also help to have the date of the parole hearing. This information will be used by the committee in connection with its advocacy and may be shared with advocacy groups, as well as with CDCR, Board of Parole Hearings, and other state officials.

Send by mail to: PHSS Parole Committee, PO Box 5586, Lancaster, CA 93539

Demand Justice for Erika Rocha: Attention to Abuses and Escalating Suicide Epidemic in CA Women’s Prison

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APRIL 25 2016 Press Release from California Coalition for Women Prisoners:

Advocates demand justice for Erika Rocha, who was 35 years old and just one day away from her Youth Parole Hearing last week when she committed suicide. Erika was incarcerated at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona. The suicide rate at CIW is more than eight times the national rate for people in women’s prisons and more than five times the rate for all California prisons. In the week since Erika’s death, another suicide was reported and at least 22 more people transferred to suicide watch. The suicide watch unit is overcrowded and CIW is placing people on “overflow” in the SHU (“Security Housing Unit”).

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) has released a statement highlighting the abuses that Erika suffered at the hands of the criminal legal system, as well as a list of demands to prevent similar tragedies from occurring and a petition to the California Legislature. CCWP is also supporting Erika’s family in raising funds for funeral services.

Erika was 14 years old when she was charged as an adult. Interrogated by police and prosecutors and threatened with a double life sentence for attempted murder, Erika pled to 19 to Life. Erika was 16 years old when she was sent to state prison. Prison staff placed her in solitary to “protect her” until she was 17, but she told CCWP that guards admitted to keeping her in solitary to protect the prison because she was too young to legally be there. At the time of her death, Erika was serving her 19th year in prison following two years in juvenile hall. She suffered from deplorable treatment for mental health issues attributable to her incarceration as a youth, including at least four indefinite terms of 2-3 years  in solitary confinement.

“We are continuing to gather information, but we know that the day before her death, Erika was released from a suicide watch unit and placed in a mental health unit where CIW is still required to take precautions to prevent deaths,” said Colby Lenz, CCWP member. “Multiple institutions, including CIW and CDCR, are responsible for this tragedy. We demand a full investigation into the ongoing crisis and high suicide rate at CIW. We ask the California Legislature to order the Office of the Inspector General to take action immediately.”

CCWP Program Coordinator, Windy Click, who met Erika in prison when she was 19, said, “Erika was always seeking help, she was lost inside an adult facility not knowing what the future held. When she asked for help they didn’t bother to help her.”

“Erika’s death is a painful example of how the criminal justice system is broken and therefore breaks people. They did this to her. She obviously didn’t see any future for herself,” said another friend of Erika’s who was also incarcerated in state prison at 16.

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Please see the list of demands and request for help below 1

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