CA Prisoner Reps Say: All People Have the Right to Humane Treatment with Dignity

http://sfbayview.com/2014/10/california-prisoner-representatives-all-people-have-the-right-to-humane-treatment-with-dignity/

October 2, 2014

Main reps mark the 1st anniversary of suspension of the 2013 Hunger Strike and the 2nd anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities

We expect to hear soon from Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, the fourth of the main reps in the Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. His remarks will be posted online as soon as they arrive and will be printed next month. He has been transferred to Tehachapi: C-35671, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

All People Have the Right to Humane Treatment with Dignity

by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos and George Franco

Greetings of solidarity and respect to all oppressed people and those committed to fighting for the fundamental right of all people to humane treatment – to dignity, respect and equality.

We are the prisoner class representatives of what’s become known as the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities. This is an update on where things stand with our struggle to achieve major reforms beneficial to prisoners, outside loved ones and society in general.

Our Agreement to End Hostilities would enhance prison safety more than any long-term isolation policies and yet it still has not been circulated and posted throughout the prison system. We urge that everyone read this document again and that you pass it around, study it, live it. (It is reprinted below.) The California Department of Corrections has yet to post this historic document. It needs to.

In 2010 -2011, many long-term SHU prisoners housed in the PBSP SHU Short Corridor initiated our “collective human rights movement” based on our recognition that, regardless of color, we have all been condemned for decades, entombed in what are psycho-social extermination cells, based on prisoncrats’ fascist mentality. That mentality is centered upon the growing oppressive agenda of the suppressive control of the working class poor and related prison industrial complex’s expansion of supermax solitary confinement units.

The pretext for that expansion is baseless claims that solitary confinement is necessary for the subhuman “worst of the worst” deemed deserving of a long slow death in hellish conditions. Supermax units were originally designed and perfected for the purpose of destroying political prisoners and now extend to a policy of mass incarceration.

Beginning July 1, 2011, we have utilized our collective movement to resist and expose our decades of subjection to this systematic state torture, via a campaign of peaceful activism efforts inside and outside these dungeon walls. We have achieved some success; we are not finished.

Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities.

We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us. We remind all concerned that our third peaceful protest action was “suspended” after 60 days, on Sept. 6, 2013, in response to Assemblyman Ammiano and Sen. Hancock’s courageous public acknowledgement of the legitimacy of our cause and related promises to hold joint hearings for the purpose of creating responsive legislation.

Hearings were held in October 2013 and February 2014 which were very positive for our cause in so far as continuing the public’s exposure to CDCR’s unjustifiable torture program. Assemblyman Ammiano’s bill was responsive to our issues and it was thus no surprise that the CDCR and CCPOA (the guards’ union) and others opposed it – and it was DOA on the Assembly floor. Sen. Hancock worked to get a bill passed with some changes, but, according to a statement she released, even that failed when the Governor’s Office and CDCR gutted months of work by Sen. Hancock, her staff and the staff of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

California Department of Corrections has calculated that their alleged “new” policy known as Security Threat Group-Step Down Program (STG-SDP) will give the appearance of addressing the horrific inhuman treatment we experience daily. They argue the Step Down Program is a major positive reform of the “old” policy and thereby responsive to our core demands.

They hope to undermine the statewide, national and international growing support for our cause – the end of long-term indefinite solitary confinement, the torture we experience year in and year out.

We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us.

The STG-SDP is a smokescreen intended to enable prisoncrats to greatly expand upon the numbers held in solitary confinement – indefinitely. Their STG-SDP policy and program is a handbook to be used with limitless discretion to put whoever they want in isolation even without dangerous or violent behavior.

Their Security Threat Group policy and language are based on a prison punishment international homeland security worldview. By militarizing everything, just as they did in Ferguson, Missouri, poor working class communities, especially those of color, become communities that feed the police-prison industrial complex as a source of fuel.

The daily existence of poor people is criminalized from youth on. We become a source of revenue – a source of jobs – as our lives are sucked, tracked into the hell of endless incarceration, our living death. The STG-SDP is part of the worldview and language of death, not life. It is not positive reform. Security Threat Group takes social policy in the wrong direction.

CDCR is explicit in that thousands of us are in indefinite solitary because of who we are seen to be by them, not because we have done anything wrong. They still decide this by our art, our photographs, birthdays and confidential informants who get out of solitary by accusing the rest of us. Continue reading

Corcoran SHU Prisoners Start Hunger Strike for Decent Healthcare; Support Needed Now

Take Action Link: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51040/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=14911

On Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, three men locked inside unit 4B-1L of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) of California State Prison-Corcoran started a hunger strike: Heshima Denham (J-38283), followed on Sept. 27 by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough (D-83611), and Kambui Robinson (C-82830) will join them the following day for a few days or as long as he can considering his poor health.

Why? The medical care at Corcoran SHU is so bad that life-threatening situations have occurred on too many occasions to the people in the SHU and possibly also elsewhere at CSP-Corcoran that they have had to resort to a hunger strike, the ultimate nonviolent protest, in order to make this point known to the warden, the medical receiver appointed by the court to oversee California’s notoriously bad prison healthcare, and the administration of the California Department of Corrections (CDCr).

Several factors made the three decide to protest the lack of healthcare now: Kambui has diabetes that is very badly regulated with a HBA1C of 9.3 – far too high for diabetics, especially with those already suffering loss of eyesight and neuropathy – and Zaharibu has dangerous, untreated, extremely high cholesterol, making him very vulnerable to stroke, and he has untreated gall stones and a CPAP machine without an extension cord to work effectively.

Custody staff interfering with medical staff is causing dangerous situations.

The men on hunger strike are family men, whose loved ones need them alive and well, and they demand treatment for their life-threatening conditions. Is there any compassion at Corcoran? This beautiful drawing by Heshima Denham has been printed as high quality postcards and greeting cards. To place your order, email people.matter09@gmail.com.

What can you do to help?

Ideally we want Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough and Kambui Robinson moved to Vacaville or New Folsom medical facilities. Kambui’s situation is most critical:

He needs more control over his insulin-dependent diabetes – better regulation, prevention of more complications, and a special diet for diabetics, with sufficient carbohydrates, low fat, whole grains, access to glucose and daily exercise outside his cell. He also needs a diagnostic scan to determine nerve damage in his brain.

For Michael Dorrough (D-83611): normal access to the CPAP machine, treatment for high cholesterol levels and treatment for gallstones.

Finally, for Heshima Denham (J-38283), we need an MRI-scan to make a diagnosis of the pain in his right side and treatment for whatever is causing it. Heshima was recently also diagnosed with PTSD.

Please keep in mind these are medical issues that should be treated with discretion.

Although I concentrate on these three people who are on a hunger strike, they have expressed that they are striking for all people with a disease or injury needing better care, chronic or not, at CSP-Corcoran.

→Please call, email, or write to put pressure on the prison. Below this list of who to contact is a suggested script for your phone call, email or letter.

  • Call, write, or email the Corcoran warden, or leave a message with his secretary.  Call or email Corcoran Warden Dave Davey, at (559) 992-8800 or dave.davey@cdcr.ca.gov, or write to him at P.O. Box 8800, Corcoran, CA 93212-8309.
  • Call or send a copy of your letter or email to Diana Toche, Undersecretary for Health Care Services and Undersecretary for Administration and Offender Services, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Correctional Health Care Services, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001
    (916) 691-0209, Diana.toche@cdcr.ca.gov
  • Also send a copy to the Medical Receiver, California Correctional Health Care Services, Controlled Correspondence Unit, P.O. Box 588500, Elk Grove, CA 95758, CPHCSCCUWeb@cdcr.ca.gov
Suggested script for your phone call, email or letter

I am contacting you concerning the lack of specialized healthcare for people inside the CSP-Corcoran SHU, especially those with chronic diseases. I would like to make you aware of the fact that there is a hunger strike going on inside to demand that people with diabetes or sleep apnea and in need of special diets and other mental and physical healthcare get treated as they would when not incarcerated. Insulin-dependent diabetics with complications and patients with CPAP machines, mental illness such as PTSD and other mental challenges should not be in the SHU but in a medical facility.

The healthcare system in several California prisons is failing badly and we demand prompt action now:

Either move the diabetic patients and the CPAP-machine patients, as well as all other chronic disease patients, to a medical facility or improve the healthcare system, including the rules for, for instance, MRI scans in CSP-Corcoran.

MRI scans are only allowed when there is a physically visible wound. This is wrong!

Also, prevent custody staff from interfering with medical issues, please!

I respectfully insist you act this week to start making specific and general improvements to the healthcare in CSP-Corcoran SHU, before lives are lost.

Thank you.

 

Annabelle Parker can be reached at people.matter09@gmail.com.

Hunger Strike Rep. Todd Ashker to CDCr Administration, 9/1/14

Todd Ashker writes from Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor:

“….I am requesting your attention and responsive dialogue-addressing these issues during the meeting with our outside mediation team- and with Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, James Williamson, and myself in the near future…
The following is from me.

We are presently at the one year point- post “suspension,” of our third peaceful protest hunger strike action against longterm-indefinite-solitary confinement [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg confinement]… and related conditions therein and damage therefrom- to prisoners, our outside loved ones, and society in general….

.The bottom line is, longterm-indefinite-SHU is not effective and harms all concerned. It’s ending nationwide and this will be the case in Calif. too- better to be sooner than later….”

PDF of transcribed Memo HERE.  Handwritten letter HERE

***

Memorandum

Sept. 1, 2014

To: CDCR-Administration
Secretary Beard, UnderSec. Hoshino
Director Stainer, Assoc. Dir. Diaz,
PBSP Warden Ducart

From: Todd Ashker, C58191-
One of four PBSP-SHU Prisoner Reps
(via outside mediation team)

Subject: Five Core Demands, 40 Supplemental Demands,
and CDCR’s STG-SDP

This memorandum is directed to the above CDCR Administrators for the express purpose of respectfully reminding you about unresolved, and/or continued problematic, issues relevant to our 2011-2014 Five Core and 40 Supplemental demands… and CDCR’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program [STG-SDP]… Continue reading

Emergency! Take Action To OPPOSE Solitary Confinement Legislation SB 892

Please be sure to read the Five Urgent Action Requests below

On behalf of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and others who joined an emergency conf call this evening to address the imminent vote by the California Assembly and Senate on SB 892 (Senator Hancock) dealing with the critical issue of solitary confinement, we want to inform you of the following and urge you to widely distribute this message to your email lists.

Issue: Between now and Sunday night (Aug 31), the CA Assembly and Senate will vote on SB 892, drafted by Senator Hancock, who got involved as a result of the prisoners’ hunger strike in the summer of 2013 to denounce the conditions in solitary confinement and CA’s unique “gang validation” policy. California’s Department of Corrections (CDCR) has what is probably the WORST, MOST COSTLY, AND MOST INHUMANE solitary confinement policy of any state in the country. As a result of CDCR policies, California has the largest population of prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in the U.S. and more than any other country on earth! A prisoner in CDCR’s custody commits suicide every ten days. Instead of reforming this policy–including placing prisoners who have engaged in no rule violations in long-term solitary for mere alleged gang membership (“gang validation policy”)–SB 892 for the first time in history adopts this draconian policy into state law.

The Opposition: The four prisoner reps who initiated the 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes have jointly opposed SB 892. Hit this link to download their letter to the legislature.

About 130 organizations and community leaders have written to the Senate and Assembly leaders explaining why they oppose SB 892. Hit this link to download their letter. Link also below. Among many others, organizations opposing SB 892 include CFASC (family members of prisoners), Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), Council on American-Islamic Relations – California (CAIR), Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Homeboy Industries, Homies Unidos, California Prison Watch, Asian Law Caucus, National Lawyers Guild (SF and LA Chapters), the William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI), Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes and Hermandad Mexicana Humanitarian Foundation. See attached.

Five urgent action requests:

  • Please immediately forward this email to your constituents.
  • We urge organizations and community, faith-based and labor leaders to telephone the following legislators on Thursday and Friday this week to express strong opposition to SB 892: (1) Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez, Majority Whip, or his Chief of Staff John Scribner (916) 319-2051; (2) Assembly Member V. Manuel Pérez, Majority Floor Leader or his Chief of Staff Greg Campbell (916) 319-2053; and (3) Senator Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore, or his Chief of Staff Kathry Dresslar (916) 651-4006 or Legal Counsel Margie Estrada (916) 651.4170
  • Please consider joining a press conference tentatively planned for Friday (Aug. 29) at noon in Sacramento opposing passage of SB 892. We urgently need contact info for faith-based, black and Latino leaders in the Sacramento area who may be available to join the press conference and we also invite anyone else able to attend. If you’re able to attend or suggest someone to attend, please email pschey@centerforhumanrights.organd irene.huerta@ilwu13.org
  • In the next two days we urge organizations to please fax letters similar to the letter linked below or downloaded hereto (1) Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez, fax (916) 319-2151; (2) Assembly Member V. Manuel Pérez, Majority Floor Leader fax (916) 319-2156; and (3) Senator Darrell Steinberg, President pro Tempore, fax (916) 651-4906

Thank you

Irene Huerta
California Families Against Solitary Confinement

Peter Schey
President
Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

Letter opposing SB 892 from the four prisoner reps who initiated the 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes: 8-12-14 Letter to CA Legislature re Hancock Bill

Letter opposing SB 892 from 130 organizations and community leaders: 8-26-14 Sign On Letter to CA Legislature re Hancock SB 892

Celebrating California’s Historic Hunger Strike, One Year Later – Oakland

A year ago on July 8th, over 30,000 people on the inside began a hunger strike to bring an end to California’s use of indefinite solitary confinement.

This was the largest hunger strike in U.S. history, and dozens of incarcerated people carried on the fast for 60 days.  Join us as we honor these courageous people and push forward to bring an end to the torture of long-term solitary confinement.

PHSS July8flierPlease Join/Invite/Share FACEBOOK EVENT:  Celebrating California’s Historic Hunger Strike Continue reading

FUNDS NEEDED for Documentary on California Prisoner Hunger Strikes

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dying-for-sunlight-documentary-film-on-the-california-prisoner-hunger-strikes
DocumentaryFlyer-SIDE 1 - C-1On June 12, 2014, Lucas Guilkey, organizer and award-winning documentary film maker, launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the film “Dying for Sunlight: The Story of the California Prisoner Hunger Strikes.”  Please support the making of this documentary about the prisoner-led human rights movement against indefinite solitary confinement

 

Lucas has been creating powerful short videos about the CA Prisoner Hunger Strike Human Rights Movement over the past year, and now plans to tell the story in a more full and comprehensive manner, focusing on those who know it best: family members of the hunger strikers and those who’ve spent time in the SHU.

 

Any and all help spreading the word about this fundraising campaign will be deeply appreciated.

 igg.me/at/hungerstrikefilm

NEW! Prison Censorship Video– Free Prisoner Voices!

 

Fight Prison Censorship, Free Prisoner Voices!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_TOf5q9r_8

Communication is a Human Right

NY Times Article on Pelican Bay Class Action Lawsuit, June 3, 2014

Judge’s Decision to Hear Inmates’ Case Threatens Practice of Solitary Confinement

…. Legal experts say that the ruling, which allows inmates at Pelican Bay who have been held in solitary confinement for more than a decade to sue as a class, paves the way for a court case that could shape national policy on the use of long-term solitary confinement. …

The use of solitary confinement at Pelican Bay, the lawsuit contends, is so extreme that it “renders California an outlier in this country and in the civilized world.”

Read the entire NYT article by Erica Goode  HERE

May 1, 2014 Letter from Pelican Bay Prisoner Reps To Legislators

LETTER FROM PELICAN BAY PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES TO MEMBERS OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY & SENATE

 

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191

Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry – CDCR # C35671

Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

 

May 1, 2014

 

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

 

              We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the Senate (SB 892 and AB 1652) dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

 

              We are California inmates who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time, based on validation as alleged associates and members of prison gangs, rather than based on violent behavior. We undertook hunger strikes in 2011 and in 2013 in opposition of the CDCR’s solitary confinement and gang validation practices as well as the inhumane conditions of CDCR’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). Together with thousands of inmates, we expressed the following five core demands:

 

1) Individual accountability, rather than group punishment, indefinite SHU status, and restricted privileges;

2) Abolish debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;

3) Comply with U.S. Commission 2006 Recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;

4) Provide adequate food; and,

5) Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.

 

             Having carefully reviewed and considered Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano on February 11, 2014 as amended on April 3, 2014, and Senate Bill 892, introduced by Senate member Loni Hancock on January 13, 2014, as amended on March 18 and April 2, we wish to offer the following comments:

 

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

 

          AB 1652 addresses the very narrow but critical issue of eliminating CDCR’s policy of placing prisoners in solitary confinement for gang validation, rather than for commission of a serious offense. We support AB 1652. At the same time, we recommend that the bill be amended to include the following three additional provisions:

 

a. During assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

 

b. An attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost to the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

 

c. AB 1652 should implement provisions for increased oversight, studies, data collection, and reporting back to the Legislature on the SHU classification process, the mental and physical wellbeing of inmates in SHUs, and the reasons why SHU inmates are denied reentry into the general population. Senate member Hancock’s SB 892 contains these provisions, which we recommend be included in AB 1652. Collecting and considering this data can lay the foundation for a future more comprehensive legislative evaluation of solitary confinement practices in California.

 

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

 

             Although SB 892 appears to seek to achieve comprehensive CDCR reform on the issue of solitary confinement, there are several provisions of the bill that will adopt inhumane and widely condemned practices into state law. We will only support SB 892 if it is amended to include three critically important items:

 

a. The bill should incorporate the language of AB 1652 (or similar language) which eliminates the use of gang validation and minor rule violations as a justification for placing inmates in SHUs. As it stands currently, SB 892 does not eliminate SHU assignment for mere gang association and it does not eliminate indeterminate SHU terms. This is a critical issue and one of our core demands. The nationwide trend is clearly not to place prisoners in segregated housing units for alleged gang association without accompanying serious rule violations. Numerous states have moved in this direction for public safety reasons, for humane reasons, and to cut costs. California should not move in the opposite direction.

 

b. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that during assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

 

c. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that an attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost too the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

 

               We do not believe that the range of provisions in SB 892 related to review by the Office of the Inspector General of cases in which SHU placement is based on the testimony of a confidential informant, the appointment of ombudsmen, the requirement for a daily face-to-face encounter with CDCR employees, the appointment of an “advocate” for an inmate being processed for SHU placement, or the Step Down Program in the bill will make any measurable difference in CDCR solitary confinement practices. The Inspector General is unlikely based upon review of a file to reverse decisions based on confidential informants. Ombudsmen will be of little value as long as inmates can be placed in SHUs for alleged gang association when they have engaged in no wrong-doing. “Face-to-face” encounters already happen almost every day when our food is served or a psych tech walks past our cells. Allowing an “advocate” to assist in the SHU assignment process will mean assignment of a guard who could care less about the result. And the proposed step-down program focuses on forcing prisoners to disavow alleged gang association or activities rather than on a behavior-based model considering whether the prisoner has violated rules while in the SHU. Despite these misguided and costly provisions in SB 892, we would support the bill if it is amended to include the provisions identified above.

 

               However, the narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652, particularly if amended as suggested above, would far better serve the public safety, prison security, and the humane treatment of prisoners. It’s a first but critically important step in the direction of a rational and humane policy. Further legislation could be considered in the next legislative session after CDCR data is collected by the legislature. Thank you for considering our comments and suggestions.

 

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

Sign PETITION in Support of CA AB 1652

Let your legislator know you support AB 1652.

SIGN HERE! 

AB 1652 takes a significant step forward in reforming solitary confinement by specifying that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) may only place prisoners into SHUs for serious rule violations. As a result, CDCR could no longer place people into SHUs indefinitely for allegedly having a connection to a gang.