Solidarity Message from the Four Prisoner Reps and California Prison Update, February 2020

Download and/or print all documents in this post as a pdf HERE

Four-main-reps-Todd-Ashker-Arturo-Castellanos-George-Franco-Sitawa-Nantambu-Jamaa

These men, known as the “four prisoner Reps,” Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, conceived, planned and led the historic 2011-2013 California mass hunger strikes that drew 30,000 participants at their peak, according to CDCr’s own records.

Introduction from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

What follows below is an update from the leadership of the 2011 and 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes against indefinite solitary confinement and other mistreatment across the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr), the world’s largest prison system. These “Reps” had been in solitary for decades and sought to draw attention to and challenge the systematic torture by CDCr through a series of non-violent hunger strikes, two in 2011, and a third in 2013.

In May of 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights and several prominent prisoner rights attorneys and organizations in California formed a team and partnered with a representative group of 10 Pelican Bay SHU prisoner plaintiffs, including some of the hunger strike reps, to file a class action lawsuit. That lawsuit, Ashker v. Governor of CA, charged that California’s practice of isolating prisoners in solitary confinement for many years, and indefinitely, violated U.S. Constitution protections against “cruel and unusual punishment” and denied Constitutional guarantees to “due process.” Also in 2012, the four Reps and 12 other SHU Prisoner Representatives issued an historic document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, calling for an end to all violence and hostility between different groups of prisoners throughout California.

A third hunger strike began July 8, 2013, involved over 30,000 people incarcerated in California prisons, lasted 60 days, and made solitary confinement a significant issue across the United States. All major U.S. newspapers’ editorial pages had at least one condemnation of the practice in the weeks that followed. The third strike ended when the CA State Senate and State Assembly Committees overseeing prisons held unprecedented public hearings to investigate California’s solitary confinement. On Sept 1, 2015, a landmark settlement was achieved in Ashker v. Governor of CA ending indeterminate solitary confinement in California prisons and allowing the legal team to monitor the California prison system to ensure settlement compliance. This month, February 2020, the four Reps have issued a solidarity statement and California prison update.

SOLIDARITY MESSAGE FROM THE FOUR PRISONER REPS
AND CALIFORNIA PRISON UPDATE
(names listed in alphabetical order)
by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

A shout out of solidarity and respect to all class members and prisoners across the state. As the four reps, we felt a public report on the current state of California prisons from prisoners was overdue.

As leadership of the 2011 and 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes that captured the attention of the nation and the world on the role of solitary confinement in United States prison systems, particularly California, we four prisoner reps became recognized as speaking both for the Ashker class, former Pelican Bay SHU prisoners, but also more broadly in many respects for the entire California prisoner class.

California’s prison system, the largest in the world at that time, was the also the greatest abuser of long term solitary confinement. We were housed in the Short Corridor of the notorious Pelican Bay Super Max SHU (Security Housing Unit) and, as all Short Corridor prisoners understood, the only way out of that isolating tortuous hell was to “parole, snitch or die.”

We decided standing up together, asserting our humanity even at the cost of our own lives, was better than rotting and dying alone in our concrete tombs. Nonviolent united action was the only path that made sense; our only avenue to act was a hunger strike. It took widespread unity, preparation and work among us prisoners, but also work on the outside by our families, friends and a growing list of supporters across the state and the country.

Without prisoners speaking about our conditions of confinement, the public narrative about imprisonment and mass incarceration is missing a critical voice – our voice, the incarcerated. We are the first-hand experts on the daily experience of being caged in prison generally and the trauma of extreme isolation.

All other experts collect data, do studies, view our experience without living it. Many, not all, are our oppressors. Their expertise is not about what incarceration is like, but why we and so many millions of people in the U.S. should be imprisoned. No voice has more expertise about the experience and impact of incarceration than the voice of prisoners.

Here we make five points:

First. Prison in the United States is based on punishment, not rehabilitation. The United States has the largest prison population in the world and the highest percentage of a state’s population housed in cages. We are held in punishing ways that cause fear, emptiness, rage, depression and violence. Many of us are more damaged when we leave prison than when we entered.

According to the National Reentry Resource Center, a high percentage of state and federal prisoners will be released back into society. National statistics indicate that there is a high rate of released prisoners returning to prison. All of those who leave are older, some smarter, but all of us are less able to be productive in the society at large or good for our communities or our families. It is very hard for former prisoners to get jobs.

Prison presents an opportunity for society to rehabilitate or help people. Many of us could use support services. That opportunity is lost and buried by a vindictive ideology of punishment.

Rather than us being hypervigilant, concentrating on violence, dangers, our fears and rage, prison could be a place to engage our minds in useful jobs and job training, with classrooms for general learning, training in self-awareness and understanding, anti-addiction approaches. Instead, we are mostly just warehoused, sometimes in dangerous yards with angry, frightened, vicious guards.

California’s Governor Newsom has the opportunity to help institute a massive prison reform movement.

Second. California likes to think of itself as a progressive national leader, yet in sentencing California is among the harshest in the nation. In California, a life term is given for second degree murder. Second degree murder is a non-premeditated killing. Only 17 states are that punishing. Two thirds of the states and the U.S. federal system give a flat 15 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that evolving standards of society’s decency should create a national  consensus on sentencing standards. Our prison journeys begin in those courts. We four reps of the California prison class call for reform in sentencing. Massive money could be spent for education, training and jobs here and in our communities rather than on caging human beings to harm rather than help us or society.

Third. The trauma we experience in these overcrowded institutions with a culture of aggressive oppression, as if we are violent animals, is harmful and breeds violence. We prisoners should not join in our own oppression. It is not in the interest of the prison class to buy into promised rewards for lying on other prisoners.

The use of lying confidential informants is widespread and legendary in California prisons and jails. We see even among ourselves, who have great active lawyers ready to pay attention to our situations, just how regularly vicious retaliation, evil lying  and disregard of our medical needs occurs. Broadly among the California prisoner class, there is mistreatment, horrid isolation, medical disregard, terrible food, cells that are too cold, too hot or too damp.

The history of positive social change demonstrates that when those who are oppressed stand together – as a group, a class – against that oppression, change can happen. Our own experience with eliminating endless solitary confinement in California proves that.

We need to stand with each other, behaving respectfully, demanding respect and not turning on our fellow prisoners for promises of crumbs. We four reps stand for major prison reform that helps us, not harms us, that betters society, not makes it worse.

Fourth. We four reps are for the principles we outlined in the Agreement to End Hostilities, the cessation of all hostilities between groups. We called on prisoners throughout the state to set aside their differences and use diplomatic means to settle their disputes.

If personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues. We encourage all prisoners to study the Agreement to End Hostilities and to try to live by those principles to seek your support to strive together for a safer prison environment.

We are not there yet. Dangerous cross-group hostility remains. What we experience in California prisons is not just developed in prison but is also widespread and supported in free society. Racial antagonisms, ghettoized housing, separation, institutionalized racism and promotion of beliefs of each other as less than human, as stupid, as criminal barbarians can cause us to fear and hate each other.It does not serve us or society well. There are no easy ways to challenge these deep American divisions; forcing us together in joint yards, visiting rooms or classrooms will lead to violence and deepen the danger.

We four reps especially call out and stand against 50/50 yards. We oppose forced mixing of hostile groups where mortal enemies are forced together; 50/50 yards are dangerous and will make things much worse by causing fresh horrific encounters. No matter the policy’s intention, the state is responsible for our safety and wellbeing while we’re living under its jurisdiction.

We are entitled to respect and safety. We seek what we are entitled to. The 50/50 yards as a CDCr policy provokes violence. At this time, we endorse separate yards, separate programming and separate visiting.

We also call on California leadership, Governor Newsom and the State Assembly and Senate to implement policies that encourage and grow support for the Agreement to End Hostilities that do not include 50/50 yards or forced interaction, but rather engage our minds and energy with productive jobs, education, training – major prison reform to a genuine rehabilitative system.

Fifth. The guard culture, especially in the yards, is vicious and provocative. Here where we live, the guards do not care about our safety. The guards get extra pay when there is violence; it is in their financial interest to promote it. Not surprisingly, guards regularly provoke disputes. Many enjoy the resulting violence.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the powerful guards’ union, is led by men who for the most part consider prisoners less than human. The CCPOA by their network and behavior supports the use of set ups, targeting, lying and isolation for random punishment. This intentionally causes widespread fear.

The CCPOA is one of the most politically influential organizations in California and holds many righteous political leaders hostage. The CCPOA members benefit with large overtime pay bonuses from violence and lockdowns.

Only if prison reform becomes a widespread demand of California voters can the influence of CCPOA be challenged. We need our families, friends and communities to build and extend our allies and develop strong support to vote for politicians who recognize our worth and are for widespread serious prison reform and an end to brutal warehousing that endangers society every day.

CDCR and California itself are legally responsible and accountable for prison conditions. Neglect does not free them of state institution responsibility for those in their “care.” The guards’ union should not be permitted to purchase power for abuse.

California citizens need to vote for prison rehabilitation as a priority: money for teachers, instructors, prisoner jobs instead of lockdown overtime and more guards.

Finally, we close with an update on our legal challenge. Our class action constitutional challenge to long-term solitary confinement was filed in May of 2012. We won a landmark settlement on Sept. 1, 2015, that resulted in thousands of people being released from SHUs across the state.

The settlement also gave us and our legal team the right and responsibility to monitor whether CDCr is following the requirements of the settlement for two years. That monitoring period was set to end in 2017, but in January 2019, U.S. Magistrate Judge Illman granted our motion to extend monitoring of the settlement agreement based on ongoing systemic constitutional violations in CDCR’s use of confidential information and in its reliance on past gang validations to deny parole.

Magistrate Judge Illman’s order extended our monitoring for 12 months. CDCr appealed and asked the court to suspend monitoring pending the appeal outcome. U.S. District Court Judge Wilken intervened and allowed us to continue monitoring pending any appeal outcomes.

Our legal team has two pending appeals that CDCr has filed seeking to overturn the lower court orders in our favor. One appeal covers the extension of the monitoring as discussed above; the other covers enforcement of the settlement agreement regarding conditions of confinement in Level IV prisons and the RCGP (Restricted Custody General Population) unit.

As our legal team continues to monitor implementation of our settlement agreement, they are looking closely at how CDCR uses confidential information to place and keep validated and nonvalidated prisoners in Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation) and RCGP for long periods of time and sentence people to SHU for bogus RVRs (Rules Violation Reports). They are also trying to keep track of how validations continue to impact us, especially when we go before the parole board.

If you have any information about any of these issues, although they cannot respond to every letter, please write our team at: Anne Cappella, Attorney at Law, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, 201 Redwood Shores Pkwy, Fourth Floor, Redwood City, CA 94065.

In closing, we remind all of us prisoners and supporters that we are human beings who have a difficult shared experience. We have a right to our dignity, even inside these punishing walls. We present an opportunity to make society better rather than meaner.

We ask all prisoners to stand together, read and act within the principles of the Agreement to End Hostilities, whether you are in Ad Seg or RCGP or General Population, see yourselves as part of an international Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

We four prisoner reps send regards and recognition to each of you as fellow human beings who are entitled to fairness, dignity and respect. We send our respect to all our brothers and sisters incarcerated anywhere with hopes for genuine rehabilitative programming, jobs, education and training in this coming year.

We send our greetings to all the friends, family and communities from which we come, to all our allies in the general society, and we send our hopes for an understanding of the opportunity California has to again be a leader in reform to make the world a better place with so many of us who need help gathered together in state institutions.

We send extra love, support and attention to our Brother Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who is experiencing challenging health issues. Our Brother Sitawa sends his extra love to all those prisoners, prisoners’ families and general supporters of the International Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

February 2020

The authors requested this message be followed with the Agreement to End Hostilities.

AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES
August 12, 2012

To whom it may concern and all California Prisoners:

Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:

1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time to for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.

Continue reading

COURT FINDS SYSTEMIC CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATIONS BY CALIFORNIA DEPT OF CORRECTIONS

Extends Settlement to End Indefinite Solitary Confinement in California

January 28, 2019, Eureka – Late Friday, a federal judge found that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is systemically violating the due process rights of prisoners. The judge ruled that CDCR is violating the Constitution by repeatedly relying on unreliable and even fabricated confidential information to send California prisoners to solitary confinement. The court also found CDCR is using constitutionally flawed gang validations to deny people in prison a fair opportunity for parole.

Read Court’s Decision here (Jan 25, 2019): https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/order-granting-extension-motion.pdf

As a result of evidence submitted by the prisoners’ legal team, the judge extended by one year the terms of an historic settlement agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons, including a provision allowing monitoring by plaintiffs’ counsel.

“The purpose of the settlement was to eradicate constitutional violations related to CDCR’s use of solitary confinement. Unfortunately, California is still violating our clients’ fundamental rights to due process. This ruling is an opportunity to remedy those continuing violations,” said Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights Rachel Meeropol. “It also sends a clear message to CDCR and California’s new governor: until the constitutional violations end, the courts will be watching.”

Under a 2015 landmark agreement, nearly 1600 prisoners were released from isolated Security Housing Units (SHU) and CDCR agreed to substantially reform the process by which prisoners were placed and held in the SHU. Prisoners are no longer sent to SHU based solely on gang affiliation—often established on the basis of extremely insubstantial evidence—but only due to specific and serious rules violations.

The judge’s decision underscored the serious problems in California’s old gang validation system and the way it continues to impact prisoners:

“Plaintiffs have provided the court with ample evidentiary examples that demonstrate that the CDCR’s old process for gang validation was constitutionally infirm (for example, because CDCR’s interpretation of the word ‘activity’ also included something described as, ‘non-action piece[s] of evidence’). As a result, prisoners’ validations were sometimes based on as little as . . . having received correspondence (regardless of the content) or artwork, a birthday card, or other possessions from a validated gang member . . .  or for the artwork they possessed (such as art containing Aztec or Mayan images). . .  Plaintiffs also provide evidence from a number of class members’ parole transcripts in support of the contention that gang validation is a highly significant, if not often a dispositive factor in parole consideration, and that when prisoners dispute their validation at their parole hearings, Commissioners consider the challenge itself to constitute evidence of dishonesty and a manifestation of a lack of remorse or credibility.”

“Now that a judge has determined that California’s gang validation system is deeply flawed, the Parole Board must immediately stop relying on these old validations and give our clients a fair chance to earn release,” said Carol Strickman of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

The judge’s decision also focused on how California distorts confidential information, describing one disciplinary case where “the potentially exculpatory part of the [confidential informant’s] account was never disclosed, and instead it appears to have been replaced by an inculpating statement that the [confidential informant] never uttered;” another case where a “prisoner was told that the evidence against him included two confidential sources . . .  however, according to the underlying confidential memorandum, there were not two sources, there was only one, and that person stated that he did not witness the event in question;” and many more, leading the judge to conclude that “time and again, the shield of confidentiality for informants and their confidential accounts is used to effectively deny class members any meaningful opportunity to participate in their disciplinary hearings.”

Lead counsel at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jules Lobel, explained, “CDCR relies extensively on confidential in-custody informants, even though the California legislature and experts around the country recognize they are often unreliable. We hope this decision will provide momentum for California and other state prison systems to take steps to ensure that this type of unreliable evidence is not used to send people in prison to solitary confinement.

Ashker v. Governor of California was originally filed by prisoners who had been isolated in the SHU for more than a decade based on alleged gang affiliation. The lawsuit followed coordinated hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 by over 30,000 prisoners statewide. On the third anniversary of the settlement agreement, former SHU prisoners published a statement marking their progress and highlighting work that remains in order to fully remedy their unconstitutional conditions.

The Ashker plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Prison Focus, Siegel & Yee, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Bremer Law GroupPLLC, Ellenberg & Hull, and the Law Offices of Charles Carbone.

Read the magistrate judge’s decision here.

Original post: https://ccrjustice.org/home/press-center/press-releases/court-finds-systemic-constitutional-violations-california

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.


The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.

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

EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT: Demand CA Dept. of Corrections Release Drafters of the Agreement to End Hostilities from Solitary Confinement!

Emergency Action Alert:

RELEASE DRAFTERS OF THE AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES FROM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

In October, 2017, the 2 year court monitoring period of the Ashker v. Governor settlement to limit solitary confinement in California expired. Since then, the four drafters of the Agreement to End Hostilities and lead hunger strike negotiators – Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, and Todd Ashker, have all been removed from general population and put in solitary in Administrative Segregation Units, based on fabricated information created by staff and/or collaborating “inmate informants.” In Todd Ashker’s case, he is being isolated “for his own protection,” although he does not ask for nor desire to be placed in isolation for this or any reason. Sitawa has been returned to population, but can still not have visitors.

Please contact CA Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) Secretary Scott Kernan and Governor Edmund G. Brown and demand CDCr:

Immediately release back into general population any of the four lead organizers still held in solitary

Return other Ashker class members to general population who have been placed in Ad Seg

Stop the retaliation against all Ashker class members and offer them meaningful rehabilitation opportunities

Contact Scott Kernan. He prefers mailed letters to 1515 S Street, Sacramento 95811. If you call 916-324-7308, press 0 for the Communications office. Email matthew.westbrook@cdcr.ca.gov and cc: scott.kernan@cdcr.ca.gov

Contact Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814; Phone: (916) 445-2841; Fax: (916) 558-3160; Email: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

As a result of the administrative reviews established after the second prisoner hunger strike in 2011 and the Ashker settlement of 2015, California’s SHU population has decreased from 3923 people in October 2012 to 537 in January 2018. Returning these four men and many other hunger strikers back to solitary in the form of Ad Seg represents an intentional effort to undermine the Agreement to End Hostilities and the settlement, and return to the lock ‘em up mentality of the 1980’s.

Sitawa writes: “What many of you on the outside may not know is the long sordid history of CDCr’s ISU [Institutional Services Unit]/ IGI [Institutional Gang Investigator]/Green Wall syndicate’s [organized groups of guards who act with impunity] pattern and practice, here and throughout its prison system, of retaliating, reprisals, intimidating, harassing, coercing, bad-jacketing [making false entries in prisoner files], setting prisoners up, planting evidence, fabricating and falsifying reports (i.e., state documents), excessive force upon unarmed prisoners, [and] stealing their personal property . . .”

CDCr officials are targeting the Ashker v. Governor class members to prevent them from being able to organize based on the Agreement to End Hostilities, and to obstruct their peaceful efforts to effect genuine changes – for rehabilitation, returning home, productively contributing to the improvement of their communities, and deterring recidivism.

Please help put a stop to this retaliation with impunity. Contact Kernan and Brown today:

Scott Kernan prefers mailed letters to 1515 S Street, Sacramento 95811. If you call 916-324-7308, press 0 for the Communications office. Email: matthew.westbrook@cdcr.ca.gov and cc: scott.kernan@cdcr.ca.gov

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814; Phone: (916) 445-2841; Fax: (916) 558-3160; Email: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

Read statements from the reps:

  Joint Statement from the 4 – Don’t let CDCR reverse our Hunger Strike-won legal victory

•  Sitawa – Brutha Sitawa: CDCr and Soledad Prison retaliate with false reports to return me to solitary confinement

•  Arturo – Statement by Arturo Castellanos

•  Todd – We stand together so prisoners never have to go through the years of torture we did (with Open Letter to Gov. Brown, CA legislators and CDCR Secretary Kernan)
Download and PRINT this 1-Page Emergency Action Alert.

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.

STATEMENT OF PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES ON SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF Ashker v. Brown SETTLEMENT

Oct 14, 2017 marks the 2 year anniversary of the approval of the Ashker settlement. We celebrate our victory in the Ashker case, in which virtually all of the over 1600 prisoners then languishing in indeterminate SHU were released to General Population. This victory was achieved through 3 hunger strikes and the non-violent legal and political action of thousands of California prisoners, their families, supporters, and their attorneys.

However, unfortunately our general monitoring is due to run out after two years unless the Court grants an extension. We believe that CDCR is still engaged in constitutional violations that deny prisoners due process and seeks to put us back in the hole, for many, indeterminately under the guise of Administrative SHU.  Our attorneys will seek an extension of the agreement due to CDCR’s systemic violations of the Constitution.  We don’t know what the Court will do, but we do know that prisoners and their families have to re-energize our human rights movement to fight against the continuing violations of our rights. Examples are:

·       CDCR’s continued misuse of Confidential Information to place prisoners back in the SHU, particularly with bogus conspiracy charges;

·       The lack of out of cell time, programming and vocational programs in Level 4 prisons. The last letter of CDCR stands for rehabilitation, and there is almost no rehab programs and opportunities in the level 4 prisons. They function like modified SHUs;

·       The denial of parole to lifers and Prop 57 prisoners who have clean records simply because of old, unconstitutional gang validations and CDCR’s illegally housing us in SHU for years;

·       The turning of the Restrictive Custody General Population Unit which was supposed to be a GP unit where prisoners who had real safety concerns could transition to regular GP, into a purgatory where the only way out is to either debrief or die;

·        CDCR promulgation of new regulations which gives the ICC discretion to put people back in the SHU, allows for many prisoners to be placed in the future in indeterminate Administrative SHU, or to be placed in the RCGP on phony safety concerns.

We must stand together, not only for ourselves, but for future generations of prisoners, so that they don’t have to go through the years of torture that we had to. We need all prisoners – young and old -to make our collective outcry public to ensure that the victory that we have won is not reversed by CDCR behind closed doors. Ultimately, we are the ones who are responsible for leading the struggle for justice and fair treatment of prisoners. That is why we entered into the historic Agreement to End Hostilities, and why it is so important that the prisoner class continue to stand by and support that agreement. We cannot allow our victories to be nullified by CDCR’s abuse of power, and may have to commit ourselves to non-violent peaceful struggle if CDCR continues on its present path.

We need everyone- prisoners, their families and the public – to send comments on CDCR’s proposed regulations to staff@aol.ca.gov, send emails and letters urging Gov Brown to sign Assembly Bill 1308*, make sure that prisoner complaints about unfair treatment are publicized, and to work together to rebuild our prisoners human rights movement.

We cannot let CDCR increase its use of prolonged solitary confinement either by misusing confidential information to place prisoners in SHU on phony conspiracy charges, or through increasing the use of Administrative SHU. As the Supreme Court stated over one hundred years ago in the 1879 case of Wilkerson v. Utah,  it is “safe to affirm that punishment of torture… and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty are forbidden by that [the Eighth] Amendment.” The admired historian Howard Zinn noted the application of that decision to the modern SHU:  “All we need then, is general recognition that to imprison a person inside a cage, to deprive that person of human companionship, of mother and father and wife and children and friends, to treat that person as a subordinate creature, to subject that person to daily humiliation and reminder of his or her own powerlessness in the face of authority… is indeed torture and thus falls within the decision of the Supreme Court a hundred years ago.”

    Sitawa (S/N Ronnie Dewberry), Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker, George Franco

* AB 1308 became law on Oct 11, 2017 

Report back from Prisoner Representatives’ first monitoring meeting with CDCR

published by the Center for Constitutional Rights
May 23, 2016

Last September, in Ashker v. Governor of California, California prisoners reached an historic settlement agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) that is bringing an end to indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. The Settlement Agreement includes hard-won (and unprecedented) periodic meetings between the CDCR and the prisoners who initiated the lawsuit and led the protests against long term solitary confinement. Below is a report back from the first of these meetings, from lead plaintiff in the case and prisoner representative, Todd Ashker.

I was very pleased to participate in this historic meeting with CDCR officials, which we negotiated in our Settlement Agreement.  I think it is the first time that representatives of prisoners have had this kind of discussion with leaders of any correction department; it is certainly the only time it has happened here in California, the world’s largest prison system.  We were especially pleased that high-ranking prison officials were at the meeting.

At the beginning of this first meeting, it became clear that there was a misunderstanding about its function.  CDCR thought the meeting was for us to listen to them.  Why would we put a term into our Settlement that would have us listen to them?  We listen to them every second of our lives.   We see the purpose of these calls as an opportunity for us to be heard and to have a discussion with people in authority.

Despite this initial confusion, we were able to lead the meeting. CDCR got unfiltered information from prisoners who know what is going on in their prison cells and yards.  We are a leadership group the CDCR knows.  They know we have integrity.  The information we shared at the meeting came not only from the experiences of us four main reps, but also from the other veterans of the SHU, members of our class who have written and met with our attorneys.

We raised in strong terms that some of us who have made it to General Population yards are essentially in modified SHUs (Security Housing Units), in some respects worse than Pelican Bay SHU, although in some respects better.   Conditions, policies and practices that we are experiencing in some of the General Population yards are not what we expected when we settled our case.  After spending decades in solitary we cannot accept many of these conditions.  Too many prisoners are simply warehoused, and there are not enough jobs or programs to give us skills, engage our minds and prepare us to return to our communities.  Guards need training in ‘professional’ behavior.   Bullying and humiliation should never be tolerated.

CDCR may have been surprised at the tenor, strength and substance of our approach.   We expect at the next meeting, we will all understand the agenda and purpose well ahead of time.   We also think a longer meeting will allow for a full discussion and useful interaction.  We hope CDCR officials come to welcome these historic meetings as useful because they will be if prisoners’ perspectives are heard, used and received by them.

Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

(FULL BLUE PRINT pdf- all docs-284pgs)
Overview
Table of Contents
Blue Print core document
Appendix

BLUE PRINT

The declaration on protection of all persons from being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 3452 (XXX) of December 9, 1975. The Declaration contains 12 Articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as:

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining his or a third person’s information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

FREEDOM OUTREACH PRODUCTION
December 1, 2015

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT
#1
Blue Print Overview

California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (“CDCr”) has systemic and dysfunctional problems that run rampant state-wide (within both Cal.’s Women and Men prisons), which demand this California government to take immediate action and institute measures to effect genuine tangible changes throughout CDCr on all levels.

The entire state government was notified and made aware of this “Dysfunctional” CDCr prison system in 2004 when its own governmental CIRP blue ribbon commission (authorized by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) reported this finding and fact. (See http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/CAGOV_US/C040600D.pdf; also see Prison Legal News article, “CA Corrections System Officially Declared Dysfuntional.”)

However, this CDCr state of “dysfunction” was not new to the massive number of women, men and youth being kept warehoused in CDCr, because they face it daily. (See Cal. Prison Focus News, 1990s-Present, Prisoner Reports/Investigation and Findings; San Francisco Bay View News Articles; ROCK & PHSS Newsletters, etc.)

During the historic California Prisoners’ Hunger Strikes (2011-2013), tens of thousands of men and women prisoners in CDCr’s solitary confinement torture prisons, as well as a third of the general population prisoners, united in solidarity in a peaceful protest to expose this dysfunctional system officially reported in 2004 by the CIRP.

The Prisoner Human Right’s Movement (PHRM) Blue Print is essentially designed to deal with identifying and resolving primary contradictions by focusing on the various problems of CDCr’s dysfunction, including (but not limited to) the following areas… [read full OVERVIEW Here]

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS for Blue Print

OVERVIEW by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

Prisoner Human Rights Movement (“PHRM”)

PHRM Principle Negotiators, Reps, Plaintiffs, Local Councils

I. Monitoring Reports on 33 State Prisons

II. Monitoring Implementation of the Ashker v. Brown Settlement Agreement

III. Instituting the Agreement to End Hostilities

IV. Legal PHRM Political Education

V. Freedom Outreach

Conclusion

APPENDIX

All Appendices can be found at www.prisonerhumanrightsmovement.org

#1 (A) Five Core Demands; &
(B)
Agreement to End Hostilities

#2 Second Amended Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#3 Supplemental Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#4 Settlement Agreement, Ashker v. Brown

#5 PHRM’s Principle Negotiators’ Statements on 2nd Anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities

#6 (A) Example Monitoring Report w/ Exhibit; &
(B)
Example Monitoring Record

#7 (A) CA Assembly Public Safety Committee Legislative Hearing on CDCr SHU policy, 8/23/2011
(B)
CA Joint Legislative Hearing on CA Solitary Confinement, 10/9/2013

#8 – Mediation team publications

(A) Mediation Team Memorandum on Meetings with CDCr Officials, (3/26/12)
(B) Mediation Team Memorandum on Meetings with CDCr Officials, (3/15/13)
(C) Mediation Team Memorandum on meetings with CDCr Officials, (2/20/15)

#9 – PHRM LEGAL PRISON ACTIVISM EDUCATION Packets*:

(A) LEARN TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
(B)
MEMORANDUM ON UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF CDCR’s STG/SDP (Feb. 2015)

* To receive Educational Materials (Appendix #9), please write and send, for the cost of the mailing, either eleven dollars and fifty cents ($11.50) or the equivalent in postage stamps to:

Freedom Outreach/PHRM
Fruitvale Station
PO Box 7359
Oakland, CA 94601-3023

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

We are beacons of collective building, while clearly understanding that We, the beacons, must take a protracted internal and external retrospective analysis of our present-day prisons’ concrete conditions to forge our Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) onward into the next stage of development, thereby exposing California Department of Corruption and Repression (CDCr)/United States Prison System of Cultural Discrimination against our Prisoner Class. This is why our lives must be embedded in our determined human rights laws, based on our constructive development of the continuous liberation struggle via our scientific methods and laws. Therefore, through our Prisoner Class, the concrete conditions in each prison/U.S. prisons shall be constructed through our Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

Continue reading