From Solitary Confinement at Pelican Bay, Jesse Perez Sues Guards for Retaliation, Wins $25,000

On Nov. 25, 2015, a federal jury awarded $25,000 in damages to Jesse Perez, who had sued guards for trashing his cell in retaliation for his lawsuit against the prison and for his stand against solitary confinement.

By filing the lawsuit, Perez wrote that he sought 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.”

Jesse Perez, 35, is from Colton in San Bernardino County and has been imprisoned since age 15. He was sent to the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay in December 2003 and was held there for 10 years. He took part in all three hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013, protesting prolonged isolation.

Perez’s lawyer, Randall Lee, said the verdict sends “a resounding message that the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment are sacrosanct for all of us — even a prisoner in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay.”

IMG_4479

Jesse Perez, 2nd from the left, with his legal team in his successful civil rights case about guards’ retaliation – Randall Lee, lead attorney, Jesse, Katie Moran, Matthew Benedetto

The case is based on Jesse Perez challenging the legitimacy of a CDCr gang validation pro se in 2005. He was assigned counsel after a state dismissal motion was defeated. After his attorneys’ filed a Reply Brief, the CDCr reached out to him to settle the case, which he ultimately did in 2013. Perez received a monetary award as well as the right to have his gang affiliation reevaluated.

This is similar to the CDCr settling the Ashker case as the state of CA wants to avoid having to be held publicly accountable and to be subjected to scrutiny and interrogation in court.

In the current civil suit, his attorneys argued that guards retaliated against Perez for exercising his right to file a lawsuit and in response to successfully litigating human rights challenges – in this case the gang validation.

Perez argued that guards retaliated against him for exercising his right to file a lawsuit and in response to his successful litigating for his human rights and to overturn
his baseless gang validation.

During settlement negotiations in his initial lawsuit, which CDCr could anticipate would be successful for Perez and require a re-review of his ‘gang validation’, four officers forced Perez to strip, removed all of his legal paperwork, and trashed his cell.  In the process, one officer stated, “you might have been able to win some money from us, but we will make sure that you stay [in solitary] where you belong.” Perez did not get all of his property back.  He was later charged with a serious rules violation for “willfully obstructing the officers” during that search, for which he was ultimately found Not Guilty.

Jesse 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.”

Continue reading

HANDOUTS, FLIERS & POSTING MATERIALS for Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

If you need copies sent to you of any of these materials for use in your actions, please contact phssreachingout@gmail.com or call (510) 426-5322.

_______________________________________________ The above links allow you to download and print the materials made specifically for anyone participating in Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (23rd of each month). Below are several download links for recommended materials to hand out during such actions.  Good educational materials. Coming soon: a handout of Frequently Asked Questions and the Answers, and all handouts in Spanish & English.

Use this Pelican* for your facebook event Cover Photo.  Choose the art or photo for your event Profile Picture.

*We honor Peter Collins who was a long-term activist incarcerated in Canada. He drew the Pelican for the CA Prisoner Hunger Strikes. Peter died from cancer Aug.13, 2015 in prison, having been refused compassionate release. He was an astute social critic of the structures of violence in the world around us (colonialism, racism, sexism, ableism, imperialism, transphobia, misogyny etc). Peter was a writer, artist, cartoonist, activist, scholar & organizer with a great sense of humor and humanity. He was a staunch animal rights advocate. A vegan, Peter believed in principles of ‘do no harm’ to others.

The way forward to End Solitary Confinement Torture: Where’s the army?

Jan. 25, 2015
by Todd Ashker

On the subject of SHU and Ad-Seg constituting torture, for those of us who may not be familiar with the specifics and in light of CDCr’s steady stream of propaganda – saying, “We don’t operate any solitary confinement units or cells in the California penal system, nor do we torture anyone” – here’s a summary of relevant facts supporting our position that these SHU and Ad-Seg units and the operations thereof are designed (modeled) after techniques designed to break political prisoners as a control mechanism. They are intended to break prisoners via coercive persuasion into becoming state informants.

I’ll begin by asking you a simple question?

Why is it that CDCr is able to get away with portraying PBSP SHU (Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit) prisoners as the “worst of the worst” sub-human monsters ever encountered in modern times as justification for their policies and practices of treating said prisoners as sub-human via decades of what is clearly a form of solitary confinement with sensory deprivation – and yet, as soon as these men agree to become state stooges via debriefing, they are no longer a threat and are released to the sensitive needs yard (protective custody) general population prison of their choice?

One of the main reasons they are able to continue to get away with their BS is the failure of the people to hold the lawmakers responsible.

I’ve been in the SHU for 28.4 years, to date, 24.7 years of which has been here in PBSP-SHU. [Editor’s note: This was written Dec. 30, 2014.] I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged with a gang related rule violation. (During our hunger strike I was issued two rule violations classified as serious. They were for: a) having a photo of my longtime friend; and b) a letter that someone had sent me, a stranger who represented herself as a supporter of our cause and wanted to be a pen pal. Staff gave me the letter, and then came around later and confiscated it and wrote me up.)

The above is intended to put the following into some perspective: Based on my personal experience in PBSP SHU during the past 24.7 years, I’ve experienced many techniques designed to break me. One is isolation from my social group. This is a tactic used here by prisoncrats to physically remove those prisoners deemed “problematic” to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or weaken close emotional ties, along with segregation of all natural leaders.

I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged
with a gang related rule violation.

What prisoncrats like to do is claim that this place can’t be considered a solitary confinement unit because you have eight cells to each pod and thus the prisoners in each pod are able to talk to each other. But here is how it actually operates. If you are deemed a “problematic” prisoner by any of the staff – for example, if you are a prisoner who is constantly challenging the prisoncrats’ policies and practices – their way of subjecting you to an informal form of punishment or to try to break you is to put you in a pod where there are no other people of your social group.

Artwork accompanies writing at this SF Bay View link
http://sfbayview.com/2015/01/the-way-forward-to-end-solitary-confinement-torture-wheres-the-army/

Continue reading

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

PHSS header

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

Help stop censorship: Public comment needed by November 10 regarding revised proposed censorship regulations (“Obscene Materials”)

The proposed censorship regulations that we collectively and vehemently opposed a few months ago have been revised (as of October 20).  The deadline for public comments is November 10—short notice.

Please submit your comments regarding the revisions asap!  (A sample letter is included below.)  The revisions can be viewed here.

The CDCr specifies:  Please submit comments 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 before the close of the public comment period. Comments must be received or postmarked no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 10, 2014.  (We additionally recommend that those responding by e-mail cc staff@oal.ca.gov)

The revisions made since these proposed regulations first came out on March 25, 2014, appear to be non-substantive.  Our comments supposedly will only be “heard” to the extent that they address the revisions, rather than the originally proposed text.

To the extent that the revisions incorporate language from the newly approved STG regulations that went into effect on October 17, 2014, they need to be robustly resisted.  The revisions specify, at 3006(c) and 3006(c)(19), that “[w]ritten materials or photographs that indicate an association with validated STG members or associates, as described in subsections 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” are deemed contraband. Well, 3378.2(b)(5)-(6), as adopted and enacted on October 17, 2014 (along with all of the new STG regulations), describes—in vague terms open to subjective interpretation by prison staff— materials that may innocently be present in a person’s cell, such as:

“[a]ny 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. …”

“[i]ndividual or group photographs with STG connotations such as those which include insignia, certified symbols, or other validated STG affiliates. …”

In other words, under the revised regulations, any of the following may be considered contraband: an address for, or photo of, a loved one whom happens to be deemed an STG affiliate; a photo or item that includes cultural iconography deemed “certified” by the CDCr (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of MLK); a copy of the San Francisco Bayview, as discussed below.

Moreover, the CDCr’s October 20 revisions of 3134(d)-(e) do NOT reflect the community’s concerns regarding the originally proposed text—as recently expressed via hundreds of public comments—regarding the inclusion of publications (e.g., newspapers and the publications of rights organizations) in the list of items that may be considered “STG materials.”  Nor do the revisions reflect the community’s concerns over the prospective permanent banning of publications.  The text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is more or less unchanged, except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”

Some publications, like the Bayview, may and often do contain the self-disclosed names of, and/or addresses for, persons who are validated. Thus, they are subject to censorship under 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).

Sample letter:

[DATE]

Dear Mr. Lockwood et al.,

I recently reviewed the Revisions to Text as Originally Proposed (Obscene Materials) issued October 20.  To my dismay, the Department has failed to meaningfully take into consideration concerns previously expressed by hundreds of community members regarding the originally proposed text.  This, despite the Department’s promise that it would go back to the drawing board, and its claim that the public had misunderstood its intent.

If the public misunderstood the Department’s intent, the minimally revised language around so-called obscene materials does not clarify what the Department’s intent is.  E.g., the text of 3134(d)–(e), as originally proposed, is not changed except to the extent that the term “STG recruitment materials” has been swapped out for the phrase “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6).”

Moreover, “STG written materials or photographs, as described in 3378.2(b)(5)-(6)” comprises a category of materials that’s highly subjective to individual interpretation and whim on the part of staff.  It apparently includes a host of innocent items that may be found in a person’s cell, including but not limited to:

—An address for, or photo of, a loved one or friend who happens to be deemed an STG affiliate

—An item that includes cultural iconography (e.g., a jaguar, a pyramid, an image of Martin Luther King)

—A copy of the San Francisco Bayview newspaper

The Department needs to go back to the drawing board again to ensure that (1) no person in custody will be penalized for possessing materials that in and of themselves have nothing to do with prohibited conduct or any rules violation; (2) no publication will be banned—permanently or temporarily— merely because a person in custody has chosen to publish his name and/or location in an editorial or news article, for example, or is seeking a penpal.

Sincerely,

[NAME]

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

Excellent Article: CDCr’s Attempt to Silence Prisoners, Ban Critical “Oppositional” Publications

Censored and ‘Obscene’ in Solitary

by Sarah Shourd
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/21/censored-and-obscene-in-solitary.html

After a huge hunger strike to protest the state prison system’s inhuman conditions, California is threatening to ban any written material deemed “oppositional to authority and society.”

Continue reading

From Palestine to Pelican Bay, prisoners and their loved ones fight for justice and freedom

June 18, 2014

by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
[Full Article includes solidarity actions you can take]

“Our message to the world is that we are peacefully resisting our arbitrary detention, despite the threat the hunger strike imposes on our health … Our bodies are weak, but our determination to end injustice and achieve our demands has never been stronger … According to international law, the occupation’s practice of administrative detention is arbitrary and violates all international human rights regulations and laws that call for respecting human beings, their rights, freedom and lives …

“Without international and media pressure, nothing will change. The humanitarian side of the issue should be revived; it is not a matter of numbers and years. There are children, sons and daughters, parents and families that are suffering from the raids, arrest processes and administrative detention renewals and everything else that is directly connected to these conditions.” – Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike, Day 55, June 17, 2014

SIGN PETITION HERE: http://ymlp296.net/xgmmbeyhgmguu

From California to Palestine to Guantanamo, prisoners are resisting the torturous conditions to which they were never sentenced. On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners across California began a hunger strike and work stoppage protesting long-term solitary confinement and horrific prison conditions. The day after, Palestinian former political prisoner Sheikh Khader Adnan, whose 66-day hunger strike protesting being detained without charge, attracting worldwide attention, wrote in support of the California hunger strikers:

“The policy of isolation is a cheap weapon in the hands of those who hold power. The policy of isolation is used against American citizens who are victims of the political, economic and social order/system that thrives on greed, discrimination and the deprived, including the African-Americans and Palestinian resistors such as Sameeh Hamoudeh and Sami Al-Aryan …

“Hunger strikes are a courageous step and a real tool for all those who are deprived of their rights to lift the existing oppression, and I hope that these prisoners will gain their rights and their demands. Today, the hunger strikes of the Palestinian prisoners inspire those who are detained to engage in hunger strikes to guarantee that they are treated humanely and with respect and dignity.”

Now Palestinian prisoners are in acute need of our support. Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons launched an open-ended mass hunger strike on April 24, 2014. Since then, detainees have been subsisting on only water and salt. This is the latest in a series of mass and individual hunger strikes since 2011 protesting Israel’s policy of “administrative detention,” whereby Israel holds Palestinian men, women and children without charges or trial, or the opportunity to hear the evidence against them.

The Israeli military commander issues detention orders for periods of one to six months, which can be renewed indefinitely. In its indeterminate length, lack of due process or transparency, and its use as punishment for political activity, administrative detention resembles California’s Security Housing Units (SHU).

Administrative detention has been used against tens of thousands of Palestinians; detention is a constant threat in Palestinian daily life. Random incarceration and torture are used to collectively punish Palestinian people, as they seek to survive and resist Israeli military occupation and colonization. …

Read the full article at San Francisco Bay View

http://sfbayview.com/2014/from-palestine-to-pelican-bay-prisoners-and-their-loved-ones-fight-for-justice-and-freedom/ Continue reading

Fight New Prison Censorship Rules- Submit Comments!

Please Help.
Under the guise of “obscenity” regulations, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr) has proposed
sweeping new political censorship rules for mail going both into and out of the prisons.

If these changes are approved, CDCr will permanently ban any documents it defines as “contraband,” including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights.

The proposed regulations are designed with two main purposes: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

FACT SHEET                                LEGAL ANALYSIS
Stop Censorship Regs“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.”    -Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

1.) Please weigh in and speak out against these regulations.

THE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD IS OPEN UNTIL JUNE 17th at 5:00PM.

Below are resources to help you write a comment letter.  Find these resources & easily email your comments at Action Page.

2.) Spread the word on Facebook and ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, school class, place of worship, and organizations to write also.  Continue reading