Open Letter from a Family Member

To Whom It May Concern,

I am the sister of a man currently being held at Pelican Bay Prison. His story is all too familiar—how a young person became a resident of the prison system, how prisons criminalize human beings, and how we as a society have failed to fathom that some people want to change, have changed and have become great people stuck on the bad side of life.

My brother was incarcerated at age 16 and we all know how naive and inexperienced we are at that age. He served his time, was released and moved on.

Again, stuck on the bad side of luck, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time in South Carolina and found himself in a trial to which he never truly belonged. With split juries and a rap sheet from his past life and an appearance less than appealing with tattoos covering his body, the system decided to again place him under lock and key.

After serving 13 years of his current 20-year sentence, my brother longed to see family. This level 2 prison in South Carolina provided him church ministries, work programs, and jobs along with phone calls and allowed pictures to send to his family, but not seeing any one for 13 years was too long. I am disabled and unable to travel and his only other family, his mother is unable to travel as well.

Our family gathered funds to get my brother transferred closer to home and were told that instead of Arizona, they could get him in California. In the beginning of the transfer, they sent him to Tracy, where the counselor interviewed him and specifically asked if he was in any gang relations. My brother informed the counselor that he had not been active in any gangs. He asked what the tattoo on his hand stated and he explained it was from his previous term. He asked where the incident happened in which he was accused of his crime and he stated a biker bar. The end result ended up being Level 4 Max Security Pelican Bay Prison, 16 hours still away from any relative.

Once he was placed in Pelican Bay, I was told in order to do another transfer we would have to wait for his yearly review. My brother has had no write ups. I began to contact as many people as I could to try and get information on as to how we could get him moved. It was not understood why he would be placed from a lower level programmed facility to one of the worst prisons in California.

Since the placement, my family, church, and friends have written numerous letters in support of my brother. He has had numerous counselors in which have provided me with little information and one in which has told me I was even borderline harassing them.

With my brother’s yearly review close approaching this last March, I began gathering up information again and sent again the numerous letters in support of my brother. At first they explained that they were unsure of his review date and then suddenly they explained that because of racial tension on the block my brother was in, they placed all whites in Ad-Seg and they were going to do a non-adverse transfer. They were unsure of where he would be placed and when this would happen. He still had not been in front of committee. Then while in Ad-Seg waiting for the placement, he was stabbed while in handcuffs in the showers. At this point my brother doesn’t know what is going on.

He has lost 50 pounds within a year and has had property given and then taken away numerous times. He is unable to make phone calls. We have not received pictures of him and each day a letter gets more saddened. Now after seeing committee, they explain that they do not have all of his documentation so they postponed his case for 30 days. His next committee visit, they explained that he had prior gang affiliation in his last term and that he had an incident involving a guard in 1988 causing them to increase his points from 58 to 118 with no conversation about another transfer. My brother was claimed not guilty in the incident in 1988 and does not understand how they are able to include this for his current term.

He is now in SHU/AdSeg and has been told that if he debriefs he will be able to have yard access and be placed closer to his family, which should have originally been done with the interstate transfer. My brother has little to no information simply because he has been a non-active gang member and fears that this will put himself and his family in danger. Still he waits however for decisions to be made and for him to get answers. The facility has moved him several times and he is not able to be found in the inmate locator. He writes letters of how hungry he is and how he has yet to have any church or faith recreation. He states that the temperatures are near freezing at times and that he prefers no contact simply to stay safe and out of trouble.

It is a constant struggle to stay uplifted and reformed when there is no one to keep us grounded. The mind grows weak under duress.

Based on all of the occurrences within the year and the treatment given to my brother, it is clear that based on arbitrary policies and practices re: “status” of the prisoners [i.e., a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) gang “label”, without ever being charged, and found guilty of committing a gang related illegal act] are in violation of the 1st, 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and International law, which bar the use of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment acts committed (per U.N. Conventions Against Torture of 1984 – 1985).

This letter is written to shed light on the treatments of all prisoners. They have been wrongly labeled. While there are those who have done wrong in society, they are human beings and deserve the same rights that others receive. We need to help those who are starving, freezing and are in hopes to become greater than they once were. They have a limited voice so it is up to family, friends, churches, and public to help and have faith that there is reformation. These prisons are overcrowded and Judges have implemented the decrease of prisoner population to begin NOW, yet these institutions are making it so that these prisoners are set up for failure.


A Family Member in Arizona

13 thoughts on “Open Letter from a Family Member

  1. my prayers are with you and your brother. this is the truth and reality of what these men face on a daily basis and CDCR continues to insist we are all just exaggerating!

  2. My prayers are with you and your family from Oakland and someone who has a loved one in P.B.SHU. We all must be the voices for all those stuck in the CDC. I myself know all to well what CDC does having been on both sides. Take care

  3. My loved one is in the PBSHU and is in the hunger strike. He is dying trying to stop this inhumanity, 😦 My prayers are with you, from Marshall, Texas

  4. My heart goes out to you & your family! My only son is in P.B.SHU Life without Parole! I live with HOPE! Their Hunger Strike started 13 days ago, & these precious men are sacrificing their lives for each other to have proper rights. God Bless them all! They’re so special to us!!!
    I call daily! Gov. Jerry Brown (916) 445-2841, & Sec. Matthew Cates (916) 323-6001. Please help by calling daily! God Bless you! Power of Prayer works!

    • I am not aware of a date…but am hoping that we could get one asap and maybe the prisoners will not begin another Hunger Strike on 9/26/11! If we could give them a date that another Hearing is scheduled maybe that would show them that everyone is following thru on this end.

  5. My Dad is in the shu and i received a letter letting me know he’s back on the hunger strike, my prayers are with him, as he said on his letter he’s putting his life on the line…



    • orale .. truly a sad sorry but typical saga of ALL that is inhumane in the people and process and priosons that control and debilitates All our communities families and those we love within the dreaful PIC oheyo peace 2 U ALL

  7. My prayers and the prayer of the Team are with every inmate that is on this hunger strike. Families it’s time for us to get on our knees and pray for God to change the systems. No one should be sent to ASU because they are on a hunger strike.. We need to pray mercy over those who are being vindictive towards these men. they aren’t demanding anything only requesting for five things that aren’t unreasonable. I pray that God keep all of these men with a sound mind in the name of Jesus. i pray that God will fill their bellies a river of living water so that they thirst no more. God said, if 2 or 3 are gather in my name I will be in the mist. Families if we band together and pray and read God’s word, He will be in the mist of our challange. We as family members can only what God allows us to do for our loved one. PRAYER is going to get a response from God. I will keep them in prayer, and we are going to stand untill God moves. If you have a son in any of these prisons, let them know that people all over the US is praying for them. i’m believing that God is going to move on the behalf of each man that believes God can do miracles. EVERYONE BE ENCOURAGED. GOD IS IN CONTROL AND HE HAS THE FINAL WORD. MAN DON’T.

  8. My name is Lili and my fiance is currently doing time in Corcoran. This is new to me, but I can only imagine how difficult it is being in prison. My love tells me very little to spare me from worrying so much about him. Nevertheless, I still worry so much about him. Hearing about the injustice that the prisoners endure is very unsettling. The system is definitley broken. While some may argue that prisoners forfeit their civil rights upon committing the crimes that got them there, they are still human beings and should be treated as such!!! In my conversations with my love, I tell him to stand by his convictions and fight for his fellow prisoners as if they were us (his family)!!! I will stand by my fiance for as long as it takes and I will support his decisions to fight for what is right. To “A Family Member in Arizona,” my prayers are with you and your family. I pray that soon you will find some type of resolution to your plight. Remember that United We Stand, and you are not alone!!!!! God bless you all!!!

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