The four California prisoner class representatives call for solidarity and change

Source: SF Bayview, Feb 11, 2020

The "Four Main Reps" Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

These men, known as the “four main 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 by Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee

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 their plight through a series of non-violent hunger strikes, two in 2011, the first drawing 6,600 participants statewide, the second 12,000, and a third in 2013 that drew 30,000 participants, the largest prison hunger strike in history.

In 2012 the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with several other prominent California prison rights attorneys and organizations, formed a team, partnered with a representative group of 10 Pelican Bay SHU prisoner plaintiffs and filed a lawsuit on May 31, 2012. The lawsuit, Ashker v. Brown, charged that California’s practice of indefinitely isolating prisoners in solitary confinement violated U.S. Constitution protections against “cruel and unusual punishment” and guaranteeing “due process.” In the same year, the four reps and several other SHU prisoner reps issued the Agreement to End Hostilities.

A third hunger strike began July 8, 2013, and ended 60 days later making solitary confinement a major 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 California State Senate and State Assembly committees overseeing prisons held unprecedented joint hearings that outlined promises of major change.

On Sept. 1, 2015, a landmark settlement was achieved in Ashker v. Brown ending indeterminate solitary confinement in California prisons and allowing the legal team to monitor the California prison system to ensure compliance. This month, February 2020, the four reps have issued this update on their situation.

by the ‘four main reps’: Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (names listed in alphabetical order)

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.

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 Gov. 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.

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

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, Gov. 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.

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 as 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.

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.

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.

The authors requested the Agreement to End Hostilities be appended to their statement.


Agreement to End Hostilities

Dated Aug. 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 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.

2. Therefore, beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end. And 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!

3. We also want to warn those in the general population that IGI [Institutional Gang Investigators] will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer “inmates” amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups’ mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes (i.e., forcing CDCR to open up all GP main lines and return to a rehabilitative-type system of meaningful programs and privileges, including lifer conjugal visits etc. via peaceful protest activity and noncooperation, e.g., hunger strike, no labor etc.). People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics and refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU (Investigative Service Unit), OCS (Office of Correctional Safety) and SSU’s (Service Security Unit’s) old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!

In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners] and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!

We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!

Because the reality is that, collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners and thereby the public as a whole, and we simply cannot allow CDCR and CCPOA, the prison guards’ union, IGI, ISU, OCS and SSU to continue to get away with their constant form of progressive oppression and warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners, including the 14,000-plus prisoners held in solitary confinement torture chambers – SHU and ad-seg units – for decades!

We send our love and respect to all those of like mind and heart. Onward in struggle and solidarity!

Send our brothers some love and light:

  • Todd Ashker, C58191, KVSP, P.O. Box 5101, Delano CA 93216
  • Arturo Castellanos, C17275, PBSP, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • George Franco, D46556. DVO. 2300, 2300 Kasson Rd, Tracy CA 95304
  • Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Ronnie Dewberry), Freedom Outreach, c/o Marie Levin for Sitawa, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland CA 94601 (Use this address until Sitawa fully recovers)

Laura Magnani, assistant regional director for the American Friends Service Committee’s West Region, has been working on criminal justice issues since the 1970s and with AFSC since 1989. Laura is author of “America’s First Penitentiary: A Two Hundred Year Old Failure” (1990) and co-author, along with Harmon Ray, of “Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System” (2006). She also authored the 2008 report. “Buried Alive: Long-term Isolation in California’s Youth and Adult Prisons.” She can be reached at LMagnani@afsc.org. Bay View staff contributed to the introduction.

This logo, created by the premiere prison artist, known as Rashid, was eagerly adopted by the California hunger strikers as the symbol of their sacrifice and strength in solidarity. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064

This logo, created by the premiere prison artist, known as Rashid, was eagerly adopted by the California hunger strikers as the symbol of their sacrifice and strength in solidarity. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064

Liberate the Caged Voices: Free Sitawa!

From: SF Bayview, January 6, 2020

Promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington and Nube Brown of the Liberate the Caged Voices Coalition

Peace and blessings, sisters and brothers!

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in Sept. 2019

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa during a visit in Sept. 2019

There is a saying among the Muslim brothers: “Want for your brother what you want for yourself.” In the case of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa,​ principled thinker, leader, brother, son and community member, we want freedom for him.

Last year in July 2019, Malik was granted parole by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In July 2020 we want to see the Parole Board in the state of California grant our Brother Sitawa his freedom when he goes before the board after five previous denials and 39 years of captivity, 32 of those years spent in solitary confinement.

It is not just a plea based solely on Elder Sitawa’s physical health. He is of a particular class of politicized prisoners subjected to decades of the torture of solitary confinement seen only in California, with rare exceptions in other states such as the decades of solitary endured by the Angola 3 in Louisiana.

And yet, Sitawa remains a stellar example of what positive transformations a human being can undergo in the most inhumane environments. Sitawa inspires us!

Many people fail to recognize that Sitawa, along with three other strong and principled leaders of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective, inspired 30,000 courageous prisoners, who, in their struggle for freedom from the torture of solitary confinement – or the threat of it – chose to shun violence and rather embrace a peaceful strategy in order to bring about much needed change in CDCr (California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation) by implementing the powerful tenets of the Agreement to End Hostilities, an agreement that holds today, despite non-cooperation by CDCr.

Rather than being systematically punished for his leadership and commitment to the community on both sides of the wall, Sitawa should be rewarded with freedom and the opportunity to thrive and empower the community from which he was taken and show the world he is undaunted in his quest for change and peace.

We cannot and will not remain silent while CDCr uses a “death by incarceration” tactic on Sitawa and numerous other elders and leaders trapped in state prisons all across the United States.

Our respected Elder Mujahid Farid of Release Aging People in Prison taught me the slogan: “If the risk is low, let them go!”

Sisters and brothers, we suggest strongly that this should be our battle cry in 2020 for all incarcerated elders. Sitawa is a human being who deserves and has earned not just a national show of support, but an international freedom campaign, and we plan on helping to lead the way! Will you help us?

We leave you all with a quote from Victor Frankl that we would like all of you to meditate on – with the hope that it resonates in your heart, mind and soul. Perhaps it will motivate you to join this Freedom Campaign today:

“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed … for what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform personal tragedy into a triumph.” – Victor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Washington Square Press, New York 1969

I, Malik, have faced the reality that being an outspoken New Afrikan man in Amerika means I must accept being despised and hated. How I respond to the hate is totally up to me! Today I choose a path of peace and love.

Activist Nube Brown says that love is the most powerful force in the universe. Let’s see if we can collectively tap into the power of love and encourage the state of California to FREE SITAWA in July 2020.

Meanwhile, as we organize the campaign and Brother Sitawa recovers from a stroke, please send him some love and funds, to Freedom Outreach, c/o Marie Levin for Sitawa, Fruitvale Station, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland CA 94601.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! All Power to the People!


Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the Bay View, studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release in 2021. He is also co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. Visit his website at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, USP Pollock, P.O. Box 2099, Pollock LA 71467.

Nube Brown is a New Abolitionist and activist working with California Prison Focus and facilitator of Liberate the Caged Voices. She is actively co-leading the Free Sitawa! Campaign to promote the Prisoner Human Rights Movement and hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11:00 to noon. Nube is a proud member of the human race and seeks to dismantle the prison industrial slave complex and replace it with a transformative, healing justice paradigm. Connect with her at nube@prisons.org.

Lost in time: Lift up our brother Sitawa and strike down indefinite incarceration

by Mutope Duguma

Published earlier on the SF Bayview and on Sitawa.org

It’s always hard to stomach news that is disheartening. To hear that a brother and comrade has suffered a stroke after spending countless years in solitary confinement, as well as being held on an indefinite sentence for an alleged crime he did not commit, is even more disheartening.

I need not stress the sorrow that is felt amongst the whole prison

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in July of 2018

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in July of 2018

population for our brother Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, who, along with countless fearless prisoners, pioneered our Prison Human Rights Movement (PHRM) to the world’s stage. We continue to see men and women incarcerated far too long – beyond anyone’s imagination – and continue to be held indefinitely.

Our beloved brother Sitawa is amongst this class of men and women. The inhumane treatment of prisoners must end.

Our brother Sitawa and many others have suffered enough and should not continue to do so based on being given a life sentence that equals a civil death. Prior to 1968, under original Penal Code Section 2600, California prisoners suffered complete civil death, which means prisoners were stripped of all civil rights.

The prison system is actually covertly executing all of its lifers. The United States is the only country in the whole world that incarcerates people indefinitely – forcing them to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Men and women have been incarcerated for 35 years or more.

Many of these people are lost in time. They came to prison as youth in their teens and early 20s in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Yes, many of them were immature, many had no real direction, but they all became adults in the Amerikan prison system.

At present these prisoners, Baby Boomers, most of whom have survived decades of incarceration, are now between the ages of 60 and 80. Many of these senior citizens are wheelchair-bound or use assistive devices such as walking canes.

Like most seniors, many are on special medications, require special medical therapy for seniors, and suffer from aging illnesses of various sorts. I hear some say that a few manage to get around good at 70 years young.

Many say, yes, they should be in prison, and that may be true in some cases. Given the things they did in society, the way they carried themselves in the youth of their lives was utterly wrong and disrespectful, but that was decades ago when they were young! Decades!

They are now older, mature, grown, senior adults, who have fulfilled all requirements from various parole boards around the U.S. Multiple prisoners have complied with all laws, rules and regulations of the prison and carried themselves as role model human beings and in many cases have done so for decades.

Still, many of them are forced to remain in prison when the maximum amount of time on their sentence has long since expired. This is terrible and extremely cruel to force rehabilitated human beings to remain in bondage and especially when statistics clearly show that 90 percent of them are not returning to prison once released.

Sadly, 89 percent of prisoners across the US are Black and Mexican. From 1619 through the 1800s, the chattel slavery plantation concept lurks in the shadows like the Wizard of Oz.

This “behind the scenes” type strategy involves money laundering exclusively into white rural areas under the Prison Industrial Slave Complex (PISC). (That’s where prisons were built during the height of mass incarceration, in small rural communities that had lost their economic base, where people were so desperate for jobs, they were willing to work in a prison. These were white communities with deep prejudice toward Blacks. – ed.)

Many of us may very well die in these man-made tombs. It should be stipulated that these deaths are in clear violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The suffering is indefinite where there exists no end to the punishment. Many have died, and many will continue to die where there is no remedy to resolve the cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners.

We must resist to end this cruel and unusual treatment of human beings and encourage our brother Sitawa, who is fighting for his life. We will fight for his freedom and the freedom of the thousands of men and women lost in time.

One Love, One Struggle,

Mutope Duguma

Sitawa is recovering from a major stroke. Send him some love and light (Sitawa is currently housed near San Diego, mail will be forwarded):

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa with arms crossed 2017

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa with arms crossed, in 2017

Freedom Outreach
Attn: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa
Fruitvale Station
P.O. Box 7359
Oakland CA 94601


[1] Note: Original penal code 2600 prior to 1968, California prisoners suffered complete civil death which stripped prisoners of all civil rights.

 

California protest demands ‘End solitary confinement!’

Published in The Militant:


Supporters of the fight to end solitary confinement of inmates in California state prisons rallied outside the federal courthouse here Aug. 21. Their action was in solidarity with four prisoners — Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa — who have helped lead the ongoing struggle against the barbaric policy. They were in a court-ordered meeting with representatives of the California Department of Corrections inside the building.

The four were central leaders of hunger strikes and protests that grew to include 30,000 prisoners at the high point in 2013. These actions put a national spotlight on the abuse of thousands of prisoners held, some for decades, with little human contact in 8- by 10-foot windowless Security Housing Unit cells known as the SHU.

The four were also plaintiffs in a suit — Ashker vs. Governor of California — that won an end to indeterminate-length sentences to solitary confinement in California and the release of over 1,400 prisoners from the SHU.

Despite the success of moving some to general population units, the fight is far from over. Many of those released from the SHU have been transferred to extremely restrictive conditions in Level IV prisons or in Restricted Custody General Population Units, which have conditions markedly similar to that in the SHU.

“Our fight is against solitary confinement, no matter what they call it or what forms it takes,” Marie Levin, sister of Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, told rally participants. She pointed to a giant banner held by protesters saying, “END ALL FORMS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.”

Letters from prisoners held in Level IV and Restricted Custody Units were read aloud, describing the denial of social interaction with fellow prisoners and lack of educational and job-training programs.

Read the rest here: https://themilitant.com/2018/09/08/california-protest-demands-end-solitary-confinement/

Rally in solidarity: Join the California Hunger Strikes’ four ‘main reps’ in court Aug. 21 — San Francisco Bay View

by Verbena Lea, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Rally at the San Francisco Federal Courthouse while the four California 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,…

via Rally in solidarity: Join the California Hunger Strikes’ four ‘main reps’ in court Aug. 21 — San Francisco Bay View

Nothing New

By Mutope Duguma
June 2018

[received via email from Freedom Archives, and reposted here]

An End To Hostilities” is an agreement/document that was brought forth to build Peace amongst the Prison Class, which means that strong communication between the groups will to be used to end any problems that may surface within prisons.


We prisoners had to come to terms with the realization that our inactions have allowed prison officials to suppress us under their Social Tyranny, where we have been held hostage in what we call ‘protracted violence.’ From 1979 to 2009, prison violence would devastate prisoners throughout CDCr, and sadly would do the same to our communities, where we would also be conditioned to this violence inside of California prisons. Based on gathered intelligence, there has never been an impartial nor thorough investigation into how prison officials allowed such violence to occur as well as spread into our communities.

Prisons, no matter what their classification levels, I, II, III or IV, are very dangerous environments. They house mostly young people; those who suffer from drugs and alcoholism. Least we cannot forget those undeveloped minds, which have yet to become rational thinking men and women. Therefore, it is relatively easy to socially engineer prisoners under social tyranny by manipulating conflicts that lead to their destruction.

Prison officials have total control over all prisoners held in CDCr, and this affords them the power to impose their will upon prisoners as they try to see fit.

So, prisons and citizens of this country should not be surprised to see that CDCr is managing prisoners with violence in order to secure their best interest: Higher Pay and Job Security. Peaceful prisons go against CDCr agenda, and therefore, violence has to be its trademark.

This explains why CDCr would want to disturb the current peace achieved by more experienced prisoners who have built solidarity around our “Agreement to End All Hostilities” (AEH). CDCr needs to ‘come clean’ and take responsibility for their role in fueling so much of the violence between prisoners.
The million-dollar question for all tax payers is: Why disturb such a Peace???

Case and Point:

1.) It was CDCr who manipulated the racial violence between prisoners by putting them against one another, favoring one group over the other, in respects to Jobs, etc. I been in Calipatria three (3) years, and there have been countless incidents where staff attempted to instigate or agitate violence amongst prisoners, but due to our AEH we have been able to counter these attacks through Sound Communication, rooted in respect for what is right!!!

2.) It was CDCr who created the debriefing program that put prisoners against prisoners that led to thousands of prisoners becoming informants (i.e., snitches) and this was done by torturing each of these prisoners held in solitary confinement units, that forced many of them into being informants.

3.) It was CDCr who created the indeterminate SHU program that held men and women indefinitely inside of solitary confinement units, through a gang validation process that allowed them to remove all the “unfavorable” prisoners off general population, where prisoners where held for decades; the longest up to 44 years.

4.) It was CDCr who created the Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY), which is one third (1/3) of the prison population today… SNY prisoners who are, or were, “keep aways” from general population prisoners for various reasons such as: informants, child molesters, rapists, Elderly, etc., all of whom requested to be placed in protected custody.
5.) It was CDCr who set up the Gladiator Fights inside Corcoran State Prison Security Housing Unit – CSP-SHU in the 1980s, that led to seven (7) prisoners being murdered in cold blood and thousands of prisoners being wounded and beat on in these conflicts instigated and agitated by CDCr officials.

6.) It was CDCr who did away with all the positive incentive programs that led to the hopelessness that we see throughout CDCr today.

7.) It was CDCr who did away with nutritious foods and went to non-nutritious foods, starting in 1997, that is today having an adverse effect on prisoners health and behavior.

These failures on CDCr’s part led to deadly consequences for prisoners. The senseless violence we experienced in the past is now being introduced again by CDCr, who continue to find ways to socially engineer prisoners under Social Tyranny… The claim that they (CDCr) will be able to determine if prisoners want to go home or not is total BS, by integrating SNYs and GP prisoners who should’ve never been separated in the first place.

Those of us who were manipulated into this violence have first-hand experience on how it works, and we are doing what we can to educate those prisoners who don’t see the un-seen hand of CDCr. Because, unlike our past, we are today very mature-thinking men and women who have taken responsibility for our roles inside the manmade madness, by coming together and establishing An End To All Hostilities, whereas the Four (4) Principle Groups agreed on their word alone to end this prison violence amongst the races, which has saved countless lives thus far today.

What is CDCr’s objective to off-set the many positive programs/policies that is affording prisoners the opportunity to go home? CDCr’s objective, as always, is that Peace goes against their bottom line: Profiting off Prisoners.

So, as long as CDCr officials want to use violence in order to secure their income, there will be violence in prisons (see recent article by Nashelly Chavez, May 27, 2018, titled: California Prisons Phase out ‘Sensitive Needs Yards’ Critics See A Rough Transition).

We are an expendable source, therefore, our lives have no value to our keepers. It is us who put value in our lives and this is where our power comes from, Reclaiming our Humanity. The violence is Nothing New.

One Love – One Struggle
Mutope Duguma
___________________________________
About Mutope Duguma:
Mutope Duguma was incarcerated at Pelican Bay State Prison, in its notorious Security Housing Unit. He is now at CSP Calipatria. He is a member of the Human Rights Movement First Amendment Campaign and PLEJ for Liberation and is a prolific author, with articles published in the SF Bay View and many other places, including his website, http://www.mutopeduguma.org.

Write to Mutope at:Mutope Duguma (s/n J. Crawford), D-05996,
CSP Calipatria B-5 C-242,
P.O. Box 5005,
Calipatria, CA 92233-5005

CDCr — SVSP Retaliates Against Brutha Sitawa – With False Reports to Remove Him from G.P.

For years now, I have endured threats (both overt and covert) from the mouths and hands of CDCr Green Wall paramilitary services (OCS-ISUI -IGI, etc.). (See amongst others my article “Brutha Sitawa- Exiting Solitary Confinement” at http://www.sitawa.org), since following our 2013 nonviolent, peaceful Hunger Strike, when Governor Brown and his designated CDCr high officials (such as Secretary Scott Kernan, Under Secretary R. Diaz, Director K. Allison, etc.) negotiations with us (4 principal negotiators) became seriously heavy.

And every prisoner who has been released to the general population (GP) from solitary confinement (from January 2012 to the present) has struggled with “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement” (PTSD-SC). (See article “PTSDSC: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” by me and Baridi Willliamson, dated 12/11/17, at www.prisonerhumanrightsmovement.org).

It has been clear that the ISU-IGI personnel here at SVSP knew this and harassed, intimidated, tried bad-jacketing (spreading false rumors) and tried locking many of our class members back up in solitary confinement. And they knew that I was the first Principal Negotiator who had been released to a Modified General Population (MGP) yard. CDCr and its OCS-ISU-IGI, etc. were keeping track of where we four Principal Negotiators were housed and our movement overall.

On October 13, 2015, I arrived at the Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) Receiving and Release (R&R). Upon my exiting from the CDCr Transportation bus and entering the R&R, I was met by the wicked ISU-IGI Welcoming Committe: guards T.J. Smith, M. Hernandez and DeAnza. They escorted me into a dark-lit property storage room and let me know that I was not welcome at their prison, in a failed attempt to intimidate me.

Now since that date, the “Green Wall” is alive and well here at SVSP. I have been threatened by those older prison guards face-to-face, while younger guards stood in their gun tower, hoping I would react to one of those Green Wall guards so that they could say, “I got that Dewberry” (i.e., Sitawa).

One such instance occurred in 2016 during the holy month of Ramadan. While I and other prisoners were entering the mosque, there was one of those Green Wall corrections guards named McClean, who threatened my life while his supervisors (i.e., sergeants) and other old guards (i.e., Green Wall C/Os) stood by and listened. C/O McClean said to me, “We will get you, Sitawa, off C-yard somehow. You won’t be around here for long!”
My response was directed to the two sergeants standing nearby. I asked them, “Are you going to discipline your guard?” They answered, “We’ll talk to Officer McClean.” The other older (Green Wall) guard instructed all prisoners to enter the mosque. Now I had to restrain the Bruthas, because this guard McClean (along with his Green Wall buddies supporting him) threatened my life!

The above challenges are just a drop in a lake against me and the revolutionizing work that the Prisoner Human Rights Movement has done inside CDCr, specifically over the past seven years (2011-2018), through which we have changed CDCr. I stand with the prisoner movement that is currently challenging SVSP’s Green Wall (ISU/IGI) guards’ eavesdropping on our legal phone calls, racial discrimination, racial imbalance, soms-workers discrimination, etc. (about which prison officials have been notified through appeals, grievances, complaints, and letters between 2015 and the present). Note to the reader: Please stop and re-read the above once again. And allow the above information to soak in before you continue reading!!
The above is a classic case of retaliation, harassment, intimidation, and overt threats/acts.

On January 11, 2018, while I was waiting to be released for my work assignment, I looked out the cell door and observed a guard (later identified as Lt. J. Ortega of SVSP’s ISU) and his subordinate T.E. Flores (K-9 officer) heading toward our cage. Lt. Ortega informed me that he and Flores were conducting a “routine” cell search. My response was, “Lieutenant, you guys don’t do ‘routine’ cell searches.” Lt. Ortega escorted me to a table within B-section dayroom where our assigned cell was located.

And while we were at the table, Lt. J. Ortega observed me looking for his CDCr ranking label as a Lieutenant of ISU. He stated, “We don’t allow outsiders to see our ranking.” He went on: “There’s nothing personal about this cell search; it is a routine search. I have to cross our t’s and dot our i’s, because we [ISU-IGI] know that you’re the Key Negotiator in the Ashker v. Brown lawsuit. I heard about you, Mr. Dewberry, when you first came. You were the first one ofthe four representatives out of SHU and the last one back in.”

I realized at that moment that this cell search is in relation to the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit which was the true purpose of this search. And this is a clear demonstration of retaliation coming from SVSP’s ISU and IGI personnel.

Lt. Ortega left and walked over to speak with Flores, then returned to the table where I was seated. He said, “Dewberry, you’re going to the hole for investigation.” I replied, “For what? There’s nothing unlawful in my cell.” Ortega directed C/O Palacios to escort me to the holding cage inside the mental health area.

Lt. Ortega and Flores brought my celly in shortly after me. These ISU guards knew from the onset of this matter that I was innocent-with no knowledge of anything unlawful in my cell. Yet Ortega ignored this knowledge and wrote a false lockup order to have me removed from MGP and put me in solitary confinement (SC).

I am now realizing that this Lt. Ortega (ISU) et al. are driven to illegally place me/us in solitary confinement (that is, Administrative Segregation/ Ad. Seg.) at all costs. I realized at that moment that those two ISU personnel were about to commit a crime by setting up myself and my cellmate. Lt Ortega and Flores have committed an unlawful act by planting contraband in my cage to make the false accusation that contraband was found in order to justify taking our property and later claiming they found dangerous contraband inside that allows them to prolong my isolation. They have a history of doing this at SVSP.

It was clear that Lt. J. Ortega’s superior was also informed of my innocence, yet Ortega was clearly aware of what he along with his squad of ISU/IGI was doing: targeting me in retaliation for what I was doing to change the ole Green Wall culture here at SVSP Fac. C. Myself and my cell mate were escorted to D1 and placed in cage 228 Ad. Seg. with our lockup order forms.

The following evening, January 12th, myself and my cellmate received our personal property back from ISU/IGI, at which time they made no mention whatsoever of any “dangerous contraband.” (They even omitted that they removed several Ashker v. Brown legal documents out of our property).

C/Os Franco and Flores (from ISU) both provided me with a CDC 128-B form to sign in order to expedite my Institution Classification Committee (ICC) hearing. I had requested a copy of the CDC 128-B but was denied. They gave the forms to their supervisor Lt. Ortega, who was required to promptly provide them to his ICC superiors for my ICC hearing-but did not.

On January 18, 2018, I went to my scheduled ICC hearing, where the committee consisted of CCII Meden, Associate Warden Solis, and Captain Gonzales. The ICC’s decision was to hold me in solitary confinement for approximately ninety days. I notified them that on January 12th, I had signed the 128-B. The ICC informed me that ISU personnel did not provide them with the 128-B, which would have allowed them to make a more accurate analysis and return me back to the MGP. It was apparent that Ortega and his ISU/IGI personnel did not want for me to be released to the MGP. And by withholding the mandatory CDC 128-B information from the ICC, they knew that I would not be released by the committee.

The ICC informed me that they would be contacting the ISU/IGI staff as to why my due process was being violated, and that the ICC would fast-track my case and place me back on the MGP. This ICC realized that there was no other purpose for ISU/IGI holding me in solitary confinement any longer.

On January 19, 2018, Lt. Ortega appeared at my assigned cage door, informing me that they (ISU/IGI) were issuing us (my cellmate and me) a new lockup order. Now Ortega and his squad were falsely saying that they found dangerous contraband inside the property they had searched on January 11th -12th and returned to us on the 12th-a full week before.
I said to Ortega (and his subordinate ISU guard DeAnza:

“Really. Come on, Ortega. You are doing this because yesterday your ICC superiors discovered that you withheld my signed CDC 128-B from the ICC so that they could not release me. So they got on your case. And now you’re bringing a new false lockup order claiming you found dangerous contraband a week ago. But you did not, because you would have both reported it in writing, and I let your ICC superiors know before yesterday’s classification hearing.”

Ortega shrugged with a smirk on his face. My celly told him:

“You knew he’s innocent from Day 1. And you know it now. So why you’re ignoring this truth? Just to keep him locked up and from returning to the GP.”

We both refused to sign Ortega’s new lockup order, turned, and walked away from the door.

On January 23rd, I learned that my first fake writeup/lock up order by Ortega and his ISU/IGI was voided for due process violations. A new RVR was issued. But nowhere in Ortega’s writeup report does he identify any location in the cell where the “dangerous contraband” was supposed to be at. This raises the question of how it was located inside Ortega’s ISU/IGI office and not in our cell. And why he waited a week after completing the search and returning our property (except my missing Ashker v. Brown legal case documents) to suddenly produce that contraband?? And during that week made no mention of finding any “dangerous contraband” whatsoever!

On January 25th, I went before the ICC again on Ortega’s latest lockup order, at which time the committee extended my stay in solitary pending the disciplinary hearing, after which they would bring me back for my release to the MGP.

On January 26th, Ortega’s subordinate Hernandez sent the Ad. Seg. guard to escort us to the office to speak with him. We both asked, “For what? What do he want to talk to us about?” The guard shrugged his shoulders and said he “Don’t know.” And we exercised our constitutional right to remain silent and not talk to ISU/IGI.

On January 30th, while we were in the Ad. Seg. outside yard cage, Lt. Ortega approached the front of the cage and said, in an attempt to intimidate us: “You refused to talk with my officer?” We replied, “For what? What is it that you want to talk about? We know what you’re doing to remove me off the GP and try to keep me from returning. You have been disregarding and ignoring evidence of my innocence from the start on January 11th.”

Ortega said, “So you ain’t going to talk with us?” I answered, “For what. The writeup you falsified to put me in here was voided.” He responded, “I know, but if you don’t go talk with us, I will prolong your stay in here.” He then turned and walked off with that smirk on his face.

It was clear that Ortega and his ISU/IGI cohorts knew that they messed up with their planned scheme to set me up, remove me from the GP, and keep me locked up in solitary confinement. And this is no single, isolated case.

What many of you on the outside may not know is the long sordid history of CDCr’s ISU/IGI/Green Wall syndicate’s pattern and practice (here and throughout its prison system) of retaliating, reprisals, intimidating, harassing, coercing, bad-jacketing, setting prisoners up, planting evidence, fabricating and falsifying reports (state documents), excessive force upon unarmed prisoners, stealing their personal property (religious and wedding jewelry), as identified below.

Such as when the below-identified ISU/IGI/Green Wall “squad” ran into our Northerner (on B facility) and Southerner (on C facility) cells, assaulted and excessively forced them out, dragging them off the toilet, beds, etc., naked, down the iron stairs onto the concrete tier floor, degrading/humiliating/injuring them. And over just these last few years, these ISU/IGI/Green Wall guards have run around out of control, harassing, intimidating, etc. prisoners (especially those of our Ashker v. Brown class action legal case). Much of which is documented in CDCr’s Internal Affairs, Appeals Office, and/or court cases – complaints, appeals/grievances, excessive force, and/or employee misconduct.

Presently the Prison Law Office is conducting an investigation of these ongoing patterns and practices of overt/covert corrupt, unlawful activities by CDCr’s OCS-ISU/IGI/Green Wall here at SVSP (Lt. J. Ortega, Lt. M. Stem, I.J. Smith, Sgt. J. Vinson, Sgt. M. Valdez, Sgt. G. Segura, T. Flores, K.D. Melton, M. Hernandez, DeAnza, A.J. Franco, K. Castillo-Ruiz, and unnamed others).
See investigative reports and records of the Prison Law Office and CDCr-SVSP’s Internal Affairs.

And Governor Brown’s designated CDCr officials-Secretary Scott Kernan, Under-Secretary Ralph Diaz, Director Kathleen Allison, Associate Director Sandra Alfaro, and Chief of the Office of Correctional Safety – are all aware of the ISU/IGI/Green Wall out-of-control long history pattern and practice of corrupt activities (described herein) here at SVSP.

Note: CDCr’s Green Wall guards/employees were exposed by the US Northern District Court in the 1990s-2000s. See Madrid v. Gomez, and “Report on Powers, etc.” by John Hagar, Judge Henderson’s appointed special master.

Yet, decades later these CDCr officials have not only allowed this patterned practice to continue here at SVSP, but is targeting the Ashker v. Brown class members to remove us off the GP, place us back in solitary confinement, and obstruct/interfere/prevent those like myself (and others within the Prisoner Human Rights Movement) from the peaceful efforts to effect genuine changes, for rehabilitation, returning home, productively contributing to the improvement of our communities, and deterring recidivism.

Any prisoners who have been subjected to harassment, retaliation, reprisals, being set up, having evidence planted on them or in their property/work area, etc., physical assault/excessive force/cell extraction, theft of their personal property, falsification of documents (RVRs, etc.), wrongful removal from GP to solitary confinement, denial of meaningful due process, and so on: Contact the Prison Law Office, General Delivery, San Quentin, CA 94964.

Concerned citizens/members of the public, California state legislators, etc. can let high CDCr officials know that, enough is enough and join in this collective concern by contacting CDCr and Governor Brown and demanding:

1. CDCr/SVSP shall cease their retaliations against Sitawa N. Jamaa (Dewberry) and the Ashker v. Brown class members at this prison;

2. CDCr/SVSP shall immediately rein in and stop the out-of-control renegade Green Wall/ISU/IGI employees here at SVSP;

3. CDCr/SVSP shall cease the acts (overt and covert) of retaliation, reprisals, intimidations, harassments, coercion, planting evidence, setting prisoner up, bad-jacketing, fabricating and falsifying reports (state documents), and withholding evidence;

4. CDCr/SVSP shall cease their subordinates’ (OCS-Chief, ISU, IGI; Green Wall employees (to name a few, C/O J. Narvaez, C/O Sanquist, C/O Torres, C/O Guinn, Sgt. Howard, Sgt. Sandoval, C/O Santana, C/O Tonuto, C/O Vallejo, C/O Slnck, C/O, McClean, C/O Sanitos, etc.);

5. CDCr/SVSP shall cease its old culture and old thinking of OCS-ISU/IGI and Green Wall employees and order them to back off of Brutha Sitawa and those Ashker v. Brown class members, et al., working with him to change SVSP Facility C general population with rehabilitation;

6. CDCr/SVSP shall conduct its departmental investigation into the above-stated OCS/IGI/ISU-Green Wall culture, code of silence, and unlawful activities here at SVSP, and make their findings transparent and public, holding all involved SVSP employees accountable/responsible.

Also call the California legislature’s Public Safety Committee on Prisons and request Senator Holly Mitchell, and let her and her committee know that there are a lot of prisoners affected by this longstanding corruption of the ISU/IGI at SVSP.

I am one of many who have been (and continue to be) affected by IGI/ISU-Green Wall’s blatant corruption!!!

In Struggle!

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry)

Prisoner Human Rights Movement principal negotiator

©Feb. 1, 2018 Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa