Support Urgent COVID-19 Demand to RELEASE OUR ELDERS from California Prisons

photo collage of Baridi J. Williamson and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Baridi J. Williamson and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in a photo collage

Liberate our elders! Please join California Prison Focus (CPF) in demanding that Governor Gavin Newsom protect our incarcerated elders and peacemakers from COVID-19 by releasing them immediately. Read CPF’s letter below for more details.

Here’s the demand: Release all CA state prisoners who are medically fragile or over 60, starting with the authors of the Agreement to End Hostilities and followed by the remaining members of the Ashker Class Action Settlement.

Please call the Governor RIGHT AWAY and repeat this demand to whomever you reach. 1.800. 807.6755 , 916.445.0873
Copy CPF’s letter below and and send it to the Governor with your support! Message his office here: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ and email: stateinformation@state.ca.gov

Please forward this post or this SF Bay View article until the demand is met!

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ATTENTION: GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM AND RALPH DIAZ, SECRETARY OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS (CDCR)

DEMAND FOR IMMEDIATE STRATEGIC RELEASE
and Support Letter for the Principal Thinkers of the 2011 and 2013 California Prisoner Hunger Strikes and all members of the Ashker Class Action Settlement

California Prison Focus is calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom and Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz to act immediately under the current humanitarian health crisis to release imprisoned human rights activists and members of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) and Principal Thinkers who authored and signed the historic 2012 Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), including Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, Antonio Guillen and Todd Ashker. (See the full list of signers below.)

California Prison Focus stands by these human rights activists who were subjected for decades to the cruel and unusual punishment of long-term solitary confinement, who are not a threat to public safety and, to the contrary, are much needed in their communities.

These men are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, and thus immediate action under the Emergency Services California Act, Government Code section 8550, must be taken. In 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used these powers to immediately reduce prison overcrowding in California (CCPOA v. Schwarzenegger (2008) 163 Cal. App. 4Th 802).

We demand this same power be asserted today. These men have been historically stigmatized and devalued by CDCr; therefore, priority attention at the highest level of government is critical.

As we know, COVID-19 poses the greatest risk of death to people such as the elder peacemakers named above and others 60 and older, and all people who are medically fragile.[i] Many of these men with and for whom we advocate, have compromised immune systems, chronic illnesses and complex medical needs.

Their serious medical conditions, including Post-SHU Syndrome,[ii] PTSD, asthma, cancer, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, make them particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These conditions were caused or exacerbated by decades of deplorable conditions, abuse, and medical neglect while confined within CDCr solitary chambers, the Security Housing Units (SHUs).

Throughout 2016, CDCr was forced to release approximately 2,000 prisoners from indefinite solitary confinement in the SHUs. This victory came as a result of the heroic efforts of the organizers from the Pelican Bay SHU and the 30,000 participants of the 2011 and 2013 California Prisoner Hunger Strikes.

These hunger strikes propelled the Ashker v. Brown litigation that eliminated indefinite solitary confinement. Ultimately CDCr, which for years had presented these men as “the worst of the worst,” was forced to admit that the strike organizers and over 2,000 others who had been held in solitary confinement for 11 years or more could be released from SHU without risk to public or institutional safety.

Because of the sacrifices those individuals made, countless others have been saved from going through decades-long solitary confinement torture as they did.

“Release the elders.
We have to be mindful when talking about this corona virus in prison and how it affects us, that the prison population already has an issue with health and the lack of proper health care and treatment. The unsanitary living conditions in prison were already at an epic proportion and have been continuously deteriorating. With that being said, now we have this corona virus situation. And the elderly are at the highest risk.

“We need to look at the prisoners who they were supposed to start releasing in the first place after the Coleman Lawsuit and release them right now so they can be home with their families in a safe, non-genocidal environment, and where they won’t be affected or put other people at risk when they come up in here.

“We demand and we should demand that the elders be released on these terms. The 60 and over bill should be passed.”

— K.A.G.E. Universal Artivist, Ragee, from No Joke Theater at Lancaster State Prison

Since their release from SHU, these men have been promoting the Agreement to End Hostilities and alternatives to violence on the yards and throughout the prisons. They have been engaged in positive programming and mentoring the youth around them. Many are active in community-building and social justice work outside of the prison walls.

CDCr not only fails to recognize the huge contribution of these human rights activists, but has systematically retaliated against them and continues to undermine the Agreement to End Hostilities. CDCr’s use of confidential information that is often coerced and unreliable is one of several tactics being used to do so (see Prison Focus Issue 53, page 19 and PF Issue 56, page 9). Testimonies from incentivized informants result in manufactured rule violations used to impose loss of privileges and parole denials of one, three, seven or 15 years.

These are state-sanctioned policies being used to obstruct parole for those individuals that CDCr wishes to silence and/or retaliate against, and to undermine the Agreement to End Hostilities under the color of law. This is also how CDCr undermines decisions made by California voters and legislators with Propositions 57, 47 and 64; Senate Bills 260, 261, 394 and 1437; Assembly Bills 1308 and 1448; and other legislation passed to reduce California’s imprisoned population.

James Baridi WilliamsonRuchell MageeJames Baridi Williamson, Ruchelle Magee, Romaine Chip Fitzgerald, Louis Powell
Among the elder peacemakers who need and deserve immediate release are James Baridi Williamson, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Ruchell Cinque Magee, Romaine Chip Fitzgerald, and Louis Powell.

One of the Principal Thinkers who is 61 years old, survived 32 years in solitary confinement and has been incarcerated since 1981 – who is known as a peacemaker on the yard and often referred to as the Nelson Mandela of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement – recently suffered a stroke and still has not been released. Keeping him in prison is a flagrant violation of AB 1448, which was voted into law to provide an opportunity for release to those who are 60 or older and who have served a minimum of 25 years of continuous incarceration, such as this individual and six of the other elders who signed the Agreement to End Hostilities and are still in prison. Statistically, the chance of these men reoffending is negligible. This is not an issue of public safety, but rather of power and politics.

Keeping him in prison is a flagrant violation of AB 1448, which was voted into law to provide an opportunity for release to those who are 60 or older and who have served a minimum of 25 years of continuous incarceration, such as this individual and six of the other elders who signed the Agreement to End Hostilities and are still in prison.

Deliberate indifference by CDCr—another act of retaliation—including medical neglect, often has resulted in repeated misdiagnosis (such as asthma rather than a hole in the heart) causing significant injury to individuals, both physically and mentally, from which many continue to suffer. Today, those same lasting ailments are reportedly being untreated due to delays within the prison medical Duckett system, caused by the virus.

In addition, many of those who participated in the 60-day hunger strikes of 2013 now have lasting medical conditions such as compromised kidney function. One organizer and signer of the AEH, Raymond ‘Chavo’ Perez, has already died – in prison – after surviving 18 years in solitary confinement, leaving behind his wife and family, who were never able to welcome him home.

Of the 15 surviving signers of the Agreement, the median age is 59, and the average time served is 33 years. Each one of these men spent no less than eleven years in solitary confinement. Not only has the torture not been acknowledged nor restitutions made, not one of these men has been granted parole, despite the fact that their parole eligibility dates are as follows: 1982, 1984, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2016. These men have few if any valid behavioral violations against them.

Thus, the people who are at the greatest risk for death from COVID-19, who have contributed to a dramatic reduction of violence within California prisons, who pose the least public safety risk to our communities, and have the most to offer MUST BE RELEASED.

The California Hunger Strikers and members of the Ashker class settlement have suffered enough while in the custody of CDCr. These individuals had their constitutional rights violated for many years under the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment. Their illegally enhanced sentences must not be allowed to become death sentences.

To this end, we present the following demand for actions to be taken immediately:

Primary demands

  • RELEASE all adults in CDCR custody who are medically fragile or over the age of 60, starting with the authors of the Agreement to End Hostilities and followed by the remaining members of the Ashker Class Action Settlement and participants of the 2011 and 2013 Hunger Strikes. Apply AB 1448, California’s Elderly Parole Program for release of prisoners aged 60 and older who have been in prison for at least 25 consecutive years, as intended.

  • PROTECT THE RIGHT for the signers of the Agreement to End Hostilities, the members of the Ashker Class Action, and all 2011 and 2013 hunger strikers to be safe from retaliation as a result of these demands, including further torture, isolation or, as laid out in the Prisoner Human Rights Movement Blueprint, from being coerced, threatened and blackmailed to betray fellow prisoners with false accusations.

Supplemental demands:

  • Release to the public updates on the existing plan and procedures in place to address COVID-19 and how adequate care will be provided for all who fall under the Coleman and Ashker Class Action Settlements.

  • Expedite parole hearings and release all people who have anticipated release dates in 2020 and 2021 to parole supervision.

  • Provide free tablets within all CDCR institutions and facilitate email communication through Corrlinks services to support prisoners in the establishment and maintenance of family ties and bonds. This is needed to mitigate the closing of all visitations at CDCR institutions which adversely impacts family communication and bonds.

  • Support Nancy Skinner’s Senate Bill 1064, prohibiting an employee of, or private entity under contract with, the department from finding any state prisoner guilty of a rules violation if that finding or decision is based on, or relies on, in whole or in part, any uncorroborated information from an in-custody confidential informant.

  • Create transparency regarding the application of AB 1448, Prop 57 and other California resentencing laws so that they may be applied as intended.

  • DROP LWOP

  • Reduce jail admissions by reclassifying misdemeanor offenses that do not threaten public safety into non-jailable offenses and diverting as many people as possible to community- based mental health and substance abuse treatment.

  • Eliminate parole and probation revocations for technical violations for behaviors that would not warrant incarceration for people who are not on parole or probation.

  • Shut down immigration detention centers.

  • End police brutality, inside prisons and out.

Founding members of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement

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

These are the peacemakers, cherished leaders known as the “four main reps”: Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa.

“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 programs for the youth aim to break the cycle of violence. The programs we created show we are ‘the best of the best’ not ‘the worst of the worst.’”

– Solidarity statement from the four prisoner representatives, aka Principal Thinkers[iii]

“It’s only because of the Agreement to End Hostilities that I am now home, after 18 years. It’s because the agreement created a positive self-help environment where each group can now safely engage in the cultural exchange of materials, tools and ideas, in unity. It is because of these Principal Thinkers that there are no more mass race wars within California prisons, despite the false propaganda orchestrated by CDC small r, that these men are violent, dangerous, ongoing threats to public safety. We must liberate the elderly.”

– Min. King X of California Prison Focus and KAGE Universal, mentee of and outside delegate for the organizers of the 2011 and 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes

“The Prisoner Human Rights Movement and friends are demanding that prisoners who have been held over 25 years and beyond be released in the interest of justice, especially the elderly and all ill prisoners who are clearly vulnerable and at risk of not only dying from the coronavirus or suffering from a civil death – where men and women are left to suffer indefinitely – which falls under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.” – PHRM activist

AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES
August 12, 2012

To whom it may concern and all California Prisoners:

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

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

2. Therefore, beginning on October 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 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/privileges, including lifer conjugal visits, etc. via peaceful protest activity/noncooperation e.g., hunger strike, no labor, etc. 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, OCS, and SSU’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!! 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/CCPOA – Prison Guard’s 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 [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg Units], for decades!!!
We send our love and respects to all those of like mind and heart… onward in struggle and solidarity…

Presented by the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective:

Todd Ashker, C58191, D4-121*
Arturo Castellanos, C17275, D1-121
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C35671, D1-117
Antonio Guillen, P81948, D2-106

And the Representatives Body:

Danny Troxell, B76578, D1-120
George Franco, D46556, D4-217
Ronnie Yandell, V27927, D4-215
Paul Redd, B72683, D2-117
James Baridi Williamson, D-34288, D4-107
Alfred Sandoval, D61000, D4-214
Louis Powell, B59864, D2 – 117
Alex Yrigollen, H32421, D2-204
Gabriel Huerta, C80766, D3-222
Frank Clement, D07919, D3-116
Raymond Chavo Perez, K12922, D1-219
James Mario Perez, B48186, D3-124

*Please note: The list of signatories to the Agreement to End Hostilities has been copied verbatim from the original list. The cell numbers (e.g., D3-124) next to the Agreement drafters/signers’ names and CDCr #’s were part of their addresses in Pelican Bay State Prison SHU in August 2012 (not now).

'Signers of the Agreement to End Hostilities' info chart

[i] See The New Yorker article: A Rikers Island Doctor Speaks Out to Save Her Elderly Patients from the Coronavirus

[ii] Stanford HRTMH Lab Consultative Report on Mental Health Consequences Post-SHU. Mental Health Consequences Following Release from Long-Term Solitary Confinement in California

[iii] https://sfbayview.com/2020/02/the-four-california-prisoner-class-representatives-call-for-solidarity-and-change/


California Prison Focus works to expose and end human rights abuses against incarcerated people in California by acting in solidarity with and elevating the voices of those most impacted.

Summary of Ashker v. Governor of California

Summary of Ashker v. Governor of California

Settlement Terms

[from: CCR website]

When Ashker v. Governor was first filed as a class action in 2012, thousands of prisoners across the state of California languished in prolonged solitary confinement in Security Housing Units (SHU). At Pelican Bay State Prison alone, more than 500 prisoners had been held in the SHU for over 10 years, and 78 prisoners had been there for more than 20 years. They were warehoused in cramped, windowless concrete cells for almost 24 hours a day with no phone calls, infrequent visits through plexiglass preventing physical contact, meager rehabilitative opportunities, and no opportunity for normal social interaction with other prisoners. Their indefinite and prolonged confinement in this torturous isolation was based not on any actual misconduct but on vague and tenuous allegations of affiliation with a gang. Prisoners were routinely placed in prolonged solitary confinement for simply appearing on a list of gang members found in another prisoner’s cell, or possessing allegedly gangrelated artwork and tattoos.

In 2015, the plaintiffs agreed to a far-reaching settlement that fundamentally alters all aspects of this cruel and unconstitutional regime. The agreement will dramatically reduce the current solitary confinement population and should have a lasting impact on the population going forward; end the practice of isolating prisoners who have not violated prison rules; cap the length of time a prisoner can spend in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay; and provide a restrictive but not isolating alternative for the minority of prisoners who continue to violate prison rules on behalf of a gang.

1. The settlement transforms California’s use of solitary confinement from a status-based system to a behavior-based system.

Under California’s old regime, prisoners identified as gang affiliates were sent to SHU for an indefinite term based merely on their gang affiliation, regardless of whether they had ever violated a prison rule. The settlement transforms California’s use of solitary confinement from a status-based system to a behavior-based system: from now on, California will only send gang-validated prisoners to SHU if they are found guilty, at a hearing, of a serious “SHU-eligible” rule violation. These violations are now limited to the same violations that send non-gang-validated prisoners to the SHU: murder, violence against persons, threats to kill or assault, weapons possession, distribution of controlled substances, escape, disturbance, riot or strike, harassment, gang activity that leads to a serious rule violation, serious theft or destruction of property, extortion or bribery, certain sexual misconduct, and related attempts or conspiracy.

2. Validated gang affiliates who are found guilty of a SHU-eligible offense will enter a quicker two-year SHU step-down program for return to general population after serving their determinate SHU term.

Prisoners validated as gang affiliates in California used to face indefinite SHU confinement, with a review for possible release to general population only once every six years. Even when such reviews occurred, a single piece of evidence of alleged continued gang affiliation led to another six years of solitary confinement. That evidence was often as problematic as the original evidence used to send them to SHU – for example, a book, a poem, or a tattoo that was deemed to be gang-related. As a result, California held more people in solitary confinement, for longer periods of time, than any other state in the country.

Under the settlement, California will no longer impose indeterminate SHU sentences. Instead, after serving a determinate sentence for a SHU-eligible offense, validated gang affiliates whose offense was proven to be related to gang activities will be transferred to a two-year, four-step program. Prisoners will definitely be released to a general population prison setting after two years unless they commit another SHU-eligible offense while in the step-down program. While conditions at the steps remain harsh, prisoners will be allowed some telephone calls and rehabilitative programming at each step.

This new step-down program improves upon interim reforms unilaterally promulgated by the state after the Ashker complaint was filed. It cuts in half the time in the program from four to two years; provides increased phone calls, other privileges, and out-of-cell programming in the steps; and eliminates prisoners being kept in the SHU for either minor infractions or failure to engage in required behavioral programming.

Under this settlement, those prisoners who have refused to participate in step-down programming, or who have been found guilty of numerous acts of misconduct that don’t rise to the level of a SHU-eligible offense, will be transferred to a new unit established as an alternative to solitary: a Restricted Custody General Population Unit (RCGP). In this unit, described below, they will have the opportunity to complete the step-down program in a high-security but non-solitary unit, and earn release into general population.

3. California will review all current gang-validated SHU prisoners within one year to determine whether they should be released from solitary under the settlement terms. It is estimated by CDCR that the vast majority of such prisoners will be released to general population. In addition, virtually all of those prisoners who have spent more than 10 years in solitary will be immediately released to a general-population setting, even if they have committed recent serious misconduct.

The settlement requires speedy review of all prisoners currently held in a California SHU based on gang affiliation. With very limited exceptions, described below, those who have not been found guilty of a SHUeligible offense within the last two years will be immediately released to a general-population unit. Those with a recent SHU-eligible offense will be placed at the appropriate step of the step-down program, based on the date of the rule violation. It is currently estimated that only a small minority of those currently held in a SHU based on gang affiliation have a recent SHU-eligible offense, so that the overwhelming majority of prisoners should be released into general population under this settlement.

In addition, California has implicitly recognized the harm to prisoners from very prolonged solitary confinement by agreeing that those prisoners who have already spent 10 or more continuous years in the SHU will generally be immediately released from the SHU and placed in the RCGP to complete the step-down program – even if they have been found guilty of, or are still serving a sentence for, a recent gang-related SHU offense. Nor will anyone be involuntarily held in the Pelican Bay SHU for longer than five years for any reason. Even those prisoners who have been incarcerated in the SHU for more than 10 years and are currently serving a determinate SHU sentence for serious misconduct will be released to the RCGP to complete their SHU sentence and the step-down program unless California can show by a preponderance of the evidence that to do so would pose an unreasonable security risk.

4. California will create a new Restricted Custody General Population Unit (RCGP) as a secure alternative to solitary confinement.

The RCGP is a general-population unit designed to facilitate positive and meaningful social interactions for prisoners about whom California has serious security concerns, such that they would otherwise be placed in solitary confinement. As such, it may serve as a model for jurisdictions seeking to do away with solitary confinement altogether, while still ensuring prison security.

As part of a general-population unit, RCGP prisoners will be allowed to move around the unit without restraints, will be afforded as much out-of-cell time as other general-population prisoners, and will be able to receive contact visits. As a very high-security, restrictive-custody unit, its group activities will generally be in small groups, instead of large yards. For example, RCGP prisoners will have access to educational courses, a small-group recreation yard, small-group leisure activities and programming, some job opportunities and phone calls. Programming will be designed to provide increased opportunities for positive social interaction with both other prisoners and staff.

Three categories of prisoners will be sent to the RCGP: first, those who repeatedly violate prison rules while in the step-down program or refuse to take part in step-down programming; second, those who have spent over 10 continuous years in some form of solitary confinement and have recently committed a SHU-eligible offense; and third, prisoners against whom there is a substantial threat to their personal safety that limits their ability to be released into other general-population units.

5. Very prolonged solitary confinement will be severely limited and those confined provided significantly more out-of-cell time.

Because this settlement ends the prior practice of indeterminate SHU sentences for validated prisoners, generally prisoners will not be kept in the SHU for more than 10 continuous years, with a limited exception, called Administrative SHU. The settlement limits and ameliorates such prolonged solitary confinement by (a) setting up strict criteria for its use, (b) requiring increased out-of-cell time, and (c) providing for strong judicial review of its use. For example, where the Departmental Review Board has overwhelming evidence that a prisoner who has already served a SHU term presents an immediate threat such that he cannot be placed in general population, he can be kept in the SHU. Even in such instances, CDCR shall provide enhanced out-of-cell recreation and programming of a combined total of 20 hours per week, double the out-of-cell time of other SHU prisoners. During the agreement, CDCR’s decision is subject to review by Magistrate Judge Vadas, who is monitoring implementation of the settlement with plaintiffs’ counsel. The agreement states that CDCR’s expectation is that only a small number of prisoners will be retained in Administrative SHU. The Administrative SHU prisoners will have 180-day reviews in which staff will be required to identify efforts to move the prisoner to a less restrictive environment with the assumption being that these prisoners would be candidates to be moved to the RCGP. In addition, no prisoner may be held involuntarily at Pelican Bay SHU for more than 5 years.

6. Prisoner representatives will work with plaintiffs’ counsel and the magistrate judge to monitor implementation of the settlement.

The struggle to reform California’s use of solitary confinement has always been a prisoner-led movement. Indeed, the settlement was negotiated with the active participation of the prisoner representatives, who met as a group several times with counsel via conference phone calls, and who ultimately decided as a group to ratify the agreement. Under this settlement, prisoner representatives will retain their hard-won seat at the table to regularly meet with California prison officials to review the progress of the settlement, discuss programming and step-down program improvements, and monitor prison conditions. Plaintiffs’ counsel will receive regular documentation of all administrative-SHU and step-down placements, progress, and SHU-eligible rule violations. Along with Magistrate Judge Vadas, plaintiffs’ counsel will monitor all aspects of the settlement implementation. Magistrate Judge Vadas will be empowered to review and remedy any individual or systemic violations of the agreement. In addition, the settlement continues the ability of the prisoner representatives from around the state to confer as a group in a conference call with counsel to discuss the implementation and monitoring of the agreement.

The settlement also requires re-training of California correctional staff, and prohibits any retaliation for prisoners’ past and future involvement in the litigation or settlement monitoring.

The monitoring process under the settlement will be in effect for 24 months, with the opportunity to seek additional 12-month extensions upon a showing of continuing constitutional violations.

Prisoner Human Rights Movement: Agreement to End Hostilities has changed the face of race relations without any help from CDCr

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

In: SF Bay View, Jan. 28. 2015

It is incumbent upon all men prisoners across the state of California and globally to embrace the struggle of women prisoners as a whole. We, the four principle negotiators of our Prisoner Human Rights Movement – George Franco, Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) – recognize the women prisoner struggles and the PHRM supports them. These other prisoner activists do as well: D. Troxell, L. Powell, A. Guillen, G. Huerta, P. Redd, R. Yandell, J.M. Perez, J. Baridi Williamson, A. Sandoval, P. Fortman, Y. Iyapo-I (Alexander), A. Yrigollen, F. Bermudez, F. Clement and R. Chavo Perez.

“The Agreement to End Hostilities” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

“The Agreement to End Hostilities” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

These representatives, whom CDCr leading officials recognize as prisoner activists, are changing the face of race relationships within CDCr first, without any assistance from CDCr. Isn’t that amazing! The above named prisoner activists, along with the thousands of other prisoner activists throughout the California prison system, have changed the way prisoners should be treated as human beings.

I encourage all men and women prisoners to continue to press onward with our Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) through all corridors of state and county facilities.

Prisoners’ era of retrospective study and constructive struggle

We are beacons of collective building while clearly understanding that we the beacons must take a protracted internal and external retrospective of our present day prisons’ concrete conditions to forge our PHRM onward into the next stage of development, thereby exposing CDCr’s racial discrimination and racist animus tactics against our prisoner class. This is why our lives must be embedded in determined human rights laws, based on our constructive development of our scientific methods and laws. Therefore, through our concrete conditions in each prison, our struggle shall be constructed through our Prisoner Human Rights Movement representatives and negotiators.

The PHRM has realized that CDCr has been setting up prisoners and creating racial tension among all racial groups, from various geographical locations up and down the state of California. It has become abundantly clear to the PHRM that Gov. Jerry Brown is an outspoken racist and overseer who has clearly shown that his discriminatory practices are directed at minorities and people of color: New Afrikan (Afrikan Amerikan), Mexicans (Latinos) and White working poor, who have all been suffering blatant discrimination in county jails and state prisons.

Gov. Brown went out and hired the most blatant racist prison superintendent in the U.S. as his secretary of corrections. Yes, CDCr Secretary Jeffrey Beard is continuing to torture, isolate, maim, racially assault, and racially, religiously and culturally discriminate against prisoners.

Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard are continuing their practices of long term solitary confinement. Now, it is a known fact that Gov. Brown and his personally appointed CDCr Secretary J. Beard do not want to STOP racial tension within the CDCr or the state of California as a whole, because if they did, the historical document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, would have been distributed by the CDCr to all women and men state prisoners, county jail prisoners, youth authority prisoners, juveniles, probationers and parolees throughout this state.

The Youth Justice League brought the Agreement to End Hostilities to the hood on the day it took effect, Oct. 10, 2012, at a rally in front of the LA County Jail. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez

The Youth Justice League brought the Agreement to End Hostilities to the hood on the day it took effect, Oct. 10, 2012, at a rally in front of the LA County Jail. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez

Since Oct. 10, 2012, when the Agreement to End Hostilities took effect, to the present day, California women and men prisoners’ racial and cultural hostilities have decreased, without any assistance from Gov. Brown or his subordinate, Secretary of CDCr Jeffrey Beard. It is important that all citizens here in California and throughout the United States realize that Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard do not care about reducing the violence among prisoners, nor do they care about the safety and security of Californians who are not incarcerated.

Our civil rights are violated daily. We citizens realize that the safety and security of California prisoners and our neighborhoods throughout California will only come from the people, not from corrupt law enforcement agencies! Because we know that the majority of California law enforcement policies have been brutal to our inner city citizens – killing and maiming our family members – and that the brutality has been sanctioned by Gov. Brown and carried out by CDCr Secretary Beard et al behind California prison walls against all prisoners and especially Level 3 and 4 prisoners.

CEASE the human torture! CEASE the racial profiling, Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard!

I want everyone to know that I agree with my co-principle negotiators’ articles in the October 2014 SF Bay View newspaper: 1) “California prisoner representatives: All people have the right to humane treatment with dignity” on page 5 and 2) “Unresolved hunger strike issues” on page 16. I want to encourage everyone to subscribe to this newspaper. It is the voice of all people!

To all U.S. citizens and the world community, support our Prisoner Human Rights Movement!

We are fighting for human justice. We are upholding the U.S. Constitution and California Constitution and the liberties therein, while establishing the freedoms that our ancestors struggled for over the past hundred years in California.

Determined to preserve our human lives and those of all prisoners within the state of California, we, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement, call on all citizens to get involved with social change now. In the course of our work, PHRM realizes that it is natural that we should meet opposition from CDCr, because of their ignorance and lack of knowledge manifested whenever CDCr ruthlessly deceives and deprives prisoners of our human rights and civil rights daily.

With the dawn of this new prison era, the Prisoners’ Era of Retrospect and Construct, know what its essentials are; know its principles and strive to attain our goals and objectives in the truest sense of our Agreement to End Hostilities. We know what forced solitude causes: psychological and physical warfare, for prisoners and their outside family members as well.

Politically speaking, the world has changed and so have prisoners. Human progress means change, and today we need to prepare for a higher life, for tomorrow’s liberty – educationally, socially and politically.

Determined to preserve our human lives and those of all prisoners within the state of California, we, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement, call on all citizens to get involved with social change now.

No one wants to be tortured, dehumanized, racially profiled, religiously profiled and viciously targeted by acts of sensory deprivation by Gov. Jerry Brown’s state government and his California prison officials to implement the New Jim Crow, i.e., the Security Threat Group/Step Down Program (STG/SDP), which is actually criminal acts of torture by way of low intensity warfare. This is an act against all California citizens and humanity itself.

Our PHRM was threatened by CDCr officials and employees as we championed the cause of the Agreement to End Hostilities, and we thank God that our prisoner class did not fall prey to CDCr’s threats to destroy our AEH across this state. Prisoners hold their destiny in the palm of their hands and we shall not allow any prison correctional officers, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, associate wardens, chief deputy wardens, wardens, the director of adult institutions, the undersecretary or the secretary or even Gov. Brown to destroy our faith in humanity. The Prisoner Human Rights Movement shall stand as ONE clenched fist in solidarity against CDCr oppression.

I want to make it clear that Gov. Brown and Secretary Beard operate with the mentality of Donald Tokowitz Sterling, the former Los Angeles Clipper’s owner. Just review their policies, rules, laws and practices directed at all prisoners and their family members, relatives, friends and all citizens within this state.

We shall not allow even Gov. Brown to destroy our faith in humanity. The Prisoner Human Rights Movement shall stand as ONE clenched fist in solidarity against CDCr oppression.

Stand up against injustice. Stand up against racism. Stand up against sensory deprivation.

People, get involved in struggle!

Revolutionary love and respect!

Brutha Sitawa

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

CDCr Are Cold-blooded Executioners

CDCr Are Cold-blooded Executioners

By Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, January 1, 2015

As imprisoned activists, we’ve often asked society: What have your eyes seen, to wish to see no more? And what have your ears heard to wish to hear no more? Your self-imposed mute has only fueled the government’s thirst for fascist repression, and this repression has manifested on every level of society, causing humanity to hemorrhage, while debris from this hemorrhaging scorches the dissipating remnants of a deteriorating society. People, I don’t intend to be poetic, but it is imperative that this indictment tap into the depths of your rhythmic soul, with the hope that we are able to re-awaken your true sense of humanity, and restore your hearing and sight, so you can hear our voices, and see a society that is trapped within its own sins.

Some may even find the above paragraph contextually out of place at first glance, but it is a prerequisite necessitated by a society that for the most part has lost its moral vision, as well as its capability of humane discernment, compelling us to ponder over the possibility that our words will fall upon deaf ears. What was once morally reprehensible, is now immorally acceptable and justified under particular situations and/or circumstances, thus leaving humanity and justice at the dictate of a subjective scrutiny.

We can no longer assume that we are speaking to a society that is firmly rooted in the tenets of an ethical constitution, especially when the evidence of an impaired moral fortitude appears to permeate every social stratification. So, our question to ourselves as imprisoned activists and embedded reporters for the People is “How do we articulate a moral indictment on the subject of torture that is capable of penetrating the exterior periphery of a post 9/11 culture, where torture for the most part is no longer considered a crime or an act against humanity, but rather, as a tool to extract information, or as a weapon designed to censor, persecute, punish and ideologically subdue the imprisoned activists, or a governmental strategy designed to suppress the poor communities, the New Afrikan community in particular?”

Articulating the diabolical anatomy of torture for a post 9/11 society is no doubt a task that must be diligently executed, for it is too important an issue to allow subjective sentiments to cause us to neglect our responsibility as imprisoned activists. We are still obligated to serve, even a morally decaying society is deserving of being saved, and Yes, even if those who are doing the saving are imprisoned activists.

An Anatomy of Torture

When we speak about the anatomy of torture, this inherently encompasses its socio-political, socio-cultural and spiritual ramifications. The government deliberately omits this aspect to torture, which is the most pertinent and significant element, but the government also understands it is this very element that has the potential to ignite societal and spiritual expostulation, impeding their ability to torture as a political tool, both domestically and globally.

Most people, including the so-called experts tend to perpetuate a fundamental and erroneous interpretation of torture. People often perceive physical and psychological torture as two separate entities. Their hypothesis implies physical torture is exclusively physical, and that psychological torture is exclusively psychological. Contrary to this popular myth, their practical application and execution explicitly implies that both physical and psychological torture are one and the same, though two distinguishable components. But in practice, they are constantly interchanging, or morphing into one another, where the physical becomes the psychological, or vice-versa.

Psychological torture has a physical characteristic. Those under psychological torture also experience physical pain. Psychological torture, no question, produces an intense stress that eventually wreaks havoc on the body, burning the body on itself. Physical torture also possesses a psychological characteristic, but before we discuss the subject to torture further, let first be clear what it is.

Many people within the poor and oppressed communities look at torture in one dimension, not even realizing that they are constantly under the subjugation of government-sponsored torture, for example: when the pigs murder un-armed Black males, or murder a 12 year old Black Manchild, this is a form of torture, using government-sponsored violence as a tool of both psychological and physical torture. These acts of open terrorism are designed to instill fear into our community every time we step outside our homes. The threat of government-sponsored violence is always present, producing stress, which affects our physical health.

Post-9/11 made torture an acceptable evil, not only in the U.S. government’s so-called war on terrorism, but the government’s domestic deployment of torture socially acceptable among certain segments of society, not that this is a new phenomenon, and this radical change unfortunately became the catalyst for the prison industrial complex (PISC) to rapidly increase their torture program with impunity.

It is not even a question that both physical and psychological torture is a permanent reality throughout the Prison Industrial Slave Complex. The issue that presently confronts us, is the wide-spread acceptance of our torture, and not even considering the moral and social ramifications of a society that has lost its humanity? And then you wonder, how could a police officer murder a 12 year old Manchild, or a 70 year old Sista? Or a 6 year old Womanchild?

The social acceptance of torture domestically or globally should serve as an indictment of the absence of our collective sense of humanity! A society that is slowly dying and don’t even know it! Do you think that God would accept or tolerate our daily torture in his name? Do you not know that you as a member of this society will one day have to answer for turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the cry of human suffering at the hands of government-sponsored torture? I ask you to pray on this, if you are a true believer, for your humanity is under indictment! Put your hands up, your humanity has no rights to remain silent — speak out against torture!

Prisoners Human Rights Movement

We are beacons of collective building while clearly understanding that we the beacons must take a protracted internal and external retrospective of our present day prisons’ concrete conditions to forge our PHRM onward into the next stages of development, thereby exposing California Department of Corruption and Repression (CDCR)/ United States Prison System of Racial Discrimination, Cultural Discrimination and Racist Animus Tactics against our prisoner class.

This is why our lives must be embedded in our determined human rights laws, based on our constructive development of our continuous Liberation Struggle via our scientific methods and laws.

Therefore, through our Prisoner Class, concrete conditions in each prison/ U.S. prisons shall be constructed through our Prisoner Human Rights Movement.

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, December 1, 2014 © SNJ

Some people still think:

Prisoners deserve what they get. We have nothing in common with their behavior or criminality. We live in a Democracy. In America, the land of the free, the land of citizen-ship for all who wants to be free from all oppression and repression. A true society of equality and justice.

So it is said, but just for historical accuracy, let’s look under the underpinnings of the State and determine its true function and reality, for the above is simply a façade, a myth perpetrated for devious and immoral purposes by those who are truly the purveyors and architects of world domination and capitalist imperialism. For the contrary is really the reality.

Amerikkka is founded on the anti-poor and oppressed nationalities by the racist imaginations of depraved oligarchs, who expropriated their tactics and strategies from the Mussolini’s and Hitler’s of the world. The oligarchs refined and tested their tactics under their Jim Crow Laws and the Willy Lynch focus groups, among other tired and tested methodologies, which has led to a whole class of people who are now confined and isolated in a controlled environment, by orchestrating conditions whereby society would accept their detention (not on the open slave plantations, as they were as privileged) but as confined citizens un-aware of their true reality and peer power. Now, today, the encaptured are ‘law breakers’ and placed in state (government) sanctioned penitentiaries. Same slave mind set by the oligarchs, but now even more restrictive.

Not for purposes of reflection or to atone, or to do penance, but in reality, prisoners became test subjects to be experimented on in order to determine how much or to what effect misogynistic designs could be reasonably transferred to the real target audience, the Amerikkkan public. Yes, Amerikkka, in its satellites, law enforcement and prisons, dual purpose was to keep its prisons full and to employ methods to break the spirits, hopes, dignity, belief system and faith, of its inhabitant, and then to structure specific tactics to disguise such intent, so the public could never make any connections to their own existence. America has developed into a qualitative transitional paradigm, unifying its totalitarian imagining and fascism.

This nation has been actively micro-managing psychological, physical repressive, racist and anti-people oppression tactics of control via prisons with sensory deprivation, psychological and physical terroristic attacks on its helpless charges (Shades of Oscar Grant, Amadu Diallo, Levar Jones, Travon Martin…).

Prisons have focused in particular on a three prong attack of late:

  1. Righteous challenges and exposures by prisoners of the illegalities, barbarousness and murderess actions of the State of California
  1. Media complicity as well as other official organs of the State of California, to legalize its actions as legal and defensive.
  1. Intimidation through murder, brutality and a state-wide propaganda, or reflection, campaign, to outright attempts to temporarily appease and create a cosmetic, topical façade, especially if their acts are caught on tape!!

There is no separation or chasm between the general citizenry and its isolated captive class. So how do you rise up against a system that appears to the multitude or the confused and misinformed, to provide you with access to a home-tenement or apartment, car, food, electricity, etc, even as you know that the system also creates a world of death? Who murders millions and when millions hate you or at least your policies made by representatives you’ve elected? How do you muster the courage to step out of line and challenge concepts that you’ve always accepted as gospel, even as you suspect that the system is evil and does not represent the definition of freedom, justice, equality that you really believe in?

What can inspire and activate you to engage the monster called Amerikkkan capitalist imperialism under the guise of a democracy? Stand up and get involved with kindred spirits engaged in challenging the powers that be, in New York, in Los Angeles, in the Bay Area, in Ferguson, in San Francisco, so the prison movement can abolish security housing units. Subscribe to the Peoples news source, The San Francisco Bayview newspaper. These are excellent starting points of a concrete nature that will put you on the battle line to change the culture of oppression. Realize what is on-going in these in these Koncentration Kamps prisoners are the leading to your doorstep.

As Clyde McKay so illustriously states, “If we must die, let it be on our feet and not on our knees. Dying but fighting back.” Let’s reclaim our dignity and humanity in concerted activities and actions with others. Know we fight for a New World.

These people (prison guards, officials) can lock us up here inside many of their control unit cages, but they, our captors, shall never stop our struggle for justice to all Prisoners!!! – SNJ © October 10, 1994

The above teaching, expressed by Brutha Abdul Olugbala Shakur (J. Harvey, C48884, CSP-COR 4B-1L-25, PO Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212) was transferred to said location after the opening of this revolutionary message to the world, Peoples Lives Matter, and Brutha Larry Woody Woodward (E81171, 4B-7C-104, PO Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581) equally shared how California and the United States operates its State and Federal prison systems, which have an adverse effect upon the people/ citizens of the State of California and this country. (i.e., prisons and poverty!!)

I commend these Bruthas as two warrior leaders on one side and citizens on the other side in a replica of the relations of our oppression. Our revolutionary (i.e., fundamental process of change) has the foresight of constructive dialogue with the people of California under the pretext of educating and organizing them. (i.e., Prisoners and Citizens) ensuring a united front via Prison Human Rights Movement (PHRM) and we shall not allow for CDCr or its secret agency of some thirty (30) years. “We are the final judgment society (WFJS)” This is what Kamala Harris, of the California Attorney General office, should be investigating, this rogue CDCr agency and the billions of wasted tax payers money.  Stay tuned.

We can no longer just express the contradictions of our tormentors, therefore it’s a mandate that all prisoners offer their solutions, for we are not reporters, we are a culture of PHRM activists who have dealt with complicated subjects (Legal, Cultural and Political), for we are the prisoner activists within the (PHRM) across the state.

Let me emphasize that my defense could be divided into a prior stage of reflection and a subsequent stage of action. It is clear that a critical analysis of our STG/SDP reality may however, reveal that a particular form of non-violence peaceful protest (Action) has to enter our struggle for justice at this stage of development, and our critical reflection is also action. For CDCr has to realize that it has 300,000 prisoners in CDCr who have been suffering in the General Populations for years. In fact, the thousands of Ad Seg and SHU –SDP don’t really fear their over-due freedom from CDCr’s wicked solitary confinement. The PHRM dialogue with the people has created and radically authenticated our PHRM.

Our (PHRM) journey of 2010, was chosen and made possible, not just by the four (4) Principal Negotiators (PNs) for the prisoner class, nor by the prisoner class for the (PNs) but by both acting together in our PHRM UNSHAKABLE SOLIDARITY. – SNJ © 2014

We (PHRM) as a whole, state-wide, and as the local council operating throughout CDCr shall be instituted at all SHUs (i.e., SDP) and on each General Population, for levels II, III and IV prisons, for we represent the full interest of all prisoners irrespective of one’s nationality or geographical location. This is what our PHRM represents, and our four (4) principal negotiators (PNs) are Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, Todd Ashker and myself, Brutha Sitawa. We are the voices that speak directly to CDCr administrators (i.e., J. Beard, and all of his various senior administrators) since 2011, and we have changed the course of how CDCr conducts their affairs with solitary confinement prisoners and the entire California prisoner class (including General Population) under our Prisoner Human Rights Movement, PHRM.

Prisoners cannot allow for themselves to be bamboozled and hoodwinked by CDCr’s smoking glass and mirrors. Our fate is within each prisoner and guided by our PHRM and the Four Principle Negotiators, and all of the PHRM local councils at your prison (and not those CDCr elected inmate advisory councils, IAC). And no prisoner should be under CCR Title 15, Section 3230, which states that all IAC are under the CDCr/ IAC constitution. What’s up with that??!

The PHRM works on behalf of all prisoners and not for CDCr. CDCR is continuing to beat, maim, murder and torture prisoners, daily!  Cease the inhumane treatment! Cease the mental torture, and CDCr: Cease your crimes against prisoners’ humanity!!

PHRM!   In Struggle !!

Bruthas Sitawa, Abdul and Woody

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

s/n R.N. Dewberry  C35671
CCI 4B-7C-209
P.O. Box 1906
Tehachapi  CA  93581

Abdul Olugbala Shakur
s/n J. Harvey, C48884
CSP-Cor 4B-1L-25
P.O. Box 3481
Corcoran CA 93212

Larry Woody Woodward, E81171
CCI, 4B-7C-104
PO Box 1906
Tehachapi, CA 93581

California prisoner representatives: All people have the right to humane treatment with dignity

Main reps mark the first anniversary of suspension of the 2013 Hunger Strike and the second anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities

by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos and George Franco

October 2nd, 2014, published in the SF Bay View

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.

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.

An unknown prisoner in solitary confinement drew how it feels to be entombed indefinitely.

The only “program” in the Step Down Program is a mandatory requirement to fill out meaningless journals that have nothing to do with rehabilitation – rather, they are about petty hoops for longterm SHU prisoners to jump through. The step incentives are so small as to carry very little real value or meaning for a majority of prisoners. They don’t meet our Supplemental Demands.

In fact the SHU at Tehachapi, where they send Pelican Bay SHU prisoners who have “progressed” to “better steps” in the SDP, have less visiting, more filthy cells, horrible toxic water, no pillows, nasty mattresses, rags for cloths, used mattresses, loud noises and some officers who are brutal racists.

Some of the privilege opportunities we won for SHU prisoners as a result of our struggles exist only at Pelican Bay. Some mean a lot to us but, in the long view, are trivial.

We need to get rid of the “mandatory” aspect of the ridiculous journals. We need to touch our loved ones and they need to be touched by us. We need to hug our mothers, fathers, wives, children, brothers, sisters.

We need more packages and phone calls and photographs. We need the same canteen that general population gets. We need overnight family visits. Up until mid-1986, all SHU prisoners were allowed to receive contact visits.

Ultimately, we call for California to end the shame of their policy of solitary confinement for innocuous social interaction.

Prisoncrats propagate the 800-plus case-by-case reviews to date as evidence that their STG-SDP is a new program. The last statistics showed that almost 70 percent of prisoners reviewed were released to general population – including some of us who have been kept in these concrete boxes buried alive for decades.

These statistics prove something entirely different. They are factual data showing, proving that for decades 70-plus percent of us have been inappropriately confined, isolated and tortured.

It is CDCR’s senior people who are ruling that we have been inappropriately confined. These high release statistics prove without a doubt that the force of public condemnation, of united peaceful activity by those of us inside and our human rights supporters outside are required to keep CDCR from continuing their intolerable abuse.

We call for California to end the shame of their policy of solitary confinement for innocuous social interaction.

CDC argues that the transfer of Pelican Bay SHU prisoners to other SHUs at Corcoran, New Folsom or Tehachapi SHU cells or to various general population prisons proves they have taken measures to address the horrors and inappropriate use of SHU. In fact, even with the large numbers of prisoners being transferred out of SHU cells, there are no empty SHU cells.

Across the system prisoners are being validated for art, innocuous social interaction and for lies and misrepresentations about our mail by confidential informants who escape the SHU themselves by accusing others of behavior that cannot be defended against because we are sent to the SHU for accusations that we do not know the specifics about!

We are isolated for confidential, uncorroborated “ghost” accusations with no due process review – because solitary isolation is categorized as an “administrative housing assignment” and not punishment. CDCR is filling up the SHU cells as fast as they are emptied.

CDCR administrators admitted in August 2011 that the programs and privileges sought in our demands were reasonable and should have been provided 20-plus years ago. Up until mid-1986, all SHU prisoners were allowed to receive contact visits, but no longer today. Why not?

CDCR hopes to destroy our sense of collective structure and our collective unity. We hope to expand our sense of collectivity as we spread out. We work to keep all opinions open, to think through new ideas and options for peaceful activity to shut down the reckless use of isolation and other abuses.

California uses solitary isolation more than any other state in the United States, both in absolute numbers of prisoners isolated – 12,000 in some form of isolation on any given day – and in terms of percentage of the prison population. The United States uses solitary confinement more than any other country in the world – 80,000 prisoners in some form of isolation as part of the practice of mass incarceration and criminalization of life in poor communities.

“Step Down Program” – Art: F. Bermudez

CDCr cannot deny these facts. Our decades of indefinite SHU confinement and related conditions therein are what led us to peacefully rise up and make our stand as a united collective of human beings – and we have been clear about our opposition to the Security Threat Group-Step Down Program. The prisoner class human rights movement is growing and we’ve succeeded in exposing this nation’s penal system torture program – nationally and internationally.

This mainstream level of attention and global support for the prisoners’ cause is unprecedented and it will continue to grow – so long as we all remain united and committed to doing our part.

Our peaceful actions have demonstrated that we are not powerless and the concrete fact is that the operation of these prisons requires the cooperation of the prisoners – thus, the prisoners do have the power to make beneficial reforms happen when we are united in utilizing non-violent, peaceful methods such as hunger strike-work stoppage protests and forms of non-cooperation.

We are thinking about how to extend this power peacefully across the prison system to make these institutions more focused on rehabilitation, learning and growing so that our return to our communities helps us all. Following and living by the principles in the Agreement to End Hostilities can help make this happen.

With the above in mind, we remind all interested parties that this ongoing struggle for reform is a “human rights movement,” comprised of united prisoners, outside loved ones and supporters. The PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement’s 20 volunteer representatives remain united, committed and determined about achieving the Five Core and Forty Supplemental Demands and the principle goals of the August 2012 “Agreement to End Hostilities,” with the support of all like-minded members of the prisoner class, outside loved ones and supporters.

Our primary goal remains that of ending long-term solitary confinement (in SHU and ad seg). This goal is at the heart of our struggle.

California uses solitary isolation more than any other state in the United States. The United States uses solitary confinement more than any other country in the world.

Along the way we are also committed to improving conditions in SHU, ad seg and general prison population. We make clear that any policy that maintains the status quo related to the placement and retention of prisoners into SHU and ad seg cells indefinitely is not acceptable – regardless of what programs or privileges are provided therein.

We have rejected CDCR’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program and presented our reasonable counter proposal for the creation of a modified general population type program for the purpose of successful transitions between SHU and general population. CDCR’s top administrators have refused to negotiate, insisting upon moving forward with their STG-SDP. We are evaluating options.

Again, we need an end to the “mandatory” aspect of the ridiculous journals. We need to touch our loved ones and they need to be touched by us. Until mid-1986, all SHU prisoners were allowed to receive contact visits. There is no legitimate basis for not allowing them now.

We celebrate the brothers who are getting out of the SHU after decades of confinement and understand the willingness to participate in the current CDCr charade.

We recognize those brothers in Corcoran and others who are refusing to participate in the SDP.

We’ve patiently observed the political process at issue for the past year, since such was the basis for “suspending” our 2013 action, and it’s becoming clear that those in power are still not seeing us as human because they refuse to end long term solitary confinement – in spite of international condemnation – ensuring the continuation of such psycho-social extermination policies.

Lawmakers’ refusal to abolish indefinite solitary confinement in response to the established record of abuse and related damage it causes to prisoners, outside loved ones and society in general – supported by the record of the joint Public Safety Committee hearings – supports our position that we are subjected to systematic, state sanctioned torture. This is a permanent stain upon this nation’s human rights record. Their continued refusal will require us to re-evaluate all of our available peaceful options.

Keeping all of the above points in mind, we respectfully encourage people inside and outside these walls to commemorate this two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities by joining with us in living by these principles inside and outside these prison walls.

We remain united, onward in struggle, always in solidarity.

  • Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP SHU D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP SHU D1-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • George Franco, D-46556, PBSP SHU D4-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

Agreement to End Hostilities

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, 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. 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 prisoners and our best interests. 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!

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.

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

Presented by the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective: Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) and Antonio Guillen; and the Representatives Body: Danny Troxell, George Franco, Ronnie Yandell, Paul Redd, James Baridi Williamson, Alfred Sandoval, Louis Powell, Alex Yrigollen, Gabriel Huerta, Frank Clement, Raymond “Chavo” Perez and James Mario Perez

Editor’s note: Long-time readers may be curious why George Franco has replaced Antonio Guillen as the Northerner among the four main reps. Franco was one of the original four-man group but was sent to Corcoran during the first hunger strike. When he returned to Pelican Bay, he was moved from the pod where decisions were made. Antonio then stepped in. An attorney working closely with the reps reports both exchanges were very friendly.

 

Letter from Pelican Bay Prisoner Representatives to Members of the California State Assembly & Senate

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

 

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191

Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275

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

Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

May 1, 2014

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

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

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

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

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

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

4) Provide adequate food; and,

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

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

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

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

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

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

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

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

Antonio Guillen: May Day message to the working class people of the world from Pelican Bay SHU

By Antonio Guillen
From: SF Bay View, May 8, 2014

I am one of the hunger strike representatives from Pelican Bay State Prison. I along with my family are also part of the working class people of America.

As a young boy coming from a working class family, I’d watch my parents in their daily struggles try as best they could to feed, house and clothe their children. More often than not, barely making it with little or no money left to spend on themselves.

As a man, while on the streets, I’d grow to experience those same struggles as my parents. Trying to find a good job with decent wages but always seeming to just scrape by from paycheck to paycheck. Even now, while I’m in prison, my wife and children are part of the daily grind that is the work force!

Although I’ve been away for many years I still remember the pain and the struggles that are intimately linked in the toils of the working class. And, for that reason, I’d like to extend my deepest and most sincere acknowledgement and respect to ALL the good people of labor on this reverent International Workers Day!

Power to the people!

Strength and respect,

Antonio Guillen

Send our brother some love and light: Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP SHU D2-106, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.