PTSD SC: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement

photo collage of Baridi J. Williamson and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

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

Published in the SF Bayview, February 26, 2018

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Baridi J. Williamson

California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) had been locking classes of prisoners up in solitary confinement since the ‘60s as part of CDCr’s para-military low-intensity warfare, to break the minds and spirits of its subjects, California’s prisoner class. CDCr’s solitary confinement has two operating components: 1) punishing you and 2) physically and mentally destroying you.

In the 1970s, CDCr’s report to then Gov. Ronald Reagan on revolutionary organizations and gangs resulted in Reagan ordering the CDCr director to lock up all radicals, militants, revolutionaries and jailhouse lawyers who were considered “trouble-makers.”[i] And a 1986 report by the CDCr task force stated that during the ‘60s and ‘70s, California’s prisoners became “politicized” through the influence of outside “radical, social movements.”

And conscious prisoners began to “demand” their human, constitutional and civil rights,[ii] as exemplified by those politicized prisoners of war (PPOW) like W.L. Nolen.[iii] In the late ‘60s, Nolen and other PPOWs filed a civil rights class action case challenging the inhumane, degrading conditions and institutional racism that was prevalent at Soledad Prison’s solitary confinement O-wing,[iv] as well as throughout CDCr’s prison system to date.

The 1986 CDCr task force report recommended that CDCr build “supermax” prisons for this politicized class of prisoners, which was echoed by the California prison guards’ union (known today as CCPOA) in continuing their low-intensity warfare upon California prisoners up into and through the ‘80s.

Shortly thereafter, California government through its apparatus CDCr, built its solitary confinement torture sites, such as Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Administrative Segregation (Ad-Segs) at Tehachapi in December 1986, New Folsom in December 1987, Corcoran in December 1988 and at Pelican Bay State Prison in December of 1989. All were designed with the malicious intent to destroy human lives through their diabolical low-intensity warfare scheme of mass validation – group punishment – indeterminate SHU classification and enhanced “debriefing” interrogation, known as “snitch, parole or die!”

Each of California’s governors and CDCr cabinet secretaries from 1977 to 2015 knowingly enhanced their system to become more repressive upon the prisoners held in solitary confinement in the SHUs. We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

California’s CDCr – with the winks and nods of lawmakers and judges – has held countless prisoners in solitary confinement, whether it is called Ad-Seg, Management Control Unit, Adjustment Center, SHU or Administrative SHU, longer than any prison system within the United States, ranging up to 45 years of torture and acts of racial discrimination from Soledad Prison’s O-wing to PBSP’s new form of solitary confinement torture.

The case of Madrid v. Gomez was the first acknowledgement on the part of California authorities and judiciary recognizing the harm that CDCr had been causing – mental torture – to those held in solitary confinement across the state’s prison system.[v]

We prisoners have known for the past decades that California citizens have not condoned the torture of California prisoners. Nevertheless, since the ‘60s, each state governor and legislature knowingly sanctioned solitary confinement torture.

The Madrid case touched on the harsh conditions and treatment toward the solitary confinement prisoners at PBSP. It is a clear fact that during the years 1989 to 1994, PBSP had one of the most notorious Violence Control Units (VCUs) in the U.S. CDCr-PBSP officials utilized the VCU for to violate prisoners’ human, constitutional and civil rights by beating us and destroying the minds and spirits of so many of us for years.

An example of how some prisoners would find themselves forced into PBSP’s VCU is when the CDCr bus would arrive at PBSP and park outside the entrance doorway to solitary confinement – Facilities C and D. A squad of goons dressed in paramilitary gear with black gloves, shields and riot helmets would be there waiting. They called themselves the “Welcoming Committee.”

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating and scalding prisoners. See Madrid v. Gomez.

The Welcoming Committee would select one or more prisoners and pull them off the bus – usually choosing those the transportation guards accused of “talking loud.” They would take each one to the side and jump on him, then drag him off through the brightly lighted doorway.

These guards, describing themselves as the Green Wall guard gang, using “G/W” and “7/23” as symbols for “Green Wall,” would roam through the SHU corridors assaulting, beating and scalding prisoners.

When the rest of the prisoners were escorted off the bus into the corridor to be warehoused in the general SHU cells, they would see those beaten prisoners dragged off the bus “hog-tied”[vi] and lying on their stomachs or crouched in a fetal position, sometimes in a pool of blood.[vii]Later, they were dragged off to the VCU, where they were targeted with intense mind-breaking operations.

When these prisoners were eventually taken out of VCU and housed in the general SHU cells, they mostly displayed insanity – smearing feces all over their bodies, screaming, yelling, banging cups, throwing urine.[viii] And it was only when prisoners began to go public about the VCU at PBSP that CDCr ceased those practices.[ix]

The effects of solitary confinement at PBSP compelled CDCr to establish Psychiatric Service Units (PSUs) in response to the Madrid ruling for remedying the conditions that were destroying the minds of all prisoners who were held captive from the time of the Madrid ruling in 1995 through 2014, but they were poor and ineffective. Those released to the PSU from SHU fared no better than others held in solitary confinement at PBSP.

Prisoners in SHU continued to suffer mental, emotional and physical harm with no remedy made available by CDCr until we were released out to General Population units by the Departmental Review Board (DRB) between 2012 and 2014 and the Ashker v. Brown class action settlement in 2015.

These released prisoners were coming from a torture chamber, where by necessity they created coping skills like self-medicating. Typically, when coming out of solitary confinement, women and men prisoners show signs of depressive disorder and symptoms characteristic of self-mutilation, mood deterioration and depression, traumatic stress disorder, hopelessness, panic disorder, anger, obsessive-compulsive disorder, irritability, anhedonia, fatigue, feelings of guilt, loss of appetite, nervousness, insomnia, worry, increased heart rate and respiration, sweating, hyperarousal, serious problems with socialization, paranoia, loss of appetite, as well as cognitive issues, nightmares, muscle tension, intrusive thoughts, fear of losing control, and difficulty concentrating.[x]

Prisoners in SHU continued to suffer mental, emotional and physical harm with no remedy made available by CDCr until we were released out to General Population units by the Departmental Review Board (DRB) between 2012 and 2014 and the Ashker v. Brown class action settlement in 2015.

The California prison system realized that these prisoners held initially at PBSP and subsequently at Tehachapi and throughout the system had their constitutional rights violated under the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment guarantee of due process of the law, for decades.[xi]

Jules Lobel of the Center for Constitutional Rights and lead counsel in Ashker stated:

“The torture of solitary confinement doesn’t end when the cell doors open. California’s continued violation of the Constitution and new evidence of the persistent impact of prolonged solitary confinement requires CDCR to make essential changes in their conduct and rehabilitative programs, and, more broadly, demonstrates the urgent need to end solitary confinement across the country.”[xii]

The Ashker v. Brown class action, settled in 2015, is a historic lawsuit exposing those violations and the harms they cause. We, as California prisoners and citizens of this state, deserve to be treated for the intentional cruelty caused by state-sanctioned torture. This is especially so for the hundreds of solitary confinement prisoners who have spent more than 27 months in any form of solitary confinement, which constitutes torture, according to the Ninth Circuit.[xiii]

CDCr has continued to shun its governmental responsibilities and has not effectively remedied the pain and suffering of thousands of solitary confinement prisoners who have been released to General Population through the DRB and Ashker. All of them are suffering from various aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Solitary Confinement (PTSDSC).

We, as California prisoners and citizens of this state, deserve to be treated for the intentional cruelty caused by state-sanctioned torture.

If you are reading this, join us in writing, emailing and calling Gov. Brown (916-445-2841 or jerry.brown@gov.ca), Secretary of CDCr Scott Kernan (916-324-7308) and Sen. Holly Mitchell (916-324-7308 or http://sd30.senate.ca.gov/e-mail-holly), who chairs the Public Safety Committee overseeing CDCr, and demand the following government actions be taken to remedy the decades of damage done to us:

  • That CDCr provide statewide men’s and women’s PTSDSC support groups modeled after the “Men’s’ Group” program we created at Salinas Valley State Prison Facility C, which has been approved by the administration – wardens, community resources managers (CRMs) – for our PTSDSC class and is only awaiting locating a sponsor to get started;
  • That CDCr allow all PTSDSC prisoners to go through this six-month relief program at their respective GP locations;
  • That CDCr provide effective in-service training of staff in fairly and respectfully dealing with PTSDSC class members, including in appeals, disciplinary and medical matters;
  • That CDCr adopt all recommendations in the 2017 report of the Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab at Stanford University, detailing the ongoing negative health consequences that Ashker class members have suffered following their release from long-term solitary confinement into GP:
    • Provide peer-facilitated support groups for all PTSDSC class members; and
    • Provide independent psychiatric care for all PTSDSC class members to receive PTSDSC mental and emotional health and psychological services in this form.
  • That Gov. Brown and the California legislature order the Board of Parole Hearings to stop denying our PTSDSC class members who are serving life sentences a fair opportunity to be released home, thereby doubly punishing and torturing us because we were unlawfully kept in solitary confinement without due process and exercised our constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest with hunger strikes to be released, refusing to debrief and become their snitches.

In struggle!

Prisoner Human Rights Movement

©Dec. 1, 2017, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Baridi J. Williamson. Send our brothers some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry), C-35671, and Baridi J. Williamson, D-34288, SVSP C-118, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad CA 92960.

[i] See “CDCR Task Force Report on Gangs, Violence and SHU,” 1986, citing CDCr’s 1971 “Report to Gov. Ronald Reagan on Revolutionary Organizations”

[ii] Same as above

[iii] See “Melancholy History of Soledad Prison,” by Min Yee

[iv] See case of W.L.Nolen, et al. vs. Fritzgerald, Warden of Soledad Prison (1969)

[v] See Madrid v. Gomez (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D.Cal., no. c-90-3094), 889 F.Supp. 1146 (1995)

[vi] See Madrid, above, at footnote 5

[vii] See article, “Potty Watch: PBSP Human Rights Violations” by the Freedom & Justice Project, published in Prison Focus April 2011

[viii] See Madrid

[ix] See PBSP SHU prisoners’ letters and interviews, Pelican Bay Information Project (PBIP)

[x] See 2017 Stanford University lab report by the Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab, detailing the ongoing negative health consequences Ashker class members have suffered following their release from long-term solitary confinement into the general prison population.

[xi] Ashker v. Brown, class action (U.S.N.D.Cal. no. 09-cv-05796-CW) settlement 2015

[xii] Walker, Taylor, “Two Years After End of Indefinite Solitary in CA, CDCR Violating Terms Of Settlement, and Inmates Experiencing Lasting Psychological Effects, Says Center For Constitutional Rights,” 11/22/17, WitnessLA, witnessla.com

[xiii] See Brown v. Oregon Dept. of Corrections, 751 F.3d 983, 988 (9th Cir. 2014)

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Update on the riot that took place at Kern Valley

2/12/2017

Now as to the riot, there were 128 involved, 13 injuries and 7 of those went to the outside hospital. Only 3 of those injuries are Brotha’s. All sides agree on how it happened: a mentally ill Mexican guy walked over to the New Afrikan court and slapped one of the Brotha’s for no reason. The rest was reactive self-defense from all parties involved. We had a meeting (New Afrikan Representatives and Mexican Representatives) and everyone agrees, it’s in no one’s interests to break the ‘Agreement to End Hostilities’ over a nut.

One of the things we explained to the Administration is the last 3 incidents involved severely mentally ill prisoners – I mean straight hearing voices, hallucinating men who need genuine professional, around the clock care. They keep putting them out here and they keep flipping out.

They (Admin.) agreed, but there’s nothing they can do, Sacramento (Classification) says they must also be housed in G.P. [General Population]. But this issue is over and squashed. We have another meeting set up for Tuesday to solidify the peace. Let everyone know everything is alright. All will be well.

Our Uphill Battle

“When doubt becomes an anchor towards you meeting the task of fulfilling your objective. Just remember youmade it this far because you were strong enough to get there. So there’s no reason to doubt your potential when your potential is capable of overcoming any given circumstances.”
– Quoted by: Dr. Ladaro J. Pennix,II and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n R. Dewberry)

July 10, 2016
The uphill battle for progressive change is an ongoing relevance that should never be forsaken by the menial-perks that our overseers oblige us with as a way to pacify us “Captive Warriors” who have endured the onset of being Prisoners of War of Solitary Confinement (POW-SC), and who were abused by the very overseers sworn to uphold the liberties of our safety and security.

Though great strides have occured from the grit of our sacrifice, this struggle is not over and should never be dependent on the complacency of what we already have coming. Here at Salinas Valley State Prison, we as a community (Black, Brown, and the other Captive Warriors), have committed ourselves to restoring progressive and effective program to C-yard facility.

Because C-yard facility still possesses the remnant of GreenWall’s foul (old-school) overseers, we continue to find ourselves subjected to the problematic aggression of our overseers who continue to create a hostile environment as a means to impede our progression.

But we cannot submit to the nefarious tactics designed to cripple the motivation of our self-determination. We are Captive Warriors who have endured the unthinkable and have come out of it ever stronger and more driven than ever!… The machine that drives us is a tenacity to refuse to submit to an unjust system. This is the commonality that weaves the tapestry of our initiatives and consolidates our agendas to stand firm in our progressive push for the development of program reform that allows no CAPTIVE WARRIOR to be left behind. Change is here!! And our overseers have no choice but to get on board or submit to a progressive change of justice, and reform, the likes they could’ve never anticipated.

As Executive Body members of the Inmate Advisory Council (I.A.C.), Brother Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n R. Dewberry) and I have become fierce advocates at not just maintaining the presence of peace of all Captive Warriors, but also in concert with all tribes we have forced our overseers to hold themselvse accountable when particular chaos-agents (officials) attempt to insert flagrant schemes to disrupt the momentum of advancement that we have been able to maintain amid the ambience of our captive milieu.

Because of this fact, we will always be targets of our overseers, simply because they are not ready for change, and such change threatens the status quo in which they have become accustomed to. But this will not sway us from standing firm to the cause! This is bigger than us! We are here for the people. We are here to protect every “Captive Warrior’s” equal liberties and allow them a chance to have reform through progressive programs so that like the “R” in CDCR, Rehabilitation can become a tangible fact and no longer a vague notion to a possibility.

“The people come first – always. We are the people and today the people speak.”

In Solidarity,
Dr. Ladaro J. Pennix,II and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n R. Dewberry)

Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

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

BLUE PRINT 

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

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

FREEDOM OUTREACH PRODUCTION
December 1, 2015

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT
#1
Blue Print Overview

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

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

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

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

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

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS for Blue Print

OVERVIEW by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Prisoner Human Rights Movement BLUE PRINT

Prisoner Human Rights Movement (“PHRM”)

PHRM Principle Negotiators, Reps, Plaintiffs, Local Councils

I. Monitoring Reports on 33 State Prisons

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

III. Instituting the Agreement to End Hostilities

IV. Legal PHRM Political Education

V. Freedom Outreach

Conclusion

APPENDIX

All Appendices can be found at www.prisonerhumanrightsmovement.org

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

#2 Second Amended Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#3 Supplemental Complaint, Ashker v. Brown

#4 Settlement Agreement, Ashker v. Brown

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

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

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

#8 – Mediation team publications

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

#9 – PHRM LEGAL PRISON ACTIVISM EDUCATION Packets*:

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

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

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

 

PRISONER HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT

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

Continue reading

A Look at California’s Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement

A Look at California's Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari -page 1

A Look at California’s Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari-page 1

A Look at California's Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari -page 2

A Look at California’s Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari -page 2

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.

Solitary Confinement: A “Social Death” – NYT on “Shocking” Data from CCR Case

A video the New York Times published, accompanying the article Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life (August 3rd, 2015, by Erica Goode) shows Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd talking on camera about solitary confinement, being locked down without any hope, with no ending in sight:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000003831139&playerType=embed


This comes from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and it is about the Case Ashker v. Brown, in which the New York Times used research, including the 10 expert reports and a video with 4 of the class action representatives (Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd).

Today’s New York Times science section features a front-page piece about the research that CCR commissioned and compiled for our ground-breaking challenge to long-term solitary confinement. “Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life” introduces to the public the 10 expert reports we submitted to the court in Ashker v. Brown, the class-action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in solitary in California’s Pelican Bay prison. Together, this research presents an unprecedented 360-degree look at the science behind how and why solitary confinement causes irreversible physical and mental harm.

According to the expert reports, prisoners subjected to prolonged solitary experience a form of “social death” that is not cured upon release, but rather lingers as a “post-SHU syndrome” characterized by social withdrawal, isolation, and anxiety. One researcher said it was “shocking, frankly” that some prisoners endure decades of isolation. The Science Times piece is accompanied by a moving video of our clients.

The reports also provide evidence that the profound impact of solitary is not just psychological; SHU prisoners experience unusually heightened levels of hypertension, placing them at risk for serious health consequences. The international and domestic experts agree that such prolonged isolation is not only unnecessary for prison security, but actually counter-productive, as well as a violation of international law.

The expert reports – by leading scholars in psychology, neuroscience, medicine, prison classification, prison security, international law, and international corrections – are part of the discovery phase of our case. They are critical to our argument that prolonged solitary confinement violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

But the reports do more than support our case. They help the growing national movement to end solitary. By bringing public scrutiny to the severe physical and psychological harm our clients and so many others are suffering as a result of their isolation, we hope to continue turning the tide against this form of torture until it is eradicated from the U.S. once and for all.