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.

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

by Mutope Duguma

Published earlier on the SF Bayview and on Sitawa.org

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

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

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in July of 2018

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in July of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Love, One Struggle,

Mutope Duguma

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

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa with arms crossed 2017

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa with arms crossed, in 2017

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


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

 

California protest demands ‘End solitary confinement!’

Published in The Militant:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

Don’t let CDCR reverse our hunger strike-won legal victory: Statement of prisoner representatives on second anniversary of Ashker v. Brown settlement

From: SF Bayview:
STATEMENT OF PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES ON SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF ASHKER V. BROWN SETTLEMENT

Oct 14, 2017 marks the 2 year anniversary of the approval of the Ashker settlement. We celebrate our victory in the Ashker case, in which virtually all of the over 1600 prisoners then languishing in indeterminate SHU were released to General Population. This victory was achieved through 3 hunger strikes and the non-violent legal and political action of thousands of California prisoners, their families, supporters, and their attorneys.

However, unfortunately our general monitoring is due to run out after two years unless the Court grants an extension. We believe that CDCR is still engaged in constitutional violations that deny prisoners due process and seeks to put us back in the hole, for many, indeterminately under the guise of Administrative SHU. Our attorneys will seek an extension of the agreement due to CDCR’s systemic violations of the constitution. We don’t know what the court will do, but we do know that prisoners and their families have to re-energize our human rights movement to fight against the continuing violations of our rights. Examples are:

· CDCR’s continued misuse of Confidential Information to place prisoners back in the SHU, particularly with bogus conspiracy charges;

· The lack of out of cell time, programming and vocational programs in Level 4 prisons. The last letter of CDCR stands for rehabilitation, and there is almost no rehab programs and opportunities in the level 4 prisons. They function like modified SHUs;

· The denial of parole to lifers and Prop 57 prisoners who have clean records simply because of old, unconstitutional gang validations and CDCR’s illegally housing us in SHU for years;

· The turning of the Restrictive Custody General Population Unit which was supposed to be a GP unit where prisoners who had real safety concerns could transition to regular GP, into a purgatory where the only way out is to either debrief or die;

· CDCR promulgation of new regulations which gives the ICC discretion to put people back in the SHU, allows for many prisoners to be placed in the future in indeterminate Administrative SHU, or to be placed in the RCGP on phony safety concerns.

We must stand together, not only for ourselves, but for future generations of prisoners, so that they don’t have to go through the years of torture that we had to. We need all prisoners – young and old -to make our collective outcry public to ensure that the victory that we have won is not reversed by CDCR behind closed doors. Ultimately, we are the ones who are responsible for leading the struggle for justice and fair treatment of prisoners. That is why we entered into the historic Agreement to End Hostilities, and why it is so important that the prisoner class continue to stand by and support that agreement. We cannot allow our victories to be nullified by CDCR’s abuse of power, and may have to commit ourselves to non-violent peaceful struggle if CDCR continues on its present path.

We need everyone- prisoners, their families and the public – to send comments on CDCR’s proposed regulations to staff@aol.ca.gov, send emails and letters urging Gov Brown to sign Assembly Bill 1308, make sure that prisoner complaints about unfair treatment are publicized, and to work together to rebuild our prisoners human rights movement.

We cannot let CDCR increase its use of prolonged solitary confinement either by misusing confidential information to place prisoners in SHU on phony conspiracy charges, or through increasing the use of Administrative SHU. As the Supreme Court stated over one hundred years ago in the 1879 case of Wilkerson v. Utah , it is “safe to affirm that punishment of torture…and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty are forbidden by that [the Eighth] Amendment.” The admired historian Howard Zinn noted the application of that decision to the modern SHU: “All we need then, is general recognition that to imprison a person inside a cage, to deprive that person of human companionship, of mother and father and wife and children and friends, to treat that person as a subordinate creature, to subject that person to daily humiliation and reminder of his or her own powerlessness in the face of authority… is indeed torture and thus falls within the decision of the Supreme Court a hundred years ago.”

Sitawa (S/N Ronnie Dewberry), Arturo Castellano, Todd Ashker, George Franco

Via CFASC – https://familyunitynetwork.org/cfasc/

PHRM: Our Fifth Year to the Agreement To End Hostilities: Recognize Our Humanity!

We are within our 5th Year of the August 2012 historical document “AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES.” followed by the PHRM’s third and the largest Hunger Strike within the State of California and equally larger then any Hunger Strike within the United States federal and state prison system, to which there were over 30,000 Prisoners here in California who participated (that is, from Solitary Confinement and the General Population. We (PHRM) have decreased California Prison Melees in half over the past five years with NO assistance by CDCr: SVSP, PBSP, New Folsom, Kern Valley, SATF, Lancaster, Centinela, High Desert, etc. Officials.

5 Reps of the PHRM: Sitawa, Todd, Arturo, Antonio, George

5 Reps of the PHRM: Sitawa, Todd, Arturo, Antonio, George

These historical acts of courage were led by the four Principal Negotiators Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry, C-35671), Todd Ashker, C-58191, and Antonio Guillen, P-81948, along with the Sixteen known Representatives, and along with our Unsung Heroes throughout CDCr.

We Salute Our Fallen Heroes
We shout out to the Families of those who died during the Historical Hunger Strikes (2011-2013), and to the Families who lost Loved Ones during the (AEH) struggle For Equal Justice, “Christian Gomez, Alex Machado, Alonzo Hozel Blanchard, A. “Baby Paya” Morales,
Billy “Guero” Sell, Johnny Owen Vick, and Hugo “Yogi” Pinell.”

“We also want to warn those in the General Population that [CCPOA guards & their Supervisors] will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer ‘inmates’ amongat 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 (that is, forcing CDCr to open up all GP main lines, and return to a rehabilitative-type system of meaningful programs/privilages, including lifer conjugal visits, etc. via peaceful protest activity/non-cooperation, e.g., hunger strike, no labor, etc. etc.).
People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics, and need to refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos end reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU, OCS, and SSU’s old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!!!”
(quoted from AEH, #3)

CDCr Secretary Kernan, Undersecretary Diaz, (DAI) Director Allison, Director Alfaro (of High Security Prisons) and Governor Brown have all been notified or the crisis here at SVSP C-Facility.

The lack of rehabilitative programs (i.e., Vocational Carpentry, etc.) here at SVSP and throughout the system remains dysfunctional.

Those within the PHRM here at SVSP C-Yard, who were released from

Laudatory Chrono for Sitawa Nantambu Dewberry for his mentorship in the prisoners' designed program Life Cycle

Laudatory Chrono for Sitawa Nantambu Dewberry for his mentorship in the prisoners’ designed program Life Cycle at Salinas Valley State Prison. Sitawa was the first mentor to interact with the youth at the event, May 24, 2016

Solitary Confinement over the last three years, have created our own Juvenile Divergent Program called “LIFE-C.Y.C.L.E.” (“Careless Youth Corrected by Lifers’ Experiences”), and this program has successfully for the past fifteen months conducted five Seninars, bringing in At-Risk Youth from the local Monterey County to guide them, while mentoring other prisoners. During the Seminars, the Youth share their thoughts and understandings of not wanting to come to prison, and what their goals are, that they will set for themselves to prevent that from happening.

The PHRM prisoners have realized that CDCr has caused harm to them over the past 2, 10, 20, 30-40 years of Solitary Confinenent. We – as Class Members of the PHRM here at SVSP C-Facility realize the negligence and adverse impact of that devastating ordeal coming out here to a partial General Population (G.P.). And we realized once again CDCr failed to acknowledge the harm that they caused to us, therefore, we took it upon ourselves to establish our our supportive MEN’S GROUP in order to cope with the devastating harm that was caused by Solitary Confinement.

The purpose of this MEN’S GROUP is to serve as a diverse multi-cultural support group for both those prisoners in- and being released to the G.P. from Solitary Confinement sucessfully settle-in, be provided access to rehabilitative pre-Parole Board (SR 260/261) Self-Programs, etc., that CDCr/SVSP are mandated to make available for all G.P. prisoners.

The primary purpose of the MEN’S GROUP is for the Participants to mentor and aid one another. Our Group’s vision brings a sense of community, respect and responsibility that springs from the 21st century insight of collective minds who have united in solidarity and have mutually agreed to end hostilities among racial groups. This historic agreement will continue to bring ahout substantive changes to the CDCr system of non-rehabilitation.

On November 3rd, 2015, the PHRM had discussed with Warden Muniz, Chief Deputy Warden Hatton, and Associate Warden Bienkale about the need for this type of Support Group to address the cause and effects of Solitary Confinement upon our re-entry into the G.P. These administrative officials’ response was positive and was witnessed by the outside citizenry activists hosting the event, Mary Lou, Barrio Unidos (Santa Cruz), Actor Danny Glover, and Mr. Kahn, Peace Academy.

We were told to prepare and submit our proposed Self-Help Support Group to AW Bienkale via SVSP’s Community Resource Manager (CRM) Carol Hernandez, which we immediatele completed.

However, since November, 2015 to April, 2017, CDCr-SVSP has continued to not address these serious matters of concern. Although, on the occasions when we speak with Muniz (and Bielkale in Nov., 2016), they are supposedly going to initiate the MEN’S GROUP (according to AW Bienkale). But to date they have failed to approve it, which left hundreds of prisoners suffering from the effects of solitary confinement with no administrative support.

We (PHRM) have been integrated into some of the worst CDCr 180/270-designed prisons in the State, not considering these same men were held illegally in Solitary Confinement up to forty-plus (40+) years and their Humanity is now again being withheld by new Green Walls/Old Culture. Yet, prisoners held at SVSP (facility-C) face the bigotry and prejudice by the Senior Correctional Officers and supported by their Supervisors (eg., Sgts) who allow for all new C/Os to be trained and taught the Old Culture/continual Green Wall.

Scott Kernan, CDCR Secretary, Ralph Diaz, CDCr UnderSecretary, Kathleen Allison, Director of Adult Institutions: Recognize Our Humanity and correct your Staffers’ here at SVS Old Culture Mentality here at SVSP forthwith.

In Solidarity,

Prisoner Human Rights Movement – Local Council (PHRM-LC)
Picture of Sitawa's signatureSitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry C-35671)

Photo of Sitawa in July of 2016

Sitawa in July of 2016

PHRM PRINCIPAL NEGOTIATOR

29 March, 2017 © SNJ

Sitawa.org

PrisonerHumanRightsMovement.org

typed by AP on April 16, 2017

Sitawa: Exiting solitary confinement – and the games CDCr plays

Published in the SF Bayview, December 29, 2016

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

It is very important that you all clearly understand the depth of human torture to which I was subjected for 30-plus years by CDCr and CCPOA.* The torture was directed at me and similarly situated women and men prisoners held in Cali­fornia’s solitary confinement locations throughout CDCr, with the approval and sanc­tioning of California governors, CDCr secretaries and directors, attorneys general, along with the California Legislature for the past 40 years.

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa hugs his sister, Marie Levin, for the first time in 31 years. For 31 years, he never felt a friendly touch. He says that as he hugged his sister, he thought of the 16 close family members he had lost during those years, including his mother, in 2014.

They have al­lowed for their own citizens – prisoners – to suffer horrible crimes with their systematic process of physically and mentally killing prisoners for de­cades, with no regard for human life.

I was placed in solitary confinement – the SHU – on May 15, 1985, on trumped-up, illegal and fabricated state documents by two leading CDCr lieutenants, Criminal Activity Coordinator (CAC) Lt. L.O. Thomas and Lt. Suzan Hubbard of North Block Housing (NBH) at San Quentin State Prison. Yes, these two leading lieutenants removed me from San Quentin general population, not for alleged criminal acts or rule violations, but for the politics of the revolutionary New Afrikan political organization and the beliefs and cultural views of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF).

I was targeted by CDCr prison officials at San Quentin during 1983 on up until I was removed from the gener­al population (GP) and housed in San Quentin’s Control Units within their solitary confinement housing building, North Housing Unit (NHU). The sole reason for my housing there was that I was educating all New Afrikan prisoners on San Quentin’s GP about our rich New Afrikan history behind California prison walls and across the United States.

I was teaching them that we as a people shall not be forced to deny ourselves the rights in the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution. Yes, I person­ally believe that every New Afrikan woman and man has the right to protest any CDCr Jim Crow or Black Code-type rules or laws which violate our human rights as a person or prisoner.

And so I was educating my people to our civil rights and human rights in the California prison system during the 1980s while I was within the GP. I continued to educate my people, the New Afrikan nation, when I was placed in solitary confinement from 1983 to Oct. 11, 2015. It was a tragedy for three decades – yes, 30-plus years I was forced to suffer all forms of torture and witness killings of human life at the hands of CDCr officials and staff for decades, aided and abetted by governors, stakeholders, the Legislature, CDCr directors and secretaries etc.

The New Afrikan Prisoner Government (NAPG) has suffered and endured the violent attacks upon our prisoner community for decades on all levels and functions at the hands of CDCr employees. We have a U.S. constitutional right to resist any form of tor­ture, repression and violations of both our human and civil rights.

I was placed in the SHU, not for alleged criminal acts or rule violations, but for the politics of the revolutionary New Afrikan political organization and the beliefs and cultural views of the New Afrikan revolutionary leftist organization titled the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF).

I shall not be found among the broken men and women! I shall live and die a warrior for our New Afrikan Nation and humanity!

After being transferred from CDCr’s solitary confinement at the Pelican Bay SHU to its Tehachipi SHU during the period of July 10-17, 2014, including a layover in the hellish Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation) unit at Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI), it would not take long before the CDCr officials at CCI (Tehachapi) would show their collective scheme to have me assassinated as the New Afrikan principal negotiator plaintiff in the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit.

During our peaceful protest by the solitary confinement prisoner class (SCPC) against Steps 3 and 4 of the CDCr-CCI Step Down Program (SDP), we collectively stopped participating in the dysfunctional SDP at CCI-Tehachapi Prison on May 11, 2015. This was because the SDP has been violating our SCPC liberty interest arising from the Due Process Clause itself, and CDCr had to stop its SDP from imposing stigmatizing classifications and concomitant behavior modification. I realize now that the SDP between 2012 and 2015 violated our constitutional rights, and it still does.

In an obviously sinister campaign to undermine the collective solidarity of our historic Agreement to End Hostilities, these officials tried to manipulate the other racial groups supporting the AEH to turn against me.

First, SHU Counselor Vanessa Ybarra went to one of our 16 Prisoner Human Rights Movement representatives, Gabriel Huerta, and tried to get him and other reps to turn against me, asking Huerta, “Why do you all let that Black inmate speak for you all during this boycott of the Step Down Program? My supervisors want to know.” Correctional Counselor II B. Snider, Capt. P. Matzen, Associate Warden J. Gutierrez, Chief Deputy Warden W. Sullivan, Chief Deputy Warden Grove and Warden Kim Holland are the supervisors she was referring to.

However, things did not go as planned because Brother Gabriel saw right through what this counselor and her supervisors were trying to do in creating a hostile, antagonistic atmosphere and consensus against me by my peers. First, Gabriel asked the counselor, “Who are you talking about?” Then the counselor replied, “Dewberry.” Dewberry is my given last name.

And Gabriel told that counselor, “Dewberry is one of the four principal negotiators who represent the Prisoner Human Rights Movement’s prisoner SHU class. And he is one of the main plaintiffs in the Ashker v. Brown class action lawsuit against CDCr, and he has been speaking on behalf of prisoners from 2010 to right now and he speaks for our best interests as our prin­cipal prisoner negotiator!” The counselor turned around and walked out of the sallyport area.

In an obviously sinister campaign to undermine the collective solidarity of our historic Agreement to End Hostilities, these officials tried to manipulate the other racial groups supporting the AEH to turn against me.

Next, the second attempt was by another SHU counselor from 4B building named Vaca, who approached the PHRM representative and other prisoners, then said, “You prisoners should go back to participating in the Step Down Program or all of you who are boycotting the SDP will not be released to the general population this year (2015) or next year (2016), all because you are listening to that Black prisoner.”

When Gabriel Huerta asked Vaca, “What Black prisoner are you referring to?” the counselor responded, “I’m talking about Dewberry. By the way, Huerta, since when do you Mexicans follow what this Black prisoner says?” The Rep refused to play into that old CDCr manipulation game and terminated the conversation by telling the counselor, “You can take me back to my cell,” and left.

This collage for an article in support of the hunger strike leaders shows Sitawa in 2012 and in 1988, when he was known as Ronnie Dewberry. – Photo: Adithya Sambamurthy, CIR

So neither of the attempts worked, because Brother Gabriel recognized what time it was. He summed it up in these words: “CDCr had been manipulating and playing us against each other in the past. They can’t do that any longer.”

This life-threatening CDCr campaign leading up to my release out of SHU in October 2015 would be followed by the unprofessional, illegal attitudes and actions by CDCr employees awaiting me as I entered the general population. It was necessary to understand their motives in their dealings with and around me.

Upon my preparing to allegedly be released to general population, I was notified on Aug. 11, 2015, that I would be attending my first Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) hearing in over 30 years which had any meaning. Let’s put this “ICC” into perspective as to why these ICC hearings now have merit for the solitary confinement prisoner class (SCPC).

We the SCPC had to take our struggle to the streets of this world by participating in three non-violent peaceful protests. In the first, commencing July 1, 2011, a total of 6,600 woman and men participated. And when CDCr failed to honor the agreements made to end it, we the SCPC were compelled to enter our second non-violent peaceful protest on Sept. 26, 2011, in which a total of 12,600 men and women participated across this state.

CDCr begged for us to discontinue our protest and allow for them to make the necessary interdepartmental major changes which would release the longest held SCPC first. The four principal negotiators – Brutha Sitawa, Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and George Franco – along with our 16 Pri­soner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) representatives decided to suspend our protest in mid-October 2011 and allow for CDCr to show their good faith efforts to reform their illegal solitary confinement policies, laws and rules and place all 10,000 SCPC women and men onto a fully functional general population by Feb. 1, 2013.

We vowed to resume our protest to death or until CDCr negotiates with us in a real way. Yes, on Feb. 1, 2013, the four principal negotiators announced to our tormentors – CDCr, the governor, the Legislature, the attorney general and stakeholders – that we would resume our protest on July 8, 2013, being that CDCr wants to wage their war of attrition against me and similarly situated SCPC.

We the SCPC had to take our struggle to the streets of this world by participating in three non-violent peaceful protests.

On July 8, 2013, we entered into the largest hunger strike in prison history. Some 30,000 prisoners participated and our just cause forced Gov. Brown, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, all CDCr secretar­ies between 2010 and 2016 and their stakeholders, who all had the current data, to recognize the torturous conditions we SCPC had to endure for decades. I was one of thousands held at Pelican Bay, and I don’t want another woman, man or child to be forced to suffer what I went through. We SCPC observed and suffered the cruel and devasta­ting harm caused by CDCr.

On Aug. 11, 2015, I was approached by Building 8 Correctional Counselor I Vaca at approximately 8:25 a.m. at my cell door for the sole purpose of preparing my central files for possible release to a general population. Vaca informed me that I am the first solitary confinement prisoner class member whose case files he is currently reviewing and that I am scheduled to appear before a full ICC on Aug. 19, 2015.

Now, within a two-hour time period, this same counselor, Vaca, appeared at my cell door with a sinister smirk on his face suggesting that I could now appear before this ICC hearing “tomorrow,” Aug. 12, 2015.

Counselor Vaca was too enthusiastic for me to attend the earlier hearing, so I told Vaca, “I’ll stick to the original schedule date of Aug. 19, 2015,” instead of his suggested new schedule. This counselor was upset at me for sticking with the original ICC hearing date, which was very strange to me and it warranted me to reflect upon his previous misconduct of trying to manipulate and influence other California racial groups – Southern Mexican, White and Northern Mexican – to breach our Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH).

I was one of thousands held at Pelican Bay, and I don’t want another woman, man or child to be forced to suffer what I went through. We SCPC observed and suffered the cruel and devasta­ting harm caused by CDCr.

Vaca had personally tried to have a leading prisoner of each racial group to silence – assassinate – my voice of prisoner activism directed at CDCr and CCI (Teha­chapi) officials. These veteran prisoners did not fall for Vaca’s tactics of divide and conquer; they stayed true to our Agreement to End Hostilities.

Now, on Aug. 12, 2015, Hugo Pinell was set up by CDCr officials at New Folsom Prison and killed [by white prisoners]. CDCr delayed my scheduled hearing for over a month and during said time period, three special agents came to interview me about the murder of Mr. Pinell. These three special agents pulled me out of my Tehachapi Prison cage for an interview on Aug. 14, 2016, two days after the murder of Mr. Pinell.

These agents were dispatched by CDCr Secretary Jeffrey Beard and then Undersecretary Scott Kernan [now Secretary Kernan] to come and interview me and two other New Afrikan prisoners and others. The concern that was expressed to me was, how do I feel about the death of Mr. Pinell and would there be an all-out war between the two racial groups?

These are my thoughts in relation to Mr. Pinell’s assassination and my release to a general population: I had expressed to these three special agents, first and foremost, “Why did you all travel from another part of California to speak with me about a death that I have no facts on other than listening to the radio?” I told said agents, “I shall be engaging myself in pushing the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH). Mr. Pinell would not want for us to enter into a war conflict, especially after we signed the AEH back on Aug. 12, 2012.

[Photo in original article: Over the three years of hunger strikes, as the prisoners were making the ultimate sacrifice, risking their lives for freedom from the tortures of indefinite solitary confinement, supporters outside held an astounding variety of demonstrations to win the world’s support. One of the most successful and dramatic was Occupy 4 Prisoners that brought hundreds to the San Quentin gate on Feb. 2, 2012. CHP tried to prevent anyone from attending by prohibiting parking within a mile and harassing the demonstrators marching to the rally. Marie Levin, as usual, was a major speaker; her husband Randy is at her side. – Photo: Bill Hackwell]

“And we, the PHRM, must see that our historical document, the Agreement to End Hostilities, remains firm to our cause and objectives, which are to radically change CDCr’s behavior directed at the Solitary Confinement Prisoner Class, and those of us who have been released to the general population are responsible for enforcing our AEH here behind the walls of California prisons and jails and to curb all community violence across this state outside of prison.

“You agents wasted a trip to come and speak with me. So, when you go back to report on my pro-AEH comments concerning Mr. Pinell’s murder, let your superiors – that is, Gov. Brown, CDCr Secretary Beard, Undersecretary Kernan and the chief of the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) – know I shall request that you, CDCr, allow for us to be re­leased to the general population forthwith. For we have been held illegally for the past one to 40 years.”

These three special agents never did answer my question as to why did they travel from the state capital to the mountain of Tehachapi Prison to speak with me prior to my being released to the general population. It became a concern to me, be­cause I know that CDCr did not condone our AEH historical collective solidarity document and its objectives. This raised some serious questions in my mind as to why these government officials would direct these agents to interview me. A question they refused to answer.

As you all can imagine, I was suspicious at best about whether I could expect any good faith from CDCr supervisors, officials or staffers upon my release from Tehachapi Prison solitary confinement housing, head­ing toward Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP).

On Oct. 13, 2015, I arrived at SVSP receiving and release (R&R), and upon my exiting the CDCr transportation bus and entering the R&R, I was met by three Institution Gang Investigators (IGI), the welcoming crew awaiting me. I was then es­corted into a property storage room where it was only the four of us.

Now, these three IGI officers wanted to know my state of mind as it related to the assassi­nation of Mr. Hugo “Yogi” Pinell. I simply informed them that I will be pushing the AEH when I’m allowed to be released to the yard with all racial groups and especially with all of my New Afrikan Prisoner Government (NAPG) and ex­plain to all people the importance of the AEH and that I personally signed off on that historical document. Yes, the IGI made their usual threats.

Now, within the next 10 days, I was allowed to attend the exercising yard, where all of the Afrikan tribes embraced me as their own Big Brutha! As in all situations, I went into my political prisoner activism mode in changing this modified general population prison into an actual functional general population.

There is minimal change. The CCPOA (prison guards) have been doing everything in their power to stop, delay or hinder and obstruct prisoners from being afforded work assignments and real educational opportunity. We are denied full exercising yard hours, vocational trades, the same dayroom time as other 180-design prisoners.

Correctional officers and sergeants continue verbal harassment with their Green Wall attitudes. It is clear that the above-mentioned CDCr employees have an ingrained dislike for all prisoners who are being released from California solitary confinement (SHU) chambers to CDCr modified general populations.

There is minimal change. The CCPOA (prison guards) have been doing everything in their power to stop, delay or hinder and obstruct prisoners from being afforded work assignments and real educational opportunity.

Now, just consider having to be faced with the above matters being denied to me and similarly situated prisoners, while preparing to have my first contact visit with my family in 30 years. Yes, I was compelled to close the lid on the jar and withhold all of this corruption and wrongdoing from my family.

Photo of Sitawa, Marie Levin, Randy her husband, 2016

Sitawa received his first contact visit from his sister Marie and her husband Randy, here on another visit, 2016

Upon my first visit to see my Queen, my sister, Marie A. Levin, and her husband, Randy Levin, my sister Marie left home in such a rush to come see me that she left her California ID at home, and I was unable to see her that Saturday, but I did have the opportunity to have a conversation with my brother-in-law. It was a great time for the two of us. Now, the following day, Sunday, I was able to see Marie and Randy together, without that thick shield of plexiglas between us.

Now, for the first time in my imprisonment, I was somewhat shaken to the inner core of this New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist man by a simple hug from my young­er sister, Queen Marie, during our October 2015 visit. A hug should be a natural form of affection between a brother and sister. However, while my sister was squeezing me so tightly, all I could think about during those moments was of the family members who died, and I will never be able to hug or speak with them again.

They include:

1) Stella, my cousin, who died in 1989;
2) Leon, my big brother, who died in 1991;
3) Steven, my nephew, 1994;
4) Morris, my uncle, 1994;
5) Tanner Birk, my uncle, 1995;
6) Tutter, my aunt, 1995;
7) Lonnie, my uncle, 1995;
8) Hillard Jr., my uncle, 1997;
9) Ardis, my cousin, 1997;
10) Ardis Sr., my uncle, 2002;
11) Bobbie Dean, my cousin, 2004;
12) Clifton, my uncle, 2009;
13) James “Ba-ba,” my cousin, 2009;
14) Carol, my big sister, 2010;
15) Nathan, my cousin, 2010; and
16) Queen Mama, lost April 28, 2014.

Another rally that not only garnered support from outside but raised spirits inside was at Corcoran Prison in the Central Valley on July 13, 2013, during the last hunger strike, where the prisoners were suffering the summertime heat combined with gnawing hunger. On a “solidarity fence,” notes composed of quotes from some of the leading strikers were pinned to a fence to inspire the demonstrators. This is a quote from Sitawa.

Each one of them was denied the right and opportunity to physically touch me for over 30 years illegally, due to my political and cultural beliefs – three decades for a “thought crime,” which did not exist. Yet, my family members who have died never having had the opportunity to sit and touch me for decades, because CDC and CDCr chose to make attempts at destroying me physically and psychologically for no other purpose than to break my mind and spirit and those of similarly situated prisoners held within CDCr’s solitary confinement – Ad Seg, SHU etc.!

This is just a window into what we prisoners had to suffer for decades by order of our tormentors – CDCr – and it continues to this day within the realm of CDCr modified general population. Our struggle for justice, equality and human rights continues.

We need the support of all people in California and the world to stop the in­justice we suffer at the hands of CDCr officials and especially by the CCPOA and their ilk.

I would be extremely irresponsible if I didn’t seek the support of my New Afrikan people – for example, Marie “FREE” Wright, Erykah Badu, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Hansen, John Legend, Beyonce Knowles Carter, Dominique DiPrima, Shauntae “DaBrat” Harris, Azadeh Zohrabi, Common, Gabrielle Union, Chrissy Teigen, Alicia Keyes, Lupita Nyong’o, Sanaa Hamri, Kellita Smith, Snoop Dogg, Serena Williams, Jamie Foxx, Janelle Nonee’, Sanaa Lathan, Dana “Queen Latifa” Owens, Keisha Cole, Danny Glover, Yolanda “YoYo” Whitaker, Maya Harrison, Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Belafonte, Tatyana Ali, Tyress Gibson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Bryan “Baby” Williams, Shaun “Jay Z” Carter, and all sista and brutha entertainers across Oakland, the Bay Area and the country.

Yes, our New Afrikan Lives Matter here behind the enemy lines of California’s unjust prison system. On behalf of our New Afrikan prisoner community, I pray that you will show your support for our freedom campaigns and whatever you all can donate shall be greatly appreciated. Please send your donations to FREEDOM OUTREACH, P.O. Box 7359, Oakland, CA 94601-3023 or contact Maria Levin at levin1marie@gmail.com.

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, Salinas Valley State Prison C1-118, P.O. Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960-1050, www.Sitawa.org.

*CDCr stands for the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation – the last word uncapitalized by many prisoners to signify how little rehab exists. CCPOA – California Correctional Peace Officers Association – is the guards’ union, which exerts great influence within CDCr and on state policy and legislation.