Mental Health Consequences Following Release from Long-Term Solitary Confinement in California: Consultative Report Prepared for the Center for Constitutional Rights:
Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab, Stanford University
Mental Health Consequences Following Release from Long-Term Solitary Confinement in California: Consultative Report Prepared for the Center for Constitutional Rights:
Human Rights in Trauma Mental Health Lab, Stanford University
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
To: OUTSIDE HUMANITY: This is part 2 of my Shared Journey inside the Tombs of California’s Solitary Confinement Torture Chambers, inspired by those of you Outside Representatives of Humynity who cared enough to take time out of your personal lives (even step out of your privileged comfort zones) and See Us (SHU Men) as Human Beings. I/WE THANK YOU ALL (special Shout Out to Sista Sharon, Cile & HRPP Reps).
Part II: I WENT INSIDE MY HEART TO SURVIVE THE TORTURE
By Baridi “X” Williamson
JW © June 6, 2016
When i entered this California branch of the New Jim Crow system of mass incarceration thirty-two years ago, there was nothing in my mind that could have prepared me for the torturous ordeal that awaited my arrival to this prison station along my Life’s journey – especially the last twenty-plus years of being buried alive in the State Government’s Solitary Confinement Torture Prison Tombs called various names — “AD-SEG” (Administrative Segregation), “SHU” (Security Housing Unit), etc.
Yet, it was the clear insight that was shared by a Freedom Fighter named George Jackson, who tells us in this internationally-acclaimed publications that “It takes some serious psychological adjustments to deal with prison life … ” (Soledad Brother). So you can imagine what that meant when having to come face-to-face and either deal with, or run (debrief/snitch/lie on others) inside Solitary Confinement for years/decades under California’s “Snitch, Parole, or Die” Mass Validation/Indeterminate SHU Classification/Indetermined SHU Classification/Debriefing (coerced enhanced interrogation) scheme (1980s to recent).
And there i was staring this inhumane, cruel and torturous creature in its face, as i entered that strange man-made diabolical construct called “Pelican Bay SHU” in the early 1990s. And just as George said, “Nothing can prepare you for this.” In January, 1995 U.S. federal court Judge Thelton Henderson described the conditions behind the Pelican Bay SHU walls/gates:
The Prison setting at Pelican Bay SHU offers a tremendous potential for abuse by guards who have powerful weapons and enormous manpower at their disposal and exercise nearly total control over the inmates under their supervision. Adding to this volatile mix is the fact that the prison setting of the SHU is far removed from the usual sights and sounds of everyday life. From the outside, the SHU resembles a massive bunker; from the inside, it is a windowless labyrinth of cells and walls, sealed off from the outside world by walls, gates, and guards. The physical environment thus reinforces a sense of isolation and detachment from the outside world and helps create “palpable distance from ordinary compunctions, inhibitions, and community norms.”
(Madrid v. Gomez, 889 Fed. Supp. 1146)
Sadly, it took decades for the outside world at large to learn the shocking truths about the inhumane, degrading, brutal and fatal horrors that were being secretly visited upon those of us inside the SHUs (which included SHUs at Corcoran, New Folsom, and Tehachapi). And that was only after the historic California Hunger Strikes (2011-2013) that we were able to finally break through CDCr’s secret redwood (Del Norte County/Crescent City) curtain wall of lies to hide their torture. But by then, the damage of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — Solitary Confinement had already been done. This is why it is taking some of us so long to try to share with you — the Outside World Humanity — what we just experienced. It is the trauma that we must face, to grasp an understanding of, and expose to you.
During and following those peaceful Hunger Strikes, one of the interesting questions that those of you representing Outside Humanity that either took the (much-welcomed/-appreciated) time to write and/or come in and visit — (Shout Out to Everyone in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) — would ask me/Us was questions like:
How Do you Cope/Deal With Being In There All This Time”?
I will not try to speak for others, because we each had to find our own personal ways to “cope/deal” and (most of all) “SURVIVE” the traumatic torment we were subjected to in there. But i want to share that i am finally able to take a deep breath and learn about my personal struggles inside there.
During the first five to ten years in PBSP-SHU, i watched the guys around me outwardly showing their struggles as they slipped deeper into the abyss and ultimately lost their Sanity. This was especially blatant for those whom the prison staff deliberately separated from the rest of us (within the other SHU units) and moved them to a separate torture place called “VCU.” Many of them were driven insane within months (possibly due in large part to their already unstable mental state?)
I recall how these guys would be taken from VCU and brought into the other SHU units where i/WE were located and you could see that they were all the way gone. A guy would spread feces all over the cell and his body and be inside his assigned cage like that with no care. And in the case of the young mentally-ill Black man named Vaughn Dortch, the staff (both medical and guards) forced Mr. Dortch into a tub of scalding hot water and held him down while they scrubbed his skin with a steel brush and his skin peeled away and hung loosely at the bottom of his legs [see here for a 1996 SF Gate article, and Madrid v. Gomez, or google “Vaughn Dortch.”]
Another prisoner had climbed atop the highest rail bars on the Second Tier and jumped off head first. Some guys banged their cups and spoon on the bars and screamed and yelled all night. And these are just some examples of the blatant symptoms of SHU prisoners losing their sanity. Then there are those who, like myself, were able to internally find the wherewithal to battle/resist (often with outside Humanity’s supportive help) and cope/survive.
For me, i survived by trying to identify which ways our CDCr SHU tormentors were using to penetrate our inner-being and manipulate/play on our vulnerabilities and weaknesses as Human Beings to try and Break our Minds and Spirits — such as playing games, denying all natural Human and social contact with anyone, including our Families, depriving us of the normal use of our natural senses to see the grass, trees, sun (feel its rays/warmth), to smell/taste nutritional, wholesome food, to hear natural sounds like birds singing, human laughter, etc. We were physically entombed in a 3-walled concrete, windowless Box with little holes at the front formed around a locked, rectangular slot that they shoved the food tray through. All we could see was a larger wall directly in front of the cage. I sensed the need to have some kind of defense around me inside. But how?
Once i saw that the entire Solitary Confinement ‘creature’ was set up to attack my overall Being (inside and out), i started trying to find effective ways to cope. So for years i relied heavily on mainly exercising my body and mind, reading, studying and writing. And whenever I felt the stress and strain of the ‘creature’ tugging at my inner-Being, trying to pull my Sanity over the edge into the abyss, i would quickly get to exercising. That worked for awhile, but then came the mundane, everyday monotony of waking up and having to face and deal with the same ole tired, boring regimen, day-in and day out. It would be at this stage of my internal struggles that i feel this ‘creature’ tugging at me. So i learned to go inside myself, find memories of my Family and hug/hold onto them for dear life. I would place us in a sacred place deep inside the Heart and there we would remain throughout the duration of my traumatic ordeal. I would somehow fix my Mind to shut down, block out, and close off any noticeable access by our Tormentors to get into that safe sanctuary of my Heart and Soul.
I erected some unnormal psychological walls to guard my-Self/Sanity that i have no idea what i created to SURVIVE!
To be continued . .. Next “Exiting the Madness Thru Humynity”
Baridi Williamson, D34288; SVSP C1/118; PO Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960
Summary of Ashker v. Governor of California
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.
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa
April 15, 2015
Our non-Violence Peaceful Protest continues via our Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM), Local Council. For each prison / institution, and here at California Correctional Institution, Tehachapi prison, we, the Local Council, are:
Brutha Sitawa; Danny Troxell, B76578; Gabriel Huerta, C80766; and Javier Martinez, T62995, who shall represent the PHRM.
On the state level the PHRM Four (4) Principal Negotiators are: George Franco, Arturo Castellanos, Todd Ashker and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry).
The statewide Representatives of our PHRM and Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) are D. Troxell, L. Powell, A. Guillen, G. Herta, P. Redd, R. Yandell, J.M. Perez, J. Baridi Williamson, S. Sandoval, P. Fortman, Y. Iyapo-I (Alexander), A. Yrigollen, F. Bermudez, F. Clement, and R. Chavo Perez.
All of the above named Prisoner Activists are recognized by CDCr leading officials there in Sacramento head office. We shall not allow for CDCr leading officials to condone and sanction CCI, (specifically), Pelican Bay, CSP-Corcoran and CSP-Sacramento continue to violate our Human Rights, Civil Rights, U.S. Constitutional Rights, California Constitutional Rights, CCR-Title 15 Rights and those statewide sanctioned standardization policies for all SHU, SDP and Ad Seg Prisoners.
We know that CCI officials have been consistently violating our 1st and 8th and 14th Amendment Rights of the U.S. Constitution.
We, the PHRM, stand in Solidarity with all CDCr Women SHU and Ad Seg and GP prisoners. California Women Prisoners Lives Matter !!
CDCr and CCI both realize that on Sept. 4, 2013, myself, along with the above named Prisoner Activists, entered into an agreement to the PHRM to suspend our July 8, 2013 Historic Third Hunger Strike, so that Director M. Stainer can carry out and complete the mandates of Undersecretary Scott Kernan’s policies and directives to all CDCr Wardens, and afford all SHU and Ad Seg people their new CDCr rights as prisoners.
On Sept. 5, 2013, our Third Historic Hunger Strike of 30,000 state prisoners, we, Principal Negotiators entered into another CDCr Agreement with M. Stainer, Director of DAI, along with his two (2) leading, acting Special Directors, G. Guirbino and S. Hubbard, who are the architecture of the STG/SDP. We Principal Negotiators went through a two (2) month (Sept., Oct. 2013) process of dialogues and negotiations over the Five (5) Core Demands and the Forty (40) Supplemental Demands, which are now a part of the SHU/SDP Standardization Current Policies.
Now, the realization of the PHRM-Local Council that we are a recognized Political Prisoners Movement, by the California State Legislature, CDCr’s past and present Secretaries, UnderSecretaries, and Directors of DAI, etc., operating inside and outside of California Prison System since January 1, 2011. No Warden in CDCr can state that they are not aware of the PHRM, especially the five SHUs, etc. within California Prison System and the laws and policies and Standardization of Rules, which are a result of the struggles that the Prisoner Activists have been directly involved with the PHRM, which drastically transformed California Prison system (i.e., CDCr).
The PHRM-LC is struggling for their Rights, Civil Rights, State Constitutional Rights, U.S. Constitutional Rights and those CDCr, CCR-Title 15 Procedural Due Process Rights, which have been denied to our Prisoner Class here at CCI/ Tehachapi prison.
“California Correctional Institution, CCI have denied all SHU and SDP prisoners their Rights, knowingly with malice aforethought, to cause permanent psychological damage while utilizing sensory deprivation and mandatory behavior modification (i.e., SDP).” S.N.J. © January 20, 2015
The above description of our suffering has been sanctioned by CDCr’s leading officials who actually knew or should have known about CCI’s blatant disregard of laws and policies and prisoners rights not to be tortured on any aspect of prisoners humanity.
This is our tentative list of CCI officials who have been violating our rights daily and implementing these rule violations: Kim Holland, Warden; W. Sullivan, Chief Deputy Warden; J. Gutierrez, Chief Deputy Warden; P. Matzen, Associate Warden; Mayo, Capt.; Y. Ybarra, CC-I; M. Esqueda, CCI; M. Montano, IGI Sgt.; Mike Tann, SDP Facilitator, CC-III; Cole, Sgt.; Cantu, Sgt.; J. Tyree, IGI Lt.; Nathaniel, Laundry Supervisor; W. Whitson, Sgt.; B. Snider, CC-II; Campbell, Lt.; and the various co-conspirators, i.e., Sgt’s, Lt’s, CC-II’s, CC-Is, etc., who are retaliating, discriminating and directing cultural and racial prejudice at SFP Step 3 and 4 prisoners specifically, and against SHU prisoners as well.
Those above named CDCr employees are directly responsible or was directly aware of our suffering and did nothing to stop it. Yes, that constitutes co-conspiracy, according to California Penal Code titled Conspiracy, and these CCI officials cannot claim they were not aware of these blatant disregards of our Prisoner Rights.
These Prisoner Rights have been sanctioned by the three (3) highest ranking CDCr officials within the State of California during their tenure, between July 2011 to the present day of May 2015, as the Secretary of CDCr, Undersecretary of CDCr and Director for Division of Adult Institutions for CDCr.
PHRM-LC realized that CCI named officials feel that they are above the laws of this State and have continuously undermined their superior authorities from CDCr head office. CCI have been operating their rogue IGI with the sanctioning of the Warden, Chief Deputy Warden, and Associate Warden of this institution.
CCI Step Down Program is Bogus
May 7, 2015 [received June 18th]
by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa
I have taken the position to shut down this fake SDP crap. So, all of Step 4, who have the most to lose, meaning, some of them are a couple of weeks away from completing their Step 4, and for some they are one, two, three, four months away from being on a mainline and for some of them it’s been 13, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 39 years since they last been in general population, and for Step 3 it ranges from 4 to 31 years.
We all agree that these latest types of 115s/RVR’s is just another way to keep us held in SHU or a means of bringing us back, once we make it out to the GP mainline and we’d rather take our stance now!! So, you can start spreading this good news to Corcoran, New Folsom and Pelican Bay by radio, news articles and when family members travel to PBSP and the other two SHUs.
We shall stop participating Monday, May 11, 2015, indefinitely. We won’t be attending any CC hearings, directly dealing with Steps 3 and 4, nor shall we go to those group meetings, or do any more of those journals. Now, there are two groups for each Step 3 and 4, and that’s a total of 40 prisoners who would have been attending those group meetings weekly. This SDP cannot function without prisoners participating.
I need for you to share that Steps 3 and 4 prisoners will not continue to participate in the SDP that is corrupt and discriminatory against all SDP prisoners, and has been trying to provoke all of us to rebel, get angry and act out.
Our problems come from the Warden, Kim Holland; Chief Deputy Warden, J. Gutierrez; Chief Deputy Warden W. Sullivan; Capt. P. Metzers; IGI Lt. J. Tyree; R. Diaz; Deputy Director of Division of Adult Institutions, Sacramento office, M. Tann; former SDP Facilitator, B. Snider; CC-II at CCI, Ybarra; and all of these Tehachapi officials and the one Sacramento official who have knowledge that we as SHU/SDP prisoners have been denied our fundamental SHU rights; and as of two weeks ago we are being denied the use of a razor, or should I say, we have a choice to take a five (5) minute shower or take a (5) minute shave, but not both.
Now, 90% of all SDP privileges have been denied us from Jan. 2014 to May 2015. This is a failed program and all of the Heads of CDCr know what is going on here at Tehachapi, CCI.
A report from Jabari about his return to CSP-Corcoran for “step 3” of the “Step-Down Program”:
April 19, 2015
They finally officially opened up the step 3 program here at CSP-Corcoran, and they needed volunteers from CCI-Tehachapi for this, so I volunteered. Anything to get away from that hell-hole in the mountains.
This is what I have gotten from my 32 days back at Corcoran
First and foremost it is true that they have this 8 to 10 correctional officers’(c/o s’) ‘welcoming party’ that welcomes each bus or van of transfers at the front gate when you first step off the bus. You are welcomed with this bully attack upon you that is strategically and tactically launched to provoke a physical response from each individual who steps off the bus.
With us, we arrived in a convoy of three vans. In the first van were two young Southern Mexicans, in the second van were me and an older Afrikan Brotha, and in the last van was a Caucasian (a close friend of mine). Thus we were able to witness this bully attack and prepare ourselves for it before we were made subjects to it.
There were about 8 c/o’s hovering around the exit door of the van with a lieutenant carrying a handheld cam-recorder, an overseeing sergeant and a questions sergeant, who threw a barrage of questions at you like a drill sergeant in the army, to confuse and throw your thinking off, so that you cannot form a clear thought to launch an effective physical attack back and/or take your mind completely away from the fact that they removed the block lock off your handcuff, removed your handcuff, removed your waste chains and your ankle chains, and then handcuff your hands behind you.
They do all this in one quick well-rehearsed motion, in which one c/o acts as though he is peacefully assisting you off the vehicle, but as soon as he has a nice firm grip on your arm, he snatches you off of the vehicle into the crowd of bully attackers, where the one in front of you grabs a fistful of clothing in your chest-area with one hand, then with the other hand he has a firm grip on your other arm. Then another grabs a fist full of part of your clothing, while behind you, you have a guy with a hand full of part of your clothing, another firm grip of your arm, and at the same time he is kicking your foot far apart from your other foot. On the other side of you, behind you, there is another guy doing the same thing: kicking your other foot out. They are directly behind you and a guy has a firm grip on your forehead, with his fist he is pushing into the back of your neck and the hand that is gripping your forehead is also pulling your head backwards and he is yelling at you saying “Look up at the sky! Look up at the sky!” while the sergeant is yelling a barrage of questions and demands at you. “Look-up-at-the-sky!”
It’s all crazy and you truly have to be a very well disciplined person to get through this well-organized attack without attacking back. With us, we all understand and realize that we can not mistake aggressive action for effective action to get our point across, which requires a strong life commitment and discipline.
Moving forward, after successfully making it past Corcoran’s bully squad, we were given one of everything as far as laundry and lining are concerned. But upon our second Thursday here we were given 3 boxers for underwear, 3 t-shirts, 3 pairs of socks, new tennis [shoes] and sheets, pillows, pillowcases. The 5 men who came with me, we all got our property on the 23rd day after our arrival, and for me, all the property that CCI-Tehachapi seized from me when I got there was still being stored there, thus it came back to CSP-Corcoran with me. Corcoran gave me back everything except for my radio and tv, but I did get the radio that was purchased for me in Tehachapi by a friend. So everything CCI-Tehachapi took from me, Corcoran gave back (except for the radio&tv), and some of my pictures which put me over the 40 allowed.
Yard is run three times a week for 1-Left (1L) and three times a week for 1-Right (1R) on off-setting days: week 1 1-Left get yard on Monday-Wednesday-Fridays, and the top tier has first yard from 8:30AM to 11:30 AM, and the way the c/o’s do it to maximize time is tha the two officers who escort the first yard cage in, will go and get the first cell on the bottom tier and bring them out to the yard cage from where they just took the first prisoners out of. Thus it maximizes the time and gets the next yard out quicker, who stay out until 3:30 PM.
Unit 1-Right has on week 1 Tuesday-Thursday-Saturdays, again with the top tier from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM, and the bottom tier 12:30 to 3:30 PM. Then it rotates for the second week, in which 1-Left will have Tuesday-Thursday-Saturdays, and 1-Right will have Mon-Wed-Fridays.
All Sundays are for “make up yard”: if there is fog, or yard is closed or stopped for some reason, or you have a group meeting, you will get make up yard on Sunday, in which you might go out with 1-Right and 1-Left. [note: typist heard that this make up yard has recently been denied to people in 1L without any reason given].
Breakfast is passed out at 7 AM every morning and it is picked up at 7:30AM. They have trays with lids now, but they are bigger than at CCI-Tehachapi. Thus people are counted every morning in time for yard to start at 8:30 on time and sometimes earlier.
Saturdays visiting starts at 8:30 AM for 4B yard and ends at 11:30-12:30. 4A yard starts at 11:30 and ends at 3:30 PM.
On Sundays 4A starts at 8:30 AM and ends at 12:30 PM, and 4B starts at 11:30 AM and ends at 3:30 PM.
Prisoners can have a visit on both Saturday and Sunday but your visitor cannot the same person: for instance, your sister can’t visit on both Saturday and Sunday, but your sister can visit on Saturday and your brother on Sunday. And your visit can last from anywhere between 1 to 2 hours, depending on how many people are visiting, if space is needed or not needed. So you see some guys out there for 1:15, 1:30, 1:45 up to 2:00. And when making an appointment for that coming week, you can also reserve a spot for the following weekend, and it doesn’t take an hour or longer to make an appointment.
Laundry is the old laundry-bag system by putting dirty laundry in laundry bags, sending them out to be washed and returned to you. When ordering laundry they will accommodate you with sizes up to 6XL boxers, 6XL t-shirts. The size you fit.
Food is about the same except they give you fresh oranges here every day – different from the apples in CCI-Tehachapi. Fresh real fruit juices, real maple syrup and canned fruit. Real jelly.
The canteen has a couple of extra items such as digital antennas, cable connectors, and L-connectors for flatscreen tv’s, chillibeans in pouch, spicy vegetable soup, bowls and cups with lids, Irish Spring soap (60 ct), and Dial soap (85ct).
These range from 39 stations up to 90 station, depending on building section and cell. In the section and building we are in, guys are getting 39 to 70 stations: all the PBS stations, all local stations, Spanish stations, movie stations, etc. etc. You get a lot of tv stations here that you have to get out of the air with digital antennas or loose wire. Radio stations are the same, you get many radio stations.
They are not walking to showers yet, but they say they are going to start letting us walk alone this coming week and then soon after they will extend available jobs. Up to now I am the only Afrikan in this section [but this has changed at the time of typing this, 5/9].
Jabari Scott, H30536
P.O. Box 3481
Corcoran, CA 93212
At the request of Sitawa, these Minutes are posted here. These are from February 20th, 2015.
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671
CCI SHU 4B-7C-209
P.O. Box 1906,
Tehachapi CA 93581
or via prisonerhumanrightsmovement [at] gmail.com [will be forwarded to Sitawa via snail mail since he has not computer, cellphone or internet connection]
by Todd Ashker
Greetings of solidarity and respect to all similarly situated members of the prison class unified in our struggle to end long term solitary confinement and win related long overdue reforms to the broken California prison torture system! As one of the four principle prisoner class representatives, I am presenting this further update on where things stand with our human rights movement from my perspective.
I personally believe the prisoncrats’ efforts to turn the global support we have gained for our cause against us will fail. An example is CDCr (California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation) Secretary Beard’s reliance on 20-40-year-old prison history, much of it taken out of context and/or telling only one – biased – side of the story, which was transparently weak, for the purpose of dehumanizing the prisoner class in response to our global exposure of CDCr’s decades long, state sanctioned “policy” of torturing thousands of prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg cells. [Security Housing Unit (SHU) and Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) are forms of solitary confinement in California – ed.]
Such CDCr rhetoric indicates desperation – a very concerning desperation in the sense that it is demonstrative of CDCr’s top administrators’ intent to continue their culture of dehumanization, torture and other types of abusive policies and practices. See, for example, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s Los Angeles Times op ed of Aug. 6, 2013, “Hunger strike in California prisons is a gang power play.”)
California prisoncrats have little to no credibility regarding most of their policies and practices in what is a failed, multi-billion dollar fraudulent system. Our global support remains strong and continues to grow, as we patiently continue to observe the progress of our evolving movement with an eye on planning additional ways to improve the effectiveness of our resistance, as necessary, to achieve victory. Here’s where things presently stand, from my perspective:
Their courageous efforts were stymied by the CDCr and CCPOA (guards union), using their political influence over Gov. Brown and many lawmakers. All of them took active roles in squashing Ammiano’s bill as well as repeatedly amending Hancock’s bill to the point of it being of very little relevance to our five core demands, thereby resulting in withdrawal of much of our outside support and finally Hancock’s withdrawal of the bill.
California prisoncrats have little to no credibility regarding most of their policies and practices in what is a failed, multi-billion dollar fraudulent system.
Gov. Brown and the other lawmakers who opposed these two bills are thus exposed as CDCr prisoncrat collaborators. Their acts and failure to act regarding CDCr prisoncrats’ indefinite SHU-solitary confinement policies and practices we helped expose to the world via our prisoner class collective’s mass peaceful protest actions between 2011 and 2013 make them supportive enablers of torture. And they need to be constantly exposed as such.
Keep in mind that since we formed the PBSP Short Corridor Collective in early 2011 (now known as the Prisoner-class Human Rights Collective), we have made a lot of positive progress in a relatively short amount of time. And it’s important to note that those who formed the collective are now in stronger positions, capable of being more effective now that many of the collective members have been transferred out of Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) to other prisons via CDCr’s Step-Down Program, enabling them to more effectively promote our Agreement to End Race-Based Hostilities.
This is directly related to our overall strategy on prison reform – our primary goal being to end long term SHU and Ad Seg confinement. Our secondary goal is to bring an end to CDCr’s abusive exploitation of the prisoner class, inclusive of our outside loved ones. That is related to CDCr’s failure to adhere to the legislative mandate to prioritize public safety via the rank and file staff’s “promotion of prisoner-on-prisoner violence” in order to justify the ongoing endless warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners in the general population prisons across the state, especially in the Level 4 institutions.
Thereby, our goal is to limit the violence amongst the prisoner class and thus end the justification for indefinite massive warehousing. This forces prisoncrats to open up the general population prisons and use the billions of dollars budgeted annually for the purpose intended by the people: to promote public safety via programs beneficial to prisoners, our outside loved ones and society in general.
Our goal is to limit the violence amongst the prisoner class and thus end the justification for indefinite massive warehousing.
This includes allowing lifers’ to once again have conjugal visits with their loved ones on a regular basis, because maintaining close family ties is a well known, proven method of rehabilitation, including the reduction of violence in the prison environment.
And we are additionally hoping our example of effective collective unity for the benefit of all those who are similarly situated behind these walls will be followed by the working class poor in the communities.
We are in a protracted struggle against a powerful entity that includes an element with a fascist police state mentality and related agenda. We are fighting to make major changes to the way prisoners and our outside loved ones are viewed by society and treated in the prison system – inclusive of more than 30 years of well entrenched cultural policies that exploitatively dehumanize the prisoner class in order to subject them to systematic, state sanctioned torturous treatment and brutal conditions that have been condemned by international treaty law.
We cannot allow this to continue. We have taken a stand against it, and we must continue to do our part, collectively, from behind these walls, to end such malignant practices.
The reason for our progress is our empowering collective unity inside and outside these walls, the unity amongst prisoners, our outside loved ones and other supporters. Our efforts have helped to expose horrendous, immoral treatment of tens of thousands of incarcerated men and women, nationwide for decades. And we gratefully acknowledge the world interest, support and outraged condemnation of the United States prison industrial complex’ torture regime openly occurring in public institutions.
The reason for our progress is our empowering collective unity inside and outside these walls, the unity amongst prisoners, our outside loved ones and other supporters.
I believe it’s important for people outside who support our cause to be able to effectively counter the prisoncrats’ propagandist, dehumanizing rhetoric, as well as their ability to educate the public in general as to what’s really going on in this system – the current CDCr annual budget is more than $12 billion – and it is for this purpose that I include the below points.
1) Prisoncrats’ claim that “CDCr does not confine any prisoners in solitary confinement; nor do we torture prisoners.” These self-serving claims are demonstrably false.
Prisoncrats – the “civil servants” within the prison industrial complex, which is related to the military and homeland security complex, all being utilized in the class war on the working class poor – have been utilizing coercive brainwashing and torture techniques to exploit, manipulate and control prisoners and the related working class poor in the communities since the early 1960s. These techniques are modeled on those created by the Russians and used on American POWs by the Chinese during the Korean War (1950-1953).
Such techniques were subsequently studied – per CIA and military directives – by psychologists, psychiatrists and social scientists, resulting in two influential texts published in 1961: “The Manipulation of Human Behavior” and “The Power to Change Behavior.” The latter “became a theoretical and practical foundation for the behavior modification programs that shaped U.S. domestic prison policy in the 1960s and ‘70s. Both publications were heavily indebted to the literature on ‘Communist’ thought reform and sensory deprivation and both yielded specific techniques for the production of social death, both within the United States and beyond,” according to an excellent book on the history of solitary confinement in the U.S. called “Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives” by Lisa Guenther, 2013.
Prisoncrats have been utilizing coercive brainwashing and torture techniques to exploit, manipulate and control prisoners and the related working class poor in the communities since the early 1960s.
Further support is the 1961 symposium, “The Power to Change Behavior,” convened in Washington D.C., by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). It brought together prison wardens and behavioral scientists – including Edgar Schein, an important researcher on Chinese Communist thought reform to consider how prisoners could be “treated” with behavior modification therapy.
“Edgar Schein’s contribution to the symposium, ‘Man Against Man: Brainwashing,’ draws on his 1953 research (published in 1956) on Communist brainwashing techniques to reflect on how these techniques might be used to reform U.S. domestic prisoners. Schein was a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management (then the School of Industrial Management). After publication of his 1971 book, ‘Coercive Interrogation,’ he went on to have a highly successful career in corporate and organizational psychology” (Guenther, “Solitary Confinement,” pages 84-87).
At the symposium, “Schein put forward a set of ‘practical recommendations,’ throwing ethics and morals out the window. They include: physical removal of prisoners to areas sufficiently isolated to break or seriously weaken close emotional ties; segregation of all natural leaders; spying on prisoners, reporting back private material; exploitation of opportunists and informers; convincing prisoners they can trust no one; systematic withholding of mail; building a group conviction among prisoners that they have been abandoned by or are totally isolated from their social order; using techniques of character invalidation, i.e., humiliation, revilement and shouting to induce feelings of fear, guilt and suggestibility; coupled with sleeplessness, an exacting prison regimen and periodic interrogational interviews” (Nancy Kershan, “Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons,” page 12-13).
Of course, these brainwashing techniques have been refined and perfected over the course of the past 60 years, such as techniques the British have used on Irish Republicans and similar tactics refined by the West German government to try and destroy the Red Army Faction, who were fighting the imperialism in their country, related to a large extent to West German government leaders adhering to the dictates of the U.S. government. And these are the techniques applied to prisoners confined in this country’s “control unit” prisons, as summarized with reference to specific examples in my Dec. 30, 2014, article “The way forward to end solitary confinement torture: Where’s the army?“ posted on the San Francisco Bay View website on Jan. 25, 2015.
Indeed, the control unit prison environment and effects thereof on the “living beingness” of those subjected to it are much more damaging than most people can imagine. Of course, one who studied the subject, obtaining a doctorate degree in the related fields of psychology and psychiatry, would be well versed in these effects, as I’m sure CDCr Secretary Beard is.
The control unit prison environment and effects thereof on the “living beingness” of those subjected to it are much more damaging than most people can imagine.
Examples of this are taken from Lisa Guenther’s book, “Solitary Confinement,” shared below in rebuttal to CDCr’s claims:
“We don’t operate solitary confinement – nor do we subject prisoners to sensory deprivation or torturous conditions in our SHU and Ad Seg Units.” This and the following quotes are taken from Beard’s LA Times op ed of Aug. 6, 2013, in which he states that “all SHU cells have outside facing windows” and “At Pelican Bay, all cells have skylights.” These are boldfaced lies.
“Inmates have TVs and radios.” This is true only if you can afford to purchase your own, and many can’t.
“They have weekly access to a law library.” This is a boldfaced lie. You might get access once a month.
“They have daily exercise time.” In Pelican Bay SHU, you may go to “yard” for one and a half hours per day, depending on circumstances from day to day. The “yard” is akin to a concrete cell, absent a toilet and water unit. You’re on camera, by yourself, unless you’re one of the few who have a cellmate.
“Many have cell-mates.” Very few have cellmates.
“They can earn degrees.” There are only a few openings, and one must pay for the required books; most prisoners can’t afford it.
“They send and receive letters.” Mail is one of the things IGI and other staff withhold and play games with.
“Their family and friends visit them every weekend.” Due to the isolated location of Pelican Bay, most prisoners never receive a visit.
“This is not ‘solitary confinement,’ in that prisoners can have visitors and, in many cases, interaction with other inmates.”
As described in my Dec. 30, 2014, article referenced above, the control unit environment is designed for the purpose of enabling prisoncrats to maximize their ability to dehumanize and psychologically exploit prisoners in order to coerce them into becoming informants for the state. One tactic is to place a prisoner of one race in a pod – a pod consists of eight cells – totally isolated from his social group. This can and does go on for years.
The control unit environment is designed for the purpose of enabling prisoncrats to maximize their ability to dehumanize and psychologically exploit prisoners in order to coerce them into becoming informants for the state.
From Guenther’s “Solitary Confinement” (2013): “What is it like to be confined in a supermax unit? A typical cell ranges in size from 6 feet by 8 feet to 8 feet by 12 feet; it is part of a ‘pod’ of eight to 10 cells arranged into two tiers. Cells are usually painted white or pale grey to reduce visual stimulus. Furnishings consist of a bed, table and seat, a toilet and sink – all bolted in place. [In California’s SHUs, all are concrete and steel].
“The door is constructed of perforated stainless steel resembling a dense wire mesh that obstructs the prisoner’s view to the outside while allowing some natural light to filter through along with the sounds and smells of adjoining cells, or even the pepper spray used on prisoners during cell extractions.
“There is a slot in the door, called a cuff port, tray port, meal port or pie flap, through which food trays are exchanged and the prisoner’s hands cuffed or uncuffed for removal from the cell. There are either no windows at all or just a small, high window that lets in light but does not afford any view of the outside. Surveillance via listening devices and cameras is constant.
“Prisoners are confined in solitude for 22 to 23.5 hours a day, with the remaining time spent – again, in solitude – in an outdoor exercise yard, surrounded by concrete or tightly woven security mesh walls that offer little or no view of the outside and only a small glimpse of the sky. These yards are often called ‘dog pens’ or ‘dog runs’ because of their resemblance to an outdoor kennel. Remotely operated doors allow prison staff to release prisoners from their cells for showers or exercise without coming into contact with them. Depending on the prisoner’s level of good behavior, they may be given access to books, radio, television …
“A prisoner in a Control Unit can for years, even decades, go without experiencing any form of touch beyond the chaining and unchaining of wrists through the cuff port in the door. … Officers are entitled to perform strip searches … Often, these searches are conducted as a matter of routine. …
“What would it be like to have one’s bodily contact with others reduced to the fastening and unfastening of restraints, punctuated with the most intimate probing of the surface and depths of one’s body? Not to be able to speak to anyone except through intercom or by yelling through a slot in the door? To be kept in solitude and yet exposed to constant surveillance and to the echoing noise of other prisoners? What would it be like to be prevented from having a concrete experience of open, unrestricted space? Not to see the sky or the horizon for days, weeks or even years on end?
“A prisoner in a Control Unit can for years, even decades, go without experiencing any form of touch beyond the chaining and unchaining of wrists through the cuff port in the door.”
“It is impossible to imagine. … Prisoners in solitary confinement are, by definition, excluded from the looping effects of social interaction; they are isolated in their cells, with no one to see or to look back at them, no one to touch or to receive their touch. And yet, precisely by virtue of their forced isolation, prisoners’ situation is mediated by countless others: the guards who keep them, feed them and monitor their activities; the wardens who oversee the guards; the prison review board that continues their isolation every 90 days [In California, it’s 180 days.]; … and us, the public who tolerate their ongoing isolation, even (or especially) if we are not even aware of it.
“Supermax prisoners are unperceived and unimaginable ‘others,’ but they are our others, and a society that practices long-term, wide-scale solitary confinement cannot help but be shaped by our (non)relation to those who have been ‘disappeared’ but who remain among us, and sometimes return to haunt us.
“Many prisoners speak of their experience in supermax prison as a form of living death. On the one hand, their bodies still live and breathe, eat and defecate, wake and sleep (often with difficulty). On the other hand, a meaningful sense of living embodiment has for the most part drained out of their lives; they’ve become unhinged from the world, confined to a space in which all they can do is turn around or pace back and forth, blocked from an open-ended perception of the world as a space of mutual belonging and interaction with others …
“[P]rolonged solitary confinement amounts to a production of something like schizophrenia in the prisoner (Merleau-Ponty, 2002, page 335). I argue that supermax confinement is not a solution to the problem of finding a place to keep ‘the worst of the worst’ from harming others. It is – among other things – a technology for producing what one could call mental illness, if ‘mental’ were not too narrow a term to express the complex intertwining of body, mind and world that I have undertaken to describe.
“Many prisoners speak of their experience in supermax prison as a form of living death.”
“Prolonged solitary confinement in a control prison threatens to exhaust the otherwise inexhaustible horizons of perceptual experience by blocking prisoners’ concrete experience of depth in its spatial affective and social dimensions. It leaves prisoners feeling like their lives have been drained of meaning, like they are dead within life, no longer of space but merely in it” (Guenther, pages 161-194).
2) Related to the above, is my response to those who question the position that we are in a class war, inclusive of policies and practices referenced herein, I will add my viewpoint of personally seeing our struggle for human rights and dignity in these prisons as being directly related to the war being waged against the working class poor in this nation – going on for far too long now. And that’s the point I’ve intended when various media reporters have taken my words out of context.
The imperialistic, fascist police state elitists’ abusive exploitation of the working class poor is out of control, and the only way for people to bring about meaningful change is to come together collectively. This includes the prisoner class, which is a microcosm of the working class poor, with most prisoners being casualties of the class war.
Related to this class war is CDCr prisoncrats’ intentional, systematic, state sanctioned torture regime for the diabolical purpose of breaking prisoners, using coercive sensory deprivation and other brainwashing techniques. One only needs pay attention to the consistent use of methods designed to dehumanize the prisoner class, especially those in SHU, and thereby psychologically indoctrinate those in control of said prisoners with a mental image of the subhuman “other,” thereby ensuring a continuation of the culture of malignant abuse.
This position regarding intentionality of CDCr prisoncrats’ continual dehumanization of the prisoner class is supported by more than 100 years of scientific study and experimentation, as exemplified in the various books covering the subject. As you read the following excerpts, remember – CDCr Secretary Beard holds at least one doctorate degree in psychology.
From Stanford Professor Phillip Zimbardo’s book, “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,” at page 307, “Dehumanization and Moral Disengagement”:
“Dehumanization is the central construct in our understanding of ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ Dehumanization occurs whenever some human beings consider other human beings to be excluded from the moral order of being a human person. The objects of this psychological process lose their human status in the eyes of their dehumanizers. By identifying certain individuals or groups as being outside the sphere of humanity, dehumanizing agents suspend the morality that might typically govern reasoned actions toward their fellows.
“Dehumanization is a central process in prejudice, racism and discrimination. Dehumanization stigmatizes others, attributing to them a ‘spoiled identity.’ Under such conditions, it becomes possible for moral, morally upright and even idealistic people to perform acts of destructive cruelty. Not responding to the human qualities of other persons automatically facilitates inhumane actions. The golden rule becomes truncated: ‘Do unto others as you would.’ It is easier to be callous or rude toward dehumanized ‘objects,’ to ignore their demands and pleas, to use them for your own purposes, even to destroy them if they are irritating.”
At pages 311-312, “In ‘Faces of the Enemy,’ Sam Keen shows how archetypes of the enemy are created by visual propaganda that most nations use against those judged to be dangerous ‘them,’ ‘outsiders,’ ‘enemies.’ … Such propaganda has been widely practiced on a worldwide scale … In creating a new evil enemy in the minds of good members of righteous tribes, ‘the enemy’ is: aggressor, faceless, rapist, godless, barbarian, greedy, criminal, torturer, murderer, an abstraction, or a dehumanized animal.”
Taking the above into context, those people who pay attention will recognize the correlative relevance to what I’ve been pointing out: The fascist-elitists in power positions in this country have been waging an all-out, ever expanding war upon the working class poor – inclusive of the prisoner class. Support is self-evident when we consider the constant bombardment of propagandist war-monger rhetoric that the masses are subject to 24/7, via the government controlled mainstream media. Examples are “The War on Crime,” “The War on Drugs,” “The War on Gangs,” “The War on the Worst of the Worst.”
“Dehumanization is the central construct in our understanding of ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ Dehumanization is a central process in prejudice, racism and discrimination.”
Those in power have been using this fear mongering, dehumanizing propagandist tactic in response to our societal social problems, keeping the people in a never ending war AGAINST EACH OTHER, while being constantly exploited by those in power in countless other ways. And the underlying root causes of our major societal problems remain unresolved – No. 1 of which is the growing unequal distribution of wealth. As Einstein so eloquently stated, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
I will add, it’s important to note that California prisoners’ and our outside loved ones’ treatment and conditions under the malignantly manipulative leadership of CDCr Secretary Beard have not gotten better. They have actually gotten worse when one examines the new police state-type regulations implemented over the course of the past three years. For example:
a) “The Security Threat Group Step Down Program” policy, which will ultimately enable prisoncrats to greatly expand upon the numbers of prisoners entombed indefinitely in SHU cells;
b) The expansion of the so-called “obscenity” policy, which criminalizes any and all prisoner – and public – writings critical of prisoncrats’ dehumanizing abuse of power; and
c) The mandated drug testing of all prisoners, together with subjecting all visitors to invasive searches and drug sniffing dogs, based on Beard’s crusade to rid prisons of drugs.
Beard’s pretextual support for this is his underlings’ fraudulent manipulation of “random” voluntary prisoner drug tests that allegedly demonstrated more than 25 percent of the population was on dope!? Most of the “dirty tests” were from people on their medically prescribed meds.
The above examples are textbook tactics, historically employed by fascists. These types of tactics are always initiated against the marginalized, disenfranchised segments of a society, and incrementally expanded to include the rest of a society. Under Beard’s watch, the system will continue to be a multi-billion dollar failure.
The deeply rooted culture of abuse will continue as long as leadership utilizes old policies and practices, expanding on them in spite of such being proven failures and violations of human rights. CDCr’s exploitative dehumanization of the prisoner class must end.
As summarized from the above excerpts taken from Professor Zimbardo’s book, such dehumanization is for the sole purpose of perpetuating the cultural climate of endless abuse of prisoners and our outside loved ones. Such is contrary to the principles of a society which promotes evolving standards of decency.
The deeply rooted culture of abuse will continue as long as leadership utilizes old policies and practices, expanding on them in spite of such being proven failures and violations of human rights. CDCr’s exploitative dehumanization of the prisoner class must end.
It’s disturbing Gov. Brown would appoint a malignant psycho-doctor like Beard to run an already twisted prison system. Secretary Beard is an opportunistic, career corrections administrator – a malignant torturer of prisoners – with a doctorate degree in various types of psychology. Prior to his appointment as CDCr’s secretary, he spent more than 30 years in the Pennsylvania prison system, retiring as the director of that system.
He was subsequently hired as an expert witness by lawyers representing California prisoners in the class action case, Coleman-Plata regarding mental and medical care violations, and he testified before the federal court in 2010 and 2011, declaring the systemic problems re mental health care violations in the California system had not been fixed, only to flip-flop on his position a few months later after Gov. Brown made a deal to hire him to run the California system, with an annual salary of nearly $300,000. That’s in addition to his large pension from Pennsylvania.
Once he became CDCr’s secretary, Beard submitted a declaration on behalf of the state, claiming the problems regarding mental health care had been fixed. He did this at a time when CDCr prisoncrats were regularly subjecting mentally ill prisoners to gallons of pepper spray, prior to brutally beating them, resulting in at least one prisoner’s death, which prisoncrats attempted to cover up. No big deal in a system operating with a long standing culture of dehumanizing prisoners, placing them on sub-human status with the support and enablement of lawmakers.
Also notable under Beard’s watch in Pennsylvania, the system instituted its own brand of additional, torturous sensory deprivation, via the creation of a unit for the “worst of the worst.” In this unit, prisoners are in solitary confinement cells, deprived of virtually all reading material, including newspapers and magazines. Apparently, the only reading material allowed is a fictional book once in a while, no personal photographs etc., a draconian policy upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 52 126 S.Ct. 2527 (2006).
Notable under Beard’s watch in Pennsylvania, the system instituted its own brand of additional, torturous sensory deprivation, via the creation of a unit for the “worst of the worst.”
With the above points in mind, it is no surprise to see the fascist policies of malignant oppression occurring under Beard’s watch in California. This is the purpose for which he was appointed by Gov. Brown – without opposition from California prisoncrats and the CCPOA guards’ union. They allowed appointment of this outsider without a peep.
3) In response to those who pose the question, “Why should we care about what’s going on in prisons?” there are many reasons for people to care, including their civic responsibility as citizens to be conscious of what their elected representatives are doing in their name. Here are a few more examples of why it’s in the peoples’ best interests to care and, in caring, hold those they allow to be in power accountable:
a) We, as a people, do not condone the torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of our fellow human beings under any circumstances. Such practices are not in keeping with our nation’s international public stance of being a protector of human rights, nor is it in keeping with our society’s evolving standards of decency.
Our nation’s prisons are intended for the purpose of punishing convicted offenders humanely. Our U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. We know that most of our imprisoned people will be released one day and it’s contrary to society’s interests to have people returning to society much worse than when they went in, especially not after being subjected to years of exploitative, dehumanizing techniques, inclusive of the worst types of physical and psychological torture that most people will never be able to imagine.
It’s no secret our nation incarcerates more people than any other nation on the planet – not surprising when we consider the fact that those in power have exploited the masses, the working class poor, via promotion of an endless state of war upon each other – War on Crime, War on Drugs, War on Gangs, War on the People. It’s also no secret that our nation subjects between 25,000 and 80,000 to a type of intentional sensory deprived solitary confinement as an ultimate control mechanism, designed for the purpose of completely severing those relegated to worst of the worst, sub-human status from their own sense of “living beingness.”
It’s no secret our nation incarcerates more people than any other nation on the planet.
In the California system, tens of thousands of prisoners have been subjected to an indefinite type of dehumanizing sensory deprivation in SHU and AdSeg cells. Many have been subjected to this endless form of state sanctioned torture for decades. And thousands of California prisoners have collectively participated in three massive peaceful protests, 2011-2013, thereby exposing this fact to the world.
Such practices are immoral and illegal. According to “Restatement of the Law Third, the Foreign Relations Law of the United States,” “a state violates international law if, as a matter of policy, it practices, encourages or condones … (d) torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, or … (g) a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, “Prolonged isolation and coercive solitary confinement are, in themselves, cruel and inhuman treatments, damaging to the person’s psychic and moral integrity and the right to respect of the dignity inherent to the human person” (Velasquez v. Rodriguez case, InterAm. Ct. H.R.(ser.C) No. 4, at page 156 (1988)).
The United States is a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The CAT was ratified by the U.S. in 1990. The CAT defines torture as:
“An act by which pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as … punishing him for an act he or a third person committed or is suspected of having committed or intimidating or coercing him or a third person … when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
There is no question of California’s intentional violation of international treaty law via their policy and practice of subjecting prisoners to decades of indefinite solitary confinement, one purpose of which is to break the prisoner via brainwashing torture techniques, so the prisoner agrees to become an informant for the state – the worst sort of coercion.
The conditions and effects thereof on the person are summarized above. One additional point of support that such dehumanizing treatment and related conditions cause severe pain to those prisoners and their outside loved ones mercilessly subjected to such is the studies conducted by Matthew D. Lieberman, a Harvard trained professor in the Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCLA. In his book, “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” Lieberman relies on fMRI brain studies and related experiments to support the position that we respond to social pain and pleasure in the same way we respond to physical pain and pleasure. And social pain may hurt more than physical pain.
There is no question of California’s intentional violation of international treaty law via their policy and practice of subjecting prisoners to decades of indefinite solitary confinement.
“When asked what the most painful experiences in our lives have been, most of us do not recount an injury or a broken bone; we describe the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage or a relationship.” The studies also demonstrate that empathized pain is real too. This supports what people have known for a long time: Social isolation causes people to experience extreme pain. This includes the experience of our loved ones and people of conscience who know of and thereby feel our suffering.
Another note from the U.N. General Assembly, July 28, 2008 [A/63/175], 63rd Session, Item 67(a) of the provisional agenda:
“IV. Solitary Confinement [Paragraphs 77-85, pages 17-20]
“When the element of psychological pressure is used on purpose as part of isolation regimes, such practices become coercive and can amount to torture. …
[At page 24] “Research indicates that small group isolation in some circumstances may have similar effects to solitary confinement and such regimes should not be considered an appropriate alternative.”
And then there’s the following from the introduction to the United Nations Committee Against Torture’s “Convention Against Torture: Periodic Report of the United States of America”:
“2. The absolute prohibition of torture is of fundamental importance to the United States. As President Obama stated in his address to the nation on national security, delivered at the National Archives on May 21, 2009:
“’I can stand here today, as president of the United States, and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture, and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Most recently, in his May23, 2013, speech at the National Defense University, the president reiterated that the United States has ‘unequivocally banned torture.’”
Finally, let’s not forget the revelations in late December 2014 regarding disclosure of the Dec. 9, 2014, release of the redacted portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s finding the CIA tortured countless detainees – per directives from Bush, Cheney et al. President Obama’s response declared that past practices were “brutal and, as I’ve said before, constituted torture in my mind. And that’s not who we are.”
The above points, when considered in the context of this nation’s blatant, ongoing violations of treaty law regarding exploitive torture of tens of thousands of prisoners subject to long term solitary, sensory deprived conditions of confinement, begs the question: Why? Why are you, the people, allowing these decades-old policies and practices of dehumanizing treatment and torture to continue to be carried out upon your fellow people – the casualties of the class war?
b) The fact that CDCr’s current annual budget for this fiscal year is more than $12 billion, while most other social programs are suffering from the past years of continual deep cuts, and the present push to substantially increase college tuition should be cause for the people to care.
This is $12 billion going to a corrupt state agency whose policies and practices are a 100 percent failure. We’re talking about a state agency funded by billions of taxpayer dollars each year, a state agency subject to a legislative mandate to prioritize public safety that has for decades done the opposite via a philosophy and culture of exploitative dehumanization of the prisoner class for the purposes of the expansion and related profit of the prison industrial complex – the related factor being the fascist, police state-type psychosocial war on the working class poor and related mass incarceration, including the expansion of the control-unit prison, as one means of keeping the masses in check.
The CDCr system is an ongoing, multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayers; this fraudulent scheme includes involvement of most of our state lawmakers, who receive their share of kickbacks from various prisoncrats, including the CCPOA, the guards’ union.
The CDCr system is an ongoing, multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayers.
People should care because there are more than 7 million children going without enough to eat every day. People should care because we’re treating our fellow human beings worse than our poultry and other animals. This is what our elected officials are doing to SHU prisoners, in the people’s name.
c) People should care because, historically, fascist police state regimes occur incrementally, via the initial oppression of the marginalized and disenfranchised members of society. Usually such oppressive action is taken based on the government’s claim that such is necessary “to protect the people’s freedoms.”
The fact that there is an element with an expanding police state agenda in this nation is not a secret, and an excellent book pointing to specific examples of this, with reference to similar historical events resulting in fascist regimes, is Naomi Wolf’s “The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.”
In typical fashion, these police state tactics are being borne out by CDCr’s dehumanizing police state practices of torture and other malignant oppression, presently being expanded upon to further oppress the working class poor people in the communities.
A current prime example of this is the San Diego District Attorney’s Office’s recent use of a clause in Proposition 21, passed in 2000, which states that anyone who benefits from gang activity can be charged with conspiracy. This is being applied to anyone who’s entered into the “California Gang Database,” created per Prop 21.
People are entered into the database based on meeting two or more criteria that for the most part are based on the subjective view of the officer who enters one into the database, no questions asked. The gang conspiracy charge is being applied to everyone who is affiliated anytime any one of the other affiliates commits a gang related crime.
Police state tactics are being borne out by CDCr’s dehumanizing police state practices of torture and other malignant oppression, presently being expanded upon to further oppress the working class poor people in the communities.
Those familiar with CDCr’s alleged “gang management” policies will note the correlation between the Prop 21 provisions and CDCr’s policy of using three or more items to validate a prisoner as a gang affiliate and thereby, on the basis of said classification alone, place him or her in SHU indefinitely. We remain until we parole, die, go insane or debrief – become an informant for the state.
Keep in mind the additional, more recent policies of oppression implemented under Beard’s watch, referenced above. I urge people to pay close attention to what is going on in San Diego because, if successful, such tactics will be used statewide, with the result that anyone with a sliver of association with someone in the gang database can be arrested and charged with conspiracy.
People should care because the CDCr tactics referenced in this document will, in time, all be implemented in our communities, if people continue to sit back and fail to hold lawmakers accountable.
Resist! Using peaceful action, fight for what’s right via coordinated, collective efforts – inside and outside these walls.
In early 2011, our collective drew the line and said, “Enough!” We, the prisoner class, will no longer complacently accept being dehumanized, subject to the social death and related endless torture many of us have been forced to endure in this tomb of non-living death for three or more decades with no end in sight.
Prior to our peaceful actions beginning in 2011, the prisoner class being exploited and abused in these long-term SHU units were all but forgotten. We were the faceless, nameless, socially dead subhuman “worst of the worst,” per prisoncrat propaganda, and we set out to take back our living human beingness and force major changes to the system, via our united, collective, peaceful actions.
Prior to our peaceful actions beginning in 2011, the prisoner class being exploited and abused in these long-term SHU units were all but forgotten.
Our intent is to educate and expose our decades of torturous treatment in these publically funded dungeons, the nature of which is the ongoing, multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayer – on the people – to the world. And to date we’ve had some success, with more to accomplish.
In 2011, we said, “Enough!” and meant it. We are not going to accept anything less than the complete end to long-term SHU and AdSeg confinement, as well as the humane treatment and dignity that all living beings are entitled to. In the prison context, this requires an end to the CDCr culture wherein the prisoncrats have systematically dehumanized the prisoner class with impunity.
By prisoner class, I’m referring to prisoners and our outside loved ones. And we remain committed to our cause, no matter how long it takes or what sacrifices are required. And, crucially, we remain united in our collective struggle toward bringing the long overdue reforms to this broken, fraudulent, publically funded state institution – with the help of the people.
We remain united in our collective struggle toward bringing the long overdue reforms to this broken, fraudulent, publically funded state institution – with the help of the people.
The above is my perspective on our struggle, and here are a few quotes I try to keep in mind as we move forward. They’re from Howard Zinn’s “The Zinn Reader.”
At page 418: “The novelist Aldous Huxley once said: ‘Liberties are not given; they are taken.’ We are not given our liberties by the Bill of Rights, certainly not by the government, which either violates or ignores those rights. We take our rights, as thinking, acting citizens.”
At page 407: “It is never to be expected in a revolution that everyone will change their opinion at the same moment. There never yet was any truth or principle so irresistibly obvious that all people believed it at once. Time and reason must cooperate with each other to the final establishment of any principle; and therefore those who may happen to be first convinced have no right to persecute others on whom conviction operates more slowly. The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not destroy.” This quote is from Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man, Common Sense and other Political Writings.” Paine was a leader in the American Revolution.
From “Zinn Reader” at page 632: “Action is preferably organized, thought out action, but there should be room for whatever kinds of action any individual or group feels moved to undertake …
“We never know exactly the depth or the shallowness of the resistance to our actions – until we act. We never know exactly what effect we will have. Our actions may lead to nothing except changing ourselves, and that is something. They may have a tiny cumulative effect, along with a thousand other actions. They may also explode. We should not be preoccupied with prediction or with measuring immediate success but rather should take the risk of acting.
“We are not totally free, but our strength will be maximized if we act as if we are free. We are not passive observers, students, theorizers; our very thoughts, our statements, our speeches, our essays throw a weight into the balance which cannot be assessed until we act.” Action based on conscience. Action based on one’s civic duty as a “free” citizen to hold those in power accountable.
With all of the above in mind, I hope people will consider the following points
i) From the outset, we reject all intentions of prisoncrats and collaborating stooges of those operating with a fascist, police-state agenda of oppression to dehumanize our just cause, accusing us of being “worst of the worst,” making a power play to “regain control of the system,” or other labels used by the enemies of the working class poor. Our struggle adheres to the principles of the Constitution and International Treaty Law and is inspired by all oppressed people’s demand for human rights, dignity, respect, justice and equality – the demand to be treated as living beings.
Our struggle adheres to the principles of the Constitution and International Treaty Law and is inspired by all oppressed people’s demand for human rights, dignity, respect, justice and equality – the demand to be treated as living beings.
ii) Our outside supporters have all of our gratitude; their tireless efforts supportive of our cause make a gigantic positive difference. They have recently begun monthly supportive actions across the state, publicly rallying on the 23rd of each month for the purpose of keeping the subject of our endless torture in public view, and thereby exposed to the world. The 23rd of each month is symbolic of our 23-plus hours per day in these tombs of the living dead and it is hoped such rallies will spread across the nation.
iii) The people need to step up and hold their elected officials accountable. Our endless torture in these tombs is directly related to the power elite’s war of oppression and exploitation on the working class poor; we are casualties of this war. The people have the power. Power is worthless when it’s not utilized. The lawmakers in this state need to be constantly exposed as supporters and enablers of torture.
iv) I personally am no longer participating in CDCr’s Step Down Program. At this point I believe we’ve sufficient examples of such program being the sham we said it would turn out to be when we rejected CDCr’s STG-SDP pilot program proposal back when they first rolled it out in March 2012. We rejected it 100 percent back then and have never wavered from this position.
At this stage, I personally believe it’s a mistake for mass participation in the Step Down Program, especially for those doing life and/or long terms, because it’s a b.s. policy and ongoing mass participation is only helping provide prisoncrats with validation for such policy. As we’ve said many times before, if you’re not doing a “determinate” SHU term, you shouldn’t be in SHU, period.
Why should you have to eat shit – which is what’s being shoveled out in Tehachapi and Corcoran – to “earn your way out of SHU” when you shouldn’t have been in SHU in the first-place? I’m not going to do it, and I refer people to the open memo I’d put out to Secretary Beard et al, dated Sept. 1, 2014, regarding the way in which their policy, as structured, is open for failure. CDCr never responded.
v) And I encourage other people to put their heads together and see what types of further peaceful, non-compliant, non-cooperative, resistive means of achieving our goals they can come up with. One thing I’d like to see our outside supporters add to their agenda is a program targeting the CDCr rank and file’s culture of dehumanization of the prisoner class.
We’ve already demonstrated the power we have when united and collectively fighting for the benefit of all who are similarly situated, it’s time for CDCr to see and respect us as human beings and end long-term SHU. It will be a start towards meaningful reform of the entire system.
Onward In struggle and solidarity,
Send our brother some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.