The way forward to end solitary confinement torture: Where’s the army?

January 25, 2015

by Todd Ashker

Published in the SF Bay View, Jan. 25, 2015 and on Prisoner Hunger Strike Support

On the subject of SHU and Ad-Seg constituting torture, for those of us who may not be familiar with the specifics and in light of CDCr’s steady stream of propaganda – saying, “We don’t operate any solitary confinement units or cells in the California penal system, nor do we torture anyone” – here’s a summary of relevant facts supporting our position that these SHU and Ad-Seg units and the operations thereof are designed (modeled) after techniques designed to break political prisoners as a control mechanism. They are intended to break prisoners via coercive persuasion into becoming state informants.

I’ll begin by asking you a simple question?

Why is it that CDCr is able to get away with portraying PBSP SHU (Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit) prisoners as the “worst of the worst” sub-human monsters ever encountered in modern times as justification for their policies and practices of treating said prisoners as sub-human via decades of what is clearly a form of solitary confinement with sensory deprivation – and yet, as soon as these men agree to become state stooges via debriefing, they are no longer a threat and are released to the sensitive needs yard (protective custody) general population prison of their choice?

One of the main reasons they are able to continue to get away with their BS is the failure of the people to hold the lawmakers responsible.

I’ve been in the SHU for 28.4 years, to date, 24.7 years of which has been here in PBSP-SHU. [Editor’s note: This was written Dec. 30, 2014.] I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged with a gang related rule violation. (During our hunger strike I was issued two rule violations classified as serious. They were for: a) having a photo of my longtime friend; and b) a letter that someone had sent me, a stranger who represented herself as a supporter of our cause and wanted to be a pen pal. Staff gave me the letter, and then came around later and confiscated it and wrote me up.)

The above is intended to put the following into some perspective: Based on my personal experience in PBSP SHU during the past 24.7 years, I’ve experienced many techniques designed to break me. One is isolation from my social group. This is a tactic used here by prisoncrats to physically remove those prisoners deemed “problematic” to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or weaken close emotional ties, along with segregation of all natural leaders.

I’ve been challenging prison conditions in the courts since 1988, which is viewed as challenging prisoncrats’ authority, and up until our 2011 hunger strike protest, I’d never been formally charged with a gang related rule violation.

What prisoncrats like to do is claim that this place can’t be considered a solitary confinement unit because you have eight cells to each pod and thus the prisoners in each pod are able to talk to each other. But here is how it actually operates. If you are deemed a “problematic” prisoner by any of the staff – for example, if you are a prisoner who is constantly challenging the prisoncrats’ policies and practices – their way of subjecting you to an informal form of punishment or to try to break you is to put you in a pod where there are no other people of your social group.

Let me give you another example of this, so there is no misunderstanding: I received my CDCr number in December 1982, and in all my time in prison I’ve never had a problem with a cell-mate. In October 1990, I was set up and shot by a guard here in PBSP SHU. This is supported by a published 9th Circuit Court ruling, upholding the federal court jury verdict in 1995, finding the guard in question had subjected me to assault and battery. This injury caused permanent disability and, between 1990 to 2002, I had cellmates who would assist me with daily activities, such as washing the clothes we are not permitted to send to the laundry and with writing.For example, if you’re an African, they’ll put you in a pod without any other Africans anywhere close to you so that you will not be able to speak to any other African prisoner for the duration of time you are on status with the staff. If you’re Southern Mexican (classified as Mexican Mafia), you’ll be put in a pod with no other Southerners – a pod composed of several Northerners, maybe a White and an African – the same if you’re a Northern Mexican or White.

Between November 1995 and December 2002, the man I was celled with and I achieved three published rulings that were favorable for prisoners across the nation, in 2003. And in August 2002, the 9th Circuit Court overturned the District Court’s dismissal of one of our lawsuits regarding pepper spray decontamination policy issues, finding that it could proceed as a respondeat superior claim as well, a rarity in prisoner cases. And in September 2002, the District Court issued two permanent injunctions on our lawsuits re books and the ability to receive materials downloaded from the internet in our mail.

In response, the prisoncrats issued a memo in October 2002 in which they sought to further restrict prisoners’ incoming mail. We had an attorney contact the warden and the deputy attorney general representing CDCr in our lawsuits, demanding they cease their retaliatory acts in response to the injunctions we’d just obtained. And by November they rescinded the memo re mail restrictions.

Then on Dec. 3, 2002, they moved my cellmate and me to a lexan cell, a cell covered with lexan plastic which restricts air flow and the ability to communicate with other people in the pod even more, as well as being either too hot or too cold; and the following day they separated us. The pretext used to justify these retaliatory acts was an incident in another pod, wherein a White prisoner attempted to spear an officer. We weren’t in the same pod and had nothing to do with this incident and were never written up for being involved. We were both isolated from all other Whites and kept in the single cell lexan cells.

“PBSP Abolish the SHU” – Art: Juan Gonzalez, P-44448, PBSP SHU C11-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

“PBSP Abolish the SHU” – Art: Juan Gonzalez, P-44448, PBSP SHU C11-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

In July 2003, the associate warden granted my formal request to be able to double cell with a good friend, so that he could assist me with my daily activities, as per ADA (American Disabilities Act). He was then brought over to the lexan cell that I’d been in since Dec. 2, 2002.

We immediately began to challenge various conditions of confinement via the 602 inmate appeals process, and on May 19, 2004, we filed our lawsuit challenging our indefinite SHU confinement and related no-parole policies. This suit was a precursor to what is now our class-action lawsuit, and on June 8, 2004, we were single celled. I objected to this clearly retaliatory act, and they knew they had a problem because we’d been allowed to double cell in response to my formal ADA accommodation request in 2003, so they put us in cells side by side, so that my friend and cellmate could still provide assistance in the form of writing. We were still in the lexan cells.

In the interim, we’d been pursuing our civil suit, which had been dismissed a few times for technical reasons; and beginning in late 2009, we began to add peaceful activism activities to our challenges against illegal policies and practices regarding conditions of confinement, leading up to our hunger strike moves in 2011, which brought some international attention to CDCr’s torture policies and practices toward those of us who’ve been confined in the SHU for decades. And we were increasing the pressure via the prisoner class collective efforts we began in 2010, seeking to force the end to long term SHU, and we issued our historic Agreement to End Race-Based Hostilities in August 2012.

On Sept. 6, 2012, IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) had me moved away from the collective as well as my assistant, into a cell covered in lexan, isolated from all other Whites. The IGI’s excuse or pretext for this clearly punitive move in response to my litigation and activism efforts – our attorneys had filed the paperwork seeking to amend our lawsuit as a first step towards seeking class-action status on behalf of all similarly situated PBSP SHU prisoners around May of 2012, and it was getting a lot of publicity in July-August 2012 – was that the move was done for my safety, which was 100 percent bullshit. But it’s another tactic used to try to break prisoners – reporting rumors with the intent of creating mistrust, convincing prisoners they can trust no one and are in danger and need the prisoncrats to protect them.

'Out of Control- A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons' by Nancy Kurshan, coverAdd to these isolative, punitive, retaliatory moves – isolation from one’s social group; separation from people you are working with collectively in order to more effectively challenge long term illegal policies and practices; placement into more isolative cells wherein one is subjected to increased sensory deprivation and extreme heat and cold temperatures; spreading rumors that the isolated prisoner has safety issues – many additional acts of psychological torment being perpetrated against us on a daily basis: for example, the systematic withholding and delaying of mail; loud noises blasted into the pods via the speaker system, and loud noises by staff as they walk the tiers at night to count; denying adequate medical care; telling prisoners that if they want to be able to get the care and treatment they need, they need to get out of SHU; telling prisoners, “You hold the keys to get out of SHU anytime you want to, and thereby get to general population where you can get better care and treatment,” and them knowing that our sole avenue for release from PBSP SHU is via death, insanity or agreeing to become an informant for the state via debriefing.

The above are all facts supported by solid evidence, and they constitute direct proof of CDCr’s policies and practices regarding decades of subjecting thousands to a form of torture for the purpose of coercion, as further demonstrated by the following excerpt from the 2013 book by Nancy Kurshan, “Out of Control: A 15 Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons.”

On pages 12 and 13, she writes: “(R)esearch the prisoners had conducted … revealed a 1962 Bureau of Prisons (BOP) meeting in Washington, D.C., between prison officials and social scientists. Billed as a management development program for prison wardens, it coincidentally took place the same year the BOP opened Marion.

“Dr. Edgar Schein of MIT, a key player at that meeting, had written previously in a book entitled Coercive Persuasion about ‘brainwashing of Chinese Prisoners of War (POWs). …

“Schein put forward a set of ‘practical recommendations,’ throwing ethics and morals out the window.

“They included physical removal of prisoners to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively 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.”

These types of brainwashing strategies that involve physical as well as psychological abuse were being adopted from international arenas and applied inside U.S. prisons. Examples include the tactics used by the Brits to try and break the IRA prisoners and similar tactics refined by the West Germans to try and destroy the RAF (Red Army Faction), who were fighting the imperialism in their country, which is to a large extent due to the West German government policies per USA government dictates.

“Dare to Struggle” – Art: Carlos Ramirez, P-69993, PBSP SHU C9-106, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

“Dare to Struggle” – Art: Carlos Ramirez, P-69993, PBSP SHU C9-106, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

Now compare the above notes regarding the 1962 conference to Dr. Schein’s recommendations, with the examples of how they operate in the PBSP SHU, that I’ve also included above, and try to tell me such policies and practices aren’t intentionally imposed for the purpose of torturing prisoners into becoming state informants.

Remember, when the Legislature had hearings on said policies regarding long term SHU, they asked the CDCr prisoncrats for evidence to support their claims that said policies and practices were in fact making the prison system – and the public in general – safer and secure. And the prisoncrats couldn’t produce shit.

The bottom line is that CDCr’s long term SHU policies and practices are without any demonstrable positive purpose. They are intended to break prisoners down so they either go insane or agree to become informants for the state –  period – which is 100 percent illegal.

Additional evidence that is as seriously harmful and painful is contained in the book by Matthew Lieberman, “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” wherein Dr. Lieberman conducted studies using MRIs that demonstrated that people experience social and psychological pain in the same way they experience physical pain. It’s probably even more painful in the psychological context.

Here’s an example: Think about the worst painful experience you’ve ever had. Most people will think about the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship, rather than a broken bone or other physical pain experience. It’s important to also remember that in addition to the circumstances and conditions prisoners are subjected to in the SHU or AdSeg environment is the fact that you are deprived of all semblance of normal human contact.

You are basically on sub-human, animal status for the duration of confinement in such units. You are always in a cage and/or in restraints, under escort by at least two guards, being observed by guards in the control booths who are armed with high power assault rifles.

The bottom line is that CDCr’s long term SHU policies and practices are without any demonstrable positive purpose. They are intended to break prisoners down so they either go insane or agree to become informants for the state –  period – which is 100 percent illegal.

You are under constant surveillance via guards in the control booths and floor staff, who can and do listen to any and all conversations in the pods when men are talking over the tier and on the yards, via speakers on the yard walls. You have no physical contact with anyone other than while in restraints, via the guards escorting you with their hands on you, or at medical, where you are in restraints with guards hovering over you.

This cell, D1-119 in the Pelican Bay SHU, was Todd’s home for many years. He would transform his bed into a desk in the daytime.

This cell, D1-119 in the Pelican Bay SHU, was Todd’s home for many years. He would transform his bed into a desk in the daytime.

You have no physical contact with your loved ones. Those who are fortunate to get visits – a hardship for the majority of PBSP prisoners due to the remote location of the prison – visit behind glass, talking over a phone with a small video camera mounted on the wall. IGI staff are listening and observing you and your visitor the entire visit, and if either of you says or does anything the IGI observers don’t like, they can cancel your visit on the spot or, a few days or so later, they’ll issue you a write-up for alleged visiting violations and you end up on visit restriction for between 90 days to a year to permanently being banned from visiting with certain people.

Going back to Lieberman’s book, “Social,” it’s important to note that his studies included the subject of empathy, and he found that people really do “feel other people’s pain” when they observe people close to them being mistreated. The reason this is relevant is that not only are the prisoners being subjected to the above referenced coercive, torturous treatment FOR DECADES, but our loved ones and friends are subjected to the same psychological pain as we are. Supported by scientific studies conducted by Dr. Lieberman, and others, we find that the technique for conducting such studies has only become available over the past 10 years.

The point of the above summary is to educate the public and refute CDCr’s propagandistic claim, “We don’t operate solitary confinement units, nor do we torture any prisoners.” Facts prove otherwise.

What can people outside do about the above ongoing torture policies and practices by CDCr?

First, let me clarify a few things about where our cause presently stands from my perspective:

We successfully educated the public and exposed CDCr’s decades-old on-going subjection of thousands of prisoners to the torture of long term, indefinite SHU, via our peaceful activism efforts – the writing campaign (our formal complaint and other statements) and our three peaceful protest actions in the form of mass hunger strikes and work stoppages. By “we” I’m referring to those on the inside of these prison walls and our outside loved ones and supporters.

“Wake Up” – Art: Roger “Rab” Moore, G-02296, HDSP Z-168, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127

“Wake Up” – Art: Roger “Rab” Moore, G-02296, HDSP Z-168, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127

In my previous writings about our on-going struggle for real reform, the No. 1 priority being the end of long term solitary confinement, I’ve expressed the opinion that the prisoners remain responsible for leading this cause to victory via our actions inside these walls. And I’ve put myself out there with my peers pushing for additional peaceful actions on our part in here.

The response has been mixed, and it’s very difficult to get a collective consensus, as many of our outside people know. The administration has done all it can to prohibit us, the Short Corridor Collective, from being able to communicate. This began with IGI moving me from D1 block to D4 block on Sept. 6, 2012, and has continued with the recent move to D4-207, further isolating me from the prisoners who have influence in their respective groups, and the Step Down Program, with related transfers of many of the collective members to other prisons across the state.

Thus, I’ve had to reflect and re-evaluate our position. This is really not acceptable, and from my perspective is an excuse for non-action.Look, I’ve respectfully sent out several letters calling on the people to hold the lawmakers accountable.

It’s unbelievable to me to see the numbers of people out there who are aware of the continued torture we are subjected to, and yet they’ve failed to take any action to hold those responsible accountable.

The lawmakers must be held accountable

I’ve had to re-evaluate my prior perspective regarding prisoners continuing to lead this struggle in light of the above referenced factors. Subsequently, I snapped to the FACT that once we successfully exposed this torture program to the world, making the people aware, at least some of the responsibility shifts to the PEOPLE TO HOLD THE LAWMAKERS RESPONSIBLE.

And their failure to do so equates to THE PEOPLE enabling this to continue. The people have the power. The lawmakers hold their positions on behalf of their representative status – on behalf of the people.

It’s unbelievable to me to see the numbers of people out there who are aware of the continued torture we are subjected to, and yet they’ve failed to take any action to hold those responsible accountable.

With this in mind, here’s something people can do now towards holding the lawmakers responsible:

  1. Select a few of the lawmakers who we all know are in CDCr’s and CCPOA’s pockets for exposure as supporters and enablers of CDCr’s torture program, using social media to blast them worldwide. And you can also have people show up at their committee hearings to blast them as torture supporters. You’ll need to include references to public records supporting this position, such as the transcripts of the legislative hearings held regarding SHU, the September 2012 report by Amnesty International on PBSP SHU and the statements by Juan Mendez. The lawmakers you select for public exposure should be the five to 10 lawmakers who were the most vocal against Tom Ammiano’s bill
  2. Once these selected have come to be blasted in social media, you have a package together for presentation to the remaining lawmakers. The package needs to be a presentation supporting our position that this is a torture program, without cause or support for CDCr’s positions regarding making the system safer. Again, use the public records. And ask these lawmakers if they condone and support torture. Then, you present them with the things they can do to rein in CDCr’s abuse of power. This is a simple action. It’s something people can put in motion and have in motion while we plan our next moves.

Send our brother some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, D4-207, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

CDCr Are Cold-blooded Executioners

CDCr Are Cold-blooded Executioners

By Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, January 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

An Anatomy of Torture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prisoners Human Rights Movement

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

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

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

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, December 1, 2014 © SNJ

Some people still think:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHRM!   In Struggle !!

Bruthas Sitawa, Abdul and Woody

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

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

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

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

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

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

by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos and George Franco

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

We expect to hear soon from Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, the fourth of the main reps in the Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. His remarks will be posted online as soon as they arrive and will be printed next month. He has been transferred to Tehachapi: C-35671, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

Greetings of solidarity and respect to all oppressed people and those committed to fighting for the fundamental right of all people to humane treatment – to dignity, respect and equality.

We are the prisoner class representatives of what’s become known as the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities. This is an update on where things stand with our struggle to achieve major reforms beneficial to prisoners, outside loved ones and society in general.

Our Agreement to End Hostilities would enhance prison safety more than any long-term isolation policies and yet it still has not been circulated and posted throughout the prison system. We urge that everyone read this document again and that you pass it around, study it, live it. (It is reprinted below.) The California Department of Corrections has yet to post this historic document. It needs to.

In 2010 -2011, many long-term SHU prisoners housed in the PBSP SHU Short Corridor initiated our “collective human rights movement” based on our recognition that, regardless of color, we have all been condemned for decades, entombed in what are psycho-social extermination cells, based on prisoncrats’ fascist mentality. That mentality is centered upon the growing oppressive agenda of the suppressive control of the working class poor and related prison industrial complex’s expansion of supermax solitary confinement units.

The pretext for that expansion is baseless claims that solitary confinement is necessary for the subhuman “worst of the worst” deemed deserving of a long slow death in hellish conditions. Supermax units were originally designed and perfected for the purpose of destroying political prisoners and now extend to a policy of mass incarceration.

Beginning July 1, 2011, we have utilized our collective movement to resist and expose our decades of subjection to this systematic state torture, via a campaign of peaceful activism efforts inside and outside these dungeon walls. We have achieved some success; we are not finished.

Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities.

We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us. We remind all concerned that our third peaceful protest action was “suspended” after 60 days, on Sept. 6, 2013, in response to Assemblyman Ammiano and Sen. Hancock’s courageous public acknowledgement of the legitimacy of our cause and related promises to hold joint hearings for the purpose of creating responsive legislation.

Hearings were held in October 2013 and February 2014 which were very positive for our cause in so far as continuing the public’s exposure to CDCR’s unjustifiable torture program. Assemblyman Ammiano’s bill was responsive to our issues and it was thus no surprise that the CDCR and CCPOA (the guards’ union) and others opposed it – and it was DOA on the Assembly floor. Sen. Hancock worked to get a bill passed with some changes, but, according to a statement she released, even that failed when the Governor’s Office and CDCR gutted months of work by Sen. Hancock, her staff and the staff of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

California Department of Corrections has calculated that their alleged “new” policy known as Security Threat Group-Step Down Program (STG-SDP) will give the appearance of addressing the horrific inhuman treatment we experience daily. They argue the Step Down Program is a major positive reform of the “old” policy and thereby responsive to our core demands.

They hope to undermine the statewide, national and international growing support for our cause – the end of long-term indefinite solitary confinement, the torture we experience year in and year out.

We will not stop until there is no more widespread torturous isolation in California for ourselves and for those who will come after us.

The STG-SDP is a smokescreen intended to enable prisoncrats to greatly expand upon the numbers held in solitary confinement – indefinitely. Their STG-SDP policy and program is a handbook to be used with limitless discretion to put whoever they want in isolation even without dangerous or violent behavior.

Their Security Threat Group policy and language are based on a prison punishment international homeland security worldview. By militarizing everything, just as they did in Ferguson, Missouri, poor working class communities, especially those of color, become communities that feed the police-prison industrial complex as a source of fuel.

The daily existence of poor people is criminalized from youth on. We become a source of revenue – a source of jobs – as our lives are sucked, tracked into the hell of endless incarceration, our living death. The STG-SDP is part of the worldview and language of death, not life. It is not positive reform. Security Threat Group takes social policy in the wrong direction.

CDCR is explicit in that thousands of us are in indefinite solitary because of who we are seen to be by them, not because we have done anything wrong. They still decide this by our art, our photographs, birthdays and confidential informants who get out of solitary by accusing the rest of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Step Down Program” – Art: F. Bermudez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agreement to End Hostilities

To whom it may concern and all California prisoners:

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

  1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals who have never been broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.
  2. Therefore, beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end. And if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!
  3. We also want to warn those in the general population that IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer “inmates” amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups’ mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes. People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics and refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU, (Investigative Service Unit), OCS (Office of Correctional Safety) and SSU’s (Service Security Unit’s) old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!

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

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

The reality is that, collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners and thereby the public as a whole.

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

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

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

 

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa: Worse than Pelican Bay

Published on the SF Bay View on August 29, 2014

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry)

This place is worse than Pelican Bay State Prison in so many ways. I’ll start sending updates on corruption and racism against prisoners who have been placed in Steps 3 and 4 of these keepers’ Step Down Program (SDP).

The DRB (Departmental Review Board) lies to the public. Prisoners are coming into a non-functional SDP, and they are trying to create a functional program while we are in this corrupt system. We were placed in an allegedly functional program.

George Giurbino and Suzan Hubbard are the two CDCR officials who are doing those DRB-CBC (Community-Based Coalition) reviews. They are playing CDCR prison politics as to who they are allowing to go directly to the general population (GP) and who is placed in Steps 1-4.

All of us being reviewed at Pelican Bay have spent 10, 20 and 30 years in the SHU (Security Housing Unit, California’s form of solitary confinement), so how can they say go to GP? That would be admitting we’re not the worst of the worst, as they call us.

Instead, we’re placed on one of the Steps 1-4, which means that we have to endure one year to three years of continued torture and CDCR prison politics being played against us. By these officials even placing us in a Step 1-5, they show that we should have not been held another day, period!

This is how CDCR prison politics are being used against all prisoners based on Giurbino and Hubbard’s racist views directed at specific prisoners and these officials’ bias and hate against prisoners generally. That is clearly the basis for their decisions as to who is going directly to the GP and who will be given additional years in solitary confinement.

Yes, that is a criminal act being committed against us. To correct a historic wrong, these officials should be immediately releasing us to the GP.

CDCR has knowingly lied to state Sen. Loni Hancock about the entire SDP and how well it is functioning. She should come to Tehachapi Prison and see for herself how CDCR lied and didn’t give a damn about the state legislators in order to get the CDCR plan out there with a positive spin. The new STG (Security Threat Group) and SDP system are nothing but lies and half-truths!

Sitawa is one of the four “main reps” responsible for the historic mass hunger strikes in 2011 and the largest hunger strike in prison history, involving 30,000 prisoners, in 2013. He is highly respected throughout the California prison system. His supporters rejoiced when he was released from decades in the Pelican Bay SHU and devastated to learn he was simply transferred from one SHU to another. Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, CCI SHU 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

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

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

 

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191

Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275

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

Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

May 1, 2014

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

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

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

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

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

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

4) Provide adequate food; and,

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

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

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

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

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

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

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

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

How torture is inflicted on prisoners in solitary confinement

Published on SF Bay View on Feb. 24th, 2014

by Mutope Duguma and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

This is a glimpse into torture by prison staff, using any means available, of which solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison in California is only a reflection of the inhumane treatment and clear U.S. constitutional violations of our First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights that prisoners in solitary everywhere are subjected to.

Torture by deprivation

The objective of the deprivation method is not complicated. It is to attack the sensory organs and perception with methods to impair them. The weapon of deprivation cannot be effective without having in place a conditioning process to produce degeneration over a long period of time. The psychological, social and cultural trauma is observable in such a sterile and punitive environment.

Deprivation is cannibalistic for the spirit that is willing to stay the course. The flesh becomes weakened as men feed on themselves and others, eating away at human excellence. The feasting of deprivation will become more than flesh, blood or nature can endure. Indeterminate SHU confinement has left individuals with having to choose between discontinuity and becoming inflicted with a cannibalistic nature.

There are two aspects of deprivation, the psychological and the physical, where the mind acts upon the body. This two-edged torture can be effective either way. But in order for deprivation to eat away at the targeted prisoner’s consciousness, a conversion reaction must occur that breaks down the psychological defense mechanism.

Declaration on Protection from Torture

The “Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as Resolution 3452 (XXX) on Dec. 9, 1975. The declaration contains 12 articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

Types of torture

Medical: Honorable Judge Thelton Henderson ordered a receivership to oversee CDCr’s PBSP SHU due to intentional medical neglect which led to prisoners dying, as frequently as one a week, in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation system. Many of these deaths were, and continue to be, in solitary confinement. This is torture.

Solitary confinement: Prisoners are held in isolation for 10 to 40 years despite having only non-disciplinary infractions during that time. This is torture.

Mail: Prisoner mail is being used to create physical and psychological torment. Mail can be arbitrarily withheld for weeks on a regular basis, and has been known to be withheld for years, even when there are court orders to release the mail to a prisoner being unjustly deprived. This is torture.

Food: Food is intentionally prepared poorly, contaminated and disproportionate. Nutritional food is deliberately denied. This is torture.

No human contact: Prisoners have no real, meaningful social interaction with other human beings, especially family and close friends. Our five senses – touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste – become dulled from deprivation. This is torture.

Visiting: Constantly, under the CDCr gestapo style agency of correctional safety, the Investigative Service Unit (ISU) and Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) and other such units deliberately intimidate visitors and prisoners. This is torture.

Cell searches: These are used to intimidate, harass and trash prisoners’ cells, leaving them in disarray while taking political writings, pictures, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, magazines etc., causing psychological torment. This is torture.

No sanitation: Prisoners are deliberately kept in unsanitary units. For example, showers are allowed four times a week, but the showers are cleaned only twice a week. There is an abundance of mold, mice, bugs, gnats, fungus etc. This is torture.

Climate: Prisoners are kept in freezing cold or burning hot cells, depending on the time of year, a complaint that has been made for over 21 years. This is torture.

Contraband watch, or potty watch: It is humiliating, dehumanizing and outright cruel and unusual punishment when prisoners are held in shackles and placed in the middle of a hall while being placed on a portable “potty,” while cops (female too) and prisoners with escorts are walking by. There are reports of prisoners being placed in cages, without a toilet or running water. Men are placed in a diaper with a prison jumpsuit over it, while the victim’s hands are bound into a fist-wrap. PVC pipe forced onto arms and black boxes over the hands have also been used. The prisoner is required to defecate three separate times during a three-day period. The torment and suffering are truly visible on the prisoner’s face. This is done to cause severe humiliation, along with mental, physical and psychological torment. This is torture.

Family: Each validated prisoner’s family is deliberately harassed, intimidated and intentionally hoaxed into false prosecution for a thoughtless crime by gestapo-type units (OCS, ISU, SSU and IGI) with the intent of discouraging any support or communication with the prisoner. This is torture.
Grievances: The 602 appeal process, at each of its three levels is deliberately set up to not afford a prisoner relief, regardless of whether prison officials are dead wrong in their accusations. This clearly establishes that there is no accountability for what officials do to prisoners. This is torture.
In addition, the structural features of the various solitary confinement units throughout the U.S. prison industrial complex (PIC) make it possible to target specific prisoners by utilizing sensory deprivation to undermine the social, cultural and ethical values that the targeted prisoners hold. Prisoners are rare who can escape the ravages of the torture that results from long term isolation and the negative assaults by guards in any of California’s supermax control units and similar units all over the U.S.

This is torture.

The science behind the use of deprivations has been perfected by the handlers to operate with devastating force. We know there is no separation between physical torture and mental torture. Torture is a double-edged sword that can slice effectively either way to exact punishment or revenge. It has the purpose of taking away a targeted prisoner’s human dimension and essence.

This is torture.

Send our brothers some love and light:

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, D-05996, D2-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

Hunger strike representative: Resist, resist and liberate

Published in the SF Bay View, Feb. 22nd, 2014:

I hear demagogues go on their vicious attacks about how violent prisoners held in solitary confinement are, yet we are actually the role model prisoners, if there is such a title. Many of us have sat in these tombstones back here under concentrated torture, while correctional officers have violated and disrespected us routinely, subjecting us to physical and psychological torment each day we have been back here.

We have collectively opted to refrain from any violence, even though CDCr actions have been very violent toward us! Especially when they took a mentally ill New African prisoner and forced him in boiling hot water, then laughed about it saying, “We going to have us a white boy before it’s through,” as his skin fell from his flesh [the most memorable atrocity recounted in the landmark case, Madrid v. Gomez].

I witnessed this with my own eyes. This was an insidious, racist attack that was unprovoked by prisoners. So we have been very disciplined – and this is just one of many attacks prisoners have suffered.

The gang shot-caller or leader rhetoric is a farce. One thing CDCr does well is label its prisoners as gang members or associates. Eighty-five percent of everyone in solitary and on GP (general population) has been given a gang title, so there is no surprise there. Of 137,000 prisoners in California, 11,600 are labeled as gang members or associates.

CDCr throws gang titles around to dehumanize prisoners to the public, which is why they label everyone. You’ve got to seek the truth: There are 14,000 prisoners held in solitary confinement – 3,000 of whom are gang leaders or generals, according to prison officials.

We have collectively opted to refrain from any violence, even though CDCr actions have been very violent toward us!

They say everyone they hold in solitary confinement is the most violent of prisoners because we are the masterminds, but they cannot show the public anything but rhetoric. No violence, no criminal gang acts have been committed by these gang leaders or generals who are supposed to control, or so-called lead. They can associate any of us to others inside or out.

They try to use hype and old alleged incidents to propagandize and frighten the public. With all the rhetoric, one would think they could show and tell, but it’s all hype. And we prisoners have to dispel these lies because it’s done to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in order to win their support.

I am one of the four prisoner representatives. When CDCr uses a violent act to denigrate my character, they generalize and go back 40 years, as did Secretary Beard [in “Hunger strike in California prisons is a gang power play,” published by the Los Angeles Times Aug. 6, 2013, in the middle of the 60-day hunger strike]. Why do you think he went to the 1970s to speak to violence he alleges we are associated with? Because he has nothing else.

But I wasn’t in prison in the 1970s, nor were any of the other four representatives. Then he went to the streets trying to link prisoners to violence, because he had none to link to us inside prison. So he associates us with whatever violence he can out there on the streets! The blame is placed on us, but we’re never charged or prosecuted. They just use it to propagate to the public that we’re the worst of the worst.

The public need to know we are under more scrutiny than those held in Guantanamo Bay. Our isolation has been for up to 43 years for the longest held prisoner – for me 29 years and others 10, 20, 30 years straight, only for being validated as a gang member or associate.

There is NO VIOLENCE! The CDCr lied when they said we are violent men. Our lockups are “administrative,” NOT FOR VIOLENCE. They can show NO Rules Violation Reports – disciplinary reports. We have not committed any offenses to be placed in solitary confinement. The prison gang officers screen our incoming and outgoing mail. They do not allow us to have phone calls. We sit in our tombstone 23 hours a day, if not all day.

There is NO VIOLENCE! The CDCr lied when they said we are violent men. Our lockups are “administrative,” NOT FOR VIOLENCE.

There is no way any of us could do what CDCr is charging that we did, if we even wanted to. Its lies are not about your safety and security. They’re about your hard-earned tax dollars. Prison officials hold prisoners in solitary confinement that they know are going home sooner or later, but they won’t let them out on a prison yard because they’re “too dangerous,” according to them, but they’re cool to be released back into the public, after they’ve been subjected to years of torture.

So much for the public safety. Wouldn’t it be safer to allow a prisoner to program in a social atmosphere inside the prison in order to get him or her out of that isolated, anti-social state? Plus, if we are to be tormented each day of our lives, why won’t the state just murder us? Why hold us back here under these torturous conditions?

There is no way any of us could do what CDCr is charging that we did, if we even wanted to. Its lies are not about your safety and security. They’re about your hard-earned tax dollars.

We’re not animals, although we’re treated like animals. We’re not savages, although we’re treated like savages. The issue is that we are a commodity – a surplus – and CDCr is profiting off our lives and using violence as a premise to justify it. This is why Gov. Brown keeps the media out of the prisons. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Ombudsman and Internal Affairs will never investigate against their own interests. They get paid because of prisons and the prisoners placed in them.

During the hunger strike, we had Chief Deputy of the OIG OIG Rusty Davis walk the tier talking about he’s here to check on the hunger strikers. When people made complaints, he disregarded them, nor did he take one note. He just wanted to look at us. He had no interest in our suffering, nor did he care to see any facts in relation to our situation.

We’re not animals, although we’re treated like animals. We’re not savages, although we’re treated like savages.

He used this opportunity to reacquaint himself with his old prison officials. There were countless complaints he could have looked into, but he refused to do his job. This is what’s wrong with this system: no checks and balances. The CDCr is run where all personnel fail to uphold their responsibility, which is why the system is self-destructing from the inside out.

We can only do what we’re doing to secure our lives from such torture: peacefully resist … resist …

In struggle,

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa