Message from Pelican Bay prisoner representatives to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez

Published in: SF Bay View, Oct. 21st, 2013

by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Antonio Guillen and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Oct. 18, 2013 – We, the four principal representatives of the prisoners confined in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, hereby welcome Juan Méndez to California. We have followed your work and advocacy against torture throughout the world and congratulate you on your commitment and success in bringing your findings to the public’s attention.

We recently suspended our hunger strike against torture in the form of prolonged solitary confinement in California’s prisons after 60 days. Over 30,000 prisoners joined us in the largest protest ever against prison conditions in the United States and possibly the world.

We decided to suspend our hunger strike for several reasons:

1) We succeeded in making the issue of torture in California’s prisons into an issue of worldwide public and media attention. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC are just a few of the media outlets that covered our cause, with many running editorials in our support. Thousands of people joined demonstrations, signed petitions and letters, and spoke out in our favor.

2) State Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano promised to hold legislative hearings to address solitary confinement, the conditions of imprisonment, and sentencing policy in California and to introduce legislation for reform. They have already held one hearing on Oct. 9 – in a room filled with our supporters – and heard from experts, former prisoners and family members who spoke of the torture we endure and demanded change.

3) CDCR officials promised to meet with us to discuss our concerns, and we have already spent hours in talks with them.

But nothing has changed. Over 3,500 prisoners remain isolated in California’s SHUs with almost no human interaction and little opportunity to exercise or even see the sun, and are still forbidden contact visits or telephone calls with their families. They join thousands of others who are held in different forms of solitary confinement throughout the system.

We decided to suspend our hunger strike for several reasons: We made California prison torture an issue worldwide with major press coverage; the Legislature promised hearings and has held the first one already; and CDCR is negotiating with us. But nothing has changed.

Prisoners are revalidated for indefinite terms on the basis of unconfirmed rumors, anonymous misinformation from debriefers and informants, and possession of criminalized books, articles and art work. The only sure way out is to debrief and expose yourself to shame, further exploitation by prison officials, condemnation and violence.

Mr. Méndez, we ask that you join in our struggle. We would like you to testify at one of the upcoming legislative hearings. We would like you to consider becoming an expert witness in our lawsuit.

As a former prisoner yourself, we would like you to do your best to bring both our conditions and our human rights movement to the attention of the international community, with intention to take resolute action against the torture we, along with many other prisoners in California and elsewhere, have endured for far too long. We look forward to meeting you.

With respect and in solidarity,

Todd Ashker
Arturo Castellanos
Antonio Guillen
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Send our brothers some love and light: 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; Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP SHU D2-106, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532; Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n R. Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

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Gov. Brown commits crimes against prisoners’ humanity for guards’ campaign contributions

Published in: SF Bay View, Oct. 1st, 2013

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Gov. Jerry Brown is the good ol’ boy of the 21st century prison industrial slave complex (PISC). I write this in the interest of my humanity and all humanity. My self-worth is not measured by the arbitrary placement of gang titles by my captors, over which I have no control. Yet I adamantly reject all labels placed on me to the day I die.

The governor is empowered by the people. Their voice is the voice he is supposed to adhere to in the state of California. He chooses to disregard the power of the people. The governor is so arrogant that he took the position along with his crony, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, to defy the highest court in this country.

This is the mentality of a good ol’ boy who attempts to rule with little regard for the interests of the common people of California. They exert their power to oppress and suppress the people, maintaining control over all aspects of our lives, whether we’re in or out of prison.

It amazes me how political officials who are empowered by the people have little or no respect for the people or the rule of law. They take the position that “this is how I run MY government.”

News flash: It’s not your government, governor. The government belongs to we the people. You are working to serve the peoples’ interest; we are not here to serve your interests.

You govern all the people of California, including prisoners, despite what you may think. If you are unable to do your job to the satisfaction of California taxpayers and voters, then it is time that you look for a new occupation this coming election. And you can take Secretary Beard along with you because the people will have spoken.

We say that our lives are more valuable than your re-election and we insist that you put politics aside and END LONG TERM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT NOW. Solitary confinement is torture.

Your silence does not excuse you for your crimes against our humanity. You are an overseer of CDCr prisons and we have evidence that clearly shows prisoners have been murdered, beaten and tortured throughout these solitary confinement units by CDCr officials who are subordinate to you.

We understand that you’re not willing to risk losing the $2 million in campaign money that the CCPOA – the prison guards’ union – contributes to your campaign for governor. We understand clearly that you are seeking re-election and do not want to jeopardize those donations.

But we say that our lives are more valuable than your re-election and we insist that you put politics aside and END LONG TERM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT NOW. Solitary confinement is torture. Amnesty International has condemned the pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured. The United Nations has condemned the pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured.

The United States Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons has been calling for an end to long term solitary confinement over the last seven years and has condemned this pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured.

We the people of California have condemned this pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured.

Amnesty International has condemned the pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured.

Governor, it is time for you and Secretary Beard to quit manipulating Californians with your Willie Horton racist rhetoric toward scaring the American people with the big Black boogie man syndrome.

The United Nations has condemned the pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured.

Stop it, governor! You and Beard should be ashamed of such divisive rhetoric that you use to pit Californians against each other by race, class and caste.

The United States Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons has been calling for an end to long term solitary confinement over the last seven years and has condemned this pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured.

We ask all supporters and non-supporters to vote politicians into positions of power who will hear the voice of the people. Reject those who abuse the power afforded to them due to some narcissistic, over-possessive control freak syndrome which many of them suffer from.

We the people of California have condemned this pattern of practice in which prisoners are tortured.

We prisoners insist that the people of California get the facts. Follow your money. See whose pocket it’s going into.

Investigate the solitary confinement units. You’ll see that CDCr has been lying to you. When you find that out, will you then hold them accountable? Or will it be business as usual?

Where is the accountability to the taxpayers? Any public official who tortures prisoners does so in your name – not his or hers.

In struggle,

Sitawa

Injustice Runs Deep

In: SF Bay View, September 27, 2013

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

I am a 55-year-old New Afrikan man. I came to prison in 1980 for a first degree murder that I did not commit. The prosecutor, judge, victim’s family and my family know that I did not commit this murder. How is it that I can say it as a matter of fact? Because the actual killer confessed to the murder during the trial, did the time for the murder and he has since been released in 1986.

Sitawa2pics

Two photos of Sitawa show him in 1988 and 2012. – Photo: Adithya Sambamurthy, CIR

But because I wouldn’t give up information on an alleged drug dealer that the Oakland police wanted to take down, I was also charged for this crime and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law although everyone involved knew I was innocent. This is Amerika’s justice.

I was then sent off to one of the many CDCR prisons. I ended up, 22 years of age, young and very innocent and never been into any trouble with the law or involved with any criminal activity prior to being sent to one of the most violent prisons in the U.S., and there I was forced to make my own way.

Prison guards do not save or protect prisoners despite all the hype around the safety and security of the institution, nor do the police protect the average Amerikan or New Afrikan in the free world. People are literally on their own where there exist all kinds of predators. We all are prey and predators. I was a young man who was looked upon as prey and, in order for me to survive in an environment where my life was in constant danger, I had to learn the ways of a predator and it is this understanding that allowed me to survive.

But being that I came from a home where my mother was a follower of Martin Luther King Jr. and John Kennedy and my father was a follower of Marcus Garvey, violence was not and has never been a part of my household or something that I chose to indulge myself in. I know how to defend myself where there lurks danger, but preying on prisoners was something I personally despised, so I became someone who could help prisoners improve their lives!

I have never had a violent history nor do I aspire to have a violent future.

Since I had some schooling and my mother was a school teacher, I became a teacher, but behind these prison walls. I started educating some of the many prisoners who were given outrageous times by racist judicial proceedings for petty drug charges, three strikes laws – gang members who could not read or write nor understand some of the simplest curriculums.

My civilization was realized through my education, and I don’t care what anyone says; I’ve seen many, if not countless, prisoners change their lives and I have been privileged to have a hand in some of those changes. I have never been in no gang and never had the desire to be in any gang, but I understand their situation: Many of these individuals were born into these gang cultures in some of the harshest conditions. Just like when I lost my freedom, snatched off the streets and placed in the deadliest prison for a crime – murder – I did not commit.

But prison officials did not like the fact that I was contributing to the growth and development – education – of many prisoners and I am talking across the board: Whites, New Afrikans, Mexicans, Latinos, Asians etc. I have never had a violent history nor do I aspire to have a violent future.

I was locked up in solitary confinement because of my ability to educate prisoners successfully. Yes, I have been held in solitary confinement for the last 29 years because I am an “educated nigger” in the eyes of my captors.

My captors use gang labeling as a justification for subjecting prisoners in solitary confinement to cruel and unusual punishment – torture. For the 14,000 prisoners in solitary confinement, CDCR gets $70,000 a head annually to hold prisoners inside administration segregation units and security housing units and only $50,000 for holding prisoners on general population (GP). This is a waste because each and every one of us can program on general population. Yet we are deemed unable to program because CDCR officials do not want to lose any money they get for holding prisoners in solitary confinement.

People like Debra J. Saunders of San Francisco Chronicle speak from a position of ignorance or she’s a conspirator toward exploiting taxpayers out of their tax dollars. She generally casts her criticism based on information she has not investigated. So when she made a statement without taking the time to get the inside story of the individuals she spoke to, it’s obvious that she practices junk journalism, where people attempt to pop-off at the mouth to make a name for themselves off the backs of others’ pain and suffering regardless of their innocence.

She can care less that I am the one who has been subjected to many injustices by the state and continue to suffer at the hand of the state. Ms. Saunders believes that it is justifiable for me to be held in solitary confinement for the politics I chose to believe in, although I have not committed not one violent act or criminal act nor have I been associated with any rules violation reports (RVRs).

I was locked up in solitary confinement because of my ability to educate prisoners successfully.

I have been held in solitary confinement for 29 years, and if you think this is right, then the problem is people like yourself, which is what’s wrong with this country. It is the same mentality of the torturers: Gov. E.G. Brown, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard and state Attorney General Kamala Harris. Ms. Saunders takes prisoners’ post-convictions that occurred over 20 years ago and re-prosecutes prisoners who are serving time for their alleged crimes.

To use their post-convictions to justify why they should be subjected to torture goes against everything this country supposedly stands for. This is still a nation of laws, isn’t it? Or do our captors get to arbitrarily persecute us however they see fit, whenever they want to?

Ms. Saunders, none of us were sentenced to torture. While I know you believe all the people in prison are criminals as long as they have been convicted, you do not know what are the circumstances that led to the alleged incidents in respect to the four [main hunger strike] representatives. You are speaking from a position of ignorance because you know no one and have no desire to meet any of us, especially since your interests stem from pure greed for prestige.

I know all these men and all of them have become my personal friends – men who, for over 30 years, were seen as my adversaries. This in itself is change. I’ve spent the last 13 years with these men and some longer, and I see their humanity every day. We’ve talked endlessly about many subjects that pertain to our livelihood and how we can, as men, improve on our lives and the lives of our fellow human beings – prisoners.

None of us were sentenced to torture.

Ms. Saunders, you know the system once said I was only three fifths of a human being and it was not true. They will not always tell you the truth. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The bill giving the media access to prisons and prisoners was vetoed by Gov. Brown so they can continue to control the narrative, always.

We are also clear here: CDCR officials cannot protect no one nor do they desire to. CDCR has for the last 40 years murdered, beaten and tortured prisoners while given immunity. Gov. Brown is continuing CDCR’s legacy. He clearly knows what is going on and what’s been going on and has no desire to end it.

Torture. Prisoners are the victims of state-sanctioned torture and any Amerikan or New Afrikan citizen who wants the facts to when, where and how CDCR has deliberately murdered prisoners, beaten prisoners and tortured prisoners in solitary confinement, I will personally give you a breakdown of these atrocities, historical and current.

This current strike is not about our captors; it is about prisoners and the civil and human rights afforded to us by the Constitution of the “USA.” The blatant violations of the Constitution when it comes to prisoners’ First, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights are a direct result of a society that has gone lawless and government’s abusing the powers they have been entrusted to use in the name of the people.

We prisoners fight for our justice because no one else will fight our cause.

Resist, resist and liberate

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 concerted torture while correctional officers have violated and disrespected us routinely, subjecting us to physical and psychological torment each day we have been back here.

Photo: Occupy San Quentin Marie Levin, Sitawa’s sister, speaking 022012-4 by Bill Hackwell, web

Sitawa’s sister, Marie Levin, speaking here at Occupy San Quentin, a large rally outside the San Quentin gates on Feb. 20, 2012, has become a leading spokesperson in the struggle for justice for her brother and everyone in solitary confinement. – Photo: Bill Hackwell

We have collectively opted to refrain from any violence – even though CDCR has been very violent toward us! Especially when they took a mentally ill New Afrikan prisoner and forced him into boiling hot water, then laughed about it, saying, “He’ll be a white boy now,” as his skin fell from his flesh. [See the AP story dated Sept. 18, 1993, on the trial that first revealed the torture of Vaughn Dortch.]

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. Of everyone in solitary, 85 percent have been given a gang title; of the 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; that is why they label everyone. You’ve got to seek the truth. There are 14,000 prisoners held in solitary confinement. There are 3,000 who prison officials say are gang leaders or generals.

They say everyone they hold in solitary confinement is the most violent of prisoners. We are the masterminds, they say, but they cannot show the public anything but rhetoric. No violence, no criminal gang acts committed by these gang leaders or generals who are supposed to control or “lead.”

The “gang shot-caller or leader” rhetoric is a farce.

They try to use hype and old alleged incidents in order to propagate to 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 representatives. When CDCR uses a violent act to denigrate my character, they generalize and go back 40 years, as did Secretary Beard. Why do you think he referred to the 1970s in order to speak to violence he alleges we are associated with? Because he has no evidence. I wasn’t even in prison in the 1970s, nor were any of the other four representatives.

Then he went to the streets when he tried to link us to violence, because he had no record of any violence inside prisons. So he associates us with whatever violence he can out there! Those allegations are 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 needs 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 prisoners, for me 29 years and others 10, 20, 30 years straight for only 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 lockups,” not in response to violence. They can show NO Rules Violation Reports – disciplinary reports. We have not committed any offenses to be placed in solitary confinement.

Allegations are 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 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 24.

There is no way any of us could do what CDCR is charging that we did, if we even wanted to. Their lies are not about your safety and security. They are about your hard-earned tax dollars. They have prisoners they hold 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 it’s cool to release them back into the public after they have 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?

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 prisoners’ placement in them.

We had the OIG Chief Deputy 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. 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.

He used this opportunity to reacquaint himself with his old prison official colleagues. 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

Sitawa is one of the four main prisoner representatives who called for the peaceful protest that began in 2011 and resumed July 8, 2013, with 30,000 participants.

Statement suspending the third hunger strike

Published in: SF Bay View, Sept, 5th, 2013

Greetings of Solidarity and Respect!

The PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective Representatives hereby serve notice upon all concerned parties of interest that after nine weeks we have collectively decided to suspend our third hunger strike action on Sept. 5, 2013.

To be clear, our peaceful protest of resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly.

This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met – despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable. The core group of prisoners has been and remains 100 percent committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice. With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective; we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.

Our goal remains: Force the powers that be to end their torture policies and practices in which serious physical and psychological harm is inflicted on tens of thousands of prisoners as well as our loved ones outside. We also call for ending the related practices of using prisoners to promote the agenda of the police state by seeking to greatly expand the numbers of the working class poor warehoused in prisons, and particularly those of us held in solitary, based on psychological and social manipulation, and divisive tactics keeping prisoners fighting amongst each other.

To be clear, our peaceful protest of resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly.

Those in power promote mass warehousing to justify more guards and more tax dollars for “security,” yet spend mere pennies for rehabilitation – all of which demonstrates a failed penal system and high recidivism – ultimately compromising public safety. The state of California’s $9.1 billion annual CDCR budget is the epitome of a failed and fraudulent state agency that diabolically and systemically deprives thousands of their human rights and dignity.

Allowing this agency to act with impunity has to stop! And it will.

With that said, and in response to much sincere urging of loved ones, supporters, our attorneys, and current and former state legislators, Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock and Tom Hayden, for whom we have the utmost respect, we decided to suspend our hunger strike. We are especially grateful to Sen. Hancock and Assembly Member Ammiano for their courageous decision to challenge Gov. Brown and the CDCR for their policies of prolonged solitary confinement and inhumane conditions. We are certain that they will continue their fight for our cause, including holding legislative hearings and drafting legislation responsive to our demands on prison conditions and sentencing laws. We are also proceeding with our class action civil suit against the CDCR.

The fact is that Gov. Brown and CDCR Secretary Beard have responded to our third peaceful action with typical denials and falsehoods, claiming solitary confinement does not exist and justifying the continuation of their indefinite torture regime by vilifying the peaceful protest representatives. They also obtained the support of medical receiver Kelso and Prison Law Office attorney Spector – who is supposed to represent prisoners interests, and instead has become an agent for the state – to perpetuate their lie to the public and to the federal court that prisoners participating in the hunger strike have been coerced in order to obtain the Aug. 19 force feeding order.

From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals. However, there’s still much to be done. Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.

We have deemed it to be in the best interest of our cause to suspend our hunger strike action until further notice.

We urge people to remember that we began our present resistance with our unprecedented collective and peaceful actions – in tandem with the legislative process – back in early 2010, when we created and distributed a “Formal Complaint” for the purpose of educating the public and bringing widespread attention to our torturous conditions.

After much dialogue and consideration, this led us to our first and second hunger strike actions in 2011, during which a combined number of 6,500 and 12,000 prisoners participated. We succeeded in gaining worldwide attention and support resulting in some minor changes by the CDCR concerning SHU programming and privileges. They also claimed to make major changes to policies regarding gang validation and indefinite SHU confinement by creating the STG-SDP Pilot Program. They released a few hundred prisoners from SHU and Ad Seg to general population in the prison. But in truth, this is all part of a sham to claim the pilot program works and was a weak attempt to have our class action dismissed. It didn’t work.

In response, we respectfully made clear that CDCR’s STG-SDP was not responsive to our demand for the end to long term isolation and solitary confinement and thus unacceptable. (See Agreement to End Hostilities.)

Our supporting points fell on deaf ears, leading to our January 2013 notice of intent to resume our hunger strike on July 8, 2013, if our demands were not met. We also included 40 supplemental demands.

In early July, CDCR produced several memos notifying prisoners of an increase in privileges and property items, which are notably responsive to a few of our demands, while the majority of our demands were unresolved, leading to our third hunger strike, in which 30,000 prisoners participated and which resulted in greater worldwide exposure, support and condemnation of the CDCR!

From our perspective, we’ve gained a lot of positive ground towards achieving our goals. However, there’s still much to be done. Our resistance will continue to build and grow until we have won our human rights.

Respectfully,

For the Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement:

  • Todd Ashker, C-58191, D4-121
  • Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, D1-121
  • Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, D1-117
  • Antonio Guillen, P-81948, D2-106

And the Representatives Body:

  • Danny Troxell, B-76578, D1-120
  • George Franco, D-46556, D4-217
  • Ronnie Yandell, V-27927, D4-215
  • Paul Redd, B-72683, D2-117
  • James Baridi Williamson, D-34288, D4-107
  • Alfred Sandoval, D-61000, D4-214
  • Louis Powell, B-59864, D1-104
  • Alex Yrigollen, H-32421, D2-204
  • Gabriel Huerta, C-80766, D3-222
  • Frank Clement, D-07919, D3-116
  • Raymond Chavo Perez, K-12922, D1-219
  • James Mario Perez, B-48186, D3-124

CDCR’s $9.2 billion corruption machine vs. Prison Human Rights Movement

Published in the SF Bay View, Aug. 16th, 2013

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective

Aug. 14, 2013 – I would like to reiterate that the Agreement to End All Hostilities, issued Aug. 12, 2012, is significant for all prisoners because CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) has encouraged prisoners in their 33 prisons to not only engage in self-destructive behavior but has also helped heighten racial hostilities – the catalyst for internal warfare, racial warfare and gang warfare – all of which has been magnified inside the prisons and throughout our communities.

We decided to address these contradictions head on by engaging in a dialogue that was meaningful, sincere and honest with each respective entity. We realized that our responsibility was to end actions that were contrary to the growth and development of each and every prisoner.

We have been attempting to end hostilities for the last 13 years, but the CDCR was not a willing participant in the process. In 2000, we were allowed to get together and work on ending racial and gang riots and to end internal violence.

The CDCR, after realizing that we were successful in our attempts, became very irritable and obstructionist toward our work and proceeded to deliberately sabotage it. During a racial riot in 2000, a young prisoner was murdered by a prison guard. Young prisoners were being murdered in these racial riots; their actions were used by prison guards to justify their being shot for being armed with a weapon – i.e., a makeshift prison knife.

Countless prisoners have been murdered in cold blood under the CDCR’s “no warning shot policy.” The prison guards justify killing the prisoners because, they say, they thought they saw a weapon or witnessed one prisoner advancing on another. We consider this to be cold blooded murder. We called for an end to hostilities to eliminate giving prison guards an excuse to kill prisoners.

We realize that the justification for locking men and women away in solitary confinement on prison gang validations indefinitely while also subjecting us to a military debriefing process as the only way to program out constitute attacks to our physical and psychological well-being. Prisoners can no longer withstand such torture.

This process has led to many debriefings and mentally ill prisoners throughout CDCR: in PBSP-SHU, Corcoran SHU, Tehachapi SHU, Folsom SHU and San Quentin Adjustment Center (Death Row). As people who have suffered under such a brutal, diabolical system, we realize that it is our responsibility to help change the course of violent prison systems that have made their way to our communities.

Orchestrated activities are carried out by debriefers and collaborators whose sole role is to maintain hostilities and deepen infiltration and entrapments within our communities in association with the law enforcement in the streets.

We had been talking about playing a greater leadership role for the last 13 years throughout the PBSP-SHU, but we were unable to agree collectively due to our isolation. So when powerful entities within the California prison system – Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI), Investigations Services Unit (ISU) and Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) – isolated us together in the short corridor, a super-max SHU, we were able to re-open our dialogue and agreed to ending the blatant attacks that our families, friends and associates were being subjected to – the same attacks that we were being subjected to in solitary confinement.

We called for an end to hostilities to eliminate giving prison guards an excuse to kill prisoners.

We realize nothing productive can be done to change the current state of our situation, our prison environment, unless we end the hostilities between prisoners and end all racial and gang violence within the CDCR.

We feel that prisoners are the victims of a systematic process that manipulates them through racial and gang violence in order to prevent greater unity.

In solidarity, struggle, love and respect,

Sitawa

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa is one of four members of the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective who sit at the negotiating table whenever Gov. Jerry Brown authorizes the CDCR to negotiate the hunger strikers’ demands.