i Went inside My Heart To Survive The Torture

Baridi-sister1stcontactvisit2016

Baridi on his first contact visit since decades, with his sister, 2016

To: OUTSIDE HUMANITY: This is part 2 of my Shared Journey inside the Tombs of California’s Solitary Confinement Torture Chambers, inspired by those of you Outside Representatives of Humynity who cared enough to take time out of your personal lives (even step out of your privileged comfort zones) and See Us (SHU Men) as Human Beings. I/WE THANK YOU ALL (special Shout Out to Sista Sharon, Cile & HRPP Reps).

Part II: I WENT INSIDE MY HEART TO SURVIVE THE TORTURE
By Baridi “X” Williamson
JW © June 6, 2016

When i entered this California branch of the New Jim Crow system of mass incarceration thirty-two years ago, there was nothing in my mind that could have prepared me for the torturous ordeal that awaited my arrival to this prison station along my Life’s journey – especially the last twenty-plus years of being buried alive in the State Government’s Solitary Confinement Torture Prison Tombs called various names — “AD-SEG” (Administrative Segregation), “SHU” (Security Housing Unit), etc.

Yet, it was the clear insight that was shared by a Freedom Fighter named George Jackson, who tells us in this internationally-acclaimed publications that “It takes some serious psychological adjustments to deal with prison life … ” (Soledad Brother). So you can imagine what that meant when having to come face-to-face and either deal with, or run (debrief/snitch/lie on others) inside Solitary Confinement for years/decades under California’s “Snitch, Parole, or Die” Mass Validation/Indeterminate SHU Classification/Indetermined SHU Classification/Debriefing (coerced enhanced interrogation) scheme (1980s to recent).

And there i was staring this inhumane, cruel and torturous creature in its face, as i entered that strange man-made diabolical construct called “Pelican Bay SHU” in the early 1990s. And just as George said, “Nothing can prepare you for this.” In January, 1995 U.S. federal court Judge Thelton Henderson described the conditions behind the Pelican Bay SHU walls/gates:

The Prison setting at Pelican Bay SHU offers a tremendous potential for abuse by guards who have powerful weapons and enormous manpower at their disposal and exercise nearly total control over the inmates under their supervision. Adding to this volatile mix is the fact that the prison setting of the SHU is far removed from the usual sights and sounds of everyday life. From the outside, the SHU resembles a massive bunker; from the inside, it is a windowless labyrinth of cells and walls, sealed off from the outside world by walls, gates, and guards. The physical environment thus reinforces a sense of isolation and detachment from the outside world and helps create “palpable distance from ordinary compunctions, inhibitions, and community norms.”
(Madrid v. Gomez, 889 Fed. Supp. 1146)

Sadly, it took decades for the outside world at large to learn the shocking truths about the inhumane, degrading, brutal and fatal horrors that were being secretly visited upon those of us inside the SHUs (which included SHUs at Corcoran, New Folsom, and Tehachapi). And that was only after the historic California Hunger Strikes (2011-2013) that we were able to finally break through CDCr’s secret redwood (Del Norte County/Crescent City) curtain wall of lies to hide their torture. But by then, the damage of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — Solitary Confinement had already been done. This is why it is taking some of us so long to try to share with you — the Outside World Humanity — what we just experienced. It is the trauma that we must face, to grasp an understanding of, and expose to you.

During and following those peaceful Hunger Strikes, one of the interesting questions that those of you representing Outside Humanity that either took the (much-welcomed/-appreciated) time to write and/or come in and visit — (Shout Out to Everyone in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) — would ask me/Us was questions like:

How Do you Cope/Deal With Being In There All This Time”?

I will not try to speak for others, because we each had to find our own personal ways to “cope/deal” and (most of all) “SURVIVE” the traumatic torment we were subjected to in there. But i want to share that i am finally able to take a deep breath and learn about my personal struggles inside there.

During the first five to ten years in PBSP-SHU, i watched the guys around me outwardly showing their struggles as they slipped deeper into the abyss and ultimately lost their Sanity. This was especially blatant for those whom the prison staff deliberately separated from the rest of us (within the other SHU units) and moved them to a separate torture place called “VCU.” Many of them were driven insane within months (possibly due in large part to their already unstable mental state?)

I recall how these guys would be taken from VCU and brought into the other SHU units where i/WE were located and you could see that they were all the way gone. A guy would spread feces all over the cell and his body and be inside his assigned cage like that with no care. And in the case of the young mentally-ill Black man named Vaughn Dortch, the staff (both medical and guards) forced Mr. Dortch into a tub of scalding hot water and held him down while they scrubbed his skin with a steel brush and his skin peeled away and hung loosely at the bottom of his legs [see here for a 1996 SF Gate article, and Madrid v. Gomez, or google “Vaughn Dortch.”]

Another prisoner had climbed atop the highest rail bars on the Second Tier and jumped off head first. Some guys banged their cups and spoon on the bars and screamed and yelled all night. And these are just some examples of the blatant symptoms of SHU prisoners losing their sanity. Then there are those who, like myself, were able to internally find the wherewithal to battle/resist (often with outside Humanity’s supportive help) and cope/survive.

For me, i survived by trying to identify which ways our CDCr SHU tormentors were using to penetrate our inner-being and manipulate/play on our vulnerabilities and weaknesses as Human Beings to try and Break our Minds and Spirits — such as playing games, denying all natural Human and social contact with anyone, including our Families, depriving us of the normal use of our natural senses to see the grass, trees, sun (feel its rays/warmth), to smell/taste nutritional, wholesome food, to hear natural sounds like birds singing, human laughter, etc. We were physically entombed in a 3-walled concrete, windowless Box with little holes at the front formed around a locked, rectangular slot that they shoved the food tray through. All we could see was a larger wall directly in front of the cage. I sensed the need to have some kind of defense around me inside. But how?

Once i saw that the entire Solitary Confinement ‘creature’ was set up to attack my overall Being (inside and out), i started trying to find effective ways to cope. So for years i relied heavily on mainly exercising my body and mind, reading, studying and writing. And whenever I felt the stress and strain of the ‘creature’ tugging at my inner-Being, trying to pull my Sanity over the edge into the abyss, i would quickly get to exercising. That worked for awhile, but then came the mundane, everyday monotony of waking up and having to face and deal with the same ole tired, boring regimen, day-in and day out. It would be at this stage of my internal struggles that i feel this ‘creature’ tugging at me. So i learned to go inside myself, find memories of my Family and hug/hold onto them for dear life. I would place us in a sacred place deep inside the Heart and there we would remain throughout the duration of my traumatic ordeal. I would somehow fix my Mind to shut down, block out, and close off any noticeable access by our Tormentors to get into that safe sanctuary of my Heart and Soul.

I erected some unnormal psychological walls to guard my-Self/Sanity that i have no idea what i created to SURVIVE!

To be continued . .. Next “Exiting the Madness Thru Humynity”

Baridi Williamson, D34288; SVSP C1/118; PO Box 1050, Soledad, CA 93960

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Arturo Castellanos’ Two Reports

This was originally published in California Prison Focus of Spring 2014., p. 8 and 12.

#1 March 3, 2014 [note 1]
I’m one of the four main SHU reps here at PBSP. I’m writing this brief one on the positive outcomes during our meetings with Sacramento and PBSP offi cials since the end of our last hunger strike. They have been pretty straight forward with us on many issues concerning the possession of personal property and visiting—we have the three hour visits we demanded and Sac officials have completed— and Sac officials have issued the Authorized Personal Property Schedules [APPS] Matrix that allow all SHU male and female prisoners the opportunity to order and possess a lot more personal property items that we demanded and have not been allowed since before 1989.

However, at our last meeting with Sac officials, we did raise some issues with the new APPS. We were assured that they are going to tweak it where, for example, they were going to remove the wording “clear-case” ear buds and “clear-case” AC adaptors and adding the necessary electronic accessories to it even though they are automatically implied on the Matrix. And to change the allowable 15.5” flat screen TV to under 16”— Walkenhorsts vendor provides a good quality 15.6 inch RCA flat screen TV—which is good for the aging prison population.

These and other additional changes to the Apps are very important to us because, even if the prison wardens approve certain items, the approved vendors will not send them unless they are approved on the Matrix or Sac officials send them a memorandum on it. Sac also stated they will review the Apps once a year to stay current.

On Feb 20, 2014, we reps also attended the second quarterly meeting with this administration, since the last H.S. regarding issues pertaining to this prison. The memos of that meeting should be issued soon. They did address all the issues and concerns we raised, and those that other SHU and Ad Seg prisoners sent them. [Note: if PBSP-SHU/Ad Seg prisoners wish to have their local issues addressed at the next May/June meeting, send them to the SHU Associate Warden’s office or to this publication in early May 2014.]

The following are just some of the many issues raised at this meeting: they are working on obtaining better quality mattresses; they did issue us three white towels and a half blue towel to keep our cell clean; the prison’s bakery had been reopened and is producing better baked goods; the loaner recreational book program will soon be operational again; the state is issuing incoming Ad/Seg prisoners a crank-windup-radio for the first 21 days to use. And if a prisoner stays longer, they can hold on to it as long as another new arrival doesn’t need one. We argued that enough of them should be purchased for all Ad/Seg prisoners for their entire stay in Ad/Seg or allow them to purchase and possess their own crank radio until they finish installing the electrical outlets, cables and shelves. Still, this is a great improvement in Ad/Seg from last Sept. 2013 and 2011 when we were there.

This administration has also agreed to implement a procedure to remove all speakers from all new incoming radios, and, as long as the AC-adapter works on the radio we order, those non-clear AC-adapters will be allowed here. Of course, as stated, the vendors will not send them unless Sac directs them to. Also, canteen items list for all SHUs has been expanded and will continue to expand in the future, and we are pushing/requesting they expand the canteen electronic accessories [e.g., typewriter ribbons, etc., T-antenna and matching transformers to hook up the T-antenna; flat digital antenna and antenna adapters; Y adapters; ear bud extension cords; L-cable hookups, etc.; and some Sony/Panasonic ear buds.]

As one can see above, I chose to focus on the cooperation we have received from Sac officials and PBSP’s new administration on just the “tangible” items that do effect every SHU prisoner. So the efforts of all prisoners have not been in vain. This is also so other prisoners can address similar issues with their prison’s administrators, for example, extended visits.

However, I will take some parting shots at the STG-SDP. Besides the statement we reps put out for the latest joint Senate/Assembly hearings, we strong object to CDCR deleting the word “direct” from the “Direct-Nexus” to gang activity because it now makes it a lot easier for IGI, ISU, and other alphabet bricks that make up the green wall to obtain make-believe statements from their debriefer-informantslaves to continue to bounce any CDCR prisoners between steps 1 through 4 and back. Thus, another main reason we reps pushed so hard for the additional tangible SHU property items.

Also, the SDP should only be behavior based, not on how many Journal-Loops one can jump through. All prisoners and outside supporters pushed to get rid of the requirement of signing contracts; now we need to push to get rid of these silly Journals. And, until we see how this plays out, our hopes remain on the present civil suit on solitary confinement and the new bills that are being pushed to put a cap on the amount of time we spend in solitary confinement.

That will also do away with the need for any revolving door program like SDP.
I personally feel that, right now, on the SDP itself, until it’s changed or eliminated altogether by law or court, it should be up to each individual if they wish to go through the DRB [Departmental Review Board] hearings. I myself will go in April, even though I expect to be placed on step 1, behind all the countless 1030s [informants] in my file. Most here on the short corridor are being placed in 1 or 2. And those that have serious chronic illnesses are being sent to New Folsom, no matter the step they’re placed in. I have no illness so I’ll remain here. And, so far, some are also being placed on steps 3 or 4.

Finally, I wish to correct some misconception on the origins of the STG-SDP. It did not originate from our hunger
strikes. CDCR has had it on the back burner as a result of the Castillo case. The hunger strikes only forced CDCR to put it on the table a lot sooner than they planned. So, no one should try to lay that program’s origins at the hunger strikers’ feet, period!

#2 March 23, 2014
I write this to update you on the two issues I addressed in my last letter of March 3, 2014. First, on the positive cooperation we received from this new administration and second, on the DRB hearings. Regarding the first issue, it has now been over 30 days since we had attended the meeting of February 20th with the administration but yet, to date, they have not issued copies of any of the promised memos to all the SHU buildings, or of what transpired at that meeting.

Also, I mentioned in my last letter that the prison’s bakery was up and running and that they were sending us better baked goods. Well, by the evidence so far, it gives the appearance that leading up to that meeting of Feb. 20th, we were seeing good size pieces of cake—with frosting, biscuits, dinner and breakfast rolls, and cornbread on the trays. But, soon after I sent that letter out, the baked goods got smaller, cakes no longer had frosting, or stopped being served to us at all, and the so-called fruit-crisp is now just gook without the crisp. It’s almost as though the baker was fired soon after that meeting and replaced with someone that doesn’t know what the hell they are doing. I just hope the promised food surveys were issued to the two volunteer reps so this administration can get feedback from them on this and the rest of the continual served slop. I feel for those of you who do not have the funds to purchase canteen items to supplement this food. I can go on with this issue
but I’m sure this administration has gotten the point that we will point out the positive—like my last letter—as well as the negative in this letter.

On the second issue, the DRB hearings for the short-corridor and others from both C and D facilities, in my last letter I was told the next ones will be held in April. Now they’re saying May of 2014, and will be held every other month. To date they have seen the fi rst 25. In May, they are supposed to see those numbered from 26 through 50, maybe more, because they recently added another 50 to the list numbered from 51 through 100. If any of you believe you are on this list you can contact CCIT Ms. Perez or Ms. Vargas.

Now, the following is very important: Some names and addresses of attorneys will be placed at the end of this letter [note 1A] that should be contacted by those at PBSP-SHU when they are first placed on these lists—your number on it—when the CCIT issues you the 1030s [confidential information] that the DRB members will be using at the hearing. If possible, give the CCIT, at that time, a signed trust to make a second copy of them to send to the attorneys. Take notes as to what transpires at your DRB hearing [i.e., what step, etc.] and your issues/complaints why you object to any part of that process. And, if possible, file any writ on those issues—
according to Title 15, section 3376.1. Issues raised at those hearings are fully exhausted at the Directors level. One does not go through the CDCR 602 appeal process on this.

All of this vital info is important so the attorneys in our—all SHU prisoners—pending civil suit on solitary confinement. The attorneys can use it to effectively counter any motions for dismissal or summary judgment the U.S. attorney general files later. This info is greatly appreciated and the attorneys assured us that they will keep any materials confi dential.

Also, be sure that when you are placed on a step, you stay in touch with the attorneys so they can monitor your progress [i.e., bounced from step to step and back, etc.] It is also important for the rest of the SHU prison populations across CDCR that you send a general letter to these publications of what transpired at those hearings so they can be informed as to what to expect when they go before the DRB.

Finally, some that were placed in steps 3 and 4 were advised that Tehachapi level IV was closing the G.P. and were going to be used for those two steps. If this is true—and it’s a big if—CDCR shouldn’t have a problem in giving those on step 3 and 4 contact visits. The resources and visiting cronos are already in place. [note 2]

Arturo Castellanos #C-17275
[address from 2014]
PBSP-SHU, D1-121
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95532

[Note 1.]  While this portion of the document was written in early March, it was not received by your [CPF] editor until early April.

[Note 1A] There were no names or addresses of attorneys at the end of this letter, only a note asking outside people to provide said contact information. Those who forwarded the letter to me, up here in Seattle, neglected to provide the contact information for the attorneys.

[Note 2.] There were thirteen pages consisting of copies of memos, etc. that were attached to Mr. Castellanos’ letter but are not included here due to space considerations.

Our duty as human beings is to fully resist: Open Letter from Pelican Bay representative to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

By by Todd Ashker

In: California Prison Focus spring 2012, p. 5. Reprinted from SF Bay View Feb. 29, 2013, who received it from the Prison Activist Resource Center)

Discussions are underway with the intent to set short term and long term goals in the resistance struggle
against SHU practices and the prison industrial complex. People are indoctrinated, brainwashed into believing
they are weak or powerless – that prisoners in this state are evil and deserve to be punished and treated as some type of sub-human animal, based on their felon status. By “people,” I’m referring to prisoners, their families, friends and supporters, as well as the general public at large. This is the wrong way to see things and it has to change!

Here in the prison system, it’s become the norm for men to brag that they have become “institutionalized,” complacently accepting more and more abuse and deprivations. They talk about “I can take whatever they do to me and won’t give them the satisfaction of complaining about it.” This is the example set by many older cons for the younger cons. I don’t agree with this type of mind set! We should never accept being abused or mistreated. It’s our duty as human beings to FULLY RESIST! Our hunger strike activity over the past year has shown that solid resistance is not only possible, but also very effective, and it can be done in smart, fully advantageous ways. It simply requires prisoners to come together collectively for the common good of all and with the support of the people outside, forming a powerful force to force the changes that are long overdue. Changes dictated by
morals and common sense principles which the lawmakers and courts refuse to make are based upon the politics and greed related to manipulative special interest groups.

We need to do all we can to open people’s eyes and minds to the following reality: Most prisoners are not serving valid, legal sentences! Our sentencing laws are not based on valid, sensible public safety interests. Rather, our sentencing laws are based on the politics associated with failed policies – e.g., the war on drugs.
We are not serving valid sentences. Most prisoners serving “term-to-life” sentences are many years beyond minimum terms. We’re in prison based on the money made off of us by special interests! Thus, we need to resist and by our resistance gain additional exposure and outside support.

Our compliance and recognition of the prison’s power over us is our downfall. If we collectively refuse to comply,
and refuse to recognize the prisoncrats having any power over us via refusal to work, refusal to follow orders, then these prisons cannot operate! Our goal needs to be to force major changes, beneficial to prisoners and our families and loved ones regarding prison conditions and the amount of time people serve. Our supporters outside need to make a hard core, serious stand on the same agenda.

People need to see that we are not in here legally. We’ve served our time – a great many of us have – and paid our debt and then some! We are no longer accepting the abuse and torture. We are human beings and demand humane, nonpunitive treatment from this point on. And until there are major changes toward this end, we collectively refuse to comply with orders – and will possibly go back on hunger strike. Our outside supporters can rally and demand our release!

On the radio today we heard that a 27-year-old man at Corcoran died Feb. 2 in Ad Seg. How many more have to die this way? Here we are in 2012 and prisoners are dying in peaceful protest of prison conditions. What is really going on?!