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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Report back from Prisoner Representatives’ first monitoring meeting with CDCR

From Center for Constitutional Rights
May 23, 2016

By Todd Ashker

At the beginning of this first meeting, it became clear that there was a misunderstanding about its function.  CDCR thought the meeting was for us to listen to them.  Why would we put a term into our Settlement that would have us listen to them?  We listen to them every second of our lives.  We see the purpose of these calls as an opportunity for us to be heard and to have a discussion with people in authority.

Despite this initial confusion, we were able to lead the meeting. CDCR got unfiltered information from prisoners who know what is going on in their prison cells and yards.  We are a leadership group the CDCR knows.  They know we have integrity.  The information we shared at the meeting came not only from the experiences of us four main reps, but also from the other veterans of the SHU, members of our class who have written and met with our attorneys.

We raised in strong terms that some of us who have made it to General Population yards are essentially in modified SHUs (Security Housing Units), in some respects worse than Pelican Bay SHU, although in some respects better.   Conditions, policies and practices that we are experiencing in some of the General Population yards are not what we expected when we settled our case.  After spending decades in solitary we cannot accept many of these conditions.  Too many prisoners are simply warehoused, and there are not enough jobs or programs to give us skills, engage our minds and prepare us to return to our communities.  Guards need training in ‘professional’ behavior.   Bullying and humiliation should never be tolerated.

CDCR may have been surprised at the tenor, strength and substance of our approach.   We expect at the next meeting, we will all understand the agenda and purpose well ahead of time.   We also think a longer meeting will allow for a full discussion and useful interaction.  We hope CDCR officials come to welcome these historic meetings as useful because they will be if prisoners’ perspectives are heard, used and received by them.

A Look at California’s Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement

A Look at California's Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari -page 1

A Look at California’s Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari-page 1

A Look at California's Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari -page 2

A Look at California’s Legal Settlement on Solitary Confinement, by Kijana Tashiri Askari -page 2

Shine a light on Tehachapi, where CDCr has violated prisoners’ constitutional rights for far too long!

This letter was published in the SF Bay View on Oct. 31st, 2014
 
by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

This is a summarized version of a letter I sent to Mike Stainer, director of Adult Institutions, July 28, 2014, in order to address the long standing U.S. constitutional violations at CCI-Tehachapi and bring this prison under the current SHU standards forthwith:
Salamu (Greetings), Mr. Stainer and Mr. Diaz:

As I briefly reach out to you and your staff member, Mr. Diaz, I trust you are in good health and state of mind. I see that you are continuing to press the CDCR’s STG-SDP, and from where I’m sitting, your office is facing some serious structural dysfunctions throughout your prisons, regarding your alleged Steps 3 and 4.

These programs have supposedly been operational since Oct. 12, 2012, and Mr. George Giurbino and Ms. Suzan Hubbard have been campaigning and speaking highly of their Steps 3 and 4 program. It does not exist!

This is one of the most refined schemes I have ever witnessed, and Gov. Jerry Brown is actually scapegoating prisoners with the need for the Step 3 and 4 program. The talking points used by Giurbino and Hubbard to the public and to Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano were untrue.

Stay tuned. Enough said for the moment. I just wanted to share my thoughts, being that myself and other prisoners are seeing this type of hell first hand and UP CLOSE!

My purpose is to establish monthly meetings between CCI-Tehachapi officials and the four prisoner negotiators – myself, Danny Troxell (B-76578), John Solis (C-52754) and Javier Martinez (T-62995) – who shall speak on behalf of the Tehachapi SHU prisoner class. Now, over a month or so ago while still at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP), I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Diaz about establishing a similar working body to address some long standing problems here at CCI.

He agreed that some things needed to be worked out. Since my arrival, I see that the problems are of a constitutional nature and we do feel many can be resolved right here locally.

My purpose is to establish monthly meetings between CCI-Tehachapi officials and the four prisoner negotiators – myself, Danny Troxell (B-76578), John Solis (C-52754) and Javier Martinez (T-62995) – who shall speak on behalf of the Tehachapi SHU prisoner class.

I truly understand the cultural changes you are facing, Mr. Stainer, with wardens all the way through to correctional officers, but these cultural changes have been at the expense of prisoners across the prison system. These acts of persuasion and perturbation by prison staff have to cease immediately here at Tehachapi! The cultural level with prisoners has changed and continues to change.

There has to be a serious dialogue with yourself, Stainer and Diaz, along with Tehachapi prison officials, in order to truly standardize all SHUs, and currently Tehachapi is an un-standardized prison. All SHUs, and currently Tehachapi, are un-standardized. They should follow PBSP as the new and current model of areas that need to be altered in accordance with the new standard model that we should be after.

We, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM), need supporters to shine a light on this prison, for they have violated prisoners’ constitutional rights for far too long! We must be afforded our 10 hours of exercising a week. We must be afforded three hours of visiting.

Those are two of our immediate requests and demands. Prisoners have been denied these rights for years!
In struggle!

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.

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

Pelican Bay Short Corridor Human Rights Movement: Banned testimony of the four main prisoner representatives

Published in: SF Bay View, Feb. 11th, 2014

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

Feb. 11, 2014 – We are prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have all lived for over 15 years locked 23 hours a day in small windowless cells, without ever being able to hug or touch our families, without ever seeing birds, trees or the outside world, with no programs or chance for parole.

California keeps us in these torturous conditions not because of any violence we have committed, but because it believes we are affiliated with a gang, often based on artwork or photos we possess, tattoos we have, literature we read, who we talk to or anonymous informants’ statements that we have no way of challenging. We are put in Pelican Bay not for any specific term of months or years for misconduct we have committed, but indefinitely, which in practice means forever – unless we become informants.

California keeps us in these torturous conditions not because of any violence we have committed, but because it believes we are affiliated with a gang, often based on artwork or photos we possess, tattoos we have, literature we read, who we talk to or anonymous informants’ statements that we have no way of challenging.

Last summer we went on hunger strike – we were willing to starve ourselves to death rather than continue to endure these dehumanizing conditions forever. We ended the strike because several compassionate legislators promised to call the hearings that are taking place today. Yet today the legislators will hear from psychologists, lawyers, other experts, corrections officials, but not from us – who have the most experience with the conditions we face – because California (CDCR) prison officials refuse to let us testify, even remotely via video or audio, which they could easily do.

So this is our banned testimony: CDCR claims to have now instituted a reform program. It is a sham, just like the so called reform they instituted a decade ago after a court settlement which resulted in no real change. This new reform effort still maintains the basic conditions at Pelican Bay, and will continue to keep prisoners in isolation for vague gang affiliation based on artwork, literature, communications or informants’ testimony that does not meet California’s judicial standards for reliability in criminal trials.

California is still unwilling to move to a real behavior based system where prisoners are given determinate terms in solitary after due process hearings at which they are found guilty of some serious misconduct, such as assault, murder, rape or drug dealing. Instead, these new policies widen the net of prisoners who can be labeled as gang affiliates and isolated based on that label. These unjust and ineffective policies are very expensive and have already cost our state millions of tax dollars which could be put to better use.

CDCR’s reform program widens the net of prisoners who can be labeled as gang affiliates and isolated based on that label. These unjust and ineffective policies are very expensive and have already cost our state millions of tax dollars which could be put to better use.

Moreover, even those prisoners who need to be isolated from the general population because of the violence they have committed while in prison ought to be treated humanely. There is no reason California can’t run very high security prisons that allow prisoners held in segregation to have contact visits with family, phone calls to family and friends, educational and rehabilitation programs, more out-of-cell time, cells with windows, recreational yards that allow for small groups to recreate together and see the outside world: in short, segregation from the general population, but not torture or dehumanization.

There is no reason California can’t run very high security prisons that allow prisoners held in segregation to have contact visits with family, phone calls to family and friends, educational and rehabilitation programs, more out-of-cell time, cells with windows, recreational yards that allow for small groups to recreate together and see the outside world: in short, segregation from the general population, but not torture or dehumanization.

We have written petitions and letters to the governor, filed a class action federal lawsuit and gone on hunger strikes seeking real reform, not the bogus reform Californian officials now propose. It’s time for California to do the right thing. It’s time for the legislature to enact meaningful reforms.

Pelican Bay Short Corridor Human Rights Movement:

• Todd Ashker, C-58191, SHU D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, SHU D1-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, SHU D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

• Antonio Guillen, P-81948, SHU D2-106, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

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.