Gov. Jerry Brown, AG Kamala Harris and CDCr officials, you have the power to stop torture in California prisons

March 29, 2015, in: SF Bay View

by Prisoner Human Rights Movement Local Council

Open letter to senior officials at CDCr headquarters:

We are sharing our express concerns as the CCI Prisoner Human Rights Movement Local Council – Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), Danny Troxell, Antonio Villagrana and George Ruiz – concerning the non-functional operation of Steps 1 through 4 and how we as SHU SDP (Step Down Program) prisoners are being denied our federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and substantive and procedural due process. This is the gist of the message presented to all CDCr and CCI top officials at CDCr headquarters on Feb. 9, 2015, by the CCI facilitator.

Listen up, America: California does torture and cause great harm to California prisoners – i.e., citizens.

This is a summary of the thought-provoking message to Gov. Jerry Brown and his personally appointed CDCr Secretary Jeffrey Beard and their subordinates, including senior CDCr officials 1) G. Giurbino, 2) S. Hubbard, 3) M. Hoshino, 4) M. Stainer, 5) R. Diaz, 6) M. Ruff, 7) K. Harrington, 8) L. Payton, 9) K. Allison, 10) T. Rothschild and 11) D. Herndon, who are the decision makers over 100,000 prisoners throughout CDCr and those of us held at CCI (Tehachapi). Many of CDCr’s employees are equally applying their bias, discrimination, racist behavior and torturous tactics against prisoners labeled as members or affiliates of a Security Threat Group (STG) or gang and SDP prisoners daily.

There is systematic corruption which has been instituted by the new regulations on STGs and the SDP Steps 1 through 5, and the public – i.e. all California citizens – should be discontented with our elected officials who have allocated to the state $9 billion to torture us, to discriminate against us and to violate prisoners’ constitutional rights with taxpayers’ money.

California taxpaying citizens: You are obligated to fight against the legalized human torture you are paying for.

These local CDCr subordinates, such as those at CCI (Tehachapi) prison, have been using their staff’s racist, biased and discriminatory cultural practices to deny all prisoners their fundamental rights under the CCR Title 15, the California Constitution, the U.S. Constitution and the International Human Rights Law. We prisoners are being violated by these specific custody employees and medical employees: 1) Kim Holland (warden), 2) Dr. H. Tate, 3) W. Sullivan (CDW), 4) B. Snider (STG/SDP-CCII), 5) R. Mayo (captain), 6) J. Gutierrez (AW), 7) J. Edward (visiting room staff), 8) V. Ybarra (CC-I), 9) Matzen (captain), 10) Hernandez (SDP-CC-II), 11) K. Campball (sergeant), 12) R. Cole (sergeant), 13) Cable (property officer), 14) Landau (imam), 15) Davis (chaplain), 16) J. Tyree (IGI lieutenant), 17) E. Atencio (mailroom personnel), 18) Whitson (sergeant)(A), 19) J. Leon (correctional officer) and 20) Nathaniel (correctional officer) have all committed acts of punishment and harassment toward CCI prisoners.

Every citizen in the state of California should independently investigate all CDCr and CCI named employees and share information about the corrupt employees with California taxpayers – now! now! now!

We seek corrective measures to take place immediately in Steps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

The sham Step Down Program has been doomed from the start, governed by underground policies. On Oct. 12, 2012, CDCr enacted a pilot program in which it wrote open-ended policies that govern the program function and at the same time allow the policies to be manipulated at all levels of their administration as they see fit for their own benefit with its DRB (Departmental Review Board) process. Step placement is so arbitrary that the time period of advancement from one step to the next step can easily amount to regression back to a lower step.

In the regulations issued Oct. 17, 2015, of the Step Down Program Notice of Expectations, Step 1 and Step 2 prisoners can complete each step in one year but may be accelerated by ICC at the 180 day review; and Step 3, Step 4 and Step 5 prisoners can complete each step in one year – with no acceleration through these steps. Although the policy is written with specific and clear language, it demonstrates that CDCr has enacted policies of substantive due process. These underground policies allow Step 1 and Step 2 prisoners the benefit of an accelerated advancement from one step to the next in 90 days with three completed journals – Step 1 to Step 2 and Step 2 to Step 3.

These substantive due process policies have been implemented and extended to hundreds of Step 1 and Step 2 prisoners throughout CDCr since Oct. 12, 2012, utilizing CDCr standardization of all SHUs and Administrative Segregation units (AdSegs), which gives the appearance that their Step Down Program is up and functioning and prisoners are being advanced from one step to the next, while in truth only Step 1 and 2 prisoners are being accelerated and advanced to the next step in 90 days of their required 12 months.

This same advancement incentive is not being extended to Step 3, 4 and 5 prisoners, thereby denying them their substantive due process and equal protection rights. At this time, all Step 3, 4 and 5 prisoners are being forced to complete all 12 months of each step along with four completed journals, and they are receiving no incentive of accelerated advancement to the next step in 90 days for their participation. CDCr Step 3 prisoners are being punished and mistreated. Psychological warfare is being directed at them.

It is clear that CDCr is not applying its policies equally nor extending equal substantive due process to all three SDP prisoners. Furthermore, Step 1 and Step 2 prisoners are being rewarded for participation in the lowest steps of the program while Step 3, 4 and 5 prisoners are being punished for their participation in the higher, more advanced steps of the program. Step 3, 4 and 5 prisoners are not being extended any incentives for their ongoing good behavior and participation in these three steps.

In essence, CDCr has instituted a policy allowing Step 1 and 2 prisoners across the state to actually do a quarter of the required SDP one year. Yes, Secretary Beard of CDCr has approved 90 days and three journals per Step 1 and 2.

The SDP needs to be afford quarter-time credits to all prisoners in Steps 1 through 5 and especially Steps 3, 4 and 5 prisoners. Being that CDCr has been running the Step Down Program since Oct. 12, 2012 – for over two years – it is a clear violation of Step 3, 4 and 5 prisoners’ equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Secretary of CDCr J. Beard has sanctioned these procedures, and they must be corrected to provide to all Step 3, 4 and 5 prisoners the same treatment as Steps 1 and 2 now receive, in order to give them substantive due process forthwith.

Corrective measures for SDP Step 3, 4 and 5 prisoners

  1. All SDP Step 3 prisoners shall be accelerated and advanced forthwith to Step 4 after completing a 90-day period.
  2. All SDP Step 4 prisoners shall be accelerated and advanced to a 180-designed (high security) prison after completing a 90-day period, which is one quarter of the required 12-month time period, forthwith.
  3. All SDP Step 5 prisoners shall be accelerated and advanced to a 270 designed (lower security) prison after completing a 90-day period, which is one quarter of the 12-month observation time period, forthwith.

These SDP Steps 3, 4 and 5 privilege groups have been denied their equal protection and substantive due process rights under the California Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. CDCr must accelerate and advance prisoners in all above-mentioned steps.

Visiting

In the spirit of standardizing all CDCr SHUs and AdSegs, we must consider visiting, an unresolved issue of concern for years here at CCI. The entire visiting scheduling and process is conducted unprofessionally and causes all types of unnecessary problems for our visitors who are citizens.

CCI visiting operators have been forcing our visitors to be placed on hold for two to four hours just to schedule a weekend visit. CCI visiting officers are unprofessional and intentionally vindictive. It should not take more than five minutes to schedule a visiting date.

All allowable visiting time for SHUs and AdSeg prisoners fall under a statewide standardized visiting time period of two and a half hours per scheduled visit for Saturday and Sunday – not just for the one day and one hour visit per weekend as CCI has been doing for over a decade. All prisoners should be afforded two visiting days per weekend, as is done at all other SHU and AdSeg prisons in the state, except for CCI.

TV stations

All prisons and institutions within CDCr are responsible for providing all prisoners an adequate and functional TV system. Now CCI Warden Kim Holland is fully aware that the CCI TV system is inadequate and it has been so stated to him by the local court, by the granting of 602 appeals. CCI is not at present a part of any cable system or satellite dish system, which is the sole reason why prisoners have been receiving inadequate TV reception. Holland and staff have been for years denying prisoners Charter Cable or Direct TV and are currently mishandling and misappropriating the allocated funds for the CCI TV service and education departments.

From the Prisoner Human Rights Movement! In struggle!

The CCI Prisoner Human Rights Movement Local Council can be reached via Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.

Alternatively, you can send an email with your questions and/or support via email to:

Prisonerhumanrightsmovement [at] gmail.com

This will be forwarded to Sitawa via snail mail since he has not computer, cellphone or internet connection.

© Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

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

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

by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos and George Franco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Step Down Program” – Art: F. Bermudez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agreement to End Hostilities

To whom it may concern and all California prisoners:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This was published on Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, Sept. 18, 2014. The letter itself was written on Sept. 1st 2014

Todd Ashker writes from Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor:

“….I am requesting your attention and responsive dialogue-addressing these issues during the meeting with our outside mediation team- and with Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, James Williamson, and myself in the near future…
The following is from me.

We are presently at the one year point- post “suspension,” of our third peaceful protest hunger strike action against longterm-indefinite-solitary confinement [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg confinement]… and related conditions therein and damage therefrom- to prisoners, our outside loved ones, and society in general….

.…The bottom line is, longterm-indefinite-SHU is not effective and harms all concerned. It’s ending nationwide and this will be the case in Calif. too- better to be sooner than later….”

PDF of transcribed Memo HERE.  Handwritten letter HERE

***

Memorandum

Sept. 1, 2014

To: CDCR-Administration
Secretary Beard, UnderSec. Hoshino
Director Stainer, Assoc. Dir. Diaz,
PBSP Warden Ducart

From: Todd Ashker, C58191-
One of four PBSP-SHU Prisoner Reps
(via outside mediation team)

Subject: Five Core Demands, 40 Supplemental Demands,
and CDCR’s STG-SDP

This memorandum is directed to the above CDCR Administrators for the express purpose of respectfully reminding you about unresolved, and/or continued problematic, issues relevant to our 2011-2014 Five Core and 40 Supplemental demands… and CDCR’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program [STG-SDP]…

I am requesting your attention and responsive dialogue-addressing these issues during the meeting with our outside mediation team- and with Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, James Williamson, and myself in the near future… The following is from me.

We are presently at the one year point- post “suspension,” of our third peaceful protest hunger strike action against longterm-indefinite-solitary confinement [i.e. SHU/Ad-Seg confinement]… and related conditions therein and damage therefrom- to prisoners, our outside loved ones, and society in general, as supported by the public record from the legislative Joint Public Safety Committee hearings held in Oct. 2013/Feb. 2014…

I believe we have demonstrated out commitment to seeing the reforms sought in our demands implemented in principle and spirit, via our peaceful collective actions and I am reminding you of some relevant facts…

A)      In 2011, CDCR Undersecretary Kernan, and others, admitted that our five core demands were reasonable-and, many should have been implemented/provided [20] years ago-Three years later, many remain unresolved –

B)      It was our (2) peaceful hunger strike actions-involving thousands of prisoners statewide, and related international/national public exposure and condemnation of our decades of subjection to a form of coercive, state sanctioned torture… that brought out Undersecretary Kernan, and others’, public admission that CDCR had been over using the validation process’, and was going to revise such policies… responsive to our demands –

C)      Our Primary Goal has always been, and remains, …Ending Longterm Indefinite- SHU/Ad-Seg confinement!

Contrary to CDCR Secretary Beard, et al, claims the STG-SDP is not responsive to our Primary Demand because it continues a policy of indefinite SHU placement and retention. (And it’s structured in vague over reaching terms, that will ultimately result in many more prisoners being subject to indefinite SHU-in large part due to minor infractions- already being born out by fact of, more prisoners are in SHU-Ad-Seg today- than there were prior to start of STG-SDP pilot program Oct. 2012!)

D)      With our primary goal in mind -”Ending Indefinite SHU” policy- any policy/practice that enables such to continue is not acceptable, thus, while CDCR has been somewhat responsive to some of our demands re: SHU/Ad-Seg program/privilege issues- most of us in SHU for decades already,… remain here indefinitely! The point is, no matter how you dress it up- spending 24/7 in a small cell for months, years, decades- without normal human contact- especially, the contact of physically touching one’s outside loved ones… equals a form of torturous social extermination- period!!

E)      A major aspect of our collective movement to meaningfully reform this prison system in ways beneficial to prisoners, staff, outside loved ones, and society in general, is related to the system’s rank and file treating prisoners and our outside loved ones humanely- as fellow human beings, with dignity and respect.

I’m not sure how many of you current administrators were in the loop during our discussions about SHU policy change(s) in 2011-2012, …but we pointed out that “CDCR leadership knows how to create a reform policy- intended to be successful or, – one intended to fail.” …As summarized below, the current structure and implementation of the STG-SDP appears to be intended to fail- this will not bode well for CDCR!

Remember this, our 2013 peaceful protest action was “suspended” and many prisoners are not happy with much of the STG-SDP policy!! They aren’t being treated humanely-with dignity, or respect, under the present structure and implementation of said policy…

Like it or not, you need prisoners cooperation, support, and participation with any policy affecting thousands, or your policy fails!

For example, if all prisoners refused to participate in you SDP, while you go by the STG provisions- your policy fails you because you end up having tens-of-thousands on Step 1, indefinite SHU status… Add peaceful actions, resulting in additional peaceful protesting prisoners’ deaths, and costs, etc… should you have to force feed a hundred to two hundred etc. prisoners- and related global attention… At some point, jobs would be lost and changes made- ending the failed policy!! Will it come down to this?? The bottom line is, longterm-indefinite-SHU is not effective and harms all concerned. It’s ending nationwide and this will be the case in Calif. too- better to be sooner than later…

With the above in mind, the following are points supporting the referenced facts and unresolved issues you have the power to meaningfully resolve:

1)      Our alternative proposal to the STG-SDP has been on the table since Sept. 2012…. It’s based on principle points of (a) SHU placement being reserved for those guilty of felonious type violations-assessed determinate SHU terms, and (b) A modified type of general population transition program between SHU and G.P.- Our mediation team has details about this proposal, which have been provided to you as well. The SDP-Steps 3 and 4, aren’t even close to this (e.g. zero contact visits)

2)      In addition to provisions enabling continued indefinite SHU placement and retention, the following examples support the position that the STG-SDP as structured and implemented is designed to fail…

(a) The issue(s) re: legitimate- meaningful- incentives for each step have not been satisfactorily resolved (e.g. allowing more- phone calls, photographs, packages/special purchases, contact visits, etc.)

(b) Steps 3 and 4 at CCI-Tehachapi, are seen as a bad-step down re: conditions, programming and privileges- to the extent that many prisoners see no point in participating!

Examples are: visits are limited to (1) hour, on either Sat. or Sun.; cells are dirty and cleaning materials are not being provided; nor is laundry, clothing, linen, etc, being provided/exchanged; the T.V. and radio stations are very limited and out of signal all the time; the food is bad; shower program is poorly run- as is yard program; property is processed very slowly, and typewriters are not being allowed, etc.,etc.,etc; Staff attitudes are poor!!

Plus, many prisoners held in PBSP-SHU for decades have loved ones who reside in the Del Norte Co. area- with jobs, etc., and a transfer to CCI is a hardship to their loved ones…

You have ability to remedy the above, via use of former PSU [at PBSP] cell block(s) for Steps 3 and 4… These steps should also allow contact visits!! A Step 3 and 4 at PBSP should be an option for those with local family ties, etc!!

There’s no legitimate penological basis to deny these prisoners human physical contact with loved ones and friends… Up until mid 1986, all SHU prisoners were allowed contact visits- thus, it’s a reasonable, meaningful incentive for those prisoners participation in Steps 3 and 4…

(c)      The journals remain a problem for many (e.g. Corcoran) and I will point out that George Guirbino, et al, admitted at one of our meetings last year, that the journals were ‘lacking re:substantive rehab, value’ -qualifying this with- “but that’s all that’s available.” Look, we all know the journals have zero relevance to rehabilitation of prisoners transitioning between SHU and G.P. (demonstrated by the fact that prisoners placed on Step 5 by DRB’s case-by-case reviews of longterm SHU prisoners don’t have to do a single journal!!) You should make the journals a voluntary self-help program available to all CDCR prisoners… The way you’re using them as required part of SDP- Steps1-4, makes you all look bad- for many reasons!!

(d)      The case by case reviews at PBSP are too slow-100’s still wait on theirs.

Miscellaneous Issues Remaining To Be Resolved Include But Are Not Limited To:

  1. Mattresses (As you know, PIA mattresses are a big problem!??)
  2. Restriction on privileges should only be based on being guilty of abusing the specific privilege (eg., photographs, art materials)
  3. Allowable art materials expanded, per, principle of individual accountability (eg, woodless colored pencils, and all type of art paper)
  4. Photograph program for SHU/Ad-Seg visiting- as done in Vacaville in the 80’s (visitor and prisoner in photo, taken on visitor’s side of glass)

Your attention and anticipated positive responsive resolution(s) to the above subjects is appreciated.

Todd Ashker, C58191/PBSP-D4-121

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.1

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.1

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.2

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.2

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.3

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.3

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.4

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.4

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.5

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.5

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.6

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.6

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.7

Todd Ashker to Mike Stainer et al. Sept. 14 2014, p.7

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa: Worse than Pelican Bay

Published on the SF Bay View on August 29, 2014

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.