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

Upon leaving Pelican Bay SHU Solitary Confinement: My Firsts (of Many :-) )

Upon leaving Pelican Bay SHU Solitary Confinement: My Firsts (of Many 🙂 )

Photo of Baridi Williamson in 2016

Baridi Williamson in 2016

By Brutha Baridi Williamson

Leaving out of Pelican Bay Solitary Confinement Torture Prison-Facilities/Units-Cages for the first time on Jan. 23rd, 2015 (after arriving there Nov. 29, 1990), I remember witnessing my first sunrise as the CDCr [CA Dept. of Corrections and rehabilitation] “gray goose” transportation bus travelled up the mountainside along Highway 101. Staring out the window at the skyline as it transformed into a mixture of blended orange-red-violet-blue colors, I sat there in deep silence just appreciating the beauty of Nature … It would be the first of many first time experiences of using my natural senses again after being buried alive in that concrete box deprived of the natural use of those senses for the last twenty five (25) years . . . a quarter century.

My next First was at the San Quentin Receiving and Release Center where our bus stopped over. And while we was standing in small holding cages waiting to get back on the bus, another of the men (in another cage) asked to use the restroom across the hall. I was surprised when the guard walked over to the cage, unlocked the door, and let the guy walk out and across the hall (around other staff) unhandcuffed! I knew that I had to experience this after years/decades being chained and cuffed (like a 19th century slave). I asked to use the restroom and the guard let me out to walk freely across the hall uncuffed. It was not far, but just the absence of cuffs made a world of difference between being treated like a (chained) animal and feeling Humyn!

My next First may seem small to many outside hearing this, but for me it was special for my humanity. On January 28th, 2015 I arrived at SVSP (Salinas Valley State Prison) general population and was housed with a fellow human being named Malik. He gave me a brand new toothbrush (that he was allowed to purchase from an outside quarterly package vendor.) This was not the 2″ miniature size toothbrush (normally for brushing pet animals’ teeth) I had been using since the 1990s. This was the normal regular-size toothbrush used for brushing humans’ teeth. And each time (twice in the morning, afternoon and evening-night) I use it. The feel of being human is always at the front of my mind. With each stroke of the brush I humbly give in to the use of this part of my deprived senses.

There has been many more Firsts since then over the course of this first year, but the one that is so close and dear to heart was my first visit (contact) with my family in my thirty-plus (30+) years of confinement in CDCr, when I was able to visit my sister Donnita Benson, when she flew out from Oklahoma City and we hugged/kissed for the first time since 1980. It was a memorable experience to go from tears of hurtful pain and suffering (that dates back to our childhood struggles – domestic violence, being separated at ages 10 [me] and 14 [her], as “survivors” -she survived breast cancer and I survived being lost to the street jungles at age 15, then these concrete prison jungles, including decades in solitary confinement) then went to tears of joy, laughter, and happiness as we enjoyed those two days together. She said I squeezed her hand so tight and would not let it go that it went numb … Oops, my bad. I guess I subconsciously was that little child back home walking everywhere holding securely to my older sister’s hand.

I will close this off with a solidarity salute of respect, appreciation, and honor to all of the PHSS-PHRM outside supporters who believe in our cause enough to keep the spotlight upon both this states’ massive dysfunctional system of mass incarceration, its evil solitary confinement torture use, non-rehabilitative and social re-entry parole opportunities, and their contributions for helping those released from long-term solitary confinement and its own unique post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome (PTSD-solitary confinement) identi[ty], cope-heal, etc. from its effects. Thank you/Asante to each and all.

In solidarity with all oppressed peoples struggles, Brutha Baridi

Photo of Baridi Williamson in 1994

Baridi Williamson in 1994

J. Baridi Williamson, D34288
SVSP C1-118
P.O. Box 1050
Soledad, CA 93960-1050

Artwork by Baridi Williamson entitled Stop Mass-Incarceration, Solitary Confinement, Police-Brutality, Racism

Stop Mass-Incarceration, Solitary Confinement, Police-Brutality, Racism, art by Baridi J. Williamson, illustration originally published here


Baridi was one of the original signers of the Agreement to End Hostilities. Read Baridi’s profile seeking correspondence on webpage Bruthas of Consciousness and Universal Humanity

Solitary Confinement: A “Social Death” – NYT on “Shocking” Data from CCR Case

A video the New York Times published, accompanying the article Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life (August 3rd, 2015, by Erica Goode) shows Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd talking on camera about solitary confinement, being locked down without any hope, with no ending in sight:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000003831139&playerType=embed


This comes from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and it is about the Case Ashker v. Brown, in which the New York Times used research, including the 10 expert reports and a video with 4 of the class action representatives (Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd).

Today’s New York Times science section features a front-page piece about the research that CCR commissioned and compiled for our ground-breaking challenge to long-term solitary confinement. “Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life” introduces to the public the 10 expert reports we submitted to the court in Ashker v. Brown, the class-action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners in solitary in California’s Pelican Bay prison. Together, this research presents an unprecedented 360-degree look at the science behind how and why solitary confinement causes irreversible physical and mental harm.

According to the expert reports, prisoners subjected to prolonged solitary experience a form of “social death” that is not cured upon release, but rather lingers as a “post-SHU syndrome” characterized by social withdrawal, isolation, and anxiety. One researcher said it was “shocking, frankly” that some prisoners endure decades of isolation. The Science Times piece is accompanied by a moving video of our clients.

The reports also provide evidence that the profound impact of solitary is not just psychological; SHU prisoners experience unusually heightened levels of hypertension, placing them at risk for serious health consequences. The international and domestic experts agree that such prolonged isolation is not only unnecessary for prison security, but actually counter-productive, as well as a violation of international law.

The expert reports – by leading scholars in psychology, neuroscience, medicine, prison classification, prison security, international law, and international corrections – are part of the discovery phase of our case. They are critical to our argument that prolonged solitary confinement violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

But the reports do more than support our case. They help the growing national movement to end solitary. By bringing public scrutiny to the severe physical and psychological harm our clients and so many others are suffering as a result of their isolation, we hope to continue turning the tide against this form of torture until it is eradicated from the U.S. once and for all.

About the Prisoner Human Rights Movement and why it is needed

This essay was within a document called “CDCr are cold-blooded executioners.”

Some people still think:

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

So it is said, but just for historical accuracy, let’s look under the underpinnings of the State and determine its true function and reality, for the above is simply a façade, a myth perpetrated for devious and immoral purposes by those who are truly the purveyors and architects of world domination and capitalist imperialism. For the contrary is really the reality. Amerikkka is founded on the anti-poor and oppressed nationalities by the racist imaginations of depraved oligarchs, who expropriated their tactics and strategies from the Mussolini’s and Hitler’s of the world. The oligarchs refined and tested their tactics under their Jim Crow Laws and the Willy Lynch focus groups, among other tired and tested methodologies, which has led to a whole class of people who are now confined and isolated in a controlled environment, by orchestrating conditions whereby society would accept their detention (not on the open slave plantations, as they were as privileged) but as confined citizens un-aware of their true reality and peer power. Now, today, the encaptured are ‘law breakers’ and placed in state (government) sanctioned penitentiaries. Same slave mind set by the oligarchs, but now even more restrictive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNJ © October 10, 1994

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

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

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

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

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

SNJ © 2014

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

Prisoners cannot allow for themselves to be bamboozled and hoodwinked by CDCr’s smoking glass and mirrors. Our fate is within each prisoner and guided by our PHRM and the Four Principle Negotiators, and all of the PHRM local councils at your prison (and not those CDCr elected inmate advisory councils, IAC). And no prisoner should be under CCR Title 15, Section 3230, which states that all IAC are under the CDCr/ IAC constitution. What’s up with that??! The PHRM works on behalf of all prisoners and not for CDCr. CDCR is continuing to beat, maim, murder and torture prisoners, daily!  Cease the inhumane treatment! Cease the mental torture, and CDCr: Cease your crimes against prisoners’ humanity!!

PHRM!   In Struggle !!

Bruthas Sitawa, Abdul and Woody

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa
s/n R.N. Dewberry  C35671,
CCI  4B-7C-209,
PO Box 1906
Tehachapi  CA  93581

Abdul Olugbala Shakur
s/n J. Harvey, C48884
4B-1R-42
PO Box 3481
Corcoran CA 93212

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

Moving forward with our fight to end solitary confinement

Published in the SF Bay View on May 20, 2015, with the original typed here.

by Todd Ashker

Greetings of solidarity and respect to all similarly situated members of the prison class unified in our struggle to end long term solitary confinement and win related long overdue reforms to the broken California prison torture system! As one of the four principle prisoner class representatives, I am presenting this further update on where things stand with our human rights movement from my perspective.

I personally believe the prisoncrats’ efforts to turn the global support we have gained for our cause against us will fail. An example is CDCr (California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation) Secretary Beard’s reliance on 20-40-year-old prison history, much of it taken out of context and/or telling only one – biased – side of the story, which was transparently weak, for the purpose of dehumanizing the prisoner class in response to our global exposure of CDCr’s decades long, state sanctioned “policy” of torturing thousands of prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg cells. [Security Housing Unit (SHU) and Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) are forms of solitary confinement in California – ed.]

Such CDCr rhetoric indicates desperation – a very concerning desperation in the sense that it is demonstrative of CDCr’s top administrators’ intent to continue their culture of dehumanization, torture and other types of abusive policies and practices. See, for example, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard’s Los Angeles Times op ed of Aug. 6, 2013, “Hunger strike in California prisons is a gang power play.”)

California prisoncrats have little to no credibility regarding most of their policies and practices in what is a failed, multi-billion dollar fraudulent system. Our global support remains strong and continues to grow, as we pat­iently continue to observe the progress of our evolving movement with an eye on planning additional ways to improve the effectiveness of our resistance, as nec­essary, to achieve victory. Here’s where things presently stand, from my per­spective:

  1. Our key demands remain unresolved. The primary goal is abolishing indefinite SHU and Ad Seg confinement and related torturous conditions therein: The abolishment of the debriefing policy and meaningful individual account­ability. (Note: CDCr’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program policy is NOT responsive to our demands for numerous reasons. See our prior statements rejecting said policy.)
  2. Our class-action civil suit continues to proceed; the court recently allowed us to supplement our claims to include SHU conditions at the other three SHUs across the state in addition to Pelican Bay. And the trial date remains set for December 2015. The case is looking solid, with excellent support from 10 experts, and our outside supporters are ramping up their supportive actions to keep the public’s attention on our cause.
  3. The legislative aspect is presently on hold to a large extent. I will add that legislators Tom Ammiano and Loni Hancock kept their word and held two joint Public Safety Committee hearings regarding our issues, in October 2013 and February 2014, and they each tried their best to get legislation passed, responsive to our five core demands.

Their cour­ageous efforts were stymied by the CDCr and CCPOA (guards union), using their political infl­uence over Gov. Brown and many lawmakers. All of them took active roles in squashing Ammiano’s bill as well as repeatedly amending Hancock’s bill to the point of it being of very little relevance to our five core demands, thereby resulting in withdrawal of much of our outside support and finally Hancock’s withdrawal of the bill.

California prisoncrats have little to no credibility regarding most of their policies and practices in what is a failed, multi-billion dollar fraudulent system.

Gov. Brown and the other lawmakers who oppo­sed these two bills are thus exposed as CDCr prisoncrat collaborators. Their acts and failure to act regarding CDCr prisoncrats’ indefinite SHU-solitary confinement policies and practices we helped expose to the world via our prisoner class collective’s mass peaceful protest actions between 2011 and 2013 make them supportive enablers of torture. And they need to be constantly exposed as such.

Keep in mind that since we formed the PBSP Short Corridor Collective in early 2011 (now known as the Prisoner-class Human Rights Collective), we have made a lot of positive progress in a relatively short amount of time. And it’s important to note that those who formed the collective are now in stronger positions, capable of being more effective now that many of the collective members have been transferred out of Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) to other prisons via CDCr’s Step-Down Program, enabling them to more effectively promote our Agreement to End Race-Based Hostilities.

This is directly related to our overall strategy on prison reform – our primary goal being to end long term SHU and Ad Seg confinement. Our secondary goal is to bring an end to CDCr’s abusive exploitation of the prisoner class, inclusive of our outside loved ones. That is related to CDCr’s failure to adhere to the legislative mandate to priorit­ize public safety via the rank and file staff’s “promotion of prisoner-on-prisoner violence” in order to justify the ongoing endless warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners in the general population prisons across the state, especially in the Level 4 institutions.

Thereby, our goal is to limit the violence amongst the prisoner class and thus end the justification for indefinite massive warehousing. This forces prisoncrats to open up the general population prisons and use the billions of dollars budgeted annually for the purpose intended by the people: to promote public safety via programs beneficial to prisoners, our outside loved ones and society in general.

Our goal is to limit the violence amongst the prisoner class and thus end the justification for indefinite massive warehousing.

This includes allowing lifers’ to once again have conjugal visits with their loved ones on a regular basis, because maintaining close family ties is a well known, proven method of rehabilitation, including the reduction of violence in the prison environment.

And we are additionally hoping our example of effective collective unity for the benefit of all those who are similarly situated behind these walls will be followed by the working class poor in the communities.

We are in a protracted struggle against a powerful entity that includes an element with a fascist police state mentality and related agenda. We are fighting to make major changes to the way prisoners and our outside loved ones are viewed by society and treated in the prison system – inclusive of more than 30 years of well entrenched cultural policies that exploitatively dehumanize the prisoner class in order to subject them to systematic, state sanctioned torturous treatment and brutal conditions that have been condemned by international treaty law.

We cannot allow this to continue. We have taken a stand against it, and we must continue to do our part, collectively, from behind these walls, to end such malignant practices.

The reason for our progress is our empowering collective unity inside and outside these walls, the unity amongst prisoners, our outside loved ones and other supporters. Our efforts have helped to expose horrendous, immoral treatment of tens of thousands of incarcerated men and women, nationwide for decades. And we gratefully acknowledge the world interest, support and outraged condemnation of the United States prison industrial complex’ torture regime openly occurring in public institutions.

The reason for our progress is our empowering collective unity inside and outside these walls, the unity amongst prisoners, our outside loved ones and other supporters.

I believe it’s important for people outside who support our cause to be able to effectively counter the prisoncrats’ propagandist, dehumanizing rhetoric, as well as their ability to educate the public in general as to what’s really going on in this system – the current CDCr annual budget is more than $12 billion – and it is for this purpose that I include the below points.

1) Prisoncrats’ claim that “CDCr does not confine any prisoners in solitary confinement; nor do we torture prisoners.” These self-serving claims are demonstrably false.

Prisoncrats – the “civil servants” within the prison industrial complex, which is related to the military and homeland security complex, all being utilized in the class war on the working class poor – have been utilizing coercive brainwashing and torture techni­ques to exploit, manipulate and control prisoners and the related working class poor in the communities since the early 1960s. These techniques are modeled on those created by the Russians and used on Ameri­can POWs by the Chinese during the Korean War (1950-1953).

Such techniques were subsequently studied – per CIA and military directives – by psychologists, psychiatrists and social scientists, resulting in two influential texts published in 1961: “The Manipulation of Human Behavior” and “The Power to Change Behavior.” The latter “became a theoretical and practical foundation for the behavior modification programs that shaped U.S. domestic prison policy in the 1960s and ‘70s. Both publications were heavily indebted to the literature on ‘Communist’ thought reform and sensory deprivation and both yielded specific techniques for the production of social death, both within the United States and beyond,” according to an excellent book on the history of solitary confinement in the U.S. called “Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives” by Lisa Guenther, 2013.

Prisoncrats have been utilizing coercive brainwashing and torture techni­ques to exploit, manipulate and control prisoners and the related working class poor in the communities since the early 1960s.

Further support is the 1961 symposium, “The Power to Change Behavior,” convened in Washington D.C., by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). It brought together prison wardens and behavioral scientists – including Edgar Schein, an important researcher on Chinese Communist thought reform to consider how prisoners could be “treated” with behavior modification therapy.

“Edgar Schein’s con­tribution to the symposium, ‘Man Against Man: Brainwashing,’ draws on his 1953 research (published in 1956) on Communist brainwashing techniques to reflect on how these techniques might be used to reform U.S. domestic prisoners. Schein was a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management (then the School of Industrial Management). After publication of his 1971 book, ‘Coercive Int­errogation,’ he went on to have a highly successful career in corporate and organizational psychology” (Guenther, “Solitary Confinement,” pages 84-87).

At the symposium, “Schein put forward a set of ‘practical recommendations,’ throwing ethics and morals out the window. They include: physical removal of prisoners to areas sufficiently isolated to break or seriously weaken close emotional ties; segregation of all natural leaders; spying on prisoners, rep­orting back private material; exploitation of opportunists and informers; convincing prisoners they can trust no one; systematic withholding of mail; building a group conviction among prisoners that they have been abandoned by or are totally isolated from their social order; using techniques of character invalidation, i.e., humiliation, revilement and shouting to induce feelings of fear, guilt and suggestibility; coupled with sleeplessness, an exacting prison regimen and periodic interrogational interviews” (Nancy Kershan, “Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons,” page 12-13).

Of course, these brainwashing techniques have been refined and perfected over the course of the past 60 years, such as techniques the British have used on Irish Republicans and similar tactics refined by the West German government to try and destroy the Red Army Faction, who were fighting the imperialism in their country, related to a large extent to West German government leaders adhering to the dictates of the U.S. government. And these are the techniques applied to prisoners confined in this country’s “control unit” prisons, as summarized with reference to specific examples in my Dec. 30, 2014, article “The way forward to end solitary confinement torture: Where’s the army? posted on the San Francisco Bay View website on Jan. 25, 2015.

Indeed, the control unit prison environment and effects thereof on the “living beingness” of those subjected to it are much more damaging than most people can imagine. Of course, one who studied the subject, obtaining a doctorate degree in the related fields of psychology and psychiatry, would be well versed in these effects, as I’m sure CDCr Secretary Beard is.

The control unit prison environment and effects thereof on the “living beingness” of those subjected to it are much more damaging than most people can imagine.

Examples of this are taken from Lisa Guenther’s book, “Solitary Confinement,” shared below in rebuttal to CDCr’s claims:

“We don’t operate solitary confinement – nor do we subject prisoners to sensory deprivation or torturous conditions in our SHU and Ad Seg Units.” This and the following quotes are taken from Beard’s LA Times op ed of Aug. 6, 2013, in which he states that “all SHU cells have outside facing windows” and “At Pelican Bay, all cells have skylights.” These are boldfaced lies.

Inmates have TVs and radios.” This is true only if you can afford to purchase your own, and many can’t.

They have weekly access to a law library.” This is a boldfaced lie. You might get access once a month.

They have daily exercise time.” In Pelican Bay SHU, you may go to “yard” for one and a half hours per day, depending on circumstances from day to day. The “yard” is akin to a concrete cell, absent a toilet and water unit. You’re on camera, by yourself, unless you’re one of the few who have a cellmate.

Many have cell-mates.” Very few have cellmates.

They can earn degrees.” There are only a few openings, and one must pay for the required books; most prisoners can’t afford it.

They send and receive letters.” Mail is one of the things IGI and other staff withhold and play games with.

Their family and friends visit them every weekend.” Due to the isolated location of Pelican Bay, most prisoners never receive a visit.

This is not ‘solitary confinement,’ in that prisoners can have visitors and, in many cases, interaction with other inmates.

As described in my Dec. 30, 2014, article referenced above, the control unit environment is designed for the purpose of enabling prisoncrats to maximize their ability to dehumanize and psychologically exploit prisoners in order to coerce them into becoming informants for the state. One tactic is to place a prisoner of one race in a pod – a pod consists of eight cells – totally isolated from his social group. This can and does go on for years.

The control unit environment is designed for the purpose of enabling prisoncrats to maximize their ability to dehumanize and psychologically exploit prisoners in order to coerce them into becoming informants for the state.

From Guenther’s “Solitary Confinement” (2013): “What is it like to be confined in a supermax unit? A typical cell ranges in size from 6 feet by 8 feet to 8 feet by 12 feet; it is part of a ‘pod’ of eight to 10 cells arranged into two tiers. Cells are usually painted white or pale grey to reduce visual stimulus. Furnishings consist of a bed, table and seat, a toilet and sink – all bolted in place. [In California’s SHUs, all are concrete and steel].

“The door is constructed of perforated stainless steel resembling a dense wire mesh that obstructs the prisoner’s view to the outside while allowing some natural light to filter through along with the sounds and smells of adjoining cells, or even the pepper spray used on prisoners during cell ex­tractions.

“There is a slot in the door, called a cuff port, tray port, meal port or pie flap, through which food trays are exchanged and the prisoner’s hands cuffed or uncuffed for removal from the cell. There are either no win­dows at all or just a small, high window that lets in light but does not aff­ord any view of the outside. Surveillance via listening devices and cameras is constant.

“Prisoners are confined in solitude for 22 to 23.5 hours a day, with the remaining time spent – again, in solitude – in an outdoor exercise yard, surrounded by concrete or tightly woven security mesh walls that offer little or no view of the outside and only a small glimpse of the sky. These yards are often called ‘dog pens’ or ‘dog runs’ because of their resemblance to an out­door kennel. Remotely operated doors allow prison staff to release prisoners from their cells for showers or exercise without coming into contact with them. Depending on the prisoner’s level of good behavior, they may be given access to books, radio, television …

“A prisoner in a Control Unit can for years, even decades, go without experiencing any form of touch beyond the chaining and unchaining of wrists through the cuff port in the door. … Officers are entitled to perform strip searches … Often, these searches are conducted as a matter of routine. …

“What would it be like to have one’s bodily contact with others reduced to the fastening and unfastening of restraints, punctuated with the most intimate probing of the surface and depths of one’s body? Not to be able to speak to anyone except through intercom or by yelling through a slot in the door? To be kept in solitude and yet exposed to constant surveillance and to the echoing noise of other prisoners? What would it be like to be prevented from having a concrete experience of open, unrestricted space? Not to see the sky or the horizon for days, weeks or even years on end?

A prisoner in a Control Unit can for years, even decades, go without experiencing any form of touch beyond the chaining and unchaining of wrists through the cuff port in the door.”

“It is impossible to imagine. … Prisoners in solitary confinement are, by definition, excluded from the looping effects of social interaction; they are isolated in their cells, with no one to see or to look back at them, no one to touch or to receive their touch. And yet, precisely by virtue of their forced isolation, prisoners’ situation is mediated by countless others: the guards who keep them, feed them and monitor their activities; the wardens who oversee the guards; the prison review board that continues their isolation every 90 days [In California, it’s 180 days.]; … and us, the public who tolerate their ongoing isolation, even (or especially) if we are not even aware of it.

“Supermax prisoners are unperceived and unimaginable ‘others,’ but they are our others, and a society that practices long-term, wide-scale solitary confinement cannot help but be shaped by our (non)relation to those who have been ‘disapp­eared’ but who remain among us, and sometimes return to haunt us.

“Many prisoners speak of their experience in supermax prison as a form of living death. On the one hand, their bodies still live and breathe, eat and defecate, wake and sleep (often with difficulty). On the other hand, a meaningful sense of living embodiment has for the most part drained out of their lives; they’ve become unhinged from the world, confined to a space in which all they can do is turn around or pace back and forth, blocked from an open-ended per­ception of the world as a space of mutual belonging and interaction with others …

“[P]rolonged solitary confinement amounts to a production of something like schizophrenia in the prisoner (Merleau-Ponty, 2002, page 335). I argue that supermax confinement is not a solution to the problem of finding a place to keep ‘the worst of the worst’ from harming others. It is – among other things – a technology for producing what one could call mental illness, if ‘mental’ were not too narrow a term to express the complex intertwining of body, mind and world that I have undertaken to describe.

“Many prisoners speak of their experience in supermax prison as a form of living death.”

“Prolonged solitary confinement in a control prison threatens to exhaust the otherwise inexhaustible horizons of perceptual experience by blocking prisoners’ concrete experience of depth in its spatial affective and social dimensions. It leaves prisoners feeling like their lives have been drained of meaning, like they are dead within life, no longer of space but merely in it” (Guenther, pages 161-194).

2) Related to the above, is my response to those who question the position that we are in a class war, inclusive of policies and practices referenced herein, I will add my viewpoint of personally seeing our struggle for human rights and dignity in these prisons as being directly related to the war being waged against the working class poor in this nation – going on for far too long now. And that’s the point I’ve intended when various media reporters have taken my words out of context.

The imperialistic, fascist police state elitists’ abusive exploitation of the working class poor is out of control, and the only way for people to bring about meaningful change is to come together collectively. This includes the prisoner class, which is a microcosm of the working class poor, with most prisoners being casualties of the class war.

Related to this class war is CDCr prisoncrats’ intentional, systematic, state sanctioned torture regime for the diabolical purpose of breaking prisoners, using coercive sensory deprivation and other brainwashing techniques. One only needs pay attention to the consistent use of methods designed to dehumanize the prisoner class, especially those in SHU, and thereby psychologically indoctrinate those in control of said prisoners with a mental image of the subhuman “other,” thereby ensuring a continuation of the culture of malignant abuse.

This position regarding intentionality of CDCr prisoncrats’ continual dehumanization of the prisoner class is supported by more than 100 years of scientific study and experimentation, as exemplified in the various books covering the subject. As you read the following excerpts, remember – CDCr Secretary Beard holds at least one doctorate degree in psychology.


Part 2

From Stanford Professor Phillip Zimbardo’s book, “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,” at page 307, “Dehumanization and Moral Disengagement”:

“Pelican Bay State Prison: Torture, Oppression, DRB vs. The Silent Voices” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

“Pelican Bay State Prison: Torture, Oppression, DRB vs. The Silent Voices” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

“Dehumanization is the central construct in our understanding of ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ Dehumanization occurs whenever some human beings consider other human beings to be excluded from the moral order of being a human person. The objects of this psychological process lose their human status in the eyes of their dehumanizers. By identifying certain individuals or groups as being outside the sphere of humanity, dehumanizing agents suspend the morality that might typically govern reasoned actions toward their fellows.

“Dehumanization is a central process in prejudice, racism and discrimination. Dehumanization stigmatizes others, attributing to them a ‘spoiled identity.’ Under such conditions, it becomes possible for moral, morally upright and even idealistic people to perform acts of destructive cruelty. Not responding to the human qualities of other persons automatically facilitates inhumane actions. The golden rule becomes truncated: ‘Do unto others as you would.’ It is easier to be callous or rude toward dehumanized ‘objects,’ to ignore their demands and pleas, to use them for your own purposes, even to destroy them if they are irritating.”

At pages 311-312, “In ‘Faces of the Enemy,’ Sam Keen shows how archetypes of the enemy are created by visual propaganda that most nations use against those judged to be dangerous ‘them,’ ‘outsiders,’ ‘enemies.’ … Such propaganda has been widely practiced on a worldwide scale … In creating a new evil enemy in the minds of good members of righteous tribes, ‘the enemy’ is: aggressor, faceless, rapist, godless, barbarian, greedy, criminal, torturer, murderer, an abstraction, or a dehumanized animal.”

Taking the above into context, those people who pay attention will recognize the correlative relevance to what I’ve been pointing out: The fascist-elitists in power positions in this country have been waging an all-out, ever expanding war upon the working class poor – inclusive of the prisoner class. Support is self-evident when we consider the constant bombardment of propagandist war-monger rhetoric that the masses are subject to 24/7, via the government controlled mainstream media. Examples are “The War on Crime,” “The War on Drugs,” “The War on Gangs,” “The War on the Worst of the Worst.”

“Dehumanization is the central construct in our understanding of ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ Dehumanization is a central process in prejudice, racism and discrimination.”

Those in power have been using this fear mongering, dehumanizing propagandist tactic in response to our societal social problems, keeping the people in a never ending war AGAINST EACH OTHER, while being constantly exploited by those in power in countless other ways. And the underlying root causes of our major societal problems remain unresolved – No. 1 of which is the growing unequal distribution of wealth. As Einstein so eloquently stated, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

I will add, it’s important to note that California prisoners’ and our outside loved ones’ treatment and conditions under the malignantly manipulative leadership of CDCr Secretary Beard have not gotten better. They have actually gotten worse when one examines the new police state-type regulations implemented over the course of the past three years. For example:

a) “The Security Threat Group Step Down Program” policy, which will ultimately enable prisoncrats to greatly expand upon the numbers of prisoners entombed indefinitely in SHU cells;

b) The expansion of the so-called “obscenity” policy, which criminalizes any and all prisoner – and public – writings critical of prisoncrats’ dehumanizing abuse of power; and

c) The mandated drug testing of all prisoners, together with subjecting all visitors to invasive searches and drug sniffing dogs, based on Beard’s crusade to rid prisons of drugs.

Beard’s pretextual support for this is his underlings’ fraudulent manipulation of “random” voluntary prisoner drug tests that allegedly demonstrated more than 25 percent of the population was on dope!? Most of the “dirty tests” were from people on their medically prescribed meds.

The above examples are textbook tactics, historically employed by fascists. These types of tactics are always initiated against the marginalized, disenfranchised segments of a society, and incrementally expanded to include the rest of a society. Under Beard’s watch, the system will continue to be a multi-billion dollar failure.

The deeply rooted culture of abuse will continue as long as leadership utilizes old policies and practices, expanding on them in spite of such being proven failures and violations of human rights. CDCr’s exploitative dehumanization of the prisoner class must end.

As summarized from the above excerpts taken from Professor Zimbardo’s book, such dehumanization is for the sole purpose of perpetuating the cultural climate of endless abuse of prisoners and our outside loved ones. Such is contrary to the principles of a society which promotes evolving standards of decency.

The deeply rooted culture of abuse will continue as long as leadership utilizes old policies and practices, expanding on them in spite of such being proven failures and violations of human rights. CDCr’s exploitative dehumanization of the prisoner class must end.

It’s disturbing Gov. Brown would appoint a malignant psycho-doctor like Beard to run an already twisted prison system. Secretary Beard is an opportunistic, career corrections administrator – a malignant torturer of prisoners – with a doctorate degree in various types of psychology. Prior to his appointment as CDCr’s secretary, he spent more than 30 years in the Pennsylvania prison system, retiring as the director of that system.

He was subsequently hired as an expert witness by lawyers representing California prisoners in the class action case, Coleman-Plata regarding mental and medical care violations, and he testified before the federal court in 2010 and 2011, declaring the systemic problems re mental health care violations in the California system had not been fixed, only to flip-flop on his position a few months later after Gov. Brown made a deal to hire him to run the California system, with an annual salary of nearly $300,000. That’s in addition to his large pension from Pennsylvania.

Once he became CDCr’s secretary, Beard submitted a declaration on behalf of the state, claiming the problems regarding mental health care had been fixed. He did this at a time when CDCr prisoncrats were regularly subjecting mentally ill prisoners to gallons of pepper spray, prior to brutally beating them, resulting in at least one prisoner’s death, which prisoncrats attempted to cover up. No big deal in a system operating with a long standing culture of dehumanizing prisoners, placing them on sub-human status with the support and enablement of lawmakers.

Also notable under Beard’s watch in Pennsylvania, the system instituted its own brand of additional, torturous sensory deprivation, via the creation of a unit for the “worst of the worst.” In this unit, prisoners are in solitary confinement cells, deprived of virtually all reading material, including newspapers and magazines. Apparently, the only reading material allowed is a fictional book once in a while, no personal photographs etc., a draconian policy upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 52 126 S.Ct. 2527 (2006).

Notable under Beard’s watch in Pennsylvania, the system instituted its own brand of additional, torturous sensory deprivation, via the creation of a unit for the “worst of the worst.”

With the above points in mind, it is no surprise to see the fascist policies of malignant oppression occurring under Beard’s watch in California. This is the purpose for which he was appointed by Gov. Brown – without opposition from California prisoncrats and the CCPOA guards’ union. They allowed appointment of this outsider without a peep.

3) In response to those who pose the question, “Why should we care about what’s going on in prisons?” there are many reasons for people to care, including their civic responsibility as citizens to be conscious of what their elected representatives are doing in their name. Here are a few more examples of why it’s in the peoples’ best interests to care and, in caring, hold those they allow to be in power accountable:

a) We, as a people, do not condone the torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of our fellow human beings under any circumstances. Such practices are not in keeping with our nation’s international public stance of being a protector of human rights, nor is it in keeping with our society’s evolving standards of decency.

Our nation’s prisons are intended for the purpose of punishing convicted offenders humanely. Our U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. We know that most of our imprisoned people will be released one day and it’s contrary to society’s interests to have people returning to society much worse than when they went in, especially not after being subjected to years of exploitative, dehumanizing techniques, inclusive of the worst types of physical and psychological torture that most people will never be able to imagine.

It’s no secret our nation incarcerates more people than any other nation on the planet – not surprising when we consider the fact that those in power have exploited the masses, the working class poor, via promotion of an endless state of war upon each other – War on Crime, War on Drugs, War on Gangs, War on the People. It’s also no secret that our nation subjects between 25,000 and 80,000 to a type of intentional sensory deprived solitary confinement as an ultimate control mechanism, designed for the purpose of completely severing those relegated to worst of the worst, sub-human status from their own sense of “living beingness.”

It’s no secret our nation incarcerates more people than any other nation on the planet.

In the California system, tens of thousands of prisoners have been subjected to an indefinite type of dehumanizing sensory deprivation in SHU and AdSeg cells. Many have been subjected to this endless form of state sanctioned torture for decades. And thousands of California prisoners have collectively participated in three massive peaceful protests, 2011-2013, thereby exposing this fact to the world.

Such practices are immoral and illegal. According to “Restatement of the Law Third, the Foreign Relations Law of the United States,” “a state violates international law if, as a matter of policy, it practices, encourages or condones … (d) torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, or … (g) a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, “Prolonged isolation and coercive solitary confinement are, in themselves, cruel and inhuman treatments, damaging to the person’s psychic and moral integrity and the right to respect of the dignity inherent to the human person” (Velasquez v. Rodriguez case, InterAm. Ct. H.R.(ser.C) No. 4, at page 156 (1988)).

The United States is a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The CAT was ratified by the U.S. in 1990. The CAT defines torture as:

“An act by which pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as … punishing him for an act he or a third person committed or is suspected of having committed or intimidating or coercing him or a third person … when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instig­ation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

There is no question of California’s intentional violation of international treaty law via their policy and practice of subjecting prisoners to decades of indefinite solitary confinement, one purpose of which is to break the prisoner via brainwashing torture techniques, so the prisoner agrees to become an informant for the state – the worst sort of coercion.

The conditions and effects thereof on the person are summarized above. One additional point of support that such dehumanizing treatment and related condit­ions cause severe pain to those prisoners and their outside loved ones mercilessly subjected to such is the studies conducted by Matthew D. Lieberman, a Harvard trained professor in the Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCLA. In his book, “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” Lieberman relies on fMRI brain studies and related experiments to support the position that we respond to social pain and pleasure in the same way we respond to physical pain and pleasure. And social pain may hurt more than physical pain.

There is no question of California’s intentional violation of international treaty law via their policy and practice of subjecting prisoners to decades of indefinite solitary confinement.

“When asked what the most painful experiences in our lives have been, most of us do not recount an injury or a broken bone; we describe the death of a loved one or the end of a marriage or a relationship.” The studies also demonstrate that empathized pain is real too. This supports what people have known for a long time: Social isolation causes people to experience extreme pain. This includes the experience of our loved ones and people of conscience who know of and thereby feel our suffering.

Another note from the U.N. General Assembly, July 28, 2008 [A/63/175], 63rd Session, Item 67(a) of the provisional agenda:

“IV. Solitary Confinement [Paragraphs 77-85, pages 17-20]

“When the element of psychological pressure is used on purpose as part of isolation regimes, such practices become coercive and can amount to torture. …

[At page 24] “Research indicates that small group isolation in some circumstances may have similar effects to solitary confinement and such regimes should not be considered an appropriate alternative.”

And then there’s the following from the introduction to the United Nations Committee Against Torture’s “Convention Against Torture: Periodic Report of the United States of America”:

“2. The absolute prohibition of torture is of fundamental importance to the United States. As President Obama stated in his address to the nation on national security, delivered at the National Archives on May 21, 2009:

“’I can stand here today, as president of the United States, and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture, and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Most recently, in his May23, 2013, speech at the National Defense University, the president reiterated that the United States has ‘unequiv­ocally banned torture.’”

Finally, let’s not forget the revelations in late December 2014 regarding disclosure of the Dec. 9, 2014, release of the redacted portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s finding the CIA tortured countless detainees – per directives from Bush, Cheney et al. President Obama’s response declared that past practices were “brutal and, as I’ve said before, constituted torture in my mind. And that’s not who we are.”

The above points, when considered in the context of this nation’s blatant, ongoing violations of treaty law regarding exploitive torture of tens of thousands of prisoners subject to long term solitary, sensory deprived conditions of con­finement, begs the question: Why? Why are you, the people, allowing these decades-old policies and practices of dehumanizing treatment and torture to continue to be carried out upon your fellow people – the casualties of the class war?

b) The fact that CDCr’s current annual budget for this fiscal year is more than $12 billion, while most other social programs are suffering from the past years of continual deep cuts, and the present push to substantially increase college tuition should be cause for the people to care.

This is $12 billion going to a corrupt state agency whose policies and practices are a 100 percent failure. We’re talking about a state agency funded by billions of taxpayer dollars each year, a state agency subject to a legislative mandate to prioritize public safety that has for decades done the opposite via a philosophy and culture of exploitative dehumanization of the prisoner class for the purposes of the expansion and related profit of the prison industrial complex – the related factor being the fascist, police state-type psycho­social war on the working class poor and related mass incarceration, including the expansion of the control-unit prison, as one means of keeping the masses in check.

The CDCr system is an ongoing, multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayers; this fraudulent scheme includes involvement of most of our state lawmakers, who receive their share of kickbacks from various prisoncrats, including the CCPOA, the guards’ union.

The CDCr system is an ongoing, multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayers.

People should care because there are more than 7 million children going without enough to eat every day. People should care because we’re treating our fellow human beings worse than our poultry and other animals. This is what our elected officials are doing to SHU prisoners, in the people’s name.

c) People should care because, historically, fascist police state regimes occur incrementally, via the initial oppression of the marginalized and disenfranchised members of society. Usually such oppressive action is taken based on the government’s claim that such is necessary “to protect the people’s freedoms.”

The fact that there is an element with an expanding police state agenda in this nation is not a secret, and an excellent book pointing to specific examples of this, with reference to similar historical events resulting in fascist regimes, is Naomi Wolf’s “The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.”

In typical fashion, these police state tactics are being borne out by CDCr’s dehumanizing police state practices of torture and other malignant oppression, presently being expanded upon to further oppress the working class poor people in the communities.

A current prime example of this is the San Diego District Attorney’s Office’s recent use of a clause in Proposition 21, passed in 2000, which states that anyone who benefits from gang activity can be charged with conspiracy. This is being applied to anyone who’s entered into the “California Gang Database,” created per Prop 21.

People are entered into the database based on meeting two or more criteria that for the most part are based on the subjective view of the officer who enters one into the database, no questions asked. The gang conspiracy charge is being applied to everyone who is affiliated anytime any one of the other affiliates commits a gang related crime.

Police state tactics are being borne out by CDCr’s dehumanizing police state practices of torture and other malignant oppression, presently being expanded upon to further oppress the working class poor people in the communities.

Those familiar with CDCr’s alleged “gang management” policies will note the correlation between the Prop 21 provisions and CDCr’s policy of using three or more items to validate a prisoner as a gang affiliate and thereby, on the basis of said classification alone, place him or her in SHU indefinitely. We remain until we parole, die, go insane or debrief – become an informant for the state.

Keep in mind the additional, more recent policies of oppression implemented under Beard’s watch, referenced above. I urge people to pay close attention to what is going on in San Diego because, if successful, such tactics will be used statewide, with the result that anyone with a sliver of association with someone in the gang database can be arrested and charged with conspiracy.

People should care because the CDCr tactics referenced in this document will, in time, all be implemented in our communit­ies, if people continue to sit back and fail to hold lawmakers accountable.

What people can do

Resist! Using peaceful action, fight for what’s right via coordinated, collective efforts – inside and outside these walls.

In early 2011, our collective drew the line and said, “Enough!” We, the prisoner class, will no longer complacently accept being dehumanized, subject to the social death and related endless torture many of us have been forced to endure in this tomb of non-living death for three or more decades with no end in sight.

Prior to our peaceful actions beginning in 2011, the prisoner class being exploited and abused in these long-term SHU units were all but forgotten. We were the faceless, nameless, socially dead subhuman “worst of the worst,” per prisoncrat propaganda, and we set out to take back our living human beingness and force major changes to the system, via our united, collective, peaceful actions.

Prior to our peaceful actions beginning in 2011, the prisoner class being exploited and abused in these long-term SHU units were all but forgotten.

Our intent is to educate and expose our decades of torturous treatment in these publically funded dungeons, the nature of which is the ongoing, multi-billion-dollar fraud on the taxpayer – on the people – to the world. And to date we’ve had some success, with more to accomplish.

In 2011, we said, “Enough!” and meant it. We are not going to accept anything less than the complete end to long-term SHU and AdSeg confinement, as well as the humane treatment and dignity that all living beings are entitled to. In the prison context, this requires an end to the CDCr culture wherein the prisoncrats have systematically dehumanized the prisoner class with impunity.

By prisoner class, I’m referring to prisoners and our outside loved ones. And we remain committed to our cause, no matter how long it takes or what sacrifices are required. And, crucially, we remain united in our collective struggle toward bringing the long overdue reforms to this broken, fraudulent, publically funded state institution – with the help of the people.

We remain united in our collective struggle toward bringing the long overdue reforms to this broken, fraudulent, publically funded state institution – with the help of the people.

The above is my perspective on our struggle, and here are a few quotes I try to keep in mind as we move forward. They’re from Howard Zinn’s “The Zinn Reader.”

At page 418: “The novelist Aldous Huxley once said: ‘Liberties are not given; they are taken.’ We are not given our liberties by the Bill of Rights, certainly not by the government, which either violates or ignores those rights. We take our rights, as thinking, acting citizens.”

At page 407: “It is never to be expected in a revolution that everyone will change their opinion at the same moment. There never yet was any truth or principle so irresistibly obvious that all people believed it at once. Time and reason must cooperate with each other to the final establishment of any principle; and therefore those who may happen to be first convinced have no right to persecute others on whom conviction operates more slowly. The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not destroy.” This quote is from Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man, Common Sense and other Political Writings.” Paine was a leader in the American Revolution.

From “Zinn Reader” at page 632: “Action is preferably organized, thought out action, but there should be room for whatever kinds of action any individual or group feels moved to undertake …

“We never know exactly the depth or the shallowness of the resistance to our actions – until we act. We never know exactly what effect we will have. Our actions may lead to nothing except changing ourselves, and that is something. They may have a tiny cumulative effect, along with a thousand other actions. They may also explode. We should not be preoccupied with prediction or with measuring immediate success but rather should take the risk of acting.

“We are not totally free, but our strength will be maximized if we act as if we are free. We are not passive observers, students, theorizers; our very thoughts, our statements, our speeches, our essays throw a weight into the balance which cannot be assessed until we act.” Action based on conscience. Action based on one’s civic duty as a “free” citizen to hold those in power accountable.

With all of the above in mind, I hope people will consider the following points

i) From the outset, we reject all intentions of prisoncrats and collabor­ating stooges of those operating with a fascist, police-state agenda of oppre­ssion to dehumanize our just cause, accusing us of being “worst of the worst,” making a power play to “regain control of the system,” or other labels used by the enemies of the working class poor. Our struggle adheres to the principles of the Constitution and International Treaty Law and is inspired by all oppressed people’s demand for human rights, dignity, respect, justice and equality – the demand to be treated as living beings.

Our struggle adheres to the principles of the Constitution and International Treaty Law and is inspired by all oppressed people’s demand for human rights, dignity, respect, justice and equality – the demand to be treated as living beings.

ii) Our outside supporters have all of our gratitude; their tireless efforts supportive of our cause make a gigantic positive difference. They have recently begun monthly supportive actions across the state, publicly rallying on the 23rd of each month for the purpose of keeping the subject of our endless torture in public view, and thereby exposed to the world. The 23rd of each month is symbolic of our 23-plus hours per day in these tombs of the living dead and it is hoped such rallies will spread across the nation.

iii) The people need to step up and hold their elected officials accountable. Our endless torture in these tombs is directly related to the power elite’s war of oppression and exploitation on the working class poor; we are casualties of this war. The people have the power. Power is worthless when it’s not utilized. The lawmakers in this state need to be constantly exposed as supporters and enablers of torture.

iv) I personally am no longer participating in CDCr’s Step Down Program. At this point I believe we’ve sufficient examples of such program being the sham we said it would turn out to be when we rejected CDCr’s STG-SDP pilot program proposal back when they first rolled it out in March 2012. We rejected it 100 percent back then and have never wavered from this position.

At this stage, I per­sonally believe it’s a mistake for mass participation in the Step Down Program, especially for those doing life and/or long terms, because it’s a b.s. policy and ongoing mass participation is only helping provide prisoncrats with valid­ation for such policy. As we’ve said many times before, if you’re not doing a “determinate” SHU term, you shouldn’t be in SHU, period.

Why should you have to eat shit – which is what’s being shoveled out in Tehachapi and Corcoran – to “earn your way out of SHU” when you shouldn’t have been in SHU in the first-place? I’m not going to do it, and I refer people to the open memo I’d put out to Secretary Beard et al, dated Sept. 1, 2014, regarding the way in which their policy, as structured, is open for failure. CDCr never responded.

v) And I encourage other people to put their heads together and see what types of further peaceful, non-compliant, non-cooperative, resistive means of achieving our goals they can come up with. One thing I’d like to see our out­side supporters add to their agenda is a program targeting the CDCr rank and file’s culture of dehumanization of the prisoner class.

We’ve already demonstrated the power we have when united and collectively fighting for the benefit of all who are similarly situated, it’s time for CDCr to see and respect us as human beings and end long-term SHU. It will be a start towards meaningful reform of the entire system.

Onward In struggle and solidarity,

Todd Ashker

Send our brother some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP D4-121, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

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

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

January 25, 2015

by Todd Ashker

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

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

I’ll begin by asking you a simple question?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They included physical removal of prisoners to areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or seriously weaken close emotional ties; segregation of all natural leaders; spying on prisoners, reporting back private material; exploitation of opportunists and informers; convincing prisoners they can trust no one; systematic withholding of mail; building a group conviction among prisoners that they have been abandoned by or are totally isolated from their social order; using techniques of character invalidation, i.e. humiliation, revilement and shouting to induce feelings of fear, guilt and suggestibility; coupled with sleeplessness, an exacting prison regimen and periodic interrogational interviews.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lawmakers must be held accountable

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

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

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

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

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

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