Published in: SF Bay View, June 21st 2015

by Mutope Duguma, Pelican Bay short corridor

Let’s not forget that CDCr can lock you up for being an alleged leader, as an influential individual – on just this alone.

2015 marks four years since we collectively got together and launched our peaceful protests to end long term solitary confinement. We have not been able to get any policy, outside of STG (Security Threat Group) 1 and 2 and SDP (Step Down Program), which we have to keep in mind is again CDCr continuing to violate our civil and human rights by holding men and women in these solitary confinement torture chambers – SCTC – indefinitely.

Prisoners been held for over four decades for no other reason than a prison label called prison gang validation, based on confidential information provided to prison officials by snitches, rats, informers, turncoats etc. And in looking into a lot of these cases, we would learn that it was the prison officials who manufactured this information in order to subject prisoners to a life of hell.

We have been able to examine, evaluate and investigate the STG and SDP policies and we unanimously reject them, because, simply put, they are more of the same. They empower the previous policies that we were initially peacefully protesting.

We all will continue to be vulnerable to the validation policies, even though they are for non-behavior issues, and this means confidential information will continue to place us in these SCTC and hold you here. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are; these policies take the good with the bad.

Individual accountability

The individual accountability Core Demand No. 1 (End group punishment and administrative abuse) was crucial for establishing a fair and just policy. CDCr’s power stems from the threats that they place over prisoners by labeling us with groups and holding us responsible for the actions of that group.

Core Demand No. 1 (End group punishment and administrative abuse)

That practice is flawed; other than a gang title by which the group or individuals are labeled as members or associates, simply based on the group’s alleged gang title, nothing else allows for CDCr to blatantly target racial groups and individuals. Prison officials want these targeted individuals off of General Population in order to subject them to SCTC. But individual accountability, satisfying Core Demand No. 1, would have put an end to this policy, where predominantly white prison gang officials target mostly New Afrikans and Mexicans – racism.

These validations are a matter of life and death, because to subject and isolate prisoners for indefinite periods of time in SCTC takes a serious toll on our health and mental stability, regardless if we appear to be a reflection of strength. We see how young human beings can naturally develop into strong men and women under natural circumstances. We also see how, if able to grow older, they develop eventually into fragile individuals, so as you age, it’s a matter of life and death.

Even if you’re being provided the proper nutrition and socialization – we know this is not the case for prisoners, especially those of us held in SCTC, where the isolation deprives us of natural sunlight etc. – SCTC has an adverse effect on one’s life and it is these grounds that should end SCTC use. The CDCr has the responsibility to protect each and every prisoner, regardless how the authorities may feel about us.

CDCr officials have allowed the six-year review procedures to stand, despite STG 1 and 2 and the SDP policy, so far, for two years and counting. We remain on a dual policy. When your six-year active/inactive review date comes, you will go before an IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) and OCS (Office of Correctional Safety), who will determine if you are active or inactive. If you are active, you are to be retained in SCTC pending your case-by-case review with DRB (Departmental Review Board). If you are inactive, then you are referred to DRB and seen relatively quickly.

Now the process is that IGI collects the alleged information and prepares it for the OCS, and the OCS determines if this information is sufficient for an active or inactive re-validation. Then the DRB, which makes the final decision, decides if you will be detained or not, regardless of what OCS recommends.

Active or inactive

After six years of waiting to go before the DRB, a prisoner should be referred and seen, regardless if it’s an active or inactive recommendation or if it’s a validation as active, and should see the DRB immediately. To tell someone who has been deemed active that he or she has to wait for their DRB case-by-case review, which the same CDCr official refers you to, is a grave injustice.

I believe it’s a 14th Amendment violation under the equal protection clause, because prisoners being reviewed for active/inactive re-validation should also be seen by OCS and then the DRB, which makes the final decision based on the OCS recommendation. This would not allow CDCr gang officials to discriminate against prisoners they want to retain in SCTC, because under the new policy, whether you like it or not, as soon as you are in a SDP Step 1-4, you are on a three-year course toward getting the hell out of the SCTC.

Whether you are released or not is irrelevant, but you cannot even begin to challenge the new contradictions (problems) with the system if you are not afforded the right to be processed into the new Step Down Program policy. Plus, we cannot deny that these steps do afford prisoners privileges: most importantly a phone call with family. Many of us have not talked to a family member in over 10 years, which is especially painful when family members – or the prisoner – are very ill.

My six-year active/inactive review was on Dec. 10, 2014. This is my second one. If I am to be deemed active, I don’t get referred to the DRB, but instead would be held on that active recommendation, or re-validation, pending case-by-case review by the DRB, which can take months or even years. But regardless of the position the DRB takes, when IGI reviews you, you still will be placed in a step.

We, in our Core Demand No. 2, demanded in part, an end to the active/inactive review, because it retains prisoners indefinitely in SCTC without any real due process or procedural due process. The debriefing policy is still in effect and its sole purpose is to have prisoners snitch on one another for a release from the SCTC that they are held on indefinitely. We understood that the State power can create situations for or in our lives that render us vulnerable to the authority/ power that they have been entrusted with by the People, and, it is the abuse of this power/ authority that has allowed CDCr to structure up a system of torture for thousands of Human Beings held in these SCTC, unjustly.

We, in part of our Core Demand No. 2 (Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria), have demanded an end to this debriefing policy that tortures men and women for information on other men and women by using state sanctioned powers to carry out their attacks.

Core Demand No. 2 (Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria)

We continue to be held indefinitely in long term solitary confinement. The new policies do not negate this fact. Humans who have been in solitary confinement for 20 or 30 years are now being placed in Step 1 under the new STG and Steps 1 and 2 under SDP (the steps furthest away from relative freedom in General Population).
This speaks to the inhumanity of the CDCr officials who are heartless to the fact that these prisoners have endured enough suffering. The placing of anyone into Step 1 on the basis of frivolous confidential information is unjust and cruel and unusual. So, if you been in SCTC for 30 years and you are placed in Step 1, that’s three more years added to that 30 years, an extension of long term SCTC.
I personally have witnessed individuals who we all know will easily transition into General Population, but they are placed in Steps 1 through 4 due to political material which is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which the CDCr supersedes, and confidential information. The SDP is another scheme to hold countless individuals in long term SCTC.
Long term solitary confinement
We, in our Core Demand No. 3, demanded an end to long term solitary confinement. We see that CDCr has basically just condemned us to three more years in SCTC, which amounts to torture and long term solitary confinement.

Core Demand No. 3 (End long term solitary confinement)

National and international opinion clearly deems long term solitary confinement torture, but these laws are not respected by CDCr, which reduces these laws to opinions. We continue to see prisoners die due to medical neglect and inadequate medical treatment.
Health care and food
We all hear the horror stories – and have our own that have routinely been allowed to occur – where countless men and women have died in agonizing pain due to not being diagnosed or not treated for medical conditions that eventually manifest into deadly diseases that the prisoners suffer the rest of their stay in SCTC. In part, we have demanded in our Core Demand No. 4 that inadequate medical treatment cease.

Core Demand No. 4 (Cease inadequate medical treatment)

We continue to be fed non-nutritional foods and issued regularly disproportionate servings, so that prisoners held in long term solitary confinement go hungry and become unhealthy, since it is a concrete fact that nutritional foods maintain one’s good health. CDCr continues to defy this documented fact under the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010,” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The case can be made that the food being fed to prisoners routinely is not only non-nutritional but unhealthy for consumption, especially pancakes and waffles with sugar-free syrup and peanut butter with sugar-free jelly. Turkey, beef and chicken is all by-product meats, meaning there is a small percentage of the original meat present.
So we are eating mostly soy and pink slime, which is why you don’t get meat texture, but instead a flimsy piece of meat. It is questionable whether the soy is safe, let alone healthy for consumption. And let’s keep in mind this is the worst form of processed meat you can eat.
The milk is 60 percent water; it truly has no nutritional value. The two ridiculously small servings of vegetables we get a day is insufficient to maintain our health.
And those on Halal diet here at Pelican Bay State Prison are deprived of much of their food simply because they have opted to be on a diet that’s consistent with their religion or principles with respect to how their meat is prepared. They are retaliated against and denied side dishes with these meals frequently; their dinners can be under 400 calories.
I can go on and on about the inadequate food prisoners are forced to eat – or starve; much of it provides no nutritional benefits. In part, our Core Demand No. 4 demanded an adequate, balanced, nutritional diet be provided and an end to the small servings.

Core Demand No. 4 (Provide an adequate, balanced, nutritional diet and end the small servings)

Education vs. warehousing

We are still held inside these solitary confinement torture chambers (SCTC), where no meaningful educational programs and privileges have been implemented that could encourage our mental stability and physical development. When we talk about educational programs, we are talking about CDCr changing their routine practice of just warehousing prisoners in these SCTC, but instead giving them access to modern world technologies that can be provided at a prisoner’s expense or state expense.

We definitely need to bring in limited computers that can provide national and international geographies and cultures we can study. The outdated educational programs that CDCr provides at PBSP serve no educational purpose whatsoever.

The world is getting smaller and smaller and prisoners are like dinosaurs in our thinking, especially those of us who have been in 25 years or longer – and it’s worse for those of us held in these SCTC. We need to be exposed to the many new social and cultural developments that have occurred over those years.

A lot of us, out of being uniformed, have no clue as to how far the world has advanced, and continued isolation is a tragedy – and this refers to all prisoners in respect to outdated educational programs that provide us no education – especially when CDCr tells the public it is “rehabilitating prisoners.”

True rehabilitation would mean transforming all prisons into colleges and universities. Tapping into the thousands of mentalities behind these prison walls may discover prisoners, who, once given the opportunity, can become the world’s best scientists, doctors, lawyers, philosophers, judges, cooks, teachers, computer geeks, biologists, dentists, architects and artists.

True rehabilitation would mean transforming all prisons into colleges and universities.

We need real courage and a commitment to real education for prisoners. Allowing our mental energy to die or waste away in these man-made tombs does nothing for anyone. I’d prefer to be studying for a doctorate than to be just sitting here wasting away like this. And once we earn our degrees, we should be afforded the opportunity to serve humanity nationally and internationally.

But, if CDCr only intends to warehouse prisoners until we are dead, then we prisoners have to demand an end to the senseless killing of prisoners by proxy. Humans are a resource, and the state can invest in them positively or negatively. The current investment in prisoners is negative, relegating the human being to nothing.

Visiting

Privilege is simply allowing prisoners access to activities that enrich our lives. This can only be a benefit to everyone. Family visits and contact visits are privileges, even an hour visit out of 24 hours a day on two days, Saturday and Sunday, and in some prisons, just one day for an hour.

PBSP afforded an hour and a half and, after our peaceful protests, now three hours. But traveling to PBSP is like going to another state, so even three hours is insufficient considering the distance. We should be allowed five or six hours.

Privileges should always contribute to one’s social development. The more exposed we are to positive programs, the more we apply what we have learned in practice. That’s the natural process for us and all humanity.

We have, for the last 50 years in California, been conditioned around violence, and violence has been a regular practice throughout our stay. Thanks to our Agreement to End Hostilities, a lot of this violence has been deterred to some extent.

But what will keep this violence at bay? Because it definitely won’t sustain itself if prisoners’ energy is not being challenged in the educational programs and privileges that would hold their attention and produce the development that will enrich their lives.

Our Core Demand No. 5 (Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates) demanded that in order to deal with the idle time and the physical and mental development and social development of each and every prisoner, there must be real rehabilitation.

Core Demand No. 5 (Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates)

None of our core demands have been met! We are at a stage in our protracted struggle where we have to ask ourselves a tough question: Where do we go from here?

None of our core demands have been met!

CDCr has afforded some of us access to the General Population who should have never been held in these SCTC in the first place and have been held for far too many years. Our class action lawsuit was filed to end indefinite, longterm solitary confinement for all of us.

However, CDCr can render our class action lawsuit moot by placing everyone in the SDP, especially those of us who’ve been here in PBSP SHU 10 years or more, which is the only requirement of the lawsuit. (CDCr’s effort to defeat the suit by placing plaintiffs in the Step Down Program and moving them to other SHUs has been derailed by the court since this was written. – ed.)

So, considering the slow pace of progress in the Legislature and the possibility the lawsuit may not succeed, the responsibility to make change will come back to us prisoners. So we have to start strategizing around what we have to do in respect to our peaceful protests in order to end the continued abuse of authority.

CDCr has turned up its attacks, making it worse for each and every prisoner and his or her family. New regulations on personal property and on “obscenity” – actually censorship, a direct attack on free speech – have been implemented, and the proposed regulations to use canine searches of visitors – a direct attack on our families – are not yet approved but are in effect “on a temporary basis.”

These new regulations are about nothing other than prison officials abusing their position of power in order to retaliate against all of us who participated in the three hunger strikes and against all prisoners, activists and our families who supported us. The fact that CDCr can use the power that has been entrusted to them by the people to attack the people for their peaceful protests speaks volumes to how CDCr officials have no respect for the offices they hold.

We prisoners need to prepare for a massive peaceful protest and work stoppage if prison officials don’t change
1) The culture to which prisoners and their families are subjected: so much mental and physical torment;
2) End long term solitary confinement, as they promised; and
3) Implement our five core demands. If not, we have to think about our immediate future and long term future behind these walls.

Too many humans are suffering who don’t need to be suffering.

We also have to begin to educate prisoners on how to file writs and civil complaints in the state and federal courts in the interests of prisoners, ending the routine abuses that have been systemic throughout the state. The work stoppage, if necessary, should last anywhere from a month to years.

Our support committees need to release a report on the health consequences that many prisoners suffered during our last hunger strike, such as when we were temporarily taken to New Folsom. Many prisoners suffered immeasurable consequences in the name of our peaceful hunger strikes – the most recent having lasted from July 8, 2013, to Sept. 5, 2013 – that I personally recorded. We lost six lives, and we continue to lose lives.

One Love, One Struggle!

Send our brother some love and light: Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, D-05996, D2-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

CCI Step Down Program is Bogus: we shall stop participating Monday, May 11, 2015

From a letter by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa:

May 7, 2015 [received June 18th]

… I have taken the position to shut down this fake SDP crap. So, all of Step 4, who have the most to lose, meaning, some of them are a couple of weeks away from completing their Step 4, and for some they are one, two, three, four months away from being on a mainline and for some of them it’s been 13, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 39 years since they last been in general population, and for Step 3 it ranges from 4 to 31 years.

We all agree that these latest types of 115s/RVR’s is just another way to keep us held in SHU or a means of bringing us back, once we make it out to the GP mainline and we’d rather take our stance now!!  So, you can start spreading this good news to Corcoran, New Folsom and Pelican Bay by radio, news articles and when family members travel to PBSP and the other two SHUs.

We shall stop participating Monday, May 11, 2015, indefinitely. We won’t be attending any CC hearings, directly dealing with Steps 3 and 4, nor shall we go to those group meetings, or do any more of those journals. Now, there are two groups for each Step 3 and 4, and that’s a total of 40 prisoners who would have been attending those group meetings weekly. This SDP cannot function without prisoners participating.

I need for you to share that Steps 3 and 4 prisoners will not continue to participate in the SDP that is corrupt and discriminatory against all SDP prisoners, and has been trying to provoke all of us to rebel, get angry and act out.

Our problems come from the Warden, Kim Holland; Chief Deputy Warden, J. Gutierrez; Chief Deputy Warden W. Sullivan; Capt. P. Metzers; IGI Lt. J. Tyree; R. Diaz; Deputy Director of Division of Adult Institutions, Sacramento office, M. Tann; former SDP Facilitator, B. Snider; CC-II at CCI, Ybarra; and all of these Tehachapi officials and the one Sacramento official who have knowledge that we as SHU/SDP prisoners have been denied our fundamental SHU rights; and as of two weeks ago we are being denied the use of a razor, or should I say, we have a choice to take a five (5) minute shower or take a (5) minute shave, but not both.

Now, 90% of all SDP privileges have been denied us from Jan. 2014 to May 2015. This is a failed program and all of the Heads of CDCr know what is going on here at Tehachapi, CCI.

HANDOUT MATERIALS for Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

californiaprisonwatch:

Reblogged on Californiaprisonwatch.org

Originally posted on Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity:

Beginning in April 2015, if you need copies sent to you of any of these materials for use in your actions, please contact phssreachingout@gmail.com.

_______________________________________________
The above links allow you to download and print the two materials made specifically for anyone participating in Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (23rd of each month). Below are several download links for recommended materials to hand out during such actions.  Good educational materials. Coming soon: a handout of Frequently Asked Questions and the Answers, and all handouts in Spanish & English.

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Beginning March 23rd: Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement

Originally posted on Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity:

STOP THE TORTURE!

The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) to start Monday, March 23, 2015.

Actions will happen on the 23rd of each month.

This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement.

PHSS Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prisoner-Hunger-Strike-Solidarity/117053298383319

Statewide Coordinated Actions every month respond to the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers’ Proposals (November, 2013). They stated:

We want to consider the idea of designating a certain date each month as Prisoner Rights Day. On that date each month prisoners across the state would engage in peaceful activities to call attention to prison conditions. At the same time our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose CDCR’s [CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] actions and rally support efforts to secure our rights. We can see this action growing…

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Mission Statement of the Free Speech Society

Reblogged from: SF Bay View, Feb 2nd 2015

by Abdul Olugbala Shakur, Mutope Duguma and Heshima Denham

The Free Speech Society is a movement that is dedicated towards protecting and defending the First Amendment rights of imprisoned activists. As imprisoned activists, we are embedded reporters for the people. We are the eyes and ears for the people – for the taxpayers – articulating the human atrocities that plague the prison industrial slave complex with impunity in your name.

The artist writes: “After the big tragedy in Paris – basically it was about art work and censorship – everybody stood up for the cause, ‘Je suis Charlie,’ yelling, ‘Stop censorhip! Fight against it wherever it is!’ And here we are in California being censored by that very tongue. So I used ‘Je suis Charlie’ for that reason.” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU D7-217, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

Human atrocities compelled by racial oppression can only flourish when silence permeates the corridors of the vortex of torture, the PISC, necessitating the manifested destiny of a collective insurgence of voices of resistance forged by the rediscovery of our humanity. The FSS is an expression of that humanity.

Though our endeavor is just, the agents of torture and repression – the OCS (Office of Correctional Safety), SSU (Special Services Unit), IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations) and ISU (Investigations Services Unit) – have dedicated their resources towards silencing our voices and suffocating the true spirit of free speech.

This mission statement is only a brief invite designed to both captivate and solicit free speech loving people to join our movement and assist us in mobilizing against the forces of repression. If you are interested, please contact the following:

  • Abdul Olugbala Shakur (s/n J. Harvey), C-48884, CSP Cor SHU 4B-1L-25, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212
  • Mutope Duguma (s/n J. Crawford), D-05996, PBSP SHU D2-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP Cor SHU 4B-1L-25, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212
  • Steve Martinot, martinot4 @ gmail.com

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

January 25, 2015

by Todd Ashker, in: SF Bay View

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Add 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.

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.

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.

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.

Letter from Women in CCWF concerning forced transfers to McFarland and overcrowding

This letter was received a few months ago by someone who forwarded it to CA PW among others, and apparently nothing has been done yet.

To Whom It May Concern:

I a writing you on behalf of the women in Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
I want to make everone aware of the transfers being forced on many to McFarland California.
I ave just spoken to a returney from McFarland and I want to inform you of what is happening there:

1. The Plumbing Is backing up and clogged.

2. There are no programing or programs of any kind nor will there be according to the staff when asked about them.

3. The Living Quarters are filthy and infested. They are putting all levels of inmates into a dorm setting together. All Custody Levels.

4. CCCMS Inmates were transfered without Meds.or Mental Health Care.

Another problem taking place here at CCWF is we are already really overcrowded in our cells with 8 or more women: The Populaton is soaring here, they are taking the overflow from receiving over 700 women and are placing them in with us. They are all going into general population as if no evaluations have taken place.

Medical has taken ALL our Meds away from us, stating to us that they are too costly and we will not be getting them any more.

I do not know whom to write to get us help?

I do not know if the woman I am sending this to will be giving her name? That will be her decision, but we are going through her hoping she can get us heard.

PLEASE RESPOND to us. We have been asking for help for a very long time.
Signed: (name withheld for now by CAPrisonWatch for anonymity reasons, out of fear for repercussions).

See also the March that the California Coalition for Women Prisoners did in August.