Legislative alert: CDCR’s Step-Down Pilot Program is in fact systematic, mandatory brainwashing

In: SF Bay View, Dec. 15th 2013 (reblogged on NCTT-Cor-SHU)
by Heshima Denham

There is a matter of some urgency that should be passed along as broadly as possible, because it is just that serious. We issued a statement, “Creating broken men, Part 2,” where we voiced our outrage at the inclusion of the mandatory brainwashing components of Section 700.2 of the CDCR’s Step Down Program (SDP.) Since that time several things have developed:

1. The doctors took Zaharibu Dorrough to the review board and attempted to bribe him with the promise of transfer to Tehachapi and touch visits in Step 3 IF he agreed to participate in Step 2 for six months – most centrally the “self-directed journal” outlined in Section 700.2 – their hope being if Zah does it, then countless other younger, more vulnerable prisoners can be herded into this brainwashing program. He of course refused, and we’re putting the finishing touches on a new statement on all of this, so I’ll leave that point.

2. We had an opportunity to review one of the journals (“The Con Game”) and it’s even worse than we thought – well, more accurately, it’s exactly what we knew it would be: a blatant character invalidation and brainwashing tool.

3. Most disturbing of all, they’ve announced a director’s rules change to provisions of CCR Section 3040, which introduces mandatory brainwashing for EVERY PRISONER IN CDCR – called “cognitive behavioral therapy” – and attaching it to this same regulation that governs mandatory work and education assignments while confined to CDCR.

All of this is in violation of Article 1 of the Nuremburg Code and the most fundamental basics of human rights. I don’t know if this is simply an issue most don’t genuinely understand or if CDCR has so thoroughly hidden and downplayed what they are attempting – but this is the single greatest evil this struggle faces. It is even more urgent than the issue of indefinite solitary sensory deprivation confinement.

What we have determined is CDCR’s SDP Pilot Program has zero to do with “a behavior-based path for ‘validated’ prisoners to exit the SHU” and is in fact a systematic and mandatory brainwashing program using the prospect of eventual SHU release as the coercive component to force men and women to submit to these techniques.

According to the SDP/STG [Security Threat Group] policy, if you refuse to submit to the “cognitive restructuring” components of the SDP, such as “self-directed journals,” you will be “stuck” in whatever step they decide to stick you in … forever – or, like the debriefing process, until you finally capitulate and ask them to brainwash you. In other words, you can be “STG behavior”-free for, presumably, the rest of your life and you’ll still be stuck in say, Step 2, in the SHU.

They have changed nothing, but are creating a new and more efficient means to produce the same broken minds and subservient slaves as the debriefing process – only on a much grander scale. It is in fact worse than the debriefing process – and not simply in the SHU. They seek to extend this to every prison and prisoner in CDCR’s custody.

CDCR is in the process of changing their regulations to incorporate mandatory brainwashing – what they’re calling in this proposed rules change “cognitive behavioral therapy,” which they define as “evidence-based psychotherapeutic treatment which addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviors, and cognitive processes in all three areas to reach proscribed goals” – to ensure everyone who enters CDCR will leave it a warped, submissive and subservient slave.

What we have determined is CDCR’s SDP Pilot Program has zero to do with “a behavior-based path for ‘validated’ prisoners to exit the SHU” and is in fact a systematic and mandatory brainwashing program using the prospect of eventual SHU release as the coercive component to force men and women to submit to these techniques.


To ensure their capacity to force this conditioning on prisoners, they’ve actually attached this sick, twisted assault on the underclass to provisions of CCR Title 15, Section 3040, Participation, which makes work, education and “other programs” mandatory for all CDCR prisoners. It in turn derives its authority from the slavery provisions of the 13th Amendment. I can only describe this as evil. Every activist, family member and citizen should be mobilizing against this manifestation of fascism in their midst.

Here they seek to instill beliefs and values which are synonymous with those of right-wing, authoritarian conservatism – while simultaneously seeking to absolve the nature and structure of capitalist society and contrapositive authoritarian conditioning inherent in the U.S. fascist mass psychology for any of society’s ills, including institutional racism, sexism, intentional underdevelopment, social containment and criminalization.

Instead they seek to lay all blame at the feet of the individual and their choices – a view rejected and debunked by sociological and criminological academia for decades. The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society – not simply individual choices. It is the lack of viable choices which coerces people into the underground economy – and inevitably into prisons where they’ve erected a multi-billion dollar industry built on jailing millions of poor people and people of color.

CDCR is in the process of changing their regulations to incorporate mandatory brainwashing – what they’re calling in this proposed rules change “cognitive behavioral therapy,” to ensure everyone who enters CDCR will leave it a warped, submissive and subservient slave.


These journals stress “taking personal responsibility,” but CDCR takes none for the hundreds of female prisoners they forcibly sterilized in California prisons, the tens of thousands subjected to years of psychological torture in U.S. SHU units, the tens of billions of dollars pillaged from underclass and minority communities by lending institutions during the subprime loan fiascos, the centuries of institutional racism, sexism, xenophobia and state-sponsored hate that adversely affects the “choices” available to the people subjected to these structural components of U.S. capitalism.

Financial corporations embezzled billions of dollars from hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens – via credit default swaps and other exotic financial instruments – in 2008, and not one of these Wall Street executives or government regulators has spent a day in jail.

There’s a guy in 3 Block who got caught with 20 rocks of cocaine and another guy in B Section who stole two pizzas, and they both got 25 to life under the three strikes law – and CDCR and “The Change Company” [the name of the vendor providing them with the journals] have the audacity and unmitigated gall to speak of “responsible” vs. “irresponsible” thinking.

The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society – not simply individual choices. It is the lack of viable choices which coerces people into the underground economy – and inevitably into prisons where they’ve erected a multi-billion dollar industry built on jailing millions of poor people and people of color.


Prisons are tools of repression to enforce property rights and maintain the current social order. Social conditions in these capitalist nations are such that “perpetual growth” has met the boundaries of planetary ecological/environmental capacity. They can’t keep on reaping super profits from the appropriation of surplus labor value without meeting ever increasing resistance from those suffering the ever decreasing share of wealth and resources available.

Their solution is to increase the psychological and behavioral malleability and passivity of the most potentially revolutionary segments of U.S. society: the underclass, the working poor, the unemployed … the prisoner. CDCR is and has always been a model for the nation in prison “best practices.” As goes California – so goes the nation.

The introduction and imposition of mandatory brainwashing – cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive restructuring, self-directed journals, behavior modification etc. – across CDCR facilities will produce a steady stream of broken men and women; who will in turn take these techniques, warped values, authoritarian beliefs and twisted ideals out to their communities where, just like those female slaves who were subjected to “slave seasoning” would raise their sons to be “good boys” – physically strong, so they could work hard, but psychologically and emotionally weak, so they would not rebel against the institution of slavery and thereby be murdered brutally by the slavemaster.

Prisons are tools of repression to enforce property rights and maintain the current social order.


These broken men and women will warp the minds of others, who will in turn warp others, until we will have a docile, submissive, subservient U.S. underclass population, content to continue enduring even more exploitation, more severe repression, and even greater usurpations – all because we, the progressives, the revolutionaries, the social justice activists, the common man and woman failed to act.

I feel at times as though many simply don’t understand what’s transpiring, its interconnections and its ultimate social impact. There are no disparate social forces – all is interconnected, and it is within these interconnections that the vast, horrifying, awe-inspiring scope of what these evil people are trying to do becomes sickeningly clear.

I don’t believe the legislators in Sacramento know this is the case. Coercive behavior modification and/or cognitive restructuring techniques are prohibited under Article 1 of theNuremburg Code. The forced sterilization of female prisoners is a war crime.

Female slaves who were subjected to “slave seasoning” would raise their sons to be “good boys” – physically strong, so they could work hard, but psychologically and emotionally weak, so they would not rebel against the institution of slavery and thereby be murdered brutally by the slavemaster.


The fact that we must invoke the Nuremburg Code and war crimes statutes to oppose what a prison system in the U.S. is doing is the best proof of 1) how racist, sick and inhumane the U.S. actually is and 2) how completely oblivious the U.S. population is of this fact – and the U.S. mass media is complicit in this. It is my assessment that U.S. journalists have so thoroughly crafted this image of what they want the world to believe American society is, they willfully conceal, under-report and ignore and fail to investigate its vilest contradictions in order to preserve this illusion. Any journalist who claims ignorance must acknowledge it is a willful ignorance.

We simply can’t stand idly by and allow something like his to sweep up untold generations in this sick process. History will judge us all harshly should we do so. Every activist, every able-bodied person, period, should be mobilizing to oppose these violations of the Nuremburg Code.

Now as it relates to Section 700.2 of the SDP, noise has to be made about it, like nothing before, but as it relates to the new director’s rules changes to Title 15, Section 3040 and related sections, there will be a public hearing on this on Jan. 7, 2014, at 10-11 a.m. in the Kern Room at 1515 S St., North Building, Sacramento.

Written comments may be sent by mail to CDCR, Regulation and Policy Management Branch (RPMB), P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283, by fax to (916) 324-6075 or by email to RPMB@cdcr.ca.gov, by 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2014.

There will be a public hearing on this on Jan. 7, 2014, at 10-11 a.m. in the Kern Room at 1515 S St., North Building, Sacramento.


The Kern Room should be packed with protestors on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. to bring media attention to the reality of this evil. A letter writing and email campaign should be organized to flood them with complaints about this continually leading up to Jan. 7.

I’m contacting everyone I can on this, and I do encourage you to do the same. This is even more important than the abolition of SHU.

The Kern Room should be packed with protestors on Jan. 7 at 10 a.m. to bring media attention to the reality of this evil.


It is these people’s intention to subject tens of thousands of prisoners, 95 percent of them hailing from underclass communities, to systematic cognitive restructuring where they begin with “character invalidation” and end with the complete subordination of their minds and behaviors to the dictates of authoritarian conservatism, manufacturing a docile, subservient population of men and women WHO WILL TAKE THESE SAME TECHNIQUES OUT TO THEIR COMMUNITES, warping the minds of generations to come.

In so doing, they not only make the expropriation of tax dollars, at the expense of prisoners, a more orderly process, but also make the exploitation of labor in society at large a less burdensome ordeal for corporations by stamping out the very thought of resistance or progressive, pro-people organizing.

Viewing all of this through the prism of its Hitlerian magnitude, the insidiousness of this undertaking is inspiringly horrific. We shouldn’t be having this discussion – these people have gone mad!

It is these people’s intention to subject tens of thousands of prisoners, 95 percent of them hailing from underclass communities, to systematic cognitive restructuring where they begin with “character invalidation” and end with the complete subordination of their minds and behaviors to the dictates of authoritarian conservatism, manufacturing a docile, subservient population of men and women.


The contact person on the brainwashing provisions of the new Section 3040 (et al) is Timothy Lockwood, (916) 445-2269 or RPMB@cdcr.gov. Regarding the subject matter, contact Michele Gonzalez at (916) 323-6662.

A note on those “self-directed journals,” at least all those CDCR is using: They have printed at the bottom of each page and the answer sheets: “It is illegal to photocopy this in any shape or form.” That alone should show anyone interested there’s something very wrong here.

Advertisements

Please grant the requests of California SHU-prisoners in CSP-Corcoran-SHU 4B-1L-C Section and 4B Facility

To be delivered to: Connie Gipson, Warden, Michael Stainer, Cherita Wofford, Ombudsman, and Sara Malone, Ombudsman


Petition Statement

These requests to the warden are basic, modest  and do-able, all pertaining to local issues like food, cleaning of the unit, visiting, and tv-access paid for by the prisoners themselves.

Petition Background

This petition asks you to review and respond to a few simple requests that prisoners in Corcoran-SHU have asked us to negotiate for on their behalf:

See the added list of 13 items, all very logical and humane, modest, none are undoable or unreasonable. They wrote these requests in a letter they sent you more than a month ago (around September/October 2013), to which you have yet to respond.

Some of these demands were negotiated successfully at Calipatria ASU. For instance, on the Memorandum of Sept 3rd 2013, the warden of Cal stated: “expanded the Canteen list effective September 2013…” Also: “two phones are installed in A5 pending activation.”

13 Local Requests of 4B-1L-C Section and 4B Facility, CSP-Corcoran-SHU

To: The Warden, Mrs Connie Gipson
Facility Captain
cc: Ombudsman Cherita Wofford, Sara Malone

1) Visiting
We are requesting that visiting be increased to 2 1/2 hours, and 3 1/2 hours for visitors who travel 100 miles or more.

2) Additional TV-stations
We are requesting that the administration add eight (8) additional stations to the basic package made available to us.
We are requesting that a contract with a cable service provider (such as Direct TV) be established with money from the Inmate Welfare Fund.

We were told that this was supposed to have occurred well over a year ago. By contracting with a cable service provider it would improve the quality of the picture on several stations (channels: 2 (PBS), 6 (NBC), 8 (My TV), 5 (CW). The picture is, always, so bad that they cannot be watched.
We would like to request that the following stations be added to the basic package: …

3) Packages
Policy changes to the title 15 now allow those of us in segregated housing to be issued clothing items, a bowl and tumbler, as well as religious items.

We are requesting that we be allowed, consistent with the new rules and regulations:
one (1) special purchase, “non-food”-package per year.

In the alternative we are requesting that the Administration establish a “grace period,” and in this grace period allow us to receive one (1) special purchase “non-food”-package.

4) Food
While the CDCR policy does require that we be provided with a “heart-healthy diet,” we are not. The quality of the food is so bad that on more than one occasion the food during the evening meals has been referred to as “looking like brains.”

In the alternative, if the administration will not require that changes be made in the quality and quantity of the meals, then we are requesting that we be provided the opportunity to order two (2) annual food packages a year.

We are also requesting that the administration include in the lunches more variety. Processed lunched meat and peanut butter are all that we are issued. The only fruit that we receive are one (1) apple or banana. The apple and banana are routinely rotten / overripe.

Canned fruit, peaches, pineapples, pears can be provided and are available.

Tuna fish, cheese and meat spreads can be provided instead of the processed meat is that we are routinely given. It has been established that processed foods do contribute to increased health risks. (see for instance: Harvard School of Public Health: “Beyond Willpower: Diet Quality and Quantity Matter”, page visited on 12/2/13).

5) Yard
Rarely do we receive our ten (10) hours of yard per week, as policy requires.
One reason for this is because the concrete yards in this building are not used.
If two (2) cells are allowed out to the concrete yard, three (3) times a day, it would go a long way toward our having an opportunity to receive our ten (10) hours of yard per week.

Even on those occasions in which regular yard is not allowed, the concrete yards can be.

This has been done over the years on the 4B-yard. And was being done in this building, briefly, last year.

6) Additional canteen items.
Particularly in light of the food department’s failure to provide us with a heart-healthy diet, as well as a diet that lacks any qualitative or quantitative value, we are requesting that additional canteen items, similar to those items that were on the canteen list previously (tuna, chicken breast).
And that chili-flavored soup be included on the canteen list.
And that one other or additional cold cereal be included on the canteen list.

7) Showers.
Presently, the showers are only cleaned three (3) times a week. We are requesting that an additional shower cleaner be allowed to come out so as to ensure that the showers will be cleaned six (6) days a week, as they should be.

8) Telephone calls.
We are requesting that one (1) non-emergency phone call per month be allowed for all SHU prisoners.

9) TV accessories.
We are requesting allowance of TV-accessories that are approved for privilege group D (earphones, headphone extension, splitters, RCA signal amplifiers).

10) Cleaning.
We are requesting authorizing , in addition to the showers to be cleaned six (6) days a week, that the section be cleaned three (3) days a week (swept, mopped, as well as cell fronts, stairs and rails, and holding cages inside of section).

11) Step Down Program
We request to have the time in the Step Down Program reduced.

12) Step 3
We request STEP 3 for prisoners who are validated as STG1 member or associate, and who has been housed in solitary confinement for a minimum of five (5) years.

13) Contact Visits.
We request contact visits pursuant to paragraph 3334 (K) of the Title 15.

We have been told on several occasions that each of the approved vendors (Walkenhorst’s, Access, Union Supply and Golden State Packages) have been contacted and informed that we are allowed to purchase and possess additional personal property items as well as religious items. However, only one of the vendors, Golden State Packages, will send all of the items. None of the other vendors have been notified of any changes.

Also, we are no longer allowed to receive tennis shoes. This prison has reneged on this altogether. They have told us that the vendors would be contacted over the past two (2) years.

In closing, we would like to thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter. And hope that we might hear from you in an effort to resolve this.

Respectfully,
On behalf of 4B 1L-C-Section, and 4B Facility. 

Pelican Bay prisoner representatives meet with top Corrections staff

by Arturo Castellanos
From: SF Bay View, Oct. 20th 2013

Oct. 2, 2013 – This is a short update from the four principle SHU reps here at Pelican Bay State Prison to inform you that Mr. Michael Stainer [director of the Division of Adult Institutions], kept his word and arrived here on Sept. 25 and 26 with Mr. Ralph Diaz [warden at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF) at Corcoran] and Mr. George Giurbino [retired director of the Division of Adult Institutions]. We went through all 40 supplemental demands as well as some aspects of the step-down program, where we also gave them written suggestions on loading up each step with real meaningful incentives.

  

Although they were adamant on not rescinding or reducing any RVRs [Rules Violation Reports] for participating in the hunger strikes, they were forthcoming in other areas. For example, there will be additional allowed personal property items in SHU. The memos on those and other supplemental demands will be out soon and placed in the new CDCR DOM [Department Operations Manual] Article 43 as soon as possible.

Those memos should be more specific so prison staff and prisoners will know what kind and size of the items is or is not allowed so the same problems from the June 5 memos won’t re-occur. On other issues, it will take time for them to investigate and confirm or not on what we argued regarding those, and on still others, like not rescinding the RVRs, they clearly stated “no,” which we prefer to a vague answer that only will string us along. But over all, the meetings were positive and productive.

With all the above and the promises of future meetings in person or by phone conference with Mr. Stainer or his staff regarding any updates on the above and step-down program and the first Senate-Assembly hearings this month in Los Angeles, as we explained to Mr. Stainer, as long as we continue to see forward progress, we do not foresee that the other 16 reps and prisons will want to resume the hunger strike anytime in the near future.

They also granted and reinstated our monthly meetings with this administration and the new warden, Mr. Ron Barnes, to deal with any new or pending issues at the institutional level. These meetings are vital to deal with any new issues and prevent future problems or having to file a lot of unnecessary 602 appeals. We are not MAC [Men’s Advisory Council] members, and if the same has not been put in place in your SHU prison – including women – then you need to sweat your warden about it asap.

They also granted and reinstated our monthly meetings with this administration and the new warden, Mr. Ron Barnes, to deal with any new or pending issues at the institutional level. These meetings are vital.


Finally, if any of you on PBSP GP [General Population] or any prison have gone through the potty watch be sure you contact the Prison Law Office but address your letters Attn: Sara Norman [Prison Law Office, 1917 Fifth St., Berkeley CA 94710]. She’s an attorney there. She came up asking for names and information on this but we only see some of you laying on cold concrete as we walk by those nasty-ass holding cells. So it’s very important that you get at her asap to stop this torture.

We stopped them from using the tubes. Now we need to stop the further torture of having nowhere to sit or lay down other than cold nasty concrete and taking craps out there in the open. This is wrong! And it needs to be stopped now!

Prison Law Office is asking for names and information on potty watch, but we only see some of you laying on cold concrete as we walk by those nasty-ass holding cells. So it’s very important that you get at them with your information on actually going through it  so they can stop this torture.


On this issue, Mr. Stainer explained that x-rays are no longer an option and potty watch is not supposed to be torture. We explained that even those who are not found to be carrying anything and are innocent, because x-rays are no longer an option, are forced to go through this humiliating and torturous experience for two to three days or longer, until after they have three bowel movements. Before, they could just prove they’re innocent by an x-ray.

They have agreed to investigate our allegations, but your information on actually going through it is more important, so Ms. Norman and her office can actually file something on it to stop it!

That’s it for now. Expect more future updates from me and the other reps as time goes by. Always in solidarity.

D Facility Visiting Room

Oct. 16, 2013 – This is to notify Warden Barnes and the budget associate warden for SHU of another issue that will be brought up and discussed at the next monthly meeting between the SHU reps and PBSP administration.

CDCR Sacramento officials provided the funds to reopen D Facility SHU visiting room to provide “extended visits” (see Supplemental Demand No. 4). However, PBSP officials just opened half and are only using that half for “overflow visiting” and the other half continues to be used for law library access during weekdays. This is not acceptable.

That visiting room half has to be used for extended visits and overflow, and the only way – as we reps have repeatedly advised this administration and Sacramento – that our family members will all receive extended visits is if this administration changes the schedule from three time slots to two time slots, with D Facility in the first slot and C Facility in the second slot, where all visits are a solid three hours long during the weekends and holidays. This could even work using C Facility and just half of D Facility visiting rooms.

The second option is that all of D Facility visiting room be opened, not just half, where all C Facility prisoners go to the C Facility visiting room and all D Facility prisoners go to the D Facility visiting room – i.e., the short corridor during the first slot and the long corridor during the second slot – thus giving everyone a solid three hour long visit and providing plenty of room for any overflow problems.

Exaggerated administration responses

First and more importantly, the D Facility visiting room was built to solely be used for D Facility visiting – regular and legal visiting – not to be converted into a law library or recreational book library. Now, so far, this administration has reopened just one half of our D Facility visiting room.

But in doing so, they also punished us by claiming they had to remove all the recreational reading books and take them to the B Facility general population library. So now we have NO recreational library at this time where SHU prisoners can order reading books (see also our Supplemental Demand No. 8).

When the administration reopened half of our D Facility visiting room, they also punished us by claiming they had to remove all the recreational reading books.


Second, the administration has not put any effort into resolving this, other than give excuses why they don’t wish to change anything – like, if they reopen all of D Facility visiting room they won’t have anywhere to put the law library. These excuses are old ones. In fact, in the past, we gave the administration a suggestion to solve this problem:

Since the law library mainly consists of multiple computers containing all the legal books on discs, they have enough computers to place one in each of the 22 SHU units’ dry cells in front of each unit control officer and run law library all day in each unit using just that unit’s officers to escort prisoners to and from those dry cells and back to their unit section.

A new suggestion, since the administration has not responded to the suggestion above, is that there is plenty of room in the SHU to move both the law library and the recreational library. For example, both C and D Facilities presently have a lot of space available between the back of each main corridor control booth and the visiting rooms. Right now it’s even being used as a partial storage area.

There is plenty of room in the SHU to move both the law library and the recreational library out of the D Facility visiting room, which was built to solely be used for D Facility visiting.


These available spaces can easily be utilized as both law library and recreational library where six-10 modified cages with the computers can be constructed and installed in those spaces to be used for law library access. Shelves can also be constructed or moved from the present library and placed in those spaces for law books, legal forms, copy machines and even for recreational books.

In fact, these spaces are so big that even with all those mentioned cages, shelves etc., there will still be plenty of room for staff desks and a walkway in between to provide access to the visiting area from SHU. So all the present excuses for not re-opening all of D Facility visiting rooms are unfounded and it appears that on this issue, the old CDCR game of delay and excuse is being played here.

In closing, the above problem of our family members barely receiving a 90-minute visit, if they’re lucky, has greatly affected those relations over the two decades plus since this prison was opened, especially those who must travel very great distances.

The problem of our family members barely receiving a 90-minute visit, if they’re lucky, has greatly affected family relations over the two decades plus since this prison was opened, especially those who must travel very great distances.

So, our advice to this administration is to find somewhere to permanently move the law library and recreational library and re-open all of D Facility visiting room and change the present three visiting slots to two visiting slots as soon as possible, because on this issue, there is no in-between and we as SHU reps promise you that this will continue to be one of our main issues until it’s permanently fixed.

Arturo Castellanos is one of the four main SHU reps writing on behalf of all 20 reps and all SHU prisoners and their family members.

Send our brother some love and light: Arturo Castellanos, C-12275, PBSP SHU D1-121, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Protest Disciplinary Actions Against Prison Hunger Strikers

This was sent by email to those who signed up to pledge taking action, but everyone can participate!
Greetings to all Pledge signers,
As you know, on July 8, 2013 more than 30,000 California prisoners initiated a historic hunger strike calling on the Governor and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet their 5 Core Demands. Sixty days and one death later, the strikers suspended the strike.
Thank you so much for continuing your support of the hunger strikers.
CDCR RETALIATES AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTEST WITH ACCUSATIONS OF SERIOUS RULE VIOLATIONS (115 WRITE-UP)
The hunger strike was a non-violent and peaceful protest of resistance against the violence and torture perpetrated against prisoners by prison staff. Prisoners all over the world use hunger strikes to affirm their humanity. Hunger striking is a time-honored form of peaceful protest, going back hundreds – perhaps thousands – of years. It allows nonviolent dissent for people who lack viable methods to obtain redress of grievances.
Every person who participated in this summer’s peaceful protest of refusing meals has received a 115 write-up, accusing him of committing a serious rule violation for his participation in the hunger strike. This is a continuation of CDCR’s attacks on the nonviolent protest.
A 115 WRITE-UP CAN EXTEND SOLITARY CONFINEMENT PERIOD AND RESULT IN DENIAL OF PAROLE
A 115 is serious. It can result in extending a prisoner’s period of solitary confinement by years, in the imposition of penalties like television restrictions, or in becoming the basis for denying parole.
If the 115 is gang-related, the results are even worse: it can be used to validate a prisoner as a gang member or associate. Validation can cause the prisoner to be moved to the Security Housing Unit (the “SHU,” aka solitary confinement), or to be kept longer in the SHU. Officials at California State Prison Corcoran, and possibly at other prisons, encouraged prisoners to stipulate that they had participated in the hunger strike, in exchange for a lesser 115 penalty. But that stipulation included a phrase acknowledging that the hunger strike was organized or directed by prison gangs, leading to grave repercussions for participants throughout the system.
Keeping people in solitary confinement for more years, because they peacefully protested solitary confinement, is outrageous! This is a symptom of the unjust retaliation that CDCR is perpetuating against hunger strikers.
TELL CDCR THAT THE PRACTICE OF ISSUING 115 WRITE-UPS FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE HUNGER STRIKE IS OUTRAGEOUS
Please contact M. D. Stainer, Director of the Division of Adult Institutions at CDCR. Your voice needs to be heard by the people making decisions! Tell him to end this policy of punishing people for refusing their meals in nonviolent protest, and to reverse the 115s that were given out. Let him know that you are distressed to hear that about his policy of issuing 115 write-ups, further oppressing the peaceful hunger strikers.
M.D. Stainer, Director
Division of Adult Institutions
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
P. O. Box 942883
Sacramento CA. 94283
(916) 445-7688
PHSS will let you know when we find out the effects of our collective activity. Please share this Alert with your networks!
In solidarity,
Dana Gross, for Emergency Response Network – Pledge of Resistance
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition

Message from Pelican Bay Reps to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez

October 18, 2013
We, the four principal representatives of the prisoners confined in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, hereby welcome Juan Mendez to California. We have followed your work and advocacy against torture throughout the world and congratulate you on your commitment and success in bringing your findings to the public’s attention.
We recently suspended our hunger strike against torture in the form of prolonged solitary confinement in California’s prisons after 60 days. Over 30,000 prisoners joined us in the largest protest ever against prison conditions in the United States and possibly the world.
We decided to suspend our hunger strike for several reasons: (1) We succeeded in making the issue of torture in California’s prisons into an issue of worldwide public and media attention. The New York Times, Washington Post,   Los Angeles Times, CNN, Al Jazeera, and the BBC are just a few of the media outlets that covered our cause, with many running editorials in our support. Thousands of people joined demonstrations, signed petitions and letters, and spoke out in our favor. (2) State Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano promised to hold legislative hearings to address solitary confinement, the conditions of imprisonment, and sentencing policy in California and to introduce legislation for reform. They have already held one hearing on October 9, in a room filled with our supporters, and heard from experts, former prisoners, and family members who spoke of the torture we endure and demanded change. (3) CDCR officials promised to meet with us to discuss our concerns, and we have already spent hours in talks with them.
But nothing has changed. Over 3500 prisoners remain isolated in California’s SHUs with almost no human interaction, little opportunity to exercise or even see the sun, and forbidden from contact visits or telephone calls with their families. They join thousands of others who are held in different forms of solitary confinement throughout the system.  Prisoners are revalidated for indefinite terms on the basis of unconfirmed rumors, anonymous misinformation from debriefers and informants, and possession of criminalized books, articles, and art work. The only sure way out is to debrief and expose yourself to shame, further exploitation by prison officials, condemnation and violence.
Mr. Mendez, we ask that you join in our struggle. We would like you to testify at one of the upcoming Legislative hearings. We would like you to consider becoming an expert witness in our lawsuit. As a former prisoner yourself, we would like you to do your best to bring both our conditions and our human rights movement to the attention of the international community, with intention to take resolute action against the torture we, along with many other prisoners in California and elsewhere have endured for far too long. We look forward to meeting you.
With Respect and in Solidarity,
Todd Ashker
Arturo Castellanos
Antonio Guillen
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

Solitary Confinement in Women’s Prisons in California: Important Message to the Politicians

Received by email: 

October 17, 2013

To:  Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner
From:   Diana Block & Misty Rojo, California Coalition for Women Prisoners

“Last night another girl hung herself, and as they drug her out of her cell and down the stairs and put her on the stretcher it occurred to me that it’s become so common, so common it hurts. I mean I woke up out of my sleep and got off my bunk, got a sip of water and looked out the window and there they were silently dragging her out, no alarm, no sense of emergency or urgency. Just your run of the mill ordinarily scheduled suicide. Nothing special going on here, just all in a day’s work. I don’t know. I laid in bed, praying her spirit would fight for her life since she obviously didn’t have the strength to fight for it herself. By the time breakfast rolled around her bed was already filled by a new inmate. Like rotating cattle.” (Excerpt from a recent letter from a woman in CIW’s SHU)

Dear Assemblywoman Skinner:

The California Coalition for Women Prisoners (www.womenprisoners.org) is a grassroots advocacy organization that works with women and transgender prisoners in California’s prisons and jails. Many of our members live in your District. We are also active in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition which deals with issues of solitary confinement in California prisons.  Unfortunately, we were unable to attend the recent hearing on solitary confinement which was held on October 9th, but some of us were able to watch on CalChannel. We appreciate your focus at that hearing on information regarding solitary confinement in the women’s prisons.

Much less is known about solitary in the women’s prisons than about conditions in male facilities.  Over the past several months, CCWP has been trying to gather information and testimony about these conditions.  One thing that has become clear is that the recent conversion of Valley State Prison for Women into a male facility (VSP) has led to a dramatic increase in the use of solitary confinement: Ad Seg at CCWF and the SHU at CIW.  Concurrently, there have been several suicides in Ad Seg and the SHU in recent months, at least one from an alleged “overdose.” The excerpt from the letter quoted above is one of many that indicates how desperate the situation is.  

We write to ask that your office initiate an investigation into women’s solitary confinement conditions.  This could include on-site visits of the SHU and Ad Seg. Legislators did visit the SHU at VSPW in 2000 as part of Senator Polanco’s  hearings about the women’s prisons in 2000. They were appalled by what they saw.  In particular, they witnessed women who were held in cages being given “therapy”  for their mental health issues.  Those “therapy cages” are still being used today in both women’s and men’s isolation facilities.

We believe that several key factors have contributed to the increase in the use of solitary in the women’s prisons. 

  • First is the use of the category  “enemy concerns” to designate women/trans prisoners to Ad Seg and the SHU.  “Enemy concerns” is a documented disagreement between inmates that may have led to threats or acts of violence. However, the documentation can be up to decades old in a person’s central file and the person may have been successfully programming in general population for years.  When they are transferred to a new prison, they are put in segregated housing based on this documentation in their file, even when they don’t have any disciplinary issues.
  •  The existence of “enemy concerns” tags for prisoners transferred from VSPW to CCWF or CIW has caused them to be placed in segregated housingindefinitely due to a lack of other alternatives.  Even though women are being placed in isolation for their “protection”, they lose all privileges and are kept in solitary cells for 22-24 hours per day just as women who are there for disciplinary reasons
  •  Because there are no protective housing units for women, they can be kept indefinitely in segregated/solitary housing if enemy issues are involved.  Using the “enemy concerns” label to keep women in the SHU for indeterminate amounts of time is similar to the use of the “gang affiliation” label in the men’s prisons and is increasing the average amount of time that women spend in Ad Seg and the SHU.
  • The extreme overcrowding at CCWF (currently at 173.4% of capacity) has caused increased tensions and conflicts which have led to fights and assaults resulting in more people being placed in Ad Seg/SHU either thru “enemy concerns” designation or disciplinary reasons.
  • The deteriorating conditions in the women’s prisons aggravate mental health issues which also have led to increased placements in Ad Seg/SHU.
  • We are hoping that your office can help further investigate the situation of women in solitary which is largely invisible but is getting worse all the time. Some questions that we think should be answered include:

    1.  How many women/trans prisoners are in Administrative Segregation at CCWF and the SHU at CIW?

    2. What is the average length of time that women are held in Ad Seg/SHU?  What is the longest amount of time that women are being kept in the SHU?

    3. Of the women and trans prisoners in Ad Seg and the SHU how many are there for disciplinary reasons and how many for “enemy concerns?”

    4. Has there been a thorough investigation into recent suicides in Ad Seg and the SHU and if so what are the findings?

    5. What % of women in Ad Seg/SHU were receiving some form of mental health diagnosis and treatment before they were placed in solitary?

    Again, we appreciate your concern for women in solitary and hope that your office can help shine a light on increased use of Ad Seg and the SHU for women/trans prisoners in this period.  We also think it would be important to specifically include women and isolation  at the next hearing on solitary confinement which is scheduled to be held in Los Angeles.  We would be happy to discuss this issue in more depth with you.

    Thank you!

    Diana Block and Misty Rojo, CCWP

    415-255-7036 ext. 314 or info@womenprisoners.org

    CC: Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock

    Calipatria shows the way: ASU prisoners win their demands while on hunger strike

    Sept 29th 2013, in: SF Bay View
    by Kendra Castaneda
    When the California prisoner hunger strike began on July 8, 2013, CDCR officials were repeatedly quoted in the mainstream media telling the world that CDCR does not negotiate with prisoners. CDCR portrays the organizers as gang leaders – terrorists whose demands are unworthy of consideration.
    Calipatria State Prison signBut on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, the warden at Calipatria State Prison did negotiate with prisoners in the Administration Segregation Unit (ASU), a form of solitary confinement similar to the notorious SHUs (Security Housing Units). Those prisoners were hunger striking to have their own demands – unique to that institution – met while in solidarity with the five core demands made in 2011 and still to be negotiated.

    On Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, the warden at Calipatria State Prison did negotiate with prisoners in the Administration Segregation Unit.

    The warden promised that day that the agreement they worked out would be put into writing and implemented. On Sunday, Aug. 18, the Calipatria ASU prisoners resumed eating on the condition that if the state did not negotiate with the main reps from Pelican Bay State Prison who wrote the five core demands for some type of change to end perpetual isolation, then the men at Calipatria ASU were going to resume their peaceful hunger strike on Monday, Aug. 26.
    Below is a letter from the Calipatria ASU hunger strikers written Aug. 20, shortly after they temporarily ended their hunger strike on the 41st day:
    “Greetings to all in solidarity,
    “High salutes, best wishes to all of the men and women who supported this historic peaceful movement for human rights, hunger strike 2013!
    “Here at Calipatria we are counted and remain determined to bring humane treatment even if it takes sacrifice. Our personal demands have been promised to be met within a month, by the start of September: expansion of canteen; SHU privileges: pictures, sweaters and shoes; pull-up bars; two packages a year; and installation of phones in ASU.
    “For these reasons we have stopped after over a month – 41 days – of hunger striking in high hopes the five core demands will be met soon along with all the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective’s demands. Most important, if we see no attention is being given to the five core demands, the majority of like minds will resume hunger striking in solidarity.
    “We men are ready to jump back into the hunger strike full throttle to stop the torture to all men and women through peaceful demonstration. Just because our own personal, superficial demands are being met does not mean we lose focus on the five core demands. All five are just, reasonable and most important.
    “In the meantime, the real ‘worst of the worst,’ CDCR officials, have shown their true colors, calling this peaceful hunger strike a hostage situation. Also, CDCR’s notice they will not negotiate – does that mean they’d rather see humans die? Only because we won’t sit back and be tortured in silence? Let alone Short Corridor prisoners have been tortured for decades upon decades – all because we want human contact with our love ones?
    “Who is really the ‘worst of the worst’ [a phrase officials often use to describe the people they condemn to solitary confinement torture]? Under CDCR, California is in violation of international laws and treaties and with United Nation agreements.

    We men are ready to jump back into the hunger strike full throttle to stop the torture to all men and women through peaceful demonstration. Just because our own personal, superficial demands are being met does not mean we lose focus on the five core demands.

    “Where is Jerry Brown? Is he another bought politician under the belt of CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the guards’ union, often called the most influential lobby in the state) for the money they donate to his campaign? They do donate millions to protect their job security by keeping governors in their pockets.
    “CDCR wastes double or even more taxpayer money to warehouse humans in torture chambers called SHUs and ASUs rather than in general population. The purpose of solitary confinement is big profit only! No type of rehabilitation is provided, period!
    “Therefore, we remain steadfast in solidarity for the end to long term isolation. Si se puede is our motivation chant!
    “Thanks to all the loved ones, activists, gente at rallies and protests in the rain or sunshine. All that support carried and fed bodies while we hunger struck. Muchisimas gracias! Si se puede! We thank you all.
    “Humbly in solidarity,
    “ASU Calipatria”
    On Monday, Aug. 26, Calipatria ASU voluntarily resumed their peaceful hunger strike in solidarity, refusing meals due to CDCR Sacramento’s failure to keep their word to negotiate the five core demands. Resuming their hunger strike debunked what CDCR officials had told the press: that the main reps forced others to starve. Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, “Hunger strike in California prisons is a gang power play”: “Don’t be fooled. Many of those participating in the hunger strike are under extreme pressure to do so from violent prison gangs, which called the strike in an attempt to restore their ability to terrorize fellow prisoners, prison staff and communities throughout California.”
    Beard goes on to state: “Many say they want to resume eating but are afraid of the retaliation they will suffer at the hands of other inmates acting on orders from their gang leaders.”

    On Monday, Aug. 26, Calipatria ASU voluntarily resumed their peaceful hunger strike in solidarity, refusing meals due to CDCR Sacramento’s failure to keep their word to negotiate the five core demands.

    Calipatria ASU prisoners know the inhumane conditions those in the SHUs endure because they too live in horrific conditions daily with no rehabilitation in solitary confinement, and Calipatria is known for corruption at the hands of the prison guards, so why would these men have to be forced to starve themselves when they are being tortured too?
    How is it that 30,000 prisoners – men, women and youth – throughout the state of California at numerous prisons refused meals on July 8, 2013, in peaceful protest to stop their inhumane conditions and torture in solitary confinement under CDCR, but on Sept. 5, when the strike was suspended, it was CDCR stating that only fewer than 100 prisoners were hunger striking?
    That would mean what Beard told the Los Angeles Times about this hunger strike being a “gang power play” is not accurate, and Beard stating, “Many say they want to resume eating but are afraid of the retaliation they will suffer at the hands of other inmates acting on orders from their gang leaders,” is inaccurate as well. If the hunger strike was a gang power play that started with 30,000 participants and was suspended when fewer than 100 were still starving themselves, what happened to the other 29,900 prisoners throughout the state who resumed eating? How come they were not retaliated against as Beard predicted?

    Why would these men have to be forced to starve themselves when they are being tortured too?

    What Beard told the Los Angeles Times was a way to cover up the inhumane conditions these prisoners face daily for years, for decades upon decades, entombed within concrete walls in a dungeon. The only way for these human beings’ voices to be heard was to starve themselves to expose these CDCR officials, who claim rehabilitation but practice torture.
    In the Aug. 19 Los Angeles Times article by Paige St. John, “Calipatria prison hunger strikers resume eating, get more calls, cable,” CDCR put its spin on the successful negotiations between the Calipatria warden and the ASU prisoners: “California prison officials insisted the expanded privileges at Calipatria State Prison, near the Mexico border, did not signal a willingness to negotiate with inmates.
    “’The warden at CAL did not “reach an agreement” with the hunger strikers,’ said department spokesman Jeffrey Callison. ‘The warden simply informed the inmates that local issues would be discussed only after they ceased their involvement in this disturbance.’”
    Contrary to what Callison told the LA Times, the Calipatria warden did negotiate with the men in ASU and verbally met their demands BEFORE they suspended their hunger strike. The demands were not met as a reward for abandoning the strike. Once their own unique demands had been promised, the men chose to temporarily suspend their strike to regain some of their strength but promised to resume it on Aug. 26 if the five core demands had not also been negotiated. They made good on that promise.
    On Sept. 3, while the men in Calipatria ASU were again on hunger strike, an official memo was issued regarding Calipatria ASU living conditions in response to the ASU hunger strikers humane demands:
    Calipatria memo granting demands 090313
    Note: A5 is another segregation unit.
    While CDCR officials publicly deny that the prisoners were hunger striking for better conditions, the warden at Calipatria issued and signed a memo during the hunger strike stating they are addressing the concerns about such issues as the cleanliness of their pods and showers. That memo confirms that Calipatria State Prison ASU prisoners have issues concerning cleanliness.
    The fact that Calipatria ASU prisoners were indeed hunger striking on Sept. 3, the date of the memo, is proven by the medical receiver’s office daily updates reporting that some of those prisoners were receiving IV fluids due to starvation.
    One statement in the memo, however, needs to be addressed and corrected: The Security Threat Group (STG) Pilot Program does not satisfy the five core demands, as the second paragraph implies. The warden’s statement, which must have been approved by CDCR, repeats similar assertions made throughout the strike. Here are the five core demands; compare them to the Security Threat Group (STG) Pilot Program and decide for yourself.
    The original five core demands:
    1. Replace group punishment with individual accountability.
    2. Abolish the debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
    3. Comply with the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement.
    4. Provide adequate and nutritious food.
    5. Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.
    Inside Calipatria ASU video frame 0211 by KMYA Titan TV, web

    The dungeon known as Calipatria ASU – Photo: KMYA Titan TV

    The equivalency CDCR claims between the five core demands and the STG Pilot Program should be debated during the upcoming legislative hearings to be held beginning in October.

    The fact is that 30,000 men, women and youth of all races went on a peaceful hunger strike in unity for all or part of 60 days, risking their lives to make their voices heard protesting their inhumane conditions. Why wouldn’t society believe them over state officials who repeatedly prove they are not credible?
    If Calipatria State Prison can peacefully negotiate humane demands with prisoners in segregation, then I believe ALL California prisoners, especially those in the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, need to be negotiated with, and CDCR needs to meet the prisoners’ demands – the five core demands – once and for all. These are human beings held in a system that’s supposed to rehabilitate. Let’s not forgot that.
    Kendra Castaneda is a writer and prisoner human rights activist. She can be reached atkendracastaneda99@gmail.com.