Four years since our hunger strikes began, none of our core demands have yet been met: Our protracted struggle must continue

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.

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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.

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.

Games the gang investigators play

This is a piece from Aug 16, 2012, published in the SF Bay View, but it is as relevant as ever: nothing has changed within the CDCr and in how the Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) work! The public and those who represent them should take serious note that IGI is often said to be acting without any court-intervention, giving punishment to imprisoned people on often false reports, falsified reports, made-up reports. If a possible crime occurs, should the accused not be given a trial? And what are the reasons for the possibly substantiated rumors that IGI might falsify reports? Could it be to keep the SHU’s filled with so-called “validated” prisoners, allegedly gang-members, or in the new vocabulary of CDCr: “Security Threat Groups” (STG)?

For a SHU-prisoner, the prisons receive more money from you, the tax payers, than for a prisoner in General Population. Think about it, and start asking your representatives questions!

This is just a quick note to say thank you for the March issue and another April and May issue of the S.F. Bay View you sent. I read the March issue and can see why these fascist captors of mine kept it from me. They already look at us New Afrikkkans as suspected “gang” members and anything political or educational we read they label it gang material. It’s absurd!

They’ve been keeping my mail for at least an extra week after I receive it from my family, and any books or other forms of reading material they hold for a month or so before they issue it to me. I know it’s a game the IGIs (Institutional Gang Investigators) use to keep us New Afrikkkans, Southern and Northern Mexicans, oppressed Whites and Native Amerikkkans buried alive in these concrete tombs under their three-point gang validation, which, since our statewide hunger strike, they continue to do.

I’ve seen four gang validation packages issued out within the last two weeks by these IGI oppressors, who in all actuality are their own gang. I remember reading about IGI Duarte in Calipatria State Prison being under investigation himself for putting together false validation packages on comrades; well, he isn’t the only one to do so. I’m more than certain if the CDC got more IGIs under investigation for false acts to get brothers validated, these tables would really turn and society would see who the real gang members are.

Thank you for continuing to be the driving force in bringing awareness to the free world about our constant struggles to fight our oppressors. I’ve given out the other two Bay Views you sent to some comrades to read and hopefully get subscriptions as well.

In true solidarity struggle,

Comrade T

An End to Solitary is Long Overdue

California’s Savage System of Confinement

Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be held indefinitely in solitary. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.

Despite these repeated condemnations by the U.N., the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is harshening rather than easing its policies, currently with three new sets of regulations. The administration’s iron-fisted strategy is emerging: project the appearance of a reforming system while extending its reach, and restrict the ability of prisoners and their loved ones to organize for their rights.

First, the CDCR has instituted a “Step Down Program” ostensibly to create a pathway out of indefinite solitary. However, the program actually widens the net of who can be considered a threat and therefore eligible for placement in solitary. Recently adopted regulations replace the old language of “gang” with “Security Threat Group” (STG) and the previous list of a dozen identified gangs is now replaced with a dizzying list of over 1500 STGs. Under these new regulations, even family members and others outside the prisons can be designated as part of an STG. Given the fact that indefinite solitary is used disproportionately against people of color – in Pelican Bay, 85% of those in isolation are Latino – the language used to justify placement in solitary eerily mirrors the rhetoric of the federal government and its permanent state of war against its declared enemies, all of whom are people of color.

The CDCR promulgated a second set of rule changes last summer with sweeping new “obscenity” regulations governing mail going both in and out of prisons. The original proposal was to explicitly ban any “publications that indicate an association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society,” yet after coming under heavy criticism, CDCR decided to mask its Orwellian motives by hiding behind the above mentioned language of STGs. This ominous language violates First Amendment rights, and reveals a broader agenda: to censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and to stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves.

A third element of CDCR’s strategy of containment is the implementation of highly intimidating visiting procedures designed to keep family members away from their loved ones. Draconian new visiting regulations authorize the use of dogs and electronic drug detectors to indiscriminately search visitors for contraband, even though both methods are notoriously unreliable. These procedures effectively criminalize family members and deter them from visiting, especially in a period of a growing family-led movement against solitary.

The three new policies are also intended to extend CDCR’s reach beyond the prison walls. As an organizer and family member of a prisoner, I’m censored when sending letters to my brother, Sitawa N. Jamaa, subjected to gratuitous and intimidating searches during visits, and susceptible to being labeled an STG associate. These are all ways that CDCR is trying to keep me from knowing how my brother and others are doing, and to repress my organizing.

Taken individually, these regulations may seem to address unrelated issues. But given they are all coming down simultaneously – just a year after the last of a series of historic hunger strikes by people in California prisons has given rise to the highest level of self-organization and empowerment among imprisoned people since the 1970s – these regulations are nothing less than a systematic attempt to silence and retaliate against prisoners’ growing resistance. Over 30,000 prisoners participated in 2013’s strike, some for 60 days, risking their health and lives for an end to indefinite solitary. Prisoners’ family members and loved ones also took up leadership roles in political organizing in unprecedented ways. The movement to abolish solitary continues to gain momentum around the country.

The hunger strikes were a significant part of an ongoing national sea change regarding the use of solitary, as states are waking up to its dangers. Illinois, Maine and Mississippi have closed or drastically downsized their solitary units without any loss of institutional safety. New York and Arizona were recently forced to reduce their use of isolation, with Colorado and New Jersey following suit.

Yet California steadfastly remains an outlier seemingly impervious to change, led by an administration that relies on tired rhetoric about “the worst of the worst” to justify torture. People locked up in California have a decades-long history of fighting for the rights and dignity of prisoners, affirming their humanity in the face of inhumane conditions and demanding change. The U.N. report calls on this government to “ban prison regimes of solitary confinement such as those in super-maximum security detention facilities.” It’s time for California to listen.

Marie Levin is the sister of Sitawa N. Jamaa, a prisoner in solitary confinement at Tehachapi. She is a member of California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

Mohamed Shehk is the Media and Communications Director of Critical Resistance, and also contributed to this piece.

CDCR’s new con game to undermine our class action suit

by Randall ‘Sondai’ Ellis, in: SF Bay View, November 29, 2014

In order to successfully advance in each step of CDCR’s newly enacted Step Down Program

Randall “Sondai” Ellis was locked up at the age of 16, about the time this picture was taken, for a crime that took no one’s life. At 19, he was placed in solitary confinement on the testimony of “confidential informants.” CDC has never identified them or revealed their testimony. Like many other accomplished jailhouse lawyers, he’s still there 32 years later. “My friends call me Sondai,” he says, “which means to push forward and endure.”

Randall “Sondai” Ellis was locked up at the age of 16, about the time this picture was taken, for a crime that took no one’s life. At 19, he was placed in solitary confinement on the testimony of “confidential informants.” CDC has never identified them or revealed their testimony. Like many other accomplished jailhouse lawyers, he’s still there 32 years later. “My friends call me Sondai,” he says, “which means to push forward and endure.”

(SDP), prisoners are expected to fill out and complete a series of thought policing or brainwashing workbooks. One such workbook is entitled “The Con Game” and purports to elucidate for the prisoner via “self-directed journaling” the ways in which he either consciously or unconsciously is a con artist and criminal.

However, empirical evidence irrefutably proves that the true con artists and criminals are CDCR, the Department Review Board (DRB), Office of Correctional Safety (OCS), Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI), Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and the Classification Staff Representative (CSR) – and the con game they’re running is the SDP, replete with such old cons as “Three Card Monty,” “Smoke and Mirrors,” “The Bait and Switch,” word games and manipulation.

So let’s look at it. It appears that the court has issued CDCR yet another “save.” It has effectively permitted CDCR to undermine the class action lawsuit filed in Ashker v. Brown et al., CV-05796-CW, challenging the use of long term solitary confinement and the lack of any meaningful periodic review of our status towards release from said confinement, as was mandated – but never enforced by a court – in Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1098-1101(9th Cir. 1986).

Following the suspension of the hunger strikes, CDCR issued a series of memorandums that it said would effectively move it away from the current status-based punitive system to a more behavioral based individual account­ability system, where a man would be punished based on his individual actions and not based on this current “he said she said” game. That game has evolved into a mechanism whereby the so-called investigators fabricate so-called evidence of gang activity and association and membership and is based on things like “your name was discovered on a roster in another validated prisoner’s property” or whatever comes to their imagination.

The court, seeming to support the prisoners’ position in Ashker v. Brown, denied CDC’s motion to dismiss the suit saying that “CDCR may be violating prisoners’ con­stitutional rights by confining them to the SHU indefinitely and without offering them a meaningful way out.”

It has effectively permitted CDCR to undermine the class action lawsuit filed in Ashker v. Brown et al., CV-05796-CW, challenging the use of long term solitary confinement and the lack of any meaningful periodic review of our status towards release from said confinement.

True to its form, CDCR released a few hostages from the SHU and set in motion a pilot program that it touted as a change to the current policy. It sold this policy to the Legislature in a series of hearings and informed the prison population via a series of memorandums.

CDCR claimed to be initiating case-by-case (CBC) reviews of every prisoner assigned to the SHU, beginning with those with the lengthiest validation dates, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s etc.

In the meantime CDCR began playing “Three Card Monty.” It claimed that as part of these reviews, the DRB would look back four years for evidence of “gang activity” to determine one’s placement within a given step in the so-called Step Down Program (SDP). The CCPOA, the guards’ union, threw a fit, filing a motion to intervene in the case. It claimed that CDCR was putting guards in danger if they released these guys.

As the process evolved, the court hinted that the new pilot program wasn’t a cure for the prisoners’ claims because it was only a pilot program, so CDCR moved to make the program permanent by enacting a rule change with the OAL. At the same time, CDCR set up a sanctioned “punishment facility” at Tehachapi, where the program is so dysfunctional, so disrespectful, so degrading, it is said to be even worse than the torturous conditions that spawned the hunger strikes at Pelican Bay!

Here, the DRB selects who it will subject to additional punishment by pl­acing him in either Step 3 or 4 under the guise of there being some sort of recent gang activity uncovered by the IGI or OCS – “smoke and mirrors.”

In a subsequent ruling, the Ashker court ruled to certify the case as a class action and said that anyone confined to the SHU at Pelican Bay for 10 continuous years could adequately represent the class and anyone placed into the new SDP could not represent the class! So CDCR began relocating the named plaintiffs to the new punishment facility Step 3, though one or two went directly to the general population.

And wouldn’t you know it, the DRB has changed its focus. It is no longer reviewing those with the lengthiest validation dates. They are now focusing their reviews on those who have been confined to the SHU at Pelican Bay the longest.

Randall-Sondai-EllisSo anyone who left here for whatever reason – out to court, transferred for

medical treatment or sent to another SHU for a brief period, as experienced by myself – is not viewed as having been held hostage in Pelican Bay for 10 continuous years. Many of us were transferred to Corcoran SHU back in ‘99-‘00 as part of the first con game, the active/inactive reviews.

CDCR set up a sanctioned “punishment facility” at Tehachapi, where the program is so dysfunctional, so disrespectful, so degrading, it is said to be even worse than the torturous conditions that spawned the hunger strikes at Pelican Bay!

Now all of a sudden our DRB reviews will be scheduled according to the date they deem you were “returned” to the PBSP SHU. So one can end up being in the SHU 30 to 40 years, as in my and other prisoners’ cases, as long as he’s transferred to another SHU before he reaches the now requisite 10-year continuous mark – “word games and manipulation.”

This effectively undermines the entire case, and CDCR is taking the “save” it’s been given by now “bait and switching” its stated procedure of reviewing the hostages by length of validation, to those by length of placement in the Pelican Bay SHU. They didn’t even bother to issue a memo for this latest arbitrary policy shift, proving their nefarious if not criminal intent.

This is nothing but a con game, a scheme to buy time so that they can conspire to ensure that they keep this place full of hostages. After all, they have a 10-year window to torture their next victims to death, or worse, at “the punishment facility.”

This con game must be viewed for what it really is, an ongoing and contin­uing conspiracy designed to keep as many hostages in the SHU as possible, while the guards sit back and collect exorbitant pensions in the name of safety and security. Who said crime doesn’t pay?

This con game must be viewed for what it really is, an ongoing and contin­uing conspiracy designed to keep as many hostages in the SHU as possible, while the guards sit back and collect exorbitant pensions in the name of safety and security. Who said crime doesn’t pay?

In closing, Ashker v. Brown should be amended to make a claim for damages we suffered as a result of being subjected to these unconstitutional practices, which have resulted in irreparable injury to their victims. For more information, visit Justiceforsondai.wordpress.com.

Release the hostages!

Send our brother some love and light: Randall ‘Sondai’ Ellis, C-68764, PBSP SHU D1-223, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

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

A powerful and insightful letter from one of the leaders of the 2011 and 2013 California hunger strikes for Human Rights:
From: SF Bay View, October 31, 2014

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa


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

Salamu (Greetings), Mr. Stainer and Mr. Diaz:

CCI Tehachapi Prison lies in the Tehachapi Mountains 35 miles east of Bakersfield between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. – Photo: CDCr
CCI Tehachapi Prison lies in the Tehachapi Mountains 35 miles east of Bakersfield between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. – Photo: CDCr

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

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

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

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

My purpose is to establish monthly meetings between CCI-Tehachapi officials and the four prisoner negotiators – myself, Danny Troxell (B-76578), John Solis (C-52754) and Javier Martinez (T-62995) – who shall speak on behalf of the Tehachapi SHU prisoner class. Now, over a month or so ago while still at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP), I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Diaz about establishing a similar working body to address some long standing problems here at CCI.
He agreed that some things needed to be worked out. Since my arrival, I see that the problems are of a constitutional nature and we do feel many can be resolved right here locally.

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


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

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

We, the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM), need supporters to shine a light on this prison, for they have violated prisoners’ constitutional rights for far too long! We must be afforded our 10 hours of exercising a week. We must be afforded three hours of visiting. Those are two of our immediate requests and demands. Prisoners have been denied these rights for years!
In struggle!

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R.N. Dewberry, C-35671, CCI SHU 4B-7C-209, P.O. Box 1906, Tehachapi CA 93581.