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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Largest hunger strike in history: California prisoners speak out on first anniversary

This is from the SF BayView, July 7th 2014.
[Note by CAPW: Not only do we commemorate the first anniversary of the largest hunger strike, but also the third anniversary of the first hungerstrike in 2011, that commenced on July 1st 2011]

One year ago, on July 8, 2013, 30,000 California prisoners initiated the largest hunger strike the world has ever seen. Sixty days later, 40 prisoners, who had eaten nothing in all that time, agreed to suspend the strike when state legislators promised to hold hearings on ending solitary confinement, the heart of their demands.

Hundreds braved blistering heat to rally outside Corcoran State Prison, where hundreds were on hunger strike, on July 13, 2013. Spirits were lifted as the supporters shouted loud enough to be heard inside. The 2013 strike made headlines around the world, and support rallies were held as far away as Philadelphia, Mexico City and Berlin. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Hundreds braved blistering heat to rally outside Corcoran State Prison, where hundreds were on hunger strike, on July 13, 2013. Spirits were lifted as the supporters shouted loud enough to be heard inside. The 2013 strike made headlines around the world, and support rallies were held as far away as Philadelphia, Mexico City and Berlin. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

The 2013 hunger strike followed two in 2011 in which participation peaked at 6,600 and 12,000. In the interim, effective October 2012, the hunger strike leaders, representing all racial groups, issued the historic Agreement to End Hostilities, which has held with few exceptions throughout the California prison system ever since.

These statements, most by hunger strike participants, arrived in time for the July 8 anniversary, and more will be added as they arrive.

We the people

by Mutope Duguma (James Crawford)
What we learned this far in our protracted struggle is that We the People are the vanguard. We the People have to demand what we want for ourselves. No government, no power, no authority and no one should be able to trample over the People without the People rising up and saying, “Under no circumstances do We the People accept this in our home.”
We the People reject torture of human beings,
We the People reject mass incarceration of our sons and daughters,
We the People reject police brutality,
We the People reject poverty,
We the People reject solitary confinement,
We the People reject Security Threat Groups and Step Down Programs,
We the People reject oppressive prison conditions
In solidarity.

We the People reject violence

Incarcerated artists rose to the occasion, encouraging participation inside and support outside. – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532

Incarcerated artists rose to the occasion, encouraging participation inside and support outside. – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532

Our unity is our strength. If we learn to cultivate our unity, we can begin to reshape this world – back into a world that reflects our humanity – because there is too much pain and suffering in the world today that only our unity will end. We’ve got to be unapologetic and always be dedicated and serious about the revolutionary change we seek.

Violence only perpetuates more violence inside of the vortex of violence, the senseless taking of lives, like a timeless hour clock that never ends, feeding on the very lives of our families and friends.
An end to all hostilities means peace amongst the oppressed, where our children can focus on school and living their lives peacefully, while they develop into strong young men and women.

An end to all hostilities means peace for the elderly and worrisome minds, where they can take peaceful walks during any time of day or night, sit out on their porches and watch the moon and stars in the sky.
An end to all hostilities means peace where young men and women can go into any neighborhood to socialize with fellow human beings without fear of being attacked or murdered.
An end to all hostilities means peace where all races in the free society can coexist without worrying that their race or class will be a hazard to them.

During our strikes to end all hostilities – July 1 to July 20, 2011; Sept. 26 to Oct. 14, 2011; and July 8 to Sept. 4, 2013 – we men and women got together and said enough already!
An end to all hostilities is solidarity.

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

Weighing sacrifices against successes, the price was too high, but the struggle moves forward

by Antonio Guillen
Greetings to one and all,
It has been three years since the commencement of the first hunger strike.
As I look back over that time to weigh our sacrifices against our successes, I have to admit that the accomplishments we’ve achieved thus far do allow me to be somewhat optimistic about the future. I cannot help, however, but remain angered at the cost of human life and damaged health we suffered simply to enact change – the price was way too high!

Hunger strike street altar feat. Christian Gomez at 40th & Clarke, Oakland by Molly Batchelder

The hunger strikes claimed at least two lives, both at Corcoran State Prison: Christian Gomez in 2011 and Billy Sell in 2013. These memorials were set up at a street festival in Oakland. – Photos: Molly Batchelder
Hunger strike street altar feat. Billy Sell at 40th & Clarke, Oakland by Molly Batchelder

And, although our accomplishments appear promising, in no way am I suggesting that we’ve succeeded in our overall struggle, which is to end long term solitary confinement and to better the living conditions of all SHU facilities – we are on our path, though!

As always, it’s of the upmost importance to acknowledge family and friends on the outside, who through your unwavering support have made it possible for us to be who we are today. Each of you, through your contributions and sacrifices, be they personal or collective, have helped pave the way for this struggle to move forward. And we on the inside will forever be grateful!
Power to the people.
Strength and respect,
Antonio Guillen

Send our brother some love and light: Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Work together to keep the pressure on

by Phil Fortman
July 8th is a date that made history around the world last year – 30,000 prisoners began a hunger strike in the state of California due to the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement.
The strike did not come about as a spur of the moment idea. No, these inhumane conditions have been worsening year after year, decade after decade until the outside and inside finally joined together in a movement for change.

This drawing, the icon for all three California hunger strikes recognized around the world, was contributed by the renowned prison artist Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, then held in solitary confinement in Virginia, now in Texas. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

This drawing, the icon for all three California hunger strikes recognized around the world, was contributed by the renowned prison artist Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, then held in solitary confinement in Virginia, now in Texas. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

The change started on July 1, 2011, and Sept. 26 of the same year, which set the course for the Big One – the one that got the attention of the world to show how prisoners are being treated, not only in California, but in most states of this country.

Speaking as one of the four main representatives for the prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU, I applaud us all, prisoners and advocates alike, those who participated in the hunger strike and worked so hard for our case.
Looking back on this year, I see progress being made toward closing these holes – not as fast as we’d like, but the crack has been formed. The light is now beginning to seep in upon these dark, dreary walls for once.
In order to widen the crack until these walls come crashing down, we need to work together to keep the pressure on and on. We, as prisoners inside these places, have been advocating an end to hostilities among us. This attitude, along with the continued help and support of you good folks out there, will hopefully bring about a more civilized society and for us to live in peace and harmony.
I thank us all.

Send our brother some love and light: Phil Fortman, B-03557, PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Women prisoners speak out on solitary and hunger strike anniversary

Solitary is torture. It humiliated me. They strip you of everything – I was only given a mumu and half a mattress. You are locked away with no answer. I was cold, tired and hungry. The other ladies in Ad Seg helped me out and also the ones on Death Row, which is right nearby, gave me stuff to survive.
The hunger strike last year was amazing. The guys went through hell, but it was so good for them to come together!
Send our sister some love and light: Alicia Zaragoza, X-07564, CCWF, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla, CA  93610.

Solitary confinement in all ways is cruel. If it is a form of abuse to keep a child locked away in a closet for long periods of time, then why is it not abuse to keep that same child, who is now a man, locked in a cell for years? Put yourself in their shoes! I supported the hunger strike.

Send our sister some love and light: Natalie De Mola, X-12907, CCWF, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla, CA 93610.

Letter from Pelican Bay Prisoner Representatives to Members of the California State Assembly & Senate

LETTER FROM PELICAN BAY PRISONER REPRESENTATIVES
TO MEMBERS OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY & SENATE

Original signed letter.

Todd Ashker – CDCR # C58191
Arturo Castellano – CDCR # C17275
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry – CDCR # C35671
Antonio Guillen – CDCR # P81948

May 1, 2014

Dear Members of the California State Assembly and Senate:

We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the
Senate (SB 892 and AB 1652) dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies
of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

We are California inmates who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time, based on validation as alleged associates and members of prison gangs, rather than based on violent behavior. We undertook hunger strikes in 2011 and in 2013 in opposition of the CDCR’s solitary confinement and gang validation practices as well as the inhumane conditions of CDCR’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). Together with thousands of inmates, we expressed
the following five core demands:

1) Individual accountability, rather than group punishment, indefinite SHU status, and restricted privileges;

2) Abolish debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;

3) Comply with U.S. Commission 2006 Recommendations regarding an end to long-
term solitary confinement;

4) Provide adequate food; and,

5) Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates.

Having carefully reviewed and considered Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano on February 11, 2014 as amended on April 3, 2014, and Senate Bill 892, introduced by Senate member Loni Hancock on January 13, 2014, as amended on March 18 and April 2, we wish to offer the following comments:

I. Discussion of Ammiano AB 1652:

AB 1652 addresses the very narrow but critical issue of eliminating CDCR’s policy of placing prisoners in solitary confinement for gang validation, rather than for commission of a serious offense. We support AB 1652. At the same time, we recommend that the bill be amended to include the following three additional provisions:

a. During assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source!before being

[Letter to CA State Assembly and Senate
May 1, 2014 – page 2]

relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

b. An attorney-advocate should be made available (at no cost to the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

c. AB 1652 should implement provisions for increased oversight, studies, data collection, and reporting back to the Legislature on the SHU classification process, the mental and physical wellbeing of inmates in SHUs, and the reasons why SHU inmates are denied re-entry into the general population. Senate member Hancock’s SB 892 contains these provisions, which we recommend be included in AB 1652. Collecting and considering this data can lay the foundation for a future more comprehensive legislative evaluation of solitary confinement practices in California.

II. Discussion of Hancock SB 892:

Although SB 892 appears to seek to achieve comprehensive CDCR reform on the issue of solitary confinement, there are several provisions of the bill that will adopt inhumane and widely condemned practices into state law. We will only support SB 892 if it is amended to include
three critically important items:

a. The bill should incorporate the language of AB 1652 (or similar language) which eliminates the use of gang validation and minor rule violations as a justification for placing inmates in SHUs. As it stands currently, SB 892 does not eliminate SHU assignment for mere gang association and it does not eliminate indeterminate SHU terms.

This is a critical issue and one of our core demands. The nationwide trend is clearly not to place prisoners in segregated housing units for alleged gang association without accompanying serious rule violations. Numerous states have moved in this direction for public safety reasons, for humane reasons, and to cut costs. California should not move in the opposite direction.

b. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that during assessment for SHU placement, the use of testimony (whether or not confidential) of an in-custody informant should be corroborated by an independent source!before being relied upon to place someone in a SHU. Corroboration cannot be based upon the testimony of another in-custody informant unless such in-custody informant obtained the information independently from the first in-custody informant and the information is not based on hearsay. This is essentially the same principle now applied in criminal court cases since 2011 (see Cal. Penal Code §1111.5).

[Letter to CA State Assembly and Senate
May 1, 2014 page 3]

c. As mentioned above, we recommend that language be added so that an attorney-advocate
should be made available (at no cost too the State) to inmates facing a sentence of more than 30 days in a SHU.

We do not believe that the range of provisions in SB 892 related to review by the Office of the Inspector General of cases in which SHU placement is based on the testimony of a confidential informant, the appointment of ombudsmen, the requirement for a daily face-to-face encounter with CDCR employees, the appointment of an “advocate” for an inmate being processed for SHU placement, or the Step Down Program in the bill will make any measurable difference in CDCR solitary confinement practices. The Inspector General is unlikely based upon review of a file to reverse decisions based on confidential informants. Ombudsmen will be of little value as long as inmates can be placed in SHUs for alleged gang association when they have engaged in no wrong-doing. “Face-to-face” encounters already happen almost every day when our food is served or a psych tech walks past our cells. Allowing an “advocate” to assist in the SHU assignment process will mean assignment of a guard who could care less about the result. And the proposed step-down program focuses on forcing prisoners to disavow alleged gang association or activities rather than on a behavior-based model considering whether the prisoner has violated rules while in the SHU. Despite these misguided and costly provisions in SB 892, we would support the bill if it is amended to include the provisions identified above.

However, the narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652, particularly if amended as suggested above, would far better serve the public safety, prison security, and the humane treatment of prisoners. It’s a first but critically important step in the direction of a rational and humane policy. Further legislation could be considered in the next legislative session after CDCR data is collected by the legislature. Thank you for considering our comments and suggestions.

Sincerely,

Todd Ashker

Arturo Castellano

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa R.N. Dewberry

Antonio Guillen

This letter was written after these 4 representatives of prisoners at Pelican Bay had met with the Center for Human Rights, which emailed it to us. “As you may know, we’ve been working with the four Pelican Bay hunger strike reps to get their united position on the two bills pending in the CA Senate and Assembly on solitary confinement.”

(Also posted on SF Bay View)

Letter to the Editor by Antonio Guillen

From: Del Norte Triplicate
Aug. 8, 2013

Prison series misrepresented inmates, reasons for strike

I write this letter in response to the four-part series about Pelican Bay State (“Inside the SHU,” June 22–29). I participated in the interviews because I was told that it was a story about the hunger strike from a “humanist” standpoint. As it turned out, it was, yet again, another unbalanced piece that plays off the fears of the public and furthers the CDCR propaganda campaign against the SHU population.

There was very little about the lengthy conversation regarding the hunger strike movement, validation process, the abuses conducted by the Institutional Gang Investigation Unit (IGI) and the Investigative Services Unit (ISU), the suffering caused by long-term solitary confinement of prisoners and their families, or the end-hostilities agreement. It appears that many of my words were selectively chosen and carefully placed in a way to paint a very different picture than that which was conversed.

I know that there are those who will not agree or understand our struggle. But, to be clear, our fight is against the abusive policies and practices that are routinely manipulated by the IGI and ISU to justify long-term solitary confinement and inhumane living conditions.

All we are asking is that CDCR incorporate rules and regulations that cannot be manipulated by the IGI and ISU to keep people in solitary confinement indefinitely, and more humane living conditions for these SHU facilities.

CDCR has stated, several times, that our five core demands are “reasonable,” and to be fair, CDCR is making some changes. However, these changes still fall way short than of what CDCR originally deemed reasonable, and that’s why we have engaged on this third round of hunger strikes.

Antonio Guillen,

Pelican Bay State Prison

Editor’s note: Antonio Guillen is one of four members of the Short Corridor Collective that has organized the hunger strikes.

CDCR has negotiated and has met Calipatria ASU’s Hunger Strikers’ Humane Demands

The ASU is the SHU of Calipatria State Prison (or: CAL). Kendra Castaneda, a loved one of a hunger striker in Calipatria, helped support the hunger strikers by calling the warden and offering on behalf of the prisoners to negotiate some much needed changes, as part of the larger package of the 5 core demands that the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective have formulated. Here is what the men and Kendra have accomplished:

By Kendra Castaneda
Background story:
On Thursday August 8, 2013, CDCR Secretary Beard ordered a special transfer for my loved one and 5 other men in ASU to go to Tehachapi SHU during day 32 of the hunger strike.  A van pulled up to the ASU building, the 6 men had 1 hour to pack their belongings, a van and 3 police escort cars drove for 7 hours straight to Tehachapi SHU in an attempt by CDCR to break the hunger strike and remove the main reps.
On Friday, August 9, 2013, I called the Administrative Assistant to the Warden Frank Chavez at Calipatria State Prison informing him I knew what CDCR had done.  The lieutenant spoke with me and said to me “well, your loved one is not here anymore therefore you won’t be having anything to do with Calipatria anymore.”  I spoke with him and he listened, I explained that I have volunteered myself to speak on behalf of the Calipatria hunger strikers in ASU and he was going to listen to every word I had to say about negotiating and the hunger strike, and I informed him he was going to contact Secretary Beard and CDCR Terry Thornton as well. 
I told the Administrative Assistant (former IGI) that if CDCR did not start negotiating with Calipatria ASU men within the next few days for their humane demands to be met, then they will have to negotiate with me, and I told them ‘no exceptions’.  I informed him that he was to relay my message to the Warden at Calipatria and to CDCR Sacramento a.s.a.p.  
To my knowledge, on 8/13/2013 the Warden at Calipatria State Prison started to negotiate with the hunger strikers in ASU, and on Thursday 8/15/2013 the Warden went into the ASU and spoke directly with the men while calling Sacramento during the negotiations. 

Confirmed: On 8/15/2013 Calipatria ASU hunger strikers successfully negotiated their humane demands and CDCR Sacramento and Warden Frank Chavez have agreed in writing with majority of ALL of what the men in ASU has asked for.
Result:
The new warden at Calipatria, Warden Frank Chavez had to get approval from CDCR Sacramento and they agreed to Calipatria ASU’s demands:
Expansion of tv-channels: Discovery Channel, This-TV, ESPN, TNT, PBS, History Channel were all approved.

The following items have been added to the ASU Canteen List and approved
Limit 2 packs of tortillas, 3 sausages, 2 pickles, variety of cookies, oatmeal, candy, honeybuns, granola bars, m&m’s etc…, cheese squeeze, chop stick, etc.

Phone calls:
In two months CDCR will install paid phone calls and allow people confined in the ASU 1 phone call a month, it’s been approved.

Colored pencils for Calipatria ASU have been approved.

CDCR said they would look into ‘pull up bars’ for installation for Calipatria ASU.
The only thing that was not ‘approved’ was the 5 core demands Calipatria ASU had added to their demands. Calipatria ASU men informed CDCR if they do not meet the 5 core demands then they will resume their hunger strike. 

This is where you have read it earlier: SF Bay View

To: CDCR Terry Thornton and CDCR Secretary Beard,
You have successfully negotiated with the Calipatria State Prison Hunger Strikers and have met majority of their humane demands; the hunger strikers have resumed eating but only under certain conditions:
CDCR, you have by this Wednesday, August 21, 2013 to start negotiations with the Pelican Bay State Prison main reps Legal Mediation Team/Attorneys for the 5 corehumane demands.  Then CDCR, you have no later than Friday, August 23, 2013 to have successfully negotiated with Pelican Bay State Prison main rep’s Mediation Team/Attorney’s and have it set legally in writing signed by CDCR that majority of all the 5 core demands have been met.
If by this Friday, August 23, 2013, CDCR has not successfully negotiated with Pelican Bay State Prison main rep’s Mediation Team/Attorneys and if nothing has been put into writing that the 5 core demands have been met: Calipatria State Prison in full are going to voluntarily resume their hunger strike on Monday, August 26, 2013.