Decades of “good behavior” not enough for prisoners in California’s SHU’s according to CDCR: Proposed policies include mandatory cognitive restructuring programs

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is proposing new regulations on “Security Threat Groups” (STG) or “gangs,” which will be implemented after a regular Public Hearing, to be held on April 3rd.  The Step-Down-Program, which CDCR has been executing in a pilot program, is apparently being implemented into CDCR’s vast number of regulations.
The implementation of the official Step-Down-Program comes while a second Legislative Hearing on February 11th has been organized, where CDCR’s “gang management” policies will be discussed, or as it is officially called on the agenda: “CDCRs Proposed New Policies on Inmate Segregation.” 
What is worrying about all these regulations and rules when we scan through them to see if there are any ameliorations for those inside the SHU’s  is, that CDCR keeps spinning the fact that human rights are being abused by keeping people inside lockdown units, in segregation, not only for months, but years, even decades on end, without there being any violent behavior by those people kept in these secure housing units. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, wrote a statement in 2013 in which he stated that these prison units can amount to “torture:” 

The independent investigator on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment urged the US authorities to ensure that “solitary confinement is only imposed, if at all, in very exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, for as short a time as possible and with established safeguards in place.” In Mr. Méndez’s view, “its application must be subject to independent review, and inmates must undergo strict medical supervision.”

One example of someone in one of the California SHU’s is Hugo Pinell, who has been incarcerated since 1964, and who has been in solitary confinement for four decades. He has not had any disciplinary infraction in 32 years. There is no reason to keep him in the Secure Housing Unit other than that CDCR is waging a war of propaganda against people like Pinell and so many others, for instance like the prisoners who started the 2011 and 2013 hunger strikes protesting indefinite solitary confinement, who have been critical and outspoken of the prison industrial complex. The latest news is that in early February of this year, Hugo Pinell was allowed to make a phone call to his family for the first time since 40 years…
Jeffrey Beard: This is not solitary confinement
In response to an increasing display of criticism on SHU-policies used by CDCR, Secretary Jeffrey Beard wrote an op-ed during the hunger strike in August of 2013, in which he made a few bold statements without documentation on which he based the quotes used.

Beard tried to portray the SHU’s in three prisons as having “windows in the cells that allow for direct sunlight.” He also wrote: 

“At Pelican Bay, all SHU cells have skylights. In all of the facilities, inmates in the SHU have radios and color TVs with access to channels such as ESPN. They have weekly access to a law library and daily exercise time. Many have cellmates; they can earn degrees; they can send and receive letters; and their family and friends can visit them every weekend. SHU inmates receive the same meals and portions as general population inmates. This is not “solitary confinement,” in that prisoners can have visitors and, in many cases, interaction with other inmates.”

Of course all the examples Beard mentions can be countered by the experiences of prisoners and their families and friends in their daily lives in the real prisons in California. But Beard, whose theories do not seem to be tested to real life in the SHU’s he directs, was hired by CDCR to provide spin and propaganda, countering claims of torture. His job is to see to it that CDCR gets its money and feeds its union members in the powerful CCPOA-lobby(California Correctional Peace Officers Association), which even pays Governor Jerry Brown so that he will do as the CCPOA tells him.
In a statement on CDCR Today, a blog which posts CDCR’s press releases, the following was also stated on August 26th 2013:

CDCR does not utilize “solitary confinement.” Additionally, the length of an indeterminate SHU assignment is now determined by individual inmate behavior. It is now possible for an indeterminate term to be reduced to 3-4 years. Moreover, STG associates will no longer be placed in a SHU based solely upon their validation.

Behavior
We can ask ourselves why a person in prison who has been without disciplinary infractions for 32 years, can’t be commended and should have been transferred to a place where he can have contact visits and a less harsh environment? This logical and humane thought was also one of the demands of the hunger strikers, who formulated 5 core demands, of which nr 1 is:

End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse – This is in response to PBSP’s application of “group punishment” as a means to address individual inmates rule violations. This includes the administration’s abusive, pretextual use of “safety and concern” to justify what are unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been applied in the context of justifying indefinite SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.

The response given by CDCR to this first of the core demands was:

Individual Accountability. Response. This issue has already been addressed through implementation and adoption of the STG and Step-Down programs.

But of course this short answer to the decades of torturous conditions in the SHU’s is a spin to make us all believe CDCR really listens to demands. In fact, CDCR has come up with a different idea of “behavior change:” Cognitive Restructuring, making the Step-Down-Program very long and without guarantees that people will actually be removed from these tortuous conditions. There are also no safeguards, such as an independent commission to oversee CDCR’s managing of their Step-Down-Programs.

Coercive journaling, or ‘Cognitive Restructuring’-propaganda

Under these mandatory Cognitive Restructuring programs, prisoners in the SHU have to fill out ‘journals.’ These  journals were derived from Cognitive Restructuring theories that seek to ‘correct wrongful thinking.’ Some law enforcement groups have taken this programming over: for instance the American Community Corrections Institute (ACCI) works with these programs.

In New Mexico, Cognitive Restructuring was a cause for ACLU-NM to take action against it being implemented in supermax prisons.

“What is disturbing, and at the root of the ACLU lawsuit, is the use of segregation in concert with this program: if you don’t give the right answer, you get more time in lockup. … It is sold as a self-imposed hypnotism for quitting habits, overcoming insomnia and bettering life. Put in a prison situation, where the wrong answer nets an inmate punishment in the form of time in solitary, cognitive restructuring becomes brainwashing.” (The Hate Factory, by G. Hirliman, p.xi).

The program is like a forced conversion to a religion, the religion of Cognitive Restructuring, with Stanton Samenow (author of Inside the Criminal Mind) as its high priest.

Prisoners in the SHU have written about this psychological belief and spoke out against making this mandatory inside the SHU’s in order to progress to “general population.” Here they write:

“And while the new policies will result in some prisoners being released to general population, these new policies do not represent a pathway to general population or even a less restrictive housing environment, as the CDCR is quick to claim for certain prisoners.

Specifically though, it is the CDCR’s attempt to brainwash us all through their behavior modification program. And that is exactly what the cognitive restructuring program is.We have had the opportunity to see and read the self-directed journals. They are insidious.”

Was this what the people inside California’s SHU’s went on three hunger strikes for?
On Jan. 31st,the Sacramento Bee posted an article about the proposed Step Down Program regulations, in which we read:

“The new program lets gang associates have their gang validation removed from their record after completing the minimum three-year rehabilitation program and going six additional years without a disciplinary charge related to gang behavior.

Those who are considered gang leaders would have to complete [sic] remain without a gang-related disciplinary violation for at least 11 years after completing the program before the gang designation could be removed by a prison committee.”


Those locked up in SHU’s in California’s prisons can ask themselves: ‘Is this what the three hunger strikes to protest the policies that lead to indefinite solitary confinement, being locked down permanently, were suffered for?’ To still do 11 (14) years under threat of being returned to the SHU, until a prisoner no longer has a picture of a dragon or an Aztec God in his or her cell? Also, what is a “gang-related disciplinary violation”? A ‘wrong’ book or drawing in your cell? That is not an act of violence people on the outside might consider a danger to security.

CDCR is spinning the whole story their way again, of how they have labeled people in a gang a “Security Threat Group,” and have created solitary confinement units to (so they try to convince us) combat gangs, while convincing the people using propaganda which can be summarized as “Look how evil ‘gang members’ are. You, STG-member/Associate can be saved, sinner!” CDCR wants us to believe in their supreme religion of Cognitive Restructuring, and the need to place people in lockdown/segregation/solitary confinement indefinitely.

With this coerced journaling, CDCR attempts to manipulate the thoughts of those inside, many of whom are 40+, have been educating themselves, and do not need to be ‘restructured.’ What kind of a new belief is this? Not all people inside are and think alike, which is another dogma CDCR wants us to believe.

Of course people need to get out of the SHU if they can. But the CDCR has been playing a game to set their agenda and it is not as good as it sounds, because basically this will cost a lot more time, money (for instance, for the journaling: each journal costs $2.70) plus they use this method to tell the people outside: “look, with the help of these cognitive restructuringprograms, they have a chance to become better again.” (see for instance for a background and examples of questions in these journaling tactics here).

As Mutope Duguma (47), who himself is incarcerated inside the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU, already wrote in 2012:

“If anyone thinks that those of us held in solitary confinement units need to go through gang management programs at the ages of 40 to 70-plus years, they are only fooling themselves.

There are NO gang members or gang bangers in the “short corridor” at Pelican Bay, only grown men who came into these institutions at very young ages, who have educated themselves, and who in many cases were never gang members from the get go. What you have back here are political prisoners, jail house lawyers, strong minded influential prisoners who understand the games correctional officers and officials play. 

Those of us who did come into these prisons with a backward mindset do not adhere to that gang nonsense anymore. It’s crazy to tell us, who’ve been in solitary confinement units from 10 to 40 years, that we’ve got to go through a “step down program,” or SDP, in order to get out, when we’ve been held illegally and subjected to physical and psychological torment throughout our stay in these torture chambers.”


It would not be surprising at all if Jeffrey Beard, who himself has an education in Psychology, was behind this and had the Change Companies, who publish these journals, step in as ‘saviors.’

If CDCR wanted these programs and really wanted people to move through step-down programs, they could have done so decades ago, but they apparently did not want this.

Three hunger strikes were necessary to get CDCR to reconsider its indefinite SHU / solitary confinement / permanent lockdown plans.

Therefore, CDCR has had to come up with this Step-Down-Program to look good, in the propaganda of a tax-payer-funded Department, and not to let down their powerful lobby of the CCPOA. CDCR should have talked with the prisoners and listened, and they should have acknowledged, that being kept in solitary confinement / administrative segregation / indefinite lockdown for a month, a year, a decade, or more, is torture and not something a judge ordered in a court of law.

It would be good if everyone was aware what games CDCR is playing with their propaganda-machine. This is an evil game. It is based on convincing the public outside and inside to believe CDCR, the torturer, is the only party to have a say in how to solve a torture program they have been conducting since decades. We should demand decency and honesty from CDCR.
 Feb. 10, 2014
By CaliforniaPrisonWatch.org

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Paul Redd: Prisoners, Unite! Community, Stand With Us!

From: SF Bay View
June 19, 2013

Interview by Sharon Martinas

Legendary jailhouse lawyer Paul Redd speaks out at this critical time from the Pelican Bay SHU.

Q: What is your name?

M: My name is Paul Redd. However, many friends and comrades call me P.R., Mume or Abbas.

Photo: Paul “Mume” Redd is a legendary jailhouse lawyer respected both inside and outside the walls. That proud brotherhood, whose work is essential in protecting the freedoms all of us cherish, is described and supported in this book by Mumia Abu Jamal, “Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the USA.”

Q: May I call you Mume?

M: Of course you may.

Q: Mume, you’re one of the 16 representatives of the 2011 Pelican Bay State Prison SHU hunger strikes in July and September?

M: Yes, I am.

Q: You also signed the Aug. 12, 2012, “Agreement to End Hostilities Between Racial Groups?”

M: Yes, I did.

Q: Let me travel back in time with some questions.

M: By all means.

Q: Where did you grow up?

M: I was born and raised in Oakland, California.

Q: Why are you in prison? And how long have you been in prison, including the SHU?

M: I was convicted in 1976 of first degree murder for the death of a local drug dealer in San Francisco. I am serving a seven years to life sentence with possibility of parole. I’ve been in prison now over 36 years. And 33 of these years have been spent in various SHUs. I have spent 25 years, minus a couple of months, in Pelican Bay supermax SHU.

Q: Mume, you said you were sentenced to “seven years to life with the possibility of parole.” What does that mean?

M: It means that I was eligible to be paroled (released) from prison any time after Dec. 21, 1982, which was seven years. Yet, the Parole Board continues to find me “unsuitable for a parole date” because of my commitment offense and my SHU status. Historically, the Parole Board has never found a prisoner in the SHU serving a life sentence with possibility of parole suitable for a parole release date, in spite of the fact that many of us have met the criteria to be paroled.

Q: How about others in the SHU who are not serving a life sentence with a parole release date?

M: Here is a clear illustration of an arbitrary unwritten policy.
For example: Prisoner A is a non-lifer in the SHU serving an indeterminate SHU term for “validation as a gang member” only. When his parole date arrives, he is paroled from the SHU back into the community.

Prisoner B is a lifer, eligible for a parole date in the SHU serving an indeterminate SHU term for “validation as a gang member” only. He is not given a parole release date. The only difference between the two prisoners: One has a parole release date; the other one does not.

Q: How have you grown as such an intelligent, highly skilled human being that prison officials, the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) decided that your voice needs to be silenced behind the pit of hell concrete walls of PBSP supermax for so many decades? Why have you been separated from your community and from other incarcerated people with similar aspirations and visionary plans?

M: You asked a two-part question. My growth is owed to many direct and indirect experiences in my life, prior to prison and while in prison. When I came into the prison system in 1976 to DVI (Deuel Vocational Institution) in Tracy, California, I felt the need to be a part of something to bring about positive changes to benefit the Black prisoner population. I started by using what little outside influence I had with friends to bring live entertainment shows inside the prison.

At the same time, I met other positive brothers educating others about our history and culture, including teaching reading and writing. They shared books with me that really opened my eyes, exposing the blatant institutional racism from the administration, top to bottom.

I also called upon other prisoners to join me in donating a few dollars each to raise funds to purchase a large amount of canteen to send into the SHU/MCU to be shared among all Black prisoners housed there. It was important to those brothers living under those inhumane conditions to know that there were brothers out there in general population that were going to look out for them.

I saw other prisoners contesting these conditions and it was a natural thing for me to join that fight. That was the way I was raised, although my life took a different path. Prison brought me back to those natural things I saw as a kid growing up in West Oakland in the ‘60s.

I began filing prison grievances, reading law books – and finding myself wrongfully being placed in the SHU, based entirely on manufactured accusations by certain prison officials, just to remove me from the general population to stop the positive things I was doing.

While in the SHU, I joined major class action lawsuits, continued to file grievances, and assisted other prisoners with filing documents. Some prisoners would call me a “legal beagle,” a “jailhouse lawyer,” “the people’s lawyer.” I was far from developing my legal skills back then.

They fear us prisoners who have the ability to use our positive conscious minds to unite prisoners in a peaceful, non-violent movement to eradicate repressive conditions and arbitrary, discriminatory policies and regulations.

Anyway, many prison officials over the years and even today, have called me a “troublemaker,” a “thorn in their side,” “an agitator.” I welcome with a smile what CDCR officials call me. But two things they can never call me are (1) a liar, or (2) someone who embellishes the facts.

When prisoners speak out and stand up to challenge acts of injustice that prove to be an embarrassment to CDCR officials, the officials retaliate by placing you in a SHU on bogus accusations or charges in an attempt to discredit us. This is the case today behind the pit of hell concrete walls. But thanks to the united hunger strikes, our voices are being heard, and our undisputed truths revealed, causing greater embarrassment to the CDCR.

CDCR officials, from Sacramento down to the prison grounds, have always known that prisoners hold the solutions to solving prison conditions entirely. They fear us prisoners who have the ability to use our positive conscious minds to unite prisoners in a peaceful, non-violent movement to eradicate repressive conditions and arbitrary, discriminatory policies and regulations.

Q: What are your hopes now, in this time and in the near future?

M: My hopes are many, but my immediate hopes are as follows:

(1) Establish a campaign calling on all Afrikan prisoners in the California prisons’ general populations, SHUs and ASUs to unite together as one voice to help reduce and end the senseless Black on Black killings and violence in our neighborhoods, using our unity to help rebuild our families, foundations and neighborhoods.
We as a proud Afrikan race with a history can solve our own problems without any involvement from law enforcement.

I want to start with bringing all the Afrikan prisoners from the Bay Area to join this unity movement through a creative Bay Area workshop. The success of this workshop will be to set up all over the major urban cities from up North to Southern California, committed to rebuilding our families and neighborhoods.

(2) Unite all the California prisoners in the general population as addressed through our call ‘Agreement to End All Hostilities Between Races,’ reaching mutual common ground in order to focus on the bigger picture to better our conditions for pushing for greater changes: from CDCR regulations to Parole Board composition and decisions. And, more importantly, rebuild our communities through our united efforts.

(3) Unite serious committed jailhouse lawyers behind the walls as a power “think tank” in addressing issues affecting the class of prisoners and working with outside legal aid clinics, law firms and attorneys. This is a vision I have had for a long time. My attempt to create such a think tank was disrupted by prison officials who implemented new policies to prevent me and other jailhouse lawyers in Pelican Bay SHU from communicating with other JHLs within the SHU and outside of the SHU.

We as a proud Afrikan race with a history can solve our own problems without any involvement from law enforcement.

I was recently reading the book you sent me called “Jailhouse Lawyers” by Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal, and he said something very similar, reminding me just how important it is for us to build this JHL movement and connect ourselves to the outside. Let me close by paraphrasing Bro Mumia’s words: Jailhouse lawyers must look beyond the state’s imprisoning bars, bricks and cement to build relationships with others in the so-called “free” world to further and support social movements that spread liberating and progressive space within society.

These words are relevant today and equally applicable to our call for broader unity. We behind the concrete walls start this new progressive movement. But we need the outside support of our communities to stand with us. Thank you all! I can be contacted at the address below:

Building Social Change, In Solidarity,

Mume

Send our brother some lover and light: Paul Redd Jr., B -72683, Pelican Bay State Prison D2-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

Note from Sharon Martinas: Mume and I have been pen pals since the summer of 2012. Mume is one of the representatives housed in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU, in the Short Corridor. I am a member of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition (PHSS) and a coordinator of PHSS’s Human Rights Pen Pal program. We agreed that Mume would also write the interview questions, since he knows what he wants to share about his life, his beliefs and his visions for a better world.


—————————————————————————— 
Paul’s Testimony for the Legislative Hearing on Solitary Confinement, California Feb. 2013

From: Paulredd.org

February 8, 2013 To: Assembly Member Tom Ammiano
From:  Prisoner Paul Redd B-72683

Dear Committee Members,

Thank you for this brief opportunity to speak via letter. I understand we only have a couple of minutes in having our letters read which is impossible on PBSP SHU Inhumane Torture Conditions. So I’ll just go to the Main Issues.

1.      My name is Paul Redd, I am a New Afrikan prisoner serving a seven years to Life Sentence W. Possibility of Parole on a 1976 senseless murder conviction of a local drug dealer.

2. I’ve been held here at PBSP – SHU since September 5 1990 to present except for a brief 60 days period when I won my SHU release on December 29, 2000. Only to be fraudulently placed back into a SHU on March 12, 2001 without Due Process.

3. I have been held in California Prisons for the last 36 Years. I have spent 33 of those years in a SHU.

4. Again, it’s impossible for me to give a brief description of what my experiences of Solitary Confinement have been like here in two minutes.

Let me tell like this: The Architectural SHU Design at PBSP was intentionally designed to inflict physical and psychological torture on our bodies and minds. I have seen some prisoners lose their minds in a short period of time, while others it took more years.

I have had some prisoners from all races, whom debriefed, tell me they made up information on some prisoners or / and went along with what Gang Investigators wanted them to say on specific individuals. They told me they couldn’t take living in this SHU anymore. I have seen some prisoners harm themselves to Get Out of this SHU or get on psyche medications just to get moved out of this SHU. I have seen prisoners health deteriorate, – Died etc.

What effect this Long Term Solitary Confinement has done on me:
Escalating health problems such as:

– Taking several pills to treat high blood pressure,

– Enlarged Thyroid Gland and partial removal of the right Thyroid Gland.

– Two (2)times right knee surgery.

– Short term memory loss more frequently.

– Distorted hearing.

– Lack of sleep due to the loud noises of cell doors / pod doors opening / closing.

– Loud noise from toilet flushing.

– Bad vision, double right eye vision.

– Last Year I was diagnosed with right eye double vision and given special lenses called Prisms, which I blame these perforated cell doors (small holes) for messing up our eye sight.

5. This  Security Threat Group (STG) and  Step Down Program (SDP) do not serve any legitimate purpose. It’s Racist inside and outside and Ridiculous on its Face. It completely suppresses what little First Amendment Rights we are supposed to have. It does not afford any meaningful due process safeguards before any impartial Fair Review / Hearing Panel.

It allows for more arbitrary and discriminatory decisions cloaked under the erroneous pretext confidential informant information or / and current gang activity.

Most importantly it allows for more new abuse of power by those administering this racist profiling policy that changes nothing nor improves nothing.

This STG / SDP is manipulative and designed to mislead the Legislative Members to approve more wasted unnecessary fundings.

This STG / SDP should be rejected and not funded. The SDP is not voluntary. But – to be forced on us Prisoners

WHY? Because CDCR Officials / IGI / OSC know:

NO PRISONERS WOULD VOLUNTARILY PARTICIPATE IN THIS SDP.

We prisoners have real valid reasons backed with undisputed evidence to justify ourconcerns why it must be shut down.

– Let us have some Legislative Hearings under Oath that will review / examine our evidence given to us for Indeterminate Placement, “CDC 1030” Disclosure Forms, that are vague and NOT satisfying Due Process Requirements, IGI Validations Packages. Six Years Inactive Reviews.

– Hear live Testimony from both Prisoners and CDR Prison Officials, Captains, LT’s, Sgt’s and IGI Staff Behind these already existing Programs causing years of long-term Solitary Confinement.

– Ask the hard questions that have been covered up for decades. Most of you think the Hunger Strikes of 2011 exposed shocking inhumane conditions, discriminatory practices and abuse to follow Court Rulings. CDC Policies.

It was shocking to learn many of us prisoners have spent 30 to 40 plus years in the SHU with no acts of violence against prisoners nor CDCR staff. I hit a prisoner one time with my fist in 1984 on a SHU Yard. I received a CDC-115, I pled guilty and accepted responsibility for my actions. That’s the only assault I have on a prisoner and none on any staff. That was almost 30 years ago!

It’s funny CDCR Officials / Gang Officials tell the Media and Legislature, we use other prisoners to commit our violence. Yet they failed to produce any evidence to connect you to the incidents. 

They also fail to tell the Media and Legislature that the prison’s own investigations into certain incidents has cleared our names of any involvement. So, instead of releasing us from the SHU, they use group punishment with validation membership to warehouse you for decades in the SHU.

6. Since this New CDCR Regulations, staff have, in the last 3 to 6 months, issued more  ridiculous “CDC-128” chronos, “CDC-115”  and stating the information should be considered during the prisoner’s Six Years Inactive SHU Review.

A final note: CDCR budget has been cut in some areas. Now they are attempting to implement this STG / SDP to seek funding for it and going to turn it into more funding, because the reality is it will be a failure.

Our proposed MCUProposal is based on already existing programs within CDCR and reduces spending and not ask for more funding etc. Yet CDCR Officials rejected our proposal.

Thank You For Your Time.

Paul Redd Jr B – 72683

Pelican Bay State Prison – SHU
D2-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532