Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CSP-Corcoran SHU: applications not usable for lack of sockets, property allowed by property matrix, but not allowed by staff, and other ills

One of those every-day annoyances of being confined 24/7 in a cell with two people:

CSP-Corcoran should solve the issue of not being allowed an extension chord. Since there was a new property matrix installed since January, which reflects the new administrative policy of prisoners being allowed two appliances each, for instance a typewriter (yes, this is the 21st century!), the prison still does not allow an extra extension chord (with an extra socket) per appliance, whereas there are only 2 sockets per cell, for those sharing a 1 man cell with 2. Also, prisoners were threatened with write-ups if they all decided to demand a single cell per person.

Prison employees told the prisoners that power will be cut when more extension chords are being used, but the extension chords come with an extra safety device to prevent this.

Another issue with the property room at CSP-Corcoran is that they interpret the new rules in their own way, even lying to their bosses. An example from daily life:

"An associate warden here contacted the property room about my underwear. Initially, the property room claimed that long-sleeved tee-shirts are not allowed. The property room then told the associate warden that I could not have it, because it is a "V-neck teeshirt," and that they are "not allowed." These were lies: Not only is this not a v-neck teeshirt, but "v-neck teeshirts are allowed. This was a property officer blatantly lying to one of his bosses - and the associate warden knew that it was a lie."

Property Matrix January 24, 2014 Inmate Property, CDCR, p. 11

Property Matrix January 24, 2014 Inmate Property, CDCR, p. 10
It has become clear to many people locked up inside CSP-Corcoran that the new property matrix (which we could no longer find online, but we scanned these 2 pages from what was sent to us in March by prisoners) is not being made public to the corporations issuing the catalogues where-from families can order packages for their loved ones, and that employees are not well informed at all on what is and what is not allowed. And - really - how many more petty rules does the cdcr have in store for us to waste precious time and energy on? Is that another trick to keep us from the struggle for human rights?

We are wondering if the administration of CSP-Corcoran realizes that this whole keeping back of property, cell-searching and other harassments made to prisoners in the SHU (racism by some staff  is a becoming a returning complaint, amongst others) certainly is no incentive for those locked down in the segregation units to cooperate with the CDCR-designed Step Down Programs.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Transcripts of the Second Legislative Hearing on Solitary Confinement in California

These transcripts reflect the Second Legislative Hearing, which was held on February 11th, 2014. It was transcribed by Whatthefolly and edited by a member of a coalition of groups who support California hunger strike prisoners. Plz click the following link to read the transcripts:

CDCR’S Proposed New Policies on Inmate Segregation: The Promise and Imperative of Real Reform

Calling for ABOLITION of solitary confinement

This was reblogged from the SF Bay View, March 5th, 2014
Written by Denise Mewbourne

For a little over a year I’ve had the great good fortune to be a participant in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition’s Human Rights Pen Pal program. Through this program I’ve been corresponding with several activists inside the SHUs, including several in the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist Think Tanks. It’s changed my outlook on life in a big way, to say the least.

As a hunger strike supporter on the outside (since 2011) who has never been incarcerated, I had very little understanding of the ongoing cruelty, dehumanization and torture that goes on in the California prison system. I know I will never fully understand what it means to endure that – unless I’m forced to – and I’m still regularly shocked when I hear of new and different atrocities from both incarcerated people and prison survivors.

What I do know is how much respect and admiration I have for the people I write to, the organizers and participants in the peaceful protests, whose very bodies are the battlefield – and who have the strength and strategic intelligence to meet the oppressors on that battlefield with a series of hunger strikes.

Read the rest here...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How torture is inflicted on prisoners in solitary confinement

February 24, 2014
Published in: SF Bay View

by Mutope Duguma and Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

This is a glimpse into torture by prison staff, using any means available, of which solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison in California is only a reflection of the inhumane treatment and clear U.S. constitutional violations of our First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights that prisoners in solitary everywhere are subjected to.

Torture by deprivation

The objective of the deprivation method is not complicated. It is to attack the sensory organs and perception with methods to impair them. The weapon of deprivation cannot be effective without having in place a conditioning process to produce degeneration over a long period of time. The psychological, social and cultural trauma is observable in such a sterile and punitive environment.

Deprivation is cannibalistic for the spirit that is willing to stay the course. The flesh becomes weakened as men feed on themselves and others, eating away at human excellence. The feasting of deprivation will become more than flesh, blood or nature can endure. Indeterminate SHU confinement has left individuals with having to choose between discontinuity and becoming inflicted with a cannibalistic nature.

There are two aspects of deprivation, the psychological and the physical, where the mind acts upon the body. This two-edged torture can be effective either way. But in order for deprivation to eat away at the targeted prisoner’s consciousness, a conversion reaction must occur that breaks down the psychological defense mechanism.

Declaration on Protection from Torture

The “Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as Resolution 3452 (XXX) on Dec. 9, 1975. The declaration contains 12 articles, the first of which defines the term “torture” as
“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.”

Types of torture

Medical: Honorable Judge Thelton Henderson ordered a receivership to oversee CDCr’s PBSP SHU due to intentional medical neglect which led to prisoners dying, as frequently as one a week, in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation system. Many of these deaths were, and continue to be, in solitary confinement. This is torture.

Solitary confinement: Prisoners are held in isolation for 10 to 40 years despite having only non-disciplinary infractions during that time. This is torture.

Mail: Prisoner mail is being used to create physical and psychological torment. Mail can be arbitrarily withheld for weeks on a regular basis, and has been known to be withheld for years, even when there are court orders to release the mail to a prisoner being unjustly deprived. This is torture.

Food: Food is intentionally prepared poorly, contaminated and disproportionate. Nutritional food is deliberately denied. This is torture.

No human contact: Prisoners have no real, meaningful social interaction with other human beings, especially family and close friends. Our five senses – touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste – become dulled from deprivation. This is torture.

Visiting: Constantly, under the CDCr gestapo style agency of correctional safety, the Investigative Service Unit (ISU) and Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) and other such units deliberately intimidate visitors and prisoners. This is torture.

Cell searches: These are used to intimidate, harass and trash prisoners’ cells, leaving them in disarray while taking political writings, pictures, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, magazines etc., causing psychological torment. This is torture.

No sanitation: Prisoners are deliberately kept in unsanitary units. For example, showers are allowed four times a week, but the showers are cleaned only twice a week. There is an abundance of mold, mice, bugs, gnats, fungus etc. This is torture.

Climate: Prisoners are kept in freezing cold or burning hot cells, depending on the time of year, a complaint that has been made for over 21 years. This is torture.

Contraband watch, or potty watch: It is humiliating, dehumanizing and outright cruel and unusual punishment when prisoners are held in shackles and placed in the middle of a hall while being placed on a portable “potty,” while cops (female too) and prisoners with escorts are walking by. There are reports of prisoners being placed in cages, without a toilet or running water. Men are placed in a diaper with a prison jumpsuit over it, while the victim’s hands are bound into a fist-wrap. PVC pipe forced onto arms and black boxes over the hands have also been used. The prisoner is required to defecate three separate times during a three-day period. The torment and suffering are truly visible on the prisoner’s face. This is done to cause severe humiliation, along with mental, physical and psychological torment. This is torture.

Family: Each validated prisoner’s family is deliberately harassed, intimidated and intentionally hoaxed into false prosecution for a thoughtless crime by gestapo-type units (OCS, ISU, SSU and IGI) with the intent of discouraging any support or communication with the prisoner. This is torture.

Grievances: The 602 appeal process, at each of its three levels is deliberately set up to not afford a prisoner relief, regardless of whether prison officials are dead wrong in their accusations. This clearly establishes that there is no accountability for what officials do to prisoners. This is torture.

In addition, the structural features of the various solitary confinement units throughout the U.S. prison industrial complex (PIC) make it possible to target specific prisoners by utilizing sensory deprivation to undermine the social, cultural and ethical values that the targeted prisoners hold. Prisoners are rare who can escape the ravages of the torture that results from long term isolation and the negative assaults by guards in any of California’s supermax control units and similar units all over the U.S.

This is torture.

The science behind the use of deprivations has been perfected by the handlers to operate with devastating force. We know there is no separation between physical torture and mental torture. Torture is a double-edged sword that can slice effectively either way to exact punishment or revenge. It has the purpose of taking away a targeted prisoner’s human dimension and essence.

This is torture.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fighting The Oppressor


By Kevin Cooper

This essay speaks to one of the many forms of oppression.
As an African American who is committed to fighting, and ending oppression, no matter where it happens, or who it happens to, I have to speak the truth. And my truth is what I have witnessed and personally experienced here in San Quentin Prison on Death Row since 1985.

I find myself in a real life-and-death situation here on Death Row, where hate, and for certain people, self-hatred, is an ongoing situation. Of course, this is not true concerning all the death row inmates, and I would be lying if I said that it was.

But what I am writing about happens enough to deserves attention.
Here, in this institution, as well as in all other modern day plantations there are only two types of people. They are the Oppressors and Oppressed! I am an oppressed person, and in truth, all the other inmates within these walls are Oppressed, even if some of them don't think that they are, or aren’t  aware that they are.

There are certain inmates, who instead of uniting as one strong oppressed people in order to make all of our lives more peaceful and better, would rather (and in fact do) raise their fists in violence than raise their voice. They speak words of disrespect towards other oppressed inmates for whatever reason, (even if that reason is a made-up one), in order to hate and start trouble and keep madness going among us. Yet, these very same inmates refuse to raise their voice to the oppressor. They refuse to even raise an ink pen to write about the oppressor and this oppressive system of death that has us all imprisoned, and is trying to execute us—this system that is made to destroy us mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and every other type of way that it can before it murders us physically.

Whether these inmates do this consciously or unconsciously isn't known by me or other inmates who also see this and shake their heads in disbelief like I do. What we do know however is this truth: The oppressor and his supporters love for this to happen, and they love to see it happen. They want and need to keep us oppressed people fighting each other. The good old game of divide and conquer is one of their most effective tools. These so called Brothers who are doing the oppressors’ work for them claim to know all about this game of divide and conquer, yet they still keep participating in this game to the detriment of we who are oppressed!

In 1964, the late Malcolm X stated to a crowd of people in Harlem that, “If you aren' t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing”! He further stated, “The Oppressor is fighting you in the morning, fighting you at  noon, fighting you at night, and fighting you all in between, and you still think it's wrong to fight them back! Why?”
This is exactly what is going on within this and other modern day plantations to one degree or another. I must also ask “Why?” As I and other inmates continue to do our part in this historical struggle for our collective human rights we do so consciously, and we refuse to do the oppressors’ work for him!

Though I and others are forced to live in such a place against our will doesn’t mean that we have given up or given in. It doesn’t mean that we will let the oppressor make us turn on each other in a negative way. We will continue to work to end all of our collective oppression as best we can.

Those inmates who choose to work against us and for the oppressor either don't know, or don't care that they are being misused by the oppressor. As the late Bantu Steven Biko, who is the father of Black Consciousness in South Africa, once said: "The most powerful weapon of the oppressor is the minds of the oppressed!”

Many of us on these modern day plantations refuse to give our minds or our spirits to these wholesale oppressors.  Those that do, “That’s their bad.” Only in acknowledging what is going on, can some of us avoid this trap that is easy to fall into here behind enemy lines.
In Struggle and Solidarity from Death Row at San Quentin Prison, 
Kevin Cooper  

February, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

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 restructuring programs, 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



Monday, February 3, 2014

Second Leg. Hearing on Solitary Confinement: Feb 11 in Sacramento

Also, why are the people inside the Secure Housing Units not being heard themselves:

Prisoners in solitary deserve to have a presence at the Feb. 11th hearing!

Last July, 30,000 prisoners embarked on a hunger strike to protest inhumane conditions, particularly in California’s isolation cells.  Dozens of prisoners remained on hunger strike for almost 60 days, suspending it only when key legislators promised to investigate the torturous conditions and work to change them.

On February 11, in Sacramento, the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees will hold their second joint hearing on conditions in these isolation units.

The most important witnesses are the prisoners themselves, but CDCR has refused to let them attend and testify.  Prisoners have testified at legislative hearings before.  Contact CDCR officials and urge them to allow the voices of the prisoners to be heard.

PLEASE SIGN THIS LETTER:

http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51040/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12923

Thank you!!

Nevada Prison Watch

Solidarity with our Sister Site:

Solidarity with our Sister Site:
Nevada Prison Watch

Read it!

ACLU report on the LA County Jail

ACLU report on the LA County Jail
"Cruel and Usual Punishment: How a Savage Gang of Deputies Controls LA County Jails"

Buried Alive: Long-term Isolation in California's Youth and Adult Prisons

Buried Alive: Long-term Isolation in California's Youth and Adult Prisons
AFSC Report May 2011 (click on picture)