Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dan Walters: California’s death penalty dying of old age

Posting this for archiving purposes.

Reblogged from: Sacramento Bee:

Dan Walters: California’s death penalty dying of old age
By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2014

During the last four decades, no California political issue has burned more intensely than capital punishment, but it may have ended with a whimper, rather than with a bang, last week.

Federal Judge Cormac Carney ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional because it’s rarely used – thanks largely to ceaseless legal challenges from its opponents, one should note.

Another irony is that Jerry Brown – a lifelong foe of capital punishment – was governor when it dominated the Capitol in the 1970s, and he’s governor again as Carney’s ruling more than likely ends it.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/22/6574992/dan-walters-californias-death.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

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.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fight CA Prison Censorship - Submit your Commits Now! Sign the Petition!

Under the guise of “obscenity” regulations, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCr) has proposed sweeping new political censorship rules for mail going both into and out of the prisons.

The proposed regulations are designed with two main purposes: 

1) To censor writings that educate the public about what is actually occurring inside the prisons, and 

2) To stifle the intellectual and political education and organizing of prisoners themselves for human rights-, political, educational and other positive goals.

Video
Please watch this VIDEO explaining more about how the regulations would work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_TOf5q9r_8


FACT SHEET                                LEGAL ANALYSIS

Stop Censorship Regs


“They want to be free to pursue the maintenance of the SHU torture units and the expansion of the prison industrial complex (and the ever-growing portion of the public’s tax dollars) without the prospect of legitimate criticism and the voice of opposition.”    
-Prisoner in Corcoran State Prison SHU

What you can do:

Write a short letter as comment, room prepared by CURB

or:

Write your own Email and send it to: rpmb@cdcr.ca.gov

The Supreme Court has already held as protected speech under the First Amendment prisoners' right to both criticize and protest prison conditions and regulations as these are clearly subjects of public interest. 

Please weigh in and speak out against these regulations. 


For more information about SHU torture in California, plz visit: 

Prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

Article by Mutope Duguma (incarcerated in PBSP-SHU): CDCr counterpunch: New rules designed to silence prison protest

Article by Mutope Duguma: New proposed censorship rules mean more torture for California prisoners in solitary 

Fact Sheet prepared by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (use this to copy for your letter).

Legal Analysis

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Humiliation and loss: Mass cell searches at Corcoran SHU

May 31, 2014
by Ajamu Watu (Terrance E. White)
In: SF Bay View

Revolutionary greetings!

As of this writing, I’m finally getting situated from another mass cell search being done here at the Corcoran SHU by Gestapo police. This is supposed to be a once a year ordeal, so they searched the whole yard. Well, if so, then why do we get searched so often at different, unexpected times and why do they use K9 dogs and the metal detectors on us and our mattresses?

This cell search had to be my most humiliating one yet, because we were escorted from our housing units in our boxers, T-shirts – or no T-shirt if you chose – and our shower shoes all the way to R&R visiting room to walk through the metal detectors after we were strip-searched at our cell doors before we came out. There was also female staff assisting with this so-called protocol, and I was told COs (correctional officers, or guards) even came from other yards to help out.

We had our mattresses scanned through the electronic metal detector but were not given any new bed linen when this ordeal was over. Of course our cells – our living quarters – were trashed so bad that it took a lot of us two days to get back somewhat comfortable.

The long walk in the hot sun around the whole yard and being locked in our stand-up yard cages all day with some cages not having running water and us not being able to bring our lunches with us caused medical problems for those who are up in age – 40-plus. I’ve just gotten over a two-day migraine from the ordeal.

I was informed – and found out it to be true – once I returned to my cell that the fascist oppressors were taking all extra clothing, any alleged appliances such as a TV that may be missing any parts to it, with no regard to you still being able to use it or if you have another one on the way. If you’re using two cable cord antennas or loose wires, they’re taking that too.

In some cases, you need more than one antenna to pick up the digital channel because it’s hard to do so in some cells due to the reception or your digital antenna’s cord is not long enough to reach your back wall where the reception is better. In my case, my ground antenna was snatched from the wall by these Gestapo fascist pigs with no regard as to why, when it was very unnecessary since my cable outlet was not missing the metal plate that covers it.

We haven’t been given our cell search slips yet, but I’ve already started my 602 appeal form that I will still be processing to note the unprofessional way my cell was handled in this search. When I had the section CO look at my cable outlet, he informed me it was broken off. I informed him my TV signal wasn’t working but my radio was.

He then told me to 602 it but made no attempt to retrieve another cable cord to hold me until the opportune time when I can purchase another one which is what it’s gonna boil down to because they’re not gonna replace it. When this happens – the cell searches lasted all week but I think they’re still not finished with a few more buildings – we get no program, no yard, showers, laundry or access to the law library, which they’ve cancelled unless you have a court date approaching, and in some cases you may still not be able to go.

The excuses are always the same: short on staff who really don’t feel like doing anything and since the S&Es do the medical escorts, it gives the building COs time to sit down on their lazy behinds and collect a paycheck. I’m sure you all will get more mail from inmates here at Corcoran with these stories of how this cell search affected these buildings. I’m positive some were handled worse than others depending on who was doing the search.

This to us is just another day living in the concrete tomb known as the Corcoran SHU graveyard. The struggle continues …

One love, one movement!

Ajamu Wadu, a servant of the oppressed people

Send our brother some love and light: Terrance E. White, AG-8738, Cor SHU 4B-1R-26L, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

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)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prisoners and advocacy groups oppose Sen. Loni Hancock’s prison reform bill, SB 892

This comes from the SF Bay View:
May 4, 2014

Lawyers from the LA-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law recently spent two days at Pelican Bay discussing with prisoners bills now introduced in the Senate by Sen. Loni Hancock and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano dealing with solitary confinement. The Center’s lawyers met with Todd Ashker, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry), Arturo Castellanos and Antonio Guillen, four of the prisoners in the Short Corridor who inspired the hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 that were joined by 30,000 other prisoners at their peak.

The Assembly and Senate bills are very different in their approaches to solitary confinement. Ammiano’s bill, which the prisoners support, is short and simple and is focused on one critical issue: prohibiting the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from placing prisoners in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership when there is no finding that they have engaged in serious misconduct.

The prisoners believe that this bill addresses a major concern with California’s current policy and does so in a clean-cut and effective way. In legal discussions and letters to the Center, prisoners suggested two additions to the Ammiano bill: First, that it incorporate a provision that would prohibit CDCR from using the testimony of an inmate informant to place someone in a SHU (Security Housing Unit, where prisoners are held in solitary confinement) unless the inmate’s testimony was corroborated by independent third party evidence.

Second, they recommend that data-gathering provisions in Loni Hancock’s Senate bill be added to Ammiano’s bill so data can be obtained from CDCR which could be used in the future to advocate for changes in regulations or additional legislation. However, prisoners support the Ammiano bill even if these two proposals are not adopted.

On the other hand, prisoners have informed the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in personal interviews and letters that they do not support Loni Hancock’s Senate bill because for the first time in history it would put into state law authority for CDCR to place prisoners in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership without any accompanying serious misconduct. The prisoners believe this would be a major step backwards in the struggle to get California to follow other states that have terminated their “gang validation” policies as a basis for putting prisoners in solitary confinement.

They would support the Hancock Senate bill only if it adopted the Ammiano approach of prohibiting CDCR from placing prisoners in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership when there is no finding that they have engaged in serious misconduct. They would also want it to incorporate a provision that would prohibit CDCR from using the testimony of an inmate informant to place someone in a SHU unless the inmate’s testimony was corroborated by independent third party evidence.

Based on the prisoners’ positions, which seem fair and rational, several groups and community leaders, led by the California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, submitted a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee opposing the Hancock bill.

At a hearing before the Appropriations Committee held on April 28, Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights, testified against the Hancock bill on behalf of a number of groups and individuals, including CFASC, Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Centro Legal de la Raza, Community Futures, Council on American-Islamic Relations – California (CAIR), Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS), Homeboy Industries, Homies Unidos, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 (ILWU), Justice Now, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), actor-activist Mike Farrell and labor leaders Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), and Mike Garcia, president of the Service Employees International Union–United Service Workers West (SEIU-West). No one appeared to testify in favor of the bill.

Notably, neither CDCR nor CCPOA, the guards’ union, voiced any opposition to Hancock’s bill – whereas they had shown up in full force to oppose Ammiano’s bill.

The full text of the letter presented to the Senate Appropriations Committee appears below. Over the next few weeks, CFASC and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law plan to intensify their lobbying and gather more support to block passage of the Hancock bill unless it is amended to prohibit CDCR from placing prisoners in solitary confinement for mere alleged gang membership when there is no finding that they have engaged in serious misconduct.

At the same time they will support passage of the Ammiano bill. “Whether we are fighting the gang validation policy in the courts or through public advocacy,” said Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights, “we are far better off fighting a policy of the administration than something enshrined into state law by the legislature for the next 10 to 20 years.”

The breadth and strength of opposition that has quickly built up against Hancock’s bill shows that over the next few months a powerful statewide coalition will form to block the Hancock bill unless it’s amended to prohibit the CDCR’s gang validation policy.

Letter to Senate Appropriations Committee

The following letter, dated April 25, 2014, was addressed to:

Sen. Kevin de Leόn, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee, State Capitol, Room 5108, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sen. Loni Hancock, State Capitol, Room 2082, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sen. Jerry Hill, State Capitol, Room 5064, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sen. Ricardo Lara, State Capitol, Room 5050, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sen. Alex Padilla, State Capitol, Room 4038, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sen. Darrell Steinberg, State Capitol, Room 205, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sen. William Monning, State Capitol, Room 4066, Sacramento, CA 95814
Sen. Mark Leno, State Capitol, Room 5100, Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: SB 892 (solitary confinement)

Dear Sens. de Leόn, Hancock, Hill, Lara, Padilla, Steinberg, Monning and Leno:

This letter is submitted on behalf of the undersigned organizations and individuals.

The California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), which represents approximately 450 California prisoners in solitary confinement, as well as several other organizations, have previously communicated to Sen. Hancock concerns with certain provisions in SB 892 with specific suggested amendments. To date we have not received any response indicating whether Sen. Hancock will seek to amend her bill to address these matters.

We are writing to explain our concerns with SB 892 that now comes before the Senate Appropriations Committee. We are respectfully requesting that consideration of SB 892 be delayed for a few weeks to allow greater input and discussion about the intended and unintended consequences enactment of the bill will cause.

While well-intentioned, SB 892 fails to reform the widely condemned, inhumane, and outdated “gang validation” policy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Although the bill contains some positive provisions, it fails to include critical provisions needed to bring California law in line with modern prison security trends adopted in many other states – with successful results – and worse it institutionalizes “gang validation” as a basis for long-term solitary confinement for prisoners who have engaged in no serious wrong-doing while serving their sentences.

The cost of this program is estimated to be $44 million per year while 1) perpetuating the inhumane treatment of prisoners, 2) compromising the goal of rehabilitation and 3) causing hundreds of “validated” prisoners to suffer severe physical and mental disabilities – with added costs of treatment.

We are most concerned with the provisions of SB 892 that will memorialize into state law the widely condemned and outdated policy of the CDCR of placing inmates in SHUs for mere alleged gang association without any actual incidents of misconduct. Gang validation practices have been criticized by prison reform advocates throughout the country, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, American Bar Association, Amnesty International, the U.S. government and members of Congress.

While the bill proposes an indefinite number of “step-down” programs for “validated” prisoners after several years to be released from solitary confinement, both prisoners and prison security experts believe the proposed step-down program will be ineffective as proposed in SB 892. CDCR already follows a similar step-down program, but only a relatively small number of “validated” gang members have been released from solitary confinement through the program.

Prisoners and prison reform experts likewise agree that the minimal efforts in SB 892 to “improve” the due process rights of prisoners will be costly to the state while having little to no practical effect on prisoners’ rights. Overall, SB 892 would leave California with the largest population of prisoners in solitary confinement of any country in the world or state in the United States at enormous cost to the taxpayers.

SB 892 would leave California with the largest population of prisoners in solitary confinement of any country in the world or state in the United States at enormous cost to the taxpayers.

From a budget standpoint, enactment of SB 892 in its present form will increase the incidence of costly litigation challenging the law, likely lead to further costly hunger strikes by prisoners in solitary confinement, cost the taxpayers $44 million a year for maintaining prisoners in solitary confinement based on mere alleged gang membership, and cause untold additional medical costs as hundreds of these prisoners suffer mental and physical disabilities due to their confinement in segregated housing units.

In contrast, Assembly Bill 1652, introduced by Assemblymember Ammiano, is far narrower in what it attempts to achieve, is far better drafted to achieve reforms in solitary confinement and gang validation practices in California, and would save about $50 million per year in prison costs.

We respectfully request that the Senate Appropriations Committee delay consideration of SB 892 for a few weeks to evaluate whether amendments can be made that will save costs and potentially close the gap between the SB 892 and AB 1652

We urge you to please contact Dolores Canales, California Families Against Solitary Confinement, (714) 290-9077, and Peter Schey, President, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, 323-251-3223, to discuss whether consideration of SB 892 may be postponed for two to three weeks so that experts and family members may provide additional input for consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

California Families Against Solitary Confinement

Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights

Centro Legal de la Raza

Community Futures

Council on American-Islamic Relations – California (CAIR)

Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS)

Hermandad Mexicana Humanitarian Foundation

Homeboy Industries

Homies Unidos

Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace

International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13 (ILWU)

Justice Now

League of United Latin American Citizens

Mexican American Political Association (MAPA)

Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community

Students Against Mass Incarceration (UC)

William C. Velasquez Institute

Father Gregory Boyle, Executive Director, Homeboy Industries

Rabbi Joshua Brumbach, Ahavat Zion Synagogue, Beverly Hills

Dolores Canales (son incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU)

Dennis R. Childs, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of California, San Diego

Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO)

Mike Farrell (Actor-Activist)

Mike Garcia, President, Service Employees International Union- United Service Workers West (SEIU-West)

Irene Huerta (spouse incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU)

James Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild – Los Angeles Chapter

Sharon Martinas (prison reform advocate)

Sister Elisa Martinez, MSW

Heidi L. Rummel, Co-Director, Post-Conviction Justice Project (PCJP)

Kimberly Starr (prison reform advocate)

Sarah Torres (prison reform advocate)

Kimberly Rohrbach (prison reform advocate)

Beth Witrogen (life partner incarcerated in Pelican Bay SHU)

Solidarity with our Sister Site:

Solidarity with our Sister Site:
Nevada Prison Watch

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)