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Greed drives solitary confinement torture

September 18, 2011

by Mutope Duguma (s/n James Crawford)

This banner set the theme for a rally in front of the San Francisco State Building on Aug. 1. As we gear up for the resumption of the hunger strike Sept. 26, it is critical that supporters pressure the media to cover it and to cover it accurately, including the perspectives of the hunger strikers themselves. To keep up and learn how you can get involved, visit sfbayview.com and prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com frequently.
On Aug. 23, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, held a hearing on human rights violations of prisoners who have been tortured in solitary confinement units throughout the state of California. [Watch videos of the entire historic hearing here and here.]

Undersecretary Scott Kernan of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said, “Admittedly there are harsh conditions but (they are) not unconstitutional and not torture or human rights violations.” No one asked Mr. Kernan what he meant by harsh conditions, though the definition of harsh could include torture. So his statement itself is an oxymoron.

To hold anyone in solitary confinement for one to 40 years for no offense is not only in violation of international law but of one’s constitutional rights as well as civil and human rights. We can clearly see that this is an act of torture, an abuse of power by CDCR officials, who have used the internal prison function to torture prisoners for over 25 years.

Gripping testimony was heard all day at Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s hearing on the hunger strike. This panel was composed of Dorsey Nunn of All of Us or None and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Laura Magnani of the American Friends Service Committee, psychiatrist Dr. Terry Kupers, psychology professor Craig Haney and attorney Charles Carbone, all experts on prisons and the effects of solitary confinement. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Mr. Kernan does not think that holding a man or woman in long term solitary confinement indefinitely is torture when he or she has done nothing to deserve that placement. Then they subject you to cruel or unusual punishment throughout the duration of that placement, which occurs simply because a prison informer or prison official labels you a prison gang associate or member. CDCR subjects us to suffering because we won’t debrief – i.e., turn prison informer.

This is torture by any definition, and if anyone thinks otherwise, then they need to come see for themselves. Over 3,000 prisoners throughout the state are held in these torture chambers, which include administrative segregation, Pelican Bay SHU, Corcoran SHU, New Folsom SHU, Tehachapi SHU and San Quentin Adjustment Center (AC). And please don’t let me forget about all the men and women throughout the United States being tortured in solitary confinement units.

CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said to the press, “We’re going to continue to hammer them.” What does he mean by “continue to hammer them” in reference to all prisoners held in solitary confinement in California? This is clear; what more does he need to say? These are the two top men that run the entire CDCR and they are clear about how they’ve been treating us and how they’re going to continue to treat us.

Therefore, we have no choice but to continue our hunger strike. Starving ourselves will not be worse than spending the rest of our lives in solitary confinement under torturous conditions.

CDCR attempted to give us sweat suits, watch caps, shorts, handballs, a proctor, colored pencils, colored paper, a roller wheel for exercise and a picture saying “for your family” – stuff we should have had 25-plus years ago. But their reason for giving them is to appease us so that we can be content with spending the rest of our lives in solitary confinement under the same torturous conditions for nothing.

We have no choice but to continue our hunger strike. Starving ourselves will not be worse than spending the rest of our lives in solitary confinement under torturous conditions.

One question: Why are we in solitary confinement?

Not only are the prisoners isolated inside the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU), but the towns where this prison and others are located and where the guards live are isolated as well. – Photo: National Geographic
CDCR allowed 13 media outlets to visit Pelican Bay. Not one was allowed to talk to any of the hunger strikers, but they were allowed to talk to the torturers. And it was well over 1,000 hunger strikers in Pelican Bay.

CDCR says they didn’t want to make celebrities out of us; that’s why they didn’t let us talk to the media. This is classic nonsense. Any media outlet can visit any of our negotiators if they want the truth. I’d tell them, send your address and you will receive a visiting form.

CDCR and Pelican Bay State Prison are using us as a justification to fleece the California taxpayers. All 3,000 prisoners held in solitary confinement indefinitely can live peacefully on any general population (GP). We even suggested that they can place every last one of us on our own GP. Yes, all 3,000 of us.

But CDCR is more concerned about losing money. If you do the math, it will come out to $199,500,000 annually. [This, I believe, refers to the higher cost of solitary confinement over general population. In a report on the Aug. 23 Assembly hearing, Sal Rodriguez wrote for SolitaryWatch.com: “Laura Magnani of the American Friends and Service Committee then spoke. She began by quoting the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons and noted that SHUs cost at least ‘twice as much’ as general population.” According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the 2009 cost of incarcerating one prisoner in the California state prison system was $47,102. – ed.]

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) union and CDCR officials make that so called “high security” overtime money overseeing prisoners they sell as a security threat to keep us in solitary confinement. This allows correctional officers who have only a high school diploma to make up to $300,000 in overtime, which is why they have no problem supporting the Green Wall (code of silence), where CDCR officials will lie to the public, to the legislators etc. just as Undersecretary Scott Kernan did on Aug. 23 – lies that are easily proven to be perjury.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) union and CDCR officials make that so called “high security” overtime money overseeing prisoners they sell as a security threat to keep us in solitary confinement.

CDCR is embedded in a steeply exploitative system where greed is the motivator. They do not give a damn about public safety or prison safety. If they did, then the violence in our communities and in these prisons would not exist on the level that it does.

CDCR is embedded in a steeply exploitative system where greed is the motivator. They do not give a damn about public safety or prison safety.

We, the free poor and the imprisoned poor, are considered “obsolete people,” a surplus for these concentration camps (prisons) where we are tracked and hunted in these rural inner cities like wild animals from the time we are adolescents. If we as a people do not realize it by now, then it’s safe to say that our lives will continue to be devalued by others whose only objective is to exploit us toward their economic interest – that of the prison industrial complex.

The dreaded Internal Gang Investigation Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison – Photo: National Geographic
That is why we are subjected to living in impoverished conditions by economic discrimination, uneducated and criminalized for trying to find ways to survive – i.e. eat – by any means necessary, and by the time we become educated, we find ourselves trapped in a prison cell or solitary confinement unit overseen by white men and women who never had any personal experience or social interaction with any of us outside of prison guard vs. prisoners.

Many of these prison guards have suffered isolation in these rural areas, yet they oversee every aspect of our lives: how we are treated, if we can be paroled, whether we live on GP or mainline and so on.

Yet our people have no say whatsoever over our lives once we enter these concentration camps. So why should anyone be shocked that we are being tortured when prisons are strategically placed in isolated areas, far away from our families?

The criminalization of the poor is not about law and order. It is about control and suppression by way of torture.

The criminalization of the poor is not about law and order. It is about control and suppression by way of torture.

Campaigns such as the War on Gangs, War on Drugs, War on Terror, War on Crime and War on Immigration all amount to War on the Poor.

There is never an excuse or justification for bad behavior or breaking the law, but those who have been entrusted to uphold the law should do so without prejudices, class or racial discrimination of any sort.

This is why the people are necessary when the law or those who have been entrusted to uphold it violate these principles.

We’re entering into our hunger strike on Sept. 26 because our suffering must be exposed to the world. We will not stop under any circumstances until we’re liberated from these gulags.

Mutope Duguma, aka James Crawford, has been reporting to Bay View readers on the hunger strike from the beginning. This letter was received by the Bay View on Sept. 17. He is the writer of “The Call,” the formal announcement that alerted the world to this massive hunger strike, in which 6,600 prisoners participated, according to CDCR’s own records. As the strike was about to begin, he wrote “SHU prisoners sentenced to civil death begin hunger strike,” explaining the reasons for the strike. In August, he wrote “This hunger strike is far from over” to say that he and his comrades would most likely have to resume the strike. Most recently, in “Pelican Bay SHU prisoners plan to resume hunger strike Sept. 26,”he described the negotiations with CDCR and why the organizers feel they have no choice but to starve themselves once again. Send our brother some love and light: James Crawford, D-05996, D1-117U, PBSP-SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

 

2 thoughts on “Greed drives solitary confinement torture

  1. @carltoersbijns

    I have read most of what is being discussed, negotiated or considered. I have sensed that manipulation, untruth and deception are being used on both sides. Until this unproductive spirit of sparring with words, actions and inactions are stopped there will be no real change in how the SHU is operated. I recommend three things to happen before or after the 26th. 1. Come to the table with an open mind and seek small changes without compromising security. 2. Identify the most important grievances in the order of priority and start negotiating one at a time by both sides with good faith. 3. Once you reach an agreement on an concept allow a miniature prototype to be implemented to show good faith in spirit, allow this prototype model to work, evolve and produce for a short term e.g. 18 months before evaluations, assessments and progression can be made. Sometimes it is better to take baby steps to learn to walk all over again [as I see the current conditions crippling in nature] and once you walk on solid ground, progress to learn how to run again.

    Reply

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