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Inhumane conditions at Calipatria State Prison ASU

December 14, 2011

by Kendra Castaneda

In the California prison system, Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation) and ASU (Administrative Segregation Units) are classified as “temporary,” but many prisoners have been in the ASU for years. At Calipatria State Prison near the Mexican border in the Mojave Desert, Ad-Seg is a bit better than ASU because the ASU was purposely built away from the rest of the prison in a building of its own.

It’s so isolated the prison authorities can do anything they want to the ASU inmates without anyone knowing. They use the ASU to house the men they are holding longer than the “temporary” time. For example, almost all the men are validated – determined through a very flawed process to be members of a prison gang – and awaiting transfer to a SHU (Security Housing Unit).

They wait for years in ASU, while the men in Ad-Seg are mostly those “under investigation” or charged for a stabbing or a fight with a sentence of approximately one year in segregation. Ad-Segs are also attached to the prison itself so the conditions are not so protected from view as in a detached ASU building.

Conditions in Ad-Segs and ASUs vary widely from one prison to the next. Not every prison has an ASU, and some prisons with Ad-Segs are not as inhumane as others. The way the administration at a particular prison wants to run its segregation units determines their conditions.

Current inhumane conditions at Calipatria State Prison ASU (Administration Segregation Unit)

The men in the ASU unit wear dirty laundry; their boxers get changed approximately every three months. They are holey, dirty and gross.

The food is moldy, spoiled and rotten. Many men are not fed at all; the correctional officers state they “ran out of food.” The men in the corner cells are forced to go hungry most of the time.

There are no TVs or radios; therefore, hundreds of men are forced to stare at a concrete wall all day, which violates CDCR’s DOM (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Department Operations Manual). Although these units are already equipped with cables, Warden Leland McEwen refuses to allow the inmates an appliance (radio or TV) in their cell to stimulate their minds while in complete segregation.

Almost all of the men in Calipatria’s ASU have been placed there on “suspicion” of prison gang activity, but even if they commit no gang-related act and are not being disciplined, they are held in complete “temporary” segregation for years.

They are allowed outdoors three times a week to “exercise” in dog cages, but that schedule is not kept. Many correctional officers pick and choose which men they want to allow outside, and their outside time is often cancelled due to staff meetings or staff barbeques.

Some of the men have been sitting in a concrete cell and denied permission to go outside to any yard for a long time.

The men in ASU are allowed to receive books through a vendor paid by a family member or friend. But for the many men who do not have anyone to buy books for them, they have an inmate exchange, where Level 4 inmates donate books for the ASU men. These books frequently have pages ripped out, and the library’s selection of books isn’t sufficient for 200 men. Many men have read the same book 100 times. An inmate in ASU can only have one book in his cell a week, and the trading books with another inmate is difficult. The prison does not routinely allow them even to exchange their own books with each other.

There is only one nail clipper for 200 men to share, and the correctional officers do not clean the clipper.

There is only one hair clipper for 200 men to share, and the correctional officers do not clean that either.

The tiers are extremely dirty, and the correctional officers refuse to clean them. In January 2011 the men purposely submitted to a forced “cell extraction” so the prison would be cleaned. The cells are unsanitary, and black widow spiders often find their way into the cells due to Calipatria being in the desert.

The men are forced to go outside in the winter desert cold with no shoes on, with their bare feet and no clothing but boxer shorts. The temperatures at Calipatria can get down to 32 degrees; it is cold and extremely windy in the winter time. The men are forced to wear nothing but boxers, and some do not get blankets in their freezing cold cells.

Calipatria Warden Leland McEwen
All eight emergency exits at Calipatria ASU are purposely barricaded and blocked with boxes of sand on the orders of Calipatria Warden Leland McEwen.

The men are not given proper medical treatment, for there is NO MEDICAL facility at Calipatria State Prison. Men in the ASU currently have broken bones, internal health problems, Hepatitis C and many need surgery. These men have been waiting in ASU for years in pain. The prison purposely ignores the men’s request slips for medical treatment.

The men in the ASU have been there for one year, two years, three or four years, and one man has been there for seven years straight. The men ask the ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) why they are not being transferred to Pelican Bay SHU. They beg to be transferred to the SHU, yet the response from Warden McEwen, Assistant Warden Anderson and IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) Sgt. E. Duarte and by all the other IGIs is to “parole, debrief or DIE.”

After the second hunger strike, Warden McEwen ordered IGI Sgt. H. Groth and his fellow officers to walk around in the ASU harassing the inmates.

In the Calipatria ASU, Hispanic men are being falsely validated left and right by IGI Sgt. E. Duarte abusing his power. Out of 200 men in the ASU, there are about 10 Black men, a few white men, one or two classified by CDCR as “others,” and the rest – over 150 inmates – are Hispanic.

The only African American inmate in my husband’s pod in ASU, in cell 159, died a few weeks ago. The inmates are saying it was a cover-up. The prison originally said it was a suicide, but the men are saying it was no suicide.

This man was harassed on purpose by IGI Sgt. Groth and his fellow officers right before he mysteriously died. As of a few days ago, the inmates are saying the officers are now being ‘hush hush’ about the man’s death but the family of the man who died says this was no suicide.

Calipatria State Prison refuses to speak to the family. CDCR refuses to speak to the family or give the family any information pertaining to how he died. Calipatria’s Sgt. Garcia, who works at the coroner’s office, tells the family of the man who died that the autopsy reports will be available in six to nine weeks, and the family has already laid his body to rest. The family mentioned to me that their son took part in both of the hunger strikes; therefore, the autopsy report should show deterioration of certain body parts. But the family is being denied all of his death reports.

In the ASU unit, visits to the men are often cancelled on purpose, or the prison ignores family requests for the ASU men. Visits are stripped from many of the men due to false charges made against them; therefore, these men are forced to never see their families.

Almost all the men in the ASU have been classified already as validated “SHU status inmates.” They sit illegally in an ASU cell for years on end, being denied a transfer to a SHU facility. Due to their classification, it does not matter that the hold is supposed to be temporary. These men are stripped of their privileges as if they were in Ad-Seg and live under the same constraints as if they were in an actual SHU facility.

As of today, the Calipatria ASU is full. Their A5 segregation unit is for the “overflow,” and it is almost full. The prison has started to make plans to construct another ASU. If they do, there will be two ASUs and one A5 overflow unit.

The men at Calipatria ASU call that particular ASU the “ASU/SHU,” because they say it is worse than a SHU facility.

Kendra Castaneda is prisoner human rights activist with a loved one currently incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit). She can be reached at kendracastaneda55@gmail.com.

 

21 thoughts on “Inhumane conditions at Calipatria State Prison ASU

  1. informed reader

    Kendra Castaneda (Author of this article)…….Take time to verify your facts and make certain your multitude of erroneous statements and information you have provided to the public in this forum are actual facts and have been verified through any and all resources that are available to you. For if you fail to do this as you have certainly done in this article you are actually doing a dis-servise to the community and readers. I assure you, your article is lacking of actual fact.

    Reply
  2. anonymous

    Kendra Castaneda is prisoner human rights activist with a loved one currently incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison ASU. That says it all.

    Reply
  3. J. ROBINSON

    KENDRA, DO YOUR HOME WORK ON M.R.S.A. INFECTION AT CALIPATRIA PRISON. LACK OF MEDICAL IS A MAJOR PROBLEM THERE. I WAS EMPLOYED THERE FOR 15 YEARS AND I CONTRACTED M.R.S.A. SOME HOW PICKING UP AFTER INMATES IN MY VOCATIONAL CLASS. IT PUT ME IN THE HOSPITAL THREE TIMES , THE LAST TIME I ALMOST DIDN'T MAKE IT OUT. I'AM PENDING THREE LAW SUITS FOR SERIOUS WILLFUL NEGLECT FOR MY HEALTH AND SAFETY AT CALIPATRIA STATE PRISON. I HAVE MANY MEDICAL REPORTS FROM STATE DOCTORS FROM 2002/2012.

    Reply
    1. Haiden Esquivel

      Whoa, what a selfish person, I don't hope the worst to no one bcus Karma speaks for itself.. Yet I do hope you'll get a taste of it someday.. My love one is in there yet bcus you might have no one going through this's b.s. but don't count your eggs before they hatch

      Reply
  4. Illona Jameson

    You know I think that is a very awful thing for you too say. Who fucking cares? That could be your brother son husband cousin somebody you know in there. Would you like that happening to you. So just because they are in prison does not make it right for them to be treated like a dog. Or shit under somebody elses feet. They are human and they should have the right to have medical no matter what.

    Reply
  5. kingsfan13

    I couldn't care less about the criminals being housed at this prison. If they don't like the "living conditions" then maybe these thugs will think twice next time before committing a crime.

    Reply
    1. angel guillen

      It could be you there someday.it just takes a second to make a mistake..or is it you think your better because you haven't been caught..yet.

      Reply
  6. J. ROBINSON

    WORKING AT CALIPATRIA FOR 15 YEARS I WAS VERY CONCERNED ABOUT NEGLECT OF HEALTH AND SAFETY. BECAUSE WHEN THE INMATES AREN’T PROVIDED IN BEING TAKEN CARE OF FOR MEDICAL REASONS, THEN THAT JEPORDISES MY HEALTH AND SAFETY. FOR EXAMPLE MRSA VERY SERIOUS SKIN INFECTIONS. THIS COULD BE DEADLY TO STAFF AS WELL AS INMATES.DON’T FORGET US EMPLOYEES ARE HERE TO PROTECT SAFETY FOR THE PUBLIC. THATS WHY I MYSELF HAS A LAW SUIT AGAIN’T THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS.I’AM IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING A BOOK THATS CALLED ” A FREE MAN BEHIND BARS “

    Reply
  7. J.ROBINSON

    J. ROBINSON BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR MY BOOK THAT IS ABOUT " A FREE MAN BEHIND BARS" IT TELL'S ABOUT THE SERIOUS WELFUL NEGLECT OF HEALTH AND SAFETY WHEN I WORKED FOR 15 YEARS AT CALIPATRIA STATE PRISON TO PROTECT PUBLIC SAFETY.

    Reply
    1. Sasha

      Hello I am interested in your book. You can reach me at sashapellerin@yahoo.com. I truly believe to organize against mass incarceration we need to organize the prisoners, families and staff. We need to rally the men/women who are sucked in to this system from the other side. Otherwise we will never have a collective voice.

      Reply
  8. BIG T

    TO THOSE RUDE IGNORANT IDIOTS WHO COMMENTED ,WHO CARES? I CARE AND THE FACT THAT YOU DONT WILL COME BACK AND GET YOU SOMEDAY AND IN THE WORST WAY POSSIBLE JUST KNOW WHAT I SAY IS THE TRUTH,ITS CAUSE OF IDIOTS LIKE YOU THE INMATES ROLL THE WAY THEY DO WHEN THEY ARE FREE ,IM JUST SAYING YOU CALL OUT YOUR OWN FATE ,IT COULD BE YOU IN THERE ONE DAY MAYBE INNOCENT AS THE WORLD LOOKS ON AND SAYS WHO FING CARES … NEVER SAY NEVER.

    Reply
  9. JustmeDee

    Wow, who f-ing cares??????? Those who made comments like this, have a total disregard for human life!!!!! What makes you any better than anyone else?????

    Reply
  10. here

    wonderful learn, I simply passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that. And he really bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So permit me to rephrase that: thank you for dinner!

    Reply
  11. Maria

    The prison system in nothing but a business! I'm sure there are a lot of guilty people that need to be held accountable for their actions, but there are also a lot of people sent to jail that shouldn't be in there. The only reason they are found guilty is because the prosecutors will do the impossible to convict anyone of a crime. As long as it benefits them in their career, they don't care who they have to step over and take down. I did a lot of research on the prison system for a project I had in college and found out that we the tax payers pay 50,000 per inmate each year. Yet, the state only pays 5000 per child per year to educate our children. Does anyone else see some thing wrong with that. Why are we spending more money to keep people in prison than we are educating them!!! because the prison system is a BUSINESS!!!!

    Reply

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