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From Pelican Bay: CDCR to offset prison population cut by putting more men in solitary

February 5, 2012

Three letters from core hunger strike organizers: Todd Ashker, Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), Arturo Castellanos

by Todd Ashker

Displaying his banner on the steps of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2011, poet and former political prisoner – member of the San Quentin 6 – Bato Talamantez was among the first Bay Area activists to rally public support and draw media attention to the hunger strike called by prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU to begin July 1. This photo dominated the front page of the Bay View’s July print edition. – Photo: United for Drug Policy Reform
Written Jan. 22, postmarked Jan. 27, 2012 – As soon as I first heard during our face to face meeting with former Undersecretary Kernan of CDCR’s plans to go to a “security threat group” (STG) system of classification, I recognized the very real potential for manipulation and abuse of such by certain factions in power positions in CDCR – e.g. CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association), gang unit etc. I immediately detailed my concerns to our attorneys – this was part of the reason for hunger strike no. 2 in September and October.

Briefly, here’s what I’m concerned about: Right at the time – in May – when the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s prison population reduction order, in seeming response to our July hunger strike, CDCR unveils their STG plan. Here’s how it looks to me: The prison population reduction of 35,000-40,000 prisoners equals a potential loss of $2 billion in the yearly CDCR budget and the loss of approximately 7,000 CCPOA members. That’s the loss of a lot of union dues!

A clever way to offset some of this loss is to create a “new” security threat designation scheme – used in a lot of states, including Arizona, where it’s used to isolate all inmates labeled southern Hispanic from California – enabling CDCR to segregate a lot more men. Segregation costs nearly double general population and requires more staff.

I can foresee the possibility of CDCR making all the Level IVs across the state segregated isolation units! Anyone who scoffs at this doesn’t know CDCR’s history of the last 40 years, wherein they have manipulated and abused every major federal court ruling that’s been made against them! This is a fact, witnessed by many men here in my pod.

Right at the time – in May – when the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s prison population reduction order, in seeming response to our July hunger strike, CDCR unveils their “security threat group” (STG) plan. The reduction of 35,000-40,000 prisoners equals a potential loss of $2 billion in the yearly CDCR budget and 7,000 CCPOA members. The STG scheme enables CDCR to segregate a lot more men. Segregation costs nearly double general population and requires more staff.

As for the subject of “behavior” – yes, we all are interested in what CDCR’s definition will be regarding “behavior.” On Oct. 20, former CDCR Director George Guirbino came and spoke with me at my cell for about 45 minutes with Warden Lewis, and I asked him about this “behavior” definition issue. His response was that they were not sure at that time, but it should be along the lines of if they have credible evidence that you have committed an illegal act, you’ll be written up and, if found guilty, assessed a specific punishment – SHU term, demotion in step program level(s) etc. We touched on all of the points people are tripping out on there in our second hunger strike document, “Tortured SHU prisoners speak out: The struggle continues.”

News coverage of the horrors of prison life for the 2.5 million Americans locked behind enemy lines is suppressed by law and custom, limiting prisoners’ and their supporters’ ability to plead their cause and organize to achieve relief – and release. Prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU, however, crafted their demands and prepared so effectively for their hunger strike that not only did 12,000 California prisoners participate but stories appeared in both the mainstream and alternative media. This Associated Press photo of a rally at the State Building in San Francisco on the day the first strike began, July 1, 2011, appeared in many major newspapers. – Photo: Paul Sakuma, AP
Thus, none of us are tripping on the status report (posted below, following the letters) regarding the Dec. 28 meeting – what for? There’s zero substance so far – it’s all speculation – and until we see the CDCR’s actual plans spelled out on paper, we see no sense spinning our wheels trying to guess what this or that might mean.

We’ve let the attorneys know that they should not presume to know what’s good and not good for us – and they need to include the core reps in the loop. And when I put something out there from the collective of reps here, we need it taken care of ASAP, not sitting collecting dust for a month.

And I’ll say this: The collective doesn’t appreciate people questioning the legitimacy of our update. That’s a bit disrespectful of people to presume I’d put that out there without a consensus. And the consensus of agreement with the entire content was not solely that of the core collective but a big majority of the entire short corridor, most of whom are Hispanics. No one is taking it personal but people need to cut all the silly sh-t out!

No one can do this alone and no one should have to feel they have to. And if things aren’t right by the summer, you all are going to need to be supportive of each other because it’s possible a peaceful activity will resume. If so, some men may very well expire. That’s why people’s efforts and support to get CDCR to act before then is critical!

If things aren’t right by the summer, you all are going to need to be supportive of each other because it’s possible a peaceful activity will resume. If so, some men may very well expire. That’s why people’s efforts and support to get CDCR to act before then is critical!

I watched a program last week on PBS about the green movement in Africa, where the mothers and wives of men locked up for their political writings went on hunger strike demanding the government release their men. When, after three days, the crowd became larger, the government sent in soldiers to bust heads. The women got naked, because beating a naked woman is viewed as violating one’s own mother in their culture. Many were beaten, but their men got released!

Major TV stations covered the rally in front of CDCR headquarters in Sacramento July 18, 2011, in the midst of the first round of the hunger strike. – Photo: Grant Slater, KPCC
In our situation, people say, “Well, those men are convicted felons – serving a legal term of imprisonment.” I say this is wrong. Most people in the California prison system are serving outrageous sentences based on the politics of the past 40 years!

Most of us serving term to life sentences are way beyond our minimum parole eligibility dates. We’re not serving legit legal sentences; we’re here based on political manipulation and special interest groups, criminal organizations – e.g. CCPOA – who’ve made a money making industry off the backs of the disenfranchised (not limited to “people of color,” rather the poor composed of all races), perpetrating a 40-year criminal fraud on the taxpayers.

This is not limited to those incarcerated. It’s every one of the 99 percent. Our country is a two-class country now: the wage slave poor and the rich, period! This country’s been in a class war for a long time and people need to wake up.

The people have the power to make the changes that the courts and politicians refuse to make, because they’re part of the problem – maintaining the status quo. It’s all a matter of the people’s resolve and commitment to doing what’s needed to make it happen – through peaceful protest means!

The people have the power to make the changes that the courts and politicians refuse to make.

This is the type of message you’ll need to be sharing with as many people as possible: You’ll need to come together and say “Hey, we’re not accepting our family member’s torture no more – he shouldn’t even be in prison – and this is our plan of action” regarding serious peaceful protest rallies, outside hunger strikes at the capitol and lawmakers’ offices etc. Some things to think about: collectively utilizing the support energy in a positive, productive way to keep the focus and exposure going strong and letting it be known that we’re committed to the end to make these long overdue changes happen.

Send our brother some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP SHU, D1-119, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. This letter was written to and typed by Kendra Castaneda.

CDCR incites violence to fatten their paychecks

by Mutope Duguma

Written Jan. 19, postmarked Jan. 24, 2012 – Keep in mind that these [the new proposed regulations posted below, following the letters] are nothing but proposals, and we all know that CDCR does not see us as human beings; therefore, they do not want to let us out of these “gulags” under no circumstances, which shows how diabolical – i.e. evil – the CDCR is in respect to prisoners of color, i.e. New Afrikans, Natives, Latinos, Mexicans, and very poor whites.

This is historical hate being practiced against those individuals held in solitary confinement – i.e. Ad-Seg, SHUs, Supermax etc. And this is what CDCR hopes is the case: that citizens of this nation accept their position that we are “savages,” the “worst of the worst” etc., when actually we are more embracing of our humanity than many of the employees that work for CDCR. They (CDCR) and its 33 prison chapters have murdered, beaten and lied in order to continue this criminal empire.

CDCR hopes that citizens of this nation accept their position that we are “savages,” the “worst of the worst.”

We are not going anywhere, because if CDCR attempts to manipulate a policy where it keeps us in solitary confinement, then our struggle continues. We are very mindful that we are the victims of a powerful system that has gone astray. They’re only going to create some kind of contradiction in which they (CDCR) can say, “We told you so: These guys are violent.”

This is a frame from TV coverage of the July 18 rally by KCRA, Sacramento.
But what the people need to know is that most of the violence in CDCR is manufactured by prison guards and those who regulate the power who sit at the top in Sacramento. This is why we are working to shut down all racial violence because we see how gang intelligence has been using prisoners who are adversaries against one another. They control all the housing through CSR (classification staff representatives), who are responsible for transfers etc. and who are deliberately placing prisoners who are enemies amongst one another, which causes major violence.

CDCR profiles prisoners and then, based on their assessment of that prisoner, already know that if that prisoner is placed in a certain predicament then he or she will engage in violence. This is just one of many ways CDCR manufacture violence, which is a big PAYCHECK for many CDCR officers through overtime and asking the legislature for more money. So they do not only play the prisoner, but the taxpayers as well.

Most of the violence in CDCR is manufactured by prison guards and those who sit at the top in Sacramento. This is why we are working to shut down all racial violence – a big PAYCHECK for many CDCR officers through overtime and an excuse to ask the legislature for more money. So they do not only play the prisoner, but the taxpayers as well.

We are very progressive when it comes to what will be the new policy that will govern whether we will remain back here for nothing. If they use “behavior,” then it has to be connected to conduct, where one has actually been involved in an incident that was cause for a rule violation report (RVR). So that’s cool. We want that, you dig? We don’t really care about CDCR’s stepdown program because we are proposing our own, which we already had before and which was successful.

We believe and want it enforced that everyone who has been in solitary confinement indefinitely illegally should be released from SHU and Ad-Segs immediately while being provided an adequate medical checkup due to being denied medical treatment years on top of years. These are nothing but games from CDCR once again.

We believe and want it enforced that everyone who has been in solitary confinement indefinitely illegally should be released from SHU and Ad-Segs immediately while being provided an adequate medical checkup due to being denied medical treatment years on top of years.

You are now learning the true nature of CDCR. This program – whatever it turns out to be – will be for EVERY prisoner held in a California state prison. Those held in solitary confinement, such as Ad-Segs, waiting to be placed in SHU should have been in SHU 90 days after they received their indeterminate SHU program. The system plays on prisoners’ inability to file CDCR 602 appeals and writs. They take their time because they abuse the power they’ve been entrusted with.

Remember this, that CDCR is going to do what it is going to do and we are going to do what we have to do through peaceful nonviolent demonstrations in order to continue our struggle for liberation. And we are dealing with thousands of human beings’ lives, so we have to be careful how we move forward. We have people who are literally willing to die rather than to be subjected to this another day.

We have people who are literally willing to die rather than to be subjected to this another day.

We have many superior minds back here who will easily see if CDCR is playing their same old games as usual. This is not an overnight struggle! We are very much fighting for our lives and our family and friends’ lives. We have a lot of major activities going on that will expose this criminal empire for what is.

Send our brother some love and light: Mutope Duguma, s/n James Crawford, D-05996, PBSP-SHU D1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. This letter was written to and typed by Kendra Castaneda.

Challenge CDCR in the open

by Arturo Castellanos

Written Jan. 16, 2012 – I’m writing you because attorneys have sent me a lot of copies of downloads from your website and others who have heavily criticized your pro-active actions. What made me laugh is that you’re a little thing and an army of one – and the others are talking bad about you. And I say anyone who claims to be walking and striving to put forward our demands – which include Ad-Seg – should NOT be trying to undermine all your hard won effort!

Evidence that word of the dramatic hunger strike in California had reached the rest of the U.S. and beyond is this banner hanging from an overpass in Philadelphia on July 18.
I personally support your pro-active, sh-t-talking style in this struggle. And I ask all those who are trying to undermine your efforts to ask themselves, why are they trying to silence a strong outspoken person who is helping all of us – and being heard? And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what CDCR has been trying to do to us and all our supporters?

Why are they trying to silence a strong outspoken person who is helping all of us – and being heard?

We are all in the same struggle so don’t indirectly help CDCR by trying to silence a strong voice among you. What we need is A LOT more Kendras who are NOT afraid to challenge CDCR in the open and not take a passive stance and just hope for the best. That latter stance – passive – is the reason we have remained in the SHU all these years!

Everyone in this struggle needs to work together or else you are just an obstructionist to our cause – and I can’t make it clearer than that!

Arturo Castellanos is barred from receiving mail, an issue that should be raised with CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. This letter was written to and typed by Kendra Castaneda.

Status of CDCR’s new regs

by Terry Kupers, Laura Magnani and Carol Strickman for the mediation team

Jan. 4, 2012 – On Dec. 28, 2011, two members of the mediation team spoke with Undersecretary Terri McDonald about the status of the new regulations on gang validation and SHU classification policies and procedures. Undersecretary McDonald stated the following:

A rally in support of the Sept. 26, 2011, resumption of the hunger strike was organized by Revolution activists and held at the Pelican Bay State Prison gate on Oct. 1.
1. CDCR is changing to a behavior-based policy about SHU consignment, so that prisoners could be designated as members of “security threat groups” without being sent to the SHU. Others currently in SHU who have not had behavior issues could be returned to the general population. It remains to be seen how broadly CDCR will define “behavior.”

2. In addition, CDCR is designing a four-step “stepdown program” designed for exiting gang members. Step 1 is high security and step 4 is transition to general population. Debriefing is not required to qualify for this program.

3. CDCR has drafted a “concept paper” about these new policies, which it intends to send to its national experts in early January. CDCR did not adopt the prior recommendations of the 2007 experts’ report, mostly because of cost. CDCR’s concept paper will not be available to prisoners and their advocates until after the experts weigh in.

4. CDCR hopes to hear back from these experts by late January or early February.

5. CDCR will then revise its concept paper and send it to “stakeholders” for feedback.

6. Stakeholders include such groups as legislators, law enforcement leaders in the community who work with gangs, the Prison Law Office and the mediation team.

7. After hearing from the stakeholders, CDCR will then turn its concepts into detailed regulations.

8. Then CDCR will propose these changes officially through the public hearing process, negotiating with unions etc. She also stated that the Castillo case would have to be factored in, so that someone coming up for a six-year review doesn’t lose ground with the new provisions. All of this will take time.

9. The status of individual prisoners who are currently in SHU will not be reviewed until all of this has happened, other than those who are up for annual review by the ICC (Institution Classification Committee).

10. The stepdown program can be implemented sooner, as it does not involve policy changes. She gave an example of prisoners going to an “integrated yard,” composed of prisoners affiliated with enemy gangs, to see if they can get along.

11. She cautioned that there will be no large-scale exodus from the SHUs. They are concerned that, if they move too fast and violent incidents occur, the entire reform process will be destroyed.

12. Although the process will be slow, she stated that CDCR is committed to reworking its validation procedures, making SHU consignment behavior-based, opening the stepdown program and re-evaluating all current SHU occupants when the new regulations on validation and SHU placement are in place.

13. Regarding the specific promises that Scott Kernan negotiated as part of demand no. 5 – calendars, hobby items, sweats etc. – she states that they have all been accomplished already with the exception of the chin-up bars, because they involve some expensive structural changes, and the photographs, which are happening over time, when prisoners get their ICC reviews. She states that these items are not privileged-based.

14. CDCR officials who are involved are George Guirbino, who has retired but will remain on contract with CDCR for this purpose, Suzan Hubbard and Director Subio. Hubbard and Guirbino will be on the panel reviewing individual prisoners’ cases once the new regulations are rolled out.

Although the undersecretary’s comments do not provide all of the detail that we need, this information is helpful in general terms. We will provide more information as we learn it.

Terry Kupers, M.D., M.S.P., a clinical psychiatrist, professor at the Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and an expert in forensic mental health and the effects of solitary confinement, can be reached at kupers@igc.org or his office, (510) 654-8333. Laura Magnani, regional director for the American Friends Service Committee in San Francisco and co-author of “Beyond Prisons” in 2006 and author of “Buried Alive: Long Term Isolation in Youth and Adult Prisons” in 2008, can be reached at lmagnani@afsc.org or (415) 565-0201, ext. 11. Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, can be reached at carol@prisonerswithchildren.org or (415) 255-7036, ext. 324.

 

One thought on “From Pelican Bay: CDCR to offset prison population cut by putting more men in solitary

  1. Mika Castro

    God I pray that CDC keeps it’s word…They haven’t in the past…I’ve been through it in the hole doing small SHU terms for riots where all we were asking for is 3 showers a week and the store for cosmetics we were supposed to have coming and we boarded up our cells to disrupt count until the warden told us we would get the above- We didn’t, he lied, Wasco D yard building 5 ad-seg overflowbaby eagle

    Reply

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