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From the belly of the beast

May 22, 2012

by Gustavo Chavez, Pelican Bay State Prison SHU

This is the view from inside a cell in the Pelican Bay SHU. The front wall is made of perforated steel, providing no privacy. - Photo: CDCR
I have a lawsuit in the process regarding a beating I took back in July 2009. The motive behind this attack was retaliation for my persistent determination to expose everything that the COs (correctional officers) were doing to me back here in the SHU – the burping, sneezing, coughing on my food; the constant cutting of my wrists with the handcuffs; the shoving, pushing, yanking me around during escort; the kicking of my cell front during late night count; the constant throwing of the food trays at me; the falsifying of psych referrals upon completion of the retaliatory acts. This takes attention away from the acting officials’ despicable assaults, thereby painting a picture to the effect I’m the demented one. And the list goes on.

Before getting seriously injured, I was contacting outside agencies whose duty and responsibility is to intervene, but these agencies merely assigned the same people who were harassing me to investigate. Anyways, on July 22, 2009, during a search and escort, the COs who were appointed to my cell front ordered me to strip down.

While I was complying with the officers’ orders, one of the officers made a remark to his partner to the effect of “Watch, a 602 is going to fall out of his back door.” (A 602 is a form that is used to grieve, appeal and file complaints against staff.) The same officer then informed his partner that I was the inmate who’s notorious for staff complaints.

After he made this comment, he immediately ordered me to squat and cough, furthermore suggesting I spread my “butt cheeks” wide! Feeling uncomfortable with the officers’ sexual remarks, I quickly put my clothes on and informed the officers that I will be filing a grievance against them for sexual harassment.

At this point, the officers lost their cool and accused me of always bitching. The officers then slammed the tray slot closed, told me good luck with 602ing it, and yelled to the control unit staff to open my cell door.

While my back was turned towards both officers, one of the officers grabbed my bicep and yanked me backwards, causing me to stumble. Both officers then escorted me downstairs while both had a hold of my biceps. Prior to exiting my pod, I asked the officers if they would please stop yanking me around.

Immediately following my request, both officers slammed my head against the wall, instantly drawing blood. While one officer had me pinned against the wall, with my head between the wall and officers forearm, another officer stated, “Somebody slap some leg irons on this asshole.”

When the leg irons were applied, four officers immediately began forcing me to the nearest wall, causing my head to slam against the wall once again. The impact caused my head to bleed profusely; blood drained down into my eyes, which obscured my vision. At this point I was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Meanwhile, the officers continued to strike me in the rib and back area. The escorting officers then dragged me out of my block and into the main walkway and continued their assault. My lawsuit is well into the discovery stage and the defendants’ attorney is obstructing my efforts to proceed with my claim. – Gustavo Chavez , Pelican Bay State Prison – SHU

We truly appreciate what you guys are doing for us, knowing that CDC is being exposed for who they truly are. It’s something to smile about. For the past decade, I have been the target of physical brutality – psychological torture, in fact – behind my persistent determination for filing grievances.

During the last two hunger strikes, we witnessed how far the prison bourgeoisie are willing to go to protect their wealth and corruption, and the cowards are not slowing down. I see what lingers behind enemy lines and I’m mentally and physically prepared for whatever I must do to continue the struggle. I assure you I’m not worrying about the reprisals for it only makes me more determined to battle the racist bourgeoisie.

April 10 update – I recently received notice from the district court. I wasn’t surprised to see the judge rule in favor of the defendants’ summary judgment. I laughed on how the judge actually believed that a 5-foot 9-inch, 149-pound man attacked a number of COs while already being in full state issue restraints.

I’m now seeking assistance among the fellows so that I may pursue my case to the 9th Circuit Court. I have a long paper trail that leads to all the physical and psychological torture I have endured during the past 12 years in solitary confinement.

I’m not afraid to say that I’m now suffering anxiety attacks behind all the torture I have been subjected to by these corrupted correctional officers. For some strange reason, I was prescribed Propranolol for my anxiety attacks from that moment I started exposing the COs for sneezing, burping, coughing intentionally on my food. I immediately broke out with fungus, herpes and other illnesses. With all that I shared with you above, I will close this letter with much respect and appreciation. Your friend in the struggle.

These letters were written to and transcribed by prisoner advocate Kendra Castaneda, kendracastaneda55@gmail.com.

 

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