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Pelican Bay SHU confiscates prisoner’s letter, warning him not to ‘associate with SF Bay View’

August 31, 2012

Writer’s name withheld

Prison authorities seem to fear any prisoner who writes for publication almost as much as they fear the world renowned prison writer George Jackson. The letter written to the Bay View by this prisoner was confiscated in July, despite Mutope Duguma’s victory in appeals court in June ordering Pelican Bay to release his letter to the Bay View on First Amendment grounds.
Allow me this opportunity to wholeheartedly convey my appreciation for your commitment to being the voice of the forgotten and disenfranchised. Some inmates have been in this hell-hole for 20-plus years and had no means to raise their voices. This was the result of cowards unwilling to challenge CDCR and its powerful union, and it’s the courage that you’ve shown that has allowed us, as a collective, to realize we do have a voice, but only through unity. So I would commend you on your undying commitment and hard work.

The reason I’m writing this letter is to advise you and your loyal readers of the retaliation that Pelican Bay State Prison gang investigators have taken up against those of us inmates who chose to respond to your July 2012 issue, where one of your writers invited us to submit suggestions on how we PBSP SHU inmates should proceed in our “peaceful” protest against the new security threat group (STG) policy.

On July 22, 2012, I wrote a letter to you wanting to express my gratitude for the hard work that you do for us. In the letter I included my suggestion on how we should proceed in our opposition to the STG policy and asked if you would transcribe my suggestion in your next issue.

It’s the courage that you’ve shown that has allowed us, as a collective, to realize we do have a voice, but only through unity.

Two days later, I’m served with a serious rule violation charging me with “inciting a mass disturbance” (hunger strike). At the time I’m being issued this rule violation report, the officer is telling me that any attempts to associate with the SF Bay View will be met with punishment. The reporting officer, Institutional Gang Investigator (IGI) D. Milligan, confiscated the letter that I wrote to you, finding that I was attempting to submit the letter for no other purpose than inciting other inmates to participate in another hunger strike.

In an effort to retaliate against me for what they call “associate with SF Bay View,” the reporting officer purposely misconstrues my letter and takes my suggestion out of context. In fact, the charge that Officer Milligan is making against me couldn’t be any more contrary to the point I’m proposing.

First, I’m proposing that we respond to the STG policy by way of a “peaceful” protest. Peaceful, as I understand it, is defined as “without disturbance.” However, I’m being charged with inciting a mass disturbance. Second, I specifically address the point I’m trying to make in my suggestion. In doing so, I make clear how I feel that we have the better hand while the November election is in sight.

I explain, “There are ramifications for the government to keep us out of the media,” further suggesting that “we should not let them (CDCR) hold us off past the election.” I went on to propose that “we should start immediately where we left off with our last hunger strike – emphasis on where we left off.

In an effort to retaliate against me for what they call “associate with SF Bay View,” the reporting officer purposely misconstrues my letter and takes my suggestion out of context. In fact, the charge that Officer Milligan is making against me couldn’t be any more contrary to the point I’m proposing.

Now, in order for Officer Milligan’s charge against me to stand, the question turns on “where did we leave off.” The fact is “we” were never on a hunger strike. Although I received a rule violation for participating in a hunger strike, ultimately I was found not guilty, because that would require me having been a participant, which was never the case.

But that’s all beside the point. As my suggestion specifically notes, there are ramifications for the government to keep us out of the media, especially in light of the fact that there are elections in sight. “Where we left off with our last hunger strike” is we all agreed to do everything we can to expose the torturous conditions that we were “subjected to by way of reaching out to the media.”

This meant that we would write to newspaper companies and television broadcasting stations. Nowhere in my proposal am I attempting to incite a mass disturbance. Hence “peaceful” protest.

Now I’m writing in hopes that you can warn your subscribers of the retaliation being done to those of us who, as Officer Milligan put it, “associate with SF Bay View” and inform them not to be discouraged or dissuaded in our struggle to have our voices heard. I would consent to having you publish whatever is necessary in order for your readers to get an idea of the retaliation that has occurred here. However, I wish to remain unidentified in order to avoid further reprisal by prison officials including Officer Milligan.

Now I’m writing in hopes that you can warn your subscribers of the retaliation being done to those of us who, as Officer Milligan put it, “associate with SF Bay View” and inform them not to be discouraged or dissuaded in our struggle to have our voices heard.

Also I would ask that you help me obtain some legal counsel in order to explore some legal remedies, as it’s clear the actions by prison officials here violated my constitutional rights. Moreover, if I’m found guilty of the charges, I will lose my good time credits.

Thank you for your commitment and understanding.

Rules Violation Report

This is what Officer Milligan wrote in a Rules Violation Report dated July 24, 2012: “On Monday, July 23, 2012, at approximately 0830 hours, while assigned to the Institution Gang Investigations Unit (IGI), Investigative Services Unit (ISU), Officer #7, I received for review a one page letter authored by [identification withheld], currently housed in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), Facility D, Unit 9, [cell number withheld] at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). The letter was dated July 20, 2012, and was addressed to the personnel of the publication of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper and its supporters, regarding a suggestion for a ‘hunger strike.’

“At the beginning of the letter [he] expressed his appreciation to the personnel at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper by complimenting them for being successful in assisting the inmate population housed in the SHU, at PBSP, and other institutions within the State of California, in helping bring ‘unity’ to all inmates who participated in the ‘hunger strike’ in July 2011, throughout the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). [He] also states in the second paragraph of the letter that he recently read the latest issue of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper (July 2012), and noticed a section authored by a “fellow inmate” (unidentified), housed in the SHU, at PBSP, who was asking for “suggestions and how to move forward with our peaceful protest” in opposition to the new Security Threat Group (STG) policy proposed by the CDCR and the new validation policies concerning gang management. [He] asks that his ‘suggestions’ be considered for publication in the next issue of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. However, [he] asks that his name be withheld and remain anonymous, so not to draw attention to himself and avoid reprisals from CDCR staff. [He] ends the paragraph by asking that the following ‘suggestions’ be transcribed in the next issue of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. (This is typed in italics verbatim as it was authored by [him]).

“’To all representatives of the peaceful protest against the new STG policy: I’m writing in response to the invitation to submit suggestions as to the next move we should take in our peaceful protest. I would propose that we not wait for the new policy to come out for the fact that we all know what the policy looks like and firmly reject it. I feel that we all have the better hand while the November election is in sight and there’s ramifications for the government to keep us out of the media, so we should not let them (CDCR) hold us off past the elections. Rather, we should start (immediately) where we left off with our last hunger strike, discontinue all negotiations with CDCR officials, make it clear that our protest is indefinite, meaning no date will be set as to when the peaceful protest ends, and make it clear that validated inmates shall not be housed in this (PBSP) SHU for long periods. Forever forward, D-9 Consensus.’”

“Based on my training and experience as a Correctional Officer, and after having reviewed the letter authored by [him], it is clearly evident that [he] is attempting to submit this letter and his ‘suggestions’ for no other purpose than inciting other inmates housed in the SHU, at PBSP and within the State of California, to participate in another ‘hunger strike’ which would ultimately lead to another mass disturbance similar to the ‘hunger strike’ experienced in July 2011, while remaining anonymous to avoid any reprisals. This behavior meets the criteria established in the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 15, Section 3005(a), Conduct, which states in part, ‘Inmates and parolees shall obey all laws, regulations, and local procedures and refrain from behavior which might lead to violence or disorder, or otherwise endangers facility, outside community or another person.’ (Attachment of letter provided).”

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