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Reflections on our accomplishments so far – no more suffering in silence

December 23, 2012

by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa

We as an oppressed prison class being illegally held in solitary confinement must reflect on our struggle and how we are to continue forward in that struggle. The first thing that I would insist is that we all reflect on our accomplishments.

Pelican Bay censored pelican drawing by Pete Collins, imprisoned at Bath Prison, Ontario, Canada, web
Pete Collins, who is imprisoned at Bath Prison in Ontario, Canada, drew this censored pelican to support the 2011 hunger strikes called by Sitawa and his comrades in the Pelican Bay SHU.
Prior to our two hunger strikes, we were all suffering in silence, while understanding that each and every one of us was and is being subjected to a daily dose of both physical and psychological torture. Unfortunately, many have succumbed to the CDCR’s blunt force of torture over the past 30 years. Those of us who continue to remain under such torture today have chosen to resist peacefully against our treatment.

Though we have yet to obtain our Five Core Demands, no one can deny how much we have achieved since our initial July 1, 2011, hunger strike. For the most part our movement for human rights has made much progress, but patience is required, for we are engaged in a protracted struggle that demands our resilience.

Release all SHU and Ad-Seg prisoners who have been illegally held on non-violent, non-behavior charges over the past five, 10, on up to 20 years!

Our keepers are going to employ stall tactics with the hope that we lose faith in our pursuit for justice. We cannot afford to give up now. Success is not far away. Don’t lose sight of what we as a class have already accomplished:

  1. July 1 to July 20, 2011: hunger strike with over 6,000 participants.
  2. July 1 hunger strike made national and international news.
  3. American people rejected torture outright in its institutions and in every sector of our society. Celebrities, religious groups, educational institutions and countless activist organizations spread the word and went to work for us.
  4. The Public Safety Committee in the California Assembly held a hearing on Aug. 23, 2011, on solitary confinement and torture, lasting a whole day, as a direct result of our July 1, 2011, nonviolent, peaceful hunger strike against CDCR’s deliberate indifference toward our human suffering.
  5. The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and lead attorney Peter Schey filed a petition before the United Nations on March 12, 2011, on behalf of California’s segregated SHU prisoners.
  6. State Sen. Darrell Steinberg ordered the Office of the Inspector General to hold an investigation of the former CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan for not keeping the promises he made to implement our Five Core Demands.
  7. Sept. 26, 2011, to Oct. 14, 2011, more than 12,000 prisoners participated in our nonviolent, peaceful second hunger strike for human rights equality.
  8. October 2011, CDCR created a Warden’s Advisory Group (WAG) to meet and work with the SHU and Ad-Seg prisoners about local prison concerns.
  9. February 2012, meetings with the associate warden of Ad-Seg and SHU began and have continued monthly ever since then, in an attempt to improve on local issues. This is supposed to be happening throughout all SHU and Ad-Seg units in the California penal system.
  10. There are also intangibles that most prisoners are not aware of as a direct result of our sacrifices via both hunger strikes. For examples, we now have a media team and a legal team. Newsletters have formed: PHSS News, CFASC News, ROCK. You prisoners have made this possible through your individual and collective sacrifices.
  11. We prisoners illegally held in CDCR’s Ad-Seg and SHU units have a class action lawsuit before the Northern District of California Federal Court to address our Five Core Demands, specifically numbers one, two, three and four, to free us from long time isolation – i.e., indeterminate SHU – based on alleged gang affiliations or affiliates.
  12. Our professional and experienced legal team is comprised of 1) Carol Strickman, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; 2) Marilyn McMahon, California Prison Focus; 3) Anne Butterfield Weills, Siegel & Lee law firm; 4) Charles Carbone and Evan Greenberg, Law Office of Charles Carbone; 5) Jules Lobel, Alexis Agathocleous and Rachel Meeropol at the Center for Constitutional Rights. And we just got six more attorneys to assist our legal team from one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. So it just might be a fair legal fight for a change.
  13. Although Gov. Brown vetoed the AB1270 media bill that would have allowed the media to interview prisoners of their choice, this validates our claim that Gov. Brown is complicit in the torture of prisoners whom CDCR labels as alleged gang members or associates throughout the state of California. The state knows that transparency would expose these criminal acts against prisoners. Still, the media bill actually made it to the governor’s desk.
  14. The model SHU, built by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition members, has been to demonstrations in Northern California and we are truly grateful to our loyal supporters.
  15. California Families Against Solitary Confinement, CFASC, opened their chapter in Southern California to gather family members and ex-prisoners to support their rallies and projects like transporting families and loved ones by vans and buses to distant prisons, beginning with Pelican Bay. CFASC’s work with legislators in Southern California and in Sacramento has been highly valuable to new lobbyists from other parts of the state.
  16. June 18, 2012, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Rights, chaired by Illinois Democrat Dick Durban, held the first ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement in the United States federal and state prisons.

These are not small accomplishments. We must all be aware of what is before us and continue our struggle by being wise and patient – i.e., disciplined. We have four representatives for each racial group, who are very smart and between them they have over a 110 years of prison experience. We have another 12 alternate representatives to help achieve our objectives.

We said this is a protracted struggle. Therefore, our collective power is essential to changing our oppressive conditions throughout the whole CDCR. Be mindful that our success will depend on our collective resolve and determination to put an end to this system of human torture.

These are not small accomplishments. We must all be aware of what is before us and continue our struggle by being wise and patient – i.e., disciplined.

Amnesty International has recently published a report that 34 prisoners died each year from 2006 to 2010 within the CDCR. Fourteen of these deaths occurred in these torture chambers call SHU units. Whereas men commit suicide, this alone should raise the alarm that something is drastically wrong with this system.

We have the intellect to clearly understand the value of our unified efforts to address the ills of SHU and Ad-Seg, that CDCR must stop its sensory deprivation and intentional indeterminate housing based upon illegal, false allegations by the corrupt IGI personnel. All California prisoners, women and men, are in this protracted struggle, seeking U.S. constitutional rights, as well as California’s guaranteed constitutional rights.

Our collective power is essential to changing our oppressive conditions throughout the whole CDCR. Be mindful that our success will depend on our collective resolve and determination to put an end to this system of human torture.

All prisoners and citizens of California must protest against Gov. Edmund G. Brown and interim Secretary of Corrections Martin Hoshino with emails and letters to their offices forthwith! (Contact Gov. Brown at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php and interim Secretary Hoshino at (916) 323-6001 or Martin.Hoshino@cdcr.ca.gov. Jeffrey Beard, the newly appointed secretary of CDCR, is awaiting Senate confirmation.)

Release all SHU and Ad-Seg prisoners who have been illegally held on non-violent, non-behavior charges over the past five, 10, on up to 20 years!

Send our brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R.N. Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU, D1-117L (Short Corridor), P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.

 

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