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Stop pre-emptive retaliation against hunger strikers!

March 27, 2013

by Annabelle Parker and Denise Mewbourne

California prisoner hunger strike solidarity drawing by Rashid Johnson, Red Onion Prison, Va
California prisoners who led the 2011 hunger strikes that involved 12,000 prisoners at their peak are catching hell in the run-up to July 8, when they intend to begin a new hunger strike if their Five Core Demands, which they were promised in 2011, are still not met. This is the “logo” that Rashid Johnson, a prisoner then in Virginia and now in Oregon, created for the 2011 strikes.
Word just came in from one of the leaders and hunger strikers at Corcoran Prison, J. Heshima Denham, that he, his cellmate Michael Zaharibu Dorrough and others in their Security Housing Unit (SHU) have been subjected to a seven-hour destructive raid against their living quarters, where prison personnel destroyed and ransacked personal property. All materials related to their human rights work were taken.

See below for Heshima’s description of what happened to them and others in their unit March 12, 2013. He believes this is pre-emptive retaliation for their plans to participate in the upcoming hunger strike to begin July 8.

Please take a few minutes and either call the Warden’s Office or send an email to let them know we are watching and ready to back the prisoners up in their struggle. If prison officials are already doing this kind of pre-emptive retaliation three months before the hunger strike even starts, it is extremely important that we act now to try to put some restraints on it.

Call the warden

Please call Connie Gipson, the warden at Corcoran Prison, to demand the items be returned and that she stop any further such raids! Phone calls into the prison letting them know that people on the outside are watching and are aware of what’s going on can make a huge difference. The number to reach the warden is (559) 992-8800.

Suggested phone script: I am calling to protest the actions taken on March 12 in Unit 4B, when a raid took place for seven hours on cells of people who were involved with the peaceful hunger strikes of 2011.

According to CDCR’s own Operations Manual, officers need to leave things as they are found, not destroy property, and give receipts listing in detail the property taken, and this protocol was not followed.

I expect to hear from my correspondents that their possessions have been returned in good condition and that no more raids are taking place.

Email the warden and her supervisor

Send the following message (or summarize in your own words) to Warden Connie Gipson, and send a copy to Deputy Director of Facility Support Kathleen Dickinson, who is over the wardens.

Send your email to Connie.gipson@cdcr.ca.gov; cc kathleen.dickinson@cdcr.ca.gov.

Suggested email message: I am writing to protest the actions taken on March 12 in Unit 4B, when a raid took place for seven hours on cells of people who were involved with the peaceful hunger strikes of 2011. The officers involved destroyed personal property and damaged a toilet in the cell of Shannon Denham, J-38283, and Michael Dorrough, D-83611. Their hot water still had not been turned back on as of March 18.

According to CDCR’s own Department Operations Manual, the officers involved violated CDCR policy in Section 52050.16, which stipulates officers need to avoid damage while searching a cell. Section 54030.10.11 clearly says they must be given receipts listing in detail the personal and state-issued property taken and the disposition of such property, and your officers need to immediately comply with this policy, if they haven’t already.

I expect to hear from my correspondents that their possessions have been returned in good condition and that no more raids are taking place.

J. Heshima Denham after hunger strike 0711, headshot, web
J. Heshima Denham, 2011

Heshima’s call for back-up

Here is what Heshima wrote in a postcard and three letters received by a supporter on March 26:

“We’ve been working for the past two days to put our cell back together after they came in here and just tore it up. It really looked like a bomb went off in our cell. Hopefully you received my postcard that I sent on the 12th, which is the day the raid occurred.

“If not, here’s a quick recap: They pulled us all out of the cells after strip-searching us, then walked us through metal detection wands. They then spent seven hours tossing up our cells. In the case of Zah and me, they threw away all our canteen, my deodorant, all my Bay View newspapers and most anything they could find having to do with our human rights struggle.

“They then walked us all up to Visiting in plastic flex cuffs and walked us through another metal detector. There were boot prints on my bunk where they stood on it to tear down our antenna wire and clothes lines. They tossed out most of our laundry and so much more that it’s really pointless to catalogue it all.

Michael Zaharibu Dorrough 2012, web
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, 2012
“Someone took the extraordinary step of breaking our toilet so it won’t flush. By sheer luck, a brother officer who came on the next shift went into the pipe chases upstairs and downstairs and found what was done and fixed it. Only our toilet was done this way.

“It’s clear that this entire thing was an act of pre-emptive retaliation leading up to the July 8 protests. They cut off our hot water then, and haven’t cut it back on yet.”

In a letter dated March 18, Heshima writes:

“It appears the family crest [which Heshima designed] is gone. It was in an envelope with some of my patterns from previous art pieces and some magazine pages of models from indigenous tribal cultures in Africa and South America. They must have tossed it out along with the rest of the stuff they trashed. We’ll only know the extent to which they’ve disrespected our property as days go by and things that we’re looking for in the cell continue to come up missing.”

In addition to calling and/or emailing the warden, send our brothers some love and light:

  • J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, Corcoran SHU, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212
  • Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, Corcoran SHU, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212

 

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