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Pelican Bay prisoner representatives meet with top Corrections staff

October 20, 2013

by Arturo Castellanos

Oct. 2, 2013 – This is a short update from the four principle SHU reps here at Pelican Bay State Prison to inform you that Mr. Michael Stainer [director of the Division of Adult Institutions], kept his word and arrived here on Sept. 25 and 26 with Mr. Ralph Diaz [warden at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison (SATF) at Corcoran] and Mr. George Giurbino [retired director of the Division of Adult Institutions]. We went through all 40 supplemental demands as well as some aspects of the step-down program, where we also gave them written suggestions on loading up each step with real meaningful incentives.

Hunger strike supporters CDCR HQ Sacto 072511 by Indymedia
Supporters of the first in the latest series of California prisoner hunger strikes marched on July 25, 2011, to a rally outside CDCR headquarters in Sacramento. – Photo: Indybay
Although they were adamant on not rescinding or reducing any RVRs [Rules Violation Reports] for participating in the hunger strikes, they were forthcoming in other areas. For example, there will be additional allowed personal property items in SHU. The memos on those and other supplemental demands will be out soon and placed in the new CDCR DOM [Department Operations Manual] Article 43 as soon as possible.

Those memos should be more specific so prison staff and prisoners will know what kind and size of the items is or is not allowed so the same problems from the June 5 memos won’t re-occur. On other issues, it will take time for them to investigate and confirm or not on what we argued regarding those, and on still others, like not rescinding the RVRs, they clearly stated “no,” which we prefer to a vague answer that only will string us along. But over all, the meetings were positive and productive.

With all the above and the promises of future meetings in person or by phone conference with Mr. Stainer or his staff regarding any updates on the above and step-down program and the first Senate-Assembly hearings this month in Los Angeles, as we explained to Mr. Stainer, as long as we continue to see forward progress, we do not foresee that the other 16 reps and prisons will want to resume the hunger strike anytime in the near future.

They also granted and reinstated our monthly meetings with this administration and the new warden, Mr. Ron Barnes, to deal with any new or pending issues at the institutional level. These meetings are vital to deal with any new issues and prevent future problems or having to file a lot of unnecessary 602 appeals. We are not MAC [Men’s Advisory Council] members, and if the same has not been put in place in your SHU prison – including women – then you need to sweat your warden about it asap.

They also granted and reinstated our monthly meetings with this administration and the new warden, Mr. Ron Barnes, to deal with any new or pending issues at the institutional level. These meetings are vital.

Finally, if any of you on PBSP GP [General Population] or any prison have gone through the potty watch be sure you contact the Prison Law Office but address your letters Attn: Sara Norman [Prison Law Office, 1917 Fifth St., Berkeley CA 94710]. She’s an attorney there. She came up asking for names and information on this but we only see some of you laying on cold concrete as we walk by those nasty-ass holding cells. So it’s very important that you get at her asap to stop this torture.

We stopped them from using the tubes. Now we need to stop the further torture of having nowhere to sit or lay down other than cold nasty concrete and taking craps out there in the open. This is wrong! And it needs to be stopped now!

Prison Law Office is asking for names and information on potty watch, but we only see some of you laying on cold concrete as we walk by those nasty-ass holding cells. So it’s very important that you get at them with your information on actually going through it  so they can stop this torture.

On this issue, Mr. Stainer explained that x-rays are no longer an option and potty watch is not supposed to be torture. We explained that even those who are not found to be carrying anything and are innocent, because x-rays are no longer an option, are forced to go through this humiliating and torturous experience for two to three days or longer, until after they have three bowel movements. Before, they could just prove they’re innocent by an x-ray.

They have agreed to investigate our allegations, but your information on actually going through it is more important, so Ms. Norman and her office can actually file something on it to stop it!

That’s it for now. Expect more future updates from me and the other reps as time goes by. Always in solidarity.

D Facility Visiting Room

Oct. 16, 2013 – This is to notify Warden Barnes and the budget associate warden for SHU of another issue that will be brought up and discussed at the next monthly meeting between the SHU reps and PBSP administration.

CDCR Sacramento officials provided the funds to reopen D Facility SHU visiting room to provide “extended visits” (see Supplemental Demand No. 4). However, PBSP officials just opened half and are only using that half for “overflow visiting” and the other half continues to be used for law library access during weekdays. This is not acceptable.

That visiting room half has to be used for extended visits and overflow, and the only way – as we reps have repeatedly advised this administration and Sacramento – that our family members will all receive extended visits is if this administration changes the schedule from three time slots to two time slots, with D Facility in the first slot and C Facility in the second slot, where all visits are a solid three hours long during the weekends and holidays. This could even work using C Facility and just half of D Facility visiting rooms.

The second option is that all of D Facility visiting room be opened, not just half, where all C Facility prisoners go to the C Facility visiting room and all D Facility prisoners go to the D Facility visiting room – i.e., the short corridor during the first slot and the long corridor during the second slot – thus giving everyone a solid three hour long visit and providing plenty of room for any overflow problems.

Exaggerated administration responses

First and more importantly, the D Facility visiting room was built to solely be used for D Facility visiting – regular and legal visiting – not to be converted into a law library or recreational book library. Now, so far, this administration has reopened just one half of our D Facility visiting room.

But in doing so, they also punished us by claiming they had to remove all the recreational reading books and take them to the B Facility general population library. So now we have NO recreational library at this time where SHU prisoners can order reading books (see also our Supplemental Demand No. 8).

When the administration reopened half of our D Facility visiting room, they also punished us by claiming they had to remove all the recreational reading books.

Second, the administration has not put any effort into resolving this, other than give excuses why they don’t wish to change anything – like, if they reopen all of D Facility visiting room they won’t have anywhere to put the law library. These excuses are old ones. In fact, in the past, we gave the administration a suggestion to solve this problem:

Since the law library mainly consists of multiple computers containing all the legal books on discs, they have enough computers to place one in each of the 22 SHU units’ dry cells in front of each unit control officer and run law library all day in each unit using just that unit’s officers to escort prisoners to and from those dry cells and back to their unit section.

A new suggestion, since the administration has not responded to the suggestion above, is that there is plenty of room in the SHU to move both the law library and the recreational library. For example, both C and D Facilities presently have a lot of space available between the back of each main corridor control booth and the visiting rooms. Right now it’s even being used as a partial storage area.

There is plenty of room in the SHU to move both the law library and the recreational library out of the D Facility visiting room, which was built to solely be used for D Facility visiting.

These available spaces can easily be utilized as both law library and recreational library where six-10 modified cages with the computers can be constructed and installed in those spaces to be used for law library access. Shelves can also be constructed or moved from the present library and placed in those spaces for law books, legal forms, copy machines and even for recreational books.

In fact, these spaces are so big that even with all those mentioned cages, shelves etc., there will still be plenty of room for staff desks and a walkway in between to provide access to the visiting area from SHU. So all the present excuses for not re-opening all of D Facility visiting rooms are unfounded and it appears that on this issue, the old CDCR game of delay and excuse is being played here.

In closing, the above problem of our family members barely receiving a 90-minute visit, if they’re lucky, has greatly affected those relations over the two decades plus since this prison was opened, especially those who must travel very great distances.

The problem of our family members barely receiving a 90-minute visit, if they’re lucky, has greatly affected family relations over the two decades plus since this prison was opened, especially those who must travel very great distances.

So, our advice to this administration is to find somewhere to permanently move the law library and recreational library and re-open all of D Facility visiting room and change the present three visiting slots to two visiting slots as soon as possible, because on this issue, there is no in-between and we as SHU reps promise you that this will continue to be one of our main issues until it’s permanently fixed.

Arturo Castellanos is one of the four main SHU reps writing on behalf of all 20 reps and all SHU prisoners and their family members.

Send our brother some love and light: Arturo Castellanos, C-12275, PBSP SHU D1-121, Crescent City, CA 95532.

 

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