by Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike and GWS/LA
Following the historic hunger and work strike by over 30,000 incarcerated people in California prisons, California legislators committed to hold a series of hearings to investigate and work to end the conditions of solitary confinement.
On Feb. 11 in Sacramento, the Public Safety Committees of the California legislature will hold their second hearing on conditions in these isolation units. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is refusing to allow prisoners themselves, the most important witnesses, to testify. Prisoners have testified at legislative hearings before. Contact CDCR officials and urge them to allow the voices of the prisoners to be heard.
The hearing is titled, “CDCR’S Proposed New Policies on Inmate Segregation: The Promise and Imperative of Real Reform” and will be co-chaired by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
“Last year’s hunger strike again brought home the message that we need to do something about the SHU,” Assemblymember Ammiano said. “Moves by Corrections show that they recognize the pressures for change. We want to look at whether those new regulations represent true progress.”
“Moves by Corrections show that they recognize the pressures for change. We want to look at whether those new regulations represent true progress.” - Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
“At this hearing, we intend to closely examine the new segregation policies prison authorities have proposed,” Sen. Hancock said. “There is no question that these policies must be reformed. Isolating large numbers of inmates in the SHU for long periods of time is an expensive and deeply troubling practice that undermines effective rehabilitation and long-term public safety.
“The purpose of this hearing is to further advance our understanding of these issues so that we clearly understand the department’s proposals and how they compare to other prison systems across the country. We are working towards meaningful change, and at the end of the day we want to get it right.”
“The purpose of this hearing is to further advance our understanding of these issues so that we clearly understand the department’s proposals and how they compare to other prison systems across the country.” - Sen. Loni Hancock
Earlier hearings examined conditions of isolation in SHUs and examined issues of how prisoners are assigned to the SHU. The committees have also sought to find out whether SHU practices have any beneficial effects on prison or public safety. International organizations and individuals such as Amnesty International and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture have criticized placing prisoners in isolation for indefinite terms as a result of non-judicial proceedings.
Those expected to testify Tuesday include Chief Deputy Administrator for Adult Institutions George Giurbino, Chief Deputy Administrator for Special Projects Suzan Hubbard, Yale Law School Associate Research Scholar in Law Hope R. Metcalf, Professor Craig Haney of UC Santa Cruz; civil rights attorney Ann Weills and prisoner rights attorney Charles Carbone.
Officials from CDCR will speak on the Department’s “Security Threat Group Policy.” The academic panel will address the broader context of segregation and isolation as prison management tools. Attorneys will speak from their perspective representing prisoners. Family members of prisoners will speak during public testimony.
The hearing will convene at 9:30 a.m. in Room 4202 on the fourth floor of the State Capitol annex.
Pack the hearing and help prisoners’ families attend
California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC) worked tirelessly to organize solidarity protests during the strike. It’s mainly women – mothers, partners, daughters, sisters, grandmothers – who do most of the justice work for their loved ones in prison. Family members were visible and vocal during the hunger strikes – the last one was the third hunger strike – and remain a vital voice and support for their loved ones inside. As many family members as possible must have the resources to attend the hearing.
The Global Women’s Strike and Women of Color/GWS are asking you to help ensure the presence and participation of family members of prisoners in the hearings by donating towards their transport and lodging. To help family members get to Sacramento, please donate to CFASC. Go to www.abolishsolitary.com, and scroll down to the DONATE button at the lower left.
All are invited to go to Sacramento for the Feb. 11 hearing. See the flyer for more information.
Also, see the three action proposals below that the hunger strikers have asked us all to work on.
Please do all you can to support the prisoners who put their lives on the line and fought for us all during last summer’s Prisoner Hunger Strike, and let the legislature know that Californians do not support the use of solitary confinement!
Proposals for action from members of the Short Corridor Collective based on meetings held Nov. 12-13, 2013
- Develop a campaign to promote the Agreement to End Hostilities. We want to promote the agreement both in the prisons and in our communities. We want to emphasize that ending hostilities among ourselves will allow us to unite against our common enemies. We should enlist our celebrity supporters to join this all and should link it to the anti-bullying campaign that is taking place across the country.
- We would like to see a powerful media campaign to expose CDCR’s retaliation against the hunger strikers. We are all facing disciplinary charges for being part of the hunger strike. Even worse, we are being written up for promoting the Agreement to End Hostilities! CDCR is accusing us of “coercing” other prisoners by urging them to be peaceful. We need to expose CDCR’s outrageous actions. They would prefer to see prisoners fighting among ourselves rather than working for an end to hostilities.
- We want to consider the idea of designating a certain date each month as Prisoners Rights Day. On that date each month prisoners across the state would engage in peaceful activities to call attention to prison conditions. At the same time our supporters would gather in locations throughout California to expose CDCR’s actions and rally support for efforts to secure our rights. We can see this action growing from month to month as more people inside and out become aware of it and join our struggle.
The Short Corridor Collective is a group of prisoners in the Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU), where they are held in solitary confinement, many for decades, who called the three mass California hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013.