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Step Down Program: Orwell’s story come true

April 1, 2014

by Daniel Treglia

As many readers know, George Orwell’s book titled “1984” was about a police state that controlled every aspect of life, including thinking, enforced by the “Thought Police.” This book comes to mind when I hear of the new Step Down Program CDCR is implementing.

'Multi-Colored Power' art by Criss Garcia, web
“Multi-Colored Power” by Criss Garcia, J-93559, PBSP SHU C1-112, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532
The fact is, its components, which consist of talking about your views of certain situations and using terms such as “con games,” are not new. To the contrary, California has had and still has programs like this in juvenile facilities as an attempt – which is often successful – to reprogram the youth’s mind to become controlled and subservient to the police state.

With that said, let me take you on a brief journey to my past so that you will see what I saw and learn what I know to be a very unscrupulous state which brainwashes the youth into becoming a flock of sheep.

Born in 1983, I grew up in Colton, located in Southern California. There I roamed the streets on my bike like most kids finding a bond amongst my homeboys. At the age of 11 – it was March 1995 – I’d find myself in Juvenile Hall for the first time, accused of armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

Because I was young, the judge gave me a chance, but I refused to pick weeds and clean up for the state. By nature, I rejected authority behind a badge. Due to this, the judge declared me a ward of the court and found my mother to be unfit. It wasn’t her who supervised me at community service, so it made no sense. But, off to Guadalupe Boys Home in Yucaipa I went.

There they had four phases. Phase One you stayed in your room all day. Phase Two you could go on outings and get one home pass a month with $5 a week. Phase Three was two home passes and $40 a month. Phase Four was a home pass every weekend plus $60 a month.

In order to at last be Phase Two, you had to participate in group, not get kicked out of school nor get into any fights. The group they have is called a Five- and Six-Step Group, which I heard was created by criminal sociologists.

Group took place every single day. What we’d do – and it was 14 of us in a dorm – is get in a circle, while three staff would sit there with their clipboards and write down what people said. So this is how it went.

Everyone would take turns giving what is called a “self-report.” So each person would give their last self-report, which would usually go something like this: “Since my last self-report, I read some books, went to school, learned this, learned that, ate lunch, showered. Now I’m here and today is a good day.”

Right after that, staff would ask, “Is there anyone who would like to confront Daniel?” No one would, so we’d go in circles till the self-reports were done. And then if someone had a write-up for, say, profanity, staff would select three people to give positive and negative feedback.

Now how could I do such? So I’d say, “On the negative side, I think you should’ve not let the teacher hear you, but on the positive side, I see you’re holding your head high.” For the first few months, those kinds of answers were acceptable because the staff working in that cottage didn’t like the group. But they replaced those staff with new ones, and Phase Fours from other cottages started coming to our cottage.

California has had and still has programs like this in juvenile facilities as an attempt – which is often successful – to reprogram the youth’s mind to become controlled and subservient to the police state.

The Phase Fours were already brainwashed. I’d say, “What’s up, Ese,” to someone and a Phase Four would confront me for gang talk. So I fought him and then AWOLed (left without permission).

I got arrested, went to Juvenile Hall, got sent to Helicon II in Riverside. All the counselors were ex-sheriffs. On the first day, they give you an orientation packet describing the program. They also give you carbon forms called “tickets.”

Now the orientation packet clearly said: “In order to receive weekend passes and graduate the program, you must participate in the groups and write tickets on your peers when you observe them doing the following.” It was a list of over 50 things, including sagging, baggy pants, saying Ese, Dog, Cuz, Loc, Blood, Groove, Holmes, Chales. Failure to report these acts was considered program failure. I stayed there four days and AWOLed.

Upon arrest I told the judge why I AWOLed and wanted to be home. At just barely 13, I was released. It wasn’t long before I violated. And I’d go to three other placements, St. Catherine’s in Corona, Memorial Center in Bakersfield and Optimist in LA. They were all the same, and every time, for the same reason, I’d AWOL.

How could I sit in the group and tell on someone or give feedback to something that wasn’t my business? My mom taught me three things when I was a child: Never tell on no one, never coward out or back down from anyone, and never hit a woman. If I ever did such, she said she’d disown me. But she didn’t need to tell me what I naturally knew and felt – it just isn’t right.

Looking back I realize these programs in placements which house thousands of juveniles across California were not to better the lives of the young. Rather they attempted to – and did – teach youth to first hate themselves and their peers and view the staff, puppets of the state, as their elders and mentors and do anything the staff said through coercive persuasion, to train and raise agents and tools of the state.

Placements which house thousands of juveniles across California were not to better the lives of the young. Rather they attempted to – and did – teach youth to first hate themselves and their peers and view the staff, puppets of the state, as their elders and mentors and do anything the staff said through coercive persuasion, to train and raise agents and tools of the state.

A dissenter by nature, at the very young age of 14, I’d find myself in California Youth Authority in Whittier, California. I was housed in Fred C. Nelles. Now Nelles had cottages. It also had an administrative segregation building called Taft. It also had a security management unit (SMU) named Nixon.

Those of us considered dissenters or troublemakers were placed in Taft. In Taft we got one book, two sheets, one blanket. There was no due process, no hearings. You come and leave whenever the guards chose.

Every other Sunday in Taft, a so-called preacher would walk up and down the hallway giving what would sound at first like a sincere view of his belief of God. Then he’d switch modes and start talking about how he was in a gang, in San Quentin, Folsom, and how he changed. He’d then start telling all of us, who were between 14-18 years old, that our friends don’t care about us, that they’re the devil’s work and they will use us. And then he’d say we should follow the staff’s rules.

How did he go from God to hating ourselves, our friends, and being the lambs of the state? I, along with others, would start kicking our doors calling him a vendido, to get out. He wasn’t there to sincerely spread the word of God. Rather, he was attempting to correlate the power of God with the power of the state.

It was, and is, sad. Here we were, angry already because we were locked in solitary confinement, taunted and oppressed as well as abused by guards, and now we had someone cloaked in the name of faith telling us our oppressors were there to help us. It was and always will be what it is: a way to make a person feel so isolated, confused, sensory deprived and lonely that the only person they can turn to is their oppressors. A sick, twisted tactic that those of us in Taft saw right through.

After Taft, we were released back into general population. All of us who were from Southern California to the Bay, who are Brown or Black, were labeled gang members. So we were told we will not be paroled until we get a Gangs Anonymous certificate. Already they were attempting to coerce the youth into submitting to the state.

All of us who were from Southern California to the Bay, who are Brown or Black, were labeled gang members. So we were told we will not be paroled until we get a Gangs Anonymous certificate. Already they were attempting to coerce the youth into submitting to the state.

Let me explain how Gangs Anonymous worked. There was a gangs coordinator, Mr. Newman. He had a pack of model inmates who were a part of the BOOT program (Brothers Out of Trouble). He showered them with gifts so he could parade them around and show everyone, “Hey, if you complete my program, you can have this too!”

I attended only two gang classes. The first one, he showed picture of dead bodies in the streets. He said, “If you stay in gangs, this is how you’ll end up. If you live long enough to make it to prison, this is how you’ll end up.” And he’d show prisoners that were injured. So his first step was fear – not help, but fear. As we all know, what we fear is the unknown and unwanted. Through fear and coercion, the masses can easily be manipulated.

The second visit, he brought a debriefer from Corcoran SHU, a former SHU prisoner, who contributed to the fear by telling lies that youngsters got raped in prison and we’d all be used like he was. Knowing about prison from the stories of my elder friend, I knew this to be untrue. So I told him he was lying and Mr. Newman kicked me out for good.

I was always a dissenter, so I used to write the warden that we didn’t get clean clothes from the laundry, so I was deemed a program failure. I was placed in Nixon to complete the Phase program.

In there, all you had to do was not get in fights and go from Phase 1-5 in six months and you’d be released back to general population. Suffice it to say, I’d spend the last 13 months of my three-year sentence in Nixon and be released in March 2001.

In 2002, at just 18, I was thrown into the prison system. At 24, I was validated and sent here to Pelican Bay SHU. It is likely I will parole here in 2017-18.

My life so far has been spent in these places, these places that are not built to help the youth nor the elders. Rather, these places are built to exploit us, break us and try to control our minds.

It’s clear the Step Down Program is just an old tool being used in a different place. If I wanted to participate in it, I could respond to every question with a reply of logic and rebellion. But I’m not going to participate in it because “anything you say can and WILL be used against you in the court of law.” They will use it to profile me and seek warrants to tap my phones and for surveillance based in part on their profile and my own written words to convince the judge to approve such orders.

My life so far has been spent in these places, these places that are not built to help the youth nor the elders. Rather, these places are built to exploit us, break us and try to control our minds. It’s clear the Step Down Program is just an old tool being used in a different place. I will not participate in it because I don’t need change. The system needs change.

I will not participate in it because I don’t need change. The system needs change. I will not participate in it because it’s not even accredited by professionals. It’s a bona fide science project and we, the prisoners, are “the subjects.” Indeed, CDCR refers to us in their reports as “subjects.”

I’ve seen the nefarious tools of divide and conquer being used on the youth and adults statewide. This is literally genocide. The Brown man can’t possess art of our ancestors. The Blacks cannot possess literature of George Jackson, who’s undeniably a part of Black history. The White men can’t possess art of their Irish roots.

So they’ve rounded us up in the War on Drugs, the War on Gangs, and the War on Poverty and have “concentrated” us in prison. They have created another kind of gas called Three Strikes and life sentences, and the doctors of death have been given the SHUs as their places of experiments, cruelty, suffering and lingering deaths.

This is literally genocide. The Brown man can’t possess art of our ancestors. The Blacks cannot possess literature of George Jackson, who’s undeniably a part of Black history. The White men can’t possess art of their Irish roots. 

This is really happening to all of us as young as 11 and as old as 80. We are fighting for change, but we must move to pass laws and bills to preclude the use of informants as evidence in any administrative, civil or criminal process. We need laws that shut down the SHUs and re-distribute that money to the universities for it’s much better, as 19th century English poet Eliza Cook wrote, to “build schoolrooms for the boy than cells and gibbets (gallows) for the man.”

We must also move to disarm the prison guards, to prevent them from having lethal firearms on prison grounds and in the units. Only then will they come back to reality.

Most importantly, we all must come together and stay together because as each day goes by the world is becoming a state prison. Phones are monitored, people are stopped and frisked, shot to death just for fist fights, strip-searched before getting on an airplane. There’s ethnic classifications on IDs, your property is taken under eminent domain, you’re told driving is a privilege, not a right. Obey the curfew laws, or you’ll be profiled and considered a suspect.

We must also move to disarm the prison guards, to prevent them from having lethal firearms on prison grounds and in the units. Only then will they come back to reality.

The state is becoming a prison. It’s becoming a prison because prisons and their conditions up till recently haven’t really been challenged by the public; thus they are construed by the state as acceptable to the masses.

So if the conditions and science of prisons are considered accepted by the masses, then the state must feel the same is acceptable in the free world. It reminds me of something I read in Johnny Cochran’s book. He said, “When asked when Athens, a democracy, would achieve justice, Demosthenes said, “There will be justice in Athens when those who are not injured are as outraged as those who are.”

I hope the masses will collectively stamp out this tyranny. Upon my release, I will continue to fight in a major way to make change. There’s an Ethiopian proverb that says, “A thousand spiders can hold down a lion.” If the masses in and out of prison become one force, create and utilize tactics that are new, fast, efficient and effective … only then will we make change.

We all must come together and stay together because as each day goes by the world is becoming a state prison.

Change must begin with changing laws and prison conditions – simply put, starting from the inside out. That said, I’ll close with a poem I wrote. It’s called “These Four Walls”:

Far away in the forest is a place

Filled with many men, all a different race

This place is covered by trees and razor wire

A man here and a man there with an assault rifle

No one truly knows and sees what goes on

Because there’s no day, night nor even dawn

Just four walls caging us in

For being poor, Black or Mexican

And despite the seconds of indiscretion that have sealed our fate

Like animals, they feed us scraps on our plate

Through it all, we crawled, walked and now stand tall

Refusing to suffer a concussion when we fall

Progressing in a stagnated monotony

Sealed in a California penitentiary

Solitary confined to solitary our mind

To make us forget what’s in front or behind

Or until someone loses their mind and then falls

On the floor within these four walls.

Send our brother some love and light: Daniel Treglia, T-66950, PBSP-SHU D10-209, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.

 

5 thoughts on “Step Down Program: Orwell’s story come true

  1. John Mulligan

    He's a good writer, I'll give him that. Clever too. Notice how he never denies being a gang member and he only mentions a single juvenile case, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, certainly serious. Yet he ended up in Pelican Bay, how is that? Even with two strikes, you don't get to Pelican Bay if that's all you did and you did it as a juvenile. The truth is he's not in Pelican Bay because he's a dissenter, he's there because he makes life hard for other people. It's not "the State" that he's fighting, it's people. Gang members intimidate and hurt people. Gang members tag up and vandalize public property, property paid for by people. Gang members use up public resources making babies they don't raise, costs absorbed by people. The writer simply can't get that he isn't living free, he's freeloading and screwing over other people in the community, an important distinction. People are sick of it and him too. Society doesn't have to tolerate this kind of crap, it's unacceptable. A shame that someone so apparently gifted can't grasp his own mistakes.

    Reply
    1. subcommandanteuno

      Typical smug self-righteous hypocrisy that is responsible for most of our social problems. You have no idea what this man has been through in his life to get where he is. Nobody starts off life wanting to be "bad," but not everyone has the choices you obviously had. Maybe he should follow the example of our leaders and steal an entire country? The biggest "gangs" are on Wall Street and in Washington D.C.

      Reply
      1. John Mulligan

        I'm with you on hitting the banks. Personally, I think Eric Holder is the worst attorney general of all time for not going after Wall Street. I voted for Obama twice and that's my biggest complaint of his presidency. But here's what's funny: banks hurt the little people by ripping them off, and Mr. Daniel Treglia is exactly the same. Who do these gang bangers rob, kill, rape and beat up? It's not the rich. They victimize the poor and middle class when they rob 7-11s, shoot up housing projects, etc. They victimize you. And here you are making excuses for them, it's absurd. Mr. Treglia writes the article like he's some kind of political prisoner. He isn't. He didn't go to prison for beating up a cop at a political rally or leaking secret files like Snowden. He assaulted and robbed regular people. He's no "dissenter." He's a predator who is paying for his crimes. Don't be a sucker, Mr. Treglia is engaging in classic prison-style manipulation.

        Reply
  2. subcommandanteuno

    Again, you are making a lot of assumptions about a person you know nothing about. Mr. Treglia did not create the system which stole his ancestors land, and then provides no education, healthcare, or living wage jobs. These kids don't victimize me, they victimize each other. The Prison Industrial Complex is just another multi-billion dollar business; it has nothing to do with justice. If it did, half of Congress and most of the Executive branch would be in Pelican Bay. And how can you equate robbing a liquor store with war crimes and theft of the peoples treasury?

    Reply
  3. John Mulligan

    His ancestor's land? Which ancestors? Every continent on earth has been conquered by someone at some point. The Mongols, Huns, Turks, Chinese, Arabs, they've all had their turn. What exactly is the substance of this ancestor argument? That only the last conquest was the only bad one? It's absurd. Who's making assumptions now?

    Anyway, other people come here from around the world with nothing and do fine, what's his problem? This is the country he's in. He gets: public education, section 8 housing if he can't afford it, and Medicaid if he can't afford medical care. He did victimize you and me. He's very expensive. People like him also victimize the public throughout the state, just read the front page of any paper in any county. You think I should only care if he, specifically, victimized me, specifically? He's been in the system since age 11 and now he wants to play the political prisoner/victim. He's neither. He's gaming you. The "prison industrial complex" you speak of was a valid response to ever increasing crime rates. That's why Three Strikes was enacted in 1994 and ever since crime has fallen. That's because people like Mr. Treglia are not victimizing society.

    Reply

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