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Open letter to Sen. Loni Hancock from prisoners in solitary confinement in Corcoran State Prison

May 23, 2014

by Michael R. Dorrough, J. Heshima Denham, Kambui Robinson and Jabari Scott

Dear Sen. Hancock,

We write out of concern for the manner in which certain aspects of the step-down program (SDP) are being implemented by the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation).

Specifically, our concern has to do with the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy, which are two components of the SDP.

Because these components have to do with changing and restructuring the thought processes – psychological reprogramming – of people, they involve mental health issues and require the involvement of mental health professionals in their implementation and oversight.

Because these components have to do with changing and restructuring the thought processes – psychological reprogramming – of people, they involve mental health issues and require the involvement of mental health professionals in their implementation and oversight.

These aspects of the SDP require that an evaluation of each prisoner be made and a treatment plan be developed based on that evaluation.

No such evaluations have occurred, and no such treatment plans have been developed.

No such evaluations have occurred, and no such treatment plans have been developed.

The person who is entrusted with the responsibility for the implementation and oversight of the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior program is a facilitator. He has no legal certification to carry out the role of a mental health professional. Because cognitive behavior therapy is a mental health issue, a psychologist or psychiatrist should be conducting the required evaluations and developing any treatment plan for those prisoners who warrant such treatment.

On July 13, 2013, in the first week of the largest hunger strike in world history, hundreds of supporters rallied in the withering heat at Corcoran State Prison. Photos of prisoners, essays they’ve written and symbols of the injustice they endure – such as CDCR’s use of George Jacksons’ books to “validate,” i.e., condemn hundreds of Black prisoners to solitary confinement – were hung on a fence. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

On July 13, 2013, in the first week of the largest hunger strike in world history, hundreds of supporters rallied in the withering heat at Corcoran State Prison. Photos of prisoners, essays they’ve written and symbols of the injustice they endure – such as CDCR’s use of George Jacksons’ books to “validate,” i.e., condemn hundreds of Black prisoners to solitary confinement – were hung on a fence. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Under this circumstance, any information that is shared is privileged information, protected by confidentiality. Yet there are no mental health professionals involved in these aspects.

Pursuant to §700.2, Step-down program components, the CDCR has developed a treatment plan, the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy, which is a one size fits all approach to psychotherapy. This is the best proof that CDCR custody staff are neither legally nor professionally qualified or certified to carry out the role of psychiatric professionals.

Any information provided under this circumstance is not protected by doctor-patient confidentiality and can be used in any manner the CDCR deems fit.

This is illegal. To compound the illegality, we are being compelled to submit to psychotherapeutic reprogramming by CDCR custody staff.

We are writing in the hope that the legislators will affirmatively act to prohibit the CDCR from continuing to violate the law.

This practice, gone unchecked, will only result in further legitimate criticism from human rights activists, and the continued diminishment of the states human rights record in the eyes of the world.

At minimum, we believe that participation in the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy program should be voluntary and not mandatory and that it should be done under the auspices of certified mental health professionals.

At minimum, we believe that participation in the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy program should be voluntary and not mandatory and that it should be done under the auspices of certified mental health professionals.

In closing, we would like to thank you for your understanding and for the courage and leadership that you have demonstrated on this matter.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Michael R. Dorrough, D-83611

J. Heshima Denham, J-38283

Kambui Robinson, C-82830

Jabari Scott, H-30536

The writers can all be reached at P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212. This letter was written May 6.

 

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