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Pelican Bay update: What change?

May 1, 2014

by Mutope Duguma

Our Five Core Demands of the hunger strikes have not been met. And we see that reform always equals revisionism, which means it’s no change.

Reform is a word that provides one, or a people, temporary fixes. It does not change their circumstances, but instead gives an impression that they have achieved change. Reformism is an age old practice that has been used on oppressed people throughout the world for centuries. As our oppressor, CDCr is employing the very same tactics now because they have not been able to bring about the change they have promised.

'Cruel and unusual' dollar Pelican Bay SHU drawing by PBSP prisoner, web

This drawing came from a prisoner in the Pelican Bay SHU. If it is your work, please tell us.

The food has literally gotten worse, although for a month they attempted to adequately feed us. The medical care continues to be inadequate. The educational programs and privileges are not afforded, and prisoners are still made to suffer in these inhumane conditions, now familiar to us for years on end. The Departmental Review Board (DRB) under no circumstances can meet the demands to remove all those prisoners who they illegally placed in solitary within a respectable amount of time.

Neither the CDCr secretary nor the undersecretary can credit themselves with making changes, just because one man who was held in solitary for 40-plus years was recently released from the Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PBSP SHU). They are trying to act as if they are moving in the right direction, while there are countless others suffering in the same reality, solitary confinement.

This in itself is an insidious and malicious criminal act, which each and every prison official who had a hand in this or allowed these crimes against humanity to occur for so long, should be held accountable for to the highest degree of the law.

It is disheartening to hear or read politicians reference that prisoners be subjected to three years in solitary for a mere validation alone, criminalizing a status based on gang title. It is this tolerance that sanctions CDCr’s torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners and condones solitary confinement in all its capacity. Would you want to be placed in solitary based on a gang validation, which you have no control over, even though you deny the gang accusations?

The lawmakers have to be brave and set the tone for how the law is to be interpreted and applied by all means. Paraphrasing what Undersecretary Hoshino said: The regulatory process is subordinate to the legislative process.

So, if Sen. Loni Hancock is serious and committed to changing the inhumane treatment and deliberate torture that subjects record numbers of prisoners to solitary confinement indefinitely, then she has to reject the STG (Security Threat Group) I and II, along with the Pilot SDP, step down program, because it further sanctions each and every prisoner being held in solitary to more and more years in isolation.

When she introduced her bill to the Senate, termed “Major Reform of Solitary Confinement in California Prisons,” she said the legislation is designed to achieve four goals:

No. 1. Increase insight and accountability: Reading this, we feel that we have done a very poor job of educating her and the legislative body as to our pain and suffering, because under no circumstances can the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) or the Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) be established as the independent oversight entity because that has been their job since their inception, and they have failed to adequately provide proper oversight. The result has been prisoners being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment for well over 40 years.

To regard the OIG and the OIA as being in a position to do an objective and sufficient job in overseeing the CDCr, is like having the lion watch over the lamb! We need real change when it comes to an independent oversight that has no ties to CDCr.

No. 2. Integrity and fair treatment in detention decisions: We see this as something that will always be subjective, because we see individuals go before the Departmental Review Board with the exact same infractions and time spent in solitary confinement, yet one gets put up for Step 1 and the other gets put up at Step 5. This is a subjective judgment because both had political literature; both had 30-plus years in solitary, no disciplinary problems and definitely no gang activity. Yet the DRB assessed both men differently in their case by case review. Why?

The fact that the DRB feels they corrected an unjust, inhumane act in which a man suffered immeasurably for 43 years is unacceptable. The only just action is to release this man back to his community.

No. 3. Humane conditions in the SHU (Security Housing Units or solitary confinement): I cannot see how the legislators can make solitary confinement humane! It is an impossible task and apparently Loni Hancock did not get what the families were saying, because if she rightfully heard the public, the families’ cries and prisoners horror stories, in her sense of humanity and empathizing with family members, under no circumstances would she be talking about making this inhumane environment more humane. It’s ludicrous and impossible.

No. 4. Positive incentives for inmates to change their lives: What about the countless positive prisoners, like myself, whose life was changed way before we were placed in solitary confinement? I am all for change, but yard is required by law; phone calls, visits and photographs should never be classified as “privileges” because these are all family oriented activities.

I see positive incentives for prisoners by way of adequate educational programs that allow prisoners to be reconnected to 21st century Amerika, college degrees, trades and vocational skills etc., where we learn a profession, making sure each prisoner can efficiently read and write and understand the political and economic landscape of this country. Programming prisoners should live in healthy social conditions that are beneficial to them, instead of conditions that foster the socially dysfunctional behavior cultivated through social engineering toward our demise.

The Five Core Demands will allow these incentives to be met. I would add that I commend Loni Hancock for being brave enough to openly say what we have been suffering for all these years by being subjected to inhumane conditions.

Our Five Core Demands of the hunger strikes have not been met. And we see that reform always equals revisionism, which means it’s no change.

But we see no change, and I realize that this bill was only submitted in mid-March and has a long way to go, through a long, drawn out process, while prisoners continue to suffer now. There isn’t the sense of urgency that was present at the Feb. 11, 2014, Public Safety Committee hearing. CDCr Undersecretary Hoshino reiterated several times in his testimony that they “need time.” This means that they have no intention of changing these conditions for the long haul.

The state of California, the governor and legislators need to find another economic incentive for CDCr and the CCPOA prison guards union, because this is where the problem lies. Under no circumstances can they end these solitary confinement torture chambers as long as CDCr and the CCPOA are able to make millions of dollars off of placing prisoners into solitary confinement.

Undersecretary Hoshino refers to 97 percent of the prisoners who have gone before the DRB being released or on their way to being released – and that’s out of 700 people reviewed thus far. But what he failed to mention is that for every prisoner released, two more are put in their place, thus creating a revolving door simply on the basis of a gang validation, NOT on BEHAVIOR.

Again, 80 percent of the prison population are validated as gang members or associates, whether they are or not. This is a fact. The real problem is that the state has found a way of giving millions of taxpayer dollars to CDCr officials without requiring bad behavior by us prisoners as a pretext to do it, yet we are made to suffer under torturous conditions.

The state of California, the governor and legislators need to find another economic incentive for CDCr and the CCPOA prison guards union, because this is where the problem lies. Under no circumstances can they end these solitary confinement torture chambers as long as CDCr and the CCPOA are able to make millions of dollars off of placing prisoners into solitary confinement.

The only way to end long term solitary confinement is to stop paying for it. This dirty little secret is far too lucrative for CDCr and the CCPOA to let go of it. My value back here in the Pelican Bay Short Corridor, as an individual, is $70,000 annually. Multiply that by 14,000 California prisoners in solitary, including Ad Seg; the total is nearly $1 billion! For profit we suffer! End long term solitary NOW!

One love, one struggle!

Mutope Duguma

Send our brother some love and light: Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), D-05996, PBSP SHU D2-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. This letter was written in April 2014.

 

2 thoughts on “Pelican Bay update: What change?

  1. Lieber

    Last couple of hours I am searching political contents but i am not successful, Suddenly I saw your blog. I am really like it.

    Reply

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