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Calipatria riots need to cease and unity needs to spread

June 28, 2014

by Kendra Castaneda

“Power of Unity” – Graphic: Soundthings

“Power of Unity” – Graphic: Soundthings

Over the last few months, there has been an excessive amount of fighting between different races at Calipatria State Prison within the general population Level IV yards A, B and C.

On Tuesday, March 11, a riot at Calipatria’s B yard kicked off between Mexicans from Southern California, labeled Southerners by CDCr, and Blacks. According to the Imperial Valley Press, this riot involved a few hundred prisoners, and six had to be taken to the hospital.

More recently, on May 27, the Los Angeles Times reported another riot at Calipatria, this time in A yard between Southerners and Blacks that involved almost 300 prisoners fighting for about 10 minutes, resulting in 13 men injured.

The fighting and riots between racial groups at Calipatria State Prison need to CEASE immediately and unity needs to spread.

The fighting and riots between racial groups at Calipatria State Prison need to CEASE immediately and unity needs to spread.

For the last few years, while I have been advocating for prisoner human rights, I have been corresponding with hundreds of prisoners of all different races. I have met some incredible individuals, people who have different beliefs and backgrounds, but we all come together as one in unity and solidarity to demand justice.

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (R. Dewberry), one of the four main representatives who led the hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013, and Mutope Duguma (J. Crawford) are New African political prisoners who have been trapped inside the SHU for decades at Pelican Bay State Prison being tortured by the system that is supposed to rehabilitate, while they courageously serve as a voice for humanity within those walls. I respect these men.

Michael Dorrough and Heshima Denham are New African prisoners who have been trapped and tortured inside Corcoran State Prison SHU for decades and refuse to participate in the sham CDCr Step Down Program (SDP) because it is not rehabilitation but more torture from the system, even as they continue to be threatened and retaliated against by CDCr. I respect these men.

Valentin Vivero, a Mexican prisoner labeled a Northerner and housed in the Pelican Bay Short Corridor, went through three hunger strikes to get his voice heard about the inhumane and torturous conditions these human beings endure. “Validated” as a prison gang member, he went up for his six-year review last June and was denied release to general population because of hearsay from a prisoner who had debriefed. So he will remain for six more years in the SHU, where he’s been for 16 years already with no serious write-ups. A juvenile at the time of his original crime, he has a meaningful opportunity at parole very soon under a special offender hearing. He should be given a second chance at life or at least a chance to rehabilitate in general population. I respect him.

Punaofo Tilei, a Samoan prisoner racially labeled as “other” by CDCr, is a jailhouse lawyer at California State Prison-Los Angeles Lancaster in general population. Wheelchair-bound due to a botched surgery by a CDCr doctor many years ago, he fought long and hard in pro per against CDCr and the doctor. After many denials, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered on March 21, 2014, that his suit can go forward and granted him legal representation. I respect him.

Just as I have come to respect these prisoners and many more, they have come to respect each other at prisons throughout California. In August of 2012, prisoner representatives in the Short Corridor at Pelican Bay released this historic Agreement to End Hostilities between racial groups in California prisons and jails. It deserves to be read again and again:

Agreement to End Hostilities

To whom it may concern and all California Prisoners:

Greetings from the entire PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives. We are hereby presenting this mutual agreement on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor. Wherein, we have arrived at a mutual agreement concerning the following points:

  1. If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals who have never broken by CDCR’s torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups.
  2. Therefore, beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, Ad-Seg, General Population and County Jails will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end. And if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!
  3. We also want to warn those in the general population that IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) will continue to plant undercover Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) debriefer “inmates” amongst the solid GP prisoners with orders from IGI to be informers, snitches, rats and obstructionists, in order to attempt to disrupt and undermine our collective groups’ mutual understanding on issues intended for our mutual causes. People need to be aware and vigilant to such tactics and refuse to allow such IGI inmate snitches to create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups. We can no longer play into IGI, ISU, (Investigative Service Unit), OCS (Office of Correctional Safety) and SSU’s (Service Security Unit’s) old manipulative divide and conquer tactics!

In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us (i.e., prisoners) and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!

In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us (i.e., prisoners) and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!

Because the reality is that collectively, we are an empowered, mighty force that can positively change this entire corrupt system into a system that actually benefits prisoners and thereby the public as a whole, and we simply cannot allow CDCR and CCPOA, the prison guards’ union, IGI, ISU, OCS and SSU to continue to get away with their constant form of progressive oppression and warehousing of tens of thousands of prisoners, including the 14,000-plus prisoners held in solitary confinement torture chambers – SHU and Ad-Seg Units – for decades!

We send our love and respect to all those of like mind and heart. Onward in struggle and solidarity!

Presented by the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective: Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) and Antonio Guillen; and the Representatives Body: Danny Troxell, George Franco, Ronnie Yandell, Paul Redd, James Baridi Williamson, Alfred Sandoval, Louis Powell, Alex Yrigollen, Gabriel Huerta, Frank Clement, Raymond “Chavo” Perez and James Mario Perez

The Agreement to End Hostilities must be observed at Calipatria State Prison

Since the Agreement to End Hostilities came out two years ago, riots continue to occur at Calipatria. A probable cause is that many of the youngsters recently sentenced off the streets of Southern California have been assigned to Calipatria and they are not aware of the Agreement to End Hostilities. Therefore, the Agreement needs to be re-read and implemented there immediately. When a youngster comes into prison, I would expect those who know the issues to quickly educate the youngster on how things have changed, so individual issues do not escalate into racial group issues.

Calipatria State Prison – Photo: Kendra Castaneda

Calipatria State Prison – Photo: Kendra Castaneda

Also, all of you of different races, creeds and backgrounds at Calipatria A, B and C yards are better than the labels CDCr has placed on you. If you have the ability to rehabilitate yourselves, then do it! If there is an adult education course, GED course or college course available to you on those yards, then take that opportunity to enroll and educate your minds. If there is a program that becomes available, such as Anger Management, then enroll, because it will help you while you serve your time.

If you can respect yourself, then you can respect others and their family members. Between visits, your loved ones and families look forward to being able to hold, kiss and hug each other. Respect one another and families of all races.

Quickly learn how to settle your individual issues and differences without making them into racial group conflicts. As the old saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

On Oct. 10, 2012, the day the Agreement to End Hostilities went into effect, the Youth Justice Coalition and other groups organized a large and lively rally outside the Los Angeles County Jail to urge everyone, inside and out, to come together for mutual benefit. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez

On Oct. 10, 2012, the day the Agreement to End Hostilities went into effect, the Youth Justice Coalition and other groups organized a large and lively rally outside the Los Angeles County Jail to urge everyone, inside and out, to come together for mutual benefit. – Photo: Virginia Gutierrez

Thousands of men, women and youth at different California prisons have been through three hunger strikes to try and stop the torture they endure in segregation units under CDCr. You all are on general population, a place where those of different races who’ve been in isolation are trying really hard to return to, but CDCr continues to falsely label them a “threat” and keep torturing them in the SHUs and ASUs.

Stop giving CDCr an excuse to label you an STG (Security Threat Group), the new term for “gang”! The validation process and the new SDP (Step Down Program) need to be abolished because they are not rehabilitation. Even more importantly, the SHUs, ASUs and Ad-Segs – all the long-term segregation units – need to be ABOLISHED entirely!

A lot of people have been trapped inside the SHUs for decades upon decades and have endured unspeakable torture. As a few of them are released, other prisoners are being selected to take their place. Don’t be one of them!

Men at Calipatria on general population yards A, B and C can show the same courage as the hunger strikers, who are honored around the world, by pledging to respect the Agreement to End Hostilities and stop all fighting and riots between racial groups. The Agreement must continue to hold within all California prisons and unity needs to spread across the state. Only then can justice be won.

Men at Calipatria on general population yards A, B and C can show the same courage as the hunger strikers, who are honored around the world, by pledging to respect the Agreement to End Hostilities and stop all fighting and riots between racial groups. The Agreement must continue to hold within all California prisons and unity needs to spread across the state. Only then can justice be won.

Kendra Castaneda is a prisoner human rights activist and writer whose significant other is Raymond “Chavo” Perez, one of the 12 representatives who wrote the historic Agreement to End Hostilities. She can be reached at kendracastaneda99@gmail.com.

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