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Corrections Dept. agents bang on activist’s door at 8 a.m. over a postcard she wrote to a prisoner

October 27, 2014

by Kendra Castaneda Perez

This morning, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I woke up to sounds of hard banging at my door. I thought it was the person to fix my broken heater, but once I looked outside my peephole I saw what I thought were two sheriff’s officers. My heart pounded thinking something terrible had happened to my child if two officers are standing outside my door with full blown police gear on.

I opened the door and was anticipating horrible news that no mother would want to hear. But I quickly learned these two officers, one Mexican woman one African American man, were not sheriff’s deputies and they were not the local police.

This is the calling card left by one of the Special Service Unit special agents sent by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to interrogate the family member of a prisoner over a postcard she wrote to another prisoner in her role as a human rights advocate. The Fresno area code indicates the special agents may have traveled all the way from the Fresno area to Orange County in an effort to harass and intimidate her.

This is the calling card left by one of the Special Service Unit special agents sent by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to interrogate the family member of a prisoner over a postcard she wrote to another prisoner in her role as a human rights advocate. The Fresno area code indicates the special agents may have traveled all the way from the Fresno area to Orange County in an effort to harass and intimidate her.

They were two agents of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Special Service Unit (CDCr SSU) wearing long police jackets, badges hanging around their necks that looked just like sheriff’s badges and black bulletproof vests on the outside of their uniforms with “POLICE” in huge letters across the middle. They asked me if I was who I was and I said to them, “Who are you and tell me why you are here?”

Special Agent Gregory Hopkins pulled out his ID and showed it to me, but I had him take it out of his wallet because I could not believe that CDCr officers were actually standing at my door. They said they were at my door due to a postcard I had recently mailed to inmate Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) whom I have been corresponding with since 2011 both since he arrived at CCI Tehachapi SHU and, before that, when he was at Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor.

I would not answer anything until they explained to me why they were at my door. I asked, “Am I under arrest?” They said, “No, we just want to ask a few questions.” They tried to get into my house and they threatened me, saying, “We can do this here or we can take you to the local police department.” I informed them that they can stand right where they were and that they do not have a warrant to come into my home and I have not done anything wrong.

So the two SSU officers stood outside of my door and showed me a postcard I had mailed Sitawa – my mail has not been restricted to or from anyone in prison. I was quite surprised they were at my door for a postcard.

They told me that they were “concerned” about the “meaning” of how I had “worded” things and they were concerned that it was “criminal” activity. I could not help from breaking out in laughter in front of them. I informed them that I just got mail from Sitawa last week and I get correspondence from numerous inmates from all different prisons, including from other inmates at CCI Tehachapi, in the course of my human rights advocacy.

These two SSU agents let me look at the postcard for a moment. It was a postcard I had written due to the Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) withholding inmates’ mail, including any mail to and from Sitawa and other inmates. They barely let me glance at the postcard, since the woman agent did not really want me to see it.

They told me that they were “concerned” about the “meaning” of how I had “worded” things and they were concerned that it was “criminal” activity.

The male agent showed it to me, though I was half asleep, just waking up. On the postcard, I had commented to Sitawa, “I am the queen, and my man spoils me.” I wrote about two sentences saying something like “those IGI better not purposely tamper with my mail to you or anyone else; if they do, they’ll be playing with fire.”

I also wrote to Sitawa that my favorite county is Kern County, since I was born in Bakersfield and Kern County is where my family is from. I was responding to a letter Sitawa had written me just a week prior.

Those SSU agents wanted to know the meaning of my postcard. I informed them, laughing, that I meant exactly what I wrote. It’s true that IGIs tamper with mail all the time. And I explained that what I meant by playing with fire was that I would expose their human rights violations publicly and get attorneys involved. I informed them that I have the freedom of speech to tell someone that Kern County is my favorite because I was born there.

I have done nothing wrong and I will continue to use my voice to advocate for prisoners’ human rights to help those tortured and voiceless to get the help they need for better, more humane conditions.

I was shocked at what happened next. I informed the two SSU agents that I have been advocating for prisoners’ human rights for the last three or four years publicly to get better conditions for the men being tortured inside solitary confinement at CDCr. I said I have written many inmates of all different races and have sometimes been pushy – demanding justice for prisoners being badly abused – because that’s just who I am.

The SSU agents said they were concerned now due to “who I am with,” since my man is validated with CDCr, and they said to my face that they believed I was going to harm someone. I laughed and said, “Harm someone?!”

They said yes, we are concerned you are going to go “kill someone” because of your involvement with your husband. I was blown away and said, “If you are accusing me and my man of doing criminal activity, then I think I need a lawyer.”

They responded: “No, I didn’t say that. We are not accusing you all. We just want to know what is the meaning behind your writing in the postcard.”

I told them there is no criminal meaning at all – only my human rights advocacy. I was simply responding to a letter from Sitawa the week prior and insisting that the IGIs not tamper with Sitawa’s mail. I informed the agents that I had just bought a radio for Sitawa’s cellie because of the inhumane conditions the inmates in CCI are experiencing and, since Sitawa is a good friend of ours, I wanted to make sure he is not stuck in isolation without anything to do.

I informed the SSU agents that I am a well-known prisoner human rights activist and by them showing up at my house, they are proving that retaliation and harassment by CDCr officers for advocating for inmates’ human rights is real. Note that California Department of Corrections agents are NOT police officers, but they came to my door wearing full blown police gear, impersonating real police officers and threatening me as if they were about to arrest me for a postcard I legally mailed through the United States Postal Service.

They kept wanting to speak about my husband and imply he was doing criminal activity, and I told them that was not true. I politely said: “So since I am a law abiding citizen, I have a clear record, my man spoils me with love because I have respect for human rights and have helped many people of all races for years, I am a writer for the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper and now I am in love with a man labeled the Mexican Mafia, then I am going to be labeled a “criminal” merely because I wrote a postcard that had no criminal wording and no threats?”

I informed the SSU agents that I am a well-known prisoner human rights activist and by them showing up at my house, they are proving that retaliation and harassment by CDCr officers for advocating for inmates’ human rights is real.

I informed the SSU agents that I do not know about any criminal activity and I do know that my man has not been involved in any criminal activity or else he would not have been on general population for almost a year in Step 5 of the Step Down Program. Keep in mind that I was in my pajamas while all this was going on.

They were surprised that I admitted to writing that postcard. I said yes, I wrote that, and I know it was a bit pushy, but look what the IGIs do to the inmates. They threaten them, harass them, beat them, withhold medical care from them.

And now I am being accused and harassed not by the police or sheriff but by the CDCr Special Service Unit at my door at 8 a.m. over a postcard I mailed to Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), who is a good friend of mine, and for supporting Sitawa’s human rights or just speaking to Sitawa.

Before they left, I asked to see the postcard again, but they refused to let me see it. Well, if I wrote it and if they came all the way to my house acting like they were the SWAT team having authority over all law enforcement accusing me of planning serious criminal activity, then I think I should be able to see the postcard again.

The male special agent, Gregory Hopkins, left me his card “just in case you need to talk.” I informed him that he can tell CDCr that CCI Tehachapi SHU is going to be exposed real soon in the media and CDCr is going to be exposed legally for what they do illegally – showing up at people’s houses accusing prisoners’ family members of being in a “gang” just for a writing a postcard and accusing family members of serious criminal activity just because we are in love with a person in prison falsely labeled a Security Threat Group (STG) member or associate.

This is how we are treated now. This is what happens to family members, regular citizens who advocate for the human rights of those in prison. Our rights are violated!

I have done nothing wrong and I will continue to use my voice to advocate for prisoners’ human rights to help those tortured and voiceless to get the help they need for better, more humane conditions.

We stand by Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry) in unity and with all those men of the like mind and heart at CCI Tehachapi SHU and ASU to hopefully get better conditions and shut down solitary confinement once and for all!

Kendra Castaneda Perez is a prisoner human rights activist and writer. Her significant other is Raymond “Chavo” Perez, K-12922, who is one of the 12-man Representatives Body responsible for the historic Agreement to End Hostilities. He survived 18 years in the Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor until January 2014, when he was transferred to General Population in California State Prison (CSP) Sacramento (New Folsom) on Step 5 of the Step Down Program. Kendra can be reached at kendrachavoperez@gmail.com.

23 thoughts on “Corrections Dept. agents bang on activist’s door at 8 a.m. over a postcard she wrote to a prisoner

    1. really?

      you know something,… when you make a mistake or your kid makes a mistake.. or better yet, when the COURTS make a mistake and it is you or your kid paying for it.. then tell us all about how you feel about people who stand up for prisoners.. until then ,.. you are just another taxpaying, sheeple, noob, with a blind opinion that is common ignorant drivel, along for the ride….

      Reply
  1. asdff

    I think you would do a ALOT better worrying about human rights of people who HAVE NOT violated other peoples’ humans rights, which is WHY they are in prison. Just saying, you pity devils and animals that really DO NOT deserve human rights as they have offended others and THAT should be part of their “punishment.” Not that living FREE, having no payments, having a bed, 3 meals a day, recreation time, free books, movies, etc isn’t so great a punishment for prisoners

    Check yourself

    Reply
    1. blah

      I’m glad people like you are too stupid to work in judicial government. Not even going to bother explaining why you’re stupid.

      Reply
    2. Karlene

      I don’t know what prison you’re referring to about “A bed, 3 meals, no payments, free books movies. ” maybe you should “check yourself” my husband does have “payments” does NOT get free books, nor does he have a “bed!! Unless a “bed” to you is a concrete slab with a 1 inch half ass filled stuffed sheet. And as far as 3 meals? Are you SURE about THAT? Or are you just going by what the CDC tells society? I USED to be one of those people, “oh they’re getting what they deserve it’s their “punishment”. But then I became knowledgable with first hand experience. And the way some of the CDC employees treat us family members is humiliating. I could go on and on but everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it’s wrong. And by the way, there REALLY ARE INNOCENT PEOPLE IN PRISON.

      Reply
  2. Bob saget

    Yeah I think I’ll have to agree here with the other comments. I’m completely against inhumane treatment of prisoners, inflicting emotional or physical pain on them, however why the hell aren’t you fighting for the rights of say, battered women? Disabled veterans? Starving African children?
    These people are in prison because they did something wrong, and a lot of them continue criminal activity inside of prison and then when they get out they engage in more criminal activity. This is your life’s work? You have a proximity to the subject it seems because of your casual correspondence with prisoners, which is all good! No problems there at all, they’re still people and deserve human contact for sure.
    But…. Really? Come on.

    Reply
    1. really?

      you know something,… when you make a mistake or your kid makes a mistake.. or better yet, when the COURTS make a mistake and it is you or your kid paying for it.. then tell us all about how you feel about people who stand up for prisoners.. until then ,.. you are just another taxpaying, sheeple, noob, with a blind opinion that is common ignorant drivel, along for the ride….

      Reply
  3. Adriana R.

    I know the woman who wrote this article. She attends my church and a great person. She helps the homeless here in our community OC and she helps women who are domestic violence survivors. I do not think it is right for her to be treated like that. She advocates for a lot of people and obviously those incarcerated.

    Reply
  4. A. R. B.

    This may very well be why my husband is not getting his mail. Due to tattoos and his race it is assumed that he belongs to the white supremacy gang; when in-fact his children are mixed race. Mail is something that keeps them in touch with their lives outside of prison. To withhold basic communication that is already monitored is unjust. Additionally not every inmate has violated someone’s human rights. Not all crimes are crimes against a person or property.

    Reply
  5. Emily

    My Husband doesn’t have a victim or a property crime. He had an empty baggie in his pocket that he was throwing away. It was brought out in the first trial and he had a hung jury. The re-filed and it didn’t get brought out in the 2nd trial. No only have they wasted 20 yrs. of his life but 20 years of tax payers money at $120,000 a year. He never had a gang label until get got to the SHU for a fight in 1996. Once there they NEVER let you go. Until now that people have fought and starved themselves to be allowed to be reviewed based on behavior and now they are letting them out. It is mistreatment of already punished inmates no one is saying let them go home. They are saying stop abusing the punished with no voice or protection. You think the CDCR goes by the laws you are privilege to out in society? I have news for you they are judge and jury and very cruel and inhuman. Animals have more laws and rights then our incarcerated citizens do in the prison system especially the SHU in Pelican Bay. Until you live it or educate yourself put the cotton in your ears in your mouth. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Annie

    Thank you I totally agree with the minority here, you never know somebodys story…. THERE ARE INNOCENT PEOPLE incarcerated rite now, and that isnt often BUT ITS TRUE!!! Reguardless of innocence or guilt, MANY OF YOUR TAX DOLLARS SUPPORT THE LIVES OF RAPIST AND CHILD MOLESTERS and in my opinion, there is no correcting them… yet this so called “justice system” will focus fully on drug addicts or “gang members”, and in my experiance with gangs im well aware of the “initiation process” and it does not involve a corrections officer or a GI stating you are a member, nor a judge! So if everybody took a step back to realize that the system is failing us and stop verbally battering this person who chose to become an advocate!!! LET IT SPEAK FOR ITSELF- “DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS” So if things are screwed up and people are becoming unmanagable in prisons, the fault lies where now? There is no justice in locking a person up and treating them in unmetionable ways than trying to use their past, in which its said they will be “corrected” from, to justify the treatment! Drug addicts can be “corrected” as well as career criminals, but a child molester or a rapest will 99.9% of the time ALWAYS strike again, yet CA DEPT OF CORRECTIONS RELEASES THOSE PEOPLE TO THE STREETS WHILE THEY TORTURE OTHERS…. JUSTICE SYSTEM? So to those with negitive remarks, rethink your comments because we all care about somebody and when that person endures any of those I mentioned, your outlook can change!

    Reply
  7. Kyndell Geyer

    I totally with the minority here and I think that it is wrong what the agents did to the women who was just trying to stay in touch with a friend. I believe that something should really be done about this and the government needs to rethink the way they are running there law enforcement programs. The lady did nothing wrong and should have been put in this situation and deserves to go on with her life.

    Reply
  8. Liv

    Those agents should be spending more productive time investigating their own IGI of abuse on prisoners or their criminal activity they do in prison. Instead of harass civilians at their homes for writing to a prisoner and exposing the inhuman treatment they do on these prisoners who need to be rehabilitated before they walk free back into society. Because this woman is in love with a prisoner whom is validated does not make her a criminal nor does it make her a gang member. Does that mean all families, friends, pen pals, advocates, pastors, churches, newspapers, organizations, law firms, lawyers or anyone trying to keep in touch with a prisoner is going to be next to harassed and interrogated at our residence by these CDCR SSU agents? Why did these SSU agents go harass her and not her family in Kern whom is law enforcement and real police officers?? Leave her alone and spend more productive time with our tax payers money.

    Reply
  9. chino

    Why are my comments being removed. What about my 1st amendment rights, KENDRA stop removing my comments, and take your haldol and cogentin…..lol

    Reply
  10. flores

    The reason they are harassing her is because she is the founder of CALIFORNIA FAMILIES AGAINST SOLITARY CONFINEMENT. You go girl.

    Reply
    1. Pechenga

      Your wrong….that’s not Raymond Chavo Perez ol lady, I would not call her old either, CRAZY but not old. Besides she is married to Robbie Riva look at all the posts.

      Reply
      1. raider

        pechenga you stupid. she went to his family reunion other things that his family. that is raymond perez new wife she aint with that fool robbie no more. you sound like a dumb pig. help those who aint got no voice stop hating. stop battering his lady or go to raymond yourself and batter him It the same thing you are doing to her. look at what these pigs did. If a pig did that to my girl it dont fly.word spreads quick

        Reply

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