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PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation asks for letters about the ‘security/welfare checks’

May 26, 2016
Sleep deprived prisoners’ supporters protested outside the headquarters of the California Department of Corrections in Sacramento on Nov. 30, 2015. – Photo: Liberated Lens

Sleep deprived prisoners’ supporters protested outside the headquarters of the California Department of Corrections in Sacramento on Nov. 30, 2015. – Photo: Liberated Lens

Guards have been jarringly waking prisoners every 30 minutes on death row at the Central California Women’s Facility since May 2014, and in the Pelican Bay SHU since Aug. 2, 2015, for so-called “security/welfare checks.” This is serious, ongoing sleep deprivation which is torture.

These checks may also be harming people in other prisons; PB SHU and CCWF death row is where we have heard the most complaints. These “security/welfare checks” are purported to be “suicide prevention,” yet are being used as a blanket practice, whether prisoners are suicidal or not, and despite the fact that denial of sleep is devastating for the human mind and body.

Since late August 2015, there has been a grassroots campaign, legal action by prisoners and the Ashker legal team and an official complaint submitted to the United Nations with the aim of halting the checks. CDCr has ignored prisoners’ individual and group complaints and has done nothing about the mental and physical problems resulting from or exacerbated by the sleep deprivation.

These “security/welfare checks” are purported to be “suicide prevention,” yet are being used as a blanket practice, whether prisoners are suicidal or not, and despite the fact that denial of sleep is devastating for the human mind and body.

In the federal lawsuit, Coleman v. Brown, regarding CDCr’s inadequate mental health treatment for seriously mentally ill California prisoners, Lindsay Hayes is the “suicide expert” and Matthew Lopes is the special master, charged with overseeing prison reform and compliance concerning care of seriously mentally ill inmates. We believe Hayes and Lopes could stop the “security/welfare checks,” but they have ignored that the checks are causing sleep deprivation torture.

If you are suffering from the “security/welfare checks,” please write Lindsay Hayes explaining how the checks are affecting you and what you think true mental health and suicide prevention would entail. Either send a copy of your letter to all three of the below addresses or, if it is easier, send one letter to the PHSS Committee and we will forward it to “suicide expert” Hayes and Special Master Lopes.

If you are suffering from the “security/welfare checks,” please write Lindsay Hayes explaining how the checks are affecting you and what you think true mental health and suicide prevention would entail.

We understand that if you are sleep deprived, it is difficult to focus and write.

Organizations and individuals not in prison, please write Lindsay Hayes. Urge him to stop the checks. Share with him the voices of the people suffering from them. Find quotes from prisoners suffering the checks at http://tinyurl.com/zc3qbn6. The American Public Health Association’s letter opposing the checks is at http://wp.me/P1BB1k-27L. Read articles, expert reports and more at https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com under the “Sleep Deprivation” tab.

If you are able, please send your letter to all three of the following addresses.

  • Lindsay M. Hayes, 40 Lantern Lane, Mansfield, MA 02048
  • Matthew A. Lopes Jr., Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC, 317 Iron Horse Way, Suite 301, Providence, RI 02908
  • PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation, P.O. Box 5692, Eureka, CA 95502

We will work to end the sleep deprivation torture until the “security/welfare checks” stop. For more info, contact us at 510-426-5322, phssreachingout@gmail.com, or our mailing address above.

Below is a survey that would be helpful to document the harm. Our priority right now, however, is the letters to Hayes and Lopes.

Security/Welfare Checks Sleep Survey                                                      

Who we are: The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) originated in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011 to amplify the voices of California prisoners on hunger strike striving to achieve their five core human rights demands. It is made up of family members and loved ones, formerly incarcerated people, grassroots organizations, lawyers and individuals. The coalition continues to work in solidarity with California prisoners and their families to end the torture that is solitary confinement.

Why we are conducting this survey: Beginning as early as 2013, many prisoners throughout the California prison system – housed in SHU’s, AdSeg and on death row – have reported guards doing “security/welfare checks” every 30 minutes, 48 times a day. We’ve been told that the start dates of these checks have varied at different prisons. Some prisoners say the checks are extremely noisy and disruptive, result in denial of sleep, and cause harmful side effects. We wish to document what is occurring in the various solitary units throughout CA prisons with regard to “security/welfare checks.”

  1. Name of prison ____________ Since when? _______
  2. When did the “security/welfare checks” begin?
  3. How frequently do they occur? ___ /hour, ____ /day
  4. Is there a difference between the frequency at night and during the day? YES / NO
  5. If so, how many times an hour? day___ /hour; night ___ /hour
  6. Is this the first time they’ve occurred? YES / NO
  7. Please describe the sounds/noises. For example, what are the sounds? Loud? Do they echo?
  8. Please describe the behavior of guards when conducting the “security/welfare checks.” For example, are they quiet, noisy, take a long time to pass through the cells, rap their keys against the bars, jangle their keys, say anything?
  9. How do the checks affect your ability to sleep, such as amount of time you sleep, how deeply you sleep, how many times you wake up, how long you are awake?
  10. Before the checks began, how well did you sleep and how much sleep did you get?
  11. How do the checks affect your ability to function and perform mental and physical tasks?
  12. How have the checks affected your mood, feelings and attitudes?
  13. Has anything helped, such as the provision of ear plugs, being moved to a lower tier, or guard training resulting in quieter checks?
  14. Have you filed complaint(s) regarding the “security/welfare checks?” YES / NO
  15. Date complaint(s) filed? ______ Still pending? YES / NO
  16. Outcome(s)?
  17. Have you consulted with anyone about the checks such as an attorney or medical staff? YES / NO
  18. Outcome?
  19. Do you think the checks could be done differently to be less disruptive to your sleep? YES / NO
  20. If yes, what would you want to change?
  21. Do you know if the checks have impacted other people in the area near you? YES / NO
  22. If yes, please explain:
  23. Any additional comment(s)?

We won’t identify you in our report, but we may reference anonymously some of your answers.

Do we have your permission to share your identifying info with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture as part of a human rights complaint? YES / NO Your Name, Date, Prison, CDCr#

PHSS thanks you very much for helping us by completing this survey. Please send answers to: PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation, P.O. Box 5692, Eureka CA 95502.

For more info about us, call 510-426-5322 or visit https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/.

Resources

Short quotes from Pelican Bay SHU and Central California Women’s Facility death row about “welfare checks”: https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/prisonerquotes3.pdf or http://tinyurl.com/htkaadw

Quotes, dated letter excerpts from prisoners about “security/welfare checks”: https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/letterexcerpts_re30minute-checks1.pdf

Sleep expert reports about 30 minute “welfare checks”: http://wp.me/p1BB1k-2jv

If you have family or friends in a California prison, we encourage you to print this story and send it to them.

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