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Behind Enemy Lines

Activists mobilize against California’s proposed $500 million jail expansion

May 15, 2014

After the revised proposed state budget was released yesterday, activists from around the state are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to remove the $500 million outlined for jail expansion. With $15 billion in cuts to social safety net programs, prison reform groups like Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) are questioning why the state is increasing spending on prisons and jails instead of social programs and public education.

Review Board suggests Pelican Bay prisoner stop political writing for favorable placement

May 13, 2014

I was validated on the mere basis of my New Afrikan revolutionary beliefs and political activities, expediently defined and treated as “gang activity.” I was literally told that my political writings were in the hands of others and would I consider not writing such because of their “concerns.” Naturally I refused to conform to their illegal requests, but a clear message was delivered to me: CDCR prefers that prisoners not evolve politically but to remain gang oriented inmates.

The Fifth Circuit stays tonight’s scheduled execution of Robert Campbell

May 13, 2014

Today the Fifth Circuit has ruled that Texas may not proceed with the scheduled execution of Robert Campbell, a man whose lifelong mental retardation was not proven until new evidence, long hidden by prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, very recently came to light. According to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.

SB 892 and AB 1652: Pelican Bay prisoner representatives speak to the California Assembly and Senate

May 9, 2014

We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the Senate – SB 892 and AB 1652 – dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652 would far better serve the public safety, prison security and the humane treatment of prisoners.

Antonio Guillen: May Day message to the working class people of the world from Pelican Bay SHU

May 8, 2014

I am one of the hunger strike representatives from Pelican Bay State Prison. I along with my family are also part of the working class people of America. As a young boy, I’d watch my parents in their daily struggles. Even now, while I’m in prison, my wife and children are part of the daily grind that is the work force!

New proposed censorship rules mean more torture for California prisoners in solitary confinement

May 7, 2014

Our torture would be magnified under these new proposed rules that Stainer and his cronies are introducing by attempting to silence prisoners and publishers whose voices have been prominent in waging struggle against our perpetual suffering. CDCr wants to stifle our truths and disconnect us from society at large. Prisoners would no longer be able to write to the media outlets that allow us to speak to our suffering.

Shining a light on the historic moment: Reflections on prison isolation and the struggle for change

May 6, 2014

On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners of the California prison system – and hundreds more across the United States – refused meals to take a stand about the conditions of prisoners in the various forms of solitary isolation – approximately 14,000 human beings in California alone. It was the third hunger strike in California in two years. Dozens of prisoners deprived themselves of solid food for 60 days. One prisoner died.

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Prisoners and advocacy groups oppose Sen. Loni Hancock’s prison reform bill, SB 892

May 4, 2014

California prisoners, who suspended their 2013 hunger strike, the largest such strike in history, after two legislative leaders promised bills addressing the strikers’ demands, are now opposing one of those bills. Sen. Loni Hancock’s Senate Bill 892 would give prison regulations on “gang validation” and the new step-down program the force of law. And it would leave California with the largest population of prisoners in solitary confinement of any country in the world or state in the United States at enormous cost to the taxpayers.

Warren Jordan refuses to ‘step down’ after 41 years in solitary

May 4, 2014

No functional changes have transpired in this prison. If anything, it has become worse. I will not support nor participate in any sort of so-called Step Down Program for any reason. After 41 straight years in the “hole” – i.e., SHU – I have nothing to step down from. Either release me to any mainline with no strings attached or the heck with it. I’ll merely die in the hole.

Dante Overby, web cropped

O-beast-ity

May 3, 2014

Seeing news reports on America being the fattest country in the world, and the First Lady’s program to fight childhood obesity, leads me to wonder why there is no governmental urgency to address the other obesity-like epidemic affecting America, the one stemming from mass incarceration. America represents only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet our penal system has locked up 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. That’s a HEAVY burden on taxpayers!

Marissa Alexander’s two older children visit her in prison.

Standing our ground: reproductive justice for Marissa Alexander

May 2, 2014

Marissa Alexander did not get a chance to see her youngest daughter take her first step, to hear her say her first word or blow out the candles on her first birthday cake. These and many more memories that mothers are excited to photograph or catch on film weren’t possible for Alexander because she was living behind bars – all because she fired a warning shot in the air, harming no one, to ward off Rico Gray.

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Pelican Bay update: What change?

May 1, 2014

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. 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.

Marie Levin NLG Testimonial Dinner 040514 by Carlos Villarreal

Lawyers Guild honors prison hunger strikers

April 30, 2014

On the evening of April 5, hundreds gathered in downtown Oakland for the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter’s (NLGSF) annual fundraising dinner. This year, the NLGSF honored California prison hunger strikers and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS) coalition of family members, activists and friends who supported the strikers. The assembled crowd was able to hear directly from those inside California prisons.

Send us your drawings of degrading places

April 28, 2014

Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) will be holding an exhibition at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design this October-November on the design of execution chambers and spaces of solitary confinement. It will have an online presence and may travel to other venues as we develop the project, so stayed tuned.
But first, to succeed, we need drawings!

I am the US economy – from prison to the streets

April 26, 2014

This is for the moms and pops in East Oakland or any other urban neighborhood in honor of the African union of Marcus Books, from a prisoner political action committee to being a member of the formerly incarcerated people’s policy academy or the freedom plan of United KAGE Brothers (UKB), from the urban freedom schools focused on real life Block Reportin’ of “Unfinished Business.” This is for my brothers of the NCTT Cor SHU and all supporters of our hunger strike coalition.

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Arturo Castellanos 050509 by CDCR, cropped

Arturo Castellanos’ update on Pelican Bay’s response to hunger strike demands – positive and negative

April 25, 2014

Two letters from Arturo Castellanos, one of the four main SHU reps at Pelican Bay State Prison: March 3, 2014 – I’m writing this brief article about the positive outcomes during our meetings with Sacramento and PBSP officials since the end of our last hunger strike. March 23, 2014 – I write this to update you on the positive cooperation we received from this new administration and on the Departmental Review Board hearings.

Menard hunger striker supporters Southern Illinois University students, community drumming, shouting protest outside prison 021314 by Luke Nozicka, Daily Egyptian

Retaliation against hunger strikers at Menard – windows blocked, strikers beaten – Call-In Day Monday

April 25, 2014

On this upcoming Monday, April 28, we are asking and encouraging people to participate in a Call-In Day in support of the prisoners in the High Security Unit at Menard Correctional Center in Illinois who are facing retaliation for engaging in a hunger strike in January. Prisoners there have been beaten by guards and metal boxes have been placed over their windows.

'I am a man' 'Close Tamms' Melvin Haywood, 8 yrs Tamms solitary, 30 yrs prison by Lora Lode, Tamms Year Ten, 2012

Voice from Menard: Chicago’s racist war against Blacks and Latinos continues in Illinois prisons

April 23, 2014

Although the hunger strike has officially come to an end here – the struggle continues. The drastic and suppressive hand of Illinois prison-crats has had the unintended effect of heightening the consciousness of a new generation of captured colonials into the history of the prison rights movement and “teaching” them about the true nature of the beast.

Seal of California Senate

Coalition opposes all proposals to expand California jails and prisons

April 22, 2014

This week members of Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), advocates and activists representing diverse communities are attending the Senate Public Safety and Assembly Budget Committee hearings in Sacramento to speak out against billions in funding for new prison and jail expansion. The Assembly Budget Committee hearing will begin on Wednesday, April 23, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 437 of the Capitol in Sacramento.

Joint hearing on solitary group photo of most supporters & Capitol 021114 by Lucas Guilkey

We are relying on the legislature to rein in CDCR’s gross abuse of power, this year

April 22, 2014

There can be no doubt that the legislators’ courageous act of publically acknowledging our protest issues in late August 2013 saved many lives, and it gave many people real hope that substantive changes will be forthcoming. And now that there has been additional public exposure – via the two public hearings – demonstrating CDCR’s refusal to institute real, meaningful changes, on its own, people are relying on the legislature to do all in their power to pass legislation reining in CDCR’s gross abuse of power, this year.

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