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Prison Stories

Erika Rocha graphic-1

Suicide crisis in California women’s prison: Advocates demand justice for Erika Rocha and Shaylene Graves

June 28, 2016

Erika Rocha was 35 years old and one day away from her Youth Parole Hearing on April 15, 2016, when she committed suicide at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona. Since her death, the suicide crisis at CIW has only worsened. On June 1, yet another young woman of color died at CIW. Her name is Shaylene Graves and she was 27 years old and six weeks away from returning home to her loving son, family and friends.

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'Censorship in Solitary Confinement is Psychological Torture' 111314 art by Michael D. Russell, web cropped

SF Bay View banned inside Indiana prisons: Do Black Lives Matter behind the walls?

June 27, 2016

In the December 2015 issue of the San Francisco Bay View, I wrote an article entitled “Do Black Lives Matter Behind the Walls” and introduced to the Bay View audience the newly formed New African Liberation Collective (NALC). While this particular issue was allowed into prisons throughout the state, it was seized at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, where I was being housed, based upon the orders of the Internal Affairs Department as a security risk.

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Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois. – Photo: Jim Larrison

Illinois prisoners boycott overpriced phone calls, commissary and vending machines

June 26, 2016

During the month of April, at least 100 of those incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center, about an hour outside of Chicago, Illinois, participated in a boycott of the overpriced phone calls, commissary goods and vending machines. “Mass incarceration is a luxury business,” stated Patrick Pursley, one of the men who joined in the boycott. The boycott comes at a time of growing demonstrations led by those inside U.S. prisons.

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Supporters of the Wisconsin hunger strikers hope they will resume eating to avoid the dangerous and torturous force feeding they’re suffering now, and the supporters vow to keep protesting and pressuring officials after the strike ends.

Wisconsin DOC is force feeding prisoners who are on hunger strike to end solitary confinement

June 24, 2016

Using a practice which has been condemned by the American Medical Association and the Red Cross as a form of torture and “never ethically acceptable,” Wisconsin Department of Corrections personnel have been forcing a feeding tube through the nose and down the throat of their restrained and struggling captives three times a day since last weekend.

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“Close the SHU” – Art: Jose Villarreal. Jose’s art was a significant contribution to the victory of the hunger strikes.

Chican@ Prisoners Day

June 24, 2016

If we look to any uprising in world history we will see that such rebellions, although they may have included various nationalities, are usually attributed to the dominant force in that rebellion. Rebellions take on the oppression, and those who arise lend their voice in the struggle. The dominant force in an event shapes the event and shapes the character of the struggle. The same can be said of prison struggles.

“Control Unit Torture” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

Hunger strike at Wisconsin’s Waupun state prison against conditions of a ‘living hell’

June 22, 2016

An estimated half dozen or more prisoners locked away in solitary confinement at Wisconsin’s maximum security facility in Waupun, announced last week they would begin a hunger strike in opposition to what one inmate has described as a “living hell” in the institution’s “hole.” Waupun is located 55 miles northeast of Madison. It is notoriously known as “the Prison City,” with three state prisons inside the city limits.

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“Dying to Live” hunger strikers’ supporters stop to pose for this picture before delivering their letter to Wisconsin DOC Secretary Jon Litscher in Madison on June 21. The prisoners are willingly starving themselves to end solitary confinement.

Wisconsin prisoner hunger strike enters second week, spreads to multiple facilities – you can help!

June 22, 2016

On June 10, Wisconsin prisoners held in long term solitary confinement at Waupun Correctional Institution started a “food refusal campaign.” They wish to bring the horror of administrative confinement (AC) to the public’s attention and end this torturous practice. Solitary confinement for more than 15 days has been deemed “torture” by the United Nations, but in Wisconsin, the Department of Corrections has held many prisoners in isolation for decades.

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'Inside prisons & out in the streets, support the movement to end solitary confinement' poster

Prison rules must abide by human rights standards

June 22, 2016

International law regarding the right to personal integrity prohibits physical as well as mental torture and that prohibition is absolute: It recognizes no exception based on an emergency or other circumstance. Equally absolute is the prohibition on any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which covers pain or suffering – also of either physical or mental nature – that is less severe than torture and not necessarily inflicted with intent.

Hugo L.A. Pinell, legendary leader of the California Prison Movement who was held in solitary confinement for a record 46 years, then assassinated in prison on Aug. 12, 2015, was affectionately known as Yogi Bear and often called Yogi or Yog. This is his likeness as a young man. – Art: Kiilu Nyasha

Yog been through hell and was not burnt

June 22, 2016

The SHU, the wars, the times and obviously the love and hate he experienced made Yog who he was. When I met him in 2001, I of course had read about him and heard the stories, but I was definitely not prepared to meet anyone like that.
One of the letters in the Bay View said Yog taught him how to “time travel”; that sounds about right. Yog was a hot mess in that regard; his mind was not always grounded but that also was one of his strengths. He had his own world in there.

This is the prison that the women locked up inside it call “Miserable Murray.”

I am fighting for women in Texas prisons

May 31, 2016

I am a walking, living proof of a life that has been pulverized, destroyed and abandoned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I have been housed in Ad-Seg going on four years now, held in captivity of prolonged solitary confinement, deprived of adequate sleep, nourishment, clean ventilation, peace and privileges. Living in the misery of Ad-Seg causes much psychological damage. Justice needs to be served.

Anthony Robinson Jr. in 2015

Parole threatened for organizing and writing for Bay View

May 30, 2016

The majority of employees at La Palma Correctional Center who work on Compound 3 fit the description of a Security Threat Group due to their unlawful conduct, but who investigates them or makes them answerable? Certainly not themselves. Yet I am being targeted for my work; a work that was created to build a constructive Humanity; while these prison officials are rewarded for work that assaults the very fabric that makes us human and seeks to destroy lives.

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Fight Toxic Prisons Convergence poster

Incarceration, justice and the planet

May 29, 2016

Prisons inspire little in terms of natural wonder. But prisoners, one could assume, must have little concern for the flowers or for otherwise pressing environmental issues. With all the social quandaries present in their lives – walls of solitude, the loss of basic human rights – pollution, climate change and healthy ecosystems must seem so distantly important: an issue for the free. In actuality, prisoners are on the frontlines of the environmental movement.

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Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM) logo – Art: J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, KVSP B2-117U, P.O. Box 5102, Delano CA 93216

Prisoner Human Rights Movement Blue Print

May 28, 2016

CDCr has systemic and dysfunctional problems that run rampant statewide within California’s prisons for both women and men which demand this California government to take immediate action and institute measures to effect genuine tangible changes throughout CDCr on all levels. The Prisoner Human Rights Movement Blue Print is essentially designed to deal with identifying and resolving primary contradictions by focusing on the various problems of CDCr’s dysfunction.

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Natalie DeMola (right) with a friend

You can stand

May 27, 2016

It is better to be hated for who you were created to be than to be loved for who others want you to be. Not everyone will agree with you and you may be hated for the purpose you were created to be, but if you were to live to please others, you will end up hating your own life because you compromised yourself. Embrace who you are, and embrace opposition as opportunity to be strengthened.

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

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

May 26, 2016

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.

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Jose Villarreal 2005

Coordinated offensive on STG kickouts

May 25, 2016

Having been one of the many who have been let out of the control units (SHU), I can say that there is some victory in this development, but there is much work to be done outside the SHU and still a ways to go before victory is complete. This accomplishment of opening the gates of SHU for many simply means we face new forms of oppression; it changes in form but not in essence.

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This is Abdul Olugbala Shakur’s tattoo. When CDCr or the courts ask him what it means, he says, “Don’t eat pork.”

George Jackson University – a statement from its founder

May 25, 2016

Within the California Department of Corrections (CDCr), the name George Jackson evokes both fear and hate among prison guards. His very name represents resistance – the epitome of our Black manhood – and this explains in part why the CDCr has spent the last 44 years attempting to censor the name George L. Jackson from within its prisons.

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Artist Javier Torres writes: “The art piece that I put together expresses the effects of long term solitary confinement. The man in the drawing is made of stone – not that long term solitary confinement turns you into stone, but it’s something that it does to you internally and mentally. I’ve been in solitary confinement for only a short time and I can say that it’s not a good place. These torture chambers need to be shut down.” He calls this artwork “Solitaire.” – Art: Javier Torres

Terrible Tier II: We are fighting for our lives

May 24, 2016

I’m writing this on behalf of myself and the Goodfellas, which the Georgia Department of Corrections has validated as a security threat group. We are being held indefinitely in the very restrictive and oppressive Tier II: Behavior Modification Program, which is identical to the severe conditions of the SHU in California and any supermax long term program across the nation. We are being held based on affiliation alone or have been falsely validated because of association.

The time has come to totally abolish slavery in the U.S., where, especially in the South, prisoners are still forced to work for free.

Amend 13!

May 22, 2016

This is a public notice to all freedom fighters, activists and community leaders: SLAVERY IS NOT DEAD! Did the 13th Amendment abolish slavery? Ask anyone in the United States this question and they will answer most emphatically: Yes, of course it did. If you, the person reading this article and call to action, believe this as well, please allow me to inform you: You are wrong! Slavery is not dead! Rather than abolish slavery, the 13th Amendment LEGALIZED it!

Alabama prisons are the most overcrowded in the country. This is Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama. – Photo: Brynn Anderson, AP

Prison labor strike in Alabama: ‘We will no longer contribute to our own oppression’

May 13, 2016

Despite being held in solitary confinement for years, men known as Kinetik, Dhati and Brother M, primary leaders of the Free Alabama Movement, have been instrumental in organizing a statewide prison work stoppage in Alabama that began on Sunday, May 1. Alabama prisoners who have been on strike over unpaid labor and prison conditions are accusing officials of retaliating against their protest by starving them.

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