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Prison Stories

Robert C. Fuentes, Nov. 23, 1958-Sept. 19, 2014

Robert C. Fuentes, ‘poet, jailhouse lawyer and humanitarian in the hunger strikes,’ dies of CDCr medical neglect

October 1, 2014

Robert Fuentes was an award-winning poet and essayist. PEN America awarded him the Dawson Prize in fiction in the 2010 Prison Writing Contest for a piece titled “Lessons,” which begins: “Well, I originally contemplated about trying to sugarcoat what I had to say; but in the end, I arrived to the conclusion that it was best to not mince words and to just say things as they are … prison life is fucked up.”

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This friendly looking pair began “welcoming” visitors to Deuel Vocational Institution, a California state prison in Tracy, last October. Molly is DVI’s first drug sniffing dog, and correctional officer Robert Willcox is her handler.

Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law blasts proposed prison visitor strip search policy as unconstitutional

September 30, 2014

The Department has not demonstrated that its current efforts at prevention and detention of contraband would be seriously hampered if the use of canines (sniffer dogs), scanners and strip searches were not to be implemented. It has not even demonstrated that there is an immediate need or extraordinary circumstance warranting these extreme measures.

Corcoran SHU prisoners start hunger strike for decent healthcare; support needed now

September 28, 2014

On Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, three men locked inside unit 4B-1L of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) of California State Prison-Corcoran started a hunger strike: Heshima Denham (J-38283), followed on Sept. 27 by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough (D-83611), and Kambui Robinson (C-82830) will join them the following day for a few days or as long as he can considering his poor health.

Former delivery boy, now poet, helps Bay View spread love and hope

September 28, 2014

As I sit in Glen Dyer Facility (North Alameda County) fighting federal weapons charges, I find comfort and inspiration from the pages of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. As a kid raised in Hunters Point, I can remember passing out bundles of these same newspapers. I can remember the stern look Mr. Willie Ratcliff would give my friends and me before telling us to make sure we deliver all of our papers.

Amy Buckley in Mississippi prison: I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve

September 26, 2014

Despite being prisoners of the state of Mississippi, we have the right to receive prompt medical treatment, clean clothes to wear, a clean and safe living environment and access to our families. The Mississippi Department of Corrections may not care about my health, but my health is important to me and my family. When I came into this system I was healthy and I plan to leave healthy! I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve.

Gov. Jerry Brown signs SB 1135, Prison Anti-Sterilization Bill

September 26, 2014

On Sept. 25, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1135, the prison anti-sterilization bill authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and bi-partisan co-authors and sponsored by legal and human rights organization Justice Now. The bill proceeded to the governor’s desk after passing with unanimous floor votes out of both the Senate and Assembly, with support from organizations like ACLU Northern California and Black Women for Wellness.

Unresolved hunger strike issues: Five Core Demands, 40 Supplemental Demands and CDCR’s STG-SDP

September 25, 2014

This memorandum is directed to the above CDCR administrators for the express purpose of respectfully reminding you about unresolved and continuing problematic issues relevant to our 2011-2014 Five Core and 40 Supplemental Demands and CDCR’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program (STG-SDP). I am requesting your attention and responsive dialogue addressing these issues.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tries to fast track draconian prison visiting policies, proposing use of canines and controversial ION scanners

September 23, 2014

Claiming the need for emergency passage of new visiting policies, the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) is proposing the use of canines and ION scanners that would subject visitors to prisons to humiliating and traumatizing strip searches. The move has brought swift condemnation from prisoner advocacy organizations and groups that work with prisoners, including the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

On Aug. 12, Mark-Anthony Johnson and Lynwood social worker Kristina Ronnquist pause at the entrance of the United Nations in Geneva, where they submitted the Dignity and Power Now report, “Impact of Disproportionate Incarceration and Abuse of Black People with Mental Health Conditions in World’s Largest Jail System“ for review of U.S. compliance with the International Convention to Eliminate all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Exposing a national crisis in Black mental health behind bars

September 10, 2014

When Dr. Samuel Cartwright coined the term “drapetomania” in 1864, he advanced a historical agenda to secure Black subjugation in America. The logic underlying the continuation and funding of the mass incarceration of the disproportionately Black mentally ill and Dr. Cartwright’s medical breakthroughs is the same: Black people’s mental health cannot be achieved, so society has to maintain extreme and inhumane restrictions on their freedom.

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The artist, Raja Smith, in 24-hour lockdown for two years, writes: “I have been encouraging prisoners to fight the administration nonviolently through grievances and civil actions and have become a target of abuse. I find it appalling that the same system that condemns people for breaking their laws finds it so easy to participate in illegal and cruel behavior on a daily basis. What’s sad is that the system actually takes pride in torturing the poor and minorities when they break the law, but when one of them does it, they get a slap on the wrist, if that. Prisoners, unite!” – Art: Raja Smith, 953055, Georgia State Prison, 2164 Ga. Hwy 147, Reidsville GA 30499

Power concedes nothing, Part 2: a discussion on retaliation, censorship and fascism in the modern US state

September 8, 2014

Often when citizens of this nation think of “state repression,” images of Egypt, North Korea, Apartheid Palestine or Nazi Germany immediately spring to mind. U.S. state controlled media has become practiced at flooding our airwaves and attitudes with images of violent retali­ation and systematic repression of dissent in other nations as a means to obfuscate the U.S. state’s engagement in identical activity in its own society.

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Leaving Pelican Bay SHU, I’m a pup in a brand new world

September 6, 2014

Leaving Pelican Bay SHU was exhilarating – with at the same time a feeling of melancholy. I hardly looked back as I was departing, but I was never displaced from the stark reminder of what I personally experienced and what others continue to endure. Considering the horrific circumstances of the SHU, it is not an easy adjustment.

Culture shock! Leaving Skeleton Bay after decades in solitary

September 6, 2014

I’m still decompressing from being warehoused inside that pathological incubator, Skeleton Bay, for over 25 years while slowly making adjustments to this new environment. My journey out of Pelican Bay caused relief on one hand and on the other hand a profound sense of emptiness in leaving behind relationships born out of shared respect, fortitude, self-respect and strength in surviving the crippling effects of prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation.

Ending hostilities means no more violence on the yards – period!

August 30, 2014

I believe that a lot of racial tension in California prisons comes from this: The end of hostilities is being misinterpreted. When I left the SHU, I was asked to explain the end to hostilities even further, and that was for everyone to understand that the end of hostilities means no more bullshit violence on the yards – PERIOD!

That’s Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa in both photos, one taken in 2012 and the other in 1988. – Photo: Adithya Sambamurthy, CIR

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa: Worse than Pelican Bay

August 29, 2014

This place is worse than Pelican Bay State Prison in so many ways. The DRB (Departmental Review Board) lies to the public. They are playing CDCR prison politics as to who they are allowing to go directly to the general population (GP) and who is placed in Steps 1-4.

Michael Brown’s body lay in the street for over four hours. Like public lynchings, the delay was meant to strike terror in the hearts of the people.

Another dead teenager: Only in solidarity will we ever get back what’s been taken from us

August 27, 2014

Police officers in Ferguson, whose sole duty is to protect and serve, are seen using dogs, tear gas and now military grade weapons to suppress any peaceful protest and public outcry. This really hits home to those who can relate to being targets of police brutality, where in essence police departments have become judge, jury and executioner, getting away with murder time and time again.

SB 260: Don’t deny yourself a chance at life

August 18, 2014

There may be hope after all. Back in 1995, I was a juvenile, tried as an adult, tried and convicted of first degree murder. Senate Bill 260, which became part of the Penal Code effective Jan. 1, 2014, is called California Youth Offenders Parole. The new youth offender parole process in this new law applies to people who were under the age of 18 at the time they committed their crime, were tried as adults and sentenced to life or a determinate sentence.

California corrections officials located and designed Pelican Bay State Prison, opened in 1989, as a place where torture could be conducted with impunity. The torture the following year of Vaughn Dortch, a Black man who survived an attempt to boil him alive until his skin fell down around his ankles, horrified judges and the public. – Photo: National Geographic

SB 892: Letter from four main reps at Pelican Bay to California legislators

August 13, 2014

On May 1, 2014, we, California inmates who have been in solitary confinement for long periods of time, co-signed a letter addressed to the California Senate and Assembly expressing our grave concerns with Sen. Hancock’s SB 892. We wish to follow up on our previous letter, as SB 892 has now been approved by the Senate and is being considered in the Assembly.

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Imam Jamil Al-Amin and son, cropped

Biopsy results released for Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)

August 8, 2014

On July 23, 2014, at the Butner Federal Medical Center, Imam Jamil had a bone marrow biopsy to determine the presence of myeloma cells. Yesterday, Kairi and I visited with him at Butner, and today he was told by the Butner medical staff that the biopsy results revealed “some myeloma cells.” More than likely he will be returned to Florence ADX until he has another episode.

Dr. Zonke Zaneke Majodina, Efia Nwangaza at ICCPR Geneva 0314-1514, cropped

From the Keystone State to the Golden State: The need for a national movement to liberate political prisoners

August 4, 2014

The names represented in this article are just the “known” political prisoners and no disrespect to any brothas and sistas left off the list. The purpose of the list is to illustrate the current plight of our movement’s political prisoners, who, despite surviving countless hostile encounters with the state’s security forces, are on the verge of succumbing to old age and infirmities behind the walls and gun towers of the empire’s Prison Industrial Complex.

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Protesters march against in-custody deaths in Santa Cruz on April 6, 2013. – Photo: Sin Barras

Grand Jury investigates Santa Cruz County Jail deaths

August 3, 2014

Santa Cruz County is seen by many as a model for enlightened jail and prison policies. But last month the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury released a report on the unusual number of deaths in the county jail in 2012 and 2013 titled “Five Deaths in Santa Cruz: An Investigation of In-Custody Deaths.” The Grand Jury found that a lack of after-hours mental health evaluations and failures to follow procedures on the part of jail staff likely contributed to the deaths.

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