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On Dec. 14, 2018, families of prisoners and supporters traveled to Sacramento to rally in front of the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s (CDCr) headquarters against the CDCr-induced violence that many of their loved ones are experiencing. The next rally is Friday, Feb. 15, 1 p.m., in front of CDCr Headquarters, 1515 S St., Sacramento.
It is our intention to transform “prison slaves” into respected and productive members of the international proletariat movement. As a proletarian, YOU, the sister or brother sitting on your bunk, or in your cubicle, or in the day room reading this essay – YOU are a WORKER and not a SLAVE. Your lives matter, and you have great potential to be an extremely productive and successful member of the new society we are struggling to create.
TDCJ has me classified as a “High Profile Inmate,” but no one here has actually told me why I have been placed on high profile status. The only reasons I’ve been given is “you have lawsuits.” However, this supports my argument that the prison agency TDCJ has been retaliating against me for accessing the courts. Last year I won a civil lawsuit when I challenged TDCJ’s unconstitutional beard and religious headgear policy. While I was litigating that suit I was not subjected to this humiliating treatment. So why now?
I am writing to let you know the conditions us convicts at South Central Correctional Center (SCCC) have endured and expose the brutal assault that took place on Aug. 23, 2018. I was placed in Administrative Segregation and stripped of my privileges – contact visits, phone calls, canteen, personal property etc. – for the reason of investigation. That’s a violation of my due process rights, as I am punished before being found guilty of anything.
The prisoners of Missouri’s South Central Correctional Center’s ad-seg units have initiated a consolidated effort to protest and change the conditions found not only at the facility, but in every other Level 5 institution across the state. Prisoners began to refuse their cellmates on the basis of protective custody, after which they are placed on iron benches, shackled with hands behind their backs for hours at a time where they are denied meals and, due to overcrowding, not offered any alternative cell to go to – ultimately forcing prisoners to accept living in a volatile situation just in order to get to eat.
When Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Bryan Collier, Correctional Institutions Division Director Lorie Davis and Office of the Inspector General Joint Terrorism Task Force member Nick Vaughn contrived the plot to kidnap me from Ramsey 1 Unit on June 22, 2018, at 4:30 a.m., they figured that no one would notice, no one would care and, if questioned about the strange occurrence, they would claim plausible deniability.
A number of hardy souls ventured to Sacramento on May 18 to a federal court hearing on CDCr’s motion to dismiss Jorge Rico’s suit opposing the every-half-hour Guard One “security/welfare checks” that take place in isolation units throughout the state. With Guard One, guards press a metal baton into a metal receiver positioned either in or beside cell doors, making a loud disruptive noise in most cases, waking prisoners up every 30 minutes and causing sleep deprivation.
As a Black Nation and prisoner class, we have come too far since the Agreement to End Hostilities and the last hunger strike of July 8, 2013, which 30,000 prisoners partook in to break the chains of our inhumane solitary confinement to allow ourselves to lose focus on the AEH and what it has done to enlighten society that we still have our humanity. But we will never change this miserable, decaying prison system or our neighborhoods if the oppressor state sees and can utilize our violent, hostile actions toward one another to show just cause to retaliate.
For years now, I have endured threats, both overt and covert, from the mouths and hands of CDCr’s (California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s) OCS (Office of Correctional Safety), ISU (Investigations Services Unit) and IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations), all of them paramilitary services that boast they are a gang and call themselves the Green Wall. (See my article “Sitawa: Exiting solitary confinement – and the games CDCr plays.”)
On Feb 8, 2018, Northern District Judge Vince Chhabria held a hearing on a motion by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to dismiss civil rights lawsuits brought by two prisoners, Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, who are suing CDCR for violation of their Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, they have brought their lawsuits to put an end to the sleep deprivation of prisoners caused by “security/welfare checks.”
California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) had been locking classes of prisoners up in solitary confinement since the ‘60s as part of CDCr’s para-military low-intensity warfare, to break the minds and spirits of its subjects, California’s prisoner class. CDCr’s solitary confinement has two operating components: 1) punishing you and 2) physically and mentally destroying you.
Are you living in segregated housing – SHU, Ad-Seg, PSU, Condemned Units? Are correctional officers coming around to your cell every half hour or hour to conduct security/welfare checks? Are these checks conducted in a quiet manner? Or do these checks disturb you? Do they interfere with your ability to sleep, or cause physical or mental health problems? The PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation and CFASC/Family Unity Network want to help prisoners pursue this grievance.
For women in Texas prisons, it’s a perpetual fight. After five long, atrocious years of mental, emotional and physical abuse in prolonged solitary confinement at Lane Murry Unit – infamously nicknamed “Miserable Murray” – I have suffered tremendously. The percentage rate continues to rise for women committing suicide at Lane Murray Unit. When will justice be served? How many women must die before Lane Murray Unit is finally investigated by internal affairs and/or closed down?
“Administrative segregation” is prison bureaucratese for solitary confinement. On Thursday, prisoners in solitary at California’s Old Folsom State Prison went on hunger strike for their Eighth Amendment right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment. I spoke to Raquel Estrada, wife of Anthony Estrada, a prisoner writing for the strikers in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, who elaborated on the conditions of her husband’s confinement.
The men at Old Folsom State Prison in the ASU and Ad-Seg will begin a hunger strike on May 25 due to ongoing issues with the conditions of confinement that violate the Eighth Amendment. These prisoners are without food bowls, therefore having to eat out of ziplock bags. They have no cups, needing to drink water from an old milk carton. They have no TVs, no property at all. The mail is sometimes withheld for no reason – up to a month for some prisoners, for others even longer.
As always, allow us to begin by paying our respects to the families who lost their loved ones during the historic California hunger strikes. Prior to the solidarity hunger strikes, the four principal negotiators, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Todd Ashker, found ourselves locked inside Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor. There we would discuss the vision of effecting genuine change in CDCr’s long term solitary confinement combined policies, practices and conditions.
It is very important that you all clearly understand the depth of human torture to which I was subjected for 30-plus years by CDCr and CCPOA.* The torture was directed at me and similarly situated women and men prisoners held in California’s solitary confinement locations throughout CDCr, with the approval and sanctioning of California governors, CDCr secretaries and directors, attorneys general, along with the California Legislature for the past 40 years.
A few months ago, I exposed the corruption of this particular unit and others across Gatesville, Texas, striving for justice, peace and respect to no avail. In response to the grievances, articles and complaints the women here have written, we’ve been subjected to more abuse. Out of retribution, the mailroom has banned the San Francisco Bay View newspaper from subscribers to receive and also ransacked several dorms to confiscate all newspapers any offenders were in possession of.
Leaving out of Pelican Bay solitary confinement torture prison facilities/units/cages for the first time on Jan. 23, 2015 – after arriving there Nov. 29, 1990 – I remember witnessing my first sunrise. It would be the first of many first time experiences of using my natural senses again after being buried alive in that concrete box deprived of the natural use of those senses for the last 25 years – a quarter century.
I am writing seeking justice, help and assistance, fighting the cause for women in Texas prisons. I suffer daily for the wrongs I have or have not committed along with other women who don’t deserve “double jeopardy” punishment and abuse. Just being in prison is punishment enough. We need help! The slavery of prison must end. Women in prison face abuse by the hands of those who are supposed to screen us for security, not inflict harm.