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Prison officials have total control over all prisoners held in CDCR and this affords them the power to impose their will upon prisoners as they try to see fit. So, citizens of this country, in prison and out, should not be surprised to see that CDCR is managing prisoners with violence in order to secure their best interest: higher pay and job security. Peaceful prisons go against the CDCR agenda and, therefore, violence has to be the agency’s trademark.
Gov. Brown’s Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 was a sham that gave false hopes of freedom to thousands of juvenile offenders who have grown up – and are now adults – in California prisons and Three Strikers, who believed they would finally see their 20-, 30- and 40-year-old priors, which have kept them behind bars long after their current sentence has been completed, go away. But that’s not the reality.
Congrats to new San Francisco Mayor London Breed! Congrats to TheatreFirst for “Participants,” the kind of collaborative theatre project which should be the norm, not the exception. Make sure you check out the finale for the TF 2017-18 season: “Between Us” and “Just One Day” beginning Feb. 18. Listen to two engaging conversations with playwrights and actors about “Participants”: Dezi Soléy and Cheri L. Miller, Skyler Cooper, Nick Nanna Mwaluko, Carl Lumbly.
I frequently hear correctional officers make statements such as, “Inmate, get off my table,” “Inmate, get off my yard,” “Inmate, get off my bed” and so on. The idea that they own everything in the prison sounds like they have serious ownership issues, along with superiority complex and delusions. It could also be the reason they abuse prisoners so much. If correctional officers believe we are their property, they could justify abusive treatment of “their” property.
As our tortured climate pounds the East with water and leaves much of California tinder dry, Southern California fire season seems to grow worse by the year. And in our growing need for firefighters, California continues the abusive practice of using pennies-an-hour prison labor to fight these fires. About 4,000 California prisoners fight fires for $1 an hour. This is abuse, simply. I want to organize with people everywhere to end all prison slave labor, and to close California private prisons.
So let’s take a look at the work we are doing: 1) attempting to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 2) abolishing prison slavery and, in my case, 3) exposing the pervasive problem of toxic water supplies in Texas and Pennsylvania! Yes, I did say Pennsylvania! We have seen retaliation and obstruction of justice tactics by employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
We are within our fifth year of the August 2012 historical document, the “Agreement to End Hostilities.” Its release was followed by the Prisoner Human Rights Movement’s third and largest hunger strike in the state of California and larger than any prison hunger strike in history in either the federal or state prison systems in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. At its peak, 30,000 prisoners here in California participated – prisoners in solitary confinement and the general population.
In September, prisoners across the country launched a nationwide strike to demand better working conditions at the numerous facilities that employ inmate labor for little or no pay. Inmates in America’s state prisons – who make everything from license plates to college diploma covers – are not only excluded from the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on slave labor, but also exist largely outside the reach of federal safety regulations meant to ensure that Americans are not injured or killed on the job.
As we honor the 75th birthday of our beloved Comrade George Jackson, field marshal of the Black Panther Party behind prison walls, may we remember his revolutionary ideas and practice, his mentors and his sacrifice. Author of two books, “Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson,” a 1970 bestseller reprinted three times and translated into several languages, and “Blood in My Eye,” published posthumously and recently reprinted.
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.
A petition for an initiative proposing major changes in California’s Three Strikes law has been filed. The proposed initiative was received on Sept. 16 by the state Attorney General’s Office from a nonprofit, grassroots organization called CHOOSE1. It is entitled: “The Three Strikes Rehabilitation and Reform Act of 2016.” Supporters would need to collect 500,000 valid voter signatures for the initiative to be placed on the November 2016 ballot.
Letters continue to pour in to the Bay View from prisoners who remember the great Hugo “Yogi” Pinell as a hero and a martyr and want the world to know and remember him too. His work will not only be memorialized but also carried forth by all he has touched. You and your lessons will be remembered always – and, like you, will forever inspire resistance. Determination. The longing to be free. And the courage to fight for it.
It was with true sadness that, on Aug. 13, I received the news that legendary California prison activist Hugo Pinell was killed in a California prison. Hugo Pinell was locked up in California state prisons for 50 years! That is insane. Hugo Pinell spent decades teaching, advocating and struggling for human rights, justice and dignity for prisoners. He taught and fought for racial and revolutionary unity among all prisoners.
On May 23, 2015, families and loved ones of people in solitary, community organizations and prisoner-class human rights advocates once again mobilized Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) throughout California and in Pennsylvania. Since the actions began on March 23, 2015, over 30 organizations – statewide, nationwide and worldwide – became co-sponsors, 45 endorsed, and the movement keeps growing.
2015 is right around the corner. For those of us locked down behind enemy lines, what will our New Year’s resolution be this time around: Stop smoking? Eat healthier? Exercise more? Here’s an idea: for the entire month of January 2015 let’s donate money to the Bay View. At a time when print publications are quickly becoming obsolete, the print edition of the San Francisco National Black Newspaper is struggling to stay afloat.
In late September, the Bay View reported on draconian new regulations that the CDCr was then poised to implement, under the guise of an emergency. These regulations authorize the use of dogs and electronic drug detectors to indiscriminately search all persons entering institutional grounds for contraband. Both dogs and electronic detectors are notoriously unreliable, as both Mohamed Shehk and Peter Shey explained in the Bay View.
This letter, Re: Comments on CDCR’s Proposed Regulations: Obscene Material, from attorney Leila Knox of Bryan Cave LLP, one of the world’s largest law firms, was emailed and mailed on Nov. 7, 2014, to Regulation and Policy Management Chief Timothy M. Lockwood, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, Calif. 94283-0001. The comment period is now closed.
On Sept. 28, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Sentencing Act (SB 1010) authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles. The legislation eliminates the groundless disparity in sentencing, probation and asset forfeiture guidelines for possession of crack cocaine for sale versus the same crime involving powder cocaine that has resulted in a pattern of racial discrimination in sentencing and incarceration in California. The law takes effect in January.
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.
A year ago on July 8, over 30,000 people inside California prisons began a hunger strike to bring an end to the state’s use of indefinite solitary confinement. On the one-year anniversary of the largest prisoner hunger strike in California history, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law today is filing a lawsuit charging CDCR with illegally refusing to publicly disclose information, data and studies regarding its solitary confinement rules, policies and practices.