December 31, 2014
Assigned to the Mental Health Crisis Bed (MHCB) unit, I found 80-plus patients suffering torture, sexual abuse and neglect. President Obama would recognize it as torture. The vast majority of victims were Black or Hispanic, all the abusers White. Cold, dark cells hold captives in isolated sensory deprivation – drugged, sick and in pain. Nurses prevented death only to prolong torment, sometimes for years. The number of patients suffering preventable deaths during “medical treatment” in CDCR facilities may exceed all legal executions nationwide.
December 9, 2014
Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.
November 13, 2014
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.
November 13, 2014
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.
November 7, 2014
Under the guise of “obscenity” regulations, the CDCR has proposed sweeping new political censorship rules for mail going both into and out of the prisons. If the proposed regulations are approved, CDCR will be able to permanently ban any publications it considers contraband, including political publications and correspondence that should be protected by First Amendment constitutional rights. We called for your help in June, and we’re calling for it again. The public comment period is open now; it closes Nov. 10, 2014, at 5 p.m. Public hearing date is Nov. 10, 2014.
October 30, 2014
The issue of “gender responsiveness” as an excuse to open more prisons has been rearing its ugly head lately with the expansion of CDCR’s supposed “reentry hubs” and “community based facilities.” Yet one woman in the new Female Community Reentry Facility in McFarland recently called Justice Now, saying she feels like “they were sold a dream”; and others report of similar, if not worse, conditions than they faced in CIW or CCWF.
October 3, 2014
It has been a few months since my release from 20 years of solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison (SHU) to Step 5 of the Step Down Program (SDP). I thought I should pen this communique with an update on my travels from one place to another – the new location, experience, encounters and situations – as everything has unfolded.
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.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
July 29, 2014
On Thursday, July 31, communities impacted by incarceration, immigrant detention and escalating violence against women and children will march to the site of a new women’s prison in McFarland to demand its immediate closure. Advocates will convene at McFarland Park, 100 Frontage Rd, McFarland, Calif., at 5 p.m. CDCR has contracted with the GEO Group to run the McFarland prison. The GEO group, like the state of California, has been challenged by prisoner hunger strikes, protests and lawsuits due to the deplorable and inhumane conditions of their facilities.
June 26, 2014
The fact that these rules were noticed as “Obscene Materials” indicates an intention of CDCR to attempt to fly below the radar so as to not draw attention to the fact that much of the material under these proposed regulations could be so broad as to cover newspaper articles and a multitude of other written materials that do nothing to promote prison safety and security and do everything to violate and infringe on the First Amendment rights of California’s prisoners.
June 23, 2014
In California, policy-driven sterilization programs have reared their ugly head once again. Women prisoners in the care of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) have been confronted with coerced sterilization, according to a report released last July by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Nearly 150 women prisoners were sterilized between 2005 and 2013 without the necessary state approvals.
May 23, 2014
We write out of concern for the manner in which certain aspects of the step-down program (SDP) are being implemented by the CDCR, specifically, self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy. Because these components have to do with changing and restructuring the thought processes of people, they involve mental health issues and require the involvement of mental health professionals in their implementation and oversight.
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.
April 14, 2014
Following a mass hunger strike by prisoners in California last year, some state legislators promised to reform the use of Security Housing Units (SHU). This week, Assembly Bill 1652, passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If the bill becomes law, prisoners would only be sent to SHU for specific serious rules violations that come with determinate SHU sentences.
February 24, 2014
This is a glimpse into torture by prison staff, using any means available, of which solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison in California is only a reflection of the inhumane treatment and clear U.S. constitutional violations of our First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights that prisoners in solitary everywhere are subjected to.
February 11, 2014
The CDCR is proposing new regulations on “security threat groups” or “gangs,” which will be implemented after a regular public hearing, to be held on April 3. The Step Down Program, which CDCR has been executing as a pilot program, is apparently being added to CDCR’s vast number of regulations. The implementation of the official Step Down Program comes while a second legislative hearing on Feb. 11 has been organized.