Tag: California prisoners
Across Amerika, home of the world’s largest prison population, growing numbers of the imprisoned are coming to realize that they are victims of social injustice. Foremost, they are victims of an inherently predatory and dysfunctional capitalist-imperialist system, which targets the poor and people of color for intensified policing, militaristic containment and selective criminal prosecutions, while denying them access to the basic resources, employment and institutional control needed for social and economic security.
Six California prisoners wrote to me in 2015 to ask about the Hepatitis C cure, shortly after the San Francisco Bay View newspaper published my interview with activist attorney Peter Erlinder titled “US prisoners sue for constitutional right to lifesaving Hep C cure.” They’d been able to read it because the Bay View sends a print edition to prisons all over the country every month. I tried and failed to answer those letters and I’ve felt bad about it ever since. I would have swiftly responded to all the prisoners who wrote to me about the Hep C cure if I’d been able to send electronic mail.
To: CDCr Secretary Scott Kernan and Director Kathline Allison -- From: Abdul Olugbala Shakur (aka J. Harvey, C48884) and Joka Heshima Jinsai (aka S. Denham, J38283) -- The following is what we believe to be just and fair and reasonable requests considering the inhumane treatment that many of the prisoners were being subjected to while housed in solitary confinement, or isolation, for decades, especially at Pelican Bay State Prison and Corcoran State Prison.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses our solidarity with the hunger strike taking place in the Folsom State Prison B4 Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) in California in the United States. Isolated prisoners launched their strike on 25 May to protest the inhumane conditions in which they are held in solitary confinement. The prison administration has refused to address their just and legitimate demands and has instead responded with increased repression.
“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.
On May 16, inmates at Old Folsom State Prison made contact with the outside world to announce that they will begin a hunger strike on May 25 in response to ongoing mistreatment, dehumanization and unbearable living conditions at Old Folsom. When incarcerated people take action to fight for their dignity, their rights and their lives, those of us on the outside must answer with solidarity. Our support is crucial in getting their demands met and minimizing retaliation against them. We must let these brave individuals know that we have their backs, and that they will not be forgotten.
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.
Now, as the San Francisco Bay View newspaper’s 40th birthday year comes to a close, is the time to bring up to date the historical sketch of our paper that I began with Part 1 in the January paper. Piles of old papers rest on my desk, waiting to be read once again – a banquet of stories and pictures of our lives, our hopes, our goals. Let me let you taste the flavor of the freedom we continue to fight for in the age of Trump.
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.
We, the people, have to realize that our current contradictions are not just about economics, but instead are about being able to speak truth to the powers that be. Case in point, if we hadn’t been able to express in great detail what we prisoners were suffering from while being held in solitary confinement and have our letters published in the Bay View, then our voice would have never been heard. But because the Bay View was there for us, the world came to our defense.
Prison inmates around the country have called for a series of strikes against forced labor, demanding reforms of parole systems and prison policies, as well as more humane living conditions, a reduced use of solitary confinement and better health care. The strike’s organizers remain anonymous but have circulated fliers listing a series of grievances and demands and a letter articulating the reasons for the strike.
The title of my book, “Annotated Tears: America’s Auschwitz,” came from one of the poems inside. It’s a socio-political piece geared toward unveiling California’s injustice system, with specific reference to its treatment of juveniles, which upon reflection resembles Hitler’s Germany. The piece, entitled “America’s Auschwitz,” begins: Everybody’s a victim -- Sick depictions of pain ... Gestapos lurking through the ghettos -- Trailed by a bag of chains ...
People in solitary confinement have been loudly awakened by guards every 30 minutes around the clock since the night of Aug. 2, for more than four months! CDCR claims these checks are to improve mental health care and prevent suicides. Instead, this cruel sleep deprivation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners and their attorneys are demanding that these checks be halted. Stop these torture tactics now! Support prisoners’ human rights! Send emails and make calls. Sleep deprivation is torture!
No one is more knowledgeable about the lasting damage solitary confinement can cause than the tens of thousands of men, women and children experiencing it today. Building on the activism of these individuals, communities around the country are coming together to demand an end to long-term solitary confinement through public events and actions on the 23rd of each month in recognition of the 23 hours per day those in solitary confinement are confined to their cells.
Today, California prisoners locked in isolation achieved a groundbreaking legal victory in their ongoing struggle against the use of solitary confinement. A settlement was reached in the federal class action suit Ashker v. Brown, originally filed in 2012, effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement and greatly limiting the prison administration’s ability to use the practice, widely seen as a form of torture.
The Third Annual Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey B’Earthday and Community Celebration is Saturday, Aug. 15, 2-5 p.m. Gather at the “Abundant Knowledge” mural at Marcus Books. Please bring your immense wisdom, families, original books by Garvey, red-black-green items and drums. And don’t forget to bring some funds – as each participant will receive a 10 percent discount on every item purchased that afternoon.
We have an opportunity to confront ourselves realistically, to have a stake in a real opportunity for freedom. The only way we can have an impact on the system is to make their oppression of us a financial burden that diminishes their profits rather than increases them. If they use the profits from your labor to write laws to keep you in prison, what does it profit you to work for them? If they intend for you to rot away in a cell, then let their crops rot away in the fields!
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.
Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) began March 23, 2015. Actions were held in California from San Diego to Arcata (Arcata-Eureka, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Cruz) and Philadelphia, Penn. Activists in more locations will be joining in on April 23 and the 23rd of each month. Below is a report from just one locality, Santa Cruz, which took a creative approach.
The month of March marked the beginning of state budget hearings that will set next year’s fiscal priorities for the welfare of Californians. The first version of the state budget shows no clear plan to provide adequate relief for people living in poverty, fails to make restorative investments to the social safety net, and continues to increase corrections spending.