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On Friday night, Jan. 15, many young people gathered outside of the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church for the start of the “Reclaim MLK” weekend, a 96-hour action dedicated to non-violent protest against police terrorism and gentrification. During rush hour, “Reclaim MLK” protesters shut down the major intersection of Geary at Webster in the Fillmore, once San Francisco’s Black heartland.
We are writing to offer our position on the two bills pending before the Assembly and the Senate – SB 892 and AB 1652 – dealing with the solitary confinement and gang validation policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The narrower and more focused (and less costly) AB 1652 would far better serve the public safety, prison security and the humane treatment of prisoners.
During the prisoners’ hunger strike in July 2013, many supporters signed up on the Emergency Response Network-Pledge of Resistance of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition, agreeing to receive one email a week suggesting a targeted action to support the prisoners. Although the strike has been suspended, its results are still being felt throughout the California prison system.
It is time that I fire a published poetic nuclear warhead at you. This has to be fundamentally sound to rejuvenate the spirit and souls of those who still walk upright and with dignity to be counted as men within the depths of legalized oppression. My message will be two-fold, addressing one of several lawsuits that I am aggressively pursuing and CDCR’s ongoing twisted campaign of validating and isolating prisoners.
Beginning with a rally held on the capitol steps, it was an emotional day for many, especially for family members of those suffering in the SHUs and prison survivors. The voices of those in the SHU were powerfully present, both in stories told by family members as well as statements they had sent for the occasion. The hearing provided an opportunity for legislators to hear representatives of CDCR present their new policies and weigh the truth of their claims. At the end there was a scant 20 minutes for public input.
Prisoners of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds and ideological and political persuasions have forged a united front – best reflected by the Short Corridor Collective confined in Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit – around common goals and interests of ameliorating the tortuous concrete conditions inherent to long-term solitary confinement.
Arbitrary and indefinite solitary confinement is an absolute assault on humankind and a barbarity the likes of which cannot be tolerated. We hold the utmost respect for those prisoners who from the depths of Solitary Confinement throughout California risked their lives to be heard. We heard them and now we ask that you do the same.
It is well established that solitary confinement is cruel and psychologically damaging. Many of the SHU’s indefinite residents haven’t even broken prison rules. They are there because the California Department of Corrections claims they are connected to prison gangs. Such arbitrariness and cruelty has no place in a constitutional democracy. California should reexamine this practice.
The state of California must make substantial changes to their prison isolation units and halt the inhuman suffering of thousands of prisoners, Amnesty International said in a new report out today. “The Edge of Endurance: Conditions in California’s Security Housing Units” explores the conditions of confinement endured by more than 3,000 prisoners – including 78 who have spent in excess of two decades in isolation.
Top CDCR administrators admitted several times during our negotiations that the five core demands made by 12,000 hunger striking prisoners were reasonable and would all be addressed via meaningful, substantive changes. Our rejection of CDCR's March 1 proposal is based upon its failure to act in good faith. CDCR is asking lawmakers and taxpayers to allow it to continue to violate thousands of prisoners’ human rights, torturing us with impunity. Our counter-proposal will bring this illegal torture to an end.
The CDCR should have to prove its accusations of gang activity, membership or association, providing the full panoply of constitutional protections. If the courts will not discharge their duty to protect constitutional rights, then the people must demand a change as is our/your right.
About two weeks ago, the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigator) searched my cell in SHU and confiscated my Bay View newspapers, saying they are contraband if any articles speak on George Jackson or Black August. They said that the newspaper with said articles would be used to re-validate me at my six-year review. I should not be penalized for a newspaper article.
The prisoncrats, as expected, seek to downplay and minimalize the success of the mass hunger strike that began on July 1, 2011, by its typical damage control tactic of spoon-feeding their spin to their Sacramento Bee stoogie who, like most of the public, believe their misleading and inaccurate assertions.