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This is a follow-up to our October 2017 Prisoner Class Human Rights Movement’s statement of prisoner representatives on the second anniversary of the Ashker v. Brown settlement. I am sharing a copy of my proposed “Open Letter to Gov. Brown, California legislators and CDCR Secretary Kernan on ongoing human rights violations and lack of reparative action for decades of torture” with the hope of helping to re-energize our movement, by gaining widespread support for the positions presented in the “open letter.”
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.
A recent study concluded that even a moderate deficiency of Vitamin D results in a 53 percent increased chance of developing dementia. The most abundant source of Vitamin D is a chemical reaction which occurs when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Sunny California’s torture units feature dog-run style, walk-in closet yards which consist of four solid walls and a plexiglas or metal grating for a roof, both of which obstruct direct sunlight.
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.
We are the prisoner class representatives of what’s become known as the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities. This is an update on where things stand with our struggle to achieve major reforms beneficial to prisoners, outside loved ones and society in general.
This memorandum is directed to the above CDCR administrators for the express purpose of respectfully reminding you about unresolved and continuing problematic issues relevant to our 2011-2014 Five Core and 40 Supplemental Demands and CDCR’s Security Threat Group-Step Down Program (STG-SDP). I am requesting your attention and responsive dialogue addressing these issues.
There can be no doubt that the legislators’ courageous act of publically acknowledging our protest issues in late August 2013 saved many lives, and it gave many people real hope that substantive changes will be forthcoming. And now that there has been additional public exposure – via the two public hearings – demonstrating CDCR’s refusal to institute real, meaningful changes, on its own, people are relying on the legislature to do all in their power to pass legislation reining in CDCR’s gross abuse of power, this year.
I am a 55-year-old New Afrikan man. I came to prison in 1980 for a first degree murder that I did not commit. The prosecutor, judge, victim’s family and my family know that I did not commit this murder. How is it that I can say it as a matter of fact? Because the actual killer confessed to the murder during the trial, did the time for the murder and he has since been released in 1986.
Prisoners in California have entered their 10th day of a statewide hunger strike to fight back against what they call inhumane conditions. The prisoners’ demands include a call for adequate and nutritious food, an end to group punishment, and stopping long-term solitary confinement where more than 3,000 prisoners are held in the isolation with no human contact and no windows – some of them for more than a decade.
We are grateful for your support of our peaceful protest against the state-sanctioned torture that happens not only here at Pelican Bay but in prisons everywhere. We have taken up this hunger strike and work stoppage, which has included 30,000 prisoners in California so far, not only to improve our own conditions but also as an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world.
As more people put their lives on the line today to fight for the hunger strikers’ five core demands – still unmet by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – the need for this kind of artwork feels critical. Noah succeeds in creating visually impactful and beautiful work that also activates audiences to learn about human rights abuses and to get involved.
For the past two years we’ve heard the state claim it’s reforming its long term segregation policies and practices by implementing a Security Threat Group (STG) Step Down Program (SDP). Officials claim the program is a significant move towards a more behavior-based system, yet they remain extraordinarily vague about the “ultimate conclusion.” What exactly is “gang activity”?
Under the false premise that I was organizing prisoners for purposes of carrying forth a physical assault in the spirit of Black August, 18 years later, I remain confined in their “mad-scientist” like torture chambers as an alleged prison gang member solely because I refuse to become an informant for the state!
SHU prisoners are dissatisfied with CDCR’s response to their formal complaint and five core demands and therefore will continue to resist via peaceful protest indefinitely, until actual changes are implemented. And once again, hopefully for the last time, we will be risking our health and lives via a peaceful hunger strike, starting on Sept. 26, 2011, to force positive changes.