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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.
Ava DuVernay undertook the documentary “13th” in order to explore and bring attention to the Prison Industrial Complex. The film’s title refers to the 1865 amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in which slavery was abolished “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The story told by “13th” thus goes back to the early chain-gangs of Black prisoners – men arrested for petty offenses under the post-Civil War Black Codes who were then contracted out to perform labor that they had previously performed as privately-owned slaves.
My journey began in the mid-1980s, when folks in my community began to hear about a “supermax” prison that would be built in nearby Crescent City, California. At that time, my colleague Tom Cairns and Mike Da Bronx, my husband, and me were busy at KHSU producing a weekly radio show called Alternative Review. In 1990, I would get one of the first letters from that place, Pelican Bay State Prison. It came from a young man named Troy Williams. He liked my radio show.
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters. The events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, present us with yet another opportunity to address the inhumanity of racism. But the country will again not take advantage of it because we will continue to treat this act of inhumanity as though it is an isolated incident and not an act that flows from the very structure of this nation.
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.
Since implicit in making it a requirement that people participate in those programs available in each step and that any failure to do so will result in a person being moved back to Step 1 until that person agrees to subordinate him/herself to the dictates of Section 700.2 (self-directed journals), the cognitive restructuring/brainwashing program is, clearly, mandatory.
Solitary confinement does little or nothing to promote public safety or prison safety. It is not only harmful but unnecessary and incredibly costly. Violence levels plummeted by 70 percent of previous levels when the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections reduced the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement by 85 percent.
Secretary Beard’s public statements since coming to the job reflect a complete failure to acknowledge the gravity of the human rights abuses his agency is guilty of and an apparent commitment to defend the status quo at any cost. Now his public statements demonizing the hunger strikers and defending California’s indefensible SHUs make clear that all hope for change in this administration should be abandoned.
The battle over the future of Tamms became the most visible and contentious example of a phenomenon seen around the country: Otherwise progressive unions are taking reactionary positions when it comes to prisons, supporting addiction to mass incarceration. And when it comes to issues of prisoners’ rights in general, and solitary confinement in particular, they are seen as a major obstacle to reform.
What are the effects of long-term incarceration on prisoners? In a country where mass incarceration has become the norm, what responsibilities do the state and the community have to prisoners and to protecting some of their most basic freedoms – access to health and freedom from torture being chief among them?
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.
An estimated 80,000 men, women and even children are being held in solitary confinement on any given day in U.S. prisons. If the struggle to end inhumane treatment inside prisons is to become anything more than a largely apolitical movement for so-called “civil rights,” it must put two long-ignored points back on the agenda: race and revolution.
Everybody out Tuesday, Aug. 23, for the rally at 11:30 a.m. on the South Steps of the State Assembly Building, Sacramento, then for Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s hearing on the Pelican Bay SHU at 1:30 p.m. Car pools leave from West Oakland BART at 9:30 a.m. Join the Day of Action to support the historic prisoner-led hunger strike protesting torture in California’s prisons. Support the families of hunger strikers testifying on conditions in the SHU and amplify the voices of thousands of prisoners across California. The hunger strike exposed for three weeks the carefully planned and executed barbarism of life in supermax America.
This is a call for all prisoners in security housing units, administrative segregation, and general populations, as well as the free oppressed and non-oppressed people, to support the indefinite July 1 peaceful hunger strike in protest of the violation of our civil and human rights here at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit.
President Barack Obama has clearly stated, “We don’t torture.” Oh, yes we do. Big time. A myriad of studies have clearly shown that human beings are social creatures – making prolonged isolation torture.