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Two years after the historic settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California marked the end of indefinite solitary confinement in California, the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel filed a motion to extend the terms of the settlement by one year, noting that substantial reforms are still needed and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to violate the constitutional rights of Ashker class members.
Greetings and solidarity to each other and all who participated in our initial hunger strike to end the arbitrary use of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment in Santa Clara County jails. We would like to extend our respect and appreciation to all who participated and sacrificed to provoke change. Although we came from diverse backgrounds – be it race, religion, color or creed – we set our differences aside and interlocked arms, forming a formidable force through civil disobedience in solidarity.
California should display national leadership in the area of juvenile justice, not be among the states with the most backward, inhumane and primitive policies. We respectfully urge you to take whatever leadership steps are possible to protect the fundamental rights of this highly vulnerable population of juveniles and offer your strong support for SB 124.
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.
There is a trick that the California prison administration pulls on African Americans in prison. It is to charge them with gang activity if they refer to “George Jackson” or any of his writings or ideas or to the “Republic of New Afrika” or the politics of New Afrikans. Thousands of people, mostly Black and Brown, have been held in solitary confinement for years and even decades, because “gang activity” constitutes a “security threat to the prison,” according to the Administration.
Federal agency guideline on the use of solitary confinement: An individual should never be locked in solitary confinement, except as an absolute last resort. Individuals, when in isolated confinement, must have the ability to socialize, to communicate and to physically interact with other individuals. This would be great news for those of us working on solitary reform, except for one thing: this guideline doesn’t apply to humans; it applies to mice.
This morning we lost without a doubt the biggest, bravest and brashest personality in the political prisoner world. On Oct. 4, 2013, Herman Wallace, an icon of the modern prison reform movement and an innocent man, died a free man after spending an unimaginable 41 years in solitary confinement. Herman spent the last four decades of his life fighting against all that is unjust in the criminal justice system, making international the inhuman plight that is long term solitary confinement and struggling to prove that he was an innocent man.
I am very familiar with the serious medical issues involved with the long term and short term care of these SHU patients in solitary confinement that are both very deleterious to human health and not very visible to people who are not insiders and familiar with this environment at PBSP. Many of these issues have not penetrated the ongoing public discussion of the ongoing and created health care consequences of solitary confinement in the SHU at PBSP.
Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have. The state may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end.
On Wednesday, faith, health and human services, housing, education and criminal justice reform advocates will have a press conference and rally at the State Building, 300 South Spring St., calling on the Legislature to immediately reduce the prison population and invest tax dollars in programs that create healthy and safe communities.
Efforts over the past month to discuss or mediate the prisoner’s concerns with the CDCR have not resulted in any changes in policy and we are therefore now writing to request that you urgently consider conducting an on-site visit to one or more California prisons, including Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) to interview prisoners (now on the 38th day of their hunger strike) and prison officials.