by Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Jamaa (s/n R.N. Dewberry), A. Guillen
(Written Dec. 22, 2011, postmarked Dec. 27) A shout-out of respect and solidarity from the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective to all similarly situated prisoners subject to the continuing torturous conditions of confinement in these barbaric SHU (Security Housing Unit) and Ad/Seg (Administrative Segregation) units across this country and around the world.
This is our update on where things currently stand and where we’re going with this struggle for an end to draconian policies and practices, summarized in our “Formal Complaint” and many related documents published and posted online, since early 2011.
As many of you know, beginning in early 2010, the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective initiated action to educate people and bring widespread exposure to the 25-plus years of ongoing progressive human rights violations going unchecked here in the California Department of Corruption via dissemination of our “Formal Complaint” to hundreds of people, organizations, lawmakers, Secretary Cate etc., wherein we also sought support and meaningful change.
The response by CDCR Secretary Cate was “file an inmate appeal.” Collectively, we’d filed thousands. Therefore, after much reconsideration and dialogue, the collective decided to take the fight to the next level via peaceful protest action in the form of hunger strike.
With the above in mind, beginning in early 2011, we again sought to educate people about the ongoing torture prevalent in these prison systems’ solitary confinement units and point out our position that the administrative grievance process is a sham and the court system’s turned a blind eye to such blatantly illegal practices – leaving us with no other meaningful avenue for obtaining relief than to put our lives on the line and thereby draw the line and force changes via collective peaceful protest hunger strike action.
We believed this was the only fully advantageous way for us to expose such outrageous abuse of state power to the world and gain the outside support needed to help force real change.
We requested support in the form of asking people to write letters to those in power. We received more support than we ever expected in the form of letters, rallies and hunger strike participants – more than 18,000 similarly situated prisoners and some people on the outside!
We received more support than we ever expected in the form of letters, rallies and hunger strike participants – more than 18,000 similarly situated prisoners and some people on the outside!
All united in solidarity with a collective awareness that the draconian torture practices described in our “Formal Complaint” are prevalent across the land and that united in peaceful action, we have the power to force changes.
The hunger strike actions of 2011 achieved some success in the form of mainstream, worldwide exposure: solid, continuing outside support; some small improvements to SHU and Ad-Seg unit conditions; and assurances of more meaningful, substantive changes to the overall policies and practices re basis for placement and amount of time spent in such units, a substantive review of all prisoners’ files per new criteria and more change to the actual conditions in such units.
However, this fight is far from over! Notably, the second hunger strike action was suspended in mid-October in response to top CDCR administrators’ presentation that the substantive changes being finalized would be provided to “the stakeholders” – this includes our attorneys – within 60 days for comment. To date, CDCR hasn’t produced anything re SHU and Ad-Seg policy changes, and the Pelican Bay State Prison warden has not even replied to the two memos we’ve sent him concerning additional program privilege issues, per core demand no. 5 (see footnote 1 below).
To date, CDCR hasn’t produced anything re SHU and Ad-Seg policy changes.
Naturally, many people are not happy about CDCR’s failure to abide by their word – again – and they are asking, “What’s the next move in this struggle?”
Based on our collective discussions, our response is people need to remain focused and continue to apply pressure on CDCR via letters, emails, fax etc. summarizing the continuing core demands – immediately! There’s real power in numbers! (See addresses to contact below, at footnote 2.)
It’s important for everyone to stay objective and on the same page – remember, united we win, divided we lose. And if we don’t see real substantive changes within the next six months, we’ll have to re-evaluate our position.
It’s important for everyone to stay objective and on the same page – remember, united we win, divided we lose.
Additionally, now is a good time for people to start a dialogue about changing the climate on these Level IV mainlines. As it stands now, these lines are warehouses, with all the money meant for programs and rehabilitation going into guard pockets.
It’s in all of our best interests to change this in a big way and thereby force CDCR to open these lines up and provide all of us with the programs and rehabilitative services that we all should have coming to us!
Respect and Solidarity,
Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Sitawa Jamaa (s/n R.N. Dewberry), A. Guillen
Footnote 1: To date, we’ve received zero improvements re core demand 5, while Corcoran and Tehachapi have gained on canteen and dip-pull up bars, which is all good. This is an example of what we pointed out in our “Formal Complaint” re disparate treatment at PBSP-SHU compared to other SHUs.
This is also a typical CDCR attempt to create discord and disruption to our unified struggle. We’re certain this feeble move will fail because all of us understand what our main objective is – an end to long term torture in these isolation units! It is our fundamental right to be treated humanely. We can no longer accept state sanctioned torture of ourselves! and our loved ones! and we remain unified in our resistance!
It is our fundamental right to be treated humanely. We can no longer accept state sanctioned torture.
Footnote 2: Addresses of people to write:
1. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Capitol Building Room 4005, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 319-2013, fax (916) 319-2113, email@example.com
2. Governor Edmund G. Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 446-2841, fax (916) 558-3160, email at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php
3. CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate, 1515 S St., Suite 330, Sacramento, CA 95811, (916) 323-6001
4. Carol Strickman, Attorney at Law, 1540 Market St., Suite 490, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 255-7036, fax (415) 552-3150, firstname.lastname@example.org
All inmates writing to these people should send their letters marked “confidential mail,” and anyone outside of prison – supporters, family members, etc. – please write and also email.
Send our brothers some love and light: Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP SHU, D1-119, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532; Sitawa Jamaa (s/n R.N. Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP SHU, D1-117L, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532. Arturo Castellanos and A. Guillen are not allowed any mail; that’s an issue that should be raised with Secretary Cate. This letter was typed by Kendra Castaneda.