Freedom, justice and human rights vs. potty watch

by the Freedom and Justice Project, Pelican Bay State Prison: James Williamson, Salvador Perez, Paul Jones, James Harvey, Daryel Burnett and Kenneth Carter

Torture and other “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” are prohibited under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 10.1, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states, “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” Even the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”


In 1990, when we prisoners were transferred here to Pelican Bay SHU, it was common practice – just as previously at Corcoran SHU – for the goon guards to greet us with their black leather gloves and 7/23 hand signs [signifying Green Wall – G being the seventh letter of the alphabet and W the 23rd] representing their “Green Wall Gang.” They would be standing there as the welcoming party, some dressed in shielded helmets and all wielding batons.

Pelican_Bay_SHU_potty_watch_attire_drawing_by_prisoner-1_web, Freedom, justice and human rights vs. potty watch, Behind Enemy Lines About four of them would board the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) transportation bus and randomly snatch someone off, force him to the concrete pavement and commence beating him right there outside the bus windows so we all could see it. It was as if they were trying to say: “We’re the big gang up here in the North Coast Pelican Bay gulag.”

These fellow imprisoned persons were dragged off through the doorway into the SHU torture facilities and forced into these small, closet-sized holding cells that were lined up and down the C and D SHU corridor hallways. There, the goons chained our ankles up to the handcuffs behind our backs and left us lying in a puddle of blood in what became known as a “hog tied” position for days. See Madrid v. Gomez, U.S. District Court, North District California, Class Action Case No. 90-3094, 889 F.Supp. 1146 (1995).

Welcome to the birth of CDCR’s Pelican Bay SHU indefinite isolation torture chamber. See the Formal Complaint and Five Core Demands of the hunger strike and Ruiz v. Brown, the class action lawsuit against the CDCR filed May 31, 2012.

Flash forward 22 years to today. Walk down the same Pelican Bay SHU hallway corridors right now and you will see the same eight or so holding cages located directly in front of the C and D facilities SHU corridor control booths and you will find them regularly filled with men dressed in orange or pink jumpsuits, duct taped around the bottom legs and upper waist, restricting their breathing and blood flow. See a case in point of S. Perez below.

The conditions in the Contraband Surveillance Watch (CSW) holding cells are deplorable, filthy and very cold. Urine and fecal waste are spread on the Lexan glass covering the front perforated steel door. The men held there are denied all basic personal hygiene care items, such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, clean clothing, access to a shower or razor to shave with and are not allowed to exercise.

Torture and other “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” are prohibited under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Current practice is for the goons to take them out of the cell, down the corridor and into the hallway to the SHU law library, where they remove the duct tape from around the waist and pull down the jumpsuit and boxer shorts so the person can sit down on the portable potty and take a shit, if possible. He’s sitting right there in full view of the other staff and inmates attending the classification committee hearing held right across from the front entrance, where other guards and escorted prisoners pass by, going to and from short corridor units. That’s including those of us being escorted to the law library at that time, like this author, by guards R. Reich and others who tried to order us to walk down past the fellow prisoners sitting there on that potty, already degraded, dehumanized and humiliated.

But I immediately stopped and backed out of the hallway, ignoring the threats to “write us up” by the escort guards. The prisoner behind me also backed up and waited so we could allow the fellow human being whatever little dignity he still had left!

Freedom, justice and human rights? Cases in point

There are at least four instances that come immediately to the attention of our project, each illustrating clear examples of CDCR guards at the PBSP SHU facility abusing their authority, targeting the following innocent persons for subjection to the CSW sadistic and malicious games: Salvador Perez, James Harvey, Daryel Burnett and his celly Kenneth Carter, Paul Jones and James Williamson.

Salvador Perez, J-47812, D4-205

A SHU facility sergeant appeared in front of his cell and ordered him to cuff up because he is going down to be wanded with the metal detector. When he asked why, they gave him the excuse that he supposedly had a cell phone. So when they went to wand Mr. Perez with the metal detector, they intentionally kept moving the wand close to their uniform that had metal keys and a chain hanging on it, which made it sound off.

Pelican_Bay_SHU_potty_watch_attire_drawing_by_prisoner-2_web, Freedom, justice and human rights vs. potty watch, Behind Enemy Lines Mr. Perez was then ordered to be placed in strange “plastic tube devices” – which a Pelican Bay guard had created at home in his garage, waiting for CDCR’s official approval for mass production. The PVC pipe, about seven inches in diameter, was pulled over Mr. Perez’s hands and lower arms area. He was then placed in a jumpsuit with duct tape wound around his ankles and waist, restricting his breathing and blood flow and causing pain. He was placed in a CSW cell, in conditions that were deplorable, filthy, very cold and ridden with urine and feces. The cell is encased in Lexan glass with a perforated steel door. There was no running water or sanitary provisions in the cell.

Article 10.1, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states, “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

Perez was kept in those inhumane conditions and restraints for a total of four days without any basic personal hygiene materials such as soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, clean clothing, shower facilities or a razor to shave with, and was not allowed to exercise. Although he told medical staff and other correctional staff about the pain caused by the restraints and PVC devices and that he wanted to submit to an x-ray to prove he didn’t have anything concealed, he was ignored.

During those four days of torture in the CSW cell, Perez was made to defecate in a bucket in front of staff and other inmates walking by, while still in restraints. The staff members – aka the Green Wall Gang – would just cut the tape off and pull down his pants and boxer shorts, exposing him to humiliation and degradation, as they shouted obscene comments and laughter. No contraband was ever produced.

For further information, check out Mr. Perez’ complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California: Salvador Perez v. Mathew Cate et al., Case No. C10-3730JSW(PR).

James Harvey, C-48884, D4-102

Next is the case of James Harvey, who was forced to go over to the Pelican Bay SHU CSW holding cage when he would not let some guard try to make him go through unnecessary body movements while he was getting dressed to be returned from the SHU law library back to the housing unit. Mr. Harvey explained to the goon that his medical condition prevents him from moving his body in certain ways without causing severe pain, but the guard, Scott, was stuck on stupid and would not allow Mr. Harvey to return to the unit.

Even the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.”

He called the D facility program sergeant, who also did not seem to care about Harvey’s medical condition, ordering him to do the extra squat motions that his fellow green wall guard Scott wanted to see him do. Refusing to go through the pain caused by such movements, Mr. Harvey was escorted down the hall to the CSW cages located in front of the D SHU corridor control. Once there, he demanded his right to see their captain and the doctor to confirm that he does suffer from a painful medical condition. It took hours for the higher SHU dungeon administrators and keepers to finally allow Mr. Harvey to be returned to his assigned housing unit, even though the prison’s medical staff had verified his serious medical condition in the records.

Daryel Burnett, B-60892, and Kenneth Carter, R-52119, D4-103

Then there is the game these same Pelican Bay dungeon keepers and supervisor operatives played in Mr. Burnett and Mr. Carter’s case. When the guards first appeared at their assigned cage telling Mr. Carter to “cuff up,” he asked, “For what?” They said he was going down to be wanded with the metal detector because they had been told by a prisoner at another prison somewhere that Carter was supposed to have a cell phone. He was cuffed up and taken to the D SHU program office.

Then the guards returned to remove Mr. Burnett from off the unit’s so-called “yard” and escorted him also down to the program office. They completed wanding Mr. Carter with negative results and returned him back to his assigned cell. But they kept Mr. Burnett for days because, when they wanded him, that guard kept moving the device past the metal handcuffs on Burnett’s wrists, as well as next to the key chain on the guard’s uniform, making the detector sound off. So he was ordered inside their CSW cage and forced to endure the same pain and suffering that is described above in reference to Mr. Perez’s case.

Ultimately, after taking more shits on the portable potty than they normally require, the goons had to admit that Mr. Burnett never did possess any contraband. But they still refused to return him to his assigned cell right away, saying that since it was the weekend, they would wait and get their boss’ permission later. Eventually, Mr. Burnett was escorted back to the unit’s cell.

Paul Jones, B-26077, and James Williamson, D-34288, D4-107

This final instance, involving Mr. Jones and Mr. Williamson, started out similar to the Burnett and Carter case. The goons were sent to their cell three days after they went for Burnett and Carter and ordered Jones and Williamson to cuff up, stating: “We were told to escort both of you down to the program office.” Once there, Jones and Williamson began investigating who sent them there and for what reason. From the beginning, the program administration was playing their games, giving runaround excuses.

However, being that these two men were informed of the games played in the previous fellows’ cases, they knew what to do. So when the dungeon administrators – Sgt. R. Moore, Lt. J. Diggle, Capt. T.A. Wood and Associate Warden K. McGuyer – would pass by, they stopped them, noted their names and specifically asked them why they were there and who ordered it.

First, the guards claimed, “Jones just returned from court and we believe he has a cell phone.” But Mr. Jones pointed out the indisputable fact that he had not been out to court, saying, “Look at your own prison records and you will see that I have not been nowhere out of this SHU, including out to court, for decades.” At this, the guards began stuttering and fumbling over their words and finally said, “Just let’s wand you and get this over with!”

Then they called the Institutional Service Unit (ISU) goons to the SHU and took us down the hall. We first identified each CDCR employee present – Sgt. Moore, D SHU program, and guards Schrewberry and Martinez. We next asked, “What exactly will this procedure consist of and what kind of device(s) will you be using?” After they explained that, we followed up asking them to first run a test to ensure that the wand and metal detector devices were functioning properly, which they did by first conducting a “battery charge” check and made sure that it worked. Then they ran the wand over metal and it worked correctly.

We asked that the guard with the wand make sure it was kept clear of any metals on his uniform and our handcuffs, which caught them off guard, and they not only tried to ensure us that they would not play games, but actually carried it out professionally without making the metal detector sound off.

We were then taken back over to the program office to wait to be returned to the unit. But before we left, we again stopped and jammed Capt. Wood and Lt. Diggle about the whole ordeal, letting them know that we recognize this game they’re playing, which is clearly harassment. All that week they had been pulling New Afrikan prisoners out of our cells and bringing us down there, which is clearly institutionalized racism. They again started stuttering and fumbling their words when PJ (Paul Jones) asked them if they’d checked their records to see that he did not just “return from court.”

All that week they had been pulling New Afrikan prisoners out of our cells and bringing us down there for potty watch, which is clearly institutionalized racism. We later learned that the dungeon administrators – Wood, Diggle etc. – staged the whole “pod raid” to cover up their initial week-long targeting of New Afrikan prisoners.

Then at about 6:00 that night they came to Unit D4 and pulled out everyone from their cells. We later learned that the dungeon administrators – Wood, Diggle etc. – staged the whole “pod raid” to cover up their initial week-long targeting of New Afrikan prisoners in those dragnet CSW metal detector wanding games. And sure enough, when we filed our formal complaints, the first thing they used in their defense was that they also had searched others that evening of April 23, 2011.

One thing is for sure, they have not been back to target us since we called them on the inherently racist Green Wall Gang actions that their tactics prove to be.

Update: Recently, there have not been regular sightings of the CSW cages being filled here in the SHU. It’s possible that this is due to either or both of the Perez lawsuit mentioned above and the outside concerned public citizenry investigating by the California Senate Research Team. Laura Magnani at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has brought exposure of this prison’s CSW human rights violations. Whatever may be the case, it’s important for all CDCR imprisoned persons to know your rights!

Know your legal rights

It is a fact that CDCR has committed itself to allow its employees to establish and continue such dehumanizing, unsafe and illegal policies, actions, decisions, practices and overall mistreatment under their CSW scheme. So it’s important for those inside CDCR’s gulag to learn, know and exercise your legal rights in case it becomes necessary to file in court, like Mr. Perez has done.

1. Be informed! Read and educate yourself on the laws, rules, regulations, operational procedures etc. involving being placed on the prison’s CSW or “potty watch” mistreatment program by requesting the following legal material from the library:

  • CDCR’s Title 15, Division 3, Sections 3004 (“Rights and Respect of Others”) and 3991; Department Operations Manual, Section 529.23, 1 through 8.
  • Case law like S. Perez v. Matthew Cate et al, cited above.
  • Health and safety codes: California Penal Code, Sections 173, 2650-2653 etc.

2. Next, when approached by staff ordering you to be “wanded” with their metal detector, immediately do the following:

  • Request the names of each and every one of the staff around you – some guards wear nametags on their uniforms for you to see – as well as the names of their supervisors, sergeants or lieutenants and of all other possible witnesses, including fellow inmates.
  • Ask specifically: “Why are you wanding me with the metal detector?”
  • Ask that they put their reason and the name of the person who ordered it in writing.
  • Ask that the metal detector’s wand be tested to ensure it is functioning properly. Watch carefully how the guard holding the wand operates it to make sure he keeps it far away and clear from any metal items attached to his uniform like keys, chains, cuffs etc., which can and have wrongly set off the metal detector, including on occasions when the guards are believed to have done this deliberately with the intent of falsely accusing the targeted person of possessing “contraband.” See cases in point above.

3. If the metal detector does go off and staff wrongly accuse you of testing positive for possessing contraband or for whatever other reason that they use to put you in the CSW cage, immediately take the following actions to create a written record and secure your rights to take their asses to court later if you decide to:

  • First, make a verbal complaint and ask to speak with their higher authorities, e.g., captain, associate warden etc., who have the authority to order them to stop what they’re doing to you.
  • Demand to be x-rayed to prove you do not possess any contraband.
  • Ask to speak with the medical doctor, giving any reason if necessary. When the nurse arrives, have him/her write down your medical complaints such as medical health problems you already suffer from and the harm that being duct taped, cuffed and in the CSW is having on your health. Harmful effects may include difficulty in breathing, poor blood circulation, back pains, feet/ankle/leg pains from having to stand up all day until they bring the mattress at night time and any other problems that are causing you physical or mental pain, suffering, distress, anguish etc. Keep demanding to SEE A DOCTOR or to BE X-RAYED, and make sure they write everything down! And get the medical staff’s names.
  • Request both custody guards and medical staff to provide you with your basic necessities, guaranteed to all CDCR state prisoners, so that you can take care of your personal hygiene. This includes, for example, the provision of soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel, shower facilities, shaving supplies, clean clothing etc. Insist on regular access to soap and water before and after each meal and each time you defecate. Also, it’s important that you look around the CSW cage you’re in and take notice of the condition it is in, and tell the sergeant, lieutenant, captain or medical staff that it is too filthy and unhealthy for them to keep you in there.
  • Finally, repeatedly ask to be provided a CDC 602 and 602-A “Inmate Appeal” form and a “Rights and Responsibility” complaint form to have with you, so that you can exercise your right to file a complaint, both a Staff Complaint and Excessive Force Punishment Complaint, per Title 15, Sections 3004, 3004.1. Demand to be given something to write with, such as ink, a pen filler or pencil that will allow you to write down all the information on your situation and send it out of the prison for safe keeping and for notifying the outside world.

Send your reports via confidential and legal mail to the following addresses:

  • California State Senate Research Team, Attn: Sen. Darrell Steinberg, Room 205, State Capitol, Sacramento CA 94248
  • Marilyn S. McMahon, Attorney at Law, California Prison Focus, 1904 Franklin St, Suite 507, Oakland CA 94612

Contact the Freedom and Justice Project via James Baridi Williamson, D-34288, PBSP SHU D4-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532.