Secret torture unit at San Quentin

by a California Death Row SHU prisoner

The Adjustment Center (AC) is the politically corrupt designation given to the death row Security Housing Unit (SHU) at San Quentin (SQ) which also serves as Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) overflow housing. But for all intents and purposes the AC is a secret torture unit at SQ and the fraternal twin of CDCR’s other torture units now partially exposed by media attention resulting from the 2011 peaceful hunger strikes at Corcoran, Pelican Bay and Tehachapi.

San-Quentin-Adjustment-Center-by-National-Geographic, Secret torture unit at San Quentin, Abolition Now! Public Affairs Officer Sam Robinson conducts tours of SQ and would tell you with a straight face the AC is overflowing with the “worst of the worst.” But you’re not allowed inside. That’s because the torture unit overlords, who include but are not limited to Chief Deputy Warden W.A. Rodriguez, his cohort Assistant Warden J. Corzon and their loyal-as-an-attack-dog Facility Capt. Robertson, claim it’s a “security risk.” Truth be told, we do see how it would “risk” exposing them and the asinine antics common to their clique, how it would cost them the “security” of their jobs and perhaps land a few of their asses in prison.

All this begs the question, “Who is really in the AC and how do they end up there?” Here is an inside perspective: On May 7, 2013, shortly after “YARD IS CANCELLED DUE TO MAINTENANCE” was gleefully blasted over the excessively loud PA system in East Block, where the majority of death row prisoners are warehoused, two prisoners in neighboring cells get confronted by a goon squad comprised of a red-faced Sgt. Reynolds and four henchmen, all barking furiously, “Don’t touch anything and strip out!” As if at random these two prisoners were selected to be under suspicion of possessing cell phones.

After being detained for over an hour in cages about the size you might expect to see a pair of pet macaws swinging in, they were again humiliated by being staged in their cells, but just long enough to see how everything in them had been tossed like salad during the frantic search that turned up no cell phones or contraband whatsoever, then relocated to the AC indefinitely pending the outcome of an “investigation.” No Rules Violation Report (RVR), property remains in a shambles at East Block and this ride began over three weeks ago. For one of these two unfortunate prisoners, his ride through this not-so-fun house began in the dungeon.

Cells 1AC63-1AC67 are called “the dungeon” because a barred and padlocked gate separates them from the other 12 cells on the tier. The dungeon cell floors, concrete bunks and walls are cracked, not level, and flaking. Another bizarre feature is partitions extending about 5 feet or so from the cell fronts dividing them like horse stalls.

Entrance-to-San-Quentin-East-Block-Death-Row-0313-by-LifeoftheLaw.org_, Secret torture unit at San Quentin, Abolition Now! The dungeon is primarily used to torture marginalized or hated prisoners, especially those already obviously suffering from mental disorders acquired at some point during their ride through this torture unit at SQ or at one of the many others operating within the prison industrial complex. Could anything really be so medieval in modern times?

Shane Bauer spent months doing an “Iranian SHU program.” A short time after his release he blew the cover off gang validation policies and SHU conditions in California prisons. He reported Pelican Bay SHU was not identical to its Iranian twin but worse, and in Iranian prisons no one has served more than two years in solitary confinement! Getting held hostage in this torture unit for a couple years, decades or more is business as usual at SQ, just as in others operating in the U.S.

In my opinion, one of the most diabolical ways they keep us on this ride is the “fabrication and rejection process.” In short, this means getting RVRs fabricated against us, being found guilty at hearings where due process is considered a thing of the past, then having our appeals rejected. Prisoners cannot appeal a rejected appeal. That, of course, is by design, intended to delay and, if possible, preclude exhausting administrative remedies, a requirement before prisoners can access the courts. The torture unit overlords really want to have their way with you and do all they can to get you to hang yourself in their noose-shaped loopholes. Could that be anything other than the designs of sadistic criminal masterminds?

Consider the following, which describes an exceptionally violent combination of mental and physical torture. See how the aforementioned “fabrication and rejection process” is being applied to cover up criminal activity and human rights violations:

On Sept. 3, 2012, as Robert Frazier lies unconscious in 2AC57 from several days of sleep deprivation caused by a custody staff-influenced medical decision to discontinue various permanent chronos, a goon squad comprised of henchmen Anderson, Calderon, Morris and Yanmastrigt storms into his cell. Upon entry they proceed to beat Frazier into a semi-conscious state, drag him bleeding from wrists and ankles down the tier in excessively tightened handcuffs and shackles, bounce him down two flights of stairs, then from the AC entrance all the way to the triage treatment area (TTA) hoist him by the chains and/or drag him by them for about 100 yards as a med-tech pushed a wheelchair alongside at a distance.

Carmen-Ward-7-years-in-San-Quentin-Adjustment-Center-0313-by-LifeoftheLaw.org_, Secret torture unit at San Quentin, Abolition Now! I want to interject here to point out this is documented as an “emergency medical cell extraction” executed during a lockdown initiated approximately 12 days prior due to an alleged slashing/stabbing of two AC officers which had nothing to do with Frazier but might have fueled the goon squad’s madness.

The “emergency treatment” Frazier received consisted of being thrown into a cage built into the corner of a TTA cell and left crumpled there for three hours or so. All that time Frazier screamed in agony, forced to endure excruciating pain as the handcuffs and shackles cut deeper into his skin. He wasn’t even seen by a physician on that day nor would Dr. Grant agree to examine, document or treat his injuries anytime during Frazier’s 16-day hunger strike – all Frazier could think of doing to get seen by medical – but the goon squad beating injuries, re-damaging preexisting injuries and the skin condition which was the major contributing factor leading to his sleep deprivation, were ignored.

A few days after Frazier attempted to file an emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus in Marin County, an RVR was fabricated alleging Frazier battered the goon squad. Frazier’s two healthcare appeals have been delayed without reason in excess of 90 days so far and his RVR hearing appeal, citing denial of all witnesses except the reporting employee, has been rejected by CDCR Appeals Coordinator J.D. Lozano.

Surely these experiences come off sounding sensationalized and extreme, but they are nonetheless classic examples of what untold thousands in SHUs throughout the U.S. are reportedly subjected to at an ever-increasing rate. Who are the real lying bunch of murderers?

The CDCR has proven over and over to be masters of media manipulation and propaganda wizards. Don’t allow them to operate secret torture units like the AC or make them appeal to be something they’re not – NECESSARY. Please don’t allow your tax dollars to reward and secure impunity for sadistic, corrupt prison officers whose goal is to build more torture units in your backyards.

Call, write and email

  • Gov. Jerry Brown: phone (916) 445-2841, fax (916) 558-3160, write to him at State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, or email
  • Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard, Ph.D.: phone (916) 323-6001, fax (916) 442-2637 or write to him at 1515 S St., Fifth Floor, Sacramento, CA 95811
  • SQ puppet Warden Kevin R. Chappell: phone (415) 454-1460 or write to him at San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974

to demand they shut down the AC and all torture units. Also please contribute generously to this publication helping us to have our voice heard from within, keeping the struggle alive.

CDCR’s hunger strike playbook: Premeditated malice

List-of-Death-Row-hunger-strikers-San-Quentin-Adjustment-Center-0313-by-LifeoftheLaw.org_, Secret torture unit at San Quentin, Abolition Now! After three days we’ll officially be hunger strikers (OP608, Sec. 419 B.1.). [This was written shortly before the beginning of the July 8 hunger strike. – ed.] Within only two days we’re getting set up to be declared “leaders” by a sergeant or lieutenant under the guise of negotiations (OP608, Sec. 419 B.k.). By Day 5, the facility captain starts sweating us (OP608, Sec. 419 B.1.).

At this point our peaceful action shows potential exposure of human rights violations due to imminent media attention, so prison officials hoping to cover things up deem this a disruption to facility operations, while part of their clique forms an Institutional Classification Committee (ICC), which then threatens a subsequent Rules Violation Report (RVR) we’re going to receive based on their wild stretch interpretation of 15 CCR 3315(a)(2)(L) that makes each of us a documented, validated participant in a Security Threat Group (STG) action (OP608, Sec. 419 B.m.n.).

If that fails to halt the advance of our struggle for basic human needs, CDCR’s playbook then calls for an intensified sensory deprivation program to be implemented (OP608, Sec. 419 C., Sec. 816). All this clearly demonstrates CDCR’s premeditated response to our peaceful action is the continuation of violent torture methods with malice under the guise of “security.”

Course of action: Everyone simply states they have nothing to say. Thus, nobody provides evidence of being a “leader” or an “organizer” through individual testimony. The open letter with its list of demands speaks for itself on behalf of us all, participating or not, while our nonviolent participation in the struggle is an action which speaks louder than mere words. We’re simply allowing CDCR’s twisted response to unravel, thus exposing their premeditated malice which they have reworded in the OP608.

Note: All OP608 and 15 CCR citations are available at

Putting it in writing

The big picture includes me but is not all about me. “We” are in a struggle for basic human rights whether “we,” “they,” “he/she” or “you” choose to be or not. It is what it is.

Guards-begin-cell-extraction-to-search-for-letters-being-passed-on-tier-0313-San-Quentin-Adjustment-Center-by-LifeoftheL, Secret torture unit at San Quentin, Abolition Now! Prior to the 2011 hunger strikes to the present, this is still a root cause of the dilemma in common. Evidence demonstrates the struggle to gain basic human rights moves forward by using as many nonviolent tools at one’s disposal as possible to tighten down the screws on those giving a thumbs-up to the variety of torture methods CDCR uses and obscures.

The court turns its head, the system writes it off into the corner with censorship. This particular way described in a petition circulated by MIM silences the many by denying the ability to exhaust administrative remedies required by the courts.

Not everyone is a jailhouse lawyer, but the law seemingly requires prisoners to be in order to get their grievances addressed! This petition gives a voice to everyone being exploited, and it exposes the violations at both an individual level and collectively.

You can obtain copies of the petition by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to: MIM (Prisons), P.O. Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140. Request an information package for a grievance campaign in your state.

This story was transcribed by Adrian McKinney.