Soledad prisoners describe violent raids by 100 guards in full riot gear

“My House” – Art: Roy Cortez, CTF Soledad, created as part of the California Arts in Corrections program, administered by the William James Association. Imagine being sound asleep on the upper bunk and waking up in the air as you are thrown from your bunk, hitting your head hard against the wall. That is how Talib Williams was awakened on July 20 during a 3 a.m. raid that singled out 200 Black prisoners. They were told by guards that one reason for the raids was to expose them to COVID-19. This report expands on earlier reports on the July 20 raid to describe two more raids, one on Hispanic prisoners and another on prisoners who have filed grievances. Apparently, Warden Craig Koenig has determined that all Black and Brown prisoners and those who try to exercise their rights are troublemakers who deserve death by COVID.

by prisoners at CTF Central, Soledad

We are writing this letter to advocate on behalf of disenfranchised prisoners, many of them disabled, who suffered extreme brutality, systematic racism and retaliatory practices at the hands of CDCR prison officials on March 5, 2020, May 19, 2020, and July 20, 2020, at the Correctional Training Facility-Central (CTF-C), at Soledad. Without any warning or lawful orders, dozens of prisoners were injured severely, aggravating old injuries and causing new injuries to their bodies.

These violent assaults were approved by high ranking officials within CDCR, including but not limited to the secretary of CDCR, CTF Warden Craig Koenig, the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS) etc. These violent assaults, ethnic targeting and retaliatory actions were carried out by prison officials, including but not limited to CTF ISU (Investigative Services Unit), IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) and custody staff, Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) ISU, IGI, CDCR Special Services Unit, Gang Intel Operations etc.

On March 5, 2020, at 1000 hours, the Emergency Crisis Response Team was activated, which included CTF ISU, IGI, IST and custody staff. These CTF custody employees specifically targeted ALL Hispanic inmates classified as STG (Security Threat Group, the new term for “gang”) I and STG II. All Hispanics were violently dragged off their bunks and forced to the floor without justification. 

On May 19, 2020, during the peak of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a Monterey County shelter-in-place order, a special operation was conducted on X-Wing. During this operation, 60-plus inmates were forced at gunpoint to un-mask, lie on the floor (including those naked on the filthy shower floors), where they were searched for control, flex-cuffed and crammed like sardines into the narrow day room floor. 

Once on the floor, all targeted inmates were zip-tied at gunpoint, forced to their feet and forcefully segregated from the general population and housed in a designated building, X-Wing, in direct violation of Settlement Agreement Case No. 09-05796-CW Ashker v. Brown. All property was separated and inspected away from the inmates. These actions were authorized by Warden Craig Koenig.

On May 19, 2020, during the peak of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a Monterey County shelter-in-place order, a special operation was conducted on X-Wing. During this operation, 60-plus inmates were forced at gunpoint to un-mask, lie on the floor (including those naked on the filthy shower floors), where they were searched for control, flex-cuffed and crammed like sardines into the narrow day room floor. 

Roughly 100 CTF and SVSP employees in full riot gear brandished weapons at the faces of random inmates while trying to shower and call their loved ones. This entire operation was done in the presence of Warden Craig Koenig and all in an effort to conduct five specific cell searches. These searches were all in retaliation for staff misconduct grievances written by inmates.

Most recently, on July 20, 2020, 200 African American inmates were violently dragged off their bunks, placed in headlocks, flex-cuffed and zip-tied at 3:00 a.m. in the attire they sleep in – in boxer shorts and barefoot with no masks – held in dark hidden corridors with no explanation or reasoning, under accusations of gang affiliation.

The purpose of this letter is not only to shed light on CTF’s barbaric and inhumane treatment of inmates, but also a cry for legal assistance to cease and desist this misconduct. Health and safety have been disregarded at the highest level of authority here at CTF Central, as have administrative grievances. An injury documentary audit and internal investigation is essential to preventing further harm to human lives here at CTF Central. 

This is a very urgent matter.

CTF Central Inmates

This letter was sent for publication via Tasha Williams, who has also written about the raids. The wife of a prisoner at CTF Central, she can be reached at tashachildress@gmail.com