Who really is the ‘Worst of the Worst’?

“Everyday Life in California’s Level 4 Prisons” – Art: Michael D. Russell. At this moment we are unaware of Mr. Russell’s whereabouts and look forward to hearing from him. Michael’s work has always powerfully expressed the raw and unjust conditions within Pelican Bay, told eloquently in print by Alfred Sandoval here.

by Alfred Sandoval

For years I was labeled as one of the CDCR’s “Worst of the Worst.” I was housed in security units, ad-segs and even among mentally ill prisoners for isolation purposes.

Now that I have been out in the general population for almost five years, I decided to write this and ask the question, who really is the “Worst of the Worst”?

In April 2016, I was released to the general population (GP) at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) after more than 30 years in a Security Housing Unit (SHU). One of the first things that I noticed was the blatant disres­pect and dehumanizing treatment of prisoners by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) members, who are the correctional officers (COs) of PBSP. 

Within the first few days, I was told that when an alarm goes off all the prisoners must “prone out” on the ground. To prone out, you must lay face down with your arms out above your head – it doesn’t matter if it’s muddy or there’s crap on the ground. You must get down.

About a month later, I was on my way to school when an alarm went off. Luckily, I was on a piece of concrete, so I proned out and saw a youngster that had just arrived still standing and looking around not knowing what to do. 

That mentality is still how prisoners at PBSP are treated to this day. We are not considered human beings. We are herded like animals and dis­respected by the good ol’ boys who have always been here.

A sergeant began yelling and running toward the youngster from approximately 10 yards away to “get the fuck down!” So he did. When the sergeant reached the youngster, he stood over him looking as if he were going to piss on him. 

The sergeant was still yelling at the top of his lungs cussing the prisoner out, when the youngster asked, “What did I do?” Again the sergeant yelled, “When you hear an alarm, you get down on your belly!” The prisoner asked “Why?” The sergeant replied, “Because that’s what maggots do!”

That mentality is still how prisoners at PBSP are treated to this day. We are not considered human beings. We are herded like animals and dis­respected by the good ol’ boys who have always been here.

Yes, despite the progressive warden who wants more positive and product­ive programs, the ol’ school bigots are still here when prisoners try to program and have functions with free people. There are CCPOA members openly calling the prisoners “pussies” for programming, and every program on this yard must deal with some type of harassment.

I was trying to figure out how to write a fair piece about this place because there are some decent, respectable COs that do their jobs without being jackasses, but they are routinely ridiculed and called “inmate lovers” by their fellow employees and those in charge, usually their own sergeants.

Lately, some of the CCPOA members have been commenting on how PBSP should “get back to the way it used to be.” I find that amusing because many of these COs were not even born when I came into the system. 

So I have to ask, how far back do these COs want to go? Back to the days when a Black mentally ill prisoner could get his skin boiled off and the good ol’ boys not report it? The only reason that incident came out was because a Medical Technical Assistant (MTA) heard the screams and made a report. Or maybe they want to go back to the days of Flowers and Garcia.

These CCPOA members were convicted of orches­trating the murders and assaults of prisoners at this prison! Of course, the CCPOA put out statements saying these were rogue CCPOA members, call­ing their actions “isolated incidents.” 

The gladiator fights, the hundreds of beat­ings of handcuffed prisoners, the orchestrated riots – were all of these isolated incidents, or rogue COs? Or maybe, just maybe, you have some strange flowers in your garden. As the saying goes, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Every one of these CCPOA members were “professionally” trained at your academy.

So, who really is the “Worst of the Worst”?

Send our brother some love and light: Alfred Sandoval, D#61000 P.O. Box 7500 B-5 #132, Crescent City, CA 95532.