Liberate the Caged Voices

Pelican-Bay-prisoner-support-rally-at-gate-100111, Liberate the Caged Voices, Behind Enemy Lines
On Oct. 1, 2011, as the second hunger strike raged in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, the debate raged in newspapers and TV up and down California as to whether the strikers were really the “worst of the worst,” deserving of contempt and perpetual torture, or brave men starving themselves to stop the torture and prevent its infliction on anyone else. Prisoner supporters living near Pelican Bay who wanted the prisoners to know of their support created this banner and, in an almost unthinkable act of courage, displayed it at the prison gate.

by Bay View Managing Editor Nube Brown

Introduction: There is a deep, painful and buried history to the elders of the Liberate our Caged Elders campaign. It is imperative that we hear from these elders who have survived this decades-long torture of solitary confinement, unprecedented anywhere that we know of. 

Pelican Bay State Prison was built to warehouse and break the mind, body and spirit of those caged in the Security Housing Units known as SHUs. Many did break. We must honor and never forget those who did not yet who still languish in cages behind CDCr’s rogue and abusive tactics and the current and past governors’ deliberate indifference, policy violence and support of white supremacy.

We must never let it be lost in the public discourse – nor from our youth – the brutal and torturous experience these men and women endured, and the equally powerful achievements they were able to gain through their sheer force of will and humanity to create the Agreement to End Hostilities and win their freedom from torture and end indefinite solitary confinement by means of the historic California Hunger Strikes 2011-2013.

Below is a never-before published article written during the torture and how it is still relevant today. Note that the current secretary of CDCR is Kathleen Allison; governor is Gavin Newsom.

These elders are our heroes, our political prisoners, our brilliant minds and spirits that have not been broken, and who represent the best in leadership, humanity and our way forward out of this dangerous and mind-numbing misnomer called mass incarceration, which is really modern-day slavery taking place within our prisons.

Below is a never-before published article written during the torture and how it is still relevant today. Note that the current secretary of CDCR is Kathleen Allison; governor is Gavin Newsom:

The relevancy of truth

by Richard Johnson

In recent times there has been an avalanche of misrepresentations, deceit, cover-ups and outright lies waged against the truth as it relates to prisoners and what is really going on out of the eyesight of the public. 

The blitz of misinformation that has been occupying the internet and various news outlets is designed solely to hide and distort the truth from those not truly abreast and informed on the politics of prison expansion, control and the misuse of taxpayer dollars that are reaped in under the auspices of maximum security and protection.  

The most blatant abuse of this can be seen in the so-called Security Housing Units, better known as SHUs, pronounced “shoes.” Supposedly the most vile and dangerous prisoners with blood on their hands are housed in these settings, away from all other prisoners who aren’t seen as dangerous predators. 

However, in order to get away with this practice, the characterization of these particular prisoners must be held to the highest of disdain and contempt.

By falsely labeling and claiming that most, if not all, in SHU are murderous individuals with heavy ties to prison or street gangs, the administration seeks to avert the real from the people.

Not everyone in SHU is a gangster, murderer or so violent that they must be held in such inhumane conditions, physically and emotionally tortured as the only way to keep order and irreverent control over the prison setting.

Without real evidence or due process, you can be indefinitely locked up in solitary confinement until you snitch, die or parole, it doesn’t matter in what order. It’s referred to as administrative justice, and not based on behavior or conduct. 

By supplying outright lies to the people, the CDCR, aka California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, has been quite successful over the years. However, the monstrous temple built of pure fabrication is beginning to show cracks in its structure.

Falsehood can only sustain for so long and the truth will begin to take shape. This is happening in the form of the SHU class uniting in saying enough with the deception and untruth. 

How long can they continue to justify the cruel and unjust treatment that is befalling those held in the bowels of systemic corruption at the hands of fraudulent administrators working in concert with the state to maintain this money profiting entity adverse to human life? 

Our only way to show to the world just what is happening in these prisons that are being paid for and funded by the people is to put our lives and principles on the line. We, the prisoners overall, but the SHU class in particular, elected to come together in unity with the hope of exposing the truth that isn’t being told or revealed. 

As a collective course for those prisoners willing to put their health at further dire risk and face a potential death via starvation, we came together as one with the desire that someone would take heed and listen to our words of defiance as it pertains to the mistreatment of prisoners being subdued with overcrowding, failed health services, persecution, but mostly the vicious, rabid and unparalleled conditions that we’re forced to endure in SHU.

It’s understandable that if you commit a rule infraction you’ll be disciplined according to the rules and regulation matrix purposely designed for various infractions. What isn’t widely known is there is a system that exists for everyone believed to either be a gang member or an associate to any member. 

Without real evidence or due process, you can be indefinitely locked up in solitary confinement until you snitch, die or parole, it doesn’t matter in what order. It’s referred to as administrative justice, and not based on behavior or conduct. 

In order to sell this practice, the denigration of those prisoners must be laid out formidably. This is methodically and meticulously accomplished by labeling those held in SHU as vile, murderous gang members, who must be kept locked up 22-and-a-half hours a day in a tiny cell, so everyone else will be safe. 

If this is the accepted course of action in order to facilitate an atmosphere of peace, harmony and tranquility within prison, why then is there so much violence with riots and assaults that go on every single day in prison, if those who are responsible for the violence are locked up in SHU?

The sheets are coming down, the eyes are being opened and no longer can they hide behind the cloak of so-called security necessary to protect others. The truth is the only thing that needs to be protected.

There’s something very wrong with this analogy, a major flaw in their perception that they desire to depict to the people who are less informed. The prison overseers have been working feverishly to dispel the truth by injecting inordinate deceptions to conceal the real evil of what, how and why they’re doing what they’re doing. 

Until now, the administration and their minions have been quite convincingly effective in their garrulous garble. But just like in any force in nature, nothing lasts forever. 

The sheets are coming down, the eyes are being opened and no longer can they hide behind the cloak of so-called security necessary to protect others. The truth is the only thing that needs to be protected.

In the last couple of years, there’s been a real awakening as to the innate corruption spearheaded by CDCR in their attempt to cling to their belief of invincible power. The people aren’t so naive, nor are they blind. 

It has taken several painful hunger strikes to bring a level of attention to this shameful and despicable transgression that has befallen so many at the hands of a perceived power. And the day of reckoning is upon us. 

There can be no turning back. Lives have been lost; irrevocable harm has been done. The only direction from here is up, for we’ve been in the pits being degraded, sullied and stained by the lies told in order to maintain subjugation and to validate their wrongdoing. 

We’ve come too far to vacillate or relinquish the path of correction for those held in CDCR leadership must be held to the task of fixing all that’s wrong, even if it means falling on the sword themselves. 

The head of the Department of Corrections, Jeffrey Beard, must either stop lying and start fixing the problems or face the power of the people by being replaced. 

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has enjoyed a wide range of support from his constituents, now has to face the possibility of defeat in his upcoming bid for re­election or any future plans in politics.

These two men working together hold the answers for rectifying the broken system that confronts the fundamental unfairness as it relates to every bleak facet of the Department of Corrections. Jeffrey Beard can simply begin by stop prompting fear. 

Gov. Newsom needs to stop pandering to the powerful unions and be a governor to everyone. He needs to stop being the embodiment of wrong and regain his sense of honor, direction and most of all truth. 

Lying to people by way of news media about how everyone held in SHU is a vicious gang member and if let out will kill everyone in sight is fear mongering and must stop. He knows better and is counting on the people to accept these untruths, in order to maintain control. 

Mr. Beard is well aware of the truth, yet elects to wrap himself in well scripted, maligned mendacity in hopes of clinging to his position of misguided trust.

Gov. Jerry Brown is the most powerful man in California as a direct result of an election; obviously he has become intoxicated with self-worth and forgot how he got in that position. He was elected to office by the people and, if need be, he’ll be removed by the people of the state come election time. 

He may think that he owes a debt of loyalty to named and unnamed sponsors. However, his responsibility is to the people who put him in office and to serve and represent them, not to the fringe backdoor donors and side dealing backers who are looking for favors. 

Gov. Brown needs to stop pandering to the powerful unions and be a governor to everyone. He needs to stop being the embodiment of wrong and regain his sense of honor, direction and most of all truth. 

This can be done by an act of Consent Decree. He can re-establish factual order where there is none and demand full cooperation that has been replaced with pompous grandiosity and pretention.

Stop being a politician for once and start governing the people of California with esteem and respect, plus integrity. 

The relevancy of truth will help and guide you in the right direction, whenever you become indecisive, as truth is infinite and immeasurable.

Send our brother some love and light: Richard Wembe Johnson, K53293, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin CA 94974.