Guards steal from a California death row artist and he gets the hole

Hand-etched-domino-pendants-created-by-death-row-artist-James-P.-Anderson, Guards steal from a California death row artist and he gets the hole, Behind Enemy Lines
These are hand-etched domino pendants created on San Quentin’s death row by artist James P. Anderson. For the sake of humanity, do not let it be lost on any of us that this is the work of someone the state has deemed worthy of murdering – not redeemable, not deserving of a second chance, simply murdered. And to add another layer of crime against humanity, the state wants you to believe Mr. Anderson, now 68 years old, deserves to be stolen from, exploited and punished by people who will not be held accountable for their criminal activity. This is modern-day slavery 101. This is convict leasing 101. This is on our watch. 

by James P. Anderson

The most recent incidents of San Quentin Prison’s abuses of authority, creating fraudulent state documents, which is prosecutable as a felony, and blatant retaliation against prisoners, began in 2019, when East Block property officers Kevin Runge and L. Richardson literally stole the majority of death row artist James Phillip Anderson’s personal property. This is my story:

The theft included a collection of 64 classic music CDs, many of which are now out of print, a music equalizer, which can no longer be purchased by prisoners due to East Block’s constantly changing rules, electrical extension cords, ear buds and other miscellaneous items, but perhaps most important were all of my art supplies – paints, brushes, some of which cost $12 each and are made of sable, pencil sharpeners, glues, rulers and various other “allowed items” needed to create my paintings. 

A total of 15 newspaper and magazine articles have been published on my various art gallery exhibits since August 1985, beginning with the Bruni Sablan at Old Town Art Center in Los Gatos, Calif.

As a result of this theft, I filed the usual 22 and 602 complaint forms and, as is customary, these grievance forms were denied at all three levels, including the highest level at CDCR’s (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s) Sacramento office. 

This process usually requires a full year to obtain the final denial. It’s at this point that I drafted and submitted a civil lawsuit in the Northern District Court of California (Case No. 21-CV-00922-WH0) which was filed on Feb. 5, 2021, an 84-page document. This document includes my denied grievances, another prisoner’s grievances, emails from noted former Sacramento Bee reporter Charles Piller and receipts for the stolen personal property.

It’s vital that the public be informed that both Kevin Runge and L. Richardson’s assignments to the positions of East Block’s property officers were terminated in late January 2021, due to their attempting to steal all of another prisoner’s boxes of property by attempting to hide it in the sixth floor property room.

This was discovered only due to the diligent efforts of another prisoner’s wife – who is an attorney – contacting the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and other social justice organizations and prisoner advocates, who eventually contacted San Quentin’s warden s office to inquire about the status of the theft. 

Prior to being investigated or heard to determine innocence or guilt, I was automatically deemed guilty and housed in the hole for 90 days.

This effort resulted in the warden’s office or a captain actually phoning Runge and Richardson at their homes on a Saturday and ordering Runge and Richardson to return to East Block on Sunday, as all would search the property room to locate the missing property. It should be noted that Runge and Richardson can only obtain the key to the property room from the captain’s office – meaning that no other officers or staff had access to the property room and that both had claimed previously that they’d never seen nor possessed the prisoner’s property. 

However, after 30 minutes of searching, someone noticed a number of hidden boxes. Two weeks later, both Runge and Richardson were reassigned to another position out of East Block but not fired or reprimanded in any manner. It’s been a long-time rumor – by another corrections officer – that Runge or Richardson had been at a Northern California swap meet/flea market selling prisoners’ stolen property, i.e., radios, TVs, CD players, CDs, earphones etc., but there’s been no evidence (photographs or written declarations) offered to date.

Another prime example of how the prison industrial complex’s administration and staff conduct their business is that I was escorted to what’s called the Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) on March 24, 2021, and issued a MERD (Minimal Eligible Release Date from the hole) of June 11, 2021, before the RVRs (Rules Violation Report) were issued, investigated or heard to determine innocence or guilt, or a less serious infraction. In short, I was automatically deemed guilty and continued to be housed in the hole for 90 days by the all-white ICC members CC1 Eberly, Vargas and a white male. 

Plug-used-by-death-row-prisoner-James-P.-Anderson-to-make-hand-etched-pendants-1400x1050, Guards steal from a California death row artist and he gets the hole, Behind Enemy Lines
The alleged weapon: a prong of an electric plug used to etch the pendants

It must be noted, too, that after I was escorted out of the committee room, ICC members were over-heard discussing my case, stating: “He’s been here over 40 years. He knew it could’ve been used as a weapon.” There’s no doubt that this comment will not be included in the 128 Classification Chrono that will eventually be placed in my central file, nor will it be mentioned that a simple sharpened pencil is more of a deadly weapon than the one-prong domino etching tool that was perceived as a weapon supposedly.

A reasonable person of common sense needs only to look at how the RVRs (Rules Violation Reports) have been worded to see the obvious inference of “guilt before trial” related to the alleged weapon RVR. Corrections Officer C. Ramirez-Vilchis didn’t bother to mention there were five different etched domino pendants, in various stages of completion, hanging on their black twisted rope necklaces in the immediate areas that the alleged weapon was found. Ramirez-Vilchis couldn’t have not seen the five pendants before locating the etching tool. 

Placed in the hole for possession of a domino etching tool.

Ironically – and coincidentally, keeping in mind the Feb. 5, 2021, civil suit filing in the Northern District Court – on March 25, 2021, I was issued not one but three different RVRs by disciplinary Officer R. Gonzalez. Gonzalez also informed me that he would be assigned as my investigative employee, which would be similar to a free-world person being arrested by a police officer and that same arresting police officer acting as the arrested person’s attorney in a court of law.

This brings me to the illegal matter of stacking disciplinary reports, which is a prisoner receiving multiple RVRs for an alleged single rule violation, i.e., a single cell search resulting in multiple items of alleged contraband being found, which should be only one RVR. 

This is a tactic used to prolong or extend a prisoner’s time in the hole and can ultimately result in a prisoner being illegally classified as a program failure and housed in the hole indefinitely. A class action lawsuit was filed in the courts for 10-15 Latino death row prisoners who had been held in the Adjustment Center for years using this tactic and were finally released to the general population in 2018. 

This is the current status of my dilemma: Even though Charles Piller, now a journalist for @sciencemagazine, e-mailed Lts. Samuel Robinson and Robert Gardea (Samuel.Robinson2@cdcr.ca.gov and Robert.Gardea@cdcr.ca.gov) on March 16, 2021, with concerns as to “how and why” I had been placed in the hole for possession of a domino etching tool – a tool that at least 10 death row corrections officers had known about and seen me using while etching dominos in my cell for many years. 

Mother-and-daughter-wearing-James-P.-Andersons-pendants, Guards steal from a California death row artist and he gets the hole, Behind Enemy Lines
“My friend and her mother are wearing my hand-etched pendants – one with a cat and another with a feminist power symbol,” James says.

It should be noted, too, that I have designed, completed and gifted many of my domino pendants to numerous charities, non-profit organizations and family and friends over the years. Most recently, on Jan. 28, 2019, an auction benefit was held by Rebuilding Alliance, a pro-Palestinian organization based in Burlingame, Calif., at which an etched domino Palestinian flag pendant was purchased for an amazing $1,000.

Another circumstance that deserves attention is the hypocritical double standard applied to prisoners by the prison’s administration and staff compared to that which is applied to the prison’s staff. Case in point is corrections officer D. Cortez, PERN #124580, who on Jan. 6, 2021 – Washington insurrection day – wrote 16-20 fraudulent disciplinary reports on death row prisoners in East Block for allegedly “refusing a direct order” to be rehoused to “the other hole” – The Adjustment Center – for the purpose of Covid-19 tracking. 

On Jan. 13, 2021, RVRs were issued to 16-20 death row prisoners – Refusing a Direct Order being a serious disciplinary report. But the truth of this matter is that D. Cortez had actually asked the 16-20 prisoners if they’d volunteer to be rehoused to the Adjustment Center for the Covid-19 tracking, as opposed to being ordered or told to be rehoused; RVR #7055012; Rule Violation #3005(c)). 

As a result of a moral corrections officer being immediately present when D. Cortez asked the prisoners to volunteer to be rehoused, on Jan. 19, 2021, the fraudulent disciplinary reports magically disappeared and the tier officers simply walked each tier informing the prisoners on the list that there won’t be any RVR hearings for the Jan. 6, 2021, RVRs; they’ve been dismissed. 

Needless to say, some of the prisoners, if not all, would’ve suffered punishments of one kind or another, not to mention those who could’ve been deemed program failures, had the moral corrections officer not come forward. But absolutely nothing, not even a verbal reprimand, has been given to D. Cortez by the administration or East Block’s supervisors. 

A death row corrections officer has intentionally falsified a document, but there will be no reprimands.

There’s a possibility that a Citizen’s Complaint, along with the fraudulent RVR, RVR Supplements Report and 22 Forms of Jan. 7 and 19, 2021, were mailed to the Sacramento Northern Region Office at the end of January by an attorney who refused to include a letter of inquiry and simply mailed the documents. 

If the Citizen’s Complaint and related documents were in fact mailed to the Northern Region Office, the complaint will remain in D. Cortez’s file for five years. For those interested in reviewing or obtaining a copy of the complaint, call 916-255-1301, Office of Internal Affairs.

It may also be of interest to some individuals and prisoner activist organizations to know that I had written two articles that reflect the substance of this writing, as well as other insights. Feel free to review these at your earliest convenience at www.prisonskill.wordpress.com and continue to wear your masks. 

James-P.-Anderson-1210, Guards steal from a California death row artist and he gets the hole, Behind Enemy Lines
This is James P. Anderson in 2010, the age of the photo and poor quality typical of an often unrecognized tactic in the dehumanization of prisoners – allowing prisoners to have few if any photographs of themselves, sometimes for decades. Neither they nor their loved ones nor anyone else who cannot visit them can see them change as they grow older. Many prisoners also have no access to mirrors.

April 5, 2021, update

The assigned investigative employee R. Gonzalez issued me his investigative report of April 1, 2021, which contained numerous obvious falsified statements and responses from corrections officers that were allegedly interviewed to support the reality of the etching tool. All 10 officers’ answers were and are irrelevant. It is literally impossible for 10 different corrections officers – who work in different units of the prison – to have given Gonzalez the exact same one-word response. 

It appears that Gonzalez was instructed and directed to create a falsified report in an effort to justify and substantiate that the etching tool was a weapon; all to cover up the retaliation I endured for filing the civil lawsuit for the theft of my property. 

Additionally, Gonzalez’s including false information related to a corrected RVR of 40 years past, from 1981, for an alleged weapon which Corrections Officer Crowder, now a lieutenant or captain in another institution, confirmed in writing that a simple paper staple was used to make holes for staples for legal documents/petitions to the courts for death penalty appeals. Paper staplers were not readily available to death row prisoners in 1981.

There are obvious and direct contradictions in my responses in Gonzalez’s report to the question: “Would you like to have anyone, witnesses, present at the RVR hearing?” One answer is “no,” while another answer to the exact same question is “yes.” 

I have actually spoken with several of the witnessing corrections officers who have conveyed that they in fact “informed Gonzalez that Anderson has, in fact, been creating the etched domino pendants for many years and that the etching tool was not a weapon of any kind.” 

Again, a death row corrections officer has intentionally falsified a document, but there will be no reprimands or addressing this ongoing problem until the courts order an investigation and have the opportunity to review the documents which resulted in many death row prisoners and others being illegally housed in Administrative Segregation at San Quentin Prison.

Send our brother some love and light: James P. Anderson, C11400, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94974.