by Bay View Editor Nube Brown
The historic and systemic assault on our health is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our housing is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our food sovereignty is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our education and history is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our economics is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our environment is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our self-determination is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our mental and spiritual wellbeing is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our quest for liberation is genocide.
The historic and systemic assault on our right to defend our lives is genocide.
The evidence is with the people! The oppressor – the colonial, capitalist, imperialist – wants us to be hung up on data, numerical and statistical proof. But considering the copious amounts of policy, legislative and academic violence, I say look to our greatest resource – the people.
The most profound aspect of the International Tribunal 2021, We Charge Genocide, that manifested for me from the testimonies and the jurists’ questions is that genocide isn’t just physical destruction or death, but mental and spiritual as well – a perspective well-honed and expressed by prisoners. I’ve heard them call it crimes against humanity, modern-day slavery – their work always asserting their humanity, thereby acknowledging ours.
It is through our stories – historic and current, our gained knowledge and the tremendous work being done on the ground and behind the walls that this next phase of this movement for liberation and building power for the people will move forward. Listen to the changing language that will express the truth of what we are experiencing as Black, Brown and Indigenous people in Amerikkka Inc.
Along with two days of witness testimony, a 90+ page body of evidence of genocide was presented to the international jurists in the Tribunal that took place Oct. 22-25. One of the documents – which I had the honor of being able to put together and included – was a compilation of some of voices of the historic California Hunger Strikers 2011-2013. Here they are:
California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s forgotten political prisoners and torture survivors
by Nube Brown
“For over 50 years, in violation of the Eighth and 14th Amendments, clearly established U.S. law (see In re Medley) and international law, the California Department of Corrections has presided over a genocidal domestic torture program in its indeterminate Security Housing Units (SHU) against New Afrikan political and politicized prisoners in hopes of eradicating the ideology and national identity of politically active New Afrikans in their custody.
“Security Housing Units (SHUs) like those in Pelican Bay, Tehachapi and Corcoran are torture units. They are used to indefinitely house human beings in solitary confinement based on an administrative determination that they are ‘gang members’ with an impetus towards breaking their minds in hopes of eliciting information and coercing them into becoming informants or active agents in the state.
SHUs are by definition torture units and were specifically engineered to warp reality for purposes of breaking men’s minds.
“This virtually defines the validation, indeterminate SHU confinement and debriefing processes, which are all interconnected. We were routinely told, quite frankly, at ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) hearings: ‘The only way you’ll get out of SHU is if you parole, debrief or die’; at parole board hearings the line was no different. The panel of law enforcement officials would state: ‘If you want a parole date, you may want to think about debriefing.’
“To debrief, one must become an informant, an agent of the state, and decades of torture and withholding of freedom are strong state sanctions to compel someone to make something up or simply parrot what they are told to say to get out of SHU or support a law enforcement agenda.
“SHUs are by definition torture units, and specifically, experimental, ultra-supermax isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU’s D-Short Corridor and Corcoran SHU’s 4B1L-C-Section short corridor were specifically engineered to warp reality for purposes of breaking men’s minds.
“Yet in the case of New Afrikan Revolutionary Prisoners, there was an even more insidious motivation: the extermination of New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism from the California prison system and society at large.
“New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist (NARN) prisoners were the ONLY group of prisoners consigned to SHU for our ideas, for what we read or what we wrote. We resisted SHU torture and our struggle to abolish SHU torture units was inextricably linked to the broader struggle to seize cultural hegemony in the U.S. from the ruling class and its tool, the state. This struggle has contributed to progressively changing attitudes in society and prisons.
“The response of the state was to increase the repression against the New Afrikan Revolutionary Prisoner Class.”
“The lines between the socially hostile microcosm of prison and the politically reactionary macrocosm of society were being blurred as progressive activists across the spectrum began to join hands across the walls with progressive and revolutionary prisoners, producing new social relationships, new political perspectives, and moving toward truly revolutionary – i.e., rational – character structures and ideology.
“The response of the state was to increase the repression against the New Afrikan Revolutionary Prisoner Class. Simply saying it, writing the term ‘New Afrikan’ would earn you a disciplinary report and more time added to your prison sentence.
“Again, imprisoned New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalists/Revolutionary Scientific Socialists were the ONLY class of prisoners subject to California’s indefinite SHU torture units based solely on their political beliefs and expression. To be sure, the very purpose of the U.S. domestic torture program and the creation of sensory deprivation torture units across U.S. prisons was “to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and society at large,” said former Marion Supermax Warden Ralph Arron. Control in this instance meant eradication of the ideological foundation of a specific racial and national group, New Afrikans in Amerikkka.
“The decades NARN prisoners languished in SHU torture units, with many breaking psychologically or abandoning their New Afrikan national identity in exchange for escape from the torture unit, was indeed a form of genocide waged against the New Afrikan Nation, as few will dispute that its most advanced ideological and political proponents were some of these same prisoners confined indefinitely in California’s SHUs.
“Though we waged a successful struggle to eradicate domestic torture units in California (see Ashker v. Brown) the injury to the New Afrikan Political Prisoner class has not abated. After decades of attempting to wipe us from existence, they simply tossed us out on the mainline as though they have not committed this heinous crime against us.
“In the torture unit, there were no programs, educational opportunities, vocational training or rehabilitative efforts at all. These are necessary to make one eligible for parole. Because our class has, on average, been imprisoned between 30 and 50 years, once released from SHU, many of us were also due for parole eligibility hearings before the board.
The creation of sensory deprivation torture units across U.S. prisons was “to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and society at large,” said former Marion Supermax Warden Ralph Arron.
“Most of us were denied parole, even after all we’ve been subjected to, primarily because we did not have the educational, vocational or rehabilitative program certifications the board requires. To be sure, in May 2019 Komrade Abdul Olugbala Shakur, after over 40 years in prison, 32 1/2 of those years in solitary confinement, went before the board and was denied five years primarily because he had yet to complete the GED program.
“Had we not been illegally held in sensory deprivation torture units for decades on end, we would have long since completed these programs and more. It is our contention that these decades long violations of our Eighth and 14th Amendment Rights and rights under international law require equitable restitution for the crimes committed against us in the form of parole dates for the relatively small number of New Afrikan Political/Politicized Prisoners subject to indeterminate SHU confinement.
“The criteria qualifying one for release under Institutional Restitution (viable employment, housing, a strong support network etc.) are more than met by each subject in the Institutional Restitution Class.
“There are fewer than 20 NARN prisoners remaining from this class in prison, all between 45 and 75. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the recidivism rate for those who have served 20 years or more of continuous confinement is .015 percent – virtually non-existent. Opposition to such a targeted release of such a small number of fully rehabilitated, relatively elderly prisoners would only be further proof of the state’s fascist motive force.
“Prisoners inside the solitary confinement units at Pelican Bay and Corcoran State Prisons had become the residue of the last standing of mental and physical torture.”
“We charge genocide! And it is our contention that Institutional Restitution is the remedy for it. Join us in demanding Institutional Restitution,” declared Joka Heshima Jinsai, who spent 20+ years in SHU and is still caged in Kern Valley State Prison.
“My name is Paul Redd. Most people know me by PR. I spent most of my time in prison, close to 46 years, 30 something in solitary confinement Pelican Bay. I was one of the 16 supporters, representative body of the historic California Hunger Strikes and to end the hostilities as well. On May 21, 2020, I was finally released from prison, Vacaville prison, under (Penal Code) 1170 (d)(1), CDCR Resentencing Recommendations (AB 1812).
“At the time of the Hunger Strike, I didn’t consider my health problems that I was having, but I knew this was something that we had to do if we wanted to change the system that we knew was torturous, barbaric and everything else you can think of.”
“My name is Ruben Williams and those that know me call me Kubwa Jitu. I too spent a total of 44 years in prison with 36 total in the SHU units; the last 26 years in Pelican Bay due to the activities that took place in the historic California Hunger Strikes during the middle of the 2000s.
“My thoughts were on would many of us survive that Hunger Strike, because a lot of us had dedicated ourselves to the length of time that we were going to do. And looking at the history of Hunger Strikes, we noticed and began to realize how much time we had before our bodily system shut down and we began to learn what we were up against.”
“What was known for certain, the indefinite solitary confinement class were in desperate circumstances. Years and decades of sensory isolation had led to numerous deprivations with no relief beside ‘parole, debrief or die.’
“Parole was out of play. The California paroling authority had never in its long history ever found a single prisoner suitable for parole while under solitary confinement. Hundreds of prisoners had succumbed to debriefing for relief, and many others went into temporary or permanent insanity, while too many died as a result of untreated chronic health problems.
“Prisoners inside the solitary confinement units at Pelican Bay and Corcoran State Prisons had become the residue of the last standing of mental and physical torture. The entire solitary confinement class throughout California’s prisons and jails were pushed beyond their human limits of endurance.
“It was decided, and it was understood that hunger striking for true freedom required a struggle to the death under our own terms,” said LP, age 70, caged 35 years, 30+ in SHU, speaking on the historic California Hunger Strikes of 2011-2013, which culminated in 30,000 participants. “A multi-cultural core group committed to hunger strike to their death. The 2013 strike lasted 59 days. Three people died.”
Bay View Editor Nube Brown is a New Afrikan, abolitionist and Liberate the Caged Voices columnist. She hosts Prison Focus Radio on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco and KPOO.com every Thursday 11:00 to noon and also broadcasts Bay View TV Breaking News on Instagram @sfbayview every weekday morning from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.