Statement from Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (s/n Ronnie Dewberry) taken by Editor Nube Brown
Nube: Please give us your account of what took place causing you to go on strike.
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa: This past Monday (Sept. 26, 2022) on third watch, I was dealing with the provider to go to the shower with me. I went to the shower. I asked the CNA that was in there with me: “I need you to wash my back and my underarms because I can’t do it myself.” He’d seen a sponge in the shower (that I use to clean my feet and my legs). He said, “you got a sponge in here, clean yourself.” And when he said that, I said: “I can’t clean my back and my underarms, I can’t reach there.” He said: “Do it yourself, you got a sponge there.”
He walked out of the shower room. Next thing I knew, I was telling him why he needed to “get the nurse, an LVN or an SRN II to come talk to me if you’re not going to do your job and aid me.” I said, “I’m an ADA, I need assistance.” They all took the position that they weren’t going to wash me because he told his partner CNA: “Hey, we aren’t going to wash his back or his underarms, period.”
Now, mind you this CNA, it was his first day working in the building, and Monday was his first day working. So he already took that position. He went and told the LVN, the nurse, and the SRN II, who’s his buddy, he told him, “we’re not going to wash his back or nothing,” so they didn’t. All the medical staff, on third watch, refused to even aid me.
Now the officers, the guards [know my situation] the guy said, “Yeah, Dewberry can’t do his back or his underarms. Somebody is going to have to clean and wash Dewberry. You just don’t put him in the shower like that.”
Next thing I know, two white inmates come into the shower and start washing my back and my underarms. I told them, “you know, what you’re doing is illegal. You know it, it’s a race thing. You’re two white guys and I’m Black. You’re in here in the shower in a closed environment, where it’s just the three of us. It’s also illegal for y’all to be doing this because y’all aren’t certified nurse’s assistants or LVNs. So, y’all aren’t supposed to be in here with me.”
Then when I said that, they said: “Man, nobody wants to kill you.” I said, “You still know and I know, what you’re doing is illegal. You’re doing it because the medical staff told you to “go help him,” because they’re refusing to do it, but they’re okay with you doing it.”
After that happened, before I got out of the shower, SRN II came and talked to me. He said he agreed with me, but at the same time he’s up there saying there’s no record. I told him at that point: “Look man, I’ve been getting my back and underarms washed for 13 months. All of a sudden, your friend, who is this African CNA, comes in and says he’s not going to do it, and everybody else is refusing to do it.”
That’s when SRN II Bass told me. Mr. Bass said: “Hey, you have to get your doctor on second or third watch and have her recommend it, and then they could do that work for you.” I said, “Man, I’m an ADA. I’m paralyzed. I can’t do these things.”
I’m going to go on a strike because no medical staff is doing their job to aid me – you know I’m paralyzed.
He went on to try to tell me he’s agreeing. But he’s not doing anything about it. And he’s the highest medical staff in this building as an SRN II. And when he said, get at the doctor, after that I waited until Wednesday.
Wednesday I go to the shower again. They actually said it’s shower time. I said: “Who’s going to wash my back and my underarms?” The CNA told me, “Oh, the two white guys.” I said, “You talking about the two white inmates? You’re going to have them wash me again?” I refused to go in that shower and get washed by two non-medical staff. Only on third watch is medical staff crooked like this. It’s illegal.
They said, “Oh, you won’t shower?” I said, “I refuse to shower.” So, on Wednesday I didn’t shower. Today is Thursday, no shower.
I told my counselor Wednesday night: “Look, I’m going to go on a strike because no medical staff is doing their job to aid me. You know I’m paralyzed. I can’t raise my hand, I sure can’t reach all the way back there.” My counselor said: “You mean to tell me medical put two white inmates to clean you back and front?” I said: “Yeah. And I was naked. This isn’t something that can go on. It’s illegal.” She said: “Let me contact the captain on Thursday and let them know what’s going on.”
I said: “Okay, but tomorrow morning, Thursday, I’m going to refuse medication, I’m going to refuse shower, I’m going to refuse to eat.” My counselor said: “Okay, but eat tonight. If you do this tomorrow, Thursday, go ahead but you know it takes three days before CDC responds to you saying you’re on a hunger strike and before people come to see what’s your reason.” I said: “Well, I won’t be eating for the next three days, I won’t be taking any vitamins and I won’t be taking any medication, because what they did is illegal, and should never have happened.”
But they think this is okay because they’ve done this to other people. One is a parapalegic, can’t do anything, he’s messed up. He’s got no joint control in his waist, so he can’t be bending too far. They don’t want to wash that man’s legs or feet! And he’s a legit multiquadripalegic. Medical staff just refuse to do it, which is a part of their job!
How is it that a CNA is acting with authority over an LVN and an SRN II, the lead nurse? All of them agreed with him not to take care of me. All of them know I’m paralyzed. They all went along with him. They were complicit in what he was doing, as well, because they condoned it. When the white guys came in, they were alright with that. Like it’s something normal.
A nurse was telling me; “Oh, just let the other white guys come in and do it since the other CNA won’t do it.” I said: “Oh naw, listen to you. It’s illegal. I’m naked and can’t protect myself, with two other white prisoners. Anything can happen in that closed environment. The space is not much bigger than a closet.”
I told my sister if something happens there’s no medical reason why they let this spiral the way it did, and the position I’m taking is a principled position because I know it’s illegal.
*Please contact Acting Warden Gena Jones and Public Information Officer Lt. Wilona Lewis to demand Sitawa/Ronnie Dewberry, C35671 be given the necessary assistance and physical therapy he needs.
- Warden Gena Jones: (209) 467-2522; email@example.com
- Public Information Officer Lt. Wilona Lewis: (209) 467-2512; firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: By the time this goes to print Sitawa would have been on hunger strike for 5 days and would have gotten a response from CDCr. Mind you, this is the same Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa who committed to Hunger Strike to his death to end the torture of indefinite solitary confinement for future victims (2011-2013), co-authored the Agreement to End Hostilities and was one of four principal negotiators in the Ashker v Brown class action lawsuit. He’s a fighter for Prisoner Human Rights, and we must be in solidarity with him to right these wrongs.
Send our Brother some love and light: Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, C35671, CHCF D-Fac B1A-127, Stockton, CA 95213.