During the past 25 years I’ve spent a lot of time with survivors of torture, men and women enduring long term solitary confinement in California’s prisons. The single way offered to earn their way out is to tell departmental gang investigators everything they know about gang membership and activities. The prisoners call it “snitch, parole or die.”
I first of all want to say that this, what you all are doing, is long overdue and needed if we are ever going to change the direction of this unjust system. I know that for a lot of you the idea of resisting and speaking truth to power is instinctive, and we have to figure out a way to inject this spirit into more people.
About 10 years ago a beautiful young spirit moved to my tier, here in North Seg. He was born and raised in Alabama at a time when “Dungeons and Dragons” was enchanting the hearts and minds of little boys everywhere. He grew up to become a “dungeon master” without peer and came to spread his magic amongst the men of San Quentin’s Death Row. He wore his inner child on his sleeve and coaxed the wounded inner child of many others to come to the surface and play.
Supporters of Black liberation fighter and political prisoner Herman Bell held a packed news conference at the Center for Constitutional Rights March 23. They came out to show support for a recent New York State Parole Board decision to free Bell after more than 40 years – much of it spent in torturous solitary confinement. The board’s decision has come under attack from police groups, the corporate media and elected officials, including “liberal” Democrats Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Today, residents throughout the state celebrate as AB1270, a bill to lift the media access ban in California prisons, passed the Senate Committee on Public Safety in a 4-2 vote. Since 1996, media have been prohibited from choosing their interview subjects inside prisons, and nine versions of this bill have been vetoed by three different governors.
A Voice for Neli, a grassroots advocacy group formed to bring awareness to the plight of Reginald “Neli” Latson – an autistic teen the group contends was wrongly convicted and sentenced to serve time in a Virginia state penitentiary – is urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to pardon the youth.
Though we have yet to obtain our Five Core Demands, no one can deny how much we have achieved since our initial July 1, 2011, hunger strike. For the most part our movement for human rights has made much progress, but patience is required, for we are engaged in a protracted struggle that demands our resilience.
Since our historical release from solitary confinement, many of us have been bombarded by the same question: How did you (we) survive decades of being in solitary confinement? This is not a question of simplicity, it is only a qualitative and quantitative prelude into an analysis rooted in a historical material construct which would require a compartmentalization of the particulars which are conducive towards providing an accurate response to the above question with both clarity and purpose.
Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison. Current prison organizing continues a historic legacy of struggle.
As a people who should be championing the cause of the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we need to first find humane solutions to our social ills. Isolation, incarceration and, yes, LWOP sentences are barbaric and sit in the realm of the lesser of two evils. And that’s why California still has the cruel instruments of death as its solutions.
"Since the start of the Dec. 9 peaceful work stoppage and appeal for reform and respect for human rights, some inmates have been targeted and others have simply disappeared. We are urging the Department of Corrections and Governor-Elect Nathan Deal to act now to halt these unjust practices and treat these men like human beings,” said Ed Dubose, President of the NAACP of Georgia.
It has recently been suggested that those confined to these sensory deprivation torture units indefinitely, but who have a cellie, are not in “solitary confinement,” as though another human occupying a space not even large enough for one will somehow mitigate the deleterious effects of this isolation. It doesn’t. The only marked difference is the number of stressors you must contend with in a day.
Check out the cartoon world renowned political cartoonist Mark Fiore sent to the Chronicle today. Beneath the video, Mark Fiore wrote: “I know it’s sacrilege to mess with this song, but the days of Johnny Cash playing concerts in California prisons are over, replaced by Gov. Jerry Brown whining about federal judges sticking their noses in our prisons. Never mind the deaths, sterilizations and lack of clean water, among other things.”
Kevin Cooper, still caged in San Quentin after 37 years, 35 years on Death Row, speaks with KPFA’s Flashpoints Dennis Bernstein in an exclusive in-depth interview. Cooper talks about simultaneously surviving Death Row and the COVID-19 pandemic, the blues and highlights the opportunity for Governor Gavin Newsom to order an Innocence Investigation, which will shine direct light on prosecutorial wrongdoings and new DNA evidence to support his innocence.
From a very young age, I was taught by my father who my grandfather was and what he did for our people. He made sure I knew the history of our local and national leaders.
A recent case submitted for review in the United States District Court Central District of California, CV-16-08378-DDP (KK), alleges Board of Prison Hearing (BPH) staff on Dec. 3, 2016, intentionally conspired with the psychs to assassinate the character of Pan African inmates in California prisons. The case also alleges that the BPH appoints ineffective assistance of counsel to petitioners.
The tragic news came to the Bay View from Taharka Omowale that Black Panther Political Prisoner Richard “Mafundi” Lake had joined the ancestors. Mafundi’s decades of schooling the youth in Alabama prisons makes him the progenitor of the Free Alabama Movement and the current, burgeoning prison abolition movement across the country. The Bay View invites you, if your life was touched by Mafundi, to write a brief tribute for publication.
This is my ninth unit transfer since 2019 for threats of violence, assault, extortion and retaliation because of my publishing. Call the authorities to keep Jason alive.
The New Afrikan Prison Rights Movement is presently promoting the concept of a Black Community Victims Foundation. The BCVF will be responsible for serving our victims of violent crimes. The BCVF will be community-based and independent from government and/or law-enforcement influences. This is a health and safety issue. We hope to establish a chapter in every New Afrikan community.