Tag: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Few prisoners, if any, at San Quentin State Prison participated in what was reported to be the largest prisoner-led strike in United States history. There are many reasons for these prisoners’ lack of involvement. Most of the men imprisoned at San Quentin were unaware of the strike and the groups involved with it like Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and the Bay Area National Prison Strike Solidarity Committee.
On July 3, a critical ruling issued in Ashker v. Brown (aka Ashker v. Governor, Docket No. 4:09-cv-09-5796 CW (N.D. Cal.)), the federal class-action lawsuit challenging indefinite solitary confinement in California. The ruling, issued by Presiding Judge Claudia Wilken, granted Plaintiffs’ appeal on a motion challenging the ongoing conditions of extreme isolation endured by many class members.
On May 4, former Black Panther Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald agreed to a five-year denial of parole instead of insisting on a parole hearing, even though he has served more time than any former Black Panther still behind bars: 49 years. Chip is now 67 years old and living with the consequences of a stroke; his friends and family fear he will die in prison. He has been moved from one state prison to another over the years and is currently in the California State Prison-Los Angeles. I spoke to his lawyer, Charles Carbone, whose office is in San Francisco.
On April 21, I finally got to see Charlie Hinton’s “Solitary Man” play at the Black Repertory Theater in Berkeley. It was so much more than a cultural experience. The play was gripping, emotional and real, with jazz trumpet sprinkled in. The panel powerfully reflected the layers of pain, survival and resistance in the prison movement. And the event, a benefit for the San Francisco Bay View, was a moving tribute to Mary and Willie Ratcliff’s devotion to their invaluable newspaper.
As a Black Nation and prisoner class, we have come too far since the Agreement to End Hostilities and the last hunger strike of July 8, 2013, which 30,000 prisoners partook in to break the chains of our inhumane solitary confinement to allow ourselves to lose focus on the AEH and what it has done to enlighten society that we still have our humanity. But we will never change this miserable, decaying prison system or our neighborhoods if the oppressor state sees and can utilize our violent, hostile actions toward one another to show just cause to retaliate.
For years now, I have endured threats, both overt and covert, from the mouths and hands of CDCr’s (California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation’s) OCS (Office of Correctional Safety), ISU (Investigations Services Unit) and IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations), all of them paramilitary services that boast they are a gang and call themselves the Green Wall. (See my article “Sitawa: Exiting solitary confinement – and the games CDCr plays.”)
California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) had been locking classes of prisoners up in solitary confinement since the ‘60s as part of CDCr’s para-military low-intensity warfare, to break the minds and spirits of its subjects, California’s prisoner class. CDCr’s solitary confinement has two operating components: 1) punishing you and 2) physically and mentally destroying you.
I begin this six-month update on the activities of CDCR and the CCPOA with my utmost thankfulness and respect for the San Francisco Bay View. I thank your staff and readers for continuing to shine a bright light on the injustices that occur daily behind enemy lines, as it pertains to human beings who are marginalized as prisoners, defined as slaves by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but yet full citizens of this country! I have now been housed in Pelican Bay Level II SHU for six months, and the situation has not progressed but has rapidly deteriorated.
After the court order to shut down D-unit, CDCr administration has implemented a scheme to get around the court order by housing general population prisoners (Level II) in a SHU (Security Housing Unit) that is designed for maximum security and only allows for movement that is grossly restricted. The implementation of this scheme by CDCr and CCPOA [California Correctional Peace Officers Association] to refill these housing units, was only to receive the multi-millions of dollars Pelican Bay lost with its closure.
Good morning and welcome to Wanda’s Picks, a Black arts and culture program with the African Sister’s Media Network. We are joined in the studio by Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim. Welcome to the show. Today we are going to be talking about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington. We can talk about solitary confinement, political prisoners, the 13th Amendment. We can talk about what the need is for having such an event.
The Central California Intelligence Center received a Suspicious Activity Report from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2010. A guard reported that he conducted a search of two inmates’ cells. “Both inmates are Muslims who appear to have radical Islamic views. Both inmates have since been placed in our Administrative Segregation” (the hole). Anti-Muslim sentiments do not only exist in the outside world, they exist in prison, too.
I left CDCr wondering how PBSP could remain in shambles after 22 years of court oversight. As I started educating myself about prison reform, I stumbled upon Keramet Reiter’s 2016 book, “23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.” Within those pages, I found validation and some disturbing answers. I wish this book had been available to me before I started working in CDCr.
“Administrative segregation” is prison bureaucratese for solitary confinement. On Thursday, prisoners in solitary at California’s Old Folsom State Prison went on hunger strike for their Eighth Amendment right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment. I spoke to Raquel Estrada, wife of Anthony Estrada, a prisoner writing for the strikers in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, who elaborated on the conditions of her husband’s confinement.
My 67-year-old friend is not violent, but California would beg to differ. At his sentencing, the judge told him, “You are a Vietnam trained killer,” and then sentenced him to 68 years to life. His crime? One day my friend broke into an unoccupied house. After he was caught and tried, he was convicted of burglary and sentenced under California’s Three-Strikes law. We call him Cadillac. He was really excited by the passage of Proposition 57 last November.
The criminal justice system, as an instinct to protect itself and profit from its agenda, protects “criminality” as an inherent reaction and vision of poor people of color. Those who are the most victimized by crime are not those in positions to make and implement policy. Therefore, the image of crime has ethnic connotations that create class disparities that accept an “us against them” social policy which paints crime as a social activity of poor people of color, and punishment as a task of the privileged class to maintain order.
As always, allow us to begin by paying our respects to the families who lost their loved ones during the historic California hunger strikes. Prior to the solidarity hunger strikes, the four principal negotiators, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Todd Ashker, found ourselves locked inside Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor. There we would discuss the vision of effecting genuine change in CDCr’s long term solitary confinement combined policies, practices and conditions.
Greetings and solidarity to each other and all who participated in our initial hunger strike to end the arbitrary use of solitary confinement and inhumane treatment in Santa Clara County jails. We would like to extend our respect and appreciation to all who participated and sacrificed to provoke change. Although we came from diverse backgrounds – be it race, religion, color or creed – we set our differences aside and interlocked arms, forming a formidable force through civil disobedience in solidarity.
Leaving out of Pelican Bay solitary confinement torture prison facilities/units/cages for the first time on Jan. 23, 2015 – after arriving there Nov. 29, 1990 – I remember witnessing my first sunrise. It would be the first of many first time experiences of using my natural senses again after being buried alive in that concrete box deprived of the natural use of those senses for the last 25 years – a quarter century.
Nearly a thousand subscribers to the Bay View newspaper were denied their September papers – and we suspect their October papers as well – because of its coverage of the nationwide strikes to end prison slavery that began Sept. 9. Prison officials censoring the paper claim it will incite disruption. Like claims that someone being beaten by a gang of cops is “resisting,” the Bay View is “disrupting” prison operations.
Actor Dameion Brown, playing the title role in the Marin Shakespeare Company’s production of “Othello,” is getting standing ovations since the production started. Still in previews, Brown has with this role seen a dream come true. Since the MSC production of “Othello” opened Aug. 26 for previews, we learn that Brown is a formerly incarcerated or convicted person (FICP), just released after serving 23 years of a life sentence.