This morning, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, at 8 a.m., I woke up to sounds of hard banging at my door. I thought it was the person to fix my broken heater, but once I looked outside my peephole I saw what I thought were two sheriff’s officers. My heart pounded thinking something terrible had happened to my child if two officers are standing outside my door with full blown police gear on.
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters. The events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, present us with yet another opportunity to address the inhumanity of racism. But the country will again not take advantage of it because we will continue to treat this act of inhumanity as though it is an isolated incident and not an act that flows from the very structure of this nation.
At first glance the question, What is solitary confinement? appears to be rhetorical, if not insulting, but you would be surprised, if not incredulous, how many prison rights activists are at a loss when I pose it to them. Even more perplexing, many prisoners are only able to provide the standard but antiquated response, which is: a prisoner in a cell behind a solid door, in which he/she is isolated from other prisoners and human contact.
It has been two years since our Agreement to End Hostilities was released in October 2012, and we continue to stand united. While there have been a few conflicts here and there, we need to commit to ceasing all racial hostilities towards one another and remain peacefully united throughout all prison facilities. By re-reading and re-committing ourselves to the Agreement to End Hostilities, we are taking back control of our own lives and our own futures.
On Aug. 28, 2014, I spoke with the Corcoran State Prison Step Down Program (SDP) facilitator who confirmed I was on the list to be transferred to Tehachapi (California Correctional Institution, or CCI) and that I would be stepped up a step – from Step 2 to Step 3 of the SDP. On Sept. 16, 2014, I was advanced up a step, to Step 3, so that’s all good. But the big lie is that there is a functional Step 3 and 4 program at this prison.
It has been a few months since my release from 20 years of solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison (SHU) to Step 5 of the Step Down Program (SDP). I thought I should pen this communique with an update on my travels from one place to another – the new location, experience, encounters and situations – as everything has unfolded.
We are the prisoner class representatives of what’s become known as the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement. Last month we marked the first anniversary of the end of our historic 60-day Hunger Strike. Oct. 10 we mark the two-year anniversary of the Agreement to End Hostilities. This is an update on where things stand with our struggle to achieve major reforms beneficial to prisoners, outside loved ones and society in general.
Men at Calipatria on general population yards A, B and C can show the same courage as the hunger strikers, who are honored around the world, by pledging to respect the Agreement to End Hostilities and stop all fighting and riots between racial groups. The Agreement must continue to hold within all California prisons and unity needs to spread across the state. Only then can justice be won.
Two letters from Arturo Castellanos, one of the four main SHU reps at Pelican Bay State Prison: March 3, 2014 – I’m writing this brief article about the positive outcomes during our meetings with Sacramento and PBSP officials since the end of our last hunger strike. March 23, 2014 – I write this to update you on the positive cooperation we received from this new administration and on the Departmental Review Board hearings.
There can be no doubt that the legislators’ courageous act of publically acknowledging our protest issues in late August 2013 saved many lives, and it gave many people real hope that substantive changes will be forthcoming. And now that there has been additional public exposure – via the two public hearings – demonstrating CDCR’s refusal to institute real, meaningful changes, on its own, people are relying on the legislature to do all in their power to pass legislation reining in CDCR’s gross abuse of power, this year.
Our struggle to abolish SHU torture units is inextricably linked to the broader struggle to seize cultural hegemony in the U.S. from the ruling class and its tool, the state. Our collective efforts have repeatedly exposed the state’s contradictions and sparked the people’s appetite for freedom and new social relationships. These activities undermine the reactionary character structure upon which authoritarian society is based. These actions are thus revolutionary.
The heart of our oppression – indefinite housing in SHU – remains fully intact and has yet to be ruptured. Our Plan B should focus solely on their sacred cow and work toward getting fixed dates for SHU placement. This is where our real struggle will be. Only when our future hunger strikes and work strikes are coupled with strong activism in our communities will we have a successful Plan B.
The Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement wrote 40 supplemental demands to detail what prisoners are entitled to and need to have re-instated. In responding to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitaion’s response to our 40 supplemental demands, I would like to get into the actual details of what the CDCr is and is not saying in response to prisoners.
I come before you with the first of what may be a series of speed bumps and roadblocks in our path towards accomplishing the initial goals set forth: the five core demands. The other small demands being met are just a distraction to appease those of the prison masses long enough. Don’t be fooled! When the smoke clears, those small demands granted will be once again revoked.
My name is Arturo Castellanos. I am presently being housed in the PBSP’s Administrative Segregation Unit, along with the remainder of the brave men who came together and volunteered to peacefully protest the Department of Corruption and No-Rehabilitation policies of locking individuals up forever, with little or no evidence of gang activities, in indefinite SHU.
Prisoners in California have entered their 10th day of a statewide hunger strike to fight back against what they call inhumane conditions. The prisoners’ demands include a call for adequate and nutritious food, an end to group punishment, and stopping long-term solitary confinement where more than 3,000 prisoners are held in the isolation with no human contact and no windows – some of them for more than a decade.
Enough is enough. We are tired of CDCR officials, CCPOA, IGI, ISU and SSU continuing all this manipulation, deception with word games, lying to politicians to secure funding, lying to the media and the public in order to cover up the truth. The outcome of the two hunger strikes only exposed a little of their lies but enough to shock the world.
For the past two years we’ve heard the state claim it’s reforming its long term segregation policies and practices by implementing a Security Threat Group (STG) Step Down Program (SDP). Officials claim the program is a significant move towards a more behavior-based system, yet they remain extraordinarily vague about the “ultimate conclusion.” What exactly is “gang activity”?
I remember entering into prison back in 1995 for the first time and learning about our struggles from various New Afrikans. We as youngsters learned about Comrade George L. Jackson by reading “Soledad Brother” and “Blood in My Eye” and understood the struggles and that by studying we too could learn how to change our conditions.
Paraphrasing Bro Mumia’s words: Jailhouse lawyers must look beyond the state’s imprisoning bars, bricks and cement to build relationships with others in the so-called “free” world to further and support social movements that spread liberating and progressive space within society. We behind the concrete walls start this new progressive movement. But we need the outside support of our communities to stand with us.