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On Aug. 24, guards here at Florida State Prison (FSP) donned special “formal” uniforms of black pants, dark grey shirts and black neckties. The special occasion? They were executing a man who was sentenced to die for a double homicide in 1987. Looking at each guard that day, I could only shake my head at their solemn pretensions and utter hypocrisy. There they were united in killing a man as punishment for a “crime” that they frequently collude in committing themselves.
To: CDCr Secretary Scott Kernan and Director Kathline Allison -- From: Abdul Olugbala Shakur (aka J. Harvey, C48884) and Joka Heshima Jinsai (aka S. Denham, J38283) -- The following is what we believe to be just and fair and reasonable requests considering the inhumane treatment that many of the prisoners were being subjected to while housed in solitary confinement, or isolation, for decades, especially at Pelican Bay State Prison and Corcoran State Prison.
On Sept. 9, 2016, prisoners participated in the largest prisoner work stoppage in the history of the country. Prisoners in at least four facilities in Michigan joined in the work stoppage, including Kinross Correctional Facility. The next morning, after retaliatory actions from staff, Kinross prisoners held a peaceful demonstration in the yard. Since then, hundreds have faced harsh, unjust retaliation. Harold “HH” Gonzales was a spokesperson for the prisoners at the demonstration at Kinross and wrote this account.
A few months ago, I exposed the corruption of this particular unit and others across Gatesville, Texas, striving for justice, peace and respect to no avail. In response to the grievances, articles and complaints the women here have written, we’ve been subjected to more abuse. Out of retribution, the mailroom has banned the San Francisco Bay View newspaper from subscribers to receive and also ransacked several dorms to confiscate all newspapers any offenders were in possession of.
In Texas we know that we are being exploited, mistreated, degraded and abused. Many prisoners in Texas are content with the modern day slave plantation system, which is managed and operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. However, many prisoners are not content; in fact they are frustrated and angry. The strategies utilized by prisoners in other states that have similar conditions to Texas don’t necessarily apply here.
After a massive hunger strike inside the Tacoma Detention Center reached its 11th day, detainees found their effort spreading to other facilities inspired by their demands. Immigrants held at the Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, Texas, initiated their own fast in protest of their treatment at the facility run by the same company, the GEO Group, and as part of the nation-wide call for an end to deportations.
This is a glimpse into torture by prison staff, using any means available, of which solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison in California is only a reflection of the inhumane treatment and clear U.S. constitutional violations of our First, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights that prisoners in solitary everywhere are subjected to.
In retaliation for our peaceful protest, the security housing unit sergeant, B. Davis, drafted up a memorandum on July 8, 2013, saying that Pelican Bay State Prison will be following “regulations per DOM 54030.20.5 which allows book/ publications limit of five (5) books maximum.” This is what PBSP calls rehabilitation.
We ask you, Gov. Brown, to set an example. In their time, the U.S. Army consigned the inhumane prison conditions at Dachau to the trash heap of history. The same thing should happen now to the unbearable prison conditions in the prisons of the United States – and especially the prisons in the State of California, which you govern.
If the intention of the prison system is rehabilitation so when prisoners are released they do not return, then we surely must object to solitary confinement. If we believe in basic human rights and dignity for all human beings, then we surely must object to solitary confinement. If we object to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, we surely must object to solitary confinement in the U.S.
Adding to Kevin Gosztola’s recent coverage of the hunger strike at Pelican Bay prison ... I want to look more closely at one of the prisoner’s demands, in particular their call for the abolition of the “debriefing process.”