In October 2017, the two-year period expired for the court to monitor the Ashker v. Governor settlement to limit solitary confinement in California. Since then, the four drafters of the Agreement to End Hostilities and lead hunger strike negotiators – Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco and Todd Ashker – have all been removed from general population and put in solitary in administrative segregation units, based on fabricated information created by staff and/or collaborating “inmate informants.”
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.”)
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.
We are within our fifth year of the August 2012 historical document, the “Agreement to End Hostilities.” Its release was followed by the Prisoner Human Rights Movement’s third and largest hunger strike in the state of California and larger than any prison hunger strike in history in either the federal or state prison systems in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. At its peak, 30,000 prisoners here in California participated – prisoners in solitary confinement and the general population.
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.
CDCr has systemic and dysfunctional problems that run rampant statewide within California’s prisons for both women and men which demand this California government to take immediate action and institute measures to effect genuine tangible changes throughout CDCr on all levels. The Prisoner Human Rights Movement Blue Print is essentially designed to deal with identifying and resolving primary contradictions by focusing on the various problems of CDCr’s dysfunction.
Having been one of the many who have been let out of the control units (SHU), I can say that there is some victory in this development, but there is much work to be done outside the SHU and still a ways to go before victory is complete. This accomplishment of opening the gates of SHU for many simply means we face new forms of oppression; it changes in form but not in essence.
Here is a brief update on the continued disrespect that CDCR is showing to brothers involved in the Aug. 12, 2015, attack on Yogi (Hugo Pinell). The same ICC (Inmate Classification Committee) that ignored the threat on Yogi’s life is now harassing the inmates that came to Yogi’s aid – the ICC that prisoners call “The Committee.” There are six inmates in Z Unit Ad Seg. Five of us have been released back to general population, but ICC refuses to send us back to a mainline.
My name is Devon Bush, a Black Afrikan inmate in struggle here in CSP Sac. Look, I was involved in the riot that took place Aug. 12, 2015, in the B-Yard. Also, I was one of the last ones to see our beloved Brotha Hugo L.A. “Yogi Bear” Pinell R.I.P. alive. His last words to me was, “Do come back.” The short three and a half weeks I spent with him on the yard is filled with enough love and realism to last me a lifetime.
The Free Speech Society is a movement that is dedicated towards protecting and defending the First Amendment rights of imprisoned activists. As imprisoned activists, we are embedded reporters for the people. We are the eyes and ears for the people – for the taxpayers – articulating the human atrocities that plague the prison industrial slave complex with impunity in your name.
The Ad Seg unit at DVI has to be one of the worst in CDCr. It’s filthy and fundamentally used as a warehouse for prisoners. The Step Down Program (SDP) committee is a complete sham at DVI and has been conducting unauthorized SDP committee hearings on prisoners from March 2013 to the present – 17 months of illegally validating men to indeterminate SHU sentences.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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