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Late Friday, a federal judge found that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is systemically violating the due process rights of prisoners. The judge ruled that CDCR is violating the Constitution by repeatedly relying on unreliable and even fabricated confidential information to send California prisoners to solitary confinement. The court also found CDCR is using constitutionally flawed gang validations to deny people in prison a fair opportunity for parole.
When I attended the Society for Neuroscientists annual conference in San Diego last month, I expected to be doused in information regarding the field’s newest knowledge and innovations. Designed to bring together 30,000 of the world’s top neuroscientists, I was so excited to be engaged in this enriching environment for the first time. I never would have expected that I would be encompassed by emotions as I listened to the story of a man named Robert King during a roundtable discussion on contemporary social issues.
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.
A federal judge in a March 28 ruling declined to order the CDCR to move prisoners previously held in SHUs into legitimate general population conditions. Under a landmark class action settlement that was intended to effectively end indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons, nearly 1,500 prisoners were released into the general prison population, many to Level IV prisons, which is the highest security level in general population.
I’m writing this editorial because I want to brag on my husband, Bay View publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff, and tell you why he and I have faith that a benefactor, someone with deep pockets who cares, will step forward in time to save the Bay View and keep it in print – an angel who understands how much the Bay View means to a prisoner being tortured and a youngster in the hood being framed. Dr. Ratcliff was that angel, that benefactor, to Gladys Knight in 1975, when she ran out of money in the midst of producing a major film in Valdez, Alaska called “Pipe Dreams.”
Two years after the historic settlement of Ashker v. Governor of California marked the end of indefinite solitary confinement in California, the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel filed a motion to extend the terms of the settlement by one year, noting that substantial reforms are still needed and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to violate the constitutional rights of Ashker class members.
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.
Happy Black History Month. Knowledge is power, something Black people from Frederick Douglass to Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks to Kamala Harris have never taken for granted. If white people would kill a Black person for teaching someone to read, not to mention knowing how to read – enough said! The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s organization, has chosen the theme: “Crisis in Education” for 2017.
On Tuesday, federal Judge Claudia Wilken approved the final agreement to end indefinite solitary confinement in California, calling it humane, innovative and fair. Prisoners celebrated the settlement agreement, whose terms were agreed on last September, claiming it as a victory that bolstered their struggle for human rights. Anne Weills pointed out that “what was missing from the courtroom were all the prisoners who risked their lives in the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013.”
California Attorney General Kamala Harris is nothing if not ambitious. Not content with being the Golden State’s top law enforcement officer – a position she has held since 2011, after serving seven years as San Francisco County’s district attorney – she’s currently running for the U.S. Senate and is the clear favorite to replace Barbara Boxer, who is retiring in November 2016. Harris must not miss this historic opportunity to end solitary confinement in California.
Black August adds another hero and martyr to the roll. By some accounts, it was his first day on the yard after 46 years in solitary confinement when Hugo “Yogi” Pinell was assassinated Aug. 12. Prison guards celebrated on social media: “May he rot in hell” and “Good riddens” (sic), they typed. Yogi was the only member of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, and his role in the events of Aug. 21, 1971, the day George Jackson was assassinated, has earned the guards’ incessant enmity ever since.
A federal judge tentatively granted a motion by the Center for Constitutional Rights to file a supplementary complaint to its class action on behalf of hundreds of prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay prison. The supplementary complaint will cover prisoners recently transferred under the state’s Step Down Program from solitary confinement at Pelican Bay to solitary confinement at the state prison at Tehachapi.
Less than two weeks ago the United Nations Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the U.S. record on a number of issues, among them the extensive use of solitary confinement. While the U.S. uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, California uses it more than any other state. This practice is designed to break the human spirit and is condemned as a form of torture under international law.
The Free Russell Maroon Shoatz website describes him this way: “Russell Maroon Shoatz is a dedicated community activist, founding member of the Black Unity Council, former member of the Black Panther Party and soldier in the Black Liberation Army. He is serving multiple life sentences as a U.S.-held prisoner of war.” Shoatz has been locked in solitary confinement at various state prisons for the past 22 years, 28 of the past 30 years.
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.
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.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit Thursday on behalf of prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent between 10 and 28 years in solitary confinement. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform inhumane conditions in California prisons’ Security Housing Units (SHUs) dramatized by a 2011 hunger strike by thousands of prisoners.
Three prisoners sentenced to death for their leadership of the 1993 Lucasville rebellion, now at Ohio State Penitentiary, have been on hunger strike since Jan. 3. An Open Letter that will be presented to prison officials at tomorrow's rally has collected more than 500 signatures from Ohio, many other states and all across the globe, among them many prominent citizens. Buses are bringing supporters from far and wide to the rally.
On Dec. 9, 2010, thousands of prisoners in at least six Georgia state prisons initiated the largest prisoner strike in U.S. history, uniting across racial boundaries to demand an immediate end to the cruel and dehumanizing conditions that damage prisoners, their families and the communities they return to. Readers are invited to add their names to this solidarity statement.