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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.
On Feb. 1, scores of men in Delaware’s largest prison, the Vaughn Correctional Center, took over one of the buildings in their facility. The prison, built in 1971 and known for its serious overuse of solitary confinement, is one of the state’s most severely overcrowded and punitive facilities. Hoping to push the state to improve living conditions at Vaughn, the prisoners didn’t just take control of Building C – they also took guards hostage. And to make the public aware of why they were protesting, they called the media.
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.
Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) began March 23, 2015. Actions were held in California from San Diego to Arcata (Arcata-Eureka, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Cruz) and Philadelphia, Penn. Activists in more locations will be joining in on April 23 and the 23rd of each month. Below is a report from just one locality, Santa Cruz, which took a creative approach.
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.
CDCR deliberately lied about their implementation of the Security Threat Group Step Down Program sanctioned by Gov. Jerry Brown. Gov. Brown and CDCr administrators are currently violating our United States constitutional rights, the California Code of Regulations and other rules, laws, policies and standards with the intent of breaking down and destroying men and women prisoners, family bonds and moral ethics here in California.
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners of the California prison system – and hundreds more across the United States – refused meals to take a stand about the conditions of prisoners in the various forms of solitary isolation – approximately 14,000 human beings in California alone. It was the third hunger strike in California in two years. Dozens of prisoners deprived themselves of solid food for 60 days. One prisoner died.
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 Assembly Public Safety Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, will hear Ammiano’s AB 1652 to control use of solitary confinement on Tuesday, April 8, at 9 a.m. in Room 126 of the State Capitol. The bill comes out of a series of in-depth hearings held in the wake of prisoner hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013. AB 1652 limits the violations and situations for which a prisoner can be placed in SHU.
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.
Tomorrow, California lawmakers will hold a hearing about the use of solitary confinement inside its state prison system. February marks seven months since people incarcerated throughout California embarked on the mass hunger strike that has drawn legislative attention to prison conditions. The CDCR released new proposed regulations around its gang policies, and it points to changes already made. Accounts from former hunger strikers suggest that change is slow in coming.
Since implicit in making it a requirement that people participate in those programs available in each step and that any failure to do so will result in a person being moved back to Step 1 until that person agrees to subordinate him/herself to the dictates of Section 700.2 (self-directed journals), the cognitive restructuring/brainwashing program is, clearly, mandatory.
It’s the ingenious design of prison to focus more on profit and perpetual imprisonment through antagonizing and framing inmates than on rehabilitation, human rights and community development. We get no second chances. African American youth like myself grew up in East Baltimore, never hearing about the tortuous prison structure, George Jackson, Angela Davis or Kwame Toure.
SHU prisoners in California are not allowed to call home. Lack of family phone calls is one of the reasons California’s SHU cells are characterized as solitary confinement – the harsh deprivation of family and social ties. CDCR has created the conditions that drive prisoners to desperation. It is horrifying to witness CDCR’s response to the current hunger strike: Crank up the cruelty and let them die.
Today marks 33 days that over 200 prisoners have gone without eating. Doctors have warned the prisoners several times of the dangers of continuing their hunger strike, and yet they persist. Why? In order to end the inhumane conditions of their confinement. They have spent decades in solitary confinement not for punishment, not for their crimes, but for “administrative” reasons.
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.
It is hot enough in Corcoran, California, to melt people. That being said, it still wasn’t hot enough to keep upwards of 400 people from braving 103-degree weather to mobilize and rally at Corcoran State Prison in support of over 30,000 prisoners on hunger strike in California. The immediate goal is to stop the cruelty and torture that being held in isolation represents. The long-range objective is liberation.
On Monday, July 8, California prisoners launched their third hunger strike in two years, protesting conditions in the Security Housing Units, where thousands of prisoners are held in segregation units designed to limit communication. While the largest one-day participation of the prior two strikes rose to over 11,000, Monday’s strike began with a historic 30,000 people inside California’s prisons refusing breakfast and lunch.
Hundreds of people held in California prisons are expected to launch their third large-scale hunger strike in two years today. The current strike, announced by leaders at Pelican Bay State Prison on Feb. 14, is seen as a resumption of the large-scale strikes in June and September 2011, when thousands of prisoners across the state stopped eating for days or weeks in order to press for the five demands laid out by the strike organizers.
As more people put their lives on the line today to fight for the hunger strikers’ five core demands – still unmet by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – the need for this kind of artwork feels critical. Noah succeeds in creating visually impactful and beautiful work that also activates audiences to learn about human rights abuses and to get involved.
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