I got your information off the internet via my familia on the streets. And I felt compelled to reach out to you, as well as to share with you a little bit about myself and the struggles my loved ones and I have been blessed with. The state will tell you I'm here for a second degree murder. Of course I will tell you that it is much more complicated than that. My co-defendants, (three out of four of them were relatives) faced frivolous allegations of "gang association." Imagine that, you grow up in the barrio and know some, even grew up with some, "gang members" and they labeled us all a gang and called the alleged drunken brawl a gang fight, which legally, totally changed and prejudiced "the states of mind and intentions" of alleged to have been involved. Due to enormous pressure, I buckled and took this sentence, not because I'm guilty as charged, but in order to save my familia from receiving life sentences as well.
Regardless, I'm in this system. "I have lived within the Monster, and I know it from within." (Jose Marti) All of my life I've soaked up bits and pieces of revolutionary consciousness, always drawn like the proverbial moths to a flame to the defiant, the warriors and martyrs. Those brave and solid enough to see the bigger picture, and to lead and sacrifice for the people. But somehow my adolescent desires and undefined morals and standards led me to mis-invest this warriors spirit into gang banging. I can see from my present point of view, that I was not extraordinary in my misdirected efforts.
However, I have always strived for something bigger and better. Something beneficial to the people, La Raza, instead of solely destructive and degenerate. But I lacked the education, I lacked the consistent guidance and discipline, and I, like most of the huddled masses from the Barrio and otherwise, had to focus on survival. But now, for the last 5 years, "due to [my] case factors" and the resulting label put upon me as a "Northern Hispanic, " by the State, have had some time on my hands to focus, to explore, and develop ideas and ideals.
More than enough time, as I'd spent 3 years in the county in single occupancy cells, a year and a half on Solano's level three facility I on lockdown and I've spent over six months now in Administrative Segregation (the hole), where I'm facing a "gang validation." As is well known, the State applies social Judo tactics, so to speak, in order to keep the masses off balance and misdirected. In these divide and conquer scenarios social organizations and movements for resisting oppression and exploitation, and in furtherance of equality, empowerment, and dignity, find their focus degenerated and misdirected towards other members of their own backgrounds.
This is nothing new, and we still don't make it difficult for them to do. These tactics have literally been perfected to a science: within the confines of the CDCR. The technical aspects of these tactics are ever evolving, seemingly made up as they go, as well as laid out in a long winded maze of words (which seem really to only be there for show or manipulation) in the California code of Regulations Title 15 and the Department Operations Manual.
For example: "Gang means any ongoing formal or informal organization, association or group or (3) or more persons which has a common name or identifying sign or symbol whose members and or associates individually or collectively engage or have engaged, on behalf of that organization, or group, in (2) or more acts which include, planning, organizing threatening, financing, soliciting, or committing unlawful acts or acts of misconduct classified as serious pursuant to section 3315."
"Disruptive Group means any gang other than a prison gang." (of which there are (10) different general labels, (3) of which are relative to Latinos in particular.)
"Prison Gang means any gang which originated and has its roots within the department or any other prison system" (3 out of 5 labels are specifically Raza). "Member is an inmate/parolee who has been accepted into membership by a gang. This identification requires at least (3) independent source items of documentation indicative of actual membership. Validation of an inmate/parolee as a member of a prison gang whall require that at least (1) source item be a direct link to a current or former Validated member or associate of the gang…Associate is an inmate/parolee who is involved periodically or regularly with members or associates of a gang…"
"A dropout is an inmate/parolee who was either a gang member or associate and has discontinued gang affiliation. This identification requires that the inmate/parolee successfully complete the debriefing process."
"2. Except as provided at section 3335(a), section 3378(d) and subsection (c )(5), a validated prison gang member or associate is deemed to be a severe threat to the safety of others or the security of the institution and will be placed in a SHU for an indeterminate term."
"4. A validated prison gang member or associate shall be considered for release from a SHU, as provided above, after the inmate is verified as a gang dropout through a debriefing process."
"5. As provided at section 3378(3), the Departmental Review Board (DRB) may authorize SHU release for prison gang members or associates categorized as inactive. The term inactive means that the inmate has not been involved in gang activity for a minimum of (6) years. Inmates categorized as inactive who are suitable for SHU release shall be transferred to the general population of a level IV facility for a period of observation that shall be no greater than 12 months. Upon completion of the period of observation, the inmate shall be housed in a facility commensurate with his or her safety needs. In the absence of safety needs, the inmate shall be housed in a facility consistent with his or her classification score…."
"6. As provided at section 3378(f) an inmate categorized as inactive or validated as a dropout of a prison gang and placed in the general population may be returned to segregation based upon one reliable source item identifying the inmate as a currently active gang member or associate of the prison gang with which the inmate was previous validated…"
I myself, despite my objections, was labeled a "Northern Hispanic" by this system. In fact, probably a quarter of the prisoners labeled as such were and are not gang members of any kind, but are forced by the system into accepting this generic label, which in turn makes you an automatic target by other certain group segments. Perhaps most potentially detrimental is the system's obsession with validating each and every prisoner they label a (N/H/) as a prison gang member/associate in order to bury them alive in the confines of the SHUs.
Those prisoners labeled NHs are routinely placed on prolonged lockdowns, having constantly to defend themselves and to fight for basic safety and continually push for equality, as well as, and perhaps more harmful, the chronic violations and abuse of our rights and mental and physical well being, from the State, who, in their zeal to justify their actions, do so by habitually breaking the laws they pretend to uphold.
There are many clear and obvious discrepancies in treatment, as well as in application of the laws and regulations used to govern the CDCR. For instance, while NHs were on lockdown, they were denied visits, adequate and timely medical care, there were incidents of NHs being physically abused. The NHs often only came out of their cells 3 days out of the week for 5 minute showers, only to be yelled at and degraded throughout, and this, even during heat waves and times where there was no air circulation in the oven like cells due to air circulation system breaking down. The NHs were denied access to phone use, access to the law library, I can go on and on.
I myself ended up on Ad. Seg a few weeks before the NHs were let off of lockdown. On the day I was brought here, about 3 or 4 in the morning, the door to the cell my old celly and I occupied was opened, I was sprayed 3 times in the face with a chemical significantly more powerful than pepper spray, handcuffed, and here I am now, facing a ridiculous "gang validation" on trumped up charges.
- a California prisoner, March 2007