Stop Sleep Deprivation Torture in California Lockdowns

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Stop Sleep Deprivation Torture in California Lockdowns

initiated in September 2014
updated on March 13, 2016

In mid-June 2014, the California Department of Corrections and “Rehabilitation”(CDCR) implemented the new Guard One system. It’s stated purpose is to ensure that guards are checking prisoners status on a regular basis for safety. It’s real effect is sleep deprivation, and no increase in safety for prisoners. Every half hour the guard hits the sensor making a “whack” noise, followed by a loud beep. This system has been reportedly implemented in all SHUs, and we have confirmed it at San Quentin State Prison, Pelican Bay State Prison and California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.

Our comrades have been grieving these conditions on the basis that it is torture, for months, to no avail. There has also been a lot of noise made on the outside around this issue, following up on the organizing efforts supporting the CA hunger strikes. The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition has been behind much of this organizing. And while we recommend checking out their site for more info on this campaign, we don’t recommend following their organizing strategy because it is a reformist one that keeps people spinning their wheels while nothing changes.

The recent settlement to change how the CDCR tortures people in the SHU is a perfect example of that. The reformists cheered the settlement as a step forward. But as revolutionaries we focus on two types of change: 1) changing the whole system so that things are actually better, and 2) changes that help us change the whole system. The battle against long-term isolation is both a battle for humyn rights and a battle for prisoners’ ability to organize for their own interests, which will help bring real change. The settlement, which keeps the SHU in place, allows torture to continue to be used as a way to stop prisoners for organizing for their own interests, and therefore is not progress. The reformist view sees any little concession as progress. We see it as a distraction.

Not only have they not ended torture in the SHU, they’ve stepped it up a notch with Guard One. While sleep deprivation is not a new tactic for control units, it is a horribly destructive one. Therefore we call on all who care about humyn beings, from reformists to revolutionaries, to support the comrades in SHU who are grieving and filing lawsuits against this torturous practice.

The simplest thing you can do is call to advocate for the 30 minute checks to stop, stating that sleep deprivation is torture. Some offices may require your name, city, and zip code.

  1. CDCR Secretary’s Office: 916-323-6001
  2. CDCR Director of Adult Divisions, Kelly Harrington (he): 916-445-7688
  3. Senator Loni Hancock, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee: 916-651-4009
  4. Assembly Member Bill Quirk, Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee: 916-319-2020

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