www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.
In regards to the hunger strike that resumed on September 26th, well it did in fact resume here in this part of the SHU which is C facility nine and eight blocks. There are around seventy people participating who are going to continue up to the thirtieth of September. As you know, the main setback is the lack of communication, as not everyone is on the same page this time. Some learned of this through their own points of contact but not everyone is fortunate enough to have such means. Also it must be understood that we are dealing with many different oppressed nations so unless one hears about it from their own progressive representatives then they will not simply act upon the word of another prisoner.
That's the world that we live in today and that's why the original hunger strike had such historic undertones because nothing like that had ever been done before in California. And that is why the oppressors fear such unity as well as conscious awakening of the masses. But then again you yourself know this and that's what I like about MIM(Prisons).
MIM(Prisons) adds: In spite of the difficulties in communication and organizing around the hunger strike it has still been a remarkable success in getting so many prisoners across California to come together. This is an important step in the right direction, and underscores the need for the United Front for Peace that will bring together lumpen organizations against the common enemy of imperialism.
I have enclosed the latest attempt by Scott Kernan to run the same ol' mumbo jumbo about the gang policies and procedures/validation process, being reviewed. The trivial concessions are just things that we should already have. The food remains disproportionate, cold, and of poor quality. All the items one can purchase well that's all good for those with money. People like me who are indigent won't be affected at all. Our concern is that of the re-validation based on b.s. evidence, which for years under the Castillo settlement had been banned. Those same policies continue to remain the same. I'm on the third day of strike and everyone in my area will hold out until we get some concrete clarity from those who are informed directly. Meanwhile thanks for sharing all and anything on your end!
This place has again changed procedures, despite verbally declaring I'm on "hunger strike" and not accepting a food tray on September 26th, they are not recognizing my declaration after 3 days, to monitor my health! Procedures state 3 meals. They continue to make up procedures as they go.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is one of a number of comrades we have been in touch with that are not being counted by the CDCR as being on hunger strike, indicating their counts don't reflect the real level of participation.
I'm writing to inform you about the food strike here in Pelican Bay. Everyone around ASU (administrative segregation) has been passing your articles around and I'd like to thank you and all of the protesters for showing us love and supporting us prisoners in PBSP. The strike has started and there's been a lot of traffic in ASU lately. We received a memo from undersecretary Scott (the liar) Kernan on September 27 stating:
"information has been received that a number of inmates have engaged in behavior consisting with initiating a demonstration/hunger strike event. The department will not condone organized inmate disturbances. Participation in mass disturbances, such as hunger strikes or work stoppage will result in the department taking the following action:... [See a complete copy of this memo in another article here.]"
Tomorrow, Friday [September 30], ASU stand alones start a stand and people here will be striking.
I've been put in ASU because when I was in the CTC a nurse disrespected me and I took a stand and received a false 115 for indecent exposure which never happened. I am currently in the 602 process of filing sexual harassment against resident nurse Joe Carr.
Let me take you on a step-by-step retelling of that fucked up day. After lunch time in the CTC infirmary I was being housed for a fractured jaw but after lunch I observed nurse Joe Carr making rounds so I called him over and asked nicely did he watch the game (football) on Sunday. I'm a big Raiders fan so I wanted to ask him the score. Carr got hostile and told me "none of my fuckin business, I went home on Sunday, that's what I did jack ass." Now I lost my cool and cussed him out so Carr tells me "You better get off your door or I'm gonna put you on strip cell suicide watch." I rebelled more and Carr said "get off your door or I'll write up some paperwork saying I seen you with your penis out masturbating." I told him he's a fuckin' liar and he says "my word against yours" and laughs.
The living conditions in ASU are those of a caveman: 3 showers a week, no phone calls, yard in a human dog cage, and no TVs because there are no plugs.
Quick note P.S.: Today, September 30th, while at yard in our cages, the police came and retaliated at the south siders in the strike. They denied yard and came in their cells and took magazines, books, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. The police are inhumane and this proves it.
As you are probably aware, Pelican Bay State Prison(PBSP) prisoners [and thousands of others across the state — editor] have resumed its Hunger Strike, due to the California Department of Corrections' (CDC) stopping negotiations around its validation process and long-term isolation. My actions, and participation in these actions are of great importance to me, not only because it's a just cause but because it exposes the CDC's long standing practices which strip us prisoners of constitutional rights. I am also fighting this in the Northern District Court.
I participated in the July 1st hunger strike, and was one of the 17 prisoners who were tortured via a 13 or 15 hour bus drive to Corcoran. Upon arrival I was given the Corcoran introduction also called the Corcoran welcome during which I was assaulted by 3 prison officers, then paraded around in disregard of my condition (weak from the hunger strike and leg injuries from the assault, which made it difficult for me to walk) until I blacked out. I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit on the 20th day. During my time at Corcoran I was denied all type of CDC forms and my assault injuries were ignored as soon as I mentioned staff assault as the cause. Upon arrival at PBSP I filed two CDC 602s alleging torture and assault, which are still pending.
In my current lawsuit I allege racial discrimination since the gang management targets Hispanic prisoners and validates and segregates them at disproportionate rates in comparison to any other race. I took this angle because most validation appeals are defeated by the courts application of the standard which only requires the "same evidence" to maintain a prisoner on indefinite segregation. In my angle of racial discrimination, a different standard of law will be applied of which will require more scrutiny of the CDC's actions. In order to prevail I need to show the disproportionate segregation of Hispanic prisoners, and as you know we cannot rely on the CDC's numbers. So I'm wondering if you can help in providing me with an actual number of prisoners in the CDC and their race, and then the actual number of prisoners in segregation and their race etc.? So that we can break down the numbers and show it to the courts.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this prisoner for taking multiple approaches to the fight against the injustice system. Legal and organizational battles are both important. While we are not familiar with his lawsuit or the legal requirements around claims of racial segregation, this fits right in with our work to gather accurate statistics on control units in prisons across the country. We will supply the information we have to this prisoner, and we ask others to help with this project by requesting a survey to fill out about their prison and any others they know well.
Today (September 26) about fifteen comrades, so far, in the California Institution for Men in Chino, CA began an indefinite hunger strike and we will not stop until the Pelican Bay SHU demands are met for our comrades!
Push, pull, strive, struggle! Give Ruchell Magee, Hugo Yogi Pinell, and the SHU comrades my love! And long live the Guerrilla!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Other than Pelican Bay and Chino, the Hunger Strike Coalition has reported that prisoners in Calipatria, many of whom are in isolation awaiting space to open up in SHU, will also restart their hunger strike today. People on the outside need to step up the pressure again to support these comrades who are putting their lives on the line for basic rights for all California prisoners.
"The humaneness of a society can be judged by its prisons." - James Doare
On August 23rd, San Francisco Rep Tom Amiano and the Public Safety Committee in the state assembly held an informational hearing on conditions and policies at Pelican Bay - SHU (and we assume the SHUs here at Corcoran and Tehachapi as well). The NCTT Corcoran-SHU wishes to express our support for the people and organizations who have mobilized to lend their voices to this vital human rights initiative which began with our July 1st hunger strike and will not end until the 5 core demands have been appropriately addressed, the fundamental human rights initiative which is acknowledged, and the basic inhumanity of the prison industrial complex's use of sensory deprivation torture units is exposed and abolished.
But why should you care? Why should you care - men are being systematically subjected to psychologically torturous conditions in your name and with your tax dollars? The answer to that question requires you to have certain facts and accept some inconvenient truths. Prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society itself; a concentrated reflection of the contradictions of it's myriad socio-economic and political relationships, composed primarily of the surplus labor segment of the U.S. population. The SHU is a prison within prison, and the ultra-high security isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-short corridor and Corcoran-SHU's 4B1L-C section are CIA style, experimental, psychological torture units.
Following the temporary halt to our peaceful protest on July 20 to give CDCR time to make some meaningful changes in line with our 5 core demands, Scott Kernan's first act was to publish a statement in the Sacramento Bee characterizing us as "violent gang leaders who've committed horrible crimes against the people of California", as though we are not a part of the people. I think it is of vital importance that this, as well as the actual motive force underlying such thinking be addressed.
Over the last 20 years there has been a successful campaign to demonize those convicted of a crime in the U.S., and a degree of social indifference in how they are treated. Through the successful efforts of such lobbies as the California Correctional Penal Officers Association (prison guards union) and it's front groups such as 'Crime Victim United,' and with the assistance of mainstream media programs covering everything from America's Most Wanted to Cops; from Dateline to your local news. The public has been systematically indoctrinated to not merely fear "prisoners," but to effectively dehumanize us as some subspecies of not quite humanity.
Your entertainment programming is 75% crime and punishment content, from the Law & Order franchise to CSI, from Justified to Hawaii 5-O, which not only brings in millions of viewers and sells billions of dollars in products annually via advertising, but divorces the so-called "criminal" from the human condition and casts him/her in the role of perpetual villain in the subconscious mind, deserving neither rights, compassion, or basic humanity. This was not some unconscious effort on the part of your elected officials, public servants, and corporate entities, no, this was a conscious program to dehumanize a specific segment of the U.S. population in order to ensure the speculative profits of the burgeoning - and now well established - prison industrial complex would go unchallenged and unprotected.
The fact is the origin of crime is relatively simplistic: the origin of all crime can be inexorably traced to the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege, and opportunity in a society. So what we find here is not a matter of public safety proponents versus criminal fiends or "gang leaders", but more accurately an internal contradiction of the state itself which pits public safety versus social control and profit.
Contrary to the propaganda of politricsters such as Mr. Kernan, California SHU's are not inhabited by the "worst of the worst," and especially not in these ultra-high security isolation torture units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-Corridor or Corcoran SHU's 4B1L-C section. In fact a significant segment of this population has been consigned to these dungeons decades on end solely based on their political ideology and world views. Left-wing political ideologies and revolutionary scientific socialists are labeled "gang members" and tossed in the SHU with no thought to the contradiction this presents to the constitutional basis of freedom of speech, thought, and expression.
The truth of the matter is most here in Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor and Corcoran SHU 4B1L C Section haven't had a rules violation, let alone broke a law, in decades. Institutional gang investigators claim to seek to mitigate the violence and socio-economic damage allegedly caused by "gangs" - yet the NCTT in Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHU over the course of the past 2 decades alone has developed and attempted to initiate numerous programs that would effectively do just that, and even more.
This hearing was a prime opportunity to declare, if the state will truly make rehabilitation their primary objective they may:
Meet in full the 5 core demands of the SHU human rights initiative, acknowledging the dismal failure of their "lock em up - lock em up" philosophy and its fundamental social and economic unsustainability
Restructure the entire correctional system and approach to imprisonment.
Mandate safe, clean and healthy rehabilitative environments where higher education and viable wage job skills are offered to all prisoners ensuring they can compete in today's technology society, ensure parole suitability, and make meaningful contributions to the community, institute community based parole boards, where the communities prisoners hail from decide when they can return to them.
Re-institute media access and transparency
Re-institute community ties programs such as social and family visiting for all prisoners, especially those in SHU-indeterminate units
Develop community reintroduction programs where prisoners have a community based support network that helps them re-acclimate to society and be re-integrated successfully.
Disband the CCPOA's stranglehold on elected officials which range from DAs and judges to the governor himself.
If this were to occur, crime and recidivism rates would drop, prison populations would decrease drastically (as would the violence which plagues them), thus failing to justify the fiscal expenditure for all these prisons, cops, guards, prosecutors, judges and many industries which serve them. The CCPOA's power would wane as it's membership and dues decreases. The state will not make rehabilitation (which begins with humane conditions of existence) their #1 priority because this is not in their economic and political interests.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This NCTT statement does a good job exposing the criminal injustice system as a tool of social control with no real interest in actually addressing crime or rehabilitation. We do disagree with one point here: while the vast array of people working in and around prisons certainly are motivated to protect their high wages and benefits, prisons themselves do not make a profit and so can not be working to protect their "speculative profits." As this article notes, those working on the side of the prison system do have a strong motivation to sustain and even grow them, but this is for social control fundamentally.
I have recently been hit with censorship of your mailing sent on 9 September 2011. I did receive prior to that the letter you sent to activists, but then on September 9 I got two 1819 forms indicating disapproval of mail. I have previously won two 602s [grievances] on this very issue, yet they cite the old 2006 memo [a ban on MIM's mail that was overruled years ago].
What happened is the regular Correctional Officer (CO) already been 602'd by me and has seen the 602 granted at the Director level, but he only works five days a week. The other two days a floater works and is not aware of my granted 602. The floater sends it to Institution Gang Investigations (IGI), who says to deny me. I guess the temporary CO is not very fond of MIM. Anyhow, I am sure I'll win the 602 I am submitting, but I know if I do it will take months. If possible, can you send whatever it was again? It seems I'll be having problems getting my mail from MIM Distributors on the regular CO's days off.
I showed my previous 602 that was granted, but was told by the temp "I don't know. They tell us one thing and tell you another. We need to get it straight." This is obviously B.S. because when a 602 is granted, especially at the Director level, it is obviously "straight."
This is a constant barrage of censorship. It's nonstop. I get a 602 granted and then someone comes who don't like MIM literature and then I'm forced to wait months appealing this and missing out on my studies. It is a protracted effort to censor MIM. But nothing MIM(Prisons) says is bad; it's political literature! And why send it to the gang unit when it's political? In Amerika this is how political literature is handled; by labeling it "gang material." This only confirms what MIM(Prisons) says, that there are no rights in Amerika, only power struggles! What happened to the so-called "freedom of the press?"
This prison's population has just gotten done with a three-week hunger strike and now it seems, as one of the participants, I'm now being retaliated on by censoring my political science correspondence course. But I thought the administrators from Sacramento came saying they would work on bettering our conditions if we stopped striking and ate? And now this is the repayment — censoring the ability to think outside this cell, controlling my thoughts, and preventing me from learning anything besides the state's perspective. I can get all the Forbes, Wall Street Journal, National Review, USA Today, etc. that I want, but let me get something that speaks in the interests of poor people and I'm deprived.
This does not surprise me one bit, and I know how to go about the process of appealing. What pisses me off is thinking of all the prisoners across Amerika who also get this Gestapo-like treatment and who won't know how to appeal, or become discouraged and don't try. This is what pisses me off the most. But I know I got to go back to the legal front and go in for another legal battle.
This censorship in prisons is part of the reason prisoners went on hunger strike. This is why people starved; because of the years and decades of not being able to read history books, not being able to take correspondence courses, not being allowed to grapple with ideas. And when prisoners do try to understand critical thought, we are repressed. And when we protest torture, we are repaid with further repression! A society that creates dungeons and employs sadists to unleash all their sick methods on captive poor people, to torture and experiment on with their psychological abuses, is a society that is warped and morally bankrupt.
On September 26, prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison will resume their indefinite hunger strike after 2 months of hiatus, during which they negotiated with the state. The strike began on July 1, sweeping across California, and was put on hold by organizers on July 21, after 3 full weeks of fasting. Multiple prisoner negotiators from Pelican Bay have confirmed that Scott Kernan of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) promised the 5 demands would be met, but that they needed 2 to 3 weeks to comply. That window of time has long since passed, and comrades are gearing up for what promises to be a longer stretch with no food.
In a statement from one strike leader announcing the September 26 restart, he stated:
I appreciate the time and love you all have given to us and you can believe that we will not yield until justice is achieved. We went into this trying to save lives, if possible, but we see now that there will have to be casualties on our side and we all know that power concedes to no one without demands.(1)
On August 23, state legislator Tom Ammiano headed a hearing on conditions in California's SHUs and on the validation process that gets people placed there. It echoed previous hearings that did not stop torture in the SHU. He promised he would push the issue further than it has gone in the past, but like the reforms given by the CDCR, this is too little too late as comrades who have faced decades in these torture cells take this struggle to the next level.
The Truth About the Negotiations
The strike didn't end over some beanies and calendars. Letters that came from the leaders after the message was sent that the strike ended were very clear that they were only giving the state time to meet their demands before they would restart the food strike. Those in D-Corridor and other SHU prisoners aren't done yet.
The initial story that came out of limited communications between the inside and outside negotiation teams was that the strike had ended, period, in return for beanies, calendars, proctored exams and a promise to investigate the major complaints of the strikers. The extreme limits put on the outside negotiation team, who were only granted access to the strikers on a couple brief occasions, allowed the state to control how the negotiations were portrayed. As a result, many across the state were let down by the misleading reports that first came out, because the strikers had pledged to strike until all 5 demands were met.
It has since come to light that Scott Kernan circulated a fake version of the five demands,(2) and that prisoners received notices that they had broken the rules by organizing against the abuse that they face and that they will face "progressive discipline" in the future for similar actions. The latter contradicts CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton who stated on record, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(3) In typical repressive fashion, the state responds to complaints of torture committed by state employees with outlawing any form of protest by the victims. It just goes to show that their efforts to maintain "security" have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with social control.
It's also important to note that the best public offer coming from the state right now is that they might move away from gang affiliation charges and focus on actual rule violations as justification for throwing someone into a torture chamber. Within U.$. prisons the First Amendment is generally ignored and any form of expression or organizing not sanctioned by the state is considered against the rules. But even this reform has been on the table for a long time with no action. According to the 2004 Castillo court decision, which took 8 years to litigate, the CDCR committed to providing logical justification that evidence used to put someone into SHU was criminal in nature. Yet nothing has changed, as the lead attorney on the case, Charles Carbone, asserted at the August 23 hearing.
As Carbone pointed out, with exasperation, we already went through the whole song and dance of having hearings around the SHU with Senator Gloria Romero and the United Front to Abolish the SHU years ago. Another testifier at this year's hearing made testimony in the 70s and 80s about the detrimental effects of isolation, but they still went on to build Pelican Bay State Prison. It is clear that the state sees the SHU as an important tool of social control and cares nothing for the destruction they cause to oppressed people.
Scott Kernan was very clear at the hearing that the CDCR would continue with the debriefing process, using confidential informants, and that they will not allow prisoners to appeal secret evidence used against them. He also said gang validations will likely continue to bring indeterminate SHU sentences. Kernan did not stick around for the public comments, and remaining CDCR staff were not given an opportunity to respond when a public commenter asked when the 5 demands would be put down in writing, after Kernan promised it would only take 2 to 3 weeks.
Lessons in Organizing
Through this process we are all learning how to organize in our conditions and what limits we face.
One of the successes of the California hunger strike was the demonstration of United Front to the masses, which inspired many to the possibilities of prison-based organizing. We do not know the details of how groups coordinated on the inside around the strike, but we do know that many groups would not be willing to sacrifice their independence to others, and yet they worked together. This example should be followed by those on the outside. We need to recognize the strength that comes in uniting all who can be united at any given time on the most pressing issues that we face. Coalition organizing strategies have held back support by not allowing a diversity of voices to come out in unity in support of the hunger strike.
Having outside pressure during a food strike is crucial to ensuring that the state just does not let prisoners die, as they are more than willing to do if there isn't too much noise about it. Outside organizations also played an important role in spreading word about the hunger strike that was initiated by some of the most isolated people in the whole state. But, ultimately, the state controls our communication with prisoners. Despite all the work put in by the coalition to develop an outside negotiation team, the only role the state allowed them to play was to announce when the strike had ended and ensure that everyone knew to stop. The state realized that a memo from the CDCR was not going to be convincing. Other than this, the negotiation team was not allowed any access to the prisoner negotiators.
In ULK 21, we made it sound like the strike was over for beanies, calendars and proctors and some empty promises of change. This was the information coming from the outside negotiating team and the best information anyone seemed to have. Frustration with the outcome immediately started coming in and we fear that disillusionment may have followed. But this is what the SHU is designed for. This is why SHU inmates can't call people on the outside. This is why the press is not allowed in California prisons. Misinformation would be much harder to spread otherwise. So overcoming these barriers is part of what we need to learn here.
We need to learn to build protracted and sustainable battles. There are no quick fixes, and prisoners can't rely on the mainstream press or outside organizations to come in and rescue them. Recently, Pelican Bay censored MIM(Prisons)'s study pack on organizational structure. They recognize the importance of such information for prisoners to really get organized and exert their rights. As much as they want to label us a "security threat group" for doing it, MIM(Prisons) continues to struggle for our right to support prison-based organizing. For it is the prisoners who have the drive and determination to make the changes that need to be made to end this oppressive system.
El 26 de septiembre, los presos en Pelican Bay State Prison volverá a su huelga de hambre indefinida después de 2 meses de receso, durante el cual negoció con el Estado. La huelga se inició el 1 de julio, barriendo a través de California, y se dejó en suspenso por los organizadores el 21 de julio. Negociadores de presos múltiples de Pelican Bay han confirmado que Scott Kernan del Departamento de Correcciones y Rehabilitación de California (CDCR) prometió que las 5 demandas serían satisfechas, pero que necestiban 2-3 semanas par cumplir. Esta ventana de tiempo ha pasado hace tiempo, y los compañeros se están preparando para lo que promete ser un tramo más largo sin comida.
En el 23 de agosto, el legislador Tom Ammiano encabezó una audiencia sobre las condiciones de los SHU de California y el proceso de la validación que se coloca la gente allá. Se hizo un eco de audiencias previas que no paró la tortura en el SHU, pero prometió que empujara el tema más que había ido en el pasado.
La huelga no terminó sobre algunos gorritos y calendarios. Las cartas que vinieron de los líderes después de la mensaje que la huelga terminó eran muy claras que sólo daban el estado tiempo para cumplir con sus demandas antes de que recomenzarían la huelga de hambre.
Necesitamos aprender construir las batallas prolongadas y sostenibles. No hay ningunos soluciones rápidos, y los presos no pueden fiar en la prensa y las organizaciones ajenos para salvarles. Recientemente, Pelican Bay censuró el paquete de estudiar de MIM(Prisons) sobre la estructura organizacional. Reconocen la importancia de tal información para los preso realmente organizarse y ejercer sus derechos. Por tanto que quieren clasificarnos como un grupo de amenaza a la seguridad por hacerlo, MIM(Prisons) continua luchar por nuestro derecho a apoyar a la organización basada en la prisión. Porque son los presos que tienen la motivación y la determinación hacer los cambios que deben hacerse para terminar este sistema opresivo.