Support the Statewide Mobilization
[Excerpts from a Statement of support for the August 23rd Statewide Mobilization to Sacramento]
"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.