Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail - California

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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.

We hope this information will inspire people to take action and join the fight against the criminal injustice system. While we may not be able to immediately impact this particular instance of abuse, we can work to fundamentally change the system that permits and perpetuates it. The criminal injustice system is intimately tied up with imperialism, and serves as a tool of social control on the homeland, particularly targeting oppressed nations.

[Hunger Strike] [National Oppression] [Civil Liberties] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California] [ULK Issue 58]
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Strike Against Arbitrary Group Punishment at MDF

TogetherBreakChains

Contra Costa County Martinez Detention Facility (A) module is a General Population (GP) setting that houses northern Hispanics and African American prisoners. The prejudiced treatment of hispanics who are classified on (A) is a continuous issue and the rules seem to bend for us. As a result of an incident in 2011, we were separated from all other GP races. This continues today although we can program in all other GP modules. In 2012, we were subject to lockdown style program of 3 hours free time a week, no bible study, etc. This lasted up until 2015. Note that none of us were even involved in violating Title 15 §1083, yet were treated as we if we were in fights even straight from intake.

We on (A) live amongst GP African American prisoners, as well as others, and other hispanics. Yet we are still "Administrative Separation"(Ad-Sep). We seek an integration process to all other GP units, including the other jail (Contra Costa County - West Detention (WCDF)), which is for less serious offenders and offers more opportunities, programs and privileges. We acknowledge current overcrowding issues. However, there is no reason why us GP prisoners are deprived of those same opportunities: vocational, parenting, etc. Especially those who qualify for such housing. Being deprived of such opportunities is a punishment, which is the underlying issue here. We've been battling administration through verbal and written remedies to no avail. Our valid requests and grievances go nowhere, don't reach the chain of command, are ignored, we are given inadequate responses, and denied appeal rights. Even when attempting to follow policy regarding grievances it falls on deaf ears.

Another thing we seek to battle is the biased intake process, where we are left on (2) intake/disciplinary mod for unreasonable amounts of time without write-up, hearing, or a procedural due process.

As of 4 August 2017, approximately 72 inmates are on hunger strike due to these injustices. The following are the demands turned in to the administration:

We've been seeking just treatment through verbal and written remedies to no avail. This does not get us nowhere. We will be boycotting such prejudicial treatment. Following are more than fair demands that are not out of reach to administration and just according to inmate rights:

1) Cease Ad-Sep label: Equal treatment to those who've not committed any infractions within the jail. Non-existent Ad-Sep label creates a negative aura which pursues us all the way to our cases. We're forced to leave (A) in shackles giving negative impressions in court, lobby visits, etc. Ad-Sep does not exist in Title 15 and inmate handbook. No one asked for Ad-Sep, Ad-Seg, or special housing during intake process. We are GP, should be treated and labeled as such. Just like (B) and (C) inmates who've not broken any rules. Cease punishment violating T.15 §1083(c) over 2011 incident, cease Ad-Sep label because of a bad environment created by classification affecting us in our case.

2) Start process of integration to all GP units including WCDF. If this is not immediately possible there is no reason why we can't receive access to all other programs available in those parts of the jail, such as vocational, parenting, etc. Those who qualify for WCDF should receive opportunities. To deny such opportunities is to bestow a punishment we don't have coming, which is the underlying issue here.

3) Create adequate grievance process, following policy, and chains of command when there is in fact a valid grievance. Provide appeal rights that are denied and give adequate responses.

4) Cease biased intake process where inmates destined for (A) are left on (Q) for unreasonable amounts of time deprived of GP setting and privileges without write-up, hearing, creating negligent meal service by having PCs serve food. You make room for those punished from other mods, you can make room for those without any type of infractions.

Note: We have set forth reasonable and realistic requests and grievances. In a nutshell we simply wish to cease biased treatment and be treated like all other GP inmates. We acknowledge overcrowding problems regarding housing circumstances. However, we should not be denied access to those programs and opportunities. We are separated/segregated from other races unnecessarily. As well as treated with prejudice from setting foot in intake to court.

References:
  • Title 15 §1083(c)4019.5 "Punishment to inmate/group over others actions" (2011 incident)
  • 14th Amendment "equal protection of the law" - cannot treat inmates differently than others without reason (race is not a valid reason)
  • Title 15 §1053 Ad-Seg (not fitting criteria)
  • 8th Amendment "Due process procedural rights" (violated)

MIM(Prisons) adds: In July 2013 prisoners at MDF staged a hunger strike from Ad-Seg. Some of the demands related to clear classification and adequate rec time echo those of the comrades on strike now. Despite the report of victories, we see similar problems continuing at the same jail in 2017. This is why winning some reforms should only be seen as the first step of a struggle and not the end. The imperialist system is based on national oppression after all.

We support these comrades' just demands, which ally with ongoing campaigns to end long-term isolation as well as to provide proper avenues for having grievances heard. As the comrades point out that this treatment based on supposed affiliation with people who did things before they were even in this jail is an obvious violation of basic civil rights and just treatment. We work to build the anti-imperialist movement so that we can replace the current system with a just one.

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[National Oppression] [Civil Liberties] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California]
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Trumped-up Gang Enhancements for [email protected] in Martinez Jail

We here, at MDF, Contra Costa County Jail, that are of Latin descent and not southsiders, are being held in Ad-Seg status now since 2010. And now even more unjust treatment is being added to us, gang enhancements just for being housed on this module, even if we don't ask to be housed on this module at time of arrest/booking. Classification, Administration and the District Attorney's office is using this module as an apparatus to get harsher sentences from the courts.

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[Control Units] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California]
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Control Unit Survey on Martinez 2

Only D-module and Q-module have Ad-Seg. 53 prisoners in D, don't know how many in Q. Jail was opened in early 1980s and they are currently looking to build a new jail or to expand existing jails in Contra Costa County as state shifts prisoners to county jails.

You can be put in the hole for any reason for an indeterminate time. They don't tell you the reason for housing change or the time you will spend there. I have been in a control unit since I arrived in May 2008, over 8 years. There is no contact with prisoners outside of your module.


For D-Module, Section C there are:
3 Blacks
2 Whites
1 Mexican
1 Puerto Rican
1 Fijian
1 empty cell
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[Hunger Strike] [Mental Health] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California] [ULK Issue 34]
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Debating Mental Health Treatment in Ad-Seg

[In response to the article MIM(Prisons) printed about the Martinez hunger strike demands, calling on prisoners there not to isolate the "mental health" prisoners from the "non-mental health" prisoners, we received the following update and clarification.]

Maybe we were not clear on the housing of mental health prisoners here in Ad-Seg. Our point is that there is an entire module for mental health prisoners where they can get help for their issues with trained staff. There is no mental health staff stationed in Ad-Seg, and no groups or therapy for prisoners. Bottom line is, mental health prisoners should not be housed in Ad-Seg on the whims of classification unit. Yes these guys are a headache to have in Ad-Seg, but more importantly they receive no help and deteriorate further by being warehoused in Ad-Seg. We are not trying to cause division in the prison population.

There are 53 inmates housed in Ad-Seg here. 13 prisoners did a 24 hour support strike while 5 of us continued for 6 to 12 days. We continue to support all those still on strike. Our strike is suspended, not stopped. If we do not continue to move forward in our demands or we come to a place in time when it is warranted, then we will continue our strike.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter addresses our criticism of the demand by MDF prisoners to "immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of improperly housing inmates with mental health issues among the non-mental-health-status Ad-Seg detainees" as unnecessarily divisive. The original demand complained of the disruptive behaviors from the mental health prisoners but did not mention the lack of treatment options for these individuals. If conditions are better in the mental health module, it would be an improvement for these individuals to escape Ad-Seg and be placed there. However, the "treatment" for people with mental health problems in the United $tates is, at best, a targeting of the symptoms, and at worst leaves people either physically or medically restrained in a drug-induced stupor.

Mental illness in prisoners can often be linked to the conditions in which they are housed, especially long-term isolation. So we are naturally skeptical of any treatment offered by those same captors who insist on locking people up in conditions that induce the health problems in the first place. But we appreciate the additional explanation that the MDF prisoners did not intend the demand for mental health prisoners to be divisive but rather targeted treatment for these individuals. We hope they will consider carefully the wording of such demands in the future.

In the short term, we know that capitalism will continue to produce new cases of mental illness which can not be successfully treated until we address the problems of a society that generates these illnesses. We look to China under Mao for an example of successful treatment of mental health conditions by addressing both the immediate problems and the systemic roots of these conditions.

Meanwhile, the comrades in Martinez are not the only ones on suspended hunger strike. A number of comrades have reported a willingness to restart in support of the five core demands as the struggle heightens.

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[Campaigns] [Hunger Strike] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California] [ULK Issue 34]
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Martinez Hunger Strike Ends with Partial Victory

On 07-19-2013 all MDF hunger strikers suspended their hunger strike. Below are the demands that were met by MDF command staff:

DEMAND #1 was granted in full. Classification shall tell you in writing what you are being held in Ad-Seg for as well as program expectations to be released from Ad-Seg.

DEMAND #2 Command staff is working to come up with a free time schedule that follows title 15 standards. One part of this that is granted in full is that all detainees will be given an opportunity to empty their trash can EVERYDAY.

DEMAND #3 had 3 parts. Two parts were granted in full. MDF medical/mental health staff shall no longer conduct ANY type of appointment on the intercom system nor at detainees’ cell door where private medical issues are heard by others in violation of medical privacy laws (HIPPA). The third part of allowing Ad-Seg detainees’ to reach medical triage on the phone systems, as all other modules do, is still being worked on with command staff.

DEMAND #4 Command staff informed classification to ONLY house mentally ill inmates on D-module as a last resort.

DEMAND #5 was granted in full. ALL MDF detainees’ will be allowed to purchase ink pen fillers from canteen. Also necessary photo copies will be made for detainees’ filing court documents. These will be implemented in a reasonable time frame.

It is in good faith that we suspend our hunger strike and that MDF command staff will continue to implement our 5 Core Demands. MDF command staff has been very open to our ideas. With the exception of DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE who tried to guide detainees’ into refusing water as well as food.
We hope all other hunger strikers can get some much needed relief on their demands. If this does not occur we will resume our hunger strike.
Special thank you to our loved ones on the streets, all organizations and media outlets who covered our struggle, as well as Sarah Shroud, Shane Bauer- Welcome home & Dan Horowitz, Nicole, Lesli and Mikes sister.


MIM(Prisons) responds: See the original article announcing the Martinez demands where we address the shortcomings of their demands, which included segregating mentally ill prisoners. The victories here are small reforms riding on the coat tails of the central struggle here, which is to shut down long-term isolation. Control units were originally created to separate leaders from the general population. But this division has been two-fold in that now the interests of those in control units are not felt as dearly by those in general population. Even so, the last few weeks have shown a great level of consciousness among the whole prison population about the inhumane conditions those comrades in SHU and Ad-Seg face. We hope those who stood up in Martinez continue to support that struggle, which is really central to the prison movement itself. Without a prison movement, prisoners have no real means of addressing abuse, which can be so common in prison.

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California] [ULK Issue 34]
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Martinez Ad-Seg Issues Hunger Strike Demands

To: Sheriff David O. Livingston, Under Sheriff Michael V. Casten and All Martinez Detention Facility Command Staff, Deputies and Officials

From: Pretrial Detainees, Inmates, Prisoners and Civil Commitments housed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) in D-Module at Martinez Detention Facility

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE:
On Monday 8 July 2013, detainees housed in Ad-Seg will actively be taking part in the hunger strike being implemented statewide by prisoners, inmates, detainees (etc.) confined under unconstitutional conditions in California state prisons and jails.

Martinez Detention Facility (MDF) Ad-Seg detainees support the core and supplemental demands of our partners in Pelican Bay Prison Ad-Seg/SHU programs and we join them in opposition of their, and ALL, unconstitutional conditions of confinement in all California state prisons and jails.

MDF Ad-Seg detainees hereby also provide notice of our own 5 Core Demands to stop unconstitutional conditions of confinement blatantly enforced here at MDF.

CORE DEMAND 1

MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice, and unofficial policy of placing detainees in Ad-Seg without any due process. Some detainees have been held in Ad-Seg indefinitely (over 5 years) without any notice, hearing or due process required by Constitutional Law. If a detainee submits a request or grievance on the issue, they receive a response from classification only stating "you are housed appropriately."

CORE DEMAND 2

MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of locking detainees in filthy cells with no windows or light controls for 48 hours (or more) before being allowed out of our cell for 1 hour to shower, groom, use phone, exercise and inadequately attempt to clean our cells.

Detainees request that they be allowed out of their cells for at least 1 hour daily in the morning, afternoon or evening and also be allowed to shave daily as state regulations require.

Incorporated within this demand, detainees also seek a provision for a daily opportunity to clean their cells. Currently detainees are only allowed (every 48 hours or longer) a broom, dust pan, and a mop. They are not provided with disinfectant, toilet bowl cleaner, rags, or any other cleaning supplies to adequately clean cells. Detainees must also keep trash (from 6 meals) in their cells for 48 hours or more.

CORE DEMAND 3

MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of daily holding medical and mental health appointments at the detainees' cell doors which allows all other detainees to hear the confidential medical/mental health issues. This is in violation of the "Medical Act and Privacy Rights." Detainees also seek the equal protection of a "TRIAGE" phone line as other MDF detainees on other modules are provided.

CORE DEMAND 4

MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of improperly housing inmates with mental health issues among the non-mental-health-status Ad-Seg detainees. Currently all Ad-Seg detainees are subject to the behaviors, problems, actions and disorders of the mental health status Ad-Seg inmates which include:

  1. Loud yelling/banging all night, keeping detainees awake.
  2. Getting feces and urine thrown under detainees doors.
  3. Delusional actions/comments against or towards detainees.
  4. Spitting through detainee doors or on glass.
  5. Feces, urine, debris etc. in shower, hot water pot, on floor
  6. Breaking and/or destroying hair clippers/shavers, preventing other detainees from using for court, visits, etc.

CORE DEMAND 5

MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of denying all MDF detainees access to pens to submit legal work to the courts, nor copying provisions for our writs and other valid legal documents to the court. Also, there is no readily continuous access to a pencil sharpener which is often broken, preventing detainees from writing legal documents and/or sending letters to family and friends for weeks.

There are many more unconstitutional conditions of confinement here at MDF. Those are 5 of the most egregious which we present as issues. Detainees will be hunger striking to correct, beginning Monday 8 July 2013.

Detainees peacefully and respectfully request that Contra Costa County Sheriff Office engage in swift and prompt actions to correct these unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

- MDF Hunger Strike Representative


MIM(Prisons) responds: While we support the hunger strike going on in Martinez Detention Facility, we would like to warn against creating unnecessary divisions between prisoners. We have reported in the past that mental health status is greatly exacerbated by the conditions of imprisonment generally, and especially of long-term isolation. Often times these prisoners are put in isolation (or even imprisoned in the first place) because of their disruptive behavior stemming from their mental illness, which does nothing to improve their condition.

Not only does imprisonment worsen the condition of those who already suffer from mental illness, but it can, and does, induce mental illness in people who would otherwise not suffer from delusions, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, sensitivity to light, noise, and touch, suicidal thoughts, etc. It is well documented,(1) and MIM(Prisons) has witnessed first hand, that the state uses long-term isolation as a tactic to specifically wreck the mental health of prisoners who are engaged in political work and organizing.

While we understand the impact that this disruptive behavior has on this contributor's ability to sleep and focus, we worry that a demand to send mentally ill prisoners "away" would lead to further isolation and deterioration.

Mental illness isn't caused by inadequacies within individuals, but is instead a symptom of all the irreconcilable contradictions in our society. Mental illness has systemic roots. Therefore, all short-term solutions to help people with mental illness in this country are just bandaids on gaping wounds. Reported in Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China, a book by Victor and Ruth Sidel, all mental health conditions in communist China under Mao were cured except for some extreme cases of schizophrenia, and those who had previously been suffering became productive members of society. Reasons for this turnaround include not only relief from stressors which had previously led people to mental illness — severe gender oppression, inability to survive or thrive, etc. — but also a flood of resources dedicated to mental health research and application which hadn't been possible before when society was organized based on the profit motive.

Around 1971, the Sidels wrote,

The methods currently being used to treat mental illness are collective help, self-reliance, drug therapy, acupuncture, "heart-to-heart talks," follow-up care, community ethos, productive labor, the teachings of Mao Tse-tung, and "revolutionary optimism."

They go on to explain in detail what each of these methods consists of.

Similar to how feudalism in pre-liberation China led many wimmin to suicide, it is clear that most mental illness is a direct result of our capitalist and imperialist society. The most stark example of this being the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by at least 20% of U.$. veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.(2) Hearing any account from a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, you can see that a large contributing factor to the PTSD is the unjust nature of these wars; killing for no reason. In People's War, the cause is just (self-defense) and the aim isn't to murder and intimidate, but to liberate the most oppressed and create a better world for everyone. That is quite a contrast.

We know it is difficult to organize in Ad-Seg, and we know it is especially difficult to organize with people who are in the middle of full-blown mental illness. But we still encourage our comrades to look for ways for prisoners to come together against their common enemy and to fight on behalf of the common good of all prisoners and oppressed people generally. A more progressive demand than number 4 above would be an end to solitary confinement for all prisoners. For more on our perspective on mental health, see Under Lock & Key 15 or MIM Theory 9: Psychology & Imperialism.


Notes:
1. Stuart Grassian, "Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement," Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 22:325 2006, p.325.
2. Veterans and PTSD

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