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.
On October 10 a peace accord went into place across the California prison system to end hostilities between different racial groups. The Pelican Bay State Prison - Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU) Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives issued a statement in August, and hundreds responded on October 10 with hunger strikes to continue the struggle against so-called gang validation and the SHU. The original statement calls on lumpen organizations to turn to "causes beneficial to all" instead of infighting among the oppressed. Recently leaders in Pelican Bay State Prison reasserted that this applies to all lumpen organizations in CDCR, down to the youth authority.
We share the PBSP-SHU Collective's view that peace is key to building unity against the criminal injustice system. Prison organizations and individual prisoners across the country have pledged themselves to the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principles and are building this United Front in their prisons, communities and organizations.
We know this won't be easy, but there is a basis for this unity and peace. As was written in the original announcement of the UFPP:
"We fully recognize that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are already 'united' — in our suffering and our daily repression. We face the same common enemy. We are trapped in the same oppressive conditions. We wear the same prison clothes, we go to the same hellhole box (isolation), we get brutalized by the same racist pigs. We are one people, no matter your hood, set or nationality. We know 'we need unity' — but unity of a different type from the unity we have at present. We want to move from a unity in oppression to unity in serving the people and striving toward national independence."
The ending of hostilities between large lumpen organizations has sweeping implications for the possibilities for prisoner organizing. USW comrades in California should work to seize this opportunity however possible, to translate the peace agreement into meaningful organizing in the interests of all prisoners.
Greetings. The struggle is long and arduous, and sometimes we do etch out significant victories, as in the case of our brotha in In re Crawford, 206 Cal.App.4th 1259 (2012).
It's important to emphasize that this victory is a significant step in reaffirming that prisoners are entitled to a measure of First Amendment protection that cannot be ignored simply because the state dislikes the spiel. New Afrikan prisoners have a right to identify with their birthright if they so choose, as does anyone else for that matter — Black, White or Brown. ...
[California prison officials] have gone so far as to boldly proclaim that the term New Afrikan was created by the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) and that those who identify as or use the term are declaring their allegiance to the BGF, which has been declared a prison gang. They have sought to suppress its usage by validating (i.e. designating as a gang member or associate) anyone who uses the term or who dares mention the name George Jackson. ...
Our brotha's case In Re Crawford was filed June 4, 2012, and certified for publication June 13. In a brilliant piece of judicial reasoning, a panel of justices in a 3-0 decision finally reaffirmed a prisoner's First Amendment right to free speech and expression, stating:
Freedom of speech is first among the rights which form the foundation of our free society. "The First Amendment embodies our choice as a nation that, when it comes to such speech, the guiding principle is freedom — the unfettered interchange of ideas — not whatever the State may view as fair." (Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2806). "The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people ... All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests." (Roth v. United States (1957) 354 U.S. 476, 484."
The programs embodied in the New Afrikan Collective Think Tank, New Afrikan Institute of Criminology 101, the George Jackson University and the New Afrikan ideology itself are inclusive programs emphasizing a solution-based approach to carnage in the poverty stricken slums from where many of us come. The CDCR Prison Intelligence Units (PIU) have sought to suppress these initiatives simply because they do not like the message. They have marched into court after court with one standard line: New Afrikan means BGF and these initiatives are promoting the BGF. In re Crawford continues,
As recently noted by Chief Justice Roberts, "[t]he First Amendment reflects 'a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.' [Citation.] That is because 'speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.' [Citation.] ... Speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection." (Snyder v. Phelps (2011) 562 U.S. _,_ [131 S.Ct. 1207, 1215].
In re Crawford is a very important ruling because the justices said these protections apply to prisoners as well. ...
George Jackson cannot be removed from the fabric of the people's struggles in this society any more than Malcolm X can or Medger Evers or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Harriett Tubman or Sojourner Truth or Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks or Frederick Douglass, or the countless others who've fought and struggled for a brighter future for generations to come.
What CDCR and its PIU are trying to do is make a run around the First Amendment by shielding its suppression activity under the guise of preventing gang activity, just as it's done historically, which gave rise to Procunier v. Martinez (1974) 416 U.S. 396, 413.
In In re Crawford, CDCR argued for an exception to the Martinez test for validated gang members. The court declined to make such an exception, holding: "Gang related correspondence is not within the exception to the First Amendment test for censorship of outgoing inmate mail."
The fact that they even argued for such an exception shows their mindset. Their intentions are to suppress that which they believe to be repugnant, offensive and that which they believe a prisoner ought not be thinking! In their minds we have no right to think or possess ideas, concepts or vision beyond that which they believe we should possess.
Until In Re Crawford, these highly educated judges were sanctioning this nonsense with twisted, perverted rulings permitting a newspaper article or magazine layout or book to be used against a prisoner for validation purposes [to put them in torture cells - editor]. They issued twisted rulings like those in Ellis v. Cambra or Hawkins v. Russell and In Re Furnace, where the petitioner was told he has no right to his thoughts and the First Amendment only protects a prisoner's right to file a 602 [grievance form].
These kinds of fallacious rulings ought to be publicized so as to show the skillful manipulation of the law by those sworn to uphold it. In Re Crawford reestablishes that First Amendment protections apply to prisoners and that we too enjoy a measure of free speech and expression. We ought not be punished with fabricated notions of gang activity for merely a thought!
However, if we are to continue to meet with success, we need our professors, historians and intellectuals to step up and provide declarations that we can use in our litigation, defending our right to read, write and study all aspects of a people's history, like Professor James T. Campbell did in In Re Crawford. This is the only way a prisoner can challenge the opinion of a prison official. ...
Much work remains to be done, like stopping the bogus validations based on legitimate First Amendment material. We know that many individuals are falsely validated simply for reading George's books or a newspaper article, for observing Black August or for simply trying to get in touch with one's cultural identity.
These legitimate expressions should carry no penalty at all. You're not doing anything wrong, and a lot of brothas who've been validated simply shouldn't be. Nor should folks be frightened away from reading or studying any aspect of history simply because the state doesn't like its content. Judges who issue fallacious opinions permitting prisoners to be punished for reading a George Jackson book or researching your history should be exposed.
Literary content and cultural and historical materials are not the activities of a gang; they are political and social activities that we have a right to express, according to the unanimous decision in In re Crawford.
The First Amendment campaign continues to forge ahead, although we still don't have a lawyer. The campaign still exists, and we anticipate even greater successes in the future. ... We've cracked one layer of a thick wall. Now all prisoners should take advantage of this brilliant ruling and reassert your rights to study your heritage, Black, White or Brown.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The issue in this case was one that we have experienced first-hand as well. For example, in 2008 a letter from a comrade in California was censored before it could reach us because it discussed the New Afrikan Collective, which allegedly was a code word for the Black Guerrilla Family.(1) But in reality, the New Afrikan Collective was a new political organization in New York focused on bettering the conditions of New Afrikans as a nation, with no connections to any sort of criminal activity.
The first thing that strikes us about this case is a quote from the proceedings cited by the author above, "Gang related correspondence is not within the exception to the First Amendment test for censorship of outgoing inmate mail." Unfortunately this is not part of the final opinion explaining the decision of the court, and it is specific to outgoing mail from the prison. Nonetheless, it would logically follow from this statement that anything that can be connected to a gang is not automatically dangerous or illegal.
"Gang members" have long been the boogeyman of post-integration white Amerika. The pigs use "gang member" as a codeword to excuse the abuse and denial of constitutional rights to oppressed nation youth, particularly New Afrikan men. And this has been institutionalized in more recent years with "gang enhancements," "gang injunctions" and "security threat group" labels that punish people for belonging to lumpen organizations. Often our mail is censored because it mentions the name of a lumpen organization in the context of a peace initiative or organizing for prisoners' humyn rights. While criminal activity is deemed deserving more punishment with the gang label, non-criminal activity is deemed criminal as well.
As the author discusses, it becomes a question of controlling ideas to the extreme, where certain words are not permitted to be spoken or written and certain symbols and colors cannot be displayed. So the quote from the court above is just a baby step in the direction of applying the First Amendment rights of association and expression to oppressed nation youth. Those who are legally inclined should consider how this issue can be pushed further in future battles. Not only is such work important in restoring rights to people, but we can create space for these organizations to build in more positive directions.
Part of this criminalization of a specific sector of society is the use of self-created and perpetuated so-called experts on gang intelligence. Most of our readers are all too familiar with this farce of a profession that is acutely exposed by the court's opinion in this case. The final court opinion calls out CO J. Silveira for claiming that the plaintiff's letter contained an intricate code when he could provide no evidence that this was true. They also call him out for using his "training and experience" as the basis for all his arguments.
The warden's argument is flawed for two reasons. First, the argument is based solely on the unsupported assertions and speculative conclusions in Silveira's declaration. The declaration is incompetent as evidence because it contains no factual allegations supporting those assertions and conclusions. Second, even if the declaration could properly be considered, it does not establish that the letter posed a threat to prison security.
As great as this is, as the author of the article above points out, they usually get away with such baseless claims. More well thought out lawsuits like this are needed, because more favorable case law is needed. But neither alone represents any real victory in a system that exists to maintain the existing social hierarchy. These are just pieces of a long, patient struggle that has been ongoing for generations. The people must exercise the rights won here to make them real. We must popularize and contextualize the nature of this struggle.
I'm doing okay here just maintaining and trying to stay positive throughout this madness that they call the SHU. Things are pretty much the same around here as they were before the hunger strikes. Basically all that's changed is the fact that we have beanies and can buy sweats and sweaters in our packages now. And also if you have a year clean then you can take a picture and buy art supplies, and we can get calendars in the mail.
So I don't know what's going on with all of the rest of the promises that were made as a result of the hunger strikes. The CDCR administration basically is keeping us in the dark and trying to shut down any and all communication that they feel is a threat.
CDCR stopped an eight-page double sided publication that was printed off of the computer back around the end of October. I appealed it and just received a response with them denying my appeal, so now I have to send it to the final level in Sacramento which I am doing tonight.
They say that since it talks about the hunger strikes and the organizers of the hunger strikers here in the SHU that it promotes gang activity. Also since there are other prisoners' letters that are reporting on what is going on in these prisons then that is prisoner correspondence and third party mail. And finally they claim that it promotes a conspiracy to disrupt prison security and that if we are allowed to receive said publication then it would be promoting the conspiracy to cause others mass disruptions of prison programs. Like I said I'm sending it to the final level of appeal and once I get it back I'll send it to you for you to see.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This report of only very small gains in response to the recent California prison food strike is consistent with what we have heard from others. The Five Core Demands of the strikers have been basically ignored with the exception of the really minor examples they provided for the fifth demand "Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates": this is where the art supplies, calendars and sweat suits were mentioned.
This is typical of the CDCR and in fact of all branches of imperialism: they give nothing to the oppressed without being forced to, and they give the minimum possible. The imperialists will concede nothing without a fight, and as we can see from the California hunger strike, even a widespread protest is not enough to accomplish significant change. This protest helped raise awareness of the struggle, and brought many people into activism. Now we must build on that experience.
The recent strike has unleashed a new round of censorship here in Pelican Bay. It's crazy that the very issue that CDCR claims to be "working on changing," that is 'Group Punishment,' is the very thing they are still doing by punishing everyone for the strike. Administrators from Sacramento came in their suits to beg prisoners they label falsely as 'worst of the worst' to stop striking and told them that if they stop there will be no retaliation, and yet here we are getting our political literature censored because of participation in the strike!
The state is so sick that it is not enough to keep prisoners locked in solitary confinement for years. It shows the cruelty, the depravity of what we are up against, and so when I think of so called 'constitutional rights' I know in my heart that these so called rights don't apply to me or any other prisoner in Amerika. When I'm denied even the ability to think, this is when I know the intention is to destroy me mentally and psychologically.
This is what the Security Housing Units (SHU) is used for - destruction cut and dried, there is no other reason for the modern day control unit, it's used to break you down by all means necessary. Whatever it is you enjoy is taken. If you like the fresh air we will have lock down, loss of yard privileges, etc. If you like to watch TV the power will go out throughout the week or COs can simply take your TV for 90 days. If you like to read, your books and newspapers will be denied and censored. If you like to write certain people they will stop your mail, return to sender and claim this address is a mail drop, etc. The list goes on and on. This is all done to get people to collaborate with the state in order to get out of SHU.
So as people go about living their life, or even for people incarcerated who have no idea of the active repression many face, I say it's real and be ready for the same repression. I have gone years having my literature from MIM and ULK censored and I have learned not to rely solely on ULK or MIM Distributors but to study on my own or with others. And when I do receive some political science literature, some revolutionary history, I read it over and over and discuss it with others so that I remember it and expand my understanding of it.
What we are experiencing now in the SHU with the new censorship will become common as prisoners in Amerika become more progressive and revolutionary. It is for this reason that people should prepare for this repression just as urgently as one would prepare for a hurricane or earthquake or any other disaster. To disregard this will leave one with nothing, no lifeline to truth, no theoretical nourishment, and most of all no guidance.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises an important point about the value of political literature and the need to prepare for censorship. We face censorship across the country in so many prisons it is hard to keep track. But it is never sustained forever, sometimes we can get past the censors after a few months of appeals, sometimes it takes years and a court case, sometimes there is nothing obvious that changes but suddenly literature is allowed back into a prison. Regardless of the reasons for the censorship or the victories against it, it's clear that we need to get as many people as possible on the ULK mailing list to maximize the distribution, and those receiving it and other literature need to share it, create study groups, discuss what they are reading, and spread the word.
With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows indefinite detention without charges or trial, the U.$. population is becoming more aware of the emptiness of "constitutional rights." There are no rights, only power struggles, as this comrade explains.
[This letter was just received from one of the few comrades who has continued to stick to the pledge to strike until the 5 core demands were met. While it is unclear why others in Pelican Bay have stopped striking, this comrade is pushing for a re-orientation that addresses the torturous conditions of long-term isolation head on while reaching out to the general prison population.]
18 October 2011 - Well, they had a busload, about 1/2 of it, full leaving Pelican Bay State Prison for Corcoran. All hunger strikers, and all descendents from south of the border, Mexico and further, with only a few whites. How they chose us out of all is difficult to say. They immediately isolated me, and in the last few days have gone to great lengths to convince me the strike is over. The CDC is even lying publicly saying it has ended (see CDCR Star) via Terry Thornton, a mouthpiece propagating on behalf of the state.
I've been told if I relent and eat I can go to the block with the others, but so far I've been lied to at every potential turn of events. [State employees have lied to prisoners throughout the hunger strikes in an attempt to undermine their unity. -editor]
One of the prevailing misconceptions is that this is primarily a legal issue, and there's a metaphysical conception of this too, in that "legality" is viewed in isolation without grasping its interconnections with all that is around it, ie. politics, economics, etc.
This lack of political consciousness is reflected in our goal. If there had been a more elevated ideological grasp on circumstances, even rudimentary comprehension of dialectics - scientific materialism, the distinction between "form" and "essence" would likely have been made once analyzing our strategy, before agreeing on it and pursuing it. You see, we must alter our strategic objective. The validation is only one "form," a vehicle, amongst a few to permanently isolate one within a sensory deprivation unit - the "essence" in this dialectical connection.
Had we made this analysis, instead of confronting a peripheral, a formal manifestation and means to permanently isolate us, we would have gone to the source of the disease, essentially, the permanent isolation itself.
People are sympathetic to the "dehumanization" that one is subjected to. One becomes, if enough time passes in such isolation, a social vegetable incapable of any form of social intercourse. This is caused by the severe lack of interaction with others, the context necessary for the personality's development, which not only identifies us as individuals distinct from one another, but it is social intercourse that binds us together as a collective, wholly as a single species.
If we achieve our goal, we've struggled only to put a Band-Aid on one of these sores manifesting from a diseased spot - Solitary Confinement. So long as it exists, even if we dismantle validation, we'll still be subjected to perpetual isolation by different methods, excuses, justifications, etc.
The push for the right to minimal association with other humyns is a strategy that has a historical precedent, tried and tested, with more successful results than not (see the IRA, ETA, RAF, Red Brigades, etc.). They all gained extraordinary international support within the UN and from organizations such as Amnesty International, etc. [Amnesty International released a statement of support for the hunger strikers during round 2 of the hunger strike. They condemned the use of political repression by the state against those who participated.]
During this second hunger strike it seems the prison system is working overtime making itself look stupid so the outside world can really see what we're dealing with. They are making it clear what we prisoners fighting for reasonable changes have to go through in order to bring attention to our inhumane conditions.
On September 29, 2011 they placed all of us strike representatives in Ad-Seg (isolation) on "H" row. Prison officials within CDCR were feeding propaganda to various news media that we representatives in the hunger strike are the prison gang generals, crime bosses, who are forcing prisoners around the states to not eat.
They hate to admit prisoners have had enough of these repressive inhumane conditions and want to be treated like a damn human being with some respect.
On October 5, 2011, a few of us were released from Ad-Seg. I hear the others were released a little later after CDCR officials put things in writing. I understand the 4 main representatives have actually read the writings. I hope to get a copy to share among the other prisoners that stood tall in this strike.
CDCR officials have begun retaliating by giving prisoners CDC 115 disciplinary infractions for partaking in a non-violent peaceful strike. CDCR officials actions simply say we prisoners do not even have a constitutional right to refuse to eat. We will see if a federal court will find CDCR actions were retaliatory and violate our first amendment.
I received a notification that MIM(Prisons) has been banned. These folks here are a joke and violate laws at will.
MIM(Prisons) adds: It's no coincidence that this prisoner is facing repression for activism and having his MIM(Prisons) mail banned at the same time. As activists, and especially revolutionaries, grow in our influence and organizing power the systems we oppose become more threatened and respond with more repression.
I want to extend a raised fist and reflect on the second round of the hunger strike here in Pelican Bay. As most know, prisoners once again attempted to achieve some sort of sense of humanity, if such a thing is possible in SHU. The demands were not fully met in the original strike, and this combined with the state's propaganda offensive pushed many of us captives into another push of resistance! This is what I attempt to give perspective on in this writing.
We need to review the entire process of any effort in order to learn from it. This is the process of evaluating the action (or inaction) and using these lessons to help us in future life choices. I'm not just speaking of this most recent effort but also anywhere else in Amerika where this same injustice presents itself.
We must remember the torture and abuse suffered and understand that torture will not stop from a peaceful protest. Torture in imperialist Amerika will always exist in one form or another so long as this system of state sanctioned white supremacy exists. So long as the oppressed nations are hunted down like Third World people, just as the Afghani villager flees when s/he hears the sound of helicopters, knowing it is the NATO occupiers, so too do the oppressed Brown and Black peoples understand when the helicopter comes over our neighborhoods, we too are its prey.
The SHUs are but another expression of what the people live with psychologically in the barrios and ghettos across Amerika. We are locked physically in these concentration kamps, told what to read, what to look at, what to listen to and what to think. People out in society are also experiencing this control on a more subtle level, and in our communities we are hunted down lethally. In Amerika our task force 373 (kill squad) is the pigs where as in the Third World it is the U.$. military who go into Third World nations when Third World people raise their objection.
Today the corporate media announced that Gaddafi was killed and as they showed his corpse, and as Obama made a speech about how Gaddafi was a "mad dog" for not respecting the human rights of all Libyans, I sit in solitary confinement with no sunlight, no human contact, and all the oppression that comes with being in SHU. The truth is Amerika doesn't see Brown or Black people as worthy of human rights. This is why millions of us are criminalized; why we are shot dead unarmed in the streets and prisons by the pigs. This is why we are not given work and suffer a new caste system of being branded a felon, and it's why mothers and fathers are ripped apart from children and deported as "illegals." Illegals! Who are the real illegals?!
The second hunger strike erupted September 26 but unlike the previous strike there was no negotiating teams, no attorney visits to work as mediators, no coverage in the corporate media and so many people here did not know a strike was happening until later in the effort. The numbers I got were approximately half the SHU participated in this second effort, which was fewer than last time, but I also heard more participated in prisons across Amerika and even some county jails. This proves my theory that the longer these efforts take place the more they will be supported. Prisoners get used to the idea of struggle. It brings to the forefront the everyday issues that affect every prisoner, particularly the issue of state repression. This of course is the state's worse nightmare.
I continue to believe that an effort prepared well in advance is far more effective and would be more supported and last a longer amount of time. I think the first strike lasted three weeks because it was prepared for properly. To just announce you're going to do something and do so will get many to participate, but if an effort is ill prepared it won't be as lasting and may not be as effective.
I myself was very angry after the first strike because I didn't feel the demands were essential to a mass effort. Things like shut down all SHUs, end the three strikes, end the death penalty, are things I think are worthy of demands. These are issues that affect every prisoner, not just some. I am very proud of the California prison population for its awakening and learning to stand up en mass, yet we should look deeper into our demands and make sure they reflect the true causes of our oppression.
We can see California prisoners are on the move. It took the many years of groups like MIM(Prisons) along with prison revolutionaries working on the inside to raise the consciousness to see this oppression we live with in these dungeons. MIM(Prisons) once said "Lenin always insisted that change does not occur in straight lines, despite our wishes. And like all Marxists, he stressed historical materialism, which means that ideas come from material reality and not vice versa. We can imagine the world we want and wish it into existence, but that will not make it so. What Marxists do is look at the contradictions in humyn society and study the forces that make them up in order to understand how to resolve them."(1)
I think California prisoners are indeed looking at the contradictions we live with and finding ways to resolve them. This by no means is going away. More and more prisoners are taking notice and coming to support the Pelican Bay SHU battles while raising their own demands wherever they reside in Amerika's concentration kamps. Let the demand for human rights for prisoners reach every cage in this imperial empire. Power to the people!
I am writing you from Pelican Bay State Prison. At the conclusion of the hunger strike the COs in General Population at PBSP initiated a 90 day lock down for no specified act or incident from the prisoners. Details are hazy at this moment but there was a fairly wide search of the yards and all the grass is now gone on the exercise yard. What we believe was a "sweep" for weapon stockpiles is turning out to simply be an excuse to hold our privileges hostage.
Visitor and work assignment movement has not ceased, however the administration seems to believe that a facility lock down is necessary for 90 days, even though they are still running the laundry service which is unheard of during "lock down" status.
This is clearly a tactic to impose a punishment for hunger strike participation. Now all quarterly packages and store for the holiday season has been stripped from an already isolated, deprived group of prisoners.
It is rumored that the COs uncovered a rusted piece of metal believed to be a home fashioned knife on a section of yard off limits to prisoners when yard is refused. Sounds real convenient that the COs get to have the last word on our concluded demonstration. When an incident occurs on the yard and a weapon is found, the COs resume yard, why is it we are on lockdown without a riot occurring? Typical "Green" bullshit.
Sitting here on my 17th day of a hunger strike, in protest of the inhumane and torturous treatment of our confinement in the Security Housing Units (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Prison, my heart races at 126 beats per minute — at rest! Am I going to have a heart attack? Am I mad for risking my health — my life! — or am I just fed up with having spent 25 years in SHU for non-disciplinary reasons?
My mind is racing just as fast, if not faster, as my heart. A fog has settled in on my thoughts. Everything seems hazy and I'm not sure if I'm even thinking logically anymore.
This morning I was dozing in and out of a dream. I usually don't remember my dreams anymore, so I'm not even sure if I was actually dreaming or if I was awake, just thinking in the fog. But this is what I remember:
I was in this big ol' boat, along with a whole lot of other guys, and we were rowing this boat. It was hard work (and maybe that's what got my heart pumping so hard!), and if any of us slowed down or fell out of sync, these overseers would come over and whip us something awful, so we all had an incentive to keep rowing.
Then an old man, a few rows in front of me, stopped rowing. He started to sway, from side to side, as the overseers whipped him. Regardless of the pain, the old man just continued to sway, from side to side, from side to side, and all he would say is "rock." Everyone thought the guy was mad, that he had lost his mind or something. Then another guy, a few rows back, threw his oar down and began to sway the same way as the old man. Everyone was confused. Then a few more people started throwing down their oars and swaying in sync to each other. Nothing was said except, "rock!" The boat started to sway, just a little, from side to side, and the overseers were frantic to stop the swaying. They were whipping guys viciously, but no one would pick up the oars. In fact, more and more people were refusing to row now and the boat was dangerously close to capsizing. The overseers were terrified and all that was heard was "rock!" The oars with the words "industries," "shirt factory," "wood products," "shoe factory," "dairy," "kitchen workers," "cooks" engraved into them were all just laying there, idle, and we told the overseers, "you want this boat rowed, then you do the rowing!"
About this time, I either woke up or I snapped out of the fog I was in. My heart was racing. Am I mad? Is that really such a crazy thought? Or is it the most sanest, common sense thing that should have taken place years ago?
I thought about this as I drank my tea and the COs passed out breakfast. "Are you gonna eat?" the CO asked. "No" I replied, and with my heart still racing I thought to myself, crazy or not, I say "let's rock!"
I am one of the hunger strike representatives for the "northern" Mexicans. I just read your Under Lock & Key 22 and thought it was well written and very informative. Included here is an update on our situation here.
On September 29, 15 of the representatives were moved from the SHU and placed in administrative segregation (Ad-Seg). We still have not received any paperwork explaining why. But the acting chief Deputy Warden Cook came through and told us that we're here because we've been "identified as leaders of the hunger strike." He also said that we'd be receiving some kind of "incident packet." I'm assuming this is a 115 rule violation report. This whole action, being placed in Ad-Seg, and the issuance of an incident packet, is in direct contradiction to CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thorton's statement: "there are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat." And we believe this is an act of retaliation for our peaceful protest.
Upon being rehoused, we were unable to bring any personal property with us. No addresses of family, friends or outside supporters, no personal hygiene, no legal material. (On October 6 we were issued some legal materials but not all of what everyone needed.) We were told that all our property was taken out of our SHU cells and stored in the SHU Property room where it is being searched.
Warden Lewis came through and told us that "as soon as you eat, I'll move you back to SHU." He also said, because we're on hunger strike we have "no program coming." That means no visits, no yard time, no law library and most likely no canteen. On the canteen, all of us ordered hygiene and stationary products, as we could not bring any with us. Some of us ordered beverages too (i.e. coffee, tea or coco) as we are on a solid food hunger strike only. While we do have access to a paging system with the law library where we can put in a request for a case or statue and they'll send it to us, we have no access to certain materials that are only available at the law library itself. Several of us have active cases and this puts us at a serious disadvantage.
The cells are really cold (not sure if this is from lack of food). I'm usually fully dressed with a t-shirt wrapped around my head and a beanie on top of that and a sheet or blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Maintenance came through to check the air blowing out of the vents and slowed them down some (they were blowing kind of hard), but it's still cold. Especially the outside wall. It's sapping much of my strength.
The design of this Ad-Seg makes it difficult to get the attention of the control officer. In fact, it states in the orientation packet "due to the physical design and distance within this building, the control officer may not hear you. It is recommended that you communicate with the floor officers, and utilize request for interview forms whenever possible." (Inmate Orientation Document, Administrative Segregation unit stand alone (ASU-1) Revised: Oct, 21, 2009) The cells have solid doors so it makes it difficult for us to hear a prisoner in the next cell. Our concern here is if someone falls out we may not be able to hear him. And, if we do, we may not be able to contact anyone for help. So, the question begs, if PBSP/CDCR are aware of this then why would they put us back here in our weakened condition?!
It took PBSP eight days to come and check our weight. According to CDCR policy dealing with hunger strikes, they were supposed to come and check our weight and vitals after 9 missed meals (3 days). (Health Care Services - Chapter 22). The reason why this is important, to have our weight checked as soon as possible, is because in most cases this becomes our starting point. Any weight we lost prior to being weighed (in my case, 18 pounds) may not be documented. CDCR can then manipulate these facts to make it appear like we haven't lost that much weight. Recently, a registered nurse told us that as of September 29th a new policy was implemented regarding "mass" hunger strikes. Three days after we started, none of us has seen it yet.
Recently we were informed that two of our primary attorneys assisting in the meditations with CDCR were banned from visiting us (Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon). CDCR is claiming they are under investigation for assisting in a "mass disturbance." No doubt they will be cleared of these accusations. It's just another way of CDCR flexing it's muscle to intimidate our outside supporters.
Post Script: On October 11 we did receive our canteen, hygiene and stationary products only, no beverages. [This was similar to the practice in Corcoran SHU where comrades were denied liquids and electrolytes.]