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.
The reason I write to you brothers and sisters is because about a week ago I witnessed abuse by the pigs on the yard. The fellow prisoner uses a walker and is about sixty to seventy years old. They threw him on the yard and kicked him and punched him in the face. The situation could have been avoided, but they decided to take advantage of an older man because the pigs are weak in strength and heart. I have made copies of this letter in case it doesn't make it.
This is my end-of-year report on our MIM Grievance Campaign. We did one on the "unlocks" here, and we're currently working on the issue of showers. Due to the California drought they claim that we are still in a drought and therefore can only shower on Tuesday and Thursday. Even then there is no hot water so we are showering in ICE cold water. This is in spite of the fact that we are in a medical facility and most of us are older prisoners.
The temp has dropped to 34 degrees in the morning and we have been in these conditions now for over a month. Enclosed please find the grievances.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Comrades at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility have been pursuing these issue through 602 appeals forms and subsequent appeals. After receiving a response of "partially granted" there was no actual change in conditions and they began utilizing the grievance petition for California. They have done a good job documenting the process, citing case law of Armstrong vs. Brown and the 8th and 14th Amendment.
Comrades in California and other states can write in to get a copy of a grievance petition to use as an organizing tool to bring people together around conditions that are not being addressed at your prison.
I'm checking in from RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in California, where the conditions of confinement are getting harder and harder to tolerate. Here there are a few comrades in the administrative segregation unit (ASU) from both sides of the prison system, mainline as well as Special Needs Yards (SNY), studying and struggling together to overcome the oppression of being punished for submitting inmate appeals.
The pigs that run this unit are giving the prisoners who stand up for their rights half issues of already substandard meals. They also move us from cell to cell at least five or six times a month, and always into a cell with someone who is mentally challenged and disruptive. Some cells are painted with human defecation and urine, and the staff doesn't bother to clean them or provide any cleaning supplies. Some comrades have been physically attacked and have had their personal property passed out to the rats and snitches.
While these are not infrequent unconstitutional violations here, most of the prisoners are afraid to speak up. The theory and actions these officers display is truly terroristic in nature, and the officials allow them to act with impunity.
So I have made it my mission to lead as well as organize and participate in a campaign to stop these abuses here and wherever my feet touch behind these walls. These abuses range from stealing our personal property to creating false charges against us, from denying pens and forms to withholding our mail and yard time, while they sit in the dayroom and eat the state issue items missing from our lunches and dinners.
On a better note, our study group is up to ten in just one week as the brothers of all races and both sides hear us dialogue about the commonality of our situation. Like the brother in ULK 33, I too am SNY and I know there are good strong comrades over here on this side. What people don't understand is that a lot of youngsters have a theory that older brothers "are like leaves on trees" meaning the older ones have to be knocked off so new leaves can grow. This is wrong thinking and a self-defeating tactic.
It's hard for me to understand how some people are fighting to end oppression and hate, knowing the role that the media plays in it all, and then they allow a designation of SNY by the statesman architect of hate and repression to separate us because we'd rather leave our organization and have a chance at parole than stay and end up taking a young brother's life.
I spent 15 years in the prison system of the 80s and 90s. I've done my dirt, put in my work. I'm not an animal who just follows his base instincts. I'm a leader and I'm standing for all these brothers who put their faith in my leadership. A true leader will never send one of his warriors to do battle while he stays behind. Further I stand on the ten point program established by the Black Panther Party and we hold the principles of Under Lock & Key to be of the utmost import.
I truly believe in what the Black Panther Party said when they stated that the power of the people is greater than man's technology. But the people's power has to be organized. As the Vietnamese people, who began their war for liberation with only bows and arrows, we must begin ours with pen and paper. And just as they defeated the most powerful military on earth, with determination, internationalist politics and organization by all oppressed people inside and outside these walls we'll be victorious as well.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have published a number of articles on the debate over SNY prisoners and we stand with this comrade in arguing that solid anti-imperialist comrades can be found on SNY yards. We look at someone's history of political work and political line rather than the label that the administration gives them. This comrade's call for unity is in line with the United Front for Peace in Prisons which brings together individuals and groups behind bars to build peace and unity against the common enemy of the criminal injustice system.
I was about to begin litigating matters regarding the ventilation system here when I came up with one last ditch effort to try and handle this issue on a diplomatic level. I managed to acquire about 60 CDCR Form 22s [informal grievances], and I was able to find 30 fellow comrades who were willing to sign their name to them after I typed up all the formal complaints. Well, all of those Form 22s were sent to the Plant Operations Engineer's Department, and we sent another 30 to the Plant Operations Supervisor. At the same time I had a good friend of mine and some relatives mail in a series of Citizen's Complaints on the same subject. Plus, the Ombudsman for R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJDCF), Gabriel Vela came here in response to a letter I had sent to him over the ventilation problem. In other words, Plant Operations got bombed on from all sides, and they responded accordingly. They were up on the housing units today replacing the twenty plus exhaust vents that were not working on our building. Due to that equipment failure we were experiencing extremely high temperatures, humidity, and poor air quality.
My whole point for telling you this story is to show you and your readers that things can be accomplished if you hit 'em with overwhelming force. They knew that those 60 Form 22s would more than likely translate into the same amount of 602 appeals [formal grievances], which in case you don't know translates into about $1,500 a piece in man hours to process each one of them. I'll let you do the math. So, things can be done in numbers, "Yes We Can."
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade has been actively pushing the campaign to have grievances heard in California, which may also have contributed to these particular grievances getting such a direct response. H work to mobilize comrades there is commendable. Of course, this is just one small battle and just one piece of the work that USW leaders need to be doing. It doesn't cost them $1,500 to throw your grievance in the trash can. These types of campaigns need to be pushed with a healthy dose of political education to develop comrades politically, so that this type of unity can reach higher levels and address the real systematic problems. MIM(Prisons) runs correspondence study groups and offers materials to help USW comrades run their own study groups inside.
Just so you know, I'm in support of any list of demands, regardless of who presents them. And I support the ones you have outlined in your February 8th letter, especially the one that calls for an end to our torturous conditions. In fact, this is one of the issues I am about to under take with regards to our outdated and disfunctional ventilation system.
Just to give you some insight, when I arrived here in June of 2012 with temperatures that were averaging 90 degrees, which made for cell temperatures that exceeded 95 degrees due to the disfunctional ventilation. After conducting my own investigation, I learned that Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) does not have swamp coolers like most other prisons here in California have. No, they built this place with low grade air circulators, which are now 25 years old and are out of date especially in light of what is now called, "Global Warming." Last year we all experienced the highest temperatures ever recorded!
Now I must explain the second portion of this equation, how when RJD converted this yard to a level 4 Special Needs Yard, they covered the bottom of our cell doors, which normally had a 2" to 3" gap to allow for a natural flow of air; that gap is approximately l" now. Thirdly, RJD was one of the 1st of the "270" [the name of the design style] prisons built in California, and when they built it they did not put exhaust vents in our shower stalls, this has allowed steam and humidity to collect in our dayroom area, which in turn gets picked up and circulated into our cells. Additionally, all of the newer "270" designed prisons are equipped with three huge exhaust fans that are mounted on the dayroom ceiling. In any event, this old and out-dated system is creating a very dangerous living condition. I guarantee you, if everyone were to knock out their cell windows, front and back, at a cost of $90.00 each, they would get right and fix these air handlers! I'm going to assemble, and file a writ of mandate in hopes of getting the courts to make them replace these air circulators. In my exhausted 602, they admitted that they need to replace them but, that there was no money in the budget, and that statement alone might be the rope I need to hang'em in court! If not, the only other solution is kicking out windows.
Alright, I won't take up all of your time with the problems that we're experiencing here, but, I will tell you to take note of an article that was done by Paige St. John from the L.A. Times, Dated March 19, 2013 9:41 AM, which clearly illustrates what's going on here at RJD with regards to our medical and mental health care, check it out, its a good read. the article is entitled, "Experts say three prisons fail to provide adequate health care."
I am writing to follow up on the problems we've been experiencing with our appeals system as it relates to the mass complaint form that at least 85 of us sent to Sacramento. I went a step further and had my sister draft a "citizen's complaint letter" to the Warden of RJ Donvan. He's required by law to investigate and respond to this letter within 30 days. This puts more pressure on the Warden's office due to the time and resources involved to send out responses. So, if your readers have friends and family who can draft and submit the citizen's complaint en masse, I believe it can have a greater impact.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As previously reported, this comrade is making good use of the grievance petition and taking on this battle creatively through the legal and administrative system. Write to us to get involved in this campaign. We can send you a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or a generic version you can customize to create one for states that do not yet have one.
I want to share with you and the other ULK readers the response to the 602 petition I sent to the Secretary of CDCR, and to the Ombudsman Sarah Malone. There was no response from the Ombudsman's office. But Matthew Cates forwarded my petition to Warden Paramo who in turn delegated it down to Associate Warden Straton, who came to interview me in person.
Associate Warden Straton did not make any excuses. He said, "You're absolutely right, the 602 appeals system is severely screwed up, however, we just forced appeals coordinator Cobb to retire early, and we replaced him with Mr. Olson who is approximately 6 to 8 weeks behind in processing our 602s. Just try to be patient as we try to straighten this mess out."
I do believe Associate Warden Straton is being sincere, but only time will tell for sure. I just had a family member file a citizen's complaint on my behalf, which all ULK readers should have their family do because, by law the Warden must send a response to anyone who files a citizen's complaint, even if it's just in the form of a letter.
My plan is to create a paper trail using the Form 22 as a verification that I've placed my 602 appeals in the metal 602 box in my housing unit. Then once the Warden sends my family his response I'll have the proof I need for court to show that he was made aware of the problem but failed to correct it.
We did get 75 copies of the grievance petitions made, but the program worker who was making them got busted on the second set and lost his job. But 75 made it to Sacramento successfully.
Also I just wanted to thank you for that article in ULK about us SNYs being part of the greater whole. Just because we came to this side doesn't mean we're not fighters for the greater good. In fact, that's one of the reasons I came to this side, to avoid the petty politics and work towards better living conditions for all.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is making good use of the California grievance petition which addresses the mishandling of 602s (grievances) in California prisons. Inspired by California, this campaign has spread to many other states, with petitions now customized for Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas. We don't expect big changes to come from this petition; we know this is a battle for small reforms within a fundamentally corrupt system. But the grievance system is the primary way that prisoners can legally fight for their limited rights, and often these rights are tied up with survival and freedom to organize and educate others. We must defend these rights as a key tactical battle in building the anti-imperialist movement within the criminal injustice system.
In Richard J. Donovan State Prison in San Diego Ad-Seg this place is off the hook with their green wall mentality and tactics. For starters, today I got my mail and it's your magazine dated August 9, 2011. So these people are playing with our mail. It took seven months to get my mail from you. If that ain't censoring our mail then I don't know what is. There are other items of mail I've been waiting on that I still have not received. I've written ISU (Institution Services Unit) and the mailroom to find out whats going on with my mail, they have not bothered to respond.
When I was on the line here at RJDSP I worked as a porter in the EOP (Enhanced Outpatient Program) building. I used to find 10 to 20 letters a day in the trashcan. I got to the point of just passing out mail to these guys myself, as I found it in the trash. The pigs keep whatever they want here, mags, photos out of letters, stamps, money orders, visiting apps, etc.
Mail is just the tip of the BS going on. I've eye witnessed back-to-back beatings by CDCs finest. These poor guys here have tried time and again to get outside help, all these people do is screen our mail and hold back what they don't want getting out.
The food is bland and there is no salt in our food. The amount is so small in portion that a child could barely live off it. The air conditioning is on full blast to keep us frozen in the middle of winter. The conditions are so bad - it's so dirty in here and they never give us cleaning supplies.
My neighbor got an infection on his toe, and they wouldn't treat him for it. It got so bad they had to cut it off. They got us sleeping on mattresses that are stained with piss. Or in some cases no mattress. But if we make a big deal by asking for help, we'll get the shit beat out of us, and stripped down to nothing. I've been in Ad-Seg for a minute now and still haven't got my property. But I refuse to stop the fight no matter where they put me. This is why I write, to encourage others to never let these people still your spirit.
I'm sad to say that the CDCR is winning the struggle so far. They have managed to keep us too paranoid to trust the next man. But every time a guard walks down the tier talking about one of us, spreading propaganda, the majority of the prisoners will believe what that guard said. It can be completely fabricated.
The guards also have other strategies to spread false propaganda. They'll walk to the loudmouth on the tier and for extra food he'll put out on the tier whatever the guard wants him to say. The loudmouth doesn't understand that whatever the guard wants him to broadcast is because the guards want to direct a message at certain individuals.
I'm a SNY prisoner. Over the years the SNY yards and population have grown a lot, especially with the level IV. The bottom line is we're all prisoners suffering the same oppression from guards. There's no such thing as I'm better than so and so, because I'm this and you're that. That's all propaganda from guards telling the mainline.
If someone snitches on you, that's your fault for exposing your hand to individuals you didn't trust or know. Any sensitive issue should never be told to anyone, anyways.
After being in Calipatria for 10 years and going through several problems with staff, I decided to get on the CCCMS program and make a quick exit out of that joint. The CCCMS is a mental program and once you get in the program and you take some type of depression medication the prison has 30 days to transfer you because it's so hot and any type of psych meds can't be taken in that climate. Well I got away from a bad dream only to go into a nightmare!
Since 70 or 80% of the population here in RJD prison are on some type of psych meds, we're considered "J-Kats." The 602 inmate appeals process is non-existent. Any serious grievance you filed gets thrown away: a violation of our constitutional due process!
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility has 2 Ad-Seg buildings, 7 and 8.
I've been in it since 5/16/2010 for non-disciplinary reasons. Approximately 400 prisoners are housed in buildings 7 and 8, and only 7 and 8 are currently Ad-Seg units.
Approximately 30% Black, 25-30% Latino, about 30% white, and 10% other.
The primary reasons for housing in Ad-Seg are disciplinary (approximately 70%), safety concerns (20%), debts, drugs, etc. (10%)
I am not sure when it first opened. It's expanded a couple times due to excessive Ad-Seg population to include Facility 2 building 8 as overflow, and Facility 4 building 16 overflow. Neither is used currently.
The guards here at RJD Ad-Seg are some of the most corrupt at the prison. They deny food, meal, clothing. They assault prisoners regularly despite video cameras. Guards verbally abuse nearly all prisoners. Administration continuously moves prisoners to keep them uncomfortable and from being able to relax. Not all guard, but at least 60-75% of them are corrupt. The rest refuse to snitch against co-workers and turn blind eyes, which shows them to be cowards and corrupt in their own ways. I have been the victim of numerous abuses by at least 4 or 5 guards personally.