I'm writing you today regarding High Desert State Prison's (HDSP) violation of my constitutionally protected rights (as well as the rights of many other inmates). Those violations include 14th amendment (due process), 1st amendment (freedom of religion) and 8th amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) just to name a few! Now I would like to give you a little of the background and then a brief rundown on conditions here at HDSP in the Z Unit Administrative segregation Unit as well as how these violations are taking place.
On August 4, 2009 HDSP targeted "northern hispanic" prisoners on C-yard general population, due to supposed racial tension between white prisoners and "northern hispanic" prisoners (there was no tension until HDSP staff started spreading false rumors). Note: because of these rumors both white and "northern hispanic" prisoners were placed on lockdown the first week of June 2009. On August 4, 2009 staff turned all water off on C-yard prior to 8am. Then IGI/ISU started a building by building sweep of all (only) "northern hispanic" prisoners. All were systematically strip searched, cuffed and removed from their cells, wearing only boxers and shower thongs. Our boxers were then taped to our stomachs and around our legs (the taping was done on bare skin). All these prisoners were taken outside and wanded with hand held metal detectors and we were then sent to one of three destinations: 1) if your names was on the list for validation you went to the gym where you were medically cleared and then forced, by investigators, to be photographed, then sent to ad-seg. 2) if the list did not say validated by your name, and the metal detector did not beep you went to the dining hall. 3) if the wand beeped you went to potty watch. Note: some inmates went to potty watch even without the wand beeping. All "northern hispanic" prisoners' property was confiscated and thrown in the gym where it was searched and personal items were lost, destroyed and damaged by careless correctional officers.
This was simply a racially motivated attack by HDSP! Close to if not more than half of all "northern hispanics" on C-yard were removed from general population and sent to ad-seg and then validated.
Now the aforementioned is just the background and beginning to the violations of our constitutionally protected rights. Since my arrival in Z unit, staff has refused to follow the policies set forth in California Code of Regulations Title 15 section 3343 - conditions of segregation - with their willful and blatant disregard for following state created rules and regulations, they (HDSP) are in violation of the 14th amendment of the US constitution, specifically the Due Process Clause. Now let me briefly explain the conditions they are violating.
1) Clothing/laundry exchange - this has recently improved, however prisoners for the most part must still wash their clothing by hand, because the exchange offered is either old and worn out or there is only one or two different items available. Prisoners also do not receive proper winter attire. It is extremely cold and it snows much of the late fall, winter and early spring. The jackets given to us do not button up nor do they zip up, and prisoners are not allowed gloves or beanies. The only clothing we are allowed to wear outside at yard are a pair of socks, boxers, t-shirt, thin cloth jumpsuit, jacket and a lightweight pair of state issued slip-on shoes, and if a prisoner has already purchased their own, prior to ad-seg placement, a set of thermals. This is all in sub-zero temps.
2. Meals are served in unsanitary conditions. Food is served cold, mixed together some items are stale and fruit is rotten, and meat and other food is undercooked.
3. Mail is late, lost and destroyed, outgoing mail is lost, delayed or not mailed at all.
4. Personal cleanliness - prisoners are supposed to be allowed to shave 3 times a week, however in the year plus that I have been in Z unit I have never shaved more than once in any given week and then it's not with a razor, it's with haircutting clippers. Also indigent supplies such as the tooth floss and bodywash/soap is not always passed out. Supplies for cleaning our cells are not adequate to last the week nor are they always provided.
5. Exercise yard - yard is often canceled. For example in February of 2010 our section only had yard four times the entire month. Prisoners are supposed to get a minimum of 10 hours per week of yard. While at yard in the winter, prisoners are strip searched outside in snow, ice and 10 degree temps. While we are standing there naked correctional officers laugh and say "it's not that cold out here!" Not only do these actions listed above violate 14th amendment rights, they are also violating the 8th amendment and are (most if not all of them) a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
All of the previously mentioned issues I have tried to address via the institutional appeal system (CDCR 602) but I have been stopped at every turn. Staff either toss it in the trash, disregard it, or screen it out every time I attempt to bring these issues to the table. Therefore they are not allowing issues to be resolved administratively nor are they allowing us to be able to seek judicial review.
Other major issues include these validations from August 4, 2009 - most if not all of them are bogus as well as prejudicial. For example, not one point used to validate me meets CDCR criteria, state or federal laws. Now my initial paperwork said I was only under investigation. Less than 2 months later I received a second 114-D which said the first one was a lie, the investigation was concluded in July 2009 (which was prior to my ad-seg placement). These lies did not allow me to prepare a proper defense to combat these allegations. This is the standard operating procedure of staff and administrators here at HDSP which is to tell one story after another, lie after lie, and this is designed to keep prisoners confused and off balance.
Validated inmates are not being transferred to the SHU unit due to supposed over crowding at the SHUs, so here at HDSP it takes 2-3 years to be transferred. SHU inmates are supposed to be allowed an appliance, i.e. a TV or a radio, but not here in Z unit, here we don't even receive all of our allowable property. Also the lighting is poor, causing eye strain. There are no fire extinguishers in the cells. Toilets are on flush meters meaning if you flush more than 2 times in 5 minutes the toilets will shut down for an hour. Also power outages disable the toilets and those are frequent. Also there are ants, spiders, mice and birds on the tier. Which leads to animal (mouse) and bird feces on the walls, the doors, the floors as well as all over the yard cages. Each and every one of these issues are a violation of the 8th amendment and they create cruel and unusual conditions of punishment.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This testimonial highlights the difficulties with the grievance system that many prisoners face when fighting the atrocious conditions in the criminal injustice system. We point this prisoner and others to the grievance campaign that was initiated by a California prisoner working with United Struggle from Within and has now spread to states across the country. [Since receiving this report, a full blown campaign to end the abuses at the "Z-Unit Zoo" has developed.]