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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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[Control Units] [Campaigns] [Hunger Strike] [California] [ULK Issue 33]
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Week 2: Reports from CA Activists on Strike

july 8th hunger strike for humyn rights in CA prisons

The last week has seen unprecedented participation in the campaign to end torture in the form of long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. California is ground zero, where the state has reported at least 30,000 (20% of the prison population) in two-thirds of the state's prisons have participated in the strike and over 12,400 refused 9 consecutive meals. They said 2,300 skipped work or prison classes on July 8.(1) While we don't have much info on actions in other states, solidarity statements have been circulating from prisoners around the country. Meanwhile, street activism in the urban centers of the state have been hard to avoid, as have reports on Pacifica radio. Public officials, religious leaders, Palestinian political prisoners(2), a labor union and many humyn rights groups have championed the cause. To mark week 2, activists are trying to get 30,000 on the outside to call governor Jerry Brown to demand that California prisons abide by international law and stop this brutal treatment of prisoners.

Not everyone is in support of the strike. In typical pig fashion, Amerikkkans are flooding mainstream reporting of the strike with comments condemning the prisoners to suffer and die. One comrade in the Pelican Bay State Prison Short Corridor, where the thrust for recent resistance originated, reported guards saying,

"The bosses are redirecting us because of y'all's hunger strike and work stoppage and making us stay extra hours, so you guys have nothing coming!"(3)

The official word from CDCR is similarly discouraging. In an interview, spokespersyn Terry Thornton asserted that the CDCR does not believe that they are using solitary confinement. This conflicts with our surveys of prisoners, who report over 14,000 being held in conditions of long-term isolation in California. When asked about the debriefing process Thornton dis-ingeniously asserted that "none of these units are used for punishment." The CDCR also feels that "these reforms [the step down program] address every single demand made in 2011."(4) It seems the CDCR is the only entity to believe such nonsense.

Below are some other early reports we've received so far as we are going to print.


From a statement from another Pelican Bay comrade:

...As I prepare for this peaceful protest I know that I am forced to deprive my body of sustenance and endure possible harm, but this is necessary. It is as necessary as someone anywhere in the Third World who steps on the battlefield in order to fight the super parasite. This persyn does this because if this persyn don't do it no one else will. Yes there is support out in society from so many who see our oppression as the oppression of many throughout the world who stand with us, but any sort of change will ultimately come from prisoners ourselves who must raise awareness to the shameful conditions we face...

and more recently,

Today is the third day of the strike and everyone in my pod are participating for various different reasons. The morale and spirts are strong, i feel a little light-headed but i'm as determined asever and will continue. From what we gather we will start getting weighed in the next couple of days and we also expect our property to be inventoried. We hear on the loud speaker about "staff training" so e expect harrassment. Today we were asked, "Do you have food? Are you willing to relinquish it?" and told, "If it's found tomorrow you will not be counted as being on a hunger strike no more."


San Quentin update:

The San Quentin death row SHU (or Adjustment Center) always has it's 102 cells filled and there is always a higher percentage of Blacks and Latinos than whites or other nationalities. At least 25 are on hunger strike. We are filing group appeals. I for one will not be giving in to the pigs no matter what, and thank you for all the help.


from Corcoran State Prison:

I am participating in the ongoing demonstration with full intentions of ending this extreme corrupt treatment that we are constantly subjected to.

There are many around me who plan on making our voices heard. There is word of COs and medical staff who intend to disregard the proper procedure. That and the health of my associates is what I intend on recording step by step, making it public.

This struggle is for just cause and is intended to bring our humanitarian needs up to standard. We all know the system is blind to righteous modernism and will continue to end our lives as quick as it is to step on a bug. We must unite to bring back peace and order.

I submit this with the utmost admiration and respect, we look forward to all input and assistance.


Folsom State Prison:


Everyone who's aware of New and Old Folsom's history would be aware of the fact that there was once a time when the men behind these walls would stand together in solidarity if there was an occasion we were experiencing a common transgression brought on by prison administration. That era in solidarity has been dead for some time at New Folsom, but on July 8, 2013, it was as if that moment finally arrived. All affiliates, and races, once again at New Folsom on every yard, and every building, stood together in solidarity for a common cause! All prisoners at New Folsom once again joined together July 8 of this year to begin the "2013 Hunger/Work strike", all except for the prisoners who never stood for nothing a day in their life. Prisoners everywhere should only hope that this new change will be the beginning of a new era at a once vibrant, political shifting institution, and no matter what, July 8, 2013 will be remembered in history as "The Rise Again of a Once Political Empire."


Day 1 at Pleasant Valley State Prison:

I want to report that over here on A-yard at Pleasant Valley there is only one participant, me. And from what I'm finding out through the channels is that there is a good handful more doing their thing on the other yards. I don't know exact count, but B yard, I'm told, has about 7 or 8.

We are SNY. And I want to express to the comrades that this classification carries no weight or import when it comes to these acts of unity. One sergeant came to my door this morning and asked me why I was participating. After I told him he said "But you're SNY - that's active stuff going on." He even stated that he's going to submit a psych referral because it's odd that out of all 5 housing units, there is only me. I'm not tooting my own horn, I just want it known that although we're few, nevertheless we are here!

I only have one request: that there be direct correspondence with the known participants of this action, updates so that we are constantly aware of any progress or changes or news that is of substance and import to what's happening.

This morning they walked me to the clinic to take my vitals, check my weight, etc. As we know I'll be going every day. Hopefully others will come aboard, especially those I've been "witnessing" to. Hopefully they'll see my example.


Day 4 at Calipatria State Prison:

This is the fourth day of our hunger strike/work stoppage here in Calipatria mainline. Almost the whole yard participated. A couple of prisoners in my building headed off to work to go and do the pigs' bidding and undermine our efforts. However, the show of solidarity between all races is encouraging, especially between Blacks and Mexicans.

As you know there's a long history of conflict between these two groups in California prisons. Only a week after I got to this prison, less than a year ago, there was a racial riot between the two. Now they're standing together in righteous protest.

Before this began, CDCR officials started circulating their threats by way of an "Advisement of Expectations" outlining their latest repressive policies which aim to expand validation, making it extremely easy to target just about any prisoner for long-term isolation. When I read this document it was obvious that this was all an attempt to break our solidarity with prisoners in the SHU.

CDCR hopes to divide prisoners in the SHU by allowing some to escape those torture chambers while making it clear that it has no intention of even considering others for release. They also hoped to paralyze mainline prisoners with fear by letting us know that they can snatch any one of us off the line at any time and throw us in the SHU for the next five years. Needless to say, this hasn't worked. Our level of consciousness and commitment has been growing here in the mainline with every hunger strike.

MIM(Prisons) number one priority in supporting the current actions in California will be to provide regular updates to prisoners as we did in the previous waves of action. Meanwhile we encourage our outside readers and supporters to make phone calls, write letters and spread our articles on this important struggle.

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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30,000 Spark California Hunger Strike

9 July 2013 - Yesterday the third in a series of hunger strikes in California prisons began after months of preparation and many more months of attempts to negotiate with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet basic humyn rights. According to the CDCR, around 30,000 prisoners refused food on the first day, indicating this will likely be the largest show of unity in action that California prisoners have ever made. That's about 20% of the state prison population and is more than twice the number of people that the CDCR reported participating in the second round of the hunger strike in 2011, demonstrating the success of the last two years of campaigning around the mutual interests of prisoners in demanding humane conditions.

According to the LA Times:

Inmates in two-thirds of the state's 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.(1)

We expect the numbers not going to work to increase, as a diversity of tactics was promoted depending on one's situation, with indefinite hunger strike being taken up by the most dedicated and most abused prisoners. While the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective has pledged to strike until their original five core demands are met, the last year has allowed prisoners to adapt the demands to address the most pressing concerns where they are at.

While we have no official reports yet, comrades in other states have also pledged to participate in the demonstration. We will post those reports as they come in.

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[Campaigns] [Gang Validation] [California] [ULK Issue 33]
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USW Health Campaign Brings STG Violations

In recent months the idea of developing a collective health campaign has been tossed around within United Struggle from Within in California. This was to build on and expand on the long-standing agreement to end hostilities by developing more peaceful activities that would help prisoners see each others' commonality. It also came in response to the proposed new Security Threat Group policies that greatly expand repression in California prisons and serve to isolate and divide.

In a piece supporting this health campaign, Cipactli wrote in part,

"Exercise is another aspect that needs to be taken seriously by all revolutionaries, exercise is so important that the state has targeted it and labels it STG activity. They will validate you and send you to solitary confinement for decades for doing push ups with a comrade. This is how much they see exercise as a threat, because it strengthens us as humyn beings and it is a weapon we use to combat the effects of prison life. The state seeks to strip us of any forms of resistance, anything we draw strength from hinders their project of instilling a sense of helplessness in all prisoners so that we go along with their oppression and never dare to resist the oppressor.

As revolutionary prisoners we need to develop methods of exercise to keep our bodies in top shape. This helps us not only physically, but science tells us that there is a connection between our physical health and our mental health. Exercise prevents not only disease but also depression, stress, anxiety and anger. Our world in these dungeons is filled with all this negativity which harms us just like the bullets and batons even though we often cannot see this damage in its physical form but we react to it in negative ways, so exercise helps us keep this stuff in check. These emotions will not go away but exercise helps us better deal with them without them overpowering our lives.

A good exercise regime is from forty five minutes to an hour, this is usually done from four to six days a week. I have found burpies and calisthenics to be the most fulfilling. Our bodies need to sweat in order to flush out the toxins and many times push ups just won't do it. California prisons no longer have weights so in the holes and SHUs people mostly do burpies. This tradition, which many Cali prisoners are not aware of, came from George Jackson and his comrades who developed exercise regimes utilizing burpies and calisthenics. At the time, in the 60s and 70s, prisoners were not exercising in this way as these were military style exercise regimes. Comrade George was a step ahead in identifying the inter-connection between a strong body and mind. The early 80s saw Chicano prisoners from Northern Cali develop this same exercise regime, and the late 90s saw Chicano prisoners from Southern Cali along with white prisoners soon follow this tradition that started with Black prisoners. This is good that prisoners exercise, it is a positive thing, but now the state is using it against us so we must find ways to combat this.

One way to fight the STG labeling of exercise is for all prisoners to work out together. If all prisoners work out at once it can no longer be seen as STG activity. I believe this is a positive step forward for a united front, however I don't think the state will thus be prevented from labeling group exercise STG activity, just as all prisoners of all nationalities participate in hunger strikes yet it is still seen as STG activity. But prisoners working out together would also be an unprecedented step forward. Since most group exercise are done in the hole and most holes consist of cages side-by-side, I can see a future exercise regime consisting of each cage calling out an exercise, regardless of what nation or sub-group one belongs to, and everyone exercising together. In the SHU we can't see no one, as everyone is in an individual cell. Some people work out and some don't so this is a little more difficult. If you find yourself in a hole and people are in individual cages, one is free to jump in and participate with those exercising but the ideal is to have everyone participate. This is something to work on and begin discussing, by working out together it does not mean we are one car, it does not mean you're joining another nation or LO, it's simply exercise. If we can starve together why not sweat together?

Today's prisons are no longer like the prisons of our grandfathers, conditions have changed and we must find ways to change with these times. If we are to ever regain things like trailer visits for lifers, weights, parole dates for lifers, and all the rest, we must be more in sync. If we want the 'end to hostilities' to really last than we need to do more, we need to implement methods which reinforce such policies as an 'End to Hostilities' and group exercise involving all nationalities and subgroups reinforce this."

Some righteous comrades in Calipatria State Prison took up the task of developing exercise programs that included all prisoners. They ended up receiving rules violations, as one comrade reported:

"The correctional sergeant who wrote up the rules violation report doesn't even bother to check to see if we're all in fact 'Southern' Hispanics, she just makes a blanket accusation and the Disciplinary Hearing Officer who heard the rules violation report takes the sergeant's report at face value and finds us all guilty. We are appealing our write-ups, but this is what can happen if others follow the tactical advice given in the USW Health Campaign letter."

This is a fair warning, but this is true for anyone who tries to stand up for prisoners' rights from behind bars. Even doing so from the outside results in repression in the form of censorship, and occasionally worse. So we do not put forth these ideas lightly and this is just one tactic. But it is in line with our strategic goal, which is currently to develop peace between different groups within the prison populations. Without pushing towards that goal, conditions for prisoners will only continue to worsen.

The people oppressing others for exercising are state employees who are supposed to be accountable to the law. Every issue of Under Lock & Key contains just a few examples of the illegal and unjust things that they are doing. The potential for abuse in prisons is well-known and it is a struggle to hold the abusers accountable. Our struggle right now is often just to get these people to follow their own laws, which forbid torture and cruel and unusual punishment, and their own mandates which claim to promote rehabilitation.

It is our job as an independent advocate for prisoners of the United $tates to challenge the legitimacy and legality of new policies that restrict the rights of prisoners. With the current trajectory in the CDCR, it seems that anyone who isn't sitting in their room by themselves watching TV will soon be considered a security threat. This department of "Corrections and Rehabilitation" is more and more becoming an Orwellian nightmare. Despite what they may think, everything they say or do is not state-sanctioned. Of course, we also know that much of what they do that is state-sanctions still is not right in the eyes of the oppressed masses and all who believe in justice.

This controversy regarding exercise is just one petty example of what we are trying to prevent with the draft goals that MIM(Prisons) published leading up to the demonstrations in July. The final point of that list is:

"no punishment for affiliation with a gang, security threat group, or other organization - in other words a complete end to the gang validation system that punishes people (currently puts people in the SHU for an indeterminate amount of time) based on their affiliation and/or ideology without having broken any rules or laws"

The idea that exercising can be against the rules or laws is just plain unacceptable. The same is true for any action that a prisoner takes to improve the health of hself or others around h. We continue to promote these tactics of the USW Health Campaign as part of the larger effort to maintain the end to hostilities among groups of prisoners.

The end to hostilities is at the heart of this stage of our work. It is what we have been promoting with the United Front for Peace in Prisons, which was based in our assessment that the principal contradiction our movement faces today is internal to the prisoner population itself. It would be virtually impossible to progress without resolving that contradiction. At the same time, breaking down these barriers requires uniting around common concerns as prisoners in California have been doing for the last couple years. The effort for peace and the effort for humyn rights in prisons reinforce each other.

We've just received word from Pelican Bay affirming the plan to go without food or work until the five core demands are met. Many within Corcoran have asserted their plan to participate again. And San Quentin's Adjustment Center has organized their own list of demands and will be participating in full this time around. Some populations facing less harsh conditions are opting to just stop work until the demands are met. Last time many prisons participated to varying degrees, and we expect similar support this time around. But comrades should think strategically about where they are based. You probably know by now whether there is a base for indefinite striking where you are. Such a path should not be taken lightly. The prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have passed day 150 on their strike and they have not gotten anything from the state but force-feeding and abuse in response. While the response to a hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay is likely to be different from a response to a strike in California, any hunger strike will have to last a long time and gain a lot of public support to get the desired results.

Consider what results are possible where you are. Solidarity fasting for shorter periods can serve as agitational work to build unity and awareness. But we need to work on more long-term projects as well, like the health programs suggested here that can build solidarity in action at a basic level. It is not a crime to support each other in pursuing healthy lifestyles in a very unhealthy environment. And there are many other programs that can be developed around education, literacy and study groups and whatever other needs the people have where you are. Now is the time to do it, while spirits are rising and prisoners are looking for a way to be involved.

As always, let us know what is going on where you are. We will send you updates as we get information. So stay in touch and take care of each other.


Below is the statement from the four main representatives of the Short Corridor Collective as reported by the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition:

The principal prisoner representatives from the PBSP SHU Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement does hereby present public notice that our nonviolent peaceful protest of our subjection to decades of indefinite state-sanctioned torture, via long term solitary confinement will resume on July 8, 2013, consisting of a hunger strike/work stoppage of indefinite duration until CDCR signs a legally binding agreement meeting our demands, the heart of which mandates an end to long-term solitary confinement (as well as additional major reforms). Our decision does not come lightly. For the past (2) years we've patiently kept an open dialogue with state officials, attempting to hold them to their promise to implement meaningful reforms, responsive to our demands. For the past seven months we have repeatedly pointed out CDCR's failure to honor their word — and we have explained in detail the ways in which they've acted in bad faith and what they need to do to avoid the resumption of our protest action.

On June 19, 2013, we participated in a mediation session ordered by the Judge in our class action lawsuit, which unfortunately did not result in CDCR officials agreeing to settle the case on acceptable terms. While the mediation process will likely continue, it is clear to us that we must be prepared to renew our political non-violent protest on July 8th to stop torture in the SHUs and Ad-Segs of CDCR.

Thus we are presently out of alternative options for achieving the long overdue reform to this system and, specifically, an end to state-sanctioned torture, and now we have to put our lives on the line via indefinite hunger strike to force CDCR to do what's right.

We are certain that we will prevail.... the only questions being: How many will die starvation-related deaths before state officials sign the agreement?

The world is watching!

Onward in Struggle and Solidarity.

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California] [ULK Issue 33]
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Death Row Prisoners Kick-Off California Hunger Strike July 1

Death row prisoners in the Adjustment Center (AC) unit at San Quentin State Prison are organized and united in planning and executing a hunger strike this summer of 2013 to protest inhumane conditions of isolation and long-term confinement of prisoners in the AC. We are also protesting:

  1. The lack of law library access, exercise and yard equipment
  2. The unfair administration and classification committee practices
  3. The controversial and unfair practice of using inmate informants, anonymous informants and confidential information to retain prisoners in the AC for years
  4. The unlawful and under-the-table use of labeling a prisoner as an alleged prison gang member, associate or affiliate confirmation and documents (such as 1030s, 128 A/B, staff information) to hold them in the AC as "grade B" prisoners yet treating them as SHU/Ad-Seg Grade D prisoners for an indeterminate amount of time
  5. The unlawful practice of group punishment tactics and lockdowns
  6. The unlawful practice of "interviewing"/forced interrogation
  7. The illegal use and excessive practice of property restriction or property control
  8. The degrading practice and policy of "shower shoes only," stripping prisoners at yard in front of everyone, and not allowing prisoner to be fully dressed in state blues when going to law library
  9. The denial of religious, hobby craft, library books and educational programs or materials
  10. The unlawful practice of withholding, censoring, denying and returning prisoners' mail without notification or legitimate reasons to do so
  11. The denial of contact visits, phone calls, participation in food charity drives, nutritional items, honoring medical chronos and legal materials when prisoners haven't done anything to merit exclusion
  12. Lastly the excessive abuse of power and authority by the warden, his administration and staff to do as they wish with SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners in the AC.

[also see full text of open letter to CDCR from San Quentin strikers]

In spite of the ongoing negotiations between the Pelican Bay Human Rights movement and top CDCR administrators, the San Quentin administration is resisting any attempt to improve the plight of death row prisoners housed in the AC. Ignoring Title 15, California's Code of Regulation for all California state prisoners, San Quentin top officials have concocted and enacted an exclusive code of regulations called the OP608 which mandates that death row prisoners are under the control of the Warden of San Quentin. It is this illegal and repressive code of regulations that AC death row prisoners are vigorously challenging as well.

The AC is a prison within a prison, housing 102 prisoners with over 90% of them being condemned prisoners. Many of us have been housed here since our arrival into the prison system as condemned men. The majority haven't had a disciplinary infraction, and those who have exceeded the time limitations triple the maximum set to be served for them. It's a punishment unit and a psychological torture dungeon. We hardly ever leave the unit unless it is to see a medical specialist. We eat and shit in our cells. We're kept confined to our cells 22-24 hours a day, only to come out to yard, which is held 3 times a week for 2-3 hours, showers, which are done 3 times a week, medical sick call, and visiting.

Visits are conducted behind a dirty plexiglass window, through a 25-year-old 2-way intercom that interferes with and shares everyone's conversations, leading everyone to shout over one another for an hour.

Prisoners here are constantly deprived, harassed, ridiculed, psychologically tortured and have our only form of communication (mail) withheld for weeks or months, both incoming and outgoing. Often times we will learn of the death/passing of a family member or friend 3 months after the fact, not allowing us to send our condolences or what we would like to have shared in our absence at their burials, causing our family and friends to worry about us, not allowing us to pay our last respects to our dearly departed. This treatment is used to intimidate and break a prisoner's spirit, in order to have us submit and fabricate information on fellow prisoners for their release from this torturous dungeon and gain better privileges.

Our hunger strike begins July 2013 in solidarity with the national strike this summer. Our demands are fair, reasonable, and create no serious threat to the safety and security of the AC. They are all within the power and authority of the San Quentin warden to order as immediate changes without delay. These changes will create a more positive and productive environment by ensuring that prisoners be treated fairly and with human dignity.

We ask you for your support as we place our health, bodies and lives on the line in order to bring about a positive change peacefully. None of us want to die, but due to our deteriorating circumstances, having been sentenced to death and now the administration unjustly sentencing us all to an unlawful indeterminate SHU/"grade B" program, we are already suffering psychologically torturous death in the AC. Their abuse of power and authority has left us with no alternative but to place what we value most at stake, our lives, for positive change and human dignity. We would truly appreciate and welcome your support. Your help will give us strength and will nourish our starving bodies.

Here's what you can do to support us. Write letters of support to the following addresses saying you support the Death Row Adjustment Center strikers and demand an end to the inhumane isolation and the depriving program. Ask that they honor our demands swiftly.

Warden
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94964

Internal Affairs CDCR
10111 Old Placerville Rd, Ste 2000
Sacramento, CA 95827

CDCR Office of the Ombudsman
1515 S Street, Room 311 South
Sacramento, CA 95811

The California State Senate Research Team
Attn: Senator Darrell Steinberg
Room 205
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 94248

Tell them to do their job and file a motion to Judge Henderson to make sure the Inspector General and the prison medical overseer/monitor is here at SQSP from July 1 until the conclusion of the hunger strike. They should be here to make sure there's no abuse, that no medical records or weight scale tampering is conducted by medical or prison staff and no retaliation is conducted by the administration or any of the hunger strike participants.

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Gang Validation] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California]
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San Quentin Adjustment Center list of demands to CDCR

Open letter to the Director of CDCR, the Warden of San Quentin Prison and the Captain of the Adjustment Center

San Quentin top officials have concocted and enacted an exclusive code of regulations called the IP 608 Condemned Manual, which mandates that Death Row prisoners are under the control of the warden of San Quentin Prison. Therefore, after years of the abuse of authority by Adjustment Center (A/C) committee members and unit staff and after years of filing 602s that fall on deaf ears here in the A/C, all the way up the chain of command to Sacramento, a collective group of Death Row prisoners in the A/C will be joining in the statewide non-violent, peaceful hunger strike in July 2013 to demand that the warden of San Quentin use his power of authority to bring about positive change to prisoners housed in the A/C SHU.

For years, Grade B A/C prisoners have been told Grade B is not a punishment; it's just a "program" different from Grade A. So the warden should be able to use his power of authority to order the following immediate changes without delay:

  1. The warden should immediately implement a "behavior based program" that amends the current criteria that permit a condemned prisoner to be eligible for Grade A privileges and be removed from the punitive punishment of Grade B status, basing this program on a condemned prisoner's current good behavior and disciplinary free conduct regardless of a prisoner's alleged gang status or validation and eliminating the under-the-table and vague indeterminate status in the A/C. The warden must order the immediate release of A/C prisoners who are not validated as alleged gang members and associates and have remained disciplinary free for years.

  2. The warden must order the A/C committee to stop the controversial and unfair classification practices of using illegal inmate informants and anonymous informants and the so-called roster list of names to label prisoners gang members and associates and to stop the illegal and vague "mandatory debriefing" and vague validation process. San Quentin officials must put in place a set of standards and safeguards to protect a prisoner's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
    1. Any information used in A/C committee decisions must be first-hand information and must be corroborated by three different independent sources;
    2. A/C committee must state on the record why such information is indicative of gang activity and state on the record what California laws are being broken;
    3. Any information used against a prisoner must be provided to the prisoner and all copies of documents, such as 1030s and 128s, and debriefing reports placed in a prisoner's C-file must be immediately disclosed to the prisoner so he will have ample time and opportunity to contest and challenge any allegations in writing through administrative 602s and legal redress to confront his accuser or confidential source.

  3. The warden must (a) order the end of the administrative segregation of condemned prisoners to segregated yards that have been designed to label a condemned prisoner unjustly, (b) order an end to the constant use of bogus confidential inmate informants and bogus 1030 disclosure forms to deny A/C prisoners access to Grade A status and access to the A/C group yards, and (c) order that all four group yards in the A/C be labeled "re-integrated yard 1, 2, 3 and 4" and remove the racist yard labels of "Southern/White and Northern/Black" that A/C staff and committee have used for decades to instigate racial division and segregation among prisoners of different races who would like to program and co-exist on a group yard together. Every A/C prisoner should be given group yard unless the prisoner chooses to stay in a walk-alone cage. The warden must order that all walk-alone cages have roof coverings like the cages in East Block and Carson Sections, and add a dip bar in each cage for exercise.

  4. The warden should cease all group punishment tactics. Group punishments and lockdowns were designed for large-scale riots, not for alleged isolated incidents. The warden should cease the unlawful use of the interview/interrogation process and never allow the vicious attack and assault on prisoners by A/C staff just because a prisoner invokes his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refuses to answer questions during an interview/interrogation. This illegal policy of forced interrogations makes no sense because if staff utilize chemical agents on a prisoner, which have proven to be lethal, and attack him and then drag the prisoner into an interview/interrogation room, he will say, "I have nothing to say," and take the Fifth. Or the prisoner might give a statement based on his fear and the fact he was brutally attacked, in which case the information would be deemed "given under duress and torture, therefore unreliable." So the use of violence on prisoners, particularly on prisoners of color, is just an excuse and a blatant act of the worst kind of torture and racially motivated retaliation. Also, the administration should cease passing out "interview questionnaires" to prisoners after an alleged isolated incident because the informants read these questionnaires and re-word them and use them as first-hand information when the informants did not get the information from a prisoner but directly from a prison official. Simply put, these forms describing the incident are only done so rat inmates can exploit these incidents for gain by giving staff bogus and false statements to be used on 1030 disclosure forms and be rewarded by obtaining Grade A and other privileges and favors.

  5. The warden should order the end to the degrading policy of stripping out A/C prisoners outside during yard recall, violating Title 15, Section 3287(4)(8), which partly states that "all such inspections shall be conducted in a professional manner which avoids embarrassment or indignity to the inmate. Whenever possible, unclothed body inspections of inmates shall be conducted outside the view of others." Stripping out in the cold and rain is inhumane, and it's time for this policy to stop. The warden should allow A/C prisoners to wear tennis shoes or state shoes on all escorts, especially in the rain, to visits and medical escorts, and put an end to the "shower shoes only" policy and allow A/C prisoners to be fully dressed in state blues when going to the law library.

  6. The warden should order that the third watch sergeant return the scheduling of A/C prisoners for SHU law library to the SHU law librarian clerk and start utilizing all available SHU law holding cells so Death Row prisoners can do important research at least three to four times a month. A lot of prisoners are being denied access to SHU law library on a regular basis. The third watch sergeant should be ordered by the warden to end the practice of putting dinner food on paper trays to sit on the bed in the cell while prisoners are at law library as this practice is unsanitary and eating cold food is unhealthy.

  7. The warden should order the end of excessive use of property restrictions. No other CDCR prison in the state of California uses property restriction as a punishment and it's only done in extreme cases. Title 15 mandates no longer than 90 days. The excessive use of property restriction punishment in the A/C is based on nothing more than A/C committee members' abuse of power and authority and is never based on a prisoner's behavior.

  8. The warden of San Quentin should use the power of his authority to expand A/C Grade B privileges for prisoners housed in the A/C through no fault of their own and who have remained disciplinary free for years.
    1. Allow contact visits with family, friends and attorneys, or allow 2.5-hour non-contact visits in Booths A-l, A-2 and A-3 in the visiting room.
    2. Allow two phone calls per month.
    3. Allow hobby and educational programs for the A/C.
    4. Allow more educational channels like the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic.
    5. Allow $110.00 canteen draw a month.
    6. Allow four food packages a year or two food packages and two nutritional packages of vitamin supplements and protein meal supplements from approved vendors.
    7. Allow A/C prisoners to participate in the food charity drives.
    8. Allow 10-book limit in cell, not to include any legal or religious books.
    9. Allow A/C prisoners to purchase white boxer underwear, T-shirts, socks and thermals from approved vendors at least four times a year (each quarter).
    10. Allow clear headphones, non-clear earbuds and headphone extension for TVs and radios or leave speakers connected in TVs and radios.
    11. Order the return of exercise equipment on the group yards, return the basketball court and the pull up bars, and add dip bars and a table and provide group yard activity items such as basketballs, handballs, board games and cards.

  9. The warden should order that all medical chronos issued and approved by the chief medical doctor be honored and order all A/C staff not to interfere with the medical needs of prisoners. Custody staff should have no say-so in medical needs of prisoners. If the medical needs of a prisoner cannot be met in the A/C, then the prisoner should be housed in a unit where his medical needs can be accommodated. The A/C unit staff must not be permitted to impose unjust punishments upon prisoners who have a proven need for medical appliances. When it is deemed medically imperative for modified cuffs, staff puts the prisoner on leg restraints claiming "safety and security," when in fact it is an attempt to discourage prisoners from seeking medical appliances by punishing them with unnecessary, painful, degrading and excessive mechanical restraints.

  10. Order the Institutional Gang Investigation (IGI) unit to stop the harassment of interfering with A/C prisoners' mail. Incoming mail has been denied and held by IGI under the excuse of "promoting gang activity" with no further explanation of exactly what constitutes "promoting gang activity"! Many times incoming mail takes anywhere from 20 to 40 days from the postmarked date on the letter to reach prisoners in the A/C. Legal mail has been taking far too long to reach A/C prisoners, and it should be passed out with regular mail call at 3 p.m. so that prisoners can have plenty of time to respond to their attorneys by the 9 p.m. mail pick-up.

    All of these issues are fair and reasonable and create no serious threats to the safety and security of the A/C but can only create a more positive and productive environment in the A/C for prisoners who have been put in a punishment situation with no disciplinary write-ups for years. We ask that the warden of San Quentin and the captain of the A/C look into these issues as soon as possible.

    Thank you.

    Main A/C Representatives: Smokey Fuiava, E-35592, 2AC56; Richard Penunuri, T-06637, 3AC55; Billy Johnson, F-35047, 2AC51; Todd Givens, V-42482, 3AC52; Marco Antonio Topete, AK-7990, 1AC12; Cuitlatuac Rivera, T-35975, 2AC67 Body of Representatives: Bobby Lopez, K-76100,1AC16; Reynaldo Ayala, E-10000, 2AC59; James Trujeque, K-76701, 3AC13; Mike Lamb, G-30969, 2AC1; Hector Ayala, E-38703, 3AC4; Marty Drews, C-88058, 3AC2

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[Campaigns] [Legal] [California Correctional Institution] [California]
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Petition Gets Response

A while back I had sent the petition MIM(prisons) circulates to the director of CDCR, Internal Affairs, the Department of (In)justice, and the ombudsmen.

First I got a response from the third level (Sacramento), J.D. Lozano (chief), saying they received my complaint. I had checked 3 boxes in the petition for: 1) screening out appeals to delay, 2) detaching documents and refusing to process 602 due to missing documents, and 3) using dishonesty to screen out 602s. In fact one 602 filed kept getting sent back for 3 months until I had to water it down!

A while later I was interviewed by a Lt. E. Noyce. Word is he was a former IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation). Well at first he asked me about the grievance petition: where did I get this "form" and did I make it. He had never seen it before so it astounded him that a prisoner could get something like this. After this he went on a tirade saying the people who sent me this are making money and I should have sent this petition to the institution appeal coordinator instead of Internal Affairs, and how I should just ask staff to "solve" the problem. That is the problem, but he's too deep in oppression to care. Finally he told me I am not a lawyer.

When I was returned to my cell I wrote to internal affairs again but this time I put it on an Inmate 22 Request Form. This way I can have a copy of what was said and if they didn't act I could move forward with 'legal' action. Always leave a paper trail!

I wrote internal affairs and told them that Lt E. Noyce had intimidated me, chilled my right to redress or file a grievance and I'd like to talk to someone from internal affairs. Days passed by and I was approached by a Sgt. and asked if I'd like to add anything to my "citizen complaint." I told him that everything's on the paper.

So to wrap this up the petition seems to rattle some piggy nerves. I recommend it to be used when applicable. And at least here in Tehachapi we're getting responses now.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is interesting that the interview of the prisoner included a criticism of him for not being a lawyer. That's the point of the grievance petition: it makes these battles accessible to prisoners who don't need to know the details of the law. This is a key contribution that jailhouse lawyers participating in the Prisoners Legal Clinic can make to United Struggle from Within organizing work. If there is no petition for your state, write to us to get a sample that you can customize for use there.

We know these individual battles to address grievances will only gain small victories, at best. But the fight to improve conditions for prisoners, especially conditions that impede prisoner's ability to organize and educate themselves and others, is a critical part of building the anti-imperialist movement. Through campaigns like this one we plug new comrades into broader education and ultimately build communist leaders.

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[Organizing] [California]
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Division or Cohesion

With the upcoming stoppage of food and work what stance will the Special Needs Yard (SNY) take? One of solidarity or one of indifference?

As numbers are straight we can use all the able bodied men to join ranks in our battle for dignity. The strike is more than the demands being met. This is also a call for we, as prisoners to be treated with respect and humanity. However, the consensus is that a good portion of SNYs feel like this battle doesn't pertain to them. News flash, it does! I came to realize the dumbness of judging someone by a "classification" as GP, SNY, active or non-active. These are labels that have been placed on us to further divide prisoners as a whole. Someone's character is a better yardstick to measure them. The guards have no difference or division of opinion when it comes to fucking us up, so why should we when it's time to battle with them?

Simply put, I ask that prisoners on "that" side choose the side that is with them in this fight. Join the stoppage in work and food. Rise above the labels and make a better place for all prisoners, and more so, the world.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade's position that the classifications handed out by the prison system should not be the basis of our judgement of prisoners. SNY status, validation status, and other labels are far less important than the actions people take. We should judge individuals by their actions. Those who take up the cause of the majority of the world's people, anti-imperialism, are on the side of the people.

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[Control Units] [Abuse] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California]
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Control Unit Torture at San Quentin

The Adjustment Center (AC) is the politically corrupt designation given to the death row security housing unit (SHU) at San Quentin (SQ) which also serves as an administrative segregation unit (ASU) overflow. But for all intents and purposes the AC is a secret torture unit at SQ and a fraternal twin of CDCR's other torture units, now partially exposed by media attention resulting from the 2011 peaceful hunger strikes at Corcoran, Pelican Bay, Tehachapi and elsewhere.

Public Affairs Officer Sam Robinson conducts tours at SQ and would tell you with a straight face the AC is overflowing with "the worst of the worst", but you're not allowed inside. That's because the torture unit overlords, which includes but is not limited to Chief Deputy Warden W.A. Rodriguez, his cohort Assistant Warden J. Curzon, and their loyal attack dog Facility Captain Robertson, claim it's a "security risk." Truth be told, we do see how it would "risk" exposing them and the asinine antics common to their clique, how it would cost them the "security" of their jobs, and perhaps land a few of their asses in prison.

All this begs the question "who is really in the AC and how do they end up there indefinitely?" Here is an inside perspective.

On May 7, 2013, shortly after "yard is cancelled due to maintenance" was gleefully blasted over the excessively loud PA system in East block (where the majority of death row prisoners are warehoused), two prisoners in neighboring cells were confronted by a goon squad comprised of a red-faced Sgt. Reynolds and four henchmen all barking ferociously "don't touch anything and strip out!" As if at random these two prisoners were selected to be under suspicion of possessing cellphones. After being detained for over an hour in cages about the size where you might expect to see a pair of pet macaws swinging, they were again humiliated by being staged in their cells, but just long enough to see how everything in them had been tossed like salad during the frantic search that turned up no cellphones or contraband whatsoever, then relocated to the AC indefinitely pending the outcome of an "investigation." No rules violations reports (RVR) were issued, their property remains in a shambles at East Block, and this ride began over three weeks ago. For one of these two unfortunate prisoners his ride through this not so funhouse began in the dungeon.

Cells 1AC63 to 1AC67 are called "the dungeon" because a barred and padlocked gate separates them from the other twelve cells on the tier. The dungeon cell floors, concrete bunks, and walls are cracked, un-level, and flaking. Another bizarre feature is partitions extending about five feet or so from the cell fronts dividing them like horse stalls. The dungeon is primarily used to torture marginalized or hated prisoners, especially those already obviously suffering from mental disorders acquired at some point during their ride through this torture unit at SQ, or at one of the many others operating within the California prison system.

Shane Bauer spent months in an "Iranian SHU program." A short time after his release he blew the cover off gang validation policies and SHU conditions in California prisons. He reported Pelican Bay SHU was not identical to its Iranian twin but worse and in Iranian prison no one has served more than two years in solitary confinement! Getting held hostage in this torture unit for a couple years, decades, or more is business as usual at SQ just as in others operating in the United $tates.

In my opinion, one of the most diabolical ways they keep us on this ride is the "fabrication and rejection process." In short, this means getting RVRs fabricated against us, being found guilty at hearings where due process is considered a thing of the past, then having our appeals rejected. Prisoners cannot appeal a rejected appeal. That of course is by design, intended to delay, and if possible preclude exhausting administrative remedies — a requirement before prisoners can access the courts. The torture unit overlords really want to have their way with you and do all they can to get you to hang yourself in their noose-shaped loopholes. Could that be anything other than the designs of sadistic criminal masterminds?

Consider the following which describes an exceptionally violent combination of mental and physical torture. On September 3, 2012, as I lay unconscious in my cell from several days sleep deprivation caused by a custody staff influenced medical decision to discontinue various permanent chronos, a goon squad comprised of henchmen Anderson, Calderon, Morris, and Vanmastright stormed into my cell. Upon entry they proceeded to beat me into a semiconscious state, dragged me bleeding from wrists and ankles down the tier in excessively tightened handcuffs and shackles, bounced me down two flights of stairs, then from the AC entrance all the way to the Triage Treatment Area (TTA) hoisted me by the chains and/or dragged me by them for about a hundred yards as a med-tech pushed a wheelchair alongside at a distance. I want to interject here to point out this is documented as an "emergency medical cell extraction" executed during a lockdown initiated approximately twelve days prior due to an alleged slashing/stabbing of two AC officers which had nothing to do with me but might have fueled the goon squad's madness. The "emergency treatment" I received consisted of being thrown into a cage built into the corner of a TTA cell and left crumpled there for three hours or so. All that time I screamed in agony, forced to endure excruciating pain as the handcuffs and shackles cut deeper into my skin.

I wasn't even seen by a physician on that day, nor would Dr. Grant agree to examine, document, or treat my injuries any time during my sixteen day hunger strke; all I could think of doing to get seen by medical. But the good squad beating injuries, re-damaged preexisting injuries, and the skin condition which was the major contributing factor leading to my sleep deprivation was ignored. A few days after I attempted to file an emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus in Marin County, an RVR was fabricated alleging I battered the goon squad. My two healthcare appeals have been delayed without reason in excess of ninety days so far, and my RVR hearing appeal citing denial of all witnesses except the reporting employee has been rejected by CDCR appeals coordinator J.D. Lozano.

Surely these experiences come off sounding sensationalized and extreme, but they are nonetheless classic examples of what untold thousands in SHUs throughout the United $tates are reportedly subjected to at an ever increasing rate. Who are the real bunch of lying murderers?

The CDCR has proven over and over to be masters of media manipulation and propaganda wizards. Don't allow them to operate secret torture units like the AC or make them appear to be something they're not. Please don't allow your tax dollars to reward and secure impunity for sadistic, corrupt prison officials whose goal is to build more torture units in your backyards. Call, write, email Gov. Brown, his CDCR Director Beard, and the SQ puppet Warden Kevin R. Chappell to demand they shut it down. Also, please contribute generously to this publication/org helping us to have our voice heard from within, keeping the struggle alive.

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[International Connections] [Control Units] [California] [ULK Issue 32]
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Advance the Struggle for Humyn Rights in CA Prisons

smash the shu
Amendment I of the Bill of Rights of the United States:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

After decades of expanding the repression of the U.$. prison system, and despite their effectiveness in misleading and breaking up unity, the control units remain a flashpoint of struggle within U.$. borders. These flashes do take time to develop, due to the excessive restrictions placed on those in these units. So when they do come to light, they emerge from much struggle and are not likely to fizzle out soon.

The struggle against control units is a struggle against torture. It is a struggle against not just the violation of some of the most basic rights that this country was founded on, but also basic humyn needs like sunlight, exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction.

Orders From the Top

As U.$. president, Barack Obama once honored Rosa Parks and the movement of civil disobedience that she symbolized. It was a movement of Black people for basic rights under U.$. imperialism. Yet today the Obama administration gives its explicit approval to the torture and repression going on in a country that imprisons more of its population than any other state in humyn history, and a higher percentage of Blacks than the openly racist Apartheid state of South Africa. U.$. prisons also hold a higher percentage of their prisoners in long-term isolation than any other state that has been documented.

The 2014 federal budget proposed by Obama includes an overall increase in funding for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. More damning, it describes the remodeling of the recently acquired Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois to include an Administrative Maximum Custody (ADX) and Special Management Unit (SMU). ADX "houses the most violent, disruptive, dangerous and escape-prone inmates within the Federal Prison System including those convicted of terrorist activities." "The SMU program is for inmates who have participated in or had a leadership role in geographical group/gang-related activity or those who otherwise present unique security and management concerns." The budget proposal claims that one in six prisoners in maximum security are "gang affiliated." It does not specify how many of the 2100 beds will be SMU or ADX classified.(1) While lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the treatment people face in these units, and international bodies like the United Nations condemn them as torture, the Obama regime is providing clear leadership to the hundreds of state and local agencies involved in the U.$. prison system on how prisoners are to be treated.

Obama's role is even more clear in Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners are being held as enemy combatants by the military. Prisoners there began another hunger strike on 6 February 2013. Since then the ranks of the strike have grown to over 130 people.(2) Many are being force-fed, and many are skeletal in appearance now.

All this is being done as the United $tates still has the audacity to claim it is promoting freedom around the world, with bombs. As we highlight the connections of the struggle against control units to the struggle against the imperialist system itself, the global importance of this struggle becomes evident. As RAIM pointed out in their recent statement to the international communist movement, failures at building socialism in the past have been connected to a temptation to imitate Amerikan ways. One way the anti-imperialist minority in the First World can strengthen the movements in the Third World is by making it very clear that this is not a model to follow, and that the Amerikan dream is built on torture, genocide, exploitation and injustice.

What to Expect

A Yemeni prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay, who has been on hunger strike since the start had an Op-Ed published in The New York Times, where he wrote,

"I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can't describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn't. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.

"I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I'm sleeping.

"There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren't enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up."(3)

Another prisoner who has since been released from Guantanamo Bay after a 438-day hunger strike reported how the force feeding was brutal and they did not clean the tubes between feeding people. The prisoners asked military personnel why they were doing this:

"They told us, 'We want you to break your hunger strike.' They tell us directly like that. They ask us to break our hunger strike. They said, 'We'll never deal with you as the detainees until you break your hunger strike.'"(2)

Comrades from NCTT-Corcoran-SHU (a New Afrikan think tank) have reported that staff at Corcoran State Prison have been announcing similar plans to prisoners in California, indicating that they will not be providing proper medical care and attention to strikers in their prison in the future. These threats, which violate state policies, will also result in undercounting strikers.(4) It is possible that information will not flow as freely this time around, meaning outside supporters will have little information to go on until the struggle is over. This reinforces the need for strong unity among those inside and the ability to act independent of outside support.

We've also received word of plans to move prisoners and staff around strategically over the next couple months. In particular, Special Needs Yard prisoners are reportedly being moved to other facilities and given work assignments. Prison staff apparently thinks this will dilute the spirit of prisoners. However, depending on the balance of forces, this could go either way. We know there are strong supporters of the prisoners' rights movement in SNY already, and we hope these coming months provide the conditions to further break down the divisions within the imprisoned lumpen class. While we know that staff regularly bribe prisoners to create disruptions among the population, the mass support for the interests of all prisoners will make it hard for these bribed prisoners to create disruptions openly in the coming months, hopefully longer.

There have been positive reports of prisoners being moved to areas they once could not go, as a result of the agreement to end hostilities that has been in place for over 6 months now, which was endorsed by the largest organizations in California prisons. In particular, positive reports have come from Pelican Bay and Corcoran, where two of the main SHUs are located. San Quentin death row has also reached out to share ideas to build their own prisoner rights campaign over the coming months.

We have received some letters about ideas on tactics for advancing the prisoner rights movement in California. We've printed some in ULK and shared others with United Struggle from Within members in California. But in most cases it is impossible for us to have a full understanding of the balance of forces, and thus we are not in a position to determine which tactics are best. In addition, conditions vary so much between facilities. Clearly the comrades in Pelican Bay and Corcoran took the lead in struggling to shut down the SHU and they will likely continue to do so. What we can say for sure is that July 8 will be an opportunity to have your voice amplified by acting in solidarity with all across the state, and many in other states as well. To determine how you can best do this, you must think through and balance the effectiveness of your tactics with the risks involved.

Where we can provide leadership is in our ideological alignment. Some lists of goals that are circulating include things that are not humyn needs. These demands may be subjectively popular among the prison masses, but will greatly damage support from the outside and internationally by trivializing the struggle for basic rights. As we presented in ULK 31, below are the strategic goals that, if attained, we think would represent the establishment of basic humyn rights for prisoners (note a small change to point 1.f.).

  1. An end to torture of all prisoners, including an end to the use of Security Housing Units (SHU) as long-term isolation prisons.

    Basic humyn needs are centered around 1) healthy food and water, 2) fresh air and exercise, 3) clothes and shelter from the elements and 4) social interactions and community with other humyns. It is the SHU's failure to provide for these basic needs that have led people around the world to condemn long-term isolation as torture. Therefore we demand that the following minimum standards be met for all prisoners:

    1. no prisoner should be held in Security Housing Units for longer than 30 days. Rehouse all prisoners currently in SHU to mainline facilities.
    2. interaction with other prisoners every day
    3. time spent outdoors with space and basic equipment for exercise every day
    4. healthy food and clean water every day
    5. proper clothing and climate control
    6. an end to the use of and threat of violence by staff against prisoners who have not made any physical threat to others
    7. access to phone calls and contact visits with family at least once a week
    8. timely and proper health care
    9. ability to engage in productive activities, including correspondence courses and hobby crafts
    10. a meaningful way to grieve any abuses or denial of the above basic rights

  2. Freedom of association.

    As social beings, people in prison will always develop relationships with other prisoners. We believe positive and productive relationships should be encouraged. Currently the CDCR makes it a crime punishable by torture (SHU) to affiliate with certain individuals or organizations. This is contrary to the judiciary's interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We demand that prisoners of the state of California only be punished for violating the law, and that there be:

    1. no punishment based on what books one reads or has in their possession
    2. no punishment for jailhouse lawyering for oneself or for others, for filing grievances or for any challenges to conditions of confinement through legal means
    3. no punishment for what outside organizations one belongs to or corresponds with
    4. no punishment for communicating with other prisoners if not breaking the law
    5. no punishment for tattoos
    6. no punishment for what individuals of the same race/nation/organizational affiliation do unless you as an individual were involved in violating a rule or the law, i.e. no group punishment
    7. no punishment for affiliation with a gang, security threat group, or other organization - in other words a complete end to the gang validation system that punishes people (currently puts people in the SHU for an indeterminate amount of time) based on their affiliation and/or ideology without having broken any rules or laws

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