Today (September 26) about fifteen comrades, so far, in the California Institution for Men in Chino, CA began an indefinite hunger strike and we will not stop until the Pelican Bay SHU demands are met for our comrades!
Push, pull, strive, struggle! Give Ruchell Magee, Hugo Yogi Pinell, and the SHU comrades my love! And long live the Guerrilla!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Other than Pelican Bay and Chino, the Hunger Strike Coalition has reported that prisoners in Calipatria, many of whom are in isolation awaiting space to open up in SHU, will also restart their hunger strike today. People on the outside need to step up the pressure again to support these comrades who are putting their lives on the line for basic rights for all California prisoners.
The downloadable grievance petition for Texas has been updated to include some more relevant citations that were submitted by a comrade. Please download it here. Click the link below for more information on this campaign.
"The humaneness of a society can be judged by its prisons." - James Doare
On August 23rd, San Francisco Rep Tom Amiano and the Public Safety Committee in the state assembly held an informational hearing on conditions and policies at Pelican Bay - SHU (and we assume the SHUs here at Corcoran and Tehachapi as well). The NCTT Corcoran-SHU wishes to express our support for the people and organizations who have mobilized to lend their voices to this vital human rights initiative which began with our July 1st hunger strike and will not end until the 5 core demands have been appropriately addressed, the fundamental human rights initiative which is acknowledged, and the basic inhumanity of the prison industrial complex's use of sensory deprivation torture units is exposed and abolished.
But why should you care? Why should you care - men are being systematically subjected to psychologically torturous conditions in your name and with your tax dollars? The answer to that question requires you to have certain facts and accept some inconvenient truths. Prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society itself; a concentrated reflection of the contradictions of it's myriad socio-economic and political relationships, composed primarily of the surplus labor segment of the U.S. population. The SHU is a prison within prison, and the ultra-high security isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-short corridor and Corcoran-SHU's 4B1L-C section are CIA style, experimental, psychological torture units.
Following the temporary halt to our peaceful protest on July 20 to give CDCR time to make some meaningful changes in line with our 5 core demands, Scott Kernan's first act was to publish a statement in the Sacramento Bee characterizing us as "violent gang leaders who've committed horrible crimes against the people of California", as though we are not a part of the people. I think it is of vital importance that this, as well as the actual motive force underlying such thinking be addressed.
Over the last 20 years there has been a successful campaign to demonize those convicted of a crime in the U.S., and a degree of social indifference in how they are treated. Through the successful efforts of such lobbies as the California Correctional Penal Officers Association (prison guards union) and it's front groups such as 'Crime Victim United,' and with the assistance of mainstream media programs covering everything from America's Most Wanted to Cops; from Dateline to your local news. The public has been systematically indoctrinated to not merely fear "prisoners," but to effectively dehumanize us as some subspecies of not quite humanity.
Your entertainment programming is 75% crime and punishment content, from the Law & Order franchise to CSI, from Justified to Hawaii 5-O, which not only brings in millions of viewers and sells billions of dollars in products annually via advertising, but divorces the so-called "criminal" from the human condition and casts him/her in the role of perpetual villain in the subconscious mind, deserving neither rights, compassion, or basic humanity. This was not some unconscious effort on the part of your elected officials, public servants, and corporate entities, no, this was a conscious program to dehumanize a specific segment of the U.S. population in order to ensure the speculative profits of the burgeoning - and now well established - prison industrial complex would go unchallenged and unprotected.
The fact is the origin of crime is relatively simplistic: the origin of all crime can be inexorably traced to the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege, and opportunity in a society. So what we find here is not a matter of public safety proponents versus criminal fiends or "gang leaders", but more accurately an internal contradiction of the state itself which pits public safety versus social control and profit.
Contrary to the propaganda of politricsters such as Mr. Kernan, California SHU's are not inhabited by the "worst of the worst," and especially not in these ultra-high security isolation torture units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-Corridor or Corcoran SHU's 4B1L-C section. In fact a significant segment of this population has been consigned to these dungeons decades on end solely based on their political ideology and world views. Left-wing political ideologies and revolutionary scientific socialists are labeled "gang members" and tossed in the SHU with no thought to the contradiction this presents to the constitutional basis of freedom of speech, thought, and expression.
The truth of the matter is most here in Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor and Corcoran SHU 4B1L C Section haven't had a rules violation, let alone broke a law, in decades. Institutional gang investigators claim to seek to mitigate the violence and socio-economic damage allegedly caused by "gangs" - yet the NCTT in Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHU over the course of the past 2 decades alone has developed and attempted to initiate numerous programs that would effectively do just that, and even more.
This hearing was a prime opportunity to declare, if the state will truly make rehabilitation their primary objective they may:
Meet in full the 5 core demands of the SHU human rights initiative, acknowledging the dismal failure of their "lock em up - lock em up" philosophy and its fundamental social and economic unsustainability
Restructure the entire correctional system and approach to imprisonment.
Mandate safe, clean and healthy rehabilitative environments where higher education and viable wage job skills are offered to all prisoners ensuring they can compete in today's technology society, ensure parole suitability, and make meaningful contributions to the community, institute community based parole boards, where the communities prisoners hail from decide when they can return to them.
Re-institute media access and transparency
Re-institute community ties programs such as social and family visiting for all prisoners, especially those in SHU-indeterminate units
Develop community reintroduction programs where prisoners have a community based support network that helps them re-acclimate to society and be re-integrated successfully.
Disband the CCPOA's stranglehold on elected officials which range from DAs and judges to the governor himself.
If this were to occur, crime and recidivism rates would drop, prison populations would decrease drastically (as would the violence which plagues them), thus failing to justify the fiscal expenditure for all these prisons, cops, guards, prosecutors, judges and many industries which serve them. The CCPOA's power would wane as it's membership and dues decreases. The state will not make rehabilitation (which begins with humane conditions of existence) their #1 priority because this is not in their economic and political interests.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This NCTT statement does a good job exposing the criminal injustice system as a tool of social control with no real interest in actually addressing crime or rehabilitation. We do disagree with one point here: while the vast array of people working in and around prisons certainly are motivated to protect their high wages and benefits, prisons themselves do not make a profit and so can not be working to protect their "speculative profits." As this article notes, those working on the side of the prison system do have a strong motivation to sustain and even grow them, but this is for social control fundamentally.
El 26 de septiembre, los presos en Pelican Bay State Prison volverá a su huelga de hambre indefinida después de 2 meses de receso, durante el cual negoció con el Estado. La huelga se inició el 1 de julio, barriendo a través de California, y se dejó en suspenso por los organizadores el 21 de julio. Negociadores de presos múltiples de Pelican Bay han confirmado que Scott Kernan del Departamento de Correcciones y Rehabilitación de California (CDCR) prometió que las 5 demandas serían satisfechas, pero que necestiban 2-3 semanas par cumplir. Esta ventana de tiempo ha pasado hace tiempo, y los compañeros se están preparando para lo que promete ser un tramo más largo sin comida.
En el 23 de agosto, el legislador Tom Ammiano encabezó una audiencia sobre las condiciones de los SHU de California y el proceso de la validación que se coloca la gente allá. Se hizo un eco de audiencias previas que no paró la tortura en el SHU, pero prometió que empujara el tema más que había ido en el pasado.
La huelga no terminó sobre algunos gorritos y calendarios. Las cartas que vinieron de los líderes después de la mensaje que la huelga terminó eran muy claras que sólo daban el estado tiempo para cumplir con sus demandas antes de que recomenzarían la huelga de hambre.
Necesitamos aprender construir las batallas prolongadas y sostenibles. No hay ningunos soluciones rápidos, y los presos no pueden fiar en la prensa y las organizaciones ajenos para salvarles. Recientemente, Pelican Bay censuró el paquete de estudiar de MIM(Prisons) sobre la estructura organizacional. Reconocen la importancia de tal información para los preso realmente organizarse y ejercer sus derechos. Por tanto que quieren clasificarnos como un grupo de amenaza a la seguridad por hacerlo, MIM(Prisons) continua luchar por nuestro derecho a apoyar a la organización basada en la prisión. Porque son los presos que tienen la motivación y la determinación hacer los cambios que deben hacerse para terminar este sistema opresivo.
On September 26, prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison will resume their indefinite hunger strike after 2 months of hiatus, during which they negotiated with the state. The strike began on July 1, sweeping across California, and was put on hold by organizers on July 21, after 3 full weeks of fasting. Multiple prisoner negotiators from Pelican Bay have confirmed that Scott Kernan of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) promised the 5 demands would be met, but that they needed 2 to 3 weeks to comply. That window of time has long since passed, and comrades are gearing up for what promises to be a longer stretch with no food.
In a statement from one strike leader announcing the September 26 restart, he stated:
I appreciate the time and love you all have given to us and you can believe that we will not yield until justice is achieved. We went into this trying to save lives, if possible, but we see now that there will have to be casualties on our side and we all know that power concedes to no one without demands.(1)
On August 23, state legislator Tom Ammiano headed a hearing on conditions in California's SHUs and on the validation process that gets people placed there. It echoed previous hearings that did not stop torture in the SHU. He promised he would push the issue further than it has gone in the past, but like the reforms given by the CDCR, this is too little too late as comrades who have faced decades in these torture cells take this struggle to the next level.
The Truth About the Negotiations
The strike didn't end over some beanies and calendars. Letters that came from the leaders after the message was sent that the strike ended were very clear that they were only giving the state time to meet their demands before they would restart the food strike. Those in D-Corridor and other SHU prisoners aren't done yet.
The initial story that came out of limited communications between the inside and outside negotiation teams was that the strike had ended, period, in return for beanies, calendars, proctored exams and a promise to investigate the major complaints of the strikers. The extreme limits put on the outside negotiation team, who were only granted access to the strikers on a couple brief occasions, allowed the state to control how the negotiations were portrayed. As a result, many across the state were let down by the misleading reports that first came out, because the strikers had pledged to strike until all 5 demands were met.
It has since come to light that Scott Kernan circulated a fake version of the five demands,(2) and that prisoners received notices that they had broken the rules by organizing against the abuse that they face and that they will face "progressive discipline" in the future for similar actions. The latter contradicts CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton who stated on record, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(3) In typical repressive fashion, the state responds to complaints of torture committed by state employees with outlawing any form of protest by the victims. It just goes to show that their efforts to maintain "security" have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with social control.
It's also important to note that the best public offer coming from the state right now is that they might move away from gang affiliation charges and focus on actual rule violations as justification for throwing someone into a torture chamber. Within U.$. prisons the First Amendment is generally ignored and any form of expression or organizing not sanctioned by the state is considered against the rules. But even this reform has been on the table for a long time with no action. According to the 2004 Castillo court decision, which took 8 years to litigate, the CDCR committed to providing logical justification that evidence used to put someone into SHU was criminal in nature. Yet nothing has changed, as the lead attorney on the case, Charles Carbone, asserted at the August 23 hearing.
As Carbone pointed out, with exasperation, we already went through the whole song and dance of having hearings around the SHU with Senator Gloria Romero and the United Front to Abolish the SHU years ago. Another testifier at this year's hearing made testimony in the 70s and 80s about the detrimental effects of isolation, but they still went on to build Pelican Bay State Prison. It is clear that the state sees the SHU as an important tool of social control and cares nothing for the destruction they cause to oppressed people.
Scott Kernan was very clear at the hearing that the CDCR would continue with the debriefing process, using confidential informants, and that they will not allow prisoners to appeal secret evidence used against them. He also said gang validations will likely continue to bring indeterminate SHU sentences. Kernan did not stick around for the public comments, and remaining CDCR staff were not given an opportunity to respond when a public commenter asked when the 5 demands would be put down in writing, after Kernan promised it would only take 2 to 3 weeks.
Lessons in Organizing
Through this process we are all learning how to organize in our conditions and what limits we face.
One of the successes of the California hunger strike was the demonstration of United Front to the masses, which inspired many to the possibilities of prison-based organizing. We do not know the details of how groups coordinated on the inside around the strike, but we do know that many groups would not be willing to sacrifice their independence to others, and yet they worked together. This example should be followed by those on the outside. We need to recognize the strength that comes in uniting all who can be united at any given time on the most pressing issues that we face. Coalition organizing strategies have held back support by not allowing a diversity of voices to come out in unity in support of the hunger strike.
Having outside pressure during a food strike is crucial to ensuring that the state just does not let prisoners die, as they are more than willing to do if there isn't too much noise about it. Outside organizations also played an important role in spreading word about the hunger strike that was initiated by some of the most isolated people in the whole state. But, ultimately, the state controls our communication with prisoners. Despite all the work put in by the coalition to develop an outside negotiation team, the only role the state allowed them to play was to announce when the strike had ended and ensure that everyone knew to stop. The state realized that a memo from the CDCR was not going to be convincing. Other than this, the negotiation team was not allowed any access to the prisoner negotiators.
In ULK 21, we made it sound like the strike was over for beanies, calendars and proctors and some empty promises of change. This was the information coming from the outside negotiating team and the best information anyone seemed to have. Frustration with the outcome immediately started coming in and we fear that disillusionment may have followed. But this is what the SHU is designed for. This is why SHU inmates can't call people on the outside. This is why the press is not allowed in California prisons. Misinformation would be much harder to spread otherwise. So overcoming these barriers is part of what we need to learn here.
We need to learn to build protracted and sustainable battles. There are no quick fixes, and prisoners can't rely on the mainstream press or outside organizations to come in and rescue them. Recently, Pelican Bay censored MIM(Prisons)'s study pack on organizational structure. They recognize the importance of such information for prisoners to really get organized and exert their rights. As much as they want to label us a "security threat group" for doing it, MIM(Prisons) continues to struggle for our right to support prison-based organizing. For it is the prisoners who have the drive and determination to make the changes that need to be made to end this oppressive system.
And so we begin a trickle of improvements here in SHU. A couple of weeks ago we received a memorandum stating we can now purchase sweatshirts, sweatpants and shorts starting immediately. Also prisoners go to committee every six months and so on our next committee if we have gone one year without a writeup we can be approved to purchase colored pens, pastels, art paper and be able to take one photo a year. They have also placed a few different items on the canteen list.
These changes may seem trivial, and in a way they are, but I also see the impact they will have on prisoners mentally. I for one am an artist and I sit here thinking of the art I can create, the revolutionary art I can do with colored pens. I also understand what a photo will mean to my loved ones, yet all of this stuff is really superficial.
The demand with the most meat is that of dismantling the debriefing process, which, according to CDCR officials, is still being "looked at." Even if the other four demands are granted, it is not enough, as we would not be asking for art paper and beanies, had it not been for the Gestapo-like policy of debriefing. If the debriefing process were not in existence the majority of prisoners would not be validated as gang members and associates and the SHU would not exist as we currently know it!
The world has seen the unmasked villain and so the state of California got a nudge to make this 'problem' disappear. They look for what they can do to appease the public and the world, pacifying the prison population, while at the same time maintaining the stranglehold on the imprisoned oppressed nations and keeping the revolutionary prisoners sealed off and isolated from the prison masses out in general populations of other prisons. This is seen in their granting of other demands and not touching their sacred cow - the debriefing process.
I don't see prisoners (especially those in SHU) accepting to spend life in SHU with the debriefing process as it is even if the state gives us photos. Many prisoners do not even have any money on our books to buy sweats or pastels! Most don't have anybody to even send a photo to so what good is it to the indigent prisoner? This decision to grant some demands is devious in its agenda. To properly analyze this "development" we need to look at who this will benefit?
There are in prisons the haves and the have nots, we all know both segments. In prison parasitism is magnified a hundred times. There are conscious or more progressive prisoners who look out for the less fortunate prisoner no matter who it is, and there are others who will only talk to those who have things. The state officials understand this and have employed a means of divide and conquer. On the one hand you have prisoners who will benefit from these crumbs and will be satisfied with the crumbs, and then you have the have nots who see no improvement along with the conscious prisoner who understands that conditions of the SHU, i.e. no photos, no color pens, art supplies, etc, are "symptoms" of the problem but the main problem lies in the SHU itself! Because once you take the SHU out of the picture, or even the debriefing process, all the 'symptoms' such as lack of beanies and sunlight go away. The state understands this and after we gained world attention they gave in and gave us these crumbs but did not give in to the most important demand around the debriefing process.
This effort laid a foundation and opened up contacts for many prisoners and showed the power that comes from such resistance. The footprint has been set and so I'm sure that path will not be forgotten, time will tell if all the demands are met or not.
Real change will not come so long as the imperialists continue their rule. Only when socialism reaches these shores will we see SHU conditions abolished. We can protest today for these abuses and tomorrow new repressive shoots will sprout up and we will be protesting those and on and on. Yet these battles are essential as learning experience and uplifting the political consciousness of prisoners, as well as to develop a current of mutual respect and support between prisoners and activists out in public society, while bringing an even stronger United Front for future efforts. To many so-called activists, prisoners are the last people on their mind, and sadly some don't care what happens to prisoners or care that prisoners are tortured by Amerika. Yet when prisoners begin to struggle and show their humynity it brings many to the prisoners' plight who have previously stood on the sidelines when it came to prisoners' struggles. So as of now the most important of the strike demands, the dismantling of the debriefing process, is still up in the air. So prisoners learn from past efforts while grappling about the future, as we have no choice but to keep struggling against this torture.
Thanks to MIM(Prisons), prisoners from all across Amerika now have the opportunity to discover and learn from various revolutionaries and societies of days gone by.
We can learn of how for the first time in hystory Marx & Engels, thru diligent study of the past and scientific analysis of their hystorical conditions, were able to synthesize socialism into a science, thereby pointing the road forward to emancipation for the proletariat.
We can read of how V.I. Lenin not only defined the decadent and final stage of monopoly capitalism (imperialism), but We can study how he illuminated and laid bare the strategy and tactics of the proletariat, ushering into existence the first socialist state.
We can sort thru all the lies and distortions of the bourgeoisie that have been successfully hurled at the persyn who was the one-time leader of the international communist movement for 30 crucial years; main anti-fascist military strategist of WWII; and leader of that socialist powerhouse, the USSR 1922-53. I am talking about J. Stalin.
We can even learn about the third and final stage of Marxism thus far: Mao Zedong Thought. We can read and draw lessons from how he led one fourth of the world's population to victory over foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism and capitalism by way of national liberation vis-a-vis protracted peoples' war. We can read of the most radical and progressive revolution the world has ever seen, without which socialism will not survive and communism cannot be attained: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Long Live the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons!
MIM(Prisons) adds: With a little more time and money from our supporters, MIM(Prisons) can expand this important work of spreading revolutionary literature to the prisoner movement. We have revolutionary books, magazines and newspapers that will be sent into prisoners' hands much faster if we have more donations to cover the costs of shipping. The easiest way our supporters can contribute time to our educational work right now is to be a volunteer typist. All you need is access to a computer with an internet connection and you can work with the prisoner study groups and research projects that we support.
Enclosed you should find Under Lock & Key number 14. I am returning it to you because prison staff disallowed it's delivery to me and confiscated it stating 1)"contains information about performing work stoppages" and 2) "photos of dead klan members (cartoons)."
Apparently the issue was confiscated in May/June 2010 while I was housed at the Pendleton Correctional Facility (PCF). I was not notified of the confiscation until July 12, 2011. I was transferred from PCF in November 2010 to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (WVCF). PCF staff forwarded the confiscated mail (almost a year after receipt) to WVCF staff. WVCF staff notified me of the confiscation.
I have attempted to challenge this confiscation via the offender grievance process. However, WVCF case manager Marty Hale refuses to provide me with a grievance form. On August 9 he responded to my request by becoming irate and yelling at me, "fuck your grievance... every time an issue comes up you want to file a grievance, fuck you... you're just a sniveling complaining bitch", "you bitch", and "stick a grievance up your ass." To date I am still being denied a grievance form.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Prisons in Indiana are blatantly violating what few rights they tell us prisoners have, both with their illegal censorship and failure to notify both MIM(Prisons) and the prisoner of this censorship, and by denying this comrade the ability to file a grievance. By documenting such abusive denials to grieve we can continue to expose their sacred grievance system for what it really is, a sham. Even if the public buys it, all prisoners need to understand what it means to file a grievance and what it takes to change conditions in prison.
This is the inspiration behind the current campaign to Demand Our Grievances Be Addressed, currently active in California, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Write to us for a copy for your state, or if one does not yet exist, help create one by researching the citations and policies specific to your state and we will type it up and get it circulated.
"What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences... We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator... Once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite on the basis of what we have in common." - Malcolm X
It is a historical truth that repression breeds resistance, which is why we prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison's (PBSP) Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Communications Management Units (CMUs) took the initiative to come together, and go on a hunger strike in order to say to our oppressors that "20-plus years of state-sponsored torture and persecution in which our human rights have been routinely violated, for no other reason than to keep us prisoners confined in their mad scientist-like torture chambers as alleged prison gang members is enough!!!"
But as we all know, repression evolves and develops in cycles. So on 2 August 2011 PBSP and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials threatened all hunger strike participants with punitive retaliatory measures, for the sole act of our hunger strike participation. This happened in spite of the fact that we have a human right to peacefully protest any unjust laws, as warranted to us in the First Amendment of the U.$. Constitution. An unjust law is no law at all! The unjust laws in this case are the ones legalizing the indefinite housing of us prisoners in solitary confinement (SHU/CMU).
We prisoners were issued the following CDC 128-B Chrono that states:
The California Code of Regulations, Title 15, identifies that leading and/or participating in a strike, disturbance, or work stoppage is a violation of the Director's rules. On or about July 1, 2011 you were identified as having participated in a statewide hunger strike event along with in excess of 6000 other CDCR inmates in support of perceived overly harsh SHU housing issues originating from within the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. This activity created a non-violent significant disruption to institutional healthcare services and Department of Corrections programming and operations throughout the state, which included Pelican Bay State Prison, where you were assigned during your participation in this event. Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director's rules, and this documentation is intended to record your actions; and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior. Date: 08/02/11. From: K. Welch, Correctional Officer.
However, this CDC 128-B Chrono is contradicted by an article that appeared in The Daily Triplicate newspaper during the month of June 2011, that was entitled "Pelican Bay Hunger Strike in the Offing. Some Inmates May Stop Eating Friday" by Anthony Skeens. Within the article, CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton stated, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(1) The struggle continues!