Prisoners at New Jersey State Prison, the only maximum security facility in the state, staged a non-violent protest June 6 through 8, 2013. Initially, prisoners on the West Compound, the older part of the prison, and one of the oldest in the nation, functioning since 1830, refused to go to the mess hall for the entire day. Despite some lack of cooperation at the breakfast movement, the mess hall finally remained empty at dinner time. The next two days the modern North and South compounds of the prison joined in the protest, bringing the institution to a complete standstill.
The protest came as a consequence of several factors. First was the issue of collective punishment. The prison administrator issued an official memorandum in which he threatened to suspend recreation and privileges to entire wings of any individual prisoner who had committed a serious offense (a common occurrence on a prison that houses close to 2000 people).
Ancillary issues involved the harassment of people at the central rotunda, a place of obligatory pass for any activities, including meals, recreation, education and religious programs. The officers, with little supervision, or perhaps encouraged by supervisors, overtly harass inmates, many times without probable cause, as demanded by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of New Jersey, and affirmed by the 10A Code that regulates prisons in the state. Prisoners are stripped searched at the mere whim of any guard. Made up charges that lead to lock-up time are usually the result of such harassment.
The last issue that weighed on the decision to stage a non-violent protest relates to the abusive language and arbitrary searches conducted by a second shift sergeant. Sometimes, the results are outright sad and curious, i.e., the same shank found in several cells by the same sergeant.
In conclusion petty management practices, abuse of power by supervisors, lack of concern by the administrator and superintendent (supervision from an Ivory Tower), collective punishment, and indiscriminate use of lock-up as an instrument of control, led the prison community to unite as one to express their concerns.
It is important to highlight that the prison, at any given time, keeps an estimated 750 inmates on closed custody units such as 1-Left lock-up, Ad-Seg, MCU (Management Control Unit), and P.C. (Protective Custody) — a full 38% of the prison population. More than one in three prisoners are kept in solitary confinement.
Although nothing has changed as of the writing of this report, it is important to highlight that the level of unity achieved across nations and groups, the effective organization of the protest, and the fearful response by the state demonstrate the power of non-violent resistance in a corrections environment. During the demonstration the prison was militarized by SAG, the special operations response team of the DOC, hundreds of officers were summoned to work, and all administration had to report to work. It is presumable that the cost of overtime hours, and the emotional cost of an oppressive power challenged by the masses will affect the way in which future decisions are made by the administration. A group of prisoners were transferred to other facilities across the state, some others placed in solitary confinement. As it usually happens, most were not organizers of the protest.
The author Charles Dickens (in American Notes for General Circulation) wrote these words about solitary confinement in 1842: "I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers, and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body, and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh, because it's wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear, therefore the more I denounce it."
Upon reading a study on solitary confinement I reflect on the following effects of this legalized tool of torture.
Significant decrease in the ability of the nervous system functions:
Significant disruptions in hormone levels
Absence of menstruation in women with no other physiological, organic cause due to age or pregnancy (secondary amenorrhea)
Increased feeling of having to eat: Zynorexia/cravings, hyporerexia, compulsive overeating
In contrast, reduction or absence of thirst
Severe hot flashes and/or sensations of coldness not attributable to any corresponding change in the ambient temperature or to illness (fever, chills, etc.)
Significantly impaired perception and cognitive ability
Serious inability to process perceptions
Serious inability to feel one's own body
Serious general difficulties in concentrating
Serious difficulty, even the complete inability, to read or register what has been read, comprehend it and place it within a meaningful context
Serious difficulties, even the complete inability, to speak or process thoughts in written form (agraphia, dysgraphia)
Serious difficulties in articulating and verbalizing thoughts, which is demonstrated in problems with syntax, grammar and word selection and can even extend to aphasia, aphrasia, and agnosia
Serious difficulties or the complete inability to follow conversations (shown to be the result of slowed function in the primary acoustic cortex of the temporal lobes due to lack of stimulation)
Carrying out conversations with oneself to compensate for the social and acoustic lack of stimulation
Clear loss of intensity of feeling
Situatively euphoric feelings which later transform into a depressed mood
Long-Term health consequences
Difficulties in social contacts, including the inability to engage in emotionally close and long-term romantic relationships
Negative impact on self-esteem
Returning to imprisonment situation in dreams
Blood pressure disorders requiring treatment
Skin disorders requiring treatment
Inability to recover in particular cognitive skills (e.g. in mathematics) the prisoner had mastered before solitary confinement
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:
The lack of law library access, exercise and yard equipment
The unfair administration and classification committee practices
The controversial and unfair practice of using inmate informants, anonymous informants and confidential information to retain prisoners in the AC for years
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
The unlawful practice of group punishment tactics and lockdowns
The unlawful practice of "interviewing"/forced interrogation
The illegal use and excessive practice of property restriction or property control
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
The denial of religious, hobby craft, library books and educational programs or materials
The unlawful practice of withholding, censoring, denying and returning prisoners' mail without notification or legitimate reasons to do so
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
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.
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.
In Nevada, Security Threat Group (STG) and Disruptive Group (DG) designations have a formal process, so instead of attempting to STG/DG everyone they generate enemy or separate lists which are quite similar to the validation dilemma in California.
There are no procedural safeguards so anyone can put anyone on these lists
No investigation is conducted into the allegations
You can't defend against any allegation
You can't find out who the enemies/separates are because it's all "confidential" and ergo permanent.
Initially these lists were created to protect victims from predators and clashes between known enemies/factions, but they've become a weapon that staff and prisoners use to retaliate and cross out other prisoners.
While reviewing my file on an unrelated matter I discovered a document: "Nevada department of prisons central monitoring status sheet" (supposed to have been removed form the file prior to my review). On this document are detailed 2 additions of enemies/seperates. Both of these additions were placed there by staff to justify my transfer last year and conceal the fact that the transfer was in retaliation for my litigation. Both of these prisoners are friends, so it has the added consequence of insuring friends are permanently separated.
MIM(Prisons) adds: It's important that prisoners are aware of this tactic by the pigs to create false divisions between prisoners. It is in our interests to build unity, but the prisons see this unity as a threat. Separating people working together, under the guise of safety, is just another way the prisons try to stop our unified work against the criminal injustice system. The one constant (if you can get mail past the prison censors) is MIM(Prisons). If you stay in touch with us you will be in touch with the anti-imperialist movement no matter how isolated you are behind bars.
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:
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.
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
Any information used in A/C committee decisions must be first-hand information and must be corroborated by three different independent sources;
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Allow two phone calls per month.
Allow hobby and educational programs for the A/C.
Allow more educational channels like the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic.
Allow $110.00 canteen draw a month.
Allow four food packages a year or two food packages and two nutritional packages of vitamin supplements and protein meal supplements from approved vendors.
Allow A/C prisoners to participate in the food charity drives.
Allow 10-book limit in cell, not to include any legal or religious books.
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).
Allow clear headphones, non-clear earbuds and headphone extension for TVs and radios or leave speakers connected in TVs and radios.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
This missive is about the prison conditions at Sussex I in Virginia. John David is now the warden of Sussex I state prison. His first day on the job he made his grand opening by placing the whole institution on lockdown for 30 days with no justification. Those 30 days revealed his intentions about what to expect from his gestapo-style treatment. For instance, when we are walking in lines to and fro, if anyone does not walk in a straight line, even if it's one individual out of 40, his rule is that we get no outside recreation and instead get just 1 hour of in-pod rec. During the 30-day lockdown we got no outside recreation whatsoever and no one was able to use the phones on the whole compound. David put us on modified lockdown, just because individuals throughout the compound started complaining to their families and writing grievances, so he had to save face.
David has also put preemptory restrictions on some of the political literature that comes through the mailroom. I was hit with censorship of your study group mailing sent April 26, 2013 because they deemed it "unauthorized." I did receive all mail prior to that letter and I'm currently appealing the decision. It's just repayment, censoring my ability to think outside this cell, trying to control our thoughts and preventing a lot of comrades from learning anything besides the state's perspective. The oppressor will never stop oppressing.
These are the basic examples that were studied in the study group assignment 3 "On Contradiction." "What is the principal aspect of a contradiction? How does the interdependence (identity) of these contradictory aspects in prison life and the struggle between these aspects determine things in prison life and push their development forward?" This censorship only reveals the true political agenda behind super-maxes as being to repress revolutionary thought, not only in the prisons but even in society at large. The resulting division of staff versus prisoners along racial and cultural lines creates an obvious recipe for conflict and abuse, duplicating the conditions of chattel slavery in pre-civil war Amerikkka where poor whites were armed and empowered to have free reign over unarmed and disenfranchised Black slaves on the plantations.
These control unit prisons were designed to effectively isolate, control, and punish prisoners reacting against abuse. In turn they provoke responses, so prison officials can effectively use these events to demonize us as "violent animals" thus playing up self-fulfilling prophecies and stereotypes to justify the construction of more super-max prisons. This was the main motivation that brought the Attica rebellion in 1971, which will be commemorated this coming September 9.
Just two weeks ago a guard was severely stabbed over a confrontation that started over a prisoner who did not have enough time to finish his food tray when the guard took his tray. It's only a fruitless back and forth cycle played out between poor people [by Amerikan standards - editor] who've been divided along color and cultural lines. In the past I felt myself and my peers to be powerless, therefore fighting with the pigs and treating them with open contempt was in a sense therapeutic. Even now when I witness abuse by the pigs my inner rage boils over, but I have learned to check myself and stand as a witness to testify against these outrages.
This is not to say that we ought to be pacifists. Even a mouse will fight you when cornered. Individual pigs are of no more value to the system than the cost of training their replacements, and they can be replaced from the unemployment lines tomorrow. The system will gladly sacrifice any number of them for the opportunity to throw the book at us and paint us as "animals" and "terrorists." Simply filing paperwork and relying on the courts is also a dead end. But it is useful to create a paper trail and document patterns of abuse. From my time and experience in these control unit conditions it allows one to see the bigger picture.
The prison system institutionalizes isolation and secrecy. The prison walls are designed not only to keep the prisoners in, but to keep the public out preventing observation or knowledge of what is going on inside. Confronting this crazy system, we need to be the voice of reason that raises consciousness and empowers awareness inside and out. In challenging a system built on cruelty and the exercise of absolute and hidden power against the disempowered, there will be attempts to provoke us and bait us to incite reactionary violence from us or against us. But we must stick to our strategy and not get pulled into theirs.
Indeed as I write this, the warden of this control unit where I am confined is waging a struggle to use metaphysical tactics to demonize us. But their efforts to distort the external contradictions will only lead to greater exposure of the internal contradiction, the truth, which will build our struggle. We must stop acting foolish like bulls. The bullfighter waves his cape and the bull charges and eventually runs into the bullfighter's sword. But a smart bull wouldn't do that. He'd wait for the bullfighter to charge him and face his horns. Over the years I have witnessed too many good comrades and potential ones being wasted. We must organize to win! The end game will never change. We must emancipate ourselves, remove the blinds and open our minds.
Greetings to all revolutionary comrades who are captives in the gulags of these United $nakes of Amurderer. In light of the many struggles that have come to the forefront in these past few years I was dismayed at the lack of attention May Day received this year.
Inside the gulag called Ohio State Penitentiary, 30 days prior to May Day 2012 [this was originally published as 2013 - editor] several captives began planning what was hoped to become a massive hunger strike. This was to take place in C-Block where captives considered to be the most violent in the state are held.
The plan was to begin the strike on May 1 to coincide with the general May Day strikes taking place all over the world.
There were about 30 who had decided to go for the long run, but because some paperwork detailing some of our demands and our prospected start date was confiscated haphazardly by an escort pig, we decided on a whim to start a day early. This took the pig-overseers by surprise as some had taken that Monday off work anticipating confronting us at the onset of our demonstration.
So our core began a day early and we were joined by the rest on May Day, giving us a total of about 60 out of 140. By day 6 we were beginning to lose numbers but our point had been made: solidarity and organization can happen inside 23-hour lockdown, even on short notice.
Several pieces were run in the local newspapers. We had the attention of the bourgeoisie who responded negatively to a captive's article on how austerity has caused smaller food portions.
Our main demand was for the ending of the hopelessness of an indefinite classification to level 5-A & 5-B, better known as supermax, of "3 years or more." For so-called lesser offenses, one can receive this same classification for a period of "less than 3 years."
As we began to lose participants Warden D. Bobby decided to address the demands by adding good behavior incentives: extra phone calls, photos every three months, extra visit per month, etc. Basically they were saying that it is our negative behavior that keeps us here. They also began showing 3 new-release movies per week as well as offering lots more mental health and drug abuse programs.
As California has learned, not much changes without massive efforts and solidarity. This attests to our need for further acts of solidarity and organization for struggle, and the development of leadership backed by science to bring about a movement for change.
Thursday, May 23 at 11pm, 20 or so captives began flooding the ranges as backlash to the enforcement of an old rule stating "no loan, borrow, or trading" amongst captives. We remain on lockdown 23/7 while there is one person allowed out of our cell at a time for recreation. In an attempt to stop the passing and sharing of coffee, literature and photos, this captive's rec is terminated if caught passing. Because rec is a so-called guarantee, and it's our only out-of-cell time besides a shower, many rallied to address this. Some even swore to battle the captors if need be to prove their unwillingness to stop passing or give up rec.
A meeting with D. Bobby led to a promise to back off the rule and also give a few more behavioral incentives, and add a few more TV stations; pacification, no real change, and proof for the need of protests on May Day and beyond.
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.).
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:
no prisoner should be held in Security Housing Units for longer than 30 days. Rehouse all prisoners currently in SHU to mainline facilities.
interaction with other prisoners every day
time spent outdoors with space and basic equipment for exercise every day
healthy food and clean water every day
proper clothing and climate control
an end to the use of and threat of violence by staff against prisoners who have not made any physical threat to others
access to phone calls and contact visits with family at least once a week
timely and proper health care
ability to engage in productive activities, including correspondence courses and hobby crafts
a meaningful way to grieve any abuses or denial of the above basic rights
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:
no punishment based on what books one reads or has in their possession
no punishment for jailhouse lawyering for oneself or for others, for filing grievances or for any challenges to conditions of confinement through legal means
no punishment for what outside organizations one belongs to or corresponds with
no punishment for communicating with other prisoners if not breaking the law
no punishment for tattoos
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
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
El inmigrante proletario ha sido componente fundamental del incremento en el número de prisioneros en los Estados Unido$ en los últimos años. Debido a ello están sufriendo en sus propias carnes las tácticas de tortura que los Amerikanos utilizan contra sus propios ciudadanos. Un informe reciente muestra que la oficina de Inmigración y Aduanas de los EEUU tiene a más de 300 prisioneros en aislamiento en 50 de sus mayores cárceles, lo que supone un 85% de sus detenidos. La mitad son mantenidos en aislamiento durante 15 o más días y cerca de 35 de los 300 llegan a permanecer en esas condiciones más de 75 días(1).
Aunque estas condenas son relativamente cortas comparadas con las que ya se consideran habituales en los Estados Unido$, las experiencias vividas en ellas son particularmente difíciles para el inmigrante que no habla ingles y han sido víctima del trafico de seres humanos.
Los autores del articulo citado anteriormente relatan con tono cauteloso que los Estados Unido$ usan el aislamiento más "que cualquier otra nación democrática en el mundo." Esto solo indica que es posible que otros países utilicen el aislamiento todavía más. Una de las razones por las que no pueden obtener estadísticas sobre las prácticas carcelarias de algunos países es que éstos son regímenes títeres de los Estados Unido$ que se administran de una forma intencionadamente opaca para permitir formas extremas de opresión contra los pueblos oprimidos. No hemos podido encontrar pruebas de una nación mitológica que torture en confinamiento solitario a más gente que Amerika.
Los Amerikanos encarcelan a más gente que ninguna otra nación incluso excluyendo a aquellos que mantienen en prisiones de terceros países. Con al menos 100,000 personas en aislamiento de larga duración dentro de las fronteras de los EEUU, parece altamente improbable que ningún país pueda superar sus números. Podemos encontrar más pruebas si observamos el estado de las prisiones en la mayoría de los países del tercer mundo, las cuales son más transparentes con su información que cualquier prisión de baja seguridad en los Estados Unido$. Las excepciones a esta regla siempre son los países con gran actividad militar o de inteligencia Amerikana, donde normalmente son los propios Amerikanos los que gestionan las prisiones.(3)
El ciudadano de los EEUU Shane Bauer fue encarcelado con cargos de espionaje por el gobierno de Irán, el cual es independiente de los Estados Unido$. Bauer nos ofrece ejemplos de como sus condiciones en aislamiento se distinguen en lo positivo y en lo negativo de las de aquellos encarcelados en Pelican Bay SHU en California. Lo más llamativo es el tiempo total pasado en aislamiento, que en su caso fue de sólo cuatro meses. Comparándolo con el "democrático" sistema de injusticia de los EEUU, Bauer escribe sobre Iran: "Cuando Josh Fattal y yo finalmente nos presentamos ante la corte revolucionaria de Irán, teníamos un abogado presente, pero no se nos permitió hablar con el. En California un reo que se enfrente a la peor condena posible, con excepción de la de muerte, no puede tener a su abogado en la sala. No se le permite acumular o presentar evidencias para su defensa. No puede llamar a testigos. Muchas de las pruebas, recabadas por informantes, son confidenciales y por lo tanto imposibles de refutar. Eso fue lo que el Juez Salvati nos dijo después de que la persecución soltase su discurso acerca de nuestro papel en la vasta conspiración Americano-Israelí: había montones de pruebas, pero ni nosotros ni nuestro abogado podíamos verlas."(2)
Cita luego una decisión de la corte de los EEUU: "el juez dictaminó que 'un prisionero no tiene garantía constitucional de inmunidad al haber sido falsa o injustamente acusado de una conducta que pueda resultar en la privación de su libertad.' En otras palabras, es perfectamente legal que las autoridades de la prisión mientan con el objetivo de encerrar a alguien en aislamiento."(2)
La célebre prisión Californiana de "Pelican Bay" informa de un promedio de tiempo de los reos en el SHU (Unidad de Confinamiento Seguro) de 7.5 años. Muchos de los que pelearon por la liberación nacional contra el imperialismo Estadouniden$e han pasado 30 o 40 años en aislamiento en prisiones a lo largo de los Estados Unido$. MIM(Prisons) no conoce informes de ningún otro Estado que utilice el aislamiento como herramienta de castigo hasta estos extremos.
Las técnicas de tortura desarrolladas en las unidades de control Amerikanas fueron diseñadas para destruir el espíritu combativo de las personas y grupos sociales que desafían el status quo, en particular el imperialismo de los Estados Unido$. Treinta años después de su desaparición, la posesión de materiales del Black Panther Party (Partido de los Panteras Negras) todavía mete a la gente en problemas de forma regular, siendo incluso citados por una infracción del tipo "Grupo de Amenaza a la Seguridad" (Security Threat Group). Éste es el termino Amerikano para los "crímenes de pensamiento".
Puede que estas técnicas se están desarrollando en centros de detención de inmigrantes como forma de disciplina para el proletariado Mexicano que los Amerikanos temen como una fuerza social de cambio. O puede ser un ejemplo de la cultura de una nación opresora extendiendo sus tentáculos hacia otras naciones. Sea como fuere, esta es una de varias formas de opresión que sirve para socavar el mito propagandístico de Amerika como nación que promueve la libertad.
Durante años, los Estados Unido$ han sido criticados por las Naciones Unidas como el principal Estado responsable del uso del aislamiento de larga duración como forma de tortura. Hoy, el Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos dijo, "Debemos ser claros: los Estados Unido$ están en clara violación no solo en sus propios compromisos sino también en leyes internacionales y normas que están obligados a cumplir."(4) Estas palabras figuraban en una declaración dirigida a los 166 extranjeros que llevan más de una década detenidos en la prisión de Guantanamo Bay, muchos sin ningún cargo.
Así como el armamento de alta tecnología no pudo ganar la guerra de los Amerikanos en Afghanistan, las técnicas más sofisticadas de tortura de las modernas unidades de control no pueden acallar el ultraje extendido de las masas que viven bajo el dominio imperialista. Las oportunidades para hacer conexiones internacionalistas en el movimiento de prisiones dentro la fronteras de los EEUU no hace más que crecer a medida que más y más gente de fuera de esas fronteras son atrapados por el sistema.