I am writing in hopes of bringing awareness to your followers regarding some of the injustices being forced upon prisoners housed within the administrative segregation units(ASU) in Z-unit. The circumstances below have unfortunately become the norm. Z-unit is officially referred to as the zoo due to the fact that it is a habitat fit for animals. We don't expect five star treatment because we are in prison. We know this and we are grateful for all that comes our way.
A major issue around here is mail. It is often late and quite frequently lost. Pictures, books, and magazines tend to often come up missing, but we are usually not provided with notices of disapproval. The thing is, when the mailroom confiscates something as contraband, they send you a notice of disapproval that allows you the opportunity to send home or donate whatever it is. So if the mailroom does not enclose this form in your envelope, then it is not them who steals the stuff, right? This issue is currently being reviewed at the director of CDCR's level of the 602 inmate appeals process in Sacramento, California.
High Desert State Prison(HDSP) is located in the mountains of Northern California. The winters are long and unforgiving. Temps often drop to 20F with gnarly winds, snow and ice. Since we are not provided with adequate winter clothing to defend against the literally numbing cold, we are forced to choose between freezing for three hours on the days they do choose to run yard or stay in our cells month after month. This too is being looked into by means of the grievance process.
HDSP is an unrelenting environment. Z-Unit is entirely worse. The way it was designed deprives one of all stimulation. The architects sure did a good job on designing an oppressive atmosphere. There is no window to the outside, simply a mere slit in the roof that leads to another skylight twenty feed higher. Looking out of the cell door all one can see is an all white wall five feet in front of you, the only contact you have is that of your cell mate, but that quickly becomes stale and strained.
TVs and radios have been authorized by the state since 2005, allowing purchases by inmates for entertainment purposes, but this has yet to be put into effect by the administration here in High Desert. Inmates who are fortunate enough to purchase books, magazines, newspapers etc., often have to wait upwards of a month after they are here to actually receive them. And when they're finally passed out, all reading material gets circulated throughout the entire tier. To say the least, we put everything to good use when we have it.
In spite of that, at one point, we were provided one book a week (better than nothing, I'm not going to front) by means of a tiny book cart. But that has ceased as of June 3 and to top it off, we are provided a slap in the face with two measly cross-words each week.
Without stimulation, internal anguish tends to set in. It has been clinically proven and well documented that in as little as two weeks in this type of environment, the average individual shows signs of stress, depression, anxiety, frustration, PTSD, anti-social symptoms and SHU syndrome. These conditions and the mental impact/ side effects they entail are the major cause of violence, both self-inflicted and in-cell combat. The mental imbalance is such that in September or October 2009 an individual committed suicide in his cell. In December 2009 another prisoner did the same, just to give a couple examples.
The impact this setting imposes has been acknowledged by the administration, for they have hired "psych-techs" who walk down the tier twice each day every day. How much does each psych-techs cost the state each year?
Prisoners have exhausted the appeals process and will continue on the right path to keep doing so, however, we are met with resistance at every level. More often than not, when you have proper grounds for a grievance, your appeal will somehow get lost. And when you write internal affairs asking them to submit it for you so that it won't be "lost," the warden will inevitably get at you letting you know that if you go that route then your grievance will not be processed. But it never gets processed anyway. Real fucking jerks, I know, not only this, but due to the insufficient nature and complete disregard on appeal coordinator's behalf, there is currently a lawsuit pending against the state. What can I say? We're trying.
Frustration got to the point that on June 14 and 18 about 35-40 cells boarded up to get cell extracted so they could voice their grievance. Unfortunately, we must expose ourselves to such gruesome protests, yet we are still not acknowledged. Moreover, on June 14-15 and again on Aug 2-9, prisoners housed in Z-unit went on hunger strikes. It seems like the light at thee end of the tunnel cannot be seen.
Many of the prisoners housed in Z Unit (about 80%) are awaiting transfers to other segregation units; however, some of these individuals have been enduring such dire circumstances upwards of two years.
To date, we have a select few of us on a writing campaign. Our object is ultimately to get our voice heard. So far, we've had a little success. Primarily, the Prisoner Activist Resource Center(PARC) is an organization currently working close with the prisoners housed in Z-Unit. Earlier this year, they led an investigation of this prison, but now they've planned one specifically for Z-Unit. We'll keep our fingers crossed.
This investigation has been published by SJRA Advocate. Also the AFSC has an open investigation on this prison's now obsolete Behavioral Management Unit (BMU), the same setting just a fancier title. The BMU investigation has been published in two newspapers: the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee. We are hoping to get Z-unit added to that investigation.