Day 15 of the Death Row SHU (adjustment center) hunger strike. Almost 50 participating and the administration is scratching its ass in frustration, using every dirty track in the book (operational procedure [OP608]).
After 3 days we're official hunger strikers. Within only 2 days we were getting set up to be declared "leaders" by a sergeant or lieutenant under the guise of negotiations. By day 5 the facility captain started sweating us. At this point our peaceful action shows potential to expose human rights violations due to imminent media attention, so prison officials hoping to cover things up deem this a disruption to facility operations while part of their clique forms an Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) which then threatens us with a Rules Violation Report based on their wild stretch interpretation of 15 CCR 3315 (a)(2)(L). This makes each of us a documented/validated participant in a Security Threat Group (STG) action (OP608, sec419 B.m.n.). If that fails to halt the advance of our struggle for basic human needs, CDCR's playbook then calls for an intensified sensory deprivation program to be implemented (OP608, Sec. 419 C/Sec. 815). All this clearly demonstrates CDCR's premeditated response to our peaceful action is the continuation of violent torture methods with malice under the guise of "security."
Course of action: everyone simply states they have nothing to say. Thus, nobody provides evidence of being "leader" or "an organizer" through individual testimony. The open letter with its list of demands speaks for itself in behalf of us all, participating or not, while our non-violent participation in the struggle is an action which speaks louder than mere words. We're simply allowing CDCR's twisted response to unravel, thus exposing their premeditated malice which they have reworded in the OP608.
11 July 2013 - As you well know we are demonstrating and will continue until demands or compromise is met!
As of now everything is running smoothly! All basic modified program - regular medical ducats, regular nurse/pill rounds, regular C/O security checks, nobody in my general area has complaints of negligent or abusive behavior.
Just got word of cell extractions being done to certain individuals in some buildings.
They've passed out CDC 128A forms regarding future discipline if behavior persists.
I received a letter from California Prison Focus in Oakland, it was almost one month 1ate! An obvious stall tactic. It was in regards to the 7/13 rally/march in front of CSP-Corcoran asking to let loved ones/friends know.
No weight checks or medical checks as of now (5:00 pm). Institutional procedure not being followed.
13 July 2013 - Day Six: No weight/med-health checks as of now. Man down response time was thirty minutes yesterday. Rally/march is active outside the walls!
Regular C.O./Sgt/Med staff checks have ceased. Most of us are single cell by choice and won't receive cellmates during demonstration. Nothing more we can do at this point. C.O./Sgt/Med staff definitely not following proper procedure.
Please contact my family if something happens to me.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Hundreds of people did rally outside of Corcoran State Prison on 13 July 2013 in the brutal heat to show support for the strikers inside. Those on the outside who want to support the struggle against torture in California prisons should contact state officials and voice your concerns and help spread the word through demonstrations and sharing information with others.
The reports above were delayed in reaching us, but is the most recent report we have from Corcoran. The latest from the CDCR is that 1,000 prisoners are still on strike in California early in week three. They reported over 12,000 who met their criteria for being on a hunger strike at the peak, and around 30,000 who participated on July 8th. They said only one prison had a significant work stoppage. There's no way for us to get any better numbers than these, but the drop in numbers correlates with the reports we've been getting from some. That said 1,000 people is a lot to take it for the long haul. Outside support continues to rally with more progressive groups and individuals signing on as supporters and making public stands with a coordinated one day fast being coordinated for the end of July.
On 07-19-2013 all MDF hunger strikers suspended their hunger strike. Below are the demands that were met by MDF command staff:
DEMAND #1 was granted in full. Classification shall tell you in writing what you are being held in Ad-Seg for as well as program expectations to be released from Ad-Seg.
DEMAND #2 Command staff is working to come up with a free time schedule that follows title 15 standards. One part of this that is granted in full is that all detainees will be given an opportunity to empty their trash can EVERYDAY.
DEMAND #3 had 3 parts. Two parts were granted in full. MDF medical/mental health staff shall no longer conduct ANY type of appointment on the intercom system nor at detainees’ cell door where private medical issues are heard by others in violation of medical privacy laws (HIPPA). The third part of allowing Ad-Seg detainees’ to reach medical triage on the phone systems, as all other modules do, is still being worked on with command staff.
DEMAND #4 Command staff informed classification to ONLY house mentally ill inmates on D-module as a last resort.
DEMAND #5 was granted in full. ALL MDF detainees’ will be allowed to purchase ink pen fillers from canteen. Also necessary photo copies will be made for detainees’ filing court documents. These will be implemented in a reasonable time frame.
It is in good faith that we suspend our hunger strike and that MDF command staff will continue to implement our 5 Core Demands. MDF command staff has been very open to our ideas. With the exception of DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE who tried to guide detainees’ into refusing water as well as food. We hope all other hunger strikers can get some much needed relief on their demands. If this does not occur we will resume our hunger strike. Special thank you to our loved ones on the streets, all organizations and media outlets who covered our struggle, as well as Sarah Shroud, Shane Bauer- Welcome home & Dan Horowitz, Nicole, Lesli and Mikes sister.
MIM(Prisons) responds: See the original article announcing the Martinez demands where we address the shortcomings of their demands, which included segregating mentally ill prisoners. The victories here are small reforms riding on the coat tails of the central struggle here, which is to shut down long-term isolation. Control units were originally created to separate leaders from the general population. But this division has been two-fold in that now the interests of those in control units are not felt as dearly by those in general population. Even so, the last few weeks have shown a great level of consciousness among the whole prison population about the inhumane conditions those comrades in SHU and Ad-Seg face. We hope those who stood up in Martinez continue to support that struggle, which is really central to the prison movement itself. Without a prison movement, prisoners have no real means of addressing abuse, which can be so common in prison.
In the Security Risk Group (SRG) unit in Connecticut they have taken toothbrushes that we were allowed to have, we only have one jumpsuit, and even if we're sweaty we are required to put the jumpsuit on. All prisoners are supposed to have 2 uniforms. We are denied religious services, we are denied schooling, and they have taken an electric socket out of the cell. We were denied library access even though this prison has one of the best libraries in the state, and we get no contact visits even though most prisoners have no tickets. SRG lumpen organization membership has tripled since 2005; 40% of the prisoners who come here are not really a part of any group but end up leaving a member. Some prisoners will get affiliated on purpose to come to the gang block to become a member. This unit is a hoax and a way for the pigs to get paid more.
When I first went to SRG in 2008 we went outside every day and had regular toothbrushes, visits 7 days a week, and this was at a supermax, Northern Correctional Institution. In September 2008 they moved the SRG block here to Corrigan. We had two uniforms. I only lasted 4 days and was sent back to Northern as a "threat member" (SRGTM Block). Slowly they took TVs, CD players and finally the revoking got so bad, they applied handcuffs on us during phase 1 of the SRGTM program (a lotta komrades including myself have a civil suit over it).
Both programs, SRG and SRGTM, consisted of 3 phases. Now they are combined so there's only one program called SRGMP (Security Risk Group Member Program) merging both programs and now there's 5 phases. Phase one and two are done at Walker Correctional Institution and phase 3,4, and 5 are done here. Due to the merger there are more rules and ways to threaten and make a komrade stay longer. This SRG hoax needs to be destroyed. There is no need for all this extra funding. Or to be punished for one's beliefs. As long as we are not breaking any of this country's man-made capitalist laws.
How are prisoners allowed 3 visits in phase 1 and 2 but only 1 visit in phase 3,4, and 5? We are tired of being experimented on! Would a letter to the governor and Department of Justice change anything? We will see. Connecticut SRG prisoners are not allowed to start petitions, we get tickets for it. All need to march to the capitol's front steps in Hartford, Connecticut and protest the oppression being put on political prisoners in this SRGMP. When we get political it makes it harder for pigs to explain why they're oppressing us or why they need this SRGMP.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have reported on this abusive treatment of prisoners classified in a Security Risk Group in Connecticut in previous articles. This ongoing pattern of abuse will require unity among the many prisoners being oppressed by the Connecticut Department of Corrections. Pushing prisoners into lumpen organizations is common in prisons, and it often keeps different lumpen groups divided and fighting each other rather than focusing their power on the real enemy: the criminal injustice system itself. This is the purpose of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, to build peace among the lumpen and unity for the fight against the injustice system. We call on our comrades in the SRGMP to work with your organizations to join the UFPP and build the anti-imperialist movement.
To: Sheriff David O. Livingston, Under Sheriff Michael V. Casten and All Martinez Detention Facility Command Staff, Deputies and Officials
From: Pretrial Detainees, Inmates, Prisoners and Civil Commitments housed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) in D-Module at Martinez Detention Facility
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE: On Monday 8 July 2013, detainees housed in Ad-Seg will actively be taking part in the hunger strike being implemented statewide by prisoners, inmates, detainees (etc.) confined under unconstitutional conditions in California state prisons and jails.
Martinez Detention Facility (MDF) Ad-Seg detainees support the core and supplemental demands of our partners in Pelican Bay Prison Ad-Seg/SHU programs and we join them in opposition of their, and ALL, unconstitutional conditions of confinement in all California state prisons and jails.
MDF Ad-Seg detainees hereby also provide notice of our own 5 Core Demands to stop unconstitutional conditions of confinement blatantly enforced here at MDF.
CORE DEMAND 1
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice, and unofficial policy of placing detainees in Ad-Seg without any due process. Some detainees have been held in Ad-Seg indefinitely (over 5 years) without any notice, hearing or due process required by Constitutional Law. If a detainee submits a request or grievance on the issue, they receive a response from classification only stating "you are housed appropriately."
CORE DEMAND 2
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of locking detainees in filthy cells with no windows or light controls for 48 hours (or more) before being allowed out of our cell for 1 hour to shower, groom, use phone, exercise and inadequately attempt to clean our cells.
Detainees request that they be allowed out of their cells for at least 1 hour daily in the morning, afternoon or evening and also be allowed to shave daily as state regulations require.
Incorporated within this demand, detainees also seek a provision for a daily opportunity to clean their cells. Currently detainees are only allowed (every 48 hours or longer) a broom, dust pan, and a mop. They are not provided with disinfectant, toilet bowl cleaner, rags, or any other cleaning supplies to adequately clean cells. Detainees must also keep trash (from 6 meals) in their cells for 48 hours or more.
CORE DEMAND 3
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of daily holding medical and mental health appointments at the detainees' cell doors which allows all other detainees to hear the confidential medical/mental health issues. This is in violation of the "Medical Act and Privacy Rights." Detainees also seek the equal protection of a "TRIAGE" phone line as other MDF detainees on other modules are provided.
CORE DEMAND 4
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of improperly housing inmates with mental health issues among the non-mental-health-status Ad-Seg detainees. Currently all Ad-Seg detainees are subject to the behaviors, problems, actions and disorders of the mental health status Ad-Seg inmates which include:
Loud yelling/banging all night, keeping detainees awake.
Getting feces and urine thrown under detainees doors.
Delusional actions/comments against or towards detainees.
Spitting through detainee doors or on glass.
Feces, urine, debris etc. in shower, hot water pot, on floor
Breaking and/or destroying hair clippers/shavers, preventing other detainees from using for court, visits, etc.
CORE DEMAND 5
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of denying all MDF detainees access to pens to submit legal work to the courts, nor copying provisions for our writs and other valid legal documents to the court. Also, there is no readily continuous access to a pencil sharpener which is often broken, preventing detainees from writing legal documents and/or sending letters to family and friends for weeks.
There are many more unconstitutional conditions of confinement here at MDF. Those are 5 of the most egregious which we present as issues. Detainees will be hunger striking to correct, beginning Monday 8 July 2013.
Detainees peacefully and respectfully request that Contra Costa County Sheriff Office engage in swift and prompt actions to correct these unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
- MDF Hunger Strike Representative
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we support the hunger strike going on in Martinez Detention Facility, we would like to warn against creating unnecessary divisions between prisoners. We have reported in the past that mental health status is greatly exacerbated by the conditions of imprisonment generally, and especially of long-term isolation. Often times these prisoners are put in isolation (or even imprisoned in the first place) because of their disruptive behavior stemming from their mental illness, which does nothing to improve their condition.
Not only does imprisonment worsen the condition of those who already suffer from mental illness, but it can, and does, induce mental illness in people who would otherwise not suffer from delusions, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, sensitivity to light, noise, and touch, suicidal thoughts, etc. It is well documented,(1) and MIM(Prisons) has witnessed first hand, that the state uses long-term isolation as a tactic to specifically wreck the mental health of prisoners who are engaged in political work and organizing.
While we understand the impact that this disruptive behavior has on this contributor's ability to sleep and focus, we worry that a demand to send mentally ill prisoners "away" would lead to further isolation and deterioration.
Mental illness isn't caused by inadequacies within individuals, but is instead a symptom of all the irreconcilable contradictions in our society. Mental illness has systemic roots. Therefore, all short-term solutions to help people with mental illness in this country are just bandaids on gaping wounds. Reported in Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China, a book by Victor and Ruth Sidel, all mental health conditions in communist China under Mao were cured except for some extreme cases of schizophrenia, and those who had previously been suffering became productive members of society. Reasons for this turnaround include not only relief from stressors which had previously led people to mental illness — severe gender oppression, inability to survive or thrive, etc. — but also a flood of resources dedicated to mental health research and application which hadn't been possible before when society was organized based on the profit motive.
Around 1971, the Sidels wrote,
The methods currently being used to treat mental illness are collective help, self-reliance, drug therapy, acupuncture, "heart-to-heart talks," follow-up care, community ethos, productive labor, the teachings of Mao Tse-tung, and "revolutionary optimism."
They go on to explain in detail what each of these methods consists of.
Similar to how feudalism in pre-liberation China led many wimmin to suicide, it is clear that most mental illness is a direct result of our capitalist and imperialist society. The most stark example of this being the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by at least 20% of U.$. veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.(2) Hearing any account from a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, you can see that a large contributing factor to the PTSD is the unjust nature of these wars; killing for no reason. In People's War, the cause is just (self-defense) and the aim isn't to murder and intimidate, but to liberate the most oppressed and create a better world for everyone. That is quite a contrast.
We know it is difficult to organize in Ad-Seg, and we know it is especially difficult to organize with people who are in the middle of full-blown mental illness. But we still encourage our comrades to look for ways for prisoners to come together against their common enemy and to fight on behalf of the common good of all prisoners and oppressed people generally. A more progressive demand than number 4 above would be an end to solitary confinement for all prisoners. For more on our perspective on mental health, see Under Lock & Key 15 or MIM Theory 9: Psychology & Imperialism.
On 29 June 2011, two prisoners sought their liberation by taking hostage one of the bosses who worked at the garment industry located at Clallam Bay Corrections Center. The prisoners managed to get a tractor vehicle and ram partly through the fence alongside the gun tower. The gunner at the tower shot the prisoner in the chest. The other prisoner released the hostage and got on the ground.
In the wake of the incident, Clallam Bay Corrections' administration locked the facility down. Every day between 29 June 2011 until 6 July 2011 the prisoners were fed two peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, chips and a kool-aid packet. On July 5, 2011, I asked a leader of the "white boys" if he would ask his brothers to file grievances on the meals. That leader said yes. We wound up with 28 grievances. The Blacks and Browns had joined in filing grievances.
It was decided that if they (Clallam Bay administration) didn't fix the meals and give us vegetables, fruit and at least one hot meal a day, then we prisoners would cover our cell windows in protest. Clallam Bay administration didn't fix the meals, so we covered our windows. Twenty four in all covered their windows. A negotiator asked us individually what did we want and we all individually stated that we wanted a memorial for the slain prisoner who sought his freedom and was murdered on 29 June 2011, fruit and fresh vegetables included in the meals, access to showers, and at least one hot meal. The negotiator said that he could deliver our request and that we better uncover our windows or be OC gassed. We stood our ground and between 6:30pm on July 6 and 3am July 7 twenty four inmates were individually gassed, removed from cells, and returned naked to the same gas filled cell after everything was removed from the cell.
On 7 July 2011 we were given a hot breakfast and our sack meals including fruit and vegetables. I was a part of these events that took place at Clallam Bay Corrections Center Intensive Management Unit (Segregation Unit). Power to the People.
We've had a recent death here due to use of excessive force. We've been dealing with that, getting outside sources to reach out to and filing complaints on the inside. I've had only one response from outside: the Houston Police Department's internal affairs. They've told us that our complaint has been sent to the state Inspector General's office. I was told yesterday that 20 or so men who filed complaints have been given some sort of case for filing. I have to look into that.
Our close comrades have been busy coordinating weightlifting and basketball events. These events allow us to increase our profile and spread our message of unitary conduct. This also encourages others to adopt the principles which make us comrades. So, maintaining that as a sustained front has been a priority. This is how we are able to locate minds who are receptive to USW literature and who are prepared to come into greater degrees of organizing. We're finishing up our basketball season this week. We are signing up rosters for a soccer tournament which will begin next week. And we are beginning to coordinate our 3rd annual unit-wide collective fellowship meal, which has always been a powerful way of advocating for unity across ethnic and racial boundaries.
So, in addition to writing to you and four other outside groups united in our struggle, I need to, today, brief 5 other comrades who want to coordinate functions of their own under our banner. I mentor a young development of 2 others who are new to our collective. And I need to get at least 10 others some recent commentary to keep them in the loop. I absolutely need to delegate more. But even that is a process in itself in this environment.
While all of this is going on, I've had to mediate a situation where a young comrade had a conflict with a white guy. Because the white guy was so much bigger and older, Black families were upset. Because Blacks got involved and the white guy used to be associated, white families are upset. So, you try to keep the peace while pride and ego come into play. The whole time understanding the stakes involved, the potential for escalation, and knowing that the Mexicans are watching Triple C closely right now, judging how I conduct myself in the affair.
I realize always that lives are on the line. I do the work so that these men and their children can gain more power to determine their economic, political, and social condition. So much of that work involves meeting cats where they are at, and working to provide solutions to immediate needs; doing that while communicating one big picture, and while demonstrating methods of achieving evolved conditions of living.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the day-to-day ground work that revolutionaries engage in to build the movement against imperialism. While exercise, in and of itself, may appear unrelated to anti-imperialism, this is something that can be turned into a solidarity activity, especially in prison where even such basic activities are greatly restricted. We have reported on similar organizing in California prisons. This comrade is part of an organization that is in the United Front for Peace in Prisons which is focused on building peace and unity within the prison population. Wherever we can break down divisions between groups and build unity to fight our common oppressor we will contribute to a stronger anti-imperialist movement overall.
1 de Mayo, 2013 — El llamado movimiento obrero en los países imperialistas ha tenido un respaldo social e influencia muy limitados desde hace mucho tiempo debido a las condiciones increíblemente privilegiadas en las que la mayoría de los primermundistas viven. Así, en un intento de parecer relevantes, y tal vez para ocultar su nacionalismo blanco, éstos proclaman su "solidaridad" con las luchas de los trabajadores alrededor del mundo. En el peor de los casos, esta "solidaridad" se utiliza de forma activa para dirigir erróneamente la lucha del proletariado hacia el economismo y el seguimiento del modelo de desarrollo del primer mundo. Pero incluso cuando esa "solidaridad" se queda en palabras, se utiliza para defender el privilegio de las poblaciones explotadoras del primer mundo. En este Primero de Mayo, la entrevista principal del programa Democracy Now! (¡Democracia Ahora!) resumió esta tendencia.(1)
Charlie Kernaghan del Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (Instituto para el Trabajo Global y los Derechos Humanos) fue entrevistado en un segmento sobre la reciente tragedia en Bangladesh y la lucha obrera en general. Kernaghan nos informó que 421 personas han sido confirmadas muertas y otras 1,000 están aún desaparecidas, queriendo decir que probablemente han muerto bajo los escombras de la fábrica que se derrumbó. Explicó que los trabajadores no sólo fueron amenazados con no pagarles el mes, lo que significaría pasar hambre, sino que también se enfrentaban a la amenaza inmediata de matones con garrotes. Como nos enseñó la reciente explosión de fertilizantes en Texas, la búsqueda de los beneficios en el capitalismo pone en riesgo la vida de todos. Aún así, hoy una diferencia cuantitativa entre ser forzado a base de golpes a volver a una situación peligrosa, y el no ser consciente de que esa situación peligrosa existe. El riesgo relativo al que se enfrentan los trabajadores en el tercer mundo es más alto.
Como MIM y otros han mostrado en numerosas ocasiones, hay una diferencia cualitativa entre el salario que ganan los primermundistas y los proletarios explotados; el salario de los primeros está por encima del valor que generan, lo que los convierte en explotadores de los segundos(2). La conversación acerca de la tragedia en Bangladesh degeneró en nacionalismo blanco cuando la entrevistadora Amy Goodman comenzó a preguntarse sobre lo que deberíamos hacer. Después de defender la protección de los salarios Amerikanos, el invitado comenzó a pedir aranceles comerciales para las mercancías provenientes de países como Bangladesh hasta que puedan cumplir con ciertos estándares laborales similares a los de los Estados Unidos. Tal oposición al libre comercio organiza a los explotadores a costa de los explotados.
El tema tabú se hizo más difícil de ignorar cuando el invitado comenzó a hablar de trabajadores ganando 21 centavos a la vez que hablaba de la inmiseración de los trabajadores Amerikanos. Cuando Goodman empezó a danzar alrededor del tema de los salarios el invitado respondió: "Bueno, como dije con la legislación, no es nuestro trabajo el establecer salarios alrededor del mundo. Esto depende de los habitantes de cada país. Lo que si podemos hacer es exigir que si quieres traer productos a los Estados Unidos, debes dar a los trabajadores que los producen derechos legales."
¿Cómo es que podemos obligarles a aplicar leyes sobre trabajo infantil, pero en lo que se refiere a sus salarios el tercer mundo se las tiene que arreglar por su cuenta? ¿Cómo puedes hablar de "solidaridad internacional obrera" sin hablar de un salario mínimo internacional? La idea es ridícula y la única razón por la que esto sucede es porque los líderes obreros Amerikanos saben que el salario medio en el mundo está por debajo de lo que ellos ganan. Quieren seguir ganando más de lo que les corresponde y al mismo tiempo poner aranceles comerciales a los productos fabricados con mano de obra explotada.
Suponemos que las personas del Sur de Asia no confundirán a aquellos que ganan 20,000 dólares al año, o mucho más, como miembros del proletariado. Pero conforme nos acercamos al corazón del imperio la perspectiva de clase proletaria distorsiona más y más. No hay mejor ejemplo de ello hoy en día que el de Aztlán, donde trabajadores inmigrantes observan la enorme riqueza que les rodea y la posibilidad de obtener parte de ella. Después de que las naciones oprimidas tomaron el control del Primero de Mayo en los Estados Unidos hace siete años, el ala izquierda del nacionalismo blanco trabaja horas extra para infundir a este nuevo movimiento proletario en el corazón de la bestia con la linea política de la aristocracia obrera.
Hoy, conforme el gobierno federal declara estar cerca de promulgar una "reforma de inmigración" que equivaldrá a más excepcionalismo y favoritismo Amerikano, nosotros preferimos un enfoque basado en la reunificación de las familias que algunos ya defendieron en este Primero de Mayo en Los Ángeles. Este es un asunto que enlaza perfectamente con la cuestión nacional y no con las peticiones economicistas para un mayor acceso a salarios propios de los explotadores. La reunificación desafía la frontera represiva que mantiene a familias separadas, y mantiene a naciones completas alienadas de las riquezas que producen. Al igual que la integración dentro de los Estados Unidos ha avanzado, el desafio a la frontera y la lucha contra el nacionalismo blanco, o mejor dicho contra el primermundismo, necesita estar en el centro de un movimiento proletario progresivo en Aztlán. Estos son los problemas que realmente movilizaron a las masas en las manifestaciones del Primero de Mayo en 2006 en respuesta a la Amerika pro-Minutemen(3). Este es el espíritu con el que celebramos este Primero de Mayo.
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
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.