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[COVID-19] [ULK Issue 70]
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Another Way to Thin Out the Death Row Population at San Quentin: The Pestilence Pilot Program

So here we are in San Quentin’s death row experiment. The latest twist as we go head first into the COVID-19 pandemic may be described as a new method of execution. Many may not know most prisoners here die from something other than the “official” method of execution or that all sorts of ailments permeate the aging population. But saying the elderly here are now more at risk than before the outbreak would be an understatement.

As this report begins there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases among the death row population at San Quentin. There is however one confirmed case of the virus within the ranks of SQ staff. With visits suspended, the only remaining vector for COVID-19 is CDCR employees. They may bring it in to us without even knowing they’re infected or spreading it. So it’s only a matter of time until it spreads.

Despite knowing they are the only possible vector, SQ custody staff are not wearing N95 masks when “security” reasons require them to be within 6’ of death row prisoners. Instead of halting the spread by taking precautions, the higher ups set up a “window dressing display” that consists of pretending to be complying with Newsom’s shelter-in-place order by implementing a rotating yard schedule for death row. Half of East Block’s death row prisoners go to their 7 different yards one day, then the others (which includes 1 of 2 tiers in Donner Section) go the next day. That may sound like it facilitates “social distancing” but where prisoners are celled and which of those 7 yards each is assigned to, is not balanced in any way. One day we see upwards of 35 prisoners on some yards. The next day some yards have only 3 or 4. Again, don’t forget there are no COVID-19 cases among prisoners while the only vector is conducting those yards release/returns with close proximity to all of us, without N95 masks. That means the rotating yard schedule is in no way conducive to stopping the spread of COVID-19 among death row prisoners (or any of the other staff for that matter).

While nobody in any California prison is not at risk, death row prisoners at SQ are intentionally being put at risk when exposure is avoidable. Oh, by the way, as for those who may reason death row prisoners don’t deserve to be safeguarded from COVID-19, consider the fact that when we start taking up space in hospitals and precious spaces are being used up when this pandemic really takes off, you can thank the disrespectful sows and their lack of urgency regarding this national emergency for that.

[Update, Addendum] On the morning of 29 March 2020, it was announced over the P.A. system that medical quarantine is now in place and there will be no yard program. The reason for the quarantine is not yet confirmed but it only applied to death row. One corrections officer, on 30 March 2020, did supply a simple answer to the question about why there was a medical quarantine – a breakout of influenza not COVID-19.

Shortly after April Fool’s Day the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidelines recommending everyone leaving their homes for essential travel to wear a cloth mask. That decision was made due to evidence that asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 can be contagious 48 hours before exhibiting any symptoms [and many people are contagious and never end up showing symptoms at all - editor]. Unfortunately, instead of following CDC guidelines, the disrespectful sows employed by CDCr assigned to warehousing its death row population continue to snort in protest, refusing to wear a protective mask of any kind. Sicker than that, or at least close second, is the fact custody staff assigned to in-cell food service continue to be in willful noncompliance with California Heath and Safety Code 113969 Hair Restraints (see also 15CCCr 3052 (a)(f)). Consider the fact COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic carriers coughing, sneezing, talking or just breathing; common sense dictates – come on this isn’t brain surgery! These disrespectful sows walk handcuffed prisoners by the arm anywhere they go. So much for social distancing – no mask plus no 6’ social distancing equals: there’s no math involved!

Here’s another part of this Pestilence Pilot Program to be dissected: According to 15CCR 3274 Inmate Count and Movement “At least one daily count shall be standing count wherein inmates shall stand at their cell door, or in a dormitory, shall sit… during the designated count time.” So, if we just ignore 15CCR 3271 which requires “The safe custody of the inmates confined…” Demanding close proximity in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic where CDC and California Health & Safety is being routinely ignored by the CDCr employees; it’s just another day at the office for the disrespectful sow counting inmates in between counting sheep (that is, if they’re not watching TV, playing cards, shooting baskets in the trash can or eating). Even among themselves, no masks, no social distancing, no respect and no common sense! Now here’s the funny part: any prisoner not standing at the cell door to be counter (and exposed) gets a Disobeying A Direct Order Rules Violation Report. Again, let’s not consider 15CCR 3274, oh, and that the cells are only about 10’ x 4.5’. Unless the bars are blocked or the prisoner is under the bunk, one can be seen and accounted for. That old ostrich with the head in the sand trick can’t be done!

And with that, the higher ups’ newest window dressing display features distribution of a 27 March 2020 memo telling inmates “all individuals [who] enter a facility… showing any symptoms of respiratory illness are not permitted to enter” and “[w]e are doing all we can to keep everybody safe” and they “will continue to follow CDC guidelines for responding to COVID 19.” (But not really.)

On 7 April 2020 the rotating yard schedule started up again. The only change is which side of East Block goes with the 1st tier of Donner. It’s a “same shit different day” scenario. There continues to be disproportionate numbers of prisoners on the group yards, which is not conducive to facilitating social distancing. When it was suggested that group yards be ran in a manner similar to SMY (Small Management Yard or walk alone “W/A”) it is met with mock confusion and resistance. There are around 100 prisoners assigned to W/A but there are only 31 cages (SMYs). So, to give all assigned to W/A a chance to go out, a list is made each morning by an assigned officer going cell to cell until the number of prisoners wishing to go meets the number of available cages. The next day the assigned officer begins the list where it became full the previous day. There is no reason the group yards should not be ran in similar fashion during the COVID-19 National Emergency. As employees should be wearing masks as recommended by CDC guidelines and the (A) Warden Broomfield 27 March 2020 memo claiming SQ employees must “Follow [CDC] guidelines for responding to COVID 19” shouldn’t allow common sense to be swept under the rug. Getting into compliance with CDC guidelines and limiting the number of prisoners allowed on each of the 7 group yard to 30 makes sense under current conditions. Unfortunately, making sense proves to not be high on the SQ administration’s list of priorities.

On 9 April 2020 the Director of the Center for Disease Control again announced that all employees (working in essential business) should be wearing cloth masks at all times. The CDCR22 [grievance form] sent to "AS of Specialized Housing (Death Row) remains non-responsive and CDC guidelines regarding masks continue to be ignored just as all other CDCR22’s on this and related topics have been since at least 29 March 2020. At this point in time the visiting restriction rules out the possibility any future infection to death row prisoners came from any source other than a CDCR employee not in compliance with CDC guidelines. Security cameras would reveal a few medical and custody staff do wear masks. It would also reveal most do not. Could this be an example of too little too late? It’s definitely an example of CDCR staff endangering themselves and others in their custody. Death Row prisoners at San Quentin cannot spread COVID-19 among themselves until CDCR employees spread it to them first.

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[Control Units] [Abuse] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California] [ULK Issue 49]
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The 2 Strikes Law: How it is being used as a revolving door into the abyss of indeterminate SHU terms

No doubt even throughout the global community many have heard of the infamous "3 Strikes Law." In California if someone gets 3 felony convictions they face a sentence of LIFE in prison. The law has created quite a bit of controversy and there's been a few token reforms to it that mean about as much as calling San Quentin (SQ) a "Correctional Center" instead of a prison.

SQ's Adjustment Center (AC) is also in the midst of controversy and in the process of implementing reactionary token reforms in much the same way. They also implemented what could be called "The 2 Strikes Law." The SQ oligarchy calls their oppressive tool of retaliation Operational Procedure (OP) 608 Section 825 A.4. Here's how it gets implemented:

On 25 December 2015 while en route to group yard Sergeant Rodrigues waved a piece of paper in a prisoner's face, after asking him if he remembered refusing to show his asshole to officer C. Burrise the other day. Rodrigues tells the prisoner he is going to the AC for receiving two serious Rules Violations Reports (RVRs) within 180 days of each other. A death row prisoner receives an indeterminate SHU term for that.

The two RVRs involve the prisoner's refusal to submit to unclothed body search procedures either prohibited by OP 608 Section 765(2) (local prison rules) and state law, or not applicable to East Block (EB) prisoners. In fact, before either of these RVRs were fabricated the prisoner had filed several staff complaints citing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and alleged "sexual harassment under the guise of security." The prisoner also wrote an informal letter to Specialized Housing Division Facility Captain J. Arnold asking him to abolish his "Perversion Enforcement Team Training Project" (PETT Project). That got the prisoner a punitive cell search response resulting in the confiscation of a loaner TV and theft of art supplies valued at $48. So now you know the motive. But let's see what else this means for ALL death row prisoners thinking Seigle & Yee are to the rescue.

Seigel & Yee are the attorneys currently representing the "AC class" regarding the long-term/indeterminate SHU program conditions experienced by death row prisoners in the AC. One prisoner who corresponded with Seigle & Yee attorney Emily Rose Johns in early 2014 from his recently acquired EB (SHUII) cell reports advising her a wave of prisoners formerly doing indeterminate SHU terms in the AC was flowing into EB and being assigned to the "Sun Deprivation Program."(1) This prisoner came over to EB just ahead of that wave. Johns's response to our dilemma was, "We intentionally kept the scope of the case narrow for many reasons, including out of respect for the experience prisoners in the AC had with the Thompson case."

So now it's about time that someone points out that experience prisoners in the AC had with the Thompson case, including not rescinding the 2 Strikes Law, and that OP 608 Sec. 825 A.4. is still being used as a revolving door into the abyss of indeterminate SHU terms. How leaving that door wide open could be hailed as a reform or "respect for the experience of prisoners in the AC had with the [SQ/Seigel & Yee] case" remains to be seen by a lot of prisoners literally LEFT IN THE DARK for years.

This unfolding experience brings to mind an article from a recent issue of Under Lock & Key.(2) It sets the record straight, explaining in detail the "reforms" hailed in the media regarding indeterminate SHU terms with respect to prisoners subject to the cruel and unusual conditions in the Pelican Bay gulag. Just as the so-called reform left the doors wide open to every other SHU in California's gulag system, merely limiting the time spent doing an indeterminate term at Pelican Bay to 2 years. It's nothing, NOTHING different than SQ's 2 Strikes Law being intentionally contested. Torture cannot be reformed. So the practice of long-term isolation must be ABOLISHED. The construction of more SHUs at SQ must stop because it is torture.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [Control Units] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California]
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Back in the SHU II D.R.

Fuck Social Control


Grade A to the East Block from S.W.A.C.
Struggling with all my might
No official record of a 10 30
Nobody has flown a kite

I'm back in the SHU II D.R.
I'm talkin bout CDCR noise
Back in the SHU II D.R.

Been away so long they hardly knew my face
No parade or welcome home
Bought a good guitar could not afford clear-case
T.V. coming on state loan

[Chorus 2:]
I'm back in the SHU II D.R.
No sun on the out alone yard, boyz
Not in the SHU II
I'm in the SHU too
Back in the SHU II D.R.

[Verse 3]
Now the Ukraine psych doctor Anderchuck
She brings me peace of mind
No psycho pills make me scream and shout
But Jasmine's always on my mi mi mi mi mi mi mind [so it's on!]

[Solo/riff, repeat chorus 2 (lines 1, 2, 5) verse 3]

Yo California shut the SHU down north and south
U$A from east to west
You just gave them property that I'm allowed
No guitar but all the rest

Just like in the SHU II D.R.
Can't settle for C.D.C.R. ploys
Back in the SHU II D.R.



Go to:
http://www.guitaretab.com/b/beatles/24462.html for the chords. If you haven't figured this out yet, "Back in the SHU II D.R." is a parody of the Beatles hit song "Back in the U.S.S.R.". Isn't Paul in town? Send him a copy.

Notes:
"Grade A" is a privilege status. "S.Q.A.C." is San Quentin Adjustment Center. The out alone yard mentioned in chorus 2 consists of dozens of cages under a huge metal canopy which blocks all sun except what pierces through rust holes in it. Jasmine is the brand name of my guitar. California's SHUs are getting more like the Security Housing Unit II for death row ? the SHU II D.R. known as East Block. And in many ways it's all the same... only the names have changed... and every day I feel I'm wasting away... Alright now.

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[Death Penalty] [California State Prison, San Quentin] [California] [ULK Issue 38]
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New Twist on Death Row SHU

Three former California governors recently backed a petition for a ballot initiative which would dramatically accelerate the execution of death row prisoners. At the same time we have experienced a more extreme than usual delay in the processing of death row SHUII and III mail. As I will explain, there is an important connection between these events.

The main selling point for the proposed bill is saving loads of money by arranging faster executions of the 747 prisoners currently warehoused on San Quentin's four death row SHUs and the women all but forgotten in Cowchilla. In addition, death row prisoners would no longer be confined exclusively in the San Quentin and Chowchilla torture units. They would be placed among the general population.

It is noteworthy that the Calincarceration Corrupted Peace Officers Association (California Correctional Peace Officers Association - CCPOA) didn't give financial support for this bill. Many assume the lackeys, bullies and cowards who comprise that security threat group probably thought it wasn't in their best interest to all of a sudden meet face to face with the un-cuffed death row prisoners they've been torturing their whole career. But the fact of the matter is the higher ups in the CCPOA actually had enough sense to realize no amount of their support could buy enough votes to pass such political double talk into law in this state.

Acting proactively in case the bill passes, the CCPOA at San Quentin decided to mobilize in preparation. By citing wild interpretations of prisoner correspondence to give the public an illusion that the bowels of hell were opened upon them, the prison tried to transfer a large number of formerly grade A and B SHUII and III prisoners to other SHU programs across the state.

They almost had a window of opportunity to "justify" building more control units within existing prisons. But as of today the death row SHU expansion project in San Quentin's Carson section is stalled.

"Persons other than inmates should address any appeal relating to department policy and regulations to the Director of the Division of Adult Institutions. Appeals relating to a specific facility [like San Quentin or Chowchilla] procedure or practice [like excessive delays in the processing of mail to and from loved ones and prisoners' rights organizations] should be addressed in writing to the warden..." - California Code of Regulations, Title 15, 3137. Appeals Relating to Mail.

For more info go to: www.cdcr.ca.gov/regulations/adult_operations
See also page 12 of ULK for info on the grievance campaign.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is correct that the CCPOA has been entirely silent on this new ballot initiative to accelerate death row executions. But we don't agree with h interpretation that the CCPOA is just standing down because they don't think it has a chance of passing. Rather we see this position as lining up consistently with the CCPOA's primary goal: protect the jobs of the many prison workers. Faster executions would reduce the San Quentin prison population, and that would threaten jobs there, so it should not be surprising that the CCPOA is silent on this new ballot initiative. This is a rare case where their interests align with ours, and we can take advantage of the situation to stop passage of this reactionary bill.

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