March 27, 2012 Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement
The PBSP-SHU short corridor prisoner representatives have read, carefully considered, and hereby oppose the CDCR’s March 1, 2012, the Security Threat Group Prevention, Identification and Management Strategy proposal (hereinafter proposal), based on the following reasons. Additionally, we do hereby present our counter proposal (attached hereto).
One, Summary of issues
Beginning in May of 2-11, the PBSP-SHU short corridor prisoners collective presented CDCR with a ‘Formal Notice’ of intent to go on a peaceful protest hunger strike beginning July 1, 2011, in order to expose for force policy changes regarding our subjection to 25 years of torturous human rights abuse in California SHU and Ad Seg. units. The Formal Notice included a list of “five core demands” and a “Formal Complaint” summarizing the facts and circumstances leading up, and supporting the basis for putting our lives on the line to stop the torture of our families and us.
During negotiations conducted in late July, August, and October of 2011 top CDCD administrators several times admitted, to PBSP-SHU representatives and to our mediation team, that the five core demands made by prisoners were reasonable. The CDCR made repeated assurances that the Five Core Demands would be addressed via meaningful substantive changes, responsive to the specific demands as soon as possible. The five core demands are summarized here for the purpose of clarity.
1. Eliminate group punishments. Instead, practice individual accountability. When an individual prisoner breaks a rule, the prison often punishes a whole group of prisoners of the same race. This policy has been applied to keep prisoners in the SHU indefinitely and to make conditions increasingly harsh.
2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Prisoners are accused of being active or inactive participants of prison gangs using false or highly dubious evidence, and are then sent to long-term isolation (SHU). They can escape these tortuous conditions only if they “debrief,” that is, provide information on gang activity. Debriefing produces false information (wrongly landing other prisoners in SHU, in an endless cycle) and can endanger the lives of debriefing prisoners and their families.
3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement. This bipartisan commission specifically recommended to “make segregation a last resort” and “end conditions of isolation.” Yet as of May 18, 2011, California kept 3,259 prisoners in SHUs and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation waiting for a SHU cell to open up. Some prisoners have been kept in isolation for more than thirty years.
4. Provide adequate and nutritious food. Prisoners report unsanitary conditions and small quantities of food that do not conform to prison regulations. There is no accountability or independent quality control of meals.
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. The hunger strikers are pressing for opportunities “to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities…” Currently these opportunities are routinely denied, even if the prisoners want to pay for correspondence courses themselves. Examples of privileges the prisoners want are: one phone call per week, and permission to have sweat-suits and watch caps.
With respect to core demands #1,2,3,and 5, Policy and Practice of basis for indefinite SHU isolation averages(s) available for gaining one’s release therefrom, and the progressively punitive nature of SHU/Ad Seg conditions, it’s important to remember, many SHU prisoners have been held indefinitely, and subject to sensory deprivation, and every other abuse imaginable, that occurs in such hidden hell holes, for between ten to forty years and counting, solely bases on what CDCR-OCS refers to as their “intelligence system” i.e., debriefer allegations and innocent associational activity without ever actually being charged and found guilty of committing a criminal gang-related act.
Thus, the parties understood CDCR’s intelligence system for indefinite SHU placement was one of the major issues of concern to the class of SHU prisoners and their families, subjected to such long term isolation and abuse, without being charged and found guilty of committing a criminal act by credible evidence, and after the due process such formal charges would require. The parties all understood that major, meaning, and fundamental, change away from the above referenced “intelligence” based system … to a “behavioral” based system. A system defined as one in which a prisoner who engaged in “criminal gang activity” that is supported by “credible evidence” will be subject to sanctions (Per CDCR, Title 15, §§ 3312-3315, et seq., i.e., rule violation reports, referral for prosecution, determinate SHU term, and corresponding loss of privileges—after receiving due process and being found guilty of the criminal act alleged). On March 9, 2012, CDCR issued a press statement and presented their proposed gang management policy changes (the Proposal) in response to our peaceful protest activity and related five de3mands and negotiation process referenced above.
Two. CDCR’s Proposal Is Not Acceptable
The PBSP-SHU short corridor prisoner reps have read and carefully considered CDCR’s March 2112 proposal and we hereby summarize our opposition to the proposal. This rejections is based upon the CDCR’s failure to act in good faith, as demonstrated by the mockery made of our agreements (referenced in above section I), including Secretary Cate’s delegation of the policy change process to the Office of Correctional Safety (OCS), who resorted to the same twenty-five years plus fear tactics of California prison gangs being the “worst of the worst” in order to propagate, manipulate, and promote their own underlying agenda, which is to increase the power, staffing, and money of the OCS office within CDCR. (See, e.g., Proposal, P.5, at last paragraph; “the continuing evolution of our existing intelligence network…”). It should be noted that the OCS is the gang intelligence/goon squad in charge of SSU/IGI units within CDCR. This propagandist-manipulative abuse of state power—includes the ongoing use of long-term sensory deprivation, designed to coerce prisoners to become state informants, while also making a ton of money from such SHU/AD Seg torture units.
The Proposal seeks to manipulate the law makers and the tax payers into allowing CDCR-OCS to significantly expand on the use of these SHU/Ad Seg units, via the creation of new criteria and classes of what they term Security Threat Groups (STG) involved in “criminal gang behavior” (See Proposal in general).
The CDCR-OCS is asking the law makers and tax payers to allow them to continue to violate thousands of prisoners human rights, including the use of torture with impunity bases on false propaganda scare tactics exemplified below.
The Proposal (and related CDCR press statement) begins with propaganda claiming California prison gangs are “the most sophisticated and violent in the nation—connected to major criminal activity in the community, and having influence on nearly every prison system within the United States” (Proposal pgs. 2,3,5 and Press Statement of March 9, 2012). They also claim their current torture practices, those utilized for over 25 years, “have been successful in reducing the impact of sophisticated gang members have in CDCR facilities” … “by removing them from the general prison population” (Proposal, p.2 at paragraph 2, 3). These are the same manipulative tactics used by OCS for twenty-five years. They’ve gotten away with it at a cost of hundreds of millions of tax payers’ dollars, and with the destruction/severe physical-psychological damage long term subjection to torture units has caused thousands of prisoners and their loved ones outside prison. And all of this in the face of the facts and evidence to prove CDCR-OCS propaganda-manipulative statements are false. In spite of being subject to 25 to 40 years of extreme security surveillance by alleged gang expert special agents the majority of the prisoners classified a prison gang members have never been charged or found guilty of any criminal gang related acts! Moreover, a statistical study of the CDCR’s practice during the twenty-five year period prior to imposition of the current policy of placing all prison gang affiliates in SHU and comparing this data with the current 25 year SHU policy will prove that CDCR general population prisoners have been significantly more violent and out of control since the current policy has been in place.
CDCR-OCS are directly at fault for this 25-years of madness that continues to take place in this state’s general population facilities, including staff manipulating prisoners against each other to further the staff’s agenda (a lot of riots or other violence is useful in supporting demands for extra hazard pay, overtime, etc.).
CDCR-OCS’s gang management policy of the last 25 years is a one hundred percent failure, and their march 2012 proposed changes are not acceptable because they seek to increase the use of torture units and do not change the many of dealing with those classified as prison gang members at all, which is a blatant violation of the parties agreement(s) during the negotiation process last year. This is shown by reference to the following examples:
- The Proposal wants to change the classification of “prison gang member” into “security threat group I” member (STG-1 member), while continuing the current policy and practice of keeping these alleged gang members in SHU indefinitely, using the same alleged “evidence” that’s been used for the past 25 years. The Proposal specifies that “… STG I members will remain in SHU indefinitely, until they successfully complete the debriefing process … or the ‘step-down program’ consisting of a minimum of four years to complete all four steps.” Notably, it states, “…STG-I members will remain in SHU and will not be able to gain release to the general prison population via step down program based on IGI’s confirmation of participation in criminal gang behavior.” Confirmation requires “either (1) a guilty finding in a serious rule violation report and/or (2) any document that clearly describes the gang behavior and is referred to the institution I.G.I. for confirmation.” Number 2 is in reference to “documentation” consisting of statements from confidential inmate informants/debriefers, staff’s alleged observations, and other forms of innocent associational type behavior (See Proposal, at page 7, 17-25,3). This is the exact same process CDCR-OCS has used and abused for 25 years. This changes nothing for the prisoners classified as prison gang members, which is a majority of those in PBSP short corridor, most of whom have been in SHU for between 10 and 40 years already—without ever being formally charged and found guilty of a criminal gang act.
- The Proposal fails to make meaningful, substantive changes responsive to core demands 1, 2, and 3, (and does so unsatisfactorily re: Core Demand #5, e.gl. mockery of our request for weekly phone calls, no contact visits for step 3 and four, etc., etc.). We see no point in having four steps—each requiring a minimum of one year to complete. And the vague wording regarding the rest of the Proposal leaves much room for abuse and manipulation—which CDCR-OCS staff have a long history of doing. All of which makes CDCR-OCS proposal unacceptable.
Three, PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Prisoner Representatives
Based on CDCR’s lack of good faith in the process of changing their illegal policies and practices regarding the use and abuse of long-term isolation/torture, and for the reasons briefly summarized above, together with our belief that the CDCR-OCS proposal is so blatantly out-of-step with what was agreed during negotiations between July through October of 2011, as to con statute an intentional stall tactic designed to prolong our subjection to those torturous conditions.
Therefore, we hereby respectfully present our attached counter proposal—to be implemented without further delay.
Respectfully Submitted by:
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa – Dewberry C-35671
Arturo Castellanos – C-17275
Todd Ashker – C-58191
Antonio Guillen – P-81948
 This version of the Five Core Demands was taken from http://www.change.org/petitions/support-pelican-bay-shu-prisoners-five-core-demands-hunger-strike