Hungry for reform - Page 3

California prisoners prepare for another hunger strike to protest persistently deplorable conditions

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Sitawa Jamaa is a prisoner at Pelican Bay who helped organize the hunger strikes.

Prisoners and activists believe the policy was instituted as preemptive attack on the upcoming hunger strike. "We are concerned that, under the pretext of 'welfare' checks, prisoners are being harassed, targeted, and deprived of sleep as the date of planned hunger strikes and work stoppages approaches," said Isaac Ontiveros of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity group. "Whatever the case, new CDCR Secretary Jeffery Beard has an opportunity to avoid the strike and begin to undo the indescribable harm that the California prison system has caused."

 

 

DANGEROUS ASSOCIATIONS

Problems associated with solitary confinement are closely connected to CDCR's most commonly used tool for sending prisoners like Jamaa into the SHU: the controversial "gang validation" process.

Once an inmate is listed in prison records as a gang member, he or she loses multiple rights on the assumption that they're a threat to the order of the prison. With no disciplinary write-ups since 1995, Jamaa would have been eligible for parole in 2004, except for the gang validation that led to his indefinite SHU sentence.

Getting pegged as a member of a gang can happen easily. Guards can write prisoners up for anything from the possession of artwork deemed to be gang-related, to information obtained from confidential informants whose claims prisoners often aren't allowed to refute and whose identities remain unknown to the targeted prisoners.

Last year, in the wake of hunger strikes, CDCR announced a "complex retooling" of the gang validation practices. The so-called Step Down process, created in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, is meant to transition inmates out of gangs over the course of four years, with privileges gained over that time.

It might be the most significant of the reforms that followed the last hunger strike, but prisoners and their advocates criticize it as too lengthy of a process, subject to the arbitrary whims of the correctional officers overseeing a given prisoner. In fact, they say it may widen the definition of who counts as a gang member.

Manuel Sanchez, who is participating in the Step Down program at Corcoran State Prison, wrote in a letter that he is "seriously considering returning to SHU, where I'd be less harassed and I'd get more yard access more consistently."

Compounding the problems in the prisons is a lack of transparency and public accountability.

"It's like mentioning July 8 is anathema," says San Francisco Bay View Editor Mary Ratcliff, whose African American-focused newspaper has been a CDCR censorship target.

From January to April of this year, Ratcliff said papers were being returned from Pelican Bay undelivered because they included articles about the hunger strikes, representing "material inciting participation in a mass disturbance," and "a serious threat to the safety and security" of the prison, according to CDCR Administrator R.K. Swift.

"I think it's remarkable that hunger strikes are considered a 'disturbance,'" says Ratcliff. "A disturbance is supposed to mean a fight—something that threatens people. A hunger strike is a threat to no one except the people who are participating in it."

Just as inmates can't get news from the outside, they are also walled off from journalists who might cover them and the conditions they live in.

Since 1996, the CDCR has limited reporters to only interviewing prisoners they've selected. Last September, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have opened up media access to the prisons. "Giving criminals celebrity status through repeated appearances on television will glorify their crimes and hurt victims and their families," he wrote, citing the media spectacle around Charles Manson.

Comments

Hello,

Thank you so much for printing this article. My prayer is that none of what is taking place in the prisoners will be done in vain. And that Gov. Jerry Brown, the CDCR Officials, and the staff of PBSP would truly look inside themselves, tap into that heart of flesh that GOD gave them, and make the needed changes toward humanity for these prisoners.

Thank you,
Marie Levin

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

Great article that really exposes what is going on in California SHU's. Prolonged solitary confinement must be abolished! Thank you to Toshio for writing and the Guardian for printing.

Diana Block, California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Posted by Great article! on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

Please include details concerning the crimes these Pelican Bay inmates committed to get them where they are. I would like to hear from the victims and their families prior to getting teary-eyed over these murderers - because that is who is housed at Pelican Bay.

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

You are very closed minded I would bet you a million many that are in pelican bay are not murdered..and many do not belong in there..please go look up info of inmates before you make ignorant comments..god bless you my little stupid child

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

Richmondman...If I may ask you one question? Do you believe in justice? Because if you do then you would acknowledge the fact that these men "murderers" as you call them, are being held behind these walls in solitary confinement for an indeterminate time without due process of the law. I have a brother in the SHU and he has never murdered anyone but he's still back there. I feel sorry for families who have lost anyone to violent crimes but I believe we must never lose our compassion or understanding for vengeance. I would like to share a verse from the bible with you

Isaiah 61:1 ESV / 42 helpful votes

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Posted by Gilbert Pacheco on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

Well said ...I also have a brother..and people are so close minded or disable and make comments without knowledge...if you know of any upcoming events protest let me know I like to attend..this needs to end the abuse and torture..its awfull ...lfabua@yahoo.com

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 6:25 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 04, 2013 @ 7:49 am

locked up alone for some extended time have done something while in jail to get that treatment.

I don't know if Jesus was part of the governing body that decided the fate of our states thugs.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

I had the need to apologize for RICHMONDMAN'S comment he is ignorant speaks without knowing that many inmates in SHU are not murderers nor rapest..or child molester...many are wrongfully convicted and many again wrongly thrown in the SHU.. Please Richmond read ..hear inmates story ..the charges in witch inmate is in prison I can give you few that should not belong in the SHU... Mr.Pachecco please let me know of any events or protest I am a supporter against this abuse and torture..

Miracles1g@yahoo.com

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

"The majority of inmates housed within the SHU are validated prison gang members/associates. A validated prison gang member/associate will spend an average of six years in the SHU. However, inmates are afforded the opportunity to "debrief" and give a written account of their gang participation. If they are proven to be truthful and forthcoming they will be transferred to a different prison and allowed to "do their time" in protective custody. However, most inmates choose not to participate in the debrief process."

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 09, 2013 @ 10:23 am

The majority of inmates housed within the SHU are validated prison gang members/associates. A validated prison gang member/associate will spend an average of six years in the SHU. However, inmates are afforded the opportunity to "debrief" and give a written account of their gang participation. If they are proven to be truthful and forthcoming they will be transferred to a different prison and allowed to "do their time" in protective custody. However, most inmates choose not to participate in the debrief process.

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 09, 2013 @ 10:24 am

we lead the nation in incarceration and like Gitmon many of the men and women held in incarceration and solitary incarceration are wrongfully held, over charged, charged because of nationality, color, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, an over zealous prosecutor or prison official . . . . Solitary confinement is torture and we should be way better than this . . . let's try to be who we can be, instead of vengeful and vindictive. We don't have to become like the worst we can be, we can be the leaders of the world in human rights . . .now that would be something to be proud of . . support these prisoners struggle to be treated as human beings no matter what they are accused of for crimes.

Posted by babysoft on Jul. 04, 2013 @ 7:58 am

we lead the nation in incarceration and like Gitmo many of the men and women held in incarceration and solitary incarceration are wrongfully held, over charged, charged because of nationality, color, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, an over zealous prosecutor or prison official . . . . Solitary confinement is torture and we should be way better than this . . . let's try to be who we can be, instead of vengeful and vindictive. We don't have to become like the worst we can be, we can be the leaders of the world in human rights . . .now that would be something to be proud of . . support these prisoners struggle to be treated as human beings no matter what they are accused of for crimes.

Posted by babysoft on Jul. 04, 2013 @ 8:00 am

felons who we are spending a fortune on incarcerating might actually cost us a lot less by dying of starvation?

Hmmm.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 04, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Jason Grant Garza to Toshio ... I would like thank you for the above article and bring forward some VERY IMPORTANT issues. I too have had MEDICAL CARE, POLICE SERVICES, ADA SERVICES not be. What do I mean ...

A good start would be to show you an article and what the city did before ... http://www.sfbg.com/2007/06/27/crazy and then show you a signed confession where the city broke the MEDICAL law, left me for dead and now the process has started all over again ... http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html and for more background read http://myownprivateguantanamo.com . ( Documented MEDICAL LAWBREAKING - in case you don't believe it is TRUE)

Now go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo to see the CRIMINAL FRAUD or the sheriff's "CUP OF POISON" on 11/27/12 (see all six videos) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xax7ksytpu4 and then go to DPH http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFd-KtS8Zss or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa7kfWNt4aQ or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCuMwXVxADk (where I was BRUTALLY ASSAULTED by the sheriff's deputy.) Then you can watch other videos for the FAILURES of SFPD, OCC, MOD, Sheriff and Chief of Police and Police Commission.

So as to further illustrate my point ... NO ENFORCEMENT of MEDICAL LAW even in PRISON and what the agencies responsible (for the malpractice - both legal and medical) are trying to SPIN as far as a fix and HOW LONG NOW? Then, look at what I am subjected to ... if you look at the above videos on youtube ... neither the POLICE nor SHERIFF ENFORCE medical law violations ... so here is ANOTHER CORRUPT METHODOLOGY and please note all the access and accommodation to escalate to the highest level in order to CORRECT. None from the SF Police Department, NONE from the Sheriff's Office, NONE from the Office of Citizen's Complaints, NONE from the Human Rights Commission, NONE from the Mayor's Office on Disabilities, NONE from the Police Commission. So where is the HUMANITY ???? I can show you WHAT as the PRISONERS can ... what HAPPENS with NO MEDICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ...

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Jul. 04, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

I spent 10 years in California prisons on drug charges and 4 years in Solitary Confinement where I started writing novels about the drug war and prisons. I am now a best seller with over 10 books on the subject and over 400 reviews on Amazon. Underdog is about the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike and Solitary Confinement found in my catalog here~ That particular book got the interest of a Criminal Justice Professor at U.C. Irvine and I got to speak to 100 students as a guest Lecturer and be on the radio. Here's a front page story in the O.C. Register about it~
Other interviews and reviews on my site here

God bless you,

Glenn Langohr

Posted by Glenn Langohr on Jul. 15, 2013 @ 8:46 am

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