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Apr 30, 2018
keywords: three strikes, proposition 57
Stanford University Law School’s Three Strikes Project recently filed a habeas corpus petition in the California Supreme Court, over the unconstitutionality of the implementation of Prop 57. The petition is on behalf of five prisoners serving third strike sentences for nonviolent offenses, who are being denied eligibility for early parole consideration. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Prop 57 regulations deny the intentions of California voters who approved Proposition 57 by a margin of 2 to 1, in November 2016. Californians spoke loud and clear in their desire to lower California’s prison population, by giving more of our imprisoned community members the opportunity to show the California Parole Board that they are no longer a threat to the society they seek to reenter.
Proposition 57 amended Section 32 of the state Constitution to read “any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense.” CDCR regulations eliminate third strikers, despite Section 32. According to Michael Romano, director of the Three Strikes Project, CDCR’s regulations are in direct conflict with the California Constitution.
The petition also argues that the regulations contradict the state high court’s ruling in Brown v. Superior Court (2016) 63 Cal. 4th 335, which attempted to block the measure from the ballot, claiming that it would endanger public safety.
Nevertheless, prosecutors challenging the petition, claiming they are concerned that the initiative’s definition of “nonviolent” does not include crimes such as arson and certain sex offenses. But the regulations ignore the fact that nonviolent third strikers have the lowest recidivism risk. They are older, more mature, and many have long-since made the type of personal transformations that the parole board is looking for. Excluding third strikers in parole consideration is not only counter-intuitive, counter-productive, and counter the wishes of California voters, it is also cruel to those who have done their time, done the work and are ready to return home to their families and communities, where they once again, will have the opportunity to give back, as so many people languishing inside US prisons today, can only dream of.
California Prison Focus will be sure to follow and report on the progress of this petition.●
Feb 14, 2018
keywords: sleep deprivation, PHSS
Posted 2/14/18 at https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com
REPORTBACK from Feb 8th Rally, Press Conference, and Court: Judge Challenges CDCR’s Use of Solitary Confinement and Sleep Deprivation
Two lawsuits against CDCR for depriving prisoners of sleep are transferred to Coleman v Brown judge
On Feb 8, 2018, Northern District Judge Vince Chhabria held a hearing on a motion by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to dismiss a civil rights lawsuits brought by two prisoners, Christopher Lipsey and Maher Suarez, who are suing CDCR for violation of their 8th amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, they have brought their lawsuits to put an end to the sleep deprivation of prisoners caused by “security/welfare checks.” Prison guards conduct these checks in solitary confinement units throughout the state every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Prisoners report that the checks are loud, disruptive, and abusive.
Judge Chhabria was critical of CDCR and began Thursday’s hearing by saying he thought California was getting rid of solitary confinement. He then questioned why the plaintiffs are being held in isolation. Judge Chhabria showed no indication that he would dismiss the cases or that he thought dismissal was appropriate. He also asked CDCR attorneys if it seems to them to be a “very serious problem” for people in solitary, already under extreme psychological stress and some with mental illness, to be woken up every half hour at night.
Because the “security/welfare checks” result from a stipulated order in Coleman v Governor of California - a case in the Eastern District Courts - on Friday, February 9th, Judge Chhabria, as he indicated he would do at Thursday’s hearing, transferred the cases to be heard by Judge Mueller. Judge Mueller oversees the Coleman consent decree, which mandates adequate mental healthcare for prisoners.
This makes three civil rights cases brought by prisoners regarding harm from the “security/welfare checks” that have been transferred to the Eastern District. On Thursday, Judge Chhabria questioned the state’s contradictory positions in those cases; in some motions, the state claims the “checks” cannot be challenged by prisoners because they were decided on in Coleman, and other times the state argues that the cases should not be decided by the Coleman Judge. Attorneys from McKool Smith Hennigan, representing Lipsey and Suarez, wrote “Inmate Plaintiffs are harmed by Defendants’ inconsistency, because it allows Defendants to claim that no judge is ever the right judge to hear these cases.”
Around forty community members and advocates with the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) held a press conference and rally on February 8 in front of the Federal Building in support of the prisoners’ cases. One person suffering from the checks said in a letter to a Coleman official: “I ask you to listen to the voices of us prisoners and call for the immediate cessation of these “welfare/security” checks that don’t check on anything, but which make our lives a living hell.”
Help end the sleep deprivation by joining the prisoners’ call to end the checks.
PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation, P.O. Box 5692, Eureka, CA 95502
Quote from the Opposition to CDCr's Motion to Dismiss, by lawyers for Lipsey and Suarez: "Coleman is now a case driven by lawyers without clients. The Coleman plaintiffs have acceded to—indeed, advocated for—the Guard One system on the grounds that it protects inmates in solitary confinement even as half a dozen of those very inmates have filed lawsuits against it. Lawyers must operate in concert with real people who are affected by the injunctions they seek. ... the Coleman Order [was] agreed to by plaintiffs’ counsel without consulting any inmate who would actually be subject to Guard One...”●
Apr 30, 2018
keywords: prisoner letter, sleep deprivation
Dear CPF Volunteers,
…I have suffered and continue to get tortured by these people who know about this problem, but choose to ignore it, and even go as far to say there is no problem. I want these checks to be seen for what they are: “a human produced torture device”.
I’m sorry I sound angry, but angry I am. I don’t apologize for that. I have a reason to be angry… A judge, a group of attorneys, a special master, a suicide expert, the CDC people (educated people right?) and this ‘guard one’, metal striking metal is what they come up to prevent suicides? It is shameful. A three-year old kid would have understood this problem in a matter of hours. Why do all these people not? Why does the Coleman Team stay on the sidelines watching this continue?
I often ask myself ‘If the court and the Coleman people don’t trust CDC-C/Os to do the checks without getting recorded, why, then, did they trust them with a system that can be abused?’ The C/O has to touch his metal-rod to metal to record the check, “what safeguard is there against a C/O not “striking the metal”? None. And strike the metal is what they do again and again, non-stop, every day. Who in their right mind can say that this will not be bothersome and irritating to hear for a day or two? Who in their right mind can say this won’t become an issue after three months? Or who can say that this isn’t cruel to do to someone for a year? No one who is right in their head. You must be cruel, it would be a false statement to say this isn’t wrong!
Right here in Pelican Bay SHU the blocks are made up of six pods. Every pod has 4 cells on the bottom tier and four on top. It also has metal stairs to connect the tiers. To enter each pod the control officer has to open a big, loud, metal door that slams against metal when it finally opens all the way, and when it shuts down. The pod doors close as soon as the officer goes out of the pod.
This is what I hear every check: the pod doors opening and closing loudly in the four pods before mine. Then I hear this pod door opening mechanically loud and then slamming against metal. The C/O comes in jingling keys every step.
I hear four metal strikes from the C/O on the bottom cell. C/O tries to or runs up the metal stairs. Boots stomping. Four metal strikes. Including on my cell.
C/O runs back down stomping on the stairs.
I hear the pod door slamming shut against a metal bar.
I hear next-door pod door slamming against metal.
The check is done, and it takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete, so that means that the noise starts in fifteen to twenty minutes again.
For CDC to say that this is not a problem is absolutely mind-blowing for me. I’ve been under these checks from 8-2015 to 8-2016 and from 7-2017 to now, here in the SHU.
To tell you how much they have affected me would be impossible for they have affected me in every aspect of my life. I’m not even able to think clearly. I have and live in a lot of anger over this, for how is it possible for CDC to say they are helping me while damaging me? I’m full of frustration because I cannot stop the C/Os from doing this to me, nor can I stop myself from being affected by this. My desperation grows because I know next noisy check is coming no matter what, and then again and again.
I have lived under non-stop stress and anxiety for the time mentioned above in a single cell that has no window.
The checks have messed up my psychology and have disrupted my sleeping habits. In my head, I have come to associate any and all noises related to the checks with pain. When I know they are coming to do checks, I cringe and my body automatically goes into panic mode: heartbeat rises, chest pressure comes, I feel nervous, mad and angry. Every check. In the night, I cannot lay down comfortably because I know checks will come. Before I am asleep. When I am dozing off, I get woken up and sometimes it takes me hours to finally fall asleep.
It is rare when I sleep for more than five hours. Many nights I wake up with my heart thumping fast thinking the checks are coming.. Many nights, I sleep about two to three hours only. This is not good. Lack of sleep gives me headaches, chest pains, muscle pain, and I lose pleasure of life. Everything seems gloomy and sad.
The thing about the checks is this: if I sleep little one night, well that is a bad night. But the day becomes horrible because what kept me up continues during the day. And that’s how it continues on, day after day. We get no time to relax, to think clearly, to keep ourselves healthy. I personally feel tired all the time. It seems, actually, I’m not getting enough sleep to keep my mind alert, nor to concentrate on anything for long.
You know, keeping our mind occupied in the limited activities we can engage in while in isolation is absolutely super important for our mental health. These activities are reading and writing as well as doing self-studying/educating. But how can I do that when I’m dealing with headaches, fatigue, and the constant disturbance of the checks? I simply cannot.
In my bad nights and days, it is horrible getting through it. In my good days, I can only spend that time gathering my thoughts and myself from what is happening here.
I’ve spoken to many C/Os regarding this issue and they agree that the checks should stop. The Pelican Bay administration and CDC while not admitting that the checks area problem, have stated that they are mandated by the court. So, in a way they are saying that they are not at fault here.
I disagree 100%. CDC employs doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and many other personnel that a long time ago could have helped them identify the checks as a harmful problem, yet they feel fine with their continuance. CDC received hundreds of inmate complaints, many letters from outside organizations telling them the ill effects of checks, yet they did nothing. CDC has ‘never’ approached the court to inform them of our concerns. So why are they not responsible for this unlawful action of theirs? To me they are responsible 100%.
I have learned that when a human being hurts another one without reason, he is liable for a criminal prosecution. I believe that the CDC is clearly engaging in a criminal act in this instance, while telling the public that they are doing this for our safety.
… I tell myself, I have got to continue on fighting this issue. I have to push for what is fair and right. And at the same time I have got to be a person who is fair and righteous no matter where I am at. At least I should always try. ●
Mar 18, 2018
keywords: sleep deprivation, prisoner letter
I have been in C.T.F. Ad Seg for a year and a month. Since arriving, I have been subjected to maliciously excessive noise during night time hours (First Watch), a direct result of “Guard One System.” The wand/pipe used to scan barcodes is metal and is hit against a metal wall-mounted reader. The reader is placed on the wall between the open front cells that consist of metal bars covered with mesh which provides no barrier from the noise. This noise is excessively loud, keys bouncing off the c/o’s leg as he/she walks heavily footed, hitting the wand on every reader while intentionally directing their high-powered LED flashlights at our heads and in our faces goes beyond the mere inconvenience. Because of this torture, I get 4 ½, maybe 5 hours sleep every night. I go to sleep at 8-8:30 pm only to be woken at 10:14 pm, then again at 10:45 pm and again at 12:20 am, to finally give up on sleep at 2 am and begin my long day. I am completely deprived of my sleep and am left fatigued all day with little to no motivation, making me angry and anxious. I’ve had an increase in weight, and I don’t even go to canteen. My anger and anxiety have made me become unsociable with everyone around me and I still have about 10 ½ months of this shit. When I confront the c/os, I am met with stupid responses such as, “I’m not your reg,” “It’s metal on metal, what do you expect me to do? I’m just doing my job,” and, “It’s prison, get over it… remember where you’re at.”
This behavior of ignorance and discrimination is a common-place excuse for this ongoing behavior among c/os in CDCR. It is not only unethical, but extremely harmful. I previously was in PBSP SHU for 10 months in 2016 and 8-9 months in Tehachapi; SHU on 4B prior to that. In PBSP, the Guard One system was in place. I experienced the same behavior from the c/os, the pod door slamming open and closed, running up and down the stairs with keys bouncing off the side of the c/os leg, the wand hitting the reader and the damn high-powered LED flashlights being shined as bright as day in my face. When I was released from the SHU, I was angry and not very sociable with anyone. I found that loud noises not only put me on edge, but triggered me, which caused issues with my celly. I was only out of the SHU for 2 months. PBSP SHU angered me. C.T.F. Ad Seg is exhausting mentally and physically with walks going from every 30 to 15 minutes. It is a well-established fact that sleep deprivation is an effective tool of torture. Respectfully Submitted.
Dec 01, 2017
keywords: SHU, Ashker Settlement, RCGP, SNY, SDP, prisoner letter
For those of us who were warehoused and punitively suppressed in these SHU’s for well over a decade based on pseudo prison gang validations, it’s no surprise to be witnessing, and for this writer here, personally experiencing history repeat itself.
To be more exact that reprieve from indeterminate SHU confinement that some were afforded, resulting from the creation of the Active/Inactive gang status reviews in 1999, and the Castillo versus Alameda settlement of 2004, was short lived as most were eventually rounded back up shortly thereafter. Not only was this done in total disregard of newly promulgated regulations, but by also exploiting and abusing the loopholes within said settlement.
Although the Asher agreement brought an end into long-term solitary confinement based on status, there nonetheless are inherent loopholes within it as well, which these gung ho I GIs, statewide, are exploiting. The common thread of which being, the unrestricted use of confidential information spearheading all of these exaggerated conspiracy charges with STG nexus.
The latter being the primary loophole gradually fettering us back into these SHU’s for a period of 3 1/2 to 4 years minimum. This approximate time frame is of course one’s determinate SHU term (which is to be served first), followed by the mandated two-year Step Down Program (SDP) that only the validated community is subjected to, regardless of any concrete evidence of one’s personal involvement in order to substantiate the elements of conspiracy. To date, there are more than a few of us class members who find themselves in this predicament.
And though it has yet to be seen, STG-related write up’s based on vague confidential information, while in the SDP (undeniably leading to step repression), should be expected. Further, should one decide not to participate in another futile round of the SDP because of its childish curriculum (something which has yet to be corrected, as agreed upon in 2015), they will be subjected to RCGP placement until they submit to participation.
The creation of the RCGP via this settlement is in, and of itself, a joke and another flaw CDCR is abusing while essentially stripping those who truly want general population of the right over there personal autonomy, based on bogus confidential information alleging safety concerns.
In spite of the fact that one can be sent there for refusing to participate in the SDP, CDCR’s ultimate goal is to re-integrate SNY’s back into the general population through the RCGP. And so long as this place is allowed to continue functioning as so, nobody is secure or will be precluded from being housed there on some trumped up allegations of having safety issues. Chiefly, causing the very few who do not belong, nor are seeking refuge there, to be propelled into a perpetual cycle of SHU confinement.
Lastly, as long as the systematic violations of the settlement regarding confidential information is not addressed as an everlasting problem and we don’t begin brainstorming the collectives’ ideas concerning the matter, we’re all destined to get entangled in this insidious web once more, and repeating the SDP over, and over, and over again. A program that is not only forced on us because of status, but which is also in itself, a mockery of reforming anything and much less anyone whom don’t suffer from any kind of mental disorder… The cornerstone of the SDP and it’s direct focus and approach, which is a mistake and wrong.
Anthony Arteaga, A48159
PBS P SHU (C7 117)
PO Box 7500
Crescent City CA 95532