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Jun 23, 2017

An essay on the criminal industrial complex

Curtis Sanders

keywords: Criminal Industrial Complex

Prison Focus Issue 52
Summer 2017

At the end of World War II the great American hero four star General Douglas MacArthur spoke out warning the public to be aware of this new “military industrial complex” in the years to come. For he had foreseen how greedy and insidious this new industry had become. With huge profits made providing the equipment, material and machinery for America’s war machine, he knew that this new power would not sit idle in times of peace, but would instead use all of their power and resources to influence new military conflicts. Today we can look back in history, and at America’s current foreign policy we see how prophetic his dire warnings turned out to be.

What has fallowed since World War II has been decades of continual conflict. Yes, all dressed up and justified in the name of democracy or to end tyranny. But war none the less, no matter how you dress it up. We have been involved in continuous conflict since that time: Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, the Iraq war, Libya, Syria, and many other conflicts. These conflicts are presented in politically correct terms to justify our actions, not to our enemies, but to ourselves. But sadly we are continually lied to about the real reasoning. And even more sadly, and criminally negligent, is that American soldiers - our own heart and blood - are continually placed in harms way, fighting in unwinnable wars.

Rules of engagement and war policy are engineered with the intent not to win a war, but to maintain the status quo on the battlefield in order to insure continual conflict. Gone are the wars of occupation and imperialism. We no longer take a country nor its natural resources as our own. Contrary to what people believe, we never went to war for oil, we haven’t seen any country’s oil reserves. Wars of conquest are no longer in the interest of the powers to be, that top 1% who profited from the proceeds of supplying our war machine and other profit based monopolies; those with the power to influence America’s foreign-policy. Instead we now wage wars of destabilization. Look at Iraq, Libya, Syria. Look at the efforts to influence Egypt and other Middle East countries.

We are simply destabilizing the area to ensure decades of conflict to come. Not in the name of democracy, or because of fictitious weapons of mass destruction, but in the name of profit, at a huge cost, not only physically on the tax payers, but in the lives of America’s youth, our sons, brothers and fathers. (editor’s note: and daughters, sisters and mothers.)

And now there is a new threat, not only to America’s youth, but to the future of our country and the very fabric of our society. A new government program designed to create a new lucrative industry for those who supply its goods and meet its needs. One that looks to profit not only from the blood and lives of our sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, but to profit from the very devastating misery and anguish of human enslavement itself. Sadly, we have no Douglas MacArthur, no great American hero to warn us and give dire warnings. Nor does society today even see this threat. Nor are they aware of this insidious and cancerous new profiteering monopoly that has arisen in our American society. This is the “Law Enforcement and Prison Industrial Complex”, profiting off of the enslavement and imprisonment of our very own sons and daughters.

Let me ask you, what is the longest war in America’s history? And most would be oblivious to know that it’s America’s so-called War on Drugs, which has now been ongoing for over 40 years and counting. These are non-violent human beings who suffer from drug addiction. Not killers and not high-level drug traffickers. Some, like myself, serving decades. People with substance abuse problems are sentenced under the so-called “King-Pin Laws” which are intended for international large scale drug traffickers. Thanks to overzealous prosecution and abuse of power, these laws are instead used to imprison everyone who is prosecuted for drugs federally. And what does this do? It’s filling our prisons with a victimized class of people who are then imprisoned and enslaved for decades; warehousing our youth.

This is not a war of decisive actions, but one designed for continual “conflict” or more aptly as a continual campaign in which America will continue to throw away tax payer dollars. This campaign was designed not to end or eradicate the drug problem but rather to fuel incarceration. Federal money is poured into law enforcement, correctional complexes in private companies. Not only does this war on drugs profit those who service their vast enterprises of policing, prosecuting, and warehousing humanity, but it also builds an elected official voter base. This voter base is not limited to those in law enforcement and corrections, or their descendants. A new “tough on crime” voter base is always, constantly expanding and influenced by misinformation campaigns and fear mongering.

We’ve all heard the statistics. The US has only 5% of the world’s entire population, but has 25% of all the worlds entire incarcerated persons. We have incarcerated more people in our prisons than China, Mexico, North Korea, Russia and all eastern bloc countries combined. How is that? In the land of the free? We always look at and criticize Third World countries crying in outrage at their draconian and tyrannical policies. But in truth we imprison and enslave 25% of the entire world’s incarcerated and enslaved persons. And for what? Profit.

Like those confined on a slave ship, or livestock confined in holding pens, we are herded together in the small spaces and given the barest of necessities, only enough food to ensure we can sustain lives and cheap clothes to cover our bodies. Rehabilitative programs that are offered in prison are shams. They are focused on funneling money to the contractors who provide goods and services needed to sustain this ugly industry, and to provide high-paying jobs to the correctional employees who work in that field.

No effort is afforded to those seeking education. Instead the focus is on filling enrollment records for nonexistent classes to ensure future funding.

These insidious frauds affect all departments and all facets of the prison industrial complex. Money intended by legislative intent for rehabilitative programs, education, even inmate food, is never granted or applied in good faith to the execution of such programs. Instead this money is diverted either externally to privately owned companies or internally for other expenditures. This may include new equipment for the prison employees, staff lounges or even for their own dining and mess halls, where they eat not the same substandard food as the inmate population, but instead feast lavishly on top quality cuisine purchased out of the inmate food service budget. These funds are never spent on the incarcerated.

Our prisons have become not only profit based for those who established contracts to provide the goods and services to the prisons, or in the all too common case private prisons where they own the prisons themselves. But the internal mentality of the correctional worker is so perverted that it is a given that funds intended for inmates shall not be used for inmates.

The mentality of prison employees has been indoctrinated and degraded to the point that they no longer look upon inmates as wards or even people, but as a commodity to be housed, fed, counted and traded. From one arrested by the police on the street, traded to the courts, public defender’s office, probation, parole and prisons, those entrapped in our criminal justice system are simply commodities to be traded from one department to another, in a never ending cycle of profiting on humanities misery. And yet the public, society as a whole, is unaware of this suffering, of the gross abuses facilitated by those in power who profit off of misdirected government dollars, or the manipulation of the “Law Enforcement Prison Industrial Complex” where no longer is there any “corrections” or “rehabilitation”, but simply an effort to incarcerate the most people possible in the name and goal of profits and numbers.

The US government has in recent years fought what it termed “wars” against AIDS, drug abuse, poverty, illiteracy and terrorism. Each of these wars have a huge budget legitimized by legislators. But ultimately all one must do is follow the money to see who profits. Who has the contracts? Who are the shareholders? Why are these contract holders allowed to hold such monopoly? Why are antitrust laws not enforced in areas of private corporations profiting on government contracts? Who has such influence over government employees to get such a lucrative contract?

Every congressman, every senator, every politician has their own pet projects, their own special interest groups they are indebted to; their own private monopolies that they own a share or interest in. The industry owners and shareholders are the ones who control public opinion and ultimately control and influence our domestic and foreign policies. Capitalism has corrupted our society at great cost.

As long as there is so little oversight of government expenditures, so little public awareness, there will always be those who will manipulate and profit off any government spending, no matter the human suffering. Today the mainstream media on behalf of the rich not only influences public opinion, on such things as supporting tough on crime initiatives and tough sentencing with forms of fear mongering, but the media also intentionally fails to do in-depth reporting; such as following the money, or in-depth investigation of government spending. Isn’t that odd when our nation is so far in debt? Shouldn’t there be more public awareness of government spending? More accountability? However, the sad truth is that our media too is corrupted, bought and paid for. Where is the information regarding legitimate concerns that the people should be aware of, such as national debt, government spending, cases of undue political influence over our officials, and world news and events? Our mainstream media instead promotes an agenda of ignorance and an utter lack of accountability.

You are more likely to hear headlines about the Kardashians or stories promoting the agendas of the political parties and their financial backers. However what you will never hear is real news which should be of dire concern to all Americans, such as out-of-control and unsustainable government spending and the ballooning deficit. We do not hear about the state of America’s financial market, or of the global financial market. Nor do we hear warnings about the potential outcomes of our out-of-control spending, for the collapse of the American economy and the American dollar. It would be the same as Greece and Cyprus and every other nation state that has allowed their leaders to milk their economy dry.

Due to our ignorance and the lack of interest by the American people to question our policies, foreign and domestic, the government will continue spending in ways which will continue to profit the top 1%. As is the case with the government spending of dictatorships, little of the funds go to fulfill the needs of the masses.
Society needs to wake up and look at the reasons behind our domestic and foreign policies; to see past the smoke screens and misinformation. America needs to realize that we are no longer a true free democracy, but a nation controlled by the rich. Yes, much as a shadow government. This raping of our nations resources and lives, is an utter mockery and insult to the great nation that we are supposed to be.

Jun 23, 2017

How Do We End Relentless Security/Welfare Checks?

Update by The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) Committee to End Sleep Deprivation

keywords: Welfare Checks

Prison Focus Issue 52
Summer 2017

Our committee continues to work on a number of fronts to end the “security/welfare checks” that wake up California prisoners every half hour (in most solitary units) under the guise of suicide prevention, while in fact increasing the risk of suicide.

We support the demands of the Folsom hunger strikers, including demand #5: “END CRUELTY, NOISE

Sleep deprivation from welfare checks: Correctional officers (COs) on first watch create excessive noise with keys while walking every half hour; mixed with uncourteous loud metal on metal contact, it creates unnecessary cruelty and unusual punishment. A CO’s equipment and keys can be properly secured on their person to prevent the excessive noise, yet when asked for courtesy the noise is made extreme as a retaliation, thus waking prisoners every half hour the entire night."

We have heard from people in 13 different prisons suffering from sleep deprivation.

We recently responded to a CDCr Ombudsman who falsely claimed in an email that the “security/welfare check” issue has been resolved, that there are no complaints of being woken up, that Pelican Bay “modified the doors to stop the noise,” and that there are no longer inmates in SHUs, just “empty cells now at this point.”

We have sent hundreds of petition signatures and personalized letters opposing the “checks” to the Coleman suicide expert and Special Master. We have provided letters and information packets to CA Senator Bill Monning, the Majority Floor Leader, who has publicly agreed with our position, and to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

During the May 8, 2017 Quest for Democracy legislative day of action (organized by All of Us or None), a PHSS activist left informational flyers about the “security/welfare checks” with legislative aides in over 60 offices. Many were unaware that the “checks” are still occurring.

We have written an article, “Policy of the Cruel and Absurd: Sleep Deprivation in California’s Prisons.” We are seeking a publisher with the goal of getting it printed and online. Once published, we will distribute it widely. Please contact us ( if you have access to any media.

We are supporting Jorge Rico, a prisoner at Pelican Bay, who has a civil rights lawsuit in the federal Northern District of CA court. His suit states:

“Since 2015, Pelican Bay State Prison has awakened inmates in the Security Housing Unit and Administrative Segregation Unit at least once an hour, all night long, with a cacophonous system of “Guard One welfare checks” that requires officers to strike a metal button on each cell with a metal rod.

This system is intended to reduce inmate suicides, but instead subjects inmates to torturous and unconstitutional sleep deprivation in the process of checking whether they remain alive.”

Jorge’s suit is one of at least two active prisoner civil rights cases filed to end the “checks.”

We will soon revive a campaign urging members of the CA Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees to investigate and put a stop to the “checks” that are causing severe sleep deprivation. The Senate Public Safety Committee oversees CDCr’s budget, so it’s important to lobby them.

If you have been subjected to the “security/welfare checks,” please write to the Coleman suicide expert and Special Master about your experiences. We invite you to send us your ideas for actions to stop the checks.

Jun 23, 2017


Kamau M. Askari

keywords: First Amendment, Human Rights

From Prison Focus Issue 52
Summer 2017

I am one of six principal representatives of our former “Pelican Bay Human Rights Movements First Amendment Campaign” (PBHRMFAC). Our mission statement was initially published within the March 2014 issue of the San Francisco BayView National Black Newspaper.

Since that time our “PBHRMFAC” has morphed into a system-wide California “Prisoners Human Rights Movement” (PHRM) in terms of securing our first amendment rights, by virtue of inherent first amendment objectives combined with the progress made relative to our protracted struggle against decades of long term solitary confinement, culminating in many of our releases from security housing unit (SHU) to various general prison populations throughout the state of California.

The primary objective of our First Amendment Campaign (FAC) is predicated upon effectively challenging and defending against the arbitrary, systematic, race-based, discriminatory pattern and practices of censorship established by prison authorities to stop (outgoing) and/or disallow (incoming) mail, or otherwise suppress expression of New African titled terms and related ideological/political writings and materials, pursuant to a spurious pretext of a nexus to Black Guerilla Family (BGF) activity when either authored or possessed by a specific klass of New Afrikan prisoners.

The described repressive social phenomenon inherent to the prison microcosm confronting the daily life situation of New Afrikan Prisoners, as it relates to the suppression and deprivation of our First Amendment rights established by the U.S. Constitution, is also interrelated and interconnected to the mechanisms of repression through unconstitutional censorship confronting our New Afrikan Nation (NAN) within the societal microcosm at large.

As a “NAN” of people nationally/socially oppressed and economically exploited within Amerikan Kapitalist society, we know that whether or not our physical existence is situated within or beyond prison walls, that together we are better equipped to meet and resolve any contradiction(s) impeding our first amendment rights to the U.S. Constitution. It’s axiomatic effective communications are also key towards conveying the material fact to the public our New Afrikan prisoner klass retains those First Amendment rights not inconsistent with the objectives of the penological corrections system and/or the safety and security of CDCr institutions.
The public must equally be made to understand notwithstanding the fact New Afrikan prisoners are not totally divorced from our First Amendment rights via prison incarceration, we are nonetheless confronted with a set of circumstances experienced as a consequence for having the courage to challenge the prison authorities arbitrary deprivations of our First Amendment rights, court rulings that rationalize deference to prison authorities in matters deemed to regard professional judgement. The courts are rationalizing that prison authorities are better suited to make judgements and decisions or to resolve matters pertaining to prison conditions than are the courts.

These types of court rulings provide for a lack of judicial oversight, checks and balances to the actions of prison authorities regarding their suppression and/or deprivation of New Afrikan prisoners First Amendment rights. Prison authorities are thereby vested with the power to violate the First Amendment rights of New Afrikan prisoners, and subsequently have their unconstitutional action(s) supported by soliciting alleged correctional experts to concoct and narrate elaborate theories as justification for the particular First Amendment violation, once the court litigation on behalf of the matter has been initiated and commences, whereupon the courts are routinely deferring their judicial discretion to the judgement/decisions of prison authorities. In this type of scenario the courts are entitling prison authorities to the rulings in their favor in virtually every First Amendment case.

A clear line of communication is the starting point for grasping the importance of our First Amendment Campaigns (FAC) established progressive objectives, from which essentially flows our inside/outside (prison walls) capacity to network and coordinate the logistics necessary to facilitate our FAC defensive measures, clear and effective communications necessarily entails providing our people within our many New Afrikan (Black) communities with accurate information regarding currently active court litigation being fought in the courts, pertaining to First Amendment rights abuses orchestrated and perpetrated by prison authorities against our New Afrikan prisoners klass or outside societal entities.

Presently, Kamau M. Askari, B/N Ralph A. Taylor persists with Civil court Litigation pertaining to a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 civil rights complaint by a prisoner, initially filed February 14, 2014, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California properly titled “Ralph A. Taylor, Plaintiff v. Edmund G. Brown, Governor, et al., defendants case No. CV-14-00647 VC, based upon both First and Fourteenth Amendment Consitutional violations.

Askari’s First Amendment rights to the U.S. Constitution were violated when Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI) at Pelican Bay State Prisons (PBSP) security housing unit (SHU) confiscated and retained his innocuous prison gang-neutral New Afrikan related ideological political, socio-cultural, historical writings and materials in process of conducting a search of Askari’s assigned PBSP SHU cell for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not there was any BGF-related indicia either in the cell or among the personal property of Askari, pursuant to a six year review to determine Askari’s status as either an active or inactive member of the BGF political-military organization.

Askari’s Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights were violated by and through PBSP IGI’s established pattern and practice that discriminates against our New Afrikan prisoner klass on the basis of race by routinely confiscating, censoring, and/or suppressing New Afrikan writings and materials by claiming a nexus to the leftist BGF organization, which is a pretext used for spuriously alleging New Afrikan prisoners are involved in or promoting prison gang activities.

Askari has been compelled to file a notice of appeal in the aforementioned case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, i.e, Ralph Taylor, Plaintiff-Appellant v. D. Milligan, et al., Defendants-Appellees, case No. 16-17041. Askari’s opening brief on appeal was due April 7, 2017, for review of the two separate court orders issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granting summary adjudication in favor of the defendants Prison authorities on both Askari’s First and Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claims. The defendants requested and were granted a 30-day extension of the time to file their answering brief to Askari’s appeal, which is currently due June 7, 2017.

The U.S. District Court’s grant of summary adjudication in favor of prison authorities on Askari’s First and Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claims was tantamount to a dismissal of his legal claims. The grant of summary adjudication on Askari’s first Amendment claim was through court deference to prison authorities in matters regarded constituting professional judgment, i.e. “Prison authorities version” of the facts of the matter alleging Askari’s confiscated New Afrikan writings and materials are prison gang-related, presenting a threat to legitimate penological interests and prison safety and security.

There was no independent fact-finding by the U.S. District Court relative to Askari’s First Amendment claim, in order to establish the truth of matters regarding the contents of his confiscated New Afrikan writings and materials, and whether or not their confiscation was warranted or justified. The court’s acceptance of and deference to the views of the prison authorities, was primarily based upon a supplemental declaration submitted in support of their motion for summary judgement by an alleged special agent expert in prison gang activities. Yet, the court failed to consider the professional judgement via transcripts of prior superior court testimony of a prison authority expert in prison gang activities, submitted as evidence in support of Askari’s opposition to the motion for summary judgement, and controverting the claims of prison authorities regarding material facts affecting the outcome of the case.

The U.S. District court granted summary adjudication in favor of prison authorities on Askari’s Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim by diminishing, manifestly failing to consider, and/or negating material facts underlying and inherent to the claim. Askari’s Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim is predicated upon the established pattern and practice of prison authorities, whose intentional discriminatory purpose is to arbitrarily discriminate against our New Afrikan prisoner klass on the basis of race, culture, and membership within the ideological movement of the “New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism” (NARN). Upon granting summary adjudication the court reduced the material facts of Askari’s Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim, to being exclusively based upon Askari’s membership with the ideological movement of “NARN,” thereby holding that “NARN,” as an ideological movement, is not a klass.

The San Francisco BayView National Black Newspaper has been and continues to be a very valuable resource to prisoners nationally, as well as a staunch supporter of our New Afrikan humanity, prisoner rights issues, and human rights in general. Consequently, and because of the platform the BayView provides for the positive, productive, progressive prisoner activism the BayView has also been routinely censored by prison authorities nationally when deemed necessary, in clear violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The foregoing fact being further exemplified by the nation-wide prison work strike that was promulgated for commencement September 9, 2016, towards ending prison slavery as it is sanctioned and authorized by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Due to supporting and publicizing the national prisoner work strike movement, the Sept./Oct. 2016 issues of the BayView were censored by prisons throughout the state of California and several other major U.S. prisons, based upon the claims of prison authorities that its contents pertaining to the nationwide prison strikes would incite internal disruption in prisons.

More recently the BayView was banned from Alabama’s Holman prison predicated upon a spurious allegation that it’s racially motivated.

First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are also coming under assault by some states who are legislating new bills intended to prosecute protesters and seize their assets under the “Racketeering, Influenced, and Corrupt Organizations” (RICO), when and where violence and/or destruction of property occurs during a protest movement. No doubt this is a fascist reform and responses to protest movements such as “Black Lives Matter,” as well as those motivated in opposition to the arbitrary, racist, and repressive political policies formulated by the newly elected president Donald Trump.

Lawyers, pro bonos, law students, and paralegals are needed to facilitate the consolidation of our First amendment campaign initiative

When we help each other, we are helping ourselves. We have the correct ideas, political programs, and theoretical knowledge to resolve the contradictions and repressive measures intensified to suppress and deprive us of our First Amendment rights.

What’s required to consolidate and establish the progressive objectives of our First Amendment campaign on a solid foundation is, for lawyers, pro bonos, law students, and paralegals, et al., practitioners of law, inside and outside of prison walls, and all people who stand for justice no matter who it’s for or against, to contribute your professional expertise in legal science and legal procedure coordinating your efforts with its, towards bringing to fruition realization of our First Amendment campaign initiatives. Let us not invite by our inaction a future perpetually "without justice.”

Jun 23, 2017

Report on Monitoring the Ashker Settlement

Carol Strickman

keywords: Ashker Settlement

Prison Focus Issue 52
Summer 2017

We are now in the 20th month of the two year monitoring period of the settlement agreement in the Ashker v. Governor case. That case began as a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging cruel and unusual punishment and due process violations related to the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU). The settlement expanded the reach of that case, by mandating significant changes in how the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) houses prisoners whom it has deemed to be affiliated with gangs (now termed “Security Threat Groups” or STGs).

Previously, any prisoner who was “gang-validated” (determined by CDCR to be a member or associate of a prison gang) was placed automatically in the SHU for an indeterminate term. This policy has been outlawed under Ashker. Now, gang validation alone is insufficient to place a prisoner in SHU or Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg). To implement this new policy, CDCR has reviewed the cases of all validated SHU prisoners and released almost all of them to some form of general population. Some of these prisoners had spent twenty or more years in SHU, although others had been in SHU for less than a year.

Notably, gang-validated prisoners newly admitted or re-admitted to prison are automatically being placed in Ad Seg in Reception Centers while the IGI (Institutional Gang Investigators) conducts background investigations of the prisoners’ safety.

Under the settlement agreement, CDCR must issue new regulations consistent with the agreement. CDCR has not yet done so. In this manner, CDCR is in violation of the agreement. The monitoring period can be extended if there are current and systemic violations of the constitution or the settlement agreement.

Under pre-existing rules, a gang affiliate can be placed in SHU after a finding of guilt of a SHU-able serious rules violation. Of wide concern is whether CDCR will abuse its disciplinary procedures to throw prisoners back in SHU who have recently been released from SHU. The litigation team is monitoring this issue. Of note is the filing of many conspiracy charges based on confidential informants or notes. Conspiracy does not require the commission of the ultimate crime itself, only an agreement to do so and a single overt act. Therefore, it is an easy charge to allege. CDCR has revised its staff training materials on the use of confidential information and disciplinary proceedings; Ashker counsel has observed some trainings.

Under the settlement, if a prisoner is found guilty of a serious rules violation and the hearing officer finds that there is a nexus (connection) between the violation and an STG, then two years can be added to the base term for the violation. The prisoner would spend those additional years in SHU in a Step Down Program (SDP). CDCR has employed outside consultants to propose revisions to the previous SDP. Those consultants have met with prisoner representatives (the four reps). The consultants’ recommendations are a significant improvement over the previous SDP; however, CDCR has not indicated whether it will adopt them.

The settlement agreement created a new general population housing unit called the Restricted Custody General Population (RCGP), which CDCR located in B Facility at Pelican Bay. Its purpose is to provide more humane housing for prisoners who, in the past, would have been in SHU. To date, its use has primarily been to house prisoners that the Departmental Review Board (DRB) has decided have safety issues, meaning that their safety would be at risk in general population. Many prisoners sent to the RCGP adamantly oppose this placement. These placements are made on the basis of IGI reports which, in turn, are often based on confidential information, and are difficult to challenge. A second serious problem with the RCGP is that, short of debriefing or parole on a determinate prison sentence, prisoners are not getting out of the RCGP unless they are alleged to have committed a serious rules violation, in which case they are moved to Ad Seg or SHU. Finally, the placement of the RCGP in Pelican Bay has negatively impacted most prisoners’ ability to have social visits, given its remote location. Most people in the RCGP would prefer the unit to be moved further south.

The transfer to general population from SHU has generally been positive for most prisoners. Contact visits, phone calls, group yard, jobs and educational programs are enjoyed by those prisoners who have access to them. However, most prisoners were transferred to Level IV prisons, and many prisoners do not have jobs or classes there. These prisoners remain in their cells most of the time, much like SHU. Lockdowns also restrict movement and social contact.

Many longtime SHU prisoners are playing a positive role in general population. Throughout the state, they are exerting a calming influence on prison yards as they advocate for the Agreement to End Hostilities.
With the recent mass exodus of prisoners from SHUs across the state, CDCR has closed the SHUs at Tehachapi (CCI) and New Folsom (CSP-Sacramento). As of the end of March, 2017 (most current numbers available), there were 320 prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU and 116 in Corcoran SHU.

Former SHU prisoners coming up for parole are finding parole commissioners pressuring them to debrief, a pressure the prisoners thought they had left behind when they left SHU. While the settlement agreement represents a move from status-based to behavior-based placements, the parole board has not yet gotten on board with this CDCR reform.

As the plaintiffs stated in 2015 when the settlement was reached, “We recognize that achieving our goal of fundamentally transforming the criminal justice system and stopping the practice of warehousing people in prison will be a protracted struggle.“

Jun 26, 2017


Tom McMahon

keywords: Prop 57

Prison Focus Issue 52
Summer 2017

Big changes are on the way. Though the slow, grinding process of implementing Proposition 57 is still underway, its main features - affecting the presently incarcerated adult population - are just about to start taking effect. Right now, a new set of “Emergency Rules” are in operation, while we still await the as-yet-unannounced dates for the notice and comment proceedings. The new rates for accumulating “Good Conduct Credits” began on May 1st. Starting July 1, 2017, CDCr intends to begin implementing the revised parole consideration process. Meanwhile, advocacy groups like California Prison Focus, Families to Amend Three Strikes, and other organizations are looking out for your interests and advocating to expand the reach of Prop 57 to more people.

The process to put Prop 57 rules into practice will continue unfolding through the rest of 2017 and contains a number of upcoming deadlines which may or may not change. It’s important to bear in mind this all is still ongoing, so a great deal of uncertainty remains as to what the final changes will look like. As reported in the last issue of Prison Focus, the passage of proposition 57 did not actually change the laws affecting prisoners, but required CDCr to draw up new regulations that would put the changes mandated by Prop 57 into place. Typically with this process, the state agency must announce the changes it wants to make, and then leave open a period where the public gets the chance to comment on the proposed regulations and give feedback. Only once the agency has reviewed and responded to these comments, sometimes making changes in response, do the proposed regulations become law. Here, because CDCr announced the rule changes as “Emergency” changes, they did not open the regulations for public comment. At some point, however, they will do this, and we all will have a chance to state our opinion about the changes they are making. One issue of particular concern to advocacy groups is the inclusion of third-strikers from becoming eligible for the early parole consideration. CPF believes this is overly limiting from the intent of Prop 57 and plans to advocate for that change in the final regulations. When the final proposed regulations are announced, they should be available in every prison library, especially the law library, for review.

Below is a timeline of what’s happened so far, dates you should be on the lookout for, and what’s coming on the horizon. Bear in mind some of these dates are projections and are not set in stone, but may change:

November 8, 2016: Proposition 57 was approved California voters, requiring the CDCR to issue rules regarding new credits and early parole.

March 24, 2017: CDCR issues “Emergency Rules” for new credits and early parole.

April 13, 2017: Emergency Regulations are approved by California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and go into temporary effect for 160 days.

May 1, 2017: Good Conduct Credits go into effect (effective now). These credits are for complying with prison rules and performing duties as assigned. Credit rates should now be accumulating at the following rates for the following categories:

Violent offenders (Lifers, 3 strikes, or indeterminate/determinate sentence): 20%
Non-violent offenders (2 or 3 strikes) & Lifers eligible for 1/3 credits: 33.3%
Non-violent offenders (determinate sentence), & Lifers eligible for day-to-day: 50%
Violent offenders (determinate sentence + fire camp service): 50%
Non-violent offenders (2 strikes or determinate sentence, fire camp service): 66.7%
Non-violent offenders (Minimum A or B custody): 66.7%

One can still lose Good Conduct Credits for violating prison rules and you can still be placed on Zero Credit earning status for violations (including refusing assigned housing twice or to perform an assignment, failing a Work Group C program, committing segregation-eligible disciplinary offenses, or classification under STG-I).

Summer 2017: At some point soon, the CDCR will publish a Public Notice of the proposed final, permanent regulations. A copy of this “Notice of Change to Regulations” will be provided to your prison law libraries, should be made available in SHUs, and will be published online at the CDCR website. There will be a minimum 45-day public comment period, where all members of the public (including prisoners) will be able to submit written comments on the proposed changes. The address for comments will be:

CDCR Regulation and Policy Management Branch
P.O. Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-00001

After the comment period is over, the OAL will review the proposed regulations for compliance with California’s Administrative Procedures Act. If the regulations are approved, then they will be filed with the Secretary of State and become law.

July 1, 2017: Early parole consideration process for nonviolent, determinately-sentenced offenders goes into effect. The CDCR plans to start screening prisoners for eligibility on June 1st, and referring qualifying inmates to the Board of Parole Hearings on this date. As of now, under the Emergency Rules “nonviolent” felony offenses are any crime not listed in Penal Code § 667.5(c) or sex-offender crimes requiring registration under § 290. The “Nonviolent Parole Eligible Date” will be the date of completion of the “full term” (no credits applied) of the “primary offense,” (the crime with the longest sentence without enhancements) less pre-sentence time served credits. Even if your offense is eligible, you may not be considered if:

Your Nonviolent Parole Eligible Date is not at least 180 days before your Earliest Possible Release Date;

You have a current SHU term or assessment of a SHU term for a STG/disciplinary reason within the last 5 years;

You have a Level A-1, A-2 serious rule violation within the last 5 years;

You were placed in Work Group C within the past year;

You have 2+ serious rule violations of any level within the last year;

You have a drug-related rule violation or refusal to provide urine sample within the last year; or

You have a rule violation with a nexus to an STG.

If you are found ineligible based on one of the above, you will be screened again after 1 year.

If you are found eligible and referred to the Board of Parole Hearings, you should be notified that you can submit a written statement. You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity, and: (1) focus your statement on why you do not pose a risk of violence to the community if released; (2) encourage members of your support network (family, friends) and potential employers to send letters of support to the BPH. There is no in-person hearing. The BPH officer will decide whether or not you “pose an unreasonable risk of violence to the community” and choose to grant or deny parole on that basis. If granted, you should be released 60 days after the decision. If denied, you can request review within 30 days of the decision through a special review procedure. Another BPH officer will then review the decision within 30 days of the request.

August 1, 2017: Credits for the Milestone Completion (MCC), Rehabilitative Achievement (RAC), and Educational Merit (EMC) programs go into effect. These are as follows:

MCC: Granted upon completing specific education or career training program with attendance and performance requirements. These are increased from the current 6 weeks per year cap to 12 weeks per year. MCCs are revocable for violations.

RAC: Granted for participation in self-help groups or other behavioral programming activities; these can be up to 4 weeks per year. RACs are revocable for violations.

EMC: Granted for successful completion of a GED, high school diploma, college degree or alcohol and drug counselor certification; one-time credits are awarded for each level and will be awarded retroactively to eligible inmates. These credits cannot be revoked.

September 20, 2017: Scheduled end of Emergency Regulations; Deadline for CDCR to complete formal rulemaking process (unless extended 90 days to December 19, 2017).

As you can see, the implementation of Proposition 57 is a lengthy process with multiple steps involved. Remember, this process is ongoing and things can change. Make sure you stay on top of these upcoming dates. Be on the look out for a copy of the Public Notice to come to your prison law library sometime soon. As noted, you are encouraged to submit comments yourself during the public comment period, and CPF welcomes copies of your submissions so we can incorporate your comments into our submission as well. Though it might take some time before the formal rules are fully implemented, make sure you stay involved in the process!

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