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Mar 10, 2016

Prison Guards Found Liable for Retaliatory Abuse of California’s Solitary Confinement Policies

Jesse Perez

keywords: prison conditions, California prison conditions, Pelican Bay State Prison, guard prisoner abuse, Ashker v. Brown, retaliation, security housing unit

From Prison Focus Issue #48

[Editorial note: Mr. Perez prepared this article shortly after the trial on his matter, which took place in the last two weeks of November 2015 (the jury returned their verdict on November 24). It has been edited to eliminate third-person references to Mr. Perez, since he is the author.]

In what amounts to an improbable plaintiff victory, a federal jury unanimously found several Pelican Bay State Prison guards liable for retaliating against me for successfully exercising my first amendment right to file a prior lawsuit against other guards.

In the case, I alleged that after favorably litigating a near decade-long federal suit challenging my placement in Pelican Bay’s harsh isolation unit [Security Housing Unit or SHU] as a “gang associate,” the guard defendants conspired to retaliate and did retaliate against me.

The guards’ unlawful conduct, I claimed, was also spurred by my participation in peaceful civil disobedience actions that included the 2011 and 2013 California Prisoners’ Hunger Strikes, as well as my authoring articles critical of the department’s solitary housing policies and advocating for the scaling-up of prisoners’ engagement in the public political process.

The retaliation at issue in the case was exacted in various forms. Specifically, I accused the guards of stripping me naked, trashing my cell, improperly taking legal documents relevant to my prior lawsuit (ongoing at the time), vocalizing threats about pursuing lawsuits against department employees, and falsifying a disciplinary report with a gang nexus intended to keep me in solitary longer.

In defending against the lawsuit, the defendants—all guards assigned to the gang squad at Pelican Bay—denied the retaliatory accusations and argued that they were merely “following orders” and “standard procedures.” On the stand, however, their factual testimony, [invocations of] spurious safety issues, asserted ignorance of the regulations governing their acts, and rationalizations contained gripping inconsistencies and inherent incredibility, and were ultimately unpersuasive—at best.

Following the parties’ decision to rest their respective cases, a gender-balanced jury of eight retreated to deliberate for two days. After considering the evidence and counsels’ arguments, the unanimous verdict returned was against several of the guard defendants.

The jury saw plenty of evidence to convince them that the guards’ actions were not the bumbling creature of ignorance and error. But, rather, a well-designed and malicious strategy to retaliate against me for pursuing constitutionally protected legal action in court contesting my placement in isolation.

While prisons are ultimately about public safety, this case lifts the cloak of secrecy to provide a rare window for the public to see how the department’s [CDCR’s] Institution Gang Investigators (IGI) violate the public’s trust, and abuse the practice of solitary confinement the state continues to engage.

The large number of prisoners released from isolation since the class action Ashker v. Brown was settled also reflects the IGI’s heavy-handed influence in placing and retaining prisoners there under the rhetoric of safety and security.

There is also a compelling underlying truth here: What was proven at trial is emblematic of a deeper pathology existing within the department, one pointing unerringly to the sheer inefficiency of the ‘leadership’ of the agency’s administration. The public frankly deserves better.

This is particularly so when prison officials willingly violate the constitution and refuse to remedy those violations, instead choosing to engage in protracted litigation—which only results in greater cost for taxpayers.
This alone is basis to ratchet up the tempo in the growing drumbeat calling for substantive reforms to the state’s correctional system.

My prevailing case was presented at trial by the outstanding team from the WilmerHale law firm, including attorneys Randall Lee, Matt Benedetto, and Katie Moran, assisted by Jessica Lewis, Tiffany Tejada-Rodriguez and other incredible support staff who contributed to the favorable outcome.

Oct 06, 2016

Pelican Bay Report

Kim Rohrbach

keywords: Pelican Bay, March 2016, cell searches, reviews, Agreement to End

From Prison Focus Issue #49

This report is informed by (1) in-person interviews conducted at Pelican Bay State Prison in March 2016, (2) letters recently received by California Prison Focus from incarcerated correspondents at the Bay, and (3) reports made to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition by those with incarcerated loved ones, penpals or legal clients at the Bay.

As we emphasize each time we publish, the names of interviewees and correspondents have been replaced with anonymous designations to guard individuals’ confidentiality. Any overlap with anonymous designations used in other reports in this issue of Prison Focus is purely coincidental: Each of our contributors assigns and randomizes their own anonymous designations when preparing reports.

INITIAL REMARKS
CPF had scheduled nineteen interviews at Pelican Bay in late March. Yet, seven of the people we’d planned to speak with were unavailable, or so we learned upon arriving. Most of the latter had been released from the SHU and had been transferred to other prisons shortly before our visit, and another had actually paroled—all positive developments. The remaining individual allegedly declined our visit.

Of the dozen men we did speak with, six were in the SHU. All were relatively recent arrivals, having been sent to the Bay from other SHUs or ASUs during the 2014–2015 time period (but in any event prior to the Ashker settlement, with the exception of one of them).

Five of the other six men we spoke with were in the general population (also called the mainline). Three had been let out of the SHU in January or thereabout, after receiving reviews by the Internal Classification Committee (ICC). The fourth had seen the Departmental Review Board (DRB) before Ashker settled, under the then-ongoing DRB “case by case” review process.

Finally, we also spoke with one person in the Restricted Custody General Population (RCGP) Unit opened in late January of this year. He, too, had been released from the SHU per the DRB’s recommendation and before Ashker settled.

Because the individual and situational circumstances of our March interviewees varied from one person to the next, we heard a variety of grievances—too many to possibly discuss herein. This report will therefore focus on several common themes that clearly emerged.

RECENT SPATE OF CELL SEARCHES
One of the first things that we heard from several folks on the mainline, in March, is that they’d just gotten off of lockdown. The lockdowns, we learned, involved a minimum of three yards, and had been in effect for up to two weeks. Men from two different yards described cell-searches that lasted for three and four hours, while they were made to wait outside in the driving wind and rain and winter cold. Moreover, they were allowed nothing to wear other than t-shirts, boxers, shower slippers and rain jackets. Noting that the dining hall, a dayroom, etc., could have been used instead of the outdoors as a waiting area, Mr. F succinctly stated, “They do this to torture us.” His legs had literally turned blue during the ordeal, he added.

What pretense had been offered for such abuse, we don’t precisely know. Mr. F said that usually a memo is posted to inform prisoners of the reason for any lockdown, but no memo had been posted at his yard; rumor only had it that something had “gone missing” from a facility. Mr. C otherwise vaguely made mention of a “routine search.” The bright note is that nobody mentioned any inter-group hostilities having preceded the lockdowns.

It’s worth noting here that complaints of lockdowns at Kern Valley State Prison have been nearly constant since the beginning of this year. Whether this is a new pattern at Kern Valley or not we don’t know, as our contacts and our allies’ contacts are by and large fairly new at Kern, having been sent there upon release from the SHU and following the settlement of Ashker.

Adding to all of the above, just the other week we learned about a search and outright cell-trashing that had happened at the Bay. The officers involved included Officer Guillermo Pimentel. Yet, we have affirmative information that this cell-trashing was definitively not preceded by any inter-group hostilities, which is positive news to us and other proponents of the Agreement to End Hostilities.

Pimentel, of course, was one of the four officers found guilty in Jesse Perez’s retaliation/First Amendment case, which we reported on in Issue #48. Escalating our concern, we have reason to believe that Pimentel was promoted at some point between the Perez trial in November and March 2016. (At of the time of the Perez verdict, he was the only officer among those found guilty who had not already received a promotion following the retaliatory trashing of Perez’s cell in 2012.)

In 2012, Pimentel and his co-defendants were all employed as Assistant Internal Gang Investigators IGIs). Meanwhile, as we prepare to publish, the State Legislature is in the process of deciding whether or not to approve the CDCR’s request to hire forty-eight new gang investigators, to the tune of $5.8 million. This outrageous request flies in the face of the Ashker settlement, its mandates, and its discrediting of the notion that “gang” affiliation (real or alleged), in and of itself, is indicative of actual misconduct, or predictive of any future conduct at all.

MEDICAL COMPLAINTS
Medical complaints continue to be serious and rampant across all areas of the prison. Dr. Dorman (a male) and RN Raisin Hoover (a female), were specifically implicated in regard to issues that people have been experiencing.

These issues, unfortunately reflective of the CDCR’s overall standard of “care,” include: medical assistive devices and medications taken away, medications inappropriately/negligently prescribed, necessary refills not timely provided, and potentially life-threatening conditions such as Hep C going untreated.

In regard to Hep C, multiple individuals informed us that they’d been refused treatment because they weren’t at Stage 3 yet, weren’t dying yet, and so forth. We unfortunately have no good news here. A November 2015 memo issued by the Prison Law Offices advises: “Prison medical officials are only required to provide treatment if it is ‘medically necessary.’ Under the current Care Guide, treatment is considered medically necessary only for some HCV patients.”

“WELFARE”/“SECURITY” CHECKS
The torturous situation with thirty-minute “welfare” checks in the SHUs has not changed in any notable way. Moreover, despite a court-approved stipulation requiring that checks be conducted hourly, rather than each half-hour, during first watch (while people are sleeping), this is not happening in all pods.

Mr. Q was not aware of the stipulation, which issued in late December 2015, and was extended in early May, 2016. This further suggests that any requirements that the CDCR may have to notify its wards of the stipulation may be violated.

LACK OF ACCESS TO A1-A STATUS
People who are working and/or participating in educational programming for a certain number of hours per week should qualify for what’s colloquially referred to as A1-A status. The relevant regulations are set forth in Title 15, section 3044 and its innumerable and nearly incomprehensible subparts.

The practical effect of being assigned A1-A status is considerable. If you belong to this “privilege” group, you are allowed one phone call per week (as opposed to one phone call per month), full canteen draw, increased access to yard and group activities, maximum monthly canteen draw, and four annual packages. A1-A assignment may furthermore prove indispensible in terms of getting a sentencing reduction, or getting paroled.

However, we’ve heard countless grievances, both from the Bay as well as from other prisons, about the paucity/lack of both jobs and educational programming available inside. These present a seemingly uncrossable barrier to qualifying for A1-A status.

Mr. F further informs us that Pelican Bay, unlike any other prison he’s been at, outright denies A1-A status where the basis for qualification is participation in educational programming.

ICC REVIEWS, ASHKER REVIEWS, AND ALL THINGS REVIEW-RELATED
For those still in Pelican Bay’s SHU whose sentences are indeterminate (there currently remain 500-odd), a primary concern is obviously, when will they be let out? Ongoing frustrations expressed to us in March included the slow pace of the Ashker-related ICC reviews, the deferral of annual reviews, the meaninglessness of 180-day reviews, and the order of Ashker-related ICC reviews—which in many cases doesn’t adhere to the protocol, under the settlement, that those in the SHU the longest be prioritized.

For more on these topics, we encourage you to continue on and read the Ashker Bulletin published in this issue of our newsletter.

THE AGREEMENT TO END HOSTILITIES
According to everybody we talked to in March, and according to more recent accounts, the Agreement is holding! There are minor incidents here and there. But, despite doors mysteriously opening now and again, guards trying to falsely alarm people during recreation time, and so forth, morale is high. We particularly enjoyed hearing about the inter-group intramural sports that have folks have initiated, apparently on multiple yards.

Jun 10, 2016

PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation Asks for Letters About the “Security/Welfare” Checks

PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation

keywords: sleep deprivation, torture, Pelican Bay, "security" checks, "welfare" checks

From Prison Focus Issue 49

Guards have been jarringly waking prisoners every thirty minutes at the Central California Women's Facility since May 8, 2014 and at Pelican Bay SHU since August 2, 2015 for so-called “security/welfare checks.” This is serious, ongoing sleep deprivation which is torture. These checks may also be harming people in other prisons; PB SHU and CCWF death row is where we have heard the most complaints. These “security/welfare checks” are purported to be 'suicide prevention,' yet are being used as a blanket practice, whether prisoners are suicidal or not, and despite the fact that denial of sleep is devastating for the human mind and body.

Since late August, 2015, there has been a grassroots campaign, legal action by prisoners and the Ashker legal team, and an official Complaint submitted to the United Nations with the aim of halting the checks. CDCr has ignored prisoners' individual and group complaints and has done nothing about the mental and physical problems resulting from or exacerbated by the sleep deprivation.

In the federal lawsuit, Coleman v. Brown, regarding CDCr's inadequate mental health treatment for seriously mentally ill CA prisoners, Lindsay Hayes is the "suicide expert" and Matthew Lopes is the Special Master, charged with overseeing prison reform and compliance concerning care of seriously mentally ill inmates. We believe Hayes and Lopes could stop the "security/welfare checks," but they have ignored that the checks are causing sleep deprivation torture. If you are suffering from the “security/welfare checks,” please write Lindsay Hayes explaining how the checks are affecting you and what you think true mental health and suicide prevention would entail. Either send a copy of your letter to all three of the below addresses or, if it is easier, send one letter to the PHSS Committee and we will forward it to the “suicide expert” (Hayes) and the Special Master (Lopes).

We understand that if you are sleep deprived, it is difficult to focus and write.

Organizations and individuals not in prison, please write Lindsay Hayes. Urge him to stop the checks. Share with him the voices of the people suffering from them. Find quotes from prisoners suffering the checks at http://tinyurl.com/zc3qbn6. The American Public Health Association's letter opposing the checks at http://wp.me/P1BB1k-27L. Read articles, expert reports, and more at https://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com under the “Sleep Deprivation” tab.

If you are able, please send your letter to all three of the following addresses.

Lindsay M. Hayes
40 Lantern Lane
Mansfield, MA 02048

Matthew A. Lopes Jr.
Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC
317 Iron Horse Way, Suite 301
Providence, RI 02908

PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation
P.O. Box 5692
Eureka, CA 95502

We will work to end the sleep deprivation torture until the “security/welfare checks” stop. For more info, contact us at 510.426.5322, phssreachingout@gmail.com, or our mailing address above.

------------------------------
Below is a survey that would be helpful to document the harm. Our priority right now, however, are the letters to Hayes and Lopes.

SECURITY/WELFARE CHECKS SLEEP SURVEY
Who we are: The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) originated in the SF Bay Area in 2011 to amplify the voices of CA prisoners on hunger strike striving to achieve their Five Core Human Rights Demands. It is made up of family members and loved ones, formerly incarcerated people, grassroots organizations, lawyers, and individuals. The coalition continues to work in solidarity with CA prisoners and their families to end the torture that is solitary confinement.

Why we are conducting this survey: Beginning as early as 2013, many prisoners throughout the CA prison system - housed in SHU's, AdSeg and on death row - have reported guards doing "security/welfare checks" every 30 minutes, 48 times a day. We’ve been told that the start dates of these checks have varied at different prisons. Some prisoners say the checks are extremely noisy and disruptive, result in denial of sleep, and cause harmful side effects. We wish to document what is occurring in the various solitary units throughout CA prisons with regard to “security/welfare checks.”

1. Name of Prison Since when?
2. When did the “security/welfare checks” begin?
3. How frequently do they occur? ___ /hour; ____ /day
4. Is there a difference between the frequency at night and during the day? YES / NO
5. If so, how many times an hour? day__ /hr; night __ /hr 6. Is this the 1st time they've occurred? Y/N
7. Please describe the sounds/noises. For example, what are the sounds? Loud? Do they echo?
8. Please describe the behavior of guards when conducting the “security/welfare checks.” For example, are they quiet, noisy, take a long time to pass through the cells, rap their keys against the bars, jangle their keys, say anything?
9. How do the checks affect your ability to sleep, such as amount of time you sleep, how deeply you sleep, how many times you wake up, how long you are awake?
10. Before the checks began, how well did you sleep and how much sleep did you get?
11. How do the checks affect your ability to function and perform mental & physical tasks?
12. How have the checks affected your mood, feelings, and attitudes?
13. Has anything helped such as the provision of ear plugs, being moved to a lower tier, or guard training resulting in quieter checks?
14. Have you filed complaint(s) regarding the “security/welfare checks?” YES / NO
15. Date complaint(s) filed? Still pending? YES / NO 16. Outcome(s)?
17. Have you consulted with anyone about the checks such as an attorney? YES / NO 18. Outcome?
19. Do you think the checks could be done differently to be less disruptive to your sleep? YES / NO
20. If yes, what would you want to change?
21. Do you know if the checks have impacted other people in the area near you? YES / NO
22. If yes, please explain:
23. Any additional comment(s)?

We won't identify you in our report, but we may reference anonymously some of your answers.

Do we have your permission to share your identifying info with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as part of a human rights complaint? YES / NO Your Name, Date, Prison, CDCr#

PHSS thanks you very much for helping us by completing this survey. Please send answers to: PHSS Committee to End Sleep Deprivation, P.O. Box 5692, Eureka CA 95502

Jun 10, 0016

The Free Speech Society presents: The Conflict Resolution Committee

Kijana Tashiri Askari, Abdul Olugbala Shakur, and J. Heshima Denham

keywords: Free Speech Society, Kern Valley, conflict resolution, Inmate Advisory Council

From Prison Focus Issue 49
The Free Speech Society presents:
(April 17, 2016)

In the aftermath of two small-scale race-based 'isolated' incidents that occurred on B-facility in January of 2016 at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), the Free Speech Society was able to successfully initiate a Conflict Resolution Committee (C.R.C.) as a part of the Inmate Advisory Council (I.A.C.) that has been established at this prison.

MISSION STATEMENT
The C.R.C. ensures the de-escalation of potential conflicts between various groups/formations on B-facility. The committee constitutes a body of like-minded individuals that is both representative of the totality of the various groups/formations on B-facility. It is capable of resolving potential or actual conflicts in a responsible, positive, and expeditious fashion. In the past, KVSP administrators, which include the California Department of Corrections & rehabilitation (CDCr) headquarters in Sacramento, CA, have made errors in one form or another, by failing to ensure the engagement of the primary stakeholders that are representative of those groups/formations actually engaged in a conflict. Nor has there been a body of 'like-minded' individuals specifically tasked with resolving potential conflicts before they mature into actual hostile based conflicts, whereby unnecessary disturbances become manifest, which jeopardize the safety and security of both prisoners and staff.

Per Departmental Operations Manual (D.O.M.), section 53120.5.3* (viz. “Special Concern sub-committee” at p. 427), the KVSP B-facility men's Advisory Council will enact the C.R.C.. This Committee is convened for the sole purpose of resolving potential and actual conflicts on B-facility whenever and wherever they occur, and effectively [articulating] resolutions to the entire prisoner population, with special attention given to the groups/formations in conjunction with the Agreement to End Hostilities (A.E.H.).

Because appropriate representation is essential to the resolution of conflicts in an effective and responsible manner, the composition of the C.R.C. will reflect prisoner representation from each specific group/formation, which will in turn be responsible for engaging and positively resolving any subdivisions in these groups. A basic outline of the C.R.C. Representative Body will consist of a representative from each of the following groups/formations:
– BGF
– Sureños
– Whites
– Others
– Crips
– Bloods
– Mexican Nationals
– 415 (Kumi)
– Bay Area Blacks
– Hoovers
– Muslims

Because of the sensitive nature of this special concern sub-committee, the C.R.C. must have access to the units on B-facility, per approval of the facility captain. The daily activities of the C.R.C. are designed to increase dialogue across cultural lines of ever formation/group to promote a stronger foundation upon which issues can be put forward and resolved in a constructive manner.

Communication and timing are essential components to preventing conflicts before they mature into hostility-based conflicts. Therefore, C.R.C. members must be able to talk to who they need to, when they need to. Our objective is to be proactive in resolving potential and/or actual conflicts within the general population. All prisoners are encouraged to relay any and all potential conflicts to the C.R.C. so the can be resolved in an expeditious manner.

The function and activities of the committee shall be to ensure equal and effective representation of the entire general population in the resolution of potential and actual conflicts on B-facility. The entire C.R.C. body will abide by the by-laws of the Inmate Advisory Council.

Our struggle continues!

For more information about the Free Speech Society, you can visit the website at: Freespeechsociety.wordpress.com, or contact:

Kijana Tashiri Askari s/n Marcus Harrison H54077, KVSP B2-101L, P.O. Box 5102, Delano, CA 93216

Abdul Olugbala Shakur s/n James Earl Harvey C48884, KVSP B2-117, P.O. Box 5102, Delano, CA 93216

J. Heshima Denham J38283, KVSP B2-117, P.O. Box 5102, Delano, CA 93216

* http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Regulations/Adult_Operations/docs/DOM/DOM%202016/2016_DOM.PDF

Jun 10, 2016

Ashker Bulletin

Kim Rohrbach

keywords: Ashker settlement, adherence, compliance, March 2016

From Prison Focus Issue #49
Ashker Bulletin

This bulletin, as such, will not address all concerns held by all people impacted by the Ashker settlement. Nonetheless, this article endeavors to address below certain critical issues, as well as a couple of items of broad interest.

MOVEMENT OUT OF THE SHU
If you are a person still waiting to be released from the SHU to the general population under the terms of the Ashker settlement, we’d first like you to know that movement out of the SHU is definitively happening (although at a sluggish pace at Corcoran).

Information available through the CDCR’s website—specifically, the COMSTAT DAI Statistical Report for the thirteen months ending March 2016—show that, as of the end of March, there were:

• 582 people remaining at Pelican Bay’s SHU (in contrast to the around 1154 individuals caged there as of the end of March 2015)
• 131 remaining at Tehachapi (in contrast to the around 1197 individuals caged there as of the end of March 2015)
• 46 at New Folsom (in contrast to the around 53 individuals caged there as of the end of March 2015)
• 986 remaining at Corcoran (in contrast to the around 1030 individuals caged there as of the end of March 2015)*

The staggering reduction of numbers at Tehachapi seems to indicate that Tehachapi SHU is in fact closing, as many of us both on the inside and outside have heard. However, this has yet to be officially confirmed by CDCr officials.

ORDER OF REVIEWS UNDER THE ASHKER SETTLEMENT
Many prisoners have expressed to CPF understandable frustration about the order in which reviews are occurring. Enough is enough when you shouldn’t have been in the SHU in the first place!

The Ashker settlement states (at ¶ 25) that the ICC reviews called for “shall be prioritized by the inmates’ length of continuous housing within a SHU [emphasis added] so that those of the longest duration are reviewed first.” The Ashker legal team has received confirmation from CDCr officials that they are doing their best to follow the protocol, yet we continue to receive outside information confirming that the protocol set forth under the Ashker settlement isn’t always being followed.

And even where the protocol is being followed, the situation can become complicated.

For example, if you were held four years at one SHU, then were directly sent to a second SHU where you spent another three years, it’s possible that you may rank comparatively low on the priority list for review. This, in spite of the fact that you’ve spent seven straight years in a hell-hole.

Further compounding the matter: The length of time in the SHU for purposes of processing out of the SHU is considered to be continuous, rather than a combination of multiple SHU stays. For example, if you spent x amount of time in the SHU, then paroled out, then were later returned to prison and the SHU, it may be that your pre-parole time spent in the SHU won’t be counted towards your total SHU time. This is the situation of one man we spoke with at Pelican Bay in March.

POSSIBLE CONFUSION OVER THE ICC PROCESS AS IT PERTAINS TO ASHKER
CPF has recently received a few letters from people that may be collectively summarized as follows:
“I recently had my ICC review and am in SHU only because of my validation. But at my review, I was told that I’d have to wait to see the special committee before they’d let me out.”

To clarify things, here’s the basic deal with ICC reviews:
People are getting their reviews under the Ashker case either according to their position on the priority list, or at their annual reviews. Nobody is getting their so-called Ashker review at their 180-day review.

Where the term “special committee” has come from, we can’t say, but we assume the ICCs must be using it.

LACK OF ADHERENCE TO STEP DOWN-RELATED PROVISIONS UNDER ASHKER
In March, we learned from one interviewee that there were people on the mainline who were in Step 5 of the SDP (Step Down Program). We are unsure of what to make of this. Not only is Step 5 abolished by the settlement, but the settlement explicitly provides (at ¶ 25): “Inmates currently assigned to Step 5 in the General Population shall remain in the General Population and shall no longer be considered Step Down Program participants.”

We also heard from another interviewee that he had been in Step 5 prior to the settlement, but upon transfer to the Restricted Custody General Population (RCGP) Unit, was told that he would have to “start over” with the SDP. Others in the RCGP, he indicated, were in the same boat. It is unclear to this writer why a person who was in Step 5 prior to the settlement would have been assigned to the RCGP to begin with, barring any new rules violations.

RULES VIOLATION REPORTS AUTHORIZED FOR FAILURE TO COMPLETE COMPAS ASSESSMENTS
It has been quite some time since Prison Focus has published anything concerning the COMPAS Assessment. Well, last month CPF received from a female prisoner a copy of an August 19, 2015 memo concerning this topic. Millicent Tidwell, CDCR Director of Rehabilitative Services, is the author.

In the memo, Tidwell says that prisoners who refuse to complete COMPAS assessments should be issued Rules Violation Reports (RVRs). Then she convolutedly/obtusely adds that RVRs "shall not delay transfer unless the outcome of the RVR impacts the inmate's level of placement." She further specifies that, during the annual review process, verification that the inmate has completed an assessment is "necessary," and that if an assessment is "incomplete," a new one should be “administered." She additionally specifies, for reasons that she doesn’t state, that those with life without parole and the condemned are “no longer excluded” from the Assessment.

The use of the Assessment to punish people is contrary to the intent of the very legislation (the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Service Act) that authorized its development in the first place. It is also contrary to the stated intent of researchers involved in developing it. Yet, when we first started hearing about COMPAS and wrote on the subject two years ago, we expressed strong concerns that the Assessment would be so used. In fact, we directly broached our concerns with Millicent Tidwell in a letter. She never responded.

The subject is one that needs follow-up, and we hope to revisit it in our next issue.

STATUS OF HINOJOSA AND VICTORY IN IN RE GOMEZ (ON HABEAS)
In our last issue, we reported on Hinojosa v. Davey, (No. 13–56012 9th Cir. Sept. 25, 2015). (See Supplementary Report: News as the Final Fairness Hearing on the Ashker v. Brown Settlement Pends.) Hinojosa unfortunately has since been reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court (No. 15-833, May 16, 2016), and remanded to the Ninth Circuit. We are grateful nonetheless for a stinging dissent by Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg.

In a more favorable legal development—one that many readers are likely already aware of—Jorge Gomez has achieved a significant victory in the California Court of Appeals (In re Gomez, Ct. of App. No. 142470, Mar. 25, 2016). The upper court ruled that it was inappropriate to issue Gomez a rules violation for having refusing consecutive meals during the 2013 Hunger Strike. As a result, the affirmative ruling on the RVR Gomez received must be reversed. The ninety days’ credit Gomez lost as a result must also be restored. Finally, all references to the RVR must be expunged from Gomez’s central file.

Until his recent transfer, Gomez had spent over a decade in Pelican Bay’s SHU.

The Gomez opinion was initially uncertified for publication. But, thanks to the efforts of Gomez’s court-appointed counsel, as well from National Lawyers Guild members in the Bay Area and CPF volunteers, the Court of Appeals has agreed to publish the decision. This makes it able to be referenced as authoritative law for any others who are currently challenging their own RVRs for participation in the hunger strike.

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