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Here you can search for articles that have been published in our newsletter. Our newsletter is primarily written by and for prisoners, their friends, and families. You can receive a paper copy at your home (or send one to your relative or friend in prison). We request a donation of $20 or more for four issues to help cover editing, printing, and mailing costs.

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Jun 01, 2002

Letter: 3-Strikes

Hratch Baliozian

keywords: prisoner letter, three strikes

Dear CPF:

This letter is in response to “Ruling: The Case May Effect Hundreds,” which appeared in Orange County Register recently. Here we go again – another highly regarded politician who made a very derogatory statement concerning Three Strikers. His name is Bill Jones, California Gubernatorial Candidate. His statement was “The get-out-of-jail-free card offered by the Ninth Circuit threatens to return the most serious and violent repeat felons back on our streets”. First and foremost Mr. Jones did not do his research very well if he is able to make a statement which is so totally wrong and misleading.

The Ninth Circuit ruling was about non-violent cases. Let’s make this clear to the public so that there will be no misunderstanding about something which is grossly misinterpreted by Mr. Jones. I am very saddened to hear such a remark from a very high elected official.

Mr. Jones is dangerously advancing toward obliterating rehabilitation. The growing attitude, shown by Mr. Jones, is to punish. All prisoners reading this know exactly what I mean. Most prisoners who spend years for a petty crime never hearing a kind inspiring word of hope are becoming staggeringly alienated behind these walls and, obviously, within the hearts and minds of our “legislators”. We really do need something to embrace, something which is completely contrary to the attitude Mr. Jones conveyed.

We need to let society see our positive contribution. In prison the lesson is even more poignant. The prisons do not reform individuals: people rot and decay inside. The human psyche is naturally broken down within the repressive environment of prison walls. Low self-esteem, negative peer pressure, and demoralized environment result. So Mr. Jones, don’t point your finger at prisoner[s] and make statements which are not true. Mr. Jones, do you know what it means to rehabilitate a prisoner? Well, if you don’t know what it means then I can tell you that in the prison system rehabilitation does not exist at any time. So Mr. Jones first and foremost, before making such a statement think of how to help these prisoners to rehabilitated. Now that’s the key to our solution and I believe you as a politician and many other[s] like you did not do your homework as you should have, so you are as guilty.

- Hratch Baliozian, Lancaster

Jun 01, 2002

Friends Can't Visit

Clyde Jackson

keywords: prisoner letter, visits, friends, family, SHU

Dear CPF:
I don’t know if you are aware or not but I felt it necessary to bring to your attention the proposed visiting rule changes (Notice of Change to Directors Rule Sections 3170-3179, Number 02/03). Specifically of concern is subsection 3170.1 which “is adopted to ensure inmates who are assigned to the administrative segregation units and security housing units (SHU) receive only non-contact visits…[by] immediate family members [which] only likewise reflects the concern that these inmates have demonstrated that they pose a serious safety and security threat to the institution due to involvement in acts of violence or possession of weapons”.

This particular subsection is designed to further limit prisoners’ access to friends and community – many of us do not have family and are heavily dependent on friends and spiritual advisors. Additionally, some family members are unable to make it up this far due to economic reasons or work-related problems.

This seems to have constitutional ramifications as it relates to freedom of association. Please keep us informed on the visiting issue.

- Clyde Jackson, Pelican Bay

Apr 30, 2018

LETTER: Tearing at the Bonds

anonymous

keywords: visits, family, prisoner letter

Attempt to tear at the bonds that bind our relationships with our loved-ones and friends Greetings and salutations extended to one and all… I’m touching base with you in order that I may shed some light on what CDCR and the administration here at Corcoran SHU have recently implemented….

Beginning on Feb, 9, 2018 prisoners in SHU/ASU are only allowed non-contact visits on Fridays and Saturdays. The administration has arbitrarily chose to deprive us of our Sunday visits…

CDCRs justification for terminating SHU/ASU Sunday, and Holiday visits is due to lack of visiting space. Of course, this is a lie. The truth is that both SHU facilities 4A and 4B, both have their own visiting rooms. However, for decades Corcoran has chosen to use only 4B visiting room for both facilities in order that they can use 4A visiting for the PHU… (It’s the same lame excuse that PBSP/SHU officials used for decades when they chose to use D facility visiting room for the Law library and used C facility for all prisoners in SHU)…

Per CCR; T-15 3172.2(a) Regular visiting days shall be consecutive and include Saturday and Sunday… Further (b) (1) states regular visiting days are either 4 days (thurs-sun) 3 days (Fri-Sun), or 2 days (Sat-Sun) and Holidays. Thus, this new visiting schedule violates our state created due process rights as it relates to visits…

This new arbitrary policy of only allowing SHU/ASU prisoners to schedule Fri-Sat, visit is contrary to CDCRs Stated “goals,” and CCR.T-15 3170(a). Their recognition of value of i/m visiting for maintaining family community connections, etc, etc….this policy and practice also places a significant hardship upon our friends and loved ones, as many if not all have regular jobs and work on Fridays and will not be able to visit on Fridays. Thus, this new policy only ensures that prisoners in SHU/ASU will in fact receive less visits.

It’s not surprising to those of us men who are placed back in SHU by CDCR on trumped up charges, after spending decade(s) in the SHU at PBSP that, CDCR, due to their spiteful contempt for the men they couldn’t break would retaliate against us and even attempt to tear at the bonds that bind our relationships with our loved-ones and friends.

No, our struggle is not over. What wonderful joy it is to fight against this injustice with men of Honor. I ask those of you who are able and willing to join us in our struggle to maintain and strengthen our bonds with our friends and loved-ones. In strength and solidarity, Anonymous

Apr 30, 2018

Comments on Proposed Family Visit Regulations

anonymous

keywords: visits, family

Family and family visiting are essential to the rehabilitation of each prisoner held in CDCR. How so? It allows the prisoner to reconnect with one’s family (children, parents, spouses, etc.) and it is inside these relationships, that the prisoners develop socially, by learning to and having to be responsible within their family setting.

Family visits: Should be valued by the prisoners and its captors, because the process is rooted in the social development of the family. After a prisoner has been restricted, denied, and punished for such an extended period of time (i.e. 10 years or more), to be given the opportunity to reconnect and integrate with family is a proven way to show that a prisoner has become responsible and accountable. Also, this core pertinent social development - when cultivated by family, prisoner/prisoner supporters, CDCR - supports a positive productive mentality, as well as behavior that further extends to the community and beyond.

Family visits: The prisoner will begin to understand his/her overall role inside of society, based on it’s relationship with his/her family whereas one’s humanity will begin to come alive and grow in one’s environment (prisons), then further extended community and beyond.

Family visits: In a very significant way, are the only “human factor” in association with prisons. Although one would never negate the irresponsible behavior that led to many prisoners to violate the law, it is devastating to countless communities to massively incarcerate humans in such an environment of seclusive isolation. Leaving behind fatherless/motherless dysfunctional households, where as if he/she is ever to return or be a part of the family again, one lacks the experience in social tools family visits give that family, community society etc.… In a significant way “family visits/visitation” allow prisoners to reclaim their humanity and through that process become responsible/accountable for thought and behavior.

Conflict of interest: we are seeing clearly now corporations such as Global Tel Link (GTL) has given CDCR $17 million. This money has allowed GTL to dictate harsh policies, that is designed to attack prisoner’s families… (See “Notice of Change to Regulations Section 3177/3315 Dec. 29th, 2017). In CDCR’s attempt to satisfy the demands of GTL, it has introduced policies to punish prisoners, who get caught with cell phones by suspending their family visits, which have no relations to cell phones; yet due to GTL losing money to cell phones, they have put their money behind influencing CDCR’s policy. We (prisoners) believe that, not only is this a conflict of interest, but, GTL has only one interest – profits. Whereas prisoners’ families are paying extremely excessive costs for collect calls through GTL and the families can’t afford it. GTL is attempting to buy CDCR so that they can continue to exploit prisoners and their families. Therefore, this regulation should be rejected, because it has nothing to do with policy, but everything to do with exploitation.

Apr 30, 2018

The Cost to Connect

Marisa Endicott

keywords: CDCR, phonecalls

A grandfather accompanying his grandson to a doctor’s appointment is not so unusual unless that man is along via a video stream from his prison cell.

Thanks to a contraband cell phone, this California inmate sees and talks to his family on a near daily basis. Despite the high costs of procurement and the risks of being caught, this incarcerated man and many others continue to smuggle in or purchase contraband phones in order to communicate not only through calls and texts, but also images, videos and livestreams.

Along with the continuing demand for contraband phones come persistent efforts to crack down on them. And the cell phones aren’t the only tools that have become more technologically sophisticated.

In 2016, CDCR started rolling out a new program in California state prisons to intercept cell phones. This originally included close to 1,000 advanced metal detectors, scanners and security cameras at a projected cost of $17 million a year, according to the Associated Press. In December 2017, the company funding the whole contraband cell crackdown effort won an award for its phone detection technology. That company is Global TelLink (GTL), a major nationwide prison telephone service provider.

Private prison telephone service providers like GTL are notorious for the expensive rates they charge to prisoners and their loved ones to communicate.

High fees per minute are accompanied by additional charges. For example, GTL has required users to set up prepaid accounts while also charging them to open or close them. In 2016, attorneys sued several California counties over excessive fees for calls to and from jails. Since the counties contract with private companies, the latter can charge whatever price they want and pay the county handsomely for the contract, according to the lawsuit. Revenue from phone systems are supposed to be dedicated to a fund for prisoner education and rehabilitation services under state law, but the suit argued that a large portion of collected funds was going to jail maintenance instead. The counties in at least three of the cases contract with GTL. Moreover, in March 2017, GTL agreed to pay almost $9 million to settle a federal lawsuit that accused the company of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Here is where the contraband phones come into play. One of the many motivations to seek out an illegal device in prison is to avoid paying the exorbitant costs associated with sanctioned channels of communication, costs that many incarcerated individuals cannot afford to pay. GTL has a clear incentive to help prisons crackdown on illegal phones, especially if inmates and their networks use them to avoid paying the company’s steep fees. “What's problematic is GTL has fought for the longest time the efforts that have been made nationally to reduce the rates that are charged both out of state and in state,” said Corene Kendrick, an attorney at Prison Law Office. “There's a long campaign with the Federal Communications Commission to try to get a cap on the fees.” In 2015, GTL and another mega prison phone company, Securus Technologies, sued the FCC for attempting to cap their fees, and a court ruling in June 2017 barred the FCC from limiting costs.

Having access to consistent communication has psychological and practical impacts on prisoners, their friends and families. “It allows the prisoner to reconnect with one’s family (children, parents, spouses, etc….),” one prisoner wrote in a letter to California Prison Focus. “This core pertinent social development when cultivated by family, prisoner, CDCR, supports a positive productive mentality and behavior that further extends to the community and beyond.”

In-person visits may not always be an option. Visitors often cannot consistently or frequently make the trips out to remote facilities or take time off from work or other responsibilities, especially if the prisoner has been transferred out-of-state because of overcrowding in California prisons. For this and other reasons, phone communication is an essential part of the picture.

Consequences for having a contraband phone or accessories are no joke. Inmates can face 90 days loss of good time credit, time added to sentences and other punishments. Those caught smuggling cell phones to inmates can be fined $5,000 and face up to six months in jail, according to CDCR. One prisoner told California Prison Focus in a letter that GTL has supported and encouraged other damaging punitive measures as well like suspending family visits.

Moreover, being caught with a cell phone can negatively affect or even destroy one’s chances at being paroled. At the same time, parole will often only be granted to those who have a support system waiting for them on the outside - a setup that requires consistent communication during one’s sentence.

Out of desperation, inmates may be willing to risk the ramifications. “If you've talked to people who are currently incarcerated or formerly incarcerated,” Kendrick said, “they're kind of like, ‘well that's the trade off - the risk of getting caught versus being able to talk to my family.’”

As an attorney for prisoners, Kendrick has frank discussions with inmates. While CDCR says a major concern with contraband phones is gangs using them to organize, that isn’t what she generally encounters. The more common response is “it's the only way they can stay in touch with their family, because they can't afford the exorbitant rates that the phone companies get away with charging them,” she said.

The fostering and maintenance of relationships between inmates and their outside networks can not only be important for personal growth and healing but for successful reentry into society upon release.

“The isolation that prisoners feel is so real,” Kendrick said. “There's been studies that have shown that one of the factors that plays into whether a person's going to succeed upon reentry into the community is whether they've been able to maintain those community ties and they have a community to go back to.”

Making sure inmates have reliable and affordable access to calling could be one way to cut back on at least some contraband phone use and have larger benefits for the individual, CDCR and the community at large.

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